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Date: 13 Dec 2007 13:09:29
Title: How the wind blows

26:06.12N 34:17.15E

Any excuse for a celebration: on Wednesday 5th Elly and Per on S/Y Sybaris treated everyone to gluewein and special cake on the eve of St Nicholas's day.  This is the time when Santa Claus visits with presents in certain parts of Europe; the rest of us have to wait until the 25th.  We are now coming to terms with the fact that Christmas is almost upon us, having avoided the usual build-up since September.

One of the facilities that was working for most of the time at Hurghada marina was the wi-fi connection.   It provided a much needed opportunity to update the rally website with news and photos (see www.vascodagamarally.nl).   Edith on S/Y Alondra did most of the work and it now includes links to all the other yachts' sites/blogs.

We finally left Hurghada on the 6th and made our way south to an anchorage called Makhadiq just 15 nautical miles away.  Hurghada is surrounded by fabulous reefs for divers but they are nail-biting things for sailors.  We have rigged ratlines, so that when sailing or motoring close to reefs one of us can climb up the rigging to get a better view.  The charting of the reefs around here is reasonably reliable but further south it becomes much less reliable so we need to become experts at eyeballing the many hazards.


The sun doesn't always shine in Egypt (S/Y Sepia leaving Hurghada marina)

We've been having good sailing for the last week or so, with the wind behind us as usual.  We're getting used to downwind sailing all the time: a consequence of the fact that we are heading south and generally the winds are northerly (around F4-5, sometimes stronger).  Our 26 year old anenometer has been reading much more than that at times, so needs fixing.  Paul has been trying to fix it, including by going up the mast twice to deal with the masthead fitting.  We do have a more modern anenometer but it not as easy to read at a glance.

The coast here is undergoing a boom in tourist development and the anchorage at Makhadiq was part developed and part building site.  Most of the developments are quite attractive, especially when compared with Turkish coastal development, but you wonder where all the tourists are going to come from.  The Red Sea mountains make a beautiful backdrop when the air is clear and safaris to explore inland make a change for the divers.


Safaga resort anchorage

After a couple of nights at Makhadiq we had another short sail south to Ras Abu Soma, a large bay just north of the town of Safaga.  There is plenty of room in various anchorages and most of the rally yachts lingered there for a few days.  Like Hurghada, Safaga is a popular diving resort and the keen divers on the rally made the most of it.  During the day, the most popular reefs are easy to spot as they are covered by dive boats (motor boats carrying divers).  Safaga is also a very windy spot and popular with windsurfers, kitesurfers and the like - another hazard to avoid when manoeuvring but great fun to watch when at anchor.

We have to keep reminding ourselves that it is now December so the fact that it seems too chilly to swim is not surprising.  In fact, the water is warm but the wind makes you feel chilled as soon as you get out.  We have been surrounded by wonderful coral reefs but have yet to do much snorkelling.  We did go ashore to visit Safaga and found it quiet, with few tourists around at this time.

>From Safaga we had a longer passage to the next harbour so left in the early hours of the morning.  By this time we were anchored in a spot that was surrounded by dive boats on moorings with lines criss-crossing everywhere and some unused ones floating on the surface.  At 2am there was little wind so we were able to lift our anchor carefully but still managed to pick up someone else's.  Fortunately it was only a small one so we managed to untangle it quite easily.  We then had to pick our way out of the anchorage watching out for floating lines.  Finally, before we got to the open sea, we had to steer clear of various reefs, some of which were lit (after a fashion and rarely as shown on the chart!) and others not. 

We were rewarded with good winds all the way for our 50 nm passage to El Quseir, one of the prettiest places we've yet to see on the Red Sea coast of Egypt.  The harbour is quite small and dilapidated but includes a beach with seafront cafes, bouganvillia and palm trees.  We averaged 7 knots so arrived in time for a late breakfast.  Almost immediately we were visited by the local military who inspected our papers.  When we then tried to go ashore to look around the town we were told we had to wait for permission from the "general" who would be with us in 1 hour.

We were the second rally yacht to arrive in El Quseir, after Idyllic.  Later in the morning and afternoon we were joined by 11 other yachts so the harbour and nearby anchorage soon became very full.  Eventually we all got permission to go ashore.



Views of El Quseir: note the satellite dishes tuned in to receive broadcasts of English football matches!

We have now covered over 1000 nautical miles on the rally.  In the early stages we
were doing a lot of motoring, but now the proportion sailed is looking more respectable. 
Sailing statistics:
- total 1083 nm in 226.9 hours
- sailing 555 nm in 112 hours (5 knots average)
- motor-sailing 83 nm in 16.1 hours (5.2 knots average)
- motoring 445 nm in 98.9 hours (4.5 knots average - includes manoeuvring in harbours/anchorages)
- ports/anchorages visited 24 (Turkey 9, Cyprus 1, Egypt 14)



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