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nomads trip to moon beach, sinai peninsula, egypt - may 2000

The Nomads - Ian Long, Neroli Blake, Steve and Viv Powell, Gerry and Chris Sanders, Jon White and Brian Derrick

Having read about the place in the Mags and having saved the pennies through the winter, eight Nomads left the cold & wet shores of England in May to test the wind, water and sailing at Moon beach, Egypt.

Ian and Neroli set out on Friday the 12th May to scout out the place with the rest following on one week later.

The main Party assembled at Bristol Airport on Friday the 19th May, one week after Ian & Neroli. A straightforward flight and easy change at Amsterdam followed. This in spite of yours truly dropping a bottle of Rum whilst going through airport security, leaving them with a large brown aromatic puddle. Interesting enough the duty free shop replaced the bottle free of charge upon the production of the broken bottle (much to my wallets relief).

The flight to Cairo (5 hrs) passed pleasantly enough, landing at 01:30 local time, where we were picked up by a minibus arranged by Gybemasters. Three hours later " circa 04:45 am local time, six very stiff and cramped nomads emerged at Moon Beach to be shown to our "chalets" . Cases and bags were unloaded from the minibus and into chalets - Disaster - Steve & Viv discover that their duty free bottles including a 18yr old vintage whisky are missing - last seen at the airport. - Lost or nicked ?? - Nobody was sure, but there was nothing to do except curse and collapse into our beds for a much needed sleep.

Saturday 20th May

Awoke at approx. 08:00, drew back the curtains to see a clear blue sky above an azure blue sea lapping a golden strip of sand about one hundred yards from the chalet's back window - (was this like Weston ?? - was it bloody hell). The beach comprised of strip of sand about 30 yards wide with surrounding "fences" of 3' high palm leaves acting as windbreaks. Inside these "fences" were large metal & wooden sunshades and padded loungers.

Just behind the loungers and built into the back of a small hill was the windsurf centre. All of this a stone's throw from the chalet. Heaven or what? Just one small problem - No wind

Off to breakfast where we all formed and met up with Ian & Neroli who filled us in on the previous weeks sailing.

The good news was that upon arrival the previous week, there followed three days of strong blasting winds, which had produced a nice crop of bursting blisters on Ian's hands. The bad news was that in order to rest Ian's poor hands the wind gods decided that for the next four day's they wouldn't come out and play (a record period of non-windy days).

Ian and Neroli bore it stoically, as you would expect of course. But, Ian in particular was developing a nervous twitch every time he looked at the "calmish" sea.

After breakfast down to the windsurf centre to learn the ropes.

The centre has a selection of about 20 -25 boards of various sizes. All modern F2 & Mistral. The majority between 260 & 290 as you would expect of a high wind centre.

The arrangement is that you pre book your board from the selection available, If you wish to try another, - then no problem, In the case of any unallocated board - just take it. In the case of an allocated board just arrange with the "owner".

During the sailing day the usual formula seemed to work i.e. if the wind strength changed and you wanted to change up or down. Then Bigger / smaller / more skilled / less skilled sailors would be doing the same and would thus inevitably release the size of board / sail that you required.

The Centre also had a selection of about 45 sails, all modern with sizes ranging from 3.5sq m - 8sq m, - all Tushingham, mainly Hecklers.

Sails were stored partially rigged i.e. on masts with the correct downhaul already applied,

You were allocated your own boom (modern, clamp type) for the duration which you just attached to the sail of your choice, applied the appropriate outhaul & plugged into the board utilising the standard pin type mast foot.

Adjoining the board & sail sections of the centre is the "Spreader Bar" - The focus of the Centre - Training, Relaxing, Drinking, Chatting, Meeting other windsurfers, Entertainment - all emanate from the Spreader bar.

photo of Spreader BarSpreader Bar

The bar will sell all kinds of drink and will also put your name on any duty free booze you buy on the way out; then dispense at your request your own tipple free of charge. They will also buy from you any spare beers or spirits you bring with you to the centre. (There are difficulties importing large quantities of quality beers / lagers & spirits).

The Centre is run by Amy, (Young) Mark, (Sparky) Mark, and Johnny. A great bunch of people - genuinely nice, helpful and friendly:

  • Amy - Admin & organisation

  • Young Mark - Instruction to carve gybe level

  • Sparky - Instruction to carve gybe level

  • Johnny - Instruction carve gybe and above

  • All - Bar persons, Boat drivers, Convivial hosts

The wind was always cross-onshore, and worked as follows:

Dawn (about 07:00 little or none rising to max at about 10: 30, remaining at maximum until 15:00 - 16:00 then slowly dying off until dusk (about 20:00).

On the water there were two marker buoys and a platform. The inner buoy was positioned 100 mtrs from shore with the outer about a 1000 mtrs reach from the inner. The platform ( made from scaffolding and planks) was fixed between the two buoys, closer to the inner, about 200 mtrs upwind,

The wind was always fluky between the inner buoy and shore, then consistent, and at it's strongest between the two buoys (where the chop was steepest), Outside of the outer buoy (where you could catch & ride the Red Sea swells), the wind remained consistent but dropped off slightly in force.

Returning to the days activities, after being shown around and given our boom & boards, the warm clear waters of the Gulf of Suez beckoned. Unfortunately wind strength was only a force 2/3 so lightwind sailing and freestyle (always needed but seldom practised) was the order of the day, (Ian's no wind Twitch becoming worse).

During the day dolphins spotted on the water so Sparky rounded up six of us in the rescue boat to motor out to see them at close hand. A tremendous experience motoring along with half a dozen dolphins - they weren't in a playful mood however & swam off downwind shortly after we reached them.

photo of pod of dolphins Dolphins

Following the days sailing exertions, shower, then an evening meal in the hotel and back to the Spreader Bar for a convivial evening of drinks and chat in the warm Egyptian evening. The talk inevitably turned to wind (and the lack of it) - 5 non-planing days in a row - A run of calm never before seen at this time of the year - according to The Gybemasters crew.

Sunday

Awoke to blue skies, blue seas and - and - YES - wind

Lots of delighted happy little Nomads at breakfast that day, who then skipped joyfully down to the beach. The first probes on the water went out with 6.5s only to return following several futile attempts at planing to change up to 7.5s / 8 mtrs. It was a morning of marginal on and off planing wind, but it was still a pleasant sail and it did wonders for Ian's no wind twitch. Jon took over his mantle of most injured nomad by unfortunately pulling his calf muscle, water starting.

One pleasant discovery that the hole in your wetsuit boot which lets in the warm waters of the red sea Is a much more welcome and pleasurable experience that the same hole letting in the more usual, bloody freezing waters around the English coast.

The afternoon winds which promised to increase actually decreased - more freestyle, but the consensus of opinion was the wind was now in the correct direction and boded well for the morrow.

Johnny gave a very useful and informative dry land instruction session. Going through stance, harness lines, boom height, Technique for pumping on the plane - damn good stuff for all abilities.

Games evening in the spreader bar - Jenga, backgammon, draughts, Connect four, cards - Drinks and social chat - Chill out City.

Monday

Awoke to the signs of strong wind - white caps outside of the bay. A hurried breakfast later, and down to the beach like children hurrying to a birthday party. On the beach by 09:30,- Gybemasters lads advised that wind would fill in by 10: 30 & it might be best to wait until then. Advice promptly ignored by yours truly, so wetsuit on, rig up 6.5, plug into board & off onto the water only to find - yes at about 10:30 the wind did fill in & had to change down to a 5.5.

Fluky wind for the rest of the morning with some people hanging on to the one sail whilst others changed up & down trying to find that elusive perfection. Around about 12:00 the wind became consistent and blew at 5.5 sail size, until about 14:00 when it slowly began to die off but still delivering a full afternoon of planing winds using large sails.

photo of Ian gybing
photo of Ian further into the gybe
Ian going into a gybe

After a couple of full day sailing, more and more ticks were appearing in the nomad's personal goals & target boxes,

Monday evening - Bar B Que. - held indoors at the Hotel - (Egyptian logic is a wonder to behold) - But all good stuff and followed with cakes of incredible sweetness (going by taste at least 95% sugar). After Bar- B-Que, waddle down to the bar for more drinks & chat.

As well as the eight Nomads there were two other English couples, three young lads in a group (one French, one English one American) and a Frenchman who now lived in Perth (Australia).

Tuesday

Windiest day so far - early morning 5-6 sq m weather - 10:30 onwards 4.0 - 5.0 sq m weather.

Ian spotted more dolphins whilst sailing out past the outer buoy, joined them and enjoyed the pleasure of sailing with them whilst they played all around him.

Johnny & Mark the instructors were everywhere encouraging, cajoling and helping everyone get the best out of the conditions. In The afternoon they set up a carve-gybe instruction / practice session where everyone was videoed carving or attempting to carve around the buoy.

photo of Ian mid-gybe
Another photo of Ian mid-gybe
photo of Brian crashing!
Ian - Looking good
Brian - trying hard!

Ian ripped a sail attempting a no handed triple loop or something similar, He lost feeling in his hand for a short while but fortunately no serious damage was done.

Johnny gave personal instruction on carving, sailing out behind and watching your individual attempts to carve, I can sill see him nonchalantly standing on his board remaining in one place whilst waiting for me to waterstart all in force 6-7

More improvement by all - Chris and Steve were pulling off waterstart after waterstart. Jon Had perfected the one legged waterstart (his calf muscle was still troubling him). Gerry was attempting carve gybes and Viv was now confidently sailing on all points, with yours truly suffering a little with Pharo's revenge.

Safe to say, all were discovering more original, stylish and humorous ways to dismount at speed

Wednesday

Awoke to light but extensive cloud with a light breeze - a bit worrying

Wind filled in after breakfast however and gave up another planing day with large sails, coming up for a spell before lunch - just enough to warrant changing down a size. And of course as soon as you had made the effort to change down, then the wind backed off to its original strength and you were forced to change up again - (some things never change).

The Gybemasters lads Videoed the day's more memorable exploits and served up an apres windsurf selection of stylish and not so stylish manoeuvres & dismounts.

Following one such dismount Steve's new-found waterstarting skills served him no good at all, when after successfully swimming the rig around and getting it flying he lifted his leg to place his back foot on the board and--!?!? No board - The UJ had broken & the board had gone off downwind to play on its own. Bags of sympathy of course as Mark's water taxi brought out spares for an AA type "roadside" repair 400yds out to sea.

Viv acquired an admirer - a small Arab lad that had an affinity for the end of her boom - (not an advantage when practising beach starts), however a commanding word (in English of course), sent him back to where the rest of his family was splashing around in the water.

Thursday

Flat calm - not a breath - not a ripple - Immediately notice the difference in temperature, it feels so much hotter without the wind. Arrived on beach after breakfast, to wind of about force one quarter.

Ian Suggested mountain bike ride (Mad impetuous fool) so off we went.

I discovered why the place was called moon beach - because that was what the terrain was like - the surface of the moon.

Up and down ridges & depressions for a couple of miles in that heat was enough to leave me gasping for breath with the sweat pouring out . As we reached the point we were aiming for, we spotted a large pod of dolphins out to sea heading down the coast towards the windsurf centre.

We rode back to tell everyone - got back in time to pile on the boat and out for a visit with dolphins. This time a number of youngsters were in a playful mood and delighted us with their antics. Swimming just in front of the boat (close enough to touch). Criss-crossing under and in front, jumping and generally playing around all within a few feet of the boat, A special favourite was a battle scarred youngster with half a fluke missing and a length of fishing line trailing from its snout. He or she kept pace with the boat time after time. At one point we got ahead of the pod, jumped into the water and for a few minutes actually swam with the dolphins. The experience which lasted about an hour was something really special and well worth a no wind day.

After lunch a spot of snorkelling around the small reefs in the bay. Nothing spectacular but a few fish, sea urchins and fins amongst the coral, but a pleasant and interesting experience nevertheless.

Late afternoon and still calm.

photo of Steve & Jon jugglingNo wind alternative. But what HAS Jon got in his shorts?

The Gybemasters lads set up wakeboarding using the safety boat and a Zantos 300. This proved to be great fun, especially once you can stand up and foot steer. With an engine pulling you don't have to be concerned about losing power when carving - just hang on and stay on the board.

The day's activities were rounded up with "Wadi walking" - a 2 hr walk / scramble up and down a Wadi (a dried up flash flood watercourse). This in the surrounding hills (about the height of Brean Down). The hills and wadi's form a strange alien terrain of crusted mud, dust and rocks. The temperature in the hills and gullies becomes seriously hot and draining even in the late afternoon, so a luscious cooling swim back at the beach was a pleasure not to be missed.

Wadi Walking Wadi Walking

After dinner a sandstorm blew up (force 7+), cutting visibility down to a few hundred yards) local opinion was divided as to the whether wind would lock into its usual pattern or blow itself out by the following midday.

Friday

Ian & Neroli's last day

Awoke to the sight of whitecaps outside of the bay - the wind was still blowing its socks off. So off to an early breakfast & on the water just after 09:00 with a 5 sq m sail.

The water began to get lumpier and about 10:30 the wind came up a notch more, so down to a 4 sq m sail - A little small but kept with it until 15:00 when the wind stared dropping slowly forcing everyone to gradually change up through 5mtr - 6mts sails. Fortunately this only involves the unattaching of your boom from your old sail /mast, replacing the old sail/mast in the rack - taking out a new one - attaching your boom - plug rig into board & off.

The lively wind brought about a few incidents of note:

Ian performed an amazing 360 wipe out really impressing watchers from the beach, unfortunately all he remembers is hitting a wave face at ballistic speed. Then a blur - then lying in the water - but there again, all on the beach who saw it were mightily impressed.

Neroli was getting nearer & nearer to cracking her 1st duck gybe - so close.

Jon managed the prize for the most impressive war wound of the trip - a massive bruise on his thigh - captured in full technicolor on the video brought back from Egypt.

Friday & Saturday are the Arab weekend & we were joined on the water by a number of Egyptian & British ex-pats, down from Cairo for the weekend windsurfing. The bay was beginning to look a bit like Portland on a windy day in summer, with windsurfers, boards and rigs everywhere.

Again more video footage from the Gybemasters crew following the day's sailing. Followed with pre dinner, "drinks on the patio", This a concoction of Gerry who with the aid of duty free gin, iced tonic from the fridge and fresh limes sequestered from the hotel, engaged everyone in a most relaxing, cultured & civilised way of watching the sun go down.

After drinks & chat in the bar we said our goodbyes to Ian & Neroli who were sadly off home

Saturday

Awoke to the sight of whitecaps outside of the bay - promising to be as windy as the previous day - it was - 4.5 sq m or less weather all day .

The wind was at its flukiest between the inner buoy and shore, with a one-kilometre strip of nuclear wind with steep chop between the two buoys. But outside the outer buoy, with the wind half a force lower was the place the swells came out to play. Regularly spaced, six to eight foot high, cross on going out (starboard tack) with reasonable ramps available for those wishing to practice jumping, looping etc. And definitely, no hanging around, waiting for the gust in order to waterstart.

After 15:00 the nuclear wind dropped to bloody strong and a few of the more sensible amongst us who had been patiently waiting for the wind to drop, now got on the water and started sailing.

All nomads now carried war wounds, none serious - Jon's bruise had turned from black to red.

Boules in the evening, but following the Nomads victory over the rest of the world at Pictionary on Tuesday we were all split up across four teams with Nomads Viv, Gerry and Jon all on the winning team.

Sunday

Final Day

Awoke to whitecaps outside the bay, another strong wind day beckoned

Not quite as strong as previous few days - Morning -5m sails - hang on through the chop until you get to the outside where the wind drops half a force and you can pick up and ride / jump the swells.

Gerry successfully negotiated the borrowing of the Gybemasters video tape of several day's performances featuring all of the nomads and some of the other Guests. The Gybemasters lads even shot a special opening sequence for the Nomads a quite unique performance by Sparky who had previously suffered mild concussion following a painful wipe-out involving the meeting of board and head at speed, recorded on the tape of course - a real video nasty.>

Note - the video will of course be available for private viewing [unless you pay me handsomely! - Ed].

Mid Afternoon saw a drop in wind strength 6.0 - 6.5 weather, Just right for the tired and Aching bodies to cope with. With the end of the holiday in sight , it's finish with a flourish and sail until you drop. The sailing ended by mutual consent at around 17:30 with a tremendous improvement shown by all.

A subdued evening meal and goodbye to the Gybemasters crew and remaining windsurfers, then a 3hr drive to Cairo, a 5 hr flight to Amsterdam, a 1.5 hr flight to Bristol and arrive to cloudy and chilly 11 degrees (Moon beach temp - consistently low to mid 30's).

A few notes on Moon Beach for anyone thinking of Going.

Moon beach resort Comprises of

  1. A main building, inside of which is :- the Dining area; Reception; Gift kiosk, easy chairs and toilets plus a small games room & Disco on the floor below.

  2. Accommodation is in separate Arabic style "chalets". Each with toilet, shower, washbasin, fridge and air conditioning. All fairly basic and probably not worth a lot of stars in the good hotel guide, however it was all functional and it all worked, Albeit somewhat noisily in the case of the fridge and air conditioning unit . The rooms were cleaned and beds changed each day.

    The "chalets" are cunningly arranged so as to give each a sea view through large patio windows. There is definitely something therapeutic about waking up, pulling back the curtains and seeing the foreshore less than 100 yds away. Especially with whitecaps forming on the blue sea.

  3. Resort staff

    Pleasant and friendly. They spoke little or no English Just as we spoke no Egyptian, but Communication seemed to work well with just a few humorous exceptions.

    All additional purchases to the half board accommodations could be charged to your chalet number, which was recognised by the hotel staff in no time at all.

    Prices - Pretty reasonable - a large cheeseburger with a few chips type lunch ,a couple of cokes and a couple of litres of water a day for nine days came to less than 40 Quid.

    Please note the water is essential. Dehydration will occur if something like two litres of water per day is not drunk especially in summer. Gybemasters crew very clear on this one

    The complex has a few other bits and pieces including tennis courts and what appears to be a hockey pitch both looking ok but unused. Who the hell wants to play tennis in 35 + degrees when you can go windsurfing??

  4. Windsurf centre

    Run by great people who really do their best to make sure you have a great time. Nothing is too much trouble for them - early starts late finishes - no problem. Helpful tips ,excellent Instruction -superb - really first class, best I have come across.

    Rescue boat also used to enhance the holiday - taxi rides back from down wind excursions, rides with the dolphins, wakeboarding - all available with a smile and cheery quip.

  5. The kit

    All modern boards (F2 & Mistral) and sails (Tushingham), Modern clamp type booms with harness lines, Just take your wetsuit, harness, boots (some sea urchins outside of the bay) and possibly some gloves ( the little pinkies can develop some interesting battle sores, after days of continuous use.

    With between 14 & 16 windsurfers at the resort when we were there, the kit just went around, I always managed to get the size of sail and board I wanted. Although a few times there were none in the rack but somehow someone was always just about to return the required Sail / board. I wanted. So I never actually suffered from Kit I wanted to sail being unavailable.

  6. Location

    This Resort is in the middle of nowhere - miles and miles of desert to the north - miles and miles of desert to the east - miles and miles of desert to the south - miles and miles of sea to the west. No nipping out for a Macdonald's, a meal in a chic bistro, or a night in a trendy disco. No Shops with a designer gear or even a Crunchie bar, the hotel sold one bar of chocolate only -Cadburys dairy milk bars 50 pence size only.

    photo of endless roadThe road to nowhere

  7. Wind

    This is what this place is about - Strong consistent wind all day.

    When we had planing wind, which was 7 out of 9 days, we had it all day from at least 09:00 to 17:00

  8. Sea

    Clear blue, warm and refreshing (not too hot).

    Flat or Chop on inside dependant upon wind strength.

    Lumpy or Swells on outside dependant upon wind strength.

    Unfortunately no waves.

  9. Lifestyle

    restful and carefree beach type days & nights.

  10. Food

    Nothing special but plenty of it and perfectly adequate for all but the ultra fussy

  11. Atmosphere / ambience

    Great - a tremendously friendly place with a great camaraderie developing amongst the windsurfers and staff. Lots of laughs

The holiday's over now but a great time was had by all and if asked the question would you go there again My answer would be - Not Bleedin half.

Brian Derrick - Jun 2000

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