Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Transiting the Suez Canal. 2

Our final day in the middle east was spent transiting the Suez Canal.
Moving from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean also marked the end of the
strictest pirate alert we have ever experienced. From sunset to sunrise no
passenger or crew were allowed on the open decks. There was limited external
lighting and we were asked to have our curtains drawn and to limit the use
the lights in the cabin.
Having anchored just outside the city of Suez the night before, it was an
early 4am start when we felt and heard the rumble of the anchor being pulled
up . Have I mentioned how far forward our cabin is! Not wanting to miss our
entrance into the canal we quickly dressed and made our way up on deck.
Being a passenger ship we had priority, which just meant that we got to go
first in a convoy of 28 ships heading north. In single file, we headed from
Suez to the first milestone, The Bitter Lakes. Being transit number four
for us, there was the familiarity of the rich fertile landscape of the Nile
side and arid desert of the Sinai, but something was different. Gone were
the trucks full of soldiers and guns patrolling the banks. Instead they
have done a Donald Trump and built a wall. Towers strategically placed with
Sentries standing on guard.
It is not just large container and passenger ships you find in the canal.
Dwarfed by our ship, abras dot the canal. Fisherman wave madly as we pass,
others scramble out of our way when the Captain gives them a short blast of
our horn.
No longer is the long wait in The Bitter Lake until the south bound convoy
passes, an adjacent canal has now been constructed. With duel lanes,
traffic in the canal has more than doubled to ninety ships transiting a day.

Although this has hastened our northbound transit it has moved us further
away from some of the more interesting monuments and highlights along the
canal. The high mounds of sand which divide the two canals take "scenic"
out of the transit. There is new construction starting along the banks of
the new canal, especially around Ismailia and a couple of monuments, so
charging our camera batteries was not a waste of time. On exiting the canal
we see that they are quite cleverly building what will eventually be the
largest container terminal in the world.
With excitement, we have now entered the Mediterranean and the end of sea
days as we know it. This time next week, instead of ports, we will be
begging for more days at sea.

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