RED SEA


March 25

Our destination was Port Galib, where we planned to check into Egypt. It was a long 300+ mile sail but we wanted to take advantage of the 3 day weather window to get through the notorious Foul Bay. Foul Bay is a difficult area to navigate, riddled with reefs and poorly charted with no anchorages for protection if the winds pick up.

Weather conditions were favourable so we decided to do some fishing. However, all that seemed to want to hit our lure were barracuda. These nasty fish have razor sharp teeth and are very difficult to release.

All went according to plan for the first 36 hours and we made it past Foul Bay without any drama. However, the wind suddenly increased as the weather system rolled in 12 hours early. We battled with the elements but the winds were so strong and right on the nose and the seas were so steep that with sail and full throttle, we were making 0 knots of headway! Only 25 miles to go to Port Galib and we were stopped short!

So we searched for alternatives, where we could anchor and wait out the weather. None of the nearby bays looked very protected but we detoured to port and tried to make it to Marsa Tarafi. Suddenly the engine started making a horrid racket, sounding like ball bearings thundering around inside the motor and we were overheating at an alarming rate. In desperation we shut it down. Half way up the Red Sea in a remote, desolate area, with strong winds beating against us, there could not be a worse place to lose our motor!

Stardust was behind us and taking refuge in Marsa Tundaba where there wasn't as much surrounding reef to deal with. So we backtracked 10 miles and found our way to the shores of the fishing village where we dropped anchor under sail amidst a group of dive boats.

Marsa Tundaba

The dusty barren shoreline of Marsa Tundaba didn't seem very inviting.  Ashore a few primitive buildings in front of the distance wrinkle brown mountains. We hoped there might be a dive resort but when we tried to go ashore we were stopped because we did not yet have an Egyptian Visa and Marsa Tundaba is not a point of entry.

The Saga Begins

Further investigation showed that the gear than runs our water pump had shattered, so no cooling system for the motor! The part is only about 4" across, a round plastic disk with lots of teeth, looks like something from Chris' Technic set.

Since the coastguard would not let us off the boat  there was no way to try and fix or replace the part.

On the radio net, Christata agreed to try and source the part where they were in Hurghada since they had the exact spare part and were familiar with what we needed.

Later they informed us that there was a part available in Cairo but it would cost $250 US. We were astounded but you have to realize that everyone in Egypt has to have a piece of the pie (baksheesh). There were probably numerous pockets to be filled in order to get the part so we relented and agreed to the price. We knew the part only cost $14 from Volvo!!!!!

But now we had to find a way to get the part to us, a 4 hour drive away form Hurghada by car. We could not go ashore but we luckily found a captain of a local dive boat to agree to drive to Hurghada and pick up the part for us. It was due to arrive on the bus from Cairo the following day so he set off. However, when he got to Hurghada, there was no part. It was due in on the next bus. After the next bus...still no part. He stayed an extra day but returned to Marsa Tundaba empty handed!

In the meanwhile, Gord had jury rigged our spare galley pump, bypassing the water pump on the engine, to provide an emergency cooling system that would get us out of a bind (like heading for a reef!).

So we pulled anchor in the wee hours of the morn and set sail for Port Galib. Luckily we had ideal weather conditions to sail and only had to use our emergency pump to get through the

channel into Port Galib.

Port Galib
March 29/08

We checked in at the main dock then were redirected to a cement wall where we were assisted in being tied up, but confusion and chaos prevailed. It seemed that the dock helpers had no idea how to catch mooring lines and the end result was everyone bumping and slamming into other boats and the wall. Stardust got a few "bruises" on her brand new gelcoat.

Port Galib actually does not exist yet, it is still being built. Someday it will be a first class resort community but now it is a big dusty, noisy construction site. There is a hotel here catering to Diving but we are not especially welcome. The charge to use the pool was $18, laundry - $1/item, internet $20 and meals over the roof!!! Water at the dock is not drinkable and if we want to use some to wash our boat we have to pay for a minimum of 100 gallons so the boat remains covered with filth because without an engine, we cannot make water. The public shower for the men did not have hot water but the women's did so I was sneaking my laundry into the shower with me!

In 2008 Port Galib was only a dusty construction site
Not a lot to offer cruising yachts in Port Galib.
It went from being really hot to really COLD at night! We dug out all our woolies.

April 1
In search of some kind of store to buy groceries we walked 45 minutes and came to a little Egyptian restaurant called "Tweetys" where we ordered the most delicious pizza! The owner's name was "Honey" and he offered to organize a van to drive us to Hurghada to pick up our water pump gear. ("White people" are not allowed to ride the local buses because of safety issues.)

We trudged thru dirt piles and heavy construction equipment, through partially built condos and vacant finished buildings.

Splitting the cost with 2 other couples, we made the 3 hour drive to Hurghada. We all thought that the trip would be an interesting adventure but the landscape the entire way there was bleak plains of flat nothingness, course sand with absolutely no plantlife. The road followed the coast and the only things to look at were manmade, exclusive resorts being built everywhere. They must be expecting a booming tourist industry, not my choice of a holiday destination but the diving is supposed to be very good.

The architecture of the resorts was really interesting though with bulbous like turrets adorning the concrete structures.

The Replacement Part and the beginning of our Nightmare

Hurghada was a bustling town and the marina was our first port of Call. Turned out that our part was not available in Cairo after all, so  it was engineered, a copy being made of the original nylon composite part using Cristata's spare as a template, but out of brass.  We had reservations with the quality of the brass (who knows what old piece of scrap they made it from) and we had concerns with thermal expansion of the different materials (steel Cam gear running on a Brass water-pump gear).

After visiting with a few fellow cruisers, we went for a fantastic Egyptian lunch. "Honey" ordered for us and so we got authentic cuisine and Egyptian prices too! It is amazing the double standard here, a whole separate pricing system for tourists and foreigners. You really have to bargain hard.

Then we spent time at the internet as we needed to get weather information. Then we went to a supermarket and all replenished our stock of groceries. Our driver took Bob to a place that would fill his jugs with drinking water as he does not have a watermaker. By then it was time to head back. The scenery was so boring that we all slept on the trip back to Port Galib.

Back in Port Galib

The good news was that the part worked. We tested it by making water and charging batteries and all seemed fine. Now we just needed a weather window to leave. It looks like we will be trapped here for at least 4 more days before we can make the next jump to Hurghada, 24 hours sail away.

We watched some dancing at the hotel bar. We got away with not ordering anything to drink as the service was so poor no one ever came around to our table to ask for an order, which was fine because local beer cost $8/glass!!! The show was great, belly dancers (both men & women) and colorful Whirling Dervish. At the end, everyone got up and joined in the dancing.

We were trapped in Pt Galib for a week, waiting for the wind to die so we could leave. But every morning we would awake to howling blustery weather, the boats slamming against the concrete dock, forcing us to adjust fenders every hour as the tide changed. Spring tide was a huge problem at the marina because there were no floating docks. The tide dropped so low that the boats almost disappeared below the wall! The fenders became useless and some of the boats were damaged.

While we waited we caught up on boat chores. A camel train passed by the boat one day  carrying awkward looking tourists.

A twin to our Beneteau boat, wrecked on a reef just off the entrance, was a dismal reminder that we were in dangerous waters.

Sailing the Red Sea is frustrating. It seems that you just jump from point to point, going like crazy before the wind changes on to your nose. Then you wait out the blow usually at anchor, which means that it is too rough to launch your dinghy to snorkel or go ashore. When the weather is conducive to exploring, up comes the anchor and you are motoring like crazy again to make a few more miles.

April 8

Finally the GRIB (a very unreliable but our only weather forecast) gave us an indication of a break in the hostile weather. So we checked out and paid our fees thinking we could leave around noon. But noon came and the seas outside the harbour were still a frothing white, huge waves and strong winds. About 6 boats were waiting in anticipation, antsy for the wind to subside. Finally at 4 pm the first brave soul ventured out and we were all soon to follow.

As night fell the winds settled and the seas flattened so we motored as hard as we could against the current. We were doing fine until 7 am when all of a sudden there was that horrible sound again....Rattle rattle bang crunch crunch. A horrendous noise that sounded like an explosion was imminent! In horror we quickly turned off the engine. Further investigation revealed that our new $250 brass gear for the water pump had given out. All the points on the gear were shorn flat. We had been suspicious that making it out of brass would not work but at the time there was no other solution because the part did not exist in Egypt. The tack sensor was also damaged so our panel quit working and we had no instruments. 

Gord reinstalled his makeshift jury rigged water pump in mid ocean, splicing the lines for a temporary fix and we limped into Hurghada by mid afternoon.