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killarney_sailor 11-19-2011 03:30 AM

Which route would you choose - Red Sea or Cape?
As you can see below this posting, we are now in Australia and come Aprilish we will be heading north and west around Oz. Fundamentally we have two choices and I think I have to make a decision in the next several months so I can get charts, guides, etc. To get to the Atlantic we can either go the more common route through the Red Sea and the Med or the pre-Suez route around South Africa. I can see advantages and disadvantages to both directions so it is not a clear choice:

Red Sea Advantages - more interesting places to visit in SE Asia, Sri Lanka and India on the way;
- gives access to Med and all the potential that provides
- shorter passages for sure
- better weather/wind conditions likely (less wind/warmer)

Red Sea Disadvantages - pirates and not funny ones who look like Johnny Depp
- because of when you can make the passage comfortably from India to the Red Sea this route would take an extra year without having to rush like crazy (this is not necessarily a disadvantage but we are thinking we would like to not have the extra year

South Africa Advantages - no pirates
- I volunteered in Lesotho and this would give me a chance to visit friends there cheaply
- South Africa is a fascinating, if somewhat dangerous, place to visit
- it is further but in term of times more direct. You could leave Brisbane in April and be in the SE Caribbean by Feb/Mar, 2013 just because the passage seasons line up better

South Africa Disadvantages - you can get some of the worst weather in the world around what used to be called the Cape of Storms. There is a pretty good understanding of how to transit the coast of SA from port-to-port as the frontal systems move through; apparently the worst part may be between Mauritius and Durban because of the distance you can't position yourself between storms.
- it is a long way in general and in particular from Cape Town to the Caribbean - something like 5500 miles with the possibility of stopping only three times and none of the stops (except maybe NE Brazil) being all that interesting.

About the pirates, skip the suggestions about having bigger guns than they do, that is just silly. They are skilled professionals in piratry. Also, I know that most cruisers do this route in convoys and that the naval forces in the area keep an eye for the convoys.

What would you pick? And why? Am I missing anything in my deliberations?

BTW, just bought the Indian Ocean cruising guide - can use it to go either way.
South Africa

PCP 11-19-2011 08:05 AM

The only safe way in what regards pirates is to make it is on the other direction, I mean through the Pacific, Panama canal. that way you would get trade winds all the way. The other option is to come directly from Australia to Cape town.

Not an enjoyable prospect. A lot of sea without any Island to stop.

You should pay more attention to the pirates. For what I could understand for the information I got is like this: You will meat pirates. If you are are armed they may or may not take your boat but they will show an interest on you. For what I have understood almost all boats on that area have encounters with pirates. The big ones are attacked, the small ones, if look old and cheap, sometimes escape.

Even the guys from the Volvo Ocean race will put the boats on cargo ships for that part of the way.



celenoglu 11-19-2011 08:18 AM

Med will be my selection. There are pirates also on the western side of Africa. At least you have some protection from Nato if you choose Red Sea route.

Sequitur 11-19-2011 08:42 AM

We are going the other way around, and we had initially thought of going from Cape Horn - Cape Town - Caribbean - Atlantic Canada - Med and then out the Red Sea. That was four or five years ago, but with the continuing piracy from Somalia and their attacking more small craft, we have scratched the Red Sea off our list.

Our intentions this year are to go Cape Horn - South Africa - Mauritius/Rodriguez - Perth, and we feel much more comfortable with this.

Minnewaska 11-19-2011 09:49 AM

I wouldn't do the Red Sea on a dare. Like one other said, you will see pirates, it's just a matter of whether they take an interest in you. That's not my idea of a good time.

NATO will be zero help with a lone sailing vessel until after you call and say you've been boarded. They're tracking the big ships that essentially have to go that way. We're making a choice to risk our lives. The last time I recall them coming the the rescue of a cruising couple, everyone ended up dead anyway.

PaulfromNWOnt 11-19-2011 09:51 AM

Since I have no real data on either route, I asked myself which would I prefer.

How would I feel if I found myself in another storm? These are things that I should be prepared for (relatively) because I am cruising.

How would I feel if a pirate had a gun pointed at my wife and daughter? .....

That would be the simple way for me to make the decision you are facing.

Paul_L 11-19-2011 03:14 PM

Your description of the facts and likelihoods seems pretty accurate. Just taking them at face value I think you've already got your answer. If getting to the Med was a higher priority, then maybe a deck shipment on a freighter -- of course that would be big bucks. But doing the Red Sea approach this next season sounds unreasonable. Maybe in a few seasons when things change, but if it is a decision to be made now, then I think you've made it with your arguments.

imagine2frolic 11-19-2011 03:20 PM

With all the news, and tragic stories. I can not imagine anyone even considering the Red Sea! Chances are you will make it through, but what if you don't? Can you live with watching them board your boat, and taking your family?.......i2f

killarney_sailor 11-19-2011 04:50 PM

I am not suggesting that we will go the Red Sea route but it is important to note that a lot of cruisers do go that way - many more than the southern route according to the research I have found. Generally they travel in convoys of 6 to 8 boats of similar speed. It seems that yachts that have been taken have been by themselves and much closer to the African coast.

imagine2frolic 11-19-2011 05:12 PM

The Cape is tough, that is for sure. To be honest I am glad it's not my decision to make. If it was my decision to make. It would surely be against Mother Nature's Cape, and not the pirates. BEST WISHES which ever way you choose.........i2f

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