Saturday, April 04, 2009

Sudan

We finally had a 3 day weather window and made it all the way to Port Sudan which is the half-way mark along the African Coast on the Red Sea. We needed to stop in Sudan to get fuel because most sailboats end up motoring much of the second half of the Red Sea.
We fueled up no problem (although at a huge premium because we were a foreign boat) but getting water was a different story. Everywhere else we had been in the past 2 ½ years, we could buy quality drinking water in bulk. This was not the case in Port Sudan perhaps because it is surrounded by desert. We could buy 1.5 litre bottles of drinking water in the store which was very expensive or we could buy “Donkey Water” in bulk which was brackish and would have to be boiled before use.
I’m not sure where the “Donkey Water” came from but we saw many donkeys being led down the streets pulling tanks of water behind them. It did not look like anything we wanted to put in our water tanks. Since we had to buy the expensive water in 1.5 litre bottles, I didn’t want to use it to do our laundry so I took it into town to the laundry man. When I dropped off the laundry, I was afraid it would come back dirtier than when I dropped it off because the laundry man himself was just wearing rags and his shop only had a dirt floor but somehow it came back looking cleaner and smelling fresh so I was happy. He even ironed my sheets. His was an antique that was heated by placing hot coals in the top.

We then started on the difficult half of the journey up the Red Sea. The wind blows consistently from the North and escalates during the day along the coast reaching about 20 knots by 10 am and often reaches about 30 knots by noon. The wind doesn’t die down again until about 4 in the morning. In order to anchorage hop along the coast, we had to leave each day by 4 am and arrive before 10 am when the wind reached about 20 knots. If we stayed out in the middle of the Red Sea, the winds were more like 15 knots but the waves have a longer distance to build and with the wind and the waves coming from the North (the direction we want to go), it makes for extremely slow and unpleasant sailing.
We had a couple of lovely stops in anchorages along the Nubian Desert. The scenery was spectacular. The water was beautiful, clear blue with gorgeous coral reefs nearby to snorkel. We were all by ourselves except for a few camels passing by and in the distance we saw ragged mountains of beautiful reds and browns. After a few days of anchorage hopping, we got stuck at one spot where it was 50 miles to the next safe anchorage through treacherous coral passes. It would take us at least 10 hours to make this distance which we could not do in the daily weather window of 4am to 10 am. We had to wait a whole week until the wind was forecasted to be below 10 knots for a whole day and then we made a run for it.

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