06 April 2008

Shumma Island, Eritrea

Shumma Island, Eritrea
Red Sea

All 3 boats in our tiny fleet got a great nights sleep while anchored at Mersa Dudo, even though is was blowing 30 knots all night. We all had our anchors up at 8am the next morning for the 150nm overnight trip to where we are currently anchored.

The winds here in the southern end of the Red Sea can be extreme, and sailing is quite fast. We had winds sometimes 30+ knots right off the stern for most of the trip, giving us speeds of over 7 knots with only a double reefed main up. This was the slowest we could go. Between the 30+ knot gusts, the wind would just go to zeo, leaving us bobbing around in all the breaking waves with no wind to steady the boat. It makes for a sloppy ride until the waves drop back down. Then it was motoring until the winds return, straight back up to 30 knots, nothing in between.

Not much traffic along the coast of Eritrea. The shipping lanes are to the east, and we saw only a few fishing boats off in the distance.

It is now 2:30 pm and we just arrived here. Sandpiper is currently anchored at Shumma Island in 30 knots of wind. We stopped here because we were not going to be able to make the Port of Massawa, 30 miles away, before sunset. If you check out on the Goggle Earth program you should be able to see exactly where we are anchored. We are on the west end of the island inside a small reef with white sand beaches. Shumma Island is quite remote, about a mile across, low with shrubs and beach surrounding the island. There is an old lighthouse in the center.

Our current plan to go ashore this afternoon to do some exploring and shell collecting. Then we will have sundowners on the S/V Shiraz along with the Turkish crew from S/V My Chance. We will leave tomorrow morning to arrive in Massawa to check in with Eritrean Customs and Immigration. From there we hope to do some inland travels.

One another note. We heard on the BBC today that a 3 masted charter sailing ship that was sailing from the Seychelles to the Red Sea was taken over by Somalian pirates. The ship had a crew of 30 with no passengers as the ship was in transit to the Med. There was a French Collation warship following them and a helicopter overhead. They had hoped to land French commandos on board before the ship arrived in Somolian waters. We have not heard an update since. If you have, then drop us an email and send us the details.

Brother Ron posted, in the past, the 3 part series from the BBC about modern day piracy. If you have the time, then listen to part 2 where there in an interview with one of the ship captains that had been pirated and held for ransom in Somalia for almost a year until the ship's owners payed over a million dollars.

There is a lot of hype about modern day piracy around the world. But the one place you do not want to be near is the coast of Somalia. That is why most boats and ships all hug the Yemen coastline.

Yemen used to have its own piracy problems. But things have changed. Yemen now has a modern coast guard that actively patrols their ports . They were trained by the U.S Coast Guard. I have not heard of any piracy along the Yemen coast in a very long time. The incidents that do happen are boats that are too far offshore and encounter Somalian pirates.

Most modern day cases of piracy do not involve yachts. Instead, they mostly hijack ships and hold them till the owners pay a fee for the release of the ship and/or crew. There are seldom random incidents involving yachts around the world. You are far more likely to get robbed in your own town back home then to have something happen out here.

When we lived in Oakland, crack-heads were always breaking into our cars and stealing whatever happened to be in the car. It happened so many times that the window repair people knew us by name as since had to keep replacing the window in our car. One crack head even sliced a knife into our convertible's top to get into our car. In the 2.5 years we have been out, we have had zero incidents of any type. Nor have we heard of any incidents on other boats.

However... a dog stole my flip-flop in Sri Lanka. I had left on the pier next to the boat, and I found it later, on the dock, a bit chewed up. In most of the poor countries that we have sailed through, the locals will chase us down in their boats just to give us a big smile and wave hello. Or they just want to show off a fish they just caught.

Just don't sail near the Somolaian Coastline!!

More when it happens,
Tom and Amy

Notes From Ron:
Regarding the French cruise ship captured. As of Monday AM, the French are in negotiations with the pirates. They have not landed commandos on board. It looks like they plan to pay a random to get the crew released. BBC update here.

This wouldn't be the first time they pay ransoms for the release of their citizens. The French, Germans, and Italians have paid Iraqi insurgents in the last two years every time they take hostages. Last year there was a big blow up in Italy when the government tried to hide the fact that they paid a few million to release a couple of Italians held hostage in Iraq.

And as Tom mentioned, it would not be the first time that Somalian pirates have been paid handsomely. They have a nice little criminal enterprise going on there under the protection of what passes for a government there now.

Paul, a friend of mine in Santa Barbara just captained a private yacht from the Carribean to Santa Barbara. He had to outrun pirates off the north coast of Columbia. They were posing as "Columbian Coast Guard" over the radio in order to approach vessels. In this case, the pirates didn't know how to operate the electronics on the boat they had stolen. They failed to turn off the AID transmitter, and that told Paul exactly what the pirate boat really was. When Paul refused to "pull over" they gave chase, but could not keep up in the bad weather that fortunately had come up.

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