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.
The top 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.
The second photo is of Kor Nawarat in Sudan. This is a peninsula
jutting out from the mainland and there are reefs all around. The
anchorage provides excellent protection from the seas as you wait for the
next weather window before you head north. The grazing camels are a