02 November 2008

Is it Cash? Or is it Hash?

Team Sandpiper Update 2 Nov 2008
Side tied at Tangier Municipal Marina
North Africa, Gateway to the Atlantic

Is it Cash? Or is it Hash???????

Let me set the scene for the evening: It is 9pm in cold, dark, wet sketchy Tangier, Morocco. We are side tied to a derelict boat. In fact, all of the boats in the harbor are derelict, except for the Sandpiper. We had a great day zig-zagging through the alleyways of the Casbah, poking our heads into shops along the way. We are now back on the boat, trying to keep warm and dry, enjoying dinner and a movie.

We have taken a few breaks throughout the evening to poke our heads up top and have a look around at what is going on in the harbor. Tangier is a dirty and busy harbor with thousands of stinky fishing vessels of all sizes moving in and out of the harbor at all times of the day and night. This last time we went topside we noticed the Harbor Police towing a large sport fishing vessel, and they appeared to be headed straight for Sandpiper.

Sure enough, moments later we have a 40-foot sport fishing boat tied off our starboard side. It is never good to have to be towed in. And to do so at night just adds to the drama of it all. So we stuck around outside asking our new neighbors "What went wrong? Why are you being towed in? Where have you arrived from?"

Soon after meeting the sweaty, nervous looking, talk a mile-a-minute, neck tattoo covered Captain we were privy to their story. It seems that this "gentlemen" and his crew, whom he had never met before this morning, have been hired to deliver this boat somewhere across the Straits. After they arrived on the boat, which by the way has no name or numbers on it, they got just a few miles out of the harbor when the engine died. The Captain also reports that his cell phone wouldn't work, claiming that it had no signal, this being only 2 miles from port. He thinks the police are following him and are intercepting his cell phone. This prevents him from being able to call his local 'boss' and he is now forced to deal with local authorities.

It is not until hours later that they give up on the engine and are in fact towed in by the local authorities and his cell phone magically starts working again. I should also mention that while he is sharing this info with us, he is downing shots of vodka like a loyal comrade. Their boat is currently secured next to us, and streams of officials are coming off and on it, which means they are stomping over Sandpiper too (here, everyone side ties to the last boat in).

This, of course, is all so fantastic to us and is the most excitement we have ever seen in such an exotic harbor. The movie will have to wait. While one official goes onboard, another arrives. Our new neighbor is getting antsy and sweatier, but he still managing to chain smoke, occasionally hack up a lung on us, and do more shots of Vodka. Baksheesh, a form of payment/bribe, is part of the culture here and a pack of cigarettes is the norm. He told us that one of the officials asked for cocaine as his payment. Interesting…

After the last official leaves the Captain says "I want you to know that people have been shot here in Tangier because of what you saw here tonight". This of course didn't stiffen my curiosity of what was going on over at his boat. So I started asking "What is the name of your boat? What kind of boat is it? Where are you going? Where's all your fishing gear if you're a fishing boat?" To which he looked at Tom and said "Your wife asks a lot of questions" as Tom is giving me the hand across the neck motion. Tom had figured out what was going on as soon as the boat tied up next to us. It had no name or numbers, and the captain not knowing where any of his boat's mooring lines were stored.

From the bits and pieces of what we could gather from the captain,  it seems that he had just arrived this morning. He was hired to take this recently hauled out boat out of the country and deposit it somewhere else. With our minds racing, and few details given to us thanks to shots of vodka in the skipper, we gathered this vessel's recent yard work included hollowing out the insides of the boat, adding false compartments, and filling them with cash, hash, or who knows what? 

Needless to say, it has been an exciting fews days here in Tangier. As we spent hours the next morning trying to clear customs we asked our new friend how he cleared out. He stated "It was taken care of..."

Amy and Tom

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