Out in the Gulf


map 14 Red Sea
Map 14 – Gulf of Suez and Red Sea

Sat 21 Nov 09

Late start today. Three more boats taking off for Wadi Dome to pick up their sailing permits. Roam II has returned after setting out yesterday. They’d had some engine overheating problems and hadn’t had much success yesterday tracking down the fault.

0930hrs: Andy cooks some breakfast of bubble and squeak and rissoles and two eggs each. He forgets the toast.

Roger and I catch a taxi into town for £5. Maurice tags along. Have a successful day shopping and benefit from the experience of trying to send something through the Egyptian postal service.

166 port suez 167 unreal god
street in Port Suez “unreal” gold for sale

First we spend about an hour just looking for a post office. Then they don’t appear to sell any packing envelopes in which I can post a CD with photos so we spend the next hour wandering around shops looking for an envelope. Finally find out by asking someone that the postal service actually does provide envelope and CD covers.

 168 Christian Coptic church 169 minaret
Christian Coptic church Minaret

Locate another post office and spend another hour lining up, buying an envelope complete with some bubble wrap, and then waiting while they try to find Australia in their list of countries to send things to. I am concerned it will take several weeks going by ship so must look a bit of a goose in front of the assembled crowd standing there with arms extended making out like an aeroplane. I am politely assured in some kind of strangled English that it will go by air express. It costs £18 so I can only hope that if it does go by ship it’ll get back home before I do.

Walk around the streets trying to dodge the water filled potholes and suffering the few thousand flies that swirl around the legs at choice feeding places, which are plentiful. This place is really, really bad. It’s literally filthy with rubbish and discarded food scraps. The Egyptians absolutely have no idea of basic tidiness let alone cleanliness. Streets and footpaths are littered with rocky rubble. It’s totally necessary to watch where you are walking that you don’t step in something, or worse, twist an ankle. Rubbish mounds in the street can reach up to a metre or more high complete with flies, stench and even in one pile the unwholesome sight of maggots.

 170 Port Suez street  171 marketplace
Port Suez street  with mixed pedestrians, cars and puddles marketplace view – a cleaner area
 172 bullock head and carcass 173 war damage
bullock’s head and carcass parts for sale – no refrigeration and fresh fly-vomit sauce building damage from Yom Kippur war Egypt-Isreal 1973

All this can exist in the same areas where food is being sold. People are dressing beef carcasses in the street with heads of deceased bullocks hanging on a wall looking out on the passing parade of humanity. In other places beef is being butchered with largish puddles of blood in the street. It’s somewhat strange to see well dressed men, women and children walking around unconcernedly in this environment as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Find a small grocery shop where we get a few more items and a dozen cans of soft drink. Catch a taxi and glad to get out of the city. Pay the driver £5. The wind has picked up. Blowing probably 15 -20 kts from the North.

Evening: Several yachties go out for a big fish dinner somewhere for £200. I’m not a big fish lover so don’t go. Wind dies down as usual after sunset.

2100hrs: Andy and Roger return. They’re not particularly impressed by the restaurant venue or the meal.

2200hrs: An Egyptian style pipe and drum show starts up accompanied with female trilling in the breaks. Don’t know what’s going on next door. Sort of reminds me of Turkish or Arab type of music just before Bedouins attack.

Sun 22 Nov 09

0730hrs: Andy is over on Roam II helping to fix their motor problem. It’s traced to a broken impeller, parts of which have lodged inside the oil cooler. Is not going to be an easy repair pulling it all apart.

The Gulf of Suez

0800hrs: Lines in. Mr KarKar releases our bowline from its buoy. Motor out with Esper and O Khayyam – a French yacht.

174 leaving Pt suez  175 sv esper
departing Port Suez and into Suez Gulf SV. Esper

The Red Sea bisects into two separate branches at its northern end; the Gulf of Suez to the left of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gulf of Aquaba on the eastern side.   The Red Sea started forming about 30 million years ago at the same time as the Rift Valley in Eastern Africa was being created. The sea is still widening with some minor volcanic activity on the sea bed in the deeper places. It’s roughly 2,230km long and about 300km at its widest part with an average depth of 500m. More than 1100 species of fish have been recorded. There is about 2,000km of coral reef extending along its coastline which are up to 7,000 years old. There are several theories about why it’s called the Red Sea.

176 west coastLeft: west coast of the Gulf of Suez

0910hrs: Headsail up. About 6 miles out. No speed being indicated. Andy checks the log impeller to find it gummed up. Gives it a scrub and all set to go again. Drop the motor to neutral to test for sailing. Wind too fickle so continue motoring. Toasted tomato sandwiches all round.

1030hrs: Heading slightly west of south, O Khayam a few miles closer inshore, Esper trailing a couple of miles behind. Plenty of whitecaps about. Cloudless day about 20 deg. Roughly 18 miles to go. Ship traffic now more separated. Some fishing trawlers moving about and crossing our path either in front or behind. Put two fishing lures out astern, one a skirted lure and the other a glittering spoon. Slight seas. Wind from astern.

 177 landfall  178 resorts
Right: Landfall – Wadi Dome in the Gulf of Suez ahead. New resort buildings at Wadi Dome.

1230hrs: Radio crackles to life. Moody Time at Wadi Dome can see a sail and wants to know if it’s Esper. Listen in. There’s some talk about the “the old hands” on Jenzminc.

1325hrs: The Old Hands tie up at a berth alongside Moody Time in the Wadi Dome Marina. Distance covered 30 miles. Shore power run. A man comes down to check our passports. Andy gathers ships papers to go and get our sailing permit and pay for our berthing tonight. No Wi-Fi network picked up. Expect Esper and O Khayam to be about another half hour. Can see their sails out on the horizon over the sea wall looking north.

Wadi Dome

Rather large marina with duckboard pontoons give access via rusted little bridges to a concrete roadway above on an adjacent sea wall. The pontoons tend to wobble from side to side as you walk on them making access to terra firma a somewhat delicate matter. The sea wall itself protects us against the predominant northerly winds and seas and although the wind moans through the rigging all night the boats are perfectly calm sitting inside the marina.

 179 sv esper  180 berths
 181 boats together Top Left: SV Esper pulling in. 

Top Right:Wobbly floats that pass for marina finger berths.


Left: From left, SV Jenzminc, SV Moody Time, SV Esper.

Lots of development going on. Many new shops most of which are not completed yet, restaurants, and a huge hotel/resort complex consisting of three buildings connected together. Heavy earthworks are terracing the hills above the coastal strip. Tall mountains behind and above them.

 182 marina  183 new construction
marina view from berth new resorts being constructed – believed to be Russian developers

Colin and Patricia from Moody Time berthed here yesterday. Tell us they’ve had to wait for the Harbour Master who hasn’t shown up for work so they can’t get their permit. They were talking to a fellow who just happened to be the Marina owner. When told that only three yachts were coming in at a time, and that the Harbour Master was taking a little holiday he wasn’t a happy man. He immediately got onto his mobile phone and talked rapidly and quite heatedly to someone at the other end, no doubt blistering the listener’s ears. He then said everything would be ready shortly.

Afternoon: Jamie from Esper and Andy go around to the Harbour Masters Office. Sure enough the Harbour Master is in attendance and issues the required paperwork in about 15 minutes. The Harbour Master is ever so nice. The wind picks up even more, ululating loudly through the rigging of the tied up yachts and sending spray crashing over the roadway above.

The other yachts eventually arrive and tie up to a berth. Whilst chatting we toss a little friendly dig at Liz on Esper about her “old hands” comment, although it must be said we hadn’t been offended in the least. Liz assures us it was meant in the best possible way, I assume in the vein of old salts rather than old decrepits.

Late Afternoon: Go for a walk through Wadi Dome. There’s a huge resort/hotel complex consisting of three attached buildings, each one containing several hundreds of rooms and apartments. Very few lights show once it gets dark. Most of the shops are not leased out or even finished yet with windows still painted with a white coating.

Long row of large spas stacked along the front of the hotel waiting to be lifted into place somewhere high up above. Beautiful inside the resort building itself. A waterfall and small canal works its way along the front of shops inside with little bridges over it at convenient points. The supermarket is well stocked. Banks are still open though it’s now dark at 5 pm. Bushes and trees outside line the road festooned with timed flashing fairy lights.

Elsewhere there is new construction going on. A huge steel frame of a bridge module is being assembled along the front of the hotel. Can’t see where it will eventually go though. Lovely restaurants and coffee house, and a colourful stall sits on the wide vegetated pathway selling little balls of fried sweets that smell and look absolutely yummy. Unfortunately the promise of this place is once again jarred by the already accumulating rubbish and rubble out in the street.

184 new resort 185 wadi dome
newly finished resort with a somewhat pretentious arch under construction at left “downtown” Wadi Dome with large shopping centre at left
 186 canal inside 187 marina restaurant
a canal inside the resort building marina restaurant

To the Australian eye it’s hard to understand what the attraction of this place is for tourists. No beaches – just rock. Water is crystal clear though so maybe it’s the diving. Notice there are lots of good sized pleasure yachts in the marina with several crew appearing to be living on board. We tend to get treated all the while to their indecipherable warbling music whether we want it or not.

Roger makes the point that it’s not really that far from a cold and wet wintery Europe and many Europeans probably only get a couple of weeks holiday a year. I suppose a place in the sun that’s quick to get to and relatively cheap would probably look pretty good to them.

Evening: Roger cooks saveloys, fried eggs, mash and tomatoes for dinner. No toilet or shower facilities so have to use Jenzmincs holding tank for the first time. Early to bed.



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