Voyage of Traveler / Blog

May 8, 2009

Traveler Postcard from Gulf of Suez

Filed under: Year 2: July08-June09 French Polynesia to Greece, Red Sea — mrlawlerjr @ 7:56 am

Hi, Everyone,

It is May 8, and we are on a mooring at Bluff Point (27-40N, 033-48E) about 150 miles south of the Suez Canal.  I really thought we would have been well into the Med by now.  But with several delays due to engine problems, and now with bad weather, we are about a month behind our schedule.  The notorious northerlies of the Red Sea, and especially here in the Gulf of Suez, are kicking our butts.  The wind is 20 to 35 knots–much stronger than forecasted–and on the bow, with steep waves spaced close together.  We just have to wait it out for some relatively calmer winds, like 15 to 18, then we will have to power through it. Right now at 0800 it is blowing 30 knots already.  Looks like a good day for Scrabble.  Barbara is always busy working, nearly nonstop, with a variety of boat projects, sewing, cooking, whipping lines, re-organizing our food stores, and many other things.

Once we leave Bluff Point heading north there are only two anchorages, at 50 and 100 miles up the coast from here, and they are marginal as far as shelter.

These are our toughest conditions so far.

Three days ago on May 5, just 17 miles south of here (that’s how slow our progress has been), we took on hundreds of gallons of water from waves crashing over our bow in 35 knots of headwinds.  First sea water flooded the anchor locker due to a $2 garden-type work glove that clogged the drain, and then the water poured from there over into the forward deck locker, which also flooded, and from there it poured over into our forward cabin. It all happened very quickly.  Our bow was very low in the water, making it even easier for more water to keep coming in, and the floor boards in the V-berth were floating. Had we not caught it in time, we might have sank.  We turned the boat around and headed downwind, which made a huge difference, and ducked in the lee of a reef called Shab el-Erg, which we renamed Cinco de Mayo Reef.  We spent two full days drying things out.  It was tiring work.  Surprisingly, the damage was minimal.  The Waterford crystal and china survived without a chip.  The biggest loss was the propane solenoid in the forward locker got soaked and stopped working, so we can not use the galley stove until we find a place to replace it, probably in Turkey.

The reef here at Bluff Point is shallow, about three feet deep when we arrived, with a wall that drops off on a 45 degree angle to deeper water, and the prevailing northerlies keep our boat blown back off the reef.  The fixed mooring line is about 15 feet long with a spliced eye to slip our long dock lines (using two so our mooring lines are doubled up) through the eye and back to our bow cleats.

Last night at around midnight, we bumped the reef! A combination of things happened. It is nearly a full moon, so the tides are extreme, and the tide was much lower at midnight than when we arrived mid-afternoon (when we had about five feet of water under our keel). Next the wind backed around a little, from 315 to 295, so the wind–which blew 20 to 25 knots through the night–was no longer blowing us perpendicular off the reef but on an angle to it so our starboard side was a little closer to the reef.  Thirdly, a passing ship sent a two foot high wake of three waves that hit us from behind pushing us forward, into the wind, and we surfed these three waves onto the reef. CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH!  Even though it was midnight, Barbara and I were both awake at the time and sitting in the cockpit, because just before this happened the keel gently brushed a coral head and we were about to lengthen our mooring lines.  So we actually saw the ship’s wake in the moonlight coming at us, with about 10 seconds before it hit us, but there was nothing we could do that quickly.  After we bumped the reef, we doubled the length of our mooring lines, made sure the chafe guards were well in place, stood a watch for awhile to make sure all was well, and then went back to sleep.  About three hours later, Barbara was having a terrible nightmare that we were sinking. In her dream, she was in the cockpit and I was trapped below, and she yelled out my name in her sleep.  Come morning, she had no memory of that nightmare until I asked her about it. It was a tough night.

We’re very much looking forward to getting through the Red Sea, the Suez Canal and into the Med.

Livin’ the Dream?
Michael and Barbara


  1. You guys are real troopers! It takes real determination to do what you are doing. We admire you! We are praying that you will make it thru the Suez and enjoy the Med for the summer. Keep up the good work.
    We just sailed across the Caribe from Panama to St Thomas so know what windward work is like. Will you be in the Caribe next winter?

    Comment by Chris & Miri — May 9, 2009 @ 4:01 am

  2. Wow, good luck and take care.

    Comment by Louise Losson — May 10, 2009 @ 11:54 am

  3. Hello. I am travelling on a small cramaatan (LOA 11.3m x Beam 4.95m) having Malaysian registration and will enter Turkey early next week perhaps on about May 09. Could you let me know if you could accept me and my boat for awhile. Also, I will need to clear all immigration, customs, etc. and can you confirm if it can be done at your location. Look forward to your reply. Thanks and kind regards. Wayne Berge (owner/captain of S/Y Lotus Mantra)

    Comment by Wafa — October 1, 2012 @ 8:39 am

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    Comment by exfvxts — October 1, 2012 @ 9:28 pm

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    Comment by dwauvy — October 2, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

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