Redwings Round the World
Safaga to Suez - Back to Civilization
13 - 28 April, 1998
We've had a bit of a disaster with our photos: only 6 pictures out of 6 rolls of 36 came out. We had slowed down with our digital camera as we figured when we qrrived in the "West" and developed our film, we could just scan in lots of good pics. So, unfortuneatley there are no pictures included in the recent page.
13 April, Safaga, Egypt (26 Deg 44 Min N)
Aaron - The early morning watches were characterized by flukey winds which shifted from the Northeast to Northwest almost every hour and passing rain squalls and electrical storms. We got a couple of hours of sailing in early in the morning, but for the most part it was more motoring into the light winds. Finally, the Southerly winds we had been hoping for started to fill in. The air was noticeably hot and the 20 knot breeze gave us a great boost on our way towards Safaga, which will probably (hopefully?) be our last major stop in the Red Sea before reaching Suez.
We pulled up alongside the concrete cargo wharf in the port beneath huge loading cranes at about 1330. There were at least 10 other yachts alongside also checking in and we found out later that we were the 15th yacht to check in today. With the great travelling weather of the last few days, everyone in the Northern Red Sea seems to be here or already in Suez.
The authorities were very organized and efficient and we quickly received our certificate of practique (health/quarantine) and cleared immigration and customs. Fuel came next and was also for once a relatively low stress experience. Of course, the fuel organizer guy's name was Mohammed. We got a quick, clean fill at 30 cents a litre and left the dock for the anchorage around the corner at around 1730.
I had guessed that there would be about 20 yachts in the anchorage - there were over 30. Everyone was here and more are coming. It's kind of weird. We all feel we have finally passed out of the hard-core third world. The anchorage is surrounded by several modern hotels, a dive center, and mini-marinas filled with large white luxury/tour boats.
We were all starving and dingied in to the Holiday Inn. Zillions of European tourists, shops, restaurants, Visa and Master Card signs, today's international newspapers, phones that work, etc. etc.... We stuffed our faces at a US$15 buffet along with the crew of Marbella and Asteroid and finished off the evening trying out a few puffs from those big fancy water pipes like the caterpillar in Alice and Wonderland smoked. There was a whole bar dedicated to smoking these things and you could order different flavored tobaccos - we tried Apple and Strawberry.
To bed and a long night of ZZZZZZZZZ.
Kerry - We also experienced our first boat search that night in our anchorage. The "beach police," complete with some sort of identification - though written in Arabic so we have no idea what it really could have said - arrived at our boat shortly after we anchored. One man proceeded to board, and then wandered through each cabin, pulling open drawers, cabinets, closets, etc. Supposedly they were looking for guns, but they also could have been checking out the boat to see if there was anything they liked for a later return to Redwings. Colleen was still showering, and he insisted on heading to the aft cabin anyway, so she appeared in her bath towel to get out of the way. Although he apologized for the inconvenience, he certainly didn't seem too inconvenienced himself by Colleen's appearance. They left shortly thereafter, and we later learned that not all boats were subject to such a search. It could have been prompted by the fact that Asteroid declared three guns upon arrival (an act which caused the captain, Paul, to find himself in customs until 3:00 am that morning), and they wanted to spot check other boats, but we'll never really know.
14 April, Safaga
Kerry - As Aaron mentioned, we all do feel the change in atmosphere and see the very obvious differences between our former destinations and Egypt. While initially looking forward to finally arriving in a more developed area, it was actually somewhat anti-climactic as some of the adventure in making our way through those places is gone. It could have been the aura of the Holiday Inn which helped to create a bit of disappointment as tackiness was abounding. That aside, we were looking forward to getting into Safaga and having a look around - especially to preview our provisioning options. Nageeb (Nageeb Mohammed actually and of course), the "King of the Yachts" as detailed on his car, the man who accompanied the "beach police" to our boat the previous night, agreed to/persuaded us to go into town with us and show us around for a good deal, of course.
Our first stop was the bank to change some money. Laura and I changed traveler's checks which was quick enough, but Aaron and Colleen needed to do cash advances on their credit cards which proved to be not so easy. Aaron's came through shortly, but Colleen's special, time-consuming, have to call Boston almost everytime there is a transaction credit card took a bit longer. When the transaction was finally complete, she realized that they had given her only 300 Egyptian pounds, not 300 US dollars. So, they start again and eventually they got through once again, which was lucky.
We then made our way to the post office as I had a couple letters to send from our passage, and we had also promised Andrew from Marbella (who had left that morning to make a break for the Suez) that we would send his post-cards off for him. The vegetable, fruit, and bread provisioning took place after that, and soon we were on our way to lunch. Colleen thinks that I ordered the winner for that restaurant, basic grilled chicken, as the rest of the entrees weren't as appetizing. Between Aaron's "sausages" and Laura's humus with a pretty but unappetizing design of ketchup and mustard atop the humus, my grilled chicken definitely stood out.
After our last stop at the Shell Station for transmission fluid, oil and whatever else Aaron picked up, we made our way back to the anchorage, gave our laundry to Nageeb and visited with some of our friends who had arrived that day. While Laura, Colleen and I were visiting with La Scala, we heard Raffi over the radio, making his way in from the customs dock to the anchorage, asking for some help. Making his usual flashy appearance on Malkat Singapore, we all were inevitably called into action within minutes of his near arrival. Laura was on the binoculars, trying to give him directions from memory from the day before, Lorraine was passing on the information via the radio, and we all sat waiting for the results. I suggested he call Aaron for the waypoints which Aaron took the time to get the day before for anyone who needed them, but I guess it was too late for reason. A minute or two later, Raffi said he was on the reef, so we all jumped in our dinghies to guide him in that way. Fortunately, Paul from Asteroid arrived in what is a much larger and faster dinghy, and along with La Scala, headed out on the long dinghy ride to find them. By the time "Reef Watch" arrived, they had made their way off (it had actually only been a sandbar) and we guided them through the shallow areas.
Later that night we had a great pizza dinner with Malkat Singapore and La Scala (as well as Tina from Asteroid) and made plans for our departure to Luxor the next day. Nageeb's brother Mohammed (what else) generously offered to take us for $220 US each, while we later found a cab to do the same for about $35 US each. For reasons I never figured out, Tina kept pushing for the package deal rather than the cab driver who was going to do essentially the same thing - take us on the three - five hour trip to Luxor, stay for the three days and take us to the various sights when out of walking distance, and bring us back to Safaga. After having to convince her to join us, we had a group of six consisting of all of us on Redwings, Tina, and Richard from Malkat Singapore.
I left to go find the cab driver, Omar, to set a time, and learned that we didn't have much choice in the matter. Apparently for a matter of months now, all cars, vans, trucks, etc carrying any foreigners must depart at the same time in a convoy with a police escort. We later learned that this is true all over Egypt - as some people we met travelling from Israel had the same experience trying to get to Cairo. As I understood from Omar, this is because of safety concerns stemming from terrorist acts as well as safety issues associated with travelling along the long, desert road to Luxor in case a car breaks down. In short, we learned we were meeting at 6:30 am to meet the 7:00 am convoy.
15 April, Luxor, Egypt
Kerry - Somehow, we all managed to be ready by 6:15 to do the Richard and Tina pick-up and have Raffi dinghy us in to meet Omar. All a little groggy, we settled into the van for the ride. The "convoy" seemed to disperse immediately after the police check-point, but everyone has to meet up at a "rest area" to check in with the police car - basically four men with machine guns crammed into a small car whom I only saw once, maybe twice. Aside from views of the desert which were impressive, and several sightings of Bedouin women herding goats, the only other thing we saw were the military barracks where they store all of their food. It isn't that the ride wasn't interesting, just very dry and barren. I actually left out one part, which is when Tina went for a camel ride at the rest area, then didn't want to give the owner his "Baksheesh," meaning tip. Eventually someone paid, and we were on our way again. As I was in the front with Omar, I missed out on some of the most interesting parts of the trip, Tina's stories. Someone else will have to report on those as telling them second-hand might not do them justice.
As we approached Quena, a city about 60 km before Luxor, some of the land became more green as Omar said it was a major agricultural center, and the location of Quena University, an agricultural school. We soon were approaching Luxor, and picked out several hotels to try based on the information I had scribbled down the night before from La Scala's Lonely Planet. Omar had a suggestion which I had noticed as well, and we decided to take a look as it was on our way to the others. Colleen and I looked at the rooms, very clean, big,balconies with slight views of the Nile, TV, pool on the roof, and all for our negotiated rate of $18 US a night per double. As Colleen was able to draw from the manager, they (and others as we later learned) were operating at only about a 30% occupancy rate due to the decline in tourism since the shooting earlier this year. Most Egyptians who commented on that event were extremely critical of it - especially as they seemed to ascertain the direct impact upon their lives and livelihood.
After throwing our things into our respective rooms in St. Joseph's, all of us but Aaron, who was pulling a "Basil" (lounging around the bed, limbs extended and no outward indications of moving beyond the scope of the bed), left to first try and find a bookstore so that we could buy a map or book to show us where we were and what to do. After realizing we were not going to get any bargains on books at the first stop where they tried to sell us a Lonely Planet for about $50 US, we settled on some small maps to tide us over until locating the better and recommended stores. We were all pretty hungry at that point, and ate lunch at a decent restaurant. Afterwards, we all meandered back towards St. Joseph's, and Tina, Laura, and Richard decided to rent bikes and peddle their way through Luxor. Colleen and I kept walking, but noticed a very nice looking hotel called Sonasta St. George (?). I was just curious to see the rooms and inquire about their rates, so in we went. It had just been built this year, and is supposedly considered a 5++ hotel. It was very luxurious, and we had a nice tour from someone at reception who did his best to recruit us to stay. Every time we gave a reason as to why we might not stay there, he started with "Excuse me, please....", a phrase which we heard tens of times daily - Excuse me, please, how much will you pay; Excuse me, please, just one American minute to look at my factory, not an Egyptian minute; Excuse me, please, what is your lowest price? Though all of us agreed we have never had to be more rude before - as we basically ignored people by the end, if you responded to everyone who approached you - it was impossible to make it one block (especially if you were walking with Tina, stories to follow).
At the end, Colleen had him talked down to $50 US a night versus the original $120, but we still remained at the Saint Joseph's which was also a bargain. We promised him we would pass along the information to La Scala, as it was certainly their type of place. Though I was tired and had planned on taking a nap, I actually kept going while Colleen retired and ended up touring the Luxor Temple. It was really amazing, especially since it was my first time exploring any of the ancient temples. It was also my first time trying to get rid of some men who kept following me, trying to point out what they thought were good photo opportunities and then asking for some "Baksheesh," meaning tips. One man was so helpful as to point out certain organs on the men, depicted in some of the murals, saying how powerful they were, and finding this hilarious. I knew it would probably be a scene trying to go somewhere by myself, and it was. After a while they probably tired of me as I had of them within the first minute, and they left me alone. I read that day how one of the 80 ft. high obelisks on either side of the entrance to the courtyard had been moved to France in the late 1800's or early 1900's, and now resides at the Place de Concorde. Interestingly enough, several days later, I read how someone who has become known as "Spiderman" climbed this obelisk in Paris with no equipment, got to the top, then made a call to let people know from his cell-phone.
We all met back at the hotel for our trip to the "Sound and Light Show" at the Karnak Temple that evening. Richard was the big proponent of this excursion, and I am glad he was as otherwise I think I would have bypassed it. What followed was an hour and a half walk through the temple, accompanied by different spotlights and blaring stories about the various entities who resided over Thebes and occupied the Temple. It was a bit Disney-esque, but the information was interesting and I learned more than I would have otherwise if I had walked through on my own. It ended with a long lecture while we were seated above what was supposed to have been the Sacred Lake of Karnak, but I did fall asleep at the end, so I am not sure.
We did learn of one king, Ramses III, who between his different wives and concubines, had 96 sons and 102 daughters (roughly, and perhaps the reverse). For a brief moment, I thought that they were talking about our friend Rafi as I had heard this story before, but then remembered that Rafi has no known concubines.
The evening ended with some food and drinks at the King's Head Pub - as well as catching up on some reading as they provided some old copies of Time, Newsweek, and more importantly, "Hello" magazine etc.
Laura - I must make mention of Tina's excellent, accidental adventure stories as I was seated in front of her during the van drive to Luxor. Really, she is something else....
The first one was of her trip through the Amazon in which she helped out a guy she had met by acting as interpreter for an English-speaking couple who wanted to take a jungle trek. Tina had picked up enough Spanish living in California that she could do the job. The trek went so far into the jungle by canoe that they had to clear logs off the stream and portage around sections. They were eaten bloody by mosquitoes and finally ended up staying with some people who live naked in caves and seem to speak only in grunts. The trip went beyond the scope of the guide's previous travel and the other guests cried because they were so miserable.
The second story took place in Venezuela, shortly after the Amazon adventure, when Tina decided to visit a little, bitty, obscure, village by herself. Acting on a tip from the local military, she got a ride from the driver of a Coke truck, one of the few vehicles to visit the area regularly. The trip was rough and hot and at one point they stopped to take a swim at which point the driver attempted to assault Tina and stopped only when she insulted him by calling him a "bad man" in Spanish. With few prospects for another ride, she continued with the Coke man until he threw her out at the village. Only then did she realize how stuck she was. Fortunately she met a nice guy who had spent some time in a city and was used to foreigners and he took her in. She had three great, no-strings-attached days with her new friend before getting a ride with some villagers back to civilization.
16 April, Luxor
Kerry - Another early morning for us as Omar suggested we head to the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens first thing to avoid the mid-day heat. We were all ready to leave after breakfast at about 7:30 - though the slices of cheese and buns weren't exactly that filling. It was only when we were walking out the door that we were asked if we would like some omelets. We arrived at the main ticket center to buy tickets for the various sites (which really add up - it is a different ticket not only for entrance to an area, but then for each individual tomb as well), passing the Colossi of Memnon along the way. Though our first destination was the Valley of the Kings, we soon pulled off the side of the road to Omar's friend's alabaster "factory." I had made the mistake of inquiring about a good place to possibly buy some, and now we were committed to the tour. Immediately, we were shown the differences between the quality, hand-made items which they made right there on the premise and the factory made vases, which thinking back now were probably a little nicer looking and a lot cheaper as well. Anyway, not to get ahead of myself and the flagrant consumerism which ensued, we all watched the demonstration of how all hand-made products are made. This takes about 15 days total - and involves a shaping, grating and chiseling procedure, followed by a lotion which is rubbed into the item (say a vase), now sitting in the ground, and repeated over and over.
Phase two - entry to the store. This large room was covered wall to wall with chalices, bowls, vases, figurines, cats (one of which Aaron had already purchased), scarabs, and anything else you can imagine made out of alabaster, quartz, granite, black basalt, etc. We were given the welcome drink of tea, and very friendly attention - and then the bargaining began. As two of my friends had just gotten married at home this month, I thought some of the vases would make interesting gifts. Colleen thought the same - though wasn't ready to move in for a purchase herself until we had more comparative shopping. I didn't opt for that avenue, and ended up with what at the time I thought was an ok deal - maybe it was, given other things that I saw later - with the supposed argument that the street vendors sell poor quality items with many pieces of rock stuck together. Nonetheless, I still think it was a better deal for them, as I continued to be deluged with little free additions of scarabs and beads - I haven't fallen for too many tourist traps on this trip, at least not since the Thai silk factory scam (see back log for story), so I didn't feel too badly. Neither did Omar, whom I am sure received a nice commission from his friend later in the day.
So, on to the Valley of the Kings. Not realizing, of course, what sort of tickets we had in hand and that you needed a ticket for every tomb (I believe we had three though there are about 25), Aaron and I immediately headed into the first one belonging to Ramses VII. It was interesting, but nothing like the others that followed. My favorite was the tomb of Ramses VI as the ceiling and wall decorations in the "sarcophagus room" were in nearly perfect condition - depicting the two hemispheres and the procession following the "solar boats." We soon learned that we needed an extra ticket to visit Tutankhamun, and all of us but Tina purchased one. Someone said that she won out on that deal - as the tomb wasn't as intricate or as large as the others, and that no one really knows if the sarcophagus in the burial chamber is authentic - or at least we couldn't figure it out from any of the information we had. Given that there were a number of those gold masks and various layers of them that are scattered around the world, maybe it was one of the originals. I was happy we went in despite the slight let-down compared to everything else we had just seen - as the small tomb was still striking and the history behind it is as well.
At this point, everyone had only one ticket left (Aaron and I none - but I followed his method of tearing off part of his main ticket to look like we had two more left - and it worked) but Tina - who had retained all of hers! The secret - stand at the entrance and fan the Egyptian guards for a while - then let them fan you - and see what happens. Somehow - she first talked her way into a tomb without giving a ticket - and then used the aforementioned method after, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn't - and then she would just sit there fanning and talking the whole time. As Colleen suggested, she should have promised to do that after, as then there was at least incentive for them to let her in - otherwise, if she started fanning immediately, why would they want her to go?
The heat and dust started getting to all of us - and we decided to start heading back to meet Omar. Colleen and Richard devised a bargaining strategy to buy cheap souvenirs - talking between themselves when the price was offered, then one saying no, then repeating it over and over - which seemed to work well for a while - until one alabaster salesperson was upset since he insisted he was giving the lowest price and why wouldn't they take it. Tina, on the other hand, took everything, and when I saw her next, was loaded down with all sorts of beads and trinkets around her neck - one interesting string of beads was scented - Excuse me, please, special for you....
Somewhere in there she had the most commanding bargain of them all. One man and some of his lingering friends just wanted to sell her plain rocks (alabaster, etc - for your own sculpting) - one for one pound - but at the end, she had given him five pounds, a kiss, stood in a picture with them, never got her change of 4 pounds, but ended up with a handful of additional rocks, and then walked away - wondering how it had all happened. Sharing this story with all of us in the van - by now a rough crowd since we had gotten to know her well enough - our surprised faces must have been the first indication that the whole transaction, if you can call it that, was nothing less than crazy. She has since received endless teasing about kisses for rocks, but fortunately has been taking it well.
Colleen wasn't immune to the tacky tourist purchase, as somewhere along the line she had purchased a flowing white head piece, very sheik-like. As she was withering from the heat, she had adorned herself in it after exiting from one tomb - and it took me a while to realize that it was she whom I was actually walking next to, though the Oakley sunglasses/head covering combination gradually grew on me.
Back in the van with Omar and a new provision of countless water bottles, we started heading for the Valley of the Queens. Actually, we first went to Deir El-Bahari, where Laura believes the shooting which took place in Luxor months back happened here. I have also left out another part of the story, which is that we had picked up two new friends at that point, Thomas and Edit. We met them prior to buying the King Tut tickets - as they were passing back to us their fake student ID's which confused us initially - but then understood well enough a couple minutes later. We then started walking around together, and learned that they were both from Hungary, and are currently living in Israel, working at an illegal casino as card-dealers - drawing immediate intrigue of course, even for Colleen who will try and claim that I am the gambling addict. After a while we invited them to come with us for the afternoon in our van as we had room for two more. We soon came to the end of our exploring the monument which was commissioned by Queen Hatshepsut for herself and her father.
When we arrived at the Valley of the Queens, we soon came to realized that if we wanted to see the main highlight, Queen Nefertari's Tomb, we would have to purchase yet another ticket - the most expensive of them all - about $30 US - so we all were satisfied with the other three tombs - especially because the heat was really starting to wear everyone down. We saw the Tomb of Queen Thiti (well preserved as it had at one time been abandoned), The Tomb of Amon-her-Khopechef (a prince buried amongst the queens), and the Tomb of Kamuast. I am not aware if any more fanning for entrance to tombs or kisses for rocks took place here - I think not.
Fairly worn out from the day and its events, we finally headed to lunch back on the East Bank of Luxor. Selecting a restaurant from Thomas and Edit's Let's Go guidebook, we enjoyed various selections ranging from pizza to humus to soup. Thomas and Edit were really nice, and we learned a lot about there jobs, which they have been doing for the past three years, and so earning enough money to keep them travelling around the world. Needless to say, we have an invitation to their casino (which will have a new location, as they and their co-workers had just been arrested and thrown in jail overnight - though their boss remained a bit longer) which should provide some excitement for us in Tel Aviv.
As Richard had to return to Safaga a day early to meet Rafi to resume their trip up the Red Sea, we drove around until he sorted a bus ticket back that night, and we said good-bye for the time-being to Thomas and Edit. Unfortunately, he and Omar had a disagreement about where they both believed the bus station to be - and Omar wouldn't bring Richard where he wanted to go - which prompted Richard to keep repeating, "...this is pathetic...". It was finally found, though not without great aggravation on both sides, and on mine as well since I was positioned in the front seat. Aaron was really interested in a "felucca" ride (a small sailboat like vessel) for a couple hours up the Nile - and so everyone joined in. I felt that I would benefit more from a swim and a nap at that point - and so returned to St. Joseph's. Aaron will have to add in his description later.
We later returned to our temporary hang-out, the King's Head Pub. Only a couple of blocks away, we all sort of split up along the way there, and I ended up with Tina. We were greeted by a storeowner whom we had met the night before, and whom I had avoided by saying maybe we would look at his t-shirts, tapestries and his "factory" upstairs the next day. Here we were, and here was the next day. I relented for a moment, explained we really didn't need any more t-shirts, and that we had to go as we were late meeting our friends upstairs. At this point, to my surprise, Tina said, "Well, I'm not in any rush." I tried to convince her otherwise, but she maintained her interest in looking, which was well received by this store-owner. When she finally showed up about 1/2 hour later, having left her only one flight of stairs below, inevitably, there was a story to follow. Apparently, he made inquiries into her private life which she pretended not to understand, more than the usual "Do you have husband," and continued on with increasingly more personal questions. Colleen had begun to worry, so fortunately, she showed up right before we were about to search for her back on the street.
As it turned out, we were joined not only by Thomas and Edit (whom we had planned on meeting there), but also by 4 or 5 people they had met on their felucca ride. Two of the women are med-students in Tel Aviv - and who were trying to help Laura figure out her flights home as they were both from New York and possessed a good deal of knowledge about travel to and from Israel. We may see them again when we are there - perhaps at the casino? Several Stellas (the local beer) later, we returned to the hotel for the night.
Laura - A recount of this day must include Tina's story of how she came to America. She is German by birth and passport, but has lived in America, when she is not sailing, for about 10 years and considers it her home.
When Tina turned 18 years old in the Black Forest in Germany she had to choose a trade. She had no thoughts on what she wanted to make of herself, but she knew she enjoyed baking cakes. So, off she went for three years of cake decorating school. When she graduated she landed herself a job in Switzerland. A year later she responded to an advertisement in a newspaper for a job as a cake decorator for a Swiss-style bakery in Chicago. Tina spoke no English so her boyfriend wrote her resume. A month later, she got a call saying a representative of the company would come to Switzerland to interview her and other candidates. On the day of the interview, Tina arrived early, and, unfortunately, before the interpreter. She responded agreeably to anything asked of her and then thought "Oh well, that is the end of that." But a month later, the call came that she got the job and she was off to Chicago. That first year in Chicago "everything went wrong," except the cake decorating. She made colossal five-tiered wedding cakes on which she could spend all day. And she got to make silly cakes for children's birthday's. But, she found Chicago too cold, even coming from Germany. And then she was haunted by the first friend she had innocently made upon her arrival who turned out to be a weird married dude who pursued her until she finally told he she was going back to Germany. Then his wife called her one day to chew her out. Next, her car she needed to get to work broke down. So, she borrowed the delivery van from work, but it quit too. A friend loaned her a bicycle which she rode until it ceased to function. Finally, Tina said, she had to get up and start running at 6 o'clock in the morning to make it to work by 7 o'clock. After that, she moved to Santa Cruz, California and became a varnished of sailboats who lived in her Mazda pick-up truck with polka-dotted curtains for three years. That in itself is another story....
17 April, Safaga
Kerry - In a very deep sleep, I was awakened by Tina's knocking at 9:00 am - the latest I had slept in for a while. She had been awake for hours, wondering what was wrong with the rest of us - and finally, couldn't wait any longer. As we were meeting Omar at 1:30 for the return trip to Safaga, we all decided to wander around and do our own things. Laura, Aaron and Colleen and I wanted to go to the Luxor Museum for the morning and made plans to do so. Tina went out for her more of her own adventure - which turned out to be a two hour carriage ride for only 2 pounds, and purchased a good luck charm as well as a small, sewn-up leather camel. Laura and I left Aaron and Colleen as they had some things they wanted to do along the way, and though my back was really hurting me (a problem that lasted for about a week or so - which was diagnosed amongst us as some muscle inflammation - I am not sure who came up with that), wanting some more exercise before getting back in the van, we began the long walk along the Corniche to the museum.
I had read that this museum was supposed to be better than the one in Cairo as it was planned well and really organized (backed up by Thomas and Edit's experience at the museum in Cairo) and so was looking forward to it. It was a great exhibition and we were able to connect the artifacts, sculptures, beads, coins, busts, etc to the tombs we had seen the day before, and imagine them as they were, filled with the contents of the items now before us. The many gods and goddesses were intriguing as well - and most of them amazingly intact.
We ran into Aaron and Colleen as we were leaving - and headed back towards the hotel. It was a great deal hotter now - and the walk seemed to take forever. We all re-assembled in the lobby - and Omar said it was ok for Tina and Laura to run out to but something before meeting the convoy in a half an hour. Laura returned within her allotted 15 minutes, but Tina did not, and Omar was very annoyed. His mood was further exacerbated by the fact that Colleen and I wanted to stop by McDonalds on the way to the convoy - Excuse me, please, you have all day, why did you not do this before ? Colleen kept assuring him it would only take a minute - little did we know we ventured into the only McDonald's we had ever been to where the food was actually made to order, not just sitting there in the long, metal chutes waiting for customers. Colleen persisted and we had some lunch for the ride. I tried to smooth things over a bit by getting Omar a coke - but he wasn't pleased, and came in to see what was taking so long - yelling at the counter help.
We did arrive to meet the convoy in plenty of time - had we missed it though, I guess he would have been rather unhappy to wait for the next one four hours later, which is when we originally wanted to go anyway - but Omar said no good. We were slightly irked by Omar's intention to add more money on to the tab because of our several hours of having Thomas and Edit in the van, and had to settle on an additional small sum at the end - as well as his tip which he repeatedly told us was not included. I think we all liked Omar, but were just a little tired of some of our dealings with him.
Back at Redwings, Basil and Sybil had grown almost twice their original size. Philippa had taken care of them, and very well at that, as Aaron soon learned that she had fed them a week's worth of food within a three day period. The winds and dust had been blowing, and Redwings was covered. Other than that, the anchorage was the same, and we all went to bed early, exhausted from the day.
18 April, Safaga
Kerry - Today was really sort of a time-warp. It began for a breakfast at the Holiday Inn with Aaron, Colleen, Laura, and Bin & Elizabeth from Dracamarus - I wasn't feeling that great and figured the buffet wouldn't help. Soon after, we were called via VHF to La Scala to report on our trip to Lorraine and Philipa. When we arrived, Naylene from Old Glory was visiting as well as Susan, one of their 7 crew members, whom we had met briefly in Phuket when she was looking for a boat on which to crew. Naylene was really nice and interesting - from Little Rock, prompting all sorts of questions about the Clintons - and though she hadn't lived there for about 6 years - knew them way back and had some stories for us nonetheless. Susan has lived in a number of places, including Arizona, where I had grown up, so we had a lot to talk about from our mutual experiences.
After the formalities, Lorraine and Philipa demanded stories from our trip, and so the stories began. Lorraine has committed herself to a trip to the casino with me in Israel, and Philipa isn't far from selling her apartment in Australia at my suggestion for greater cash flow for the evening. Laura dinghied over to Asteroid and liberated Tina from the boat for the day. Tina revealed more than before about her history in the US after leaving Germany, including the three years she spent living in her car in Santa Cruz while running a teak varnishing business in a boatyard - prompting me to re-think what I will do when I return home in order to save more money. After La Scala's usual hospitality and generosity with free-flowing Tang, more people joined our party - Aaron, Paul from Asteroid, Phil - the Captain of Old Glory, and finally Kel - the Captain of La Scala, who emerged from his cabin after a day of reading. We all made plans to meet for dinner at the pizza restaurant at the Lotus Hotel, we all returned to our respective boats.
Dinner was fun - La Scala, Asteroid, and most of the crew from Old Glory were there. The crew from Old Glory is a story in and of themselves - the majority of them looking like they were modeling for an exotic J-Crew catalogue. Perfection doesn't come easy - as we soon discovered the next day during our volleyball game when Neil and Nicholai missed many a shot fixing their hair or adjusting their shorts. The focus of the evening turned to a short movie Laura and Philippa claimed they were going to film the next day - and so negotiations for parts began. The movie has not been made, yet, but I will leave the story to Laura for the details.
Laura - The movie, while we have the yet-to-be-unveiled plot in order, will probably have to wait until Israel, although Safaga would have been the perfect place to do it. Trouble with talking about making a movie is that suddenly everyone starts revealing all the movie characters they have ever wanted to play and asking if that character can be accommodated. We worked it out that Paul would have the lead provided that we could put Vaseline in his hair and then whiz him around in the dinghy to create a crazed appearance. Patrick from Old Glory is to be his stunt double. Then Colleen jumped in to be Paul's agent which complicated everything. Colleen shredded the contract, but I happened to know about Paul's t-shirt collection. Given this weakness, I told him we'd give him unlimited t-shirts and he seemed ready to abandon his agent.
19 April, Safaga
Laura - Aaron, Kerry, Philipa and I headed to the Holiday Inn again for the buffet breakfast since the day before the waiter had told us it was "free for you" and we had decided that was a darn good deal. But today it wasn't free and we had to shell out $10 each and deal with a manager who wasn't too pleased that we had taken the waiter at his word the day before. Plus we got the third degree about whether or not we had eaten supper "free for you" the night before, which we hadn't.
Philipa, Aaron and I then went into town to do some provisioning and make some photo copies of more detailed charts of the Gulf of Suez and Israeli coast. Our cab driver was typical. Wanted to know why Aaron had two women and could he buy one of us for some ludicrous number of camels. I'm so tired of giving out personal information to Egyptian men that I have invented a fictitious life. The starter is that my name is Stella. This, of course, distracts them for a while as they can't get over that I have been named after the local beer. Philipa too gave a fake name. Hasheema, I think. Then she called the guys bluff and said that if he was going to make such proposals, he'd best be prepared to follow through and bring the 10,000 camels, with two humps, to the Holiday Inn by 9 a.m. the next day.
Anyway, we got our fruit and vegetables and piles of pieta bread, which were so hot they were puffed high with steam and air. The baker threw them from the oven pallet right onto the dusty floor of the back of the cab to cool. Philipa and I took a quick walk through town to find Aaron at the photo-copy place with navigation charts all copied.
Back on Redwings, we did some clean up work, two water runs, and a petrol run. In the late afternoon, we headed to shore to the Holiday Inn to play some volleyball on the beach. We had planned to rent the ball and just use the court, but some German hotel guests were already on the court so we joined them and now I'm just typing to see what happens and playing. They invited us to join in and soon, once Old Glory and Philipa arrived, we had a big game going on. At about 6 p.m., the hotel management gave us the boot off the beach.
20 April, Endeavor Harbor (27 Deg 34 Min N), Egypt
Colleen - leaving Safaga. Somehow I didn't feel ready to head back to sea. Maybe the soft life in port so long, surrounded by so many boats of buddies, Asteroid, La Scala, Malkat Singapore, and now Old Glory. Maybe the flow of delicious pizza? Or maybe the fact that we have only just slightly more that 200 miles to the Mecca of the Suez Canal. The last few miles of the marathon always tests the endurance... I think a quiet awareness that the upcoming 200 miles of the gulf of Suez would almost surely be a rude awakening from our last very lucky, dream passage. The winds are usually much more intense, as is the shipping traffic.
We awoke with the sunrise at 5:30 to pull anchor. Somehow there was a snarl up with a mooring chain, and we didn't actually get under way until 6:15.This is when I started cursing my chosen 6-9 (am and pm) watch. Everyone went back to bed while I sleepily carried on until 9:00am.
Around noon we spoke with Raffi, some 50 miles ahead, already in the Gulf. Depressed, he reported that after sailing for 7 and a half hours, and making only 11 miles progress, he was turning back to re-anchor at El Tor, on the Sinai Peninsula. The wind was building and all evidence suggested heading our way. It was clear that we too should be looking for an evening anchorage, as the wind would be too strong to sail comfortably and safely through the night given the myriad obstructions of oil rigs and huge ships.
We chose Endeavor Harbor on Tawila Island. Entry around 5:00pm was pretty scary. The island was due west, meaning we had to sail directly in to the blinding sun to enter the "harbor". This is pretty tough as mid-day sun is usually required to see the coral heads and shallow banks. It was slow going and nerve racking, particularly as the wind strength had built to a noisy 25 knots. We finally made it though, and thank goodness. It would have been deadly to be sailing through the reef-strewn waters that night as the wind continued to build. We clocked 38.5 knots at one point. We were shocked that Endeavor Harbor even had a name. It was just desert on three sides, with a dilapidated remains of a dock jutting out in the middle. The only sign of life we were to see over the following days were two tiny fishing boats that came in for cover as well.
Aaron made potato curry under my tutelage. We're now getting to the ends of all our provisions, trying to balance out using everything up to start anew in Israel, but yet have enough to eat in case we get stuck in the Gulf longer than expected.
We were to have one of our worst nights sleeps at anchor. The wind howled through the rigging, shaking the boat, and swinging her from side to side. Though the inlet protected us from larger seas, the low sandy island offered no shelter from the 30-40 knot gale winds. Our anchor snubber broke after only an hour, the bang bringing Aaron, Laura, and I rushing up to check the noise. We woke constantly through the night to the sound of the depth alarm going off due to turbulence caused by the boat swinging around. Going up to look if we'd moved was almost useless, as the world around us was pitch black and without references. Luckily, the GPS indicated we were stationary. Our concerns were based not only on the anchor dragging and landing us up on the reef just 200 meters behind, but on our damaged bow roller (from the collusion in Misawa) that was taking a severe beating. As the forestry attaches to it, if it ripped out in these winds the rig could easily come down......
21 April, Endeavor Harbor
Colleen - Though happy when dawn came and it was clear Redwings survived to sail another day, a creeping feeling that we might spend the rest of our days in this sand-dune surrounded island anchorage was settling in. The wind was still howling, showing no material signs of abating. Word on the radio from Pomochel, and Malakat Singapore ahead was of still strong winds keeping them from sailing. Typically in the Red Sea, the weather boats have 100 miles ahead of you, comes your way within 24 hours.
We put out a second anchor straight off the bow, in hopes to reduce the yawing and serve as an emergency anchor if we start to drag, and tried to think of ways to amuse ourselves. Despite having a serious case of the runs, Laura oddly headed for the galley. She started with a delicious batch of oatmeal cookies, then moved on to baking cornbread and brewing a tasty vegetable chili. The rest of us read, I did a little sketching, but the subject matter again is virtually limited to things on the boat - still life of binoculars...
Mid-day, the inevitable engine trauma occurred. Surprise, surprise, we're virtually out of water again. While running the engine to make some more, we noticed overheating. So Aaron's day was spent in the engine room sorting out the saltwater intake and pump system. Not so nice. Stuck here with no engine (almost impossible to negotiate out of this reef-flanked anchorage without an engine), and no source of water!!!
After searching for blocks, installing a new impeller, it finally turned out that the problem was an air leak into the raw water strainer. The problem was solved by running a hose directly from the seacock to the raw water pump. However, now we run a higher risk of blockage...
This second night we slept a little better, but I still felt compelled to get up and check outside a few times. We went to bed with thoughts of a hopeful forecast we received a call from Raffi claiming that the winds would start to ease from midday tomorrow...
22 April, Endeavor Harbor
Colleen- Dream on. Winds easing midday? Not. The "revised forecast" from the same source is now for winds to ease in 4 or 5 days. Just in case we were feeling cavalier about risking some progress up in strong winds, word came through this morning that a sailboat 20 miles up sank on a reef. Apparently they were calling "mayday, mayday" for assistance as they went down in the early hours today. A rescue boat from one of the many oil rigs in the area reportedly went to their assistance. We ain't going nowhere... Raffi called to say his situation is even worse now. Our wind is 25-30, his is 30-40. Aaron's back in the engine room taking the time to super-glue the strainer back together to eliminate air leaks (it works), Kerry's actually cleaning her cabin, and I'm actually writing on the computer!
23 April, Endeavor Harbor to Marsa Zeit, Egypt
Colleen - Well as fate would have it we were not to spend the rest of our lives in Endeavor Harbor. We awoke at sunrise, not quite ready to face the seas again soft again after so many days of lounging. The wind was clocking 20-25, and Aaron and I easily agreed with each other we "should sleep until the 7:00 am radio sked, and confirm what conditions are ahead before leaving. By 7:30, the instrument was reading only 18 knots of wind, and we knew we had to go.
As it always does when you leave a protected anchorage, the wind began to build shortly after raising anchor, By 8:30 we had 20-23 knots. A few miles into the journey, the engine suddenly began to overheat! Again, water was not coming through from the salt water cooling system! We quickly shut the engine down and went into emergency sailing stand-by mode (throw off the boom cover, prepare to hoist, ready the staysail), while Aaron rushed down to the engine room to see what could be done. Now knowing the geography of the raw water cooling system, he managed to fairly quickly jury rig a solution, and with edgy suspicion we set off again. Another boat from an anchorage a few miles away, Baltic Heritage, was making the same journey and motoring just a mile ahead. We soon came out of the protection of the reef and islands and were hit full on with the open Straits of Gubal weather wind of 25-30.
Our choice was to anchor off the light house of "Bluff Point" marking the Straits, or try motoring on 15 miles more, weaving through reefs to Marsa Zeit. Just at the lighthouse, Baltic Heritage reported on the radio they were going to give it a try. After a bit of discussion we decided to follow. The rest of the journey was a little tense. We were aware the engine could overheat at any moment, and between the reefs would be a pretty horrible place to be engineless. The full brunt of the Strait's seas were on us after we rounded the lighthouse point, short, steep, waves of 1-2 meters that we bashed right into. Several hours later we made it. The Marsa first appeared from the distance like a scene from a Mad Max film. Desert hills with huge open fires (related to the oil /gas drilling in this area).
While anchoring we noticed a new drama, the bow roller is even looser than before, and more unstable, slowly working its way off the deck. Aaron worked hard to rig a multi-snubber system to take the stress of it while anchored, but were now afraid that the stress of lowering and lifting the anchor at each stop alone is becoming risky. Ahhh, more to worry about, the desire to just escape the Red Sea increases. Aaron suggests we should really be trying to make the remaining 145 miles to Suez in one shot to avoid anchoring again. But we need a day of less wind to achieve that. And what if the engine overheats on the way
Aaron spent the rest of the afternoon trying for a more sustainable repair job to the salt water intake issue. He emerged triumphant near sundown. He also changed the oil and ATF fluid again as well as the oil filter and all of the fuel filters - we've got to do everything we can to keep this engine on side! We also noticed a drop in wind back down to 15-20. An ever hopeful weather forecast came through on the radio at 5:00pm, calling for less wind starting tomorrow. The forecasts always call for less wind (this particular weatherman forever views the glass half full). Our hopes were lifted nonetheless. We even were incredulous to hear one boat 50 miles behind us ask if they could make it to Crete in 5 days time!!! Obviously were not the only ones who are being psychologically effected by our "extended holiday" here.
Laura and I manifested our psychosis by dancing and singing on the deck. We glanced around to make sure the inhabitants of other boats were down below before displaying our choreographed feast. To the tune of Frank Sinatras "New York, New York" we sang; "Suez, Suez . If we can make it there, then we can make it, anywhere Its up to you, the Wind, the Wind ."
The evening of course was closed with a round of Hearts .
April 24 Marsa Zeit, Egypt
Colleen - Well, I wasnt feeling too enthusiastic at 5:30 am when Aaron asked yet again " Winds blowing 15, should we go or wait and listen to the 7:00am sked?" Surprise, surprise, I voted wait, and he gleefully jumped in for another hour and a half of ZZZZs. Felt a bit sheepish at 8:00 having slept through the sked to find the wind was only around 8 knots. We gotta go!! Rushed around preparing the boat, all set to leave.., small problem. The engine will not start AT ALL! Turn the key and N-O-T-H-I-N-G. For Christ's sake .. We waited in suspense as Aaron attacked. A few hours later it was pretty clear we werent going anywhere today
Aaron again triumphed, finally finding a well hidden fuse in ignition wiring in the back of the engine compartment that was blown. But not before he had experimented (successfully) with hot wiring the starter solenoid and starter motor directly to the batteries. Luckily we had a bunch of fuses that fit. The rest of the day was spent cooking, reading, playing hearts (of course) - this time in the cockpit because the wind is so gentle. Laura even hopped in the cold water for a swim and Kerry took a very serious snorkel around the area. Several more boats came in today - there are now six of us in here. We try again tomorrow. I promise I will awake at 5:00am.
April 25 Marsa Zeit to Suez, Egypt
Aaron - Colleen pretty much kept her promise and awoke with me at 0530. I had claimed to the gang that we would be the first out of the anchorage and planned a 0600 departure - which would still be about 1/2 hour before sunrise. I started to hear engines turn on and windlasses whine at about 0445 - I figured maybe one or two boats were leaving real early and in the dark. But when I popped my head out at 0530, we were the only boat in the anchorage and I could just see the stern light of the last one steaming out. The wind was a gentle 5-10 knots from the Southeast - perfect.
Even though I still felt that logically it made sense to wait for a bit more light - otherwise what is the sense of waiting till morning to leave - with all the other boats gone I felt a sudden sense of urgency and started rushing about and told Colleen to run up to the bow quickly to bring in the anchor. I reached down to start the engine and CLICK - nothing. What!!!! At least I know where to start looking. Sure enough the fuse I put in yesterday had also blown. I'm not sure if I just put in too low an amperage fuse (no telling what the original was) or if for some reason there is an excess load on the circuit. Anyway, a new 10 amp fuse seemed to do the trick and a problem that took me 4 hours to solve yesterday was fixed in five minuets.
With the breeze behind us, and plenty to fuel to burn, we charged out into the Gulf of Suez at 7 knots and never looked back. As the sun rose and visibility improved, we could see first four, and then all five of the boats that had left before us. One by one we caught up to them and passed them (they probably averaged 40 feet and are a bit slower than Redwings).
The shore side scenery is quite unique and reminds me of the Mount Doom area in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. The Gulf is paralleled by two ranges of sharp craggy peaks with very distinct tan and black hues ringed in smoke and fire (thanks to the oil and gas industries). The Gulf itself is studded with flaming oil rigs which are straddled by the North and Southbound shipping lanes down which huge tankers and cargo ships thunder along - the Southbound ones closing on us at about 25 knots. There were no dramas, but we had to be constantly on the ball. We made great progress throughout the day and even got a bit of a southerly. During the whole of our Red Sea passage, we only had southerly winds for a total of about 24 hours. In other words, it was on the nose the whole way!
We made it into the approach channel to the canal at around 0230 (26 April), just as the wind shifted from the Southeast to the Northwest. About five minuets into the channel, a pilot boat approached us, shined their multi-million candle power searchlight in my eyes, and started to push us out of the marked lane yelling to me that "big ship coming". We had called our "agent" earlier who supposedly checked with the Port Authority and confirmed that the way was clear for us to come in was clear, but apparently it was not. The conversations with the agent were weird. We called "Ibriham", who Raffi had recommended, and quickly several voices came over the VHF claiming to be "Ibriham" and telling us to go to different channels. I went with the guy with the stongest signal. He sounded more than suspiciously like the guy who was talking to other boats under the Prince of the Red Sea agency ticket....
Anyway, there was plenty of water outside the channel and although the navigation was a bit tricky as we had to cut a few wrecks and a rock fairly close, we were able to continue to make progress towards Suez. Eventually the ship passed and we re-entered the channel. However, as we came into the channel at a funny angle, and with all of the shore lights in the background, it became increasingly difficult to make out which lights were channel markers. I hit a complete blind spot and was confused by some additional white and red lights and asked Laura to come take a look and see what she could make of the situation. THATS A SHIP!!!! YIKES, she's right. All of a sudden the triple white mast lights of a tug with tow became all too clear, as did a large bow and bow wake soon thereafter. Luckily we were still very close to the port side of the channel and were able to quickly skip out of it and stand by while the tug and tow passed not 100 meters away.
As we approached the entrance to the canal proper, I completely lost sight of the channel lights due to the brilliance of the shoreside lights so we just put our faith in the GPS and depth sounder inched our way into what we hoped was the canal. Finally, it all became clear and we entered the canal and started past the numerous administration buildings on the West bank and, with a bit of help from Jeremy on Upshot and Captain Hibibi of the Prince of the Red Sea agency (who claimed to be representing Ibriham), turned into the anchorage at the Suez Yacht Club at 0400 and were asleep by 0500.
April 26 Suez
Aaron - "Redwings...... Redwings...." Its 0800 and through the fog of sleep I can hear Raffi of Malcat Singapore calling out to us.... I roll over. We love Raffi but its too early to chat with the good doctor. Besides, its really chilly here and nice to be curled up under the blankets and I'm still enjoying the deep sleep that follows the end of long adventure. Raffi is leaving today at 1030 and it looks like he will in fact finally make it to Tel Aviv in time for his first class which will commence on 1 May. He will be teaching International Business to a 50/50 mix of Palestinian and Jewish students. From our experience, Raffi, the self-expressed "Romantic Raconteur", is a more likely professor of cross-cultural relations! Anyway, Raffi is the first "real cruiser" we got to know on journey and our basic plan to make it up the Red Sea together in one way or another has held together and we look forward to seeing him in Israel.
The Suez Yacht Club. Yes. Champagne on the veranda after a good day's racing, tennis for the ladies, pool for the kids - NOT! The SYC is basically just a bunch of mooring buoys tied together in a little inlet off the canal. The club seems primarily to serve as a base of operations for the agents and canal officials who work over time to come up with ways to stick it to the yachties as fast and as hard as possible while at the same time keeping a straight face. Presumably, only true schisters and rip off artists are allowed into the "club" and seniority is obtained by establishing a solid record of obtaining as much baksheesh (the word for "tip" in Arabic) as possible relative to the size of the vessels served.
Fortunately for us, we were tied up only a stone's throw away from the dingy dock and at around 1000 paddled over with a view to finding some breakfast. Just as I finished tying the dingy up, a short Egyptian man in a grey suit walked down the gangway with hand outstretched and proudly said "Good Morning. I am the Prince of the Red Sea". At his side was a clean cut and charming young boy (his grandson) and both were carrying parcels. "The Prince" is the most famous of the Suez agents used by yachties. We, however, had decided to use another agent named Ibriham as he was the agent Raffi had used and he had given a thumbs up. We also figured that since everyone else used "The Prince" that the competition would have to be more attentive to attract business and build a reputation. Major mistake.
What a charmer! The Prince looked us in the eyes and asked how our trip was and welcomed us to Suez. He asked who our agent was and we sort of apologetically mentioned it was Ibriham and the Prince just smiled and said no problem and dug into one of his bags and pulled out a box of goodies for us. "I'm delivering goodies to all of the yachts that came in last night. Can you paddle me around?" "We're off to breakfast", I replied "but go ahead and take the dingy yourself" I said without even flinching. I felt like I had been hypnotized by the guy.
On return an hour or so later, "The Prince" was still out paddling around in our dingy so we caught a ride out with someone else. A few minuets later, an Egyptian man, with the figure of a bloated pear on a Popsicle stick, shouted at us from the dock and waved us to come in. "I am Ibriham, your agent". We indicated that we were dingyless. "Where is your dingy?" "Well er... actually, The Prince of the Red Sea borrowed it." On that, Ibriham threw up his hands and stomped off the dock. The start of a great relationship. I yelled after him that we could lend our dingy to whoever we want and if he wants to be our agent ok but if not fine. This is going on too long and I could write all day. But basically the posturing never ends with these guys - they play sweet and sour 50 times a day. We called our peace with Ibriham and said: ok, what's it going to cost. Same as everybody else. Ok, but how much is that. Ask your Israeli friend who left this morning. Exactly, he left this morning, so how much? Call him on the VHF. How F'ing MUCH!!!!! A simple question!!! WE NEED TO KNOW SO WE CAN FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH MONEY WE NEED TO SET ASIDE!!! Ok US$220. Thanks, now that wasn't so tough was it? So, how much for diesel? Same price as everyone else........ (people have paid between 20 and 30 cents per litre depending on their degree of suckerabiliy). It went on and on and we ran out of patience and energy early in the game. I don't know how these guys can keep it up.
Ok so our Agent has arranged for us to transit the canal tomorrow or the next day or whenever God knows. Part of the process involves an "inspection" of the vessel. Back at the boat later in the day a big black tug pulls up to us and a Tom Selleck lookalike shouts out "canal inspection" while we scramble for fenders. Tom quickly jumps aboard and cuts to the chase. "Ok present for me - how much you give?" "Ah well actually we understood that this inspection was simply your job and that you are not supposed to ask for baksheesh" "look, I came by earlier today and no one was here and then I asked one of your wives (Laura) when you would be back and she said 1200 and I came again and you were not here so... I could fine your US$100 for not being here" "ok so fine me and get off my boat now" "whoa whoa no fine, or inspection necessary - what's my present" "take this 10 Egyptian pound (US$3) note and get off" "ahhhh difficult to split between four crew..." "GET OFF!!!! ARE YOU DEAF"
April 27 Day Trip to Cairo, Egypt
Laura - We dragged ourselves out of bed pretty darn early, by 5:15 or so, to meet Moustafa, our driver to Cairo. The trip was a flat 1.5 hours through the Sahara to Cairo. First stop was felafel sandwiches and then someone had to got to the bathroom and of course Moustafa knew the perfect place --- the Papyrus "museum." Here we went again. I tell you, Egyptians will take you as far as they can and then push you over the edge. The museum was of course a tourist trap in which Egyptian-style paintings were sold on papyrus. Moustafa got a cut for bringing us in and because we were obviously very special people we got a big discount and some coffee and Cokes and then bullied into buying something. It's a pretty effective technique of hot-and-cold personality shifts to get a tourist to buy something, anything. The spiel this time included the promise that each painting was carefully done by an artist, but also that in a matter of one minute we could have our name done in hieroglyphics. In the end, Kerry bought something after bargaining the saleslady grumpily to a third of the price. As we left, she called to Kerry "You, and only you, have a nice day."
Next, we went to the pyramids, which were pretty neat to see in real life. We spent an hour or so wandering around and Aaron, Kerry and I paid extra to slither down a narrow tunnel to the inner chamber. Inside was an empty casket and a large Russian woman in orange spandex and gold-framed sun glasses. Her Egyptian guide wore her enormous flowered hat, which must have been tough to manage in the tunnel. In full view of a sign that indicated flash photography was not allowed, the guide took a picture of the woman next to the casket.The flash left me blinking squares of yellow. Next, we were off to the Sphinx where the Today Show was filing a segment on tourism in Egypt. We didn't stick around.
Moustafa attempted to take us to a perfume "museum," but I put my foot down and refused to get out of the car. So, after some mumbling, he took us to the real Cairo museum, where we saw all the stuff King Tut was buried with and millions of other artifacts too. The place was overwhelming because there is so much to see. I also found it disorganized and not well marked so most of the time there was little context for the items I was looking at. Still, it was interesting and impressive just in the volume of the art the ancient Egyptians created for their dead pharaohs.
Rest of the afternoon we drove and walked around Cairo a bit. Moustafa got a bit grumpy on us at one point because we said we wanted to go to the Souk (market) and he wanted to know hey we wanted to do that when we hadn't wanted to see the perfume museum. Eventually, he dropped us somewhere that he said was downtown, but it was just a commercial area with some unbelievably tacky stores. (Readers may be getting the feeling that Egypt is not my favorite place and that is correct). So we headed back to Suez.
Had beers, supper and apple tobacco from houka pipes at the Summer Palace with Dracamaris, Upshot and Tango II. It was quite the hilarious dinner with all of us sucking on the houkas between bites of Tahini. Then, back to Dracamaris for a rousing game of Mission in which Aaron and I broke the bank with borrowing pennies. We played until 11 p.m. or so and then headed home.
April 28 Ismailia, Egypt
Aaron - The "girls" got up reasonably early (730ish) and headed into town to do a bit of provisioning while I worked on by beauty sleep. Its so nice to stay under the covers now as it gets down to the low 60's at night and doesn't really start warming up till about 1000.
Bin came over at 0900 to go over various engine things with me. As Dracamaris is a power boat (as have all of Bin's boats over the years), and as his previous boat had the same engine that we have (Ford Lehman), he has proved to be a great "engine mentor" for me. We came up with a list of spares to buy and things to do in Israel. I hope I am not jinxing us, but I think we have pretty much dealt with just about all of the potential "normal" problems that are likely to occur to everyone eventually and I believe that we will probably have a pretty trouble-free engine going forward.
When the gang came back with the grub around 1000, they also had out pilot in tow; a Mr Said somethingorather. He wanted to go - now. Apparently the last two ships of the morning Northbound convoy were just passing out front of the Yacht Club and he wanted to get a move on a) to be in position to take advantage of the most favorable current, and b) to get to Ismaila ASAP to make his day as short as possible.
We got moving at around 1030 and the second we hit the canal he asked me to crank the engine up as fast as it would go. The engine is comfortable going to about 1600 revs, which gives us about 7 knots through the water, and I brought it to this level which did not quite satisfy him but beyond that we don't gain much speed relative to the increase in stress on the engine. However, we soon caught a positive current and averaged 8-9 knots and he seemed pretty happy.
Apart from a few soldiers who pointed machine guns at us and tried to get us to pull in to presumably give them "presents" (the pilot just waved them off), the trip was pretty uneventful. We just cranked along at an average of 8 knots behind the main convoy and slowly left the other sail boats the left just after us behind.
We arrived at the midway stop of Ismalia at around 1630 and dropped the anchor. Overall, our pilot was great and never insisted on taking the wheel, never hassled any of us, and did not demand much in the way of presents. We gave him a hat, a pen, and about $7 in local currency and he seemed pretty happy. So were we. Laura dingied him into shore where he will catch a ride back to Suez. Tomorrow another pilot will join us at 0800 to take us to Port Said on the other end.
April 29 Ismailia to and through Port Said, Egypt
Aaron - I must confess this is being written one month later. I planned to finish this section on arrival in Israel but for the past month, we have not done any writing. Anyway, if my memory serves me, we got a typical reception in the morning from the pilot patrol: "give presents, cigarettes". They dumped our pilot on board and sadly for them received nothing from us. Our pilot, however, brought us a bag of bread which was nice. We quickly departed and had a fairly non eventful trip through the canal. The weather was again perfect with only a few knots of breeze. The pilot was extremely well behaved, as was the first, which was a nice surprise.
But of course we couldn't leave Egypt with out one last major harassment. We had been told that "they" might try to get us to take a third pilot through Port Said. Apparently, the third pilot is not necessary, but its just a way to make sure the second pilot gets good baksheesh. Towards the end of the trip, our second pilot started asking about his present and we confirmed that yes he would get it when we dropped him off. Finally, a pilot boat came along side us, we handed our pilot a similar bounty as we had given the previous fellow, and another Tom Selleck look alike jumped on board and introduced himself as our third pilot and instructed us to give presents to all of the crew of the pilot boat. We said we didn't smoke and gave the crew several cookies that Laura had just pulled out of the oven - we should have thought to lace them with Ex-lax. This guy grabbed the wheel and asked how much we were gonna give him and said he'd settle for a $20. I said have a cookie. Fight fight back and forth lets just leave and here's 5 pounds and please leave us alone. The pilot boat comes up, doesn't ram us, picks up Tom, and leaves after he sensed he wasn't going to pry any more out of us and we reminded him that there are 5 boats behind us. FREEDOM!!!
We had been travelling with High Life, a German boat we sort of knew. While the pilots were probably comparing how much they had been able to get out of each of us, we asked High Life how they got off. They proudly announced 20 pounds so we were able to feel a bit better about our 5. Some boats paid the $20 and more. Marbella did the best. Irv (the owner) said F'it and floored it after dumping the second pilot and broke away. They were allowed to leave without a chase. Obviously they - the authorities - don't really care that much about pilotage and are really focused on maximizing screwing the boats as efficiently as possible.
Finally into the Med!!! After we worked our way clear of the various channel markers outside of Port Said, things settled down nicely and brought the boat down to a rhumb line course to Ashkelon, Israel. We were able to make good time sailing and motor sailing with a full main and staysail. The only excitement was picking our way through a large fleet of fishing boats late at night.
April 30 Israel
Aaron - Dawn and we are approaching Israeli waters. Colleen checked in with the Israeli navy vessel and we were allowed to proceed in to the port. We had thought that security might have been heightened as today is the 50th anniversary of the formation of Israel - apparently its getting lots of press.
We entered the yacht basin at the marina at about 1100 and were directed to a visitors dock. "Welcome to Israel. Wait here and the police will soon check you". The police rooted around a bit for guns and PLO terrorists and soon gave us a clean bill of health.
Asklelon is great for us at the moment. Very cheap - only $4.5 per day for us - free water and electricity. The results of a Thailandesq ill planned overbuilding spree. A marina built to help sell more condos but hello there are no boat owners in area.
The afternoon was spend traveling 30 minuets each way to Ashdod, a major port, to clear immigration. We went in on a van with several other yachties for the 1 hour trip. The cost: US$45 (total). Welcome to Israel and Western world prices.
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