Saturday 4 April
On a very chilly Saturday morning I came on watch at 01:00. The lights of the resorts dotted along the coast can be clearly seen with the moon suspended above. It’s just six miles to the anchorage but we don’t want to enter until the sun has risen enough for us to see the coral beneath the surface. When the distance has halved I will tack the boat and put out to sea. The jib is furled and Temptress is under engine making just four knots, we are in no hurry. There is hardly any wind, the seas are not yet completely settled but it is much calmer than it was twelve hours ago.
07:00 We dropped the hook in Marsa Mubarak, a shallow, dusty bay with a couple of resorts being built on its shores. Exhausted beyond telling the crew went through motions of putting up the anchor-ball and attaching the snubber then retired below to set the anchor alarm and send the UKMTO email. Then bed. On a good note the engine was perfectly behaved, no fuel issues so all the skippers hard work, the borrowed extra filter and the fuel additive seem to be paying off.
We couldn’t raise port control immediately on arrival. Then when we did it became apparent later that we probably woke him up as he called again around 10:00 asking why we hadn’t called in! Ha ha! Anyway amicably sorted. We are number three in the queue after Oddity and Thor. Aldivi got her provisions and fuel yesterday afternoon but is still awaiting a SIM card. The fuel thing seems a little unclear, it seems they will only fill jerrycans but we hope we will be permitted to fill our tank via the cans first otherwise we will have much less than needed.
No sign yet of Silver Tern and it is already pretty windy mid morning. The anchorage is not too bad but could get bouncy if the wind really rises as the reef that forms the northern edge of the bay is not extensive.
After a nap the galley slave checked the vegetables; we need onions, cabbage, cucumber , apples and tomatoes. Some extra carrots, lemons and potatoes would be good too. So we updated our order to Faisal adding milk, meat, cheese and soft drinks like fruit juice, soda water, coke and tonic water.
Inspired by some rather elderly aubergines, I made Sarah Green’s lentil and aubergine pate using tinned mushrooms, a half a teaspoon of mint sauce instead of fresh mint, lime juice rather than lemon and added a few caraway seeds to the fried garlic, mushroom and ground coriander mix. I have plenty of brown lentils still in the ships stores. Tastes ok warm, let’s hope it firms up as it cools. The remaining aubergines joined one rather wrinkled green pepper, an onion, the last Djibouti jalapeño, herbs and a tin of tomatoes to make a sort of ratatouille, enough to accompany three meals. Unsurprisingly aubergines aren’t on the shopping list as we have had them in almost every supper since leaving Djibouti.
Silver Tern reached radio range late morning and expect to arrive this afternoon before dusk. They are 17 nm out. They will be number four in the queue. At two thirty port control called in Oddity then Thor and finally after four, Temptress.
Our reception committee included a guy staying disinfectant from a backpack on the cans of diesel lined up on the dock and randomly along the quayside. One guy had a face mask. Two unmasked guys stepped forward to take our lines and tie us off. Another with a clipboard and a badge dangling from a lanyard introduced himself as the representative from Nasco, the agents. A stout gentleman who seemed in charge took photos.
There was some paperwork, invoices to pay, two large cardboard boxes of provisions and five cans of fuel. Apparently 100l is our lot, it’s emergency supply only. We really need another 200l but hey ho, then; perhaps suggested the agent you can try again tomorrow? Ten minutes after arriving we were heading back to the anchorage. $100US had got us some but not all the provisions on the list, it must rank as the most expensive grocery shop ever. No SIM card so we remain internet-less. And the fuel, at $1.18 per litre, was three cents more than the earlier boats were charged. Plus we had to pay $50 agent fees and $25 for customs and we have not been cleared into Egypt! Needs must – we are a captive, desperate audience; they are resort managers, agents and customs without any clients.
As we reached the anchorage again Silver Tern finally made it in. The other three boats left to take advantage of the light overnight forecast. I’m sure we will see them down the track as it’s in no one’s interest at present to transit the canal. Jules brought us a spare filter for his magic device and a bargain was struck, they need a bottle of rum and a float switch for their bilge pump, we need the filter and magic device! Such is boating life. We also have onboard the cans Oddity’s diesel was supplied in, to be returned tomorrow by the next boat going into Ghalib for supplies.
Distance from Cochin: 3346nm
Distance to Suez: 300 nm approx (but it may as well be the moon as the forecast isn’t great and beyond the canal there is nowhere open for fuel and provisions)