Anchored at Marsa Zeitya
Gulf of Suez
134 Miles to the Suez Canal!!!
0 fish caught...
Right now as I type away the wind is screaming through the rigging over 30. We are securely anchored right up along the beach here at Marsa Zeitya at the south western entrance to the Gulf of Suez. The day before yesterday, while anchored at Endeavour Harbor, Team Sandpiper noticed a drop in the winds (anything below 20 knots is considered calm in the Red Sea). So we sprung into action to make some miles to the north and left the harbor as soon as possible. S/V Shiraz and S/V My Chance decided to wait it out till we could give them a weather brief once we left the harbor.
As usual, as soon as we got out the winds picked back up over 20 knots right off the bow. But we stayed as close to the reefs and islands as possible to get whatever lee that we could. We made it north our daily 7 miles to a lee at Bluff Point. S/V Shiraz and S/V My Chance declined to follow us once we gave them the weather report outside the anchorage. This is where they still remain back there.
We had hoped to make it farther. But the seas outside Bluff Point we could see and were quite large and breaking. So we opted to call it quits and pull into Bluff Point (27'40.6N/33'48.4E). We were followed in by a huge dive charter boat that came quite close to us. We grabbed one of the free moorings along the windward reef. The moorings here are not attached to the bottom, but instead are tied off directly to the reefs. You bow up, and once secured, the wind blows you off the reef. We had no way to grab the moorings as they are floating ON the reef. But the dive boat had a dingy in the water that had used to tie their lines to the mooring. So they came over and hooked us up by tying off our long bow line to the moorings. Then the 30-40 knot winds blew us back off the reef.
Since the winds in this part of the Red Sea are always from the north, you do not have to worry about swinging around on a mooring. If there was a wind direction change, we would have all been blown on to the reef.
By sunset we were surrounded by 3 large dive charter boats that had divers jumping off their sterns and swimming right under the 'Piper. There were bubbles all around us, like a large jacuzzi. After sunset they all jumped back into the water for a night dive. But we were not so sure how safe this was as it was blowing over 30 knots and pitch black. If one of the divers had surfaced and had trouble getting back to their boat, no one would have never known.
We had thought that we would be stuck here for a few days. But at 5am we both woke up wondering what was wrong. It was the fact that the winds had dropped below 15 knots. So once again we sprung into action before sunrise and took off. And once again as soon as we got outside the protection of land, the waves from the previous days' winds were quite huge, burying Sandpipers bow at times with water right over the boat. Our goal was to make the 4 miles north of Bluff Point to where we could turn west to get the wind off the bow and head for our current anchorage. Luckily, for some unknown reason, as we turned west the winds dropped down below 15 knots and we made progress north the 13 miles thru the reefs to where we are currently anchored.
Just before we arrived the winds kicked back up to over 30 knots off the bow. We slowly powered into the small bay were we motored as close to the beach as possible to drop the hook, then backed off 200 feet of chain. This is another spot where if the wind was to change direction, then we would be right on the beach. But if we were lucky enough to have a wind change, then we would be out of here in an instant.
There is a French boat next to us, and another boat from Turkey that we know, the S/V Yosun (Turkish for "Seaweed"). They said that the short passage we had just made was one of the worst passages that they had ever made. They experienced huge waves, and thought for a short period that they were going to capsize.
We had an interesting conversation at sunset tonight with our Turkish and French neighbors in English as their English is quite limited. They asked us to talk to them like one would talk to a baby so we could all understand each other.
For some reason, ever since leaving the U.S., everyone pronounces Sandpiper's name as "Sandpaper". So tonight I had to explain that we were not named after a piece of sandpaper, but a majestic shoreline seabird.
The anchorage here does not have much to offer. All around us are oil pumping facilities, and the harbor is where all the oil rig supply vessels pull into. Also there are helicopters landing and taking off, hauling personnel out to the drilling platforms that are all along the horizon with their bright flames burning everywhere we look. There is also an Egyptian military base here with large bunkers and lookout posts all over the place. So no shore leave for Team Sandpiper.
Our current plan is to wake up early in the am and check out the winds. If they drop down tomorrow below 20 knots, then we are going to motorsail across the Gulf of Suez 25 miles to the next anchorage. If the winds do not come down, then this will be our new home for a 'few' days.
Hopefully next entry is not from here...
Tom and Amy
23 May 2008
Anchored at Marsa Zeitya