April 6-11, 2007
Boredom is Blessed: Passage to Egypt
by Lois Joy
April 6: Underway from Suakin, Sudan. At 2250, a flattened pumpkin rises slowly off the starboard helm to the east, beaming a path toward Pacific Bliss. No matter how any times I view the rising moon, I am still mesmerized. Now that we are in the Northern Red Sea, it is cool enough for warm, comfort drinks. I fix a hot chocolate and take it to the starboard helm seat, already wet with dew this starry night. As the pumpkin moon turns white, the man-in-the-moon appears to greet me. He is flat-headed. “You need a top hat for warmth,” I mutter.
We couldn’t ask for better conditions, this first overnight out of Suakin, Sudan, motoring through calm seas all day and into the evening. We hope that this benign weather will continue. The forecast calls for light winds Saturday and Sunday, and then on Monday afternoon, they are expected to change back to the typical 20-25 knot northerlies. If our 5.5 knot pace continues, we will be safely in Port Ghalib, with an ETA of 1330 on Monday. Just in time.
We left the yacht harbor and the ancient ruins of Old Suakin shortly after sunrise. Leaving port on a Friday should be OK, defying superstition, we reasoned, since it is Good Friday. With this weather window, the little harbor almost emptied out. We are buddy boating again with Li and Aldebaran. Four others had already departed at dawn’s light.
April 7, 0830: The sunrise is nothing special this morning, just a pale yellow blob rising out of a misty sea. I turn off the nav lights and check our course—outside of the reefs lining the Sudan shore; it is ten hours before we make the next turn. The Indian Ocean/Red Sea fleet is chatting back and forth on the SSB Net and the VHF. Almost all the yachts have departed from ports and anchorages stretching from Aden to Port Sudan. “Looks like we can sneak into an anchorage, do some snorkeling there and stay overnight, and still make it to port Monday before the bad weather hits,” says one cruiser. Gunter reads off a paragraph from a Seven Seas article I had stashed between the pages of the Red Sea Pilot. A yacht had stopped in a marsa to for “just one day of snorkeling on the way up,” and was caught in 35-knot northerlies for two weeks. “Make hay while the sun shines,” chimes in Boris from Li, one of our buddy boats. “We have this saying in Sweden too,” he adds. The yacht decides not to stop. We are all on the move.
At noon, Gunter fries the albacore tuna Chris caught Friday afternoon. I make a tomato-and-cucumber salad, using one of those long, ridged cucumbers from the market stalls in Suakin. The tuna flakes from our forks and melts in our mouths.
By sunset, we are motoring along on a glassy sea, shafts of gold snaking toward the port helm. We can barely make out the mountain range in the background. “There’s a faint outline of two breasts,” Chris points out. “And the one on the left has a nipple,” adds Gunter. That’s what it’s like, cruising with two men, I’m thinking, just as the sun slides down between the two luscious breasts, out of sight except for a tinge of amber glowing like a golden pendant.
A pod of dolphins swim past the port hull, as if to get our attention, and on to the bow of Pacific Bliss for our Daily Dolphin Show. This time, Gunter videotapes it for our grandchildren. The dolphins came by this morning too. I see them as a sign of good luck this Easter week-end.
April 8, 0615: The sun rises from the same relative position off my starboard helm as the moon did last two nights. Instead of the usual golden glow, the entire sky rejoices this Easter Sunday, turning a pastel pinkish-blue. The color of Easter eggs. Underneath, the sea is the color of dark green glass. Force 1. What a perfect passage! What luck we have had, escaping the dreaded northerlies!
“Boring is blessed,” says Gunter as he awakens at 0730 and checks out the scene, finding the port engine of Pacific Bliss just droning along. I have already taken out the ingredients to put into the Breadman® for a new batch of bread, cinnamon-raisin this time. And the last brownie mix from our ships stores is set out on the salon table. This will be my special Easter treat.
“I like this passage—nice and easy motoring—and I especially like the banana pancakes you made for us yesterday,” says Gunter. (The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach; some things never change.) He plants a wet kiss on my mouth. “Happy Easter. What’s the plan for dinner today—turkey or ham?”
“Actually, I’ve set out that pork tenderloin from Thailand to thaw,” I answered. “Thought we could have that along with the roesti we bought at that Swiss provisioning place in Langkawi.”
Even though we are forced to make a passage over Easter week-end, when it comes to food, we are not suffering here on Pacific Bliss.
A special concert of Praise songs are playing on the stereo, beginning with a collection given to us from David and Liz of Simpatica, last year, moving on to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Handel’s Messiah, and ending with a New Years Concert by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. A gentle Force 3, 10-knot wind blows from the south as we head north. The south! This is unreal. Such a special day. The aroma of cinnamon bread, on the “bake” cycle, fills the salon as I whip up a batch of double chocolate brownies and pop them into the oven.
At noon, I go to the starboard computer to work on some photo al bums of countries already gone by to post at the next internet. As I work, the photos on the screen begin to bounce around.
“The wind’s shifted and the seas are getting lumpier,” Gunter turns up from his 1000-page Tom Clancy novel.
“I think we’d better make our dinner now then.”
We work together frying the slices of pork loin smothered in onions with roesti. Chris comes up with a can of creamed corn from the bilge and emptied it into another pan. The stove is swaying now, and the cooks are grumpy as we finish. Chris has covered the cockpit table with our island-print oilcloth. We sit down to a festive setting and a great meal. Bounce. Bump. Splash! A spray of saltwater comes over the cockpit bench. We try to focus on our food. No-one says much. Our pleasant day has come to an end.
This is one time that I wish for a galley strap like the monohulls have, as the salon bounces and jerks and I try to clean up. Straightening out the galley takes all my concentration as the dishes clang and bang, the wind steadily increases, and angry whitecaps race across the frenzied sea. Chris and Gunter are on the VHF with Pat from Aldebaran and Boris from Li. The weather has already changed—one day early—and we will not make it to Port Galib after all. We make plans to pull into an anchorage off the headland and before Port Berenice. It will be a challenge to get there before dark, but it is the closest protected anchorage.
Our Easter has turned ugly. We can no longer hear our Easter concert above the roaring of the wind, the banging of the bows, and the flexing of the hulls. Force 5,
Force 6, Force 7… the wind gusts to 35 knots, and remains steady over 25. Chris and I stay up on dual watch; I’m in the salon and at the nav station, Chris is out in the cockpit, wearing only a sarong, catching an occasional splash.
By 1600, the three sailboats have entered the headland of Ras Banas, hoping for a respite from the steep waves. Surprisingly, the headland provides only a slight relief. We cut corners as much as we can; there is quite a wide passage between the reefs to the more sheltered anchorage another 20 miles toward the shore. The wind no longer gusts to Force 7, but the sea is still lumpy, the whitecaps are racing madly. At 1830, I pray—no I demand—that God send His angel to help us anchor. If that Delta does not grab the first time, I cannot bear to think about how we will anchor in this wind. I do not want a repeat of the 4-time anchoring experience at Sheik El Ibrahim, where we found refuge on the way to Suakin, Sudan. “The first time,” I repeat over the roar. “It must take hold! This is supposed to a joyous day, your day, God. Please hear me!”
At 1830, already close to sunset, I drop the hook in 38 feet of teal water and spool out 150’ of chain—almost all we have. The rest is rope. We have bypassed a dark patch—coral, perhaps—and now we can tell there’s sand. It holds! Gunter at the helm pulls back. It still holds. Chris, Gunter and I stand on the net, giving our traditional, successful-anchoring high-fives. “And one for God and our Guardian Angel,” I add as we high-five again. “Thanks, God!” Chris and Gunter set up the Fortress to be on stand-by. Then they rig up the anchor alarm to put underneath my pillow. I log in the data, then fix a Dark & Stormy for Gunter and a beer for Chris. The wind still howls here behind the big red mountain. But the seas are flatter and we are safe. We graze on cheese and crackers and as we calm down and watch the sun slip behind a horizon of haze, we realize how utterly exhausted we are. By 8:00 P.M. this Easter Sunday, we are already in bed.
April 9: 0545
23º 57 N, 35º 34 E
Safely at Anchor near Port Berenice, 140 nm to Port Ghalib, Egypt
I look out my window and see that the seas have calmed. Other than waking up a few times to check whether the anchor has dragged (it didn’t) I had a good night’s sleep. We’ll be leaving here, I’m thinking, for Fury Shoals, another 40 miles closer to Port Ghalib. Perhaps we can even get there before the wind kicks up again in the afternoon. We talk back and forth with Aldebaran but can’t rouse Li. We wave to our German friends on the catamaran Cinderella, who anchored next to us right as darkness descended. They are hauling anchor already. When we do manage to get our buddy boat trio on the VHF, the new forecast is in. Strong northerlies already by noon. Where we are is the more protected anchorage. We decide to stay and everyone is relieved. I put another batch of bread into the Breadman®, cinnamon, citrus, raisin and nut. Comfort food. Then I clean and inventory the pantry and all the under-seat salon storage areas. One less project for my Abu Tig TO DO list. My list is ready for Carrefour. I can’t wait to provision in a real, western-style supermarket. By the time I have finished making a potato salad for lunch, it is 1000 and the wind has already started to howl at 15 knots from the north. We know that beyond the mountains protecting the anchorage it is even more.
By lunchtime, the wind is up to 25 knots and we are praying for those that we know are out to sea. Alicia’s engine, it was reported on the morning NET, has died completely and they are now under sail alone, having had three miserable nights at sea. At first, Pat and Dick were stoic: “Better out here than being dashed onto the reefs at shore,” but now they are exhausted from tacking back and forth, hard on the wind. Pat convinces them to come into our anchorage; the channels between the reefs are well marked and wide enough for them to tack. If the wind dies (unlikely) we can tow them in. We hope they make it before dark. By 1330, the wind is gusting to Force 7, 35 knots. Gunter and I go down to snuggle into our bed to read. It is cool enough to shut our windows, blocking out that awful roar.
We had invited Pat and Olivia over for koffee klatch, but the waves are too steep for anyone to dinghy over without taking a salt bath. So after our siesta, the three of us gorge on steaming hot chocolate with freshly baked bread, slathering it with butter and honey while the wind howls a steady Force 6. The blowing sand dims the sun, turning it into a ghostly white. The mountain is a dusty, rusty red, probably quite beautiful when the sun shines strong. We stay snug in the salon, not even braving the cockpit.
And we wait for Alicia; Pat is talking them in on the VHF and everyone else is eavesdropping…hoping that they make it in. Then the wind dies. NO! We can’t believe it. They need some wind to tack on in. We sit there, waiting, hoping for the wind to increase. Imagine that! The wind rises slightly, then gradually up to 15 knots. Perfect. Here they come around the bend. Everyone is cheering for them. They sail on in, drop the anchor, and furl their jib—right between Aldebaran and Pacific Bliss. What excellent seamanship. Cool, plucky Brits with a stiff upper lip, they are.
We continue to graze on appetizers, along with wine and beer. After we find out that Pat and Dick are OK, we declare it a cinema night, and watch the Academy-award-winning movie, Ray. By the end, I have tears in my eyes. It is a good emotional release.
April 10: We sleep in, knowing that the blow is forecasted to last for another day. On the Red Sea NET, we learn that the entire fleet is held up in ports and anchorages all the way from Aden to Port Galib. No one is venturing out. Another yacht, Forever, with a young Zimbabwe couple on board, limp in with a torn main sail. Two German yachts, Filia Vente and Pepe, dropped the hook before dark last night. Seven yachts have now taken shelter in this anchorage.
I make one last loaf of bread, trying to keep up and still have some left over for our passage into port. Then I dig through the “Queen’s Bilge” trying to think up something special to make. I find a jar of canned cherries and mix up a cherry cobbler. Chris and I make pizza with pepperoni, cheese, green peppers, and eggplant.
After lunch, there’s a lull in the wind and we decide to cheer up the plucky English couple by delivering a care package. “Domino’s Pizza,” Chris yells, tapping their hull. We also hand over the jerry jug of water they’d asked for—since using their watermaker would take too much electricity without an engine. We are invited on board for a chat. “This Red Sea is a real test of yachts’ sails, rigging, and engines,” says Pat.
“Even more,” I add, “it is a test of crews’ courage, patience, and perseverance.” As 64-year-old Pam on Alicia said when we brought over the food: “At my age, I don’t need any more tests in life.” I heartily agreed with her. I’ll be happy and relieved to be out of this Sea and finally into the Med.
By sundowner time, the wind dies a little and the air clears enough for us to actually see the sun setting behind the red rock mountain. We watch two Bruce Willis movies to pass the time.
April 11: It is sunnier today but still 20 knots in the anchorage and more outside.
We expect to have just enough wind tomorrow AM for Alicia to leave port to join our little buddy boat trio; if there isn’t, they will be towed and somehow our group will manage to shepherd them into port. Alicia also has a problem with their halyard; they can get their main only up to the second reef. Gunter has lots of spare line, and gives them one, which they have now used to replace theirs. Dick has massively bruised inner thighs from having to go up his mast in heavy seas. He had fallen down and caught on the spreaders. He could have been killed.
Li cannot run all three of their computers, we think due to the Trojan horse virus. We loan them our third laptop and they are now installing software on it. We are all happy to be Good Samaritans in this anchorage.
On the Net, we learn that Greg, the cruiser who was transported to Asmara, Eritrea and then flown to Cairo with complications from malaria, has arrived back on his yacht, Faith, anchored in the Massawa harbor, to rejoin his other four family members.
We are pleased that Pacific Bliss is holding up all right through this tough Red Sea. All systems—rigging, sails, etc—are a GO; only the SSB is dying. Today, we loan Chris to help out any of the yachts in the anchorage, since we have completed our chores. So he is keeping busy. Our provisioning is holding up fairly well, especially our stock of wine, purchased back in Langkawi, Malaysia at the Duty-Free.
The positive part of this experience: I’ll always remember is the wonderful camaraderie among cruisers out here. My eyes tear when I think of how kind, helpful, and sharing everyone is out here.
April 12, 0500: Plop. Splash. I hear Chris already lowering the dinghy into the water. Patrick’s voice crackles on the VHF, already cheerful and full of energy. “Alicia, Alicia, prepare for towing. We can depart now; the others will catch up.” I turn over and bury my head into the warm comforter; I am buried in a cocoon that I don’t want to leave. I had slept snuggled into Gunter’s arms, deep into a blessed sleep, so different from the tropical nights—too hot to sleep close. “Lois, the Queen’s coffee,” Gunter calls out from the galley. I can’t put it off any longer. I slip into a T-shirt and shorts and throw on my cuddly fleece vest. Soon, we’ll be unpacking socks and topsiders! A quick infusion of coffee and Chris and I are already on anchor duty. It’s time to “blow this popstand” and “get outta Dodge” (I’m teaching Chris some old-fashioned slang from Middle America.) The water has cleared and we can see the anchor forty feet below, snaking around the edge of low-lying coral. “We may have a problem,” says Gunter. Chris is shivering already, just thinking of diving into the cold water before the sun is up. “Just go forward and a little to port,” I direct Gunter, who is now back at the helm. We clear the coral and the chain rises smoothly through the windlass roller mechanism—all 150 feet of it. After three days of high winds, the anchor was buried deep into the sand, along with part of the chain, which has passed by two patches of coral. The water is amazingly clear. “Today would have been a good day for snorkeling,” says Chris. But that’s the way it goes here in the Red Sea. It is not all it’s cracked up to be. When the sea is finally clear and the winds are calm, that’s the time for sailors to get moving on. “We have only a two-day weather window,” says Gunter, the realist. “And I really want to get to Egypt. She has been so elusive.”
Aldeberan is the first yacht to leave, towing Alicia as the sun breaks above the red rock mountain to our port. Li and Forever follow them. Pacific Bliss follows the incoming TRACK on MaxSea, a little to their starboard, perfect for sunrise photos. Filia Vente and Pepe, two German yachts who arrived later, are still at anchor but will most likely take advantage of the weather window as well.
By 0700, we are eight miles out and have another seven to go before we turn to exit between the reefs lining the north channel, and back out to sea. If the wind keeps increasing, Alicia will be able to sail along on her own. Olivia on Aldeberan calls to warn us of fish pots ahead. “It’s a lovely morning,” she says, and indeed it is.
April 13, 0620: Despite it being Friday the 13th, it is a lucky day, so far. And it has been a wonderful night. The seas are a ripply Force 4, 10 knots from the SW. We are motorsailing with a full jib. The sun is already bright overhead but the air is still chilly. As I relieved Chris on watch at 0600, he was wearing two shirts underneath with a knit cap pulled down over his ears. I am cozy in my navy fleece vest. We have only ten miles to go to the Port Ghalib fairway buoy. Gunter awakens as the aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the salon. Soon Chris is up as well. Must be that rush that one gets when land is close by. We turn toward the port.
“Only one more overnight for me,” says Chris sadly. “Going from Port Ghalib to Abu Tig and then that’s it. Just think. I’ve been with you guys for over three months.” We reminisce about all the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, and all our sailing adventures—good and bad.
By 0820 we zigzag through the well-buoyed, reef-lined entrance and past the customs dock, passing the tall, almond circular tower that we had used as our entrance beacon. We pass a fenced area of new construction with a nice, new sign: PORT GHALIB MARINA. Then we are instructed to stop and tie along. We are boarded by officials that are friendly enough and I fill out entry forms, and three others, using our boat stamp over and over, where requested. Then the officials take our passports, crew lists and the pile of forms and assure us that they will return within three hours. Pacific Bliss is the firs to dock. I call Li and Aldeberan to come alongside in front of us. Then we sit and wait, wishing we could get off the boat to stretch our legs. We make ourselves a nice breakfast and then settle down into morning naps. It is Friday, and the officials are leaving their stations for morning prayers. We assumed that it would be awhile. But we didn’t realize how long! By 1500, 3 P.M., nothing seems to be happening. Now, fully rested, we are becoming impatient. Forever and Filia Vente have come in and are rafted to the others. The cruisers on the five yachts waiting here are understandably stir crazy. We haven’t set foot on land since we left Suakin, Sudan on Good Friday, one week ago. Chris and Gunter walk and talk to the other yachties, despite the regulations about not stepping on land until cleared. A few men are lazing around, but none seem to care and there is no word on the status of our check-in or when we will be able to leave this dock and tie up to a quay or berth in the marina proper.
25º32 N, 34º38 E
Port Ghalib, Egypt
Still at the Customs Dock, 1700
The flies are so thick that we have to leave the salon doors closed, even though there is a nice breeze swirling up the construction dust. Welcome to Egypt!
Gunter starts to say those words, “I’m bor…,” but then I remind him that less than a week ago, on Easter Sunday, we agreed that Boring is Blessed. It is far better to be bored here—or at an anchorage—than stressed out by those vicious northerlies at sea. On the other hand, it would be so nice to be over at the hotel we can see in the distance, enjoying an arrival drink…I don’t think about it, because it appears that we will all be spending the night here, rafted together.
Port Ghalib is a modern, half finished diving resort-and-marina development on the Red Sea. It is about 130 miles from Abu Tig Marina, which has been nicknamed “Yachtie Paradise.” Abu Tig is our “promised land” where we will stop for a month, relax, tour Cairo and the Pyramids, and then take a first-class cruise along the Nile. But we have stopped here at Port Ghalib for two reasons: (1) the winds are expected to kick up again tonight, and (2) this is an “official” port of entry. Abu Tig does not yet have that designation, and if we go direct to either Hurghada or Abu Tig, we would have to secure an agent to check in (about $180 U.S.).
1800: The sun begins to set and we think about what to make for dinner on board. Then, as darkness descends, the officials come out in full force, and direct us all to marina tie-ups. Strange. Egyptian bureaucracy. Is this what we can expect in Egypt, we wonder. We have waited over 9 hours for entry clearance, the longest customs delay of anywhere in the world so far.
Tied up to the quay, our group immediately heads for the Coral Beach Hotel. Pizza tonight after all! By 2100, we are all collapsed in our yachts. No big partying tonight among this cruiser group.
At the Quay in Port Ghalib, April 14:
Our first “marina” since Thailand turns out to be a disappointment. This diving resort hotel has a first-class restaurant with first-class prices, a pool (which they charge the yachties 10 euros per day to use), and few hotel tourist shops. Even though we are paying hefty marina rates, we have no yachtie shower and no store for provisioning. As is typical in many countries, this new “port of entry” has no concept of what a marina should be. Today, Saturday, is still the “week-end” here. Sunday, a working day, we plan to leave.
Alicia came in early this morning, three dinghies, including ours, pushing her in with heavy seas and 20 knots blowing, again from the north. They had a miserable two nights after Aldeberan towed them from our Berenice anchorage and let them loose to sail on.
The first night, Alicia bobbed along in no wind. Without a working engine, they had to call each freighter to warn them. Scary. Then last night they faced up to 30 knots wind that kept Pat and Dick up all night, reefing and tacking. Thank God that they are now safe and after resting, can arrange for a diesel mechanic to come here!
April 15, 2007
First, this morning I need to vent on the bureaucratic nightmare that Egypt is for cruisers. So I send the following email to my sister and my cruising friend, Michele:
The good news: At the hotel internet, I received a very informative letter and contract back from Philip Jones, Marina Manager, Abu Tig Marina, El Gouna, Red Sea. We now have reservations for one month for $300. Philip’s letter says that by entering Egypt at their new port of entry, Port Ghalib (Marsa Allam/Marsa Mubarak) we are under the new fee system, which eliminates the need for an agent and the $180 fee. Abu Tig is not yet a port of entry, although it has applied for this. Any boat checking in at Hurghada Port (or those who have already checked in there) still has to use an agent and pay the higher government fees. He warned us that if Pacific Bliss is to be in Egyptian waters for over one month (as is the case with us) we would need to get a two-month cruising permit here because Abu Tig cannot issue extensions. So we’ve done the right thing, it turns out, by entering here and obtaining the cruising permit for two months. So Pacific Bliss is set.
VISA woes: Now for the three of us: we did obtain one-month Visas for Egypt in Aden and were told we could get extensions in Egypt. When we asked for an extension here, the official merely drew a black line through the VISA stamp in our passports (which we didn’t even use) and charged us for a new VISA beginning one month here. (So the taxi trip to the Egyptian Embassy in Aden, all the paperwork, waiting, and bureaucracy there, was all for naught.) We cannot get longer than one month at a time. So ONLY when this one runs out, do we apply for another month. There is a two-week grace period, they tell us, so no worries. But when it does run out, we will most likely be on our Nile Cruise. How that works out remains to be seen.
The bad news: This entire complex of Port Ghalib is being promoted as the new Port Grimaud (a ritzy French port on the Med) of the Red Sea. It has a long way to go, perhaps another 50 years? Anyway, there are blocks and blocks sandpiles and works-in-progress—empty condo and hotel structures, empty storefronts that will eventually house cafes, restaurants, and shops—including an entry wharf for yachts with a round tower and 3 floors of offices for immigration, customs, etc. Problem is, even though “the tower” is fully furnished, even down to the computers and faxes, it is not staffed. And guess what? There are no plans for staffing in the immediate future. There is a lone port captain that one talks to when calling VHF Channel 10 upon arrival. Then the yacht is called to the “immigration dock” (where we were tied up from 0820 Friday morning until sunset). I have mentioned that this has been our longest wait for customs in our entire circumnavigation. We thought that perhaps the problems were: (1) entering on a Friday and paperwork being interrupted for morning prayers or (2) that we three buddy boats (Aldebaran, Li, and Pacific Bliss) told them that three more yachts were coming in on Friday (Filia Vente, Pepe, and Forever) and that they held us up until the others arrived about 3 hours later, because all six of us were moved over to the marina at sunset. But no, it’s much more complex than that. Yesterday afternoon, when Cinderella, a yacht that arrived the day before us, went to the immigrations dock yesterday to get fuel and to check out, they could not, because Saturday was also a day off. To obtain clearance to exit the harbor, the port captain, Sherif Fawzy, has to email about 40 different bureaucracies, he says. And since those bureaucrats don’t work on Friday/Saturday, their week-end, the emails will sit in their computers until Sunday (today) when they return, but they might not even get printed out and processed until noon today, then the clearance is faxed back to the Port Captain (probably after lunch) and the clearance papers and cruising permits are given the yachts, after they have paid. After the paperwork is finally processed, the yacht MUST clear out of the harbor within 24 hours. There’s no regard for, or understanding of, the weather out there in the Red Sea—or about what yachties face, in general. “What about the other yachts, when are they leaving?” Cinderella was asked. (Also here now are Legend II, Imagine, and Alicia. “They are all planning to come in Sunday morning to ask for clearance, knowing that the office would be open,” they answered. “OK, instead of staying up all night sending emails that won’t be processed soon,” he said, “I’ll get all the clearance docs together and have a driver bring them to the immigration office next to the airport.”
That answer brought up a pertinent question: “Do the passengers arriving in Egypt at that same airport also have to wait there until the immigration officials are in their offices after the week-end?”
“Of course not,” was the answer.
“Then why us yachties?” “Because the Port is not staffed yet with officials there on site.”
At that point, beleaguered Port Captain Fawzy handed Kirsten and Hans of Cinderella a letter signed and stamped by the captains of four yachts, Wings, Bolero, Jomandy and Red Herring. “I can’t do anything more to solve the situation. I would appreciate your group writing such a letter. This will help build my case for some help on site.” Kirsten handed me the letter last night. It turns out that group requested a Port Clearance on April 7. The state authorities committed to fax the clearances on April 8th but failed to do so. April 9th was a holiday so nothing happened. So the yachts finally got out on April 10th, missing their weather window.
“You are the only native English speaker in our entire group,” she went on to say. “So you are elected to write the letter for our group.” It floored me to realize that of all these yachts docked here, we are the only one with an American flag. And yes, if you count Gunter as German, as they did, then I AM the only one “born in the USA!” Well, let’s hope we get clearance today and I don’t have to write such a letter. But for sure, we all know that even if clearance does come today, it will be too late for us to depart. And today is perfect, a bright, sunny day with calm seas.
Yesterday, we all finished our chores, planning to depart. Pacific Bliss was covered with red dust and layers upon layers of salt, that form a sort of ice-like coating on the fiberglass, all the lines and SS railings. The water hose was way down the quay. So we yachties were resourceful. Gunter suggested hooking up everyone’s hose together, making one long hose, then going from the end boat and taking turns all the way down the line. Six yachts did this, then splitting the bill. 1/6 of the water bill for cleaning our boats was $20. I thought it was worth it to have a clean boat again, but some of the yachties were floored. That’s on top of 10 Euros to use the pool (which Patrick the Irishman negotiated down to 5) and expensive meals at the hotel here, which is the only place here to eat. The buffet last night was $20, but very good, with an Italian theme, wonderful pastas, sauces, and a table loaded with desserts. We pigged out, I must say. It was so nice to have Western food. I’m tired of ethnic, at this stage. Some of the yachties cannot afford the prices here, so staying longer than they planned is a hardship. There’s no store to provision, but one could order from a list furnished by the Hotel, which we did. The fruit was in very good and sweet, and we could actually get lettuce for the first time in many, many miles. Again, though, it was expensive. A loaf of bread is $6— except for pita bread—which was $2 a stack.
The rest of the story: We eventually received all of our checkout paperwork, our passports are returned, and we were able to leave Port Ghalib, yet on Sunday. We had a great passage, in other words, boring—one calm overnight, mostly motoring—to Abu Tig, which lived up to its reputation as “Yachtie Paradise,” our next story.