Letter From Sudan

After the emotional roller coaster that was getting out of Djibouti, up the coast in difficult conditions and then having the engine fail as we were about to enter Suakin we thought nothing could get worse.

Well it has. Here, though the local yacht agent Mohamed has been an absolute sweetie bringing us a SIM card along with the rather redundant port paperwork when we arrived and this morning ensuring we have enough vegetables to ‘survive a few weeks at sea’ (his response when I queried the quantity delivered), he hasn’t been able to source diesel for us today. Maybe Tuesday or Wednesday. We have around 190l of fuel left or approximately 430nm motoring in principle, though in reality it is probably going to be a much lesser distance in the chop the Red Sea kicks up, possibly under 400nm plus we should have a contingency of say 30% for safety.

We went to bed last night worried but with a plan to stay put for at least a week then look for a weather window to head to Suez. However there is no access to bank accounts here even if we could go ashore. The political situation means the country is under international (specifically US) sanctions so no banks do business with Sudan. This means all we have is the stash of US dollars we brought with us; we knew this would be the case but it’s insufficient to support us here for very long. Not only cash, there is little or no potable water here either, nor any rain until November and the watermaker is still in a dubious state of health with the leak in the high pressure pipe reduced but not fixed.

Then, this morning, we heard first that Greece has closed all its ports and harbours to yacht traffic. And later that Suakin is closed to new arrivals until 30 March. We wondered where next will close ahead of us. After a lengthy discussion we have few options, in fact for now just one, leave for Egypt.

The next port is Port Ghalib, Egypt, 440nm up the coast. There is a weather window offering a brief, windless respite from the northerlies currently blowing 25knots or so here in the harbour, from Tuesday through to Friday or Saturday. The marina at Port Ghalib is both open and for now has berths (we have checked via the mail this morning) though it’ll be alongside in an undeveloped part of the resort, not in the marina proper so without ‘services’. Therefore with heavy hearts, we have to move on, possibly without the fuel sensible seamanship would advocate but hopefully the weather and diesel supplies will cooperate.

Once in Ghalib we will review the situation. It might be possible to fly out but, and it’s a big but, leaving Temptress behind could be a permanent situation. We have no idea how long the world will remain in lock down nor how the boat and our belongings would survive left untended for months or even year or more. Our preference would be to stay together, after all she has been our home for twenty years this month and she is as much loved now as back then in her Southsea years. Can we sail Suez to Gibraltar to the UK? Yes of course we can though we’d need fuel for charging to run the fridge, autopilot and navigation lights. It’s around 2000nm from Port Said west across the Med to Gibraltar and another 1200nm or so to Bangor, Northern Ireland. In total less than our Pacific crossing Panama to the Marquesas in 2016. The weather may be less favourable but it can be done.

On a more upbeat note Kevin and Ollie from a Magnolia yesterday dismantled the top of the Racor fuel filter, cleared the blockage in the ball valve and got the whole thing working again. If that sounds simple, they had bits of floor, the companionway stairs out and me as the surgeon’s assistant passing spanners and more down to them in the heat below. It took them a couple of hours to figure it out there being no manual but they ungummed it and then reassembled everything again.

This morning he went fishing in the tank with the sieve again and has as much gunk out as it was possible to reach. If there is more behind the baffles that gets shaken down on our next passage causing a similar blockage there is a spare fuel line rigged to go direct from tank to the engine fuel filter. And he is spending a few hours this afternoon de-gunking the old Racor filter with petrol, the galley’s last set of yellow marigolds and an old toothbrush in case it’s needed!

And this morning too, it being flat calm here we dug the scales out. No wonder the dinghy planed effortlessly in Djibouti, we are both lighter than we have been in a long time! More suited to Enterprise sailing with a combined weight of under 172kg. Kevin has lost the most, over 14 kg in the past year!

All is well onboard and despite everything the surroundings here are magnificent which brings us pleasure. Hoping all is well in your strange topsy turvy world too.

3 comments

  1. These are challenging times for all but your trials seem above and beyond. When challenged you have always met the occasion and prevailed. The trick is not fatigue when the next event occurs. We will be leaving Mexico tomorrow and heading north. Were not quite sure where we will be able to put in in the States. Weather looks favorable so off we go. You take care and BE CAREFUL. Richard

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  2. Difficult decisions ….. Take care, be safe these are extraordinary times with extraordinary challenges. Thinking of you and should there be anyway we could help. Shout. John and Deb

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