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How to avoid expensive mistakes when you buy a new or second-hand yacht. 

Available on Amazon here


Icom IC-M35We review the Icom IC-M35 handheld.  Read the full review here.

GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook








The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.


Rosie & Brian 11 - Gibraltar, Morocco and Spain

MoroccoWe managed to stay an extra day in Gibraltar despite the threatened eviction for the forthcoming regatta while we continued to re-stock and I paid a visit to the “Rock”. I went with fellow sailors from Rampage with whom we had been barricaded in Barbate.  We managed to get into St Michael’s Cave which was amazing – huge stactites and stalagmites in winding passages opening into a huge cave similarly encrusted which is used as an auditorium.  The tunnels at the other end of the rock were closed when we got there, but it gives the impression that the whole place is almost hollow.

After some discussion and thought and checking charts, we decided that as we were so close to Morocco, it would be a shame not to visit despite the fact that we didn’t have much detail on any charts – even the new Imray ones we had bought.  However we did have the port chartlets and a new North African Pilot  and most of the coast seemed pretty much steep to, so worth the risk. Our first day’s sail took us quickly to Ceuta – the Spanish enclave just over the Straits from Gibraltar.  In the distance as we reached the other side, we could see the Red Arrows flying formations over Gibraltar in preparation for the regatta that we had had to move out for.  We had been advised that Ceuta was the place to get cheap electronics – but we didn’t see anything particularly cut price.  We managed to get a spare invertor, having killed one in France and deciding that to have one in reserve would be sensible to ensure our computer based chart plotting wasn’t compromised. We continue to hunt for a solution to relaying the chart display on deck – but 12” flat screen monitors are not easy to come by off the shelf.

The trip over the Straits was a great sail on a starboard beam reach in rather choppy seas, although we rather conservatively kept the engine on all the time in case we had to dodge the numerous cargo and ferry traffic at short notice.  The chop meant our decks were well washed of the dust accumulated from the airport next to Marina Bay as were we!  The yachtie community in Ceuta were very friendly, we found a good place to eat courtesy of the Rough Guide to Morocco, and spent a useful 3 nights there, admiring the restored battlements and seawater moat around them.  Then we moved south, again only a short hop to Smir.  I knew it was the end of Ramadan and that Eid would be on the Monday and Tuesday after the weekend, so we were prepared for some lack of facilities and that we would need to stay until all the festivities were over.

The marina in Smir is very large and we were sent off to berth near the boatyard – as opposed to being able to tie up near the cafes and facilities.  The office ladies must have decided that we looked too unkempt for public display.  We registered with the police;  the “doctor” (one of the office ladies) checked that we were well and didn’t have swine flu. On our arrival I pointed out to Brian that it would be easier for getting ourselves and the bikes on and off if we moored stern to.  This didn’t take into account the wind blowing us onto the dock!  Fortunately it was a large space to aim at, and we ended up side on, then slowly cranked the bow out on the mooring rope. Ah well – you live and learn - we will need to practise more. We might as well have stayed tied up fore and aft as no-one else arrived during our stay.  Since then it has been strictly bows to, and we have now used one of our useful bits of steel tubing to fashion a gangplank support at the side of the pulpit. Alixora doesn’t like going backwards in a straight line and we haven’t yet worked out any technique to correct this.

Most of the boats on our bit of the dock (concrete – no pontoons here) were locked up, so there wasn’t much social life.  I did meet an English woman in the showers and Brian was able to help her crew mates sort out an electrical problem. We got the bikes out and went hunting around to find out what was where – nothing as we found that the marina shops had closed down for the whole of Ramadan.  The closest town is M’Diq which is a bit more of a ride than we were prepared for.  Eventually we managed to get there after a bit of pleading (no taxis during Eid either) to buy food from the market and obtain cash, which was the only way of paying for anything throughout our short visit apart from in one European style hotel.  However I did manage to get my first swim in the Med – the water was a bit cold.  We did the usual fixing and cleaning and filled up the water tanks – a good move as it turned out. 

On the Tuesday we left early for El Jebha – a 40 mile motorsail in light winds. We knew it would be a small place (we tied up to a fishing boat) and just a one night stop-over before we set off for Al Hoceima – a further 40 miles. Here we had our first real taste of Moroccan officialdom. The policeman who arrived within a few minutes was extraordinarily friendly and multi-lingual, but it took half an hour for him to go through the list of information he needed – some of which he didn’t understand himself and we had to translate the French for him.  The detail went down to mother’s first names and father’s surnames – presumably a quirk of matriarchal heirarchy in Morocco.  Later we saw the port police patrolling the fishing dock with rifles slung over their shoulders.  They paid some attention to Brian as he adjusted the mooring lines, but satisfied themselves with a “bon soir” and moved on.  Amazingly there was public wifi access in the harbour so we picked up a few emails. We had none in Smir, paid for a few hours in Gibraltar, and just used internet cafés the rest of the time.  The muezzin roused us at 4am, and again as we left at 6.30am after waking up the policeman to tell him we were leaving!

The wind had changed back to the east and the strong current was set west so it was a hard slog to get along the coast to Al Hoceima, but once we rounded the point we had a great sail for about ½ hour for the last 1.5 miles into the port.  We poked our nose into the busy fishing dock, but decided that we should stick to the pilot advice to berth on the south side of the ferry dock.  After another ½ hour of nosing up to the 1.5 metre high concrete dock with very big bollards well in from the edge, trying a bit of lassoeing after failing to be able to scramble up the edge, we managed to get a rope round a bollard, just as a man from the lifeboat tied up on the same jetty came to help.  This is the main ferry terminal which operates from June to September, with a large marble and glass reception building, acres of car marshalling tarmac and customs pillboxes – and totally empty!  We were visited by 3 sets of officials this time – all very welcoming and friendly but each asking for the same set of information as at El Jebha.  The immigration man found our details on computer that were captured at Smir.  The rates were very reasonable – about £2 a day (sorry Jonathan Livingston!)

We eventually managed to work out that we could use the toilets in the smart reception building, but take your own bucket of seawater for flushing as all the water connections had failed – to be fixed “tomorrow” for the week we were there.  So a good thing we had filled up in Smir.  Our 550 litres of water held out for over two weeks – and we weren’t particulary abstemious, having a couple of showers and plenty of washing up. 

The purpose of staying in Al Hoceima was to take the advice of the Rough Guide “There are very few journeys in Morocco as spectacular as that from Chefchaouen to Al Hoceima.  The road precisely – and perversely – follows the backbone of the Western Rif, the highest peaks in the north of the country.”  And Chefchaouen was recommended as one of the best introductions to Morocco.  So we left Alixora on her own for the first time in 3 months and took the bus to Chefchaouen for 3 nights.  The 7 hour journey there was in torrential rain and cloud (the boat was nice and clean when we got back!), but the return journey was fantastic with spectacular views down into valleys and across mountain ranges from a very hairpin bend road.  As Brian commented – it was nice to have someone else driving for a change!  Chefchaouen was great too, and our whole visit to Morocco was an education – including selecting a live chicken in the souk for dinner and having it killed, plucked and dressed in about 3 minutes!  We got the hang of the “petit taxis” that dashed around town for about 70p per trip, much reducing our provisioning time as Al Hoceima town was a good mile or so up hill. We found that the Rough Guide is great for restaurants and hotels, but not so good for finding shops and supermarkets. 

Finally it was time to leave and we set sail on the last day of September just east of north for the Spanish coast, ending up at Almerimar.  We spent the first 4 hours motorsailing in a good westerly breeze but keeping the engine on to push us east against that strong coastal west bound current.  Then we switched the engine off and sailed on a fantastic beam reach for the remaining 18 hours until we were within a couple of miles of land. 

Almerimar is a well known over wintering marina – nice and warm and quite cheap (10€ a day from 1st October).  We are spending two or three weeks here – mainly because parts for the Eberspacher are being sent from the UK but also because the Levante is just starting again and we will wait until it has blown over. Plenty of time for continuing with all the small fixing and improvement jobs.  We are planning to carry on up the Spanish coast then head east again via the Balearics towards Tunisia or Malta for a bit of winter sun, but without a definite plan in mind.  Suggestions are welcomed!



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