Saturday, February 25, 2017

Early departure

The next morning at Socotra Island (Yemen), we woke bleary eyed after a fitful night's sleep as the strong north wind made our exposed anchorage rough and rolly. Our plans for this day had been to tour the Island, buy some produce, and find internet connection but with the winds it wasn't an option to leave Sea Turtle unattended on a lee shore.

With forecast for more of the same, we felt it prudent to cut our visit short and set sail. It was a disappointment not seeing more features of this unique island - in particular the cartoon trees that grow no other place on earth except Socotra Island.

Dragon Blood Trees (copied from internet)

Cucumber Trees (copied from internet)

Before we could leave, we had to wait for our passports and check-out document and some requested produce. When they were eventually delivered, we paid up for the services and said our goodbyes as Denis our Agent jumped back into the bobbing panga to head to shore.

Saying goodbye

In the swells that were now rolling in, it was a challenge hoisting the outboard off the dinghy and then the dinghy up on deck while the boat was bucking and rolling. Then even more tenuous was getting the now well-buried anchor up. When winching in the chain, the nose of the boat heaved up, putting incredible strain on the gear.

To add to the dilemma, the anchor and/or chain seemed to be hooked fast on rock or coral, giving a sickening yank on the chain as the boat heaved up and down. When it wouldn't free up, Jordan backed off and donned fins and mask to dive down to see what was hanging things up.

Fortunately we manoeuvred to get the hook free and up. SV Jubilee was making the same escape at the same time and having a worse time of it.

We hoisted sails and were on our way at 13:30 February 20th. (We later learned that Jubilee had to hire a diver and a 40-HP boat to pull his anchor free.)

Catching a good breeze

When it came time to taste the tomatoes that Denis had purchased for us from Socotra, we were pleasantly surprised. They were the freshest and most succulent we have ever tasted! They were not at all bland as many supermarket tomatoes are today. Maybe it was the goat manure! In any event, what a treat.

It brought back memories of the best arugula we ever tasted from another remote island, Easter Island of all places. And the delicious pamplemousse of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.

We spent the first day and a half making some northing to be in the center of the Gulf of Aden before a more westerly downwind run straight to Djibouti. This tactic was to join the designated shipping lane where the 50+ freighters a day that transit this area are in the presence of multi-national navy warships to deter the threat of Somali piracy. We hugged close to the side of the lane watching as the big boys passed us going each way. The Gulf is flanked by Somalia to the south and Yemen to the north.

We were contacted by a passing French coalition warship asking if we were aware of the status of piracy in the area. We said we were and gave them our particulars before they wished us safe passage.

They were one of a few warships that passed us on their patrols. Their efforts have definitely curtailed piracy in this area to the extent that is has been attack free for the last couple of years. But it was a comforting feeling to know that warships were still patrolling the nearby areas to maintain the safe passage of us and major ship traffic.

Warship escort

Several times throughout our voyage through the shipping lanes, we heard the Navy warships n VHF requesting boats to report any suspicious activity. We also noticed a warship that seemed to be tailing us for several hours. Babysitting? LOL

We kept in regular contact with other sailing boats via HF radio even though we were well out of sight from each other, just to see how each was doing. How's the wind? Catch any fish? etc.

Speaking of fish, Jordan kept us fed with another fish similar to Skipjack Tuna but with meat like the Yellow Fin Tuna. We determined it was a Bigeye Tuna. It gave us fish steaks and fish cakes for a few days. And we were entertained by jumping dolphins once again...

Dolphin escort

Through our AIS, we identified freighter and cargo ships flagged from all over the world: Singapore, Malta, Spain, Japan, China, Denmark, Panama, Greece, Russia...Many noted "Armed Guards Onboard" on their AIS identification.

One day in a light following breeze, we put up our Thai-coloured spinnaker. Chanty definitely enjoyed the easy ride with the billowing sail. She loves to look out at the ocean waves too. We always have her harness on when she is in the cockpit during a passage as we don't want her to be another cat overboard that we have heard stories of from sad sailors.

Billowed brilliance

Are we there yet?

My chef Jordan decided it was time to bake bread once again. Then to use up excess produce, he continued with banana muffins and carrot cake. Days were a little cooler now so it wasn't too terribly dreadful to turn on the oven and the result was well worth it!

Galley goodies

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