Since way before Christmas our brains have been occupied almost solely on one objective reaching the Mediterranean via the Red Sea. The passage from Langkawi to India was merely the first step, a 1500nm one. Here we have explored for a few days, provisioned and fixed things. The next leg is possibly the biggest challenge crew and boat have ever faced. Even if you discount the security risk this is a passage that is hard with few places to stop, through some of the harshest terrain on the planet with the Sahara to the west and the Empty Quarter to the east. We can expect sandstorms, headwinds and rough seas.
First another 1500 nm across the Arabian Sea to the eastern end of the Gulf of Aden, then over 500nm alongside or to the south of the shipping lanes, through the Gulf to Bab al Mandeb and on northwards to the Hamish Islands. Finally Temptress can head towards her first port of call in the Red Sea, Massawa in Eritrea some 230nm further north. The total distance of over 2300nm is not the longest passage we have undertaken, that was from Panama to The Marquesas but this leg is only the beginning.
In Massawa we can hope for fresh provisions like vegetables and possibly diesel. It’s also potentially the end of the downwind sailing in the monsoon winds. The monsoon bends around the south western corner of the Arabian Peninsula to accelerate through Bab al Mandeb, the Gate of Sorrows. We might even get gales through here but at least it’s downwind, helping us northward in relatively easy sailing. From Eritrea on it’s likely that there will be headwinds and steep, rough seas making sailing hard work. It will be a long, tough beat northwards through Sudan and onto Egypt then into the Gulf of Suez. The entrance to the canal is a thousand nautical miles north of Massawa. The plan is to have short stretches at sea when the winds are less, then rest up in a marsa or bay during the worst weather. The pilot guides also suggest that often the wind dies overnight so another tactic is to rest up in a bay during daylight hours then depart late afternoon.
The prospect is daunting but we won’t be the first and we hope to be in company with another yacht most of the way. And of course the prospect of reaching the Mediterranean is dangling like a carrot to urge us onwards. Temptress departs with SY Complexity (Jim, Barbara, Eli’s & Lukas) tomorrow at dawn.