Off the coast of Yemen (CNN)We were six nautical miles out from Yemen, but even from out here we could hear the Saudi airstrikes, make out their lights as they fell through the sky.
After hours at sea, chaos and desperation at Yemeni city
At this point, we'd been at sea for 20 hours, hugging the coastline from Djibouti, across the Bab al Mandeb strait. Now we were off the Yemeni coast.
Too far out and we were told we risked getting caught up in the traffic jam of international naval vessels patrolling the waters of the Gulf of Aden.
Too close to shore and we risked a Saudi hit.
When cameraman Byron Blunt switched on his headlamp, the captain shouted: "no lights!"
He's worried it will look like we were signaling to land.
We switched off our lights and climbed onto our makeshift bunks.
The morning brings with it new jitters. We've slowed our speed to pace out our entry into the Al Tawahi Port, a smaller port off to one side from the main Aden port. The information we had was that it was a safer disembarkation point.
The radio on board crackled to life at 6 a.m. It was the Al Tawahi Port authority. We were cleared to enter. But slowly. Every quarter of an hour we receive new updates. Keep coming. We're still clear - Inshallah. Finally, we were in. The journey had taken 30 hours.
Aden has been at the heart of some of the fiercest fighting in the conflict to date, but confirming many of the reports we'd been hearing had been hard. We didn't really know what to expect.
Once through the gates marked "welcome to Aden," we found chaos. Families camped there in the hopes they could beg ships to take them to safety. Others, dual citizens with British and U.S. passports, who thought we were from their embassies.
Saudi Arabia began airstrikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen three weeks ago. But Aden remains a city not fully in the hands of either Houthi rebels or forces loyal to the ousted government.
An old man tugged at my sleeve and carefully unwrapped his British passport from its protective plastic cover. It was his most prized possession, he said. Did her Majesty's government know, he asked, there were some of her subjects here?
I told him I was just a journalist.
Driving through town, you see signs of what Aden once was. Sunshades flap over empty beaches and in Victoria Park, its namesake's statue looks down on brightly colored plastic swings.
As we're driven to the frontline, our escort stops to point out the city's pride and joy: the hotel where they claim a young Queen Elizabeth once stayed.
It looks shuttered. Sniper fire in the distance reminds us to keep moving.
This is a street fight -- the soldiers, the young boys and old men of Aden's neighborhoods facing down heavily armed fighters. The alliance of the Houthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh functions more akin to a regular army.
The Saudi Arabian resupply attempts have been hit and miss. The local commander tells us even when they do land in territory held by the "Popular Committees" -- the government loyalists -- much of it is stolen before his men can even get there.
They have in recent days -- under Saudi aerial cover -- succeeded in pushing back the Houthis from many of Aden's districts.
And they're fighting on.
Street by street, house to house. Amid the falling shells, sniper rounds and desperate civilians.