With twenty knots of wind on the nose, and a broken autopilot, we took it in turns to helm. Our ancient Perkins engine was finding the confused, crashing sea hard going, and the tumbling waves and strong currents meant only a few minutes of snatched sleep in the past forty hours. Eritrea’s unlit coastline offered no haven, but it would be dangerous to move too far off-shore – you don’t know who or what might be lurking out there – so we hugged land.
“More coffee?” Jamie shouted at me above the din.
Running on caffeine, adrenaline and instant noodles, we were both wired.
Then the engine failed.
Jamie frantically went through his check-list, while I struggled against the belligerent weather, trying to keep us off the rocks. He found the problem, a broken fan belt.
A few hours later the horizon turned a lighter shade of black. We pointed Esper towards Mersa Dudo’s two perfect volcanic cones and sailed to safety. As the sun rose over our primeval anchorage, we secured Esper and fell asleep with a slight breeze fanning us through open hatches.
“Ayahh! Ayahh!” Someone was banging on the hull.
Two raggedy men and one small boy in a skiff smiled as they held up two fat lobsters. We traded t shirts, cigarettes, an old jacket and some sugar – the preferred currency in the southern Red Sea. Later, as we licked the juice from our fingers, we watched the fishermen sitting round their beach fire, wearing our t shirts and drinking sweet tea.
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