RED SEA RIGORS AND RUMORS
When the class of 2005 sailed through the Bab al Mandeb, we all
had to face the rigors and rumors of Red Sea cruising. As
dozens of yachts streamed cautiously north, we all wondered what
the next six weeks would bring.
The rumor mill constantly spewed forth piratical fantasies
regarding fishing boats that seemed all too curious about passing
yachts. Fortunately, the rumors turned out to only be rumors
and nothing more. All of the pirates had moved ashore and
now specialized in other things.
The Red Sea rigors are a different story.
There are dozens of low lying islands, inlets, and reefs running
along the western shore. These are the stepping stones
that make the voyage into an awesome adventure. You can
island hop up the Red Sea and enjoy good snorkeling and deserted
anchorages all along the way.
If you had to sail the Red Sea in a single go, you would have a
battle on your hands. Seven-hundred miles of strong
headwinds rear their ugly head to test your sails, rigging, and
resolve. But smart sailors don't do the Red Sea in one go.
They arise early in the morning and move their vessel thirty miles
north before the headwinds start to blow. The goal is to
have the anchor down by noon in the next sheltered cove.
The trip north requires discipline and patience. When
the headwinds pipe up, patience is the order of the day.
It's time to read books, snorkel, or hike on the low lying
islands. When the winds taper off, discipline gets you up at
sunrise, and you quickly get on your way.
Red Sea red tape was surprisingly benign. What could have
been a nightmare turned out to be routine. You don't
need to reinvent the wheel when checking in and out of countries.
Officialdom has all the paperwork ready to go and will help you
fill it out if you have any questions. In Eritrea, you deal
directly with customs and immigration, while in Egypt and Sudan,
agents handle your paperwork for a nominal fee.
The Red Sea transit turned out to be one of the most interesting,
enjoyable, and affordable parts of our circumnavigation. I
speak Arabic because I had worked in Arabia for eleven years as an
eye surgeon, and being able to communicate in Arabic made the trip
more fun. I had treated patients from all the
countries bordering the Red Sea, and I finally had the
privilege of visiting the countries from where my patients had
come. Wherever we went, the people were gracious to us and
made us feel at home.
This photo shows Duetto
anchored behind one of the islands on the western shore of the Red
Sea. This is a fairly typical anchorage with coral close in
to shore. Because of the coral, you need an all chain anchor
rode. Most of the anchorages offer good holding in thirty
feet of water.
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