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Some Interesting Places

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Ships travel in convoys in one direction only


Trader come onboard to display his wares at the alleyways

Pattaya Beach, Thailand

Interesting places visited by mariners

What would be interesting for one may not be interesting for another. In this article, interesting places are those places where people who are not seamen will usually not be going.

Suez Canal

The Suez Canal joins the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Ships passing through this Canal will not have to round the African Continent and thus save many days of traveling.

The Suez Canal is used by most of the ships traveling from Far East to Europe and vice versa. Ships travel in convoys northbound from the Red Sea and southbound from the Mediterranean Sea.

The convoys can start from both ends and whichever convoy reach the mid point will wait for the opposing convoy to complete their journey before proceeding further.

The canal totals 101 miles (163 kilometers) between Port Said in the north and Suez in the south. The distance between the two seas is actually only 75 miles. However the canal utilizes several lakes along the way, from north to south, as stopping points for ships.

Ships will anchor at Lake Manzala, Lake Timsah, Great Bitter Lake and Little Bitter Lake while waiting for the opposing convoys to emerge.

The Suez Canal is open cut, and without locks. Although there are many stretches of straight lengths, there are eight major bends. To the west of the canal is the low-lying delta of the Nile River; to the east is the higher, rugged, and arid Sinai Peninsula.

The journey usually takes at least 2 days, and often more. Each ship will take in a pilot and about 2 boatmen. The purpose of the boatmen is to try to secure a ship if there is any engine trouble on the ship which can block up the whole canal.

Very often, together with the boatmen, some traders or ship chandlers will also come onboard a ship to sell their wares. Items like souvenir, camel bags, and other trinkets are common. Haggling and bargaining are common and they prefer US dollars. Sometimes barter trading for tax-free cigarettes can happen.

The journey through the canal is dull and uninteresting. The ships have to travel very slowly, and the landscape on both sides is sand, and desert.

On the bridge and in the engine room, all the ships personnel are on maneuvering mode, and have to be on the alert. It is very tiring work. 

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans through the Isthmus of Panama in Central America. It uses a lake-and-lock type of arrangement so that ships can go above sea level while passing through the canal.

Its length from deep water in the Atlantic to deep water in the Pacific is about 51 miles (82 km). From the Limon Bay at its Atlantic entrance, a ship will travel another 18.5 miles South to Gatun Locks.

Gatun Locks is a series of three locks that raise ships 85 feet to the man-made Gatun Lake. Ships will have to travel another 23 miles to Gamboa, where the Gaillard Cut begins.

This is a winding channel, 8 miles long and 500 feet wide, which leads to the Pedro Miguel Locks. At the Pedro Miguel Locks, a single lock lowers ship 31 feet to a small lake, where ships have to travel another 1 mile to the Mira Flores Locks.

At the Mira Flores Locks, a two-step drop of 54 feet lowers ships down to the 7-mile long sea-level channel leading to the Pacific at the Bay of Panama.

While moving in the locks, ships are taken in tow by electric towing locomotives that operate on cog tracks on the lock walls. Six units of locomotives usually tow each ship. There are two passages side by side so that ships can go in opposite directions simultaneously.

The passage through the locks usually takes about 15 to 20 hours, including waiting time. All the lock chambers are 1,000 feet long, 110 feet wide and about 72 feet deep. There are double gates at each end, so that if a ship crashes through one set the chamber can be put back to work quickly.

Each steel-door leaf in the first chamber at the Mira Flores locks weighs 690 tons but it can be swung open or closed in 2 minutes.

Most ships wait one to three days to make the crossing. More information on the Panama Canal

2004 Yoon Chee Tuck    Contact me

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