|Queen of the Oceans|
The three-decade-old Feadship Queen of Diamonds embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.
By Capt. Ian van der Watt—February 2002
These excerpts from Queen of Diamonds: World Cruising relate the adventures Capt. Ian van der Watt, his crew, and the owners of the 131'2" Feadship Queen of Diamonds enjoyed during a world cruise from 1996 to 2000. The 52,000-mile journey began with the yacht--QOD, for short--disembarking from a yacht-transport ship in Palma de Mallorca and finished in Fort Lauderdale via Saint Martin; the yacht burned about 156,000 gallons of fuel, not counting the gensets. The voyage engendered contact with worlds of contrast and a renewed love of the sea.
We pick up the story as the yacht, having cruised through European, Greek, and Turkish waters, enters Egyptian waters:
The actual trip through the Suez Canal is something to plan for well in advance. We dispensed of uniforms with boat logos and wore khakis, thus circumventing the inevitable T-shirt handout. Officials and nonofficials alike came out of the woodwork. The boxes of cigarettes and whiskey were rapidly depleted, and we wondered if we would have enough to make the trip; no wonder this is called The Marlboro Straits! On a serious note, however, it is not always easy to know who to let onboard and who not: If in any doubt, always contact your agent.
Apart from all these disturbances, the actual transit through the Suez is long (around 27 hours) and monotonous. Once through, we were glad to stop in Hurghada for some time off before the trip through the Red Sea. Hurghada has a surprisingly good marina, and some crew members chose to join a taxi convoy to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. Beware that this trip is around four hours each way, leaving only a short period to view the tombs themselves....
Everyone well rested, we took on the Red Sea. I had heard the horror stories about this sea, but nothing had prepared us for experiencing it firsthand. It is not a hospitable area, with the deserts of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia on the west coast and Saudi Arabia on the east coast. The winds seem to funnel up from the south, creating a sea with no particular rhythm. Most of the time we felt like we were in a submarine, the rest in a washing machine. Moreover, the sun and salt was severe enough to strip layers of varnish off in one day that had taken several weeks to apply. When we finally reached the Gulf of Aden, there was an immense sigh of relief from both the crew and, I suspect, QOD herself.
We debated with our bunker provider where to refuel, as he had received some bad reports from Djibouti. We contacted Aden and received a warm invitation to stop there. A genuine reception committee greeted our arrival, and we were taken into town to see the sights, including the famous British water cisterns built during WWII. We had lunch in the true Yemeni tradition, eating with our fingers out of communal bowls while lounging on a carpet on the floor.
The fueling was quick and efficient, and we left within 24 hours to make the transit past the Socorro islands [off Aden] in the daytime. We had subscribed to a Piracy Alert hotline, as this was an area that had recently been in the news. Yet, with the crew on full alert, we passed through the region without even seeing another vessel.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.