Tuesday 31 March
A new day and another small step onwards. The Red Sea seems like a giant cliff we are climbing. Weather windows are short and our early ambitions to cover the entire length in longer passages have hit the wall as we reach the upper section. Here northerly winds are the norm and the way forward is to take advantage of lighter periods when the seas are flatter to make progress. Slow sailing is easier on crew and boat than bashing into big steep seas. Better to nibble away at the miles in daily bites than attempt legs of several days.
The two hundred and twenty miles to Hugharda may take a couple of weeks if the weather continues as per recent forecasts! However actually aside from a lack of eggs, a dwindling supply of fresh food and a slight concern about the terms of our insurance cover which gave us six weeks in the Red Sea, we are relaxed about the prospect. With the fuel from Scotia we can charge batteries and have enough to get in and out of anchorages plus a bit for zero wind situations and should reach Hurgharda comfortably.
Last night was cosy under the duvet! No cold feet and shoulders. We both slept well. BBC News this morning was of the USA becoming the epicentre for the virus but little on what’s happening in Europe. We hope things are improving. Behind us Complexity and the group of yachts they are with, are making progress towards Sudan, hoping Suakin reopens as originally stated on April 1 so they can get fuel and food.
By 07:30 we were under way, the anchor came up cleanly. Still motoring at low revs to avoid fuel starvation issues and keep consumption low, so making just over five knots in the flat seas. It is completely windless, a classic calm before the storm perhaps. The AIS showed Hummingbird Wings and Aldivi heading north just beyond Dophin, they had been anchored there since a day or so before we made Berenice. Alkyone are off Port Ghalib making for Safaga about a hundred and ninety so miles north of here; we heard them on the radio to Aldivi. Fuel seems to be a concern for them all.
The 08:00 weather download indicates a couple of windy days so looks like Dolphin Reef will be home for at least two nights. Then on Thursday we have a brief window then from Saturday two or three days opportunity to make more miles northwards.
Finally heard back from the agent with the same download; he states that Hugharda is closed and the only place open is now Suez, another 180nm further north. This is very bad news as none of us have fuel for that. Hoping it really isn’t the case. Though the one thin thread of hope is that Ghalib may open again, the agent promised to email us later today if it does.
Jellyfish! The whole sea is full of purple pulsing hemispheres. The navy water is so clear the jellies are visible several metres down like a 3D piece of art. An amazing sight that distracts from our current worries.
Then a bit of amazing news. Faisal of Red Sea Explorers called, he is going to try to get a boat out to us at Dolphin Reef with fuel plus SIMs and possibly fresh provisions. Once he has customs clearance it will probably be tomorrow before they reach us. All three boats felt the mood lift.
And Dolphin Reef when we reached it was incredible, best since the Pacific! Gin clear water through which we can see coloured corals. Picked up a dive boat mooring on Faisal’s advice, the liveaboard boats that usually use them are much bigger than most yachts. Time for a swim. The water was a little chilly after Malaysia but it was great to get off the boat and swim round.
Kevin later borrowed Jules’ diving gear to check the mooring. It appears to be a new screw type, he is happy with it. The one Silver Tern tried further over broke so they are now anchored near to us, Scotia has the other mooring close by that is not too close to the reef. We wait for the northerlies which should reach us during the night.
Plans in Egypt are subject to change; the situation is unprecedented and no one has the perfect answers so we expected it. Several sat phone calls from Faisal later boiled down to the fact that the authorities won’t give him permits to leave harbour so we have to go to him. The plan as it stands at 20:00 today is for us to get to Ghalib, a hundred miles away, by the weekend. There we can tie up at the Customs and Quarantine dock. We have emailed a shopping list including fuel, SIMs and eggs plus a few other things for each boat. Supplies will be brought to us then we have to leave. No going ashore. We have heard that Magnolia reached Ghalib, refuelled and then left.
From Ghalib our options are Hugharda or Suez; in either place we have been told crews will not be allowed ashore. Whether this is for fourteen days or indefinitely, whether our days at sea count, the details are unknown. And it may all change tomorrow!
Distance from Berenice: 42 nm
Distance to Suez: 400nm approx