Racing the US Navy through Suez Canal – and Circumnavigation declared complete!

 

Chris and Jill left  from Ismalia, and Nicky and I waited for our pilot who had been promised for 6am also. But by 7am things clearly weren’t working and it wasn’t until 9.30am that we managed to get our Pilot, (Mohamed – identity theft in Islamic countries must be quite easy). We left in a hurry past 3 south bound ships, then carried on north, with Mohamed repeating to us exhortations from the Canal authorities to ‘Go maximum speed’. I kept Intrepid at a reasonable 2900 rpm into a 20 knot headwind and we steered through the control points with Mohamed (who did his best but was we think pretty new to this, and spoke little English) getting more and more anxious, and me determined not to race the engine unnecessarily for 40+ miles.

 

We reached Port Said at the north end of the Canal intact, (unlike Panama there are no locks on the Suez Canal) but had been warned of ‘Pilot boat hassle’. The suggestion was to put the Pilot off at the Canal Authority building, but in the end Mohamed became so agitated that we let him off anyway onto a small pilot boat clutching his packets of cigarettes, an old shirt of mine, and 120 Egyptian pounds tip. The wind by this time was 25 knots, not nice to go out into so we slipped round the east end of the breakwater past several wrecks probably from the 6 day war, and anchored – just in time to watch a submarine, and 5 or 6 big US warships (I think they must be, they weren’t flying any distinguishing marks but who else could they be?) emerge from the Canal heading north. So this explained the agitation all round – we had been racing the US Navy. They are understandably nervous after  the USS Cole of small boats (in fact of all vessels)  – you have to stay ˝ mile away from all US warships or they reserve the right to treat you as hostile and fire on you. I hope they appreciated Intrepid as pacemaker in front of them.

 

Next day the wind had dropped so we sailed north towards Cyprus, wondering why the wind seemed so cold, the skies so overcast, and generally why hadn’t we stayed in the Pacific, Malaysia, Oman the Red Sea or anywhere warm in fact. The Med is cold for 9 months of the year and unbearably hot for 3. But Intrepid needs a home to come back to, and for now it will be the Med. So Intrepid with just Nicky and I on board raced north on a beat at 6.5 knots in 20 knots of wind, wearing fleeces and socks for the first time in years, and covered the 210 miles to Cyprus in just over 30 hours, in time to slip into Paphos Harbour before nightfall the next day. When its just 2 of us, Nicky does 9pm to 2am, then I take over till 7am. This gives us each of us 5 hours uninterrupted sleep, better we think than variants on 2, 3 or 4 hour rotating watches.

 

It was our first experience of Europe in Intrepid for 5 years, and boy was it different. Paphos harbour was full, we had been told it was possible to anchor in the west of the harbour, but this was clearly impractical, so as night fell, we rafted up next to a 30 year old yacht that had just been acquired in Florida and was being sailed back to South Australia by George her new owner. By this time the police were alerted to our presence, and I spent 2 hours filling in forms and paying 14 Cyprus Pounds (26 Euro) ‘overtime’ money (not baksheesh I think – they showed the relevant rule). The harbour restaurants were full of Euros on holiday, extravagant beer bellies, stunning blondes, awful karaoke sung by drunken Brits, bewildered couples asking for fish and chips.

 

Paphos is real estate agents, opticians, restaurants, more real estate agents, more opticians, and the odd wine shop, even more real estate and places selling leather goods. Actually I have understated the number of real estate agents. There must be 50 or more, fully half the shop fronts, all with pictures and descriptions of the apartments and villas on offer. Admittedly Paphos is the more attractive side of Cyprus, and recent developments have uncovered some excellent mosaics dating back to the Ptolemy era of Rome and Egypt, when Paphos was an important trading port.

 

The harbour front restaurants were friendly in an unassuming way, and we met there Olly and Kelly who were so keen that we showed them round Intrepid next morning. Olly runs a music consultancy in London, and was fascinated by what he describes as ‘living the dream’ I am not sure whether his dream will be a sail boat or a large motor yacht (I suspect the latter) but they certainly were entranced by the chance to sail away. All too many people don’t realize that its possible until its too late.

 

We were due to leave Paphos on Monday, but the wind increased significantly and made Intrepid’s position at the entrance to the harbour pretty marginal as the winds shifted to the south. The Pilot Book says that Paphos Harbour can be untenable in strong southerlies, and we had 40 knots. Nicky and I worked hard to reinforce the moorings with ropes pulling Intrepid to windward, and eventually the wind eased off to 30 knots, but it was a reminder that even in harbour boats are not always safe.

 

The winds and swell were still there next day so we delayed once more, but on Tuesday warped out of our cats cradle of ropes, and set sail for Kemer Marina in Turkey , 150 miles NW. When approaching Paphos something  big had bitten through  one of my 50lb wire traces, so encouraged by this, I put out fishing lines again, and at 6pm a lovely albacore tuna (the best) grabbed the lure. Seared Tuna one hour fresh is pretty special and was a great last dinner on Intrepid in this round the world trip.

 

Kemer Marina is beautiful, sheltered from all westerly winds behind pretty high ‘mountains’ which drop almost sheer down to the Med, in a deep bay facing east. It is a newish development, but attractively done with parks and trees and grass (sorry to be pathetically impressed but we have just been through the Red Sea) and this wonderful backdrop of hills which get snow in the winter even if Kemer itself does not. The area attracts a fair number of tourists mainly Turkish with a few Germans. The marina itself is further sheltered behind a breakwater, and everything seems very efficient. Which is just as well.

 

Because we are declaring this the end of our circumnavigation. There is still 700 miles to go to Sicily to where we would meet our track, but we have arrived back in the Med which is the criterion as far as I am concerned. We want to spend a year or two in UK and exploring the Eastern Mediterranean, and it would be a waste to rush west to Sicily just to complete the loop then come back east again to explore. So Intrepid will stop at Kemer Marina near Antalya in Turkey for the next year or two, while we remind ourselves what a British winter (and summer) can be like, catch up on what friends have been doing, help James to decorate his new London apartment, and generally get back to what might be regarded as normal life. Well almost. Friends still want to sail on Intrepid so we will be going back to Turkey fairly often I think, if you do want to sail the Med let me know.

 

The circumnavigation has taken 45000 miles, 2001 - 2007, 40 friends have sailed with us on Intrepid for periods from a few days to 13 weeks, often coming back for more, and that has been one of the main joys of doing this. That and the people we have met along the way, and just the sheer thrill of being able to chart our own course, learn new skills to enable us to be reasonably self reliant on the way, to get to the centre of some of the most interesting places in the world, and then realize that we have seen only a small fraction of what there is to see, and that there is still so much more to do.

 

We have really appreciated your emails which have floated into Intrepid by satellite at some of the most remote places in the world, and have kept us going when it would have been easy to feel cut off. Intrepid has performed astoundingly well in this time, and barring a few touches of varnish that the Red Sea sun has faded, is as good as when she started. She has done us well.

 

This will be the last email in this series which started with our first Atlantic crossing in November 2001, but our email address and website will stay the same, I will now be working on the next projects, do stay in touch and if you are likely to be near London or Kent (or Turkey), do email and drop in.

 

With all best wishes from Nicky and Andy and Intrepid of Dover.