Yard Work

29 October 2020 – YARD WORK – Alanya Turkey

There has been lots of work done on our boat in the last two months, since my last blog entry. First, we hauled out of the water on 8 September. The boat yard at Alanya Marina operates a 100T travel lift, and its a tall one – which means that I didn’t have to remove any rigging or wind generators. The crew were gentle with our boat and did a great job with the pressure washer.

Then, they moved us over to a “remote” area of the yard, one where we could make a mess and a lot of dirt.

We received two fixed price quotes for “sandblasting” the hull, selected one, and then basically waited for 5 weeks for the blaster to show up. The price was good, much cheaper than in NZ. In that 5 week period, I worked on finishing the deck painting. This was the paint programme:

  1. Remove all the 21 year old Treadmaster, and grind off the remaining epoxy.
  2. Roll on Jotun Jotamastic epoxy, one coat of grey, one coat of red, and another coat of grey.
  3. Roll on Jotun XPrimer epoxy, one coat of white.
  4. Roll on Jotun XTreme Gloss polyurethane, two coats of Lynx White 5097
  5. Roll on Jotun XTreme Gloss polyurethane, one coat of Delphius Grey 0967
    Liberal sprinkling of Jotafloor aggregate non-skid additive, Medium grit (0.4 – 0.8mm)
  6. Vacuum the un-bonded grit off, and then roll on two more coats of Grey.

This was a total of 9 coats of paint, some over bare metal, but most over several previous layers of paint. Hopefully, this will look good for many years to come.

I divided the deck area into 3 roughly equal sections: the raised cabin, the foredeck and the poop deck. This is what the raised cabin looked like after the first coat of grey polyurethane and the non-skid additive.

The poop deck was the next section to be finished. This photo shows the section after the red epoxy coat.

This photo shows the poop deck as I was applying the non-skid grit over the first layer of grey polyurethane.

This is the finished poop deck, we just have to remove the tape.

This is the foredeck, midway in the process. I had to apply lots of West System epoxy “fairing compound” (micro-balloons mixture) in order to smooth out the deck, all the deck.

The deck repainting project is now finished. We have yet to do the toe rail (the outside edge), but it will happen “in a few weeks”. The deck is noticeably cooler to walk on than the Treadmaster was, and the new non-skid is tenacious (like 80 grit sandpaper) but not too hard on the skin. Here is a photo of the foredeck and raised cabin, with the dorade boxes refinished (by Diane) and re-installed.

While waiting for the sandblaster to show up, I had a very close inspection of the hull. Although the bottom was last sandblasted and painted a mere 4 years ago in NZ (it should last more like 20 years), it was really a shitty job and had to be redone. Why was it shitty? Because they did not spray enough epoxy paint (should have been at least 600 mils, equal to 6 rolled coats) and they “wet blasted”. This means that the epoxy was sprayed over “rust bloomed” wet steel. After 4 years in salt water, this is an example of the result.

This was a piece of paint that just flicked off with my fingernail, just above the rudder. I blame the yard in NZ for this sub-standard job. I figure its not worth while mentioning their name, or trying to get compensation from them – the Manager was incompetent, a lier and a crook. Unfortunately, we were not present for 90% of the work done (our bad) so most of it was covered up by the time we saw the boat. This time, in Turkey, we had DRY “sand-blasting” with basalt grit and we were on site, full-time.

Another reason for the bottom job, is that we had evidence of some galvanic corrosion leaving some “pit holes”. Although none punctured the hull, they were concerning to me. Since there were no actual “holes”, I determined that the best course of action was to fill the “pits” with a special epoxy compound – Belzona 1311 (Ceramic R-Metal) (made in the UK and approved by Lloyds for metal replacement, machinery and hulls used in sea water immersion). It was fairly pricey stuff, at 370 euros for a 2kg kit, but it was perfect for the job, and easy to apply immediately after grit blasting, before spraying on epoxy.

This is a photo of one of the worst areas, clearing showing a very small corrosion pit.

I have since traced the reason for these pits to the connection to my Victron isolation transformer. Of course, all the hull zincs were completely eaten away, and this was really not possible to detect or correct while we were in India. The marina water was really foul. The situation will be rectified before we launch.

The “sandblaster” equipment was laid out next to our boat, showing his bags of “basalt” grit. It was really clean, dustless in fact, until he started to recycle the grit that fell on the concrete bottom — then it got dusty!

Inside the tented area, it wasn’t dusty at all, on the “first round”.

I figure the grit blasting took 16-18 hours in total. They did have some technical difficulties, and had to stop to refill the hopper, but it took nearly two full days.

This photo was taken at about 2100, after the first full day of blasting. I asked them to get paint on, immediately, but they insisted that it wouldn’t make any difference – they could paint the next day…

The next morning, I had a close look and found a few sections that looked like this. It forced them to re-blast in some areas.

After reblasting those areas, then they got paint on the one side.

After the blasting was completed, the painter sprayed on 4 coats of Jotun Universal epoxy primer, to a dry film thickness of approximately 100 microns. I figure that I need 600 microns of dry paint before rolling on the anti-fouling – Coppercoat. Over the next week, Diane and I will continue to paint the bottom and I’ll report on that with the next update.

Another job I did was to re-install our rejuvenated 200A alternator. I had removed it several months ago, and had the yard replace the bearing, clean and paint it. The adjuster arm also needed to be beefed up, and painted.

3 September 2020 – Side and Aspendos Turkey

The Treadmaster (rubber deck material epoxied in place 19 years ago) removal project is going fine. I can say not that all of it has been removed, but there are remnants of the rubber backing still on the poop/aft deck. It has been challenging to remove this while still dockside. I have to say that the marina staff have been very tolerant of the noise and dust, and of course, I have done a lot to try and mitigate that (only work for a couple of hours a day, and using drop sheets to close off areas). The next step is to use epoxy fairing compound to fair all the nicks, scratches and gouges in the deck remaining after this removal. That will take a “few weeks” and will be completed “on the hard”.

The solution to best removing the Treadmaster, efficient and nearly dust-free, was to use a hammer-drill, with a chisel attachment.

This is a good, but very short Treadmaster removal video I made so that others that follow this path might jump directly to the best method. Nobody mentioned this on YouTube, and its really the best method.

We are very close to finding an affordable apartment that we will lease for “a few months” and hope to finally haul the boat in “a week or so”. It will be much more comfortable to be living in an apartment with the planned sandblasting and painting of the bottom – while I’m also painting the deck!

We took a day off today and rented a car to go sight-seeing with our friends Eric and Pam on Pied-a-Mer. Our plan was to see the amphitheatre in Aspendos as well as the ruins in the area of Side (pronounced See-Day) – both of which are about 1.5 hours drive to the West of Alanya.

Aspendos was an ancient Greco-Roman city in the Antalya province of Turkey. The wide range of coinage throughout the ancient world indicates that, in the 5th century BC, Aspendos had become the most important city in Pamphylia. At that time, the Eurymedon River was navigable as far as Aspendos, and the city derived great wealth from a trade in salt, oil and wool. In 546 BC it came under Persian domination. The fact that the city continued to mint coins in its own name, however, indicates that it had a great deal of freedom even under the Persians.

There are plenty of ruins in the area, and these photos are of the aqueduct ruins that remain. I have read that some Roman aqueducts date back as far as the 7th century BC.

I thought these ruins were particularly interesting because its just on the edge of town, and if you look closely, you can see local farmers even store their farm equipment in the alcoves of the aqueduct.

Aspendos is best known for its 12,000 seat amphitheatre, which is still in use today for ballet and concert performances. It was built in 155AD by the Greek architect Zenon, a native of the city. This is a photo from the top looking down (you have to walk from the bottom to the top, and its pretty steep).

This is a view of the bottom level, currently setup for a concert series.

Of course, there are plenty of other ruins in the surrounding area, and a short hike in the 38C sunny weather will yield all kinds of old buildings and rubble.

The next stop was to the resort town of Side on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast, commonly known as the Turkish Riviera. Side was an ancient port city, known for long beaches and its Greco-Roman ruins. In the centre are the remains of the 2nd-century Antique Theatre, which seated up to 15,000.

The white marble columns of the Hellenistic Temple of Athena stand near the harbour. Its a classic view, one that is found on most of the tourist pamphlets for the area.

Other sites of ancient interest are sprinkled throughout, with most interesting finds housed at the Side Museum, the site of a restored Roman bath complex. This is a sarcophagus that was inside the Museum. Not only was the museum an interesting and economical visit, but it was also air conditioned – providing much needed relief from the sweltering heat.

Visit to Cappadocia

18 August 2020 – Cappadocia Turkey

We were extremely fortunate this past weekend and took a 3-day excursion with our friends Jean-Yves and his wife Tuba to Cappadocia. The region of Cappadocia lies in central Anatolia, in the heartland of what is now Turkey. Jean-Yves drove nearly 5 hours to get us to this high plateau over 1000m in altitude that is pierced by volcanic peaks, with Mount Erciyes (ancient Argaeus) near Kayseri (ancient Caesarea) being the tallest at 3916m.

To get there, we had to drive up and over mountains and then across the “breadbasket” of Turkey. The roads were excellent, as we have come to expect in Turkey.

This picture could have been taken in Saskatchewan Canada.

There were a few real police officers, but more often than not – they were “cardboard police”, like this one – pretty convincing at a distance.

This was probably our first view of what we came to see with respect to homes carved into the hills.

During these COVID-19 times, there are very few tourists. There are still many government restrictions in place, one of which prohibits the flying of small groups of tourists in large hot air balloons – probably because they can’t maintain the social distancing requirements. Typically, photos of this area show many colourful balloons in the sky – particularly in the morning. One could say that we were fortunate, and the crystal clear blue sky was unpolluted by the usual dozens and dozens of balloons. We were also fortunate to visit in the summertime as Cappadocia has a markedly continental climate, with hot dry summers (nearly the same temperature as Alanya, but very dry) and cold snowy winters. Rainfall is sparse and the region is largely semi-arid.

This is my “play on words” with a Turkish “inuksuk”. It is more commonly known as a manmade stone landmark or cairn built for use by the Inuit, Iñupiat, Kalaallit, Yupik, and other peoples of the Arctic region of North America. These structures are found in northern Canada, Greenland, and Alaska – but it looks like nature makes them here in Turkey as well.

The name Cappadocia, is traditionally used in Christian sources throughout history, and continues in use to define a region of exceptional natural wonders, in particular characterized by fairy chimneys and a unique historical and cultural heritage. These are the fairy chimneys.

Cappadocia is diverse, with Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks inhabiting the region. The earliest record of the name of Cappadocia dates from the late 6th century BC. Every meal was an event.

We stayed at the Grand Elite Cave Suites in the city of Göreme, first settled in Roman times.

The Yusuf Koç, Ortahane, Durmus Kadir and Bezirhane churches are found in Göreme, and houses and churches are carved into rocks in nearby area.

The Göreme Open Air Museum is the most visited site and contains more than 30 carved-from-rock churches and chapels, some having superb frescoes inside, dating from the 9th century to the 11th century. All photos and videos inside were prohibited, by the way.

Obviously, this cave was used by the community for grinding grain.

We rented ATVs and quickly explored 4 nearby valleys.

One very interesting side trip is to the underground private ceramic museum, Güray Müze. This place was massive, with excellent displays of thousands of ceramic items, presumably found in the hundreds of former dwelling places inside the nearby caves.

It was cool enough inside that Diane and I took a comfy seat next to the fireplace.

On the first night, we had a wonderful dinner right in the town centre, with a commanding view of the caves and wonders of Göreme.

On the way back, we followed the same route, but this time stopped at a truck stop for lunch and were treated to a region speciality – pizza made on flatbread.

They say that first impressions are lasting, and I have to admit that I’m somewhat disappointed in the views of Turkey that seem to be held by some of my friends. These views have been promoted by the main-stream media that launches on every news-worthy story, particularly stories about fear and desolation. Yes, Turkey is a police state. There have been many coups here. But, Turkey has first-world infrastructure and hospitals – and the people are honest, hard working and pleasant. If I didn’t tell you, you could hardly tell that the majority of the population were Muslim. When the mosque starts up with a loud-speaker “call to prayer”, it lasts for about a minute, compared with the norm of 20-30 minutes in Indonesia or Malaysia. I would argue that you would see A LOT more hijabs worn by the women in downtown Ottawa or Toronto than you do around here. Come to Turkey – you won’t be disappointed. Hopefully, you’ll see the balloons in Cappadocia.

Alanya Turkey

24 July 2020 – Alanya Turkey

We are in TURKEY, a transcontinental Eurasian country bordered by Greece and Bulgaria, the Black Sea, Georgia, Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran, Iraq, Syria the Mediterranean Sea; and west by the Aegean Sea. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of the country’s citizens identify as Turkish, while Kurds are the largest minority, at between 15 to 20 percent of the population.

At various points in its history, the region has been inhabited by diverse civilizations including the Anatolian peoples, Assyrians, Greeks, Thracians, Phrygians, Urartians, and Armenians. There is A LOT of history here. During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent – the Ottoman Empire encompassed much of Southeast Europe, West Asia and North Africa and it became a world power.

The Turkish War of Independence, initiated by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his comrades against the occupying Allied Powers, resulted in the abolition of the sultanate and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey on 29 October 1923, with Atatürk as its first president. Atatürk enacted numerous reforms, many of which incorporated various aspects of Western thought, philosophy and customs into the new form of Turkish government. For example, under Atatürk, the Ottoman Turkish script was replaced by the Latin-based new Turkish alphabet (nearly the same as the English alphabet we use today). Turkey is a member of the UN, NATO, the IMF, and the World Bank.

Accession negotiations with the European Union started in 2005, but were stalled in 2018 and suspended in 2019. Why? I have two suggestions: possibly because President Recep Erdoğan has introduced measures to tighten “freedom of the press”, measures that increase the influence of Islam; and the refusal of the government to admit to the genocide against its own people of Armenian, Assyrian and Pontic Greek origin – during WWI. In short, Turkey applied for EU membership, everything I’ve seen so far resembles any other EU member country bordering on the Mediterranean Sea – but that application has been stalled for 15 years.

The population of Turkey is about 85 million and they have a GDP that puts them in 19th place in the world. Consequently, they are a member of the G20, an influential group for international cooperation on the most important aspects of the international economic and financial agenda. This group includes 19 countries, and the EU: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

We went paragliding for the first time on 8 July – right here in Alanya, and landed walking distance from the marina.

The weather was fantastic, and the views were spectacular. We couldn’t turn this event down at only $30USD per flight and $10USD per video (some bargaining was involved). I had to do some serious editing to chop down the video material down from about 40 minutes to only 2.5 minutes. This video is very authentic in representing our experience, with the exception of the take off. The take off slope was very, very steep – not at all represented in the video.

Another surprise was that since we were the first foreign cruisers to arrive in Alanya, we became an object of some interest and were interviewed by a TV station from Antalya and subsequently our story appeared on Turkish television, and maybe elsewhere. This is the link to the magazine, and this is the link to the video – of course its all in Turkish, except for the video interview.

Like everywhere else we travel to, we always seek out the local market and have become accustomed to going there every Friday. It is much like any other market, but I will point out that it is very clean, and the prices are clearly marked at the stalls. Of course, once we enter the market area, we have to “mask up”.

Today, we stopped at a little park just outside the market, waiting for our bus. The brilliant sunshine is creating havoc with my photos, often over exposing them.

Last week, when we went to the market with Eric and Pam on Pied-a-Mer III, we stopped at a local fast-food restaurant for local food.

Today, I also noticed this little friendly cat with some unusual, but beautiful patterns in her fur.

We’ve been busy with boat maintenance and repairs. Our sails have been sent to a sailmaker in Marmaris for work. We have two big projects in mind this year, and they both require the boat to be hauled. We will have the bottom sandblasted and painted “again”. This was last done in NZ, a mere four years ago. Unfortunately, we were not present for a lot of the work, and although it looked superficially fine on the outside, underneath – it is not good. In NZ, the yard insisted on doing “wet sandblasting” following strict environmental laws, but this is never a good idea for a steel hull. Also, they simply did not apply enough epoxy “primer” before painting on the Coppercoat.
Sadly, after only two years, the result was rust leaching through the paint, and over $25K in wasted money. The second big job will be removing the deck Treadmaster and repainting the decks. To that end, I have started on the tedious job of removing this excellent but aged deck non-slip material.

So far, I’ve probably removed about 20% of the Treadmaster, but its a tedious and dirty job – particularly in the heat. I’ve tried an oscillating tool (with a scraper and a cutter blade), a planer and a grinder – one after the other.

To be honest, the best result is with a hammer and chisel, but it is also the most tiring!

Yesterday, we took a couple hours away from the boat and visited the Alanya Castle, only a 10 minute scooter ride from our marina. This castle, first constructed in 1220, was built on the remnants of earlier Byzantine era and Roman era fortifications. The castle is located 250 metres high on a rocky peninsula and the wall which surrounds it is 6.5 kilometres long and includes some remains of 140 towers.

1 July – Suez Canal Finished

1 July 2020 – Alanya Marina – Turkey

News FLASH – We made it through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. We’re done, and now safely berthed at Alanya Marina in Eastern Turkey. 

At Port Suez, we docked at the Suez Canal Yacht Club (a Yacht Club, really in name only) and were treated very well by our agent Capt Heebie. He did all our clearances and arranged for diesel and fresh fruit and vegetable delivery. We were not permitted to go ashore, the Egyptian borders remain closed. We had an Egyptian lunch (gratis Capt Heebie) with SV LIBERTE (who we first met in Trinidad about 7 years ago) and SV PIED-A-MER (who we first met in Tahiti about 5 years ago). 

We departed Suez for the first of two legs through the Suez Canal on 24 June. Our first pilot was a jovial fellow, who spoke only a little English. He ate and drank everything we gave him. He boarded the boat at 0415. Unlike the Panama Canal, there are no locks in the Suez Canal, it is really just a long ditch, first undertaken in the period 1854-1856, by the Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps (the same man who started the Panama Canal). He obtained a concession from Sa’id Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, to create a company to construct a canal open to ships of all nations. This was a French, publicly traded company. 

We passed hundreds of these military “bridges”. They are really water-craft that are assembled by the Army (in practice and in war) to make a temporary bridge to cross the canal. It is literally done in “minutes”. When I lived and worked in the Sinai for Schlumberger 40 years ago, this was how I crossed the Canal to go from mainland Egypt to the Sinai.

Canal traffic is a mixture of one-way and two way movement because of lane widening, and construction efforts. We were overtaken by a few large container ships like this one. We were motoring at 6 knots, and them at about 10-12 knots.

The Captain of the huge container ship Mersk Gibraltor (Patrick, who we met when we stayed a year at Pangkor Marina in Malaysia) actually took a photo of the 3 sailboats underway (from his bridge deck) and we got this photo by email an hour later! What a small world indeed.

We arrived at Ismailia (mid-way through the Suez Canal) about 8 hours later, and left, as planned, two days later on 26 June. Ismailia might have been a nice place to visit, but we weren’t allowed to – because of COVID-19 and the fact that we checked out of Egypt on arrival at Port Suez. Here we are berthed at the Ismailia Yacht Club ($21USD per night, including water and electricity) alongside SV LIBERTE and SV PIED-A-MER.

Our second pilot also was a little rusty with his English, and also arrived very early at about 0430. 

This was our last view of Ismailia, it might have been a nice place to visit ….. Look at the blue sky and the clouds!

We continued to see hundreds of military bridge sections, pre-positioned and soldiers, hundreds of soldiers standing guard, often on the crests of the Canal sides.

This bridge, definitely did not exist when I lived here 40 years ago. The Mubarak Peace Bridge, also known as the Egyptian-Japanese Friendship Bridge, Al Salam Bridge, or Al Salam Peace Bridge, is a road bridge crossing the Suez Canal at El-Qantara. The bridge links the continents of Africa and Asia – and 60% of the cost was financed by Japan.

In the next few hours, we could smell and feel the freshness of the Mediterranean Sea and we were on the way to Turkey. The fishing lines were put out and Gabo and Mariona caught 3 tuna over a 12 hour period. The best lure was a pink, squiggly thing that resembled a squid. The best fishing time was at dusk and dawn – not always the best time for cleaning though. 

We figured this last one was about 15 kg. Now – our freezer was FULL.

Crew Recommendation 

At this point, I would like to make a public recommendation for our reliable crew: Gabriele de Rota (Italian) and Mariona Gil de Biedma Galofre (Spanish). These two friendly, honest, trustworthy, polite and practical people have been our crew from Thailand to India last year and again from India through to Turkey this year – covering 8 countries. As you can see from my blog posts, they are also serious fishermen: catching / cleaning and cooking fish whenever possible. But, they are also thorough boat cleaners and dedicated watch-keepers. They are wonderful in the galley and even entertain us with music. They are also both very comfortable in the water (SCUBA divers) and very thorough with hull cleaning/scraping. They came with a bit of prior experience but we tried to train them as well, and I can say that I completely trust them both to make the right decision in any situation. They have kept their cabin neat and tidy and are always available to lend a hand or take charge. There have been no arguments or bad feelings between us. Sure, sometimes we have had a differing opinion, but nothing that led to anything more than a lively discussion. At times, it can be challenging to be “cooped” up in a small space with 4 people for months at a time – but not with these two people. I know that they both have some aspirations of getting professional qualifications and ultimately their own boat, or at least paid crew positions. They are made for this life and I’m sure they will find their niche. Not only do I highly recommend that they be crew on other boats, but we would take them back “in a heartbeat”. Gabo and Mariona will always be welcome on SV Joana. 

Here, we are approaching our port of Alanya Turkey, our home for the coming year.

Reached Port Suez Egypt

22 June 2020 – Port Suez – Egypt

We are finally here at the South end of the Suez Canal! We have reached a milestone.

Traffic in the Suez Canal

We finally left Port Ghalib Marina on 9 June, after nearly 3 months “incarcerated” there. I’m sure that our experience would have been different, if it had not been for COVID-19. Why leave then? Because some of the Med ports were starting to open up. Cyprus declared itself open to incoming yachts, but a COVID-19 test and quarantine were required. We had friends who just arrived, and that was the trigger for us. At the time of departure, our plan was to make it to the Suez Canal, and then decide where we’ll go from there (Cyprus, Turkey, North Cyprus or even Greece?).

Our first anchorage was Soma Bay, at N26˚51’.10 E033˚58’.26 – about 87nm. I had set a course for the anchorage just North of the El Gouna resort, but it was just too far, given the weather conditions. We set out of Port Ghalib with the afternoon winds (always North) decreasing to only 8knots, but at 2am they increased to 15, 20 then 25 knots. This brought our boat speed down from 5, 4, 3, 2 and sometimes only 1 knot! So, I cut short the 132nm passage and tucked into Soma Bay at the 87nm mark. Soma Bay was very windy, but sheltered from the current and large waves. However, when the wind piped up to 30-40 knots, the waves in the anchorage similarly rose to nearly 1m even though we were only 150m from shore. At Soma Bay, I discovered that our water maker couldn’t build up pressure, so we could no longer make our own fresh water from sea water. Conservations measures were in put in place, reducing consumption and using sea water to wash dishes.

Even though it was windy, Gabo and Mariona practiced some “agro-yoga” on the poop deck.

Since we don’t have LPG inside the boat, our meals are either cooked on this rice cooker, or in the BBQ. Since it was way too windy for using the BBQ, we had lots of solar and wind energy to power the rice cooker, 12VDC to 115VAC through the inverter.

Diane and Mariona have both become skilled at making “rice-cooker” cakes (apple, orange, banana) and loaves of bread. This bread is a perfect size for making toast – and I think Diane made this one.

Gabo caught another tuna while underway, usually at about 0430 in the morning, just at dawn.

After waiting for 3 days, our next weather window opened up (light opposing wind) and we motored 57nm to Endeavour Harbour on Tawila Island. Here we had good sand holding, and very good protection from swell on nearly all sides, but we were still exposed to high wind since the surrounding land was only about 3m high. The wind generators were happy, all-night and all-day long for 4 days and nights. Then, we took advantage of a very short lull in the wind, and moved to Bluff Point, only 9nm away at N27˚40’.58 E033˚48’.21 a divers paradise, but empty due to COVID-19. This was a good move and simply shortened our passage for the next day to El Tur, on the SW corner of the Sinai at N28˚14’.12 E033˚36’.59 – when we were finally within reach (123nm) of Suez!

Along the way, we came across these used, and often unused oil production platforms. Since we were moving during daylight hours, there was no risk to us, but the Red Sea Pilot book warns that they are difficult to see at night, even with RADAR, and are sometimes unlit.

El Tur was a very sheltered, shallow sandy bottom anchorage – well positioned on the Sinai side.

Seeing that we were close to the bottom of our aft water tank (forward tank still full) – I contacted the Egyptian Coast Guard on VHF 16 – to request a water delivery. Within a few hours, I was put in touch with the El Tur Commander of the local Navy Base (who spoke impeccable English), and he arranged a bottled water delivery of 20 X 19L plastic jugs. This was well appreciated, and speaks volumes about the professionalism of the Egyptian Coast Guard and Navy.

Shortly afterwards on the same afternoon, we made contact with a local windsurfer / paddle boarder who offered to take away our empty water jugs and fetch us some fresh fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately, this never worked out because the Army chastised him for coming out to our anchored boat.

There were a couple of guys windsurfing, one with one of those new fancy boards that rides “above” the water.

Although we didn’t go ashore, we were pleased with the picturesque views from the harbour. When the dust settled, we could see the mountains of the Sinai (including the area nearby Mount St Catherine where the Bible records Moses getting his tablet with the 10 commandments) and the Egyptian mainland on the other side of the Red Sea.

After about 5 days, we left El Tur with a short, but defined lull in the winds – and rushed overnight to Port Suez, 123nm northwest. We continued to see Sinai vistas along the coast.

We will undertake the first half of the Suez Canal passage on Wednesday 24 June, and will “pause” at Ismailia for a few days to get sorted out before our passage into the Mediterranean Sea.

Still in Port Ghalib Egypt

26 May 2020 – Port Ghalib Egypt (still there)

We have been berthed at Port Ghalib Marina for nearly 11 weeks. This photo is from “happier times” before the lockdown started. We had lunch in BiCafe with our friends on YARA (still in the marina) and BIRD OF PASSAGE (on the way to Sweden).

We planned to stay 4 weeks, and visit the Valley of the Kings – but then the world shut down! A few days ago, we learned that domestic movement restrictions will be eased here in Egypt, but we haven’t seen any sign of it. In fact, they have tightened up following the end of Ramadan. We actually went in a bus to Hurghada (200km North) a few weeks ago, in accordance with the established rules. Although the Senza Mall was open, it was basically just the supermarket Spinneys, none of the restaurants or cafes were open. Now, we learned that if we want to take our boat to Hurghada Marina – we will first have to check-in at the Port (about 400m distance) and complete a 14 day quarantine on our boat. What? We can visit there by car, but if we take our boat, we have to stay aboard under quarantine for 14 days? These kind of rules are illogical, and rampant throughout the world. The next day we checked again, and they said, “oh, the rule has changed, the port is closed”. I think the problem stems from the fact that most countries treat small sailboats with the same bureaucracy as cruise ships and cargo ships. Often, when we clear in, we are asked for “de-ratting” certificates, to complete a declaration of “stowaways” and to fill out a form indicating that we had no people “die on passage”. There should be a way of dealing with a small private vessel with only a few people on boat. 

Oh well, we are dealing with COVID-19 like everyone else in the world. 

These are our friends Larry and Margie on ALTHEA (US citizens, we first met in Fiji) who have just made their first landfall in months in the USVI, coming from Brazil. They left South Africa, stopping at St Helena (mid Atlantic) and then briefly at a marina in Brazil. 

They haven’t been allowed to check in to a country, for more than 3 months – since they left South Africa (pre COVID-19). On arrival in the USVI, they did not have to self-quarantine for 14 days, possibly because they are US citizens, or maybe because they have been at sea so long?

Johan and Tove, Swedish friends of ours on BIRD OF PASSAGE arrived in Sicily (from the Suez Canal) a few days ago. They left Port Ghalib more than a month ago.

In Sicily, they were visited by Quarantine staff, checked and permitted to go ashore. The Coast Guard delivered groceries to them a few hours later, dressed in hazmat suits with gloves, masks, and face protectors. The next day, more Coast Guard staff delivered 20 X 20L new jerry cans of diesel, again – all dressed up. They were told that they shouldn’t have gone ashore. Where is the logic?

These links tell even more stories, involving some cruisers we have come across over the years. 

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/travel/article-escaping-the-pandemic-on-a-sailboat-may-sound-idyllic-but-its-not-as/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/12/long-journey-home-the-stranded-sailboats-in-a-race-to-beat-the-hurricanes?CMP=share_btn_fb&fbclid=IwAR3cEvVWRaKole7Tu08qzcWZ6ziyRH8qSHoui1Q_jw6C577GMIUKnlL_8qE

https://www.sailingsteelsapphire.com/blog-1/2020/4/30/desperately-seeking-solutions?fbclid=IwAR0slnwExeLYDB6rm61HYf3RIxftphDELflk5NAVd4AXs5BLvLM-azTbFKM

https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/small-boats-stuck-at-sea-covid-19/index.html?fbclid=IwAR1h8lpN-TH7viVxutiYPgO4-tUnYTucMn2xVgOe78gMPC734tf2Lc_Ql-4

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-may-18-2020-1.5574259/after-covid-19-turned-his-voyage-into-months-of-floating-lockdown-this-canadian-is-finally-sailing-for-home-1.5574284

The saddest story that I’ve come across are Patrick and Rebecca on SV BRICKHOUSE. 

They left SE Asia at about the same time as us, choosing to go via South Africa, while we went to India and then the Red Sea. They both have COVID-19, and are in South Africa now. Patrick is on a ventilator and in ICU, whilst Rebecca also has tested positive and is in quarantine on their boat. Its a sad situation.

http://whereisbrickhouse.com

Port Ghalib – and COVID-2019

21 March 2020 – Port Ghalib Egypt

We’re here, and whether we like it or not, we’re going to be here for an indeterminate period of time while the whole world struggles with COVID-2019 containment. The marina at Port Ghalib is hardly a marina, per se – at least in my experience. Its a bunch of resorts, restaurants and souvenir shops sharing a common bay and dock area (mostly for commercial dive and snorkel charters) with room for about a dozen sailboats. They advertise toilets and showers, but the toilets are the same ones that the fly-in tourists use, public toilets. There are no showers, none. They advertise wifi available, but in truth it costs $0.12 USD per minute to use the wifi in their office. A better solution is to buy a Vodaphone SIM card and use a hotspot. The “docks” are all concrete wall, Med-moor style, OK by me. Thankfully, we had assistance to get into this spot, as there was a lot of wind blowing from the side – at the time.

The marina staff helped to put their AC plug on the end of my electrical cord, so I didn’t have to buy one. They say the water is not good to drink, but I tested it, and its 237ppm desalinated water, probably better than what we drink with our own water maker. There are no minerals in the water, but I believe that as long as you balance that with a healthy diet of fruit and vegetables, there is no downside to drinking desalinated water. Some water makers now come with a system to add some minerals, just not salt. I haven’t yet been to the marina office, but I did request a month long stay. At this time of the year its a fixed price, $300 USD for a 16m boat, for a month. Its a good deal. I wonder how long that deal will last?

We took a walk about, and found this beached sailboat, a Beneteau, about 42 feet. It has been here for a few years and is pretty much stripped of anything valuable, although the Perkins engine is still there.

Like much of Egypt, there is a reef just past the beach. I can only surmise that this boat hit a reef, lost its rudder and went aground – quickly. These “bendy boats” (Beneteau) have a spade rudder, one that is vulnerable when hitting a reef, rocks or a sea container. They do, however, turn-on-a-dime when in the marina — but they are not seaworthy. Beneteaus are not worthy of ocean passages, in my opinion. Here is evidence that the rudder shaft (it looks like fibreglass over wood) sheared off.

There are 10 sailboats here now, most of them travelling North, when possible. The Suez Canal is open, but that’s it. All the Mediterranean ports are closed. One of these boats is a Dutch sailboat, moving South through the Red Sea – heading to SE Asia. Most of the owners and crew have flown back to their home countries because of the world wide corona virus pandemic. In fact, most of the staff working here have also gone home, simply because there are virtually no tourists to stay in the hotels, buy restaurant food, go diving or buy souvenirs. Egypt, like most countries, has closed its borders for two weeks to non-Egyptian nationals. At least with no tourists around, the internet is fast enough!

Two more sailboats arrived yesterday, one all the way from India. A German single-hander arrived two days before us and sailed (single handed) all the way from the Maledives. I think it was about a 28 day passage. In my opinion, it is foolish to consider most of these sailers as a threat. The risk of any them carrying the virus is zero, as evidenced by the long time at sea, under self-quarantine.

The camels are still walking around.

We are keen to see the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Asswan etc — but you can’t drive more than about 50km in this area before running into a police checkpoint. They are enforcing Egyptian law, and no unnecessary travel is permitted. All of these tourist sites are closed. In the meantime, we’ll just have to bide our time.

Diane sampled some of the local she-shaw.

I attempted repair of our bow thruster and now realize that I need two new solenoids. Maybe I can get them in Egypt?

Suakin Sudan and Northbound

15 March 2020 – Suakin Sudan and Northbound

We stopped in Suakin Sudan for only a few days. With the normally strong Northerly winds that blow through down from the Med to the Red Sea, we are finding ourselves following a pattern of “move North when the wind is light or non-existent”. We found ourselves at Port Suakin for exactly 3 days. The first two days, I didn’t even get off the boat. I was occupied with taking on 800L of fuel in jerry cans.

I found the people of Sudan to be polite, warm and open. There is very little English spoken here, or in the signs. Unfortunately, this country has suffered from being labelled by the USA as a country that supports International terrorism. Its a paradox that Saudi Arabia hasn’t been identified in the same manner, particularly when ALL of the hijackers that crashed those two airliners into the World Trade Centre in 2001 and killed nearly 3000 people – were all citizens of Saudi Arabia. Its something to think about.

The shore agent is Mohamed, and he has a solid reputation for supporting cruisers as they pass through Suakin. He supported us, and my only wish was that we could have stuck around longer, to see more of his country. Sadly, our weather window was upon us, and we were hastened to move on. This is a photo of our friend Steve together with Mohamed.

We’re getting less sunlight in the day as we move North, and we also notice its getting colder. In India, we were used to daily temperatures of 32-34C, and in Sudan, its more like 21-28C, due largely to that cool wind blowing from the North. The water temperature is noticeably cooler, and it seems that we’re less enthusiastic about going into the seawater every day. Its quite a bit colder. There is always sand in the wind, and it will take months to get the boat clean.

Our first stop was labelled as the best anchorage in the Red Sea, Khoo Shinab, about 166nm North of Suakin and about 290nm South of Port Ghalib Egypt. The anchorage was large, barren, and nearly devoid of any sign of human existence. This was our view as we entered this deep and well protected anchorage, the site of an ancient riverbed.

On arrival, we saw a couple of bedouins walking on shore, and I think they were fishermen. We also saw camels wandering around, but never seemed to be able to get a good photo. The reefs were amongst the best we’ve ever seen with abundant fish and brilliant corals. There was no internet though, not a whiff.

Since we don’t own a drone, we had to get an “overhead view” the old fashioned way, by walking up the mountain. The views were spectacular!

A few days before leaving, Gabriel discovered that there was an engine coolant leak, that worked out to be about 20 drops per minute. I fretted over this for more than 24 hours, and we had Gabriel and Mariona apply many layers of epoxy putty over the suspect area. The result – it leaks very little when the engine starts cold, but after a few minutes stops leaking altogether. Hopefully, this is an issue that can be examined more closely later on “down the road”.

We motored the next 310nm directly to Port Ghalib Egypt and arrived on 14 March, just two hours before a whopper of a storm!

Djibouti Exit and Massawa Eritrea

19-28 February 2020 Djibouti Exit and Massawa Eritrea

In the end, we never took the Djibouti tour, it was just too expensive at $400 USD. Also, the guy who was supposed to be working on our sail did nothing, so after 7 days – we took it back. Together with Steve and Liz on Liberte, Diane and Mariona made the necessary repairs. Diane used her own sewing machine as well as re-stitching a lot of the sunbrella strip on by hand. We rented an office space in the “marina” for $100 USD (for a day) and went at it.

All told, we stayed 10 days in Djibouti. Its a shame really because we ended up leaving with a bad impression. It seems there are lots of angry people shouting at each other. Its not a culture that I can appreciate. When checking in, I noticed the tidal range made challenging the wall at Customs a bit of a challenge, so I made sure to check the tides with TidesChart.com before going back there. Since our weather window was vanishing quickly, we sailed on in the morning of 17 February, bound for Massawa Eritrea. We had strong winds for most of it, but in the last 12 hours had to motor in, and this bird sat on our whisker pole for most of it, taking a break.

Our “buddy boat” for a lot of this trip is Liberte, Australian flagged, with Steve and Liz Coleman on board. We first met them in Trinidad, about 8 years ago.

Massawa is a dirty, impoverished East African port “city”, important to the war-torn country of Eritrea. Here in a nutshell, is their history. They have been at odds with Ethiopia for hundreds of years. In the 1920’s, Italy colonized the country and made big improvements to their infrastructure and sent nearly 100,000 Italian emigrants here in the 20’s and 30’s – to settle. You can easily see the Italian influence in the roads, bridges, building architecture – and even people’s faces. In WWII, the British supported Ethiopia, defeated Eritrea and merged the two and drew inconvenient and non-sensible borders (as they did). Then, the Eritreans started to fight for their independence again, and finally in about 2000, a peace was declared and UN peacekeepers were here for a while. Eritrea has its independence, but is very low on the scale of development, even for African nations. This was our first view on arrival. It was a magnificent building at one time.

We went out for a local meal, together with Steve and Liz.

We could get some fruit and vegetables in the night market (forget about lettuce, broccoli etc, its just not in their diet) and there are a few shops or supermarkets with nearly nothing on the shelves. The night market was located on the edge of town, and people were really shy about getting their picture taken, so we had to be careful not to offend anyone.

I paid this young woman extra for the potatoes we bought from her, just so I could get her photo.

I’ve heard Eritrea described as the North Korea of Africa. Now I know why. For $50 USD per person, we got 30 day visas, and together with the correct internal travel permit (everybody needs it here) we found two good days to make a side trip to the capital city of Asmara to see the best that there is on offer. Even in the capital city, there were dozens of Internet cafes, but the odd few that were operating offered Internet at speeds equivalent to what we saw in Canada in about 1995, and can’t support any Apple apps or software. Just forget about it. Cuba is at least a generation ahead of these guys. Although they have plenty of natural resources, I don’t know how or why any Western industry would brave coming to this country to setup, its just way too risky. We had to wait until we got to Sudan to get Internet access.

The road trip up to Asmara was very interesting. The bus ride was cheap at about $3.50 USD per person, but very rough and at times nerve wracking. At an elevation of 2300m, the climate was cooler and really above the clouds. It was chilly in the evenings and you needed at least an extra shirt or sweater. Locals in Asmara rarely make the trip down to Massawa at sea level, where the temperature in July/August can reach 42-45C.

Its hard to see in this photo, but these was a swarm of locusts, huge “grasshopper like” insects flying along.

Much to my surprise, Asmara was a very clean, organized and pleasant city. Eritreans in general are very friendly and calm people, but in Asmara, there was a distinct Italian flare to everything. Cafes and bars were plentiful, and people seemed to have a very calm and tranquil lifestyle. Most Eritreans are Christian, and this was the Catholic Church in Asmara.

There was also an Italian government funded public school with some Italian staff. Although the people in Asmara suffer from drought, and our overnight stay at the African Pension was impacted, the people seem to be quite happy and carrying on. At least there is no war! We ate pizza, spaghetti, Italian deserts and gelato – and had cappuccinos. Gabriel was in heaven, it was so much like Italy. In fact, when questioned about it, he was completely unaware that this country had once been an Italian colony. Locals asked him: “why did the Italians leave?” “when are they coming back?”.

This area of Asmara is called the recycling depot. Here, we saw all kinds of goods come in and get recycled into hundreds of different products. There is a carpentry area, a metal working area, gears and springs – you name it. Obviously, this guy made his own “welding mask”.

Gabo struck up a conversation with one of the thousands of Italian descendants remaining in the city.

After a stay of 8 days, was time to move on and head North to Suakin Sudan. Again, we had a hitch-hiker, this time a hoopoe, the national bird of Israel (not a sea bird). It is from the Kingfisher family of birds.