Mittwoch, 17. Juli 2019

From Malaysia to the Mediterranean - 4

Suakin  to  Greek

It is so unbelievable how this fine sand is pressed in the smallest holes, chinks and into every piece of equipment. Even the front side of every rope is brown, front side of sails, front side of everything. The wind is blowing till one day the anchorage gets nervous, a sosolala good forecast appears and 4 of the 5 boats are leaving. None of us with the same target, none of us leaving at the same time, everybody has his own tactical plans how to trick the wind and when to do which maneuvers to come to north, a very interesting experience for me.
Forecasted is light north wind, followed by several hours of doldrums, then some hours of the beloved south wind, before finally after a short no wind period very strong north wind with 30-35kn will batter the boats. The most important – be on a safe spot when the strong north wind comes.
On this leg i made my first tactical mistake but in hindsight it is always easy. The south wind came around noon and the 30kn northerly was prognosed for the next morning 0800. I was afraid of the north wind and so i ducked already in the evening into the 3 miles deep Khor Shinab as i believed the north wind will come earlier but had no chance to make it to the next safe spot before 0700 so i missed the largest part of south wind, a big mistake in the Red Sea, but who would think that a weather forecast is right on time?
Anyway it was a good place, and finally 3 of us where together again sitting out the howling wind. There was absolute nothing besides sand and sand and sand, some camels and in the evening a control from 3 Navy guys. Very refreshing boys, specially the youngest who tried to climb a little to careful on board as he forgot that his feet also should come with him, the Navy boat moved away, his hands on my boat, his feet on the other, and he got longer and longer, finally kind of jumped so that he was not completely in the water and this way saved his beloved cell phone in his pocket from drowning.

The second guy i chased away as he did not want to leave his AK47 on the Navy boat. I told him no guns on my boat, looking angry and then nr.2 and nr.3 stayed on the small Navy boat. When their check was finished i gave each of them a packet of cigarettes and life was good again.
A week later i zigzagged my way north again as the wind settled down to a moderate 12-15knots, making it possible for me to make some miles north to Khor Abu Asal (Marsa Oseif) before the wind strengthens again. Another week passed before the hammering north wind settled and the conditions giving me hope to do the next 257nm to Port Ghalib, the southernmost port of entry in Egypt. That reads so easy here, only 257 miles, like a 2 days sail, but finally it took me a 468 nm to reach he destination, meaning 4 days of wind on the nose and spray in the face and still trying to have a good time. I did not sail as close to the wind as technical possible, i let the boat go a good 10 degrees away from course. This makes sailing so much more comfortable and the best – it does not slow me down. Instead of making 5 knots going very hard in the wind i could keep a speed around 6 knots, doing a longer way but faster and more comfortable. Didier, a french sailor with a fast RM1200 monohull whom i met first time in Djibouti, sailed during the same time and always going max wind angle, we left within an hour and arrived within an hour, met several times somewhere out in the Red Sea. Once during the night i see his navigation light, think to myself – ok looks like about 2 miles away – i can still have a short nap. When i awake i am only about 60 meters behind him, a very dangerous situation and very stupid from me.

Now i should write about Egypt – i refuse to do so!!!!!!!!!!!
I do not want to use so many negative words in my blog – my advise to every sailor - AVOID EGYPT if you have to sail on a small budget.

Finally the end of the Suez canal is near, the pilot leaves the boat during motoring through the canal near the city of Port Said. Shortly afterwards darkness sets in and i am spit out into the Mediterranean. And i don‘t like what i see – lights, lights, lights, navigation lights all over the place. What is easy to manage during day is a horror at night, it seems like 100‘s of red and green lights, and 1000‘s of white lights. I have to concentrate on what I am doing here, just following my line, very close to the green lights of the main shipping lane. Looking over my shoulder and suddenly staring into the front of a tanker does not help bringing my heartbeat down, 1 minute ago it were just 2 lights somewhere in the dark behind me. I have planed to raise the sail immediately after leaving the canal and sail northwest, but i am too afraid now, so i follow the shipping lane far out to its end where the orientation comes to a normal level and i can start sailing towards Greek.
Because of the delay in the canal caused by a French Navy ship and then again in Ismailiah by 3 American Navy ships I missed more than a day of good wind direction and will have to sail again against the wind on the second day. And on this day the Mediterranean shows me that it is one of the most dangerous and unpredictable seas on the planet. I change my course from going to Krete to going to Rhodes and then finally ending up at Kastelorizo, which is the most eastern end of Greek, 70nm miles east of Rhodes. I simply had enough of going into the wind, did not want to damage the boat as the wind sometimes reaches the 40 knot mark, and it was a good decision to do so.

The clearing process is fast and easy without any problems – i am in Paradise after 3 months and 5.765 miles (10.490km) sailing from Langkawi to Greek.

And I am proud, having sailed this enormous leg alone, and actually being more proud of having literally sailed the whole distance, using my engine only for going in and out of anchorages and the Suez Canal.

Samstag, 9. März 2019

From Malaysia to the Mediterranean - 3

Djibouti to Suakin

12 days in so called civilization is more than enough but there was simply no chance to leave from Djibouti cause of the constant northerly winds and when its blowing 20knots, in Bab el Mandeb it is more like 30knots on the nose – i don‘t need this.
But finally there is a weather window coming. Distance 620nm, in good conditions with southerly winds from 15-20knots an easy 4 day sail – so far the theory.

As usual it comes different, the weather window shrinks to 3 days, the winds are not constant at all only the first 200 miles is a strong south wind. BUT only 2 hours after leaving my autopilot decides to go on strike again and so i sail with small sails, much slower than planned through Bab el Mandeb, having here also the last stretch of pirate invested waters, it just takes me forever to get the pilot working again and speed up.

Already during the second night the wind goes to sleep after midnight and i only make a 3 knot average till the morning when sun and wind come back. After dark falls in, the wind sleeps as well as i do. There is no chance that i can do it in 4 days so i change my strategy and instead of sailing a direct course to Suakin i sail about 345 degrees, making more north than west. The thought is that the Northwind will come, 100% sure, question is just when, and it will be very important how far north i am at this time. With the shift of the wind from south over east to north i will change course from north to the westnorthwest which will still be sail able without bumping to much in the growing waves.
Day 4 and the the boat is winding its way 40-50 degrees left and right, whats going on? It takes a while till i find out that a huge bush of seaweed is stuck in the starboard rudder turning the boat around and confusing my helpless autopilot as well as me. A 5 minute swim and with the help of a good knife the boat is ready to sail straight again as well as my strong odeur seems to be gone.
I can not even make it till Wednesday evening to Suakin, so one more night out and doing the last 80 miles through the coral filled waters. It is blowing 25 and then my autopilot fails again. This will be tough with that strong wind, not knowing exactly where i am, hundreds of reefs around me, shooting along with 7 knots.

I know i have about 15 miles of clear waters, so i take out my tools, sitting in the cockpit, the left hand on the tiller and steering, the right eye on the compass, the left eye on the autopilot which i hold with my feet to the ground so it can not fly around, and in the right hand my screw driver opening the case, and fiddling around in the entrails of the electronic and mechanic parts. 10 miles later it makes the first beep and an other 3 miles more till the autopilot is in place again, bringing me safe to Suakin which i reach around noon after 6 days of very intense sailing.

The anchorage is super safe in Suakin, you could not wish for better protection. The village has a interesting market, very friendly people, lots of donkeys, goats and sheep's running around freely everywhere and tons of fine sand dust.

The old town, which is situated on a small island, are just ruins, nobody living there anymore. The newer part on the mainland looks the same but with people in the downgoing houses, who cares, its warm, does not rain, so they can watch the stars from their beds.

Dienstag, 19. Februar 2019

From Malaysia to the Mediterranean - 2

Part 2 Maldives – Djibouti

Maldives are a beautiful place to spend some time unfortunately the officials make it impossible for me to stay longer than a week, more than 1000,- US$ I would have had to pay for a month and this is far beyond my financial resources. So after 7 days I am leaving paradise and head to the most dangerous part in the world of sailing, the Golf of Aden and Somalia north coast.

A lot of reading and preparation was going on before leaving from Langkawi, many of these things were for me curious and not comprehend able. Secret Facebook groups, secret meetings and similar things, sailors scare each other with story's which were years ago. Anyway I am on my trip, doing my thing, my strategy and this was a little different than others. I have during the planning always to keep in mind that I am sailing single handed, a big difference if any trouble hits you. At one of these meetings a ex French special forces agent explained that the safest route is sailing between the 2 lanes of the big ship corridor. That’s right in theory and for crewed boats but when I sail alone and have the slightest problem with sails or engine or fishinglines/net, autopilot or whatsoever, than I will drift into the shipping lanes, as the space between them is only 2nm, and this is nothing when you are trying to repair something while the boat drifts. So for me is either the north side of this corridor, meaning I would be near Yemen where they have a civil war and many poor people with nothing to eat and nothing to loose, or I am sailing south of the corridor, meaning sailing near the guys with the black flags with sculls and bones on it. I decide going for the Somalia side, around 8-10 miles south of the shipping lane which is still 80 miles away from the Somalia coast. Why 8-10nm south and not closer, very simple. I have set my AIS alarm on 10 miles, and if I sail closer to the big ships than I get every few minutes an alarm signal, meaning – there is nothing with sleeping, and that’s not good.
An other big question is – leaving the AIS on or off, leaving navigation lights on or off at night? For me a clear decision, I leave everything on because I can not go on watch all the time, so if I don’t see them at least the other boaters should know there is somebody sailing around instead of crashing into me.

The first days are relaxed sailing, perfect wind, and I don’t set maximum sails robe, only so much sails to be in a speed range between 7-8 knots, which makes it very comfortable, no stress on the boat and still making around 170nm a day. The evening of the second day I get a VHF call, Donio a Sri Lanka fisherman warns me about a huge amount of fishing boats, and then he even asks if I could call him on SSB after 20.00 hour on 12312.3 MHz because then they stop working and he has some time. Never I had something like this before, we talked for a while, he was mainly interested where from and where to, and he wanted that I visit him when I come to Sri Lanka.


And then about 70 miles east of Socrota the autopilot stops. I set up my second unit and the sail goes on but only for a 40 minutes before also unit nr.2 stops working. This is possibly the worst place for a situation like that. Single handing, no autopilot, next to pirates land, and still 700 miles to go to Djibouti, 700 miles means 5 days when everything is all right, but it means 8-10 days without autopilot. I have to change the sails so only a fraction of the area is up otherwise I could not stabilize the boat to keep at least for a 5-10 minutes the course before I have to correct it again. This will be a few terrible days, no sleep and long hours in the cockpit.
With my InReach I am able to contact Fa. Ober in Vorarlberg, the Raymarine service center for Austria, Czech and Hungary, and he guides me the next 2 days through different possibilities where the error hides. Finally I can get it working again, hallelujah, what a relief.
From there on I sail a little more conservative, change the autopilot setting to cruising, so the autopilot works slower and has less load.

The rest of the trip is easy, I see only 2 boats, and 2 days before arrival I am contacted by a Japanese military aircraft. I see that my arrival won’t be during daylight so I want to speed up. I set my old asymmetrical spinnaker although the wind is a bit strong. Flying over the waves, sometimes digging deep with the bow, fantastic sailing, and just when I decide that it is too much sail and I am too fast, I hear this terrible ssssccrrrrr and my spi suddenly has a few extra openings.

The last day and night the weather tries to confuse me with wind coming from the southeast, but still a good direction for me.

The entrance in Djibouti is easy, the anchorage wide with good holding mud, and after the anchor is set I only want a beer and a bed.

I have to say special thanks to Mr. Hubert Ober, the best Raymarine service man on the globe, for his help during the dangerous time.
Also a special thanks to my 3 weather-frogs who inform me daily with the upcoming weather situation, thanks Alois, Alex and C.

Freitag, 15. Februar 2019

From Malaysia to the Mediterranean - 1

Part 1 Langkawi  to  Maldives

A picture book start from Langkawi made me smile and being proud about my work in the last months while reshaping/extending CHI. Winds of 16-19 knots from a perfect angle lets me rush across the smooth ocean for several hours with a speed of 10-14 knots before i decide to reef, just to get more comfort and relax time and take some stress out of the boat. 

Etmals with more than 180 nautical miles a day, now I know what for I was working so hard, I am happy. Then my navigation computer decides its enough and stops working, for me having no idea about computers it is impossible to get him back in working mode so laptop nr. 2 has to take over. Near the Nicobar islands I get very disturbing currents, the sea suddenly builds up to 2 meters with very short waves, I am bounced around, doing speed of only 4 knots and 1 minute later shooting along at 8 knots, hoping the spectacle finishes soon. As I don’t like sailing direct downwind I am jibing along my route where the unstable wind mostly tells me when to jibe. Every day several hours of good wind change with low wind patches but I never have to motor, can always keep at least 3,5 knots and that helps me get a lot of sleep.
As between the gap of Sri Lanka and India the wind always picks up very strong. The effect is that large waves build and make it uncomfortable, so I lay my route not directly and make a nice southerly bend first aiming Male before turning northwest towards Uligamo on the northern tip of the Maldives.

Day 8 and 9 the wind is reaching the 30 knots mark, seas are building up but with the 3rd reef in the main and half of the head sail out I glide along very relaxed with 7 knots. The sight is getting bad, it looks like fog, visibility only about 2-3 miles, the wind is going down and when I set the screecher I, once again, do it wrong and the force on the holding line of the bowspread rips out the fitting close above the waterline. 

This sucks!!! in the middle of the night, having a 6 cm hole close above the waterline. I make water so I should react, but actually I have to smile as I was thinking of some sailor friends who for sure would just check if their insurance is paid, how the life raft opens and what is the procedure for a mayday call. First thing sails down to reduce the speed and decrease the amount of water coming into the boat, then cleaning out the front compartment of all the things living there since years, and check what would be a possible way to provisional fix the hole. Somewhere I find a piece of foam which is used for outdoor cushions and which takes on no water. I press it from the inside against the hole and use a few pieces of wood to press it on and fix it in position. Next step bringing the dingi in the water, prepare a piece of plastic about 20x20cm, drill a few holes around the edges, and mainly put a thick layer of a good silicon on it before screwing it on the outside onto the hull. This reads here a little easier than it was in real as there were these waves and I have only 2 hands and the front beam on a catamaran is very helpful with banging against my head.
And still 120nm to go to the first atoll of the Maldives. Because of this slightly delay I can’t make it in daylight so I very very carefully go into the Dhapparuhuraa atoll as the charts are not correct and anchor in 7 meters of water. Here I fix the disaster the next day with 2 layers of carbon/aramidfibre mats and 6 layers of bidirectional glasmats on the outside and another 5 layers on the inside of the hull. This should be good for the next 30 years.

One day of drying and then heading to Uligamo for the check in procedure, everything very relaxed and the first time in my sailing career a very helpful agent, having fun with his work. Maybe its also because there is nothing else to do on this small island for him. 

Anyway once more I get the proof that the world is just like a little village. 2 days after my arrival a second boat comes along, and believe it or not where are they from? - yes Austria, and not only this they are from the Salzburg area just like me, its Reini Gelder on his newly restored and totally upgraded to the top of what’s available Imoca 50 racer “Mango Roa” and his friend Leo.