The first priority of the day was to get checked out. Muhommed had to go out of town on an overnight trip, so we would be doing check out on our own. We went to the office. No immigration or customs officers were there. We waited, along with a group of other people. We talked to ex-pats who have been living there a while, as well as an Omani guy who is also an agent, waiting to do a check in on an American freighter ship.
After an hour, an officer arrived, the same one who had checked us in. The group mobbed him. Eric tried to get his attention, but he basically ignored us. He helped everyone around us, and then started to leave again. Fortunately for us, our new agent friend asked the officer in Arabic to come back and help us. The officer looked a bit irritated, but did. He gave us some forms to fill out. The agent told us to just put name, sex, and passport number because if we spent too long on the forms, he’d leave. We handed over the forms. The agent translated for us all the details required for check out. We don’t think the officer speaks any English. The agent said that had we missed that window of opportunity, we would have waited for several more hours for him to come back. We got our clearance and our passport stamp, and then the officer darted out. Man, are we lucky that the other agent helped us. Between the agent ignoring us and the language barrier, we would have never gotten checked out. The agent wanted no money for his help, which was nice.
Oh, and as a side note, when we got the bill from Muhommed yesterday, he barely charged us anything for his services. We were expecting a much bigger bill than what he gave us. Judging from the way the officer treated us without Muhommed present, we have realized Muhommed’s services are worth their weight in gold. We highly recommend him.
The main topic of conversation amongst the cruisers ever since we arrived has been crossing the Gulf of Aden, located between Somalia and Yemen. You have to go through the Gulf of Aden to get to the Red Sea. For those of you that don’t know, there have been reports of pirate attacks
against ships in that area, including the bombing of the USS Cole. Only a handful of the attacks were against small yachts. It turns out that the US Navy ships we had seen in Port Salalah patrol the waters around Yemen, and so do Omani and Yemeni military vessels. There hadn’t been an attack in the Gulf in a full two years, so it was feeling pretty safe to go through there. That is, until six days ago, when a 228 foot French luxury yacht with 30 crew was captured right off the coast of Somalia.
All the cruisers spent a lot of time and energy poring over the safest coordinates to choose going through the area. The consensus seems to be to stay closer to Yemen, where there is a military patrol. We got planned coordinates of most of the other yachts leaving within a few days of us so we know where to find them if need be. They chose a SSB radio frequency (long range radio) to monitor that they knew many other boats making the same passage were already using. In addition to keeping the channel on so people could talk at any time, we agreed to all talk on the same SSB channel at 0800 and 1800 daily to keep tabs on each other, called a net.
We did all the last minute get ready to go stuff, and pulled up anchor at 1600 (4:00 pm) and headed out. Currently, wind is 15 18 knots, right on the nose. The ride is not bad at all, considering the winds. Unfortunately, we are stuck in a strong current, and are moving much slower than we had hoped for. We are planning to run at 1900 RPM until out of the Gulf, and we were hoping for speeds closer to 8, and we are only in the mid 5’s. There is no moon out and we are running without lights, so we are basically invisible to anyone who does not have radar. Running without lights is probably paranoid since pirate attacks never happen at night, but the cruisers all feel invisibility at night is a good safety precaution. The stars are vibrant and so is the bioluminescence. It is really pretty to sit outside and look at all the sparkling lights all around us.