Red Sea Passage 15

Thursday 9 April

What a night! What weather window? Three reefs, storm sail sized gennie summed up the sail plan as Temptress worked her way north. When we left yesterday’s wind appeared to be moderating as per the forecast, by the time supper had been eaten it was plain things were not as per the forecast. Watches were all but abandoned as the off watch helped shorten sail or put in a tack. By dawn we were exhausted wondering if we would make it. Not helped by the huge seas rolling down from the north which gave us concerns about the final stages of the trip in between the reefs.

When tacking to windward it’s usual to calculate the distance as double that of the line on the chart. In our case 50nm became 100, May be more as the tacking angles in the waves and current were far larger than 90 degrees. Rough maths based on our speed at dawn had us arriving mid to late afternoon. Phew at least we’d have daylight to find our way through the reefs to the bay below Ras Abu Sawmah, we hoped.

During the night we’d been glad of our wet weather gear. At one point with the auto pilot steering, I in full wet weather gear after an earlier splosh had soaked me, was tucked up on the windward side by the instruments, the skipper, off watch, was snoozing in warm clothes but not waterproofs on the leeward cockpit seat. There was a felt thud, a roar like a train coming then a deluge. A huge wave hit the hull forward of the beam, rose up even higher then crashed down on the sprayhood and bimini, possibly also washing off the dust from the solar panels a foot or two higher aft of the bimini. All that sea had to go somewhere; it poured across the canvas and fell on the Skipper and me. I was glad I had my hood up. Once the boat shook herself off and was sailing again, the skipper took himself off to find a complete change of clothes and his oilies.

By dawn we were heartily sick of the state of things. Down below was a mess as stuff supposedly securely stowed bounced about. The stove somehow partly shifted on its gimbal when during a tack the saucepan used to keep a couple of mugs secure somehow jammed under the lip behind the stove and one melamine mug escaped the pan and rolled down behind the stove. It took the pair of us quite a few minutes to sort that one out. Not that we made any hot drinks all night it was just too bouncy, relying on water, sweets and cereal bars to keep us going.

Occasionally one of us spent an hour or so crashed out on a leeward sofa in the saloon but mostly we snatched a few minutes ‘sleep’ where we sat in the cockpit. It was a wet, horrid night, over on our ear, making extremely slow progress. We’d beat out into the Red Sea only to find ourselves not that much further on after the return tack a few hours later. Disheartening.

Eventually we got a break. In daylight Kevin had taken the helm from George the autopilot and, able to see and anticipate the waves as well as react quicker to wind shifts, he steered a better course to windward. This left me to handle the lines, grinding in the gennie after each tack, I’m going to ache tomorrow. It’s been a long time since we had to work so hard to windward.

We tacked up to Middle Reef, tacked out again. Then on the next incoming or westward leg found ourselves south of Panorama Reef, a beautiful patch of turquoise fringed with lacy white waves on its northern side and a stubby lighthouse stuck in the middle. This gave us space to head a lot further inshore to where the seas were relatively calmer. The wind shifted slightly lifting us and a couple of tacks later the end was in sight. The gennie was furled, the engine on and we slipped through the narrow channel above Coral Island into the calm waters off the resorts.

It was still blowing hard maybe 30 knots but with a short fetch the waves were teeny. We dropped the anchor tucked up to the east of the dive boat marina. Oddity, Thor and Aldivi are already here just a few hundred yards west. Silver Tern arrived an hour or two later. Lunch was our first priority as it was 13:30. After that, preparing supper by setting a mutton stew going in the thermal cooker, then tidying a little of the mess; both bunks had got a little damp from seawater leaks but nothing too serious. The duvet spent the afternoon in the sun. The rest including the mainsail heaped on the boom with a couple of sail ties and the lazy-jacks to keep it secure, can wait til tomorrow, we spent the remainder of the afternoon asleep.

On writing up the log I discovered we had covered just 95nm anchorage to anchorage so our course to windward had been efficient! And the mutton, slow cooked with potatoes, carrots and lentils was very tender and tasty.

Distance covered: 95nm

Distance to Suez: 220nm approx


  1. Good morning

    Sounds like a challenging passage.

    Good you are now anchored in calm waters. Enjoy.

    Take care. Overall better off at Sea at the moment.

    Safe sailing Ron and Maddy

    Ronald A Sams currently in SA

    SA +27726864466 UK +447734288891



  2. As I was reading your post, I could so relate to the discomfort of such a passage. 95 is a very very respectable number for what must have been a wind right on the nose. Hope you find the conditions at the canal conducive to being able to transit. Once in the canal, I am sure you will be feeling great relief even though there will be new challenges ahead. Stay well. Richard


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