| 9:00 PM local time, Thursday, May 16 (1800 May 16 UTC) 29 25 N 032 42 E.
Temp. 73, Humidity 65%, Cloud Cover 0%. Tied bow-to the Port Fouad Yacht
Club, Port Fouad. Some yacht club. Not.
Greetings from the crew of Maverick.
This afternoon we reached the northern end of the Suez Canal at the twin
cities of Port Said and Port Fouad, situated on the western and eastern banks
of the northern entrance, respectively. We had begun our transit Tuesday
morning and sailed the first half, up to the city of Ismailia, that day.
Wednesday we spent emailing some more Egypt photos back home, checking out
the town, and having a farewell dinner with some fellow cruisers. Today was
another transit day, and we had planned to sail directly into the Med when we
got here but decided to check out a fuel problem before making that final
step away from Egypt.
The Suez is a sea-level canal, meaning there are no locks, and though it
is a conduit for a lot of tonnage, it is far surpassed in this regard by the
Kiel. The traffic for big ships is one-way and there are convoys organized at
Port Suez in the South and Port Said in the North where each ship picks up a
pilot and joins together with others to form a group that proceeds in single
file through the canal. Although there are a couple of bypasses, the
southbound traffic is allowed to finish before the northbound traffic begins,
and there are two convoys of each every day.
For a yacht coming north, transit is arranged at Port Suez by an agent,
through whom fees are paid based on a formula that determines your Suez Canal
Tonnage after an official measurer comes aboard. For us, the fee was about
$135, but added to that were the agent's fee, promised to be $20 but actually
$45, and some other port, customs, and immigration fees bringing the total to
about $235. Although others have been overcharged for tonnage, this did not
happen to us.
On the day of departure, in our case the next day, a pilot is delivered to
your boat who guides you up the first leg of the transit. All boats in the
canal must have a pilot aboard at all times. In our case, it was the first
time since we left California that another person was aboard Maverick while
we were underway. Pilots have a bad reputation for being very demanding of
baksheesh in the form of money, cigarettes, beer, food, etc., but most are
nice and we were lucky to come up with good ones both days. Our first pilot
was Hassan, who let us motorsail much of the way, and the second, Sabeh, who
didn't. You're not supposed to sail but it added to our speed and it seems it
can be allowed at the discretion of the pilot.
Sailing the first leg, we thought of the opening of the Canal in 1869,
which brought to an end the era of the tea clippers, boats originally
designed and built by Americans, then copied by others, that plied the China
tea trade in the middle of the 19th century. (There was actually a canal here
also in ancient times used by the Pharaohs, which silted up in the eighth
century.) These were in their day incredibly powerful ships that could
deliver fresh tea far more rapidly than their competitors from Britain, and
along with the first ever America's Cup established American sailormen as
second to none. The opening of the Suez Canal, which could not be efficiently
navigated using the wind because of its narrowness, more than any other event
signaled the end of the days of sail and ushered in the new era of the
You depart Suez at the end of the morning's northbound convoy of big
ships. As you come north in the canal the Sinai remains desert all the way,
but the west bank becomes more verdant now that you are near the Nile Delta.
For the most part it is like a river cruise absent recreational facilities,
towns, and vacation homes. We had a pretty good time until, on the second day
of our transit, Maverick's engine, which had been running fine since we left
El Gouna, sputtered and died in the middle of the Canal. It was necessary to
hastily lower the anchor in sixty feet, change fuel filters, and bleed the
diesel before getting underway, only to have the same thing happen a couple
of hours later. Fortunately, at neither time was there any large shipping
traffic. For this reason we elected to stop in Port Foaud to sort things out
before continuing. We think we may have traced the problem to a stripped
screw on one of our fuel filters, but in the meantime we have the distinction
of not only having sailed the Suez Canal, but having anchored in it as well.
PS to Paul: Pete Slauson, an old friend, writes to say that only the bottom
three strings on the high-strung guitar are tuned up an octave, so there
might be more than one school of thought.
Thanks to the rest who've written to encourage us. We're now back on the
boat's email, so keep them short and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next report from this location:
I Can See Clearly Now