Monday March 30
Forty days out of Cochin, fifteen out of Djibouti, Temptress approaches April wondering what the new month will hold in store. The original passage plan had us arriving in Suez at the start of April. Now with Greece having closed its borders and banned yacht navigation in its waters until late April we need alternatives. Though the idea of sailing the Med direct to Gibraltar has its appeal it is not a practical one.
The weather in the Med is never consistently good, much of the route will be in contrary winds and, though summer is coming, there is always the threat of a storm. To make a passage west, the sensible sailor ensures they have planned for ports of refuge in places like Greece, Sicily, Malta and Spain, which plainly we cannot.
Beyond Gibraltar, around Cabo St Vincent and north against the Portuguese trades requires the patience of a saint, we know as it’s a trip we have made twice before. Hops between ports until Bayona on the Spanish coast close to Finistère. Then the boat will be far enough north to head out into the Western Approaches and meet the westerly winds coming in from the Atlantic. These will carry us home towards Ireland with a landfall somewhere in the Republic then a coastal hop up the eastern side to Bangor.
So much for the dream. The reality is until the Mediterranean harbours are open again there is no point heading through Suez. For now we concentrate on the next few hundred miles, hoping Hugharda will remain a viable refuge, still nothing from the agent. Weather windows seem few and far between. According to last night’s forecast Tuesday offers twenty four hours of reasonable northerlies, Wednesday looks nasty, Thursday and Friday have light or no winds then the outlook looks bleak for a week.
This is, from all we have read, typical of Red Sea weather. Many boats before us have written of being holed up in some remote marsa (an inlet in the rocky coast) for days even a couple of weeks. So coastal hopping it will be. To that end we have entered all of Sheena & Alberts anchorages into our nav systems. Banned from on water activity we shared these with Silver Tern in a pre-memory-stick manner at 06:30 this morning with the Skipper reading all twenty one sets of lats and longs over the radio, it took a good half hour! Now we wait for the next weather forecast.
Last night was cold. Despite supplementing the duvet cover with a waffle blanket it wasn’t that cosy, time to put a duvet in the cover. This morning we battled with the zip on the holdall that has contained the duvet since the Caribbean. It hadn’t been opened for a year and refused to budge despite all our administrations of water, toothbrush, sewing needle and more. Eventually Kevin popped the zip with a screw driver as the bag,a rather tatty 20 year old Rolex freeby from a Fastnet Race, owes us nothing. We will be warm in bed tonight! This milestone sadly marks our final days in the tropics.
08:30 What a difference twelve hours makes. Forecast much improved so three of us are heading out to Ras Baniyas for the night then around the corner tomorrow in lighter winds to Sataya (aka Dolphin Reef). Four Seasons are going to just head out and see how far north they can make over the next few days. Wednesday doesn’t look too bad after dawn though Thursday also has some bad weather forecast along the Egyptian coast. So the rough plan is to stop somewhere Tuesday night to avoid what is promised for the early hours of Wednesday then decide where next. We are in no hurry now so will take it easy.
10:00 we lifted the anchor and bade the Egyptian Navy thank-you and farewell, then sailed out. Heading east under the headland we had flat seas in the northerly. Glorious sailing against a back drop of desert hills under a clear sky. Fairly shortly we had to furl a bit of genoa and, after our ritual start of passage cuppa, drop the second reef in the main. Temptress was loving it bowling along on a fetch at over six knots with a bit of current assisting us up to over seven. It’s times like these that make up for all the worry, sailing we will always remember.
Four and a half hours later we had diesel from Scotia, they had sail repair tape and a memory stick with the KAP files for the anchorages further up the coast from us. The anchor went down and it was time for a late lunch. Afterwards we set to our jobs. Kevin had collected some fuel biocide from Silver Tern before we left Berenice; he dosed the tank then put in the fuel from Scotia. It needs to sit for at least twelve hours to start to do its stuff. Meanwhile I hand stitched back in place the outer edge of the 2nd reef reinforcing patch to avoid it becoming a more major repair. At some point it will need machine stitching right the way around the curve but that can wait. Fortuitously when we dropped the sail in a rather untidy way to put the reef in on our way here, the bit that needed stitching ended up on top so it was easy to reach standing on the main hatch.
The anchorage at Ras Banyas is ok. Not too big a fetch but the bottom is coral rubble or rock. Hopefully the anchors will come out tomorrow. The sandbar here is very low with no land to the north of it so little protection from the breeze for the crew. However the air is not so dust laden which is a bonus. Tomorrow we plan to leave early for a relatively short trip to Sataya. Hugh and Brenda have actually anchored there on a previous circumnavigation! Meanwhile three Brit boats are enjoying being social and had supper together on Silver Tern.