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Old 15-07-2019, 01:07   #1
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Avoid Egypt

We have been underway for 12 years and cleared in and out of 49 different countries sometimes with an agent and sometimes not. Only one time was an agent contacted beforehand and that was as a courtesy to the man in Russia who got SoulMates her invitation to visit and asked that a young friend of his be used as an agent. Otherwise, SoulMates arrives in a port and follows guidance of the local officials be it Coast Guard, police or port authorities. It has not always been smooth but it has been painless and generally efficient. And one other thing in the 49 countries visited, they each had a very high regard for safety of the boat and crew and not one time was SoulMates put in a position that endangered either boat or crew and in fact just the opposite occurred many times when safety concerns were the first priority as they should be.

Port Said was very expensive so the decision was made to sail to Alexandria.
According to the cruising guide and internet there is a yacht club there that can handle customs and immigration but just to be safe they did contact an agent who replied that he had contacted the commercial port and SoulMates would not be allowed to dock there. That was no surprise as SoulMates does not belong in a large commercial port. The agent was thanked for his efforts and told that the services of the yacht club would be used.
Arriving in Alexandria they entered the area where the yacht club was and a harbor boat came in up and said do you want to anchor to which the crew gave a yes. Once on anchor the boat disappeared only to be followed by another harbor boat with an army person on board who came aboard SoulMates and wanted the boats papers and the crew’s passports. Ok that is a start. An hour later another harbor boat arrived with a man who identified himself as a doctor with the Coast Guard and informed the crew that they could not anchor there but must go to the commercial port to clear customs. When informed that the boat papers and passports were taken to the army post he simply replied take your boat up there and get them. Looking a bit perplexed Chuck informed him that according to the charts is it much too shallow for SoulMates to get close to the army post. He again said just go up there and get them to which Chuck again replied we cannot we draft too much. He left and soon returned with the documents and said now go to the port.
Motoring down and around to the port all that could be seen on the horizon were huge freighters waiting to enter the port. Call port control on the vhf radio the port captain asked a lot of questions including if they had an agent to which they replied they did not. The problem was they had not written down the name of the agent. Port Control (PC) told them to go to anchorage which on the charts is marked off. Only problem was the depth was 100-150 feet, way too deep for SoulMates to anchor with only 300 feet of rode and open to the sea. PC was informed it was too deep but they would find an anchorage and report their location. Dropping anchor in 50 feet of water, deepest water SoulMates has ever anchored in, they called PC and asked to come in to clear customs and immigration. They were told to wait. The problem was the anchorage was totally unprotected and when the afternoon winds began to pick up along with wind driven seas from one direction and current from another direction SoulMates began to roll side to side. It is possible to mitigate the roll by ignoring the wind and using a bridle to move the bow of the boat into the current. SoulMates has done that before with great success but it requires a lot of anchor rode and there was not much left so that option was not available.
As the winds and seas picked up SoulMates began to roll 10-20 degrees then she started to rolling 20-40 degrees. PC was told that the boat and crew safety were in jeopardy. They got no response. The decision was made to pull the anchor and head back to safety. PC was informed that the safety of both boat and crew were in peril and would head back to safe harbor. PC said no you will not you will anchor to which Chuck replied I will not anchor as it is not safe. PC insisted they anchor and go out to the big boat area and get protection from the big boats. PC was informed that there was not enough anchor rode to do that and he was head to safe harbor. Chuck was then informed he must anchor to which he replied no I will not and you can arrest if you want but the safety of the boat and crew come first. In 12 years of sailing to how many ports of call this was the first time we really felt the boat and our lives were in immediate danger.
Immediately after anchoring in the safe harbor the CG doctor arrived and asked why they were back to which he was told it was too dangerous to anchor there. The doctor informed Chuck that he must go back to the anchorage to which Chuck replied no he will not as the safety of the crew and boat come first. The doctor then called someone and handed the phone to Chuck and whoever was on the other end asked why they had returned and got the same answer, it was not safe. After a bit of discussion Chuck was told they could stay on anchor for 48 hours, they could not leave the boat, but then must go to the anchorage. Chuck said he would not go to the anchorage as it is to open for a small boat and unsafe for small boats. On arriving back on anchorage the crew went through old emails and found the name of the agent and a phone number and showed that to the doctor.
Without any means of communications the crew needed to call the agent and make arrangements to clear customs and immigration. To get someone to call they had to flag down a harbor boat and get them to go to the army and come over to SoulMates which they did. Showing the army the phone number it was called and Chuck spoke to a woman and could barely understand her but did she did say someone would come out in the afternoon.
Later in the day a man came by in a kayak and talked with them and said they do not belong on anchorage but at the yacht club. Chuck told him of their problems and he said he was a laser sailor and small boats like SoulMates do not belong in the big anchorage. He said a doctor who was associated with the yacht club was in a red dingy teaching sailing to some young people and he would go to him and tell him our troubles and get the yacht club manager involved. Good now we have two people working on the problem.
No one arrived from the agent and no one from the yacht club was ever seen again. It was getting frustrating with no communication and no way to work the issue out. The decision was made to leave Egypt. It was simply a matter that there appeared to a total lack of concern for the crew and boats safety and wellbeing. It also appeared the Coast Guard had no concept or idea what a small sailboat was or how to handle it. To the Egyptian Coast Guard or at least those the crew dealt with there is not a bit of difference between a 40 foot sailboat and 300 foot freighter and each is treated the same.
The decision was made to leave and again it took some time to hail a harbor boat to get the army to get our documents. The army arrived and we told them we were leaving and wanted our documents. He called someone and after a lot of conversation went to get our documents and we left.
But you throught this was over didn’t you? It is not. Leaving the harbor sails were set and SoulMates was very smoothly sailing along at over 6k when a gunboat appeared on our stern and simply followed us. With radar on a small squall appeared and winds began to pick up and soon were blowing 17k and seas were building. The crew threw in a reef and began to take the squall in earnest when suddenly the gun boat began blowing a horn and a man on the bow indicated he wanted us to stop along with another guy with a gun pointed at us.
Ignoring the horn Chuck picked up the radio and asked the Egyptian Navy what they wanted and was told to stop. Chuck said the winds and seas are building and we need to put in another reef and would not stop as it was unsafe in these conditions. The man said stop and Chuck replied no it is not safe and just have the man with the gun shoot me if you want but it is not safe to stop this boat in building seas and wind and squall coming. The man with the gun disappeared.
Next came 20 questions which is normal. Then came the question I want to see your Egyptian captain’s license to which Chuck replied I do not have an Egyptian captains license I have one from the United States of America. The questions continued and eventually the gun boat asked what nationality to which Chuck replied we are both Americans and Donald J. Trump is our president. It got quiet. Something was said that was not understood and when asked to repeat the gun boat simply said stand by and slowed and followed SoulMates. With the winds picking up more and the squall less than a mile away the engine was turned on the sails pulled to motor into the squall and Chuck alerted the gun boat that a squall was approaching and be careful. Eventually the gun boat turned and headed back and told the crew to have a safe trip to which Chuck replied be safe out here.
We generally do not give a lot of opinions but this is an exception. It appears to us the Egyptian Coast Guard has no idea what a small sailboat is or how to handle it. Nor does the Port Control in Alexandria who repeatedly told us to go anchor among the big ships in very deep water and without any protection. The doctor from the Coast Guard who did nothing but smile and tell us we had to go to the commercial had a lack of knowledge of the sea, boats, and worse an apparent disregard for the safety and security of the boat and life of the crew. But he did keep saying if there is anything you need let me know. But our question is how? One question is was he looking for a bribe/gratuity to make things go smoothly?
But then let’s talk about the gun boat captain who should know about boats but when he asked why we slowed down he should have some understanding of sailing and with the winds and seas picking up it was only prudent to reef down and slow the boat down. It also appears that Egypt does not want small boats to sail there and made it very clear to us that they did not want us to such an extent that they put our lives in jeopardy. As above in 12 years it was the first time we throught we might lose SoulMates and our lives and told PC that and to have them totally ignore that is beyond our comprehension.
In our opinion stay as far away from Egypt as possible. Beyond the obvious terror issues with the bad guys blowing up or trying to blow up tourist the Coast Guard and Alexandria Port Authorities have a total disregard for your life. SoulMates crew does not mind the bad guys for they have been in many places that the US State Dept says they should not go to. But to have a Coast Guard that disregards human life is beyond anything we have seen. Avoid Egypt.
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Old 15-07-2019, 01:41   #2
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Re: Avoid Egypt

It could have been worse, at least you didn’t unknowingly have a convicted sex offender onboard without a passport. We will visit Egypt on an organized tour without our boat.

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...ew-208259.html
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Old 15-07-2019, 02:04   #3
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Re: Avoid Egypt

Nothing in Egypt works without bribes. That goes for commercial vessels also

A few packages of cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey would have made everything much smoother.
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Old 15-07-2019, 02:04   #4
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Re: Avoid Egypt

i guess stopping in larnaca marina and getting the cheap flight to cairo as i suggested does not seem like such a bad idea now!

sorry you had a bad experince,but these people are really only used to dealing with big ships in alex.
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Old 15-07-2019, 02:09   #5
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Re: Avoid Egypt

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Originally Posted by MartinR View Post
Nothing in Egypt works without bribes. That goes for commercial vessels also

A few packages of cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey would have made everything much smoother.
Ain;t that the truth....baksheesh is a way of life for everyone, everywhere.
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Old 15-07-2019, 03:59   #6
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Re: Avoid Egypt

I'm reminded of the saying: Poor planning on your part does not constitute and emergency on my part.

Sounds like you showed up at a port that is not used to dealing with a lot of small pleasure craft and hoped for the best rather than planning ahead.

Yeah, they could have been more helpful but it sounds like you set up the situation...
- Struggle to anchor in 100' let alone only 50'.
- No plan on how to contact the agent.
- Dingy unavailable (?) to go pick up papers rather than wait for them to bring them to you.
- Obviously, it's a summarized story but your comments seem to show you took an indignant attitude rather than taking more of a subservient attitude when asking for their assistance. It's a macho culture where position and authority are important to social standing. If you had an attitude, you likely got it back in spades.
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Old 15-07-2019, 05:27   #7
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Re: Avoid Egypt

Wow! Quite an experience. Sounds like the right call to head out of there. No wonder you don't want to go back.
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Old 15-07-2019, 05:29   #8
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Re: Avoid Egypt

Thanks for the story.

You guys have been around so I hope the second guessers wouldn't get too much out of hand here.
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Old 16-07-2019, 11:22   #9
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Re: Avoid Egypt

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Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
I'm reminded of the saying: Poor planning on your part does not constitute and emergency on my part.

Sounds like you showed up at a port that is not used to dealing with a lot of small pleasure craft and hoped for the best rather than planning ahead.

Yeah, they could have been more helpful but it sounds like you set up the situation...
- Struggle to anchor in 100' let alone only 50'.
- No plan on how to contact the agent.
- Dingy unavailable (?) to go pick up papers rather than wait for them to bring them to you.
- Obviously, it's a summarized story but your comments seem to show you took an indignant attitude rather than taking more of a subservient attitude when asking for their assistance. It's a macho culture where position and authority are important to social standing. If you had an attitude, you likely got it back in spades.
Really - We did contact an agent in Alex who said he checked with the Port and they could not take us in and he could be of no further help to us. We thanked him and told him we could contact him later.

Second How may times have you anchored in 100ft or more of water in the open ocean. I guess you are a lot better than we are. In 50 fot we had wind on one side of the boat and open ocean swell on the other. we have dealt with that in 20ft of water but we had most of our rode out so it was not pssible.

Yea we got a dink on the deck and when the man in the CG Uniform said you are not to get off the boat. Gee that makes sense.

You know we have sailed into hundreds if not thousands of ports and some of them have no idea what to do with a small boat but we work it out. There was no working it out here.
As for our attitude we have sailed to 50 different countries and never ever had a problem and get along with everyone but sometimes it just does not work.

You obviously have a lot more experience than we do so please I am looking forward to your guidance and wisdom.
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Old 16-07-2019, 13:25   #10
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Re: Avoid Egypt

I'd just just cite the name of the country when asked, and not the name of the current president when I'm speaking generally. No good to provoke a possible political reaction either way. Strong feelings exist in many places of the world. Hopefully the next port is normal.
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Old 16-07-2019, 13:47   #11
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Re: Avoid Egypt

Quote:
Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
I'm reminded of the saying: Poor planning on your part does not constitute and emergency on my part.

Sounds like you showed up at a port that is not used to dealing with a lot of small pleasure craft and hoped for the best rather than planning ahead.

Yeah, they could have been more helpful but it sounds like you set up the situation...
- Struggle to anchor in 100' let alone only 50'.
- No plan on how to contact the agent.
- Dingy unavailable (?) to go pick up papers rather than wait for them to bring them to you.
- Obviously, it's a summarized story but your comments seem to show you took an indignant attitude rather than taking more of a subservient attitude when asking for their assistance. It's a macho culture where position and authority are important to social standing. If you had an attitude, you likely got it back in spades.

Valhalla,
Your "know it all" reply to someone who has sailed widely throughout the world(chuckr) without this harassment and inconsideration can only be described as ignorant. You owe him an apology. Rognvald
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Old 16-07-2019, 15:12   #12
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Re: Avoid Egypt

To me it sounds like this was a commercial port of entry. Personally, when I'm going to a new country, I try to make it as easy as possible, which means I'd research the best port for pleasure cruisers and if the normal custom is to hire an agent, I'd hire one.

I remember reading an article from Captain Fatty who had a similar experience with Egypt. His big issue was the baksheesh. He refused to pay, and they refused to function without it. They win.
Fatty Goodlander, S/V Ganesh - Corruption & Bribery in the Suez Canal*Please note: some people thought I was exaggerating how badly the power structure of Egypt was treating its people. They could not believe that I said the powerful, unfiltered thin
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Old 16-07-2019, 15:42   #13
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Re: Avoid Egypt

Quote:
Chuck was then informed he must anchor to which he replied no I will not and you can arrest if you want but the safety of the boat and crew come first.
<snip>
The man said stop and Chuck replied no it is not safe and just have the man with the gun shoot me if you want but it is not safe to stop this boat in building seas and wind and squall coming.
<snip>
eventually the gun boat asked what nationality to which Chuck replied we are both Americans and Donald J. Trump is our president.
Surprised you are here to tell the tale (-;
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Old 16-07-2019, 18:29   #14
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Re: Avoid Egypt

My only experience even close to that was in a US Port.

Caught in 16' beam seas in our single engine 37' trawler heading from Toronto to Oswego. We decided we had enough and it was unsafe to continue. We pulled into Rochester and were hailed from the USCG station and they congratulated us on safely entering the river as they had been watching the show and getting ready to come to our assistance.

We pulled into the Rochester Yacht Club and used their phone to call US Customs. We informed Customs that we knew it was a port of entry only on Tuesdays and Thursdays (in those days) but felt we had no choice but to seek refuge.

The customs officer (land based in Buffalo) told us to get out of his country. We again described conditions and suggested he confirm with the USCG station in Rochester. He said "I don't care, get out". I asked to speak to a supervisor and to cut the story short I was transferred to two different people in Toldeo, Ohio and then two more in Washington DC. This 3hrs on the phone was witnessed by more than 20 people in RYC.

Eventually I ended up talking to the original idiot who told me I had 20 minutes to get out of his country or my vessel would be seized and we would be arrested.

My reponse was thus .... Yes officer i will leave in a few minutes but in that few minutes I will call the local newspaper and TV station to come down and watch a couple of Canadians die. I will also walk the 100yds to the USCG station and advise them to get ready for a rescue. ..... after a very long pause he said "ok, you can stay til morning but then you better be gone or else".

Every country has them.
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Old 16-07-2019, 19:09   #15
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Re: Avoid Egypt

I feel for you on this one. However, I will say that Egyptians in general are rather wonderful people once you know them and they know you. I spent 14 of my 19 years in Egypt living in Alexandria (I came back to the States for good just over 2 years ago). What you experienced is what I would call a "typical" Egyptian response to a private foreign non-commercial boat pulling into Alexandria. You mentioned the yacht club. That is located in the Eastern Harbor (Cleopatra's Palace is located there BTW, 120 dives logged on it). It is a yacht club in name only. It is for wealthy Egyptians that "might" own a small power or sailboat. How many non-commercial boats larger than 12-feet did you see?

The response by the CG, Egyptian Navy, and agent are all typical of what happens when they don't know how to deal with a situation. And a large amount of inherently cultural distrust and paranoia in this country doesn't help (you know, Israel next door, the government itself, the guy at the corner market, their next-door neighbors, etc.). I taught Electrical/Electronic/Navigation systems to the Egyptian Navy for 10-years on former US Navy ships, speaking (Egyptian dialect), reading and writing Arabic and have seen this many times in other areas. The Egyptian military will never admit that they don't know something and each "Commandant" is making it up as best he can if he doesn't know the regulations until someone higher up tells him what to do. That results in things like the boat captain chasing you and telling you to stop and ignoring the weather conditions..he's following orders (NEVER disobey orders in Egypt's military...trust me). Port Control telling you to anchor out in the commercial anchorage is the only thing that he knows to tell any vessel. Port Control and the military communicate with each other only when they want to find fault for any given situation (like the sun came up today...it was too bright).

It became worse after the "Arab Spring". I loved most of my time living in Egypt, but am glad I'm home again.

Don't avoid Egypt, just don't sail there....take a plane... from somewhere else.
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