An Alternative to GOA and the Red Sea: Desert Sailing

The following is a report from Canadian yacht Chinook, who, rather than take the dangerous route down the Red Sea and through the GOA, took the unusual step to transport their yacht by truck across the desert from Aquaba in Jordan to UAE in order to continue their East-bound circumnavigation.

Published 11 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Chinook is currently in Kochi Marina, India, waiting out the Monsoon. Their plan is then to cruise onwards to the West Coast of the USA over the next few years. Chinook is 35ft.

Our thanks to Brian Thurlow of BVTEE Marina, Kochi, for forwarding this report to noonsite.

Desert Sailing: Across Saudi Arabia by truck (May/June 2011)

This is a brief report about the trucking of Chinook overland through Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates from Jordan in June 2011. This “desert sail” was to avoid the Somali piracy activity of the southern Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the increasing number of piracy incidents off the coast of Yemen and southern Oman in the North Indian Ocean. The high cost of shipping by ocean freighter was, for us, prohibited. We received quotations of $20 000 USD to $35 000 from five shipping companies – the lowest not even including a support cradle, loading/unloading and insurance.

Our blog at has more detail, plus information on our route is taken from UAE to Cochin, India.

There were a few pitfalls we were unaware of – being the first to do it and having nothing to refer to. We learned quite a bit and are willing to pass that on. Some details, contacts and phone numbers are listed below as well as a few warnings.


  • Royal Jordan Yacht Club (RJYC), Aqaba
  • Capt. Mahmoud (Manager)
  • Tel: (+962) 3 201 2900 and (+962) 3 202 2404
  • Website:

They arranged a berth for us on arrival, visas, customs and immigration check-in etc. A pleasant place to stay – short walk into town.


Nabresco was the trucking company we used. They are based in the capital, Amman (oldest and biggest and very diverse in what they do – move large heavy machinery all over the Arab countries).

Raed Naber, the Operations Manager, was 35-ish, spoke excellent English and was very helpful. They made a cradle to fit the boat and also arranged for us to haul out in Aqaba as the RJYC’s travel lift cannot lift high enough onto the cradle on the flatbed. Cpt. Mahmoud of the RJYC knows the Naber family.


These will be done by Nabresco’s agent, but, and here is the BUT, do not let Nabresco use his agent to clear you into the UAE unless he has a new one. We were ripped off (extra-extra “fees”) and steered the wrong way by one Riad Hussein, as he really did not know what he was doing and he had us over a barrel as we needed him and had no alternative at the time. This was not Nabresco’s fault.

You are NOT IMPORTING your yacht, it is in TRANSIT, and that is a new thing to the customs and many agents.


  • Straightline Cargo Services / S.L. International Yacht Transport, Dubai
  • Contact: Nigel Grayston
  • E-mail: [email protected]
  • Tel: +971 (0)50 644 3010

Nigel Grayston is a British Expat who has been in the powerboat import/export business in the UAE for years. He will clear your yacht in as a boat in transit. He is also a member of the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (DOSC).


For a place (one of the few) to take your boat for mast stepping and launching, the boatyard Yachtmaster, at the entrance to the Dubai Creek Yacht Club, has good facilities. This was where Chinook was taken after customs clearance. David Nunn, an Aussie, is the ops manager and they know what they are doing (they still have Chinook’s cradle – and may sell it for a good price).


The DOSC may also be helpful as a place to go initially after launch. They have a few visitors berths and allow a visiting yacht 10 days. No haul out facilities there.

There is also a small and very inexpensive marina called AL JEER on the Omani border – soon to provide checkout facilitation, but very much out of the way. Tim Bomberg is the manager, Tel: (+971) (0) 50 487 3185.

And yet another alternative is the Fujairah International Marine Club in the Emirate Fujairah on the west coast. Contact is Haitham Kamal, mobile: (+971) (0) 50 799 9434, E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]


When our 21-day period of time in the UAE was up, we had to exit the UAE (checking out in the Customs/Immigration with an agent) and sail to Khasab, Oman (80 miles), check in/out and then sail back to the UAE. This time we chose Ras al-Khaimah (RAK), a smaller northern Emirate just 40 miles from Oman where the tax/time restriction does not apply. We wanted to leave Chinook there for the hot summer months. Time-consuming, but the only way to do it. The friendly Royal Yacht Club in RAK is a good place to leave a boat for a longer period of time. However, the berthing fees are the most expensive we have encountered since we left Canada for a long-term stay.


Trucking: $4000

  • Cradle (custom built for us): $2800
  • Customs clearances (Jordan, Saudi, UAE): $1000
  • Aqaba Haulout: $300
  • Aqaba Mast Crane: $250
  • Aqaba Club Services (on hard, powerwash, other): $400
  • UAE Yachtmaster (lift off the truck, splash in, mast crane time and per day on hard): $750

Note: we did all our own rigging work – prepping for unstepping and when stepped again.


Yachts coming from the East (India, SE Asia) could arrive at RAK (Mina Saqr) and after Coastguard and Immigration, proceed to Al Hamra Marina to stop initially and make further arrangements. Or if a contact has been made with Straightline, Nigel may give you the information on how to obtain the “IN TRANSIT” status and act as your agent for arrival in say Dubai (that is, bypassing Al Hamra Marina altogether). Remember, at RAK you do not need an agent; arriving in Dubai you do – and it is much more complicated.


The whole “process” of trucking was all-consuming: planning, emailing and phoning, dealing with officials, as well as being physically demanding along with some anxiety. We almost packed it in at one point and talked about selling Chinook. In the end, however, all thoroughly worthwhile and rewarding in ways we would not have thought about. We are able to continue our journey avoiding “Pirate Alley” and in October will return to “herself”, wait for the southwest monsoon to cease, the northwest lighter and fairer winds to begin and sail the coast of India to S.E. Asia.

See our blog at for the full report of our trucking experience, plus information on our route is taken from UAE to Cochin, India.

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