To the Red Sea S/V PEACE AND ALOHA, Update, February 27, 2005
Aloha, Friends and Family,
We left Port Raysut, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman this morning, Sunday, February 27, 2005, in convoy with five other boats: *Stella di Mare* (American), *Chriselle* (Kiwi), *Delicado* (Aussie), *Lady Meg* (Canadian) and *Happy Now* (American/British). Quite an international delegation with mostly couples on board, with the exception of *Happy Now* who have three crew, since Philippa is home in England handling her father's affairs, after he recently passed on. We are completely reprovisioned with food and fuel, ready to sail approximately 800 miles from Oman to the Bab El Mandeb Straits into the Red Sea. Unfortunately, we have to run the gauntlet through "Pirate Alley", about 250 miles between 50-47 Degrees between Yemen and Somalia, where yachts have been attacked, boarded and robbed in the past 10 years often by people-smuggling boats from Somalia to Yemen.
Most yachts are traveling in convoys, in formation, blacked out at night (in spite of most attacks occurring during the day), radio silence on VHF, except for low power when a "Bogie" is noted on radar which will be operated even during the day, and most private communication on SSB radio. Our strategy is to sail as fast as possible and to remain undetected. If we note a "Bogie" on radar, we will immediately change course to the fastest point of motor/sailing to prevent our visual detection and to keep them 4-6 miles away. Even though we are traveling in a convoy, our greatest defense is to run. Other yachts will be "circling the wagons and making noise to frighten off the bad guys", but this strategy gives the pirates access to all the yachts, not just one, since we have no fire power to fight them off. How do you fight a boat load of AK-47's?. We left on Sunday to arrive in the "area of pests" at Tuesday dusk and be through by Thursday with most attacks occurring on Mondays, Fridays and weekends. We have contacted the US Embassies in Muscat and Yemen, liason officers for the Navy and Marines, and the surface operations officer at the US 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain, who is in command of all the large ships in the area for the Global War on Terrorism, including many foreign warships. We have their 24 hour watch floor phone number programmed into out Iridium Satphone for an emergency. We have emailed them our "sailing plans," and have been assured that "We've got their backs" as they have put it! Many yachts in front of us, safely through the Straits in the Red Sea, have spoken on VHF with warships and helicopters. We are very thankful for their presence here! We pray that 2005 will be the year of NO incidents against yachts!
We have also taken the precaution to hide as much of our electronics, cameras, computers, VHF's, jewelry, watches, money, wallets, and credit cards as possible. Unfortunately, they like VHF, SSB radios and computers, all absolutely necessary for our safety, navigation and communication aboard. We do not have duplicate SSB. We have sacrificial US dollars in wallets with our recently canceled credit card, jewelry, watches, cameras, cigs and booze placed around the boat! We just need to remember where we hid all the good stuff!
We have the added complication of recent changes in Eritrea. We had planned to refill all diesel tanks during our stay in Assab and Masawa after this passage and for the long 1200 mile trek to windward up the Red Sea to Egypt. We understand that diesel is being rationed, although one yacht obtained diesel on the black market for 65 US cents/liter with much effort. We might divert to Djibouti or Aden for fuel after assessing our need as we approach the Straits. Hopefully, wind conditions will change since we have head winds and 1 knot of current against us after 5 hours of mostly motoring. We won't make it to the risk area at this speed!
We hope that you are all well and happy. Take care of each other. God Bless!
Please keep us in your daily prayers, especially until our safe arrival in
the Red Sea, hopefully, by March 4 or 5th. Please keep in touch. We love to
hear from you. We will answer your recent emails and write an update of our
recent experiences in Oman soon. Please do NOT send our message back to
us with your reply. If you no longer, wish to receive our updates, write and we will remove you from our mailing list. Thanks.
With Love, Peace and Aloha,
Ellen, David, Jason and Eric
S/V PEACE AND ALOHA
February 27, 2005
Day 1, Passage from Oman to Assab, Eritrea