Happy New Year

Mystic of Holyhead (successor to Lynn Rival)
Rachel and Paul Chandler
Sun 6 Jan 2008 06:51
21:49.45N 36:52.00E

The market in El Quseir: note all the trucks that have replaced the donkeys and carts

Christmas was a hectic week back home, seeing just a few friends and relations (the lucky ones who had been landed with purchase orders and deliveries of stuff for us to bring back).  Paul's father had to put up with us making things, such as wooden surrounds for flyscreens and courtesy flags for the countries we'll be visiting in the next few months.  As usual he beat us most of the time at scrabble.

Not being used to the English winter we were glad to get back to the mild winter climate of Egypt.  Our flight took us back to Hurghada, where we spent the night in a hotel and then onward to Port Ghalib (3 hours' drive in a hire car).  Paul was stopped for speeding which added a bit of time (and cost!) to our journey.  Most of the rally boats were still in Port Ghalib and looking forward to a New Year's Party in the local hotel but we were keen to move on as soon as possible.  The next stop on the rally is Suakin, just south of Port Sudan and there are lots of interesting-looking anchorages in between. 

Port Ghalib: just a very small, and completed, part of this massive development in the middle of nowhere

After another two hectic days getting organised, we left on New Year's Eve.  Our destination was uncertain depending on progress as it's important to approach these anchorages in good daylight.  Dealing with the formalities of leaving Egypt meant that we didn't get away until mid-day and the good sailing winds we experienced before Christmas had disappeared. After a short time sailing in light winds we had to resort to motoring and either way we were not making good progress because of all the marine life that has once again managed to cling to the hull during our stay in Port Ghalib.  We also had some (seasonal) current against us.  Slowly we made our way south, missing possible anchorages because the timing was wrong.  The reefs are poorly charted and the hazards many so it's essential to approach the coast in daylight with the sun overhead or behind the direction you are heading.  After 48 hours we decided to continue on to the first anchorage across the border in Sudan, Khor El Marob, and fine-tuned our arrival accordingly.

Newly made and now hoisted Sudanese courtesy flag

So much for an uneventful 3 days at sea.  We saw little the whole way, just the occasional dive boat and one or two distant commercial ships.  As ever, our attempts at fishing were fruitless.   Worse still, our newly purchased lure, which we had bought at some expense in Hurghada, disappeared in the night.  Some big fish is no doubt suffering from indigestion.  

It was disappointing to motor most of the way but the calm weather meant that our approach through reefs into one of the fascinating inland anchorages along this coast was relatively easy.  Khor El Marob is a deep inlet which is navigable about 3 nautical miles into the desert.  We were expecting it to be deserted but there seems to be a small settlement nearby.  When we arrived there was a herd of camels on the shore and later we were approached by a fisherman in a small boat asking for a replacement spark plug for his outboard.  An osprey has it's nest not far away and circles around from time to time. 

Khor El Marob, Northern Sudan

The scenery is quite breath-taking and quite different from the rather stark desert along the coast of Egypt.  The hills are more varied in colour and there are wind-swept bushes making it seem all together more what we expected Africa to look like.

A day after we arrived we were joined by 5 other rally boats and yesterday 3 more arrived.  The wind has been strengthening for the last few days so those arriving after us had a better sail but more tricky approach to the anchorage.  We are now officially in the tropics having crossed the Tropic of Cancer and had been experiencing the effect of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, bringing light winds, overcast skies and higher temperatures.  We even had a bit of rain.  The ITCZ has moved south again and the northerly winds and clearer skies have returned.