Gulf passage 3 – Wednesday 4th March

Day 14 – Wednesday 4 March

The asym eventually had to come down just before midnight when the wind died completely. Both hands were on deck to deal with it in the moonlight. However the kite packing was left to the morning as the off watch retired to their bunk as soon as the sail had been bundled below and the lines and halyard secured on deck. We had sailed or rather drifted along under its guidance for twelve hours.

Come morning the wind was back a good F3 at its best, a rather feeble F2 at other times from the north east. Running dead downwind in a two mile channel is going to keep us busy today. The genoa is currently poled out to port, our course between 245 and 250; the channel between the lanes runs 251. All those numbers mean eventually we will move from the southbound lane boundary to the northbound boundary which may then require us to head up to keep us in the channel between them.

News from Complexity is that overnight they reached the IRTC some 250nm behind us. And they had heard from Sundance who was berthed in front of us in Bolghatty, they have left Cochin. Sometime this morning we will reach the halfway point between Cochin and Suez in terms of miles covered equalling planned miles to go.

Laundry day today plus we really should rinse the deck with sea water to remove some of the brown-red desert dust that is now being trampled everywhere by feet damp from dew on the decks in the mornings. On the other hand we probably won’t! The job list for Djibouti is growing, the downhaul line needs replacing as does the second reef clew line. Both these are receiving a lot of hard use and, whilst we are at it, the first and third reef clew lines would probably benefit from end for ending to reposition potential chaffed areas to the none working end. A soleboard in the master cabin has become wobbly due to a loose bolt in the supporting frame.

The Japanese Navy overflew us midmorning hailing Temptress of Down by name. They’d obviously done their homework since the previous time as they now knew our full name. Again a message of assurance that they and unspecified warships were listening on VHF16 and we only have to call to get assistance. A pleasant ‘good watch’ was exchanged and off they headed zigzagging up the Gulf towards the ocean.

I was comparing our progress, which we feel is slow, with our Pacific crossing in 2016 (it forms the early entries in our current log book). To reach a similar sort of distance took 18 days in the Pacific, here we are on day 14. The overall distance is so much less this passage that we have had sufficient fuel to motor when the wind is light.

The afternoon was hot and humid, not helped by the laundry hung to dry in the aft portion of the cockpit, preventing much breeze reaching the crew. Even the skipper is now commenting if we ever do another long voyage, a washing machine is a must. It’s easier on the hands as no wringing plus clothes dry quicker when spun by machine. If anyone knows of an affordable front loader with one dimension measuring no more than 43cm and capable of taking a 7kg load do let us know!

As supper was being prepared we heard what was obviously a yacht Alcyone, calling another Oddity. We couldn’t hear the responses but when they’d done Kevin called Alcyone who it turns out is heading to Djibouti. They are in a group of four boats that departed together from the Maldives. We look forward to meeting them in person in a few days time.

The nights have become warmer, mainly because the breeze is not so chilly. This evening it has become lighter and swung more to the east, making it hard to stay out of the oncoming shipping lane. The crew struggle between keeping the sails filled when ships’ wash hits and making a safe course; constant adjustment is needed.

Ships travel through Suez in convoys and after over a thousand miles down the Red Sea are often still grouped as they approach us, currently a batch of seven or eight are visible. Some nights the AIS signals carried over VHF radio frequencies seem to travel further. Tonight ships moored off Aden 160nm away show up as do ships off the Somali coast.

Eventually the skipper had to be woken, the choices were a gybe or motoring both need the two of us to make the sail changes. As the wind had dropped and Temptress was barely making headway through the water with only the current making our speed reasonable we opted for the latter. The genoa was furled, the main gybed and the engine on. Kevin put the watermaker on too before retiring to his bunk as it’s “free” electricity. The new course will take us gently back across no mans land in case the wind reappears overnight. For now all is well onboard.

Noonday Run: 105nm
Noon Distance to Suez: 1700 approx