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Passage through the GOA and up the Red Sea: March 2015

By SV Donna — last modified Apr 21, 2015 09:56 PM

Published: 2015-04-20 23:00:00
Topics: Piracy & Security
Countries: Djibouti , Egypt , Eritrea , India , Oman , Sudan

By SV Donna; 15m, 1.8m draft.
Kris Tielemans (Belgian) & Crismae de Joseph (Filipino)
We used Navionics charts (about 50USD) on an iPAd.

We crossed from Cochin, India to Salalah, Oman,  and then from Oman to Djibouti. We encountered no pirate activity. The navy is very active in the Gulf of Aden. Before you arrive in the Red Sea, you will be sailing alone. The area around Somalia is well protected. We stayed in the middle of the traffic lines and sailed from Salalah, Oman to Djibouti. Try to have a copy of the Red Sea Pilot, it will help you finding good anchorages, and avoid bad ones.

The only problems we encountered were with officials. And there were many. If you want to sail to the Med through the Red Sea, you have to realize that things are not as easy anymore as they were in Thailand or Malaysia. Sailing straight from Thailand or Langkawi to Djibouti doesn’t seem a bad idea to me now.

India

Alot of paperwork, but in the end, everything gets done. You just need patience. If you need to get things done out of the routine, you need money for a bribe.

Oman - Port of Salalah

This port is absolutely to be avoided. We had nothing but problems and it is very expensive, they treat yachts like cargo ships. We were forced to take an agent, 750$, we could bargain down to 350$. Garbage disposal, we were forced to pay 75$, so total harbour fees: 210$.

There is no infrastructure, no water or electricity, and you are not allowed to anchor outside. There seems to be a brand new marina in Salalah, but if you want to go to that marina, you have to pass Salalah again to check out, and pay again. Once you are in Salalah, you are trapped and you won’t get out until you pay, pay, pay.

We had nothing but problems with ‘DHOFAR Shipping agency’. Not one single paper was correct from the first time. We had 1 crewmember that left the yacht in Oman. He was still on my crew list. Our agent did not want to make us a new crew list! He even became aggressive when we insisted. Only after I threatened him that I would contact my embassy did he make a new crew list.

Djibouti

Anchor around 11 36N / 43 8E. Very good holding, safe place. We entered at night, no problem. The chart was accurate. Stay clear of the military boats, they don’t like to be approached.

We were forced to take a 1 month visa: 90$. Pay cash, they can’t give you change. Immigration takes a lot of time, but the rest of the paperwork is easy. No customs to be visited. No infrastructure. No yacht club anymore.

Diesel: 95fr/l in jerry cans from the petrol station.

Water: from the tap is safe to drink but tastes horrible, not even good enough to make coffee or tea.

Locals want money for everything, like taking care of your dinghy. People are friendly, but get ready to be ripped off. There is not a lot to see. Pay no more than 500Franc for a taxi to go to town. Changing money on the street seems safe.

Very good supermarket: Casino! Buy as much as you can here, because you won’t find anything you like until Egypt. Make sure you have enough cash with you when you leave Djibouti; dollars, but you will have less problems to get Euros changed. The next ATM is in Egypt.

Eritrea

We were advised to not go there because of the military. They are sometimes very aggressive.

The wind was good, and we sailed straight to Sudan.

Sudan

Make sure you have cash dollars or euro’s, there are NO ATM’s in Sudan!

Fawn Cove: not very nice, windy, but good shelter from waves. Navionics chart is good. Safe to get there.

Trinkitat harbour: Very good holding. We were forced by the military and escorted into the military bay of Trinkitat. We were not allowed to leave, or to go ashore. They were friendly, but every time they came to visit us, they made bad scratches on our hull. We had to wait there for 1 day, however a friend of ours had to wait for 9 days before he was free to go! Nothing to see here, the place where we had to anchor was choppy, too many waves. Try to avoid it.

Marsa esh Sheikh: 18 50,448N 37 26,241E.
Navionics charts are good, and to be trusted. Windy and narrow, but good holding and protected from waves.

Marsa esh Sheikh Ibrahim port: As long as they are working on a new jetty (2015) it is not advised to go there.

Sawakin: 19 6,467N  37 20,259E.
Very good holding, not deep. The charts are not accurate at all on the way to get there, but the harbour is very precise and truthful. Stay very close to the ruins at your starboard when proceeding to the anchorage. You want your depth sounder to work here.

Mohamed will take care of your papers (tel: 0912142678). His English is very good. We paid him 100$ for 2. He offers a good service and is very efficient, but keep track of your bills. Most of the time he knows that you are coming; the police or military inform him that a yacht is on its way. He will be waiting for you. Internet is so bad that I couldn’t send one single mail. For good internet you have to go to Port Sudan, but then you need papers.

Diesel: A good place to buy at 0,75USD/l. The price in Egypt is double.

Water: Can be delivered, but it is with a donkey in a dirty container. The quality seems ok. Food is very bad. The restaurant is very dirty. You will find not a lot more than tomatoes, onions and potatoes on the local market. The local attraction is a goat Zoe, which drinks coca cola out of the bottle. The whole village is a ruin. People are very nice.

Port Sudan: We were advised not to go there. “Everything is mafia.” They told us. And you have to check in again, which is much more expensive than Sawakin. We didn’t stop here, so I don’t know if it is true.

Sanganeb Reef: 19 43,961N  37 26,781E.
Nice stop at the exit of Port Sudan. Take your dinghy up to the light house. They are very friendly and allow you to climb up the still working tower. A nice place to take pics.

How we got there:
Entrance: 19 44.28N 37 26.414E.
We sailed to 19 44.165N 37 26.810E and then made a turn South. It becomes very shallow and you see dangerous looking rocks under your boat. It worked for us, I hope it will work for you too.

We anchored 19 43.960N 37 26.785E. Bad holding and deep (25m). Try a bit further.

I was advised not to stop around Foul Bay. Many boats got lost here because of the coral reefs. Better to sail straight to Ras Banas. When we were there, it was too windy, we had to seek shelter somewhere. After a terrible night fighting against the wind and waves, we made it just before sunset to Marsa Shin’ab. Here we waited for better weather. Other alternatives that I considered were Marsa Halaka and Marsa Abu’imama.

Marsa Shin’ab: 21 21.13N 37 00.72E
Anchored in 10m, good holding.
Nice place. Windy, but well protected. We climbed the hill and took some beautiful pics.
Navionics charts are not to be trusted! Only get in with clear vision. Once you are in, stay in the middle of the canal. Don’t go too fast and watch out for the reefs. The southern reef comes up much more north in the entrance than the charts show.

Entrance: 21 21.74N 37 03.76E - 21 21.57N 37 03.55E

Egypt:

Jazarit Wadi Gimal: 24 39.423N 35 09.478E
We passed Ras Banas, the wind was good and we were there early. Jazarit Wadi Gimal is not the best place to anchor, but it seems safe and protected. Only enter in good visibility.

Marsa Tundaba: 24 57.687N 34 56.281E
Some reefs to watch out for, average protection, nice restaurant on the shore.

Port Ghalib, Marina: 25 32.031N 34 38.313E
Nice marina, not too expensive, we were advised to check in here. The marina is well sheltered. The check-in procedure takes a lot of time, but everything is done for you, at a very good price. No agent needed. You just go to the customs dock at the entrance and they do everything for you. We got a 3 months visa without asking. Easy.

Buy as much diesel here as you can, since the price (1,18USD) in Suez is much higher (1,3USD and up)! Even if you cannot buy it on the local market (0,26USD). Many restaurants. There is also a hotel, where you can use the shower and toilet. They are not very nice though if you don’t spend any money there. We were kicked out of the swimming pool. There is a little supermarket in the harbor, but prices are for some products 3 times as much as the little supermarket in town. (Go to the tower and take a left). Same for the restaurants.

Al Qusayr: 26 06.012N 34 17.072E
Big bay, we arrived here during the night. Coast guard visited us in the morning, another scratch on the boat.

Ras Ruahmi: 28 43.368N 32 50.097E
Was ok, not very well protected.

Mersa Thelemet: 29 03.659N 32 38.239E
Boring place, not allowed to dock at the jetty, it is a military harbour.

Ras Sudr: 29 35.032N 32 42.378E
Safe to arrive during the night.

The Suez Canal

El Sweis (Suez kanaal): 29 56.852N 32 34.391E

Go to the marina, don’t bother about the canal, just stay at the side. Karkar will help you dock, he is always there. He is nice, and very helpful, but he, just like everybody else you will meet here, will rip you off every time he sees an opportunity. He counted 1 day too much for our stay. You don’t get an invoice, all the money you give him disappears in his pocket. We didn’t meet 1 single person who was honest.

We were recommended to use Ibrahim as an agent, he is an old man. I recommend him too. Even if you will end up paying more than you agreed on, he will still be your best deal. You cannot contact him by mail, but just tell Karkar that you want him as an agent. Some people were advised Abdo Felix. However, he would be my very LAST choice. I don’t trust him for a dime. He told me he was my agent, since he was working together with Ibrahim, but that was not true.

Your boat will be measured in order to calculate the price for the canal. Make your engine room as big as possible, since that is taken off from the volume of your boat.

A ride to town will cost you a maximum of 10 pound, but an honest taxi driver will ask you for 5 pound.

When we left, Ibrahim bought 3 bags of fruit for us, without us asking. Nice. But he asked 165 pound for it! Too much.

Ismailia (Suez kanaal): 30 35.092N 32 16.330E

From Suez you will go to Ismailia. There is a marina, but if you checked out in Suez you cannot go into town. Give the pilot 20USD or 140pound. That is a good tip. Remember, if he asks for more bakshish, some sailors don't give anything at all. My pilot was ok; he steered the whole way and asked for bakshish only twice. He also asked for a new cap, a T-shirt and cigarettes.

After Ismailia you go through the second part of the canal. New pilot, again bakshish. Everybody advised me to not stop in Port Said. You need to check in again if you already checked out in Suez, it seems to be a dirty place and you need a pilot to get out of the marina. So we wanted to go straight to the Med.

They wanted to check our papers though, and we had to go to the yacht club. Nobody wanted to see our papers, the only reason they want you to stop there is to get more money from you.

List of anchorages:

Name N E my distance

Djibouti (Djibouti): 11 36.132 N / 43 08.026 E - my distance 33

Obock, Port du Sud: 11 57.895 / 43 17.987 - my distance 599

Fawn Cove (Sudan): 18 15.673 / 38 16.658 - my distance 58

Trinkitat Harbour: 18 41.120 / 37 44.753 - my distance 39

Masra El Sheik: 18 50.453 / 37 26.240 - my distance 35

Sawakin: 19 06.472 / 37 20.225 - my distance 57

Sanganeb Reef (Port Sudan): 19 43,961 / 37 26,781 - my distance 216

Marsa Shin'ab: 21 21.129 / 37 00.710 - my distance 333

Jazirat Wadi Gimal (Egypte): 24 39.423 / 35 09.478 - my distance 36

Marsa Tundaba: 24 57.687 / 34 56.281 - my distance 58

Port Ghalib, Marina: 25 32.031 / 34 38.313 - my distance 60

Al Qusayr: 26 06.012 / 34 17.072 - my distance 244

Ras Ruahmi: 28 43.368 / 32 50.097 - my distance 41

Mersa Thelemet: 29 03.659 / 32 38.239 - my distance 50

Ras Sudr: 29 35.032 / 32 42.378 - my distance 34

El Sweis (Suez canal): 29 56.852 / 32 34.391 - my distance 53

Ismailia (Suez canal): 30 35.092 / 32 16.330

Kris Tielemans (Belgian) & Crismae de Joseph (Filipino)
SV Donna

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