Sharm El Sheikh to Suez Canal

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Fri 9 Apr 2010 05:34

Thurs 1st April – crossed over from Hurghada to Sharm el Sheikh arriving no more than an hour before the Easyjet flight from Luton flew right over our heads as we hove to the harbour wall in the main port (no marina) not far from Essex man cruise from hell!!  Penny Taylor managed to get a taxi from the airport and we met her at the gate – all entry and visa formalities done by our Agent, Felix.  Her bags were laden down with wine (nearly run out!!) and biscuits, sweets and chocolate treats for Easter, and Lancaster suntan lotion, and of course the precious spare parts to mend the ensuite loo!!! – the usual stuff you take to friends on a boat!!!! Dumped bags and headed back into town looking for supper – walking the odd mile to the Old Market – what a scrum of tat interwoven with tiny squashed shops piled high with “fresh” fruit and veg or vast vats of spices.  We haggled a chap to near tears for 3 t-shirts each, for our boys back home, but resisted the temptation to buy carpets or shisha pipes or broken fridge magnets of the pyramids.  We passed suspect looking kebab eateries and eventually saw a fish restaurant so popular it had a queue.  We then found a great fish place (opposite SevenEleven, right by the main Old Market archway) which was also to be found in the “good food guides”.  Had delicious fresh fish including calamaries, prawns, shrimp and even lobster together with great dips and salad – but all relatively expensive.  Got a taxi back to the port.  Essex man cruise disco going great guns on our return, and all set to sleep like logs except for the unusual appearance of gangs of mossies which kept all up a lot of the night!!!  That Penny Taylor attracts them like bees to a honey pot! 

Good Friday 2nd April.  After the usual numerous formalities with harbour officials (at least 4 for each job, usually hanging around doing nothing very much!)  Set off up Gulf of Suez following the hordes of dive boats, which are the only ones allowed to Dive in the huge area of national park that makes up that bit of the coast.  We eventually found our way through the coral and dropped anchor. Sally and Penny went snorkling, but coral looked black and the sea was quite cloudy – fab salad lunch and a glass of pink wine and off again straight into a head wind, all the way to Suez!!  Sally and Jeremy on the usual 3 hours on/off with useless visiting crew reading,  chatting and get getting in the way.  To pass the time Sally has become an addicted fiendish Scrabble player and introduced Penny to proper rules including 2 letter words!!  They were both surprised indeed when Penny won.  Night came and Penny retreated to bed, only to re-appear when the swell proved too much and she retreated to the main cabin for a slightly smoother ride and some sleep.

Saturday 3rd April.  Dawn found Sally and Penny on watch and the weather was not too bad, wind still on the nose, but quite a smooth ride.  The container ships seemed to get bigger and bigger as the gulf got narrower towards Suez and it appeared we would not arrive until 8.00pm. The 2nd scrabble encounter commenced, and Sally was horrified when she was positively trounced! – the 3rd battle is yet to commence!!  All on constant look out as it got dark and we had to dodge fishing boats, tugs and pilots while the huge container ships were continuing to come towards us – and we had to cross the shipping lanes directly into the harbour – finding those little green lights was taxing the little grey cells.  Jeremy timed it perfectly, and swung left just behind the last giant tanker heading south – phew!  Having warned the agent of our arrival, it was great to be met by “three men in a boat”, who tied us to buoys and offered us a lift to shore.  What we really needed was something to drink, but that can be quite difficult around here!!!  The agent arranged for us to eat lamb kebabs and salad and dips at his favourite place (no menu in site and no English spoken - Vernon Taylor would have loved it – very much in the genre of Jeanettes).  We fell into bed expecting an excellent night’s sleep, but Jeremy was up at 2.0am tightening particularly noisy slapping halliards – ah well another broken night’s sleep!!

Easter Sunday 4th April.  To everyone’s amazement we awoke to find O-Flo moored next to us, having arrived at about 7.0am  – great yells of “hi” crossed the water, and Meg and Micca came over for coffee.  Plans were made for all 6 of them to come over for lamb dinner and bring roast potatoes and chocolate cake!!!  A few chores got under way – Jeremy fixing the ensuite loo with the spare parts Penny had brought from UK.  A relaxed day ensued and Sally started dinner……the dinner guests arrived at the most unopportune moment, seconds after the pyrex dish with the lamb roast had exploded (quite an impressive noise!) in the oven – shattered glass everywhere, and Jeremy still in the bowels of the boat, dropping a precious part of his socket set – all hands to the pump – guests got their own drinks while disaster was averted in the kitchen, and Sally and Penny managed not to get cut and drop blood everywhere!!!  Dinner was quite late, but absolutely delicious including onion sauce and gravy – on a boat in Egypt? – how totally amazing and weird!!  The north wind gets up a bit in the evening, and once the sun is down, it gets quite chilly, so everyone was creeping deeper and deeper under the spray dodger to keep warm.  We were warned that our trip up the canal was going to start early on Monday as it was a holiday, so we were prepared to rise at 5.0am!!!  All in bed by 11.30pm for a good night’s sleep, but we were all awake by 4.00am and just as well, as the agent arrived at – aagh!

Monday 5th April.   Jeremy had already got up to rescue his socket set bit with a magnet – successfully.  Yussuf, the pilot arrived, and we are off by 5.00am!!! Very cold at that time of the morning, but very smooth ride, and not much wind, so we charged up the canal, at about 8 knots!!! with giant container ships behind and in front of us – no other small boats or yachts in site.  Yussuf hand steered the whole way.  When the container ships slowly passed us, the site of these giants compared to our small boat was awesome!!!  We found 20-30 ships waiting in the Big Bitter lake and Yussuf wound his way between them.  We reached Ismailia by 11.30 (probably a record by all accounts – 44 NM in 5½ hours!!) We found the Yacht Club, an impressive Art Décor building with spiral staircase and fancy balconies, until you get up close and find out how much disrepair it is in (like everything in Egypt!!).  We moored on the harbour wall next to Chenoa who had been in the Yemen convoy before us.  They have two young boys (4 & 5 yrs) and have been at sea for 4 years in the boat John had built himself from scratch in his garden (it took 7 years!!!  Now on their way home for school for the kids – the people you meet never seem to amaze us!!!)  A very lazy afternoon (considering we were up at 4.0am) led to inviting the next doors for drinks – so supper was quite late – comfort food the order of the day (baked potatoes, beans and grated cheddar).  All off to bed for the promised Good Night’s Sleep, but………….. na, na, na, na, na, 10 min pause, na, na, na, na, na, - on and on - some bloody car alarm which went relentlessly on until 6.0am – OMG will we ever sleep???

Tuesday 6th April.  Woke at 8,0am after 2 hrs uninterrupted sleep to another glorious day – what to do?  Sally and Penny eventually set off into town to find the non-existent Tourist Office!  Walked along the canal passed the impressive colonial buildings – now all looking rather sad, and found the Museum (“the small museum” – perfect for Penny’s “museum legs”) which was just that!  Mobbed by a coachload of Muslim school girls on a school outing – photographs ensued, but the Teacher nearly lost it, so we escaped into the calm of the museum.  Wonderful ancient Egyptian artefacts from bronze bowls to little delicate glass jars (with their stoppers) to gold jewellery, shiny as the day it was made, and interesting mosaics depicting stories of the Gods – all attended with English tags written by someone who obviously spoke no English!!  We got a taxi to a bank so Sally could get more funds, and walked down to the mosque, then back again to the Metro (super market) to get stuff for lunch.  Cold roast chicken and salad followed by chocolate gloop pudding – what a treat!!!!  The afternoon whiled away reading and texting and checking e.mails etc etc.  The sun is just going down and its time for G&Ts, fags and the next exciting game of scrabble.

Off to Cairo tomorrow for 2 nights and then Penny flies home on Saturday – so watch this space………………..