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Tales of Zippy the D-Zero Owner: Adventures in Africa Part 2

by Zippy Zero 5 May 15:15 BST
Fishing boats at Damietta © Liz Potter

Hello all; greetings from Zippy the DZero within the firmly locked compound at West Kirby Sailing Club. This week I have been writing the second instalment of Owner's adventures in Africa, based around sailing club number 9; Montaza Watersports in Alexandria, Egypt.

As this sailing club was only part of the Potter family's aquatic adventures in Egypt, perhaps I should start this story at the River Nile, where we left off last time.

The mighty Nile leaves Lake Victoria in Uganda at its Northern shore at Jinja and then takes some 3 months for the water to travel 4,132 miles to the Mediterranean in Egypt. Our story picks up as it reaches its 11th country, Egypt, entering Lake Nasser. This vast Lake was created in 1970, upon the completion of the Aswan Great Dam and the Nile travels some 300 miles through the Lake to reach the Dam. It was on this Lake that Owner and family set off by boat for a week of fishing safari, before descending the Nile beyond the Dam in a felucca.

The Potter family were provided with their own live-aboard boat (open-roof topped and open-sided). It came complete with an Egyptian skipper. The boat was followed by a mother ship, which carried the support crew of a skipper, assistant skipper, chef, waiter, galley boy, fishing guide and gun-toting security guard. Plus a tender for fishing excursions. All for one family.

The Potter shipmates spent many hours debating whether there were crocodiles in Lake Nasser, often whilst enjoying a swim in it's warm waters. The answer was provided on one of the many island stops, where the children stumbled upon a huge, bloated dead crocodile festering on the shore.

Thereafter, live crocs were seen on a daily basis. Family swims were curtailed to shoreline and shallower water and there was always a "Potter the croc spotter" on guard.

Many of the islands where the boat stopped for lunch or overnight, had their own indigenous wildlife. There were monitor lizards, scorpions, foxes and even goats. The boat gang plank was always raised at night by the children's request, just in case the crocs could shuffle up sideways.

Beyond the Aswan Great Dam, Owner and family joined their next craft; the Nile felucca. The boat had no internal cockpit, so the family lived, ate and slept on the large mattress spread out beneath the sunshade. It was like being in bed for three days with nothing to lean against.

By night, the boat was run aground on the banks of the Nile and a meal of tomato stew, made with just tomatoes was served with some very stiff old funky pitta bread. The luxury beverage on offer was warm coke, which was stowed beneath deck all day to reach temperature. The family enjoyed their evening walks along the banks of the Nile to locate some tastier alternatives in the local villages.

Once back on board, Owner hung up the mosquito nets she had wisely packed, only once having to repel the skipper from joining the family, using some choice-learnt Arabic words.

The felucca then rocked and bashed on the shore all night in the wake of the passing luxury Nile Cruisers, with their well-heeled tourists undoubtably quaffing chilled wine in air-conditioned cabins.

The journey turned out to be painfully slow, as the Egyptian skipper seemed to favour drifting downstream on the current. As there was only so much warm coke a family could drink, some increase in speed to the nearest supplier of cold beer seemed like a good idea. There was a small British mutiny, as our sailors insisted that Skipper up full canvass and sheet in. It got worse when he had to hand over the helm to a woman. Allah forbid. Only when the felucca was finally rocketing downwind (what is the Arabic term for gybe-ho?) was he allowed to take the helm back and do some serious sulking.

Leaving the Nile at Luxor for some hot air ballooning across the desert and returning to Alexandria, my people returned many months later to complete their journey on the Nile at the delta near Damietta.

At Lake Manzalah lies a fishing village called El-Matariyyah. The locals use sailing vessels similar to the Nile feluccas, which are flat bottomed due to the shallowness of the Lake and topped with huge sails. Owner and Husband weaseled their way onto one of these vessels for the day to enjoy a scenic and enjoyable sail.

In between the Nile adventures and many others, the regular sailing fix was provided at the Montaza Watersports Club.

Located to the East of Alexandria, sailing conditions were often perfect on this stretch of the Med, with year-round sailing in force 2-4 in clear, warm waters.

Luckily Owner packed the windsurfer!

The family's UK exported boat of choice this time was a Hobie 16 with twin trapeze and asymmetric spinnaker.

The catamaran did a number of long-distance expeditions in its time, including a journey Eastwards towards Rosetta (Nile Delta) to Nelson's Island in Abu Qir Bay. The island is the site where Nelson buried his dead after the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

Sailing 10 miles West along Alexandria's seafront took them to the site of the Old Pharos Lighthouse, which was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1300's. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and some of its remains were recently found in the sea beneath its original site. Glad my people didn't capsize there then.

I leave you with an Egyptian sunset to inspire your dreams, journeys and adventures. Live for the day my friends and when this is all over, GO SAILING!!!

Zippy Zero

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