We left Massawa on 13.4.2011 planning to reach an anchorage in a suitable bay locally known as a ‘marsa. There are many of these along the coast of varying degrees of difficulty in entrance because of the reefs. The wind varies from NW to NE and from 0 to 35 knots, you just have to take it as it comes. The first night we sailed but the mileage made overnight was not that good because of headwinds but we crossed the Eritrean –Sudanese border without incident keeping safely offshore. By dawn we had arrived in Khor Narawat and we anchored behind the usual flat pancake island which breaks the sea but not the wind. We recovered from the overnight sail; surprisingly one night is more tiring than a few as we don’t get into the rhythm of reversed day and night sleeping.
We spent the next day at anchor and swim and snorkel and walk around the island. “Oukiok,” a French boat in the group, has a dog Zsa Zsa so it was great fun swimming and walking with her. Although the anchorages are bleak and flat the colour of the water is wonderful and there was plenty of coral and fish to see. On 17th April we sailed off at the usual early hour 7.00am as journeys are best made in the morning and arrival in the afternoon because reef spotting is much easier. Surveying and therefore charting are very inaccurate in the Red Sea and GPS may be up to 2nm out so a look out is essential. The next stop is Trinkitat Harbour another marsa where there is a Sudanese naval base who checked us out but did not give any trouble.
Suakin is the next stop an old port with an unusual ruined coral city. We decided not to stay there but press on up the coast and leave the group as we wanted to go a little faster, but I am sure we will meet them all again somewhere en route and we remain in radio contact every day.
We left early again and have a good days sail past Port Sudan, Sudan’s second city. We stayed in the inner channel and the water is flat and with a good wind we make 7-8knots at times. We found another marsa for the night, Marsa Fijab where there is meant to be plenty of bird life but we didn’t see very much and surprisingly in the evening we get a thunderstorm with rather more lightening than is pleasant. Amazingly we were not struck but in these flat Marsas the mast seems very vulnerable.
The coast is very dry, truly desert meeting the sea, and very little habitation. We left Marsa Fijabnext the next morning in a 25 knot wind and had a difficult day beating into a strong wind and choppy sea. Our next anchorage was in the lee of three small flat sandy cays, Taila islands, just off the coast with wonderful colours on the water. The sea was calmer but the wind persists. The holding is good and as the wind persists 25-30 kts all the next day we stayed in the relative shelter. We exchanged two T-shirts for three fish from some local fisherman who came by and had a good supper. We left the islands and motored up the coast and navigated a rather complicated route through a series of reefs before reaching the open sea. Luckily it is well charted.
Our final stop in Sudan was Khor Shinab an amazing anchorage surrounded by desert and mountains which made a pleasant change. The landscape is quite lunar and we had hoped to go ashore and climb one of the hills but the wind remained too strong all day despite being quite far inland up the creek. We managed a swim off the boat attached with a floating line …thanks Sue and Jug it has been really useful! Tomorrow we plan to sail until we reach Port Ghalib in Egypt about 300 nm. There is a modern marina there so we can provision and refuel. As usual how long it takes all depends upon the wind and it is not pleasant motoring against a strong headwind and short choppy sea so will just have to wait for a weather window in another marsa or a reef anchorage. The coast is littered with reefs useful for an anchorage but a serious navigations hazard. The Red sea pilot by Elaine Morgan and Stephen Davis (from Hong Kong) is invaluable. Luckily there are many anchorages along the coast where one can wait for the weather and they are all well described in the book with text and a diagram.