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Voyage update 7th April 2007 - Isokratia on retreat ! Forced to turn back!

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AT port Khalib we open and cleaned completely the after fuel tank on starboard side which gave us problem with dirt and water. We also carried out  temporary repairs to our starboard engine starter. We then departed. We had a faulty switch as well so every time we need to start the engine we will have to touch some wires together on the starter solenoid. Something Mr Theo should be teaching us better for next time! It will have been suicidal to departed with only one engine. Proven right later on!

We finally left Port Khalib in Egypt on Sunday evening 30th April at about 20.00, with moderate winds of 18 to 24 knots an hour. All head on the nose we could not have the sails up. So both engines were on.

By 02.00 31st the winds became 30 to 35 knots. Waves approximately 4 to 5 meters. Nothing that Isokratia can not take. Uncomfortable ride as we were climbing on the waves. Still nothing to worry. The weather forecast both of them were stating winds of West and North  west 14 to 16 knots!

By early morning the winds got 30 then 35 then up to even 45 knots. As we entered the narrow straight of the red sea after the Akaba turn the waves got  bigger and steeper. We had wind against current. To those non mariners this means the waves instead of being sloping they get upwards some of them just vertical.

The banging on the catamaran belly was unbelievable. As if a thousand hammers were hitting us from underneath. Despite the strong build the whole floor will vibrate! At times when I was on watch as Isokratia climbed on the big waves it was near vertical climb and the speed will go down to 1 and even half a knot. This was with two engines on!

After climbing the wave the bows will go vertically down punching the water and going full under water. A giant spray will be raised from the splash. Then the strong wind will force spray the water all the way to the top of the deck and windscreen windows. Scary but also accelerating. Adrenalin flowing!

Chrysta and George could not stop taking photos and video of the next and the next wave as they got steeper and bigger. Especially those one in seven waves will become giant monsters.

Our front nets were ripped off. The stainless steel bars ( 1.5â€? thick) were bend at areas and completely cut off  from the pressure of the water and wind as the nose kept diving in and out of the water. These  are the so called Ferrari nets  from America, supposed to be indestructible at a cost of £500.00 each! No guarantee of course!

Still we were doing anything between 4.5 to 5.7 knots. So in another 24 hours we will be at our destination Port Suez. We were running the mid diesel tanks which came down to about 10% of diesel. SO we decided to change and use the aft diesel tanks.

Within a minute of closing top tanks and opening aft tanks both engines  stopped and the generator also stopped. Immediately we knew that this meant dirt or water in the fuel.

Panic!!! Dam sure panic!! We were in  a narrow straight full of oil platforms without any lights. We were drifting in the middle of the  narrow shipping lane where all the big container and tanker boats are forced to. Ahead straight against us was coming a tag boat towing two barges. This means they were unable to manoeuvre so we had to give way. But we were unable to manoeuvre as well. The books never said anything about what to do in such situations. They are moving on engine, but  we are drifting.

We quickly woke up Jui and send him down to the starboard engine.  He cleaned the primary fuel tank but still the engine will not start. So I handed him fuel filters  which he changed very fast. Within 5 to 10 minutes we started the starboard engine.

The Tug boat came within close reach of 500 yards. His captain started calling us on VHF trying to tell us we should not be where we were and al l the b….it of a clever d…k head.

I asked him if there was somewhere where we can go in safe anchorage as he was local . His reply was “you should have this info in your booksâ€?. My mouth started getting full of  those words suitable to serve such clever d….k heads!

Our speed was down to between half and  two knots as we were pushed by the waves. At this low speed the auto pilot cannot steer the boat. Even manually it was extremely hard to steer the boat. We were going on continues zig-zag motion. We headed away from the shipping lane to avoid collision and hoped that nearer the shore the waves will be more manageable. Not a chance. If anything the wind gust was even stronger.

Meanwhile Jui was working on the other engine on the port side. He changed the filters. He tried to start with the touching of the wires other starter solenoid as our starting switch was gone. Nothing. Again and again but nothing happened. Out temporary repaired starter just will not move.

What do we do now? At that speed it will take as 5 days to reach port Suez. Even if we were to try it we had not enough fuel to try it with one engine. I had Jui full one plastic bottle of fuel from each aft tank. They were both full of water. So we lost 450 litres of fuel. We quickly filled the top tanks form one of the spare tanks holding 165 litres.

The concert was in all our faces. Even I was concern! Mark who was more experience also showed in his facial remarks  that he was indeed seriously concern. If we were to loose the second engine we will just drift to who knows where. Thoughts of what do we do in such an event started passing through my mind. They say the best place is always on the boat. Unless the boat is sinking we should not abandoned the boat.

I had not finished my thought when Chrysta asked  that same question. This shows the concern of all of us at that moment. Decision time. What do we do with only one engine and the boat unable to be steered.

 By now it was about 14.00. I was  exhausted. I got Mark and George to raise the  sail to see if we can zig - zag using part of the sail out to help the one engine. If we get 2 knots of speed from it we will manage it. No chance. The genoa shroud was bending like elastic. The wind was pushing so hard on the half genoa that it will push the boat to the direction it wanted  which was opposite from where we were going to.

After  trying a few tricks with the sails for a couple of hours it proved impossible. A decision had to be made. Forward at 1 to 2 knots an hour was not a viable option. The winds were getting stronger and stronger. The waves steeper and steeper! The nets were flying just about holding on one site. The stainless steel pipes of the nets where banging on the foreword cross beam .

The inevitable had to be decided. Retreat!! We turn back to go to the only place for save anchorage in these waters. Abu Tig Marina. ON the way we decided not to go into Abu Tig as the waters are uncharted and at night time it is suicidal to go in. They will not  let us in the marina at night time anyway. The surrounding area full of wrecks!

Neither opur paper charts not our electronic charts have depths showing. Only warnings of the dangers and that eyeball navigation is required!

Yet it was our only choice . So on 2nd April 2007,    only 90 miles from our destination Port Suez we were forced to turn back! Turning back the ride was smooth as the waves were pushing us from behind. We raised half the main sail and we were moving on 8 knots. So went straight to bed to rest for a bit after Instructing Mark and George to raise the main sail about half.

This part of the red sea is what everybody fears. It is full of wrecks!! Some yachts may sit and wait for up to three and four weeks for the weather to calm down before they dare to cross it. Isokratia is build strong to take these seas. She is a true passage maker. She can go anywhere. But with the engines problems we faced we had to retreat.

So we were forced to go it  at night time. There was no other place to go to for repairs or even to shelter from the winds.  Some lights shown in the electronic navigation to be tour right side appeared to be  half a mile to our left.  Reefs every where. I had both George and Jui out one on each side looking for dangers.

Hair raising navigation. We managed to reached the co ordinates the Marina people gave us. Eve those were wrong and we had to adjust our anchoring position. We are forced to anchor outside because they will not allow us to go in at night time. It seems that even going into this marina is dangerous at night time never mind reaching it.

SO our hope of reaching Cyprus at least for the Holy Friday or Saturday were shattered now. We will have no flaounes ( the Cyprus traditional Easter cheese cakes). But we will have our red eggs and soup. We will eat the lamb ovalia when we reach Greece!!

Indeed last two days were an experience. Fighting the waves all the way. George and Chrysta kept photographing the waves for memoirs. This is big and that is bigger. “ Oh no look at that one coming up is even biggerâ€? I will have a video full of waves! She is doing a good job as a camera/video woman!  

IN all this turmoil I totally forgotten that it is Chrysta’s birthday today. George reminded me. Nor that I remember easy other times! God help me I will have to make it up for her! Perhaps a trip to the pyramids will do the trick!

The third part of Isokratia is meant to be release today but it is postponed as we have not reached port Suez. Just as well to give me time to prepare a synopsis of the third part!

Next day we are invited to go in whilst three dinghies waited to asset us. We told them we  had one engine and it will not be manoeuvrable to reverse as the boat will just go into circles. We told them our size. They tried to get us to reverse into a slot which will not take half out boat. After a few shootings and calls to management we were taken to the next spot. We had to anchor reverse I Mediterranean style. But although wide enough it was a corner with shallow water and stone walls on two sides.

It was a fight to get Isokratia to back in . Mark got to see what it means to try to go into a marina or port with one engine! Eventually we managed it.

Now I need to go to Suez some 450 kilometres away by car and then Cairo another 200 kilometres on top to find parts like the starter and my propellers which are waiting in Suez and then back top fit them!! This is Egypt though.

For back up I ordered two new starters to be send by express courier from London. Just as well. When we managed to find the Volvo agent in Egypt who did not bothered to answer his phones they were totally useless. They had no stock of anything. To bring new starter in they requested two weeks time. Next day my starters from London will be in Cairo.

SO we reached Cairo and explore the pyramids with George and Chrysta. Going camel and horse riding. Our legs still ache!. Finally as we faced delays George has to fly back to London. Someone must work! SO we dropped him at a hotel near the airport and we drove back to Abu Tig.  A 7 hour drive! On the way back the weathered  calm down and we could envy seeing the sea being as smooth as a lake of oil. By next Monday if we do not depart the winds forecasted locally are back to 30 to 40 knots!!

Now three days after my starters have they arrived in Cairo airport,  I am sitting in Abu Tig Marina waiting fro them to be delivered. They promised to do so today. Now it became tomorrow and who knows when.

Meanwhile we have repaired the nets, ordered new stainless steel fittings for the nets which will be there tomorrow.

The good thing is that Abu Tig Marina is a beautiful set up . Full of bars, pubs, restaurants, shops ( to occupy Chrysta!). Full alcohol drinks which makes Mark Happy!! It is a well developed resort. It even has it’s own small hospital which will come handy as I lost one of my tooth feelings. So we intend to enjoy  our stay here.

Have fun guys for we intend to  try to have fun as much as we can.

Chris Neophytou

Isokratia

7th April 2007-04-07 Abu Tig Marina - Egypt


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