Over the last week the rally yachts have been cruising the coast of Northern Sudan, which is lined with fascinating anchorages, full of wildlife above and below water. In Khor El Marob there were dugongs (sea cows) as well as sharks and the usual abundance of colourful reef fish. We didn't go ashore as the wind was generally strong. There was a small settlement there and we were hailed by officials wanting to see our papers but it wasn't safe to venture out in our dinghy.
Our next stop was another deep inlet called Khor Shinab. We had a fast day sail there, managing to negotiate the reefs going out and in with the help of downloaded photos from Google Earth (which show the deep water very clearly). In the evening we went ashore and climbed nearby Quoin Hill. The views were wonderful. Apart from the coast road and wildlife, the area was deserted.
Khor Shinab: view towards the sea
Lynn Rival (centre) at anchor in front of the mangrove tree
The geology inland is colourful, if stark
In the night we heard a bang on deck and in the morning found pieces of our masthead tricolour light lens in the cockpit. When the wind dropped Paul went up the mast to check out what was left and found the base and bulb of the light intact. Other yachts reported that they had heard the local ospreys on deck in the night and we concluded that one had managed to lift off the tricolour lens and then dropped it.
Paul took time out for photography while up the mast
The wind eased for a couple of days so we stayed in Khor Shinab, doing a few chores, rather than press on to some of the other anchorages. One of the spinnaker winches desperately needed servicing and Paul is still refurbishing our old anenometer. In the calm weather we were also able to do a bit more bottom-scrubbing. The weed is a constant problem here and slows us down a lot. There is always plenty to do and the days pass very quickly, especially as it gets dark at about 5pm.
Sunset at Khor Shinab
We've been eating quite a lot of fish lately, thanks to the skills of other ralliers. Chris on Reckless regularly catches tuna and other fish large enough to feed others and make it worthwhile going ashore for a BBQ. Lo and David on Mistral caught their first fish on the way to Khor Shinab, and had a supper party for the 10 of us still in the anchorage a few days ago. David reckons the new fishing gear he brought back from the USA after Christmas made the difference. Frans and Rombout on Lunamare have some serious fishing gear and regularly catch large fish weighing 6-8 kilos. Yesterday they caught two and distributed most of it to others in the anchorage. Some (not us) are beginning to cry "not more tuna"!
>From Khor Shinab we did a night passage, leaving before the light dimmed and going outside the offshore reefs, covering about 100 nautical miles. The wind had picked up again to F5 so we sailed all the way downwind as usual. It wasn't particularly comfortable as there were enough waves to make the boat roll, but we arrived at our destination, Marsa Fijab, in the morning light. The entrance was not too difficult as we had timed our arrival to have the sun behind us and with Rachel up the ratlines we were able to eyeball our way in to a comfortable spot for anchoring. A few of the rally yachts have already had close encounters with reefs and we are taking no chances.
The best grazing is on the cays (sandy islands) near the marsa entrance
At the entrance to Marsa Fijab we saw camels grazing on the small sandy islands and soon after dropping anchor the local camel herder/fisherman, Sharif, came to visit us in a wooden canoe powered by a plastic shovel. He invited us to his shack for coffee so, despite being tired from our night sail, we went ashore and had some of the lovely spicey coffee they drink here. We were joined by two of his sons, Mohammed and Khalid, and they didn't ask for anything but gratefully accepted whatever we gave them. They wanted to sell us a camel ride but we settled on a delivery of eggs instead.
Sharif in his shack
We are now about 30 nautical miles north of Port Sudan, which we will not be visiting, and 50 from Suakin, where we are due to arrive next Tuesday. We will be sad to move on from this area. Despite the difficult navigation through the reefs, the anchorages are comfortable and scenery is stunning.