We were forewarned, the 180 miles from Hurghada to Suez are the toughest, the Red Sea gets narrow and the wind always blows from the Northwest, with infrequent pauses of which we will have to take advantage with no delay.
When we came back from the Luxor trip, the forecasts were calling for few more hours of light winds, to be followed by one day of strong wind and then two days of calms: the options were obvious, either we left immediately without even undoing our luggage, or we had to wait a couple of days, hoping that the expected light winds will materialise and risking being late in Suez, where we should arrive within the 7th to be submitted to the admeasurement process (I will explai later).
Many boats decided to leave, planning to spend the expected strong-wind day in an anchorage somewhere, while we were too tired and decided to wait, also because with 4 stern lines, water and electricity connections, and a bike and a passerelle to be stowed under everything else in our huge cockpit locker (and to bury them at the bottom of the locker, we have to TAKE EVERYTHING ELSE OUT!) we need a good couple of hours of frantic work.
Our decision was comforted by Heidenskip, the Rally flagship with its 20 meters of length over-all, when they reported by radio to have had to take shelter in a marsa because the wind and expecially the seas were too big for them and were getting dangerous (for them?? 20 meters of boat???!!!…).
Luckily, for once the forecasts were right, and on Saturday morning (April 4th, it’s really time to leave!) the wind had abated a little and we could prepare to leave; leisurely, as the wind was expected to abate a little more in the afternoon.
By mid-day we cast off and exited the marina just behind Jupiter, and then POOF! all instruments went dead!!! We are without autopilot but, more serious, without GPS or depth-sounder at the beginning of a route within the reefs!!!
Luckily, we could just tail Jupiter, so we were able to continue with Baby at the helm, while I started searching for the source of the problem. Do I need to say that the distribution box and the pilot’s main unit are DEEP INSIDE THE COCKPIT LOCKER???
This time it’s been tough, I could not find where the problem was and the boat’s motion did nothing to help while I was crouched like a hampster at the bottom of the pit; I also dropped the pilot’s fuse in the mess at the pit’s bottom, and when I looked up in the f*****g manual I could not find any reference to the fuse and its rating!! Long after having inserted a fuse of a made-up rating, I discovered that a spare fuse was inserted inside the autopilot’s cover!!
Getting desperate, I tried to take out of the power distribution the main circuit breaker, that looked suspiciously rusty, and …. look, we have the instruments working again!! It’s certainly unsafe to have no protection on the power line, but we will have to make do for the time being.
We stopped at an anchorage to relax a bit before leaving the protection of the reef, but then we had to carry on, with the confidence of knowing from the boats ahead that conditions were windy but not the seas were manageable.
We found exactly what described, and in fact during the night the wind went up to over 25 knots, exactly on the nose and therefore forcing us to motor in the narrow gap between the shore and the border of the shipping lane; when the current does not help we do only 3 knots, but we progress!
We continue like that the whole day, zigzagging around the many oil rigs, and we hear over the radio that “Cayuco” has engine problems, apparently air is getting into the fuel line (and if Tony, the official Rally diesel engineer, cannot find it, then it must be tough!!).
On the second night, the wind reversed from the south blowing at over 20 knots: we were too fast and risked arriving around Suez in the dark, so it was not a great problem to turn back for a few miles to get near Cayuco, whose engine has now stopped for good.
We reach Cayuco at dawn, just when Tony has found the problem: a new fuel filter which is letting air in. So we can resume our course towards Suez, enshrouded in a thick fog which does not allow us to see the many ships at anchor.
After a short stay at anchor near the canal entrance (and luckily it was brief, as it was VERY rolly!!) we receive permission to proceed to the Yacht Club (which is inside the Canal) and we charge in, together with the other Rally yachts, before a ship that we see in the distance gets in the entrance as well. All ok for us, but “Stargazer” has an engine problem at the worst moment and the Pilot boat that immediately came to the rescue rammed into them causing quite some damage: they reached the Yacht Club in a very sad mood.
IT’S DONE, we are in SUEZ!!
No no nononononoooo, we cannot say it’s done until:
a) we will have done the 80 miles of the Suez canal, to be done al full speed in order to do the crossing in one day, and
b) we will reach Crete, after a likely 500 miles beating into the wind that in this season is often strong from the Northwest.
P.S. The admeasurement process: it turned out to be a joke, they did not even have a meter, and they just made up a few figures and were done in 5 minutes!