Day 37: Tuesday 21 April
The prisoners escape! Six days after arriving in Marsa Thilimit, Silver Tern and Temptress finally departed at 08:00. We woke a couple of hours earlier. Hark what was that? The amazing sound of silence! The wind had stopped, Time to go. First Jules taking advantage of the flat water, wanted to scrape his propellers off. I used the time to defrost our almost empty fridge so it will be clean and ice free, ready for the supply of fresh food we hope to receive sometime in the next 48 hours or so.
And in the other bit of news for the day, the horrendous forecast of 30+ knots from the south on Friday seems to have evaporated overnight. Phew, as long as it stays that way, that is a relief.
Soon after we left the Marsa a bunch of dolphins came to play but we were going too slow. They headed off in search of better fun. Later a flock of seagulls took a keen interest in the trolling line and we wondered if one character was going to end up hooked. Again and again the bird swooped down on the lures but eventually it gave up and flapped off after its mates.
All morning we hugged the west coast keeping out of the waves until the sea settled down from the effects of the wind, dodging round shallower reefs when they projected out into our path. Hundreds of wind generators in rows three deep or more lined the coast as did an almost continuous ribbon of housing. Through the haze the east coast was visible too appearing much steeper. The mountain on the west coast are set further back. The boat outside of the cockpit is filthy, everything coated in a thick layer of red dust. Once the seas began to flatten, our speed under engine increased to around five knots. Forty four miles to go, we should get there before nine this evening. Captain Heebi sent a message to say he could see us on the move via AIS!
Incredibly we are less than 120 nautical miles, as the crow flies from the Mediterranean! So near yet so far. We have yet to decide whether to wait for the lifting of border closures or to make a run for it. With the watermaker functioning again it seems a viable option to head for Gibraltar, 2000nm west or some three or four weeks sailing. After Gibraltar and the Algarve would be a few hundred miles north against the Portuguese Trades but being early in the season they should be gentle. From Baiona it is north west to Cape Finnistere, then north or slightly east of north to Ireland across the Western Approaches, about 600nm away. We could be just two months from Donaghadee but there are lots of questions to be answered before a decision is made. Ports of refuge, fuel and food stops are needed. I’ve had few responses to my emails of last week.
12:15 the skipper must be hungry. He went for a shave and is now making an early lunch. Crisp breads, salami, manchego cheese and cornichons; maybe some olives We’ve been saving the salami and had overlooked the cheese, bought in Djibouti, until this morning’s fridge cleaning. Over the next few days we will finally consume the remaining vacuum packed meats purchased from Sailors, Langkawi. Aside from the now open salami, there is some smoked chicken breast destined for a risotto and three ribeye steaks. Our huge order, back in January, has served us well.
We crossed the shipping channel at a rather cheeky angle to squeeze in a few more miles north. By mid afternoon Temptress had less than thirty miles left in the Red Sea. We can’t wait to celebrate leaving it all behind but our thoughts are with the boats still out here, some with weeks more struggle ahead of them.
For the first time in days, without the chilling wind, it was hot in the afternoon sun. Back to thinner t-shirts for an hour or two. Kevin took advantage of the mirror flat sea to top up the diesel tank from the jerrycans as we motored northward. The ropes that hold the cans in place and the cans themselves are coated in a brown crust. I went to wipe the dust off my rear where I had been sitting on the cabin top then realised I hadn’t actually disturbed the dust! Touching the crust on the stanchion showed it’s a pretty solid coating that is going to take some shifting.
As it was so flat, following my comment that my once slightly snug shorts now need a belt, we dug out the scales. Happy to announce we are approaching our target weights. The skipper has lost 20kg in a year, my loss is a lot less but still shrinking. You won’t recognise us when we finally are able to meet up again! Trouble is we are also nowhere near as fit as we were, walking any distance is going to kill us. I’d guess some of our weight loss is muscle.
The last couple of hours after supper had a slightly farcical air. Port Control would call but with so much echo it was impossible to decipher more than the boat name. We made our way up through the anchored ships to the west of the canal as darkness fell with repeated calls from port control that proved impossible to understand. We weren’t the only ones, a huge container ship going to anchor was also having issues which the ship’s Russian radio operator was less patiently addressing. The radio airwaves were also full of the pilot boats and tugs using the same channel VHF14, whilst channel 16 had agents calling ships and vice versa. Organised chaos!
Eventually as we headed towards the breakwater our agent had suggested we anchor behind, port control became clearer, anchor in Charlie One by Oriental Queen. No says I, too exposed, we are a small yacht and we are going to anchor north of the breakwater please. The breakwater was hard to pick out as neither end of the gap had working lights. Behind the wall we found a couple of small fishing boats anchored but there was plenty of room. After we’d anchored port control called again, the skipper told them we were now at anchor and would move to the yacht club in the morning. Meanwhile we heard them calling Silver Tern with about as much success.
It’s been so long since we had this much activity around us. Cochin probably, as Djibouti was a relatively quiet port. Over the buildings to the east we can just spot the higher, rear motoring light of the ships as they pass south down the channel that marks the end of the canal. It was a great feeling to just stop. This is the end of the Red Sea, finally! Tomorrow a whole new adventure beckons, the Suez Canal.
Distance made: 60nm
Distance to Suez: zero!