Porthmadog

We were assigned the only mooring deep enough to hold us and twice a day we could watch the surrounding boats coming to rest on the mud and sand around us. Most of the yachts in the harbour were bilge keelers specially designed to stay upright while sat on the bottom.

The first day we rowed across to the harbour wall and walked the hundred meters to the Ffestiniog Railway. This is a narrow gauge railway that heads up in to the hills and ultimately to the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The trains are driven by steam engines and the route very scenic. This was Heidi’s chance to see something else of Wales than sandy beaches and holiday homes. Blaenau used to be a center for slate production so we headed into the hills to look at the post industrial landscape above town and explore a bit. The town itself is doing its best to become a tourist location but there is only so much you can do with piles of grey slate and 200 days rain a year. We broke the return journey half way to take a walk through a Welsh rainforest.

Blaenau Fffestiniog

Blaenau Fffestiniog

On the second day we caught another more conventional train to Harlech and visited Harlech Castle. Since Neill’s last visit thirty years ago they have built a visitor center which explained the building and history of the castle. A quick course in British history for Heidi. Norman conquest, War of the Roses and English civil war all in 15 minutes.

The next morning we planned on leaving but revised our schedule because of Storm Hector. With gale force nine forecast we stayed hidden in Porthmadog. Even so we saw over 20 knots on the anemometer so we were both glad to still be in harbour. The dinghy ride from the yacht club to the boat was exciting.

The next day we left on the high tide to continue our journey south.

Lochmaddy – North Uist

Lochmaddy is where the ferry comes in on the Isle of North Uist. It has a ferry terminal, two hotels, two shops, a doctor’s surgery, a bank and a scattering of houses. Probably not somewhere that people spend a week of their holidays. But Lochmaddy is where the lifeboat brought us to and it turned out to be a great place for Heidi to recover from her slipped disc.

Information_SignThe spare part we needed was a new fresh water pump. We contacted David Richardson – a Sales Engineer at Ferrier Pumps Ltd. David had the part on our boat 46 hours after we ordered it, and that on a remote Scottish Island. Contact him at 71 Cumbernauld Rd, Glasgow, G31 2SN, 0141 554 3454, david.richardson@ferrierpumps.co.uk http://www.ferrierpumps.co.uk

One shop sold the groceries we needed to live and the other sold the screws and glue that we needed for a few repairs to the boat. The hotel sold whisky and John MacDonald at the ferry terminal received spare parts from the mainland for us. Every one was friendly and continually asked about the status of Heidi’s back. As the first person to be rescued by the new lifeboat she was something of a celebrity.

Peat cutting on North Uist

Peat cutting on North Uist – seen on one of our many walks

The village has about six roads and, during our walks, we combined them in every way possible. Now that we are leaving, people are going to wonder what happened to the two people who walked past their house three times a day. I am sure we can draw a detailed map of the village from memory.

Once Heidi was able to sit longer than 20 minutes we took the “anticlockwise” bus to the neighbouring hamlet of Sollas which has a stunning white beach backed by huge dunes and washed by waves off the Atlantic, about 30 houses and the biggest supermarket on the island. We walked along the beach, drank coffee in the community center and filled a trolley at the co-op. Luckily the bus driver delivered us to the end of the ramp at the marina with our three full bags of provisions.

Sollas Co-Op (middle of picture)

Sollas Co-Op in the middle of picture

Tomorrow we plan on leaving Lochmaddy to continue south. We will take pleasant memories of the village and people with us.

Tobermory

Tobermory is the capital of the Isle of Mull and probably most famous for having a high street on the seafront where every house is a different colour. For us it was our last chance to get everything fixed before we sailed off to the Hebrides.

The marina is a community project and very laid back and friendly. We spent three evenings on a mooring and during the day moved to a hammerhead pontoon to work on the boat and so kept the costs down.

The town has a superbly stocked chandlery which we visited regularly. They even had a new fresh water pump which we managed to fit so that we once again had tap water without hitting the pump with a hammer. They also had a “got to have” item – a waterproof tablet holder.

new water pump awaiting installation

new water pump awaiting installation

What the chandlery didn’t have, the ironmongers had. Strangely they also sold alcohol.

The garage in town knew about marine diesels so they came and identified our leak as a slow diesel leak. So slow that we can’t find it.

The co-op allowed us to stock up our rations and the bakery sold delicious calorie bombs which we had to try.

And it rained more than it didn’t.

La Graciosa

First impressions of this island were perhaps colored by the journey to get there. We arrived at the end of a two day sail from Morocco during which two of us had stood watch and watch about including manual helming. The last few hours had been spent navigating around the partly unlit and unseen  islands in perfect darkness and when we switched the engine on it smelt of burning circuits. The final two miles were through a strait with 35 knot winds and when we made fast in the marina, I thought I was back in the Falkland Islands – barren, wind swept and treeless.

Later the wind dropped and we enjoyed a stroll through the sandy streets of Caleto del Sebo and visits to the cafes and bars along the sandy water front. It was here that I realized the serenity that this backwater island radiates. Here the rest of the world is far far away.

view from the summit of Montana Bermeja

view from the summit of Montana Bermeja

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Marrakesch

There is only so much to do in Agadir so, after a few days of waiting for good weather, I decided to see a little more of Morocco and took the express bus to Marrakesch for a little over ten Euros. Most of the journey was through a barren landscape of sand, stone and scrub but occasionally we passed a colorless village with the square minaret of its mosque. A highlight was seeing the snow capped Atlas Mountains in the far distance and in the foreground a farmer ploughing with two donkeys.

Information_SignGoing to Marrakesch I caught a bus from CMI and on the way back Supratours. Both offered a luxury version but I took the standard bus for about ten Euros.

We reached Marrakesch bus station just before sunset and I hiked through the city to the Medina where I found a room on the roof of a house in a side alley. The Medina is a warren of small streets and deep, partly roofed alleys that block the sun. As you move around you compete with bikes, motorcycles, donkey carts and a press of people moving at random. It all takes patience and time. Tiny shops line the alleys and spill out in to the street. Everything from bike repair to butchers and carpenters to tourist traps is mixed together with no obvious system.

a tannery in Marrakesh

a tannery in Marrakesh

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Agadir

We were on our way south from Spain to the Canary Islands and had experienced an “exciting” crossing of the Straits of Gibraltar with more than enough wind, large waves on the beam and a few huge container ships, so were glad to finally reach Agadir. The approaches to the harbour were guarded by erratic fishing boats and strings of unmarked fishing nets which we negotiated shortly after dawn. The buoyage was interesting. We were flummoxed by a buoy with the top painted green and the bottom red. The marina ignored our radio calls but some one was waiting on a pontoon and waved us to a berth.

buoy seen at the entrance to Agadir

strange colored Buoy, Agadir

Despite it being Saturday, customs, police and immigration were relatively quickly dealt with even though they had to copy all the information by hand. The marina had working water and electricity on the pontoons but was let down by a very “north african” toilet block. (We paid €18 a night for our 36 feet.) Around the marina are a selection of bars, restaurants and shops and, particularly at the weekend, it was very lively. The restaurant Pure Passion is well worth a visit with the best irish coffee I have ever drunk and tasty, well presented food. The Wifi from the restaurants nearly reached the boat. Continue reading