In late July 2013 we made the decision that a boat to be cruised around the world doesn’t really have to be based in the EU tax territory. So we were searching for a place outside of the EU.
Some searches and some very valuable advice pointed us towards Saidia in Morocco.
So we made some calls and travelled from our point of purchase directly to Saidia to put her into „hybernation“.
A word in advance: Saidia is one of the King’s prime projects to get more quality tourism up and running in his country. So its in the government’s focus.
Here are some of our experiences:
Staff: Pascal, the habour master, and his staff are extremely helpful. Preparation was smooth, they helped with mooring and will keep an eye on your boat while in port.
Customs, Police, Immigration:
Usually you will be greeted by these three. I was a little surprised, since they do not really look the way we would expect officials. There was a brief survey of the boat (two or three cupboards opened, a short tour through the hulls). The typical questions were asked: Any weapons, drugs, hidden passengers. All quick, courteous and very professional.
Customs was very, very helpful in getting all the paperwork for the hybernation done. Have in mind, that this country is not part of the EU. But the hybernation offer seems to be wanted and well established, so everything went well. The customs officer offered his cell number in case there would be questions when we would be leaving the country. In fact, there were questions. The guy at the airport (again, very courteous) called „our man in Saidia“. A few sentences, everything was fine. Oh, by the way: All without any bribes or unpleasentries involved. Simply professional and very keen on solving our problems.
The port itself:
The port was planned pre-finance and EU-crisis. For the moment I would guess, that the inner habour is only 60% full. There is an outer basin for larger vessels. Not even pontons have been installed there.
Security is based on „private sherrifs“ on patrol and guards at every ponton. They were quite strict and keen when on post. The place had a lot of those guards. But as such systems go, sometimes someone may be off post and a bad guy may slip through the net. There are no gates etc at the piers (which I would have preferred). In any case, it felt safe enough to leave our boat there…
There are two marine yards, one run by a Spanish guy from Melilla, one by some local guys. They can do all the standard repairs. Isidro, the Spanish guy is certified for Volvo Penta service (and knows Yanmar etc.). They are able to do all the paint and hull works including anti fouling etc.
There are two yacht service companies, one is Isidro. They will check and clean your boat regularly. Compared to EU the price is very affordable. These guys speak Spanish and Arabic, only. Maybe the locals speak a good french, I didn’t check on that. English is not always the weapon of choice.
When we visited in July, they had three shops offereing yacht supplies. One was closed all the time, the others were not a really great source of goods. I guess, there are just too few boats there. Well, you will get some zinc anodes, some paint, some tubes, some snorkeling fins etc. but it seams probable that they won’t have just what you need, when you need it.
The commercial development around the habour is a little strange. It is very recent and very much planned. There are lots of restaurants, but they are aiming mainly on a „returning expat“ crew (meaning Moroccans living in Europe and spending their holidays here). So you do find all kinds of North African interpetations of European foods (Irish, German, Italian, Dutch etc.), but not a really great Moroccan restaurant. So there is Pizza, fried stuff but the local food is hard to find. Someone advised, that you need to go to the town of Saidia (approximately 4 km from the marina).
So don’t expect the „real thing“ (which may be good for the ones, that like this extra bit of comfort).
On weekends, there was quite a party in the marina around the boats. Security was tight, so there wasn’t a reason to worry, but it was happy and loud and colorful. If you like it very quiet, you may be disappointed.
Everything is a little less shiny as in Europe, here and there you might find a broken floor tile etc. but it is basically very good. Do not forget some risks that may arise from eating non pealed, non cooked, non washed food (I am referring to a little viral souvenir I brought home… . But that was stupidity on my side).
There is a small first aid station.
There are also showers and toilets for the boat residents. These facilities are a just a little neglected and don’t show the higher standards you may be used to in Europe. Not the horrible experience as in some of the darker parts of Tanger, but not the Waldorf Astoria, either. A little renovation and a cleaning crew checking them maybe four times a day would be a plus. But again, no horrors ;-).
Shops also aim at tourists. But I found one bank with an ATM willing to give me some dirhams and there seems to be a supermarket. We didn’t check it, since we left quickly after parking the boat.
By the way: There is a 14 km beach just outside the habour. It streches from Saidia to Ras al Ma (Cap de l’eau) in the west. The beach is truely excellent! The crew is (as most of them are expats), quite relaxed. So don’t expect to many beach burkhas etc. But also expect to be noticed when wearing a Bikini. Men are men, I guess. Some a little more.
To sum it up: For now, I can strongly recommend Saidia Marina. Very nice staff all around, reasonably safe and offering most of the stuff you need for a stay. And it is very cheap, compared to Marinas in the Baleares etc. So far, very much a go.
I will be visiting in February and report, if anything has changed for the better or worst.