Around The World Voyage : Commentary : Leg 2

March 12, 2002

Local time: 1600
Position: 16.56’ North – 040.24’ East
Speed: 7.4 knots
Course: 323 degrees magnetic

We’re well on our way up the Red Sea and are encountering improved weather from when we departed Djibouti. The first third of the trip was a very rough ride with 40 knots of wind on our stern the past two days. It took a while, but finally the seas and our stomachs settled down. Now we have ESE winds of about 20 knots with a short steep following sea. The motion is acceptable and we are now able to catch up on our sleep and recover from those first couple of days out of Djibouti.

As you know we ran from Salalah to Djibouti to take on fuel and to pick up a spare part we needed for our stabilizer system. The small Gyro that senses the roll rate of the vessel failed and needed to be replaced. My last report glossed over the sights & experiences of Djibouti, but really there is lots to tell.

We arrived in Djibouti on Wednesday evening and anchored off the Club Natique (Yacht Club) in a well-protected anchorage – about a mile from the heavy traffic of the shipping port. We were told by the Port Captain that we could clear in the following morning so after securing the boat we rode the dingy into the yacht club for dinner and had a pleasant evening ashore. The following morning we went back to Club Natique passing through to the street side entrance. This is where the real Djibouti begins.

In front of the Yacht Club no less than 20 rag tag locals approached us and offered their services to guide us into town, find a taxi, take care of what ever we needed . There are no taxis to be seen so we’re convinced by one fellow that for a small charge he can help us out and he leads us out of the yacht club compound on foot – still no taxis. We walk about a mile past groups of loitering, tattered indigents, people sleeping on the sidewalks and in the dirt, trash and debris finally to a complex that our guide tells us is the presidential palace and just then an armed guard yells at us from within the compound to walk on the other side of the street. Finally we reach the town and a taxi appears and we negotiate for a ride to immigration and the port authority. After about 2 hours of red tape and what seemed like complete confusion we were cleared into the country of Djibouti.

Our next stop was to the Fed Ex office to get our gyro. We looked and looked for Fed Ex and finally found it through the DHL office. A kind DHL employee escorted us to Fed Ex which had no exterior sign. Its entrance was within the interior of a run down general office building. As I mentioned in my previous report, Fed Ex had not received a package for us and, since their computer was not working, recommended that if we had the tracking number we could go to the internet cafe to track the package through the Fed Ex website. They had no other suggestions for us.

We returned to the boat after doing some minor re-provisioning and emailed off our request for the Fed Ex tracking number then spent the balance of the day servicing the boat. The following day (Friday) we explored Djibouti and the outlying Islands which the French members of the Club Natique visit regularly. Brian actually signed up for an inland tour with the crews of three sailboats that we had met in Oman. They went with a tour guide into the interior of Djibouti and saw some of the natural wonders of the area – a landscape much like California’s Death Valley with some large natural canyons and lava landscape. We had a digital picture show aboard Nordhavn that evening with the six sailors and the photos were very impressive. Paul and I ran the Livingston dingy 7 miles up the coast to explore the local islands where we found beautiful clear water, coral, and white sand beaches. This was Friday and many people from the Club Natique were spending their day picnicking amongst the Islands.

My plan was to make one more trip into the Fed Ex office Saturday morning – armed with the tracking number - to see if by chance the gyro had arrived. If not we would leave port and have it shipped up to Suez or even Greece. I instructed the cab driver to take me to the DHL office. From there I could find my way to Fed Ex’s secret, hidden office but the cab driver told me he knew where the Fed Ex office was. I said OK and he took me to the American Express office. I tried to explain to him that these were two different companies but he insisted this was the right place and lead me into the office. A French woman confirmed that this was Fed Ex and told me the other office was no good and that I was in the right place (although there was no Fed Ex sign in this office, either). Exasperated, I presented the tracking number and she quickly confirmed that it was at the airport and her agent would take me there to clear and receive the package. Two hours later and about $130 in fees, I had the gyro. I returned to the boat, installed the new unit and it worked perfectly.

The next job was to fuel the boat and a truck had been arranged to come to the commercial wharf. This was actually arranged by one of our sailing friends and he had ordered the truck to fill three sailboats and the Nordhavn. We knew we needed about 400 gallons, they each calculated their needs and the truck arrived with that much fuel aboard. It gravity fed the boats below from the bottom of the truck (there was no gauge) and no nozzle. They handed down a large hose and it was inserted into the fuel fill aboard the boat. This process spilled quarts – if not gallons - into the water while inserting the tube. The three sailboats went first and each complained of spraying fuel – back flooding of the fuel. Then each of the three truck attendants demanded a tip. The first two boats tipped $5.00 apiece and then at the arrival of the third sailboat a person from the port authority arrived telling the yachts owners not to tip the attendants and quickly left. The third sailboat tried to get away without tipping and the attendants became almost hostile scaring everyone. They tipped five dollars total. Fortunately the Nordhavn takes on fuel very quickly and we could easily fit the hose into our fills. The problem was that when the tanks were full there was no way to know it without fuel spilling up out of the fill pipe. At this point another person arrived and announced that he was with the EPA and was there to make sure that we did not pollute the harbor. I stopped the fueling and Brian talked to him. We found that a carton of cigarettes would allow him to resume his duties elsewhere and avoid the possibility of a large fine being imposed on Nordhavn. We completed the fueling and decided to tip each of the fuel attendants five dollars (to avoid a fight) and just when we thought we were done, the guy from the Port Captain’s office returned – very angry that we had not followed his orders to not tip the fuel attendants. I did not really believe that this guy had much authority but I had to clear out through the Port Captains office and did not want to risk problems so as a safeguard we decided to make him happy with another carton of cigarettes.

We returned to the anchorage, secured the boat and I rushed over to the port authority to get our outward clearance only to find that the Port Captain had left at 13:00 and would not be available until the following morning...ugh, one more night in Djibouti. At 8:00 am on Sunday morning I was at the Port Captain’s office and cleared out over to immigration and by 10:00 we were free to leave, which we promptly did.

I wish I could have had a better impression of Djibouti. It’s been three days since leaving and Brian and I are still suffering from the effects of food poisoning from the Yacht Club food. Maybe if we stayed longer and got more comfortable with the area I would have a more positive attitude. With the exception of a few nights at the Yacht Club and a little sight seeing during one day, I spent the entire time trudging around clearing in, clearing out, chasing down our gyro, fueling – all in an environment that is so foreign and frightening that I just could not enjoy it. We met some nice people – the Fed Ex Agent, the head Port Captain, our poor refuge helper from Ethiopia - but the majority of people we saw were at a poverty level, which I have never seen in any Central American or Asian country I’ve visited. While on the streets I felt a thousand desperate eyes boring into me – people that needed food to eat and while we hear that crime is low in town, I think about what I might do in their position to survive. Good luck to the people of Djibouti.


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