Sunday, June 17, 2012

We did the Panama and now the Suez...

Luckily we happened to be awake at 0532 when we entered the Suez Canal about 30 minutes ahead of “shed-ule,” numero uno in a northbound convoy of 18 ships. The captain seemed pleased at being first. There is a small, tugboat-looking type of boat (ship?) in position two. For him it must be sort of like our being in our Corvette behind an 18-wheeler; we can’t see a damn thing because of the behemoth in front of us. And the little tug does occasionally move out to the side, perhaps to see what’s in front of us.

I knew this before, but I am still surprised at how different this canal is from the Panama Canal. It is mostly sand—on the east bank, at least. But on the west bank it is green, green, green because it has a "sweet water" canal on that side. It’s green at least for the first two-thirds, then the canal ends. We’ll see what it’s like then. (later: the same!)

Today is why we got a suite with a large balcony: we will be on the balcony all day; breakfast will be in about a half and hour; we ordered a carafe of coffee at 0545; the weather is beautiful: 24°C (75°F), low humidity, and a light breeze. Life doesn’t get any better than this! Happy Anniversary, Randy!

All along the west bank at close and regular intervals are manned Army watch towers. Can’t say as I blame the Egyptians for being paranoid! They lost the use of the canal—as did the world—for several years: 1967–73(I won’t go into the politics of THAT!). Fourteen ships were trapped in the Bitter Lakes at that time, including their crews and they formed a “yacht club” of sorts and held the Bitter Lakes Olympics in 1968, shared a swimming pool on one of the ships, had church services on another ship, played soccer on the deck of yet another, and generally made the best of a really bad situation. In the Yellow Fleet—so called because of the dust that settled on the ships.—there were two German, two Swedish, one French, four UK, two US, one Bulgarian, and one Czech ship. Only the two German ships were able to leave under their own power. Eventually the crews were brought home until only a very few crew remained on the ships. By 1972 all the crew had gone.But they had fun while it lasted.

As we left the Great Bitter Lake there was a ferry crossing where the ferries have to time their departures to go between the ships in the convoy. Although it looks a bit dicey, there seems to be about 10 minutes between the convoy ships.

It has been a very pleasant morning (and it’s only 0930) being in this stately parade of ships. We can only see behind us (unless we watch the bridge cam) but it is so pleasant just sitting here, sipping coffee, and watching the world pass by.

Some statistics: Fifty ships transit the canal every day in convoys of 18–20; the trip around the Cape of Good Hope from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean is 10,000 miles and takes a tanker two months; a 367-meter-long container ship can carry 12,000 containers; 8% of the world’s shipping passes through the Suez Canal.
The scenery continued is this manner for the rest of the day. We exited the Suez Canal at about 1430 and are enroute to Alexandria and the Sphinx and Pyramids.
One of many oil rigs in the gulf

One of many guard posts along the Canal

I have no idea what this building is or what the domes are for.

One of many war memorials

Another war memorial.

The largest swing bridge in the world. One of only two crossings of the Canal.

These are pontoons that can be set up to cross the river if necessary, presumably for the military

The only road bridge across the Canal (the swing bridge is railroad)

Ferries waiting for us to go by to cross the Canal

Military watchtowers

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