April 4, 2007
19º06.4 N, 37º20.3 E
Letter from Pacific Bliss in Suakin, Sudan
We are finally anchored in the Old City of Suakin harbor. We arrived at noon and are so glad to be here! It has taken us one week to sail (motor) the 250 miles from Massawa, Eritrea, a distance you landlubbers can make with your car in ½ a day. It is times like this when we say, “Why on earth are we doing this?” A good question. Because navigating the Red Sea is the only way to get to the Med, where we want to be this summer. And halfway up the Red Sea, where we are now, the wind blows south through the Red Sea from the Med, a wind tunnel effect. We are heading north. And that’s just the way it is. There’s no respite, just occasional periods in which it doesn’t blow quite so hard.
Our next destination is Port Galib, Egypt. When we manage to get there is anyone’s guess. It is less than 500 miles. With the right winds, we could do a few overnights and be there within a few days. With the vicious northerlies right on the nose, it could take us three weeks, hiding out in marsas and sneaking out with the calm morning winds, only to hide out among reefs by noon when the Force 5 or Force 6 (20-30 knot) winds rage again. All the negatives the sailors say about the fearsome Red Sea are true.
On the other hand, all the positives are true as well.
First of all, we will cherish the cruising camaraderie we have found here for the rest of our lives. In the first refuge anchorage, we spent three days waiting for a weather window. We experienced two very nice sundowners with the three other yachties there: Aldebaran (Irish), Li (Swedish), and Bolero (Dutch). Olivia had a birthday party for Patrick, and then two days later, we on Pacific Bliss hosted a wine-tasting party, depleting eight bottles from our Langkawi duty free stock.
The second positive is the islands themselves. Whenever the winds did die down, we were able to lower the dinghy and get out and walk around the islands. For example, at the second anchorage (Long Island) we enjoyed an afternoon on a wonderful white sand lagoon with flamingoes and a lone white-domed eagle. The snorkeling from the crescent reef off the tip of the island was magnificent, the best since the Similans of Thailand.
This anchorage in Old Suakin is an unexpected delight. It is truly like going back in time, perhaps for centuries. Suakin is a poor little fishing village backed by the ruins of an old port built entirely from coral bricks, perhaps 200 years ago, that are now crumbling down. We feel like we are living in history. The settlement here has a chequered history as a trading center since the 10th century B.C. It was the last slave trading post in the world, used as such until the end of WWII.
Sudan is the largest country, in terms of land mass, in all of Africa. It is also the 2nd poorest in the world. It is difficult for me to describe what a “market” or a “shop” looks like here. Think of “basic”, then go three levels below that. The water is hauled to the village here by donkey cart, so of course, there is no plumbing or sewage treatment. There is electricity in Suakin though, and believe it or not, we walked by many “shacks” that have satellite dishes outside.
We have taken a bus to Port Sudan, primarily to use the internet here. (There is none in Suakin). Our single sideband (SSB) has been decreasing steadily to the point where we can no longer receive or send SailMail or receive weather reports. Since we will be heading into the northerlies for perhaps quite some time, we wanted to make sure to keep in touch before we leave. So this is probably our last communication before Port Galib, Egypt.
Egypt to us right now is like an elusive Paradise. Civilization. We can’t wait.
Best regards to all,
Lois and Gunter