04 May 2008

Dolphin Reef, Red Sea

Anchored at Dolphin Reef (Sha ab Sataya)
Fury Shoal

380 Miles to the Suez Canal...

FREE!! We are free from the clutches of Ras Baniyas and made our escape. At 3am this morning we awoke wondering why Sandpiper was sitting so still and why we did not hear the wind screaming through the rigging. The northerly winds have finally taken a break of sorts. As soon as our heads popped out and we saw that winds had dropped to almost nothing. We sprung into action, untangled the anchor from the coral below, and cleared the anchorage by 4am heading north.

We thought we were the first boat to get going. But as soon as we left we had a boat on radar just ahead of us. We thought at first was a fishing boat. But its range from us never changed. We found out that it was our friends Kelly & Kelly on S/V Moorea who had gotten a 30 minute head start on us. We left all the other boats at anchor wondering where we had gone too when the sun came up.

The winds stayed from the north, but under 10 knots. We arrived at the west anchorage at Dolphin Reef by 9am and anchored alongside our friends S/V Shiraz and S/V My Chance. As soon as we got the hook set, Rene from Shiraz called on the VHF saying she had dolphins off the bow and it was time to get into the water. We were still backing down on the anchor when Steve came alongside in their dinghy and frisked us away with our snorkeling gear for our first dolphin swim.

Every day here at Dolphin Reef (hence the name) there is a pod of about 50 dolphins that swim inside the reef in the shallow water. They play around till they get tired, then they head back out to sea for the day. As soon as Steve got his dingy properly positioned in front of the dolphins we jumped right in the middle of the dolphin pod. This is the first time we have every have swam with dolphins, and I have never really seen them in shallow water before. There were dolphins of every sex and age. Once in the water with them we could hear them squeaking at each other while they swam around us.

The rest of the morning had us jumping back into the dinghy in order to get in front of them again. It is quite hard to swim faster then a dolphin. Amy made her first mother and baby dolphin eye contact as they swam by each other each giving each other a head nod hello.

Since anchoring here at Dolphin Reef at 9 am the northerly winds have come back. Our current plans are to keep playing with the dolphins until we get a break in the wind. Then we are hoping to make Port Ghalib in order to officially clear into Egypt.

OK. I have not been on a rant for awhile. So here I go: Sailing here in the Red Sea is a bit of an extreme adventure that is not for the faint of heart. The boats that we have been traveling with have all been traveling for some years just to get here. This means that each boat's owners know their boats very well. They intimately know all their boat's systems. And we all travel in the same weather windows. This is a dangerous area to sail because there are many unforgiving reefs the navigate through and the weather can be very extreme. And there are no rescue assets available if you get into trouble.

Usually, in every anchorage we pull in to, we know the boats there. We have seen them before in other ports. Or we have heard about them from other boats they have traveled with. Or we have heard them on the radio net. Lately we have come across several boats that are sailing in this area we have not seen before. At first they seem to doing the same thing we are, until we hear more from them.

My case in point: At our last anchorage when we were holed up in 30 knot northerly winds, we would assume that every boat on the coast is doing the same thing we are... waiting for good weather. But to our surprise a boat arrived from the south after motoring into the wind for the last 2 days, and taking a serious beating. When they arrived in the anchorage, they seemed to be having problems getting their anchor dropped. They kept drifting back out of the anchorage. One of the boats next to us called them on the VHF to see in they were having problems and needed help. There were 2 people on board, a man and woman, and they asked for help. They said they could not get their anchor to drop. Three of us from different boats jumped into dinghies and went to assist.

After getting on board the man told us that he was not really familiar with his anchor windless . He used to have a crew before that he had just let go, and they used to do everything for him. It turned out, after we examined his anchor windless, that it could drop it fine when under power if he just hit the lower button. So within seconds after his second arrival he was securely anchored.

After he was secured he showed us the damage his aluminum sloop has sustained while bashing through the large seas. Several stanchions on the bow had been broken off and large areas of paint in the bow had been peeled off. He also had broken some of his electrical equipment and could not get his generator to start.

Second case in point: Another boat arrived at our last anchorage sailing south bound from the Med in the 30 knot winds making great time. When they arrived into the anchorage everyone assumed that they were just stopping for the night and continuing on the next morning. One of the other boats dinghied over to say "Hello". They asked if this is where they needed to be to check out of Egypt. The only port they can check out of Egypt is Port Ghalib, 100 miles to the north where they had just sailed by. The next morning they were gone and everyone in the anchorage assumed they had left to continue on south. Wrong. They actually left to head back north, straight in to the 30 knot headwinds, hoping to get back north 100 miles so they can check out. When we called Shiraz that evening they told us that when this had came motoring by, smashing through the head seas, they called on VHF asking for directions to Port Ghalib.

I am not aware of any boats NOT having guide books for this area. Nor do I know of any boats not using electronic charts. How does someone get here and not know where they need to go? Or know where they are going?

More when the winds let up,
Tom and Amy

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