Friday, April 28, 2017

Suez Canal transit

In Suez (more accurately, Port Tewfiq) on the morning of April 27th at 10:00, the first of our 2 pilots boarded Sea Turtle for a 2-day journey through the Suez Canal. Jordan could steer if he wished but it was the pilot's job so we decided to let the pilot take control of the boat with us checking occasionally to see that everything was okay. Most of the first day was into a light breeze but with a helping current giving us about 6 knots over land, but less than the passing behemoths that crawled along at 9 knots.

The pilots preferred hand steering instead of using the autopilot and whenever Jordan offered to spell them off, they mostly declined. We spent most of the transit time on the internet trying to obtain the boat insurance that is required by most countries in the Med.

Scenery was typical of what you would expect. Unlike the Panama Canal that is cut through miles of hills, the Suez Canal is basically a ditch in a flat landscape of sand. That is not to diminish the colossal undertaking 150 years ago to do the 193 km (120 mi) of excavation. The residual material piled up on each side of the Canal makes up most of the scene. A few buildings were spotted along the way, as well as a lot of military depots and watchtowers. In many spots along the banks, we could see pontoons that can be quickly joined together to make a temporary emergency bridge.

Most of the Canal is a single channel not safely wide enough to allow for 2-way freighter traffic. So certain hours of the day are for ships going one way only. There is no limit to ship size and Maersk container ships like this one is huge at 1,312 feet long and 194 feet wide (400 x 60 m), carrying 9,000 40-foot containers.

Full of containers

We arrived at almost the halfway mark of the Suez Canal just before dark at a town called Ismailia where we tied Sea Turtle up to the cement wall for the night (N30°35.105' E032°16.354'). And this is when and where the first pilot was done. An obligatory tip was expected but as is so common in such a situation here, the pilot without a shred of pride, tried to intimidate for more.

The next morning we were awoken at 04:30 and boarded by a new pilot for the last section to transit. He seemed very polite and spoke very little English and like the last one, was absent of hat which we provided. Interestingly, at one point when the pilot saw me taking a photo, he quickly said No, no madam and adamantly asked that it be deleted. He said photos were not allowed of military areas.

Nearing the north end of the Canal and just before entering the Mediterranean, the pilot downed an ice cold Pepsi and gratuitously accepted his tip but then asked for cigarettes and a shirt. At least he was more or less polite about it but we had to say sorry. So at 11:30 a pilot boat was summoned and off he went with a big smile and wave. We continued with autopilot on and, after 3 and a half months from leaving SE Asia, we were off into a new sea, the Med!

1 comment:

s/v Libertad said...

wonderful - glad you are safely in the med. Enjoy! We will be at the Panama Canal, caribbean side, in about 7 days.

Dennis and Virginia s/v Libertad