Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ismalia Yacht Club

View Map of Location

1/2 way through the Canal. Looks like a nice city maybe we'll spend a couple/three days before we leave for the Med.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Red Sea Rush Hour

Current Location: Port Suez, Suez Canal, Egypt
Current Position: 29 56.85 N 32 34.37 E
Next Destination: Ismailia then Turkey

There are certain places we arrive at that just feel good, really good. It is as though upon arriving a huge weight is lifted from our shoulders and we both can't contain our smiles of relief and happiness. It has nothing to do with the location, but rather the difficulty of getting there. Some places just feel earned, as though a huge accomplishment has been achieved.

Lots and lots of tacking
Port Suez is one such location, as it marks the end of the Red Sea. There wasn't a moment traveling through the Red Sea that weather was not on our minds. Even in calm weather all we could think was "how long do we have before the wind picks up?" The last leg (from Hurghada to Port Suez) was getting especially bad reviews from the cruisers before us, who reported big seas and winds constantly over 20kts. When one of our friends emailed us and told us to multiply the weather forecast by five for the first part, and by two and add five for the second, we thought they were exaggerating ... only to learn later that even these modifications probably weren't enough! It's easy to understand that we weren't looking forward to this trip, but sometimes you just have to push onward!
It doesn't sound like much, after all it's not even 190 miles - how hard could it be? After our first day out we figured the best example for those back home was rush hour traffic. You know when you are sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic and you can SEE your exit just two miles ahead but you aren't moving, just sitting there, frustrated and wondering how much longer this will take? Then finally, 30 minutes later, you are at last off the freeway and you still can't believe that it just took you an hour to barely go 20 miles. Well, that's sailing in the Red Sea. Only it's a heck of a lot more uncomfortable sloshing around in big seas with wind and waves in your face. This BLOG is a day-by-day blow to show you what I mean.

First, just let me say that during this entire week the weather forecast was always around 10kts or below ... so it's not as though we didn't wait for a good weather window - this was it, this was as good as it was going to get! Also it should be understood that the winds ALWAYS (this time of year) come from the northern region, and of course, we were trying to go north.

Day 8: Marsa Hammam to Port Suez
Summary: 12 hours, 52.3 miles

We couldn't have asked for a better day. We didn't know if we'd make it all the way to Port Suez, but we departed at 4am thinking that if the weather was calm enough, we just might make it. What we got was unbelievable. Flat, and I mean FLAT, seas and light-light winds. We were happier than pigs in, well you know the saying. At first it was hard to believe or enjoy as I just kept waiting "for the other shoe to drop", but as the day went on and the seas only got calmer and Port Suez got closer I couldn't help but get excited ... we were really go to make it!!! We averaged 4.4 kts and didn't have to tack once (because it was light enough that we could just motor straight there).

We were done. At a little past 3pm we entered the Suez Canal and tied up at the "yacht club". The Red Sea was over. I knew I'd sleep soundly that night; not worrying over what the wind would be doing tomorrow or how much of a beating we'd have to take. Honestly though, Chris and I both agree that we had a good trip. It might've been slow, but it was easily 100 times better than what we'd expected. Most of the hassle was the planning, wondering and guessing. We think it was a combination of luck and patience that made our trip "easy". We were even more appreciative when the boat next to us told us of his hellish 40+kts that he experienced.

Sitting just inside the Suez Canal we can watch the huge tankers and container ships steam past, and it's amazing. These huge monsters slowly motoring by, dwarfing everything around them. What is especially interesting is how they take-on and disperse the canal pilots. Imagine sitting in a small motorboat, about the size of a three-person rowboat. You motor next to a HUGE tanker going about 10kts. Via a crane, a line is lowered down that is attached to your small boat and slowly you are lifted off the water and raised up to the ships deck. When it's time to depart the process is reversed. The large ships never stop, and for good reason, listening on the VHF we heard one tanker tell port control he needed 45 minutes to raise the anchor. If they had to stop and anchor at both ends of the channel they'd probably loose about 4-6 hours. Still it's amazing to watch them raise and lower these little boats with two men sitting there, probably praying that nothing goes wrong.

If all goes smoothly, tomorrow we'll motor through the first half of the canal. At least we don't have to worry about the winds, as the canal is too narrow for any fetch to build up, but as it takes us our ten hours to go forty miles will be thinking of home and just how fast that rush hour traffic moves!!!
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Passage Blurbs: Hurghada to Suez

June 19th - 26th

Lots and Lots of Tacking in 25+ Knots 
As the crow flies: 175 nM
Actual sailing route: 268 nM

52.8 Nm to Suez

Summary: 12 hours, 52.3 miles

We couldn't have asked for a better day. We didn't know if we'd make it all the way to Port Suez, but we departed at 4am thinking that if the weather was calm enough, we just might make it. What we got was unbelievable. Flat, and I mean FLAT, seas and light-light winds. We were happier than pigs in, well you know the saying. At first it was hard to believe or enjoy as I just kept waiting "for the other shoe to drop", but as the day went on and the seas only got calmer and Port Suez got closer I couldn't help but get excited ... we were really go to make it!!! We averaged 4.4 kts and didn't have to tack once (because it was light enough that we could just motor straight there).

Another Rest day - June 25, 2008

Another 27 knots. Today was a great day we sailed 46 miles but covered 40 this time, wind never got above 25. only 50 miles to go!!

Summary: 10 hours 10 mins, 40 miles

The Red Sea is a huge mind game. With weather forecasts so far off and given that the winds and swell can pipe up within 20 minutes, we were forever wondering if we were doing the right thing and second guessing ourselves. As the wind started to die on the night of day 6, we asked each other, should we go now and go overnight? But what if it picks back up, we'd have nowhere to duck into at night and then we'd be out there, at night, not something we were keen to do. But on the other hand what if it's calm all night and the wind picks up in the morning? What if the weather window isn't as long as we think it is and by remaining anchored for a day we end up stuck somewhere for two weeks? What if, what if, what if???? And so it made it hard to ever relax. Even at night I'd wake up whenever the wind changed, wondering if we should be out there, or sometimes grateful that we weren't, and stressed about what the morning would bring.

The morning of Day 7 brought good news. 16 kts. WOW! While it got up to 27 kts, most of the day hovered around 20. What we couldn't understand (but weren't about to complain) were the somewhat flat seas. Given the wind direction there was nothing to protect us from the swell, and it was blowing around 22 kts a large part of the day, the same wind we'd had previous days and encountered huge square waves, but on this day, the swell was that of 12-15 kts of wind, not 20-25. We couldn't understand it, we theorized and theorized but in the end we just gave up and enjoyed the sail. It was truly a terrific day, we only had to tack 12 times, sailed 46 miles to go 40, and averaged 4.5 knots ... so far it looked as though we'd made the right choices by staying put on the two high wind mornings.

Reef Anchorage - June 23, 2008

Had a nice days rest.. it was blowing 27 when we went to leave .. so we stayed!! Sailed 45 nM to cover 32 today with 27 tacks in mostly 23-27 knots. Still looking for a break in the weather!!

Summary: 9 hours, 32 miles
Waiting seemed to pay off. We started the morning with 16-20 kts, and although it picked up throughout the day (22-28kts), the seas remained manageable. Many months before we had read about the waves and swell of the Red Sea, and unfortunately near Port Bernice we experienced just how bad they can be. The thing about the Red Sea is that the seas build up almost instantly and form these square waves that knock you back as if hitting a mack truck. Trying to motor into such swell is nearly impossible, unless willing to travel at about 1-2kts. However, what we found is that if we motor sailed, keeping the seas at an angle and using the wind to give us extra drive, we actually made way and the ride was more comfortable. The downside was that we usually needed to hand steer in order to stay tight to the wind and tacking required more work than lazy sailors (such as us) tend to like! In total we tacked 26 times, sailed 44.9 miles to go 32 miles, and both were feeling a bit worn out when we arrived. But we had made 32 miles, which was a great day for us (in this weather) and had managed to average 5 kts. We were exhausted but happy.

Again it blew all night and was already averaging 25+ kts when we woke up to go. There was a local in a motorboat that was anchored near us and he had stopped by to see how we were doing the night before. He too was going to Port Suez, and when we looked out and saw that he wasn't going anywhere we figured that we should trust local knowledge and stay put!

El Tur - June 22, 2008

We crossed to El Tur (45nM).. Even though we are only 1/3 of the way there, I think 1/2 of the hard stuff is behind us!! We'll keep you posted, it sure doesn't feel like it with 20-25 blowing right from were we need to go. 120 nM to go!!

So much for the lighter winds theory - the wind blew above 20kts all night and we woke up to whitecaps in the anchorage. The Red Sea looked ugly. At 6am it was already blowing 25-28kts. We decided we needed a day of rest.

3am start ..(hey it was calm .. 10 knots) Made it to Zeitiya (25.2 nM). From here we will jump to the other side for "calmer" weather. Forecasts are way off says 6 knots we're getting 25-30 across the deck.. Ah the Red Sea!!

Leg 1 Summary: Geisum to Zeitiya; 4 hours 15 minutes, 14.7 miles
This time we departed at 3am, and it paid off. We took the inner route through the reefs and for the first few hours it was nice and calm with little wind. The winds started picking up as we neared the anchorage so the last hour and half was a bit long, but overall we were quite happy.

Leg 2 Summary: Zeitiya to El Tor; 5 hours 15 minutes, 25.2 miles
I must say we were THRILLED with this leg. Zeitiya was where we jumped across the channel; meaning no protection from the swell, we'd be taking on the full brunt of the Red Sea, and have to avoid huge ships at the same time. We waited until the afternoon so that the tide was flowing with the wind (therefore, hopefully, resulting in less swell). When we departed it was blowing 22 kts, we both wanted to wait, but also knew that this was probably as good as it was going to get and we needed to just suck it up and get out there. It was better than we'd dared hope. We motor-sailed across at a pretty decent angle (not going backwards anyway) and averaged 4.8 kts all the way to El Tor, even with 20+ kts! We really couldn't believe it. El Tor was a big milestone for us, as we were now across the channel and people (and forecasts) had reported the winds were a bit lighter once past El Tor.

Part 2 .. 15 nM Took advantage of a Rea Sea Calm (20 knots) to move around the point. It will be slow going but I think We'll make it.

Part 1 .. 15 nM stop a little ways up after a 30+ knot pounding..1/2 mi of fetch and it still killed us.

Leg 1 Summary: 1 hour 15 mins, 4 miles
Leg 2 Summary: 3 hours 10 mins, 11 miles

We departed Endeavor around 6am hoping to make a few miles before the wind picked up. We didn't get very long, about 20 minutes later we had 25-30 kts across the decks. We kept telling ourselves that it shouldn't be so bad as we were less than 2 miles from a huge mountain that should've been protecting us for any big fetch. Nothing about the Red Sea is logical, even with just 1 mile of fetch we had huge square waves and we depressingly watched as Billabong's speed sank and sank until we weren't even making 1.5 kts! Finally we caved-in and headed off to an anchorage. At this point I was seriously thinking that we'd just have to go back to Hurghada and wait for next year. We looked at the weather forecast and it was all the same, 6-12 kts for the next few days, if 6-12 meant 22-27 than how would we ever make it???

The winds were predicted to lighten up in the afternoon so we waited, and waited, and waited, but it was still blowing 20kts. Luckily, thankfully, friends of ours were coming from Hurghada and reported only having 15 kts. We figured the mountains must be accelerating the winds in the anchorage, so at 3pm we joined them and were extremely relieved to find that it had indeed lightened up (to about 15-20kts). There is an inner route, through the reefs, that we planned on taking but it did require sticking our nose out into the channel (no protection from swell) for about 5 miles. We gave it a go that afternoon, and were thrilled to find that we could actually make way, even in 20 kts. Our faith was restored that we could actually make it to Port Suez!

In total it had taken us 4 hours and 25 minutes to go 15 miles, but the real kicker is that we had only gone 5 miles as the crow files!!!

Finally Back out Here .. This Will be a rough trip. The first protected leg took us 7 hours to go 24 miles.. uggh. Oh well I guess it's just part of the job!!

Summary: 7 hours, 22.7 miles

For the most part it was, at least, a comfortable day. We were in the protection of some reefs so we didn't have big seas, and therefore we were able to motor almost straight to our destination (rather then short-tacking inside the reefs). On the other hand we were now a bit worried about the days to come ... if we were going this slow in protected waters, just how slow would we be going in the open waters without the reefs to break up the swell???

Continue reading "Passage Blurbs: Hurghada to Suez"...

Suez Yacht Club

Current Location: Suez Yacht Club, Egypt
Current Position: 29 56.85 N 32 34.37 E
At 3:01:37 (but who's counting) we left the Red Sea and entered the Suez Canal. We watch in awe as the Huge ship traffic passes behind us and reflect on our Red Sea Adventure. All in all it was a great experience..

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