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Red Sea  Eritrea  Sudan  Egypt
Egyptian Antiquities  Petra Jordan

 

Sudan

 

The section of the Red Sea before us would take us out of Eritrea and into the waters of Sudan.  It would also get us into some of the best scuba diving in the world and we were anxious to do some exploring.  However the winds and seas in this part of the Red Sea are some of the most difficult any boat will encounter in the entire time of sailing around the world.  The Red Sea is very shallow and gets very strong northerly winds.  This combination builds up very short very steep seas that just stop your boat's progress completely.  Against a 20 knot wind in Pacific Ocean seas we could still motor at 5 knots, but in the Red Sea our speed might be down to 2-3 knots and with our prop problem there was a possibility we could only make 1 knot. 

Most boats did the next leg in one and a half days but at our slow speed the next leg took us two and a half days.  We were rewarded though with fantastic scenery and excellent snorkeling at our first stop in Sudan.  From there we would make two daylight passages through a twisting channel with coral reefs on all sides.  Nothing too difficult but requiring vigilant navigation.

Normally we have tremendous confidence in our boat to which we entrust our lives, but now we were in a situation with our damaged propeller where I was getting very nervous about our ability to deal with the Red Sea.  Short of being in the middle of ocean which this is the farthest we have felt from safety in all our 14 years cruising. 

Normally if there is any land nearby you have options for assistance from other boats and harbors and civilization where you can find mechanics, spare parts, etc.  But we were now nearly the last boat of about 150 cruising sailboats going up the Red Sea this year.  Only a few boats were behind us coming our way and there was almost no real option for spare parts until Egypt hundreds of miles away.  Then one day on the radio I spoke with an Australian boat ahead of us who had just shipped a part from Australia into Sudan via DHL.  It only took 3 days despite the fact that the area of Sudan we were in is quite far from its Capital of Khartoum. 

When my propeller problem first started I had consulted other owners of Island Packet yachts like mine for advice and one gentleman whom I had never met said he had a spare propeller he would give me if there was anyway to ship it to me.  At the time I had thanked him and declined but now I re-contacted him to see if the offer was still good.  Not only did he agree to give me his propeller he agreed to buy the nuts and other spare parts I would need, then to package them all up and to pay the shipping costs until I could reimburse him.  All in all he put over $ 400 out of his pocket plus his propeller for a total stranger linked to him only by owning the same type boat. 

DHL picked up the package and said I would have it in a few days-- that's when our problems started. 

We were soon to find out the US has an embargo against Sudan (similar to our Cuba embargo).  Over the next 3 weeks my good Samaritan and I made dozens of calls and emails to finally get permission from the US State Department, US Treasury Department and US Commerce Department all of whom had to approve the shipment.   So not only did my new found friend give me his prop and front $400 for shipping and parts he spent about 40 hours of his time on the phone dealing with government agencies to clear the shipment.  Don Ringsmuth I salute you.

After a 3 week saga courtesy of DHL the prop finally arrived to the tiny town of Suakin in Sudan and Ventana was again good to go.  And just in the nick of time too.  Two days after installing the new prop we got caught out in a strong blow.  With the old prop I doubt we would have been able to move at all against the steep seas and would have been in a seriously dangerous situation. 

By now two more boats had caught up to us and the three of us continued slowly north exploring and scuba diving as we went.  We were the last 3 boats going north up the Red Sea this year and there would be no more until next season.  In remote areas it is common for cruising boats to pal up with whatever other boats are nearby and move together each day.  This way we have support in case of emergencies as well as new friends to share our explorations and join us for happy hours.  Our propeller problem had meant Dee and I had been on our own for weeks now hardly seeing anyone else and we were glad for the company -especially since one boat with us now was Briana, good friends we have sailed with since the Pacific and had first met 14 years ago in the Bahamas.  Briana had even brought us fresh fruits and vegetables since it had been a few weeks since we had been to a town.

Suakin and Port Sudan

Sudan is the largest country in Africa and it's small ancient sea port of Suakin was one of the busiest seaports in the Red Sea in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Suakin is also the last port in Africa from where slaves were shipped to the US during that shameful period of our history.  The buildings of Suakin were all made from coral and today the entire town is a crumbling ruin.  To add to the dismal atmosphere Sudan is the second most unstable country in the world. 

Most of the transportation in town was by mule cart.  The women were covered head to toe but at least here they wore lightweight silk burkas that were very colorful, unlike the heavy all black ones we had seen elsewhere.  As if all this was not scenic enough there were wild camels roaming everywhere.  Other than the rubber on the tires of the goat carts it looked like we were in the 15the century.

To enlarge any photo click on it then click on the back button to return here

             
 In the desert- water delivered by goat cart        The crumbling main street of old Suakin                         Suakin ruins

 

 

                 
                   Ancient slave port                                                                                                                        Camel at the old city gate

 

           
                                                                                         Time standing still                                                            

 

              
                                                                                 Transport by donkeys and camels

 

       
           Living in tents in the desert                         Overloaded trucks abound                                   Typical sailing felucca

 

Cruising the Sudanese Coast

Once we left Suakin we were in for some fantastic cruising.  Our first stop was the large enclosed reef at Sanganeb where we spent 9 days diving and snorkeling.  From there we jumped a few miles to Shab Rumi where Cousteau had lived underwater in a small shelter for several weeks at a time.  The scuba diving here was excellent.  As we moved northwards we alternated these isolated reef anchorages with the coastal Marsas.  The Marsas are like enclosed bays where we had excellent protection from the seas and usually very interesting shore side hiking and bird watching.  Having a dive compressor on board allowed us to really enjoy this area of fantastic scuba diving.  The reefs here are much healthier than in the northern Red Sea and are rarely seen by anyone.  Not many cruising boats carry dive compressors and most cruisers race through this area to get to Egypt.  Egypt has hundreds of dive boats and dive operators but this area is too far away from civilization and airports to bring in tourists so we had most of it to ourselves and dove daily on reefs that were pristine.  When we were not diving we were snorkeling and spearfishing shooting grouper, sweet lips and snappers.

To enlarge any photo click on it then click on the back button to return here
 

          
      Quoin hill above Khor Shinab                                Hiking at Khor Shinab                                         Views from Quoin hill

             
                  Entering a marsa                                              Nubian Desert                                                    Ship of the Desert

      

      

                                                                              
                                                                        Sarenity, Ventana and Briana anchored at Khor Shinab

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