Tuesday, 24 March started early, we woke to daylight at 05:30. The anchorage was calm, the air cool. We both lazed around online for an hour or so over our early morning mugs of coffee and tea. After breakfast we continued rather idly through the morning to lunchtime waiting for Mohamed the agent to announce he had our diesel. There were jobs to do but neither of us felt motivated, getting fuel was all we wanted.
Mid afternoon there was a flurry of dinghy activity from the other two yachts heading to the shore. Then Kent came over to report Four Seasons was leaving, without the fuel he needed. Kevin called Mohamed who said maybe fuel tomorrow or later in week but unlikely as Sudan’s fuel supply was still not in port. They had a brief discussion over bills and money owed and we decided we too would leave. Meanwhile both the other yachts were hauling their dinghies on deck (we’d never launched Sheila) then Mohamed arrived in a launch to hand over the money he owed as we’d paid for the fuel up front.
By quarter to four Temptress was clear of the harbour entrance, Kevin had swiftly transferred all but the last of jerrycan of fuel we had into the tank. It now holds some two hundred miles worth of fuel, with four hundred and thirty something miles to Ghalib. The wind on Wednesday is forecast to be light, variable, Thursday mainly northerlies but light, Friday more helpful southerlies but by Saturday lunchtime we need to be tucked up somewhere safe as a strong blow from the north is forecast.
By dark we were beyond the first reef cluster heading to a point south east of the Williamson Shoal. Magnolia is somewhere ahead of us, Four Seasons decided to take the inshore route towards Port Sudan. Both the other yachts are significantly longer than Temptress, their additional waterline length making them faster. We sailed for a bit. The wind, such that there was before sunset, was coming from where we needed to head. Eventually when it became dark we motored for an hour or so to the waypoint. From there it was a bear way due north to Abington Reef or at least our waypoint some nine miles off to the east of it. If there is breeze we need to sail the hundred miles o reach it and more beyond. However the wind died as it often does at sunset, Temptress motored onward.
On the shore the mountain outlines have vanished in the dark sky but the lights of the oil terminal and Port Sudan further north give off an orange red glow like mini sunsets. It’s a dark moonless, cloudless night at sea. By 22:00 local time Temptress is off Port Sudan. Half a dozen or more cargo ships are simply drifting around twenty miles offshore in waters too deep to anchor, clear of the coastal reefs. The AIS shows the anchorages closer to shore are crowded. This is the dramatic impact of the port shutdown. Commerce is on hold worldwide. All their crew isolated onboard their ships, delayed indefinitely from being home with their families, another hidden community in turmoil much like the cruising community across the globe.
Temptress is playing a delicate balancing game, the ultimate aim of which is to reach Port Ghalib. On the one hand no wind with none forecast until the morning, it’s drift or motor, we chose the latter. The waters are glassy smooth making motoring speed optimal and the hope is to make as many miles north as we can efficiently.
On the other hand we cannot motor all the way, we must sail at least half the distance. And vitally, we must leave some fuel in reserve for getting into port and charging systems especially if we end up sitting out the next batch of adverse winds in some remote anchorage. For now we plod on northwards at six knots with 403 nautical miles to the marina entrance at Port Ghalib and the unspoken dread of arriving to find Egypt too has closed its ports.