Ismailia, Suez Canal to Paphos, Cyprus
Tuesday, 9th June and another early start, this time we had been told the Pilot for the second half of the Suez Canal would arrive at 5.30am and right on 5.30am he did! We had prepared our leaving scenario, and it all went like clockwork. We got the Pilot Islam on board and told him to sit in the cockpit which he did. Then we hoisted the dinghy and Syd cast off the stern ropes while I hauled in the bow rope which Syd had carefully tied with a big loop to the mooring buoy. He steadied the boat while I got the rope on board, undid the knot and set us free from the buoy. We were away, ropes had to be coiled up and put away as we led the 3 yacht convoy out of Ismailia. Behind us was a Spanish yacht Thor with a single hander Davide at the helm and the 3rd yacht was Aldivi with a Mexican family on board, Mum, Dad and 3 kids – they are apparently celebrities in Mexico as they are the first Mexican family to sail around the world and their boat is covered in sponsors logos.
The second half of the Suez Canal is a lot wider than the first. The start from Ismailia was quite built up then the Canal opened up into a wide Channel. Highlight of the trip was going under the enormous Mubarak Peace Bridge also known as Al Salam Peace Bridge, it is an impressive cable stayed Bridge at 154 metres in height with a length of 3.9km. It was opened in 2001 and is a road bridge.
Our Pilot Islam was very efficient but did not attempt to take over which was good. When we were nearing Port Said he radioed up the Pilot Boat and told us it was to come alongside to pick him up. We had fenders ready for this and were extremely glad we had when we saw the rusty Pilot Boat heading our way. The transfer was perfect and Islam hopped onto the Pilot Boat clutching his envelope containing $20 the suggested baksheesh amount.
We were free and what’s more we were back in the Mediterranean Sea 10 years after we had left it.
Out we motored, good-bye to Egypt or so we thought! Just as we seemed to be making excellent progress with a plan to arrive in Paphos 1 night earlier than we had thought, there was a nasty clunking sound! We both leapt up, Syd cut the engine and we rolled in the choppy swell, first thought we had got a dreaded fish trap wrapped around the propeller! No option but for Syd to get wetsuit, mask and fins and go in to have a look. We had gone side on to the heavy swell so the boat was rolling but the sea looked clear enough so Syd put a rope round his waist and jumped in then dived under the boat while I fed the rope out, he soon emerged clutching a sack, he had managed to pull it off the propeller on the first dive – somebody was looking out for us!
The whole incident had only taken 30 minutes so Syd dried off and we got going immediately, mainsail and genoa up but motor assisted to get away from Egypt as fast as we could.
Syd took first watch and managed to get a few hours of sailing in with 10-15 knots from the West, I took the dawn watch and we motor-sailed towards Cyprus.
Wednesday, 10th June and the afternoon breeze kicked in with a nice 15-20 knot Westerly and we sailed – first proper sail in a long time and a very nice finish to the journey.
We looked and looked for Cyprus as we got closer but could see nothing! Then we saw the lights of Limassol. Syd had phoned the Harbour Master Tomas at Paphos Harbour on the satellite phone in the afternoon so we were expected. We rolled in the Genoa and turned into the wind to drop the mainsail (all this by hand!)
Visibility was bad but we could make out lights on shore and peered into the darkness to try and find the red and green lights of the Channel markers into Paphos Harbour. We made out the shadowy shape of the Castle then spotted the lights. The Channel in is quite narrow with nasty rocks on either side so it was not an easy trip in, but the Harbour opened up and we could see the pontoon we were to go onto. There was no-one about as by now it was 11.30pm but it was calm with no side wind in the harbour so we slid gently alongside the pontoon and I jumped off to secure us.
We had arrived! Just as we were securing the ropes a marine policeman came down the pontoon, he wanted to know where we had come from etc., so boat papers and passports had to be found and several phone calls and visits from various policemen took place. We were very tired and each time we tried to go inside to sleep there was another knock on the boat. In the end we opened our last bottle of wine and had a victory drink. A police sergeant who spoke good English understood that our arrival had been expected and that we had a house in Paphos, he explained that we would have to stay on the boat but would be visited by Quarantine in the morning.
Thursday, 11th June we were woken by more knocking on the side of the boat, more explanations and were told we had two options, one was to do 2 weeks Quarantine on the boat, the second was to pay 100 Euros each to have a Covid-19 test, the result would be back within an hour and if negative we were free to leave the boat. That sounded a much better option so about 11.00am 2 nurses from the Evangelismos Private Hosptial arrived, the test is a swab which is inserted into your nostril, it does not hurt but is a very strange sensation as it goes up a long way and gives you a feeling as though you are going to sneeze. That done we waited. Soon after midday the result came back negative and later that day we were told by the police that we were free to go.
Back home now and enjoying so many things we have missed over the last 6 months. Gaviota is to move to a semi permanent berth in Paphos Harbour this week and boat jobs will begin soon!