Day 31: Wednesday 15 April
After another extremely windy night at anchor, we woke to comparatively calm conditions; a few knots of breeze ruffling the bay from the north west. Time to prepare the boat for sea. We’ve planned a route up through islands off Hurgharda as that gives us several optional, alternative anchorages if needed. The goal for the next twenty four hours is to make Tor Harbour on the east coast of the Gulf of Suez.
The pressure has risen three points since yesterday, sign of change but quite to what I’m not certain. By 07:35 we are out of the bay. The north westerly wind is not too bad, the leftover chop causes the boat to seesaw so progress under engine is a bit slow. And when the instruments were turned on this morning, the autopilot control in the cockpit showed up for work! Hopefully it will decided to function for the whole passage.
Initially we make about four knots over the ground at only 010 degrees, some 50 degrees east of the bearing to waypoint. Ras Abu Sawmah is like a hammerhead or the tail of a fish, once past the northern end we ‘tack’ and point more inshore. Seventeen miles to the Hurgharda channel. May be there by lunch time if the seas continue to go down. Inshore Temptress should be tucked behind the reefs further north, hopefully that too will offer flatter seas.
Everything on deck is coated in brick red dust on its forward edge, halyards are like wire, uncooperatively stiff with dust and salt. All the canvas is salty and dusty. Only the sprayhood windows are reasonably clear; they were rinsed down with seawater at dusk yesterday and haven’t had time to fur up again yet! Beginning to ignore the dust everywhere we sit or breathe. It’s a thankless task to be continually cleaning and with fresh water reserved for cooking and drinking plus the occasional flannel shower, not an easy one.
Five miles south of the channel to Hugharda a tatty coastguard cutter approached. On the bow an untidy heap of cheap line and a large blue oil container, the lettering on the side was mostly worn away and only the helm in uniform, presumably he was the captain, he was the only one who spoke English anyway. They wanted to see our papers, board us even.
The skipper pushed back firmly but politely. His message to them was; we are on passage from Djibouti to Suez, you have closed your ports. With the virus we are prepared to be boarded only in port, you can see our details on the AIS if you need more information. After a few minutes back and forth, the Captain told us we could go and they motored off down the coast.
By lunch time we’d motored past Hugharda with its hundreds of dive boats all laid up on their moorings, empty resorts and deserted construction sites. The only signs of life were a few people out fishing including one intrepid pair fishing from surf boards! Onward towards Shakir Island and the Shadwan Channel. Finally it was warm enough to shed the extra layer of clothing we had put on this morning.
All afternoon we motored up the seemingly wide open sea following the channel between scarcely seen reefs. A few fishing boats and little else,the visibility was quite poor due to haze from the dust. The few islands are like piles of sand, completely barren either very low lying or slightly raised at one end.
The afternoon cuppa tasted a little salty, checking the watermaker output (it had been running all day) the TDS was over a thousand, making it unsafe to drink. It is ok for washing dishes and humans so we’ll survive. The aft water tanks are still full of fresh water from Langkawi so good to go if we switch to one or other and there are the emergency jerrycans in the forepeak too making a total of around three hundred litres; we can reach Suez without dying of thirst. We have a spare membrane, Kevin had been reluctant to fit it due to the leaks the watermaker had developed which we don’t have parts for, but needs must so once we reach a harbour like Suez or Ismailia it will be done.
A brief message from Silver Tern just after supper indicated they were some 17 miles ahead but can’t raise them on the radio and not entirely certain where they are heading. Possibly Tor, maybe at a stretch Thilimit another eighty or ninety miles further north on the western shore.
Came on watch at 22:00 and wow lights everywhere! After weeks of very little except the occasional ship, now towns on the shore, oil rigs, gas flares and more light up the skies. And everywhere is dripping wet in an extremely heavy dew!
Still motoring north though now on the eastern side of the shipping lane. We crossed it in the straits of Gubal at the southern end of the Gulf of Suez at supper time. Will reach Tor long before dawn but still undecided whether to hang around for daylight or attempt an approach and drop the hook as soon as it becomes shallow enough. Decisions decisions.
By 23:30 Temptress was just a couple of miles off the approach to her destination. In the discussion about tactics we checked the weather. It’s improved, the window has opened a bit longer so in a complete change of plan we plotted a new course for the remaining 70 miles to Thilimit! Should have looked at the forecast earlier in the day!