About Me

A slightly over-educated sailor sharing the wet and dry sides of his life.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Suez Canal and the Red Sea

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Anchored in Bitter Lake, Suez Canal

That was a very long night. We initially anchored a few miles north of the Suez Canal entrance to wait for enough ships to queue up for the passage. That happened around 3:00 in the afternoon. My evening watch begins at 8:00 pm, so I started it by patrolling the deck. We finally pulled the hook around 10:30, to assume our place 3rd in line, and I took my place at the helm a little before that. Just before Midnight, I was relieved at the helm by Ray. However, since we were steering in hand, and I was the helm standby man and had to relieve Ray every hour. So, an hour later, I was back on the wheel for an hour and had to return again for the last hour of Ray's watch. It was a little before 4:00 am when I was able to return to my room to finally take a shower and go to bed. At 7:00, I got up again to have breakfast and to assume my watch--having less than three hours of sleep. The ship arrived at Bitter Lake, the midway point for the southbound convoy, around 6:30 and was anchored up by 7:30. I'm glad I took the time to snag some sleep, instead of working overtime yesterday. Still, that last hour on the wheel was tough.

If you haven't figured it out by now, the southbound convoy has to pull over and anchor at Bitter Lake to allow the northbound ships to pass. Once they are clear, the southbound ships pull anchor and resume their passage south. The word is we will be on our way around 11:00 am. We should be clear of "The Ditch" and done with the pilots sometime between 4:00 and 6:00 pm. Once again, I will have to be Ray's back up, so I won't see any sleep until after 4:00 pm and before 7:15, when I will wake up and get ready for my evening watch again. Gotta love it...

12:32 PM The Truman is underway again. We're making slow headway out of Bitter Lake,
as we maneuver around the other ships anchored here. Now is my lunch hour and my helm standby for the 12 to 4 watch.

Our pilot for this southern leg of the transit is Captain Magdy El Rafey. He is very personable, very well humored, and of a cosmopolitan mind. It might have two weeks ago that the Egyptian football team beat Italy, 1-0. What a stupendous feat against the World Cup defenders! Of course, we chatted about the game. "They were in good athletic shape, healthy, and they were fighters!" said Captain El Rafey. Sadly for Team Egypt, the U.S. soccer team beat them the following week, 3-0. The U.S. advanced to play as the last of four teams standing, having won a tie by having a better scoring ratio, thus leaving Egypt behind. El Rafey noted Egypt's loss was because their skill was greatest in the air and not on the ground. Because the U.S. players are much taller than the Egyptians are, the latter's aerial ball handling became ineffective. Corner kicks and high passes were shut down.

3:51 PM
I just finished my last hour steering as backup helmsman for the 12 to 4 watch. Too bad I wasn't able to take pictures of Port Suez, as well as some of the buildings and the presidential (local governor's?) mansion at Ismailia. That building is quite elegant and worthy of a picture post.

Sunday, June 28, 2009
Too Hot for Golf and Pirates:

Last Friday was some nasty heat. The night before, the ship was leaving the Red Sea and entering the Gulf of Aden. That was when the heat really kicked in. Bosun Norm was the first person standing the pirate lookout on the stern, and he felt it first. By the next day, it had reached the level of pain. To add to it, we were laying on white paint to the ship's superstructure (aka, "the house'"). The paint reflected and further intensified the solar heat. I started my overtime work after the lunch hour, and I couldn't believe the sensation of the heat. I don't think it took even an hour before I started feeling all swoony. Norm didn't object when I suggested I get a cooler full of ice water.

By now, we've cleared the Gulf of Aden and the heart of the recognized piracy area. Arrival at Jebel Ali is currently slated for 1000 tomorrow. The high for Dubai is over 100 degrees. I suppose the only good thing one can say about the heat is that it must be too hot for even piracy. Yup, no reported activity. Surprise, surprise...

7:11 PM
Crap! I think the air conditioning went on the fritz. My room suddenly got real warm and humid. This is not good.

1 comment:

--Karen H said...

Wow, love your posts, Dave, especially the insights into the shipping labor issues. Also the poem. Keep 'em coming.