Day 32: Thursday April 16
Another day, another destination. We motored on through the night after yesterday’s late decision to carry on. The only thing of note was the terrible stink of hydrogen sulphide that pervaded everything for a couple of hours. At dawn with the mate on watch, Temptress crossed the shipping lanes again at 33 degrees north. Just thirty four miles to run to Marsa Thilimit where we can wait out the weather until early next week when another forecast light patch should enable us to finally reach Suez YC and hook up with our agent to discuss what next.
Our current thinking is to start the canal transit as far as Ismailia as there we are at least able to go ashore, albeit only within the confines of the so called yacht club, and wait a month. Ismailia is mid canal and is where yachts transmitting usually spend a night before completing their transit the following day. The canal authorities have agreed to yachts stopping longer, there is a published rate table with monthly rates which bodes well but it has yet to be tested. However we will not be permitted into Egypt, which is fine by us, the less contact we have with potential virus carriers the better.
Hopefully by late May we should be able to see what’s happening in the Mediterranean; will ports be opening up, can we arrange with specific harbours enroute to the Atlantic to refuel, rest and take on fresh provisions? Where can we find refuge from bad weather? Much more thinking and planning to be done plus a few repairs.
Meanwhile last nights heavy dew which was literally dripping from things was put to good use. The entire cockpit was wiped down so at least our clothes can remain a little cleaner. Don’t look too closely though as that didn’t include the floor or anything beyond the upper surface of the coaming! Outside is a grubby as ever with dust layered on the salt.
Breakfast; I was the lucky crew who had a double yolked poached egg this morning! A little while later the tin can internet and WhatsApp sync’d enough for a sensible exchange of messages with Lori on Silver Tern. Our messages yesterday and overnight were never despatched immediately and then there were delays in receiving too so confusion reigned. Now all sorted both boats heading to the same place and our routing via Tor seems to have placed us ahead as they are just about at the spot that at 05:00 we were starting to recross the shipping lanes!
Weather forecasts change in this part of the world regularly. This morning’s suggests that next week’s southerlies will ramp up to something stronger than 25 knots, making Suez YC by all accounts the wrong place to be. So the hunt is on for a protected spot. Where we are going? Or will our agent have a better idea. Maybe port control would let us in behind Bur Ibrahim breakwaters? By the afternoon the forecast was different again.
We anchored in Marsa Thilimit just after midday. It is a wide bay bounded on the east by a reef. Most of the rest is low lying but to the west are a few deserted hills. The sea is pale blue and flat. The bottom goes from no soundings to 6 or 8 m in just a few boat lengths. No resorts, just the main coast road and a small breakwater at the west side of the entrance off what appears to be a small military camp. Lunch, catchup on emails, then sleep and a shower.
We emailed Captain Heebi, canal agent to the Royal Navy and Temptress, to let him know we were finally in reach of Suez. His response was the rather surprising one of don’t come into Suez YC for now. Apparently Monday is a public holiday to celebrate Spring so the canal office for small craft is closed until Tuesday. However Speck, remember them from weeks ago when we passed them at sea just before the Gulf of Aden? Speck are scheduled to transit to Ismailia on Sunday and it seems we will go with them. They are on a mooring further up the east coast close to the pilot station.
After several WhatsApp messages back and forth, Captain Heebi was emailed our lengthy shopping list ranging from toothpaste to fresh meat to veg and pulses. He informed us that we can get our gas bottles refilled at Suez, water and fuel at either Suez or Ismailia. He also said he’ll bring us a treat of cake or ice cream or both tomorrow! He is expecting us to make the coffee. So it looks like we motor the fifty odd miles north to the canal entrance tomorrow meaning an early pre-dawn departure from here to arrive late afternoon at the Suez YC.
Silver Fern finally made it in as dusk fell, struggling against the strong winds. Then their anchor dragged but was soon sorted. They settled down to prepare supper while we ate a bowl of Singapore style soupy noodles each. Before bedtime we needed to ensure Captain Heebi knew to expect them too tomorrow, that he gets their shopping list and they are ok with departing at 04:00 tomorrow.
The strong winds continued, every time they seemed to moderate and we began to relax the howling rose a notch or two again. With only a couple of hundred metres to the beach to the north, Temptress just swings a bit and bobs around, snatching on the chain snubber as the gusts take hold, there is little fetch over such a short distance. It’s all rather wearing as you worry, even if the worries are hidden in the back of your brain, you still worry. Will the anchor will hold, what might break in the gust that’s heeling you over. And the noise is continuous, easing back then rising to another shrieking crescendo.
The evening GFS forecast for tomorrow didn’t look encouraging either. When mid evening, Captain Heebi updated us with the local forecast for Suez advising us not to come until the weather breaks, as Suez has 30 knots forecast tomorrow, we weren’t too surprised. Yuk, we will just have to sit it out, again. Looks like Tuesday at present, which will be our thirty seventh day since leaving Djibouti.
However long it takes to get there, our Red Sea odyssey is almost over and another instalment of Temptress’ canal adventures is about to begin. This one is a lockless canal, more of a ditch and could include a lengthy stop over midway whilst we wait for some semblance of normal maritime movement to return.
Distance covered: 167nm
Distance to Suez: 60nm