02/02/10 So, on the way back from Port
Sudan the other day, we discovered that 'new' Suakin is in fact about a
mile inland and what we thought was new Suakin, was in fact,
still Old Suakin - hardly surprising really as I could see no difference
between the original town and that which we thought was the new town -
it's all fallen down as you can see in the photographs! I'm
still without a watermaker despite several days of trying almost
everything I can think of to rectify the problem. I now need
a few days in which to remove the membrane unit from the cupboard and
strip down the Energy Recovery System - more on that later no doubt.
Anyway, we intend sailing tomorrow as the winds are about as favourable
as they are going to get, and we hope to head straight to Massawa in
Eritrea which is about 250 miles away. My impression of
Sudan? In the main, they are a very friendly people who want to
talk to you and help in any way and without the "rip off the tourist"
mentality (there aren't any tourists here anyway). Children and
adults alike seem very happy with their lot, even though the poverty
level is extreme, there is no electricity in Suakin except for the occasional
generator chugging away in the open air, few cars, goats wandering
everywhere and donkeys used for just about everything. The
market stalls have a variety of goods - but not very much of any item, and
once it's gone, they don't have any more until the next day.
Anything else that you require has to be bought in Port Sudan or
transported from Khartoum.
03/02/10 Weighed anchor at 1100 local
time and made our way out to sea with Storm Dodger (still no
watermaker), heading in a general southerly direction for Massawa in
Eritrea, a trip of approximately 280 nautical miles. Just after
midday, we had all sail up and were making good progress (perhaps too
much sail up!) and at 1500 we had our first 'bite' on the fishing line.
I reeled it in, fighting it as it dived and swerved to escape, until it
started to jump out of the sea and reveal itself as a Bluefin Tuna.
Thinking it was tiring, I began to reel in faster and easier until it
suddenly went under and began to pull out the line again......"this is a
big one" I thought. Seconds later, it became easy again and I was
able to lift it from the sea at the stern of the boat. We could
then see why it had dived and pulled out more line......there was only a
third of it left.....bleeding and twitching. A shark had
decided to have it's dinner - depriving us of ours!! Never mind,
we caught a Kingfish a couple of hours later which went down very nicely
with some mashed potatoes, which we ate just before nightfall.
Because of a misunderstanding, sail, seas and weather
conditions, we became separated from Storm Dodger and
unfortunately, in total darkness, they were approached by a fast
boat containing shouting men, whom Roger thinks were soldiers, demanding
to know where he had come from and his destination - a frightening
experience for Astrid and the children.
The sea state worsened throughout the evening and we
were soon getting wet in the cockpit as waves thudded against the side
of the hull. 70 miles covered by midnight.
04/02/10 Just after midnight and now
almost permanently wet from incoming waves, we reefed the mainsail and
reduced the genoa to less than half, still making 6 knots or so with the
wind at Force 4/5 from the NNE. Our electrical power became a
source of concern, the batteries going down below safety levels and we
were forced to run the engine to top them up on a fairly regular basis.
Quite a cold day with permanent cloud cover and the odd spot of rain.
Sea calming by 2359 and another 140 miles covered.
05/02/10 Sailing through huge rafts of
seaweed which are parted by the bows, grey scudding clouds threatening
rain constantly. By 7am, the wind which was now
directly behind us, started to weaken and at 11am we furled the last of
the genoa away (the mainsail having been dropped during the night),
started the engine and began our approach to Massawa Port, low flying
pelicans gracefully gliding below our bows as we entered the harbour.
In the port, we were requested to tie up alongside a high granite wall and
complete immigration formalities - not that easy to do while fending off
the boat from the stone wall. We were then not allowed to
leave the wall until 5 hours later when rehearsals for their
Independence Day celebrations were completed in the harbour. When
they were, we made our way to the anchorage and dropped the hook in
about 10 metres, with another 70 miles on the log. Everyone went
ashore but I still had many things to do onboard after such a rolling
passage, and I was more than a little concerned about the battery state.
Presently, we are not allowed to stay in Massawa for the festival, which
is the 20th celebration of Fenkel Operation (Independence).
06/02/10 We went ashore at 9am to get
our visa's, and then to find the tourist office and get travel permits
to go to Asmara ..............a slow procedure which took up most of the
day! The town contains many buildings which are full of shell and
bullet holes from Eritrea's war for Independence just 20 years ago and a
new museum is being completed just by the tourism office. The rest of the day (and evening) was taken up with battery
work. New ones here cost around 9000 Nakfa which is about $300 US
- an expensive job! Fortunately for me, Colin on Moody Time
had some he could lend me and came over to give me a hand replacing
mine. That seemed to rectify the problem in the short term AND
possibly cured the watermaker problem in the process because I've now
found out that the pump is power sensitive.
07/02/10 Night time bacardi fuelled
dreams and thoughts (do you 'think' in your sleep?) had me
wondering again about the batteries and whether they weren't the result
of the problem rather than the cause. My theory is that the boat
hasn't been connected to shore supply since the 11th January, so the
battery bank hasn't had the benefit of a 'full' charge. Meanwhile,
there has been a constant demand for power onboard and because we are in
the convergence zone which separates the weather patterns of the north
and south Red Sea, we've had very little in the way of sunshine for
almost all of that time - just grey overcast skies - which of course
means that the solar panel isn't producing any 'free' power either.
Additionally, the battery bank may have been sufficient for sails of 3
or 4 days but is woefully undersized for extended passages where
instrumentation, steering and navigation lights are a constant drain.
Furthermore, the alternator is under sized as well, and doesn't produce
enough to charge the bank when running for short periods. With all
this in mind, and not wanting to throw away what could be perfectly
serviceable batteries, I removed the batteries loaned by Colin and
refitted my own, running the engine for a couple of hours with
everything disconnected until an acceptable first level of charge was
achieved. What I really need is a full charge from either an
external generator, shore power.......or some sunshine! It seems
that we are now being allowed to stay for the planned Fenkel
celebrations which will culminate over the weekend of 13th and 14th.
The pelicans (a formation of twelve today) are a permanent visitor to
the anchorage which teams with fish - the local fishermen having nowhere
to export fish because of the embargo on the country, while about a
dozen Egyptian trawlers lie at anchor, impounded for illegal fishing.
08/02/10 Putting battery worries aside
for the time being, a bunch of us hired a mini-bus and took the four
hour trip to the capital - Asmara. The journey was interesting as
it's a continual climb along a torturous winding road into the
mountains, the scenery changing from the green, cultivated lower slopes,
through the cloud base and into a more sunny and barren landscape.
Working camels carrying wood for charcoal making are a common sight.
Along the way, we passed through several villages and townships, one in
the cloud layer which gave it a permanent 'foggy' atmosphere and where
the locals wore coats all the time - it has to be a cold, damp way to
live! Below the clouds, the valleys were all terraced and maize
was being grown with other grains but above clouds, cacti grew
everywhere and vultures soared from the mountain peaks. Not long
after passing through the cloud, a colony (?) of baboons sat at the side
of the road, scavenging food from passing traffic - one almost getting
inside the open window where I sat! At the village where we
stopped for a break, children pestered us with their home made baskets
or fruit they had to sell, fighting amongst themselves for ball-point
pens that some on the bus gave out. It seems that they will do
almost anything for pens, even back down in Massawa. We spent the day wandering
around Asmara, which at around 7000 feet above sea level, is not as
humid as Massawa, and it's tree lined boulevard is holding onto it's
Italian influence with pizzas, pastries and pastas, although if you step
away from the main street, you are back in Africa with donkey carts etc.
There certainly appears to be a much better standard of living in the
capital, better food, better clothes and so forth - and English seems to
be the second language rather than Italian. The trip back
down the mountain was as interesting as the upward climb and obviously
the lorries that make the journey suffer from clutch and brake burn out
- some trucks overturned on bends, others have tumbled over the road
edge and could be seen lying hundreds of feet below. We arrived
back onboard about 8pm and promptly adjourned to the nearest bar ashore
for a few beers, then back to Rhumb Do for a few more.....and
before we knew it, daylight was upon us and it was time for a couple of
11/02/10 Increasing numbers of people
are arriving in the anchorage on boats which I would be loathe to cross
the bay on, all happily smiling and waving to us as they pass by to
shore or anchor. Little boys paddle out to the yachts on bags of
rubbish, using their flip-flops as paddles, and ask for pens.
Mistral, Easy 'n Free and Moody Time sailed this morning for
an anchorage just 12 miles away.
13/02/10 Weekend - and the start of Fenkel celebrations.
The town is
packed with people, a steam train (vintage 1930) chugged into the war
damaged station, the driver enthusiastically blowing it's whistle every
few minutes whilst the main street is a melee of men, women and children
in their best clothes - all heading for the port to hear the presidents
speech and to see the parade of boats in the harbour. We all went
ashore and into the port to see as much as we could (which wasn't much)
but later, from outside the port we saw a simulated commando attack on a
derelict building, bombs exploding amidst orange smoke flares and
automatic weapons being discharged. This was followed by the boat
parade, some decorated in carnival fashion while others were military
vessels of the Eritrean Navy. O Khayam, who had left some
days ago, returned to the anchorage because of an un-specified problem
and announced they were on their way back north and were retiring from
14/02/10 We received a VHF call from
Moody Time, informing us that they too had retired from the Rally
and were making their way back to Suez - reasons unclear at the moment.
We were again ashore, braving the constant mobbing of children wanting
pens, t-shirts or clothes of any kind. Sixty toothbrushes left
with Astrid by Easy 'n Free disappeared in minutes. The
children are clearly well fed, but lacking in everything else and will
walk through the dusty streets holding your hand all day if you let
them. Some speak a little English and all want books in English in
order to improve their grasp of the language.
(photo's of Eritrea)
15/02/10 Time for us to get moving again
- we've been waiting here too long for weather windows (the areas south
of us are plagued with southerly winds), - and we weighed anchor at 0730
and made our way to the port, tied up to the wall and went to the
Immigration Office for our exit visa's and sailing permits. By
10am, all was complete, the boat had been searched for stowaways and we
were underway in company with Storm Dodger and Esper.
Running the watermaker for two hours whilst motoring was successful
and we made about 60 litres before switching off. We motored 28
miles to the small island of Dilemmi and anchored in about 10 metres off
what appeared to be fertile green pasture land with canopied trees
(think of the film "The Lion KIng"). The green turned out to be
weeds rather than grass but wild camels roamed on the horizon and goats
were tended by locals along a shoreline of coral beaches and undercut
cliff edges. First crews ashore reported locals in need of
antiseptic creams for open wounds on their feet and ankles and a
collection was made around the boats for that and also fishing gear to
replace their ancient rusty hooks etc. Of course, the ubiquitous
pelicans float leisurely by. I'm coming down with the fever which
has affected the skippers of Still Dreaming, Anthea and
17/02/10 After another day of waiting
for suitable winds, we lifted the anchor in total darkness at 0130 while
the wind was at it's slackest and made our way around the northern edge
of the island before turning southward. We were immediately
buffeted by winds from the SE and unruly seas which slowed our progress
immensely. It's going to be a long, slow slog to get anywhere near
Aden in conditions like this. With suspicions of the propeller
being fouled by the huge areas of weed which continually drift by, we
headed for Adjuz Island, where we lay a-hull in it's lee while Robby
hung over the side and inspected the prop. There was some weed but
not enough to give the effect we were experiencing, so we continued our
passage southward to join up with the other boats. Dan on Still
Dreaming elected to remain at Adjuz because of the fever.
After a few hours rest, he will resume course. At 1345, we
anchored in Freedom Anchorage which is just west of Aggabuba Island,
most crews going ashore for a BBQ on the beach. 25 - 30 knot winds
are blowing across the anchorage but rolling is minimal.
18/02/10 Another day waiting for the
winds from the SE to abate. We are all worried about the next weeks
because of the winds and will need to make progress southward whenever
we can - be it day or night. The straights of Bab-el-Mandeb loom
ominously ahead of us! Dan and Mary onboard Still Dreaming
arrived in the anchorage during the morning. Shelter
may return to Egypt because of the fever and I'm feeling worse by
20/02/10 Weighed anchor at 0645, hoisted
the mainsail and once more started the battle into strong headwinds.
Caught a blue fin Tuna at 0800, so that's dinner sorted out!
Progress is very slow because of the sea state and the winds, and at 8pm
some boats peeled off into Anfile Bay for shelter. By midnight, we
had only managed to cover 67 miles, Gipson of Mistral crewing for
21/02/10 A rough night with boat speed
down to less than 2 knots for most of the time - it became apparent that
we would probably not make it to Mersa Dudo in daylight. Mid
afternoon saw a series of minor disasters.....firstly our mainsail
topping lift became jammed and we were unable to lower the sail and the
next alteration of course would mean a broad reach with full sail up.
As soon as that happened, the engine died! Unbeknown to us, we had
used a whole tank of fuel battling against the elements and the engine
had now lost suction because of the amount of heel on the boat. It
would mean a very slow series of tacks to get into our alternative
anchorage of Ed Bay, except now the genoa ripped! Almost three
hours later we had covered the 5 miles to Ed Bay and anchored off the
village of Cod-Ali. Refuelled from jerry cans and bled the engine
but am still unable to free the topping lift or repair the genoa because
of the strong winds. The constant weakness and nausea
brought on by the fever makes every single action very difficult, so
it's a good job I have Robby to do any manual, or heavy work.
22/02/10 Weighed anchor at 0800 and
motored (very slowly) the eleven miles to Mersa Dudo, where we anchored
with the rest of the fleet. The bay is overlooked by Mount
Dudo and is volcanic, the edges are white sand and black lava rock with
just a few simple fishermen's houses. The weather and crew
sickness will force us to
stay here for some days.
23/02/10 Ignore the last sentence!
Early this morning we were visited by the military who insisted that we
leave immediately. We all refused and they became more and more
agitated as they went from boat to boat (ramming mine) and screaming
"Go, go!". We told them to bog off, but after some
hours they started waving guns about and we decided that it was perhaps
better to move even though some boats (mine included) were in need of
repairs to either sails or engines. We moved three miles to the
other side of the mountain but the anchorage wasn't suitable for the
wind direction and we crossed to Sadla Island, anchoring first on the
south western tip, then on the north eastern tip.
27/02/10 We spent a few uncomfortable
days rolling badly and with me feeling terrible - stricken by this damn
fever which will not go away. We took the genoa down and with
Roger's help, got the tear stitched up. At 0100 this morning the
wind went round to the north and we weighed anchor and moved to the
other side of the island for six hours before all leaving en masse and
forming a convoy southward. Not too long into the journey,
Cobble suffered engine failure and was taken under tow by Anthea.
We then suffered alternator failure and had to turn off all
instruments, chartplotter and nav lights.
28/02/10 Just before 5am, we anchored in
the lee of Dumeira Island to escape the constant battering that we were
now getting from headwinds, and for a more than welcome rest. At first light we started to repair the
alternator but we were not allowed to stay there very long.....the
military, armed with AK47's, turned up again and demanded our papers,
then told us to leave. By mid-morning we were south of the
Eritrean/Djibouti border and crossing the shipping lanes. It was a great
pleasure to take down the Eritrean flag and replace it with the Yemeni
courtesy ensign, - we were out of the Red Sea at last and in the Bab
el Mandeb Straights!
Click for some of the Vasco da Gama
For previous logs, click
For information on the Vasco da
Gama Rally, click