Gladlee of Guernsey
March 1993 – April 1993
Ghazaouet port radio actually answered our call, and we duly tied up on a commercial quay near a coastguard launch just before 16.30. Customs, coastguard, police and the port authorities all turned up, and we had the first of many sessions of painstaking form-filling: all concerned sensible and courteous, though. Later the two young crew of the coastguard launch turned up with supper for us – excellent stuffed fish, salad, bread and dates, and later some treacly cakes. They rather shyly accepted a Coca-cola and coffee as small return for their hospitality. We took a short stroll out of the docks later, getting our “permis d’escale” on the way, but not much to be seen of a rather dark and featureless waterfront.
Next morning we changed some money and walked the main street of Ghazaouet trying (unsuccessfully) to get through by telephone to George at the Embassy in Algiers. A distinctly East European feel to the town (few poor quality goods in shops etc.), but people seemed cheerful and friendly enough. Friendly farewells to officials included the disappointing news that we should probably not be allowed to visit the scenic Îles Habibas. Another uneventful few hours’ motoring (the only bit of wind was on the nose) took us to the rather bizarre setting of Beni Saf – disused iron ore terminal dominating the hillside behind – where a lively argument developed between the Coastguard (a burly, jovial fellows in a white “captain”’s hat) and the rather smaller policeman as to where we should tie up, and who should take responsibility for welcoming us. Eventually (as we sat off the quay) the Coastguard appeared to win, and space was found for us to raft outside a small fishing boat. The Coastguard spoke some English and produced a small daughter, who came on board to meet the “crew” – later the charming police chief turned up and came on board for coffee. Somebody produced fresh bread for us, and once again we were made to feel most welcome.
Mercifully someone spotted the moon, and Ramadan was officially over the next morning – much good humour all round, kids out in best clothes. The friendly police chief saw us off, accompanied by his shy young son, who accepted an Eid present of our last Mars Bar. Another five hours’ motoring along increasingly spectacular cliffs brought us in sight of the Îles Habibas, but since Coastguard at Beni Saf had confirmed they were off limits we had to settle for the bay opposite – Mersa Ali Bon Nonar. On the way we saw more shearwaters and the rare Audouin’s gull – less happily we found the (new) second alternator not working again (it turned out later that the battery sensing wire had come loose). The bay proved almost idyllic – we anchored under a high cliff giving shelter from the E, on which ospreys were nesting – buzzards and more Audouin’s gulls promised to provide plenty of interest for Julie.
We had various chores to do in the morning before we thought of exploring ashore, and by the afternoon cloud and haze made the idea less appealing. A forecast from Gibraltar suggested we should get a stiff easterly after the current light westerly breeze: we considered running for Oran, but shelter from E seemed OK so we decided to sit tight. By dusk the wind was blowing a good F6, and we were getting gusts over 30 knots into the anchorage. We laid the kedge, but our real concern was the large swell which started rolling breakers into the other side of the bay, only a cable or so away. For a couple of hours the situation looked quite frightening, until we realised that we were in the sheltered part of the bay (and later the wind eased and we did get some sleep!)
Next morning there was only the slightest swell left, and the sky soon cleared to bring a lovely sunny morning. The view from the shore, past the steep NE promontory to the islands was quite spectacular. With some regret, in spite of our frayed nerves the previous evening, we left for Oran shortly before midday, motoring again into the familiar light to moderate easterly. Oran, sprawled along the hills above its bay, dominated by the Spanish fortress on the peak of Mont Aidour, was quite a striking sight in the afternoon sunshine: we were about to call up Port Control when they called us with some well-intended berthing instructions (we gently explained to the port officer in question later that visibility from a small yacht two miles out was a little limited!). Eventually, though, we found ourselves directed from the balcony of the control tower to a berth next to the inevitable Coastguard cutter: friendly officials again (and the Coastguard called in later with a forecast of E F7/8!)
27th – 28th March 1993 - No gale materialised (we were to learn that Algerian weather forecasts rarely bore much relation to reality), and we woke to a lovely day. We made our way up to the bustling city centre and managed to get through to Algiers from the PTT, then returned to the boat with a bag of sardines from a stall outside the harbour gate. Later we returned to the centre: wandering through a market just behind the main street Nigel was jostled by someone in a not particularly crowded area, and soon afterwards found something like coffee ice-cream daubed down the side of his slacks. Suspicions aroused, but it was only seconds later that the same thing happened again: Nigel instinctively grabbed the other was and caught the would-be pickpocket to his left, who promptly ran off, dropping Nigel’s wallet as he went. Unfortunately he took Nigel’s shoulder with him, and as it dislocated N. fell heavily on his left knee. With the help from bystanders we were fortunate to find a nearby doctor’s surgery, and eventually an anaesthetist was summoned and the shoulder put back in – much sympathy and kindness all round. A passing car was waved to a halt in the street, and its occupants gave us a lift back to the port. Later we had a visit from port officials for a beer and a chat – nobody seemed in the least inhibited about coming on board!
Our Coastguard friend called by the following morning, clearly upset at our unhappy experience: he seemed very disconcerted that we hadn’t found any police to whom we could make a statement, so he took one himself! We took a taxi up to the doctor’s (who hadn’t even asked our names, let alone expected payment before we disappeared) and settled a total bill of about £12! Bought some food, then returned to the port, where we treated ourselves to an excellent fish fry-up at a place which was unable to offer us either a soft drink or anything (other than a jug) to drink our water out of! Later the assistant HM called in again to give us his views on the Islamic fundamentalist threat (much of which, he seemed to believe, originated in the Regent’s Park mosque….)
29th – 31st March 1993 - Nigel’s shoulder felt OK (though his knee remained very sore and didn’t fully mend for weeks), so after refuelling in the fishing harbour we moved over to the ferry terminal, picked up our documents and headed off in the direction of Ténés, 100-odd miles eastwards. We actually sailed for a bit, with a rare NW breeze, but by early evening (as we crossed the Greenwich Meridian) the wind died and then and then turned E. After a quiet night we were closing Ténés but decided we had no particular reason to stop there: we tried, without success, to get a weather forecast out of Ténés radio, but there was no sign of anything unpleasant about so we pushed on to Cherchell, arriving there in mid-afternoon as the wind picked up. The approach, inside rocks and a training wall, was looking quite rough as we got in, and our initial berth just inside the entrance would not have been comfortable, but the Coastguard directed us to an empty bit of quay further into the small harbour. Our first job was to unblock the loo, which eventually involved removing and de-scaling the outlet pipe – judging by the amount of scale we knocked into the harbour this was long overdue!
Apart from a few curious kids we had a quiet evening and got to bed early to catch up on the previous night’s sleep, only to be woken at 05.30 by knocks on the coachroof from a trawler skipper wanting ‘our’ berth. We duly made way, and various helpful fishermen suggested we take a space on the other side of the harbour (the only one left) – here we gratefully settled before heading back to bed. Later we emerged to face numerous curious onlookers (we were now on the landward side of the harbour), all quite friendly with local advice. We walked up to the attractive town, which seemed a good deal smarter than our previous ports of call – excellent market, quite well-stocked shops and a pleasant piazza with bits of Roman masonry dotted about overlooking the sea. The harbour, with the tall lighthouse on an island behind it, looked picturesque from a distance, and on the other side of the square was an extraordinary mosque with a Doric portico! In the afternoon we caught a bus to the Roman ruins of Tipasa, a few miles along the coast, through lovely green countryside and rolling hills that might have been in southern Europe (though eucalyptus trees lining the road seemed a little out of place!) Tipasa had nothing spectacular by way of ruins, but the setting overlooking two bays, amid pine trees and flowers, was lovely and very peaceful. That evening we had the unique experience of picking up BBC Radio 5 and GLR (which we’d been hearing for some days – it was the same frequency as Radio Gibraltar) on our Sony short-wave radio!
1st – 6th April 1993 - After a visit to the lively market – excellent fruit and veg by any standards – we set off in a quite uncomfortable swell, though this moderated as we got further out. Then more alternator trouble – Julie spotted that the negative cable on the “new” unit had sheared off and was arcing. We disconnected it in time (as it turned out) to save the alternator. The light NW wind picked up for a while in the afternoon, but we soon had to settle for the engine again as we neared Sidi Fredj – soon afterwards a Coastguard patrol circled us a few times and eventually called us on VHF to check who we were and whither bound. Approaching Sidi Fredj marina entrance the skipper of a launch gestured us to keep very close to the pier head (we were forewarned by the pilot), but we still nearly went aground on the way in. Found an alondside berth at the far end, below the police post, and formalities were completed with the minimum of fuss. A peculiar place, Sidi Fredj, built by a French yachtsman (whose boat is mounted on the quay), with some slightly modernistic Moorish architecture and a couple of apartment blocks which might have been put up in pre-war London – no facilities to speak of (not even a public telephone) outside the two “luxury” hotels, but still a favourite destination for smart inhabitants of nearby Algiers. The marina has silted up so much that much of it is unusable, and some larger yachts inside it can’t get out! The pleasant harbourmaster outlined plans for improvements, but one wondered when, if ever, anything would get done. At least, meanwhile, we were pleased to find the berthing rates quite reasonable – the pilot, for once, had got this detail wildly wrong, and we hadn’t expected to afford to stay more than a night or two. The WNW wind freshened during the evening, and we had quite a blustery night.
With George and family from the Embassy coming to supper we spent the day tidying up the boat, cooking, and chatting to the promenaders on the quay, who included Russians, Argentinians, and a goodly number of Algerians asking to have their photographs taken on board. A friendly French diplomat from a neighbouring yacht came over with his crew for a beer at lunchtime. The wind was still quite brisk, so we warned George and his family not to expect a sail – they turned up (sadly minus George’s wife, unwell) at 17.00. George typically bearing a large cool box full of beer and champagne, and some excellent Chablis. There followed a very convivial evening – George interesting and gossipy, the kids very well behaved, excellent chicken and highly superior booze. We slept very well…..
A quiet day on the Saturday, notable chiefly for George’s return with a packet of mail for us and an improbable encounter with members of a British Legion group visiting war graves in the area – we had four of the Legionnaires on board for tea in the morning, and they readily agreed to take some letters back to the UK for posting (Nigel’s Mum totally baffled by the speed with which hers eventually turned up!)
Sunday was Nigel’s birthday, and we hitched a lift into the nearby village of Staoueli to get a new alternator cable made up and take a look at the market (stalls in a dusty lot on the edge of the village, but quite well stocked). Then standing room only on a bus which ground its way round the coast towards Algiers: the shoreline could have been very attractive (one or two dilapidated old French villas would have superb views), but now more or less spoiled by tatty ribbon development. Interesting to see the variety of faces and dress on the bus – much good humour and an original variant on the “honesty” system for paying fares, with passengers passing money along the bus to the conductor and somehow getting tickets and change back! Finally we arrived at the bus station, in the port area below Algiers, and made our way up to the esplanade overlooking the bay, lined with grand commercial buildings and occasional gardens, where we found the splendid Moorish-style PTT building, all arches and mosaics. Posted some cards (and got offered some black market dinars by the counter staff!) and phoned James from the telephone office nearby: then we wandered up the pleasantly leafy main shopping street to the square occupied by an equestrian statue of Abdulkader, the great nationalist hero, where we were served coffee and very indifferent pizza by a surly waiter. Eventually we wandered back down to call on the harbourmaster’s office to enquire about a visit with “Gladlee”: as luck would have it we bumped into the HM on the way out, and he had received a telex about us from the Embassy, so we got permission to call in for a night. We caught another over-crowded bus back: this one picked up a puncture half-way to Staoueli and rolled on at 15-20 m.p.h. on three good wheels. Thanks to a misunderstanding we also overshot our stop and had to get a taxi down to Sidi Fredj, so all in all it was a rather unnecessary hassle at the end of a long day’s exploring. We made up for it, though, with a pleasant enough dinner at a restaurant by the marina, decorated (quite nicely) in Moorish style with lots of beaten brass dishes and lamps, and little alcoves with seats round the main dining area.
Another lift to Staoueli, courtesy of one of our new French friends, to shop for food and pick up our alternator cable: we spent the rest of the day on a major engine service and general clean-up. It was slightly frustrating to have wasted four days of favourable wind, since by the time we refuelled and re-watered early on the Tuesday there was no wind at all. We picked our way very carefully out of the marina entrance and headed round to Algiers, getting a depressing view from seaward of the awful damage done to the coastline by ugly industrial plants and ribbon development. The view of the city from outside the port was quite fine (yet somehow a little disappointing), and we found a berth as instructed opposite the ferry terminal. It took some time to root out the police to deal with us, and it was two hours later, as we prepared to go into town, that the Customs officials a few yards away told us we couldn’t stay where we were. Some slightly irritated exchanges followed, but eventually the port office sent round a body who invited us to move to a vacant quay just below the Place Port Said – a rather pleasant spot, as it turned out. We wandered up to visit the “Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions”, up an amazingly decrepit flight of steps in a very scruffy area, with kids playing in the dirt and bits of sheep scattered around – the museum (in an old Turkish mansion) was much better than its surroundings! Just along the road we wandered into the main market area, a jumble of stalls round a colonnaded square, with the main food shops in the middle – all this area in stark contrast to the relatively smart downtown area only a few hundred yards away. We didn’t have time to see more than the centre of the city, but on the whole we didn’t enjoy the place very much and were glad to be heading on: perhaps, too, there was the unwelcome memory of our experience in Oran (although we never felt specifically threatened al all, and people were mostly very friendly)
7th – 10th April 1993 - A dull, windless morning as we left Algiers, the city covered in a pall of haze or smog so that we soon lost sight of it. The coast along from the far side of the bay was relatively flat, covered with wooded sand-dunes, and quite unlike the steep green slopes we’d been seeing all the way from Morocco. We stopped at Dellys for two nights, a pleasant enough harbour, overlooked by some low stone houses that would have been at home in Provence, and a lively little village climbing up a steep main street to a small market at the top, where we bought bream for a Chinese dinner: fine view from the cliff opposite the market towards the promontory to the north. Our arrival was inauspicious, in spite of being offered a nice alongside berth on the bit of quay reserved for the Coastguard, since young CG and police (PAF) officials took over an hour to fill in forms and conduct the usual swoop round the boat – inexperience rather than any ill-will, but none the less irritating. Otherwise we found the local fishermen quite friendly, and there seemed to be little activity in the harbour so we enjoyed a quiet stay.
Next we headed for the small fishing harbour of Zemmouri Bahar, sighting a couple of dolphins on the way, and did some useful research for the pilot (a new breakwater, and the harbour had been dredged) before continuing to the bay of Azzefoun. Changes here, too, with a new harbour at an early stage of construction. We put in to what was left of the old breakwater to check in with local officials, then went and anchored off, where we were subsequently boarded by a slightly ridiculous Coastguard official in bare feet and toting an automatic rifle, who’d commandeered a fisherman’s boat to get out to us.
From Azzefoun we actually got a NW wind, mostly F4, to give us six hours of sailing along an increasingly spectacular coastline of steep cliffs towards the great mass of Cap Carbon with its natural arch and two lighthouses – beyond it the impressive sweep of the Kabylie Mountains on the far side of the Bay of Bejaïa. First impressions of Bejaïa weren’t all that wonderful: we were directed to a cramped berth between a freighter and a couple of tugs, where we had to make our bow line fast to a fence post, and then had to endure a visit from an unsure and officious PAF man who chose to deal with Nigel as if interrogating a suspect (Julie meanwhile dealt with some more civil and mildly embarrassed coastguards across the saloon table). Some increase in the temperature occurred when after 40 minutes the PAF man wanted to conduct “un petit contrôle”, and unwisely asked Nigel whether he minded, but we managed at last to get him off the boat without a serious loss of temper (or face). We settled down, at last, to have our evening showers, in the middle of which we felt a distinct bump as one of the tugs hit us on the port quarter. Nigel promptly contacted port control by VHF and asked to move to where we should have been in the first place: a convenient and secure (if dusty) berth on the empty quay just opposite the main harbour gate.
11th – 14th April 1993 - Things had to get better, and they duly did as soon as we started exploring the next morning. The port office was very welcoming, police and customs on the gate quite friendly, and the town proved one of our favourite stops in Algeria. It rises steeply from the harbour, with a leafy square and terrace between two grand buildings providing a stunning view over the bay to the mountains behind – at any time of day there were groups of people leaning on the balustrade just soaking up the scenery. Good shops and markets, and a lively atmosphere: it struck us as a place which took some pride in itself (apart from anything else it was unusually clean and tidy). We found a helpful travel agent who gave us directions as to how to reach the Roman site of Djemila, and we wandered down the hill again to locate the bus station. Nigel managed (just) to get our passports back from the PAF in time to allow us to set off inland the following morning.
Bestirred ourselves early for the trip inland and enjoyed a spectacular bus ride through the Kabylie mountains to Sétif – a puncture on the way seemed par for the course! A local bus took us through relatively uninteresting flat country to the outskirts of El Ouelma, where we squeezed on to a mini-bus to strap-hang on the winding road up into the mountains to Djemila. Much good humour and patience throughout the day, with a remarkable variety of characters co-existing on the buses – interesting to see girl-friends chatting side by side, the one in Western dress and the other in traditional gown and head-scarf. We had a good mess of potage at a café in the village before wandering down to the impressive Roman ruins – deferred would-be “guides” and enjoyed a walk round (interesting market-place with counters and measures, and nice little theatre), then took in fine walls full of mosaics in the small museum. Got seats on the mini-bus back down (true to form, it developed gear-box trouble on the way, but at least no puncture!) and succeeded in hitching a lift back to Sétif with a motor mechanic whose brother had married a Welsh girl and settled in Cardiff. Fairly grotty and overpriced hotel (an unusually off-beat tip by “Lonely Planet”) and a pretty terrible dinner: we had a stroll round Sétif’s extraordinary amusement park later.
After coffee and croissants, we walked down to the bus station in the morning and found a private bus company which took us back to Bejaïa, puncture-less and fare even less than the outward journey, by midday – the whole expedition had cost scarcely £20. After lunch we set out to find the town’s museum, eventually running it to earth (it had moved) in a semi-restored fort up the hill: the museum proved to be a bizarre collection of odds and ends (including a pathetic assembly of stuffed birds), lost in the cavernous space of the fort’s main hall and summed up be a hand-written notice at the entrance asking for donations of more exhibits! Lamb navarain for dinner – the barometer was dropping and the weather thickening. A grey, drizzly day followed, but we managed a reasonably good long walk (until Nigel’s knee started acting up) along the road towards Cap Carbon: what should have been a spectacular view across the bay to the Kabylie was largely blotted out by cloud, though. We met several dogs on the way (fortunately friendly), and Julie saw greenfinch, chaffinch and blue tits. The weather seemed to be clearing by evening after some afternoon rain, which turned the dust on deck to mud.
15th – 18th April 1993 - The morning looked brighter and the forecast suggested NW 3-4, so after a final food shop and deck wash we set out for Jijel. The wind, when it arrived, was NE, just not quite enough off our heading to sail, so we motor-sailed for the six-hour passage, avoiding some heavy rain showers to the south and west. The pilot suggested that there should be lots of room in the harbour, but in the event it was mostly occupied by the Algerian Navy (we learned later that it would soon be closed to other shipping) and we had to raft alongside a fishing boat. After tiresome PAF at Bejaïa, Jijel produced an almost equally irritating Coastguard official, but we managed to see him off eventually. The friendly Met Office across the road offered the latest forecast in exchange for a bottle of beer – showers and gusts to 35 knots. For once this proved spot on, with severe squalls and heavy rain overnight, which at least deterred our neighbours from leaving at 05.00 as planned! The wind eased slightly in the morning, and we went into the rather drab damp town, which at least boasted a large and well-stocked open-air market. It was interesting to hear Russian spoken here, with Russian technicians involved in building the power station and a huge new port across the bay at Djen Djen. The weather worsened again by evening, and a further visit to the Met Office found them packing up to move to the new port – we were their last customers! Thunderstorms and prolonged heavy rain overnight were followed by a slightly brighter morning, and the barometer started rising early in the afternoon (not, according to our neighbouring fishing boat skipper, that we should attach any significance to barometer or weather forecasts in this area!) Advice from the fishermen was not even to think about leaving before they did, and to treat the next cape to the east (Bougaroun) with caution in any sort of bad weather. Nigel walked across the harbour to try and get some information on the new port from the Coastguard: nothing doing, but he did better with a friendly young Customs man who was able to fill in some of the background (though he couldn’t produce a chart). First light the next day saw us up to let our neighbours out – with no wind and the whole fishing fleet on the move this seemed a good moment to get going, so we joined the exodus at 0630 and went over to check out the entrance to Djen Djen, doing a rough plan with the aid of a GPS fix and a couple of bearings. From there it was 35-odd miles round to Collo, the wind either light E then later W but too little to sail. First sight of Collo might almost have been an English fishing village, complete with four-square church tower, set against mountains behind: there didn’t seem to be any room on the quay of the tiny harbour, so we anchored in the nearby cove below the coast road. An hour or so later a boat-load of officials turned up and took the usual details (one of their number rather ludicrously relaying them by radio to his base in Collo), before a friendly young Coastguard advised us not to stay at anchor – we might be in danger from “certain elements” in Collo, and it would be better if we moved on the quay. This was the first time (other than a general concern about our security) that anyone had actually suggested a possible threat to us, and we heard later that there had been some sort of terrorist incident in Collo a few days before. We duly moved: there was a small space on a corner of the quay, and we managed to back in off our anchor quite accurately as the usual small crowd of curious onlookers gathered. We made sure we were sitting well off the quay, but nothing untoward happened in the night…
19th – 22nd April 1993 - A pleasantly relaxed morning, pottering about doing odd jobs on the boat in lovely sunshine while nets were mended and fishing boats painted on the quay – we almost felt that we blended in with our surroundings for once! We left at midday and put in a couple of long tacks over the next three hours before the wind petered out. We motored towards Pointe Esrah, where there should have been a very attractive anchorage or two in calm weather, but we found quite a bit of swell and chop as we closed the point (also a couple of playful dolphins). Round the corner and down to Île Srigina we had another gentle sail, but we ended up with a light wind dead astern and motored the last few miles into the pretty harbour of Stora, with the village stacked up the steep hill behind: found a berth at the far end, out of the way of the fishing fleet, and soon attracted a curious audience of small boys. We hadn’t realised, unfortunately, that Stora was officially part of the large port of Skikda, a mile across the bay, and our failure to report in there by VHF resulted in late visits from Coastguard (a tedious pair who took 40 minutes) and PAF (at 23.00, but rather more courteous and efficient). Coastguard showed up again early the following morning (a different lot), followed by a pleasant Customs man and the local Stora copper. With all that out of the way we got a but into Skikda, which proved a good deal more rewarding than the pilot suggested: quite handsome square and main street leading uphill from the port, with unusually well-stocked shops and an excellent covered market – “real” butchers’ shops, too, as well as a good selection of fish. We had a second encounter with an Algerian seaman speaking slangy American English picked up off Filipino crew-mates, who promised to visit us at Stora later. We decided to walk back, though it was hot enough to make the shade of a tunnel on the way most welcome! Attractive cornice road with view of Stora and the Ilôt des Singes along the coast behind – preferable to the view of the chemical plant the other side of Skikda! After some heavy work carting water cans from the nearest tap (helped by a friendly bra-owner who’d showed us where it was) we walked up through the village to a lush valley above, with views through to the sea: several good photos on the way down. Various locals stopped by later to stare and chat, including a provincial inspector of English language teaching whom we invited to drop by for a drink, which he duly did next day: a very modest and likeable man. Less modest and likable proved to be “Bobby”, the seaman, who turned up earlier the next afternoon bearing a bottle of chilled red wine, got somewhat tight and overstayed his welcome. We had meanwhile been into Skikda again for a substantial food shop, walking back along a pretty upper road: between “Bobby”’s visit and that of M. Kettouche, the English inspector, we fitted in a stroll along the coast path to the Ilôt des Singes, which evidently went on quite a way further along the cliffs over little coves and beaches – but we didn’t have time to explore further.
Fishing boat movements ensured that we were up early the next day, and we were on the fuel berth by the time its proprietor turned up: a burly fisherman pressed a bag of sardines and mackerel on us to wish us “bon voyage”. There was little wind but a nasty short swell as we set off for Cap de Fer, but by 10.00 we were sailing WNW/F4. Half an hour later we put in two reefs, and the third went in soon afterwards as the wind picked up to F6/7, with a heavy swell and gusts up to 38 knots. Rounding Cap de Fer soon after midday we had a steady F7, and a rogue wave breaking over the foredeck swept the deck shower over the side. It was an exhilarating sail, though, and we capped it with a nicely calculated gybe to clear Cap Takouche and come round into the bay behind and the small harbour of Chetaibi shortly after 15.00. Here we were greeted by a crowd of rather tiresome kids, who ignored the helpful harbourmaster’s efforts to keep them off the edge of the quay. With a stiff breeze still blowing the locals insisted on trying to manhandle the boat across a dock on to another bit of quay, resulting in two nasty dents in the rubbing strake. We also discovered that we’d lost a chunk out of the sheave of the starboard genoa car…. Quiet night, though, once the kids went home, and a blessed absence of officials.
23rd – 26th April 1993 - Nigel walked up to the quite attractive village above the harbour to buy bread and take a photo before we left, manoeuvring very carefully to avoid a cat’s cradle of floating mooring lines. The wind had dropped and veered E overnight, but eventually it backed enough for us to reach the last six miles to Cap de Garde, where we turned south for Annaba. Approaching the port we got berthing instructions on VHF, but we misunderstood them and stooged round the old yacht harbour for a while until we realised we were supposed to go right down the far end of the port. This turned out quite well, since we found ourselves on the quay a stone’s throw away from the Capitainerie, Met. Office, PAF and Customs, and only a couple of minutes from the harbour gate – tucked snugly underneath the bow line of a very large car ferry! Officialdom was brisk and efficient, for once, and we had time for an early evening stroll up the broad leafy boulevard leading into the city centre, stopping on the way back for a coffee and a few minutes of the Algeria – Togo football match on TV.
There seemed no good reason to stay longer in Annaba so with a reasonable weather forecast of SW/F4 we set off for the harbour entrance at 1000 the next morning. An hour later we were back at our berth, having hit 35-knot gusts from NW only ½ mile out (we also heard large ships at anchor in the roads communicating by VHF about dragging anchor!) Apart from a food shopping expedition we spent the rest of a grey, blustery day on the boat, Julie putting finishing touches to the Tunisian courtesy ensign while Nigel caught up on harbour notes for the pilot revision and the Cruising Association.
Sunday started grey again: Nigel walked up to the far end of the port before breakfast, returning with a local fisherman’s report that it was still windy out and might freshen further during the day. In the event the weather brightened in mid-morning, and there seemed to be a reasonable W wind later, but by that time it was too late to change our minds. The car ferry left, causing us some temporary anxiety (in the event the hawser over our stern came off very efficiently), and we got on with our various jobs on board before a stroll up to the Kasbah, with a good view out to sea: Annaba otherwise a pretty nondescript sort of place. Our last dinars went on a phone call to Nigel’s Mum in the evening.
We cleared officialdom early the next morning, the weather still looking grey and showery, with a light ENE wind. There was no question of sailing, and by the time we came abeam of La Calle (the last Algerian harbour) the wind was freshening, the sea building up and the barometer falling rapidly: by 14.00 the chop was quite unpleasant and we had over 22 knots on the nose. An hour later we hoisted the Tunisian courtesy ensign, and a further hour saw us round Cap Tabarka and approaching the Venetian island fortress dominating Tabarka harbour. Several attempts to contact Port Control by VHF eventually elicited an unexpected reply from the Tunisian Navy, and we fetched up alongside the quay below the marina administration building, between “Jubilee Lady” from UK and a French yacht, there were only a couple of other boats in the yacht harbour. Formalities were completed with relatively little fuss, and we settled down to our first Tunisian evening with the unaccustomed luxuries of shore power, water on tap (and a celebratory bottle of champagne).