July 2003
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Week ending 5 July (Bob)

Our trip up the Gulf of Suez - We had been tracking the weather and Wednesday looked like a good time to motor north with Long Passages.  So we provisioned, tied down all the loose stuff, checked out of Hurghada and at 0700 untied and headed North, determined to go straight through to Suez.  It went like this:

  • Weds 0700 to 1200 - Motored in flat seas through reefs and oil wells.
  • Weds 1200 to 1700 - Slowed as we passed through choppy water south of El Tor, similar to trip on Knot Yet
  • Egypt Oil Well in Gulf of Suez.jpg (15743 bytes)Weds 1700 to Thurs 0130 - Good progress as we passed oil wells and bright gas flares
  • Thurs 0130 to 1400 - Slowed to 2.5 to 3.5 knots as we went through steep, choppy seas that seemed to be out of proportion to the 10-16 knot winds, probably caused by wind against current.
  • Thurs 1400 to 2130 - Good progress again as the wind and chop eased and we pulled into the Suez Yacht Club marina after sunset, glad to be here and glad we had made our 'dress rehearsal'

The Suez canal Transit starts - Egypt LPG ship in Suez Canal.jpg (6887 bytes)Well not really - we were supposed to leave on Saturday morning, but a call from the agent at 0800 informed us that 'the military' was transiting the canal today so our transit would be delayed until Sunday - Oh well, we'll find an Internet cafe and have lunch at the Army club across the street. Meanwhile we lie moored, at the edge of the Canal, watching the daily convoys of ships from around the world carrying all manner of goods through this safe passage between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.

 Week ending 12 July (Bob)

Suez Canal Transit - On Sunday the pilots finally arrived and we set out with Herodotus and Tara III to transit this famous waterway.

  • Lead-up - Thursday to Saturday - Upon arrival, we called Felix Maritime, our selected agent who met us as we approached the Suez Canal Yacht Club and greeted us and started the process.  

    • It Starts - Karem was the agent's rep in Suez and we filled in forms to start the process.  We told Karem we insisted on a detailed invoice and a certificate showing our Suez Canal tonnage.  He said 'no problem', but we didn't need the certificate, they kept all of the information on file.

    • Measure us - The Canal Authority sent their team to measure us and check our safety equipment (fire extinguishers, adequate engine power, anchoring systems, etc.)  The measurer was straight-forward, but the inspector bugged us for 'presents', caps, T-shirts, etc. - he got nothing.

    • Delay and Bill us - We were scheduled to transit to Ismailia on Saturday, but in the morning the agent came out and said a military convoy was transiting and we would have to wait a day.  We called the Felix main office who confirmed the delay and reason.  The agent brought our invoice, and as they had done to Knot Yet II, they did not include the tonnage and when we asked for it, it was 10% higher than we thought it should have been.  Tara III's had been significantly higher, and they had delayed their transit a day to appeal.  We caved and paid the invoice, but remain convinced that the agent inflated the value so that they could skim a percentage of the fee before paying the Canal.

    • Honesty? - Overall we felt that the agent acting in Suez was less than honest in his dealings with us and all the other yachts.

  • Day 1 - Sunday - Mohamed Egypt pilot Mohamed from Suez to Ismailia.jpg (26234 bytes) was our pilot and we got a comfortable start at 1000.  All went well until 1400 when we were notified that a ship had an engine failure and was aground about 14 miles ahead of us.  The 3 of us, and a few barges, pulled over to a Signal Station to wait - and an hour later we got the all clear.  The the only problem was that Tara III's pilot had decided to take a nap, and since they were rafted to us, we couldn't leave until the sleepy pilot had been roused and convinced to continue.  The pilot spoke very good English, and we really enjoyed our conversations with him.  We dragged into the Yacht Club at Ismailia as dark settled in, well after sunset.

  • Day 2 - Monday - Lay day to get fuel and provisions and enjoy one of the friendliest towns we have visited in Egypt.

  • Day 3 - Tuesday - Another lay day, this time imposed by the Canal Authority because A) A military convoy was coming through, B) A supertanker was coming through, C) Who knows??

  • Day 4 - Wednesday - We are awakened early (0545) as our 3 pilots (another Mohamed for us) were eager to get through the swing bridge while it was open for the south-bound morning convoy.  This made for a quick day, and by 1330 we were tied up at the miserable facilities of the Port Said Yacht Club.  We were greeted by an agent rep who handled getting us checked out through Immigration, delivered a couple of presents of their own, plus a bouquet of roses and wishes for a safe journey.

  • Overall

    • Pilots - Our pilots were competent, and although each asked for their 'present', they did not make a big deal of it.  Some want to steer, others don't.  Both of ours did and handled the boat well.

    • Delays - The delays may have been based on real reasons or not, we're not sure. 

    • Agent - The agent handled all issues well, even when we asked for a delay and then quick check-out.  

    • $$ - We still believe we were overcharged, but not enough to make it worthwhile to hang around for a few days to investigate it completely.  

    • Safety - The canal is safe and easier to transit than the Panama Canal, but did not seem to be run as professionally as Panama when we transited in 1994.  

    • We were glad for the experience.

Passage to Turkey - We had filled up with Turkey mountains behind Antalya marina.jpg (23990 bytes)diesel fuel in Ismailia at $0.08/liter ($0.30/gallon for US readers) and proceeded to burn off a lot of it on the way to Turkey.  Winds were either on the nose so we motor-sailed, or light so we motored.  So, 72 hours of droning later we approached the beautiful mountains that rise straight from the sea behind the marina at Antalya, our home-to-be for the next 10 months. The 'Joker Boat' (marina runabout) took our lines, helped us tie up, and we were enjoying coffee before the crews on Pegasus or Quest (friends from Singapore and Langkawi respectively) made their morning appearance.

Memories of Egypt - Almost always, we have left countries with fond memories and a desire to return and see things we did not have a chance to visit our first time around.  Egypt has proven to be an exception, like most cruisers before us, we were glad to leave the country.  Despite the fascinating archeology, the constant feeling of being targeted, the dishonesty of many of the people we met, the filth in the streets, and the corruption of the officials was enough to put us off returning anytime soon.  An acquaintance upon arriving in Turkey exclaimed: "The best thing about Turkey is no Egyptians".  A sad commentary on a people that used to have one of the leading civilizations in the world.  They will have to work on that if they want many return visitors to their country.

Week ending 19 July (Bob)

Discovering Antalya - With a week of Turkey, and in particular Antalya, under our belts we think we are going to like it here! Antalya is big, 600,000 people or so with most of modern amenities we like: fully stocked supermarkets, Home Depot-like hardware stores, chandleries, cinemas, and lots of shopping.  Some observations to date: 

  • The Marina - We have settled into Setur Antalya Marina, a well-equipped facility about 10 km from the middle of town.  It has well-maintained docks and ablution blocks (toilets and showers for USA readers), travelifts, storage lockers, and a friendly staff that helps with everything from get us checked into the country to making medical appointments.  We'll report more as we discover more.

  • Transportation - Buses run into the city very 15 minutes during the day, but one must use taxis or rental cars to travel at night.

  • Money - At 1,400,000 lira to the US dollar, we have become instant multi-millionaires - but things often are expensive.  The marina is reasonable at <$US200/month, a Coke is $1 at McDonald's (yes they have those too), and a doctor's appointment to repair sun damage to the skin cost only $8.  Tourist restaurants set us back $10/person, a beer is $2.50, and car rental has been $40/day (we were spoiled by $7/day in Thailand and Malaysia).

Beautification - The first order of business has become to purge the boat of 6 months of salt and dust, so Judi has spent many hours washing decks (no grit at last), polishing stainless steel (it GLEAMS!), and washing the hull 3 times so that it looks just like it did when Pro Yachting finished with it back in Phuket.  The interior has been restored to dock-side beauty with floors shining and cruising gear put away.  We rented a storage locker and have hidden jerry cans, the dinghy, and other stuff that normally adorns the decks.

Flash-back to Egypt - From the pages of Agatha Christie' s 'Death on the Nile', written circa 1937:  

"They came from the shade of the gardens on to a dusty stretch of road, five bead-sellers, 2 vendors of postcards, 3 sellers of plaster scarabs, a couple of donkey boys, and some detached but hopeful infantile riff-raff closed in upon them.

'You want beads sir? very good, sir, very cheap...'
'Lady you want scarab? Look - great queen - very lucky...'
'You look sir - real lapis. Very good, very cheap...'
'You want ride donkey sir? This very good donkey.  This donkey
Whiskey and Soda, sir...'
'You want to go to granite quarries, sir? This very good donkey.  Other donkey very bad sir,, that donkey fall down'.
'You want postcard - very cheap - very nice - ...'
'Look lady... only 10 piasters - very cheap - lapis - this ivory...'
'This very good fly whisk - this all amber...'
'You go out in boat, sir? I got good boat, sir...'
'You go back to hotel, Lady?  This first class donkey ...'

Hercule Poirot made vague gestures to rid himself of this human cluster of flies.."

It seems that the Egyptians are not going to change anytime soon.

Week ending 26 July (Bob)

Settling In - After 2 weeks in Turkey, we are almost feeling settled in.  We know how to tend to laundry, groceries, restaurants and cinemas. We have located chandleries, hardware stores, stationary supplies, and most of the essentials that a city of 600,000 people provides.  Some of our other trips while we explore Antalya:

  • Restaurant with a water theme - We had dinner with friends at a delightful restaurant, built on a fresh water spring where cool water flows over your feet, on into pools by your table, or through aquariums with tasty trout.  We had lots of fresh veggies, fresh trout from the aquariums as we lay around on pillows feeling totally decadent.

  • Aspendos - The Turkey Caucasian dancers.jpg (28278 bytes)Romans Turkey Cossack dancers.jpg (28095 bytes)built many open-air theaters, and one of them survives 40 km east of Antalya.  We were fortunate to be able to attend a Caucasian Dance and Music show.  The venue was awesome as we sat on 2000-year old seats, under a cloudless canopy of stars, imagining Roman orators or perhaps more gruesome events that may have taken place below us.  Nothing gruesome that night as dancers whirled in well-coordinated moves.  The singing sounded like exotic humming, producing amazing tones unlike any that we have ever heard before.  We did not get home until 1:30 AM, tired but happy.

  • Drinks on a mountain peak - Turkey Setur Antalya marina from mountain.jpg (19954 bytes)Overlooking the marina is a hotel-restaurant with an outstanding view of the Med and our marina.  Friends from Pegasus joined us on a steep ride to the top, and sundowners with a million-dollar view. From the balcony, we could watch the sunset, see the Antalya skyline come to life as our marina slipped into darkness.

Impressions of Turkey - We are still in learning mode, but that doesn't stop us from having a few opinions about:

  • Driving - Driving is on the right and reputed to be dangerous and aggressive, we have found it to be quite manageable.  A disconcerting feature are the round-abouts that also have traffic lights, thus you may need to stop several times on the circle if you are making a left or 'U' turn.  Highways and roads are in good repair, well marked with lots of lights.  We'll see how the countryside is.

  • Infrastructure - Electricity seems to be dependable, water is plentiful (although not directly potable), police patrol the streets and highways, the cities and countryside are clean, and we feel we are in a (nearly) 1st world country.

  • Shopping malls - Near the marina is a large new shopping center, as modern as any we have ever seen.  The mix of stores is a little different though: lots of mobile-phone dealers, shoe stores, clothing stores (including Beneton, Lacoste, etc.), but NO bookstores, news agencies, or pharmacies.  

  • Fresh food - We will probably tire of talking about this, but at this time of year one can find all manner of fresh fruits and vegetables, a real treat considering where we have been for the last 7 months.  Even Malaysia and Thailand did not have the selection available here.  Street markets are set up each week where you can buy directly from the farmers - we bought a pound of sweet black cherries that disappeared by the end of the day.

  • Medical Care - Bob tried out the local hospital to treat some sun-damage to his skin, and came back with a mixed review - they wanted payment up-front (like Egypt) but in the end it was quite cheap ($8 for removal of skin lesions that would have cost $300+ in the US).  The doctor seemed capable, but English was a struggle so we would not want to try to fix complicated problems here.

 

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