ARAGORN ... Not all those who wander are lost (JRR Tolkien)
The Red Sea and The Gulf of Suez
See a special report about the sail up the Red Sea ....click here
The sail up the Red Sea was very different from the relatively benign, mostly downwind sailing we had done since the Caribbean. First, it was a flying run up the southern entrance with 30-40 knot winds, with higher gusts from behind. In the middle, we had calm days, with some sailing. As we got farther north, the winds came from the north, on the nose with a wicked short chop that stops a boat in its tracks.
We had a wonderful respite at Abu Tig Marina in the resort village of El Gouna. From there, we were able to land tour Egypt and Jordan (see separte web pages in the Photo Gallery section). After El Gouna, it was a tough passage up the Gulf of Suez (only 200 miles, but again on the nose, with lots of shipping, oil rigs, reefs and tough navigation. The Suez Canal "Yacht Club" at Suez was a welcome sight.
The Red Sea in March and April is cold at nights, and not much better during the days, if it is blowing. Also it is dusty ... everywhere on deck, aloft and below. The experts recommend you degrease your winches and run them dry so the grease doesn't collect the sand and create a horrible mess!
But it was one highlight of the rally..
We left Djibouti with TAHLEQUAH and PAROO, and entered the Red Sea up the Straits of Bab el Mandeb. By 0700 we were running with just a triple reefed main, no headsail, and dodging reefs and ships in the shipping lane.
Watch our for that wave behind you, Leslie.
(Obviously this photo was taken a bit later, but you get the picture of the seas and winds.)
Late that day, we put into Great Hamish Island, in Yemen!! Yemen is not the most friendly place to be, but the few people we saw did not mind us sitting out a blow in a cove on their island. In fact, the fishermen were nice, and the training base east of our anchorage seemed as though they wanted to be helpful.
A bit deserted and dessicated too. You can judge the wind force with the whitecaps in our anchorage. PAROO made it in before dark, by TAHLEQUAH had engine and steering problems (shaft slips out of gearbox, and jams rudder!). Between 2200 and 0230 we tried to tow them in (see story in Special Note on Gulf of Aden and Red Sea) but were unable to pull a boat twice our weight in against the wind and waves. The next day, we went out on PAROO, and with her twin engines were able to tow TAHLEQUAH to the cove.
It was a rock-n-rolly trip in 12-15 foot waves. First over the top, then crashing into the next breaker.
While the weather was sunny, it got cold for the first time in well over a year.... John is okay the afternoon we recovered TAHLEQUAH, but Ginny is very cold running before the blow two days later.
At any rate, after a few days in Yemen, the blow was still going strong, so we left anyway, with just the storm staysail up. After two days, we got into lighter airs ... then no wind.
Long story short: we had light winds, no wind, head winds, and finally 25 knots across the deck, on the nose, short chop trying to stop the boat with every third wave......
Finally, after a quick fuel stop in Port Sudan, Sudan, we made it to Egypt and the friendly confines of the Abu Tig Marina, in the resort of El Gouna.
First photo, looking out... second the outdoor bar.
We also got in a little R&R in other ways. For example we had the great gokart race. Admiral Jane gets used to her helmet while her Captain, Peter Gregory, opines about the racing rules.
All the R&R was important, because as we set out for the final two hundred miles up the Gulf of Suez to the Suez Canal, the winds continued their blow out of the north, on the nose. We thought we picked a milder day, with only 25 across the deck and a bad but not wicked short sea. By 5:00 pm, we were very tired, and trying to dodge oil rigs, reefs, Suez Canal shipping while trying to hand steer did not seem wise. So we put into El Tur, a small harbor on the Sinai side of the Gulf. It had some facilities for fixing local boats, a windsurfing and windkiting school, but also a major military presence, requiring that we stay aboard.
But the wind stayed up for six days, and soon there were seven boats (up to 82 feet) hiding out in littel El Tur. The windkiters were okay. Twice we tried to go out, but conditions were 35 across the deck both times, so we decided a deck of cards was better.
OCEAN SONG tried to go out one day ... but he had to come back after six hours.
Photographs never show waves properly, but from these shots, you may get a feel for the short chop taken with a long lens. Even a steel cutter feels these seas.
Finally, after getting close to "cabin fever", we got a break in the weather and hustled north to the south end of the Suez Canal.
This is the mooring field in the "Suez Canal Yacht Club - Suez", run by the organization that runs the canal. The fore-and-aft mooring let you cram more boats in, but you have a good view of the Canal traffic steaming by the cove with the anchorage.
If you go to the next Gallery page, you can see our passage through the canal, and the rally finale in Crete.
Copyright 2005, Richard William York