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November 2017: Shamal is on the hard in Guatemala.Mum and Dad are home in New Zealand till Jan. 2018. *ATTENTION PLEASE* if you are still interested in receiving the posts, could you please subscribe to the Blog following the two step process in the right hand column, so that new posts are emailed to your inbox. As of next year the reminder emails that are being sent out will cease. Thanks to all of you for following our Adventures.

18 May 2011

Port Suez – Egypt to Ashkelon – Israel


SHAMAL has completed just over 21,000nm and we have reached the Mediterranean

Hello again.

Haven’t we done well. It really is a great feeling to have come this far. Looking back on the trip to date we really have had a wonderful time. No complaints, and SHAMAL has behaved so well and given us a very comfortable trip. She is a great little home. Everyone we have met to date, particularly those with catamarans, and who have come on board have been most impressed on how much Seawind has put into a boat of this length.

The Suez Canal

In Port Suez before we transited the Canal, every boat has to be measured up as a fee has to be paid for the privilege of using the Canal. The Suez Canal Authority [SCA] come on board your boat and physical measure the dimensions. A very complex formula which we are quite sure they themselves do not even understand. It comes from the 1888 Constantinople International Tonnage Convention!!!! It does not recognise that yachts have fin keels so this makes for some very interesting outcomes. We were measured up one day, and the next day a different guy came back apologising profusely that it had all been done wrong and did it again. That worked out well as in the second measure up we shrunk and so did the price!!! This was partly due to the fact that the guy got Alec to hold the other end of the tape. He also got Alec to measure the engine room size as this was to be deducted from the total volume. Our total bill came to US$335 which included the fee for the two pilots that one must have. You change pilots at the half way point. We paid US$225 for the Canal fee, $50 Agent fees, $40 Port Clearance and $20 for two passports.


Monday 9th May was day one of our transit with the pilots arriving for all 14 yachts that were waiting, just after 0500. We were on our way by 0600 with our pilot Mohammed. The Canal is 130 to 200mts wide and 23mts deep. This is the area for the big ships. The contour towards the bank is down to 5mts 10-15mts from the shore. It is 160km long including the passage through the Bitter lakes. We transited with the convoy of north bound ships with them passing us between 50 – 100mts away! It was quite daunting at first but after the first few ships had passed us we became use to their huge size. I will leave the photos to explain the rest. What did surprise us, but in some ways after the visit to Cairo should not have, was the present of the military every few hundred metres along the full length of the Canal. They were all very friendly whistling to draw attention and waving out as you went past. In most places it is impossible to see the country side or desert beyond the built up banks, but we did pass odd town or built up area. I did stand on the cockpit roof in some places to take photos.

Mohammed was very good and Alec did let him take the helm for most of the day but kept a very close eye on him. The next pilot on day two was a different story. After spending a night at Ismailia and the pilots not turning up till 1100 the next morning we were on our way with our pilot Ramadan. He wanted to take over right from the beginning until Alec explained it was his boat and that he would take it off the dock and out into the Canal. He then wanted Alec to use two engines thinking we would go twice as fast!! Alec said if you pay me for the fuel I will use two. That was the end of that argument. Next, once he was at the helm he told Alec to go down and have a sleep. It only took Alec a minute to see he was not a very good helmsman and that he over corrected all the time. Then he was hungry and wanted coffee and cake!! Then Lunch. Then the was the matter of his prayer time. This really got to me as he went below and washed his hands, face and feet in the kitchen sink before going out on deck to face Mecca for prayer time. He did this THREE times!!!! Joye you can imagine how I was feeling about this. Next was the’ baksheesh’ that all the pilots expect. They do get paid but they also demand this gift!! The group had agreed on a US$20 tip at the end of the trip. We were still motoring out towards the Canal and he was asking for his ‘new’ cap. Well I found one to give him which I had not passed out to the Yemeni fishermen. Next we got a long story about his one wife, five children and four taxis – SO!!! We told him all about our son Murray and that put an end to that!! When we reached Port Said just on dark the Pilot boat came out alongside to pick up our pilot. It also wanted ‘baksheesh’. Well Alec had really had enough by now and took no notice. So he then tried to intimidate us by driving very close and revving his engine and slowly pushing us towards a ferry. This came to an abrupt halt when another yacht from the convoy came up which needed their pilot to disembark. We then called into a small very smelly dock to complete our clearance and we were on our way down the channel and into a 20kt headwind and into the Med. Goodbye to the land of the ‘Baksheesh’. All in all despite the last bit I still loved my time on that leg of our journey. One takes the bad with the Good. The other not so good thing here was that it was freezing and we both had our polar fleece and wet weather jackets on. So much for warm weather in the Med.

Now we are off to the Promised Land as Alec calls it. Ashkelon, just a few miles north of the Gaza Strip. We had emailed ahead to the Israeli Navy and given them the 48 hours’ notice that we were on our way. Well precisely at 1155 we had our first call from the Israeli Navy telling us to change course from 22nm off the coast to a waypoint 26nm off the coast abeam Ashkelon!! At this stage we were in International waters still off the Egyptian Coast. We had planned on arriving late afternoon before overtime rates apply. This change of course was now going to bring us in after dark. But that was only the beginning. Next the questions started. Then the repeated questions from another Naval Radio Operator. Next we were given a heading to steer past Ashkelon and slowly converge towards the coast. As this was going on we were still from time to time being asked the same questions of boat details, where we had come from, passport numbers, radio call sign etc etc. Once they got extremely excited saying we were off course. They had told us to maintain a heading which we did. We then had to explain to them do you want us to maintain a heading , or a track over ground. Two different things. It transpired it was track over ground they wanted. Ten miles out a Naval Patrol Boat came out and gave us the once over circling around us waving then heading off again. Still the repeated questions over the radio kept coming. I was doing the radio work and kept my cool just answering each one again and again. We were then given a waypoint to drop anchor for the night and told we could clear in the next morning. Only trouble was that it was in 35mts of water. I told him that just outside the Marina in 10mts would be more suitable. We were given the OK for that and by 2055 we had dropped anchor quite exhausted from the trip. It was a little rolly over night as the wind got up but we both managed to get some sleep. Next morning we were in the Marina and all checked in by 1100. This was after being met and interrogated separately by two Security Agents. They wanted to know things like why the boat name was SHAMAL, being an Arab word, why had we been to Eritrea and Sudan and did we know people there. Also why had we come to Israel? Then it was the turn of the Marina Police who took us off to the Customs and Immigration people. We were given a three month visa. That was after we had given a list of the 10 last countries we had visited with dates. Finally we are in. They were all very friendly and polite. One of the Security Agents had just returned from a six week holiday in New Zealand.

So here we are and will more than likely stay for about ten days as we want to do some land travel and Alec needs to see a Doctor with regards to some sun spots that need attention.

Once again we will sign out for this letter

Lots of love from
The Admiral and The Commander

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