Port Said (from the starboard side!!)

Trip Start Oct 12, 2011
1
5
14
Trip End Nov 02, 2011


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Where I stayed
On Board the MSC Lirica

Flag of Egypt  , Red Sea and Sinai,
Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday dark clouds, today brilliant sunshine! We have now left Crete well behind. It's like we have entered another dimension. Everybody is walking around with smiles on their faces. Not only is there plenty of sun to go around but also there are ample sun beds. It gets better because they are completely free!!!

Our route seems to be taking us through a busy shipping lane. I can’t understand why, when there is so much ocean to choose from, all ships have to stick to a 5 mile radius of each other!! We arrived in Port Said (pronounced Sigh-eed) at around 8pm. This became even more confusing as it was first visible from the Starboard sigh-eed!! When the announcement was foirst made, we didn’t know which way to look!!

Port Said is not at all what we expected. Despite being dark, the quayside and town was well lit with its fair share of neon and expensive looking dockside apartments. No camels, caravans or Bedouin tribes to greet the ship. The only caravans all seemed to be attached to 4-wheel drives!!! Once more, another romantic notion bites the dust and I’m sure there will be plenty of that around in the days to follow (dust, that is!!)

We dropped anchor in the estuary. This was billed as a technical call only whilst we waited our turn to transit the Suez Canal. Port Said was on our original itinerary until troubles began so MSC in their infinite wisdom decided to replace it with Heraklion. (Least said, soonest forgotten!!)

The P & O cruise ship 'Arcadia’ kept us company until it weighed anchor and buggered off in to the still of night.

We were due to enter the Suez Canal at about 2am. This is quite normal. It takes between 11 to 16 hours to pass through the Canal so there will be plenty to see in the morning.

I set the alarm a little earlier than normal and at 7am, I rushed out to the aft deck to see where we’re up to.

There was a line of 3 or 4 ships following us down the canal. After breakfast, Roisin and I went to the forward deck and saw a similar sight.

‘Breaker, Breaker, 10-4, good buddy. We got us a convoy!!!’

On a typical day, 3 convoys transit the canal. 2 southbound and 1 northbound. The first southbound convoy of the day (ours) enters the canal in the early hours of the morning. The canal is much wider than I thought. Although its approximately 325ft wide, there is only 1 shipping lane with 4 passing places. We were only travelling 8 knots and keeping a safe distance of 1 nautical mile between us and the ship in front. This is probably the maritime equivalent of maintaining 2 chevrons distance between cars on the free way (sorry Jane. Too much ESPN America!!). I hope that this 1 nautical mile takes in to account thinking as well as breaking distance. I’d hate there to be an emergency stop and us to plough in to the back of a cargo vessel. Even though we are miles from home, you could still probably bet on a ‘Claims 4 U’ rep turning up within a few minutes of the accident!!!

I checked my watch. It was 10:05am. Boy it was hot. It must have been touching 30 degrees (90F). The entertainments crew made an appearance and started with aerobics. It was hard work just watching them. Hats off to those who actually took part.

The deck activities kept on coming. A QUIZ!!! Not your: ‘Guess the animal? - Moo! or Baa!’ kind of quiz but one with real answer sheets and even pencils! There were only 10 questions but it’s a start.

Quiz over…where did we go wrong? Where were Donny, Marie, Kaye and the rest of the Delta Delays when you needed them? The questions were in 6 languages that becomes great fun at the end of the quiz when the quizmaster (Francesco) asked if you wanted any of the questions repeating. I just kept shouting out random numbers for fun!!

Question 3 (word for word). Which country were singing from the group who sang ‘We are the World’?

Any ideas? We put the USA. We were wrong. The correct answer was Ethiopia!!!  You work it out??!! I have it on good authority that there will be plenty more of these quizzes before the end of the trip

At about 11:30 the canal became wider and soon it transpired we had entered the Great Bitter Lake. This is the halfway point where all the vessels converge and hang around. In our case, we had to wait for the northbound convoy to emerge in to the lake before we could continue with passage.

I’ve tried to find out where the Great Bitter Lake gets its name. Is it from a nearby brewery who use the water from the lake in its fine ale? Was it perhaps named after 2 rival tribes who lived at each end of the lake? They weren’t just rivals. They were bitter rivals!! The lake, as is the whole of the Canal, is salt water. Perhaps the name is just something as boring as the taste of the lake!! (I wish it were the 2nd reason. That would be so cool!!)

The Suez Canal is 100 miles long and was completed in 1869. I know I haven’t been keeping up with the geeky facts as I promised but this fact I am about to reveal was not advertised in any of the ships literature on the matter. In fact it came from the brainstems of Roisin who tends to read the programmes when we visit the opera and not just look at the pictures!! ‘Guiseppe Verdi’s masterpiece Aida was written in commemoration of the opening of the Suez Canal and first performed at La Scala (Milan, not Lime Street!!)

We finally left the canal at 5:30pm and into the Gulf of Suez then finally in to the Red Sea. There are no locks within the Suez Canal as the terrain is flat. The level between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea is negligible. During our transit through the canal, it looked anything but man-made. It could have easily passed for a natural waterway. Not all ships can pass through the Suez Canal. Some super tankers are simply too large to pass through due to a limit of vessels with a 53ft draft.

Although this experience wasn’t the most picturesque sight we have seen, it was noticeably odd that on one side of the canal it is constant desert with hardly any vegetation. This is the Sinai peninsular. On the other side it is a more lush and fertile land. This may have something to do with the water plain leading up to the Nile Delta. Now I understand why one of the tribes was bitter!! Wouldn’t you be if you looked across the Canal and saw your neighbour living it up in a green oasis whilst all your meagre food was always getting full of dust? One good thing came out of this. This is where the Sandwich originated. Unfortunately, they were made from real sand until an Earl came along and thought they tasted better if you replaced the sand with meat or cheese!!
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Comments

Helen on

So glad the weather's improved. The Suez Canal sounds fascinating - what an adventure!

Did you go to Knossos? It's worth a visit.

Looking forward to the next instalment ;0)

Elaine on

Sun , Sea, Sand and ,,,,,,, Free sunbeds in Sinai !!!!!!!

Sounds and looks amazing --- Keep up the good work Chris - its cheering us up in Windy, Wet and Wintry England!!!!

Jane P-H on

I will forgive you for this one lapse :)

I must read this to David, when in the Navy he did go down Suez but was below deck the whole time so never saw it. At least I think that was Suez!

Really enjoying the blog, keep it up.

Jill G - Raisin fan on

Love the blog - Chris you're brilliant. :)
Roisin you look gorgeous in the picture (as you always do)Miss you xx

Dave on

Never fancied Egypt as they always try to kill the Brits. This seems though the ideal way to do it.

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