Update for Red Sea Passage and Cochin India (October 2019)

With the season for a Red Sea passage rapidly approaching, Wade Alarie – primary Admin of the private, closed Red Sea Facebook Group for the past 2 years – provides an update on yachts that have transited to date in 2019, the security outlook plus routing and other advice. Wade plans to transit in January 2020.

Published 5 years ago

Update February 9, 2020:

SV Joana has made a safe 16 day 2020NM passage from Kochi to Djibouti. See Wade’s passage report posted as a comment at the bottom of this report.

Update January 12, 2020:

Wade Alarie, who has been the primary Admin of the private, closed Red Sea Facebook Group for the past 2 years, is now in the process of doing his Red Sea Crossing, and will be largely out of contact for a while. 

If you would like admission to the group, please contact Sherry on s/v Soggy Paws until further notice ([email protected]).  In your email, please include your boat name and your expected timeframe for making the passage.

Report from Wade Alarie – 25 October, 2019:

As of 25 October 2019, yachts are still moving both north and south through the Red Sea. Although it is possible to make the journey nearly any time during the year, the most common timeframe for either a N-S or S-N passage tends to be in the mid-December to mid-April timeframe, during the NE monsoon. Since that season is rapidly approaching, it is timely that I provide an update.

As an Administrator for the Facebook Group “Red Sea Passage” – I encourage cruisers who are contemplating this route to join the group. I maintain a “living” spreadsheet of yachts that are planning to make the passage in the coming 5 months, and have 31 entries, leaving from different ports in the Med, Kenya, India, Dubai, and most commonly Thailand and Malaysia. Joining the group gives you access to the discussions and plans made by members – as well as the experience of others who made the passage in the last year or two and readily give their advice. Since it is a private, closed group – membership is vetted, and restricted to cruisers. You may email me at [email protected] to inquire about joining.

How many transit? 

I can name 33 vessels that have successfully made the passage so far in the calendar year 2019: Ammonite; Biche du Vent; Blue Eye; Blue Roger; Calliope; Caracalito; Chi; Confidence; Dona Zita; Drifter; Ecstasy; Esperanza; Indian Summer; Goochey Larfrae; Jambote; Kalibu; Koza; Lella; Lisanne; Juliane; Ladoga; Lady mia; Manga Roa; Melipal; Meander; Miss Tiggy; Moya; Muttley; Nemesis; Orion; Pelican; Petit Prince and Vamanos.

There are also others that are still underway and are expected to have completed by year-end.

Captain Heebi (an agent in the Suez Canal) has said that, as of 12 June 2019, 67 yachts had passed through the Suez Canal. His numbers are higher than mine because he includes some yachts that although they transitted the Suez Canal, they may not have passed through the Red Sea, instead stopping at Hurghada or into the Gulf of Aquaba (wintering from the Med). Additionally, I have no direct knowledge of the dozens of yachts that make this passage every year without ever considering to join our Facebook Group.


As far as I’m concerned, there hasn’t been a pirate attack against a private yacht since 2011.

There are still pirates, I won’t deny this, but they don’t seem interested in us “senior citizen middle-class circumnavigators”. Perhaps the thought of capturing, incarcerating, feeding, housing and providing medical care to middle-class elderly people for a year or more while haggling with relatives about a meager payout – doesn’t seem like much of a business case.

Yacht convoys are thought to be a bad idea. They are unwieldy to manage and pose a more visible and attractive target. The military presence in the area (two different missions, one managed by NATO and one by the EU) discourage anything more than a couple or three boats traveling “together”.

Yachts are encouraged to individually advise UKMTO (based in Dubai) of their transit plans, and provide daily updates. It’s highly unlikely that a yacht or yachts will get a military escort, but the ships are there constantly patrolling, often within reach of VHF.

Of note, in March 2019, there was a single-hander on a catamaran (moving North along the East coast of Africa) near the coast of Somalia who was boarded by two locals with knives and he subsequently repelled them with a cricket bat. Since this incident happened well outside of the patrolled High-Risk Area (HRA), and the locals appeared to have no guns, the action does not seem to have been attributed to “pirates”.

Useful stopovers

Finally, a logical port to pass through for an East or West crossing of the Red Sea is Cochin International Marina, at Cochin (Kochi) India. The marina is well established, having been there for more than 10 years.

Contact Nigel Joseph the marina manager, at +91 97470 57015, email to [email protected]. Send vessel name, mono or cat, dimensions, draft, ETA and expected length of stay, to reserve space in the marina.

Other common stopovers are Sri Lanka (both Trincomalee and Galle), Socotra, Djibouti, Eritrea (Massawa), Sudan (Suakin) and Egypt (Port Ghalib and/or Port Suez if coming from the South).

Wade Alarie / SV Joana / www.joana.ca

Wade and his wife Diane are Administrators of the Facebook Group Red Sea Passage and have been cruising, slowly circumnavigating since May 2009. They left from Kingston, Ontario Canada (the East side) in May 2009 and slowly worked their way through the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific Ocean, stopping off for extended periods in NZ and Australia. They have been in Cochin, India since March 2019 and are planning to sail West through the Red Sea in January – April 2020.

Related Content: 

Update for Red Sea Passage and Cochin India (June 2018)

Indian Ocean and Red Sea Passage: Helping cruisers exchange information


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Noonsite.com or World Cruising Club.

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  1. March 15, 2020 at 1:40 PM
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    sue-richards says:

    Further recommendations from Wade Alarie for a Red Sea Passage:

    Some words of caution to all considering undertaking this passage.

    You should adequately prepare your boat, yourself, and your crew for a long ocean passage and potentially difficult port and anchorage conditions in the Red Sea area. I have been doing international travel for more than 40 years, and for the first time in my life, I was requested to show proof of Yellow Fever vaccination at Djibouti and Egypt (and I have been in Egypt many times before).

    Between Phuket and Egypt, you will find that the only ATMs that issue USD are in Djibouti, unless you fly out to a neighbouring country like Cambodia. Definitely, in Socatra, Eritrea and Sudan it is a cash only economy – no bank cards, no credit cards accepted. Nobody can reliably predict that they will be able to bypass these countries. For this passage, every boat needs to carry at least $2,000 USD cash and preferably more in case of repairs or emergency.

    Fuel – You must be able to motor at least 1200nm.

    To my knowledge there have been 3 sailboats lost on the reefs in Sudan and Egypt just over the last 12 months. It has been 9 years since pirates attacked a yacht, but every year several unprepared sailors run out of fuel, food, and money. Some end up begging for diesel from the Coalition Forces while sailing slowly in the High Risk Area (HRA). This ends up being a distraction to the hard working Coalition Forces, one that Somali pirates may use to their advantage.

    Bottom line – Prepare your boat. Get cash. Get the best charts and KAP files available. Single handers also face higher risks, so get crew. Then select your passage window based on predictable seasonal weather patterns.

  2. February 11, 2020 at 4:32 PM
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    sue-richards says:

    Report from Wade and Diane-Ceelen Alarie:

    SV Joana has made a safe 16 day 2020nm passage from Kochi to Djibouti. There was no sign of pirates, but we did see a few fishing boats and several coalition warships, surveillance aircraft and helicopters. We reported to UKMTO twice daily by email. We received VHF radio calls from aircraft and warships. We never heard anything bad on the radio.

    I should also comment that we asked UKMTO if instead of joining the IRTC at the eastern end and sailing west, if we could shave off a few miles and join in midway NW of Socotra. They referred our request to MSCHOA and nobody answered. We did sail to the eastern edge of the IRTC and sailed west just inside the northern edge of the westbound corridor. If you sail near the corridor, naturally this is where the coalition forces patrol….

    We caught two fish!

    Unfortunately, we arrived in Djibouti on Friday morning, the worst time to arrive. Although we did clear in, their weekend is Friday and Saturday.

    We used a local agent “Mohammed Ali” after we did our own clearances, to help with sourcing parts and getting things. If you employ him, there is no problem parking your dinghy in the fishermen’s marina, although with our arrangement, he came out to get us each day.

    A few points to note about Djibouti (that I’ve not seen anyone comment on before) if you’re planning to come here:

    1. Customs – yes, there is Customs at the airport, and they do not accept “Yacht in Transit”, but I did get a DHL package sent in and paid a modest fee.
    2. Getting a SIM card and internet service is bureaucratic but manageable. The Internet is good in the anchorage, through the Djibouti Telecom SIM.
    3. The anchorage water IS clean enough to swim in, and run the water maker There are many fish in the anchorage, and turtles too.
    4. You HAVE to make your clearances at the port (Port Captain, Immigration and maybe quarantine) and its best to do it at high tide (although still difficult).
    5. Clean diesel is available at service stations, but it appears that you must pay in Djibouti Francs, cash only, no credit cards. The cost works out to about $1.11 USD per litre.
    6. The supermarkets here seem to have lots of canned vegetables. So those that leave SE Asia hunting for fruit and vegetables can find them here.
    7. The Riyad market offers an excellent source of fresh fruit and vegetables, at reasonable prices. Most of which comes from Ethiopia. The trucks deliver produce on Tuesday afternoon, and the market is open through until Wednesday afternoons, each week.
    8. I have been able to source belts for my engine at one of many small shops.
    9. We had the UV strip re-sewn on our jib by a local upholstery shop.

    We plan to head North in 10-12 days after fixing a few things.

  3. November 17, 2019 at 10:21 PM
    svaspen says:

    I was a member of the 2011 Blue Water Rally, the Around The World Rally that included 4 Americans who were killed by Somali pirates onboard their sailing vessel SV Quest, on passage from Mumbai, India to Salalah, Oman.

    I have a suggestion if you are attempting to transit the Indian Ocean, headed for the Red Sea (or vice versa).

    Instead of relying on information from a Facebook group, please do your own research and focus on the military groups with forces in this area:
    1. UKMTO (https://www.admiralty.co.uk/AdmiraltyDownloadMedia/Security%20Related%20Information%20to%20Mariners/Q6099_A4.pdf0)
    2. UN Naval Forces (https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/piracy/indian-ocean-division.html)
    3. US Navy 5th Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain (https://www.cusnc.navy.mil/?fbclid=IwAR2CBLvVCghiSx27SGqA6_33XaO3AAPJH3Uoy9SHadumJ1aGShK5Aeb35HY).

    Yacht convoys consisting of a maximum of six vessels are the preferred method for transiting the pirate areas. Six sailing vessels are considered a hard target and less likely to be attacked. Single vessels not in convoy, as illustrated by SV Quest and SY ING, were soft targets and subsequently attacked by Somali pirates resulting in death (SV Quest) and capture, in the case of SY ING.

    Additionally, hiring armed guards (mercenaries) can be used to act as crew members aboard your vessel for the Indian Ocean transit and through the Gulf of Aden (GOA), the two most likely places for a Somali pirate attack. Our friends on a 50 foot catamaran hired their own armed guards at a cost of $50,000 (US) for this service last year.

    No military escorts can be arranged because their charge is to protect commercial shipping and not pleasure vessels in the region.

    One final suggestion is regarding Russian and Chinese naval vessels. These two navies have much different rules of engagement, regarding Somali pirates. If a vessel requires assistance and there are Russian or Chinese naval vessels nearby, contacting them can be VERY effective in handling any piracy situation.

    1. November 25, 2019 at 12:54 PM
      wmayes26 says:

      Hi Steve,
      Thank you for the recommendations. Sorry you and your colleagues experienced the attack in 2011. We have a 440 Lagoon in Abu Dhabi and are considering a transit to the Med possibly Fall/Spring of next year 2020/2021. So, I have a lot of learning and research in front of me, as well as some boat upgrades. Again, I just wanted to say thanks for the information.
      Billy and Micka on Lucy at the Emirates Palace Marina.

    2. January 1, 2020 at 2:08 AM
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      svjoana says:

      There has not been an attack on a private yacht since 2011. Hundreds of yachts have passed through since then, many of them singles, some of them in small convoys. Convoys of even 6 yachts are incredibly hard to manage, particularly over long distances. A convoy over 30nm is manageable, but one over 1500nm is unwieldy, primarily due to the different sailing characteristics of different boats and the independence of skippers. If you join the FB Group Red Sea Passage, you will gain up to date knowledge, including the advice of UKMTO and MSCHOA, and converse with other cruisers who are likely to be on the same passage as you.