Crew: Nick Thomas and Liz Vernon
Arabian and Red Sea cruising notes
Page numbers refer to the Imray Red Sea Pilot 2nd ed 2002
The corrections available from the Imray.com web site as a pdf file are very useful
Date April 2006
Modern container port, easy night entry. Call on VHF. Will probably be directed alongside jetty 25 for clearance - then anchor. Agent Mohamed and NZ assistant Christine. Some cruisers had difficulties with the agent but they were ok for us. He has a proper day job and too many yachts at once seem to overwhelm his commitments. His charge is $50 per boat. Visas cost $16 the shore pass system no longer applies. Mohamed rents out cars £20 per day which is about 30% more than the town rate but his cars are conveniently on the dock whereas town is a £10, 15 km taxi drive away.
Fuel is problematic. Officially you should arrange for a tanker to deliver to the dock for which there is an uneconomic charge of $200 plus the cost of the fuel. Mohamed can bring diesel from a service station, 25p a litre plus £15 delivery charge. This is very unofficial but the authorities seem to accept it. Trying DIY with a hire car and jerry cans could turn out to be a major hassle although customs and the port safety officer might give permission. We bought in small quantities of petrol 16p a litre without problems.
There is a ATM at the bank just beyond the port gates.
Salalah is very spread out so a hire car is very handy. Lulu’s is the best supermarket; Stocking most things and very nice fresh meat. There is an "expat" shop sometimes called "cold storage" or "cabbage" it sells cheese and pork products. Its location is tricky to find - head into town at the fountain roundabout turn left towards the government buildings. Just before you reach them turn right through a gate and take the next right into a small car park. Choose the left-hand car park at the end of this you will see an unprepossessing door next to a glass lean to. This is the entrance to the shop. Don't expect too much.
On the way to town is the Hilton resort. On the far side of town is the Sheraton resort. By the port is the Oasis club for port employees. Capt. Claude Van de Merve makes visiting yachties very welcome. Draft Heineken is available at £2 a pint and a very nice steak for a Fiver. The oasis is about 2km from the jetty where dinghies can be left. The first km gets you to the port police check point (where taxis are available). About 50 metres beyond this turn left up to the expat compound for a further km passing a cattle grid, at the next gate turn right it is 50 m further on, on the right.
Date of info April 2006
Aden had a reputation as a dirty, oily harbour but we did not find it so. The town however is very run down. We were given a ver pleasant welcome by the harbour authorities when we called on VHF. The anchorage off the "tourist jetty" on the admiralty chart, or called the Prince of Wales jetty in the Imray pilot is quite comfortable. A night entry would not be easy as the way to the anchorage is encumbered by unlit buoys and dolphins. Just beyond the anchorage the coastguard have a nice new "marina" at which they moor their nice new patrol boats. There are steps at the west end of the tourist jetty to leave the dinghy. At the east end are found customs and immigration. There are no charges and no agents required. A shore pass is issued by immigration and they retain passports. The shore pass allows you to visit Aden town only; if you want to visit Sanaa or Ta'izz a visa is needed at a cost of $50. A police permit is needed to travel by land out of Aden but not if you travel by air. Both the above places are worth a visit if you have the time. Two taxi drivers who speak English hang about the tourist jetty; Omar and Ray We found Omar to be more personable.
Aden is divided into 3 sections: Al Tawahi (where the anchorage is), Ma’alla and Krater. There are several small supermarkets in Krater but none as good as Lulus in Salalah. Prices are slightly higher. There is a large produce market at Sheik Othman sometimes called Arab town. There are ATMS at the banks along the road to Krater. Allegedly these distribute US$ but we did not see it happen, they worked fine to give local money. (2007 update a new shopping mall including an outlet of Lulus has opened)
The Golden falcon on the right after leaving the tourist jetty is pleasant restaurant. If you are accompanied by a woman you can eat upstairs in the family section. Turning right out of the tourist jetty quickly brings you to the seaman’s club. This looks quite seedy from the outside and is very seedy inside. It is nevertheless quite fun they do food and beer and gin (bring your own tonic). Expect to be bothered by the bar girls if you go unaccompanied. Further along this road is the tourist restaurant. It is only a bar - slightly cheaper than the seaman’s club.
Date of information Apr 2006
Despite the problems encountered by the Billings' several years ago Eritrea has become a much friendlier place to visit. Several yachts anchored (including ourselves) in isolated places in Eritrea (and Sudan) without encountering difficulties from the authorities
Entry is straight forward during daylight. Lights were missing in the approaches and in the harbour there are numerous unlit hazards. Yachts usually anchor and take the dinghy back to the west end of the jetty to complete formalities. A visa is required for stays of longer than 48 hours. After immigration the harbour office needs to be visited followed by customs who require a currency declaration.
Mike who operates a bar near the dinghy dock on the far side of the port wall is the yachty Mr fixit and he is very helpful. Grog is available but provisions are basic and fairly expensive. There are several restaurants and bars but as with the rest of Masawa mostly scruffy, but pleasant none the less.
Fuel is problematic and expensive. Mike will help with the process. This is:
1, visit the ministry of tourism to obtain a letter of introduction to the district governor.
2, visit district governor and ask for ration coupons to buy diesel.
3, take Governor's permission to office who issue coupons (this at least is in the same building).
4, Go to service station with jerry cans.
5, Bribe gate keeper to fisherman’s co-op dock to take fuel to boat.
The cost of diesel is about £1 per litre. Petrol is not rationed and costs about £2 per litre. Both Mike and a taxi driver will need to be paid for there services. This will take the best part of a day.
Water can be obtained from desalination plants at 0.10 US$ per litre. But none of them are convenient to the dinghy dock so we used the same taxi and did it at the same time as the diesel run.
Mike can organise a taxi to go to the capital Asmara. This is in the mountains and is well worth the trip. It is also possible to go there by bus much more cheaply. A railway also exists but is not yet functional.
For checking out you need to go alongside the quay. We found a small tug to tie alongside. Immigration will want to visit the boat to check for stowaways.
Date of information April 2006
This town also looks like it has been hit by a bomb. It is nevertheless worth a visit. Mohamed is the agent here he speaks good English and he or his assistants will come out to the boat. He charges US$ 25, plus $10 for each crew pass, $10 cruising permit, he can change money ( $ to Sudanese Dinars), arrange laundry, diesel $0.50 and water $0.10 per litre. A visa is $50 but only needed if going to Khartoum.
There is a extensive market which is worth a visit just for itself. Fresh veg is good and there are some other provisions including bread and flour but don’t expect too much. There is supposed to be a bank but we could not see it. There is a restaurant by the harbour which did pleasant seafood.
All the khors and marsas we visited (about 6 in all) were very pleasant places to wait for a suitable wind. Many are close enough to sail between in the 2 hours after dawn when it is very calm before the usual NW force 5-6 starts up. Most are completely uninhabited and we were the only boat being slightly behind the rest of the Red sea fleet of that year. The exception is Marsa Osief which has a refugee village. There are some shops and a very nice bakery here. The authorities, (secret policemen?) were not very keen on us going ashore but did seem to accept that we should be allowed to go shopping. We also scored some diesel which we were able to pay for in US$.
Anchorages visited: Mintaka – Shubuk channel 18°45.9’n, 37°36.9e, Marsa Ata, Khor Shinab, Marsa Abu Imama, Marsa Wasi, Marsa Osief, Marsa Marob, Marsa Umbeila.
Port Ghalib - Marsa Mubarak (p201)
Date of information May and October 2006
This is definitely the place to check in to Egypt on the way north. We also heard of a yacht which came to winter in Egypt from the Med going all the way here to check in and then motoring back against the wind to Hurghada, a nearly 300 mile round trip, just for the ease of checking in. As far as we could tell there is no further botherment from officials in Egypt until the Suez Canal, despite the exhortations to the contrary in the Imray Red Sea Pilot.
VHF 16 and 10 operates 24 hours and an English speaking operator is usually on during the day. Heading north this is an essential stop as it is by far the easiest place to check in. Visas $15 plus customs cruising permit $10 per month. It is important to pay for as many months as you need as an extension is very difficult to arrange elsewhere. If arriving without a visa you will be given a one month stay, if you have a visa in advance of arrival you will be given a 3 month stay (EU citizens). The marina is not especially cheap $24 per metre per month. The marina is still a building site so expect to be covered in dust. The mooring is med style and the marineros are well experienced with helping with this. They are in front of the one and only hotel that is completed metres from the pool to which yachties have no entitlement. The hotel has restaurants and bars with reasonable prices. The hotel reception has an extensive provisions list which is very useful and good value including fresh meat and veg. They also do laundry. We found the hotel and marina staff to be especially helpful and courteous. Taking their lead from the Harbour Master Captain Sharif Fawzy. (2007 update apparently checking in has become more confused as all checkins have to be referred to Hurghada so the procedure now can take a few days)
El Quseir (p203)
Date of information November 2006
We anchored in very shallow water - 3m SW of the jetty. A large freighter was moored to the corner of the main jetty Med style with a line to the mooring buoy indicated on the chartlet. Thus leaving very little room to anchor in a spot sheltered from the swell. Dive boats occasionally use this harbour, they rafted up to the freighter. We waited here for 10 days for favourable weather to continue north without any hassle.
Date of information May 2007
There is a new marina in Hurghada town adjacent to the Sikala area. Its position is 27°13.56’N, 33° 50.52’E. This is in the basin not the entrance. Entrance is between to breakwaters whose ends have red and green beacons. There are no dangers in the immediate part of the approach but there are in the offing. The marina is not yet complete but can be used. Water and electricity are available. Mooring is bows to the key stern to a mooring buoy. Marineiros will come in a rib to help. Contact Mr Sherif Nagy +20 12 185 6363 02 Mr Hesham Barak +20 10 300 4811.
This marina is just south of the fishing harbour which is in turn just south of the ferry dock. In May 2007 the ablution facilities were not yet in operation. There are many small work shops and chandleries in the vicinity which are very convenient. We had the boat completely reupholstered here at a very good price. A 100 metres from the marina development the tourist area of Sigala begins with innumerable restaurants and shops. You will be able to hear the “ministry of sound” night club from the marina. Two pleasant restaurants (with free wifi) on the ministry of sound road are “Heaven” – German run and the “Café del Mar” Swedish managed.
If you have checked in at Port Ghalib there are no further formalities apart from paying the marina fee. This is $15 per day or $200 per month for 11m plus 10% tax, water and electricity.
We heard of a British single hander who in November 2006 ran aground at night on the reefs in the Hurghada area. This was a significant enough event to make it into the Egypt Gazette – an English language local paper. He managed to get himself off the reef but not before trying (without success) to obtain help via VHF. This alerted the authorities and we understand a substantial fine was levied for damaging the reef.
Abu Tig Marina El Gouna (p213)
This is by far the sexiest marina for a good many miles and is very popular. In April it can become full so it would pay to book in advance especially if you want to stay for a long period. Boats were turned away in 2007 and had to go back to Hurghada. Although in principle the marina has space for 200 boats there are only 20 places for visiting cruisers. Philip Jones, the manager, and his staff go to great lengths to accommodate everyone but if there is not the space to physically squeeze you in there nothing they can do. Marina fees are as Hurghada without the 10% tax. Numerous restaurants and bars are here. The marina office is on the opposite side of the marina from the visitors’ berths which is not very handy as the shower facilities are here also. Instead for a E£50 per month fee per person you can have membership of the Three corners Ocean view hotel. This is situated alongside the visitors’ berths of the marina. This includes use of both swimming pools – one inside a glass enclosure called “du port” and the other by the south side of the marina entrance. Both have shower etc facilities. Membership also includes 10% discount at their restaurants, bars and health club!
In the marina section of El Gouna there is a small supermarket – “Bestway” and a bakery in the side entrance of the “Seventh Star Restaurant”. There are 2 small chandleries with a small selection of items. Lodos has charts and books for the Med - at a price. In the Tamr Henna (also called “down town” are there are 3 larger supermarkets – “Bestway”, “Ebaed” and “El Mohandes” this last one, tucked alongside an open air restaurant, sells locally made beer, wine and spirits. There is also a green grocery and a butchers but don’t expect too much.
The marina can arrange gas refills but they need time to send them to Hurghada. They can also arrange diesel via jerry cans as the fuel dock does not function. They prefer it if you talk to them directly about this rather than use VHF!
Abydos Marina (p216)
This is completely filled with dive boats but you could anchor off. It is well away from all the El Gouna attractions exept Club Med where you will not be allowed in. Haul out is possible but the absolute max draft, at the top of a spring tide, that could be managed, we were told was 1.8m.
Endeavour harbour, Tawila island (p219)
This is a very charming and sheltered anchorage. If coming from Abu Tig it is possible to pass through the Shan Abu Shiban reef at 27°29.97’N, 33°46.73’E we founf the least depth to be 6m. There is no orange buoy (chartlet p214) but there is a post on the west side of the gap. Dive boats use this passage regularly and often moor near this reef.
Port Suez (p249) and Suez Canal transit
Date of information May 2007
We used the Felix agency and arrived at midnight. There were no problems with this and the agent was on hand to take our lines to the mooring buoys. Shipping movements were a lot more complicated than the pilots describe (both Imray and Admiralty). There seems to be more competition for custom between Felix and Prince of the Red sea agency, not altogether amicable, and so fees are more competitive – see below.
Fees: We were measured at 21 Suez tons (we are 13 gross tons) and paid $180 for the transit. The measurer was quite friendly and we had fun with our Stanley measuring tape. Apparently after measuring the volume of the boat a deduction is made for volume of the engine room. We paid $100 for agency and clearance, $0.40 for diesel and $14 per day to stay at the Suez yacht club. No paper work was generated for any of this.
Shopping in Port Suez is limited.
Our transit went quite smoothly. We started at 12.30 behind the last northbound ship of the day. Some yachts left earlier and were overtaken. We arrived in the dark at 20.30. and were passed 10 kms south of Ishmailia by 3 southbound ships. We were given quite a good lift by the tide at the beginning making 6.5 Kts SOG. Against the wind further north we could only manage 5Kts SOG. Although the pilot wanted us to go faster we couldn’t and it did not seem to matter.
The pilot will want to moor at the Yacht club so he can step ashore. Anchoring is quite feasible and cheaper. There is a good supermarket “Metro” about 1 km from the yacht club. It is the best one we have seen since “Lulu’s” in Salalah. It is on the corner of Sharia Tahir and Sharia Sultan Hussein. To get there go straight out of the yacht club and cross the “Sweet water canal” turn right in front of De Lessop’s house and walk parallel to the canal until you reach a small mosque – about five blocks. Turn right here and it is three blocks north. There is a diagonal road which is a short cut back to de Lessops house. Also on Sharia Sultan Hussein is George’s restaurant. This is a rather gloomy establishment but is does very nice food inexpensively ie filet steak for E£4 and sell beer and wine.
There is no office at the yacht club (that we could find). An official usually turns up around 7pm and sets up a table on the yacht club patio. You tell him the day on which you wish to continue the transit the evening before and pay the berthing fees. He will let you know later in the evening if the transit will go ahead. For 11m the fees were $14 per day, $70 per week, and further discounts for monthly and 3 monthly stays which make it a reasonable laying up location. Fee can be paid in $ or E£. If a transit is cancelled because of warship movements you have to pay for the extra day unless it is within your discount period. Water and electricity are free. It is possible to check the boat out at Port Suez and this paper will take you through to the Med. However you can only check out with immigration at either Port Suez or Port Said but not Ismailia. This means if you have checked out at Port Suez you can not go out side the club at Ismalia. And officials do check passports. It is not recommended for yachts to stay at Port Said (although we did – see below) so most do not check out with immigration at all. Of course this is not legal but if you are not intending to return to Egypt soon….? We were told if you did return there would be a fine of E£50 or $50?
Port Said, Port Fouad
The second half of our transit also went smoothly although again the pilot arrived quite late and we departed at around 11.30 although we had been told it would be a 7 am departure. Again we were passed by merchant ships with no problem. We dropped the pilot off onto a pilot boat.
The yacht basin is being improved and staff work from 8 to 12 then around 15 to 20 hours. The old pontoons have been removed and the basin relined with commercial size rubber fenders. Mooring is via anchor and stern lines ashore. It looked as though mooring balls will be installed. It also appeared as though a “lego” pontoon would be installed which would make life easier. There is some movement in the basin but we did not find it too difficult. The main issue is the port/pilot fee for stopping. This is $60 if you depart in day light or $75 during the night. No pilot will actually escort you out. The berthing fee is $15 per night water is free but there is no electricity available yet. We knew about these large fees in advance and were not unduly upset by them. We appreciated the stop after the 8 hour canal transit.
It was interesting to visit Port Said by ferry. The bazaar is very extensive and the town lay out attractive. We had a pleasant Italian meal at the Pizza Pino restaurant on Sharia El Gumhorriya. The shopping centre by the cruise ship dock, which once boasted a Marks and Spenser, is now defunct. There are quite a few market stalls immediately out side the yacht basin gates selling fresh fruit and veg.
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