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.

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