Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Khor Shinab

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Khor Shinab, Sudan
25 Feet Great Holding - In the Middle of the Desert with A 20 Knot Blast Furnace Blowing Over Us. The spec in the photo is Billabong. Awesome Hiking with Amazing views and 1000's of Fossils

Overlooking the Anchorage

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Enroute to Khor Shinab, two pilot whales played like dolphins off our bow

Two Pilot Whales playing

Continue reading "Enroute"...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Jazarit Margarsam

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Reef N of Jazarit Margarsam, Sudan
30 Feet In patch between Coral
Good Snorkling and water clarity

Mid mast view of the Reef

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Marsa Inkeifal

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Marsa Inkeifal, Sudan, Africa
20 Feet Good Holding in Small Marsa with Mountains near the Coast

Mountains meet the Red Sea

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Marsa Fijab

Marsa Fijab, Sudan, Africa

45 Feet Good Holding
Nice Marsa with Camels, Flamingos and Ospreys

Billabong and the Camels

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sand Storms and the Land of the Silver Sun

Current Location: Suakin , Sudan (Northern Africa, Red Sea)
Current Position: 19 06.55 N 37 20.35 E
Next Destination: Going North up the Red Sea, towards Egypt

From Thailand to Sudan we've traveled over 4100 nautical miles. In two months we've crossed another ocean, been hammered by rough seas, been completely covered in dirt by "brown out" sand storms, and have passed through "Pirate Alley". We've avoided more large ships, taken on more green water, and have had more damage to Billabong and gear than in all of our previous four years of cruising. We've been astonished and intrigued beyond our imaginations by exotic locations. The people are some of the friendliest (and poorest) we've met on our trip, and once again we are amazed by the wonders of the world!!

Since leaving Thailand, including our time at anchorage, we have sustained an average speed of 3.0 knots -- in essence we have not stopped moving!!! We've covered so much in such a little amount of time that we've been struggling to keep up (as you may have noticed by the lack of BLOGs). To help us catch up, we bring you six journal pieces and three photo albums (instead of a BLOG):


January 17 - 29 2008: Northern Indian Ocean Crapola Begins
Thailand to Uligan, Maldives was not the pleasant trip we were hoping for, but at least there were fish! (repeat of BLOG posted 01/25/08, with added photographs)
Uligan, Maldives was a fantastic break from the Indian Ocean passages. The atoll anchorage was like many others, but the culture, people, and living arrangements were unique to those we'd seen in the South Pacific.
So much for the advertised excellent passages of the Northern Indian Ocean. With exception of the fish catching, this was one of Billabong's worst passages to date.
We didn't have much time for fun in Salalah, Oman as we were too busy trying to clean-up the mess created from the passage getting there.
The passage from Oman to Aden (Yemen) included sandstorms and some rough seas, but at least it was pirate free!
Aden, Yemen was an unexpected delight. We enjoyed the culture, the scenery, and the rest.


Now that we are farther north in the Red Sea we suspect we will have more time in anchorages waiting for weather, and during this time we hope to write more BLOGs and to keep you better posted on our travels! By the way, we've also added some new photos under My Favorite Photos left.

Continue reading "Sand Storms and the Land of the Silver Sun"...

Monday, March 17, 2008


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Suakin, Sudan, Africa
18 Feet Ok Holding
Just off ruins of Old Suakin

Ruins of Old Suakin

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Long Island

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Long Island, Sudan, Africa
50 Feet Good Holding
Lagoon has Flamingos and Nesting Osprey

African Flamingos in Flight

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Knor Nawarat

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Knor Nawarat, Sudan, Africa
25 Feet Great holding
160 Miles Ave 5.7 Knots
Another Low Island Anchorage where we met a local Bedouin who gave KT a ride on his camel

Kt gets her Camel Ride

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Night 1

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Southerly Winds North of Massawa

Those teeth

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sheikh El Abu

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Sheikh El Abu, Eritrea
25 Feet Hard Bottom Reef Anchorage

Sand Haze Sunrise

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Massawa, Eritrea Journal

Massawa, Eritrea, Africa

March 8 - 11, 2008
by KT

Busy War Torn Port Town

Battle Scars and Fishing Boats

March 8, 2008

Port Smythe to Massawa was an easy motor.  Although the winds were predicted to be southerly they came from the NE, luckily quite light and therefore not effecting our progress.  We entered through a narrow channel, first passing by a large port area for large ships, then past the local fishing fleet.  There was not a soul to be seen, ashore or on the water.  The entire area felt desolate and deserted.  Most the buildings we could see were either run down or bombed out.

 Eritrea and Ethiopia had been at war off and on for many years (starting as far back as 1961), the latest activity having just ended with a tense peace agreement in 2000.  Sadly, Massawa was left barely standing when in 1990 the Ethiopians almost leveled the city with bomb raids after losing the port to the Eritrean People’s Liberation Forces.  This was our first look at the destruction a war on one’s homeland causes, and it was devastating.

As we had arrived a bit late in the afternoon we decided to wait till the following morning before venturing ashore.  That evening was a most amazing sunset.  The sun glowed silver as hit the dusty horizon and the reflections on the water of both the sun and other yachts was magnificent.

March 9, 2008

Since Indonesia we have become more and more accustomed to hearing the early morning prayer of the Muslims.  This morning Chris (as I was still sleeping in bed) was treated to a mix of cultures and religions as he heard Catholic church bells ringing, African music playing with harmonized voices singing along, and of course the song-like prayer emitted from the mosque loud speakers.  All while the red morning sun rose above the dusty African town.  He thought it was extremely cool.

The first order of business, of course, was checking in.  It was easier for just the boys from the four yachts to go into customs and immigration.  Since it was Sunday customs was closed, but we were able to at least get our shore passes.

 As with the previous day, the town felt deserted – we saw hardly a single person walking the streets, and since it was Sunday no shops were open.  Back in the early 1930s Massawa was the busiest port on the East African coast, but you would never guess that now.  Beneath the rubble and ruins a discernible Italian influence exits.  In the second half of the 19th century, Italy invested heavily in the colonization of Eritrea, and it shows in the remaining architecture.  But not a single building dating from that period stands without some type of battle scar.

Amazingly, for a town barely standing due to years of war, and for a country known as one of the poorest in the world, the people of Massawa are extremely friendly and no one hassled or attempted to hustle us.

Walking along the dusty streets and alleys was an experience.  Although the town is destroyed it still exudes tremendous ambience.  It is unique with buildings made of coral rock with wooden screened windows.  Down many of the alleyways we could hear festive music or see people gathered for Sunday lunch, chattering away and laughing loudly.  Massawa is primarily Muslim, however instead drab black burkas the women wear colorful dresses with brightly patterned scarves.

We were mostly approached by children … always the most outgoing.  You know that your in a poor area when kids ask for pencils and pens rather than candy and clothes.  A couple of older boys (around 12) walked with us a for a bit, and eventually got up the courage to ask some questions.  Surprisingly the thing they were most interested in was our political views on the upcoming US presidential election.  Who did we prefer?  Who did we think would win?  And so on.  They even offered their opinions on who they liked and why.  And of course they had to give us the usual “we don’t like Bush” comment that we now expected whenever we said we were from America.  It wasn’t until recently that I really began to understand what it means to be from one of the world leading countries.  In my prior life I was never one interested in politics or policy.  I never really thought what I or America did (in most matters) had that much of an influence on the world as a whole.  But here I was in a country that most people don’t probably even know exists and these 12 year old boys could tell me more about the upcoming election than probably most American college students!  So much for my theory on being inconspicuous!

March 10, 2008

It was a mixture of tasks for us today.  In the morning Chris went back ashore to try and clear-in with customs, but nothing was accomplished as the official didn’t like that we weren’t using an agent (which cost money) and so told him (and the others) to come back later.  We weren’t too concerned as he hadn’t taken any of our paperwork, so worst case was that we’d just leave, still having our clearance papers from Aden.  During his jaunt ashore he passed out pencils to the mobs of children … once word gets out the rumor spreads like wildfire and soon you are surrounded!

A large part of our day was spent with various chores around the boat, Chris fixed our VHF antenna and added more fuel to the tanks while I cleaned up the boat and worked on our website and photograph organization.

 Later in the afternoon I joined the other women for a trip to the market just outside of town.  It is hard to blend in when (a) you are white and (b) you are with three other white women and one white man.  From the moment we stepped out of the taxi all eyes were on us.  The local markets are always a fantastic place.  It is there that you get a true feel for the people, watching them shop and mingle amongst themselves.  Many time Chris and I go to the markets just for exploring and don’t end up even buying anything.  You never know what to expect and they are so different from any place back home.  This market was small, but still interesting … men hand weaving beds, donkey carts bringing in supplies, women selling colorful fabrics and vegetables.  (Photo above/left by Stardust)

The one thing about the Arab countries that you’ll read over and over again in all the guide books (besides covering every inch of your body if you’re a women) is that most of the locals do not like having their photograph taken, and that you should always ask before taking the photo, especially if it is of a women.  Because of this Chris and I tend to be extremely consciousness and hesitant about pulling the camera out.  I can’t stand the thought of further embellishing the stereotype of rude white tourists ignorant of their surroundings.  It’s too bad really because these same countries have some great photograph opportunities.  It seems amongst our cruising friends that we are the most sensitive and conservative in this regard.  Just about everyone we know just clicks away, sometimes asking, sometimes not.  Although I’ve seen some harsh looks here and there none of the locals have gotten overly cranky from this, so who knows maybe they don’t care as much as the guide books say.  Anyway I only point this out because it might be noticed that in our PDF photo albums many of the photos are not taken by us, and some might wonder why.

After the market our taxi driver (now our hired guide) took us to another small shopping area that consisted of four small shopping stalls.  There was nothing much of interest, although we did try and buy bread rolls until we discovered that there were only four left (as this is the only bread we’d seen in Massawa we figured we ought to leave it for the locals).

March 11, 2008

In Massawa you get a 48-hour visa for free, after that it is $40 per person.  Originally we had planned on staying longer and taking the inland trip up to the capital, Asmara.  The city is supposed to be equivalent to a 1960’s southern Italian town, and was not as touched by the bombings of the war.  And the bus ride travels through some scenic mountain areas.  In the end we opted not to go.  Unfortunately two yachts who had visited Massawa just a week before us were both boarded at night, one was robbed (the other woke up and scared away the would-be thief).  Because of this we didn’t feel comfortable leaving the boat overnight without someone watching it.  And since we weren’t going to Asmara it didn’t seem worth the extra visa money just to stay in Massawa.  So, our 48 hours were up and we were once again off.

In order to check out we had to re-anchor Billabong in the main port area and pick up immigration to come aboard to check for stowaways.  I found this a little ironic as it seems to me that most countries are worried about people illegally entering their country not leaving it.  It’s not a big deal though, and they were pretty quick about – the only real hassle is that we couldn’t depart early because we had to wait for them to open and then do all the paperwork and boat checks the morning of our departure.  This limited our options for our next destination.  But the one thing we’ve learned cruising is to go with the flow and adjust to make it work!

Leaving Massawa I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I am to never have been through a war on my homeland.  It is good to see (and know from various readings) that Massawa is finally starting to rebuild and more and more business is starting to come back into the port.
Continue reading "Massawa, Eritrea Journal"...

Friday, March 07, 2008

Passage Blurbs: Mersa Dudu to Shumma Is

Shumma Is, Eritrea, Africa

152 nM, 28.5 hours, Ave 5.3 Knots

Reef Anchorage - Shumma Is

Night 1 - March 6, 2008

20-30 Knots Steep Seas. Good fishing, also caught a GIANT Trevelli- 75+ Lbs

Nice Spanish Mackerel

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Passage Journal: Mersa Dudu to Shumma Is

March 6 - 7 , 2008

What we soon began to learn about the Red Sea as that there is either no wind or a lot of wind.  We departed Dudu on the 6th for an overnight trip to Port Smythe.  Throughout the day and night we’d either be motoring in about 5 kts or sailing reefed down in about 25 kts.  There was rarely anything in-between.  The good news is that since we were still in the Southern section of the Red Sea we still had southerly winds, so everything came from behind.

We caught two more fish, a gigantic Trevally and a good-sized Spanish Mackerel.  After our fishing draught of Indonesia we were in heaven!

The anchorage at Port Smythe pretty much sucked.  It was a reef anchorage which didn’t allow for much protection in higher winds (which we had by the time we arrived).  It was safe and mostly comfortable, but too rough to really do anything.  Supposedly there is good snorkeling to be had there, but we didn’t get the chance.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mersa Dudu, Eritrea - Red Sea

March 3 – 5, 2008

After two nights at sea we arrived at our first Red Sea anchorage, Mersa Dudu.  High volcanic peaks poked out from an otherwise barren landscape.  The wind accelerated through these peaks and into the anchorage, resulting in more wind inside the anchorage than out!  The anchorage was still comfortable, with now real chop, but loud with 25kts whistling through our rigging.

I had read some compare the landscape of Mersa Dudu to the moon.  I didn’t see it.  To me it is the desert plain and simple – isolated, dry, and brown.  Then again I’ve never been to the moon.

Ironically we hadn’t really given much thought to where we were going to be – it was always just “the Red Sea”.  It wasn’t until Mersa Dudu that it dawned on us that we were actually in Africa, the place I’d wanted to visit since I was a kid.  Another continent, another country.  For us this was when we truly realized that the Red Sea would not be some place to speed through but rather a place to explore.  Later we acknowledged that there were two types of cruisers traversing through – those that would just go-go-go, perhaps only considering Egypt as any type of real destination, using the Red Sea merely as a highway, the anchorages as pit stops, and those that saw the Red Sea (and its many anchorages/countries) as a destination in itself.  Who would take the time to see and explore.  The other great thing about our realization was that we finally remembered that we have a Lonely Planet Guide for Africa!  All this time we thought we’d just have to wing it, but all of a sudden Chris looks in our big shelf and says “hey this is where we are!”

Not that we really need Lonely Planet to tell us that we were currently in “an inhospitable volcanic and rock desert” or that this area was “desolate and harsh in the extreme”.  Still it was fun to learn that we were currently in a region reputed to be one of the hottest places on earth!

We spent three days in Mersa Dudu, mostly waiting for better weather.  Regrettably Chris and I both came down with something (most likely food poisoning) and spent a large portion of our time sick as dogs and unable to go ashore.

Our friends hiked to the top of one of the smaller volcanic peaks, which offered great views over the bays (photo right by Stardust).  On our third day Chris was healthy enough to at least go ashore and do some beach & rock walking.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Passage Blurbs: Yemen to Mersa Dudu

Mersa Dudu, Eritrea, Africa

Volcanic Formations of Mersa Dudu

Night 2 - March 2, 2008

Officially in the Red Sea, First sites of Africa to port. Great fishing caught four Mahi mahi in 15 minutes, only kept one

More Mahi Mahi

Night 1 - March 1, 2008

Underway up the Red Sea, Riding a southerly while we can

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Passage Journal: Yemen to Mersa Dudu

March 1 – 2, 2008

Trip Summary - 221 nM, 44 Hours, Ave 5 knots

Our passage from Aden to Mersa Dudu was mostly, thankfully, uneventful.  It was a combination of motoring in no winds to sailing reefed down in 30 kts.  But even the higher winds and rolly seas were not too bad as they all came from behind.

The Bab al-Mandab Straits held up to their reputation of being windy, but again it was nothing unmanageable.  We had to once again cross a major shipping channel, but compared to the Singapore channel this was nothing.  It also helped that we now had AIS so could see the ships, their courses, and speeds from over 30 nautical miles out.

Just after crossing the Straits Chris threw out a fishing line and by 10am on our second morning we had a nice Mahi-Mahi.  We were traveling with a few other boats who all threw out fishing lines after we announced we caught something.  Amazingly within minutes three of the four boats had a fish!  Not even a full day into the Red Sea and it was already living up to its reputation for good fishing.

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