Arrived in Fethiye on the 25th May after stopping at some beaut spots on the way around. We're about to drag ourselves away, after a 10 day stop ashore with our friends Dave and Anne-Marie who are lucky enough to live here and have been awesome hosts.
It's been a year since we started... a grand total of 13,855nm (2734hrs moving!) for Windchase - - and 10,262nm for Mili!
Numbers of course don't really matter.. It's the places and particularly the people we have met, locals and fellow cruisers alike, that have made these (mostly!) fun, interesting and always memorable experiences. We're now looking forward to where the next year may take us!
Arrived Turkey after 370nm passage from Ismalia. Pretty smooth apart from an uncomfortable 10 hour beat in 25kn and lumpy sea after leaving the Suez Canal. Got a bit confused by lights on entering Turkish waters until we worked out it was probably a drone keeping tabs! Finike marina very nice and formalities could not have been easier.
Well we are out of the 2 day transit Suez - and thus Egypt... Certainly an experience. We were lucky with our 2 pilots, who both had good English and interesting stories. Bound now for Turkey at long last!
Forecast is for a moderate blow from the west until about 10pm tonight and then much lighter winds. All being well we should be in Finike by lunchtime Monday. Inshalla!
Well, around lunchtime today, we FINALLY made it to Port Suez.... at long, long last!
When we entered the Red Sea on March 31st, we thought we would truck through the 1,200 or so miles to Suez in only 2-3 weeks and be in Turkey for early April. How very wrong we were!
It's been 6 weeks and with the usual delays to begin a canal transit (3-4 days), 2 days to do it and another 3 or so to across the Med to Turkey, it could be another fortnight yet. Still, we ARE getting there, albeit slowly!
We ended up spending 9 days stuck waiting out strong N winds in the Khor Abu Arsehole anchorage. (It was sheltered and we still regularly got 30-35kn in there). Fortunately we had the company of the crews from a couple of other boats, Renegade (Austria) and Melipal (Malta/Australia). Mili did get to walk on the quiet side, away from the town, most days, but it was fairly bleak. And did I mention windy?! Apart from the local who drove us around, helped with shopping and diesel with refused all attempts at payment, the highlight was probably the acquisition, with the help of our 'guide', of fresh meat. Mind you, I dare say the goat, who was skipping around when we arrived at the farm, probably wouldn't agree.
Heading North from there, we had a 3.5 day passage (with one overnight stop at an inshore reef anchorage), ending at Port Ghalib where we would check into Egypt. The proximity of reefs, coastal plains and mountains behind on one side and reefs or deeper water on the other, continued to give great views, with ever-changing colours, light and shade. It was never boring!
We had one quiet night, hove to while we got the engine going again, which had stopped after surging. (Sound familiar Tim and Brett??!). Thought at the time it was just dirty filters. Anyway, we were on our way again early the next morning and made it to Port Ghalib around 2pm.
Port Ghalib is a 'new' marina town development, hewn 20 years ago out of and around a shallow lagoon. It caters to the ubiquitous tourism and dive industries here. It had some great bars and restaurants, which we certainly made the most of.. and lovely locals too... Although could hardly be classed as 'traditional' Egypt. The 'marina' there did however allow us to wait out the next batch of strong N'lies in relative comfort and decadence, so I wouldn't knock it too much!
Sadly, it also provided us with an introduction to Egyptian beaurocracy:
Case in point, you HAVE to use an agent to complete the usual yacht entry formalities (even though we had already got our E-visas). You pay a not-insignificant sum for this agency to 'smooth' the immigration, quarantine and customs processes.
Our Pilot (cruising) Guide to the Red Sea offers the advice that:
"Egypt being Egypt, using an agent avoids an obscurantist, obstructive, beaurocratic nightmare even Kafka couldn't have invented."
Clearly the authors could never have met our agent!
We had advised them ('them' being the only agent allowed to serve this port) a month in advance of when we were coming, 6 days in advance of the day and 6 hours before, of the hour. Windchase arrives at advised time (early afternoon) to.... Neither sight nor sound of the agent! Hmmmm....
The (genuinely very nice and helpful) Port Captain leant out of his office and shouted down to the Quarantine dock where we'd pulled up.. "He's out of town so I'm afraid you'll have to wait there on board until tomorrow morning". This was not great, being within 100m of bands playing, and all those laughing, dining and DRINKING tourists. Damn them.... enjoying themselves... Pfffff!
Of course the agent was not to be rushed and it took until late the following evening to be 'released' from captivity to get into the Marina. Such is the propensity for tourists to be relieved of money here in Egypt that we were, of course, charged full marina dues for the night we spent at the Q Dock. Despite no access to any services, we were, apparently, 'renting water space'!
Oh, but checking in,it turned out, was so, sooo quick, compared to checking out.. It was like the bloody Hotel California!... We'd emailed the agent and marina in advance to say we only wanted to stay 2 nights, as this was critical for us to take advantage of a good weather window to head North. Well, of course, ONCE we had checked in (after the agent deigned to show up a day late you'll remember), he kindly tells us "oh, it takes at least 3 days to get all the forms sorted to check out. Would you like me to start that process now?" Give. Me. Strength!
You may have already paid for and gained legal entry to the country but they have special rules to stop yachties actually going off willy-nilly and exiting the entry port to explore it!
Despite our encouragement (haranguing?) reducing a 'normal' delay (only for Egypt!) from 72 to 60 hours, inevitably we missed the desired weather window... and thus another 5 days evaporated, before we could set off again.
Not that we were by any means alone in these trials... The other boats heading north had come in a couple of days after us and got the same treatment, as did the crew of Moya, a young German family we had met several weeks before in Suakin. They all of course had to leave after us.
However, after 5 days for us it was all systems go. Until they didn't. We set off in a bit 'uncomfortable' weather, in order to make the most of a slim following window. After 36hrs, just as the weather calmed and we could start making brisker progress N (our aim being to head to Suez in one fairly short passage, given previous delays), the engine chose this moment to die, big time.. Closely followed by the wind evaporating.
It wasn't going to be a fix-at-sea job, so we drift/sailed the night away (as reefs lined the shore) and then tied on the dinghy to the side of the yacht to use its outboard to power us into a sheltered Marsa the next morning.
This was another tourist/diving/residential development that seem to line this beautiful coast. But the owners call it a marina and of course seek their money for such.. Despite the only facilities being our space, at anchor! Oh, and being allowed to tie the dinghy to their pier.
Actually, every local we met here was, without exception, lovely, including the 'marina' staff, the crew of a big launch next to us who brought over food and coffee as gifts on our arrival and another crew on the other side who invited us to dine aboard and share their 'breakfast' that night. Actually this was dinner, as being Ramadan they were fasting (including no water) between 3am and 7pm. It's a sign of reverence but also seems a bit of a test of (masculine) strength and pride to not indulge during the day. But boy, that food really was delicious.. even to us indulgent infidel!
The weather was due to turn to custard for ANOTHER 5 days, so the shelter in this place was most welcome. There was also a great beach and bar/restaurant (Mili welcome at both and the bar served beer despite it being Ramadan), a brilliant little supermarket that sold all sorts of odd things (to wit, Galaxy Chocolate and a 22mm spanner.. Both of which I was craving!). and even a great butcher that among lots of things sold... Holy shit...BACON!!!
The best thing about this anchorage apart from the lovely locals however was that the 3 other yachts had turned in here too to sit out the weather.. And their crews were kind enough to lend not only moral support, but share the benefit of their much greater experience and their time to help with the engine!
It took 3 days, a lot of coffee, testing, pontificating, dismantling, wire poking, compressed air from a dive tank and diesel dilution to identify and sort the problem.. Including 6 oil+filter changes after that. Problem ultimately being diagnosed as a completely sludged sump that had clogged the oil pump and relief valve such that there was zero oil circulation. Never great for an engine of course! (It had had a manual pump fitted to ease oil changes which we have always done religiously every 150hrs or so.. But the pick up can't be deep enough and we can't have taken the really bad stuff out, via that route (and/or the valve/seats or rings are shot ;-(. Looking at the gloop that finally emerged from the under-sump drain, it looked like this may have been brewing for a lot longer than our tenure! Fortunately we didn't run it very long at all with the alarm blaring, so hopefully the bearings etc WILL still be OK? Touching wood.. OK, and maybe a little cloth ;-)
We finally all left THAT anchorage after yet another 5 day N blow had passed and headed north (via a very brief return to harbour for us, when too MUCH oil pressure registered!.. Fortunately I knew straight away this was likely just a sender contact, so it was a very quick fix... after dismantling the berth to get access of course lol).
We day sailed/ motored close by the tourist meccas and posh boats in Hurghada, also passing through the multiple isolated reefs, to a nice sheltered offshore island at the mouth of the Gulf of Suez. We set off at dawn yesterday for the final 170nm overnight run up to Port Suez. While we did have the typical 0.8-1.5kn current against for some of this, resulting in 'interesting' seas, we had no more than 25kn apparent against (even if from the direction we were headed, of course), so it was a fairly easy run and definitely worth waiting for. We also had glorious sunshine and a chance to savour the beauty of the Sinai Peninsula sliding by, as well as the interest of negotiating the numerous oil fields that are not quite as becoming!
Anyway, next stop is hopefully Turkey (apart from an obligatory overnighter halfway up the 90nm canal..All yachts have to carry a pilot and as no night running, or sailing, is allowed we have to stop at Ismalia half way along and complete the transit the following day).
Despite the challenges, the whole experience of the Red Sea has been interesting on many different levels... Not least being how adversity can provide reward. Other major pluses include the strengthened rig coming through its upwind trials in fine fettle and the iron donkey, ol' "Perky", hanging in there.
But for me, it's the unexpected pleasures I'll remember most of all... The welcoming and kind locals, the really fabulous beauty of the coasts and the new friendships forged.
Paul, Sue and Mili
PS If anyone has sent txts or emails to our sat phone address and thought me even more tardy than usual by receiving no reply, I have to report the likely demise of it somewhere N of Sudan, when we last logged on. So, for now, any inbound comms will remain unread. Probably the phone has been knocked off its perch one too many times! On the plus side, an updated replacement once we get to Europe may enable us to type an SMS in less than an hour!
PPS More humble apologies for those folks hoping to hook up with us at various points in the Med and seeking an updated tentative schedule... You'll appreciate from the above why the previous one has gone so horribly wrong! But once we're through and settled in Turkey, I'll touch base and try and work out something a bit more reliable!
PPPS Sorry about the bloody annoying substitution of some punctuation with odd characters.. It seems you can type one thing in the YIT 'app' and it can come out very different on the website, at least if emailed in from a sat phone!
At anchor about 20nm S of the Egyptian border (or rather one of them.. They're always under dispute and therefore a bit 'flexible'!) Khor Abu 'Arsehole' anchorage where we are is next to a large refugee camp and is not the most salubrious of places for visitors (& probably less so for residents, I'm guessing!). Unfortunate, as we left a truly stunning one only yesterday 30nm S of here at Khor Shinab that had the most amazing Mars-like desert landscape & walks ashore.
We were hoping for cellphone/internet access here, but its vv poor to non-existent. Still, at least it is a bolthole... We're with 2 other yachts but none of us are likely to make any progress N for next 8 days, due strong N'lies. At least Mili we can walk ashore here too, although a waving stick is vital due to rather territorial crows and the odd hawk! If long term forecast is remotely accurate, we may get a 4-5 day window after the N'lies, so will likely have to grab that & miss out Port Ghalib and Egyptian cruising and head straight up to Suez to try and make up a bit of time. First World 'problems' methinks!
In Suakin, Sudan, where we have been for a couple of nights and about to leave tomorrow via some island and coastal mainland Sudanese stops, on our way to Egypt. It's a little bit surreal here.. The place looks like (I imagine) Hiroshima (buildings) once did... Old Suakin, which we are anchored next to, has barely a complete building standing and even 'new' Suakin, frankly, doesn't seem too different! Compared to Massawa, it is also (or at least appears to be) v patriarchal, with not many women on the streets. However, despite the differences and obvious poverty, the people we have met are, as usual, very welcoming and v v proud. Had some good street food and the oddest market find was Vimto, which I thought they only sold in Yorkshire! But lo and behold, it's very popular here too.. and throughout Arabia.. Go figure! There hasn't been any sign of the coup we've heard has been happening, coincidentally (beyond a lack of any Internet access and a few police hanging around yesterday, equiped with the odd automatic weapon or tear gas gun.. and smiles). Whilst borders are apparently closed to air and land travelers, us privileged sea goers have had no worries whatsoever and this has had to be the easiest stopover yet for formalities, diesel etc. ....Relaxed-as! TTFN
You may be a little perplexed by our silence for a wee while. There's a bit of a story behind it so, dear reader, I suggest you might wish to grab a nice cup of tea and we'll begin!
'Bab-el-Mandeb' (BEM), the straits guarding the S end of the Red Sea, apparently translates as 'The Gates of Sorrow' and I can tell you, they were open, but seemed intent on business, as we passed through!
It had all started SO well too....We had a cracking day to start, after exiting the IRTC on Friday evening, covering the 115nm to the south entrance of the BEM, where Eritrea and Yemen are separated by only 15nm or so, by 1500hrs on Saturday afternoon. It was thus cool to be able to sight both the continent of Africa and the Arabian peninsula at the same time.
The lovely following wind that had assisted us all day continued to increase a little, speeding our passage to around 7kn through the narrowest section by dusk (1830), on the west side of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) used by the commercial shipping traffic. We chose the west side as it gave more distance from Yemen, given it was still light as we passed through this (reportedly) 'dodgy' area.
There was only one mildly tricky bit to negotiate, around the Hanish Islands, at about 0100 Sunday morning; this being where we had to squeeze through between a few ships steaming towards us using the southbound TSS to our east and have sufficient clearance from a small island/reef to our west (whose position the chart helpfully suggested may not be accurate, lol!). Anyway, no real problems, so far, so good.
At this point we had about a 27kn following wind, which as we were doing 7kn in the same direction, is effectively only 20kn over the boat. It was however building towards the forecast 30kn and our speed increased as it did - we averaged 7.5kn to 0200 and 8.0kn in the following hour. Not bad given a theoretical maximum hull speed of 7.7 eh?!
By 0400 however, the wind had climbed well beyond the forecast strength (when WILL we ever learn??!!). We were now averaging 8.2kn each hour and the apparent wind (over the boat) had climbed to average around 36kn, the true wind speed therefore being about 44kn - with occasional gusts to 54kn. This wasn't particularly appealing to be honest and brought on a sense of déjà vu from our first passage out of NZ. Sadly, Sam and Brett weren't around this time to lend a hand at the helm tho'!!
It can get quite tiring, as the waves were coming quite thick and very fast! Not toooo huge at this point (most were 'only' 2-3m), but very fast and often, with a period between crests of only 3-4s.
Hand steering is better in these conditions, not least because at night you can still get a good 'feel' for what to do with the steering as the wave comes under and which side it may be gusting from the wind on the side of your face. In daylight you can add keeping one eye on the waves (behind) to one on the wind speed and direction (indicator) in front of the helm. Unfortunately, either does however get a wee bit physically and mentally draining after a while! We were therefore alternating between hand steering and using the autohelm, a device which can control the wheel and turn the yacht to keep it on a compass heading you set.
Sadly in this type of conditions though, the term 'autohelm' is a bit of a misnomer!? (It's far from 'set and forget' and can't possibly be left to its own devices: In daylight you need to be facing back looking at each wave, what angle it appears to be coming in at and where it's going to break relative to where the boat will be when it does - and what its buddies behind are up to, too. As you do this, you're trying to judge whether to leave the autohelm be (assuming it will adequately correct the boats direction on the heading you've set, in time to cope with that wave - and how that correction may affect the yacht's attitude to the next wave, and the wind) - or coax the autohelm 10 degrees this way or 20 degrees that way, to keep the stern relatively perpendicular. All the while you have to be conscious that you don't want to go too far left as you might catch a wave and broach (putting the boat too side-on to those nasty waves), or too far right and accidently 'gybe'. This is when a wind passes across the stern (or you deliberately move the stern through) and catches the other side of the sail. The results can be 'painful' if it is not done deliberately, as the boom tries to cross over FAST and with great power - even with our 'preventers' rigged - with high potential for damaged gear - and broaching the other way is also then a distinct possibility, unless you can correct it quickly.
At night you can't see what's coming and just have to guess from what the instruments and the boat is telling you. All in all, a little stressful when you are having to process this set of judgements (and either turn the wheel or hit the right autohelm buttons) every 2-4 seconds, for what was turning out to be hour after hour.
Helpfully at 0600 (while Sue was trying to catch some much-needed sleep) we received a call over the VHF from a "Coalition Warship". These don't tend to send out their position on AIS for obvious reasons and seem particularly wary of small boats close-by after the odd attack in this region.
"Could you please change direction 30 degrees to starboard and maintain for the next 7 miles to avoid us?".
Hmmm, a tad inconvenient this, not only because of the dash below required to the radio: While dawn has just broken, such a course change required a gybe and it was blowing 40kn apparent over the boat at the time.
"Errrr, well that's not that easy for us right now, but we'll try"
Anyway, a 'planned' gybe WAS successfully achieved. 10 minutes later, said warship appears in our rear view mirror. They come back on the radio:
"Oh, we see now you are a sailing boat, thanks for doing that, but you can now resume your original course. And do give us a call if you require any assistance"
Of course, I was tempted to reply, as they serenely chugged on by, ½ mile away, that the only reason we would need assistance would be being put into difficulty through their bloody ill-timed requests. The ship's nationality remains a mystery - but I'd swear the accent was distinctly French.
Around 1000hrs the wind had dropped a little and so had our speed, averaging 'only' 7.4kn. But the forecast was for the blow to last all day and beyond, so you just KNOW the weather is just toying with you a bit, the respite is temporary and really it is probably just girding its loins to come back with just that wee bit more power!....And so it proved.
By 1100 our average was back up to nearly 8kn and the radar GPS told us we were surfing down some waves at 15kn (our paddle wheel speed log having long since spat the dummy).
At this point I joked to Sue that I was ready to get off this train at the next station, but unfortunately - or probably fortunately - this here train wasn't stopping! I wasn't actually finding it THAT scary...even though when seen through these conditions, the sea can be a frightening place. (Yes, I know that is probably a contradiction!): You know you can't control it, just try to 'manage', as best you can, how you cope and above all, try and look after the boat. In fact, not unlike some climbing adventures, it's actually quite damned liberating, because clarity, being 'in the moment', IS everything!.....Nothing else matters, not some spat you may have had 24 hrs ago, not what you would prefer to be doing instead at this moment, not your plans for life in 10 years time! None of that 'stuff' matters - just total focus on what you need to be doing, as a crew, at that moment in time to ensure your boat stays in one piece, is heading in roughly the right direction and avoids hitting anything blunt and hard. Of course this is likely to give you all the best chance of being able to pontificate on that 'other stuff', once you've 'got through'!
Anyway, I'm probably boring you, so will try not to go on for toooo much longer! The good news was that eventually the blow thankfully dissipated 12 hours sooner than we were expecting, as by 1500hrs - 3pm that afternoon, our average speed over each hour had dropped to under 7kn. Funny how you adjust, but after a real blow, 'only' 30kn wind can feel like a gentle summer's breeze! The other good news was that we'd achieved 176nm in the past 24hrs, putting us that much closer to our destination. That's actually not that fast for some yachts, but I think matches 'our' record for Windchase, which we'd recorded in a gale on her delivery trip from Auckland to Picton 8 years previously.
By nightfall we could start to get some proper rest, as the wind began to drop to 20-25. Unfortunately, it also had begun to swing around to the N, the direction we wanted to head. In fact we started motor-sailing with the engine, as it was rubbish for the direction we wanted to go and even then, we had to veer NE. Off we chugged into the night, Sue taking watch and I all but comatose. When morning dawned it was apparent that, while we had made it halfway across the Red Sea, even with the engine assisting both the direction and speed we were able to make given the wind and waves, were not that flash - heading us off towards the Saudi/Yemen border. Now, these two countries are not the best of buddies right now (although most around here seem to be having some kind of spat with a neighbour, or themselves), but it didn't seem like continuing bashing in that direction was a particularly great idea. The other tack was just as bad, basically 'horizontal' or along the line of latitude, making no northing whatsoever towards our destination. The forecast was for the N/NW winds to stay around 18-20 for the next 24-36hrs, so we thought long and hard - well, about 30 seconds, and decided "bugger this" - turning SW towards the islands off Massawa, Eritrea.
Late that afternoon saw us anchored in calm water in the lee of some low cliffs of a deserted island in the archipelago. The next island over however clearly wasn't so deserted, as within 15 minutes of dropping the hook, we were visited by the Eritrean Navy (or what passed for it in these parts - actually 3 guys in a runabout.)
"Hello Sir, have you got a permit to stay here?"
"Have you got any cigarettes Sir?"
"No problem at all then, welcome to Eritrea and enjoy your stay."
Bliss! Anyway, just a little short of where we'd intended to 'land', here officially ended our longest passage to date - 2,352nm (4,356km) in around 19 days 5hrs (av 5.1kn or 122nm/day).
The next day we mooched along further west, back in 'cruising mode', anchoring within the lagoon of a reefed island this time. Later we were joined here by 3 local fishing boats, exchanging a few things like hooks, and more fags - for a massive fish, which made Sue and I a great curry and took Mili to what seemed to be doggy heaven itself.
Finally, the next day, we made it to the port of Massawa. Again we received a very warm welcome from the officials here, who issued us with a free 48hr 'shore pass' instead of us shelling out for a longer visa. We remained tied up to the wall the whole of our stay - no problem and again no charge - with frequent visits from the dockside workers keen to make Mili's acquaintance - I guess the novelty helps!
Ashore, within 300m walk, we found numerous simple but good restaurants. And a number even served BEER!!!. We did also meet a few land sharks, but even these had some charm. On the whole the people, while apparently mostly very poor, were almost universally very welcoming. Quite a few thankfully had a reasonable command of English too, which is good as our Arabic and the local language was limited to a few scratchy phrases!
Replenishing the diesel supplies WAS an admin mission, involving several visits over 30 hours to the Ministry of Tourism to apply for and then collect the required letter of permission to buy it. Once we got our grateful hands on this however, it was a quick process, with the help of a restaurant owner Mike, to get a pick up truck and head to the station with jerry cans, dosh and the all-important official letter! Immediately behind the road with the restaurants lies the 'Old Town' of Massawa. This is a maze of narrow alleys bounded by mostly dilapidated buildings - but where you were assured by locals - and felt - completely safe to wander.
The town was struck by a serious earthquake in 1921, a war with Ethiopia in 1977 and more trouble around independence in the early 1990s. It's difficult to tell which is responsible for the state of the buildings (apart from the ones with holes from bullets or tank shells that is!), or whether it's just the result of sheer grinding poverty. But there was usually a wave, a smile and/or a shouted welcome, frequently a little shop behind the most inconspicuous door, and other things to add interest to wanderings, like one of the earliest moslem shrines, which even pre-dates Mecca.
Further towards the 'New' town (on the way to the Ministry of Tourism, again!), more interesting stuff - a great museum (with very enthusiastic curator who gave George and I her undivided attention for a full guided tour!), my first encounter with guys with AKs (very low key, they just asked me to walk to the bank I was headed to via the other side of the street - They were probably just National Service dudes given some poxy guard duty of the housing complex they were stood next too!), first sight of camels being used to carry wood to the market and a most unexpected sight -road cones and a crowd. It made us wonder what was going on..Nek minut, up fly 3 african dudes on MTB's, in full team kit, turning at the cones. - It was obviously some kind of race - But just slightly bizarre (having seen the state of everyone else's bikes).
Oh and the other highlight as usual of course was travel using the local buses (3 nakfa or roughly 20c takes you anywhere in town). Here the venerable Hi-ace continues to offer sterling service. In one I took, I counted a grand total of THIRTY men, women and children. Plenty of produce too but thankfully, no goats. It was like a game of Twister, with strangers! My old van Ron would have most proud.
We cleared out of Massawa after only 60hrs (yes, they were very flexible about the 48!) and headed just 25miles north to yet another deserted island. Here the new mainsail we have been carrying since Cairns finally got bent on. (The old one has done way better service than we ever expected after its repair just before we left NZ, but did blow out a panel during the gale and while repairable, we just thought we'd treat Windchase and ourselves for the uphill slog that usually forms the N half of the Red Sea to Suez.) Today we've headed a further 40nm north, where Mili could take her final shore leave for a couple of days at least, before we head off on a short 2-3 day passage to our original destination at Suakin in Sudan. I have to say, she was pretty damned excited when she hit the beach tonight, her first since Sri Lanka! On the map we have just realised we're only 17.5m or about 3hrs north (and 80m west) of where we actually got to 6.5 days ago! But we're here and here in relaxed mode, so what the heck!
That really IS all for now folks! I said I would TRY not to go on for toooo much longer, not that I wouldn't, right?
Well, we are about 100nm East of Djibouti and have now turned North towards the Red Sea?at last! The more astute among you may notice that, sometimes, this site can appear to report odd distances it calculates for our daily distance covered - but this time it is definitely our doing....The reason for this being that, until now (on this passage only!), our true position has always been a day ahead of where we were reporting it to yit. (We thus actually left on Weds 13 March are as I write are actually into Day 16 of our passage, not 15)?Probably me being over-paranoid, but this was a wee counter-measure, just on the off chance the Director of Operations, Pirate Pete?s Maritime Acquisition Services (Somalia and Yemen) Inc., just happened to be sat in their Mother Ship or souk while using the internet to peruse an obscure New Zealand yacht tracking site, looking for potential victims!!. Obviously, we have of course been reporting our true pozzie to the maritime agency that coordinates military asset providing overwatch of what they deem to be the HRA (High Risk Area) - which we?ve been within for the last 1,200 odd miles.
The even more savvy (sad?) may have already rumbled to our ruse, if you've tried using the Marinetraffic.com tracking site to look us up and seen a yacht on our track, but apparently a day ahead! This might be possible, given the odd occasions we have switched off our AiS ?silent? (receive only) mode. Doing this could actually transmit our details (so we don?t scare the bejesus out of ships passing close-by) ?Unfortunately, however briefly, this does give those ships the potential to acquire and retransmit later some (or all?) of our AiS details via VHF repeater stations, thus potentially giving our cunning plan away! You may laugh at the improbability of such a scenario, but even the subsistence fishermen we have met elsewhere do seem to able to be ?connected? these days. We've also met one cruiser who admitted, somewhat sheepishly, that they had essentially completed their circumnavigation using only their phone for navigation!. Thus, (presumably), it's likely that the more-savvy crims are also using modern tools to make their job easier? You would also, perhaps, be amazed at how many ships here also travel with no AiS on, switch it off on us (if we don?t identify ourselves to them), or leave it on but state only ?Armed Guards Onboard? as their destination?measures obviously designed to reduce their risk from n?er do wells, imagined or real.
The reality is, however, that the risk of piracy, for yachts, if not negligible, IS now relatively VERY low indeed (Otherwise we wouldn?t be doing it?doh!) ? kidnappings have all but been eliminated for the past 5 years and the few incidents that are reported appear to be misunderstood innocent approaches, or simple robbery (even if sometimes this maybe ?with menaces'!). Any remaining organised Somali operations (think motherships with multiple skiffs, AK47s and RPGs etc) are now almost certainly focussed on the potential big ticket produce - not the relatively-small number of yachts passing through, however pathetically-slow and easy targets we might make by comparison! This commercial traffic is certainly what the International forces (apparently) patrolling the area are here to protect against though ? not us lowly yachts, and fair enough.
So, why ?blow the gaff? now? Well, being the anal blighter I am, naturally I want the yit line to look accurate as we turn north!..But, although we won?t leave the HRA for another 450nm or so, the generally very light weather of this late in the passage season we have been experiencing, has just apparently been luckily suspended in favour of a ?perfectly-timed blow? for us ? 15-30kn right up the jacksie and which looks like it should last long enough to blow us very rapidly from this turn point, to and through the last ?higher risk area? (within the HRA haha! ;-), now apparently presented by Yemenis operating in the narrow gap of the BEM (Bar-el-Mandeb) into the Red Sea and up to the Hanish Islands.
(OK, ok, the wind is also forecast to turn head-on once we get through, for the last 350nm of the passage to Suakin - but let?s look on the undoubted positive side!).
Both our speed in this wind and the size of following seas (as well as our low return value) make it highly improbable that any (successful) attempt at boarding us in the dodgy area would or could be made. Here?s hoping that stating that assumption is NOT tempting fate lol! If we sound a bit too blasé now, we definitely haven?t really been, nor will be over the remaining days?Our passage through the IRTC (International Recommended Transit Corridor) part of the HRA HAS been (mostly) uneventful, but the skipper did get the chance to go a bit spreadsheet mad to work out how to respond, as best as we were able, to changing currents, winds and rate of progress to meet key timing points of this part of the passage, all essentially in order to minimise risk (eg passing through the ?dodgiest? 95nm between dusk and dawn - or as near as was possible given our lowly max speed, which wouldn?t actually allow for full passage of that distance in the 10.5 hours that currently passes for night here!) We also, thankfully, have had luck on our side ? a half-moon has been largely obscured by cloud, the wind kicked up to 18kn behind for long enough to have a very good (150nm+) day run down to meet our dusk deadline..etc. etc.
We have actually had only 2 confirmed encounters with non-ship traffic along the IRTC: The first were 2 small local fishing vessels, pre-?dodgiest-zone?, who we saw (it being full daylight) and presumed to be just innocently moving across our track at 0.5nm, to fishing grounds. Admittedly, it did help our state of mind that we also had 1.5m following sea at the time! The other was just before dawn yesterday, when we encountered 2 more small vessels together, apparently fishing (albeit illegally, within the IRTC). They upped and moved very quickly indeed (for local fishing boats) across our track as we approached. They did have lights displayed however.. and anyway, they were moving away from us (towards a passing tanker, phew!). However, given they then switched their lights off shortly after stopping about 0.5nm away, we did take the precaution of 'going dark' and high-tailed it on different tracks to get us out of visual by full dawn! Another ?encounter?, the previous night, was almost certainly imaginary, albeit that it yielded some valuable lessons for us: Shortly before emerging from the ?dodgiest? area, at 4am the skipper was hastily aroused from his pre watch-change ablutions by the on watch crew,. She had felt an unusual passing wake and then spotted 2 clear returns on our radar at 0.25-0.5nm. (These returns were indeed obvious and continued to move around our stern quarters for the following 30 mins). Meanwhile, the crew had been sufficiently prompted to do the obvious, i.e. putting our less-than-carefully-laid Avoid, Alert, Secure and Deter measures into total chaos, running around the yacht like the Keystone Kops on one of their off days! Our trouble was that, while we had discussed everything we would try and do in such on situation, like what, who would do it, how and when, and even practised and established the limits of some of it (e.g. written lists, assembled equipment, including a raft of stuff to try and disable approaching craft and deter or slow down boarding, macgyvered from yacht and fishing gear and numerous cable ties!), this was all done in parts ? without actually putting it all together in a full-on actual practise.
Needless to say, the plan(s) improved a bit after this ?virtual? encounter?Because, after all of that, it was officially declared to almost certainly have been a false alarm (or perhaps even just naval guys surreptitiously checking out our dark-running craft!) - but more likely to have been from an odd counter wave, coupled with echo returns from a part on our own damned yacht! The crew (Mili excepted) nonetheless celebrated, as may be expected, with a clean change of underwear. Anyway, it certainly hasn?t been as bad as you might infer from any of the above..In fact Sue said a couple of days ago (albeit before the 2 alarm states!) that so far it has been her most relaxing passage to date! Other brief highlights of the 1900nm of passage so far completed: 1) The yacht and its reinforced rig ?holding it together?, a pre-requisite for: 2) The crew doing likewise and getting through to this point safely, still sound of body and mind. Well, as much as they were to begin with, at any rate; 3) No dodgy encounters and some pretty easy downwind sailing through the IRTC, even if we did supplement this with the motor quite a bit to enhance speed; 4) The best display of dolphin pod aerial acrobatics either of us had yet seen - the jury scored it a well deserved ?dix points?! 5) The mental fun working out who is who and up to what when staring at a radar screen in the middle of the night; 6) The nightly VHF entertainment when the anonymous comedians & karaoke singers etc come on - funny even when we don?t understand the language! 7) All the little things, like the eternal reviving power of a nice cup of tea, the surprise of seeing a phosphorescent toilet bowel, the power of positive thinking (eg 6nm more of my night watch down while I've been written this!) and 7) For the most part, Mili does not seem to have been phased at all, untired yet of playing ?Find It?, or being chased around our very-limited cabin space, chasing Bear. Lowlights are very few, being limited to: 1) What can only be described as an appalling lack of planning on our part, which has reduced us now to having only 3 beers left for the remaining 5-7 days of the trip - even if they ARE nice big bottles of Kingfisher Strong. Made MUCH worse by the realisation that we are headed towards Sudan, a country that is meant to be ?dry??..Aaaagh! 2) We were a bit late in leaving Cochin, so have thus had a little too little wind and thus used the engine more than we would have liked ?Hence refuelling from the jerry cans we carry on deck can become tiresome if in a lumpy sea?Although our investment in a $2 syphon has considerably eased this process, given the light winds we expected for this extended passage we acquired a total of 21 of the buggers rather than the 6 we started with from NZ, when Brett and Sam were aboard to assist.
3) It?s been quite rolly, with more side swell than ideal - causing Windchase to complain a bit too loudly at such times. This was also Sue?s excuse for putting her knee through the oven door, while attempting to retrieve the sausages that had made a valiant attempt to escape being cooked for dinner. She has been angling after a new oven for ages, so the jury?s out on whether it really was indeed an ?accident?. On the bright side however, we had already consumed the lovely beef roast that had been in the freezer. And Sue will undoubtedly be happier now, or at least will be, when we finally get to an oven supplier. I should also perhaps add that Sue was unhurt in this incident, although the same cannot be said for the oven, or sausages;.
and finally of course 4) An ever-growing spread of Lists.
TTFN, Windchase This e-mail was delivered via satellite phone using GMN's XGate software. Please be kind and keep your replies short.
Into the recommended transit corridor for ships (or rather a 2nm wide separation zone between the two 'lanes', at 0500 this morning. Since then its been hard going initially, as there is quite a contra-current and little wind. Still, in the past half hour there are signs of the current easing and wind increasing slightly...It should be net positive over the whole section, so haven't been not toooo bothered...but still, Yay! All being well, we should be on this heading for the next 470nm, or 3 and a half days or so, before turning NE to head up to the Red Sea. The weather continues to be great..except the crew (Mili excepted) are now feeling the growing chill in the evenings and need a shirt on, it being 'only' 25C at night! TTFN (Dist so far=1514nm, DTF c. 1083nm, last 24=113nm)
Well, Mr Miller has reminded me that I haven't made a yit update in a while and fair enough.. I'd better jump to it! Well, those winds became even more light and more fickle over the last couple of days, damnit! This resulted in a couple of sub-100nm days which have really hit the average. However, we ARE still heading in the right direction and the sun IS still shining. Wind is predicted to pick up, a little, soon too.. Even better! AIS and radar watching is fun at night... We're largely attempting to travel as 'incognito' as possible, West of 65E, with our position transmitter and lights switched off except when either or both are absolutely necessary to save freaking out ships. Quite a bit of traffic is routing parallel and close to our track. When we leave our AiS off and those ships with their's on obviously clock us on radar (we thus register as only a 'blip', rather than full info that AIS would show, when we have it on transmit, of our position, heading, speed, size, flag, shoe size etc etc), they frequently attempt to 'disappear' by switching their system off transmit mode too..Even tho we would clearly be no risk whatsoever of collision.. My guess is that they are a tad nervous that our lowly speed may be a cunning ruse by the n'er do well's reputed to inhabit this area of sea! Speaking of which, so far we have only seen 2 vessels that weren't clearly ships since leaving coastal waters off Kochi. They were both together too, on radar at 4nm from us not long before dawn this morning. Their speed suggested they were almost certainly simply fishing boats, but as their track was parallel to ours, to be on the safe side we did take a little diversion, just to make sure we were over the horizon by daybreak! Luckily when I spotted these on the radar, I'd just finished changing the oil again, in prep for entering Transit corridor... Hence we could just crank up ol' Perky and we didn't need to amble away pathetically under the 2kn wind! PPS While we do have very limited means of hearing what's going on in the big wide world, we were told of the crazy cretin back home in Christchurch and the tragedy that befell so many innocent people as a result. Words fail really.. Truly a deluded, ignorant, pathetic excuse for a human being, whatever their imagined motives. That's only my (polite) opinion though! (1280nm down-Av 116/day , 1317nm to go) This e-mail was delivered via satellite phone using GMN's XGate software. Please be kind and keep your replies short.
Passage going well.. Winds can be a bit light/fickle, but enough to make progress without too much use of engine (as we're keen to not stop in Socotra or Djibouti if we can help it and thus need to save fuel for potential use before we go past!). Crew and Mili happy... apart from the fact that no bloody fish are biting! :-( (628nm down-Av 126/day , 1968nm to go)
Good positive current passing N of Minacoy and while not much wind that is consistently above 8kn, it still means fair speed with the iron sail, which we have assumed we'd for using for 1st 2.5days and when wind drops below 6kn. We will shortly be turning W and then WNW to follow (alleged!) current, given wind forecast is so light. Sun still shining, so all good here. (Last 24=125nm, sailed 245nm, DTF c.2352nm)
Motorsailing for 20 of last 24 which we expect for first 2 days. Wind is light but so is swell and the sun is shining.. All good aboard! (sailed 120nm, DTF c.2477nm)
On our way W after a few maintenance delays in India. Still, we had an awesome time, eating lots (very cheaply!) and getting to know some lovely people both staying and working at the Kochi Marina. Next leg is a biggie, so these yit updates may only be every few days or so, and pos & speed may not be entirely accurate, due to our reluctance to advertise true position! ;-) Wx info is for where we are at mo though, so sorry for any confusion for other sailors! (sailed 3.0nm, DTF c.2597nm)
At quarantine anchorage in Kochi (Cochin) after one of those 'longer than expected' passages! ...Reaching the S tip of India was a real buzz (being met by the sight of what looked close in from the sea like a grand palace, fort, huge mosques and church in Kanyakumari) and the photos we took can't do it justice! The bash up the coast round and up from there was, however, a bit less enthralling!.. Quite a few small unlit wee boats, as well as heaps of trawlers to avoid during the last night... A bit of a contrast to our experience around Sri Lanka, where we found all boats lit in some form, with most bigger net boats (and most nets) were not only lit, but also marked by AIS.
We actually got in to Kochi (Cochin) at 0930 this morning, but have been introduced, all day since, to the (in?)famous beaurocracy while attempting to complete 'formalities'. All actually went well... but for Customs... and the delays at least gave us chance for 1st thali here in their works canteen (total cost for 2 was
Still the last (boat) visit and form WERE filled in at 17.30, so we will now be ready to present at office when it reopens tomorrow and we will then be 'free' ! Kochi truely does look an amazing mix and should be fun exploring.. once we've had a rest!
(PS Total Dist covered from Trinco =665nm in a tad over 6 days, Av 4.6kn or 110nm/day...That beating certainly affects the much better trade wind average (as well as apparently leading to blindness).
After a bit of a mare with wind and current tacking around the bottom end yesterday evening, it's plain sailing omg the coast at the mo, with even a little current with us. Lots of small fishing boats (a few wanting food) but all sweet. Sunny again. Will slow down overnight, not least to head into harbour in daylight. (Dist covered 563nm, last 24=99nm, DTF c. 90nm)
(Distance covered 464nm, last 24=97 :-(, DTF c. 187nm) Just about at the S tip of India... After a slow but very lovely night, it's been a bit frustrating since 3am, with a bit of sea and reasonable wind and current... Unfortunately all from right where we want to get to, naturally! Oh well, sun's still shining and we're plodding on. On a more sombre note, I be thinking of everyone gathering in Sutton Veny to remember Mike about now...Particularly June and the children, of course. I know that the same church and pub will also bring back memories of another life cut too-short 25 years ago. You may blub again, as much as we all did then... And that, I think, is a good sign? Of lives well-lived, of memories and bonds which last forever.
Well on way, but clear its going to take abt 6 days rather than hoped for 5...We were meant to have a 1.5kn current behind us all the way up past Colombo (rather than taking a direct line against a current forecast by model)... But instead have had up to 2.0kn against for much of last 20hrs... grrr (hence SOG averaging less than 4 compared to 6-7 expected). Oh well guess it just confirms models and modellers aren't infallible, after all ;-). At least we have a glassy sea & all's well aboard! (Dist covered 367nm, last 24=93.1 lol! , DTF c. 248nm)
Just passing the historic port of Galle, where we visited on our shore tour. Beautiful day (although winds could be stronger please!). Night had a few challenges inc. v light following wind (so little apparent) and earlier a broken furler line through chafe (didn't have enough 8mm line to replace but rerove end.. Sadly we can only set half the furling genoa for now, but will be going old school with the hanked foresails shortly). Also heaps of boats at a Traffic Separation Scheme at S end of island, but all the big ones on AIS with just a few other fishing boats, fortunately all lit (after a fashion!). All's well aboard.tho forecast to lighten a lot over next 2 days so it will be slow :-( oh well, c'est la vie! (Dist covered 274nm, Noon-noon 142.2nm, DTF c. 365nm)
After a fab visit to Sri Lanka we are now en route (started 0900 yesterday). A little uncomfortable for first 24hrs due to side swell but not too bad now.. Also had 1-1.8kn current against for most of time and a couple of rainy squalls to 26kn (as opposed to forecast 12kn!). Still, it's worth a 'price' well worth paying for heading to the lovely secure harbour in Trincomalee rather than Galle... Beautiful day now and shortly will be into positive current of up to 2kn, so all good now! Distance covered 133nm (118nm Noon-noon), DTF c. 528nm.
Arrived safely in Trincomalee at around 1330 local time.... All the paperwork now completed (helped by obligatory agent, Sandeep from GAC Shipping, who did a great job and made it a painless process). I've just anchored and about to blow up dinghy, having left Sue on customs wharf ashore to hunt out currency and SIM cards! Mili's already seen more than Sri Lanka than I have so far! (1055km in total in 172.5hrs... Av 147nm/day or 6.1kn....That current helped a lot!)
Balmy day... Sea v benign and wind dropping to 6-12kn, shifting round to a beam reach... Choice! Also visited by first pod of dolphins in ages. Our friendly positive current has started to slacken and we've also slowed a bit more deliberately, to make sure we stay offshore and don't get too tied up with local fishing vessels over last night. ETA around lunchtime tomorrow. (944nm done, c. 103nm to go. Last 24hrs 149nm). All well aboard! This e-mail was delivered via satellite phone using GMN's XGate software. Please be kind and keep your replies short.
And... Ditto. Another good days run, in fine weather! ...Sea up and down (funny that, eh?).. Well, what I mean is it got up to 3m, but longer period than yesterday, so not too bad... Now eased off a lot and both wind and sea look likely be falling from here on in. For once the forecasts have been spot on! (795nm done, c. 252nm to go. Last 24hrs 166nm...current assisted of course!). All well aboard!
Another good days run, in fine weather...Only one tanker and one fishing vessel sighted, so pretty quiet. Sea easing so, thankfully, it now feels a bit less like a Wurlitzer ride! Mili has learnt to use the Lee cloths and seems to like this cozy pozy as much as the hoomans.... Frankly cramped when you're in there too! (629nm done, c. 418nm to go. Last 24hrs 152nm). All well aboard!
Still in decent current and nice winds of 12-20kn... Hence a very good days run (for us!). (477nm done, c. 570nm to go. Last 24hrs 161nm). All well aboard! (PS forgot to change date on ydays position report from previous day, so may have looked a bit screwed up sorry)
Now well past the Nicobars, and into good strong current... A bit frisky occasionally where its opposed but great for most of the time. More shipping than expected (maybe the words Grand Passage on the chart should have been a hint?!).. but they're all on AIS, so no worries (316nm done, c. 725nm to go. Last 24hrs 148nm). All well aboard!
Going well, given light winds... We've aimed to pass S of the Nicobar Islands, as this will soon put us into a 1.5-2kn current all the way across the Bay of Bengal (or at least with 200nn of destination at Trincomalee). Already in well over 1kn...woop woop! (168nm done, c. 865nm to go. Last 24hrs 126nm). Wind should (hopefully!) pick up a bit tomorrow. All well aboard!
Off on the next leg, Sri Lanka or bust! ... Started at 10:00hrs this morning and now about 30nm out from Phuket. Wx in line with forecasts.. We maybe should have waited, as very light winds for next 2 days :-(. Still, the sun is shining and seas are calm, so can't complain too much!
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