Uligan Maldives to Djibouti

Thu 27 Feb 2020 14:17

11:36.02N 43:08.03E

We left Uligan, Maldives at 7.30am on Tuesday, 11th February with a strong Easterly wind blowing – perfect direction to get essential Northing in. Put the sails up once through the outer reef and we were off at 7-8 knots on a reach.

Day 2 and the wind died so motor went on for 12 hours. Day 3 and wind picked up, sea and swell increased and wind direction had changed to NNE so we sailed close reach which was bumpy and a little wet but speeds were good and we were reaching our daily target of approximately 150 miles a day and heading towards our westerly turning point from the Arabian Sea into the Gulf of Aden. The wind varied from 12 – 23 knots for the next 3 days and always seemed to pick up at night so were were often sailing with 2 reefs in the mainsail and a Genoa partly reefed, speeds varying from 5 - 8.5 knots, but there were no nasty squalls or rain. We were starting to see more big container ships and tankers and the AIS showed several to be carrying armed guards. Syd had plotted a course to take us away from the high risk areas until we entered the Security Channel and this added an extra 100 miles onto our journey but better safe! During this period we had regular dolphin visits and were amazed to watch feeding frenzies as the dolphins launched themsleves high in the air splashing down and scattering the fish into the hungry mouths of the rest of the school. These happy smiley creatures can certainly eat!

Day 6 and all was going well, Syd turned on the generator to boost the battery power and started to make water (the water maker has to be used every 3-5 days to avoid growth forming). There was a nasty burning smell coming from the generator – alert, problem!!!! Basically the generator is f***ed so no more water making and no generator! Luckily we have half a tank (250 litres) of fresh water and plenty of emergency drinking water bottles on board and as we have avoided showering this will easily last us up to Egypt.

Then the wind died . . . . . . . we tried sailing – Genoa on pole, Mainsail out with preventer then wing on wing configuration when what wind there was went dead behind but in the end we were drifting nowhere so on went the engine! At this point with a further approximately 700 miles to go until our enforced stop at Djibouti fuel had to be conserved so if there was a breath of wind we tried to sail. Dolphin visits had stopped but every night we had the most amazing show of phosphorescences in the water, patches of phosphorescence light glowed over the whole Ocean and the boat was lit up by an eerie phosphorescence glow. We headed on slowly.

Now we had no generator to charge the batteries we were reliant on the engine to do the job, that was when the second disaster happened – another burning smell and the alternator was smoking!!! This very expensive Balmar alternator is only just over 1 year old now and has already had 3 lots of diodes replaced, it has travelled the world, with and without us, spending a nice summer vacation in Cyprus having visited the manufacturers in the US at yet more expense where we were hoping it would be replaced. It has undergone rigorous security checks at Larnaca Airport which involved us being escorted into the high security area beneath Larnaca Airport, we have been escorted by men in black at security Tel Aviv and carried the dam thing from continent to continent and it now had the nerve to overheat!!!!!

So with no wind and no generator, the main alternator gone and house batteries which need replacing we have no option but to stop at Djibouti. The unplanned plan there being to buy a replacement alternator which can get us up to Port Ghalib in Egypt where hopefully the generator can be sorted and a new set of house batteries can be purchased for the final leg back to the Med.

We entered the Traffic Separation Zone in the Gulf of Aden which is monitored by MSCHOA – Maritime Security Centre Horn Of Africa and UKMTO – United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations at 5.00 am on Thursday, 20th February. The corridor is like a main highway with boat traffic driving on the right so the volume of huge tankers and container ships has rapidly increased and we have noticed batches of them coming through together. We are in this now until we take the right turn to Djibouti which will take us about 80 miles out of our way but has now become a necessary stop – not just for trying to purchase an alternator but to re-fuel as unless the wind picks up we are going to arrive with empty tanks! Highlight of this windless part for Syd was a huge humpback whale who appeared behind the boat – he heard a blowing sound and turned round fearing the dinghy was deflating but it was a whale a bit off course – it surfaced once more then disappeared heading in the direction of Yemen.

The wind picked up a couple of days later and it was more or less from dead behind so Mainsail out on one side and Genoa on the other, it picked up to 16 knots so for the last few days we had a fast downwind sail and arrived in Djibouti at 16.00 local time on Monday, 24th February with 200 litres of fuel left. Leaving check in formalities until the morning – first priority to drink one of our 2 remaining bottles of red wine – rapidly becoming a very very dry boat – then sleeeeeeeep . . . . .

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