Friday, May 26, 2017

Gay Paree

Fine dining, high fashion, art, rich cultured history, and old world architecture provides a romance that makes Paris a special place! This is where we made a short 3-day stopover on our way back to Canada for a year-long sabbatical from sailing.

Our AirBNB flat was in close proximity to the most popular sites which made it possible for us to walk to them all. With parks, riverside walkways, sidewalk cafes, and museums, Paris is a walkers' dream. As our stay was short we wanted to cram in as much as possible.

Our first day, we walked down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées which is 1.9 km/1.2 mi long. This most famous and most beautiful avenue in the world is lined with rows of London Plane trees, cafes, theatres, and upscale boutique shops of luxury. It stretches from the Arc de Triomphe to the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre that site along the Seine River.

Champs-Élysées from Arc de Triomphe, looking towards Louvre

Of course we visited the Musée du Louvre, the largest (15 acres in size) and arguably the most famous museum in the world. Within its walls, the Museum is filled with more than 380,000 objects including sculptures, drawings, and about 38,000 paintings by famous artists including the famous Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Did you know that the Mona Lisa is quite small (53x77 cm/21x30 in) and is displayed behind bulletproof glass and a roped off area, keeping you at an untouchable distance for viewing. But many others are whopping big!

Grand art by an old master

Wreck of the Medusa

The magnificence of the Museum's treasures are equalled by the fabulous building that houses them where paintings and frescoes are displayed on a pallet of the most splendid architecture.

A roof canvas

The building has served both as a fortress in 1190 and a palace in the 16th century, undergoing numerous reconstructions, additions, deletions, etc. to the present day. The modern and controversial addition that serves as the entry for the thousands of visitors is the glaring glass pyramid.

Musée du Louvre (photo from web)

During our visit to the Louvre, we inquired about the lack of impressionists' art and were informed that they were to be seen at the Musée d'Orsay. So that became our next art museum venue. There we saw pieces such as Monets, Renoirs, etc. and post-impressionists Cezannes, van Goghs, Gauguins, etc. We were surprised and pleased to see paintings by our hometown famous artist, Emily Carr, as well as other landscape painters of the Group of Seven.

A leisurely stroll from the Louvre along the banks of the Seine brought us to the famous gothic architecture of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Our expectations however were dampened by the dreary interior and the exterior that showed the effects of unchecked erosion.

We didn't see the hunchback!

The Eiffel Tower, in spite of the many tourists and in contrast to Notre Dame, was grander than we expected. At 81 stories tall, we had stomach butterflies as the elevator ascended to the peak. Perfect weather presented us a spectacular view below that stretched over the city for miles. With a thrilling nervousness, we walked the perimeter and peeked into Gustav Eiffel's cozy and romantic private apartment, complete with mannequins of himself and Thomas Edison. (Eiffel never allowed anyone to stay in his apartment, even turning down offers of huge sums of money.)

Needs no description

Best view in Paris

At the western end of the Champs-Élysées stands the iconic Arc de Triomphe. It was ordered constructed by Napoleon as an honour to his soldiers returning from war. We climbed the many interior stairs to the top for the photo op looking down the grand Avenue. At the base also lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a memorial flame lit everyday at 18:30.

The Arc - hub of splendid avenues

A visit to Paris would be incomplete without strolling the alleys and avenues amongst rich architecture and lounging at the ubiquitous sidewalk cafes sampling the authentic French cuisine while watching the world pass by.

Sidewalk cafes

Large cities are not our favourite places but we can make an exception with Gay Paree (Joyful Paris).

Sunday, May 14, 2017

GREECE - here we come

Once we exited the Suez Canal, our first Med experience was a forest of objects to negotiate. For the first 10 hours, we closely watched our chart screen as a plethora of AIS targets moved about and kept a visual vigilance as we crossed paths with ships, tugs, oil rigs, and various other seafaring traffic.

Rush hour traffic

There was virtually no wind so it was mostly motoring on an uneventful passage northwest to the Greek Island of Rhodes (aka Rhodos, Rodos). To time an early morning arrival to the main port, we lay ahull for 6 hours about 15 nautical miles out.

Marking the entrance to the beautiful historic Mandraki Harbour is the old fortress of St. Nicholas. This harbour is famous because it is believed that the great statue of Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once stood at the harbour entrance. Now the entrance is 'guarded' by the heraldic symbols of Rhodes - a bronze stag and a doe standing tall on 2 separate pillars on each side of the entry.

St. Nicholas on the point

In the harbour, which is right in front of the City of Rhodes, were many boats Med-moored (stern to the seawall) from ultra luxury yachts to tourist boats. We were greeted by George who directed us to tie up to the seawall instead of attempting a Med-mooring, a tricky manoeuvre that we were not willing to attempt in the breeze and given that Sea Turtle doesn't like to back up in a controlled manner (N36°27.004' E028°13.537'). This was a perfect spot on the City side of the harbour, directly across from a pleasantly busy downtown centre of Rhodes City.

We completed all check-in procedures, except providing the required proof of boat insurance which we still did not have. We had a heck of a time finding coverage. Insurance companies we contacted would either say they didn't insure Canadian boats or they wanted a survey or simply didn't respond to our emails! But we finally got the basic insurance according to the Greek requirements.

The charm of Rhodes founded in 408 BC is the old fortified town behind fortress walls with a rich centuries old medieval history of Knights and trade. Seven gates in the fortified walls provide access to a maze of over 200 narrow streets and alleyways. Much of the old buildings have been restored and now quaint shops, bars, and eateries cater to the tourist crowds. (This is a different fortress than Fort St. Nicholas.)

Two by two

Inside Old Town

The new City outside of the Old Town is also a delight of sidewalk cafes and shops where one can stroll away the day. We have enjoyed many of their infamous Greek salads, delicious calamari, and pastries to die for.

What a difference to be in the clean developed country of Greece with all amenities available. We have found Rhodes to be very beautiful and with friendly and helpful people. One day we rented a scooter and rode halfway around this charming island.

Island hotel

As Sea Turtle desperately needs bottom paint, we moved her to the Nereus Boatyard around in the next harbour on May 5th (N36°26.476' E028°14.174').

Like a fish out of water

And then our plans suddenly changed. We needed to return home to Canada to help with aging parents, attend to some incidental health issues, and make some real estate changes. This would take more than a couple of months and as we don't want to winter in Greece, it would be a year away from Sea Turtle, returning at the start of the best time of year to cruise the Med.

We are now putting Sea Turtle to bed and then on May 23rd we catch our flight home, making a 3-day stopover in Paris!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Suez Canal transit

In Suez (more accurately, Port Tewfiq) on the morning of April 27th at 10:00, the first of our 2 pilots boarded Sea Turtle for a 2-day journey through the Suez Canal. Jordan could steer if he wished but it was the pilot's job so we decided to let the pilot take control of the boat with us checking occasionally to see that everything was okay. Most of the first day was into a light breeze but with a helping current giving us about 6 knots over land, but less than the passing behemoths that crawled along at 9 knots.

The pilots preferred hand steering instead of using the autopilot and whenever Jordan offered to spell them off, they mostly declined. We spent most of the transit time on the internet trying to obtain the boat insurance that is required by most countries in the Med.

Scenery was typical of what you would expect. Unlike the Panama Canal that is cut through miles of hills, the Suez Canal is basically a ditch in a flat landscape of sand. That is not to diminish the colossal undertaking 150 years ago to do the 193 km (120 mi) of excavation. The residual material piled up on each side of the Canal makes up most of the scene. A few buildings were spotted along the way, as well as a lot of military depots and watchtowers. In many spots along the banks, we could see pontoons that can be quickly joined together to make a temporary emergency bridge.

Most of the Canal is a single channel not safely wide enough to allow for 2-way freighter traffic. So certain hours of the day are for ships going one way only. There is no limit to ship size and Maersk container ships like this one is huge at 1,312 feet long and 194 feet wide (400 x 60 m), carrying 9,000 40-foot containers.

Full of containers

We arrived at almost the halfway mark of the Suez Canal just before dark at a town called Ismailia where we tied Sea Turtle up to the cement wall for the night (N30°35.105' E032°16.354'). And this is when and where the first pilot was done. An obligatory tip was expected but as is so common in such a situation here, the pilot without a shred of pride, tried to intimidate for more.

The next morning we were awoken at 04:30 and boarded by a new pilot for the last section to transit. He seemed very polite and spoke very little English and like the last one, was absent of hat which we provided. Interestingly, at one point when the pilot saw me taking a photo, he quickly said No, no madam and adamantly asked that it be deleted. He said photos were not allowed of military areas.

Nearing the north end of the Canal and just before entering the Mediterranean, the pilot downed an ice cold Pepsi and gratuitously accepted his tip but then asked for cigarettes and a shirt. At least he was more or less polite about it but we had to say sorry. So at 11:30 a pilot boat was summoned and off he went with a big smile and wave. We continued with autopilot on and, after 3 and a half months from leaving SE Asia, we were off into a new sea, the Med!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The good the bad the ugly

We expected our stop at Suez (the south entry to the Suez Canal) might be just a few days. Upon arrival, our greeting and briefing by our good and efficient Agent, Captain Heebi of Prince of the Red Sea Co., bolstered our expectation of a brief stop here. What we didn't realize was that we were entering the twilight zone of the inept (with the rare exception of Captain Heebi).

As required of boats to transit the Canal, we were moored to buoys in front of the Suez Yacht Club until our clearance was given by the Canal Authority which Captain Heebi would arrange.

Now most boaters expect a yacht club to be a venue of natty sophistication where commodores and gentry, drinks in hand, lounge in a classical nautical theme. Well here our dinghy landing was a presage of what a bad definition Suez gives for a yacht club.

There is no wharf. It has long since been blown away. No doubt in a blinding desert sand storm. What's left are crumbling steps for you to crawl up to then navigate a path through dilapidated remains of floats and dinghies where you are then met at a gate by a bored round-the-clock policeman who dutifully does a security check of passport and carried items. This is a Port of Entry he explains.

No matter how many times we came or went, our passports and Visa dates and carried items were checked. The irony was lost when each time Jordan would say We are the same ones and those are the same passports.

Behind the gate is the Club's mostly boarded up building where only a partial redemption is found in its hot water showers and a lone washing machine albeit that takes 2 hours per load and a cost of $5.00.

A couple of days after arrival, a comedy of incompetence began with the Canal Authority rejecting our copy of our boat registry. Only an original is acceptable for proof of validity. The problem we had was that our recently renewed and currently valid original was mailed to our home in Canada. We had a copy of it which was always sufficient for use in all other instances of officialdom to date, but no amount of reasoning would do it for these guys.

As a remedy, the Canadian Embassy in Cairo could authenticate it. But that was a complicated and timely process. So our tack was to have Jordan's son Aaron locate our original and courier it.

Well with Easter holidays, courier closures, local Custom holidays - plus a hard to find document back home - we had our original Certificate of Registry in our hands a mere 10 days later.

So off to the Canal Authority went Heebi our Agent to finalize our transit approval. But, oh no, the office chief didn't like the computer-generated signature on the original document so rejected it. Solution, he said, Go to your Embassy to get authenticated and stamped.

But we had another quick and reasonable solution (as though reasonableness had anything to do with approvals in this system). We had Transport Canada issue by email a Transcript of Registry complete with their official stamp that verified all aspects and status of our vessel.

No, not good enough, the chief said, then told us if we had our original Certificate of Registry stamped by Transport Canada, he would accept it. So after emails to and from Transport Canada explaining our predicament, they obliged and stamped, scanned, and emailed it back to us. Even after all that, the purveyor of bureaucracy wasn't going to accept it. Only after our exasperated Agent showed him the email from Transport Canada explaining that all Certificate signatures are computer generated, did he finally relent and the ugly affair was over.

So after about 3 weeks of boredom (not much to do in Suez other than seek and destroy the hordes of flies that migrated to Sea Turtle generated from the ubiquitous piles of garbage), we were released from captivity.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tour time: Cairo

On a bright sunny morning at 07:00, we and the crew of SV Jubilee hopped in a van with a driver and headed to Cairo for the day. Our goal was to visit the Egyptian Museum, Giza Pyramids, and the Khan el Khalili souk (market/bazaar).

The distance from Suez, where our sailboat was moored, to Cairo was only about 1.5 hours and the roads, unlike our trip to Aswan and Luxor previously, were in good condition, so we were off to a good start! The haze of brown smog preceded the arrival to the large City (2017 population of 9.5 million).

Our first stop was the Museum. On display were rooms and rooms of antiquities both large and small such as statues, items from tombs such as numerous sarcophagi with their inner and outer chambers, jewellery, mummified remains of the ancient royals, etc.

One room was dedicated to treasured items of King Tut. His solid gold death mask weighing 11 kg was on display as well as numerous other items of his of solid gold. We only managed to take 1 photo before being told that photos were not allowed.

Outer chamber of King Tut's mummy

Who can go to Egypt without seeing the great pyramids of Giza! So, after an early lunch, it was on to see these gigantic polyhedrons. To make the experience fun, everyone in our group chose camels as an apropos means of touring the site. The camels were joined together and a guide walked in front to lead the way first to a vantage point for a great photo op, where all 9 pyramids (3 large and 6 smaller) could be seen.

Ridin' high

Look waaay up

Our camel train then took us to the nearby Great Sphinx. It has had some restoration work done to it but still misses its nose. Rumour has it that Napoleon's soldiers shot it off. But more proof indicates that a dedicated Muslim destroyed it when seeing others worship the Sphinx; he was later lynched for this act. We may never know.

Judy and Jordan with Great Sphinx

The third stop of the day was the well known age old Khan el Khalili bazaar. Most of the shopholders are Egyptian and offer the tourist most anything you could want from golden or silver jewellery, beautifully decorated belly dancing costumes, fragrant spices with aromas, T-shirts, and souveniers galore. We wound our way down narrow streets and alleyways taking it all in.

Bazaar alleyway

With all our sights completed, it was decided to make a last stop at a large and well-stocked modern supermarket, something we hadn't seen in months. We filled our carts with items we couldn't get back in Suez.

Arriving back at Sea Turtle after dark, it was a long but satisfying day to be remembered for a long time...

Friday, April 07, 2017

Port of Suez

With an open weather window, we decided to make a run for the Gulf of Suez, even though Jordan was feeling a bit under the weather. With anchor hoisted at 17:30 on April 4th, we were off.

There was little wind blowing so it was motor-sailing. Later the northerlies started to blow against us, common in the Red Sea, so it was a bit of a rougher go. We entered the Gulf of Suez (not the Suez Canal), leaving the Red Sea behind us.

I was on watch the majority of the time as Jordan slept trying to recover. It was a tough slog into a strong opposing wind and waves. Freighters would come through a pack at a time as the Suez Canal has only one-way traffic in its narrow parts so traffic in the Gulf is in alternating convoys.

Just as Asia had a forest of fishboats to watch out for, the Gulf of Suez is full of oil/gas wells/platforms, hundreds of them.

Well/platform with its on-duty ship

And another...

Three days later on April 7th around 15:00, we entered Port of Suez (Tewfiq Harbour) at the north end of the Gulf of Suez and the south end of the Suez Canal.

A freighter passing from the Suez Canal

Our Agent, Captain Heebi from Prince of the Red Sea Co., was waiting and greeted us with a large cake and helped to tie us up to 2 mooring balls. He then quickly checked us in and took us to shore for hot showers.

Later that evening, we sat comfortably in the cockpit watching the freighters go by to the Suez Canal...

Finally the Red Sea bash was over!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Tour time: Luxor

We and the crew from SV Jubilee were excited to get going for this day's tour around Luxor of Egypt. As our driver whisked us along, our guide Archaeologist Khaled, told us we were first headed to the Valley of the Kings to visit 4 of the many tombs there.

It has become prohibited to take photos in the Valley as over the years the ancient colours in the tombs have shown signs of fading because of it. They take a hard line on this, so our memory photos were purchased on site.

There has been a lot written about this site and its significant tombs, so we have kept it rather short. Needless to say, the endeavours of the ancients to prepare for the afterlife were amazing. To what extent you want to find more on this period, or the specific sites, it's all available by internet searching now.

King Ramses IV: The tomb of King Ramses IV has maintained to date a lot of colour on the wall paintings. He came to power late in life and ruled for no more than 6 years.

King Ramses IX: One piece of artwork on the walls on his tomb included a scarab. A scarab is a bug (actually just a dung beetle!) that was a symbol of eternal life and good luck.

King Merneptah: This is the sarcophagus (a coffin usually made from stone) of the King.

Tutankhamun (King Tut): Came to power at the young age of 9 and died approximately 10 years later from unknown causes. Over 5,000 items were found in this tomb including his golden sarcophagus and death mask.

When we visited King Tut's tomb, his mummified body was present for viewing. Eww! What we saw was his visible head and feet with the rest of this body wrapped in white linen and placed in a climate-controlled glass box for preservation and observation.

After the Valley of the Kings, it was over to Hatshepsut Temple where photos were now allowed. Hatshepsut married at the young age of 12, common in those days. The Queen's temple consists of 3 levels and took 15 years to complete; it is considered one of the greatest Egyptian architectural achievements.

Hatshepsut Temple

It's interesting to note that in those days, the people only recognized men as rulers, so Queen Hatshepsut was made up to look like a man. That was enough for the people to accept her as such and permitted a royal afterlife preparation.

To top off our tours, we went to the east side of the Nile to see the Karnak Temple. After Angkor Wat of Cambodia, this is the second largest religious ancient site in the world, and after the Giza Pyramids of Cairo, the second most visited historical site of Egypt.

It consists of 134 massive pillars arranged in towering columns, several colossal statues, and an obelisk carved of solid granite 29.5 m (97 ft) tall and weighing over 320 tons.

Jordan and Judy by pillars

Judy beside a tall obelisk

How did the ancient Egyptians ever manage to construct such diametrically large and weighty projects! What makes Karnak different from other temples is the amount of time over which it was built - more than 2,100 years under several ruling pharaohs!

During our tours, our guide explained that a cartouche is a name spelled with Egyptian hieroglyphs enclosed in an oval with a horizontal line at one end which indicates the name is royal.

Cartouche in tomb at Karnak Temple)

If we wished, he said he could arrange for our names to be done in this way as jewellery. Here is my royal name (silver with gold hieroglyphics), complete with a raised scarab on the back!

Feeling all templed out, it was good to hit the road home to the comfort of Sea Turtle and to see how Chanty, our boat cat, made out without us for 2 days.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tour time: Aswan

The barren desert shores of the Red Sea are a long ways from the fertile valley of the Nile where ancient Egyptian life started and ended...and that's where we were headed.

04:30 in the cool predawn, we along with 3 from SV Jubilee, loaded into the tour bus for the journey to the Nile to see the great ruin sites at Aswan and Luxor.

The first 4 hours travel was over poorly paved roads that saw only military check points and a rugged inhospitable landscape. The looming Nile was announced abruptly by a refreshing greenery of agriculture that only belayed an increasingly dense populous of penury.

As we turned southwards along the Nile's east bank towards Aswan, our progress was hindered by the congestion of buses, cars, donkeys and carts, and overloaded sugar cane trailers pulled by tractors to the mills. About 400 km and 7 hours later, we arrived at the city of Aswan.

We snatched up Aswani, our Egyptologist guide, then stopped for an authentic Nubian lunch overlooking the river. The tranquil setting was complete with the motorless feluccas (traditional wooden sailboats with lateen-type sails) effortlessly gliding by in the light Nile breeze.

A felucca sailing the Nile

Our first stop of sites of antiquities was the granite quarries used by the builders of the ancient wonders of the Nile to see the Unfinished Obelisk. They were a noted feature of that era's architecture and were required to be made from one solid granite stone. Pairs were placed at temple or tomb entrances for sun gods or others displayed as tributes to kings or queens.

But the Unfinished Obelisk was just that, never finished. It was the largest attempted. During the labourious carving of it out of solid granite, it was discovered it wasn't so solid. Crack! As a crack would be considered an insult to whom it was made in honour of, so progress was halted. And there it sits, in an unglamorous repose.

High hopes cracked

From there, we drove to 2 dams built on the mighty Nile River, the Aswan Low Dam (aka Old Dam) and the Aswan High Dam. The Low Dam provided irrigation but could not prevent the floods. So in the 1950s, the High Dam was built 6 km upstream that could provide valuable irrigation, end the annual flooding of the Nile, and bring electric power to Egypt to light homes and power industry.

Then it was off to the Philae Temple. This Temple was originally located on the Island of Philae but it was constantly being flooded after construction of the Aswan Low Dam. So to preserve it, they had to move it piece by piece about 500 m away to Agilkai Island to be reassembled where today it can be accessed by boat. An impressive feat!

Massive relocation project

Long corridor with just us

Finishing then in Aswan, we headed to Luxor where our hotel was waiting for us. Backtracking for the first couple of hours, then a couple more continuing along the rough road north along the Nile, we arrived late, tired, and hungry.

After a hasty check in, we headed to the busy rooftop restaurant for a typical Egyptian dinner as a 4-piece traditional band sang and played LOUD music. It would have been impossible to sleep so we stayed to watch a couple of following acts accompany the music.

The next act was an urban Whirling Dervish. He was like the Rhinestone Cowboy of Dervishes. His costume was a layered psychedelic affair of light and quilted colours that, with a glass of wine, also got your head spinning like a dervish. As he non-stop twirled, a few different layers would be discarded, giving a new appearance. Very good and entertaining. And he didn't fall down when he stopped twirling.

The following act started with the opposite amount of attire - an Egyptian belly dancer. That ended our first long and full day on tour.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A day of diving

Being Med-moored right next to 2 dive boats and continually watching them load up and take off for the day was enough of an excuse for Jordan to book on. After all, the Red Sea is considered by some as giving the best diving experiences in the world. Joining him were 2 crew from Jubilee.

Jordan said it was generally a pretty good dive in an abundance of healthy coral but the water left them chilled even though they wore wet suits.

Here are some nice shots he got...

Multitude of colourful corals

Blue-spotted stingray

Masses of fish and coral

Friday, March 24, 2017


The Red Sea is 1,400 miles long - that's 1,216 nautical miles - and we average 5 nautical miles per hour (5.75 mph). That's over 240 hours for Sea Turtle to get through the Red Sea without stopping!

And the Red Sea has 365 days of sunshine per year (yes, 365) and it is surrounded by desert. The winds blow predominantly from the north and when it blows hard a fine desert sand covers the boat painting it a red hue.

Progress north can be a test of patience. Headway is done either by motoring in calm weather or, more often, beating into light north winds. In the latter case, a typical day starts at the crack of dawn or before and then, usually by noon, when the winds have picked up to the point of pounding into it, we look for shelter.

So this day, March 22nd, with a forecast of 2 days of calm, we made a run for it. It was a predawn start in a velvet darkness. The anchor was hoisted under torchlight and we motored out of the inlet of Marsa Wasi (Sudan) guided only by our GPS track laid down on our electronic charts when we entered.

We would be growing moss if we waited for a following south wind to sail north with. So we welcomed the calm even though it meant motoring and using precious diesel fuel.

Sea Turtle has large fuel tanks and the new Beta motor sips it slowly. This has been beneficial as available fuel stops are few and far between on this passage. And having a watermaker takes away the worry of finding fresh water.

Just after midnight at about 22 degrees north and in flat seas, we crossed into Egyptian waters. It was now March 23rd and as the day progressed, we lost the calm and a north wind developed making our last 10 NM to our destination a tedious affair as we motor-sailed into a steep chop.

We tied up to the Customs/Immigration seawall of Port Ghalib Marina (N25°32.021' E034°38.338') on March 24th at 09:30 (08:30 local time) right behind SV Jubilee who had arrived about 7 hours earlier. We received a friendly welcome by the officials and as soon as the paperwork and thorough inspections were complete, we Med-moored right in front of a hotel and swimming pool.

Sea Turtle at Port Ghalib

Twenty years ago where Port Ghalib is now, was a barren, rocky, windswept, and uninhabited desert coastline. Then a Kuwaiti billionaire invested a reported 2 billion dollars to turn this port and 18 km of coastline into tourist resort destinations complete with a town center, shopping, hotels, restaurants, marina, etc.

The Marina has a unique set-up with different waterways connected by small walking bridges for pedestrians.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Two marsas in two days

The morning had started out with calm winds as we departed Khor Shinab (Sudan). But it didn't last for long. This day, as is typical for  this part of the Red Sea, as the day builds so does the wind from the north. So only making a mere 10 nautical miles in 3.5 hours pounding into short steep waves we turned in through another break in the reef and down a channel

The blustery winds followed us down the flatter protected waters of Marsa Abu Imama's channel whipping up little white caps. We dropped the hook early in the morning at 09:30 on the 20th (N21°29.497' E036°57.212'). A short day's run.

Remarks in the Red Sea cruising guide called this a peaceful and beautiful spot. Unfortunately we were unable to see most of it due to the haze created by the blowing dust. But it was peaceful being the only sailboat there, or for that matter, anywhere.

Since we left SE Asia on this passage, we shared anchorages along the way with the same 3 boats. But by now we have all separated, progressing at different paces. Other than those, we haven't seen another sailboat. We have only heard of about 3 other boats that have or are making this short-window passage to the Med.

But there were a couple of lonely and lowly fishing pangas who approached us asking for whatever they could think of using only a few words of English. We had nothing but a shirt and some aspirins for their needs as our supplies had been getting very meagre by this point.

A calm dawn of clear air showed us the 3 conical sets of hills and an appreciation the beauty of the desert beauty.

Small sample of mountainous Sudan

Still packing remnants of dust storms

The winds were predicted to be from offshore and fairly light so we headed out early. But again we had to pack it in for the day after only 3 hours of bashing into headwinds making barely 10 nautical miles to the good. We found protection at Marsa Wasi down a short channel and anchored next to a long sandspit on the 21st (N21°38.551' E036°54.001').

Stretched out sandspit

Red sky in the Red Sea

Monday, March 20, 2017

Khor Shinab's hold

Our early morning departure from Taila of Sudan on March 18th saw us safely away from the coral bommies which were easily seen in the clear water. As predicted, the north headwinds had abated so we were motoring to continue northwards up the Red Sea. It was about a 50-nautical-mile run to our next destination, Khor Shinab.

Fishing has been awesome in the Red Sea. Experience has it that shortly after putting out a line, fish is caught. Jordan caught another, this one a bit smaller, but for only two of us, that's preferable.

On our way, we passed Leoni reef anchorage, reputed to be the best snorkelling; we just had to stop and see (N20°54.920' E037°15.640'). Our consensus? The best in the Red Sea yet.

Coral garden

Varieties of coral

Along the way, a small panga with a couple of friendly fishermen approached, asking if we had any soft drinks. Unfortunately we only had one Cola which they gladly accepted. And it was cold too! We also accommodated and gave them an older snorkelling mask to their delight. Heading off, as their boat bounced on top of the waves, the mask was being tried on top of bright grins.

As the day progressed, the winds steadily built. This time it was in our favour and we were running down to our next anchorage, so by the time we made it there in the late afternoon, it was at least a lively Force 6 on the Beaufort scale.

The only suitable anchorage was at the end of a 2.5-nautical-mile long channel that led inland. Even after anchoring (N21°21.090' E037°00.881'), we could tell the wind's escalation hadn't finished. It was here that we experienced the notorious Red Sea's namesake. The skies darkened and the desert scene was obliterated with a howling atmosphere of sandy dust. Poor Sea Turtle was covered with the fine dust that forms the top layer of this African desert. All the saltiness of the boat was like a magnet for the stuff and Sea Turtle took on a dirty rouge tinge. There was even settlement inside.

It's dust, not fog

It's dust, not a lightsaber of Star Wars

The next morning, the wind was light and variable so Sea Turtle's anchor came up and she swam the mile out to see what it was like out in the big blue. By the time she got to the outside entrance, the winds had really picked up and from the north, the direction she wanted to head. So when she stuck her nose out, seeing the boisterous sea state, she turned tail and swam all the way back up the channel returning to the safe hangout to wait for another day (N21°21.061' E037°00.832').

So when we awoke early March 20th, the wind was quiet. We quickly brought up the anchor and hurried out to sea. Khor Shinab had given up her hold on us!