Thursday, June 26, 2008

Passage Blurbs: Hurghada to Suez

June 19th - 26th

Lots and Lots of Tacking in 25+ Knots 
As the crow flies: 175 nM
Actual sailing route: 268 nM

52.8 Nm to Suez

Summary: 12 hours, 52.3 miles

We couldn't have asked for a better day. We didn't know if we'd make it all the way to Port Suez, but we departed at 4am thinking that if the weather was calm enough, we just might make it. What we got was unbelievable. Flat, and I mean FLAT, seas and light-light winds. We were happier than pigs in, well you know the saying. At first it was hard to believe or enjoy as I just kept waiting "for the other shoe to drop", but as the day went on and the seas only got calmer and Port Suez got closer I couldn't help but get excited ... we were really go to make it!!! We averaged 4.4 kts and didn't have to tack once (because it was light enough that we could just motor straight there).

Another Rest day - June 25, 2008

Another 27 knots. Today was a great day we sailed 46 miles but covered 40 this time, wind never got above 25. only 50 miles to go!!

Summary: 10 hours 10 mins, 40 miles

The Red Sea is a huge mind game. With weather forecasts so far off and given that the winds and swell can pipe up within 20 minutes, we were forever wondering if we were doing the right thing and second guessing ourselves. As the wind started to die on the night of day 6, we asked each other, should we go now and go overnight? But what if it picks back up, we'd have nowhere to duck into at night and then we'd be out there, at night, not something we were keen to do. But on the other hand what if it's calm all night and the wind picks up in the morning? What if the weather window isn't as long as we think it is and by remaining anchored for a day we end up stuck somewhere for two weeks? What if, what if, what if???? And so it made it hard to ever relax. Even at night I'd wake up whenever the wind changed, wondering if we should be out there, or sometimes grateful that we weren't, and stressed about what the morning would bring.

The morning of Day 7 brought good news. 16 kts. WOW! While it got up to 27 kts, most of the day hovered around 20. What we couldn't understand (but weren't about to complain) were the somewhat flat seas. Given the wind direction there was nothing to protect us from the swell, and it was blowing around 22 kts a large part of the day, the same wind we'd had previous days and encountered huge square waves, but on this day, the swell was that of 12-15 kts of wind, not 20-25. We couldn't understand it, we theorized and theorized but in the end we just gave up and enjoyed the sail. It was truly a terrific day, we only had to tack 12 times, sailed 46 miles to go 40, and averaged 4.5 knots ... so far it looked as though we'd made the right choices by staying put on the two high wind mornings.

Reef Anchorage - June 23, 2008

Had a nice days rest.. it was blowing 27 when we went to leave .. so we stayed!! Sailed 45 nM to cover 32 today with 27 tacks in mostly 23-27 knots. Still looking for a break in the weather!!

Summary: 9 hours, 32 miles
Waiting seemed to pay off. We started the morning with 16-20 kts, and although it picked up throughout the day (22-28kts), the seas remained manageable. Many months before we had read about the waves and swell of the Red Sea, and unfortunately near Port Bernice we experienced just how bad they can be. The thing about the Red Sea is that the seas build up almost instantly and form these square waves that knock you back as if hitting a mack truck. Trying to motor into such swell is nearly impossible, unless willing to travel at about 1-2kts. However, what we found is that if we motor sailed, keeping the seas at an angle and using the wind to give us extra drive, we actually made way and the ride was more comfortable. The downside was that we usually needed to hand steer in order to stay tight to the wind and tacking required more work than lazy sailors (such as us) tend to like! In total we tacked 26 times, sailed 44.9 miles to go 32 miles, and both were feeling a bit worn out when we arrived. But we had made 32 miles, which was a great day for us (in this weather) and had managed to average 5 kts. We were exhausted but happy.

Again it blew all night and was already averaging 25+ kts when we woke up to go. There was a local in a motorboat that was anchored near us and he had stopped by to see how we were doing the night before. He too was going to Port Suez, and when we looked out and saw that he wasn't going anywhere we figured that we should trust local knowledge and stay put!

El Tur - June 22, 2008

We crossed to El Tur (45nM).. Even though we are only 1/3 of the way there, I think 1/2 of the hard stuff is behind us!! We'll keep you posted, it sure doesn't feel like it with 20-25 blowing right from were we need to go. 120 nM to go!!

So much for the lighter winds theory - the wind blew above 20kts all night and we woke up to whitecaps in the anchorage. The Red Sea looked ugly. At 6am it was already blowing 25-28kts. We decided we needed a day of rest.

3am start ..(hey it was calm .. 10 knots) Made it to Zeitiya (25.2 nM). From here we will jump to the other side for "calmer" weather. Forecasts are way off says 6 knots we're getting 25-30 across the deck.. Ah the Red Sea!!

Leg 1 Summary: Geisum to Zeitiya; 4 hours 15 minutes, 14.7 miles
This time we departed at 3am, and it paid off. We took the inner route through the reefs and for the first few hours it was nice and calm with little wind. The winds started picking up as we neared the anchorage so the last hour and half was a bit long, but overall we were quite happy.

Leg 2 Summary: Zeitiya to El Tor; 5 hours 15 minutes, 25.2 miles
I must say we were THRILLED with this leg. Zeitiya was where we jumped across the channel; meaning no protection from the swell, we'd be taking on the full brunt of the Red Sea, and have to avoid huge ships at the same time. We waited until the afternoon so that the tide was flowing with the wind (therefore, hopefully, resulting in less swell). When we departed it was blowing 22 kts, we both wanted to wait, but also knew that this was probably as good as it was going to get and we needed to just suck it up and get out there. It was better than we'd dared hope. We motor-sailed across at a pretty decent angle (not going backwards anyway) and averaged 4.8 kts all the way to El Tor, even with 20+ kts! We really couldn't believe it. El Tor was a big milestone for us, as we were now across the channel and people (and forecasts) had reported the winds were a bit lighter once past El Tor.

Part 2 .. 15 nM Took advantage of a Rea Sea Calm (20 knots) to move around the point. It will be slow going but I think We'll make it.

Part 1 .. 15 nM stop a little ways up after a 30+ knot pounding..1/2 mi of fetch and it still killed us.

Leg 1 Summary: 1 hour 15 mins, 4 miles
Leg 2 Summary: 3 hours 10 mins, 11 miles

We departed Endeavor around 6am hoping to make a few miles before the wind picked up. We didn't get very long, about 20 minutes later we had 25-30 kts across the decks. We kept telling ourselves that it shouldn't be so bad as we were less than 2 miles from a huge mountain that should've been protecting us for any big fetch. Nothing about the Red Sea is logical, even with just 1 mile of fetch we had huge square waves and we depressingly watched as Billabong's speed sank and sank until we weren't even making 1.5 kts! Finally we caved-in and headed off to an anchorage. At this point I was seriously thinking that we'd just have to go back to Hurghada and wait for next year. We looked at the weather forecast and it was all the same, 6-12 kts for the next few days, if 6-12 meant 22-27 than how would we ever make it???

The winds were predicted to lighten up in the afternoon so we waited, and waited, and waited, but it was still blowing 20kts. Luckily, thankfully, friends of ours were coming from Hurghada and reported only having 15 kts. We figured the mountains must be accelerating the winds in the anchorage, so at 3pm we joined them and were extremely relieved to find that it had indeed lightened up (to about 15-20kts). There is an inner route, through the reefs, that we planned on taking but it did require sticking our nose out into the channel (no protection from swell) for about 5 miles. We gave it a go that afternoon, and were thrilled to find that we could actually make way, even in 20 kts. Our faith was restored that we could actually make it to Port Suez!

In total it had taken us 4 hours and 25 minutes to go 15 miles, but the real kicker is that we had only gone 5 miles as the crow files!!!

Finally Back out Here .. This Will be a rough trip. The first protected leg took us 7 hours to go 24 miles.. uggh. Oh well I guess it's just part of the job!!

Summary: 7 hours, 22.7 miles

For the most part it was, at least, a comfortable day. We were in the protection of some reefs so we didn't have big seas, and therefore we were able to motor almost straight to our destination (rather then short-tacking inside the reefs). On the other hand we were now a bit worried about the days to come ... if we were going this slow in protected waters, just how slow would we be going in the open waters without the reefs to break up the swell???

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