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RED SEA RIGORS AND RUMORS

When the class of 2005 sailed through the Bab al Mandeb, we all had to face the rigors and rumors of Red Sea cruising.  As dozens of yachts streamed cautiously north, we all wondered what the next six weeks would bring.

The rumor mill constantly spewed forth piratical fantasies regarding fishing boats that seemed all too curious about passing yachts.  Fortunately, the rumors turned out to only be rumors and nothing more.  All of the pirates had moved ashore and now specialized in other things.

The Red Sea rigors are a different story.

There are dozens of low lying islands, inlets, and reefs running along the western shore.   These are the stepping stones that make the voyage into an awesome adventure.  You can island hop up the Red Sea and enjoy good snorkeling and deserted anchorages all along the way.



If you had to sail the Red Sea in a single go, you would have a battle on your hands.  Seven-hundred miles of strong headwinds rear their ugly head to test your sails, rigging, and resolve.  But smart sailors don't do the Red Sea in one go.  They arise early in the morning and move their vessel thirty miles north before the headwinds start to blow.  The goal is to have the anchor down by noon in the next sheltered cove.

The trip north  requires discipline and patience.  When the headwinds pipe up, patience is the order of the day.  It's time to read books, snorkel, or hike on the low lying islands.  When the winds taper off, discipline gets you up at sunrise, and you quickly get on your way.



Red Sea red tape was surprisingly benign.  What could have been a nightmare turned out to be routine.   You don't need to reinvent the wheel when checking in and out of countries.  Officialdom has all the paperwork ready to go and will help you fill it out if you have any questions.  In Eritrea, you deal directly with customs and immigration, while in Egypt and Sudan, agents handle your paperwork for a nominal fee.

The Red Sea transit turned out to be one of the most interesting, enjoyable, and affordable parts of our circumnavigation.  I speak Arabic because I had worked in Arabia for eleven years as an eye surgeon, and being able to communicate in Arabic made the trip more fun.   I had treated patients from all the countries bordering the Red Sea, and  I finally had the privilege of visiting the countries from where my patients had come.  Wherever we went, the people were gracious to us and made us feel at home.

 

 

 

NEVER SURRENDER YOUR DREAMS

Take a look at the wind and waves.  The wind is blowing forty knots and Duetto, Balmacara,  and Exit Only are anchored at Ras Terma in Eritrea.  There is a white out from blowing sand lifted  high into the air by a sandstorm.  But at least the anchors are down and holding, and we are no longer being hammered by the seas of the Bab Al Mandeb.

Two days earlier, we left Yemen and sailed through the Gulf of Aden until we arrived at the Bab Al Mandeb which is the southern entrance to the Red Sea.  The Bab has a ferocious reputation because the winds in that area frequently blow at fifty knots.  Everyone sailing up the Red Sea must run the boisterous gauntlet as they sail through the Bab.

When it was our turn to sail those treacherous waters, we experienced first hand why the the Bab al Mandeb is called the Gate of Sorrows.  We pointed our bows north, pushed open the Gate, and  before long, we running downwind in a fifty knot gale with turbulent steep seas crashing into our stern. 

We went through the Bab in the morning, and so we had plenty of daylight to work our way north at about eight to ten knots.  We hoped that if we got far enough north, the winds would moderate, and the seas would lose their punch, and we would have a more enjoyable and less risky sail up the Red Sea.  Unfortunately, the Bab showed us no mercy.  The wind persisted at fifty knots all day long, and it was apparent that it was going to be a long night at sea if we didnít find shelter.  We wanted to continue north as fast as possible, but we also wanted to do it safely.

We had talked on the radio with other people who had transited the Bab in similar conditions, and they reported strong winds for up to thirty six hours.  That was bad news, and we didnít want to take a beating for that long.  Our other option was to head for Ras Terma, which was a deserted anchorage behind a high headland in Eritrea about fifteen miles away.

We decided to go to Ras Terma and hopefully ride out the strong winds in a sheltered location.  We tacked over on to a beam reach and headed for land.  I turned off the autopilot and steered by hand.   I was afraid that the wild seas might overpower the autopilot and strip its gears.  Hand steering the yacht for half a day in rough conditions was inconvenient, but at least I would be sure to have an autopilot that was working when the weather moderated.  We needed the autopilot to comfortably steer Exit Only for 1700 miles up the Red Sea.

It took three hours of extremely wet sailing to arrive at Ras Terma.  We were beam on to the steep seas, and the waves that struck the side of the yacht relentlessly dumped gallons of salt water over me as I steered at the unprotected helm.  Each new wave deposited more salt into my clothes until my shirt and pants became stiff from the accumulation of salt. My clothes turned into a pillar of salt.

Ras Terma proved to be a secure anchorage, but the winds still blew at thirty-five to forty knots for at least a day and a half before they abated.  We hunkered down and waited for conditions to improve.  While we were anchored there, a sandstorm came through and covered our boat with red desert dust.  We shut up the boat to keep sand from coming inside and creating a huge mess.

At least we had survived the Bab without damage.  Caked on salt spray mixed with desert dust is a small price to pay to escape from the clutches of the Bab Al Mandeb.  Once again, Exit Only had proven that it was a strong and seaworthy vessel.  It took a licking and kept on ticking.

While itís true that adversity had paid visit, it didnít move in and become a permanent member of our crew.  We are careful about such things.  When adversity pays a visit, we modify our plans, stick to our purpose, and never surrender our dreams.

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RED SEA SUNSETS
 

I didn't plan to sail up the Red Sea.  It sort of happened by default.

My trip around the world in Exit Only took so long, I was hoping they would have a Trans-African Canal completed by the time I arrived in the Western Indian Ocean, but that turned out to be wishful thinking.  In the real world where I lived, I had only two choices.  I could head south into the deep southern ocean, visit Madagascar and South Africa, and sail round the Cape of Good Hope into the Atlantic Ocean, or I could sail up the dreaded Red Sea.

I knew that Exit Only could withstand the rigors of either trip if I was careful.  The southern route would be potentially dangerous because of the weather; sailing in the southern ocean during winter is never fun.  The waters of the Mozambique Channel with its treacherous Agulhas current is a graveyard for ships, and if you don't get it right, you take a mighty beating.  One of my friends flipped his monohull sailboat upside down in that area.  Fortunately, he and his boat survived with minimal damage.

The northern route suffers mainly from political perils.  The reefs and headwinds of the northern Red Sea are manageable challenges, and as long as there aren't any major foreign policy disasters working themselves out during the trip, you can make the Red Sea transit without too much difficulty.

I had to decide whether I wanted to see Red Sea sunsets or southern ocean sunrises.  All of our friends were sailing up the Red Sea, and so we decided to go with the flow.  It turned out to be a good decision, because we survived, and survival is always good.

Our Red Sea Adventure took us to Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt, and in spite of the politics, we had a uniformly good trip.  I speak Arabic, and I'm sure that lubricated our passage through those supposedly perilous waters.  Wherever we went, people always treated us with respect.  We never felt threatened when on dry land; it was only at sea in the Gulf of Aden that we had any major concerns.  There's a hundred mile long danger zone where Somali and Yemeni Pirates prey upon passing ships and yachts.  We teamed up with another yacht, Balmacara, to make an uneventful radio silent passage through pirate alley.  Not all yachts were so lucky.  Gandolf and Mahdi had a gun battle with Yemeni pirates two days after we made our trip, and the pirates lost.  Several of the pirates went to paradise, or to wherever pirates go when they die.

We didn't plan to go into Yemen, because the US Navy ship, the Cole, was nearly sunk in Aden harbor.   As it turned out, we had no choice but to stop in Aden for refueling because diesel wouldn't be available again until we were half way up the Red Sea in Sudan.  There was a fuel shortage in Eritrea, and the government wouldn't allow yachts to purchase diesel at any price.

Aden turned out to be a nice surprise.  We had total freedom of movement in this former British protectorate.  More than once, people walked up to us on the street and spontaneously said, "Welcome to our country."  That had never happened to us before and hasn't happened since.  Fuel was cheap, food supplies were basic, but adequate, and the people were lovely.

We made only one significant blunder on our trip up the Red Sea.  We unknowingly walked through a minefield on Difnein Island in Eritrea.  Next time I make the trip, I'll read the cruising guide before I go ashore on remote islands, because that type of mistake can end in disaster.

 

I worked as an eye surgeon for sixteen years in Saudi Arabia at King Khalid Eye Specialist Hospital, and my patients came from all the lands bordering on the Red Sea.  The trip north gave me an opportunity to visit the homelands of the people on whom I performed surgery during all those years.  I now had the privilege of walking in their footsteps and seeing their towns and cities.  What I saw confirmed what I already knew.  The overwhelming majority of them are good people, and when you treat them with respect, they treat you the same way. 

We saw more than sixty sunsets as we sailed up the Red Sea.  Because of the dust in the air and paucity of clouds, an orange sunset frequently greeted us at the end of the day.  We saw the same type of sunsets when we camped in Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula. 

Sailing up the Red Sea isn't for everyone, but it worked for us.  If it wasn't so far away, I would happily do it again without fear in my heart.  In spite of the negative media coverage of this region of the world, it's a great place to cruise.  If you like pristine diving, wonderful people, and orange sunsets, the Red Sea is the place to be.

Even in the Red Sea, life is good.
 

 

 

TAKE THE PLUNGE AND ORDER THE RED SEA CHRONICLES.   JUMP INTO A GREAT CATAMARAN CRUISING DVD.   YOU WILL BE GLAD THAT YOU DID!

 

A FIRST CLASS SAILING ADVENTURE
A FIRST CLASS CHRISTMAS GIFT

Captain Dave and his family spent eleven years sailing around the world on their Privilege 39 catamaran, Exit Only. During the trip, the crew of Exit Only shot 200 hours of video with professional cameras to show people what it's like to sail on a small boat around the world.

The Red Sea Chronicles is a one hour and twenty-two minute feature film showing their adventures as Exit Only sails through Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea.  The professional footage documents their experiences in Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, and the Suez Canal.  It chronicles the rigors of traveling in a remote section of the world rarely visited by cruisers.  Exit Only dodges Yemeni pirates, fights a gale and sand storms in the Bab al Mandeb at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.  The crew explores deserted islands on the western shores of the Red Sea, and learns to check the cruising guides for land mines before venturing ashore.

The Red Sea Chronicles also has outstanding Special Features including an Instructional Video on Storm Management that tells sailors how to deal with storms at sea.

And don't forget the two Music Videos: "The Red Sea Blues", and "Captain - Save Our Souls".

The Red Sea Chronicles is a first class adventure that stokes the sailing dreams of both experienced and wannabe sailors alike.  Order your copy of the Red Sea Chronicles and experience the adventures of Exit Only as they sail around the world and up the Red Sea.
 

Meet The Crew

Dave Abbott - Captain

Captain Dave always dreamed of sailing around the world on his own sailboat, and his eleven year circumnavigation with his family made his dream come true.
 

Donna Abbott - First Mate

Donna earned her stripes the REALLY old fashioned way...by enduring the rigors of passage making for the thrill of exploring exotic ports across the globe.

 

Sarah Abbott - Deck Swab

Sarah is the newest member of the family and crew. Despite her limited sailing experience, she jumped right in to life on the high seas. Her fresh and enthusiastic perspective on cruising help make the Red Sea Chronicles so special.

 

David Abbott - Cameraman/Director/Editor/Narrator/Composer

David shot over 170 hours of footage on the voyage from Australia to Florida. He then spent a year and a half on dry land editing and producing the Red Sea Chronicles DVD. In addition to the narrating the film, David also scored, performed, and recorded the entire soundtrack for the project.

 

Wendy Abbott - Voice of Ninja Crab

Wendy is the daughter of Capt Dave and Donna. She sailed on Exit Only from Florida to New Zealand. Wendy guest stars as the voice of a Ninja Hermit Crab in the Red Sea


 

TOP TEN REASONS TO BUY THE RED SEA CHRONICLES

10. The Red Sea Chronicles is an affordable CHRISTMAS gift for the sailor in my life.  Where else can I get a totally awesome gift for only twenty bucks?  
 9. I work hard for a living, and I deserve to reward myself with the Red Sea Chronicles.  
 8. My Dream Machine could use a shot in the arm, and the Red Sea Chronicles will give it the boost that it needs.  
 7. Every minute spent watching The Red Sea Chronicles extends my life by a full year.  
 6. I want to see what it's like to cruise on a catamaran before I spend a bazillion dollars purchasing one.  
 5. I want to see how a catamaran handles in heavy weather.  
 4. I want to see the Storm Management video so I understand what I need to do when I get in a storm at sea.  
 3. If I buy The Red Sea Chronicles, then Maxing Out Media will start production on two new DVD's - Australia to the Red Sea, and Med Sea to the Caribbean.  
 2. I like the Maxing Out web site, and I would like to support the website by purchasing their DVD.  
 1. After watching the Red Sea Chronicles, I can finally see myself sailing on the ocean of my dreams.
 

REVIEWS

"Story, quality, music, people, boat... Just excellent."

"...w
e got the DVD yesterday and watched it last night (we had no problem with the different format at all), what a great adventure and well put together DVD it was entertaining as well as informative and funny at times, a great combination. Well done you guys are natural movie stars, Laura and I watched the DVD twice and I am sure we will watch it many more times in the future."

"
I hope you guys are going to make more DVDís of your previous sailing trips for us to enjoy."

"Amazing...Just watched your dvd The Red Sea Chronicles for the third time today...I called my boss at home and turned in my notice...I'm going sailing!"

"The best cruising video to date from any source and should be on the shelf of every one who shares the cruising spirit even if only in dreams."

"...a great video that transported me from a damp, cold day in Wales to cruising aboard Maxing Out in the Red Sea - pure nectar."

"The only "problem" is that this has left me wanting more of the same stuff, just from some of the other places Maxing Out has visited!"

"Thumbs up. I also wish the entire circumnavigation was documented, but this small portion in the Red Sea is excellent. Well done."

"
I just watched the Red Sea Chronicles and second what all the others have said. I'd love to see a whole series of Maxing Out DVDs...Good job!"

Red Sea Chronicles DVD Previews

The Red Sea Chronicles is now available!

 
  We are attacked by flying fish as we cross the Indian Ocean on our way to Salalah, Oman. When we make landfall, the local suq (market) helps us regain our land legs.


 

  The riskier side of world cruising. In this episode we prepare to sail through "Pirate Alley" in the Gulf of Aden

 
  We arrive in Aden with a damaged alternator and are delighted to find a superb local machine shop. As we prepare to leave, fellow cruisers are attacked by pirates.

 
  We must sail through the notorious Bab el Mandeb (Gate of Sorrows) to enter the Red Sea. 50 knot winds and relentless sandstorms are ready and waiting on the other side


 



 

 

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Storm Management Offshore
Parachute Sea Anchor Chainplates
When To Deploy Chutes and Drogues

The Almost Never Fail Catamaran Anchoring System
How Big Should Your Anchor Be?
Far Horizons
Tsunami Damage - The Starboard Bow Takes A Licking
Everywhere, Everything
Go West Young Man - Seasteading
Beam Me Up Scotty

Ten Reasons Why Night Sailing Rocks
When Are You Coming Home?

Sailing to Borneo to See Wild Orangutans
Double Headsail Downwind Sailing
Grand Schemes And Other Important Things
Rigging Emergency Prevented - Listening To Your Boat

Dreams Do Come True
I Have A Dream

I Am Wandering, But Not Lost
Missing Out
The Facts of Life

Red Sea Rigors and Rumors
Never Surrender Your Dreams
Red Sea Sunsets

Exit Only Survives the Global Tsunami
The Sea Is So Big and My Ship Is So Small

34 Things I Learned in 33,000 Miles
Space Travel

Ten Disasters I Was Afraid Of That Never Happened
Kissing Cobras

Pirates of The Malacca Straits
The Tree That Wanted To Eat My Boat

Offshore Dream Machine for Circumnavigation
The Facts of Life Rafts

Surviving the Savage Seas
Abbott Drogue - Adjustable Medium Pull Drogue
You Must Know The Sea

Listen to the Sound of Your Dreams
Clouds Are a Sailor's Friend

Exit Only
Life Is Good
Getting Connected

First You Think It, And Then You Do It
My Addiction
Cook's Look at Lizard Island

I've Got Trade Wind Dreams
Storms Come and Go
Go Ahead.  Live Your Dreams.
The Next Step

Take Care of Your Autopilot So It Takes Care of You
Danger Zones On Board Exit Only
 

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