Thursday 26 March
At least the sun came out and the decks seem finally washed clean of desert sand. We shook out the reefs and discussed the options. They are slim:
Temptress is now some 60nm offshore. We are making very slow progress in the right direction, it’s still almost one hundred miles to the next waypoint, two hundred and fifty to Ghalib; we managed eighty in twenty hours which means the latter is probably three days sailing maybe more away.
With strong northerly winds forecast to arrive sometime Saturday (last night’s wind was not yet still kicked up horrid seas that prevented reasonable speeds) for a period we have decided to head to a marsa on the Sudanese coast for refuge until its past. There are some southerlies on Friday but not for long enough to get us to say Berenice, 150nm further north to windward with a comfortable margin at the current rate of progress. Our chosen marsa is around 60nm due west of our current position.
Ever fickle, the wind this morning dropped to almost nothing as the sun rose so we are investing precious fuel to get to Marsa Halaib before dark. Onboard we are tired, ratty and fed up. They said a Red Sea Passage was character building, I disagree, it’s character destroying. The sooner this is over the better. Though given the current situation elsewhere, holing up for a few months somewhere remote might not be a bad thing.
So much for plans made at breakfast time! Downloaded a new forecast just before ten o’clock. Today light winds from everywhere becoming strong southerlies for a while, and about 36-40 hours til the 30knot northerlies arrive. Having come in a little to the coast, Berenice now looks reachable so aiming for Ras Baniyas or Banas the hooked headland to the east of the town, 130nm from our current position. Going to give it our best shot. Now sailing at 2.5knots on a course over the ground of 295 degrees, less than twenty degrees off the bearing to the waypoint. We are happier campers right now at 10:12 on Thursday morning, needing to average around 3.5 knots, in the right direction, to beat the bad weather.
So we drifted along slowly through the rest of the morning, too tired to do anything but lounge in the cockpit. The course over the ground gradually worsening but the wind is going to change isn’t it? And four knots is better than none. Noon brought a welcome fillip, we actually covered almost 130 nautical miles in the past 24 hours although that represents only about 95 miles further north. Every little counts. Also paper chart and dividers show the distance from our noon position to Ras Banyas is much the same as from there north to Port Ghalib. Then it is only two or three days to the canal. However between us and Port Ghalib lay several days of bad weather and sailing to Suez is only practical once ports reopen in the Med. Those few days sailing could be spread across many months.
Mid afternoon we swapped the genoa for the lighter asymmetric spinnaker. It filled but we still were making scarcely more than a knot. At least now we were heading in the right direction, 116.5nm to Ras Banyas. Alkyone, Oddity and Aldivo were heard on the radio but when we tried Oddity it was too crackly for a conversation. We believe they are thirty miles or more ahead as they are with Hummingbird Wings and she briefly appeared on the AIS moving as slowly as us some way to the north.
The asym was no better than the genoa. A quick calculation showed we had covered single digit miles since 10am. Time for the engine. Hoping the southerly wind comes in as forecast. Sadly the engine was not on form again. The revs would die away the come back. We felt sick, not again. Eventually the engine stopped completely, the gennie was unfurled and we nodded our way northwards at about four knots. Kevin went to clear the fuel system yet again. There was a leak at the rebuilt Racor. It’s drip tray full. Not the solution but at least it’s no longer leaking fuel. After bleeding the engine would run but only at lower revs. It will have to for now.
Today we reached a milestone as supper was cooking; since leaving Cochin in February, Temptress has covered three thousand nautical miles! It’s probably been some of the hardest, most frustrating passage making we have ever done and it’s not over yet.
After supper it was back to sailing to preserve fuel. By 22:00 it had become an endurance test. The forecast southerly hadn’t turned up. By steering a few degrees higher than course we had a light NE’ly on the beam which kept us inching forward at three knots. Berenice and Ras Banyas are still 86 nm away. Kevin had a brief conversation with Hummingbird Wings but the distance was too far for it to be useful. Then Aldivi popped up on the AIS, they and Alkyone are inshore of us together with Speck and Oddity. We all seem to be heading for the same spot and frustrated by the lack of wind. Kevin made the decision to join them motor sailing, five knots rather than three.
The VHF is a weird tool in some people’s hands. Last night there was a creepy voice on 16 repeating ‘Coronavirus’ and phrases about people dying scattered with expletives. Tonight someone tried talking or rather blowing over us or squeaking ‘me, me, me” . All very odd.
And hurrah! At the very end of the day the promised southerly finally started to fill in. Engine off, Temptress making 5.8 knots over the ground northwards. Time to go is estimated at thirteen or fourteen hours!
Noonday Run: 129nm
Distance to Suez: 540nm approx