TRANSITING THE SUEZ CANAL June 24/25, 2020
30 September 2020
The time finally came for us to transit the Suez Canal. We had paid our Canal fee when we first arrived in Port Suez. The amount of the fee is based on the measurement and weight of the boat plus an unknown formula of unknown specifications. It's been known that similar boats have paid significantly different fees. The two fellows who came to measure Pied-a-Mer had come empty handed, nothing with which to measure. We supplied them with a large tape measure which, of course, was in inches not meters! Captain Heebie was on board and once the measuring completed we paid our $237.00 USD Canal fee.
Boats transiting the Canal are required to have a Canal Pilot on board as a guide only, not to “Captain” the ship through the transit. We had heard many stories of “Canal Pilots and Baksheesh”. It is customary to present the canal pilot with a gift of money, preferably US dollars, a meal and maybe another small gift. Articles that we had read told of rude angry pilots who demanded a certain amount of money to humble pilots who were happy with whatever they were given. To avoid problems with the pilots we gave Captain Heebie two twenty dollar bills( the going rate) and he took care of the “gift”. The canal transit is a two day journey and early in the morning on June 24, Mohammed, our pilot for the first leg of the canal arrived. Kar Kar, our “man Friday and good friend”, helped with our lines and off we went---for some this would be a "Bucket list" adventure but for us it was, " This is how we get to the Med".
We had beautiful weather for both days of our transit. Day #1, we left Port Suez at 0412 traveling at 5+ knots and arrived in Ismalia at 1250. We tied up to the cement wharf and spent a quiet night. Robio, our pilot for the second half of our transit arrived at 0430 the next morning and off we went. Traffic in the canal moves north in morning and early afternoon and south later in the day and night. In addition to the two sailboats that we were traveling with, we saw only one other pleasure craft, a powerboat going south. We were continually passed by cargo ships, container ships, barges, etc. The canal is very narrow in parts reminding us of the Columbia River, we were used to being very close to huge vessels. On Day#1 both sides of the canal were mostly sand dunes but there was much more activity on Day#2, a railroad bridge under construction, military installations, lots of flags waving on shore, people waving at us from small fishing boats sitting peacefully on the sides of the canal. When we reached Port Said it was time for Robio to leave us. We had been told that we would be directed to a dock where he would disembark but this was not the case. At 1145 he was picked up underway by an old fishing boat, he jumped off Pied-a-Mer, onto the boat and off they went. This was a well orchestrated move as the boat never touched us—-he jumped off and on!
Once out of the canal we spent about 12 hours in a very high traffic area of cargo ships, anchored ships, fishing boats with nets out and oil well heads. As we dodged the various vessels and objects we were escorted by a pod of dolphins which entertained me as I fixed dinner. (Thank You Seawind for my panoramic view in the galley!) That night the unique experiences that we encountered on this passage were whirling around in my head and I was having trouble staying alert on my midnight to 4 am watch. The following is an excerpt from my journal: “While on my midnight watch I was still hungry and, this is awful to admit, I ate the following——2 slices of apple bread, 6 Oreos, 1 bag of Crispy Chips (the kind I don’t like) and 1 small package of Sour Cream and Onion crackers”. Maybe I had been a bit stressed!
The Suez Canal was behind us, the Red Sea was behind us and Turkey awaited us with open ports. We booked a month at Alanya Marina in the province of Antalya. Our next decision was where to spend the winter? We spent a month contacting marinas in the Med, reading reports from other cruisers, reading Covid updates (which seemed to change daily), understanding Schengen (we had lots of questions on this one) and, of course, studying weather patterns. By the end of a month we decided that our best option was to stay here in Alanya until late February-early March .
The marina is quite large and filled with local boats and two large “tourist pirate boats”. Along with Wade and Diane on a Canadian monohull, sv Joana, we are the only foreign cruising live aboards here for the winter. I am struggling with the Turkish language and Eric is finding it impossible. We are loving the food in Turkey. Every Friday the marina takes the four of us to a Bazar which has the most amazing selection of local produce. We have never eaten such luscious fruits and vegetables. We have done just a few day trips in and near Alanya and next week we will be going to a Cappadocia.
ANOTHER MONTH IN PORT SUEZ
26 September 2020
We were at Port Suez for a little over two months( a record for boats waiting to transit, most go on to Ismalia) and as time passed we fell into a comfortable daily routine. Being tied to the dock allowed us to have visitors. In addition to the few fishermen whose boats were at the dock we had three regular visitors who became dear friends, Captain Heebie, Kar Kar and Old Man Sayeed. Most mornings Sayeed would stop by for Nescafé and a sweet, Kar Kar would stop by for Nescafé or tea, breakfast or sweets and again for a meal. Captain Heebie, as our agent, took care of all of the government paperwork required for our Suez Canal transit. The cost for transiting the canal is based on a very unique system of measurement and the personality of the "measurer"who would come up with an interesting set of numbers which we felt was out of line with reality however, that's simply the way it is. Every other day Captain Heebie would stop by for Nescafé and make sure we had everything that we needed. Through Captain Heebie we were able to order provisions, pieces & parts for the boat, sim cards and money (Egyptian pounds). Since we were not able to leave the boat we would give our credit card to Captain Heebie who we trusted implicitly, and he, in turn, would go to the ATM and bring back cash. The maximum limit available for withdrawal from the ATM was so small that Captain Heebie have to do several transactions and the transaction fees would total almost 50% of the withdrawal! Sayeed was our "personal shopper" and did an excellent job of sourcing our provisions. Often it took him weeks to find what we needed but he was always successful. There were times when he would not quite understand what we wanted ie. toothbrushes instead of toothpaste and toilet paper rather than paper towels. Kar Kar was our "Man Friday" always looking for ways to help us with things like cleaning the boat, removing trash, getting petrol and wanting us to find him an "American" wife. (We have not been successful with that one).
For the months we were here all of our clothes and linens were washed by hand. Actually this was not a problem because at the dock we had access to all of the fresh water we wanted and my most abundant resource was time.
The words "Sands of Time" come to mind when I think of Egypt.
We've never been anywhere where sand was in the air 24/7.
As we came up the coast we ran into one significant sand storm and additional sand on the way up to Suez where we could wash the boat. The first boat washing must have taken a thousand pounds of sand off the rigging, decks, cockpit and parts inside the boat.
June brought a few more boats into Port Suez. Most stayed only one night having pre arranged with their agent for the boat to be measured, officials to be brought to the boat, provisions, fuel and water delivered. During these times Captain Heebie, Kar Kar and Sayeed were very busy. The few boats that stayed for several days were side tied to us or tied to the on space across from us that at times was empty. By the time we reached Port Suez we were starved for the camaraderie of other cruisers. My journal entry for June3, 2020 reads: "Probably the most fun we have had in months. Twelve people who haven't been on land in 2-3 months--total isolation and the bonus is kids.” Captain Heebie provided dinner for all of us, a very special evening."
PHOTO, ERIC AND CAPTAIN HEEBIE
23 August 2020
The time finally came for us to arrange our transit of the Suez Canal. Turkey was opening ports and, after contacting several marinas, we decided to follow our friends on SV Joana to Alanya Marina in Alanya Turkey. We originally booked one month, extended to two months and, due to the ever changing Covid Regulations, Schengen policies and weather patterns, we extended our marina contract to the end of February. We are now working with an agent to extend our 90 day tourist visa to a one year visitors visa.
We are very comfortable in the marina. We are, along with SV Joana, the only live aboard vessels here. There are many, many boats, large and small, charter and private, along with three "tourist pirate ships" and all are, as near as we can tell, day use only. One of the things that sold us on the marina was the cost of berthing. Here the price for Catamarans is based solely on LOA (length over all), unlike many marinas where cats pay one and a half or double the monohull rates. We were also given a berthing discount and able to take advantage of free WiFi, free laundry and free showers.
WHERE HAVE WE BEEN THE LAST FOUR MONTHS?
30 May 2020 | RED SEA PASSAGE
Wouldn't you think that living on a boat would allow for long periods of time with nothing to do? Often no one to talk to but Eric, minimal cleaning, simple cooking, no TV, I could go on and on. Why then am I four months behind in our blog? Now, I could make lots of excuses but when it gets right down to it---procrastination! Take procrastination combine it with months of Covid-19 isolation and the answer is simply----no excuse,simply haven't done it. So this post is going to be a "catch up" post and maybe at some point in time I will back track with more details.
I last left off in January as we were finalizing the boat and ourselves for our passage from Krabi, Thailand to Kochin, India. Our new Lithium Ion house batteries had been installed, our fridge and freezer were working, our friend Craig was on board, we had a new screecher (light wind sail) and a new 2200 Honda Generator.
We left Krabi Boat Lagoon at 1100 on Saturday January 25. After motoring and hand steering through the channel leading to open ocean we discovered that our Auto Pilot was not working. By 1700 we were on our way to Phuket Boat Lagoon for an emergency stop.
Tuesday found us on our way again, India bound.
Our passage was the usual boat projects for Eric, cooking, journaling and reading for me, playing the guitar, reading Moby Dick, cooking and teaching me a card game for Craig. At one point we were approached by a fishing boat with several young men all waving and yelling. Were they in trouble? Pirates? No, once they were close enough for us to hear them shout we realized they were just a bunch of young men who were probably being paid to watch fishing nets, were really bored, saw us and decided to have some fun. They asked for cigarettes and beer---we had neither. They motored off. The Indian Coast Guard started hailing us on the VHF radio a couple of days before we entered Indian waters. Each time they called they asked for the same information: What was our Call Sign, where was our last Port, how many people on board and their nationalities, where were we going? We were very careful once 12 miles from shore to turn our Iridium Satellite system off as we had read that it was illegal to have one active within this 12nm boundary.
On February 10, 12 days and 22 hours after leaving Thailand we anchored near the Malabar Hotel in what we were told by Port Control was the quarantine anchorage. Clearing into India was not difficult but took several days. This was due, in part, to Covid-19 and all of the new procedures that were being implemented. The officials were confused as to what should be done when and by whom. We were quarantined for 48 hours but were visited by customs during this time which annoyed the doctor because he had not yet released us from quarantine. Little did we know at this time that this would be just the tip of the iceberg for "Covid-19 Quarantine".
February 26 brought a crew change. We said "goodbye" to Craig Gray and "welcome" to Elena Horton and Saul Avery. Elena and Saul planned to be with us as long as possible before returning to the UK by the beginning of May. We left the dock at Kochin International Marina around noon on February 27 and began what was to be the longest, most uncertain passage we had ever done. We have been since leaving India 87 days without being allowed on land. And now at Port Suez we have been 39 days on the boat with the ability to jump off the boat onto a floating dock where we can take 50 steps to a locked gate and then back again to the boat.
Now to back up a bit and fill it n the gaps.
Our first scheduled stop was to be Djibouti where we planned on using an ATM adding to our stock of US dollars, refueling, provisioning and taking on water. Didn't happen. On March 12, we instead took on fuel, provisions and water in Socotra but no dollars because the only US dollar ATM that we were aware of was in Djibouti. This was a huge problem because we knew that as we traveled north, US dollars would be the preferred currency, especially in the area of the Suez Canal. (Tho a credit card could be used to pay for canal transit).
Grim news of the increase of Corona Virus was available from family and friends via our Iridium Go satellite system. Continuing from Socotra we knew that we would again need more fuel, water and supplies but as we traveled north each port that we had identified as a resupply port was closing. Countries were not allowing boats to clear in. Our two daughters were able to notify the US Coast Guard and the US CoastGuard, in turn, arranged for a resupply mission at sea by the HMS AL-RIYADH, a Saudi Arabian warship which was about 60 miles from us. Our next resupply stop was a mooring a few miles off Port Sudan. We were able to arrange for an agent to bring us supplies. From Port Sudan we followed the coast north to Egyptian waters and anchored at Marsa Imbarak, near Port Ghalib, Egypt. We stayed at anchor for a weeks rest and then did another resupply at the quarantine dock at Port Ghalib, again not being allowed off the boat. Our next stop was Port Suez where, with the help of Captain Heebie, our agent, arrangements were being made for Elena and Saul to disembark Pied-a-Mer and fly to London. Early on the morning of April 29 they were taken to shore, a car and driver were waiting to take them to Cairo where they would board a plane for the first leg of their trip home. They had been on the boat since February 27 and were ready to, set foot on land.
We have chosen to wait to transit the Suez Canal until more countries in the Mediterranean open their ports. So, we will stay here in Port Suez as we are tired of moving and our agent, Captain Heebie, Prince Of The Red Sea Company, is so knowledgeable and helpful.
Really, the only down side of our "isolation/quarantine" here in Egypt is that we are so close to Pyramids and Sphinxes but we cannot leave the boat/dock! So close yet so far😰.
I have, however kept up with photos. My project today will be to get some text with some of them. Check out our photo gallery.
TAKING A LOT LONGER
18 January 2020
Eric Sellix | Warm with balmy breezes.
Here it is January 19 (in Thailand) and we still don't have functioning batteries. Sombat, our English speaking technician, has been on the boat for days in a row but software issues seem to be a problem. Until we have the batteries functioning and all other systems good, we can't go. Now, our visas expire January 24. We can, by going to immigration, extend them. I guess the good news is that for the 20th and maybe a few days beyond, Predict Wind shows 65% motoring. We'll just have to wait and see.
Craig Gray has arrived and will be with us until we reach India. We are looking forward to this passage with Craig aboard.
HAPPY NEW YEAR—-BACK ON THE BOAT
15 January 2020
Our seven weeks with kids, grandkids and friends went by very quickly. We spent Thanksgiving in the Seattle area with both of our daughters and their families. This was the first time in many years that we had all been together under one roof and, believe it or not, we did not take a single photo of all of us. I am certainly failing in the "grandma category".
We returned to Thailand on December 24 with much concern over the weight and dimensions of our baggage. We knew we were each allowed 2 checked bags per person on our Delta flight plus one carry on and a purse or computer bag. The concern dealt with what we were bringing, the weight and dimensions. One of our checked items was a Honda 2200 Generator which we had left it in its original box, wrapped it in clear wrap, the weight was really borderline 50 lbs., the other questionable piece was a new antennae which far exceeded the length allowed for a carry on-----we couldn't check the antennae through as checked baggage. And, even if Delta allowed us to bring these would Air Asia give us a problem, even though we had prepaid for the baggage. Worry, worry, worry! All went well, no problems whatsoever.
Returning to the boat, we did find problems. We had hired a fellow to check the boat a couple of times a week and start the engines, all was good there. However, our house batteries, which we thought we could wait and replace once in the Med, were at the end of their life. We needed to replace the batteries before leaving for India. Also our freezer had gone out, it must have happened relatively soon after we left because the smell was awful. We lost quite a bit of food but food can be replaced much more easily than boat parts!
The good news was our new screecher made by Tasker Sails in Phuket was ready for delivery.
Today, three weeks after arriving back at KBL, our new lithium Phosphate batteries are being installed. Once the batteries are up and running the new controller will be installed for the freezer then we should be pretty much ready to roll. We'll need a few days with the batteries, a sea trial for the sail, checking out the water maker and hopefully be able to leave the beginning of next week.