April Suez Canal
Transiting the Suez Canal was the link to the Round the World trip – having been through the Panama Canal (seems like an age ago) this was another man made link that took us from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean.
Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, the northern terminus is Port Said and the southern terminus is Port Tawfiq at the city of Suez.
The canal is 120 miles long, 79 ft deep and 673 ft wide, it consists of the northern access channel 14 miles, the canal itself of 101 miles and the southern access channel of 6 miles.
The canal is single lane with passing places in the "Ballah By-Pass" and the Great Bitter Lake. It contains no locks; seawater flows freely through the canal. In general, the canal north of the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer.
The canal is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of Egypt.
We started our transit early in the morning from the South in a convoy of 10/12 ships.
At midnight a convoy sets out from the North and anchors in the Great Bitter Lake for us to pass. A further convoy sets out at 7am from the North and anchors in the Ballah By-Pass to allow the Southern convoy direct sailing to Port Said.
To be honest apart from the odd township, the transit is passing from the arid areas of Egypt to the more fertile land in the North nearer to Port Said. There is a lot of sand –littered with the debris of conflicts – the Suez Crisis and the Six Day War. It is another volatile area, it seems as we have passed through these Middle Eastern countries. Sentries line the banks on both sides to allow us safe passage whilst a helicopter buzzes us every now and again keeping a watchful eye.
Quite an impressive sight though watching from the stern of Queen Elizabeth (who was leading the Convoy) seeing the line of ships behind. The Friendship Bridge a few miles from Port Said is the last major landmark on the canal before reaching the Mediterranean.
Next stop Haifa, Israel
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