Gulf passage 5 – Friday 6th March

Day 16 – Friday 6 March

It’s been a busy, sleep-interrupted night. Having woken the skipper at eight yesterday evening so we could get things reset for sailing, shortly after midnight it was my turn to be woken to reverse the set up. The wind had slowly changed, Temptress was sailing into the west bound shipping lane and off course. We furled the gennie, gybed the main then transferred the pole across and unfurled the genoa. By then it was one o’clock and time for the skipper to go to his bunk.

A small bird, a pinkish pigeon or similar was rather rudely awoken by the main gybing against its perch on the lower spreaders. Eventually after we’d set the sails it flew off. The cuttlefish and squid have been joined by jellyfish tonight. Incredible quantities of dull white shapes in the torch light plus the amazing squid eyes.

Temptress is rapidly reaching the western end of this section of the IRTC. Before dawn we will be heading slightly south of west (almost straight on) towards Djibouti whilst the Transit Corridor itself abruptly turns north west towards Bab al Mandeb. This means we have to cross the Indian Ocean bound shipping lane from our comfy no mans land between the two lanes in a couple of hours time. Hopefully there will be no ships east bound to avoid as we do so.

There have been a couple of sécurité messages from the Japanese but we find their rapid English too difficult to understand. If we have it right there may have been some incident and ships should be extra vigilant. Complexity saw a vessel without AIS behaving oddly yesterday.

By 07:00 UTC+3 Temptress was clear of the shipping lanes without incident though the engine has gone on, the wind disappearing at daybreak. Now on the leg into Djibouti, some 97nm away. An approach to the harbour is not advised at night as it is apparently strewn with unlit buoys even if you manage to negotiate the passage through the reefs. Our choices will be slow down and or stand off or find an anchorage near the islands six miles out until after the sun is up tomorrow.

Japan Navy overflew us again this morning and called us up. Judging from their approach we guess they took off from Djibouti.

During the morning checks of things we discovered a lot of water in the bilge (again). Engine hoses all look ok this time. Tracing the water forward the watermaker may be the culprit. It has been running for many of the hours we have been motoring over the past two or three days to ensure the tanks are full for our time in Djibouti. Took ten mins to find, most of which were clearing the master berth of pillows, cushions and spinnakers. The inlet pipe has a leak at the pump. Nothing major but can’t be reached without dismantling the bunk base. A job for harbour.

Meanwhile emails from UKMTO confirming receipt of our daily report have stopped. Not certain where the problem lies, another one to solve in harbour as our data connection via Iridium is stone age in computing terms.

It’s amazing how quickly you miss the ships, it feels a bit lonely out here now we’ve left the IRTC. Just us and our three mile dusty, hazy horizon of blue sea, not as clear as the ocean but still blue and a pale blue sky dotted with the white clouds that indicate fair weather in the tropics.

Finally on our last full day at sea we caught a fish and landed it just as Kevin was starting to prepare lunch! A sizeable female Mahi Mahi (Dorade or Dolphin Fish) over a metre in length. The Mahi Mahi is a glorious fish usually blue in colour but flashes yellow and other colours when excited. It’s white flesh is good eating. This was our first big fish since the Pacific and it took a while to land with Temptress moving slowly forward under engine. Big fish on a small boat are messy – Kevin needed a shower and the whole transom a good wash down after gutting it. The fish once processed into meal sized pieces, has filled what space was left in the little freezer. Trolling is suspended for a few weeks!

Late afternoon we start to work out tactics for our arrival. Fifty miles to go and having looked at the charts more closely anchoring even on a moonlit night in the reef strewn islands isn’t an option. We will slowly stand in then off again if need be. Alkyone appeared on the AIS a few miles behind. Around 22:00 the genoa was furled to slow the boat further. A couple of knots of speed through the water is more than enough to delay our arrival until dawn tomorrow.

Noonday Run: 133nm
Noon Distance to Suez: 1440