22 June 2020 – Port Suez – Egypt
We are finally here at the South end of the Suez Canal! We have reached a milestone.
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.