Vasco da Gama sails the Suez Canal

Vasco da Gama Fleet in Port Ghalib
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My history teacher told me that Vasco da Gama was the first sailor to – rather grandly she said it – ‘round the Cape of Good Hope’ in 1492, thereby ending forever the dominance of the silk route to India and China.

So I am still mystified as to why a group of 30 or so Dutch cruising sailors who are having the time of their lives sailing down the Red Sea to get to India, call themselves ‘The Vasco da Gama Rally’. Did they turn left instead of straight on at Gibraltar?

We won’t get a chance to ask them, however, until after the end of March, when they are scheduled to have completed their 4266nm journey to Bombay(Mumbai).

Vasco da Gama sailors in Port Ghalib
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As you are reading this Sail-World news, the hardy and cheerful group has left the newly completed marina at Port Ghalib in Egypt and they are on their sandy way down through the coral atolls and the splendid diving sites of the Egyptian coastline to the Sudan and that very picturesque and - well biblical - town of Suakin. Then it will be on to Eritrea, to the lovely but bombed out city of Massawa. Until then, they will probably have good winds behind them. After Massawa they are likely to strike southerly winds and probably, unfortunately, headwinds all the way across the Arabian Sea to Bombay.

Coming the other way heading for the Red Sea is the annual migration of circumnavigating sailors taking advantage of the best conditions for transiting the Red Sea in a northerly direction. We wonder will they have the good fortune to meet and swap the latest helpful advice with each other.

Other ports the party has in mind are the Port of Aden in Yemen, and Mukallah and Salalah in Oman. Between Aden and Salalah they will have to transit the ‘Pirate Zone’, which so many sailors are avoiding this year after a dramatic increase in the number and violence of pirate attacks last year.

Lodewijk Brust
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John Hoedermakers and Jolanda Geerdink
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But this rally is not like many rallies – this was organised by a group of enthusiastic sailors, and not by a commercial organisation. Keen amateur cruisers Lodewijk Brust, John Hoedemakers and Jolanda Geerdink (pictured) have spent many months in research to bring the journey to fruition.

The first meeting point for the cruising boats was in Finike, in southern Turkey, and they have so far visited Israel, Jordan and the northern areas of Egypt. The last comprehensive report was filed from Port Ghalib, several hundred miles down the Egyptian coast. The journey has had its share of 40 knot winds, damage to some boats, and one or two have pulled out. However, the hardy core continues.

And hardy they need to be. The Red Sea has few marinas, lots of coral, and no repair facilities. The charts are inaccurate, and the local military often not very friendly – it’s a great story unfolding, and we’re sure that there will be many occasions when they are glad that other boats are nearby. It’s good to know, however, that the number of ‘cruising in company’ rallies such as this one seems to be increasing every year, as more and more cruising sailors take to the oceans in self supporting groups.

If you would like to follow their progress, go to the
http://www.vascodagamarally.nl!Vasco_da_Gama site, and if anyone can enlighten me as to the reason for the name, I’d be glad to know.

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