Port Suakin, Sudan to Port Ghalib, Egypt
Wed 18 Mar 2020 15:25
Left the shelter of Port Suakin at 7.30am on Monday, 9th March and headed out into the main channel the way we had come in, although the wind had dropped the sea was still bumpy with a Northerly wind on the nose so more motor-sailing whenever the wind edged round to the North East the Genoa went out but there was not enough wind to turn the motor off other than for the odd hour. So we headed on and in later in the day passed Sanganeb Reef and Lighthouse lying way off the Coast. Sanganeb Reef is Sudan's only Marine National Park and is 25km off the Sudanese Coast. We took the inside route behind the reef in the hope of slightly less bumpy seas but the strong winds of the previous days had left the sea lumpy and uncomfortable. Day 2 and the sea was a little less bumpy and we were able to make good progress motor sailing as fast as we could to try and beat the next very strong Northerly blow 45 knots! which was due on Friday/Saturday 13/14th March.
Early on Day 4 Thursday, 12th March we passed Elphinstone Reef a well known dive site and started to head in towards, Port Ghalib, Egypt, I radioed Port Control and was told to stand by at the entrance buoy of the Channel for Quarantine Officials to visit the boat. We motored round in circles and about 40minutes later Port Control radioed to say Quarantine were on the way. A local guy who looked about 12 and was wearing a hazard suit and gloves and clutching a gun thermometer came aboard and zapped us - all seemed okay, he then asked for some mosquito spray and set about spraying the whole of the outside of the boat (Yellow Fever is endemic in the whole of the Red Sea Coastline of East Africa). Our Yellow Fever Certificates were checked and photographed and then I set to with the reams of form filling in as Syd was told he could motor into the Harbour and stop at the Customs/Quarantine Dock. There we were told by the Agent Mohamed (yet another one!) that Immigration and Customs would take about 2 hours and in the meantime we were in a secure area and could not go ashore. I started cleaning the worst of the salt off the cockpit and screen and Syd had a sleep. 2 hours later Mohamed returned with Customs - 6 men with guns who went through every cupboard on the boat - even searched under the mattress. Eventually we were given the okay and proceeded to a berth. The Marina is a 'was' Grand Design that definitely was not designed with boats in mind, it is a series of lagoons connected by concrete bridges - I guess originally the idea was to build on all the little islands but it never happened and now the desert it is built in is in the process of claiming it back. We were helped by the water taxi to go onto our berth which was next to 2 dive boats belonging to Emperor Divers who lease the whole of the ground floor of The Marina Lodge Resort Hotel. It was not a manoeuvre for the faint hearted but Syd pulled it off as we backed in attaching ropes to a huge mooring ball at the bow with the stern backed onto the concrete walkway below the Hotel.
There are about 6 other yachts here and to get over to the Port side where there are a few restaurants and bars there is a water taxi. No way can this be classed as a Marina as there are no facilities, I went looking for a shower when we arrived and was told the only operational showers (cold water only!) were in Emperor Divers men's toilets - great the ladies toilets/showers have been locked since we arrived and I was told they are broken. The Resort itself has been steadily emptying due to Coronavirus and the Dive Operation closed down today Wednesday, 18th March. The Hotel officially closes on Saturday then we will be alone here as most of the staff in this Resort live in either Luxor or Cairo and they have all packed up and gone home to their families.
We are waiting for clearance from Agent Mohamed to allow us to sail up to Hurghada where hopefully Syd can get the generator fixed as it is a 'real' Town and there might be a bit more to do. In the meantime, we have food, 2 bottles of very expensive Egyptian red wine left, the sun shines every day (though it is cold, Ug Boots have appeared and are worn nightly!), I have found a rather nice little swimming channel out to the reef which is pretty stunning and there is a large desert to go running in so I definitely would not swop places with all the people suffering the media fueled craziness of the current virus ridden climate! On a boat in the middle of the desert is a much better place to be.