This morning at 06.00 hrs. we passed the Cape & Island of Bab El Mandeb, which forms the official entrance to the Red Sea. This is a fairly narrow strait and when going in we sailed only about a 1.5 miles off the coast line of Yemen.
The Bab El Mandeb entry into the Red Sea. (Thank you Wikipedia)
This is an area where there has been a lot of piracy in the past and in 2018 Saudi Arabia closed the Red Sea off here for a short while as there was a political dispute going on. Bab El Mandeb is also known as the Gate of the Tears due to the many shipwrecks and related havoc that took place here in the bygone days. When the British established control over the routes to India one of the first things they did was to put a light house on one of the islands here to guide the ships safely around the small islands and reefs. I checked and the light house was still there, although I could not see if the light was still working as the sun rose right above it. All in all an historic area to cross. Continue reading
Today we are sailing along the South East part of Yemen and tomorrow we are turning into the Gulf of Aden and from there into the Red Sea. Bab El Mandab should be visible tomorrow afternoon if we continue with this speed. So hopefully we will be able to see the rock formation but it will depend on the traffic which all has to converge there due to the narrowness of the fairway. More about that tomorrow. We are still quite a ways from land and thus there is not very much to see except that the wind picked up during the night and we now have white caps with a wind force 4 (up to 16 knots) sometimes breezing up to 6 (20+ knots). It is a following wind so it does not matter for the ship as the ship is traveling with the same speed as the velocity of the wind and thus it is nearly wind still on deck. The wind is from the North East and has been blowing over warm areas and thus it is a warm wind, making it nice and toasty outside. Continue reading
We are now on our way to Al Aqabah which is a five day sea voyage up the Gulf of Aden and then into the Red Sea. Eventually I hope to report if the Red Sea is indeed red or if there is something different going on (Or was going on, when they came up with the name). But that will take a while as of lunch time today it was still 500 miles to the Bab El Mandab rock formation which forms the official entrance to the Red Sea coming from the south. We are sailing at a considerable distance away from the shore line, to stay in international waters but also to stay away from fishing boats and other mayhem which tends to congregate on the edge of the deep water to shallow water. That is where the fish tends to come to the surface and might swim straight into the nets. Continue reading
Today we had a later arrival as the ship is staying until late in the evening to facilitate a dancing under the Stars program. There is not much reason to arrive any earlier as Salalah is an industrial port so it takes quite a bit of effort to get away from that port and into civilization, either old or new. And for that we have the various tours. In this area there are only two options. Either tours to the city which include looking at the Sultan’s palace, visiting the Sook and driving through the more greener area of the place; Or go and visits Job’s Tomb. This is the Job from the Old Testament and who is important to both the Christian and the Muslim faith, hence his tomb has been preserved very well. But today we had a lot of guests who happily stayed on board and lounged about on the balconies or around the pool. I cannot disagree with them; there is only so much sand you can handle during a cruise. No doubt after having been well rested today, they will be out in force this evening for this party under the stars. Continue reading
We are following the recommended deep sea route so we are quite far from the shore. This makes sense anyway as it keeps us clear all sorts of Sunday sailors and fishing boats who are normally hovering on the edge of the shallow and deep water line as that is where the fish tends to come up from the deep. We are in deep water, very deep water. In relative distance the depth of the sea increases quite rapidly from being shallow and below us we have about 4000 feet of water and that is not even the deepest part.
The tectonic plate movement in the area (Thank you wikipedia)
The cause is another continental divide. We are here at the eastern rim of the Arabian Tectonic Plate which is crushed against Europe by the African Plate. I have blogged about this before, explaining the Wegener theory (not a theory since a long time anymore) that the continents are a sort of parts of a large dinner plate (broken in to the continent pieces a long time ago) that mainly drift westwards but not always. Far down at the sea bottom the two plates meet and slowly but steadily the Somalian Plate pushes the African Plate to the North East. So the distance from South America is getting larger by a few centimeters every year. The Arabian plate has nowhere to go but follow and here the mountains are getting higher. (Wait a million years and you can see the difference) This is caused by the west moving Somalian plate which is pushing under the African plate and that gives these very deep canyons under water. And we are sailing right over the top at the moment. Continue reading
And thus we arrived in Muscat; the capital of Oman, with approx. 1.5 mln inhabitants. The port is called the Sultan Qaboos port and is not very large. Looking at the activity it is mainly used for ships bringing goods in and thus the cruise terminal doubles up as a container dock. Two piers are fully taken over by the Sultan’s private yacht and a secondary yacht which is used for his guests. Then to these two ships belongs a dedicated navy ship to keep the Sultan (full name Sultan Qaboos Said al Said) safe. The navy ship was nowhere in sight so I assume the sultan is not planning to go sailing in the very near future.
The Yacht of the Sultan. The “Al Said”. and it is not even the biggest one in the world.
The yacht, although it is more like a ship, is called Al Said after the family name and was built in 2006. It has a volume of nearly 16,000 tons which makes it 2/5 of the size of the Seabourn Ovation but that is only because is the less wide and less long, as it has almost the same height. I never entertained the idea of having my own boat or yacht as it is as if you are married to two women at the same time. Very expensive. With the yacht having the worst mother-in-law called “maintenance at sea”, but if I had the Sheiks bank account, I could settle for this. More than enough room to store all my books and memorabilia and with room left for a home cinema to please my Lord and Master. Continue reading
Today we have a sea day and the ship is on its way from Doha to Muscat. This means we are sailing out of the Persian Gulf into the Strait of Hormuz and then further south. Thus we go North East until we reach the coast of the United Emirates again where we started our cruise and then this afternoon we bend around the top of the area, called Al Khasal also written as Khasab, in the early afternoon and now we are in Gulf of Oman. This is one of the areas where there is a lot of political noise about. On occasion Iran threatens to close the Strait of Hormuz and then the other parties threaten something in return; and vice versa. Continue reading
The whole coast in this area is very shallow and thus there are dredged channels and long meandering buoy routes to get you to the ports. Most of them are oil ports but then there is an occasional city as well. Qatar is no different; a very long approach through buoyed channels (with hopefully most of the time with the buoys in the right location) and then coming to a port that is under construction and a VERY LONG way from the new city. Easily visible on the horizon as one spiky mountain of glass and concrete but a long distance from where we are docked. There is not even a cruise terminal yet, just a large Marque but it is all part of a great plan. In 2022 the world championships Football (soccer for the Americans) will be played here and the plan is to build a complete Olympic center with a cruise terminal. Whether they plan to use the cruise terminal for chartered cruise ships for extra Hotel accommodation, or just for cruise calls, is something I do not know. Just that they have to get a move on, if they want to be finished on time. At the moment, and it is maybe a small detail, there is not a football stadium in sight yet. Continue reading
Thus we sailed from Dubai Westwards towards Sir Bani Yas Island. This is an island which looks as if it is a sort of knob that has broken off from a protruding piece of land sticking up into the lower part of the open sea. And that sea is in our case the Persian Gulf with Africa to the South and Saudi Arabia to the North. Bani Yas is part of the United Arab Emirates and shelters a number of important refineries. So this morning while the ship approached it was surround by fishing boats but also by tankers, going in, going out, or being at anchor. As mentioned yesterday there are a lot of shallow areas and the port authorities are putting a lot of effort in to ensure that nothing goes wrong with these tankers. A tanker running aground and spilling oil would be a catastrophe that no authority wants to deal with. Thus the routes through the reefs and shallows are dictated by the port authorities and the only thing the captain can do is follow the dotted line and ensure not to deviate from it. Deviation would mean a very hefty fine and some very upset people on the other side of the VHF. Continue reading
There was a reason for me having been vague a week ago about my next ship, as the Seabourn Ships are hard to visit. First of all they are often off the beaten track and their embarkation ports often require Visas, either as guest or as crew, or for both. Applying for a Visa takes more than a few days and that brings a un-necessary complication to my activities so I try to avoid it. Secondly Seabourn is very successful and thus the ships are always sold out and often it needs a last minute cancellation to get a function like mine on board. As the ships are smaller, the chance of an empty cabin goes down, and there is also not the option to have a few “extra” cabins on board as there is simply no space. So I assume that my cabin availability is the result of a last minute cancellation although I hope that the underlying reason is not one of great tragedy or illness. But whatever happened it got me on board the ms Seabourn Ovation where I stepped this morning in Dubai. As with all developing cities in the Arabic peninsula, Dubai consists of a gaggle of skyscrapers sitting in a desert of yellow sand. At least that is what you see from the ship. I am not into sand, as I prefer the sea or woodlands so it does not mean much to me but if you are into modern architecture then it is THE place to be. Continue reading