I canâ€™t believe itâ€™s April! Again, a lot has happened since I last wrote. We left Port Ghalib in the morning that next day and had a nice overnight passage up the Red Sea, which was pretty calm. However in the early morning the weather picked up and we had another thirty or forty knots on the nose. This time it seemed like the weather was actually bad. Well, not bad, but it was overcast and the sea was a dark grey color. The waves werenâ€™t that big, just a lot of chop, but it prevented us from making any real forward progress. So instead of sitting out in the slop for who knows how long, we ducked into Sharm el Sheik, which was on the other side of the Red Sea but quite close. It was a really cool stop and we had a day there to explore which we wouldnâ€™t have had otherwise.
I stayed on the boat to help in case it needed to be moved while the rest of the group split off into a dive and exploring town. It was a relaxing day onboard and as soon as everyone got back we headed back out on passage. The weather was supposed to have cleared and we were supposed to have 10-15 knots, but shortly after we got out there we realized it was in fact, worse than before. It was bright and sunny, but the swell and wind were against us stronger than before. We didnâ€™t have much choice at that point, so we buckled down for the wild ride and continued. It was really an interesting passage. There was land quite close on either side of us, but the real danger were the unlit and unmarked oil wells that littered the passage. They were everywhere. Some glowing from the eternal flame that seemed to accompany the working ones, others just big steel monsters in our way.
Add a lot of ship traffic in such a small space and youâ€™ve got yourself an interesting watch. It was pretty exhausting, between the watching and the weather, but felt like quite an accomplishment when our speed gradually went from two, to three, to four, to five, and finally six knots as we pushed our way through it over the course of about three days. We were pretty excited to finally arrive in Port Suez. I got a chance to explore some of the town that afternoon and was pleasantly surprised with a tourist free look at the real Egypt. Some local guys offered to walk us to the internet place when we inquired about it, which was nice, and we stopped for a coke at a local cafĂ© and people watched. It was pretty nice. The next day the shipmates and the rest of the staff except Boomer, myself, and Jay all went on a day trip to the pyramids.
It sounds like they had a pretty good time there. I wasnâ€™t too disappointed about missing it, as Iâ€™d been there before and me staying back allowed someone who hadnâ€™t to go, but I was crushed about having to miss the provisioning trip. There was no big supermarket in town so Boomer arranged for the tour bus to stop at a big Carrefour outside of Cairo on the way back to the boat. I made up my food lists and gave them to everyone to shop for me, but was so bummed I couldnâ€™t go myself. Oh well, I had a nice day onboard getting some work done. The group didnâ€™t end up getting back until almost 1am, so after quickly getting the fresh food in the fridge it was back to bed for me. The next day we were supposed to transit the canal, but our agent informed us that a warship was coming through that day and for security reasons we would be unable to go.
big waves in the Red Sea
As frustrating as that was, we said ok fine we understand and spent the day studying. However, there was no warship to be seen all day. So we were even more frustrated when he said again, the next day, that a warship was coming through and we couldnâ€™t go. The Egyptian bureaucracy was seemingly impenetrable, so we waited. Finally in the mid morning of the next day we got a pilot onboard and we were off. Oh, the night before we had a bit of an excitement as we were getting ready for dinner. Someone noticed that it suddenly had gotten overcast and we all saw what appeared to be a big cloud of moving dust approaching us at a rapid rate. Well, thatâ€™s exactly what it was, and I had time to shoot less than three pictures before we were hit with about fifty knots of wind and zero visibility for the next ten minutes.
more big waves
It was pretty intense, a legitimate sandstorm. Or dust storm. It would have been more exciting, however, if we hadnâ€™t just spent all day oiling every single bit of wood onboard. That sucked. Ok so eventually we made it through the canal pretty uneventfully. The first day we had a nice pilot onboard who just sort of watched as we did everything and showed us where to anchor when we arrived at Ishmalia for the night. We saw a few other sailboats that day but mostly just a lot of desert on either side of the canal. It was really pretty. The next day we had a different pilot, who turned out to be not quite as nice in the end as he demanded multiple arms and legs from us as presents as he left. We saw more traffic that day though and were passed by multiple container ships at narrow points so that they were only a couple hundred feet away, slowly gliding by.
sunrise on the Red Sea
As we took pictures looking up at them we could see them taking pictures down onto us. The other excitement was Argoâ€™s first bridge. It wasnâ€™t anything special, but I fee it should be recognized. At the end of the day we were finally in the Med and kept going that night on passage to Greece. It was a little rocky and rolly but eventually after two days or so the island of Crete came into sight, along with some rain. It was our first rainstorm of the entire trip. We finally pulled into Iraklion at one in the morning, feeling quite accomplished. The next day we moved the boat stern to the customs dock where we cleared in, cleaned, and then had the day to explore. I went provisioning with two of the shipmates, my last trip for this semester.
one of the many oil rigs
We had no idea where a grocery store was so I went into the first cafĂ© we found and asked an older man and woman at the counter. The woman immediately started rattling off in Greek what I can only assume to be information about a grocery store, but the man looked at us and said no. So I tried asking if there was one farther away I could take a taxi to, and again the woman began rattling away and the guy sort of gave some vague response. But he ended up drawing me a map on my notebook, which looked like a bunch of random lines, and told me to walk all these different directions, not actually starting from where we were but a few blocks away. Extremely skeptical we started walking, and I truly expected to be searching in alleys for hours.
Or at least stopping somewhere else and trying in ten minutes or so. But lo and behold I figured out his directions, and sure enough, there was a grocery store that took credit cards just a few blocks away. The store would have been quite cool had I just been shopping for myself, it had all sorts of fun things, but it really wasnâ€™t made for bulk purchasing and was quite expensive. They only had five shopping carts total, which of course we promptly filled. But we made do and gradually the staff warmed to us and helped us by getting boxes to put things into. Eventually we fit it all into two taxis and got it back onboard and put away. The next day, which I think was yesterday, was a free day to explore Crete. I had to be back onboard at two pm for my turn to watch the boat so I left just after breakfast cleanup with some of the girl shipmates to go on a shopping mission.
My shopping mission mainly involved finding a fleece, long underwear, or other suitable cold weather clothing. Their mission involved more in the way of boutiques with dresses and jeans, so eventually I split off and found myself the cheapest pieces of warm clothing I could find. At one store I found a pair of plain sweatpants that I tried on and walked out of the store wearing, but the shop owner called me back and pinned up my pants with safety pins so they wouldnâ€™t drag on the ground. It was funny. Did I mention that I was wearing my foul weather jacket? Here I was, in an extremely fashionable city in Europe, where every person is dressed to the nines, and Iâ€™m walking around in sweatpants and the largest, brightest red jacket (with a neon hood no less) you can ever imagine.
now you can see land
I felt, and looked, so out of place it was almost unbearable. But at least I was warm. So after accumulating a pair of sweatpants, a pair of leggings, two thin sweaters, and a thermal shirt it was just about time to head back to the boat. What I really needed though was a fleece or sweatshirt. I only brought two sweatshirts with me and both were fantastically dirty after being worn for three weeks straight. So as a last ditch effort I went into a â€śtourist storeâ€ť that was the last shop between me and the boat. And voila, they had rooms and rooms of clothing! I asked about sweaters and was shown the largest fleece Iâ€™ve seen in my life and the cheesiest, most horribly designed sweatshirt thing with embroidered images of Crete that has never been seen by anyone under the age of eighty.
bridge over the canal
But I figured if it came down to that I could suck up my pride for warmth. My warmth was not worth fifty euros, however, as I was informed the price. Nor forty, nor thirty as she showed me other models. I was just giving up hope when she said that she had something for five euros in the back room. Thatâ€™s more like it I thought, wondering what hideous piece had actually made it to be reduced that far. So she produced this delightful item of a thin sweatshirt bearing the words â€śNo,, Problems emblazed across the front. And no, that was not a typo. There was no closing quotation marks and there was a double comma. It was very special, but I knew that she had the right one for me when she told me that she had it in pink. So now I am the proud owner of a pink sweatshirt that says no problems on the front.
It also reeks of mildew, which is a nice bonus. But overall I was quite happy with my purchases. None will put me on the cover of Vogue magazine, but I also wonâ€™t freeze anymore on deck when it gets into the forties at night, which I discovered when I looked up the weather channel online (and thatâ€™s not taking the wind chill into consideration). So last night when we left for Santorini I was indeed that much warmer. We had a pretty uneventful passage and arrived this morning at about nine to Fira, one of the main towns. This spot was apparently where the cruise ship sank a couple days ago and we were expecting to find a lot of rescue boats around and general chaos, but the only sign of what happened are the shipâ€™s lifeboats that are tied to the dock next to us.
After at least an hour of haggling with some of the port guys we finally figured out that we were going to anchor and tie stern to the dock here, so once that was settled it was time to get lunch going, study for exams, etc. I went up to the clinic with two shipmates and saw all sorts of cool things in the town (and there was a cable car ride up!). It looks just like Oia, which is at the other end of the island and where I stayed the last two times I was here. Iâ€™m looking forward to having more time to explore town, but today I just stayed onboard and graded papers while the shipmates took one of their exams.
container ship up close
Ok so now itâ€™s two days later. Yesterday I spent the day onboard doing random things on the computer, so today is my free day. Chantale, Boomer, Jay and I are going exploring.
it's really close
This morning we had a bright and early wakeup at 4am when the wind picked up and we found the boat too close to the dock behind us. So we pulled up some on the anchor chain but a couple hours later it was still bad, so we moved. For me this involved getting in the dinghy and dropping Eliot off at the dock so he could pick up our docklines that weâ€™d cast off from the boat, dropping the lines off on the boat and letting him get some tools, then dropping him off on this really large (six feet tall) mooring buoy, then handing him the mooring line from the boat when it got close. Mind you this was all in a lot of wind and pre-sunrise dawn. It was fun. Ok gotta go get ready to explore, hope everyone is doing well and write me!!