Trip Reports

Disasters (05-May-2002-09-00):
9:00 AM local time, Sunday, May 5 (0600 May 5 UTC) 27 24 N 033 40 E. Temp. 77, Humidity 41%, Cloud Cover 0%. Abu Tig Marina, El-Gouna Resort, near Hurghada, Egypt.

Not us. Just wanted to pique your interest.

The mechanical problems we've been faced with have kept us pinned in Egypt, and this has had a dampening effect on the skipper's morale of late, as he sits in the marina crankily growing his beard. We still aren't confident of a departure in the near term. The reader may have been lulled into complacency, or, say, boredom, because Maverick seems to be routinely and inexorably heading along its planned route. But there are no assurances we'll even make it the tough 180 miles to the Suez Canal from here, much less the rest of the planet we have to cover to get home. Although the majority of boats have made it through the Canal by now with only modest difficulty, what follows gives some examples of what has happened to other boats in the Red Sea in the last couple of months, putting things in perspective.

The Kiwi boat Achates was struck by lightening in a hail and thunderstorm early in March as they headed up the Red Sea. Their VHF and autopilot were destroyed.

Oceans Free, a British-flagged 71-footer some of you will remember as having lost half its rudder and keel as a result of a grounding across from Singapore in Batam, Indonesia, is finally through the Suez Canal, but at a price. The boat had to be hauled a second time in Malaysia after the stern gland failed at sea causing a serious condition of flooding requiring the tearing out of some furniture to get at the source of the influx. The boat made it to the harbor after some scary hours, but Captain Peter and his wife, Lynn, decided they'd had enough and hired a delivery crew to await repairs and take the boat to the Med. Once through the Suez Canal, however, the boat suffered another problem when the engine failed during a gale on the way to Malta. When last heard, they were becalmed and without power.

The engine of Grace, flag unknown by your correspondent, has malfunctioned and cannot be repaired. They have considered putting the boat in a container at Safaga, Egypt and having it shipped to the Med for repairs, and another possibility is sailing to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to install a new engine. Saudi Arabia can only be visited in an emergency and this may be stretching the definition.

The vessel Northstar has found diesel entering the oil in the engine at the rate of about a liter an hour, indicating broken rings perhaps, and is attempting to sail to Safaga for major engine repairs.

Chamois, a French or French-Canadian boat, hit the reef attempting to enter an anchorage after dark with two other boats that made it. She couldn't be kedged off, and had to be abandoned by her owner and crew. At last report she is still on the reef and salvage attempts have not been successful. A steel French boat of indeterminate name has gone on the reef between here and Suez, presumably as a result of its anchor dragging, and cannot be salvaged.

The owner of the large catamaran Bohay was killed in an accident that occurred when he was attempting to remove the rig from his boat in Phuket, Thailand. He was detaching the rigging wires at the masthead when the pivoting spar, which had not been adequately supported, fell to the ground. He died a few hours later at the hospital. The boat was sold by his widow to a German couple who made it to the Bab Al Mandeb at the bottom of the Red Sea, where they suffered a dismasting in fifty knots and rough seas. Although there were no serious injuries, they decided to issue a mayday, abandoned the boat, and were rescued by German navy helicopter. The boat was taken in tow by a Chinese freighter and a rendezvous was scheduled with a tug that would take it into a Yemenese port. When the freighter arrived at the rendezvous the tug was not there, and the owners of the shipping company instructed the captain to cut the boat loose to maintain his schedule. About a week later the boat was found, but all gear had been stripped. No pirates or political activists, though.


Once again thanks to all who've sent their worries, best wishes, and questions to They continue to speed us on our way, or, when we're stuck like we are now, keep our morale up.

I find it curious, don't you, that at the pyramids, which have to be among the top ten tourist attractions in the world, the entrance fee is collected by someone in a tatty booth who makes change out of random bills loose in a drawer. It's less that $5 to get in, when, after flying in from, e.g., Germany, nobody would bat an eye at $20, and let's at least use a cash register if a computer seems too high-tech. Does the reader have any idea what it costs to get into Disneyland? (I bet at least one does; you know who you are.) The visitor is not given any brochure or map of the site and nothing of the sort can be found near on the grounds. There is no visitor center, there are no food vendors and in the heat one must rely on some hobbledehoy selling soft drinks from a cooler to quench one's thirst. There's not even a coke machine, which by itself would increase profits from concessions tenfold. There is no actual souvenir shop on the grounds, rather a raggedy bunch of hawkers selling a limited selection of items. The US gives Egypt $2.3 billion a year outright plus whatever else they get in guaranteed loans, etc. I don't see why with that amount of money they couldn't budget enough for some first-year Harvard Business School student on a summer internship, or hey, any dude off the street, to tell them how to make some serious cash, American-style. If you're thinking that the Captain is intent on corrupting this quaint land with the ideas of western capitalism, dream on. The Egyptians have, since the rediscovery of the antiquities a couple of centuries ago, pursued the tourist dollar with a passion. But this society, which in ancient times perfected not only monumental stonework and sailing but also the dovetail joint, a work of genius still used in the drawers of fine furniture, could use an update or two with their marketing.

According to locals, there is no public education, as we would understand it, in Egypt. No bookstores were found in Hurghada, a reasonably large city.

For those who are concerned that the situation in Israel may affect our safety, I would like to reassure you on that score if not on the wider picture. First, no one in Egypt wants to do anything to upset the tourist industry, the major source of income here. Second, the average Egyptian, whatever his politics, is a decent fellow. When we're asked where we're from, we say "America" and 90% of the time we get a "welcome" and a smile. On the other hand, it would be hard to find ten people in this country who sympathize with Israel or with the US policies in the Mideast. However strident you may feel President Mubarak is, he represents a very moderate view compared to his constituency. I don't want to wade into this any further, and as the Captain's shortcomings in the field of world affairs are well known to our readers, I'll leave it at that, except to say, please, no letters on this issue.

They might not like our politics, but we heard an Arabic language cover version of "Shaft" on the radio, complete with the background singers' husky voices. We have the capacity to receive local AM and FM broadcasts, and had looked forward to hearing indigenous music on our way around. The vast majority of stations of any strength in all lands so far, which includes most of the undeveloped portions of the world we'll be visiting, play much the same type music you'll hear in America or Europe. To hear local music there would have to be the equivalent of public radio in the US, but this doesn't seem to be in the budget of most countries.

Next report from this location: Vrrooom

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