The winds continue to be unfavourable, 270 miles in three days is very slow for this boat. Before we left Gomera Mike had heard something on the radio about Spanish Sahara, a country on the west coast of Africa. Currently it is a Spanish colony, but the Spanish are in the process of returning to Spain. When they leave the neighbouring countries of Morocco and Mauritania will take over between them. So there we were, sailing slowly past Spanish Sahara. Irresistible. We changed course. It is still our intention to get to The Gambia, but for now we are tied up at the quay of Villa Cisneros, the capital of Spanish Sahara. Unfortunately we will have to wait till tomorrow to explore. We have been told there is a curfew from 6:30pm to 7:00am.
19th December 1975 -
The last days of Spanish Sahara
Today we have been out exploring Villa Cisneros. Up until a few months ago the population of this town was a few thousand. Now it is a few hundred. These are mostly Spanish military and civil servants. The few remaining Berbers are too young, too old, or too infirm to leave. The rest of the Spanish have gone back to Spain. The rest of the Berbers have gone back to the desert. The Spanish we have spoken to have all been really friendly, and they all say there have been no visitors here for as long a they can remember, so we are quite a surprise. We walked through empty streets to the edge of Villa Cisneros with one of the civil servants. The buildings ended quite suddenly giving way to desert.There, across a narrow strip of sand, were hundreds of tents, many hundreds of Berbers waiting for the final withdrawal, an opportunity to move in. We walked back into town to the Post Office. Today will be the last day it is open. We had all written letters home and now we bought every denomination of stamp they had and plastered them all over the envelopes before getting them franked and put in the post. One day a ‘Last day cover’ from a country that no longer exists might be of significance. One of the stamps even showed the pier we are tied up to. We returned to Maya before evening curfew. There were lots of fish swimming around the boat, and the water looked very clean so we put out some fishing lines and easily caught enough fish for a meal. A soldier patrolling the harbour called down to us that the fish were full of bones and not good to eat. We ignored him and cooked them anyway. He was right. We threw them away. We will leave here tomorrow and resume our trip to The Gambia, probably spending Christmas at sea. It has been an interesting diversion, but we are almost out of Spanish money and all the banks are shut so we can’t get any more, and even if we could almost everything else is shut so there is nothing to spend it on.
This area is now called Western Sahara. When the Spanish pulled out Morocco thought it was rightful owner and took over. 16 years of civil war followed. It is now under Moroccan administration.
20th December 1975 -
Farewell to arms
We waved farewell to our armed guard as we untied and left Spanish Sahara. We will never return because the country will not exist. The wind has been North East for the last two days, which as they are the NE Trade Winds you would expect. As soon as we put to sea they changed to North West. That is actually better for us and we are now making good speed which is more than can be said for the last ten days. It is really peculiar that we have not so far had the supposedly consistent Trade Winds we should have. We have made an attempt to decorate the boat for Christmas. We have a total of three cards, one is for me and two for Andy. We have also put those and a banner that says “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Good Sailing”. A cheering thought after the sadness of an all but deserted city.