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The Golf of Aden, from Djibouti to Socotra


 Djibouti here with those unusual wooden boats that go across the Indian Ocean. At night, at the warm dock, my kids talk with the fishermen discovering poisonous fishes and eatable ones, the sea snakes... That’s a strange mix, Djibouti. There is a jolly atmosphere around: at downtown the Ethiopian restaurants where people eat for few coins and with the hands in no-windows darks rooms; the wide noisy central market full of smiles with all deteriorated signs written in French and the crowded public buses among a chaotic traffic.  There is the great commercial port where many big cargo wooden boats gather side by side .Those come from India or Pakistan, with all the crew that make me travel and transport myself to other horizons. The old fishing port with the marine birds made roof and multicolor waters reflecting, many rare boats that go out at night and come out carrying the sea kindness. And then the shopping center with the French supermarket, the A/C and the European prices.


a pakistani crew invites us to board the wooden cargo-


The white box in the back is the bathroom, an ingenious system that saves all plumbing problems-


another big cargo ship, which goes from India to Djibouti regularly-


the fishing port, full of multicolored boats

We did not get inside the big port with our sailing boat and we dropped the anchor at the old fishing port exit. All formalities must be done at the far away commercial port but since we have no out board engine in our dingui we decided to go by auto stop by land. When we arrived there, the officer was nodding the head, ‘”that’s no serious, entry land without visa, that’s no serious”. After the officer gentle complain about, they gave us the visas and they took a picture with us’.


in the immigration offices

We made a big shopping in the central market, unripe fruits, vegetables, legumes, all fresh food and in the shopping supermarket we make a fill a trolley with conserves and non-perishables products. Its looks little bit exaggerated but we have to sail 700 miles across Gulf of Aden with the wind in the face. That supposed to be more than 700 miles because of the boards we have to do, and then go south 1000 miles across the Indian Ocean. We did not think to make a stop in Socotra but if there is an emergency. The people say that the Gulf of Aden could be made in seven days and then another seven days to Seychelles. Anyways Tortuga is Tortuga (turtle) and I bought food for one and a half month.


We decided to go to the night market, to avoid the heat-

We invite our Italian friends to drink some “mates” ( Argentinean tea) on board. Suddenly we are ten people in Tortuga and that fill my soul with happiness. It remembers me the time in the port, where we bought the boat, in Masnou. Then we improvised dinners and parties on board with other travellers families, almost every weekend. I liked to host people in Tortuga. One more time, they give us a hand and they borrow us the empties diesel jerry cans to go to buy some carburant in the city. They also give us a hand to finish changing some engine filters. The solidarity, among sea people, is spontaneous, natural and everywhere. One is so alone there with the sea trances and even if that is the pleasure to sail, one knows arriving to port that is possible to count on the people there that also were dancing with the sea. 

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With our anguish mark about our lack of diesel into the Red Sea, I asked Diego to fill the deposit and also have the same amount in jerry cans, which means 300 liters more.  It seems an excess to Diego and it is a very well know mistake that many sailors do in the Gulf of Aden. It is often underestimated the amount of diesel to face the current, the difficulties to go upwind, the boards that make the course much longer, the moment without wind in places where is no possible to wait.  We have no enough jerry cans. We might need to buy some more. Diego left and come back some hours later with our dingui overloaded with diesel cans. He did several ways from the fishing dock to Tortuga by rowing with many diesel liters but no the amount that we agreed before: 300 liters to fill the deposit and 140 liters stock in the jerry cans. Under the sun, Diego loads, unloads, sweats, the cockpit is full of the Italians ’jerry cans.  


Diego, going out to look for gas through Djibouti- He also had to load 300 liters of water, and diesel, from the port to the dinghy, row from the dinghy to the boat and then take it on board-

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final preparations before entering the Gulf of Aden

We would have liked to stay longer in Djibouti to have a deeper rest. But a good weather window opens on the Gulf of Aden, and we don't want to waste it. About three days after arriving, without having rested, we raised the anchor heading to our way to the Indian Ocean- What followed was a trip where fatigue and worries clouded our understanding, in which we made several bad decisions and a few good ones. It could be the story of why we couldn't reach the Indian Ocean, because we had to give up and turn around. Fortunately, it’s not’. We grab to the conviction that we could do it, and we fought the fatalism that many times surrounded us.

llegando a Suakin, Sudan

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From Djibouti to Socotra, almost 800 miles with headwinds and tidal currents-

The navigation starts easy going. We have to go to the security corridor. It is a route draw by the army. It is overflown often by the army craft to protect the cargo ships from the piracy. It is a route between Yemen, facing a civil war, and Somalia, destroyed by the misery and well known as “the pirates land”. We should stay no more than 10 miles further from that corridor, both north and south.  In our way the sea was calm.


We continue without automatic pilot- Which implies someone at the bar 24 hours a day, and that has been going on for 800 miles- Taking advantage of the calm sea and the help of the elastics, Anna teaches Oiuna a school while steering-


Mae got a dolphin fish with blue, green and yellow colors. The fish fought before surrender. It was big. The children wanted sushi and I wanted ceviche. We decided both things and with the rest BBQ. I had to remove the skin to it. I have never thought that this would happen to me: to have between my hands this soft meat gave me pleasure. It was delicious. The dishes that came out from there was a happy feast to all the crew (cat included).

At 80 miles from the Somalia coast, and 15 from the safety corridor, two small boats seem to be waiting for us. When we were close they start the engine. Our entire crew is watching: the pirates? We look at them with a binocular, they seem more like fishermen, men and women, piled up on those boats that show their overload with an inharmonious inclination over the water. The other boat is more skillful, and is the one that comes closest. Being approached like this, in these waters, gives us some scary feeling. We try to focus on what we see, humans who seem to need something. We shake off the fears of pirates which would be useless to us. Indeed, they are looking for petrol, gasoline. We only have diesel. Since we cannot help we move away and I look at them worried: it will be dark soon and I know that stronger winds are expected and waves up to 2 meters at night. Those boats would not withstand a sea like this. Could it be that the wind and the current push them towards the coast before the sea was formed? What were they doing, so far away and in such precarious boats, without oil to return? They didn't seem very concerned, and when we told them we had no oil they greeted us with those gestures and those smiles that people have when they see a ship passing by.


In the meantime we got to the corridor. Since we want to take advantage of the headwind, we start with the tacks, northeast-southeast, sailing between gigantic and numerous cargoes, using the engine regularly to be more precise between those giants, and with the waves always higher. We did not take in mind on the currents against us, and it is with a certain perplexity that several hours a day we saw that the boat was barely progressing. When the wind fell both a formed sea and currents remain. Without an engine it was not possible for us to advance, impossible to go upwind: the boat was heading to west, a few degrees. The engine was always on, at very low revolutions, allowing it to maintain 60 degree angle to the wind, with the main sail and a headsail. We realized that the main sail leech line  was broken. We made an emergency fix, but the main sail no longer had a well shape against the wind and it worked less efficient. We add more engine power.


Diego and Anna trying to repair the main during a moment of calm sea-

A few hours later, in the afternoon, Diego told me that we would run out of diesel before dawn. He seemed totally down. He confessed that he had already been under this stress for 24 hours, that he could not sleep, that he had not charged the agreed amount but rather less, that he had made a mistake in his estimations. He told me that without an engine the sea would take us to the Somali coast if we tried to continue forward, that the ship would not be able to go upwind. Not to mention the danger of sailing among such immense cargoes without an engine. Even if the ships were very cooperative, there were some situations in which we had to speed up to avoid creating an accident. We had covered more than 400 miles, with great difficulty, with many tacks, 24 hours Diego or I at the tiller, passing each other the nights communicating with the cargoes and avoiding them. We could not go to Yemen to add diesel, because of its political situation. And there were no cargoes anchoring in this route. We knew well, everyone had said it, “when you enter into Gulf of Aden, you have to go fast ” – We had the weather forecast for a week, and then everything could change. Diego proposed to turn back 500 miles with a downwind to Djibouti. I thought that if he decided that, I would get on a ship and go to Mumbai, to Hong Kong or wherever it was. Turning around after so much effort seemed crazier to me than trying to continue. I also knew that turning around meant not going to the Indian Ocean, because we would no longer get the winter monsoon period. At the same time, nothing assured us that we could sail to Djibouti and the entrance to the port was dangerous without engine, with many shipwrecks.

Intenté tranquilizar a Diego, y poner la energía de alegría y seguridad que él ya no podía mantener, con su agotamiento físico y su nivel de estrés- Iba callado, como soñando, pálido, y le temblaba las manos- No lograba dormir y eso era preocupante-  Yo me sentía muy preocupada también, con un nudo en la panza, sintiendo que entrabamos en esos trances que ya habíamos conocido algunas veces en el viaje, en que el miedo invade la piel e intenta apoderarse de la realidad, y todo toma un tono pesadillezco- No quería dejar entrar ese estado, quería conservar lucidez, y sobre todo optimismo- Les dije a Diego y a los chicos que no era un problema, que ya encontraríamos un cargo que nos de diesel, que surgiría una solución- Y empezamos a hacer llamadas de pedido de auxilio en la radio-  Un avión del ejército nos dijo que comunicaría la noticia a todos los cargos, pero unas horas después no habían conseguido nada aún- Un cargo nos dijo que nos ayudaban si presionabamos el distress call de la radio, pero nuestra vieja radio ya no tenía esa opción- Muchos contestaban que no tenían derecho en detenerse en ese lugar- Cayó la noche, y habíamos puesto rumbo sureste, cruzando una vez más la gran vía de los cargos- ¿Cómo describir esas horas? Yo agarrada a esa plataforma invisible de la voluntad, el deseo o la intuición, negándome en dejarme arrastrar por pensamientos oscuros, Diego flotando en un abismo, siempre más lejos-  Finalmente, un cargo se comunicó con nosotros- Nos habían pasado hacía una hora, y habían seguido avanzando hacia el Oeste, esperando a ver si la compañía les daba el OK- Ya lo habían recibido y hacían media vuelta para alcanzarnos- Nos pidieron que nos moviéramos lo menos posible, y que los esperásemos- Así lo hicimos, y en la noche cerrada vimos aparecer uno de los más grandes cargos que hayamos cruzado, con medio kilómetro de largo, altísimo como un edificio- Por radio nos dijeron que no hagamos movimientos hasta que ellos se pongan a nuestro babor, o sea a  barlovento en aquel momento- Nos dijeron que nos avisarían cuando nos pudiésemos acercar- Vimos al gigante hacer la maniobra, entre el alivio y la alegría de ser rescatados y el terror de tener a un monstruo semejante tan cerca de nuestro minúsculo velero- Cuando el barco se detuvo, nos dio la orden de acercarnos y poner la proa abajo de una gran puerta desde donde nos hacían señales luminosas- Nos explicaron que de allí bajarían 300 litros de diesel con una grúa sobre nuestra proa- Decidimos que iba Diego a la barra, la maniobra era muy fina, y el nivel de adrenalina muy alto- Mae empezó a poner defensas, e intentaba con las manos que nuestro casco no golpee contra el casco del gigante-


The wind had disappeared and Tortuga was balancing from left to right. The four of us looked at the mast with fear. It was so fragile next to the steel monster! And it was just inches away from; up there, the cargo crew greeted us with joy. They laughed, called, waved their hands. And over the radio, the orders came, "a little further back, a little further forward" as if it were so easy to move a sailboat with that precision. I was paralyzed by the situation and I admired Diego. His hands were no longer shaking. He was totally concentrated and it was with great precision that he left the bow of the ship under the crane without touching the mast again the hull. We then heard at night the noise of the machine, which whistled, announcing that the load was going down. It was a huge package, and I, in the bow, arms open, suddenly realized that I couldn't receive it alone. Diego came running, slipped and fell under the huge mass of 300 kilo. Everyone shouted, Oiuna, Mae, me and everyone who observed us. The crane stopped, Diego got up, we signaled again, there was no one at the tiller and we had to be quick. The package landed well, and Diego release the crane hook and ran to regain control of the sailboat. He prudently walked away while the children cheered in front of the package, 300 liters of diesel in 30-liter drums, and all packed like a huge Christmas present. By radio, the captain of the cargo told Diego to add on the diesel very little by little. He said that it was diesel and it would work. We didn't understand well but we were grateful. He wished us a good trip, and slowly he left in the closed night. We headed south east with all that we hadn't slept for hours, neither of us. The children fell asleep happy and we opened the package. The diesel was black as the night, absolutely, emphatically, black. "I knew there were several Diesel colors”, Diego murmured, “but black…“- “Will it be very dirty?” I asked- We were hesitating. Then our Italian friend appeared on the radio. The two catas had sailed after us and were on their way to Socotra. They had heard from the military planes that the ship "Tortuga" needed help. They were 10 miles away from us, approaching. We asked them by radio if they knew what that black diesel was. Roberto told us that he did not know but that he consulted with the other cata and answered us. After a while he told us, "it is heavy diesel, if you heat it before to put it, and adding very slowly there will be no problems". We wish each other a good trip, and they continued on their way after we assured them that we were fine.

the warm cargo crew greets us from up there-

And there, the second madness began, and obviously the second big mistake of that journey. We decided to use that diesel and since it had to be heated beforehand, Diego began to transfer the liquid from the large drums to two or five liter bottles. In that way those can be warm up placed close to the engine. Meanwhile, he filled others that he left on the deck, so that the sun would warm them up when it rise. We stayed like that until dawn, without sleeping, Diego filling bottles, heating them, putting them little by little in the deposit, and I stay at the tiller. All this with wave and wind.

at dawn, no one could sleep yet- I continue steering, and Diego continues heating and loading diesel-

“Diego”, I murmured to him after watching him for a while put that strange liquid in the deposit, and suck diesel with the hose, with burned lips, “Diego, if they say that this only works hot--- that means that we can't turn off the engine any more? If it gets cold in there, can't we turn it back on?". Diego sighed. “That's what I was thinking”, he told me. “So we can't go straight, right, we have to stop in Socotra and empty the deposit, right?” Diego agreed.  Another question was around me, "and now that we both have to be busy so that the engine does not turn off and to put that strange diesel very slowly, how would we sleep?".

putting black diesel in our engine

Dawn came. The sun starts helping us. The children got up and could also lend a hand at the helm. Thus allow Diego and I to alternately sleep for a couple of hours. But when it was time to go to sleep, I heard for the second time in that journey that began in Suez, Diego's “Anna” full of anguish and despair, a lump in my belly again. I looked into the cockpit “Now, what?”. “The engine”, Diego murmured almost without a voice, “the engine it is failing”. The engine had lost power, it suddenly dropped its revs, it was difficult for it to start up again. Sometimes it would drop so low that it seemed it was going to turn off. We well knew that if that happened it would not start again. We continue like this. Every time I heard the engine slow down until he had almost no strength, I murmured to it, concentrating all the energy I had, "come on, come on come on Tortuga, come on". It was almost like a plea, or like a prayer, I could be sleeping, or cooking, doing school for the children or some activity, or at the helm, the engine would go down until it was almost silent and I put all my mental concentration on sending him a message of support, as if with that force I could keep it running.

We were already at the corridor southern limit, leaving the gulf. Diego would spend long periods of time on the radio, asking for help from the cargos that passed by, thinking that with clean diesel the engine would regain some strength. Since it only run at 1000 revolutions (almost idling), and the wind was totally in our face it was impossible  to use the sails with this cap. Night fell. On the radio I heard the cargos saying they don’t have diesel, or that they couldn't stop, or that the maneuver was too dangerous. The situation seemed to me unbearable. We stayed close to the route instead of cutting off the road to Socotra, in a straight line. That meant a lot more miles and each radio conversation drew a little more energy from us, as if all hope came from there. I shared the thought to Diego, "We are a ship with sails, Die, if we cut our way the wind will come more on a reach, we will be able to use better the sails, we will go faster and we will cover fewer miles, we will arrive sooner". Diego replied that getting away from the cargos, if the engine stopped, no one could come to our aid. Besides, it was leaving the safety route and getting close to the Somali waters. We continued like this. At 3 in the morning I took my second night watch. The wind lift a bit and I imagined how nice it would be to be able to go upwind. I thought that those ship were not our salvation, that we had to believe in our boat and the sails and let go of that logic. Diego asked me to continue calling on the radio. I no longer had the strength for that but to change course. At 4 o'clock I woke Diego up and shared the thought with him. He answered me to do it. It seemed to me that it was the good decision. So, I headed southeast, straight towards the island of Socotra. I opened the genoa and I trimmed the mainsail. I couldn't turn off the engine, unfortunately, but at least I began to feel at the rudder that I was moving with the wind.


A Korean military ship is coming to help us-

In the morning we received a call on the radio. It was a military aircraft. They asked us what we were doing. They told us that they knew we had had problems (everyone in the gulf found out that Tortuga passed, we were not discreet), and they told us that we were going too far from the safety route. “Do you need something?” asked the pilot. “Yes, Diego answered, 200 liters of clean diesel to get to Socotra”. “OK, don't move, wait a moment, we send you a ship”. Incredulous, we heave to, always with the engine on. After a while an enormous warship appeared on the horizon. 

They ordered us by radio that we all go out on the deck so that they can see us and that those who remain outside to receive them must have an anti-covid mask- They sent a boat with several armed men on board, which circled the Tortuga many times before approaching, and facilitating 200 liters of clean diesel and several boxes of chocolate cookies for the kids. We put some of the diesel in the tank, hoping that it would dilute the other diesel a bit and allow better operation. The engine regained some strength, although it still had ups and downs. The crew celebrated the contact with humans and the cookies that were delicious.

A soldier climbs aboard to unload the diesel and give the children cookies

The next day, a strange ship quickly close to us and stayed behind us at our stern. They had a solid, motorized annex in the water, and a strong structure, twice the size of Tortuga. After a while they went to our starboard, and they continued at our speed. Obviously, they did not show in the AIS. I got worried and began to signal at the 16. But there was no response, we had no range. Mae told me then, "Let's see mom, if they come closer we smile at them, ask them if they need anything, invite them a coffee and we will surely solve it". I liked the thought, the transmission, because it is true that I believe that situations depend a lot on how one receives the stranger. However, I suspect that sometimes it's not enough. I jokingly answered my son, "if they come closer we ask them for help, Mae, a little clean diesel and chocolate cookies, I think in five minutes they realize that we are the pirates and they run away".  Mae and Oiuna laughed a lot, the idea of us being the feared pirates made them very funny. After all, we had collected more than 500 liters of free diesel, if that wasn't being a pirate! The atmosphere relaxed and to my great relief, the other boat suddenly changed course towards the West, Somali coast, and it disappeared in a few minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     In the evening the wind changed and became northeast. At last Tortuga felt firm in the sea, 3, 4, 5 knots. And despite the exhaustion and the engine, the Arabian sea was able to offer me a magic night with a sky without a moon and full of stars, and Tortuga wake that wanted to reflect the sky and be a galaxy. I heard at some point a strong breath in the sea and a movement that did not resemble anything known. In those moments, it was drawn a large phosphorescent spot that advanced near Tortuga.                                                             


arrival at Socotra

At dawn the improbable land of Socotra appeared. An island of dunes, rugged mountains and tropical forests. Dolphins, birds, huge tunas passed close to Tortuga who went enthusiastically to seek refuge on the mainland. We met the Italians again , and it was a joy to chat a bit, they showed me the photos of some whale sharks that were in the area that we sailed at night. That surely were that strange presence that I felt near us. We did not have a visa for Socotra, and the price of the visa was very high. We asked to stay a few days to repair the engine, and the agent who worked with the sailboats and was around, helped us negotiate with the migration police. Except for a half-hidden trip to town, to buy fruits and vegetables, we were not able to go ashore. The engine would not starts, the Italians that left a few hours after we arrived gave us a sim card. We began to consult our sailing friends, send images, videos, photos, and try to understand the situation. There were those who thought that the tank had to be cleaned thoroughly, those who said that it was not necessary, all agreed that all the filters had to be changed. The boat was half disassembled, there was a smell of diesel everywhere, it was very hot. Diego and I dive into the engine.


the children try to do a little school despite the awkward movement of the ship due to the northerly waves-


collection of shells that children who managed to reach a small beach near the boat and far from the police station-

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Thanks to Ghanem's help, we managed to go ashore for two hours, the children and I, to buy a few vegetables and get some fresh air- It will be the only time we go ashore-

Socotra, four days, almost no sleep, a meter and a half of waves every 5 seconds, the impossibility of going ashore, the pressure of the police to leave, the engine that won't start, the house upside down with the smell of diesel , the children who are fed up with all that. On the third day at night the agent told me that the police were pressing too much, that they were going to withhold our passports. I asked him to come at dawn with a diesel engine mechanic, that we would have the deposit clean so he could work faster. We went to bed with Diego at midnight, both unable to sleep, and at 3am we got up to clean the deposit. It was the first time we disassembled all that, and we worked very slowly. When the Mechanic arrived, the tank was still not full clean. He took out the filters and put them back, saying that perhaps they were misplaced. And to check if the engine worked, he put the two pipes, the one that sucks the diesel and the one for forwarding, in a can of clean diesel. The engine started, the man assured that there was no problem, and he left. Diego continued cleaning the deposit while I loaded water and prepared the boat.


the mechanic assured us that the filter was badly installed and that there was no other problem-

"What did the mechanic say?" asked Fer, a friend who had been giving us advice from Argentina- "Salam malecum" I replied- "Great, if he said inchalla it was more problematic"- Apart from the joke, I told Fer about the tubes in a jerry can- "it's a good plan B, to consider,  the tube in the drum" Fer answered me, "the only thing, be careful that the hoses are well at the bottom, that they do not suck air, with the movement of a wave". There are words that seem fortuitous but that later become important.


Diego, trying to access the diesel tank to clean it thoroughly-

The police came back showing us the sun: we had to have raised the anchor before sunset, otherwise they would hold our passports and fine us. We had just finished filling the diesel and water tanks, and there was an hour of daylight left. We explained to the officer that we had been awake since 3 in the morning, and that we needed to sleep for a few hours before setting sail. Very sweetly and sympathetically, but also very firmly, the officer told us that this was not possible.                       


         The days of Socotra were hallucinating days, without rest, having to contain Mael's boredom, Oiuna's discomfort, Diego's infinite anguish with the boat, and the waves, and the engine and the messy house. How to classify those hours? I know that for Diego they were simply hours of a true nightmare, something close to madness. For me they were such tense moments that all my energy was spent acting as a ground for everyone, as a shield, as a wind that infuses energy so that things take their course because I had no doubt that they would continue.


view of the island of Socotra

The engine started, so we left in a state of tiredness that seemed like a strange trance. We had thirty miles to east in the north of Socotra before heading south. We were heading east with east-northeast wind. The engine at low revolutions to be able to better upwind and stay away from the shore. It was 30 miles and then the promise of an Ocean. As if that word contained in itself all the needed rest, relaxation, as if the Ocean were a house, shelter, a friend, a good bed. I ordered Diego to sleep, it was necessary. I was going close to the coast, about 5 miles, yes, too close. And suddenly, the engine stopped. Diego jumped up like a spring, paler if that was possible, hands shaking. I had no choice but to confirm what he feared, and we both exchanged a look full of questions, doubts. There was no way to restart it. While we were thinking, I saw the coast getting closer, and the ship that didn't respond to me. Diego proposed to continue approaching and drop the anchor when there is less depth. I looked at the dark cliffs, the dim lights, the GPS: it was crazy. We managed to tack and headed back towards the port, to gain time. Thus, not having an engine did not represent an immediate danger and we had more time to think. And the thought was: what is, at this moment, the safest? We thought that, rationally, anyone would tell us that it was going back, that without an engine you can't get out, that if a cargo shop in the Ocean, that if a wind arrived... But we thought about what Socotra was: perhaps it was going back, with a mechanic who knew nothing about ships, perhaps needing a spare that would take a month to arrive, and being stuck in that hell, paying fortunes for visas and losing the winter monsoon wind to get off. It sounded like a nightmare. The other option, to go to the Ocean making absurd tacks, where you gain a few miles after hours of going up and down the sea like a damaged sewing machine, go to the Seychelles and reach that world of corals counting on our skill and the goodness of the wind to enter the port and moor, sounded crazy too. But there, we could solve everything with more sweetness. However, something in me screamed doing that without an engine, no way. We stay silent. The ship kept moving. Soon we were only 5 miles from the port. And that shook me. Something had to be done. Then I remembered Fer's phrase on whatsapp. I remembered the mechanic connecting the engine to the diesel jerrycan. And Fer who said that this was a good plan B. That was what we needed, a plan B. I shared it with Diego. He first denied it, he told me that the problem did not come from there, he had been pumping easily for an hour without being able to get the air out. I insisted. It was plan B, and I don't know anything about engines, but we had to try. Diego finally agreed, placed the diesel bottle and the engine started. We look at each other. So? I asked Diego. "Then you decided, captain." What Diego put on his body had been so much from Greece, that he no longer had the breath. I clung to those words about plan B, that friend who knows about the sea considered a valid option to get out, always taking care not to get air. Getting to the Seychelles like this was better than going back to Socotra. We hadn't slept since 3 in the morning, and it was already midnight, almost 24 hours without closing an eye. “Look, I told Diego, I'll turn off the engine and head north, with the sails, so you can sleep. It doesn't give me serious steering right now. Then you take the tiller and rest in the cockpit, and I sleep, and tomorrow morning we start the engine, and if it starts, we go east, and to the Indian Ocean. Diego protested, we would not advance with the sails, and even less with that heading, the wind had dropped. I told him to imagine that the police had let us sleep in the port, that it was our night of rest, that we wouldn't do miles tonight and that nothing mattered. Diego left, and slept. The sea was calm, the night was full of stars. I think that at some point the whale-shark accompanied me. I heard their breathing, and I saw, suddenly, a large phosphorescent silhouette take shape in the water. The Arabian Sea shone like the Red Sea, competing with the sky. When it was my turn to sleep, I fell into a leaden dream, a few hours, as always at sea. When I got up the sun was out, the sea was calm, the miles covered were ridiculous and that didn't matter. I was not going to throw myself into fatalities, to think that Socotra was holding me back, in curses or luck. I was fully stretched out towards the Ocean, with an impulse that came from desire, from my will. Despite that, when Diego tried to start the engine, everything in me was a lump of nerves. They were micro seconds of suspense, and it started. It was a risk, we did not measure how much, we decided that it was minimal, and we headed east, with immense relief.


IN the Arabian Sea, approaching the eastern tip of Socotra, to enter the Indian Ocean-

I did not feel, in the Arabian Sea, that fascination that the Red Sea produced in me. Its smell, its sound, its texture: Red Sea was thick, really thick, with that smell of iodine, of oysters, of salt, and in the background the aroma of the earth that must have contained some magical substance, because it was a smell that produced pleasure. All over the body. The sound was of birds and dolphins, it was the song of the wind and Monfreid's stories, of snaps and the silence of the desert. The Arabian Sea was quieter, as if it were jealous of its essence. (At least it didn't contain the screams from the Gulf of Aden). And it was lighter, opening the way without much character. And despite the nightly shows, I longed to leave him. However, at that dawn, when we were already approaching the cape of that island of dunes and forests, with soft curves and abrupt cliffs, we suddenly glimpsed the dolphins. And they were not like the ones we knew: they were much smaller. They did not arrive in a group of 20 or 30, as we are used to see them, but rather close to a hundred. They came from the island, straight to Tortuga, at a blinding speed, and from time to time some of them jumped into the air, very high jumps, and up there they did somersaults, 360 degree turns. Pure game, pure joy. The magic of this humid, salty and abysmal world. We approached the cape of Socotra with fear, what was it like a sea that meets an Ocean? In Navionics marked turbulence, warned of currents, strong winds, recommended permanent radar. But no, the passage was calm, and we changed course, heading south, 170 degrees, and the wind lift up. We turned off the engine and decided not to touch it anymore. The plan was to rest, go with the wind. We had a thousand miles of Ocean ahead.


with love, Anna

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