Posted by: adorsk | January 14, 2009

Suez Canal

The Oceanus left Jeddah on November 4th.

A change in cruise plans would send the ship to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Not a bad trade, Jeddah for the Caribbean. The ship would stop midway in Gibraltar to refuel.

But first we had to go through the Suez canal.

We reached the canal two days after leaving Jeddah. I woke up to see the sun rise over the Sinai mountains. There were ships everywhere. The bridge’s radio crackled with constant chatter.

Sinai sunrise

Sinai sunrise

Ships waiting at the canal

Ships waiting at the canal

Mountains near the canal

Mountains near the canal

The rest of the crew did not have fond memories of the canal. In early October they had been delayed in the canal for four days. The canal authorities had ostensibly found fault with the Oceanus’s paperwork and wouldn抰 let the ship through.

It was four days of hell for the crew. Port Said, the Northern end of the canal, was filled with scum. Not algae or bacteria (though there’s probably lots of that too) but thieves and con men. My shipmates told me how Egyptians jumped over the rails and setup cheap trinket shops on deck. Some Egyptians masqueraded as officials in uniform and demanded cigarettes and cokes as ‘canal fees’. Others would walk around the ship looking for tools and gear that they could steal and sell to other ships. We hoped things would go more smoothly this time.

A canal boat plying the waters

A canal boat plying the waters

We anchored outside the canal a night before our scheduled convoy time. When ships go through the canal they are assigned to a convoy. Canal slots are very expensive (Wikipedia gives a figure of $150,000) so it’s very important not to miss the convoy.

In the morning we started in. We had to take on a canal pilot and three ‘canal line handlers’. The ‘canal line handlers’ are a joke. There are no lines to handle in the canal. The ‘canal line handlers’ might as well call themselves the ‘canal neuro-surgeons’ or ‘canal rocket scientists’ All they did was ask constantly for cokes and cigarettes, and then try to sell cheap plastic trinkets or tools that had been stolen from other ships. ‘My friend, business? My friend, coke, coke? Cigarettes, my friend?’. Canal scum, you are no friends of mine.

After the pilot and ‘line handlers’ came on we entered the canal. The entrance isn’t much to look at. It just looks like the start of a small river. The canal itself was strange. One side was developed with nice houses and trees. The other side was barren desert punctuated by army outposts and ruins from wars gone past.

Occasionally there would be something interesting, like flamingoes or a mosque.

A mosque on the canal shore

A mosque on the canal shore

Canal flamingoes

Canal flamingos

Canal houses

Canal houses

After about four hours we reached an anchor point. The anchor point lets convoys pass each other. Two convoys go through the canal at once: one northbound, the other southbound. The southbound convoy pulls aside at the anchor point to let the northbound convoy go by. We passed some big ships. The amount of cargo on the sea is staggering.

A big cargo ship

A big cargo ship (photo by JA)

An Indian submarine.  The Indian sub-continent?

An Indian submarine. The Indian sub-continent? (photo by JA)

It took another few hours to get to the middle of the canal. The canal authority headquarters is there, and even a resort. I don’t understand why anyone would want to swim in the canal since it contains the dirty outwashes of thousands of ships.

The canal resort (photo by J)

The canal resort (photo by JA)

There’s also a strange war monument. It looks like the end of a rifle sticking out of the sand. The Egyptians follow that with a ‘Welcome to Egypt’ sign. Mixed messages?

The canal war monument

The canal war monument

Welcome to Egypt

Welcome to Egypt

And in arabic

And in arabic

Later the canal split into two lanes. Sand dunes obscured the other lane. It looked like giant ships were gliding over the sand.

Occasionally there were small boats with sails made from tarps, or people fishing from row boats.

Ships in the canal

Ships in the canal

We were out of the canal a few hours after nightfall. The entire transit took just about 12 hours.

We had to wait overnight at Port Said for lube oil. This time it wasn’t so bad. The ship was anchored far away from the harbor, away from the scum.

I got up early the next day. Long chains of blackbirds snaked across the sky as the sun rose. A steady stream of ships went past us.

Sunrise at the North end of the canal

Sunrise at the North end of the canal

Birds at sunrise

Birds at sunrise

Birds at sunrise

Birds at sunrise

We got our lube oil and headed into the Mediterranean.

Other Pictures

The Egyptian flag

The Egyptian flag

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Responses

  1. […] Suez Canal […]

  2. thats definitely a British Submarine!!!


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