After a long flight from New Zealand and a lightning visit to see Leo, Edie and the Old Pirate in Salou, Spain, we caught the bus back to Barcelona at 6am to fly Vueling to Tangier in Morocco arriving at 1330 without drama. We took a taxi from Tangier to Marina Smir (near Tetouan) which is about 70 km for the princely sum of 50 Euro. After calling in at the Capitanerie to announce our arrival and tell them of our plans to splash the boat on 3 May and depart for Gibraltar 4 May, we went to see ‘Roaring Meg’.
She was sat on the hard near to the travel lift and just the way we left her with all running rigging removed to below decks along with life raft, rubber duckie, outboard motor, sails etc. The rudder was lashed to the safety lines and ready for re- assembly with a new bearing shell and Teflon shims hand carried from New Zealand. Graham my sailing buddy from Auckland had a new alternator (120Amp Bosch) and handmade double pulley in his kit bag along with a new relay for the starter motor. Every time we leave Meg there is always ‘the list’ of items that need repair or replacement. Salt water is a very harsh environment!
We begin work immediately for there is much to do. The chief engineer installs the new generator, relay for the starter motor and begins testing all systems. In the meantime the captain polishes the topsides of the hull, obtains anti fouling from the boatyard and sands the bottom of the hull in perfect weather of around 25 degrees Celcius. By 2200 hrs captain and crew are both absolutely knackered and go fossicking for food at one of several restaurants around the Marina. We try to get ‘online’ with the usual frustrations of losing access plus we are both falling asleep at the table…but Moroccan food is good.
We make arrangements with Mohammed (boatyard chief) to splash the boat on Saturday 3 May and I return to the Capitanerie to complete formalities and make ready to leave on 4 May. Saloua, the lady at the office gives me the final account and takes our passports around to customs/immigration to have us stamped out of the country. She returns a few minutes later saying that there is a problem. I say ‘what problem’? Apparently my yacht was only allowed to be in Morocco for 6 months and not 9 months and that I will need to pay a fine before we will be allowed to leave!! When negotiating the price for ‘wintering over’ nobody mentioned anything about the fact that there was a 6 month restriction on foreign vessels staying in Morocco. At all times I had made it absolutely clear that I was a New Zealand citizen with a New Zealand registered ship!!
Next question was, how much was the fine? Answer – 1,000 Euros!! You could wait until Monday, she tells me, and go and talk to the Director of Customs in Tetouan a 20 min taxi ride away but that it probably would not change anything anyway. Pirates without guns!!
So the next day Sunday Graham and I went to M’Diq the next town with a cash machine and used four credit cards to drag the money out which had to be in local currency – 10,000 MAD (Moroccan Durhams).
The customs officer was extremely aggressive often shouting but Saloua from the Capitanerie, a slight but pretty woman, stood up to him and shouted back but all in vain. It was all in Arabic and she was unable to get him to change his mind. I am currently trying to obtain reimbursement from the Marina for allowing me to enter what was clearly an illegal contract. Not a great start to our voyage of discovery but we did escape with Meg and under sail, and set a course for Gibraltar. We discovered en route that the Silentwind generator was not charging and it sounded like the shaft bearing was buggered…