sailing action to the Sahara

We arrived by yacht on Elvire II from Lanzarote our first views of the Sahara desert putting a big smile on my face. Its repartition as a dangerous port of call due to its longitudinally east to west situation on the normally north south Atlantic coast of Africa, the rock reefs surrounding the port entrance and the fact that its highest point is only 12 m above sea level, so very difficult to spot due to the drifting sands and reflections off the water. Things are now made easier with GPS.

Entering in the port (Port Victoria is the original name given by Donald Mackenzie) after completing a textbook perfect crossing of 70 miles from the Canary Isles on a glassy sea with favourable winds we were struck by the smell of the sardine fishing boats as we entered in the harbour early in the morning. Unlike a few past sailors who were shipwrecked here and spent their years imprisoned by the Moors and Tuaregs our only problem was losing a bottle to the customs for mooring fees.

sailing to Tarfaya Elvire at mooring

With Elvire safely moored to the sand and reef bottom of the harbour, we were able to explore the town, including a fun surf at Fort Casa Mar on a right reef and a small inside wave off the harbour wall, a hair cut and shave at one of the many salons and tagine with fish and squid, for lunch and supper at the hotel Tarfaya. But that seemed to be all to do at this sandy outpost, the tourist side of Morocco a long way further north, here life was harder, the people were friendly.. A superb walk on deserted beaches and a few encounters that was as far as it went.

tarfaya mosque

On the "International Road" of Morocco 340 miles south of Agadir, in the Sahara, boarding onto the Atlantic Ocean. Tarfaya (about 7000 people live here), situated on the Cape Juby ( 27° 56' 31" N- 12° 57' 20" W) has seen the passage of time and a bit of history.

local fishing boats sardine boats off loading at the port of Tarafaya sardine boat off to work

The Saharan town first developed in the 1880 by the eccentric Scotsman Donald Mackenzie as a trading post for the Canary Islands has had a few willing and unwilling visitors over the years.

Fort Casa Mar compass

After 3 days at this rhythm it was time to leave back to Lanzarote; as I did not want to lose Ian to the Moors as the first European, a French sailor called Paul Imbert had in 1630, captured and imprisoned after a untimely shipwreck at 'the graveyard of sailors'....

written : 2005 updated : 2020