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.

3 thoughts on “1 July – Suez Canal Finished”

  1. Hi, we plan to cross next year. We’ve been told that the 3 Suez Canal marine charts (SC01, SC02, R11) are compulsory on board ? Is it true ? Did you have them ? If you do, are you selling them ?! Kind regards, Anne & Jacques GEOFFROY – SY GEOFF. Currently in Paris

    1. I’m not aware of those charts. Everything we have is electronic, no paper charts. We used OpenCPN with CM93 vector charts and Navionics on an iPad. Both were good in the Canal, and both were terrible in the Red Sea (along the coast). They were fine in the sea lanes. For the coastline of Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti – you need .kap Goggle Earth charts (readable in OpenCPN) and at least an offline satellite view (we used an iPad app called OvitalMap). Please email me at wade@joana.ca for more detail, specifically a closed, private Facebook Group called Red Sea Passage.

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