The Amazing Marvin is tied up in the Bouregreg Marina, near Rabat, Morocco, after a 27-hr passage from Gibraltar yesterday. The Strait of Gibraltar wanted to give the Burnetts one last taste of the raucous waves in this part of the world, and fortunately this consisted of a downwind sail in 25 knots of wind with 6-9 ft seas. Mel and Greg had to hand steer for a few hours, and Mel experienced only a slight bit of panic when, after a particularly big wave, Mel was not strong enough to throw the rudders over by more than 10 degrees. The boat eventually did what she wanted, though, and things got better once she adjusted for the funky wave pattern. Downwind hand-steering in the Med (or its surrounds) is a little harder than what the Burnetts have encountered so far because the wave frequency is so much greater. After they turned the corner around Africa, however, things settled down and they had some nice sailing, at one point making 4 kts of speed in just 6 kts of wind in Marvin’s sweet spot, about 110 degrees true.
Enough boat stuff! The Burnetts wrapped up Gibraltar by getting a lot of stuff fixed, replaced, and de-corroded. Mukesh at Digital Corner on Main Street was very helpful! We left with a new trampoline, an asymmetrical spinnaker, and elevated blood levels of curry, thanks to Raj’s Curry House, dosed every other day. Of course, our stay in Gibraltar was marred only by the week of constant cold and rain, the longest consistent period of rain Gibraltar has seen in years. When we raised the main in the Strait when we left, a flood of rainwater came out of the sailbag and swamped the helm for over a minute. Yes, our sailbag is more watertight than our boat!
After two weeks in a familiar port, the Burnetts were excited to get back into the discovery of travel. Our next destination promised to be very different from recent ones: Morocco, in AFRICA, our fourth continent! Since we skipped Turkey, Morocco will be our first country with Islamic roots. To be honest, we were a little nervous.
When one sails into Rabat, one is met by a pilot boat who guides you down the Bouregreg River, because it has silted up in the past. We never saw less than 15 feet under our hull, though. There was the usual crowd of boatspotters along the banks watching us come in, and at one point someone, seeing our ensign, yelled in English, “Are you American?” Mel, not sure about what kind of PR the US has gotten in Morocco, responded timidly, “Yes!” The person on the bank yelled back, “Welcome!” Later on, we had the same interchange with a guy swimming in the river. Surprise #1.
Apparently, Morocco has long had a kinship for America, recognizing us all the way back when we had the Continental Congress. More recently, Morocco and America share a common history of terrorist attacks that really, really pissed us off. So now we are friends. But we are very different, with Morocco being a non-secular, Islamic state that still is lingering in the dark ages of women’s rights. Nevertheless, we are in some sort of awkward friendship, like a Republican-Democrat pairing, or this tiger and this pig:
As we were going down the river, we heard our first “call to prayer.” We all came out on deck, watching all of the fishermen and onlookers on the riverbank to see what they would do.
They didn’t do anything.
Well, surprise #2. It turns out that apparently not everyone always does the praying thing in Morocco. In retrospect, our expectation that everyone would drop what they were doing and pray is similar to someone visiting the US and expecting all of us to be Amish or something.
None of this would be too surprising if Mel had bothered to pay attention to the BBC at any point in her life. However, the weird secret is that a background of ignorance makes travel more fun. And Mel especially is having lots of fun. She can’t wait for more surprises!