2 June 2008
Did You Know:
- The Red Sea is the only enclosed coral sea in the world.
- The Red Sea is the saltiest living sea in the world with 41 parts of salt per 1000 parts water.
- The Red Sea is the warmest sea in the world.
- There are over 1000 fish species living in the Red Sea which means that there are more fish species living in the Red Sea than in any other body of water the same size.
- The Red Sea grows wider by approximately half an inch each year.
Just seventeen miles once we left Hurgada we were getting bashed by short high seas and it is bad enough for us to decide to turn into Endeavor Harbour on Tawila Island and wait for better weather. The grib files had us to believe that we might be holding up for a week or so, not that we put much trust in the wind predictions provided by the grib files but you can interpret the pressure gradients for some idea as to if the wind will be up or down. If you have access to the internet. Wind Guru provides wind forecast for wind sports enthusiast but it doesn't prove to be very reliable either. So we wait.
The desolate anchorage has good protection from every direction and one deteriorated dock footing. Just the other day a modified sports fisherman pulled in, tied up to the pilings, and dispatched five or so highly skilled kite boarders. The enclosed lagoon offers flat water and the winds are constantly around twenty to thirty knots.
The kiters enjoyed speeding toward Shiraz and lifting themselves into the air thirty feet or so and landing as close to the boat as possible. Rene was camera ready and after the kiter would land he would give a thumbs up enjoying the attention he was getting. On the afternoon of the second day, we noticed one of the kiters stranded on the far rim of the lagoon where he made his way to shore and folded up his kite and walked to a far point of land waving at a mega yacht anchored a half a mile off. The other kite boarders enjoyed the day but as dusk engulfed the little harbor they started to hail our friends on My Chance signaling that their friend needed to be picked up off the far side of the lagoon. Alim lowered his dinghy and together we made our way to the reef strewn shore to see if we could somehow find a way in and pick up the kiter. Alim was well prepared with a fifty foot float line to fish the young man off the beach without endangering the dinghy. We couldn't find a way inside the reef and the young man stayed at the point waving at the mega yacht rather than walking back towards us.
Heading back to the sports fisherman boat we found ten people on board and since the sun was setting they were having "sun downers", while their friend was on a deserted peninsula surrounded by reef. Earlier that day they had paddled over to My Chance in a small inflatable toy to "borrow" salt and cooking oil which they had forgotten or run short of. The people on board had just
sent a small party to walk around the lagoon to meet their friend. They had no flashlights on board and were not even taking the stranded kiter shoes or clothes. By now the sun had set and the winds were picking up, Alim and I knew that hypothermia was a possibility. They quickly abandoned the walk when Alim and I volunteered to take one of their party to the opposite end of the lagoon where we could make a beach landing and from that point try and recover the stranded kiter. We insisted that they carry clothes and shoes for the individual and we supplied the flash lights. As we made our way to the beach which was at least 30 or 40 minutes by dinghy the stars came out and the wind picked up even more. We were down wind for now but knew the return trip would be into the waves and we would be soaking wet. After landing the guide departed and he said he would return in 15 minutes which we knew was impossible. After waiting an hour the guide returned without the kiter or his equipment. We headed back to the boat slowly and were shaking and shivering as we approached Shiraz where I spotted two people on board. Now what? Well, as night fell the kiter decided that he was thirsty and did not want to spend the night on the island so he made the decision to leave his kite on the island and swim back to his boat. First he had to get through the coral and then swim against a thirty knot wind for about a half mile. Aboard Shiraz Rene saw something in the water and heard the cries of help. She released the dinghy on its long painter and the kiter grabbed hold. Exhausted he could not climb up the swim ladder without resting for a while and when he arrived on board he told Rene that he had prayed to God to save his life. He was unsure if he could make our boat as exhaustion had overcome him. Rene immediately provided a towel and a clean dry clothes as this young man was shivering so. She then fed him a Coke and some food, administered first aid to the cuts on his feet, and then admonished the owner or captain of his boat for imperiling his life by being so unprepared. We understand that kite boarders occassionally get stranded or the wind will pull them out to sea where someone needs to rescue them. So for the captain not to have a dinghy or any way to make this rescue was unthinkable. After she finished her rant on responsibility the twenty-three year old Belgium explained that he was part owner of the boat and had just started this business of teaching advanced kiters how to soar. So there you go "stupid is as stupid does". He later told Rene that this was the fifth time that he has had to be rescued.
Now lets go over the list. Ten people on board some twenty miles off shore with
- No radio
- No means to recover a stranded kiter, a common occurrence (no dinghy)
- No flashlights
- No first aid kit
- No common sense so we assume there were many other items missing on the boat
But plenty of alcohol. Okay, I was twenty-three once but there were a number of adults on the boat and children.
While I'm on this rant let me give you a quick list of other bone head sailor stories.
- While waiting weather at Dolphin Reef a French boat pulled into a nearby anchorage and asked if they had arrived at Port Ghalib. They were 150 miles south of Port Ghalib. They had to head back north since Port Ghalib is the last checkout point in southern Egypt. Winds were 25 to 30 out of the north and the seas were quite angry.
- Another boat pulled into the same anchorage and requested help lowering his anchor. He didn't know how to operate the windless. Surrounding yachtsmen came to the rescue in the bad weather thinking that he had a problem with his windless only to find out that they just had to show him how to push the down button. Seems he had just fired his crew.
- A yacht stranded in Hurgada waiting for a mechanic. Seems his shut down cable to the engine had broken and he needed someone to put on the replacement he already had. ?????????
- A vessel was towed into Hurgada with a clogged fuel filter.??????????
Most ever boat you meet has at least two competent yachtsmen on board. Typically man and wife. So I don't want to go overboard with these stories but they are rare gems for conversation over sun downers.
For now it looks like we have a few more days to sit and wait. But it is beautiful here.
Straights of Gabu (Straights of Suez)
There are about fifteen boats, probably the last of the season, making their way up the straights and everyday the talk is about weather. The winds blow thirty plus while we look for a lull that will allow us to motor at five knots plus. We wait for six days here and four days there and finally resign ourselves to the fact that we are too late in the season for a pattern to develop so we must beat our way one day at a time. We leave around midnight when the winds are only twenty knots and we can motor to an anchorage about twenty miles north before the winds pipe up to thirty knots. The problem of course is that with thirty knots of wind on your nose your boat speed goes down to 2.5 knots and it makes for a very long day. So we hop along the coast and have stopped listening to weather that only promises that things will improve in a few days. There is no sailing involved in this 180 mile stretch its all about motoring and size matters. Not the size of your motor but the size of your fuel tank.
Again we depart at midnight since the winds are down a bit. After a couple of hours out, the wind dies to under 10 knots and the Red Sea looks like a big lake, not like the tortuous body of water we have been experiencing. We make the Suez Yacht Club by 10AM. The club is owned and operated by the Canal Authority. We didn't have a chance to go ashore because the very next morning we were off into the the Canal and headed North.
The transit cost us a total of $350 which was very fair for a boat our size. The fee depends on the measurements of your boat. The internal cabin size and engine compartment size are part of the calculation but beyond that we know little about how the cost is derived. We are assigned a pilot for the six hour trip up the heavily militarized zone and all goes well. Many boats have stories about incapable pilots who drive them crazy with pleading for everything aboard and whining about the tip at the end and even those who are lecherous, but we had a good experience. The customary tip is now up to $20.00.
No history lesson here but a short comment that one of our guides gave us. Did you know that the Statue of Liberty was destined for placement at the mouth of the Suez Canal?
After arriving at Ismalia and checking into the yacht club we are off to Cairo with Sandpiper and My Chance. Again Alim has used his contacts to arrange the trip and we paid about $100 per person for a very nice mini-van and driver for three days, a full time guide for the six of us, two nights at a hotel overlooking the Pyramids, and admission fees for the museum and the pyramids.
After arriving in Cairo we went to the Egyptian Museum which houses the antiquities of the Pharaohs. The building itself is "long in the tooth" and the lighting is inadequate and the signage is sometimes just hand written but the treasures it holds are enormous. The tomb of Tutankhamun fills one wing and the gold shimmers despite the lighting. Now when you think that this is the only treasure found in tact and that all the other tombs had been robbed through the ages. Well again it boggles the mind. A new museum is being built near Giza and when it is completed in 2010 it will be the largest museum in the world.
The Pyramids of Giza are the only remaining structure of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Giza Plateau contain many many different structures some of which have yet to be excavated. As you walk around the base of one of the pyramids you start to adjust yourself to the size of the structure. You can hear about the 100,000 workers and the twenty years it took to build one but as you start to grasp the planning and persistence, the logistics of bringing two ton granite blocks (used for parts of the structure) from Aswan up the Nile, the engineering, feeding and housing the workers, the astronomic implications and it's everlasting impact on mankind, especially Egyptians working the $4 billion dollar tourists industry. Now there is a gift from the gods for the hotels, tour operators, gift shops and any jockey with a camel. People complain about the touts in the area but we didn't find it too bad. And hey if you are crazy enough to go to a bazaar to look at souvenirs and you get hassled well duh.
Next stop, The Sphinx. As the story goes, the engineers and architects of the pyramids found and unearth an enormous rock on site that was shaped like a lion. From here they utilized this foundation to build the Sphinx known as the Guardian of the Giza Plateau, where it has been guarding the pyramids now for over 5,000 years. Another pretty impressive piece of masonry. You see the foundation was used but the structure was covered by block to give it the distinctive shape and size we know today. That night we attended the sound and light show as the topper to our trip to Cairo.
Back in Ismalia we prepare the boat for the second part of the Suez transit and the sail to Turkey directly from the mouth of the canal.
For more pictures of our trip to see the pyramids just click on the slide show below.
If you're headed our way:
- It's important to choose an engine oil that you can find everywhere. We use Shell Rimula 15 W40 for diesel engines and have found it available everywhere so far.
- If you only learn one Egyptian word let it be "la shokran" which translates to "No Thank You". It works wonders in the bazaar.