Home of the yacht "RHUMB DO"
  march 2010


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01/03/10  All night long passage in very close convoy - but at least we now could show low down nav lights so that other boats could keep station on us, although being approached by fast skiffs in the night had us all worried.....is it robbers, military or fishermen?   Daybreak saw us approaching the port of Aden, our next stop off point.  It's still a long way into the harbour once you've entered the marked channel and it was quite an impressive sight to see all fourteen boats motoring into the dawn and hear them calling Port Control for permission to enter.  Anthea had done a sterling job of towing Cobble for the last 200 miles (I take my hat off to Jean-Claude) and they cast off the tow just a mile from the anchorage, only for Cobble's engine to overheat and require a dinghy tow the last 300 metres to anchor.  I took to my bed and slept for the next 18 hours, sweating and burning up.

02/03/10  A meeting ashore this morning (all in VdG shirts) to be greeted by the General and welcomed to Aden.  I still felt unwell enough to attend but at least my high temperature of 103oF is falling and I did manage to get some food inside me.  I also had a visit from our resident doctor, Armin, onboard Slamat (who else has a doc make house calls by dinghy?) who confirmed the same ailment of Dengue Fever which has plagued others.  Monica, his wife noted that it was only the men of the rally who had been affected since Massawa.  I did feel a bit better after my night's sleep, a shave, shower and some breakfast of fruit and orange juice.  Our sun shade had been erected yesterday in an attempt to keep the oppressive heat off the deck of the boat while everyone rests and awaits Cobble's engine repairs.  Still no wi-fi  but at least there is an internet cafe ashore, and we also have mobile phone connections again so I was able to let my brother know of our arrival here.

03/03/10  I think I've broken the fever now!  I feel much better, the nausea and dizziness have gone, my eyesight is improving, appetite has returned (shorts too big now!) and the disco ashore last night actually kept me awake, unlike the previous night when I just slept straight through.  Armin and Monica came by to check how I was and advised continuation of the medication for another couple of days.  I don't recommend the illness to anyone!  ArmIn tells me that once you've had it, you are immune from that strain again....but there are four strains!

05/03/10  Continuing to feel better each day!  Been ashore and had a look around, found internet cafe and am currently sitting here with Jordan and Leah updating as much of site as I can in available time.  The route map may take a lot longer, so be patient.

07/03/10  So, it's been good to be able to communicate with the outside world again and to update this site letting friends and family know where I am.  Thanks for the messages on the guestbook, glad to know someone is actually looking at the site!   We've heard the updated news that Paul and Rachel Chandler, former members of the VdG Rally, may be released by the Somali pirates in the next 10 days or so, and we all wish them the very best and a speedy return the UK.  Food supplies here are good, there is a large shopping mall (western style) which contains a good supermarket (Lulu) in the Crater area of Aden and we've made several trips there to stock up on supplies.  How do husbands find their wives, or children their Mothers, in these places though?  The first time we went, it was absolutely packed - and it's a sea of women clad all the same in black burka's  - all veiled and all unrecognisable!  Even the local taxi drivers call them Ninja's!

The holding here hasn't been too good, several boats have dragged their anchors when the wind got up a little and I had to alert Mistral to the fact at 3am the other morning.  Yesterday, several of us boarded Easy 'n Free and Shelter (who's crews are away) as both boats dragged into one another.  Other yachts who are not included in 'our' rally are arriving or departing almost on a daily basis, heading mostly up the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. We understand that Moody Time are in Port Ghalib and that Colin and Trish have flown home to the UK for some reason - we all wish them well.

09/03/10  After farewell parties on shore and handshakes all round with Mohammed, the Colonel of the coastguard, the fleet (now fifteen strong after Eldemer joined us in Aden) got underway at 1700 and made out to the lighthouse on the point.  Just a few hours into the night, Storm Dodger ran into an unmarked fishing net and was forced to a stop.  The rest of the convoy stopped and waited whilst Roger and Graham (of eeyore) donned diving gear and went under to cut the net free - not an easy task in complete darkness with a rolling boat above you - congratulations to both, and to Divanty for lowering a dinghy and fitting the outboard motor to transfer Graham.  The job took some time, and it was two hours before the convoy was moving again.  These fishing nets are a major problem for us, some are marked with faint flashing lights while others are not and it's amazing that some boats miss them when others don't.  There were several other stops during the night for various reasons and with different boats.

10/03/10  Into wind and seas again, slowing to almost a stop around lunch time when eeyore developed an alternator problem.

11/03/10  Again a night of net dodging and stops for Full Flight and other boats.  Anthea suffered engine failure and was taken in tow by Mistral.  Pounding into seas and trying to keep close station on other boats is extremely tiring and both Rob and I are getting little sleep when off watch.

12/03/10  In the first hour of the morning, both Cobble and Storm Dodger got caught in yet another net which resulted in a collision between the two boats - both suffering damage.  Fortunately, with the exception of cuts and bruises, both crews were unharmed.  The convoy resumed course after the mess had been sorted out.  At 4am, it was our turn.......engine revs kept dropping by 250 and the convoy again stopped while Rob hung over the side to inspect our propeller, which was clean.  However, I could hear water sloshing around and when we opened the engine hatch, the compartment was full of water!  We then discovered water was lifting the saloon floor hatches and everything was floating in the bilges....we were taking in serious amounts of the sea!!  After about 40 minutes of pumping the boat dry we were able to check all the seacocks and discovered that the heat exchanger front hose had split - all the time the engine was running we were literally filling the boat with sea water.  Not having that particular spare, we removed the damaged one and repaired it as best we could, informed the convoy and got underway again, checking the bilges and pumping out every half hour.  At 1800, we were on our final approach to Al Mukalla and by 1845 we had dropped the anchor in the tiny harbour of  Khalf.

13/03/10  A busy day for all, organising fuel, doing various repairs etc.  Jean-Claude had removed his cylinder head whilst under tow behind Mistral, discovered the head gasket blown, and replaced the whole thing before anchoring in Khalf Harbour.  We again removed the heat exchanger hose, and glued a large patch on it from the cut up inner tube of my cycle before taping it all up again.  Clive, my brother bought new ones in the UK at my request, which I now have to get delivered to Salalah.  Just after all this, Marco from Easy 'n Free came across with a new one of the right size which he had onboard (well done Marco!).....so the urgency of my problem has been removed for the time being.

14/03/10  After a night of fending off Divanty (the harbour is too small for fifteen yachts), everyone weighed anchor and got under way at 0800, formed the convoy for the remainder of "pirate alley" and headed toward Oman.

15/03/10  Calm seas with a moonless night.  Cobble became entangled with line from lobster pot and stopped the convoy for a while and a scare when a fast fishing boat turned up on my starboard beam, just a few metres away, and no-one had noticed it's approach.  It was however, just friendly fishermen wanting water or food in exchange for fish.

16/03/10  Another stop around 0730 when Esper developed autohelm problems - an opportunity for the rest of us to whale watch as there were a lot around the fleet.  A military helicopter circled us for a while and a couple of hours later it's mother ship (a Canadian warship of the coalition forces) turned up and chatted on VHF to us while slowly circling our convoy.  At 1900, now in 'safe' waters, the convoy disbanded but stayed roughly in the three groups, then slowed to arrive at our waypoint outside Salalah harbour at 0530 tomorrow.  I think most skippers and crews had been somewhat stressed out with keeping close station in a convoy and were relieved to be able to do their own thing.  Perhaps it hadn't been so bad from my position as we had been 'riding point' - though it had been our group, sailing closest inshore, who had encountered the most problems with fishing nets.

17/03/10  Rhumb Do arrived at the waypoint at 0532 (dammit!.....2 minutes late......must improve my navigation!) and we entered Salalah port to anchor close to rocks with a stern line ashore.  So here we now are, through pirate alley and safe in Oman. Our agent (guess his name), Mohammed, came onboard and did all the paperwork with us before taking our passports and clearing customs for us.  Most crews went ashore to the Oasis Club which is some miles away, but I was by now filthy dirty after having stripped the alternator from the engine (it's playing up again), and too tired to make the long walk, so had a shower and settled in with a book.

18/03/10  Jobs around the boat and more paperwork for visa's both here and in India.  Extremely hot!

19/03/10  Went into the industrial area of Salalah in an attempt to find a replacement alternator but it was a no hope job because it's holy day and most of the workshops were either closed or no-one spoke English - that job will have to be postponed for a day or so.  I can only describe Salalah as being a similar set-up to the Orlando area of Florida - the streets are wide dual carriageways, lined with palm trees, straight and long and in a 'block' pattern.  Nobody walks, the shops are miles apart and you most definitely need a car to do anything!!

I went with Storm Dodger's crew to the Oasis Club during the evening and had a meal and a pint.  It's a bit like one of the Royal British Legion Clubs on a 'special' night (a lot of army personnel), or one of the Australian RSL clubs. The food is excellent if somewhat more expensive than we are used to.....but I know which I prefer!!

20/03/10  Lo flew off to Muscat with all our paperwork and passports to obtain our visa's for India from the appropriate Embassy.

21/03/10  Armin and Monica left today aboard Slamat to cruise further north along the coast of Oman before crossing to India - guess we'll catch up with them there.   Another day of trailing around the industrial areas, with Roger and Astrid, in an attempt to find a replacement alternator, the problem being the age of mine - first fitted into Mercedes taxis several decades ago.  One electrical repair shop told me the stator winding and diodes were kaput, so I've left it with them for repair.  On return to the port, some of the crews told us that we have to report to the Indian Consulate in Salalah to prove our existence.  That left the problem of the eight crew members (including Robby) who had gone inland camping being unaware of the glitch, but we were eventually able to contact them and they are now driving to Muscat to attend the Embassy there.  We went back into Salalah and proved we were actually here in Oman, then went off to the Oasis Club for our evening meal.

22/03/10  Retrieved my alternator from Salalah, with new diodes and rewound stator, but too late in the day to do anything with, so went to the Oasis for evening meal with Roger, Astrid, Leah and Jordan.  Now managed to get on line using an Oman sim card in my 'cracked' Egyptian dongle and have seen the messages left in my 'guestbook' - thanks to all. 

23/03/10  Lo returned from Muscat last night having completed all the paperwork for our Indian visas.  We do not expect them back though until the end of the month because of a holiday plus another closure day.  Maurice on Cobble may, it seems, have a few problems as he is (I believe) from South Africa with a British passport and born in Pakistan.  I stripped out the ceiling and walls again in the nav. berth, removed the inverter and battery charger and followed all wiring for the alternator, regulator and split diode charge system - it's a nightmare!  I'm learning more about electrics every day!!   I think I will still need the help of our expert Jean-Claude however!

24/03/10  Worrying developments last night.   A ship, the MV Talka, was boarded and taken by pirates and I listened to the whole thing on VHF radio as the skipper, who was obviously under great duress, talked to the warship which was close by him.  The worrying part of the whole thing from our point of view, is that the incident took place close to our position and north of it.  It's also the second pirate attack in a 24 hour period.   There is talk today of our small fleet continuing in convoy for some while yet - not something that most skippers relish, and very unexpected.

25/03/10  Some boats are experiencing problems with the internet through dongles, so I am quickly publishing the site in case I have the same troubles later and am unable to get online again.

26/03/10  Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns to my brother Clive.

27/03/10  After days of frustration and trailing around spare part shops, workshops and automotive suppliers, I think I may have the solution to the alternator problem - overheating regulator, suspect Sterling booster etc.  With Jean-Claude, I went back to a Land Rover suppliers where I had seen a Lucas alternator (for a Discovery) which had mountings similar to mine.  We took it to a workshop and had the bracket modified, fitted a second hand pulley of the right width and with a 17mm dia shaft fitting, shimmed the pulley out to the right distance from the flange and took it back to the boat.  After an hour or so, we had the engine running and producing electricity.  Now I'm running down the batteries so that in the morning, we can see what happens when the alternator is under heavy load.  Fingers crossed!

28/03/10  Hope that you in the UK all remembered to put your clocks forward?  I was woken this morning by something padding up my bed and thought I had another rat onboard as both Cobble and  Divanty have had 'extra crew members' during the last couple of weeks, but it was only Millie from Esper who is anchored next door to me - she often visits me.   Nothing much else is happening here, Indian visas are impossible to get for Maurice (born in Pakistan) and Omani visas/shore passes are impossible to get for Rad of Eldemer (Indian), Gipson and Nitheesh of Mistral (also Indian) - so those last three are unable to leave the port area.  My alternator is working well and throwing in the wrigglies like never before - mind you, it is twice the output size of the old one!  Still have an injector fuel leak to remedy and an engine oil change to do, as well as replacing the fuel filters, but that's tomorrow's work.

31/03/10  Robby returned yesterday from his camping trip up country, having had a good time.  The jobs are slowly getting done, still need to get fuel and cooking gas before leaving Salalah.  On the way back from town yesterday, with Roger and Astrid, we decided to call in the Oasis for one pint before dinner - but HMS Chatham arrived in port this morning and the bulk of the crew were in the bar.......so it turned into a bit of a party, with somewhat more than the intended one pint! 


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