Friday, February 27, 2009

Arrival in Mukalla

This blog is written in a sleep-deprived, post-passage, alcohol fueled celebratory state, so the usual cautions should apply.

Tonight the five boats in our convoy are all safely anchored in Mukalla. Our overnight sail/motor was through a beautiful calm phosphorescent sea. The phosphorescence, was so bright that the luminous green light produced, frequently lit up the sail and a couple of times had me scanning the darkness for the ship's light responsible for the sudden light.

We had one worrying incident during the overnight passage. Early in the morning Risho Maru were leading our group, which by that time was scattered over a mile. They called and asked us to close in on them as soon as possible. A fast motor boat had sped towards them, onboard were five crew armed with guns. They didn't look like coast guard officials and didn't respond to calls on the VHF. Antares was the first on the scene and as fast as the speed-boat had arrived it turned and disappeared into the NE. Later we learnt that we were sailing past an oil terminal and these were guards tasked with defending the terminal from terrorist attack. Worryingly the oil tankers heading for the terminal steam at night without lights. It was a tense 30 minutes which otherwise marred a straightforward passage.

As we approached Mukalla the port captain took our details and gave us the friendliest greeting I've experienced:
'Welcome to Mukalla, you are most welcome. This is your second country.'

Mukalla gradually revealed itself as we headed towards the city in the faint light of dawn. On a narrow strip of land between the sea and mountains is the small city of Mukalla with narrow streets fenced-in by five/six storey apartments, all finished in white. After anchor faff using bow and stern anchors to attempt to keep the boats facing into the swell, and soon after we'd anchored successfully, officials visited each boat in turn, pleasantly surprising us with the efficiency of the check-in procedure. The Kika boat stamp had another outing, giving extra validity to my signature on the multiple forms.

We'll probably stay here for 3-4 days, giving us a chance to explore inland.

Mukalla anchorage (27/2/2009): N14deg 31.7' E049deg 07.9'

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