20 March 2009

Red Sea

I have finally escaped from the clutches of the Gulf of Aden, with all of its piracy and predictable weather, and passed through Bad el Mendeb into the Red Sea. It was a 700 nm sail from Aden to Suakin, Sudan, which was broken down into short passages as we hopped from anchorage to anchorage in Eritrea and southern Sudan. Things were going smoothly until we received a bad bit of news concerning one of the boats in the rally.

Cool Change, out of Port Douglas, British Columbia, a Vancouver 27 that was singlehanded by my friend Peter, in the middle of the night hit a poorly charted island while under sail. There was no fringing reef around the island, which is basically just a very large rock rising straight out of the sea, and consequently the damage is what would be expected after running straight into a sheer wall. His bowsprit was torn off, which led to his jib becoming partially unfurled and shredded in the wind. He also punctured his hull in two places, and was taking on water, although luckily not at a rate that he could not keep up with. Some nearby boats offered assistance, and he was able to get to a relatively calm anchorage about 50 nm away, where the boat was beached at high tide. We arrived in Mistral later in the day, and I volunteered to sleep above decks in the careened boat overnight to prevent any plunder from the locals, while Peter (the skipper) got some much needed rest. Early the next morning we assembled a large work crew, and were able to temporarily patch the hull and get the boat floating again before the seas violently picked up. Cool Change is currently in Massawa, Eritrea, attempting to repair his bowsprit and hull so that he may continue up the Red Sea, hopefully joining us in Egypt. Inshahallah.

Meanwhile, we continued up the western coast of the Red Sea in Mistral, taking some interesting passages through the reefs, and arrived yesterday AM in Suakin, Sudan. Apparently the political unrest in the Darfur region is no bad enough to preclude visits by boat, so we cleared in without issue. Suakin was once the main port in Sudan, and was the last place in the world to deal in the human slave trade, which was active here until the 1940s. Most of the buildings at the time were constructed from blocks cut from coral reefs, a practice that was stopped around the time that the slave trade here ended, and as a result all of the old buildings are collapsing and crumbling, unable to be repaired for lack of building materials. I spent the afternoon yesterday walking around the ruins, feeling strange that not long ago people were bought and sold here, most of whom ended up in the Arab gulf countries where slavery was (is) practiced up until very recently. Se the link below for pictures, under the Suakin folder.

Anways, the winds, which have been on the nose for the past 100 nm or so, are expected to lighten and clock around to the south for a few days, and we will leave here shortly and proceed to Pt. Ghalib in Egypt, again doing some coastal hopping from anchorage to anchorage. With any luck I will get to partake in some of the best dive sights in the world on the way.

I have done a photo update, which can be found at http://picasaweb.google.com/alex.nagle if the internet connection here improves in the next few minutes. Also, it seems that the SPOT thing that I have been using keeps a nice track, so check out the link from my last post to see where I have been. I used it from Aden to here but it seems that only in the last 100 miles or so have I had good enough reception.

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