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Red Sea to the Seychelles

By Jerry Standen - SV Dragonfly — last modified Mar 17, 2016 09:45 PM

Published: 2015-07-07 23:00:00
Topics: Piracy & Security , Red Sea
Countries: Egypt , Seychelles

From: Jerry Standen of SV ‘Dragonfly’
Boat Type: Fountaine Pajot Marquises 56 sailing catamaran
Flag: Fiji
Captain: Fiji/UK citizen
Crew: Fiji citizen

Passage: Hurghada Egypt to Mahe, Seychelles - via Gulf of Aden

March to April 2015

After a one month rest post our passage departing mid-January 2015 from Monastir Tunisia via Bodrum in Turkey, Herzlya in Israel and transiting the Suez Canal, we left Hurghada marina on the Red Sea coast of Egypt mid-March bound for the Seychelles via The Gulf of Aden. It was my initial intention to stop at Port Suakin in Sudan for fuel, however good sailing winds saw little fuel used up until then so our first port of call was Massawa in Eritrea.

The formalities in Massawa were well organised and friendly, the Port captain allowing us to berth on the end of the main wharf for 6 days at no charge, however the cost of diesel was inflated by being available only upon proof of local funds being exchanged at the official bank rate which is almost four times more expensive than the ‘street’ exchange rate, thus I decided to push on before taking the additional fuel needed to motor sail against the prevailing winds and currents in the Gulf of Aden.

Aden was now a no, no as the Saudi’s were reportedly bombing the Port so to Djibouti we set off. Other than having our identity checked by a fast Djibuti gunboat patrolling the straits of Bab El Mandeb this passage was uneventful, however we did get to enjoy a short conversation with two Swiss flagged yachts ‘Agogo’ and ‘zoomax’ as we all sheltered briefly at anchor in the lee of a small island, they had made passage directly from The Maldives without incident through the Gulf of Aden.

Upon radioing to enter the port of Djibouti we were soon met and escorted in by a coastguard launch and a heavily armed RIB of a French naval vessel. Again formalities were pleasantly conducted with an anchorage being provided inside the Port. However the fuel issue was not to be easy, bunkering on the main wharf was denied us due to the volume of traffic both bringing in food supplies to be transported on to Ethiopia and refugees from Yemen being discharged. A rather complicated and wearying jugging of 800litres of diesel from a petrol station via truck and tender was executed, thankfully we had the assistance of Olivier from a Benetau 40.7. He also was going east but to Oman, we left together but lost contact soon after, our radio unknown to me until the Seychelles was working only at close proximity due to the coax cable chaffing through at the mast cap exit (well it lasted 12 years). Olivier e-mailed after arriving safely in Oman, he described an eventful passage but not in reference to pirates.

Our long leg to the Seychelles was without any incident, we kept close to the safety corridor in the Gulf patrolled actively by the warships of many nations and out of the sight of land until rounding the Horn of Africa to the West of Socotra whence we increased speed slightly and were soon in open waters far from mainland Somalia.

Arrived Port Victoria, Mahe, Seychelles on the 16th April 2015.

I have read some recent accounts with regards to passages through the Gulf of Aden authored by yachties seemingly gunned to the teeth with mercenaries on board to fend off the threat of pirates. Certainly our decision, as a sailing couple, to make the voyage without armed guards or guns and weapons of any sort received some incredulity from others. I did not make that decision lightly. Research of the recent past (18 months) of actual piracy events in the areas we sailed showed little or no activity, certainly dire warnings are still being posted but if one reads between the lines these emanations are consistent with organisations either not wishing to be bothered with the possibility of issues from those who have no commercial reason to transit the areas or by those who wish to continue their business of providing guns and guards.

UKMTO, who are responsible for the coordination of all naval presences in the Gulf, provide a passage registration and position monitoring service with an emergency phone line manned 24hours for daily position reporting and piracy incidents. I did use this service, the mental reassurance that some one else out there was prepared to profer assistance was comforting

I can now personally vouch for four yachts passing safely through the Gulf of Aden this year without guns or being in a convoy, I heard anecdotally from the Port Captains of many more. It cannot be asserted that risks do not exist, however as a multiple circumnavigator sailing for over 30 years I can express from experience my opinion that the threat of piracy is no more or less than any other foreign seas.

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burnside
burnside says:
Mar 16, 2016 07:27 AM

I am planning a trip from Turkey to Seychelles now. Hope it goes as well

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