Sunday, March 15, 2009

A day in Eritrea

The Red Sea has been showing its gentler side today - calm seas with 10-15 knots of wind, making for very pleasant sailing.

I managed to keep the spinnaker up until 4am, when the wind died and I motored the remaining 20 miles to Harmil Island. It was a good job I arrived in daylight as as I quickly found myself enmeshed in a maze of coral heads and had to bid a cautious retreat until using the ratlines I could make-out a clear passage into the anchorage. The pilot guide referred to Harmil island as uninhabited. Being king of an island for a day always appeals, even if it's a land with a little else than a few stunted mangroves clinging to its otherwise barren sand. However no time to loiter, I wanted to press on while the strong northerly wind remained further up the Red Sea. So after dropping anchor I wasted no time in heading up the mast to investigate the furling problem. As I manually unrolled the genoa at the mast-head a boat rounded the NE tip of the island and headed in my direction. I didn't like the idea of a boat load of strangers arriving while I was dangling helplessly from the mast so I made a record-breaking descent just as the local military arrived. Despite the threatening looking weapons onboard my first and only Eritrean visitors were all smiles and left once they'd received some "gifts" - a couple of old novels and some drinks. They had a base at the southern end of the island - so much for pilot guide's claim of uninhibited lands. Not sure they appreciated my effort flying their flag, it was only up for a day and has now been replaced by a Sudanese courtesy flag.

I've just feasted on ceviche (thanks to Danika on Mata'irea for the recipe). I caught a fat dog-tooth tuna yesterday and have been making the most of it all day.

The parable of the weed and the boat hook
One day a boat was sailing through a sea dotted with floating weed. After some time the weed became tangled around the self-steering servo rudder and the skipper of the boat noticed the speed had dropped from 5 to 4 knots. "I must remove the weed so that I'll arrive in the next anchorage before the wind turns against me", thought the skipper. His first plan was to use the boat hook to pull the weed from the rudder. He hung over the back of the boat and struggled with the boat hook for over half an hour trying to remove the weed, but the thickest weed at the bottom of the rudder was the hardest to reach and he failed to remove it. Suddenly inspiration arrived. Instead of battling precariously off the back he simply stopped the boat - the weed fell free. Pleased with himself he felt master of all problems, rapidly solved the genoa furling problem with liberal use of boiling water and WD40 as well as finding a novel solution to reuse mast winches' head when hoisting additional sails. The moral: A restful night away from shipping makes troublesome problems vanish.

Hamil Island anchorage (8.30): N16deg32.9' E40deg10.1'
Position @ 20:00 (GMT+3): N17deg00' E39deg45'

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