This morning the NW 10-15 knots forecast turned into NW 20-25 knots and a correspondingly nasty sea built. I hove-to and studied the options. It seems careful attention to the pilot book pays. Initially I only studied the overview chart which shows a dearth of good anchorages within Foul Bay. However on closer inspection the detailed sketches highlight a few reasonable options. I decided to shelter in an anchorage behind a bank of coral 18 miles to the west, it was the closest, best and most sailable option. Like a lot of coral anchorages the route is edged by hazards and I was a little concerned about simultaneously spotting the bombies and steering the boat. I needn't have worried - the large seas were very visibly breaking on the banks and with the sun behind me, the shallow patches and isolated coral pillars were easy to spot by the colour change of the water. I expected I'd have the anchorage to myself, as I assumed all sensible sailors would be tucked up in a secure haven waiting for the wind to decrease, however a third of the Scandinavian fleet seemed to be suffering from the same madness and had arrived a few hours earlier.
Once anchored in the calm waters of the reef's lee, what to do next? Would the "Great push north" grind to a halt in Foul bay? Pondering the options and formulating a plan is the kind of challenge I enjoy. The forecast indicated easing winds tonight, continuing light on Monday, followed amazingly by southerly winds Monday night, but suddenly the weather window slams shut with 25 knots from the NW on Tuesday morning. Another complication is that most anchorages are fringed by coral and when anchoring on the coast you need to arrive no later than 3-4pm, otherwise the sun is in your eyes and you can't spot the path through the coral. However it seemed a shame to waste half a day of light winds and the rare southerly wind in the night, by prematurely halting my progress north. Slowly a plan emerged that startled me in its cunningness. Port Ghalib is 180 miles from my Foul Bay anchorage, it has a lit entrance allowing me to arrive at night and make the most of the rare southerly winds and arrive before the onset of the strong north-westerlies.
Anchorage in Shab Abu Fendera (12.00, 22/3/2009): N22deg 53.4' E36deg18.5'