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  january 2010


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01/01/10   A HAPPY NEW YEAR to each and every one of you, especially family and friends in the United Kingdom, fellow sailors on the VDG Rally and old friends met in other countries.  I wish you all a prosperous 2010.


Meet Robby. 

Robby joined me today as crew for the next leg and beyond.  He's a 26 year old Canadian and hails from Vancouver Island.  Robby was making his way around the world via the overland route and was in Cairo when he ran into Cillian, who has joined Maurice, as his crew on Cobble.  Cillian told him of the rally and my need of crew, and Robby contacted me.  We got on OK, so he's now the 'mate' for the coming passage south.



02/01/10  Stocking up the boat for most of the day with the necessary food supplies, as we are expecting to leave on the 5th.

03/01/10  Carrying on with jobs that need to be done and also assisted Roger by going up both his masts to correct electrical faults.  Whilst at the top of the mainmast I noticed that one of the halyard blocks was defective - it happened to be the one I was suspended from, so I went up again and replaced it for Roger.  A slight mishap when I unwittingly dropped the knife I had taken up.....and it fell the 50 feet or so and point first, embedded itself in the teak of Storm Dodger's deck!   Fortunately Robby had moved away from the mast foot or I could have been looking for another crew member!  [photo's]

04/01/10  To the souk with Robby, Astrid and Tricia, stocking up on veg.  The boat is now several inches lower in the water!  The marina remains without internet - that's well over a week now.  Some boats have already left to make their way southward.

05/01/10  After paying marina fees, we slipped at 1145 and made out to sea in company with eeyore and Storm Dodger for the short sail (NNW wind at 20-24 knots) to Marsa Abu Makhadiq where we anchored in about 10 metres.  Also anchored there - Moody Time, Full Flight, Divanty,  and Still Dreaming.

06/01/10  Again, another short hop today from one anchorage to the next - this time to Abu Soma.  Robby helming for the greater part of the sail under genoa alone, and anchoring off the beach in about 6 metres.  No internet available from the nearby hotel and I suspect that wi-fi connections will become even more scarce the further south we go.

08/01/10  After yesterdays rest, we made an early start.....like at 0001 hrs!  We made a southerly course under genoa alone, star spotting as we sailed into the night.  This was Robby's first night sail and he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  We arrived in El Quseir anchorage at 1000, dropping the hook in about 4.5mtrs and going ashore to seek out the nearest filling station.  However, the local dive boat crew offered to get fuel for us and several boats took up the offer - 17GBP for 105 litres of diesel (delivered) isn't bad!  Around about 6.30pm, sea swell started to enter the anchorage and it became untenable - the boat rolling so badly that we were taking water onto the deck on each side with every roll.  Both Roger and I decided to leave immediately, and by 7pm we were once more at sea for another night sail.

09/01/10  A cold night at sea - but we saw the most spectacular meteor burn up that I've ever seen.  We reduced sail as we approached Port Ghalib, not wishing to enter the port in the dark, and eventually had to lie a hull for an hour or so, waiting for daybreak.  The entrance channel to the port is only 60 metres wide, with coral reefs on either side, so a night entrance isn't recommended - clearly, one yacht (not one of ours) got it wrong!  Moored bow to in the port at 0630.  This will be our last official port of call in Egypt, so we need to clear customs and check out.

10/01/10  Robby's turn to go mast climbing!  Colin on Moody Time required anemometer maintenance and Robby volunteered to go up the mast with Colin and myself winching, Trish taking the safety line.  (Maybe he thought he would get his own back and drop something on me!)   Daytime temperatures here are in the low thirties - hot but bearable.  What I find almost unbearable is the number of flies....they are everywhere onboard and the moment you stop moving, a dozen or more are on your feet, shoulders and face.  Had a wander around the immediate complex area which is spotlessly clean.  The development includes the marina, a hotel or two, shops and cafes, swimming pool, lagoon, kids club.  BUT it's devoid of people!  None of the apartments have been sold or let, the hotels are all but empty and outside the complex is just desert.  I assume that the shop owners, who cannot be making any money whatsoever, are also not paying any ground rent until such time as the resort takes off and becomes a popular holiday destination.

11/01/10  Transferred a jerry can of fuel into tank first thing this morning, then Robby went to the fuel dock and refilled the can.  Did my dhobying, checked mail and newspapers and generally got a few little jobs done in preparation for leaving Ghalib.  Just after nightfall, all the boats moved off the wall and moored again (rafting up to one another) in the customs quarantine area.  We held a skippers meeting and made general notes about the areas to visit to the south of our present location.  All boats are intending to leave around 6am tomorrow for a 60 mile trip southward.

12/01/10  A mass exodus of boats this morning......all 12 rally boats slipped within five minutes of each other at six o'clock and it was quite an impressive sight as we left the harbour and all hoisted sail, setting course for Sharm Luli.  Sadly, the wind was somewhat fickle all day and we ended up motor sailing to our destination, the wind never exceeding 10 knots from a general northerly direction.  It was dark on arrival at Sharm Luli Bay, and with a tricky entrance we crept in at under 1 knot.  Obviously not carefully enough because we unfortunately hit a coral reef on our starboard side - the awful scraping sound travelling loudly through the boat.  Trying to reverse off caused the rudder to scrape onto the reef also but eventually we managed to pull off to port.  Storm Dodger,  just yards ahead of us had narrowly missed the same reef but Divanty and Moody Time had also hit the coral before us.  On arrival at the anchorage, we dropped the hook in 16 metres and Astrid rowed over with a couple of steaks from the big (6kg+) Blue Fin Tuna they had caught an hour or so earlier (as well as a Barracuda!)  - so we had a very nice tuna steak dinner!

13/01/10  Happy Birthday to my sis-in-law Barbara!  Because of forecast southerly winds, the fleet remained at anchor in the shelter of the bay today.  Robby and Cillian swam under the boat and inspected the damage from last night, shortly followed by Graham of eeyore using diving equipment - thankfully, because of the low impact speed, we escaped with nothing more than a lost coat of paint on both keel and rudder.  Anthony and Davina onboard Divanty were less fortunate and cracked their rudder - a major problem for themThe bay has a small, ramshackle military outpost with just two soldiers (I wonder how long they are posted here for?) and the arrival of 12 boats obviously caused a bit of a stir because they got a couple of senior officers from somewhere, who then commandeered a fishing boat to visit all the yachts and take details of crews.  As in all the Egyptian anchorages,  we are not allowed to land (we might be terrorists, or we may steal some or their sand) but they did give us permission to remain in the anchorage for the time being.  A 3pm coffee meet on Storm Dodger to discuss our next move, escalated into a full blown party with crews from several boats in attendance until around 11pm.

14/01/10   If we were to go any further south just now, there would be no safe anchorages from the forecasted south wind, so the fleet remains at anchor for the time being - all rallying (no pun intended) around Anthony and Davina in a combined effort to repair their damaged rudder so that they can continue until the next 'lift out' port (probably Aden).  Another evening get together on Storm Dodger saw 22 people in the cockpit - assume an average weight of 70kg and that's well over 1,500kg extra at the stern so it's not surprising that the diesel tank breather pipe started spewing diesel when the tanks 'leant' backward!

15/01/10  This morning saw a pod of dolphins lazily swimming around in the bay and an Osprey perched on the mast top of Divanty.  Repairs to Divanty's rudder continue with those who can dive, and have equipment, taking shifts to fit stainless steel strengthening plates on either side of the fracture.  Cocktails and sundowners onboard eeyore to end the day and a baby shark seen swimming close by.

16/01/10  Two Osprey's spotted this morning - I suspect they are individuals and not a pair; as both were perched separately on the edge of the small sand sculpted cliff face just off our starboard side.  Robby made use of his diving talents by helping to complete the rudder repair on Divanty whilst I generally loafed around and got in some bay sailing in Roger's optimist dinghy, before acting as safety boat whilst Leah sailed the optimist alone for the first time.  Then Cillian sailed with Leah for an hour or so  - must be good to be the youngest participant on the rally and have about 30 'parents' looking after you!!

18/01/10  Last night saw a 'thank you' party onboard Divanty with most crews piling onboard and enjoying Anthony and Davina's hospitality. 

We still haven't had any strong southerly winds, but overnight and this morning we did get strong north-westerly's as predicted.  Around about 9am, we started to move, almost imperceptibly the transits started to change......the anchor was dragging!  We didn't have much room to drag because of the shallow waters behind us and therefore we had to move our position.  It was a bit of a challenge getting the anchor up without colliding with other boats in the 35 knots of wind but eventually we re-anchored further into the bay, still in around 16 metres of water.

19/01/10  Weighed anchor at 0630 with 15 knots of wind blowing and 'felt' our way out through the reefs into open sea.  As soon as we were out, the wind died to less than 10 knots and we had to motor sail for several hours.  Around 1030, whilst having coffee, the fishing line hissed out and I yelled at Robby to reel it in whilst I managed the boat.  Some 15 minutes later we had a nice Blue fin Tuna in the cockpit and twenty minutes later it was cleaned, filleted and in the fridge!!  So, congrats to Robby on his first Red Sea catch, and for the record, it was 27 inches long and weighed in at 6kg (photo).  Storm Dodger caught a similar size Blue fin about 10 minutes later but the record today had to go to Colin and Trish aboard Moody Time with their Kingfish which I think weighed about 10kg.  At 1545, we anchored in Dolphin Reef - a part of Fury Shoal, and the crews of all boats (Rhumb Do, Storm Dodger, Easy 'n Free, Cobble and Still Dreaming) took chips etc over to Moody Time for a fish and chip supper.  We, and  Storm Dodger, shared out our tuna with the other boats for tomorrow's dinner.

20/01/10  After Robby, Cillian, Roger, Marco and Francesca had all been snorkelling, we decided to make more progress south - all heading for different destinations.  With the exception of Cobble and Still Dreaming, who were staying another night, we all motored slowly out of the reef between the bommies (coral heads that tower from the seabed) and set our respective courses until finally there was only ourselves and Storm Dodger sailing into the night.

21/01/10  Using genoa alone through the night.  Early morning wind veered to the north which meant we had to gybe for most of the day.  At 1545, we crossed latitude 22.5o North.....so I guess we are now in the tropics?  Roger and Astrid caught another Blue fin Tuna which they didn't want, so we dropped sail and motored close enough alongside for them to throw it over.  The whole exercise, dropping sail, starting the engine, getting the fish and re-hoisting sail took just 25 minutes, and we were on our way again.  The evening saw increasing winds and the seas becoming more boisterous.

22/01/10  With winds increasing to F5, gusting 6, combined with 2 metre waves, it wasn't a very comfortable night and neither Robby or myself got much decent sleep.  By 0600, we had a continual F6 blowing and we were heading between reefs to close the coast of Sudan (yep, we're out of Egypt now!)  Charts and C-Maps of the area are not much use because there has been no 'proper' survey of the area for about a hundred years, and the anchorage we were heading for, Khor Shinab, lies about a kilometre into the desert through a narrow winding channel - so it was a case of using the Mark I eyeball to avoid the fringing reef and sand spits to thread our way into the Marsa.  By 10am, we were safely anchored but there seemed little protection from the wind, which continued to blow at 22 knots despite our distance inshore.  It's still a desolate sort of place with nothing for miles, not even a military shack on the shore - but there is, wait for it............a tree!!   And in the distance we could see a camel train heading north.  Also in the anchorage is Roam II, Divanty and Full Flight.

23/01/10  The other three  boats left at first light.  We weighed anchor at 0630, along with Storm Dodger and made our way out of the anchorage, through the reefs and out into deep water before setting course for Suakin some 160 miles south of our present position.  With a Force 4 wind blowing from the North north west, it was an easy sail and we sat in the sunshine talking and reading until evening.  With the fickle wind now backing and veering, we started to gybe the boat over a five mile wide 'corridor' to keep the wind in the sails and keep moving southwards.  At mid-night, we sighted a ship which passed close by our port side (heading north) - the first commercial ship we've seen in weeks and probably out of Port Sudan - whose light loom we could see over the horizon on our starboard bow.

24/01/10  Between 2 and 5am, we ran the engine to top up batteries and make some water before sunrise saw rougher seas and stronger winds.  By 6am, Port Sudan lay on our starboard beam, but out of sight and our deck was covered with dead flying fish!  The skies are now cloudier than we are used to but the chill of night soon disperses with the morning sun.  Shipping is becoming more evident and we had to heave to and allow a ferry to cross our path on the final approaches to the port of Suakin.  We picked our way up channel toward tumbled down Old Suakin and dropped the anchor off the remains of the town just after 2pm.  The port agent, Mohammed (another one!) came aboard and took our passports, crew lists etc., along with orders for fuel and gas.  Roger, Astrid, Leah and Jordan came over for dinner onboard after which we all had a relatively early night.

25/01/10  Mohammed returned with our 'shore passes' and we spent the morning getting our fuel in jerry cans from shore.  Later in the afternoon, we all trooped ashore, firstly into Old Suakin and then into 'new' Suakin.  The old town was built from coral which crumbles - and crumble it has!  The whole town is now deserted and in ruins but it was interesting to walk around.  It was also the last slave trade town in the world - a trade which unbelievably continued until the end of the Second World War.  I've never seen so many birds of prey in one spot before either, with numerous nests perched high on the  walls of the derelict buildings.  In the 'new' town, which is exceptionally poor, we found a surprising variety of supplies available from the many stalls of the market. (photo's)  The main mode of transport is the donkey cart and we dodged in and out of them as they went about their business in the dusty streets and as we were obviously something of a curiosity to the local people, they all wanted to say hello and shake our hands.  We bought local bread and some more yeast for making our own bread onboard.

26/01/10  A frustrating day trying to sort out my hot water system - without success!  For a week or so, we have had no hot water onboard, save that which we boil in a kettle, because the Eberspācher diesel heater unit is malfunctioning and refuses to 'fire up' correctly.  It smokes a lot, but combustion is not full and I suspect the glow plug is at fault.  Sadly, I do not have a spare one onboard, nor do I know when I'll be able to get hold of one.  I stripped the glow plug out and cleaned it, also took apart the metered fuel pump and cleaned the filters (which were choked with dirt) but to no avail, the unit will still not fire correctly.  To make matters worse, my watermaker has decided to play up as well and cuts out after a few minutes running.  Problems to sort out!  There is confusion about the time here;  we are still in the same time zone but are now three hours ahead of UTC - something to do with Sudan not having daylight saving time, but I can't understand that reasoning.  Full Flight, Esper, Roam II and Divanty arrived today - all 16 boats are now here.  I may catch a bus into Port Sudan (about 45 minutes away) with a bunch of the others tomorrow and see if I can update my site and get e-mails in the one and only internet cafe there.

27/01/10  A big group of us boarded the bus to Port Sudan this morning, making our way through the desert to what turned out to be a very busy town.  As we entered the town, a flock of flamigoes were wading in the shallow waters of the port, busily looking for their lunch!  Most of us went to the Palace Hotel and made use of the internet there, but several large e-mails to me kept blocking the system and I was unable to download most.  I did manage to update this site but with errors on the route map which I am now unable to correct until a later date.  I also managed to get some meat, but very little else, and returned to Suakin much later than planned, still with the worry of the watermaker on my mind.

28/01/10  Another day of intense frustration and depression - no matter what I do to the watermaker, I cannot get it to run for more than a few minutes.  All boats in the anchorage, bar one, have been having trouble with their watermakers and Schenker will no doubt be getting all sorts of negative e-mails just as soon as we are able to send them.  Meanwhile, I'm in an awkward position - it's not possible to make the journey to India without water and I cannot carry more than 200 litres.  When that is exhausted, there is no way of making more unless I can resolve the problems with the machine.  Other boats have offered to pass water to me along the way, but it isn't really a feasible thing to do, especially with the anticipated weather south of here, and no-one has come up with a practical solution.  I have today seriously considered turning back to the Mediterranean, but maybe tomorrow will bring a more positive result.  Meanwhile, everyone is going ashore and getting supplies, or enjoying themselves whilst I continue to work on the boat.

29/01/10  Much the same as yesterday but I feel I am getting somewhere with the watermaker problem.  The only thing that has changed on the system is the 5 micron filter - so that's where I suspect the fault lies.  I changed the filter back to one of the original types and tightened all joints where air could be sucked into the pump unit.  Meanwhile we took on 60 litres from shore (the first since Marmaris) and now we will wait until there is space in the tank to try the watermaker again.

31/01/10  Some of the boats left yesterday and although we originally intended sailing as well, the thought of getting trapped on a reef for 2 or 3 days whilst southerly winds blow did not appeal.  Also, Astrid was unwell with some sort of food poisoning (told her not to eat ashore!) so it's perhaps as well that we did not sail.  Today, Robby has gone down with food poisoning too and I have come into Port Sudan with Roger, Jordan and Leah to use the internet and to try and get a spare alternator for my engine.  After much charging around town in tuk-tuks I only managed to get a spare set of carbon brushes which will have to do.  The bus journey to Port Sudan is along a straight road filled with trucks twice the size of the ones in the UK.  Where our artics have one 40 foot trailer, these have two and there are 12 axles in contact with the road surface.  The sides of the road are littered with blown tyres or stripped treads - almost every 30 metres or so, but I suppose that's the result of heat and using remould tyres.  Along the borders of the road there are what can only be described as shanty towns, mostly built of timber scraps, canvas and cardboard and occupied by goat herders or farmers who try to scratch a living out of the desert sands.   Lots of camels around too.   

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