Voyage 20

Djibouti to Hurghada, Egypt
April 15-28, 2018

Day 1 – Sunday, April 15, 2018

djibouti_hurghadatnI have been in Djibouti for nearly a week.  It has been a nice stay.  The harbor provided me with a good anchorage.  During my time here, I have restocked my provisions and I have been watching the weather in the Red Sea.  I was hoping that I would find a window that would provide me with good southerly winds.  Unfortunately, the prevailing winds are from the north, which is the direction I need to go.  The weather forecast last night showed the possibility of southerly winds next weekend, but the forecast only showed that for a day before the winds turned around again.  I decided there was going to be no favorable winds for some time and I might as well get under way.  This looks like it will be a difficult sail with a lot of tacking.

At about 4:30 PM, I raised anchor, set my sails and sailed out of the harbor at Djibouti.  The first part of my sail will be easy for about an hour until I get centered into the Gulf of Aden.  That is when I will have to sail upwind.

At around 6:00 PM, I was north of Ile Moucha and I turned northeast to follow the coast of Djibouti, which is north of me.  The winds are a little over 10 knots, blowing from the east-southeast.  I have about 6 hours to go before I can turn northbound and will head for Bab al-Mandab Strait.

Day 2 – Monday, April 16, 2018

04/16/2018 0327 UTC – 12º 43.14′ N 43º 14.05′ E

Overnight, I sailed into the Red Sea.  The weather is mostly clear and the wind is brisk.  It’s blowing around 15 knots and is from the south, I’m on the downwind run.  The wind is forecast to die out as I get farther north.  I’m making no definite navigation plans until I see what the wind is going to do.

Day 3 – Tuesday, April 17, 2018

04/17/2018 0337 UTC – 14º 18.16′ N 42º 12.22′ E

Today has begun much differently than yesterday.  During the night, the wind died down to just a slight breeze.  My speed for most of the morning has been around 2 knots.  The wind is forecast to get stronger and be from the east during the next few days, which will be good for making some distance.

After I checked the forecast, I noted that the wind seems to be stronger on the west side of the Red Sea than it is off the coast of Saudi Arabia.  I decided to try to hug the coast on the west side.  I may not get very close to the coast today because the wind is mostly out of the west-northwest, so the best I can do is just sail north.

Day 4 – Wednesday, April 18, 2018

04/18/2018 0305 UTC – 14º 48.32′ N 41º 34.18´E

When I went to bed last night, it seemed like the wind was beginning to pick up some.  It didn’t last.  Overnight, there were a couple of times when I awoke and thought for a minute that I was anchored.  I checked the GPS this morning and my total distance for the past 24 hours was only 47 nm.  If there is no wind, I can’t sail.

This morning, the wind is still very light, 2-3 knots.  The direction keeps swirling around, but has settled to come from the northwest.  That’s not the optimum direction, but with the wind as light as it is, direction means little.  The forecast suggests that this light wind will continue for another day or so, before switching around to the south and picking up speed.  For now, I’m having a peaceful sail and I’m sure it’s much more comfortable out here on the water than on shore, which is mostly desert in this part of the world.

Day 5 – Thursday, April 19, 2018

I went to bed with the wind blowing almost 10 knots last night.  It seemed like I would make some good progress during the night.  I had set the helm to follow the wind because the wind was forecast to continue from the northeast.  Unfortunately, the wind had other plans.

At about 2:30 AM, I got an alarm from the autopilot telling me that I was too close to land.  The part of the Red Sea where I’m located has a lot of little islands.  When I checked the navigation plot, I was about 2 nm from a couple of small islands.  The problem was that the wind shifted and was now basically out of the north.  That’s not a great direction for the wind because that’s the direction I need to be headed.  I decided I was stay at the helm for a while and try to pick the best heading that will keep me from running aground.  I hoped that I could get back to sleep in an hour or two.

04/19/2018 0307 UTC – 15º 41.27′ N 40º 56.49′ E

I was able to get back to sleep after about an hour.  I had intended to sail north along the coastline on the west side of the Red Sea.   With the shift in the winds, I decided to sail out to the middle where the water is deeper and I don’t have to watch the navigation quite so closely.  I knew that this voyage was going to be a slow sail.  The prevailing winds mostly come out of the north, so today will not be the only day I’ll have to be creative in plotting my course.  In the past 24 hours, I’ve traveled only 64 nm.  This is definitely different from sailing in the Pacific Ocean.

Day 6 – Friday, April 20, 2018

I awoke this morning and found that I needed to steer toward the coast of Saudi Arabia because the wind had once again shifted around to the northwest.  The winds are still light and I’m lucky to get 70 nm in a day.  The wind forecast is not of much help because, for the past week, the forecast winds have not become the current winds.  There is frequently a calm area right in the middle of the Red Sea and I’m trying to guess which coastline I should be near to get the best wind.

04/20/2018 0709 UTC – 17º 9.05′ N 40º 46.87′ E

Day 7 – Saturday, April 21, 2018

04/21/2018 0311 UTC – 18º 2.23′ N 39º 47.43′ E

This morning finds me about 150 nm southeast of Port Sudan.  The wind is out of the northeast and I am looking at another possible calm spot ahead.  I’ve decided to head for Port Sudan, hoping to pick up some better winds along the coast.  The forecast, if it can be believed, is calling for a very strong wind out of the north in about 4 days.  That would mean some serious tacking for me, but I could also make better distance than I have been with the light winds.  When I reach Port Sudan tomorrow or the next day, I’ll decide if making a stop will be a good plan.

During the day, the wind shifted around, again, and is now blowing from the south-southeast.  The wind forecast completely changed during the past 12 hours.  Now, it is showing a strong southerly flow and it looks like there will be no need for me to head to Port Sudan.  I plotted a direct course to the entrance of the Gulf of Suez, which is now 620 nm away.  The GPS says that, at the current speed, I would reach there in 5-1/2 days.  I’m not so optimistic to think that this speed will continue.  This is the navigation plan du jour.

Day 8 – Sunday, April 22, 2018

04/22/2018 0312 UTC – 19º 21.93′ N 38º 59.66′ E

The wind continues to blow very favorably for me.  During the day, the wind speeds were 10-18 knots.  It’s so nice to not be sailing on a close reach, but I know that time is coming.  The weather forecast suggests that this weather pattern will continue for another 24 hours, then the wind may die in my general area, before being replaced by strong winds out of the north.

I considered my options and decided to change course to the east and head in the direction of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  I don’t intend to stop there, but getting on the east side of the Red Sea at this latitude might help me when the calm happens before the wind shifts around.  I’m a little over 500 nm from the Gulf of Suez.  I’ve made good distance the past 2 days, but I am expecting a hard sail for the second half of my Red Sea transit.

Day 9 – Monday, April 23, 2018

04/23/2018 0422 UTC – 21º 20.92′ N 38º 27.9′ E

I awoke this morning to find the sails close hauled on the port side.  Sometime early this morning, the wind shifted around, as it was forecast to do, and was now blowing strong out of the north.  I set the helm to follow the wind on a close reach port side, which gave me a bit more speed, but I will have to watch how close this gets me to the coast of Saudi Arabia.  The wind is forecast to be strong out of the north for the next several days, so it looks like I will be tacking back and forth across the Red Sea until the weather changes.  The wind direction has been wonderful the past couple of days.  Since yesterday morning, I’ve traveled over 120 nm.  I doubt my daily distance will be as good the next couple of days.

In the late afternoon, the wind speed really picked up.  The winds were still out of the north-northwest, but they were now blowing 15-20 knots, gusting to 25 knots.  I had been on the starboard tack most of the day, but I was far enough into the middle of the Red Sea that I could turn northeast onto the port tack.  My boat speed was up to around 7 knots.  Since the wind is coming directly from the direction of the Gulf of Suez, I will need to sail as close hauled as I can, while still getting decent speed.  I don’t think I’ll be sleeping solidly for the next few nights because I will have to watch when I need to change tack again.

Day 10 – Tuesday, April 24, 2018

04/24/2018 0402 UTC – 22º 50.14′ N 38º 16.59′ E

Shortly before sunrise, I was close enough to the coast of Saudi Arabia and I turned west to sail on the starboard tack.  If the wind was more directly out of the north, I could make better distance northward.  As it is, I’m getting farther north on the port tack than on the starboard.  I checked the weather forecast this morning and, what was going to continue for several days now has only a day left before the wind should die down again.  If the weather forecast holds true, and that’s a big if, I should be able to start sailing directly north once I get on the west side.  Today, the sea is a bit rough and the winds are fairly steady at 15 knots.  I have clear skies, so that’s a plus.

Day 11 – Wednesday, April 25, 2018

04/25/2018 0544 UTC – 23º 52.22′ N 36º 40.95′ E

Early this morning, wind shifted around to the north and almost completely died.  At about sunset, the wind picked up again and the direction eventually moved enough to the east to give me a pretty nice sailing angle.  It’s starting to look like I will reach Suez by this weekend.  So far, I’ve been lucky because I haven’t had to tack as much as I thought I would.

Day 12 – Thursday, April 26, 2018

04/26/2018 0303 UTC – 25º 15.6′ N 36º 3.05′ E

I saw a beautiful sunrise at about 5:00 AM local time this morning.  In my progression to the west, I have reached the time zone that is 2 hours ahead of UTC.  That puts me 9 hours ahead of my home time.  I was up earlier this morning because the wind had shifted around to come out of the northwest, which meant I was headed into the wind.  The autopilot alarm got me up and I changed my heading to the northeast.  In another 24 hours, I hope I will be able to head directly toward the Gulf of Suez.  I have only about 170 nm to go before I reach the mouth of the Gulf of Suez.

At sunset, I was right off the coast of Saudi Arabia.  I have a little over 100 nm to go before I reach the Gulf of Suez.  The wind is strong, but it is, again, blowing from the direction that I want to sail.  I’m having to sail southwest for a bit in order to get farther out to sea because the weather forecast shows a drastic drop in wind speeds along the coast in about 12 hours.  I hope that I can turn north again sometime after midnight.

Day 13 – Friday, April 27, 2018

04/27/2018 0401 UTC – 26º 26.86′ N 34º 48′ E

As of sunrise, I was still sailing to the west.  The wind forecast suggests that there will be a calm area north-northeast of me in about 12 hours.  I decided to sail a bit farther west before turning north.  By about 9:00 AM local, I turned north and began my final push to the Gulf of Suez, which is now a little over 70 nm north of me.

Day 14 – Saturday, April 28, 2018

04/28/2018 0334 UTC – 27º 8.52′ N 34º 4.48′ E

I didn’t sleep much last night.  Before midnight was alright, but after midnight, I was at the helm most of the time.  I was about 15 nm east of the coast of Egypt and I was about 20 nm south of the Gulf of Suez.  The wind had died.  There was only a slight breeze and, what wind there was, the wind was blowing from the direction I needed to go.  At one point early this morning, I decided to point the boat into the wind and I just drifted for a few hours.   A couple of hours before sunrise, the wind picked up, but it was still blowing from the Gulf of Suez.  I headed toward the coast of Egypt and then turned north when I was far enough west to be able to sail toward the mouth of the Gulf of Suez.

There is a good size island at the mouth of the Gulf, which I plan to sail around the northeast coast.  Google Earth only identifies the island by a name written in Arabic.  I used Google Translator and got the name Peptone.  So, I guess Peptone is the island I hope to sail by sometime today.

This last part of the voyage may be the most difficult.  The weather forecast is for almost no wind.  There is a chance for a favorable wind in 3 days time, then the wind is expected to die off again.  Even though I’m only a little over 150 nm from Suez, it may take me a while to get there with no wind in my sails.

As I continued to tack to port and to starboard, it occurred to me that making a stop would be a good idea before tackling the Gulf of Suez.  The wind forecast is not favorable for the next few days and I have been at sea for 2 weeks.  I checked my charts and found that I was only about 15 nm from the beach city of Hurghada, Egypt.  It is a resort city and I decided I would make a port call there.  It was time to take a break from my transit of the Red Sea.

At about 10:30 AM, I dropped anchor at the Azur Resorts.  Arriving at this location was a bit like getting an unexpected gift.  I had been prepared to be at sea for at least another week, so stopping at this resort was a great choice.  I will spend a few days here and watch the weather for a favorable window to continue my trip to Suez.

04/28/2018 0830 UTC – 27º 14.66′ N 33º 50.84 E