Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Gulf of Aden.

We left Al Mukalla early on February 24th, 2011 and set sails to cross the Gulf of Aden once the most dreaded waters in the world. Now, although it is not the safest place on earth, we were not as worried about this passage as we were in the Arabian Sea. On the other hand we still had to be careful as Danielle and I had to remind everyone once in a while during that passage such as this afternoon when we had to stop for about half an hour for one of the boat to fix his transmission. It was sunny, hot and the sea very calm. The crews of two boats then decided that it was a good opportunity to go swimming! In normal places that wouldn’t be a problem but a calm sea in plain daylight and in the middle of the Gulf of Aden constitute ideal conditions for a pirate attack! But after three weeks of being on our guards at all time we just reached the point where we simply don’t care anymore. Things went pretty smooth but it was very tiring and we took a bit more than three days to sail the 400 miles or so between Mukalla and Bab El Mandeb, this strait marking the south end of the Red Sea. Once in the Red Sea, which is now considered pretty safe to yachts, it became clear that everyone was stretched to their limits of sailing in close formations. After sailing 16 days and 1900 nautical miles together it was time to split up now that the conditions requiring a large convoy were no more present. We then said goodbye to each other and split into two groups. Four of us decided to stop immediately in the town of Assab, Eritrea while the other five boats wanted to take advantage of the strong southerly wind to make a good way north and kept going.

This was the end of an incredible adventure we’ve had shared together and that would stay in our memories forever. Together we sailed through the most dangerous waters in the world and prevailed, maybe by sheer luck, or maybe not and if this trip together was over our friendship was definitively not. We would necessarily meet along the way North in the Red Sea and when this happens we will not simply meet with other boaters; we will rejoice with dear friends.

In the past few articles of this blog I told you our story of how we sailed through the pirate infested waters of the Middle East and how we made it safe and sound to the Red Sea but I didn’t answer the one question all of you must have in mind when reading this; Why in the world did you go through this hellish area in the first place? And this would be a very valid question since we could have decided to sail directly from Australia to South-Africa or to forget about this stupid idea of sailing around the world altogether and just stop in Australia or stay in the Caribbean Sea like so many others do. Well the answer can be summarized in one word; freedom. We all try to do the best of our life. We work, we raise our kids and we try to make our life worth something. But in the end, one day, we will be dying and we’ll sum up what we’ve done of our life. We’ll ask ourselves what have we done that was unique, that was really us? Not something imposed by others but really chosen by us. All our lives are mostly dictated by others. The government tells you how to work, how to raise your kids or how not to die from smoking. Even when you decide to jump on a boat and go around the planet the tourist industry tells you what you must see, the authorities makes things expensive for you, the weather tells you when you move and when you don’t and the pirates tell you where you can sail or not. Where is freedom in all this? The goal of this trip is not about travelling around the planet and crossing all the meridians; it is about the trip itself. If your goal is to travel around the world then all you need to do is to buy airplane tickets and in less than a week it will be over. We are living what many only dream of. We are achieving something unique, something we decided to do even though everyone and everything is against us. We wanted to see the world and to decide how we do it; to do it our way. Not the pirate way. Yes we had the choice to either chicken out by sailing around Africa and missing all these amazing countries or to say “No! That’s where we want to go and that’s where we are going!” What you do with your life is always a matter of choices and we made ours.