January 2004: Djibouti Visit A Disappointment

Published 20 years ago, updated 6 years ago

I have just sailed from The Maldives to Djibouti in a 38ft Catamaran. We only had minor problems across the Arabian Sea.

  • Caught in Nets twice at night. We learnt to keep at least 2 miles away from small boats.
  • Chased by a Dhow about 200 miles from The Maldives, eventually got away from them, we could go faster.

The purpose of this email is really about Djibouti. We had a terrible time there. Let me give you an update.

  • The French and Djibouti forces take turns to patrol the harbour against terrorists. The first day we were visited by the head of the Djibouti security forces who told us to only go ashore near his base just next to a French warship. He then said he wanted to be our agent. We felt very insecure having the security person being a tout as well. At this stage, he didn’t ask for money. His name was Said. When I went ashore to get my port clearance in and visas, I was helped by someone in the Post Office. I had to pay the port fees in local currency and therefore needed some money changed. The helpful fellow took me to get it changed (in the street) and then followed us everywhere. We could not get rid of him. He asked us for money for looking after the dinghy. We gave him a small amount.

Club Nautique has closed and touts hang out there. Port De Peche the same. We felt trapped.

I did give Said money for his School. At the time I believed him (he was a cool tout), but now realise it wasn’t only for him. The town was the same, just pushy touts and pushy cab drivers. One day when we were returning to our dinghy, 2 gangs of touts had a tussle about who was to serve us (handbags at 20 paces sort of stuff). The dinghy became incredibly oily because we had to anchor it just behind a large ship.

We eventually decided to leave early (Dec 23rd). By this time we were locking all our door at night. We also closed and locked all our windows. Even so, we forgot one above the galley which was just closed. I was sleeping in the cabin. I awoke to see a body coming in the hatch above the galley. We shouted at him and he went quietly.

We were glad to leave. I would recommend that people do not go to Djibouti but go straight to Massawa. I hope this is useful.

Regards Peter Zappert

Noonsite has contacted the former President of the Djibouti Yacht club who told us the following: The Yacht Club of Djibouti has now been closed. If there is space available, visiting yachts are docked on the floating pontoons in front of the former yacht club building. Former yacht club members have formed a new association that is attempting to build a proper marina in the same area, but the project may not come to fruition for at least one year. In the meantime visiting sailors are advised to either dock on one of the existing pontoons if there is space, or anchor close by. Larger yachts may come alongside the quay.

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