Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Red Sea

24th February 2009


We decided to make an early start with Aldora at 06:00 and go to Ras al Arah (20 miles short of Bab el Mandeb). We had a stonking sail at over 7 knots average and Aldora did not lose us too much. When we arrived at the anchorage, the army went over to Aldora and told them to leave, Aldora pleaded tiredness via sign language and we were allowed to stay overnight.


We had to leave Aden as our free 72 hours was up. One of the soldiers climbed on the yacht with his AK47 swinging wildly about, the gun was pointing straight at Johns head. John gestured that he was unhappy about the gun & the guy gestured back that he meant no harm. We haven't got visa's so that's why they told us to leave. Another boat stopped at another anchorage & they were told to leave straight away so we were lucky really. I think they army took pity on John as he had 3 children onboard.









Leaving Aden











25th February 2009


Pete....


Today, we set off at 03:00 for a run to somewhere.


It appears that we are now headed to Ras Termah where 3 other boats are also headed after being told to move on by the Yemenis. We hope to get a better reception here in Eritrea where we will plead that we are headed to Massawa to check in formally and need some rest.


The natter on the radio is all about weather. It seems that the convergence zone between the Northerlies and the Southerlies is unusually low at this time of year and we therefore expect headwinds earlier than we wanted (actually, we don't want headwinds at all). Tomorrow and the next day look good for moving on again with a 03:00 start for 180 miles to the next anchorage that will give shelter regardless of the wind direction (N or S). We hope to arrive before 14:00 the next day to make sure that we can con our way in.


Well, I got it wrong, it was about 95 miles to Ras Terma and we arrived shortly after 16:00 after a stonking good sail with up to 2 knots behind us and gusting 40 knots winds only the third time downwind when we have had to resort to the third mainsail reef. With the current behind, the sea was relatively flat and we did some good speeds almost catching "Purr", "Cormarant" and "Kirsten Jane" who passed our anchorage earlier in the morning and had a 20 mile head start.






2 Knots up the Chuff












"Purr" at Ras Termah












Sunset at Ras Termah









26th February 2009


No peace for the wicked though. This morning we left as a group at 03:30 to do the 180 mile trip to our current anchorage. Again, we had a real blast with the wind behind touching 8 knots through the water and having up to 1.5 knots current at best times. Our plan was to get in sometime today on the basis of calms overnight but we had only about half an hour becalmed and had to reef right down to reduce boats peed overnight. The fast cat "Aldora" had shot ahead in the strong winds and by 23:00 had gone to bare poles still running at 5 knots - they eventually resorted to towing a milk crate to slow down for the daylight arrival.


Then of course, 20 miles out and the wind died completely followed by about 8 knots bang on the nose. We stopped sailing at 10 miles out and therefore did not run the engine too much. "Purr", "Cormarant" and "Kirsten Jane" took the inshore route and had little wind all night and motored most of the night. We and Aldora stayed outside the 20m line and fared better.


Northerlies are forecast and all 5 boats intend to sit it out here. First impressions are favourable and we might even find a reef to go snorkelling on.


27th February 2009


We arrived at 10:30 today and we have simply chilled out and done nothing all day apart from have a cool off in the sea and checked the prop for missing pieces and cutlass bearing wobble - no problems. The sea temperature here is perfect for swimming but the water is a very murky greeny colour with bits floating in it - all probably due to the minuscule plankton and such-like that glows at night.


It's Pizza again tonight. Since Fliss has learned the art of making them from scratch, we have had them regularly (only to use up the 300 peppers, chillies, tomatoes and onions that she bought in Aden of course). Ready in about half an hour, yummy.









Pizza Tonight!










Windy from the East, Northerlies forecast for tomorrow so Sunshine, wind and lots of power means "Movie Night" tonight. It will be almost a matinee because bedtime will be before eight o'clock









Local Fishermen wanting fuel etc







28th February - 4th March 2009


Fliss....


We're fine and just hiding out in a beautiful bay, the forecast is for strong North wind. Sheldon our mate who's delivering a 65 foot Cat to the Med emailed us to say that he's had a right hammering trying to get to Egypt, the waves tore the trampolines of the front of the boat and he said it was a terrible experience. Sheldon comes from South Africa & sailed the Southern Oceans loads of times (it's where they have the freak waves & horrendous winds) he's got 250,000 sea miles under his belt (we'll have about 35,000 by the time we get home) for him to say it was terrible means you don't go out. The winds are due in sometime later on today so it's boat jobs, movie watching & just chilling for the next four days... Suits me as I'm tired of all this sailing. Someone said we could be hear a week, we'll have to see.


Pete from Purr came over and suggested that I throw away the manual and try something different. He got a stiff, thick piece of wire and a jubilee clip and told me to attach the wire to the prop flange and line it up against the gearbox flange. Having also stopped the shaft moving backwards and forwards using another jubilee clip against the stern gland, I could use the wire as a reference point against the centre of the shaft. We found that the engine was out of alignment both horizontally and vertically by this method so I spent all day tweaking here and adjusting there with every movement putting something else out of alignment. When all was well, I tightened everything up and having done that, then had to re-align again because I had taken up some slack.


I eventually finished the job and placed the two flange faces together. I had none of the flange face misalignment that I originally thought was due to the flang being not exactly 90 degrees to the shaft and I could not get a 2 thou feeler gauge in anywhere around the flange faces.


After letting the nutlock dry on the flange bolts, I started the engine and gave it a try. The results are inconclusive at the moment since I had the engine cover off and everything was noisy anyway. Funnily, the engine seemed to have more vibration than usual at minimum revs and this was felt also in gear (even though tickover revs are still the same). However, we have not yet done any sea triails and will leave that until tomorrow. Also strange is the fact that the engine still nods back and forth under power - I thought that the proper alignment would have fixed it.

Well, after finally aligning the enine in all directions and letting the loctite dry, I started the engine and, even not moving and in neutral, it was vibrating the cockpit floor at tickover. I did a couple of forward and reverses and decided that the sea-trial would wait until today because it was damp, windy and not enticing to get the hook up.


Pete from Purr came over and had his "stethoscope" to the engine as we shimmied around. I had don the same yesterday and could not find any obvious problems and nor could he. The noise and vibration still occurred when in neutral with the prop turning and Pete got a wooden pole and loaded it onto the engine which stopped the noise. He eventually pinned it down to the aft starboard engine mount that he told me was soft and wonky. To prove the point, he wound the holding nuts up 2 and a half turns and the pre-loading immediately solved the problem. Obviously what has happened is that my better alignment has taken load off that mount and allowed the engine to rattle disturbingly and rather oddly in time with the prop turning leading us to think that it was the gearbox chattering.


So, all my efforts at alignment are now useless with a cock-eyed mount that we have pre-stressed. I will try and get another mounting somewhere between here and the Med but I am not holding out much hope. Pete said that any old mount will suffice as long as the dimensions look ok.


We eventually got off the boat today and took a walk across an island nearby. We found a camel skull and extracted a few teeth for souvenirs as well as some lovely shells. Pink flamingos were wading in the shallows and three very tall grey waders were wandering ashore, we have no idea what they were but they were huge.







The Desert Scene







4th March 2009


we decided to join Aldora today for the 37 mile run to Shumma Island so we left Purr, Kirsten Jane, Cormarant and Aju at about 06:30 this morning and it looks like motoring all the way against a light headwind.


The Blue Water Rally are back in the vicinity. We heard one of them on the radio yesterday and there are three sailing boats off our starboard side as I write. They are headed for Suakin in Sudan (about 50 miles South of Port Sudan) as their next congregational meeting. We are also headed there but will wait for some decent weather to get us there. The Grib Files promised Southerlies on Saturday or Sunday but as we get there they are starting to change their minds. A southerly (or at least, not a N'Westerly) would be very useful since there are no anchorages for 120 miles as you cross the Eritrean and Sudanese borders. Let's hope. The Pilot book says that the Red Sea passage is a waiting game. Generally, at this time of year you can get to Port Sudan with Southerlies if you are lucky. From there it is headwinds all the way unless a freak weather pattern emerges - in which case be very careful!


The engine is sounding ok at the moment but is now out of alignment again due to loading the poorly engine mount. I have thought about drilling through the engine bearing bulkhead and strapping string through it and over the mount to hold it down firmly. Then, I could probably re-align the engine and hope that the temporary fix lasts until I can get a replacement.


5th March 2009


we motor-sailed again today the 30ish miles to Dohul Island (although the log read 37 miles). Headwinds and current against us but we arrived at about 14:15 and, although the anchorage looks exposed, there is little wind and it is supposed to stay that way through tomorrow.


The anchorage last night was pleasant although the run through the reef was a bit unnerving since we have had low grey cloud for the past few days and the visibility through the water as a result is very poor. However, CMap matched up with hand bearing fixes and also with the GPS Co-ordinates in our guide book so we were ok even though the >1knot current was pushing us sideways until into the pass. The leading lines were impossible to make out - the rear one was an easily seen stone cairn on the hill but the near one was a small pile of rubble that was the same colour as the surrounding sand and stones. I eventually managed to find it after anchoring by scanning with the binoculars. Four rally boats were there and two have just motored past us to go the extra 10 miles to Harat Island.


If the weather remains calm, we will stay here tomorrow with Aldora and do a bit of swimming and engine checking (are the bolts tight? Does the stern glad leak, etc etc). Hopefully then the wind will turn Easterly then S'Easterly and we will do a big hop to Suakin just South of Port Sudan. A bit of planning is required to make sure that we come through the approaches in good light since there are a plethora of reefs thereabouts.

6th March 2009


We had a lay in today until about 08:00. Just after we woke and turned the VHF on, Aldora called up and suggested that we get going immediately for Suakin with the view that we could do an overnighter and then be far enough (at or past Khor Narawhat) so that we could anchor before dark tomorrow and then do the last leg in daylight. It sounded good but we had to shift it and get going immediately. The first part of the morning was a bit dead and we motor sailed. Later we managed the cruising chute and took it down when we started surging at 8 knots. The breeze has filled in now (15:00) and we are getting along at 7 knots with smooth seas and winds from the East.


The wind should stay with us until Monday Morning and we hope that we will be snugged into Suakin by that time. Then, it is rest time for however long and a load more boat maintenance. Engine to try to firm-up, rigging to check and turning blocks to wash (the fine dust collects everywhere).


It was a bit of a pain leaving in a hury this morning but the plan sounds good and cruising with Aldora has its benefits - they have a water maker and have given us 80 litres over the past week.


7th March 2009


Well, the wind abated as the land cooled in the evening and by 21:00 we were poled out and doing abouy 5 knots. Not long after, we turned the engine off and then gybed as we motor sailed. Later in the evening, we gybed again as the wind came a full 360 and had the engine off for about 2 hours between 05:00 and 07:00. From there on, it was motoring without sail-assistance as we must have had about 1 knot of appararent breeze or less from the front ( 4.5 knots from the rear).


We arrived at Khor Narawhat at about 14:30 where Aldora had just arrived having entered the North Channel where we entered the Eastern Channel. Soon after we arrived, the wind picked up and there is now a good breeze blowing. We have 84 miles to go to Suakin and must therefore leave here at about midnight to ensure a daylight arrival. The first of the coral dodges starts in 46 miles and so we should have good daylight to spot surf and darker patches by the time we get there. There are many ways to jiggle through the reefs; The inside passage that is tortuous, the middle passage that our CMap chart shows bearings for, the outer-middle passage that has a few extra miles. We are going for the middle passage that eventually runs very close to the coast for the last leg. Aldora wanted to do the inner passage - don't know whether they have changed their minds but I personally do not want to be cairn-counting through reefs with only a few hundred yards or less either side and dodgy charts.


It looks as though we will be motoring all the way, the Southerlies that were predicted actually arrived but at 5 knots rather than the predicted 15 - better than Northerlies! More engine alignment, securing and maintenance ahead.


Fliss....


Great snorkelling. We saw huge brightly coloured fish that we haven't seen before, the coral was healthy too. I am a bit nervous in these waters as there's meant to be Hammerhead Sharks which are aggressive and real predators. We all snorkel together so safety in numbers. We did see as the sun set the other day a group of sharks by Naz, unusual really as their not meant to be pack animals. Pete reckoned one was the size of me. The rule is no swimming at dusk & dawn as that's when they come out to feed. We don't want to miss the snorkelling here but we do keep looking behind.


8th March 2009


We bashed to windward luffing the headsail a bit but still doing 6.5 knots at 40 degrees to the wind. We were astonished at how well Naz behaved but the seas were flat as we were in the lee of a reef. As we turned up the inner channel, the wind was dead ahead and we took the sails down and motored against it. The pilot book has good instructions for the entrance keeping a minaret on the old ruins at 215 degrees until a conspicuous chimney appears at 181 degrees and then follow that track. Luckily, we read some cruising notes that said


"The Pilot suggest passing within 20 feet or so of the ruins on the right (going in). Good idea. Three boats, including Pilgrim ran aground on the way out and had to be pulled off by the helpful harbour master and his tug."otherwise we would not have believed that the bearings took us so close to the shoreline. We stayed about 30 feet off the shore which was about 10 feet from the fringing reef and, being only the third boat in the anchorage, there was plenty of space to choose a spot to anchor. No less than 4m depth at any time. The Blue Water Rally and the Vasco De Gama rally are due soon - Ha, Ha - we were here first!

Apparently Suakin was the main port here in Sudan and was a slave trading centre at one time. What happened was that the merchants moved to Port Sudan for economic reasons in the '20s - and took with them the actual cornerstones and coral bricks from their buildings! This began the initial collapse of the city that time and wind have now pretty much completed apart from the remaining minarets that were left untouched and still stand above the rubble.


9th March - 17th March


Walking into the centre of the town is like walking back in time 1000 years. The rubble of the original city gives way to the shanty town of today with market traders selling on the streets or from their small shacks. We were woken by the braying of donkeys this morning and these provide the main source of transport here towing makeshift carts with wobbly wheels sporting bulging misshapen tyres. The place is brown and dusty but the fruit and vegetables and the clothing "stores" add splashes of vivid colour to the scene. Someone likened the place to be right out of an Indiana Jones movie and I could not describe it better. A few brightly dressed camels roam around, we bought flour that had just been ground using an old petrol driven milling machine and we wondered at how the old diesel single-pot engine that was pumping the well was still going after the years of service it must have already contributed. There is no electricity in the town centre so everything must either be done by hand or combustion engine (of which we saw only three).



The place is so different to anything we have seen before and the people are very friendly. We were met by Muhammed to do the officialdom which was painless and we have swapped our passports for shore passes so we do not actually have a visa here. Apparently this is not an official port of entry but cruisers are welcomed. I am not sure what happens when we leave and whether we will have to buy a cruising permit for the rest of the run to Egypt.






Vodaphone Anybody?












Can you spot the toilet?
















Suakin







I will get on with some boat jobs whilst we are here (the winds are pumping hard out of the North so we will let them abate) and we will also catch the local bus into Port Sudan for a look at what is there. Taking the boat into Port Sudan is supposed to be very expensive and we shall try to avoid that.


Fliss.....


The people here don't look desolate & seem quite happy. We haven't seen any beggars, which is surprising. I would imagine further inland would tell a different story though. They are a stunning race, very dark and have gorgeous ebony features. The women who are Muslim wear these stunning coloured robes which look amazing against the background.


We've had a great time in Suakin but it did end on a negative note. Pete & I decided to meander the back streets (ruins) to Naz and we came across a load of camels laying down scratching themselves in the mud. Anyway we walked closer only for a 10 year boy to start throwing rocks at us. The boys father (I think) came running over shouting at the young boy to stop. He then came over shook our hands and gestured for us to walk away. The sad thing was we would have liked to know what his problem was. We hate negative endings.





Port Sudan Goods Transport System















video

Suakin Video



17th March 2009


We arrived at Port Sudan after about 35 miles of headwinds. We left at 05:45 with 7 other boats and there are 4 of us who opted to stop here. 4 of us decided to long-tack up inside the reef but, as the wind headed us, two gave up and put the engine on. We eventually decided that the tacks were getting shorter into steeper seas and did the same in the narrows of Towartit Reef before bearing away to Port Sudan and getting the engine off again. The hard labourer who kept on tacking was Spanish and kept going under sail at a surprising angle to the wind, we are not sure where their final destination is since afternoon sun and Marsa (reefed inlets) entrances are not good in the afternoon sun.


We will do the same tomorrow and do either 28 miles to Marsa Fijab or 38 miles to Marsa Arakiyai. The weather looks as though it will be OK for the next few days and we plan to get 35 miles per day until we run out of half-charted navigable water at the Egyptian border. There we will wait until the weather looks good for the run across Foul Bay.


We shall not be going ashore here since they apparently charge huge fees, hopefully no-one will come to us and we shall creep out tomorrow morning at first light. Theoretically, this is allowed.


18th March 2009


We left Port Sudan for Marsa Arakiyia at about 05:15 this morning and had a decent hour of sailing before the wind died and then headed us. From there it was motoring all the way again. I think that this will be a recurring theme for a while since we want to eat up some miles and do not want to short tack between reefs.


We have just been visited by two suspicious looking men in a rotting glass fibre boat who claimed to be army officials and wanted to look at out passports. Having given them a cursory glance, they then wanted to know where we were from. "Port Sudan" I said. "No, No - wear u fram?" they replied. "Oh. British". "Ok. Ingleterrer". "Yes, England". After that, they were on the cadge for some cigarettes and so I told them they could have some tobbaco and rolling papers - they were not interested so we got away without payment.


We caught up with the boats that left Suakin yesterday and so there are an amazing 8 boats in the anchorage. I think that most of these are coast hopping as far North as prudent navigation allows before jumping across Foul Bay. However, the weather window looks perfect to have a shot at it right now and we might be tempted but haven't yet got into the mindset of an overnight passage into headwinds. We will wait until the next window of opportunity.


There is not much here apart from the usual small smattering of small wooden huts and brown sand although it is very peaceful. If we were energetic, we would launch the dinghy and go for a wander but that seems like hard work right now especially if we are off again tomorrow at the crack of dawn for the next leg.


19th March 2009


We left Arakiyai with the other boats at about 05:30 yesterday morning and managed to sail for about an hour before the wind headed us and, again, we did not want to short-tack between reefs when the charts are so inaccurate. We went past a post marking one reef and the Admiralty had it positioned over 2 miles South of where it really was. Luckily, we had the sketch chart from the Pilot book plus some waypoints that worked out accurate and we led the fleet through the narrows bashing into the wind and waves and digging our bows into the waves at about 3 knots. Outside the reef, we bore away and got half the headsail out and bashed and crashed our way out to sea a while. People say that the waves have a peculiar square shape here, I would enliken it to being in the middle of a set of overfalls. Anyway, by getting a load of distance out to sea, we were able to tack and make the course to the Taila Islands and the inside channel. As we got behind the reefs, the seas calmed and we then beat our way to Marsa Inkeifal to anchor for the night (20 deg 47' N, 37 deg 10.34' E). Toboggan was there and had been holed up there for a week waiting for better weather, yesterday it was only blowing Northerly 25 knots where the previous days had apparently been 30 knots plus. We went over for a couple of drinkies with them and then called an early night and went to bed at 19:30 for a 05:00 start this morning.


20th March 2009


Today was much better, calm seas behind the reefs and Islands as we started out and then a gentle swell once out and more exposed. Again, it was motor sailing but we managed to make best use of the sails and had a pleasant journey to Khor Shinab. The entrance is supposed to be difficult to spot but we had no trouble with the waypoint given in the Pilot Book and the winding route to the anchorage was easily followed. We are now safely anchored in a barren but beautiful inlet.


"Aju" a Dutch couple seem to have adopted us and appear to, informally, want to buddy-up with us. They want to make headway North tomorrow to Khor El Marob and we are wondering whether we stay here for a couple of days or move on. We will have to stop somewhere for a few days since we decided not to catch this last weather window for the big push North and now we will have to wait for the next. Aldora have suddenly decided to catch us up (we passed them yesterday at the Taila Islands) and so we will have another set of opinions to listen to later. It is slightly comforting to have company in this desolate place but cruising in groups causes differences of opinion. Sometimes in the past we have simply said "we are doing this" and generally the company then submits and does the same. At the end of the day, the weather (and how you interpret it) dictates movements.


21st March 2009


We left at a reasonable 06:00 this morning and made good progress motoring with about 5 knots southerly blowing. W arrived at 11:45 at Khor El Marob. Toboggan were already here having aborted their plans to get across Foul Bay because the later weather files indicated that the window of opportunity was about to close on them. Aju and Aldora left with us and we are now anchored in a rather beautiful anchorage although it is a bit deep here at 20 metres. Toboggan got the 7 metre patch but it is coral that they are sitting on - we hope that we are on sand because we don't want to foul the anchor at this depth.


We are resting here today and tomorrow and then making a dash for the next anchorage on Monday before stronger winds appear from the North. There is apparently good snorkelling and reasonable walking here and the rest will be good. It also gives me time to check that all the nuts and bolts on the engine are still secure and to do some overall checks on Naz.


Well, after the light winds this morning, the wind did a 180 shift and within half an hour had picked up quite strong. Everyone started playing with more anchor chain and Aju moved to anchor just behind us. The next day, the winds were blowing 30+ knots from the North and Naz was hunting back and forth with our full 80m of chain out. As it increased in the afternoon, I decided to put out our second anchor on 15m chain and 100m of 22mm Nylon rode so that we could rest in peace. The maintenance took a back seat since we wanted Naz prepared for action.





Khor El Marob









Fliss....


You can guess what happened after we put the 2nd anchor out, yep, within 10 minutes the wind died.


The water is so cold that we could only snorkle for 15 minutes but the coral was beautiful and loads of brightly coloured fish.


23nd March - 31st March 2009


At 05:00am everything was flat calm so we raised the dinghy, got the anchors up and all 4 boats left for the 30 mile jump to Marsa Halaib. The wind picked up to about 15-20 knots soon after we set off and we motor sailed North out between the reefs and then tacked off for a good close-hauled sail to our destination. It was good to actually get some sailing in at last rather than trying to dash from one place to the next before the winds picked up and the angle of the sun obscured the reef passes.


As we approached the Marsa, we heard the local Navy talking to a yacht already in the anchorage. They were enquiring about our approach and the people on the yacht said that they would talk to us and ask our intentions - I think that the Navy were unsure about their use of English. Anyway, we anchored near the local Navy Patrol vessel who visited us immediately and checked our papers. They were very cordial but no snorkelling and no going ashore is allowed here due to the sensitivity of the area. The land used to belong to Sudan but is now firmly in Egyptian hands as shown by the naval presence, the watch tower and the 5 large shore-based military cannons.


This is the last stop before Foul Bay and we are now waiting for a weather window that does not look like appearing in the next seven days. We know of a couple of yachts that made it across in the last window but, even then, I felt for them if they have had weather like we have. Many other boats have 'gone for it' only to scurry back into an anchorage as soon as daylight allowed. Toboggan did the same and went into Khor Marob at night following a GPS trail that they had from another yacht that they are able to show on their chartplotter - damned foolish if you ask me since the charts are of little use at best and are very misguiding if you actually believe them.


After yesterday's respite and a quiet evening, the wind started blowing again at about 04:00. I went out to add a bit more scope and others were playing with anchors as well. It has died off a bit but has kicked up a load of dust so visibility is poor and Naz is again plastered. The rigging and lines never have recovered from the dust that has blown over the last month and are a dirty chocolate brown. The decks and lower areas get washed as we gather spray and waves over the bow but the high salinity of the Red Sea means that these areas become frosted with salt deposits. What we need is a serious downpour.


29th March 2009


The Egyptian Navy said that we could come to their boat an obtain some fuel. At a dollar per litre it is quite expensive but it is worth topping up the tanks. I only took 40 litres since that is all we have the capacity to carry in our jerry cans and I am hoping that they will let me have another 40 litres today so that we can leave here with full tanks and full jerries as well. I got to the Navy boat with my empty jugs, I heard a hissing coming from the dinghy and found that the inflatable floor was quickly getting soft under me. It had chafed on a bolt that holds the retractable wheels on and worn through so I had a small job of removing it and patching it.


Also, I found that the bilge pump that empties the grey water tank had got a leak. It appears that this has been a problem for some time since the bilge had collected quite a quantity of water. I spent about 2 hours trying to get the bilge pump extricated from its location and decided that removal was utterly impossible without taking apart the steps from kitchen to the lounge. After fighting with the pump, I decided that the leak was only coming from the bottom inspection hatch and so removed it, replaced the rubber seal and re secured everything. Once we have some more grey-water to pump I will know whether my efforts have worked. The alternative is to take the pump apart in-situ.


The weather forecast is looking good from tomorrow until the foreseeable future and so it looks as if we will be moving on tomorrow morning. If all goes well then we will take the window and go straight to Port Suez rather than stop anywhere and get holed-up again for days. With any luck then we will be there by Saturday although a glitch in the forecast for about 12 hours on Friday or early Saturday may cause us to interrupt our passage for a short time.


Aldora have just passed by in the dinghy. They had been talking to the Navy about supplies and it has paid off. They have just dropped off tomatoes, potatoes and onions to us. We offered to pay but they said that the cost was so small that it was not worth bothering about. The three kids on Aldora love Fliss' pizza and I think that the veg was a bribe for Fliss to make a couple and take them over tonight.




Dinner with "Aldora", "Toboggan", "Aju" and "Tulamain"












Red Sea Dust







31st March 2009


We are over on our ear in what I must again refer to as the Red Sea overfalls. We sailed out and met 20+ knots on the nose with waves from 2 directions. Yesterday calmed down a bit in the afternoon and we turned the engine on to make way through the waves. This evening it picked up again and was truly wet and miserable.


We are thinking of calling it a day and stopping at fury shoals where there is supposed to be a good reef anchorage.


The other boats that sailed with us are still nearby and two are thinking of carrying on whilst ourselves and Aju are thinking of stopping and waiting for the weather to listen to the forecast.


1st April 2009


The wind died a bit this morning and the seas flattened out a bit but the current, wind and waves were against us and we were tacking with motor across a 90 degree angle (pushing it a bit) doing twice the distance of the rhumb line. Fliss and I decided to make for Dolphin Reef (Fury Shoals) and anchor for the night rather than beat ourselves into it.


The other three boats (Aldora, Toboggan & Aju) decided to carry on to Port Ghaliab which is another 112 miles. With the angle of the wind, that makes it 200 miles tacking through the water and strong winds are forecast for late Thursday (tomorrow). I hope that they either make it in or find one of the few anchorages along the way. Either way, we are tired of doing double the distance that we need to, running the engine to stave off the "Red Sea Overfalls" and getting sodden with salty spray. We made it across FOUL BAY ahead of the pack and have decided that a good rest before a short dash tomorrow is a darned sight preferable to continuing. The short dash is either 45 miles or 90 miles tacking into wind - we are not even sure that we will make our expected landfall tomorrow so will need a bolt-hole for when the hit kicks the fan later on.


A little word about weather forecasts........6 knots means about 15 knots. 60 degrees means 345 degrees. We will not go out in in anything predicted over 10 knots - and never have here!


The anchorage here is beautiful with crystal clear water such that the bommies were easy to see and we weaved our way to the northern arm of the reef for great protection and smooth azure water. It has been nice to stop. The reef is called Dolphin Reef and, soon after anchoring, a group of small dolphins came cruising past Nadezhda to admire her. If the forecast tomorrow is more than 4 knots directly in the face (read 13 knots) then the sea (read overfalls) will stop us from moving and we shall stop in this lovely place. It is abit like Minerva Reef in the Pacific where we are surrounded by waves but nothing enters the anchorage.


So that's where we are - we wimped out but are looking to a different window of opportunity on Sat/Sun. Don't want to go to Port Ghalaib since the charges are beyond our means.

Oman to Aden - Pirate Alley

15th February 2009


We went early to the customs and immigration this morning at 07:00. They had to complete one small form for each of the three yachts and then stamp our passports. It only took them three hours and they seemed to enjoy the fact that they could keep us waiting. Eventually, we returned to the boats, got our hooks up and requested permission to leave the port. When Zappler V requested permission, the Port Authorities told him to come ashore and see Port Finances. After a lot of confusion, it transpired that, since they had needed to go alongside to re-fuel, the port wanted them to pay for mooring for the 8 hours it took them to deliver the fuel. We dropped the hook again and waited another hour for payment to be made. What a bunch of neolithic monkeys.


We set off in a sand storm with zero visibility & no wind, it's going to be a long trip!


16th February 2009


Things are tricky in this convoy since the boats are all completely mismatched. We have "Zappler V", a 60 foot catamaran who carries 3500 litres of diesel on board and continually runs his engines to keep a boat speed of 7 knots, "Aldora" a super-fast 45 foot catamaran who will only motor begrudgingly at 5 knots and then takes off at the first puff of wind and moans about us laggers. Lastly, there is "Nadezhda" who is a traditional monohull that rarely gets above 7.5 knots and is a sluggish starter. Things are made worse by the 1.5 knot current against us and little breeze which has everyone a bit edgy. Oh Well, we will split up once through Pirate Alley and will be able to run at our own pace again.


So, this morning, we poled out the headsail and tried to sail but didn't manage the 5 knots minimum boatspeed, then the wind came round and we used all three sails under motor, then we got the cruising chute out and have been monitoring it all day whilst motor sailing. Aldora decided that 5 knots minimum boatspeed means 5 knots over ground, I pointed out that I took notes during our convoy meeting and they clearly state that Aldora stipulated 5 knots through the water - nice to be able to refer to the "minutes". Anyway, we are all plugging hard today to go as fast as reasonably possible since 2 knots motoring against 2 knots of current wastes fuel.


However, it's to have company. We use Ch17 which means we do not forget to turn to Low Power setting and we also use the hand held VHFs so the range cannot be more than a couple of miles. We have just done a book delivery to Zappler V, he motored up behind us and I bound them and threw them frizbee style onto his front net. You've got to do something to break up the day!





Zappler V - Bookswap












I have the responsibility of position reporting and itinerary updates to UKMTO at noon GMT each day, they pass the details onto the " relevant battlestaffs" but I have no clue what is done with them. At least they know whereabouts we are, the vessel details and the names and the nationalities of those on board.


So, not the best passage and we are all praying for 15-20 knots wind to get us all going.


17th February 2009


Still motoring!


18th February 2009


Last night, we turned into the separation zone between the West and Eastbound shipping lanes. There was not a lot of traffic about as we crossed the start of the Westbound lane so life was quite easy there. Since then, we have seen plenty of ships going in both directions but they all comply with the rules and none have encroached on our sacred ground except those wishing to cross the lanes.


About 04:00 yesterday morning, three ships came down the Westbound lane together. The last one was going twice as fast as the two in front (probably 30-35 knots) and came within half a mile of us before swerving North. That was the first warship we had seen. Today, another warship came barrelling towards us at a similar speed to pass a mile and a half in front of us and, as it did, it received a helicopter on deck. We have also seen spotter planes and heard them calling ships on the VHF so we feel well watched.


We are still motoring with very little wind. What breeze there is tends to be right behind us and so the apparent wind is next to zero. However, we managed to get the cruising chute to fly early in the afternoon until it collapsed on us an hour later and later on we set it out on a pole and flew it spinnaker-style for about an hour and a half and turned the engine off at the same time. It was absolute bliss having some peace and quiet for a while. Eventually, the others had then pulled too far ahead and it was soon to be dark so we packed it away and resumed our puttering along.


Motoring at our agreed 5 knots is a pain in the bum, our engine has developed a resonance between 1300 and 1600 revs that causes vibration in the boat. Since I don't like anything feeling a little unhappy, we have decided not to run the engine in that range until I have the chance to investigate. In these conditions, 1600 revs gives us about 5.8 knots and 1300 gives us 4.2 knots so we have to drive forwards for a period to catch up and then fall back again as we toggle between the two rev settings. Life is so much easier when not having to play by these speed rules. However, sailing to an orchestrated speed would/will be much more difficult and I don't think is fully appreciated by the others.


The current levelled out today and, for once, was not against us. However, it has come back again at an adverse half-knot. I am hoping that tomorrow will bring change in our favour. All these poor sailing conditions have caused me to have to revise our itinerary with UKMTO twice and we are now over a day behind our original passage estimate - an estimate based on 5.8 knots over ground (usually quite achievable and especially so with supposed fast boats with us). Oh well, at least life is calm and gentle here which is quite nice.


19th February 2009


We have entered the high risk area an were greeted by two warships who were milling around at super-high speeds with their respective helicopters overflying. One of the helicopters called up and suggested that we turn up the speed a bit "Make best possible Haste" but Aldora cannot run their engine any faster so we are still chugging along relatively slowly. I have eaten my words about 5 knots! It is ok if you are sailing but, since we have to have the motor on to keep over 5 knots, then we might as well use it to good effect rather than simply running at idling speed.


Last night and the previous one, we saw frigates roaming around with high intensity searchlights scanning the horisons. On Fliss' watch, they picked us up and focussed in on Zappler V for a while before moving on. Communication from the forces is minimal and the only time we have been called up is when we were asked to step on the gas. This morning, we were suddenly surrounded by an escorted Westbound convoy of about 10 ships that split to go around us - it's all go here.


Fliss....


The Gulf of Aden is without a doubt a war zone. Yesterday we were buzzed by a helicopter, the type you see in Vietnam movies with the guy sitting in the door with a machine gun. I waved & the guy waved back at me, anyway they called us up and said "Sailing vessels be aware that you are in a high risk zone of piracy make the best speed you can, if you are approached call Coalition Warships on channel 16 and we will get to you as soon as possible, best of luck & safe passage".


Sheldon on Zappler 5 who is part of our convoy is a virtual third member on board Naz. I feel much happier knowing he's out there keeping an close eye on all the large ships. He's got AIS on board which tells you what the big ships name is, course & close they are going to pass you. As one gets within 12 miles he calls me up on the VHF to let me know. It really has been great & taken a lot of pressure off. One night when he was off watch he called me and said “Fliss, don't panic but you have a 586 foot tanker travelling at 22 knots which is going to miss you by just under half a mile”. I could pick it up on the radar but he was unlit so I couldn't see him. When he did finally pass us the sky went completely black and just under half mile seemed very close, too close for my liking!


20th February 2009


Today was much quieter and we are still motoring with about 6- 8 knots of breeze behind us which means that we sit in the cockpit breathing in the exhaust fumes all day. There is no forecast of any reasonable wind in theforeseeable future so we will continue to motor.


We have had dolphins with us for the last couple of days. They have been very playful with great jumping displays. At night, we can see their jet trails of phosphorescence coming towards us from a long way off and then can watch their zig-zag path through the water. This evening, we also saw an ominous large pool of phosphorescence that glided about back and forth at a leisurely pace, sometimes under the boat and sometimes moving away 1-200 metres before coming back again. We hav no idea what it was since it never seemed to break the surface and create phosphorescent waves.


We have decided to make a stop in Aden to look at our engine problem. Yesterday, I had to switch fuel tanks and this meant that I had to shut off the engine and remove all the engine covers to get at the fuel taps. We usually put the gearbox in reverse when the engine is off but forgot on this occasion and so the shaft was turning when I performed the switch-over. As it did, I could see the engine nodding back and forth and therefore assume that the problem we are experiencing is due to the shaft and is probably only a matter of engine re-alignment. Anyway, I have decided that it is not wise to enter the Red Sea with engine issues since there is no support there whatsoever. We have therefore decided to run to Aden where I will have a go at fixing the problem and, if I fail, then I believe there is a Volvo Penta agent in Djibouti.


Aldora are also going into Aden for more fuel (although Zappler V have offered them as much as they could want) so the convoy disintegrates shortly - probably a relief to Zappler V who has been silently gagging to go faster. On my last Noon (GMT) report to UKMTO, I asked where the best place would be to exit the corridor if bound for Aden. They obviously read the e-mails since they replied that we should go to the very end. This does not make sense since, if we turn up towards Aden at 46 degrees East, if will half the time at sea than if we turn up at 45 degeres East. So, we will make our own passage plan based on advice to make best possible haste and reduce time spent in a risk area.


No other yachts seen to-date, most yachts have a passage plan to run one mile North of the Westbound lane so we would not see them from here. I think that the advice from UKMTO to run down the separation zone is much better since ships tend not to wander into it and it puts us smack-bang in the middle of the patrolled area.




Gulf Convoy on Radar




We had about 0.2 knot current in our favour for about 8 hours today but is has come back against us at almost half a knot again. We compare our log readings and they all concur so it is not just us who over-reads!


We turned for Aden just before 46 degrees East and had 60 miles to run. The wind picked up and we got every scrap of sail out to keep up with Aldora So, we got full main out, put up the cruising chute and, since the wind was a bit far behind to run it effectively, we poled out the headsail adjacent to it to funnel the wind into the luff. We were happy that there were not going to be any sudden gusts and we cruised at over 6 knots that way.






Full Sail






As the wind picked up, we put away the chute and turned the engine back on just to keep up with Aldora - we decided not to set the slowest pace. The wind picked up even more and we were doing a good 7 knots so we turned off the engine and still kept up with the 'fast' cat. Naz shows her colours once again - she's a wonderful girl.


Aden harbour at night is very confusing so we followed Aldora in. Unfortunately, they did not have a working stern light so we couldn't see them.


Adious Zappler 5 and Bon Voyage.


22st February 2009


This morning, we had to up the anchor because we were told that we were sitting over High Tension power cables. As we pulled the hook, we pulled a plastic sheathed cable up on the anchor and had to motor forward, hoist the anchor a bit more and free ourselves. No electric shocks thank goodness.







"Aldora" in Aden







The wind blew hard all day today, over 20 knots in the anchorage. Why couldn't it do that whilst we were at sea????? We are now anchored close to other boats and the harbour wall so I decided that I would do an engine service instead of looking at our problem since I did not want to be without a shaft just in case we dragged or needed to move. I found that we had been leaking oil from a loose filter and that we were just below min level......lucky we had not continued!!!


A number of yachties around here are well versed with engine alignment and I have had the offer of two torque wrenches and also offers of help. Nigel Calders book has three pages describing the technique of engine alignment plus diagrams and they are very understandable so I should have no problems sorting it out (if that is the problem). The chapter ends saying that it is a long, tedious and frustrating task so I am sure that the air will be blue by the time I have finished. The problem may have been caused by the loose bolt on the mount or may have been caused by settling of the rubber bearers themselves.


Fuel must be jerried from the fuel dock since you would not want to take the boat alongside. People who have done the run so far have come back with filthy dinghies, filthy jerry cans and dirty feet complaining about the requests for baksheesh.


However Aden looks quite interesting and we need to get out and have a look. However, today has gone, tomorrow is shaft alignment, the next day is fuel running and we only have three days here before we have to pay $65 each for a visa. Fliss might go out alone or with other yachties here and I will keep plugging away.












Aden Port
















22nd February 2009


Happy Birthday Pete .............


I eventually got around to parting the shaft today and could see immediately that the alignment was wrong as a gap opened up at the top of the flanges. I could not quite poke my finger in and measured it at 33 thou instead of the max 4 thou. I unbolted all the mounting top-bolts and checked to see if that caused any of the botom ones to become loose - all ok there. Then I raised the front of the engine 16 flats of the nuts (although I raised the Starboard side more than the port side since it was the one that had been loose and seemed to have less resistance to turning. This brought the flanges into alignment but we had a misalignment side-to side. I went to the bolts that hold the mounts onto the bearers and found that the rearmost bolts had stripped the threads in the bearers and the sideways adjusting mount bolt was loose. I re-aligned side to side and took the stripped bolts out for treatment. The core of the bearers is foam and the bolts are threaded into 1cm of GRP only so I punched the foam away with screwdrivers and a pencil, filled with Expoy mixed with filler and screwed the bolts back in (without the washers) after I had treated them with special 'no stick' provided by Toboggan. I will extract the bolts later, put the washers back on and tighten them up.


The flanges of the gearbox and shaft are not the same diameter so it is difficult to do an actual engine position test but the shaft needed a bit of urging upwards to get the machined step to locate so I also dropped the engine 6 flats on each nut and that seemed to do the trick. I would much rather have the means to test this properly but there are other anomalies that prevent it. The shaft flange is either not circular or is not centred on the shaft properly,I believe that it is not circular (it is an unmachined casting) because the machined step seems ok. Also, there is about 2-3 thou runout on the flange face which is not truly perpendicular to the shaft but I have so far managed to get the whole flange within 4 thou which is tolerable.


In the meantime, John from Aldora delivered a bunch of jerry jugs full of diesel so I have been spilling that all over the deck and getting some in the tanks as well. Tomorrow, I have to continue the filling operation and then return his jerries full.


It's all go! Lucky fliss is away with people from two other boats doing the tourist thing so she is happy and I will be happy if she returns with some more ATF oil.


Fliss....


Poor old Pete really didn't have a nice birthday. This morning at 8am Keith from Kirsteen Jayne came over and said “Get your glad rags on your coming out with us for the day, we have no idea where we're going but we're going out” bless them I think they were rescuing me from sitting around the boat all day.


We went to a old fort that sits really high up with great views over Aden. The place itself is very barren with tall peaky mountains, the locals reckon next month the rains come so the 1500 year old water tanks (big holes in the ground) filter the water into the city. The markets are great, loads of stalls selling fab fruit & veg we went to the Grass market. The men chew lumps of this grass which looks like privet hedge leaves and get stoned. You see them sleeping it off on the pavements. At the Military Museum the Army Guard was stoned out of his face holding a AK47 machine gun, mad eh!






Grass Seller














Local Monument
















Aden from the Fort








The Brits were here around 1940 and you can see it in the official buildings, apparently when they chucked us out the Russians walked straight in and invaded them. They said it was a much nicer place when the brits were here and the things worked.

It's dusty, dirty, full of people rushing about the place & women in Burkhas, but the locals are really really friendly and as you walk past they say welcome to Aden. The ladies in the Burhas have no problem with us. I do have to wear a long sleeved shirt & long skirt but they are friendly.






We were taken to a Mosque and inside was a row of wooden tombs draped in satin. I asked guide who was in them and he said a prophet and his family dating back hundreds of years, he promptly called the caretaker over who opened the tomb up. The guide put his hand inside and scooped up some of the ashes, Pete from Purr and I cracked up laughing wondering whether or not it was an arm or a leg, bizarre.









Local Tombs








23rd February 2009


We prepared Naz for the journey into the dreaded Red Sea.


Maldives to Salalah, Oman

29th January 2009


We left at 9am this morning for Salalah in Oman. What a great place & we had a magical time there.


Sheldon & Vanessa are about half a mile on our left hand side, we're hoping that they increase their lead over night as otherwise I'll have to watch them all night. They're very sweet and I think they're keeping close so that they can keep an eye on us... They've again offered us diesel if the wind doesn't pick up. We're not used to sailing so close to another boat.


All's well on board & only 1218 miles to go to Oman.


30th January 2009


Pete....


Last night, we put away the cruising chute and put a single reef in the main as we always do. We had motored on and off during the day to keep the boat speed up and did the same overnight. As long as we were doing over 5 knots, then we were happy.


Today has been a good day (I slept for 6 hours) and we have made good progress with full sail at about 6 knots. Zappler is even further ahead and we hope that they give up on us and keep going since it relieves the pressure of trying to keep up with a boat with twin engines and a lot of fuel. We shall have to see whether they still want to convoy with us since the 3rd party interested is a fast sailing catamaran. When we suggested that we keep a minimum of 5.5 knots through the Gulf using engine where necessary, Sheldon thought that 6 was a better figure - unfortunately, if there are light winds, that would mean motoring all the way which is impossible for many cruising boats.


31st January 2009


After a period of no wind at midnight last night, we got a decent breeze all night although fairly close hauled. Today was a mixed bag with light airs but we managed to sail 90% of it and are doing 5-6 knots at the moment.


Apart from that, there is little to tell.


We added our bit to the Cruisers Gossip yesterday as we had received a mail from Toboggan saying that French military had arrested 9 pirates off the Yemeni coast. Fliss got wires crossed and told Sheldon that 7 Yemeni pirates were arrested off the Yemeni coast and he told a yacht that he was passing this morning that 7 Yemeni pirates were arrested and were probably co-ordinating with the Somalis. We will soon hear that Somali Militia, in conjunction with Yemeni coastgaurds and customs officials are mounting pirate attacks based on information fed secretly from the Joint Task Force.


Another bit of Cruising Gossip is that the Joint Task Force has moved its corridor of protection somewhat further South and that this change is to take place on, or around, the 6th February. The reason was that there were too many Yemeni fishing boats in the present corridor and that this was causing a lot of security overhead with each needing to be checked.


1st February 2009


We have been lacking wind here in the Indian Ocean and the ride has been very stressfree with slight seas. The motor goes on and off at least 5 times a day as we use tickover speeds to generate apparent wind. Sometimes, the sails just flog and we really have to motor. Toboggan are 240 miles ahead and have decent wind so we are hoping to catch some of that in the near future.


Sheldon has zoomed off into the blue with engines running hard. He can motor all the way and I suppose that is what the owner wants - fast passage times, less risk.


2nd February 2009


After a night of turning the engine on and off to keep us going, the morning saw an increase in wind and we have about 10-15 knots getting us along at 6-7 knots. In fact, it is perfect sailing conditions with the wind at about 60-70 degrees on the starboard side with little in the way of waves. We have full main, jib and staysail with not much heel. Probably because the starboard side has all the weight since we store the heavy stuff that side and are using fuel and water out of the port side.


Fliss made bread yesterday and has done another load today. She makes it in the pressure cooker which is very energy efficient and it comes out a bit heavy but very tasty. We are looking forward to digging in.


Fliss....


I had a busy day today, well busy by my standards. I started my watch at 7am and then made lunch, baked bread & then did dinner. All this done with Naz leaning over on her side. the wind kept picking up so we had to put 2 reefs in the main but it kept getting windier so I got Pete up twice in the night to reef the headsail. By the time I went to bed at 12:45am I had been awake 18.5 hours I was tired & thoroughly fed up with life on a boat. I think anyone out here doing this feels this way somedays.


3rd February 2009


The forecast that told us of headwinds has changed its tune and it is quite possible that we will keep these conditions until we arrive (although the weather forecasting is a bit dubious). The winds tend to increase overnight and die off during the day, probably due to cooling of the deserts even at this distance,


More bread today!! Yum Yum. And Fliss has also made an Omani flag so she has been busy.


4th February 2009


With the weather forecasting strong headwinds to come we are pinching up as high as we can so that we have a decent sailing angle to the wind when they arrive. It's hard work as you cannot relax on night watch as you have to keep a constant eye on the sails. At night the conditions are gusty so one minute your ticking over at 3 knots and the next your screaming along in the high 8's. Very difficult trying to set your sails for comfort.


5th February 2009


Well, we are glad that we had been nibbling away to windward since Monday. Last night, there were some ominous waves coming from ahead and the Navtex told us of a Shamal in the gulf of Oman and other coastal areas that we could not recognise. The Grib file had played down the Thursday Northerlies since its forecast on Monday but they arrived at about 04:30 yesterday morning. I furled some turns in the headsail and then did some more about 10 minutes later. 10 minutes after that, I got Fliss up to put the second reef in and we ran like that all day with about 30 knots and seas that seemed to be coming from every direction causing us to pitch and roll with loads of water over the decks and in the cockpit.





Getting Wet





The winds abated somewhat at 16:00 and I got a couple of hours sleep, then noodles, then sleep until midnight. Fliss had got some more headsail out by then and she went to bed. The seas had calmed down very nicely. About an hour later, I had re-reefed the headsail and by 02:00, I got her up again to get the third reef in the mainsail to try and slow us down. So, it's now 04:00 and I am hoping that the winds eventually abate some time today.


Our original estimate of arrival has been extended since we are getting 2 knots of current against us. We are hoping that we will make it into Salalah by Saturday sometime in morning daylight hours. Hopefully with calms although they say that the Shamal can last up to 2 days.


I should not be so optimistic in my outlook!


6th February 2009


Winds are easing and we got the third reef out about half an hour ago, also a bit more headsail!


still looking at tomorrow morning for landfall although it may be in the dark as the current has also eased against us.


So, Happy bunnies here and hoping that we do not get a lull followed by a repetition.


The Net today was all concerned with yachts about 500-600 miles behind so no news about local conditions but, never mind, we are looking forward to better to come.


It's 17:20 local time and we have only 2 reefs in the main and the wind has veered so much that we are able to pole the jib out but still keep the staysail going. I love the staysail when you are heading into wind and have nothing but a scrap of headsail peeking out, the staysail can be kept going and pulling with the correct shape. Other than that, it's so small that it is pretty useless - but very good in a blow.


The wind has eased to about 20 knots but when it is 120 degrees apparent, it feels like bliss. We still have current against us (now making waves rather than calming them) but we are hoping that, as we close the coast, it will reduce.


GPS tells us of 12 more hours to go but it may be more since the forecast is for the winds to slacken early tomorrow morning.


So, all well with us looking forward to landfall, kissing the last Ocean goodbye and hopefully we will be able to find a space in the crowded anchorage


7th February 2009


The last evening was bliss with wing-on-wing gentle surfing on the swell. We arrived as the sun came up which was good timing and motored around the small anchorage trying to find a space. A 20 metre yacht motored past us at speed about half an hour before we got in and we arrived just after it. After trying a number of different spots where we swung too close to others, we eventually plumped for a place just close to the breakwater and nabbed the spot just as the larger boat had the same idea. The larger boat is part of the Blue Water Rally and he eventually convinced port control to allow him and other members to Med-moor against the dockside.


Fliss....


We love landfall! As we arrived Ben & Corrola's little children were jumping about in the cockpit, waving and shouting “Salaam al haykum, Pete & Felicia” “welcome to Oman” they really are a lovely sweet family.


Little Nials hero worships Pete, as in the Maldives he watched Pete swim under their boat. The little boy (about 5) couldn't contain his excitement, his arms & legs we're thrashing about and he was shrieking in laughter, calling his dad saying “Papa, Papa Pete just dived under Lassa”.


I spotted 2 shells on the sea bed and Pete dove down for them, Nials was transfixed by this. Pete resurfaced and we gave the shells to the kids only to be told by their parents that they had dumped them overboard the previous night. How funny!


The little girl Lisa (4) is my shadow, if we go anywhere I have to sit with her & I'm often invited over for a massage.


Sheldon & Vanessa asked If I wanted to go shopping with them. Pete being shattered stayed on Naz and got some sleep. We went to a butchers which isn't for the squeamish as they had a huge wooden block covered in blood with an axe next to it. The walls were splattered with blood and the meat just laid on a dirty looking work surface. I bought steak so he took a lump of meat and sliced bits off. Vanessa knows her meat & she said it was very fresh. Thank god we didn't turn up earlier as I couldn't watch an animal being butchered. Hypocript I know.


The veg & fruit are gorgeous looking & I picked up some pears which I can't wait for them to ripen.


We hope in the next few days we can take a trip out into the mountains to see the Bedquins, sink holes & caves.


It's a fascinating place with the women in full Burquas & then men in white flowing robes. They all look so beautifully turned out, It's not a poor country as they all drive around in 4X4's.


We went out for dinner with Sheldon, Vanessa, Nancy & Steve, delicious steak but not cheap as our bill at the end of the night came to 35 pounds. Mind you we didn't go short on beer or wine.


It takes me back to the time I was in Dubai. Camels everywhere and dusty white cubed houses. It's not scenic but I do like it here.


9th February 2009


Sheldon drove me to the fuel station and lent me some jerry cans as well. The security people at the dock entrance checked our passports for the appropriate visas and had a look in the boot on the way out and also stopped us to look in the boot on the way back in again. The security guy then proclaimed that we could not bring diesel into the port without the correct paperwork. Luckily, Sheldon had a mobile phone and the number of Mohammed the "man who arranges everything". We sat in the sweltering heat at the port entrance for half an hour and eventually Mohammed turned up, had a quiet word and we were allowed through. Other yachties had to wait until 16:00 when apparently getting fuel was "allowed" and they all convoyed in cars to bring the diesel in.


I misjudged how much we needed and had a panic when the tank was full and the funnel was also full. I am going on a hunt today for someone who has decent water containers that we can borrow to re-water.


We had our first convoy meeting yesterday evening but it turned into more of a social event rather than anything else. Unfortunately, I think that the two catamarans are much too fast for us and we will get left behind. The other catamaran is a 50 foot Outreimer that will not be able to slow down with a good wind behind. John told us that he can take down all his sails and still run at 12 knots when there is a good puff from behind. Three boats (Skeedemusnke, Toboggan and Lasse) are leaving tomorrow and we wish we were going with them since we have known them for a long time and we are much better matched for speed. They had invited us and even said that they would wait until we were ready but we feel that we have committed to Sheldon and have to honour that. Oh Well.


10th February 2009


Fliss.....


Today I had a ladies day with Vanessa & Kerri. We decided to visit the Souks & do some re-provisiong.

There really wasn't that much too see as the Souks were just shacks selling tourist tat. As I walked down a street and old man said hello to me, so I said hello back he followed us into the shop & started shouting at me for money, well I think he wanted money. Vanessa & Kerri carried on looking at things ignoring him, I couldn't as he was just a few feet away. The male shop owner was lost for words & it took his wife in full Arab Bhurka to tell him to go. It was awful as I didn't know what to do, damned if I'm giving someone money if when he's shouting at me.


Provisioning is excellent but it does come at a cost, but after a month or so not being able to re provision we're more than happy to blow the budget, we owed a few luxuries.


11th & 12th February 2009


Just MORE boat jobs


13th February 2009


We took a run out along the coast in a hire car. The mountains and gorges are quite spectacular but the visibility is down to about a mile due to desert dust hanging in the atmosphere. It is all over everything, right through the boat and there is no point cleaning it up since more settles straight after. Apparently it is a phenomenon that occurs rarely so, although we cannot see much, at least we have experienced it.


Fliss...


Lovely day out & really nice to get of Nadezhda for a few hours. The blow-holes were great. Before the water appears you can hear this loud roar and then the water shoots20-30 feet in the air.


The sun looked so strange as it was really white and almost eerie.


We also saw loads of camels being herded down the road.









Blow Holes












Fliss & Crew of Zappler V











Camels


















14th February 2009



Today is busy, busy day before departure tomorrow. We have contacted UKMTO in Dubai and have organised our anti-piracy vessel reporting details that need registering via the internet later. I have e-mailed them so that they can send a large document to us when we get our internet connection. They were very helpful and described the differences between the fast Yememi fishing skiffs and the faster Somali pirate skiffs. I think that they are getting concerned about the number of alarmist calls from boats (probably sailing vessels) who call emergencies via VHF whenever they see small, fast boats - the fishing skiffs run at about 20 knots trawling for tuna.