Fafner Log

Middle East

Date: May 19, 2008

Location: 31º 05' N 32º 18' E at 1200 transitting Suez Canal, Egypt

We're moving again. This morning we left Ismailia to finish traveling through the Suez Canal and get out into the Med. Ah, but the day was not without excitement. We went to sleep happy in the knowledge that our pilot was scheduled for 0600. Geoff set the alarm for 0520 to allow us to hit the snooze button and still get up in time to make caffeine. At 0515 someone was banging on our boat and saying the pilot had arrived. So we pulled on some clothes and left without breakfast, without getting off the boat and without caffeine. About half an hour later fog rolled in. We had to stop and anchor on the side of the canal. We could barely see the shore we were close to much less the Southern Convoy which was passing us. We took pictures. They are similar to those tests where you are asked to look at non-descript blobs and explain what you see except we do not have blobs, we have grey haze. We swear there are ships in the photos. A little over an hour later we were on our way. We needed to continue because the military was going to close the canal for a while in order to do something or other very important and military-like. Later, around lunchtime, we had a brief stop at a pilot station while we let our engine cool off. Either we found some more plastic or it could be an engine thing related to our previous plastic interlude. We only stopped for about 20 minutes because it was a military zone and they didn't want us to stay. The engine behaved after that. We dropped our pilot off on a pilot boat. And we waved at Port Said as we passed it on our way out of the canal and out of the channel and out of Egypt. We had a good time doing tourist things like riding camels and seeing the pyramids and learning how papyrus is made. We did not enjoy all the "requests" for baksheesh. Alex and Ricardhino were inspired to create their own sales patter. We are ready to unleash them on the Egyptians. We have tons of stories to tell. Later.

Date: May 11, 2008

Location: 30º 35.097' N 32º 16.351' E Ismailia, SCA Ismailia Sailing/Yacht Club, Suez Canal, Egypt

We made it here safe and sound and have been running around doing things. First we started with the inevitable chores. I discovered a washer at the yacht club/marina where we're staying. They had a drier too, but I'm afraid I caused it to decide to take a vacation. It started to make all sorts of horrible noises. I'm glad I got the towels dried. The rest of the stuff dried on a line on the boat. Geoff is looking for a welder and boat parts. We found an inexpensive restaurant, George's, and a grocery. And we're learning how to negotiate with taxi-drivers. And we think a few more trips in and out of the marina and the policemen at the gate may not ask us for our passports anymore. The rescue mission to our friends did not work. They had already left to return to Hurghada by the time Geoff and Ricardo arrived at their chosen anchorage. We're sort of waiting for them. If they take too long however, we will move on. They sent a message that all is repaired and they expect to be coming up in the next few days.

We've made one trip to Cairo. We saw the Egyptian Museum and we walked around Old Cairo. The taxi ride to Cairo was an adventure in itself. We needed two cabs because traveling with Bravo makes for 9 people. Our driver spoke more English than their's did. He swore up and down that going to the museum was no problem. We thought differently after he kept asking for directions. He'd roll down his window and talk to drivers of other cars as we were going down the highway. At one point he did a U-turn on some street in Cairo. This got the attention of a policeman. The policeman pulled both cabs over and a discussion ensued. The taxi driver paid some baksheesh and we were off with new directions. Eventually we arrived at the museum. The museum is cool. They have ancient things in dusty glass cases. The information cards were probably typed in 1930. The cards were yellowed. My favorite things were the notes left to say that a piece was on loan. Some notes were handwritten with ballpoint pen on binder paper torn from a notebook. But oh, the ancient stuff: cases and cases of mummies, tools used to make pyramids, statues and sarcophaguses, coins and jewelry, all of it together in rooms and not necessarily organized. We spent a great deal of time looking at the King Tut stuff. After the museum we had lunch at, are you sitting down?, Pizza Hut. Then we went to Khalil al Kahn (or something like that) a bazaar in Old Cairo. We had a very good time wandering around looking at stuff and bargaining for souvenirs. We also went into a mosque and for a small fee climbed up to its roof and had a great view of the city. We are organizing a trip to go see the pyramids at Giza. We're hoping Phoenix will be here by then and they will go with us.

Our trip up the first portion of the Suez Canal was not without excitement. Our pilot was very good. In fact, he drove the whole way. Which was a good thing because we had a small engine moment to deal with. Geoff noticed that the engine was getting hot. We're attuned to this sort of thing. He and Claire and Alex opened up the salon floor and started checking everything while I watched the temp and the pilot. Professional man that he was, he just kept driving. Geoff discovered that no water was coming into the boat, so for a quick fix he got Alex to run our wash down hose into the engine. That worked and gave him time to sort out what was wrong. We blame aquatic garbage. Something got stuck over the saltwater intake through-hull. We've seen enough plastic bags floating around to think it could be one of them. Now that we have stopped we need to dive down and take a look. No one is eager to go given the look of the water in the harbor.

But engine fun aside, the canal was interesting. We met the south-bound convoy of tankers just before the Great Bitter Lake. There was room for us to pass, but not much. I never want to be that close to a tanker on the open sea. The kids enjoyed looking out the galley window and reading "Tug Here" off the side of the tankers that passed. Although I think all they could see from the seatee was "Ug Her", they had to get up and look out the window to read the whole message at once. We saw plenty of military stations and floating bridges. We saw sand and some green spots. And, we found fishermen in the channel in the Suez Canal. Granted, they came out after the convoys had passed, but the sight of guys setting nets caused my heart to skip a beat.

Date: May 9 & May 10, 2008

Location 5/9: 28º 36' N 33º 05' E at 1200

Yes, we are still alive and yes, we dislike this weather very much.

Location 5/10: 29 deg 56.933' N 32 deg 34.455' E moored off Suez Yacht Club, Egypt

How we manage to find strong head winds, I don't know. It's a gift. Last night propagation was so bad we couldn't even send out our message much less think about receiving any. Today we are in Suez. The winds died back enough last night for the waves to settle down and we could make more than 2 knots. This morning we arrived. It is "obligatory for all yachts to moor at the Suez Yacht Club" before setting out for the canal passage, so here we are. Unfortunately, one of us is missing. Phoenix had engine trouble and got way behind. And their main is ripped, so they can only use it triple-reefed. Their jib is torn also, so they were using a storm jib. If the winds got light enough they hoped to be able to put up an old jib instead of the damaged one. Geoff and Ricardo are getting ready to mount a rescue mission with tools. The wrinkle is that we don't know their present location. We're hoping our agent can help us sort it out. We know an anchorage that they were thinking of heading to, we're going to try and call the Port Captain there. Any of the places they would go should be accessible by car. I can't tell you right now exactly when we're going to start up the canal. Hopefully in the next few days.

Red Sea, Egypt

Date: May 8, 2008

We're on the move again. We left Hurghada this afternoon. We're headed to Suez. It's a day an a half away, I think. So far the wind has been teasing us. We've got our sails up and the engine is still on. Oh, well.

Date: May 6, 2008

Location: 27º 13.50' N 33º 50.575' E Hurghada Marina, Egypt

We're in Hurghada at the Hurghada Marina. We've already gotten our delivery of two cases of Luxor Gold beer, so we're good to go. We've learned that most of the Red Sea is considered a marine park, so anchoring is discouraged. There are some places we should be able to find to go on our way to Suez if we need them to hide from bad weather, or to play. Unless, of course, the people we've talked to are feeding us a line about not anchoring only to get us into marinas. Would something like that ever happen in Egypt? Anyway, we're here for a day or two and then on to Suez. The kids want to ride camels and some of them want to take a dive trip. Oh, and the paddle boat has already more than paid for itself in kid entertainment. Yesterday eight kids were paddling around the marina on the thing. All eight kids at once. It was a sight to behold.

Date: May 5, 2008

Location: 25º 40' N 34º 45' E at 1200

Ha, it just occurred to me that today is Cinco de Mayo. Lucky for us we have one bag of Egyptian Doritos, cheese and spices flavor. If we pretend hard enough maybe we can see the pita bread as tortillas. Actually, if we whine hard enough we can usually get Alex to make tortillas. I have the can of refried beans we bought in Male'. Sadly, there were no avocados at the little produce store just outside Port Ghalib. Of course, I wasn't considering Cinco de Mayo or guacamole when I was there shopping so I didn't really notice their absence. And there was no beer to be had. There was good fresh beef. You told the guy behind the counter how much you wanted and from where on his half cow he should cut it from and off you went. We bought a bunch and then barbequed it on Bravo. We planned a wonderful menu of great beef, hamburgers, cantaloupe and potato salad. But the Dads were bemoaning the lack of beer. Thank goodness for the understanding host at TGIFridays. I will not take that particular chain's name in vain ever again. One of the guys went to the host and explained his need for beer to consume at the BBQ. An exchange of understanding was effected and we ended up with a backpack full of malt beverages at the BBQ.

This morning we left Port Ghalib and we are heading for Hurghada. After that, Suez. We're hoping the good weather we have RIGHT NOW will last for a while.

And this afternoon we performed a maritime salvage operation. This is really true. Honest. Cinco de Mayo is not like April Fool's Day. I'm not making up stories today. Around 1530 I spotted something smallish and bright yellow floating off our beam. We were about 12 miles off-shore. With the binocs it looked like it had a couple of dark shapes sitting up in it. Oh no. Geoff decided we had better go over and take a look. It was about the right size and color for a small life raft. When we got a little closer we thought maybe it was a kayak. When we got really close we discovered that it was not a life raft, nor was it a kayak. The girls got it alongside with a boat hook. Alex jumped into it and tied on a tow line. For a while we towed it behind us, but later we moved it up onto the dinghy davits. We are now the proud salvagers of a paddle boat.

Date: April 30, 2008

Location: 25º 32' N 34º 38' E tied up at Port Ghalib, Egypt

We are here, we are here, we are here! We arrived in Port Ghalib just before noon today. I'm sure you heard the cheering. This was one of those times it was good not to have knowledge of wind strength. We were out there, and it was blowing, and we knew how our boat reacted and how we felt, and that was that. Then we talked to Bravo and Phoenix and they asked about our wind and we said it was strong and on the nose. They shared that their wind was 35 knots. Now that we're in port we'll be trying to remove the lovely, sparkly layer of salt that is encrusting everything. We started with ourselves already. They have hot showers. I stood under the shower head just holding my soap. Just because I could. Alex thinks it's cold here. She's sitting next to me as I type. She's wearing sweat pants. We're in the desert and she's chilly. She announced that it was only 79 degrees, and then she went hunting for a sweater. She's going to love Greece in June.

Date: April 29, 2008

Location: 24º 19' N 35º 56' E at 1200

We are slogging our way northward to Port Ghalib. Those head winds we hoped to outrun got us anyway. We're tacking and motoring and debating almost hourly whether to stop and hide or keep going. So far we just keep going. But we have places to dive to for protection worked out. Currently our hidey-hole is in a place called Sharm Luli about 50 miless away from us. There's a challenge, find Sharm Luli on a map. However, Sharm Luli is only 50 miles south of Port Ghalib so if we make it that far why not just keep going ... And now you understand why we're still out here while every other boat that talks to the Turkey Run Net has holed up to wait for the wind to die. What is it about us? And how have we managed to find two other boats with the same mindset? We're liking these companions a lot. They've got it all, kids, dogs, and a warped desire to endure short-term discomfort for longer term gain instead of stop.

Date: April 28, 2008

Location: 23º 14' N 36º 53' E at 1200

There isn't much to say about today. We saw some dolphins this morning. The wind is up and so are the waves. Bashing into them is no fun. We are still in sight of our friends. I like knowing that we're not the only ones that are uncomfortable.

Date: April 27, 2008

Location: 21º 47' N 37º 32' E at 1200

It all started yesterday. The lot of us was out snorkeling outside Sanganeb Reef and Claire and Geoff and Linda and Claudia saw dolphins. They were very excited. This morning we had dolphins playing around the bow of the boat and Claire claimed she could hear them squeaking and whistling to each other. The group included a Momma and baby. These dolphins were not so big, so little junior was only about 2 feet long. This afternoon we had another group come to play. These guys were much bigger. I think the small one was longer than Alex is tall. And now Alex and I could hear them chattering too. Next maybe we'll try whistling back. We already know that my Dory (from Finding Nemo) whale-speak was unsuccessful in calling whales in Tonga, but Dolphin is a whole other dialect. Maybe I'm better at that one. Maybe I should let Claire try, after all, she communed with the water buffalo in Malaysia.

Date: April 26, 2008

This is just a quick note to say we're on the move again. We left at 1400. We're headed to Port Ghalib. If the weather's bad we'll hole up somewhere closer. We are still traveling with Bravo and Phoenix. Right now there is no wind so we're motoring.

Red Sea, Sudan

Date: April 25, 2008

Location: 19º 43.929' N 37º 26.853' E anchored in Sanganeb Reef, Sudan

After yesterday I figured I'd better write again. Today Geoff continued systematically taking things apart one piece at a time. He has found all kinds of things that were not the problem. He did find some gunk in the check valve for the autopilot pump. He cleaned it. The wheel now turns both ways and Brunhilde is happy once more. Now he and Ricardo (Dad) from Bravo are putting things back together. I'm hoping this was simply a case of taking things apart only to find nothing seriously wrong and in doing so correcting the problem.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have been snorkeling when we're not handing him tools. Claire found a gobi and shrimp living together in one hole. She watched while the two behaved just like the gobis and shrimps on all the nature programs. The shrimp dug and cleared debris while the gobi kept watch. Then the kids decided to go outside the reef to the ocean side. They were so excited about what they found that they came back to the boat to get me. It was amazing. On the outside of the reef the water was clear and all of the coral was alive and well and full of fish. They're hoping to take Geoff tomorrow.

Date: April 24, 2008

Location: 19º 43.929' N 37º 26.853' E anchored in Sanganeb Reef, Sudan

We are currently anchored in a place called Sanganeb Reef off the coast of Sudan, about 12 nm northish of Port Sudan. There are seven other sailboats here and five large dive charter boats. We sent Claire up the mast to guide us through the pass in and she said she saw some sharks. The kids are excited to go snorkeling, no really they are, and after a few chores they're going out with their new friends on Bravo and Phoenix. The girls on Bravo found the wreck of an old fishing boat. I guess fish are not enough.

We are here to sort out some issues we're having with our hydraulic steering system. A short time after we left the Party Island (Hanish Al Kubra) Brunhilde the Autopilot complained and we realized that we had a glitch. We decided to head for Port Sudan because it was the closest large city. We hoped to be able to find a still anchorage and parts if not mechanics. We arrived this morning and Phoenix and Bravo came too. All of us were told we could not enter the port without an agent. We had no agent. We drifted outside the port entrance while they got an agent to contact us. The agent said to come on in, tie up and he'd arrange everything for us. He made no mention of price. When we told him we wouldn't come in without the fee agreed in advance of our arrival he said he'd get back to us. And then we waited, and waited and waited. Finally we decided to bail and told the port authorities we enjoyed our brief visit to their lovely city and that we had decided to move on. Phoenix knew that the sailboat Tania was out here at the reef, so we invited ourselves to join them.

Geoff has already started on the project. While it was tons of fun hand-steering the boat just like old-time sailors, we prefer to have Brunhilde steer for us. Ah, what softies technology hath wrought. Of course, after the past few days of muscle-building wheel and tiller use, I don't think anyone would want to arm wrestle any of us. Hey, maybe we could trick some of the other yachties into arm wrestling Alex for beers. (Beers are like gold out here.) She looks so meek and mild. Ha. After she won she could donate the beers to her deserving parents.

Red Sea

Date: April 23, 2008

Location: 18º 48' N 38º 53' E at 1200

This afternoon we had a Wizard of Oz moment, reminiscent of the part of the movie when the wizard says to Dorothy and company, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." Over the VHF we heard, "Securitie, securitie, all ships, all ships, this is one of the Coalition Warships. Be advised that we are conducting training exercises at 22 deg 05 min N 037 deg 41 min E. Pay no attention to any flares or reports of pirate activity in this area. I repeat, we are conducting an exercise. Thank you."

Too bad we're so far south, it might have been fun to go watch, and kibitz. I would have volunteered to shoot flares. They'd probably consider us an inconvenience though, and clap us in irons or something.

Date: April 22, 2008

Location: 17º 20' N 40º 18' E at 1200

I think we're running an avian taxi service. On our way to the Hanish Islands a little shore bird hitched a ride. Claire named him Herman. Herman spent the night in relative luxury, sheltered from the wind, seated on the screen covering the main salon hatch. Herman used the screen like a hammock. He hooked his little toes in the screen and managed to stay put even when a puff of wind caused the entire screen to rise and fall. Claire told you about yesterday's hawk. Last night we had 6 sea birds roosting on the bow. At first there were four, then five and finally six. They all took off just before sunrise this morning. I wonder what will show up tonight?

Date: April 21, 2008

Location: 15º 39' N 41º 26' E at 1200

I was asleep, fast asleep. Suddenly I wake up to find that mom is shaking me. "Claire, get up there is a bird on the bow! Be quiet so you don't scare him!", she says. So I go up on deck in my pajamas. It is seven thirty in the morning, half an hour till my watch, so the sun is up. I look up on the bow and perched on the bow pulpit is the bird. I knew that mom wouldn't wake me up if a sea bird landed on the boat and I was right. It was a hawk. I got out my falconry book and quickly identified it as sparrow hawk. I have no idea what he was doing in the middle of the red sea, but I think that he must have migrated from Asia. He stayed on the bow for about an hour, watching the sea birds that were flying around. Eventually he took off, circled the boat a few times and then went over to a group of birds above a fish boil. I couldn't figure out which bird was him, but all the birds left the fish boil and scattered.

Date: April 20, 2008

Location: 14º 04' N 42º 34' E at 1200

We're on the move again. The birthday party was a grand success. The only glitch was the uninvited guests. Men appeared and sat down and just watched us. Our Arabic was as good as their English, so beyond learning that one of the guys was named Abdul and that he lived on the island we couldn't communicate. It was odd. We had our party and enjoyed our beach barbecue and bonfire and managed to stay up until past midnight. We thought that maybe shooting off the bottle rockets liked we'd planned to was not the best idea.

Bravo,Phoenix and Fafner all left early this morning. The wind is light so we're not sure where we're going to end up on this passage. We have four possible destinations in Sudan or Egypt. Which one we use depends on the weather. If it stays good we're shooting for Port Ghalib in Egypt.

Date: April 18, 2008

Location: 13º 46.181' N 42º 45.767' E anchored off Hanish Al Kubra (Great Hanish Is.), Yemen

Well, we did something new for us, we entered an anchorage at night. It worked out fine, our new friends were already here, there were no charted obstructions, there was lots of moon, the water was flat and the fishermen work from their boats, but I don't anticipate making a habit of it. We finally connected with coordinates on the VHF and had a place to go to. We made it at 0100. Geoff determined that it was safe to anchor, so he woke up the rest of the necessary crew, Claire and I, and we dropped the anchor, set the anchor alarm, and fell asleep.

This morning we all went snorkeling. The snorkeling was great! We saw lots of fish, rays and live coral, and spent considerable amounts of time following a pair of octopi. The octopi were very good at camouflage. They made themselves look like the coral, spikes and all, with just coloration changes. Ah, but they were not quite good enough to lose us. We chased them with cameras until I swear one of them decided it might be fun to creep out and play with us. The boys from Bravo and Phoenix (Another Phoenix. This one is from Philadelphia. The family has two teenage boys, 13 and 15 I think. Bravo is from Brazil. The family has two girls, 15 and 16, and a boy, 13.) caught a couple of lobsters and speared some reef fish. I'm hoping for an invitation to dinner.

We think we'll have the birthday party here. The kids are on the beach scouting a good place for a bonfire. And they've taken the dogs ashore for a walk. Did I neglect to mention that Bravo has a Yorkshire terrier and Phoenix has a chocolate lab. Claire is one happy camper.

Date: April 17, 2008

Location: 12º 44' N 43º 19' E at 1200

We left Aden, Yemen yesterday afternoon around 1600. After a nice blustery morning in the anchorage we spent the evening hunting for wind. It was a serene night amongst the tankers, they all behaved. This morning we found wind as we entered the Red Sea proper via Bab El Mandeb (Large Strait). We chose not to go through Small Straight as it is immediately adjacent to a military zone. Technically we're allowed to go there, but why? when Large Straight is so accessible and tanker rich. We are only using a double-reefed main, no mizzen and partially rolled up jib, and we are making 6+ knots. I need to exalt now in case this is as good as it gets. We're trying to catch up to Bravo and another Phoenix in order to attend a birthday party for Lygia (oldest daughter on Bravo) who is turning 17. They left the anchorage 3 hours before we did and they had not yet decided on a destination for this party. All we knew is that they'd pick one of the Hanish Islands. 300 water balloons and a bundle of firewood are ready and waiting for this beach party. We have talked to them today, they are 30 miles ahead of us and trying to choose an anchorage on Al Kubra Island. Hopefully they decide soon.

Gulf of Aden, Yemen

Date: April 14, 2008

Location: 12º 47.57' N 44º 58.966' E anchored off Prince of Wales Pier, Aden, Yemen

We're anchored here in sunny Aden. We arrived last night at dusk. The channel was very well marked and matched our charts. Geoff was a happy man. Our anchor was down before dark, but the last of our group came in in the dark and dropped in the dark. That sounds more daring than it needs to sound because the channel was very good and all the lights here in the harbor made it possible to come in and anchor. Lights or no, we all slept well. The kids are liking the 'cool at night' aspect of the desert. I found Claire under a blanket this morning. Everything's relative, it was probably only 80 degrees F. This morning Geoff and Claire went ashore to check in while Alex and I stayed board to tidy and de-passage the boat. We've found the teenager boats!! Bravo and Phoenix are here. Sadly, they're leaving tonight. We'll need to find out their plans.

The portion of Aden that we can see from the boat is built into the hillside that is providing our protected anchorage. The tan and white buildings appear to be coming out of the hill in rows, one above the other. The landscape is dirt, sand and rock. I think I can count the trees. Yes, this feels very different from other places we've been, but not unpleasant.

Date: April 13, 2008

Location: 12º 51' N 45º 31' E at 1200

We're almost there! We should make it in before dark, but the others might not. This morning we put up the spinnaker and left the other guys in the dust. Not that we're racing though. We saw lots of dolphins and leaping fish today. We think the two could be related. We were completely surrounded. I thought that maybe they were the marine police escorting us in. Claire didn't think so. We'll let you know how Aden is.

Date: April 12, 2008

Location: 13º 16' N 47º 24' E at 1200

WE CAUGHT A FISH!!! We are so excited. I think it's been about a year since we caught our last one. It all started this morning when I spotted three fish swimming next to the boat. At first I thought they were itty bitty dolphins. On closer inspection we recognized them as yellow tails. Hamachi on the hoof. I thought they had come over to say Hi. Claire was sure they came over to taunt her. She put out the fishing line and dared them to be stupid. A mere hour and a half later she had something on the squid. The same squid we've been dragging for thousands of miles without success, until now. I was relieved to find that we had not caught one of our fish guests. They spent most of the day swimming around the boat, but ignored the squid. Claire caught a good sized dorado and we had sushi for lunch. We will be having dorado steaks for dinner. Alex thinks maybe dorado scones for breakfast followed by dorado salad for lunch and, oh maybe baked dorado for dinner. We're beside ourselves.

About five boats in the same ocean going the same way at the same time. We are bringing not-racing to new levels. We are sailing together and not trying to overtly get ahead of everyone while trying to get ahead of everyone. The tactics employed on this mission are important. Binocs come into frequent play as well. Is he getting out his pole? Which side of the boat is he putting it on? Do you think our spinnaker will give us too much speed? We're lurking at the back of the pack right now after leading for most of the morning. Not that we mind, you understand, we're just waiting for dark to make our move.

Date: April 11, 2008

Location: 14º 01' N 49º 06' E at 1200

This morning, just as our alarm clock was going off, the before-sunrise call to prayer was also sounding. I think it was kismet. We left at dawn this morning instead of yesterday because we are trying to catch one of the boats from Male' underway. As I'm writing this I can report that our meeting scheme worked, we can see them about 6 miles behind us. We left Al Mukalla with three other boats, and now we've picked up the fourth. The fourth guy, Moorea, got behind coming from Male', and doesn't really motor. So while the rest of us were enjoying ourselves in Al Mukalla eating in the Al Salaam Modern Restaurant, shopping amidst camels and swimming with the local kids in the harbor, they were slogging it out at 2 knots. Now we are a group of five and we're heading together to Aden. We're sailing within visual contact range. We haven't done this since the Ha-Ha. Geoff is working on our lights in preparation.

Alex is, as of today, 13. Now she'll let me say that we have a boat with teens. She was oh so excited to greet the dawn this morning. How often do you get up to watch the sunrise on your birthday? After we got everything squared away underway, she and Claire went back to bed. We woke her up when Luna sailed by. They had balloons and a Happy Birthday banner. They sang happy birthday to her in English and Dutch. We celebrated in grand style this afternoon. She wanted a cherry pie instead of a cake. And, Grammas are you both sitting down? Eggplant Parmesan. It was fulfilling in a very vegetable way. She spied the eggplants at the produce market on our tour day and specifically asked me to buy one for her. How could I refuse? We had cokes too, so we haven't gone completely healthy.

Date: April 7, 2008

Location: 14º 31.480' N 49º 07.961' E old anchorage, Al Mukalla, Yemen

We've been seeing town by doing errands and such. There is a lot of construction going on. Yesterday one of the guys from the agent office drove us around to see the sights. Al Mukalla is expanding outward from its old town center along the coast. Saudi and local investors are fueling the construction. We went to one section that is still just roads waiting for houses to come in. We saw an old fort from the sultans' time. Our favorite stop was probably the area directly behind the fish/meat and produce market. Our guide (whose name I can't remember because I was having trouble pronouncing it) told us they sell beef and goat and camel meat, all very fresh. How fresh? we asked. Let me show you, he said and drove us to the open area behind the market buildings. There were children and young people playing soccer. There were goats wandering around. And there were camels. Yup, the meat is fresh. We took lots of pictures of the camels. Some boys came to watch us ooohing and aaahing over the camels. They talked to our guide, laughed, and then bothered the camels just enough to make the camels speak. Camels sort of moan, sort of bark. It's a weird sound. We were charmed. We whispered to the camels that we were not planning on purchasing any of their meat. It won't prolong their lives, but we felt better.

Date: April 4, 2008

Location: 14º 31.480' N 49º 07.961' E old anchorage, Al Mukalla, Yemen

We're here!! We arrived at 1500 local time. We're impressed with the desert landscape and white buildings. We can see a line of old forts dotting the ridge above the town. Claire wants to go and climb the hills, of course, she's an Arnold and those are the tallest things around. And she's been stuck in a small space for two weeks.

We went into town for dinner. The agent who came out to process our paperwork said that the girls and I didn't need to wear head scarves. Walking around town, I think maybe we do. Men were everywhere. The men were sitting in outdoor cafes, playing games at tables outdoors, walking around and driving. We saw families out walking this evening too. And there were women out and about, but none of the adult women were dressed in anything other than black burquas. Needless to say, we stood out. The girls and I were the only women in the restaurant. On the other hand, the people we've met so far have been very friendly and don't seem to care that we stand out.

Tomorrow we'll look for new food, laundry, fuel, our friends on the French boat and a welder.