Friday, June 17, 2011

Crossing the Suez canal

To get from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean Sea it is mandatory to go through the famous Suez Canal and this was our last adventure in Egypt. Maybe not less important than the Panama Canal the Suez Canal is not as impressive in terms of infrastructure or engineering feat. For one thing it is a direct canal all at sea level with no locks and the surrounding on both shores is simply sand and desert. The crossing process is quite simple. The total distance to cover is 90 miles and is crossed in two days with a stop for the night in the town of Ismailia right in the middle. Each day an Egyptian pilot comes aboard and leaves at the end. So the first one boarded in Port Suez and left in Ismailia and of course not without asking for a bakchich for his services. He did a rather good job so we gave him a good tip but obviously he told us that this was not much and asked for more. Note that it didn’t matter how much we gave him in the first place he would have asked for more by making you feel like a cheap person. That’s one of the too many cultural traits of Egyptians that make them impossible to stand for the rest of humanity. And don’t think this is because they are Arabs or Muslim because I have an Arab Muslim friend who went to Egypt for his honeymoon and came back discussed by them! Finally the second pilot came in Ismailia and left in Port Said. His English being quite limited he didn’t argue much about his tip and left rather happy with what we gave him.

Because of the lack of special features along the canal I don’t have much to say about it. However, one particularity is the limited width of the canal. Most sections were dug by hand and based on the size of the boat at the time I guess. The fact is that it’s pretty difficult for two large cargos to cross each other so they cross only at specific time in each direction and for both half of the trek. In the middle there are huge lakes allowing boats to cross both ways. In order to do that they gather at each end of the canal and leave all with 10 minutes between each other in a long convoy of about 20 cargos. Sailboats cannot cope with the fast pace of the ships so we leave in the morning no matter what. This means that inevitably we cross or get passed by a convoy of behemoths in channel that becomes very narrow at that very moment!

One thing worth mentioning though is that we cross the canal in company of another sailboat called La Palapa with Roger and Karla on board who happened to be celebrating their one year anniversary while we were in Ismailia. We didn’t know and thus didn’t have anything planned but wanted to have pizza on board Chocobo. The problem was that we didn’t have enough flour to make the dough so I went by La Palapa and asked Roger if they wanted to come over Chocobo for a pizza dinner. After he accepted this generous offer I asked him if he had a bit of flour to spare!!! Yes I know I’m pathetic sometimes but what can I do? Once on board they told us about their first anniversary so we improvised a candle on the pizza to mark the special event.

One last note. In my last post I unfairly compared Egyptians with mosquitoes, bank managers, matrimonial lawyers and used car dealers. I think that these words were too harsh and I would like to officially apologies to mosquitoes, bank managers, matrimonial lawyers and used car dealers for comparing them to Egyptians. Here, now I can sleep better.