Into the Red sea and beyond

The final stage of the convoy started. We are now 10 boats so two groups of five. In Aden the wind had usually picked up in the afternoon and as the saying goes: whatever it blows in Aden it will be 15 knots more in the Bab El Mandab strait, the entry to the Red Sea. We left in a good breeze but by nightfall along the coast the wind died. This made convoy sailing much easier but nevertheless it was a busy night. I managed to confuse a fishing boat light with one of the convoy stern lights and caused chaos in the convoy at around 3.00am by getting totally out of position … Oh dear! Luckily I was spotted by our leader who seems to have amazing vision for errant yachts, fishing lines and skiffs and the situation was rectified without any disasters. (sorry Richard!) Dawn found us approaching the Bab El Mandab strait which was a truly welcome sight after our long voyage to avoid the pirates; rarely do attacks occur in the Red Sea. We entered by the Small Strait on the east side of Perim /Mayun Island, the passage is quite narrow between a rocky shore to starboard and the Yemen military perimeter around the island on port. The military zone is not demarcated by any buoys but it is on the charts and entry is strictly forbidden so a steady course into the strait was a necessity. There was a good but favourable wind from SE and the sea was fairly calm and we all entered without any problems. Just as we were past the military zone we were approached by a very fast skiff and wondered if our number was up at the eleventh hour, and if we had been premature in our celebrations but they were only fishermen and as we were going at a good speed we just waved and continued feeling rather relieved.

As we proceeded the tension visibly waned and we realized we had all made it into the Red Sea. I don’t think we had been aware of the level of anxiety amongst us until it was over! Certainly talking to the other boats from BWR in Salalah had done nothing to allay our fears, in fact the reverse. Perhaps they were just justifying their decision to put their yachts on carrier vessels who knows. The next task was to cross the main shipping lane in the Red sea to reach the Eritrean coast. The wind had built to 30 kts and as we had to cross the lane at 90degrees we had to sail more to windward which was tough going. AIS was extremely helpful we had switched ours off to avoid detection by the pirates but could still see other vessels coming full tilt down the channel. Once across we could go downwind again and so whizzed along towards Assab.

We anchored off a low lying island Lalaheb Deset in sight of Assab a small port. The sea was calmer but there was little shelter from the wind which still blew 30 kts, I think this is the strongest wind we have ever laid an anchor in. However these problems were all diminished by the great relief to be where we were. We had quite a party on Alondra that night with everyone exhausted but relaxed and delighted to be there safely. We are now heading towards Massawa stopping at night in the various bays along the Eritrean coast which are not always that sheltered from the wind as the numerous islands are very low lying. Anyway it is pleasant to have a rest each night for the moment.

Passing through the Bab el-Mandeb straits with a good following wind

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