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Thailand to Turkey 2007 Part Two – Massawa in Eritrea to Turkey

By doina — last modified Nov 19, 2007 03:45 PM

Published: 2007-11-19 15:45:33
Countries: Egypt , Eritrea , Sudan , Turkey , Cyprus

Thailand to Turkey 2007 notes from Pat & Olivia on ALDEBARAN.

Part Two – Masawa in Eritrea to Turkey

Comments etcetera to [email protected]

(Please check all waypoints before use)

Part one Thailand to Masawa in Eritrea

March26th : On checking out of Masawa, again no charge, you may, depending on conditions at the wharf, be requested to come alongside for inspection. We had a very pleasant young man inspect us and it was only afterwards we heard from other yachts about his financial situation and regretted not giving him something to supplement his meagre wages.

After 3.5 hours and 27 miles we anchored at Sheik El Abu (16-02.35/39-27.078 in 5.1 metres) where we celebrated my 64th birthday with the crews of Li and Pacific Bliss.

Next morning, together with Li, we departed for Difnein 38 miles north but after an hour we returned to the anchorage due to strong northerlies and became wind bound there for the next three days. While here we had some walks ashore and during one of these we came across the remains of a large turtle and 8 sharks with their tail and fins removed. I have not and will not support any restaurant serving shark fin products and rather than just leave without saying anything I tell them why. It would be nice if you supported me in this small protest next time you enter such an establishment.

March 30th; Left Sheik El Abu at 0645 hours together with Li and Pacific Bliss and at 1510 hrs, after logging 38 miles, we anchored at Difnein in position 16-36.43/39-19.33 in 17 metres. The socialising consisted of a GREAT wine tasting evening aboard Pacific Bliss together with the crews of Li and Bolero. And friends at home think we have an easy life. Next morning at 0615 hrs, together with Pacific Bliss and Li, we weighed anchor and set a course for Long Island in Sudan.

At 2145 hours (it was a very dark night) in position 17 degrees 46 minutes North and 38 degrees 49 minutes East, about 20 miles south of the border with Sudan, we were approached by 5 hand and paper waving men in a fast open boat about 8 metres long who were demanding we stop. It was very frightening. I kept indicating that we were not stopping and kept shouting IRELAND, IRLANDA and increased speed just to emphasise our intentions. There was no way we could outrun them as I reckon they could do about 15 or 20 knots and maybe even much more. Their shouting became more aggressive and they were now almost touching ALDEBARAN. We were afraid they were going to board us. Olivia called Li and Pacific Bliss on the VHF who immediately turned back towards us and as they closed with us the boat moved off. The whole incident lasted about 15 minutes but at no time did they produce firearms. If they had we would have stopped immediately. We will never know what might have happened had we stopped and they boarded us.

About 4 hours later with Li tailing us they reported seeing three boats on radar shadowing us, this would have been just north of the border between Eritrea and Sudan. We turned and headed back to meet Li, who was about a mile behind us, and again as the boats closed up the three mystery boats changed course and disappeared off our radar screens.

The lesson to learn from the incident is that travelling in company is by far the safest.

Finally at 1500 hrs the following day we all three anchored at Long Island, (18-46.465/37-19.472 in 13 metres), having logged 170 miles since leaving Difnein. Had good snorkelling here. Next morning at 0845 hrs we began our passage through the intricate Shubuk Channel heading for Suakin in Sudan. Using the many waypoints from the Red Sea Pilot we negotiated the passage without any problems although there were places where you had to do a bit of “thinking”.

The beacon at 18-46.2N / 37-29.1E referred to as having no top mark now seems to have a red top mark. On exiting the channel the wind was blowing strong from the north and rather than plug our way the extra 18 miles to Suakin we anchored at 1300 hrs in Marsa Sheikh Ibrahim at 18-52.644 / 37-24.936 in 8 metres. We found this to be a very nice anchorage although Pacific Bliss had problems setting their anchor. At 0700 next morning due to the sun in our eyes we very carefully backtracked using our inward track on the GPS and successfully exited the Marsa. Just under 5 hours and 20 miles later we were safely anchored in the very sheltered inner harbour at the old slave centre of SUAKIN in Sudan. There is an easy shallow approach to the inner basin, just keep an eye on where you are going and do not be distracted by the wonderful sight of the old crumbling slave city to starboard.

Like every other Port of Entry that you have entered there is Mr Helpful in the name Mohammed (I think that was his name). He organised everything including money changing at 200 Dinars / US$, diesel at US$0.70 / litre, and the checking in and out with the Authorities for US$100. His fee was US$30 which we thought was reasonable. He also organised free transport to a local celebration where we listened to many speeches and took part in some local dancing, with swords!! We took the local bus into Port Sudan for a day, it was interesting. A walk round the old city is memorable and I believe a must, it is overflowing with history and most of it sad due to the trade it prospered in.

At 0630 hrs on Friday 6th April, still with Li and Pacific Bliss we left Suakin and set a course for Port Ghalib in Egypt a distance of about 445 miles. Wind at the start was 12 knots northerly, it gradually lightened and veered into the east. By 0600 hrs on Sunday it had veered to the SW at knots and by 1200 it had veered further into the NNW and increased to 12 knots and “on the nose”. By 1500 hours the wind had increased to almost 30 knots and we decided to divert to Port Bernice 20 miles due west. Having bore off we covered the 20 miles in 2.5 hours of very rough sailing. We were a relieved fleet when at 1830 we anchored in the sheltered and very beautiful anchorage at Port Bernice in position 23-56.947 / 35-34.024 in 10 metres after logging 334 miles since leaving Suakin. Four day of rest and relaxation was forced on us, it was great.

By Thursday 12th April the wind had died and with Aileishi, a 36ft HR, with Richard & Pam aboard in tow, their engine was out of commission, we departed Port Bernice for hopefully Port Ghalib and Egypt. After 3 hours and clear of the channel we cast off Aileisha. The wind was still out of the NNW at 12 knots, it later veered into the NNE at 8 knots. By midnight it was blowing from the west at 10 knots and throughout the rest of the night we had lovely close-hauled sailing on a flat sea.

Port Ghalib, Egypt

(Exchange rate approx US$ = 5.5 Egyptian pounds and € about 7.5 pounds). At 1000 hours on Friday 13th we tied up at the Customs Dock, on the starboard side and round the corner, at Port Ghalib and waited 9 hours for clearance before being allowed to move to the marina (long dock). Visas cost US$15 each and a two month cruising permit cost US$20 (2 months recommended in case of holdups) and admin.costs, paid on leaving was US$40. The fueling dock has very easy access but at US$0.70 litre it is expensive. There is a very good resort and restaurant there, a little pricey for poor yachties. Use of the pool is also expensive but negotiable. Three days on the marina cost ALDEBARAN (41ft), US$18.53, electricity was US$1.80 and garbage (1 bag) was US$1. All can be paid by visa. There was only one water tap on the marina and so we all joined our hoses and purchased a bulk lot and then divided the cost, this was the cheapest and easiest way to buy it. I forget the cost. Some of the crews toured to Aswan & Luxor from here. Checking out was very slow, in fact it took 24 hours as the papers had to come back from the airport. Some yachties were “fuming”, it did them no good, the Port Captain was very apologetic and could not have been more helpful. He indicated that for 2008 things should be much improved.


At 0650 on Monday 16th April we departed Port Ghalib for Abu Tig Marina in company with Li, Pacific Bliss, Forever, Legend 2 and Imagine. We only had a very light NNW wind which eventually faded to nothing and at 0730 the following morning we anchored outside the marina at posn. 27-25.116 / 33-41.872 awaiting its opening. After calling the marina on the vhf they called us in at 1000 hours and by 1030 we were tied up next to Kari, another Irish boat with husband, wife and three children. We joined the Hotel Club for 50 pounds for a month. This gave us access to their pool, showering facilities and discounts at many of the restaurants. The marina facilities were a long walk from where most of the visiting yachts were berthed whereas the Hotel was adjacent. This is a very nice marina and a great place to take a break and perhaps use it as a base from where to tour Egypt’s popular historic sights. It has many shops including a small supermarket. Berthing for ALDEBARAN cost US$16.50 (€12.30) per night, diesel was US$0.34 (€0.25) per litre, a lot cheaper than Port Ghalib’s US$0.70 per litre. N.B. As soon as you arrive go to the Duty Free Shop as you are only allowed something like 24 hours after your arrival in which to purchase duty free. There was no Duty Free at Port Ghalib in 2007 but they thought they would have one by 2008.

A weekly bus ticket to El Gouna cost 15 pounds from where you can get a bus to Hurghada for 10 pounds return. I have the address of a computer repair shop in Hurghada if anybody wants it. HURGHADA MARINA, south of Abu-Tig, was being finished off and some of the yachts stayed there. Facilities were not completed but it was very convenient to town and worth investigating for 2008.

On Sunday 22nd April at 0800 hours we left Abu-Tig in company with Li and Forever and planned to continue direct to Port Suez, 180 miles, if weather permitted. Prior to leaving the marina staff faxed our detail to Capt. Heebi, Prince of the red Sea, with our mobile phone number, email address and plans to Suez. The Marina seems to push the Felix Agency and some boats used it. Most boats used The Prince, we had no complaints with his service, but of course it is very hard if not impossible to satisfy ALL yachties.

Up to 1800 hours we had NO wind and then it obliged us by blowing lightly from the south and at 0500 hours the next morning with 4 knots from the NW we were only 52 miles from Suez with an ETA of about 1500 that afternoon. What an easy passage we were having, unlike all the horror stories we heard. What were they all talking about? The Prince was in constant communication with us, giving us weather updates. After crossing to the east side of the Shipping channel at the Gubal Strait we sailed along the edge of the channel. There are oil rigs and other obstructions, some unlit, just off the channel and after a few “near hits” we confined ourselves to the edge of the channel. The ships coming up behind you will always be in the channel. As they say “All Good Things Come To An End”, by 0830 we had 25+ knots right on the bow and were forced to divert to Damaran Abu Mieish, anchoring, with Li, an hour later in position 29-26.145 / 32-45.406 in 5.5 metres having covered 144 miles since Abu Tig. Forever went into a bay south of us. There are a number of good anchorages in the Gulf with El Tur (Tor Harbour) being top of the list. After four days, the wind having abated, we completed the remaining 38 miles to Port Suez and were met by The Prince, Capt Heebi, who directed and helped us moor bow and stern to mooring buoys off the Suez YC in position 29-56.89 and 32-34.4.

Costs: Diesel US$0.40 (€0.30) litre, gas refill 4.5 kg = 50 pounds (US$8.93)(€6.54), berthing US$14 per night, Port Authority = US$40, canal transit = US$188, The Prince (agent) = US$80. Water is available at the dock.

I had estimated our tonnage at 24.3, their measurement came out at 29.2. Capt. Heebi contacted me with the news and said it seemed high and so he brought me to the Chief Measurer and we asked to be re-measured. The new measurement came out at 24.13 resulting in a saving of US$40. The first “G” measurement came out at 8.2, I was not happy with the measurer or the way he measured it and the second measurer got 6.7 which satisfied me. You can use the formulae in the Red Sea Guide to get an idea of what it should be.

WARNING: As you leave the marina on the left hand side is the Red Sea Hotel which sells the most beautiful cream cakes, Yum Yum!! at 2.50 pounds each. When we arrived Capt Heebi presented us with a box of them.

We had two lovely meals in Suez, about a 30 minute walk or you can get a bus or taxi, at “The Egyptian Restaurant” (Al Mesery). The first night cost 26 pounds and the second night, with chicken cost 31 pounds, each meal included lovely soup, a main course, bottled water and a coke, sorry no alcohol.


Three days after arriving in Port Suez we cast off at 1155 hours with the Pilot aboard, his name was Shaban. We had a nice motor the 45 miles to Ismailia mooring there stern-to at 1900 hours (30-35.092 / 32-16.339). The Pilot complained with the US$10 we gave him and asked for US20, we gave him another US$5 and told him to get off, which he did. Most of them will try to extract as much as possible from you. Some yachts had very bad experiences while others had no problems.

Do not rely on getting fuel in Ismailia, it is illegal, but can be got. You have to firstly get past the security gate, walk or get a taxi to take you to the nearest station, which if you cross the river and turn left is down the road about 250 metres on the r.h.s., you then have to come back through the security gate and depending on who is on, may let you in or will require “baksheesh”. I tried to leave with two cans at 1000 one morning and was refused. That evening as I was paying the Marina Man I told what had happened, he asked for a description of the man and just nodded to his colleague. They told me go now and I would have no problems, this I did at 1930 hrs and walking to and from the station using a small trolley I got my 40 litres of diesel at 0.75 pounds (US$0.14)(€0.10) per litre. The cost of stopping at Port Said for fuel or berthing is prohibitive.

Berthing in ALDEBARAN (41ft) cost US$14 per night, but you get 7 nights for the price of 5 (2 free). We stayed 14 nights while we toured Cairo and Luxor.

LAND TOUR: We and many of the other yachts did their Egypt touring from here as it is only a 90 minute, (8 pounds each) local bus ride to Cairo and at least we were half way up the canal before the stronger northerlies set in. Using the web site we obtained a very good hotel,”The Husa” in Giza, with a view of the Pyramids from the restaurant for US$24 double with breakfast per night. At Luxor we got the 4 star beautiful “Mercure” on the banks of the Nile for US$28 double with great breakfast. This is a lovely hotel with restaurants and great swimming pool and central. From Cairo to Luxor we took the overnight train at US$60 per person each way with our own cabin, including meals. Further info, including all costs on this trip can be had on request.

Our planned departure from Ismailia was delayed for a day due to the transit of a warship, it cost us an extra US$14 berthing fee which I am endeavouring to have refunded from the American Navy!!!!!!!!!! What are the chances? Yachts are forbidden to transit any part of the canal if there is a warship going through. At 1130 hrs on Monday 14th May we began the final part of the canal transit with Mohammad as our pilot. Arriving in Port Said at 1845 hours after 44 miles we were a very HAPPY and much relieved crew when after paying him off with US$15, some cigarettes and perfume we were now out of the OPEN PRISON called the SUEZ CANAL. A celebration with some good quality “Irish Medicine” was consumed before setting a course for Paphos in Cyprus.

In summary we enjoyed the experience of the canal and having been pre-warned regarding the “baksheesh” canal culture were prepared for it. N.B. have plenty of small US$ denominations as nobody ever seems to have change!!!!


After clearing the multitude of shipping at anchor, entering and exiting the canal, the two nights and 210 mile passage to Paphos was uneventful with very little sailing. Approaching Paphos we called the Harbour Master on the vhf and he directed us to a stern-to berth between fishing boats, (34-45.205 / 32-24.492). You use your own bow anchor, get used to it from now on. Expensive overtime rates begin at 1400 hours during the week, not sure what happens at the weekends, 10 minutes later and we would have been caught. There was no charge for checking in or out, at least for us, and the Harbour Master only charged us €22.50 for 8 nights, but do not take this as the norm. Where we were on the wall there was free water but no power. Paphos is not a yacht harbour but rather a small fishing boat and day tripper’s charter boat harbour. We found the prices, especially for meals to be very expensive. Maybe we were spoiled in the East!!!!.


At 0630 on Thursday 24th May, after extricating our anchor from a neighbouring chain we set sail for Finike in Turkey. Thirty two hours later with 147 miles behind us we berthed in Finike Marina (36-17.607 / 30-08.994) after another mundane passage. On approach we called on vhf 73 and they had a dinghy meet us at the entrance to guide and help us tie up. Going bow in they will hand you a stern line and one of the staff will board you and take charge of this stern line while you cast two bow lines ashore to another staff member who will put the lines through a ring on the dock and pass it back to you. They will give you good instruction regarding securing the lines.

There is no charge for checking in other than a transit log at €54 for a year and if your nationality requires it €15 for a 90 day visa. We booked in for 12 months at a cost of approx. US$2,000. You should contact them at [email protected] or Tuncay the Manager at [email protected] or [email protected] in advance for current rates as I believe prices have increased due to the weaker dollar.

Finike is about 90 minutes from the nearest International Airport at Antalya. The town, a five minute walk, is not touristy, is very compact with a great Saturday market. We have had work done on ALDEBARAN and are very happy with the outcome.

Bye Bye and I hope some of the above will be helpful. If you require any more detail please let us know.

Pat & Olivia Murphy on the Irish yacht ALDEBARAN