We left indeed later than scheduled last evening. The first coaches were back on schedule but not all of them, plus we had a private tour that got somewhat lost but the delay was kept to about 30 minutes and that is not bad for Aqaba.
And 30 minutes on the next stretch to the Suez Canal is nothing. For the remainder of the night we sailed back to where we came from and this morning we were back in the Red Sea. Only to make a turn to the North around the corner at Sharm-El- Sheikh which is also a well-known holiday resort where many cruise ships call. While sailing in the Gulf of Aqaba we were fairly sheltered from the northerly winds but when we made the turn at
06.30 this morning we got it full on the bow again. As mentioned before, this is a gift from a high pressure system lying towards Greece. Tentatively it is supposed to start getting less tomorrow and then even less the day after. I hope so as at the moment we have the bow closed and that is of course a prime viewing point while in the Canal. But at the moment the wind is gusting up to 30 knots and put the ships speed against It with 16 knots, you have combined moments of wind force getting close to the 45 knots. (That is a wind force 8 to 9 or a fresh to severe gale; in land miles 40 knots = 46 land miles per hour) Because we are surrounded by land to the west, north and east, the wind cannot build up any waves and thus we do not notice very much on board. The ship has the occasional “bump” into the waves but that is it.
We can see land on both sides and at both sides it is the same. Sand in various colors and rock formations in various colors, ranging from light yellow to dark brown. Lots of oil rigs, busy with pumping oil and on a regular basis we are overtaken by gas tankers (those tankers with either the 3 or 4 half spheres on the deck or with a super structure which looks a bit like the top of a coffin. They will get a transit whenever there is an opening and thus they plan not to wait for the early morning northbound convoy as we are scheduled to do.
How that is going to happen we have not much of an idea about yet, as things are not organized in the same way as in the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal Authority advises a time and if you get there at that time, then they slot you in straight away. I can refer to my blogs earlier this year when the Zuiderdam always arrived at 05.00 hrs. in the morning and was through the first locks by 0900 hrs. So what we are going to do here is arrive tonight around 22.00 hrs. this evening. Drop the hook and depending on clearance, raise the anchor around 04.00 hrs. tomorrow morning or so and then wait until the Suez Organization lays the golden organizational egg. That might mean that we are in the Canal by 05.30 or it might by 07.00 hrs.
If they do their normal thing, and we will find out tomorrow, then the fast ships, cruise ships and navy ships, will go ahead of the convoy as they can maintain a higher average speed. Then we get the container ships, which can make speed as well but do not slow down so easily and then we get the car carriers, tankers and bulk carriers, etc.etc. They can be quite slow and would, if at the head of the convoy, dictate the transit speed of the convoy, now we hope to do the canal proper, the 162 kilometers or 90 miles, in about 8 hrs. but when behind a slow bulk carrier it might 10 or 12 hrs. You cannot divide the distance of the canal by an average speed, as that speed is not always the same. There is pilot exchange halfway and there might be sections where the pilot might be afraid of bank erosion if the ship draws too big a bow wave. So we will see.
Weather for tomorrow Sunny all day, no clouds expected. (They were all blown away by the strong winds of the last three days) Noon temperatures 24oC / 75oF but early in the morning much and much less.
And that much and much less is something our crew experienced yesterday as well. We had a highly excited group coming back late yesterday afternoon; deeply impressed by sights of Petra and the surrounding area but also impressed by the fact that the desert is not always scorching hot. Petra had a cool day yesterday and it only warmed up in the course of the afternoon. My cabin stewardess complained to me that I had not given her the right information and as a result she had not dressed for “Winter Time”. She is from Brazil so in her vocabulary winter time is anything under 20oC / 68oF. She might be surprised again tomorrow morning.