In The Footsteps of The Magdalene, A Mideast Journal
the coast guard pull us out from the berth at Hodeidah
Ali and Nigel aboard the Phoenicia
John me and Abdul Omar on the Phoenicia
John and Phillip aboard the Phoenicia
a passing freighter on the Red Sea
john, Nigel and Phillip on the Phoenicia
Abdul Omar
the wake of the Phoenicia
Horse figurehead of the Phoenicia
under weigh on the Phoenicia
Sails, Union Jack and Sudan courtesy flag on the Phoenicia
sunset through the rigging on the Phoenicia
we set up the twitterpator on the Phoenicia
sails on the Phoenicia
sun sets off the stern of the Phoenicia
sun set on the Red Sea
the navigation lights at night on the Phoenicia
fishermen come alongside on the Red Sea
free fish from the Red Sea fishermen
Abdul, Fadil and Ali eat fish on the Phoenicia
Phillip has his doubts...
The Red Sea
Sunset off the port stern of the Phoenicia
sunrise coming into Aden
me steering the boat into Aden
coming into Aden
Nigel on the Phoenicia
Port of Aden, Crater, Yemen
my Port Pass!
the Phoenicia at anchor in Aden
the Phoenicia at anchor in Aden
OK, This was not a staged shot, the boat moved! Honest!
the Phoenicia at anchor in Aden
the Phoenicia at anchor in Aden
Nigel and John in the dinghy headed for shore
sunrise on the Phoenicia in Aden
sunrise on the Phoenicia in Aden
a tug, Aden, Yemen
the crew of the Phoenicia, Nigel, Abdul,Fadil, Ali, Phillip, John and me
fishing dhow, Aden Port, Yemen
clock tower, Crater, Aden, Yemen
water taxi comes alongside the Phoenicia
view of the stern from the crow's nest on the Phoenicia
it's a long way down to the deck!
flying out of Aden
clouds over Sanaa, Yemen
I get a haircut, Sanaa, Yemen
alleyway, old city, Sanaa, Yemen
Sanaa, Yemen
Sanaa, Yemen

17th May, 2009

OK, just cause it would spoil the narrative, I won’t tell you anything about today yet, so we have to go back to Monday:

11th May, 2009

One of the coast guard boats gave us a pull away from the dock and we set out. Not under sail, as the wind out the channel to the sea was against us. So we putted along with the diesel engine which runs far better than it looks. We actually motored for a better part of the day. So here’s something you should know:

I get seasick. This in itself is an incredibly unpleasant feeling. After I threw up over the boat, I had to wash it down, And the water dripped through the deck onto Ali who was sleeping below decks. As he didn’t speak much English and I spoke little Arabic, I didn’t actually tell him the water that dripped on him might actually have diluted vomit in it. I took a pill, but it didn’t seem to have much effect, but John gave me a patch As he didn’t speak much English and I spoke little Arabic, I didn’t actually tell him the water that dripped on him might actually have diluted vomit in it. I took a pill, but it didn’t seem o have much effect, but John gave me a patch (Scopoderm TTS), and after about two days, I returned to as close to normal as I am capable. However, I still couldn’t spend much time below decks or in the cabin because once I was inside the ship, I felt queasy within a few minutes. I really didn’t recover fully until the second last day of sailing, and I actually could manage doing stuff like pumping out the bilge (the boat leaks). So, I was pretty much limited to sitting on the helm. Most of the time Abdul sat with me and I got him to teach me some more Arabic.

Steering a boat with a rudder and a prop is kinda like backing up a semi. If you end up swinging the steering too wide, the boat gets completely out of line, and is really hard to pull back. Especially under sail. Little adjustments were good, but once in a while, when the sail was trimmed and the rudder set, the Phoenicia (the name of the boat) stayed on course quite well. I found it easier to steer by landmarks rather than by the compass, but (and I’m not sure if you know this) there aren’t any landmarks at sea. You can set the moon as a mark, but it moves through the sky quite quickly and is only a temporary guide.

We worked in shifts, which, like everything about sailing, has its own name. Watches. We worked in watches. The watches were like this: 2AM to 8AM, 8AM to 12PM, 12PM to 4PM, 4PM to 8PM, 8PM to 2AM. Ali, Fadil, Nigel and John were on one watch and Phillip, Abdul and I were on the other. Nigel was quite put out by Abdul because he was very difficult to wake up. John told me Fadil, from time to time would pour water on Abdul, seemningly just for the sport of it. This meant that I actually didn’t get enough uninterrupted sleep to feel really rested, and made it difficult to assess whether I was suffering from seasickness or lack of adequate sleep. There were a couple of times where they let me sleep past the beginning of my watch. Everyone was quite sympathetic to me condition.

The actual sailing was quite good. As I didn’t keep up my journal, I will have to just describe stuff willy nilly and it might be out of order. Abdul hailed some fishermen in a small boat and they threw two fish on board for no charge, and then cooked it up with some rice. Thankfully, I had recovered from my seasickness thanks to John’s Scopoderm TTS seasickness patch. Unfortunately because the ships’ supplies consisted of corned beef (which neither John or Phillip could stomach), pickled frankfurters, eggs, tinned tuna and tomato paste, and when I threw up, it was this concotion that was ejected onto the deck, I had quite gone off this food (probably for life), and could only sip water from time to time, supplemented by the occasional Pepsi (for as long as the Pepsi lasted) and even after I recovered, I limited my diet to oranges, apples and porridge.

For the most part, I think ships were avoiding us, as you might be able to tell from the pictures, the Phoenicia actually looks like a pirate ship. We passed the yacht “Tiger” from South Africa and chatted with them on the VHF radio. They had sailed from Aden to Bab El Mandeb in a single day. Somewhat faster than our ship. We had just set up the very expensive LRAD 1000 which is a sonic thingie that is supposed to hurt the pirate's ears. We tried it out on the Tiger and the woman asked if it was "that twittering". So much for debilitating pirates. They would have recived a twitter pulse, and we assume that being twitterpated would have the same effect as being twitterpated had on Bambi when he fell in love. So we have a Twitterpator on board. Probably more dangerous to our crew than the pirates (of which I have no pictures)

We had to wake up the opposite shift in the middle of the night as the wind shifted against us and we had to drop the yard and go to diesel power. A whale surfaced at night when Phillip and I were on the helm, but everyone else thinks it was just a dolphin. The other watch saw a shark swimming near the lure we were trawling behind us. We caught no fish. We had to use the diesel engine going into Aden as the wind was against us there. What else? First night out while I was at the helm we had to rendevous with a tug at sea to get diesel fuel. That was pretty exciting. The tug came alongside and matched our speed and all I had to do was turn into her a little. I got to steer the boat between the buiys in the channel.

The Port of Aden is a large round crater and the part where we anchored is called Crater. There is also an amazing little harbour on the west side that is definitely a crater. Unfortunately we had no time to visit there. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve seen pcitures of Aden before, but it seemed awfully familiar. As it was Friday, Fadil, Abdula and Ali went ashore to go to the mosque on Friday, and didn’t get back until we(the Europeans) were ready to go for supper. On the jetty promenade we talked with a Fencg guy who was on his yacht with his girlfriend and didn’t want to travel through the Arabian Sea because of the pirates. If I didn’t have to get back to work, I would have offered to go with him. There are people who travel all over the world crewing other people’s yachts ( ). We went for supper, Internet (bad connection) and a beer at the Sailor’s Club and Motel, a local bar and brothel. They played music the first night but it was so kinda mediocre lounge we left, and wouldn’t ya know it after we left, they started playing “One Love” by Bob Marley and then got Arabic funky. Still it was quite something listening to the music coming across the harbour as I slept on the deck.

John and Nigel left on Sunday. And Abdul, Fadil and Ali. They worked quite hard to get as much done as possible so they could leave early. There was a big argument between Abdul and Nigel as Nigel didn’t want to row Abdul ashore to get the passports from Customs. Ali and I were in the engine room topping up the tanks with fuel, but we could hear theem arguing from there. It was too bad Nigel didn’t like Abdul as I got along with him OK. We both like to sleep. Anyway, after Nigel left to get the passports, I got everyone to finish off our “to do” list, and we were pretty well done the important tasks by the time the passports came back.

I was going to get a Phoenicia stamp in my passport from Phillip, but he lost it. If anyone asked me about the Phoenicia stamp, I was going to tell them it was a little known island in the Pacific. Still, it didn’t happen. Phillip will be in England back in Dorset when I get there, so maybe I can get my passport stamped there. He’s only a day trip from Budleigh Salterton, so I hope I can go visit him there.

We installed a new electric bilge pump, replaced the connector, and changed the configuration so it didn’t have to be placed in the bilge and removed every time you wanted to use it. It should work better than the old one. The boat has a manual bilge pump, a diesel bilge pump as well as the electric one, and Phillip and I figured that by putting a “Y” connector and tap after the shuttlecock for the seawater intake for the heat exchanger, you could use the big diesel engine to pump out the bilge just by turning a switch. We didn’t have enough time for that, but Phillip is probably gonna do that when the Phoenicia goes into dry dock.

Phillip and I went ashore and ate at the same restaurant. I found out that a Chicken Broast is essentially a KFC type fried chicken. We did manage to get a good supply of chips with it by delaying our order of french fries until our order for the chicken was already in. We went to another bar and had a Heinelen. It was quite good. Phillip wanted to go to the Sailor’s Club and check out the band, but it was closed. We headed back to the ship, and Phillip rowed back without looking behind him, and actually reached the ship. He’s a very good boat rower. Though technically, I don’t consider a dinghy a boat, but that’s just me!

May 17th, 2009

Woke up early and had breakfast. Omar, the agent who’s looking after the Phoenicia while she’s anchored in Aden harbour came aboard around 8AM and Phillip took him about to show him the maintenance procedure and I covered the life rafts and diesel jerry cans on deck with canvas. I found out after from John there’s proper covers for all the rafts (3) as well as the dinghy outboard engine.

After Omar left, some missionaries or somethingorothers came on board and Phillip ave them a guided tour of the boat. The Canadian woman told me that because of the Unification Day (North and South Yemen, 22 May) all the NGO workers were being told to go to Sanaa for the holidays as they expected trouble in Aden. Al Quaida has come out in support of the Southern cecessionists, and they expect there might be some shootings or bombings in the streets.

That being said, Phillip and I carried the stern anchor out to a mooring point in the dinghy and dropped it into the harbour, then pulled the ship into line. After that we hauled out the dinghy, deflated it and our shores were done. We were showering when the harbour taxi came to pick us up. It was early so we sent the guy back, but even when he arrived (exactly) on time, we still weren’t quite ready. We stopped by the Frech yacht to get his email and mobile number for John, as he phoned Phillip to say he didn’t get his Sudan visa and was going to check out to see if the French guy still wanted crew to go to the Maldives. Then off to the airport!

I got a good look at myself in the mirror at the coffee bar in the Aden airport and decided I should get a haircut. Both Phillip and I looked as if we had just wandered in from crossing the Empty Quarter! John telephoned to say he had booked a triple room at the Dwahi Hadroumat Hotel (the one Eric had recommended and I couldn’t find on my first visit to Sanaa). The taxi driver who took us from the airport had no idea where to go and I had to redirect him a couple of times to get to Bab El Yemen, then get John on the phone to put someone from the hotel who spoke Arabic on the line to give him instructions. It almost seemed as if the driver didn’t understand Arabic any better than English. John had come out of the hotel onto the street.

Best line of the day: Phillip: “We’re in a yellow and white taxi…”

18th May, 2009

Phillip left for Dubai (or somewhere like it in the morning) and John and I did the following things:

Went to Ethiopian Airlines to see about a refund for his ticket from Addis to Khartoum (the taxi driver who took us there didn’t know where we were going)

Get some money from the ATM (me)

Get a haircut. This was quite the experience, getting a shave from and Arab guy with a picture of Saddam Hussein on his wall.

Chewed Qat in the hotel room. It was awful, and we gave up on that and went out for a bite to eat. A neat place in the old city. We left there and walked in a complete circle before we actually managed to get to Bab El Yemen.

Bought some socks. Turns out one pair (out of two) was too small.

Anyway, I took a nap and woke up around 12:30 and went to the airport to catch my placne to Cairo. The first cab driver I flagged down didn’t understand the word “Airport”, and the one who did take me got a flat about a kilometer short of the airport, but he drove me to the gate on the flat.

They served breakfast on the plane: poached egg with a tuna topping, a frankfurter, really bad foul (beans), processed cheese triangle, stale buns. Everything I couldn’t eat on the boat! Still, I’m in Egypt, and am headed to the New Palace Hotel (again) and after renewing my visa, headed for Alexandria. Apparently Barak Obama is coming for a cisit on Friday, so I may get back to Cairo for that and then head for Jordan!