Monday, June 28, 2010


Passage to Egypt, June 21-22

The sailing trip to Egypt goes through a hazardous stretch of water, filling with oil rigs, fishing boats, and passes through the busy entrance to the Suez Canal. After the docking challenge at Ashkelon, we pondered whether it’s worth the trouble for the 120 miles sail to Egypt, for a 3 day visit. In the end we were invited onto another boat for the trip. We were very glad that we took that approach. The sail to Port Said, Egypt, started with beautiful sailing conditions, 10-15 knots of wind on the beam under a sunny sky and flat sea. Of the 70 yachts originally with EMYR, many had decided not to continue onto Egypt, so there were only 38 yachts on this trip. The nice sail ended at about 4:30AM, on our watch, when we spotted a large, brightly lit vessel. From a distance one couldn’t tell what it was, or which way it was heading. It turned out to be an oil rig, the one we didn’t know about that we were supposed to take a wide berth to avoid. Soon after we passed the rig, we saw a large floating object, something that looked like an oil drum, or buoy. It barely missed our boat. That was soon followed by another one, barely a boat length away. Afterwards we learned that one of the EMYR boats did hit the oil drum and suffered damage at the bow. Soon after we passed these hazards, we were faced with a long string of fishing boats, some with lights, some without. There was one that appeared so close that we had to make a sharp turn to avoid it, and in the process put the boat on the opposite tack, with the genoa flapping madly. At the exact moment, the wind picked up sharply, and jumped from 10 knots to well over 20 knots. The commotion woke up everyone and all hands were on deck to help put the boat under control and also to keep look outs for fishing boats. At one point we counted hundreds of them on the radar. Wind continued to increase and was gusting at 30 knots.

The possession into Port Said, the terminus to Suez Canal, was pre-arranged with Canal officials. EMYR yachts were required to form a circle at an agreed time of 5:30AM, commercial traffic into Suez was temporarily halted, and all 38 yachts were to file into the Canal entrance, spaced 50 meter apart. That was the plan. Due to various delays, all the yachts had to wait outside the harbour for several hours, some anchored, some just circling slowly, on a choppy sea. Fortunately it all worked out in the end and by 10AM we were safely tied to the dock in Arsenal Basin, a secure area normally used for clearly commercial vessels.

Cairo, June 23-24

We took a bus tour inland and travelled to Cairo to visit the famous sites in Egypt. The day started with three tour buses moving in a convoy with armed guards in a leading vehicle as well as in each bus. After a while we became used to the security arrangement. There has not been any terrorist attack in Egypt for years, so all this is just a precaution. We spent the morning at Cairo Museum. The display of King Tut is truly impressive in terms of the amount and quality of artifacts found. The technology and craftsmanship was quite an eye opener, given all this is dating back 3,000 years. In the afternoon we visited the Citadel of Saladin and several other sites, but in the 40C heat it’s hard to take interest in anything much except for staying in the shade and having a cold drink!

The day was ended with an enjoyable river cruising trip on the Nile, on traditional Egyptian sail boats that actually sailed very well in the light breeze and against strong river current. This was the famous Nile River, the longest river in the world, at one point the cradle of civilization. On the river banks were stately hotels and parks, including the hotel that Napoleon stayed and used as his headquarters. For the night’s stay, we were taken to a nice hotel near the Giza pyramids. Located just a short drive from Cairo, the Giza Pyramids were built on a high plateau overlooking the Sinai desert. As the bus went through the non-descript Cairo suburb apartments, the pyramid suddenly appear in the distance, emerging from the afternoon haze and standing tall above all the apartment complexes. Eloquent in its simplicity and mages tic in its size, the pyramid is probably best viewed from a distance. Nevertheless the next morning we took the tour to visit the grounds, and paid a healthy ransom for the obligatory camel ride and pictures. But this is once in a life time opportunity, and we were happy to have those pictures for keepsake, as we never buy souvenirs.

Final Passage back to Israel June 26- 27
On a sunny, boisterous morning the EMYR yachts filed out the Arsenal Marina harbour, through the busy canal entrance, and retraced our steps North to Israel, this time to a different harbour, at Herzliya. With a 15 kt NW wind, our friend’s Beneteau sailed well at 8 kts and was soon ahead of the pack. This time, being in board daylight, unlike our incoming passage, we had no problems with fishing boats and other obstacles. It was a beautiful sail, steady wind, relatively flat sea. Following a gorgeous sunset, the wind continued well into the night under a full moon, and the sky and sea were lit up also like daylight.

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