Take a look at the wind and waves.  The wind is blowing forty knots and Duetto, Balmacara,  and Exit Only are anchored at Ras Terma in Eritrea.  There is a white out from blowing sand lifted  high into the air by a sandstorm.  But at least the anchors are down and holding, and we are no longer being hammered by the seas of the Bab Al Mandeb.

Two days earlier, we left Yemen and sailed through the Gulf of Aden until we arrived at the Bab Al Mandeb which is the southern entrance to the Red Sea.  The Bab has a ferocious reputation because the winds in that area frequently blow at fifty knots.  Everyone sailing up the Red Sea must run the boisterous gauntlet as they sail through the Bab.

When it was our turn to sail those treacherous waters, we experienced first hand why the the Bab al Mandeb is called the Gate of Sorrows.  We pointed our bows north, pushed open the Gate, and  before long, we running downwind in a fifty knot gale with turbulent steep seas crashing into our stern. 

We went through the Bab in the morning, and so we had plenty of daylight to work our way north at about eight to ten knots.  We hoped that if we got far enough north, the winds would moderate, and the seas would lose their punch, and we would have a more enjoyable and less risky sail up the Red Sea.  Unfortunately, the Bab showed us no mercy.  The wind persisted at fifty knots all day long, and it was apparent that it was going to be a long night at sea if we didnít find shelter.  We wanted to continue north as fast as possible, but we also wanted to do it safely.

We had talked on the radio with other people who had transited the Bab in similar conditions, and they reported strong winds for up to thirty six hours.  That was bad news, and we didnít want to take a beating for that long.  Our other option was to head for Ras Terma, which was a deserted anchorage behind a high headland in Eritrea about fifteen miles away.

We decided to go to Ras Terma and hopefully ride out the strong winds in a sheltered location.  We tacked over on to a beam reach and headed for land.  I turned off the autopilot and steered by hand.   I was afraid that the wild seas might overpower the autopilot and strip its gears.  Hand steering the yacht for half a day in rough conditions was inconvenient, but at least I would be sure to have an autopilot that was working when the weather moderated.  We needed the autopilot to comfortably steer Exit Only for 1700 miles up the Red Sea.


It took three hours of extremely wet sailing to arrive at Ras Terma.  We were beam on to the steep seas, and the waves that struck the side of the yacht relentlessly dumped gallons of salt water over me as I steered at the unprotected helm.  Each new wave deposited more salt into my clothes until my shirt and pants became stiff from the accumulation of salt. My clothes turned into a pillar of salt.

Ras Terma proved to be a secure anchorage, but the winds still blew at thirty-five to forty knots for at least a day and a half before they abated.  We hunkered down and waited for conditions to improve.  While we were anchored there, a sandstorm came through and covered our boat with red desert dust.  We shut up the boat to keep sand from coming inside and creating a huge mess.

At least we had survived the Bab without damage.  Caked on salt spray mixed with desert dust is a small price to pay to escape from the clutches of the Bab Al Mandeb.  Once again, Exit Only had proven that it was a strong and seaworthy vessel.  It took a licking and kept on ticking.

While itís true that adversity had paid visit, it didnít move in and become a permanent member of our crew.  We are careful about such things.  When adversity pays a visit, we modify our plans, stick to our purpose, and never surrender our dreams.


We hunkered down at Ras Terma for a couple of days before we set off on our journey up the Red Sea.  The blistering sandstorm is now history, and we have only twenty-five knots of wind and steep left over seas to make our journey exciting.

Duetto rides the waves like a champ, although at times she looks more like a submarine than a yacht.

No worries mate!  The sandstorm is over, and we are turning north for our run up the Red Sea.  More adventures await, and for the first couple of days we will be able to run downwind.

Life is good.

Red Sea Adventure Suakin the Fortress
Red Sea Rigors and Rumors Cruising Sudan
Never Surrender Sudanese Children
Red Sea Sunsets Abu Tig Marina - Egypt
Sudanese Donkey Barbers Red Sea Diving
Sudanese Water Truck Red Sea Sails - Kite Surfing
Red Sea Fishing Dhows Cruising the Pyramids
Terrorism is Pariah You're Not in Kansas Anymore
Cruising Yemen Red Sea Windsurfing
Up Close and Personal with Camels Cruising the Nile in a Felucca
Sudanese Boatyard That Sinking Feeling
Picasso's Boats Duetto - True Mariner
Stupid, Stupid, Stupid The Final Frontier