The Great Southern Route : 2013 - 2014
CAPTAIN’S LOG SUEZ CANAL 298 | GSR Suez Canal & the Red Sea By Captain Christoph Schaefer The Red Sea is characterized by steep shores dropping off to depths of over 2000 meters and shallow coastal flats, which are the home to some of the most prolific coral formations found on our planet and it is rightly considered to be one of the world’s top diving destinations. The shores of the Red Sea and its hinterland have been witness to many dramatic events in our short human history and egypt to this day fascinates us with its enigmatic culture. When Napoleon set out to conquer egypt in 1797 a sudden burst of interest in ancient egypt spread across europe. during the 19th century archeology developed and much of our knowledge of egypt is based on the findings during the last 150 years. henry Carter’s sensational discovery of the untouched burial tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922 was one such find, which sparked a worldwide egyptomania. however, much of our picture of egypt is based on the stories of the Tora and the Bible as it has been told for thousands of years all over the world, where ever Jewish and Christian parents raise their children. I believe that most readers will recall having as a child heard the story of the ten plagues that God sent to egypt to force the Pharaoh into letting the Israeli people go, their flight from egypt, Moses parting the sea with his staff and the subsequent dry crossing. Then in the grand finale the Red Sea closed in on the pursuing egyptians and drowned the Pharaoh and his warriors, complete with horses and chariots. This story of the Jewish people is so deeply rooted in our collective (western) memory that it has been retold not just in religious circles but also has become part of our pop culture and it has been repeatedly made a theme in extravagant hollywood productions. as one enters the Suez Canal southbound at Port Said the significance of this location is striking - the meeting of two great continents, the cradle of three major world religions, the very roots of our modern society with its code of ethics and morals lie here. The fertile Nile oasis with the pyramids, the Karnak temple and the Valley of Kings lies to our right side in africa. Israel, the holy Land and Mount Sinai where Moses received the ten commandments lies to our left on the asian side. While you ponder this, reality strikes swift and hard. as one enters the general bustle of the waterway that dissects Port Said the cries for more Marlboro Red seems to smother any sensation of historic significance. The pilots tug on your sleeve asking for more bak shish, while you dodge the cross canal ferries and the fishing boats. I will not get into any detail and will not provide hints and tricks on how to deal with the pilots and their helpers, some of who camp on your aft deck and open their portable bazar. It is entirely up to the captain on how many cartons of cigarettes, shampoo, deodorant or cash he hands out. That you will need to hand out some, and that it will be substantially more than the commercial ships, that ply this route on a regular basis, have to give is only natural. do not even try to attempt to get away with giving nothing. It will not only get you into trouble and cause delay but will add frustration to what is decidedly an enjoyable experience. If you are unsure consult your agent what is acceptable and what should be considered as highway robbery. You will soon get a feeling for how it all works. So much has been written about the Suez Canal, the transit and the procedures that I will refrain from repeating what has been written so often before. My best advice is to relax and enjoy the canal - it certainly is one of the finest nautical morsels to be enjoyed and the general madness that you submerge in for a few hours is just as much part of the canal as are the sand dunes on both sides. The motto of our agent Ibramar greatly amused me: German efficiency and egyptian creativity. While the efficiency part is probably not readily apparent at first glance one certainly is surrounded by creativity. But as one goes along one marvels just how well this whole canal and the transit really runs. It is a well honed and finely tuned operation and one always has to keep in mind: the yachts are just simply an insignificant part of the traffic transiting this canal daily. The system in place works well, not only for commercial ships but also for yachts, so just relax and enjoy the ride. One aspect however that I would like to point out, is that the timing of your canal transit is critical. For many years I have repeatedly heard stories of pilots taking vessels aground on purpose and finally found the explanation on my last transit. Where the northbound convoy does not stop the southbound one does, to let the northbound convoy pass. There are two stops. One in the Great Bitter Lake and the other one in the al Ballah Bypass. The al Ballah Bypass is relatively narrow and they tie the ships to shore, which poses no problem for a cargo ship. They just touch the sides of the canal and rudders, props and stabilizers (which they usually do not have) are not an issue for them as both ends of the vessel protrude into the deep water off the canal bank. We ended up with all three hull appendages in the mud - it is soft but it should be avoided for obvious reasons. Our port sea chest also sank into the mud and we required tug assistance to get off the bank. This tug service is provided free of charge. If you transit on the second convoy that departs Port Said at 0700 be prepared to go aground in al Ballah. The better option is to go on the first convoy - you get to anchor in the Great Bitter Lake which is no problem at all. The biggest frustration during this incident was that the pilot insisted that the vessel would not touch the canal bank. how do you explain to a pilot that the vessel does not CAPTAIN’S LOG SUEZ CANAL The Red Sea stretches 1400 miles in a northwest to southeast direction and is geologically part of the east african Rift, a fault line that runs from Lebanon through the dead Sea and the Gulf of aqaba down the eastern length of the african continent all the way to Mozambique.
2010 - 2011