04 June 2008

Lake Timsah, Egypt

Med Moored (bow in) at the Ismalia Yacht Club
Lake Timsah
Suez Canal

We are now dead center in the middle of the Suez Canal, Med moored, with the Sandpiper's bow tied off to a concrete patio area of the Ismalia Yacht Club. We plan to be here for a few days while we travel inland to Cairo to see the Pyramids.

The Suez Canal is a series of canals connected by large lakes. Construction of the canal started in 1859 and was completed 10 years later. The canal is some 90 miles long. Some of the canal areas are quite narrow and only has enough room for shipping traffic to pass in one direction at a time. So canal transit times are staggered for the ships so that they pass each other in the lakes.

We received our pilot at 10am the morning of our transit after paying our canal transit fee, a total of $271 U.S. dollars. We were very happy with this amount because we had been expecting a much higher fee as we had read about other boats transits in the past. But they had all been larger than the 'Piper.

We also paid our bill for the 268 liters of diesel that we squeezed into everything that would hold fuel since this will be the last chance for cheap fuel for a long time. We paid 70 cents a liter, and we hear that prices in Europe are $2.80 a liter and rising. In Egypt, fuel is subsidized by the government and the locals pay only 18 cents a liter at the pump. That's something like 75 cents a gallon!

The reason we could not leave Port Suez earlier then 10am is because we had to wait until all the northbound shipping had passed so we would not be blocking their passage. After we received out pilot, Sandpiper was off heading northbound at a fast clip in a following current. Our pilot hand steered for most the passage when passing other boats and shipping. But when all was clear, he sat up on the bow to relax, letting us steer by auto pilot. Our pilot was very friendly, but spoke limited English, so there was not a whole lot of in-depth conversations between us.

Our passage to Ismalia was 38 miles, and the initial excitement of being in the canal wears off quickly as it is just a long ditch in the sand. All along the way we were passed by shipping, tug boats, and fishing boats. Also. all along the way are Egyptian army troops manning solitary gun posts. They seemed quite bored and were just happy that we waved to them. By the time we made it half way we were starting to get passed by shipping heading southbound, quite close at times.

We made it to the town of Ismalia by 6pm, which is on Lake Timsah, and moored bow to at the Ismalia Yacht Club, then said goodbye to our pilot. The yacht club is not really a yacht club much like the one in Port Suez, but more of a canal authority facility where yachts stop during canal transits. There is no bar. But there is a small kitchen where one can order a pizza and have a coke.

One cool thing about mooring here is that Sandpiper is hooked up to power and we can use all the fresh water we want. We hosed down the 'Piper and considering the bashing we took coming up here that had the bow submerged for most the time there was still dust all over the boat from our last 2 months in the Red Sea. The higher we scrubbed, the dirtier she was.

The Yacht Club is closed off to the public with military guards at the entrance that only allow members in to use the facilities. The only other boat to transit the canal with us was S/V Shiraz who had caught up with us. S/V My Chance had hoped to transit with us, but could not get measured in time.

Just our luck... once Sandpiper was secured, we discovered that there was a wedding reception setting up, complete with a DJ, right were we were moored. Around 10pm things were getting into full swing with the bride and groom up on a platform while the DJ played music. Luckily, Sandpiper was a little farther away from the party and the speakers than S/V Shiraz who was about 10 feet away. We decided that since it was so loud, and there was no way we were going to be able to sleep though the noise, that we would all gather on S/V Shiraz for drinks and watch the fun.

Being a Muslim wedding most the women wore head coverings. And the ones that didn't, wore black coverings where only their eyes showed. Also, being a Muslim wedding, there was no alcohol being served. So once the reception was over everyone left at once. Quite strange watching someone's wedding reception just feet away from them.

S/V My Chance has caught up with us this afternoon and current plans are to leave early am tomorrow morning in a van for a few days to see the pyramids in Cairo.

More Later,
Tom and Amy

Note From Ron: Lake Timsah is believed to be where the Jewish exodus from Egypt crossed the Red Sea, and where Moses parted the sea. The exact crossing spot is debatable since there are a series of lakes and marshes in the area that could fit the descriptions in the ancient legends.

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