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Sail The Indian Ocean For Free.


paulfromphuket

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Hi for those that asked to be kept informed of the progress here's the owners last com on the success of the voyage.

The 5460 mile trip has ended successfully! Phew! What a relief! I am very thankful that we had a safe and comfortable (mostly!) journey. My crew departed today so now I have a chance to review the passages.

After our boisterous entrance to the Red Sea the wind disappeared, again. We motor sailed along the western shore because Saudi Arabia, east coast, will not permit visitors by yacht unless there’s a dire emergency. I decided to pull into Sawakin, Sudan for fuel. We were lucky to get an agent that understood English and was truly helpful, named Mohamed. With his help we refueled without officially clearing in. Next morning at daybreak we were on our way, again. That stop was only 18 hours. Sawakin is a strange place. The anchorage is surrounded by rubble and ruins. I assumed that was due to all the fighting in Sudan over many years, or perhaps earthquakes. But no, those are 600 year old buildings that just fell down. And that’s where they stay, no clean up. No reconstruction – just rubble. After our departure, we got news through a crewman’s friend that Sudan was front page news with the UN sending troops and attempting to arrest their leader. Fortunately, we saw no signs of trouble.

24 hours later the wind strengthened from the north, our intended direction, and the seas got pretty rough so we had to seek shelter along the coast. We found a tiny notch called Marsa Inkeifal and slipped in there for protection. There was one other small Canadian cruising boat also sheltered there. Other than that it was just sand as far as you could see and a few ferrule camels. Guy and Umberto decided to take a hike and explore the desert. They returned rather exhausted, with a only a camel sighting to report. After 2 nights we were able to start moving.

Winds in this part of the Red Sea are infamous for being contrary, and they were. On St. Patrick’s Day we tried tacking for 24 hours. We made little progress and the boat was taking a beating. Another cold front was forecast which would bring even stronger northerlies, so once again, I had to focus on going as far as possible and then taking cover at the last moment. 3 days later we were Port Ghalib, Egypt and went in for protection and flat water.

We were not as lucky with this stop. We arrived on a Friday morning. 12 other boats with the Blue Water Rally had arrived Thursday night and were waiting for check-in, so we had to join the queue. Friday afternoons in Muslim nations are not worked – this is prayer time. We just barely got cleared-in before the cut-off. Saturday’s are holidays and also a day of prayer. So we enjoyed the modern marina and facilities. We got to eat at TGI Fridays and use their free WIFI to surf the net. What a great change of pace, civilization!

Sundays are workdays and all we needed was for the harbor master office in Hurghada to give us a cruising permit so we could leave. They normally FAX these to the marina, however, they refused to do this because there were 16 boats waiting for this form and they didn’t want to send that many FAX’s! So the marina had to send a person by car the 150 kilometers to this office - over a two hour drive. He got there, processed the 16 forms and then he Faxed them, but now the sun was setting, we had lost almost a whole day. Never mind – out we went, now determined to get to Port Suez.

But wait, here comes another cold front. Oh, speaking of cold, we are now wearing jeans and sweat shirts plus jackets at night. We have definitely left the tropics!

I could see that we would be in the Gulf of Suez, about 120 miles from Port Suez when this next front would arrive. I devised a plan to continue motor-sailing against the light northerlies along the west coast. Then when the wind picked up strongly, we could simply turn 90 degrees to the east coast and sail over to a protected anchorage along that coast, which is now Egypt, not Saudi Arabia.

Only one small, unanticipated catch – when the wind picked up it went from no wind to 25 – 30 knots in 20 minutes. It was strong enough to lift the sand and sand-dust off the desert and reduce visibility to less than one mile. It would not have been safe to cross the shipping lanes in poor visibility, and there were no harbors deep enough for Glass Slipper along the west, so we had to sail through this frontal passage and its associated 30 knot wind and rough seas. It was a long night. We had a close call with a cargo ship, it decided to hug the shore for flatter water, and that’s where we were. We saw each other at the last moment and both did the correct maneuver – turn right. We passed each other port to port, no problem.

We carried on as winds moderated and made Port Suez on the 25th and entered at night.

We were supposed to get processed for the canal the next day, then start the transit the day after that. We did, and were all set to go the morning of the 27th, but at the last minute, they closed the canal to small boat transits because a US Navy warship was transiting from north to south. It turns out, that since the USS Cole was bombed in Aden by a small boat, that our Navy requires small boats eliminated from the canal while they’re in it. The crew and I were stir crazy, so we took a tour of the Giza pyramids and the Sphinx. I am happy to have seen them, however, I must admit that they did not “awe” me- perhaps it was the hawkers, or the insistent camel jockeys, or the rubbish all over the ground.

We were cleared for transit the following day and got to Ismailia, the half way point where they make you stop. The next day, Saturday the 28th, we completed the Suez Canal transit.

I must say that the canal is quite boring: About 100 miles of a trench cut through sand with the sand banks blocking the view – of more sand!

When we got to Port Said, I had a report of bad conditions at sea in the Eastern Mediterranean so I asked our pilot if I could anchor for the night and continue in the morning. He replied in the affirmative and showed me where to anchor. When I “gave” him his (expected / required) baksheesh he scoffed at it. My canal agent had told me the amount and that’s what I paid, plus 2 packs of cigarettes, but he wasn’t happy.

We anchored were instructed, had dinner and went to bed for an early start. But at 2300 we were awakened by loud shouting and a revving engine. It was a pilot boat yelling at us to move! I yelled back that we were told to anchor here by one of their pilots. I was made to contact Port Control on the radio, they said we either had to go to the Suez Yacht Club or go to sea. I was concerned that if we touched land (the dock at the yacht club) that they’d make us clear-in and out again; so we put to sea just before midnight. I have this sneaky suspicion that my displeased pilot had something to do with this!

It was another rough night. We motor-sailed into northerlies and ten foot seas. The only good thing was it gave us a 9 hour earlier start. So

we made Finike, Turkey on the 31st. FINALLY! 5460 miles in 2 months - nearly to the day.

We spent the next couple of days cleaning and polishing the boat. We had sand-dust encrusted salt spray on the entire boat, and to the top of the mast. We started up the mast and washed down to the water line. The work was hard, but it’s done and the boat looks great. My crew and I celebrated with a wonderful lamb kebob dinner at a great little Turkish restaurant and today they headed for home: one to Italy and the other England.

They got the sailing miles they wanted for their professional advancement, plus a bit of a bonus. Glass Slipper got a great crew.

I’ll be home in less than a week and look forward to seeing many of you. I’ve got lots of photo’s for anyone interested.

See you soon!

Love and regards,

Tom

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