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Crossing from the Maldives to Al Mukalla/Yemen, March 22nd - April 8th 2008 (by Dagmar)
The low pressure system was still affecting the whole area around the Maldives, when on March 22nd we set sail for the crossing towards Al Mukalla in Yemen. Light winds were predicted for the nearly 1600sm. So we left with four boats towards the westerly pass of the Maldives, the Kardiva Channel. Just before we left the channel towards the open ocean, Bart saw a whale shark, the largest fish in the world at more then 40 feet, 13m long, almost as long as LUNA. Whale sharks are not fierce hunters. They feed by filtering tiny plants and animals of the plankton from sea water. This area around the channel is known for whale shark sightings.
The sun set like a beautiful reddish ball in the sea, the full moon sending it's glittering light over the water.
Dolphins accompanying LUNA every day, even in the nights. Over several days we saw a beautiful illuminated sky after sunset. The water flat like a mirror, just a slight breeze bringing us into a northerly direction. After some days we had to motor to get more westerly towards our next destination. But after some days it was time to sail again to save fuel.
After almost a week on the ocean we saw a pack of whales, one very close to LUNA, sending big spouts of water in the sky. What amazing to watch these graceful animals so close to the boat.
When we sailed towards the Gulf of Aden, we got closer to the shipping lane. Huge tankers and freighters were passing us, as well as this MAERSK LINE container ship, which gave as a very loud salute. We felt honored. That never happened to us before.
Then on April 2nd we celebrated Bart's birthday on LUNA, in the Arabian Sea, with a Dutch apple cake, balloons some small presents and a nice lunch and dinner with the yesterday caught Dorado.
Bart received birthday wishes and a Happy Birthday song thru SSB radio and VHF.
Now we came closer to the island of Socotra, belonging to the Republic of Yemen, but located just east of the coast of Somalia, at the entrance of the Gulf of Aden. We wanted to bring as much distance between us and Somalia as possible, due to the last still ongoing piracy attack of a French luxury 88m sailing yacht.
"Pirates seized control of a French luxury yacht carrying 30 crew members last Friday in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia's coast, the French government and the ship's owner said. Attackers stormed the three-mast Le Ponant as it returned without passengers from the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, toward the Mediterranean Sea, said officials with French maritime transport company CMA-CGM. "This is a blatant act of piracy," Prime Minister Francois Fillon told reporters. "The Defense and Foreign ministries are mobilized to act as quickly as possible, I hope in the coming minutes or hours to try to win the freedom of these hostages." He did not elaborate. France has considerable military resources in the region, including a base in Djibouti and a naval flotilla circulating in the Indian Ocean. The ship was in the high seas in the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia's coast in the Indian Ocean, the ministry said.
Some days before there was already a piracy attack on a containership in the gulf of Aden. The gulf and the Red Sea entrance to the south, in Somali waters are an honest concern. Boats that attempt to go to close to Somalia are, as a rule, pirated to benefit the rebel faction of the civil war. But the pirates are more interested in big freighters, containerships and tankers, as they mostly have a big amount of cash money on board. Small sailing yachts are rarely attacked.
But nevertheless we decided to team up with our friends from the yachts "de Pelikaan, Ohana Kai and Moorea", to leave together from the Maldives to Al Mukalla and then some days later from there westerly to Aden and then enter the Red Sea.
It is good to know that some of the reported incidents towards small yachts were misunderstanding, fishermen asking for water or food. So not all suspicious craft reports are piracy attacks.
We decided to sail close to Somali waters with no top light. Shortly after new moon, it was pitch dark outside. We were really on alert, checking the radar regularly. But then we saw a flickering light coming up very close to LUNA. Not sure what it was, no sign on the radar, and as we didn't know, if they had radar themselves, we switch on our top light. And with that we scared the shit out of those fishermen, who were with their vessel really close to us and didn't expect us at all. They started screaming at us, what we really couldn't blame them for.
We hadn't seen dolphins the last day, even in the night, while they were visiting regularly for the past week, there was no sighting. Then suddenly close to sunset, a whale popped up close to the bow of LUNA. It dove under the boat, to the port side of us, following parallel to LUNA for quite a while. A different species, then the one we had seen days before, dark black with a small fin on its back.
Just 6 days after Bart, on April 8th, it was my birthday turn. It was the last day of our crossing from the Maldives to Al Mukalla in Yemen, after 17 days on the water, no veggies, no fruits left, just canned food and fresh baked bread. But Soleil and Bart did it: a rich and delicious cake with an Oreo cookie crust, bitter cookie pudding on top, covered in whip cream. What a treat! Soleil made some excellent drawings and together they assembled a variety of our pictures from around the world together as a scrap book, my mom in the middle. I had to cry, I was so touched. I miss her a lot, especially on a day like this. She was always the first one to call or to write e-mails. Last year before she died, she said, when you are back next year from your trip around the world, I gone bake you your favorite black forest cake, because I won't see you on your birthday. But that's not gone happen now.
Our boat friends from Ohana Kai and de Pelikaan called over VHF sending birthday wishes. Friends and family from home sent e-mails. Thank you very much. I loved it.
Yesterday we had a wonderful sunset, the last one on our crossing. We were looking forward to reach Yemen and to complete the crossing of the Indian Ocean..
Al Mukalla, Gulf of Aden, Yemen, April 8th-11th 2008 (by Dagmar)
"Arabia Felix" - happy Arabia,: That's how the Romans called the Yemen, the gate to the "Arabian Nights", to stories around Aladdin, as well as Shahrazad and " Stories of 1000 and 1 night". In the South of the Arabian peninsula, where the Red Sea meets the Indian Ocean, there at the " Gate of Tears" you will find the Republic of Yemen. In the old days the country became rich thru incense trade with the holy cities of Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rom, known thru the travel stories of Marco Polo in 1300, ...the former kingdom of the Queen of Sheba ( a place also known as Saba). But this came to an end, when not camels but ships were loaded with merchandise, what secured a faster trading circle in the Arabic world, as well as the rise of Christianity, where incense was part of a heathen cult and not favored anymore until the late 600 A.D.
That's the Republic of Yemen: Desert combined with fertile plains, 3500m high peaks in the mountains, valleys filled with papayas, bananas, pomegranates and oranges, flourishing markets, but one of the poorest countries in the world.
In the afternoon, on Tuesday, April 8th, my birthday, after 17 days and some hours on the water, nearly 1600sm, not much wind and still under motor, using our last diesel, we reached the Yemeni coast. Incredible that it took us so long. Comparable to our Atlantic and Pacific crossings, where we sailed around 18 + days and covered a mileage of over 3100sm, this was the slowest crossing we ever did, and took a lot of patience to sit out the windless areas, with the feeling sometimes to park on one of the biggest parking lots in the world. Light variable breezes and calms had taken the place of the good north-east monsoon.
Finally it came out of the morning mist, the coast of Al Mukalla. The sun illuminated a mass of tall white buildings at the foot of an cliff. Tiny white forts perched along the top of the cliff. It looked like an American city of skyscrapers, not an Arabian town, which has seen better days, it was the capital of the sultan of Mukalla decades ago.
A local fisherman passed us on our way to the anchorage in the old dhow harbor, between the wrecks and the sea wall. Our friends from "Ohana Kai" and "de Pelikaan" were already there.
The dhow harbor anchorage in Al Mukalla.
It was new for us to see mostly men on the streets and the same on the markets. When we saw Yemeni women, they were wearing bourkas, mostly completely covered in black. Sometimes only showing their eyes. It's a male community in Yemen. Most of the women are uneducated, a huge percentage analphabets. The women were always begging for money. That was sad to see. Where ever we went we took small amount of cash with us to hand it out. We always asked the Yemeni if they were alright with us taking their picture. They mostly were, if not, they never were impolite, just turned around sometimes.
The kids were just gorgeous, smiling at us, asking for being photographed. We were very well received in Yemen. The local people were very friendly. Only very few were able to speak English and they were always asking where we came from.
As it was my birthday that day, we all went for dinner to the only restaurant, where women were allowed to eat in public. Iris from "de Pelikaan" had a birthday hat for me to wear. So we, as apparently the only foreigners in town, drew even more attention.
The following day a kids birthday party on "de Pelikaan" came up. Alex from "Fafner" and Roxy from "de Pelikaan" celebrated their birthdays inviting River, Claire, Soleil, Tristan and Matthew. See how much fun they had and it all ended with a dance party.
After motoring for such a long distance to reach Al Mukalla, we definitely needed Diesel. Our local agent Maher could organize it very well. So his friend delivered 26x20l cans to LUNA. His boys visited LUNA, in what looks like the leftover parts of a boat. But they were constantly busy removing water from inside with a little bucket.
Because of not being sure of the quality of the diesel, Bart had to filter each can, what ended up in a lot of work. I assisted with watering the teak deck constantly with salt water, because some cans were leaking and a dry teak deck would suck up all the diesel, what will look very bad in the future and stink for quite a while. But then an accident happened. Some water came trough the vents, so salt water dripped on my open laptop, were in the meantime I was downloading all the pictures I had taken in town. What a bummer. The whole touch panel was soaked, the monitor, too. But luckily it did not shut down right away. We cleaned it as good as possible with fresh water, letting it dry for 2 days in the sun. And lucky me, it worked again, but the keyboard made some problems, so I am working with an external one now and could save all my pictures and we could make back-ups.
The old part of the town was very interesting for us: houses, several story's high were lining up the narrow streets. Old men playing domino in front of a tea house, fruit stands, a bakery, a pita bread oven in one of the side-streets.
The sun set over the Yemeni mountain range, the moon came up and we all prepared for our departure at 5am the following morning, to meet with our friends from Moorea at a waypoint 50sm southwest to sail all together towards Aden.
Crossing Al Mukalla to Aden, April 11th-13th 2008 (by Dagmar)
At 5am on Friday morning we were ready. Just before sunrise we left the old dhow harbor of Al Mukalla.
Four boats left towards Aden, "de Pelikaan, Ohana Kai, Fafner and us". We had excellent sailing conditions, making 4-5 knots, reaching the meeting point with " Moorea" in the late afternoon. They were 2 days behind us. So now they wanted to continue right away to Aden. We met in the Gulf of Aden. We had an excellent 3-day-crossing and could stay close together all the time.
1 Luna, 2 Ohana Kai, 3 Moorea, 4 de Pelikaan, 5 Fafner
But we had to pay very well attention to the shipping lane. Sometimes they came very close to us. See "Ohana Kai" just in front of a huge container ship.
While we sailed in the Indian Ocean we were never lucky to catch fish, but now the fishing season for us is back on. Bart caught a big dorado, good for several dinners including sushi. What a treat. While Bart was cleaning it, Soleil got an extra Biology lesson.
Aden, Yemen, April 13th - 16th 2008 (by Dagmar)
Just before sunset we reached the channel to enter Aden. We anchored in the old harbor, at "Steamer Point" in At Tawahi.
The next morning, it was a Monday, we saw, that we've anchored just in front of a boat from the Yemeni Coast Guard. The anchorage was very quiet in the night. We all had a good night sleep, not comparable to the rolly anchorage in Al Mukalla. Here sometimes the tuck boats caused some waves, but only for a short time.
The local fishermen were coming into the harbor in the early morning. The traditional Yemeni fisher boats and trading crafts are very colorful.
The name Aden comes originally from the meaning "Eden", what stays for "Paradise". In the old legends here Cain has killed his brother Abel out of jealousy, as well as Noah built his Ark. The legends from Good and Evil as told in the Bible. But the beauty of Aden has long faded away, leaving a ram shackled town with a lot of very poor inhabitants. "Steamer Point" has seen it's busiest days long time ago, when several cruise ships, tankers and freighters stopped here, passengers and crew from the jetty strolling thru At Tawahi, buying souvenirs, books in Aziz Abdel Aziz book store, or just to enjoy night life. But for us it was original Yemenite life. We were the only Europeans around. The Yachties anchored at "Steamer Point".
We got ready to see the customs- and immigration officials for the shore passes we would need. They kept our passports for the length of our stay and we got the passes we had to show every time we left the harbor area for town. After 15 minutes all our paperwork was done. That was one of the fastest check-ins we had in many month. Then we took a taxi to the Egyptian consulate, were we wanted to pre-arrange visas for entering Egypt in about 3 weeks. But the consul was not in town, would probably be back on Wednesday. So we decided to come back in two days, but could take already the forms to fill out in advance, but learned on Wednesday, that he would not be available. So we had to get visas for Egypt in Port Sudan. After our stop at the consulate, the taxi driver dropped us at LULU, the mall in town, for provisioning and local food for lunch.
Tuesday we spent at "Crater", the old district of Aden. This part of Aden is called "Crater", as the town sits on a prehistoric 551m high volcano. Wind and weather worked on it's sea side, leaving in its middle a crater. We strolled through the narrow streets of Bohra-Bazaar, the suq of Aden.....
...talking to the local vendors, school kids....
....enjoying fresh mango juice,...Vincent giving juicy kisses to Iris..., watching a Henna-tinted horse go by.
We were so thirsty, we decided to visit a tea house. The Arabian tea is black, very sweet and if you like, you mix it with condensed milk. The tea house is a gathering place for men. You hardly see any women there. And when, they are begging for money. Vincent gave one teenage girl with a baby something to eat, a sweet round baked ball (I don't know the Arabian name) they were serving and the locals were dipping in the hot tea. The server began a fight with the girl, we all found ridiculous and very rude. He even slapped her. We all intervened right away , including all locals, and he stopped. But she came back several times screaming at him. Poor girl. Apart from her we were the only women in the tea house. Locals sitting next to us were very interested in our story, which Nationality we have... Comparable to decades ago, they hardly see any foreigners here, not to mention anyway, in the suq.
Most men are still traditional dressed, wearing belted gowns or wrapped around woven cloth, from the colorful embroidered belt hanging the Yemeni dagger, the "djambia". Bart, Vincent and Bruce bought already djambias in Al Mukalla, but one from Aden would be special, too. Excellent craftsmanship with detailed work on the pommel. Later that day Bart got a whole traditional outfit at Nawaz Khans shop at "Steamer Point" in the harbor. Nawaz is running the post office, too. A very friendly guy, who was always offering help and had many excellent suggestions for us.
At one of the local cloth traders Bart, Lisa and Kelly got "Tihamas", woven cloth, the Yemeni are wearing as head scarves.
A deserted sewing machine in the streets caught Vincent's attention. He just set behind it, predicting to sew some fabric, but not for long. Then the owner, an old man, came out of a tea house across the street, smiling at us and taking his place behind the machine again. Some of the narrower streets were filled with the fragrance of jasmine. Vendors were selling jasmine leis and bouquets. Iris and I talked to three Yemenite women in bourkas with veil covered eyes.
People of Yemen, in their every-day-clothes or in traditional costumes (postcards from Aziz bookstore).
Since 1990 women in Yemen are wearing bourkas and veils again: long black dresses with small colorful details on sleeves and cloth around their heads, not on the veils. The veils are just leaving the eyes uncovered. Some women prefer to cover even their eyes with a transparent veil. As all women were dressed in bourkas or chadors, myself, Lisa, Iris and Kelly wanted to experience, how it feels to wear one. The Yemenite women are regularly dressed underneath, just covering themselves up in public. As Maher, the local agent in Al Mukalla told us,"... our women are wearing underneath the bourkas same clothes as you are: jeans, t-shirts, dresses". But we felt very sweaty under the bourkas, covered double in clothes. In the hot and dry climate in Yemen, that's a challenge.
We left Aden just after sunset on Wednesday, April 16th. Our next destination will be Suakin, just south of Port Sudan, in the Red Sea.
Last modified: September 02, 2008