Sunday, February 19, 2017


Our first planned stop on our passage from the Maldives to the Red Sea was the rarely visited large island of Socotra just off the point of Somalia and 150 miles off the Horn of Africa. On the 10th day of our journey just as we were pulling into the anchorage, Jordan suddenly jumped as he realized there was a good-sized fish on the line. Slowly reeling it in, it was indeed a 7 kg (15 lb) Yellow Fin tuna. You are always a welcomed arrival if you have fresh fish to share with the other sailors.

Yellow Fin catch

More than she can chew...

,,,and more than we can eat

We set anchor at 09:30 on February 19th (N12°41.105' E054°04.793') in an open roadstead alongside fellow sailors SV Jubilee and catamaran Lazy Jack. Rugged mountains and lofty sand dunes loomed large above us and other indigenous working vessels.

Wish we had a dune buggy!

Once again, we were required to check in with the aid of an Agent. We hailed the Russian Agent Denis on Channel 72 and were soon approached by a panga with Denis' helper Mohammed and a man from Port Control. A minimum amount of paperwork was done and a disproportionate large fee for exactly who knows what was apparently a requirement. We were at their mercy.

Mohammed was very accommodating, offering to arrange for laundry services and any sort of Island tour. Our first question was cell phone coverage with data plan to access internet. We could only get internet after 17:00 (power is off till then) at Denis' house by suing his WiFi. At this time, no SIM cards are available for the local public but may be in the future.

With daylight to spare, we headed to shore, landing on the beach in a slight surf. From there, Mohammed and the officer drove us to town about 10 km down the coast for a look around. On the way, travelling on the paved road, we noticed a fair amount of construction scattered over the rocky barren land roaming with goats. Impressive rock masonry was juxtaposed with trash, mostly of the plastic type strewn about.

Once in the dense town center, the roads became rough and much of it unpaved. Lots of pedestrians milled about or were going about their daily activities but what was conspicuous was the almost total absence of women. What ones we did see were cloaked in black berquas with only the eyes showing. It was all men and goats at about a 1:1 ratio.

When we inquired where the women were and if they were required to dress that way, we were told that they stay at home doing the domestic chores and as for berquas only of black, they apparently wish to dress that way. It was the Muslim way. Okay, enough said.

Typical Socotra street scene (copied from Google Earth)

Rather than pants, the typical dress for men is the wrap-skirt called a futa. Most wore scarf type of affair on their head that was wrapped like a loose turban when it wasn't just slung over the shoulder. Many men walked along holding hands with their buddies.

Being there at lunch hour was good timing as we wanted to sample their island cooking. Of the couple places available, we chose a wee busy rudimentary open-air concern that, judging how busy it was, suggested it was a good choice.

We were conspicuous foreigners so inquisitive eyes were on us as we plunked ourselves down on rickety benches at a rickety table that was promptly cleared for us. As the fish was sold out, Mohammed insisted on quickly fetching a Grouper from his home that he just caught for them to cook up for us.

In the meantime, friendly patrons at the next table brought over a big plate of barbecued fish filet for us to start on. Then the kitchen food just kept coming: Pepsi, bottled water, soup, large flat bread, vegetable curry dip, flavoured rice, tray of chopped up fresh vegetables, barbecued fish, and barbecued chicken for our Agent and driver.

We dined the Muslim fashion, eating without utensils using our right hands all sharing from the same dishes. What was left over, the goats, being opportunists that they are, managed to snatch a tray off the table. The proprietors didn't even shoo them away. They love their goats. When it was time to leave, we were told that it was all on the house!

On our way back to Sea Turtle, there were 2 grounded freighters, casualty of that notorious pair of cyclones a week apart that rolled right through here about 14 months ago. A salvage crew was working on 1 in an attempt to re-float it out soon. When Mohammed said he knew the Captain and we could go aboard, Jordan eagerly said yes. We clambered over the rocks and up the ladder and were welcomed by Captain and workers.

If this hulk could talk

The Captain showed us all around, through the engine room and bridge of this tired old 1980 freighter ending up in his cabin for tea and lots of conversation about plying the local pirate infested seas.

By the time we got back to the dinghy, an on-shore wind was kicking up the seas with good-sized surf crashing onto the beach. We said our thanks and goodbyes to our hosts of the day and with quick timing shoved off between breaking waves. Not wanting to do this rough beach landing again and in the dark, we reluctantly had to pass on an invite to the Agent's home planned that evening for internet.

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