10 July 2023 – Cap Monastir Marina, Tunisia

We have been acclimating to the differences here in Tunisia, some subtle, some are obvious. Our marina is situated only a few hundred metres from downtown Monastir, within easy walking distance of grocery stores, the market and hundreds of shops and stalls. Although, we most often take our bikes, preferring to bike rather than walk.

This is a landscape view of the marina and the adjacent city of Monastir.

One evening, we went for a walk downtown with Kevin, stopped in a few shops and had a hamburger at a small restaurant. Not surprisingly, the prices were about 50% less than in the plethora of restaurants in the marina complex. We were surprised to see people milling about downtown, and enjoying the urban spaces there. This is what it looks like at early evening, compared to daytime.

With the heat, obviously more people are out in the early evening.

The downtown area is clean and modern in most places.

One thing I’ve noticed is the distinct lack of motorcycles, or even scooters. Nearly everyone rides around on a moped, probably an indication of the economic wealth of the average citizen. None appear to be new, but this one is pretty average.

This photo shows the entrance to the marina, which is well protected from storms and surge.

Walking around the marina grounds, our boat is situated very close to this travel lift and haul out yard. It looks tidy and professionally run (maybe a 50T lift?).

We see that there are some ruins near the marina, and several private swimming holes.

Although it seems that most people go to these beaches instead.

There is a “castle looking structure” right in the town centre and I’ve learned that they were called Ribat’s in the beginning of the Muslim era. These were small religious communities in charge of watching over the Tunisian coast. The people lived in fortresses, looked out for enemy attacks from a high watchtower, and warned the population in case of danger.

Apparently, a line of ribats stretched all along the coast of North Africa. The capital city of Morocco is named Rabat, and right through to Malta, there are the remains of ancient ribats. It is said that thanks to their high towers, a light signaled-message could be conveyed in one night from Ceuta in Morocco all the way to Alexandria Egypt.

One day, Diane and I stumbled upon a fancy looking restaurant downtown called “Smokehouse 67”, obviously part of a chain. Here, we bought beef by the kilo, and they cooked it and brought out “all the trimmings”. It was delicious, and with plenty of leftovers for the next day.

We are also situated right next to the Bourguiba mausoleum, containing the remains of former president Habib Bourguiba, the father of Tunisian independence, who died on April 6, 2000.

Inside, it is quite simple, but clean and well built – like all Muslim mosques.

Most other people are buried here, in the adjacent cemetery. Diane noticed something peculiar. For a Muslim burial, the grave should be situated perpendicular to Mecca, with the deceased’s body positioned so their right side faces the Islamic holy city. They are not positioned on their back, as Christians are, but on their side – facing Mecca. Just looking around you can see that there is obviously some variance in the actual direction.

This looks like the city mosque, located downtown. Another odd thing is that we have seen many round-a-bouts, but not a single traffic light yet.

The marina does not have wifi broadcast throughout. Instead, they have a “cruisers lounge” where very slow wifi is available. So, we head to the cruisers lounge when we have updates required on our iPhones, iPads and MacBook Airs. Our wifi on the boat comes from a mifi device (MiFis, or Mobile Hotspots, are small, portable devices that allow multiple users to connect to the internet through a mobile network). They tend to be battery powered, so they can be used to connect your laptop or tablet on the move – wherever you can get a mobile signal. The term MiFi is a combination of ‘Mobile WiFi’.). Cellular data and service is very cheap here.

One downside of Cap Monastir Marina is that most of the spaces are open to the public. I suppose that is so that they can use the restaurants, hotels and diving shop – just like we can. Most of the docks where the boats are berthed do have locking gates, that you need a key fob (RFID device) to enter. However, we are positioned on the outside wall, near the travel-lift, with the other “big boats”. We do not have any locking gates, but we do have 24/7 security guards. People walk by the stern of our boat, looking us over – but we have had that kind of situation before, and it is of little concern. All electrical and water consumption is included in our year-long contract, with a total cost of 2,000 euros (about one quarter of the cost we were paying in Türkiye. That’s not why we’re here though. We really wanted to show some “westward” progress in our very slow circumnavigation, and it is far cheaper than any European marina in the Mediterranean. It is also an easy solution from an Immigration perspective. We are permitted an entry of 120 days. We can easily fly out for a week, and re-enter with a new visa. In Europe, we are strictly governed by the Schengen Agreement, which limits us to 90 days in, followed by 90 days out. This is not a good solution when we live on the boat. It is also possible to get a national, year-long visa where we could stay for a year in Spain, or France for example, but then we are confined to that country and the marina fees are “crippling”. We also have to apply from our home country, a few months beforehand. So, here we are, in another Muslim country, where they speak Arabic and French – positioned on the coast of North Africa.

We have been to 3 grocery stores, namely Monoprix / Monoprix Max and Magasin General (MG). Most things that we expect to find are there, with few exceptions. The selection of cheese and yogurt is very good, and prices are similar, if not cheaper than Türkiye – and definitely cheaper than Canada. The MG store right at the base of the marina also sells wine and alcohol products, much cheaper than what we would pay in either Canada (our home) or Türkiye (where we spent the past 3 years).

We have also been to the local Monastir marche (market) which operates 7 days a week (everyday but Monday). There, we found nearly all fruits and vegetables that we normally buy with the exception of bananas and strawberries. It seems that some of these fruits and vegetables are only on offer when they are “in season”, so we will likely see different things available throughout the year. The watermelon is very good, and also very cheap.

I’ve had to revisit the alternator installation when we were at Pylos Greece several weeks ago. Here is what happened. I passed the dead alternator to a Greek mechanic called Peter. This is what the back of it looked like.

Peter pronounced it non-repairable, and got me a new one 24 hours later. It was pricey at 340 euros, but I had nowhere to turn. On arrival, he “offered” to come out to the boat (on anchor) and help me install it. Why? Because I was puzzled with the electrical connections at the back. Onsite, Peter actually struggled with both the mechanical part (the belts) and the wires. He had no tools. He had to borrow a pair of reading glasses. The belts were poorly aligned by him. With the wiring – evidently, he had never seen crimping pliers or heat shrink tubing, and wanted to wrap the connections in black electrical tape. I offered him ring terminals, heat shrink tubing and crimping pliers – but I didn’t want any sticky electrical tape on those wires! When he was finished, he left a single black wire dangling – and when asked about it, said it was unnecessary. Don’t worry about it……

When we tried to start the engine, it would not turn over. Peter used a big screw driver to short the starter solenoid, and the engine started – and then he pronounced his work complete! Um, OK, but not what I was expecting. A few hours later, I connected that single dangling wire to the nearest connection (looks like ground) and the engine started and worked fine, EXCEPT for the two inductor lights (coolant temp and battery) that continued to remain on, when the engine was running. I measured voltage and current – and the alternator was certainly working. I also confirmed that the engine was not running too hot. I measured it with an IR gun and the gauge. The engine has run for over 100 hours like this, and I did another oil change on arrival at Monastir. So, a few days ago I was paid a visit by Youssef, a very gentle and capable Tunisian mechanic who spoke Arabic, French and English. It took him a few hours to figure it out, but by troubleshooting with me, he managed to get it connected correctly this time. No material cost, just about $75CDN for his labour. Essentially, he just swapped the wires that were connected to the voltage sense and tachometer (W) and it seems to work fine now.

In fairness, I should point out that replacing an alternator on a marine engine is rarely going to be an easy job. Volvo (which doesn’t “make” alternators) considers my engine, circa 1992, to be well out of production and has very few spare parts available. I replaced the original alternator when in Malaysia 5 years ago, and it wasn’t easy then either. There are no off-the-shelf plug-and-play alternators that fit easily.

More “looking back at Türkiye ….. With the last blog, I reported that “By way of comparison, just the “registration” of a phone in Türkiye currently costs more than 7000 TL, nearly $400 CDN!”. When we arrived in Türkiye in June 2020, this import charge was only about 450 Lire. At least twice a year it was raised by the government, and in January 2023, it was raised to the “sky high” price of 7000 Lire, but I read just this morning that the government has raised it again (6 months later) to over 20,000 Lire. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the Turkish government is DRIVING inflation, and the prices are unsustainable.

In preparation for off-season storage, we removed and bagged our sails, and took them to the local sailmaker for inspection, cleaning and repair. We will revisit this in April 2024.

Walking around the marina, we also saw many boats that had made covers for their furling gear, presumably to keep out the sand that invariably falls from sandstorms or rainstorms laden with sand or dust. This was the first time we have seen this. So, Diane whipped up two custom covers for our jib and staysail furlers using her skills and residual materials.

Next week, we are flying back to Ontario to visit with friends and relatives, and to buy things that have been on our list for the past two years.

3 thoughts on “10 July 2023 – Cap Monastir Marina, Tunisia”

  1. I read it through and loved the narrative. First “personal” photos and information I’ve seen about Tunisia. Very glad I read it through. Thanks.

  2. Great to catch up with your latest travels via your interesting and informative blog. We hope the year based in Tunisia will be a happy one with many new interesting experiences once again. Best regards Colin & Lauren (ex sailing Island Pearl now land based in Australia)

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