07 November 2008

07-Nov-2008 Noon Update

North Atlantic Ocean

  • 86 nm since leaving Tangier 11am yesterday
  • 472 nm to the Canary Islands
  • Winds FAC
  • Flat Calm Seas, Mirror Smooth
As mentioned in our last entry, our stop for Tangier will not be posted for one month from now for obvious reasons once you read it. So stay tuned...

We cleared out with Moroccan police and customs by 11am yesterday after a very lengthy search of the port for the customs officer. When we cleared into Morocco at Tangier the harbor police took our passports and our boat documentation and issued us shore passes. To leave we went to the harbor police, who gave us back our stuff when we returned our shore passes. Next was a lengthy walk through the shipping terminal to find the customs officer to stamp us out. When we cleared in to Morocco, the Customs Officer came to the boat and told us to walk to his office in the port when we were ready to leave, and that it was easy to find.

I walked past hundreds of trucks that were lined up to be loaded on a ferry headed to Spain. I asked  all of the police officers there where the Customs office was. None of the police officers spoke English. So I showed them my Customs form asking where the office was. Many men started shouting to each other in Arabic and then one told me to follow him thru the port.

Along the way he talked to about 50 other Customs officers, all shouting loudly in Arabic and waving their arms, pointing in different directions after looking at our customs form. After an hour long walk throughout the port, I was told to go back to the front gate and check there. So off I went.

Of course the office at the main gate was closed. At this point I was ready to leave Morocco without clearing customs. Then one of the police officers at the front gate told me to look in a warehouse nearby to see if there were any officers in there. I think the warehouse I walked into was stored all of the seized contraband items that they have collected over the years. There were things piled everywhere, and right at the entrance was a customs officer watching TV with a few of his friends.

So once again I showed him my form. And he, not speaking any English, pointed to where I had just came from. He then pointed for me to follow him back to the shipping port, and once again we made another complete round of all the offices that I had just been to before.

After much more yelling, arm waving, and pointing, we finally found the one guy in the whole port that had the rubber stamp to stamp our papers. I think the Customs Officer that was walking me around was the head guy as he had a large gold star on his uniform and every other officer he walked by would hug and kiss him 2 times on each cheek. Lucky for me I just got away with a only a handshake.

After returning to the 'Piper is was time to leave. The moorings in Tangier Harbor are not like any marina we have been in before. When we arrived there were a few other sailboats with their anchors out and their sterns secured to the pier. So we just side tied to the last boat. During our stay, 3 other power boats tied off on our other side. To get out was a tangle of lines as we had to squeeze the 'Piper out while not casting loose all the boats tied on our other side. But we made it out, no problems.

Once in the Straits of Gibraltar we motored west for 6 miles. Sandpiper was at last in the Atlantic Ocean after more then 3 weeks of waiting for an agreeable weather window. Once we cleared the Straits we were able to put up the sails and sail south for the first time in years. We have not sailed south since heading down Australia's west coast to Sydney.

We were able to sail all night, with the winds slowly dying about sunrise, leaving us sailing about a 1/2 knots at times. We then fired up the engine and have been motoring since on a flat glassy ocean.

Still lots of shipping around. Last night we had a pack of other sailboats pass us. We are starting to fall in with all the boats that will be crossing the Atlantic this year. Everyone is heading to the Canary Islands to get ready to leave when the trade winds fill in. This also means lots of new boats from Europe that are just starting on their adventurous. Which also means lots of boats on there very first ocean passages.

Since we are not in a huge hurry to get to the Canaries we will sail if there is any wind at all. As long as we can keep moving, the auto pilot can steer us. Last night at times we were averaging only 1-2 knots while all the other sailboats that were passing us had their engines running.

It seems from all the different crazy light arrangements on their masts that they added more lights to their boats in order to be seen. But all this does it make things more confusing since it is very hard to determine what direction they are going if they do not have the proper navigation lights. The first boat to pass us had their spreader lights that pointed up and they were switched on. I think they did this in order to light up their sails thinking ships will be able to see his sails and give him the right of way. But from a distance these spreader light look like a masthead light. So this defeats the whole purpose and is also very confusing from a distance.

The next boat to pass us went by less then 50 yards off our port side. Even in daylight, in the open ocean, this is far to close to pass another boat. And at night, this was way too close. We were not sure if he even saw our stern light which was burning brightly. He just kept coming closer and closer. Since it was another sailboat, and we could see him, we just waited to see how close he would actually get.

As he pulled along side us he finally decided to look around and saw us right off his starboard side, within talking distance. He then completely freaked out and shut off all his navigation lights. We are guessing he was freaking because he was on the open ocean for the first time and was reading too many books on piracy ("Pirates? Been to Disney World one to many times Captain Ron??"). We started laughing really loud, but there is no way he could not have heard us. All he had to do was look forward and he would have spotted us. We then yelled at him to turn his lights back on. He then re-energized his lights and slinked off into the night.

The next light of interest was a sailboat with a flashing yellow siren type light that was mounted right above his cockpit. I think he thought he would add this light to make him more visible to shipping. But the light was so bright that there was no way to see his running lights, so only made his situation more confusing. The funny part was this light was so bright and flashing right into his cockpit we are not sure how HE could see anything. And would make me crazy in just a few seconds.

Sorry for the rant, but its been an interesting 24 hours. This was just our first night and we still have 472 nm to go. The weather is calm, but looking at weather forecasts we are hoping the winds fill in from the NE for the next couple of days. Hope this time tomorrow we are sailing!

More in 24!!

Tom and Amy

Birthday shout out to Steve on S/V Shiraz!

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