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September 2009


Heading West


Baleares, Costa del Sol, Gibraltar, Morocco







Port Fortnells on the island of Menorca was our first stop in the Baleares.  These islands are the pride of Spain and a summer playground for most of Europe. At the port office we were told that the mooring balls inside the inlet were free so my spirits brightened. This small village is noted for its special lobster stew which is reported to be wonderful.  We didn't find out because the price was outrageous. After two nights on the mooring ball the authorities came and asked us when we were going to leave.  Oh well.


Next stop Mahon.  Sitting high above the natural harbor the town serves the cruise ships that land at the dock to enjoy the "duty free" shopping and to visit the historical town.  We found a nearby anchorage that became crowded every day and when the winds died at night boats wandered around close enough to touch.






The south coast of Menorca gives good protection from the northerly winds and northerlies were in the forecast so we pulled the anchor and headed for Cale Macarella, reported to be the most beautiful anchorage on the island.  The Y shaped inlet has beaches at the top ach arm of the Y and the rest of the anchorage is surrounded by a cliff divers paradise. Tour boats crank around the anchorage during the day and small craft are abundant but each night the anchorage is left to four or five live aboards.


Then  on to the island of Mallorca and Port Soller.  An overnight passage brought us to a natural harbor surrounded by high hills and plenty of anchorage space.  On shore we took the small tram to the city of Soller and found a quaint village in the mountains with many narrow streets and outdoor cafes.  The island of Mallorca is where Joan Miro lived toward the end of his life.  He was often visited on the island by Picasso and the island has several museums and many collections by the two artists. 



















Costa del Sol


Our focus has been to find a haul out facility and have the bottom of the boat painted before we head out to the Canaries.  We have been burning up the emails and telephone finding a suitable place to haul a wide body catamaran.  At 7.1 meters wide we surpass the capabilities of most marinas and have to find some place that concentrates on mega yachts or fishing boats.





(But first we pass through the Prime Meridian or 0 degrees longitude. The Prime Meridian was established as an international standard in 1884. This imaginary line runs through Greenwich, England where the national observatory was established by Charles II of England in 1675. Interesting stuff on this website huh? )


Our search for a haul out led us to SotoGrande in Spain, just ten miles from Gibraltar. We arrived on a Friday after a three day sail and were hauled out that very morning.  We signed in and went to work. At the end of the day we showered in the gymnasium outside of the small boatyard and then returned to the boat to prepare for a walk around the surrounding area. When we tried to depart a short time later we found that we were locked inside the boat yard.  I mean chains and locks and a ten foot fence. This was Friday night and no one worked on either Saturday or Sunday so we were literally prisoners in the yard for the weekend. This was how we found that they didn't allow live aboards in the yard. Okay, so we focus on the job of getting the boat prepared  but we had no supplies such as sand paper, paint rollers etc.  Since the fence was very high I had to shimmy across a two inch sloping ledge on the water side of the fence in order to visit the chandlery to buy work material.  After a day of sanding we were black, covered in the dust we had created by removing the old bottom paint.  We showered by hose under the boat since the showers were located outside of the fence.  Man, the glamorous life we live.  


But hey Monday morning and we were ready to apply paint. We were doing the work ourselves so there was no complaining about the quality or speed of the work accomplished.  One week later we splashed and were heading toward Gibraltar.







The rock climbs 1400 feet out of the ocean at the mouth of the Mediterranean and historically was stragetic in controlling access to the Sea.  It was also the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Pillars of Hercules.  These silver towers were erected on both sides of the entrance to the Mediterranean by the Phoenicians to mark the limits of their trade routes. Who were these Phoenicians we keep talking about and where did they come from? 





This once strategic location now operates as a duty free refueling station and a haven for cruise ships whose passengers take in the wonders of Gibraltar and more duty free shopping.  Oh yeah, there are some tailless monkeys there that are touted as apes  but other than that it is the enormity of this lump of limestone that catches the eye.  While we anchored off on the Spanish side the RAF precision flying squadron, the Red Arrows, performed from the Gibraltar airport. 


The airport was built between Spain and Gibraltar and the roadway and walkway cross the runway, so that all automobile and pedestrian traffic must stop and wait for take offs and landings. Thankfully there are few.


For the yachtie Gibraltar provides a place to provision and fill up with fuel and for us to take care of a few items before heading out.  A small radio net is now forming consisting of the boats that will be heading across the Atlantic this winter and each day other boats join in. After a week we are filled with food and fuel and we are ready to depart to Morocco.



To view our Flickr set of pictures from Spain, just click on the "smiley face".    








After an overnight sail replete with lighting, we arrived at Rabat the capital of Morocco.  We entered a new marina which opened last year and although it was not designed for vessels over 20 feet they are able to shoehorn us into a slip.  The price is about $75 per week with free electricity, water and wifii. This is the best deal we have found in a while.  So we washed everything and put in late hours on the computer.


Morocco was a French protectorate from 1912 to 1956 so almost everyone speaks French.  We met a French family who helped us with our propane exchange and invited them to visit us on Shiraz.  The following Monday, Xavier who teaches economics at the French University in Rabat, gave us a tour of the points of interest in Rabat and Sale', the cities sitting across from each other on the Bou Ragreg River.


We discovered that Morocco was a favorite hangout of the counter culture during the 60's and 70's.  There are stories about Jimmy Hendrix and others that lived in Morocco and you may remember a song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young titled the Marrakech Express. So in the morning we take the train to Marrakech.....check the site next month for another slackadventure.













If you're headed our way: 



  • We were under the impression that the Mediterranean meant deep anchorages if you could even find them and a stern line to shore.  We have not found that the case and there are plenty of anchorages at reasonable depths. To us it appears that most European boats head into a marina for the night but then they are not passagemakers.
  • Propane and butane are a problem in the Mediterranean.  In Spain you cannot refill your tanks unless you draw from one tank to another.  We converted to a large 20 pound tank in Turkey to traverse the Med and were able to trade it in Morocco for a refill. 



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