Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Into Africa

After yesterday's monster barracuda incident, I was a little reticent to put out the line again. However I noticed Blue Marlin, one of the Norwegian boats, pulling in a small tuna and thus suitably encouraged I deployed the fishing gear. Ten minutes later I had what looked like a good sized tuna on the line. When I landed the fish, the poor thing was missing the last third of its body, someone had taken a meal from it in the time it took me to reel it in. It reminded me of the cautionary words I was given some time ago as I was preparing to snorkel, "remember when you go in the water, you're entering the food-chain and you're not at the top!"

There are two routes from Long Island, my overnight anchorage, to Suakin - today's destination. Normally I'd enjoy the challenge of the shorter tricky coral dodging passage, however it's hard to be up the ratlines and on the wheel at the same time so I opted instead for the easier slightly longer passage. It's a shame as given the stunning turquoise waters around the small coral islands I passed on the easy passage, I imagine the extra challenge of the inshore passage must have been easily balanced by its beauty. Sailing along the coast, my anticipation of the imminent landfall increased as I caught my first sight of the new continent; hazy desert running to the sea with mountain ranges painted on the background - like a film set.

Up until the end of the nineteen century Suakin was the principle port of Sudan. According to my pilot guide it was destroyed by the British military around the turn of the century and the shipping moved north to Port Sudan. Sailing between coral fringed sand-dunes down the long entrance into Suakin, it felt as though I was sailing into the heart of the desert. Eventually the channel ends at the ruins of the old city, apparently still in much the same condition as when it was destroyed over hundred years ago. I've never seen anything quite like it. It's one of those places were you can't wait to pump up the dinghy and get ashore - well actually most landfalls are like that - but this one especially so.
Sadly before exploring on land, you need to check-in. Mohammed (who else?) is a local agent and busied himself all afternoon taking five copies of the crew list, passports, crew photos, diesel orders and fees from every boat. In return we'll receive a shore pass and tomorrow can finally head ashore to explore.

2:30pm Suakin: N19deg 06.5' E37deg 20.4

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