Saturday, June 16, 2012

Welcome to Tunisia

2012 06 15
Sidi Bou Said (North Tunis), Tunisia
The Marina Seen From the Top of the Town of Sidi Bou Said

It was certainly not what we expected.

A full day on the Gulf of Tunis had left us totally impressed with the location of the old Carthage.  As we approached the marina serving Tunis and Carthage, located in a suburb named Sidi Bou Said, we saw immediately that it was chock a block with boats.  

Hopefully we thought, they had received our email requesting a berth.  It had been sent via winlink 2000 at daybreak when we confirmed the marina at Bizerte was closed for renovations.  We requested a slip not only for ourselves but also for French vessel L'Albatross which had similar intentions to ours.

Harbour Entrance to Marina Sidi Bou Said
If you look at the entrance you will see brown water
extending from the upper pier - this is silted almost shut
Stay to the West or port side as you approach.

To enter marina Sidi Bou Said you run southwards along the breakwater being careful to hold the 5 metre depth contour.  Once past the end of the breakwater about four or five boatlengths you turn sharply 180 degrees and begin your approach.  From the silting we saw in good daylight i would not try to "cut the corner" and try to go straight for the entrance. Running aground seems assured.  A nice wide turn is in order.  However do not let yourself drift to the west of a line extending from the west pier on the entrance.  Water shallows quickly.  

As we came northward into the marina it was impossible not to notice that the entire starboard side of the entrance was heavily silted. The brown colour of the water could be easily seen in daylight and pretty much confirmed that no unreported dredging had been completed.  This leaves only a narrow channel to make entry entry. Winds were running 20 knots just off the starboard bow.

Did I mention the swimmers? No? Well the deep water side of the entrance channel was full of kids, younger teenage boys teens, diving off the guard fence intended to keep them out of the marina. There were dozens of them, all having great fun. A harbour police officer was pulling them out of the water and helping them climb the fence for their informal diving practice.

Of course they needed the deep half of the channel in order to dive. It all made sense.  That we also needed the deep side was merely a detail to be negotiated.  We approached the school of swimmers slowly steering into a mass of screaming yelling laughing boys.

The Budget Committee did her best to alert the swimmers to our approach. The boys did their best to ignore her, displaying universal teenage distain for their elders. Of course at the last possible second the boys scattered like waterbugs leaving a clear path. I coasted through the swimmers in neutral for fear of grinding some poor child into hamburger with my prop. Our speed did not exceed 1.0 knot on the sailpast.

As we sailed past the boisterous swimmers they caught siight  of our distinctive Canadian flag.  Immediately the call went out and their were children everywhere yelling and waving.  “WELCOME TO TUNISIA” they roared.  

An exceptional welcome. Twenty One Guns could not have touched it.

Looks like a great visit in store.

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