Though the crossing from the Maldive Islands to Yemen was less than half of the Pacific crossing, it took us nearly the same amount of time. 16 days to be exact! It only took us 2 more to cross the Pacific Ocean. Due to extremely light winds and the great distance we had to cover we ran our engine as little as possible. The seas were as flat and calm as a mill pond so we really had a comfortable and fun ride. Staying in as close of contact as we could with our pals on s/v Luna, Moorea and Pelikaan we navigated through potentially dangerous waters due to piracy. We had no troubles at all during our crossing but a large private French yacht with her 30 crew members aboard was taken hostage for a few days and later released.

Al Mukalla

We made landfall in the town of Al Mukalla just 200 miles east of Aden. A great port of entry, we were ready for land. Our first visitors were these 3 new potential crew members rowing themselves quite a great distance on their creative vessel made of styrofoam. They have grit and great smiles if nothing else! All they want in exchange for their efforts is food. Our second visitor was Omar, who gave us the fastest and friendliest check in to a country in history. 5 mins. flat! We filled out one piece of paper, he said he would take care of the rest and he did. Next was setting up fuel. Though it all came out in 5 liter jugs, and yes we ordered 140 liters, you do the math, it was a lot of work but it arrived in a timely fashion.

Al Mukalla looks like it was carved right into the base of the rocky mountains that back them up. Spaced evenly across the top are old square garrisons that once protected and alerted them of oncoming attackers from the north. Now a days there are missiles setting high atop the hills.


The hills are equally interspersed with switch backs of wall that work to keep landslides from burying the town. Occasional dark holes, whether natural or man made, look like the perfect hide outs if one can reach them. Dozens of minarets dotted the entire town as evident by their fanciful spires and green lit glow at night. When the calls to prayer rang out, each in their own melodic tones, the echo's would play back and forth from the rock wall behind them, then out over the waters to us.

We were told that Al Mukalla is the birth place of Osama Binladen. That certainly put a bit of a different tingle down our spine with the combined information that there were still some Al Qaida strong holds here and the recent attacks at the Yemen airport and bombings at the Yemen US Embassy as well. Any feeling of concern we may have had were quickly dispersed as open arms drew us in and stated, "You are Welcome Here!"

We did try to keep a low profile and alter our daily routine especially after leaving a restaurant for the second evening in a row to find armed militia on the roof top in spot lights and one armed guard in the shadows overseeing our dinghies. We believe they were there to protect us and make a statement that we were not to be harmed. We can honestly say we never felt anything but acceptance and genuine friendliness from the Yemeni people we made contact with.

It was here that we had our first chance to really see many muslim women in their "abaya tarha" or black headdress. Every woman we saw was entirely covered head to toe in black. Most had only eyes showing, some even with covered hands and eye's as well. At first it was so mysterious. As outsiders with little knowledge except for some simple facts about the Muslim religion, this practice looks so degrading and oppressive to many. There are examples of abuse and oppression to be seen every where in the world, in all cultures and religions. But even more true is the fact that beliefs are a choice, that empowers the believer and from the lovely women we spoke with, peace and power are held behind that black veil. We are especially thankful as American citizens to have the right to make choices.

We were told that many of the men of the area go off to work in the near by oil fields leaving the women home to raise the children. It is still common practice to have more than one wife, though they most likely live in different houses and not have much contact.

A walk down the back alleys and side streets felt like step back in time or right into the pages of 1001 Arabian nights. There really is a man walking around selling tin cups full of water, bread baked on the corner, swords tucked right into their belts, old men playing dominoes or sitting around together drinking afternoon tea or a puff on the water pipe.

It also showed quite a different way of life with a level of poverty and need. There was much debris and garbage in the streets. There is no room here for a garden or a place to keep your livestock so they are tied up along with your other goods. Sick children laying on blankets while the parents waited for donations. It is very common practice for locals or visitors to be approached by the women for donations of money since one of the five pillars of Islam is giving alms. We kept our smaller change in our pockets to give freely.

back streets of Al Mukalla



We left out of Al Mukalla at 5am with the hope of reconnecting with s/v Moorea who was finishing up their crossing of the Indian Ocean and set a meeting point with us in the middle. With perfect timing and precision, 3 boats sailing out of the north and one from the east to meet at our destined coordinates and continue a great sail onto Aden.

Aden is the location where the USS Cole had been attacked in the past. So along with new warnings from the US State Department and recent evacuation of all non-emergency American citizens, we took our stay there very seriously. Again though, any fears or doubts we had were quickly assuaged as the Yemeni people here opened their doors and arms to us making us feel so welcomed.

Comparatively speaking, Aden is a much more active port than Al Mukalla, with a large presence of Coast Guard and a large shipping industry. Anchored in the bay near the Prince of Wales pier there was constant activity with tug boats, fishermen and various other ships. We even ran into a few new cruisers heading our way, s/v Fafner, s/v Phoenix and s/v Bravo.


Once ashore we had just a little bit of time to refuel and get to know the Yemeni folks before we headed on our way up the Red Sea.The guards at the dock who check you into and out of the gate each day get to know you well quickly. They had fun teaching us how to write our names and speak a few more arabic words.

A day spent at their old town market, bazarre or suq it is an experience for the senses. It has a bustling busy square with hand pushed carts right along side with honking taxi's and henna dyed horses these days.

We stopped in a tiny tea shop lined with men on both sides to partake of this daily ritual. As you sit facing your commrades on the opposite wall, you pour your steaming hot tea from a small glass into a saucer so it will cool faster. It is an art that took us a few tries to master. Sipping it from the saucer is a challenge in itself. Once it cools a bit you can drink it straight from your glass. Deliciously warm round sweet bread to dip and share with your neighbors rounds out the experience.

There are stalls of fragrant jasmine necklaces, fruit juice stores with mangos and guavas hanging by the dozens in their entry like decorations for a party. Tucked inside each stall or doorway you can find just about anything you need, prayer beads to water pipes or hookahs, knives to musical instruments. We picked up a tamborine to add to our growing collection of percussion tools. There were bags of spices or arabian chewing gum, which looks a lot like gravel and tastes like wax lips if you remember those from way back when. We found a sweets shop selling turkish delight, and a sweet humus called hawera infused with pistachios.

Though many women will avert their eyes and not make contact with you, many do and were happy to exchange a few words with us, even if they didn't speak a word of english. 3 exceptional young women we met in the grocery store were Mai, Mona and Noor. Each studying at the university in French, Journalism and medicine respectively. It was such a joy to take a small bit of time to get to know them and their culture a bit more. They helped us with our grasp of their language as we tried out all the Arabic we knew on them. What we wouldn't give to have more time with them and dive in deeper into their world.


In the more westernized mall we found fast food, a mini amusement park for kids and store fronts of nothing but yards and yards of glittering fabrics for womens gowns. You could have one tailor made for you for $120 USD. There were colors and designs beyond your imagination, and led us to wonder about the elegance and mystery that lies behind the doors of their homes and under their all black exteriors.

For men there is the art of chewing qat, a amphetamine type stimulant that requires chewing for hours on end, a mouthful of green leaves that resemble tough basil and taste bitter we hear, but provides quite a buzz. Though alcohol is illegal, this is alright and begins early in the afternoon, if not all day, then is topped off with whisky in the evening to help one sleep. You are hard pressed to find a man not carrying his little baggy of leaves around or a wad in his cheek.

To get a better idea what it is like for a Muslim woman, we took the opportunity to try on a bourka ourselves in the local store. Dagmar from s/v Luna, Iris from s/v Pelikaan and myself, Lisa and Kelly girl from s/v Moorea have a whole new appreciation for what it is like behind the black veil. We only lasted a few minutes, it is amazingly hot under there. It is a strange sensation at first to think that no one can see who "we" are. Then to think that I know who I am inside and out and that is what matters the most.


The littlest Yemeni