We had a smooth and problem free sail from Al Mukalla to Aden, with stern winds from 10-20 knots and low seas. The only hitch was that we were going a little to fast, and so resorted to the time tested ‘drift with no sails up method’ for the last night, to avoid a nighttime entry. Granted, we had a series of problems leaving Mukalla, but replacing fuel pumps and jury rigging anchor windlasses is really no sweat. No, the real issue was getting into Aden itself.
Aden is located inside an approximately 4 by 6 nm bay, with an entrance gated with jagged, towering peaks. However, the size of the bay allows the wind to build up inside, and consequently we had one of the most hair raising port entrances that I have experienced, an entrance that a normal boat could have done easily. See, Eldemer has a nice flat front to the cockpit area, about 8 feet high and 16 feet across, which, aerodynamically speaking, is a sail. To add to the complications, the twin electrical engines provide an output of less that 6 hp, so motoring is held to a maximum of about 3 knots in flat water, with no current or wind. What happens when one adds current and wind? Trouble. The head winds ranged from 10-20 knots, and the current was at most 1 knot, but we played a near-disaster like game of pinball, in which we were the ball and everything else was an obstacle. We almost drifted sideways into:
a) A fishing boat being questioned by the Yemeni Coast Guard;
b) More than one channel marker;
c) A large buoy meant for oil tankers; and
d) Another boat at anchor.
It took us more than an hour to make the final approach, and many times our speed over ground read 0.00, that is before one of our exciting sideways jaunts. See the below link to a photo album with a picture of our course.
It is hoped that the repairs necessary for the damage done when the daggerboards broke can be done here, so I may be here a while. Fortunately, the area looks interesting, and I am hoping to make some on the cheap trips to San’aa, the capital, and Taliz, some other place.
On a more positive note, we had no interactions with pirates in the Gulf of Aden, and by making it here, we have essentially passed the trouble areas. The Navy guy, Abhi, forgot to check in with some department whilst in Mukalla, and so we were the effort of a search led by the Indian Navy, with the assistance of two recon planes, which did flybys and loops overhead, and were contacted and kept in touch with both Indian and French warships. The shipping was quite busy, which led to some interesting arrangements while performing our drifting exercise, but our use of AIS (Automatic Identification System) showed us everything we needed to know about the traffic, and no close calls were made at sea.
PS I wrote this earlier, but am now enjoying watching the guy running the internet cafe literally kicking kids out onto the street...all in good fun though!
http://picasaweb.google.com/alex.nagle/Yemen?feat=directlink New pictures from Yemen, and
http://picasaweb.google.com/alex.nagle/SalalahOman?feat=directlink Updated pictures from Oman.