Arrival in Djibouti

15 February 2020 Djibouti Arrival

We arrived in Djibouti on 7 February after 16 days at sea. We mostly had good wind, but had to motor for several days to “escape” India, and again in the last 24 hour run into the port of Djibouti. In total, we ran the Volvo for 120 hours and burned 570L of our 1150L carried (850L in two tanks, 300L on deck). We did not see or hear of any pirate activity. We did see a couple of fishing boats and several coalition warships, surveillance aircraft and helicopters. The pirates (those that are left) don’t have a chance here. We were contacted directly by Japanese and Indian Navies. This is an Indian warship that we spoke to.

This is their helicopter that buzzed over us to have a look.

Gabo tried hard, but in the end managed to catch just two fish, one tuna and one mahi-mahi. Nonetheless, there was often an abundance of flying fish, sometimes as many as 15-20 landing on the deck overnight – and even this one that landed inside the cockpit.

At one point, Gabo had 3 lines out and all had a strike at the same time. One fish jumped up, the line rose up over the solar panels at the stern and one wind generator and then snapped. The fish escaped and the wind generator was fouled! On the second line, there was a big mahi-mahi but it escaped just at the edge of the boat when the gaff was lowered! On the third line there was a small but tasty tuna.

The next day, Gabo got another mahi-mahi, and redeemed himself.

On a beam reach, this was our sail configuration in light winds: Code Zero and main sail. This was a “dream point of sail”, 10-12 knots of wind and less than 1 metre seas.

Once we were “in the corridor” following the International Recognized Transit Corridor (IRTC) between Yemen, Somalia and Socotra, this was our point of sail, “wing on wing” with the wind dead astern of us. Again, this was a very comfortable sail, for several days.

We had some “belt” problems when running the engine. It appears that the intense heat and humidity were hard on the Volvo belts, and I had to change both early in the trip, while underway. Initially, I tightened two sets of belts (two for the Volvo water pump and alternator, and a second pair for the 200A alternator) but then they broke after a few hours – forcing me to replace them underway. Fortunately, I had several spare pair, and managed to source even more when we arrived in Djibouti.

Gabo and Mariona demonstrate how easy it was to refuel while underway. With light winds and a very low sea state, it was possible to put a few jerry cans of diesel into the tanks on most days.

We also had problems with a “dirty tank”. I’m not blaming the fuel of India, but rather that the boat sat for a long time, and any diesel bugs present had an opportunity to grow. Polishing? Sure, I polished every month for two days, but the polishing pump is a low pressure pump, compared to the Volvo fuel pump. Therefore, when the seas get rough and there is sediment in the tank, it gets stirred up and clogs the lines, largely due to the stronger suction effort of the Volvo. Thankfully, our boat has two diesel tanks and its an easy matter to switch to the aft tank, if the forward tank gives trouble. A few days after arrival, we pumped out all the “bad fuel” into empty jerry cans, mucked out the tank with rags, and then poured the diesel back into the tank through a high quality filter. We replaced our spent diesel with locally purchased diesel, at the service station, for about $ 1.11USD per litre.

The jib Sunbrella UV strip has started to fall off (rotten threads) so we took that in to an upholstery guy (modest sailmaker) who gave it a repair (with our Sunbrella and our thread). Again, this is a result of high UV, high temperatures and high humidity of India. In retrospect, we should have taken down the jib and staysail, and we considered it at the time, but never sourced a good location to store them. At this moment, we’re still waiting for the sail to be returned – before we leave for Eritrea.

Getting Internet is a hassle here in Djibouti, you have to visit the national Telecom company – and the network is “so-so”. On the other hand, none of the malls or restaurants offered any wifi either, or at least none that we could find. We bought three SIM cards and the only real issue has been that we initially we couldn’t “hotspot” our iPhones, but another cruiser showed us how to change the ATN settings in our devices and then we were OK.

We had a replacement Raymarine ST60 wind instrument shipped in from Canada via DHL. The experience of extracting this package from Djibouti airport customs was entirely unpleasant, but at least I got the package 7 days after it was shipped from Canada. Sadly, it didn’t solve our problem. We will continue sailing without the utility of a wind direction or speed instrument.

It was nice to have a restaurant meal, and a good one at that. They even supplied knives and forks!

In one of French supermarkets (Giant), I found this package of camel meat. This is a first for me, I’ve never seen it in a grocery store.

We still plan to make a “tour” of Djibouti, get our sail, check out and leave the country – bound for Eritrea. Timing is “everything”, particularly with the wind.