28 February 2011
Marmaris We anchored off the old castle built in1522 in Marmaris at 5 PM Friday 25 Feb. The 4,938 mile passage from Phuket took 36 days 13 hours including a total of 9 1/2 days in port along the way (Maldives, Port Sudan, Suez). We ran the engine 335 hours (14 days). The majority of that was 500 miles across the IRTC (pirate alley) and up the Red Sea and Suez Canal when there was either no wind or it was on the nose.
Marmaris is located inside a two mile by two mile almost land locked bay which makes it very well protected. It is a charming pretty low key Mediterranean small city with a waterfront old town packed with small restaurants and watering holes. The rest of the city has mid rise buildings, a relief to see no high rises here. Turkey is a very popular tourist destination for Russians, Germans and other Europeans from May through October. The latitude at 37 degrees North is similar to Santa Cruz Ca. but there is no cold Pacific Ocean to keep it cool in the summer when the air gets hot and the water very warm.
The Greek island Rhodes and many other Greek Islands are only a few miles away as are many interesting Greek and Turkish coves and bays to tuck one┬'s boat into. That and because Turkey is not a member of the EU and a much less expensive place for a European to visit or to keep one┬'s boat makes Marmaris and several other harbor towns in Turkey very popular locations for Europeans to keep their boats. There are lots of charter boats and companies located in Marmaris and other cities nearby. We are currently stern tied in Netsel Marina along with 700 other boats, 150 of them charter boats. There are lots of 50 to 80 foot motor yachts as well as sailboats here too.
There is another 700 slip marina in the bay making Marmaris a key center for boating in this part of the Med and a great place for West Marine┬'s Turkish partner to locate their third West Marine store which was opened last fall. I visited the store which looks super a couple of days ago, met 5 very positive associates, had a brief tour and will be back with my shopping list tomorrow!
Turkey is a largely Muslim country but the form of Muslim religion here is quite different, a lot less conservative, than in Egypt or Sudan (or from what we understand other Middle Eastern countries) where virtually all of the women wear burkas covering their hair and in some cases their whole face except for a slit for the eyes. Many Muslims here partake in some alcoholic beverages and act European. The Mosques do call devotees to prayer 5 times a day but the calls here last only a minute or two vs a quarter to half an hour or more in some Muslim countries. The melodic calls are nice to hear but too much of almost anything is too much. . .
While not interested myself, there are lots of very well made in Turkey ┬"copy┬" designer apparel and watches for sale here. But ironically some of the once ubiquitous rug merchants have been put out of business by inexpensive Chinese imports of oriental rugs!
The food and restaurant service is excellent. Joseph, Kelly and I ended up having a wonderful Turkish dinner in what we were told later was the best waterfront restaurant here. Last night we celebrated our last dinner of this passage with excellent pasta in another super restaurant located right in the marina.
Having left the boat for the airport at 5:30 AM, Kelly and Joseph are on a Turkish Airlines flight to Chicago. They will be home later today, Monday, assuming on time flights.
I spent the day interviewing boat managers and refining the list of projects to be completed before Sally-Christine, Kent-Harris and I return here for some local cruising this summer. I am looking forward to flying home later this week to Sally-Christine and Kent-Harris leaving Convergence in competent hands and in a very nice place to cruise.
Signing off until the next adventure!
Sailing in the Med!
24 February 2011
Sailing in the Med
We completed our transit of the Suez Canal late Wednesday and are very glad to be sailing in the Med! We have 300 miles to go to Marmaris, Turkey with decent weather predicted for the rest of the passage.
We stopped for two days at the ┬"Rowing and Yacht Club┬" at Suez city at the south end of the canal and met our agent who arranged the paperwork for the passage. In addition to passports, the ┬"original┬" certificate of documentation needs to be presented to canal officials. In July officials in Indonesia inadvertently kept our original documentation so I requested and got a certified copy from the Coast Guard and had had no problem with it.
But here they insist on the original. I needed to go to the US Embassy in Cairo for other business so we took our certified original hoping that they could put some kind of stamp on. Officials here love stamps. Arriving at the Embassy, which our driver had a hard time finding as the adjacent streets have been blocked by tanks since 911, we were informed that the embassy was officially closed and was only conducting ┬"emergency┬" business. After several ┬"conversations┬", passing through two security points and waiting in lines, I was able to get my other business taken care of (it could only be considered an emergency in the broadest sense but the vice consul was nice enough to accommodate) but got no help on the documentation.
As long as Joseph and I were in Cairo we had the driver take us by the Pyramids. Of course the driver had friends that gave short tours by horseback or camel back. So we had a late lunch of falafels and went for a camel back ride to the pyramids. They are very impressive and well worth the time. I hope to come back with Sally-Christine and Kent-Harris for a real tour.
Tanks and army personnel are everywhere we have been in Egypt. There are outposts along the highway between Suez and Cairo. There are outposts every mile or two along the canal. I don┬'t know what percent of men are in the army here but is seems like it is way higher than in most other countries. With the recent unrest here one can understand the prevelance. . .
Cairo with a population of 20 million is noisy, crowded and mostly not very attractive. There are mile after mile after mile of mostly very basic mid rise apartment buildings many in various partial stages of completion lining the highways. Some of the older buildings near the embassies are charming. The traffic is as one would expect horrendous. The pyramids right at the edge of the city make the trip worth while.
Returning to Suez city and anxious to get through the canal, I met our agent to deal with the documentation issue. He said he had a crazy idea and at 9 PM drove over with me to the apartment of the ┬"manager┬" to tell him that my certified copy is the only original the US will issue. The manager agreed and our agent said we could leave the next day if there were no war ships passing thru the canal. Canal authorities apparently at the request of several navies won┬'t let small vessels in the canal when there is a war ship transiting. Many war ships do transit and as has made the news, Iran said that they were going to send two ships thru the canal into the Med. They went right by us within ┬╝ mile at 0600 the next morning while we were sleeping. We were supposed to pick up the pilot at 10 and leave but ended up waiting around until 1 PM for clearance when our pilot came to the boat and we departed. With 3 to 4 knots current with us we made 13 knots down the canal arriving at the half way point at sunset.
We had hoped to get completely through the 75 mile canal in one day but due to our late start we spent the night docked at the Ismalia Yacht Club. Convergence and the 39 ft. Italian boat Decibel were the only two boats tied up at this large first class and vacant facility. We had dinner aboard Convegence with the two Decibel crew who were completing a circumnavigation.
Earlier in the day we were sickened to hear of the fate of fellow cruisers aboard Quest. The hijacking was bad enough for them and the other boats crossing or anticipating crossing these pirate waters up to 1000 miles off Somalia. But in the past the hostages have not been harmed and released after payment of ransom. The tragic killing of the four cruisers sent shock waves and will have the same effect on the world cruising fleet as 911 had on the world. Of course we feel fortunate and very thankful to have made the passage safely as so many others have in the past few years. Times are different now though. The rules of the game have changed.
We were to pick up our pilot for the second half of the canal at 7 but true to form he didn┬'t show till about 1030. The Suez Canal was built in 1869, a major feat then or now. Because it is relatively narrow, traffic is one way. Small boats like us are allowed to travel against the traffic which we did on our first day. Passing close by 800 to 1,000 foot ships is pretty exciting! The second day we went with the traffic and actually passed a gigantic car carrier ship! That was the second time we passed a ship, the first was at the southern entrance to the Red Sea when we sailed past a tanker!
In Egypt, especially for those people working around the Suez Canal, Bakshish, or tipping is demanded most. We asked the agent what the right amount is and he said $20 for the pilot and a pack of cigarettes for the pilot boat driver who picks up the pilot after transit. When we presented the $20 tip the recipient would invariably act disappointed and ask for more. Then he would ask for a tee shirt. And not just any tee shirt but a brand new one. We ran out of them but substituted West Marine hats.
Bakshish is just a cost of doing business here, we knew about it in advance and ┬"when in Rome ┬....┬".
We expect to arrive in Marmaris Friday evening.
Desert Cove Outpost
18 February 2011
19 Feb 2011
Desert Cove Outpost
The first 8 hours of our trip out of Port Sudan was delightful with no wind so we were able to motor at over 8 knots. But our ┬"mostly good┬" weather forecast showed about 2 days of 12 to 15 knot winds on the nose in the middle of the 5 day forecast period. That wind and resulting 2 meter waves found us late in the day causing us to have to slow down to about 4 knots in uncomfortable conditions. We looked for a reef to duck behind but didn┬'t want to approach a coral studded anchorage at night so we decided slog through the night to a cove reputed to have a smooth anchorage.
Sharm Lule is a ┬Ż mile indent in the otherwise featureless straight desert coast of Southern Egypt. The entrance was hard to see until we were a mile or so away. It is plenty wide at about ┬╝ mile with reefs on each side but with a several hundred foot wide 40 foot deep fairway. As we entered we could see two or three small buildings on the North side of the cove.
As we got closer to the anchorage we could see two men dressed in military camouflage fatigues come out of one of the buildings down to the waters edge and wave and yell to us. We were all tired of slogging against wind and waves and really wanted to spend the day and night in a quiet anchorage. We hoped these people would be friendly but were concerned that they would want us to leave.
The buildings looked like they were a desert outpost from a western movie set. The main white stucco building, the bunkhouse, which turned out to be only about 20 ft wide by 12 ft deep had a thatched roof covered verandah with a flag pole proudly flying an Egyptian flag. The bunkhouse was flanked on each side by a 10 by 10 ft box buildings one a cook house, the other for storage.
We anchored, launched the dinghy, and not knowing what the men wanted, grabbed the ships papers and passports along with 6 packs of cigarettes and some small bills (to use if needed to help encourage whoever was ashore to let us stay overnight).
The men guided Kelly and me in the dinghy around a reef to a sandy beach landing right next to two beached and abandoned badly deteriorated wood fishing boats.
We were escorted to the ┬"outpost┬" where we met four more men. The men, all with mustaches, looking to be in their early 20┬'s except one in his 40┬'s, the ┬"manager┬", didn┬'t speak English but they had a few more English words than we had Arabic. They all wore fatigues and flip flops but with no visible weapons or other signs of military except 7 pair of boots under one of the benches.
We offered them packs of cigarettes which they accepted and in return offered us smokes from their packs of ┬"Cleopatra┬" cigarettes. We were relieved that they were friendly and offered us tea. Then asked for our passports.
We took two men back to the boat which they enjoyed visiting, provided copies of passports, ship documentation and crew list all signed by the captain and stamped with our new boat stamp. Officials love stamps and in many countries expect the boat to have it┬'s own stamp.
Then they invited us for some food. We thought they wanted to do a pot luck lunch so Joseph made a nice macaroni salad and we all went ashore a bit apprehensive about what they would offer us to eat. ┬"Local┬" food is always ┬"creative┬" and sometimes not that appetizing.
The ┬"manager┬" made us a plate of fish bits,(from an 8┬" fish) tomatoes, peppers, onion in some kind of mustard sauce. We offered our salad but the food was for us. Kelly and I had very small helpings of the fish while Joseph got into it.
We did some boat repairs and got a good nights sleep.
We raised anchor and headed out at 0800 the next morning as the wind at the anchorage was light offshore even though it was predicted to be north 12 to 15. Once 10 miles offshore we found the prediction was accurate so we motores slowly on our route. About 5 PM when the wind dropped and seas flattened we were able to increase boat speed to about 8 knots from our ┬"slogging into it┬" under power speed of 4 plus or minus.
As part of our watch system we enter the engine room and check coolant level, pressure across the fuel filter, belt tension, and look in the white painted normally clean bilge under the engine for fluid drips etc. When Kelly did that on his midnight watch he noticed a lot of ┬"belt dust┬" That wasn┬'t there at 11PM. I took a look and found a lock washer and ┬ż┬" nut under the engine. A lock washer on a bolt holding the port alternator failed causing the nut to come off and bolt to back out enough to rub the fan belt causing the belt dust. We stopped the engine, replaced the lock washer and tightened the nut. The belt was still OK and no damage had been done. We have had not other engine problems but this event is a strong reminder of why we check the engine every hour! We expect to be at the southern end of the Suez canal mid day Sunday.
On Passage to the Suez Canal
15 February 2011
On Passage to the Suez Canal
After three days in the fascinating city of Port Sudan there is a ┬"mostly nice┬" weather window for our northward passage up the Red Sea 600 miles to the Suez Canal.
We walked much of the city finding like type businesses located together. The sprawling vegetable market, the ┬"garmet district┬" where men sit in the shade under the many building verandas at human powered Singer sewing machines, all busily working away ┬- I guess the men do the sewing here. There is usually a store selling material/cloth nearby. There are lots of specialty stores (all the same size about 15 ft wide by 25 ft deep) selling pots and pans/kitchen ware, spices (lots of spice stores each with many large open burlap sacks displaying all sorts of bulk spices, reminded me of Istanbul), generators, even a store selling rebar and others selling all manner of things.
Interspersed between the stores are countless small grocery stores (many stores sell the same items making one wonder why there are so many stores). Considering that there appears to be a lot of poverty here we were surprised to find a street lined with jewelry stores selling primarily gold items.
The buildings are all two to three story masonry many built when this was an English colony.
Lining the sidewalks are countless tea/coffee vendors, some as close as 20 feet apart, all operated by women, and street vendors selling cigarettes, lighters etc. Mixed in with this throng of humanity are men sitting at the tea sellers sipping tea and smoking a cigarette or puffing tobacco on a bong .
Retailing here is done like it was in the US in the 60┬'s when there were many more small owner operated specialty stores before the establishment of big box stores selling a wide variety of items (like Wall Mart, Home Depot, etc.).
Some of the sidewalks have gaping holes up to 3 by 4 feet for the unsuspecting foreigner to fall into. No liability lawyers here! It┬'s watch out for yourself.
Of course all of the people have to eat so there are restaurants, most very unappealing looking to us. But our agent took us to one and the food was so good that we came back the next day for more!
Aside from the buzz of tuk tuks (small three wheel half motor cycle half rickshaw taxis) and a moderate amount of auto traffic the street scenes could have been from a hundred or more of years ago.
We didn┬'t see any US chain restaurants or stores here!! A nice break from the US and many other countries we have visited which are starting to look the same.
Except for about a day and a half, the wind over the next 5 days is predicted to be light on the nose or the beam. In those conditions we can motor comfortably at 8 to 9 knots. These conditions are way better than the typical 12 to 15 knots on the nose predicted the other day and a half. If we get those head winds we will anchor behind a reef and wait as motoring into it will be uncomfortable.
This leg will be a mostly smooth motor boat ride under an almost full moon for which we are grateful.
13 February 2011
We anchored at Port Sudan at 0845 Feb 12th after the 12 day 2429 mile Passage from Uligan Maldives. During the passage we averaged 200 miles per day or 8.3 knots. That includes two brief stops for a total of 6 hours for minor repairs (clearing a prop of seaweed, repairing the mizzen topping lift and changing a fan belt). The last 100 miles was more or less into 10 to 15 knots of wind and resulting 1 to 2 meter chop. Not terrible but not comfortable. We were able to do some of the passage behind a big reef which knocked the chop down and allowed us to motor at 8 plus knots. During the worst of it we had to slow to 4 knots to reduce pounding. So we are very happy to be med tied in a quiet harbor with the wind still blowing outside. Joseph and I celebrated with our first beers in 12 days. Kelly had another coke! He doesn't drink.
It is predicted to blow for a few days more. We will resupply here and wait for more favorable conditions to head to the Suez Canal.
Port Sudan is the main shipping port in Sudan and is a small but quite 3rd world city with quite a number of mid rises and lots of very friendly and colorful people. Since it is a Muslim country all of the women wear burkas, some with just the eyes showing. Some very colorful and sometimes intriguing. Many of the men and women whom speak English which they learned in school.
Sudan is physically the largest country in Africa with a population of 43 million. There does not seem to be concern among those we spoke to about the results of the recent election to allow souther Sudan to become a separate country. And the people seem very happy that Mubarak has resigned. We used a agent to help check us in and organize fuel delivery (1029 liters at 90 cents a liter) this morning. The fuel came in a tanker small truck that backed down the wharf we are med tied to. The truck had a long hose which we ran the 100 feet to the boat. The fuel seemed clean and it didn't take long to fill up.
We went to the market which is very large with scores of vendors selling very good looking tomatoes, onions, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, cabbage, basil, etc. We loaded up thinking that we may not need to resupply in Egypt if we are lucky enough to make it in 5 or 6 days. Sudan is known for great feta cheese so we bought a kilo. The people working the market and all around Port Sudan for that matter are classic looking. We took lots of photos although women and some men don't like their photo taken so we asked first.
Then we went sword hunting. Before firearms long sharp swords were used for fighting. Our agent took us on a long Tuk Tuk ride to a less savory part of town. It started with one sword seller showing us a few swords. Pretty soon we were surrounded by 15 or 20 men wanting to show us their swords most of which were the real antique thing, very long and very sharp. Asking prices were $75 to about $150 for the ones with lots of silver on the handles. The men were very aggressive all pushing in around and all saying ┬"how much you give me for this┬". It was getting uncomfortable with all of these colorful Arab men showing me their swords and daggers, pushing them into my hands and demanding to know how much I would pay. Our agent said it was time to leave, my thinking exactly. I made a fast deal on a cool looking sword about 3 ┬Ż feet long, paid and we made a swift exit in our Tuk Tuk. In addition to the sword we bought 3 daggers.
This is a fascinating place! We are very glad to be experiencing it!
Red Sea Wind
09 February 2011
Red Sea Wind
Within a few miles of the end of the IRTC and about 100 miles before leaving entering the Red Sea we spotted what looked like a skiff about a mile and a half off our starboard bow on course to cross near us. Skiffs are what pirates use to attack so we were concerned. This was the first non commercial vessel we had seen since leaving the Maldives. We didn't know if this was a pirate but I immediately put out a informational call on the VHF hoping that a war ship would hear it. A cargo ship answered and called for a war ship but none responded. We changed course to head in the opposite direction the skiff was traveling. As we watched closely we were relieved to see that the skiff held it's course. We think it was a fishing boat close to 100 miles from home.
Last night at 0300 we were very happy to leave pirate alley and enter the Red Sea at Bab El Mandab the 13 mile wide southern entrance knick named ┬"the gates of hell┬". That name came about because winds funnel through the narrow entrance and can get quite strong. They went from 4 or 5 knots to 25 when we went through and caused us to drop our mizzen and sail only with a reefed main dead down wind. During that maneuver the shackle pin that holds the topping lift to the mizzen boon let go (ring ding came out and pin fell out) dropping the mizzen boom to the deck. Problems seem to happen at the most inopportune times!
We secured the boom, dropped the main and motored about 15 miles to the lee of an island just a few miles off Assab, the southern most of two ports in Eritrea. We briefly anchored at first light and fixed that problem and also replaced the worn fan belt for the Yanmar alternator and fresh water pump. Did it all in about 30 min which was good because as soon as we anchored a small boat came from shore and motioned that we had to leave right away. Maybe the island was a military base or a prison we don't know. We hurriedly finished and left as we could see a larger power boat about a two miles away heading our way. We raised the main and were gone in a flash.
Due to the predicted strong northerlies coming tomorrow (they have already arrived) and predicted to last for at least the next week plus, we are headed to Massawa, the northern most port of Eritrea. Although we were told there wasn't much in the way of supplies there I'm sure we will find something to eat and we understand that the local beer is good! Eritrea is not all Muslim, it is part beer drinking Christian too!
We get to experience Eritrean culture!
Photo of chef Joseph taking chess lessons from Kelly.
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