Day 7

9 September, 2003

A still water once again, engine at 80% creating a peaceful slowness. The air is fresher, maybe mid to upper sixties. The sun comes up so big and fast, about an hour earlier then yesterday. My neighbor, Mr. Ong, the Filipino ship’s electrician has a copy of the Assassination FileDVD leaning against his door this morning (a film I worked on). He tells me he thinks it’s a very good film. He also told me, yesterday, when we had a rare meeting on the main deck, that the color of deep azure that I was so much admiring was a function of the sea being very deep. I didn’t think the Mediterranean got that deep. But this morning, there was a line as clear as could be, running from one horizon to the other, where the beautiful azure became a jade green. We have passed a couple of oil drilling platforms. There are many more ships after the last couple of days. From small fishermen to a giant tanker. The fabled waters off Alexandria.

We are at anchor off of Port Said. We arrived within minutes of the captain’s prediction, and then he quite neatly pulled her up and dropped anchor. Watching following ships make the maneuver less gracefully gave me additional respect for our officers. It is interesting having the stopped engines, strangely peaceful. We came in past an old oil platform, reduced to what could be taken as a wonderful work of modern sculpture. The sun is nothing but intense, and I am going to be very sorry I could not find a hat to fit my fat head before leaving England. The coast of Egypt is fully settled. Spots that are completely urban, many apartment buildings with minarets poking out. Areas of industry, a refinery with two burning blowoffs.

Our boat drill was anticlimactic. I wasn’t asked to go along in the boat, and that was alright because as I watched the drill it seemed an exercise in waiting and no freefall involved. Meanwhile, the intense sunlight, maybe as intense as I have felt in years, burns down although the air itself isn’t bad. A whole flotilla has joined up to convoy through the canal. Each one pulls up, drops anchor and swings around in place. Around 1600 the northbound convoy came out. There must have been at least eight gigantor (dat's a word if I says it is) size container ships each with, maybe, five thousand containers steaming out, an amazing vision as these giant ships come sailing over the desert. I am taking it easy as the sun sets, we don’t start off through the canal until midnight, but it’s a full moon. I want to see the Egyptian desert like that! Oh yeah, dinner was tongue, I passed it up for a salad and cold leftover pork chop from lunch. Mmm-Mmm!

The sun sets beautifully and thankfully, the air maybe 70f. Our ragtag group of every kind of ship, maybe twenty of us, including a few of us large container ships, a couple of high riding tankers, some other odds and ends that would make a good collection for a children’s book. Tonight the outside lights are on on all the ships, making it seem very festive. I imagine the town just watches this from afar, everyday of the year. The big, canal guide boat slowly moves up and down as if sizing each one of us up as to our ability to reliably get through the hundred miles. After all, the canal is Egypt’s second biggest money maker, and they can’t afford a ship breaking down and clogging up the works for a minute. This guide ship looks like it could, if it had a mind to, drag any ship up onto the desert. In a few hours they will install teams of pilots on all of us and off we will go.

Falling asleep at 2300, I promise myself only one hour, but it is 01:55, and as I dash on deck, I see we are literally entering the mouth of the canal. An innocuous bit of business admist all the marshes and flatlands of this, the final corner of the Nile delta. It would appear to me that we have been anointed lead ship, and there are strange faces of the Suez pilots going in and out of the wheelhouse onto the flying bridge. The lights on my part of the superstructure, the upper few decks, being off again, I can creep about quietly.

Orion, the slut, throws his leg over the Egyptian Sinai desert as familiarly as he does a Vermont stone wall, although this desert looks easier for the leaping. Mars which had followed the moon on the scene, is now leading the way, telling the moon to “com’ on, here comes that silly Orion guy again”. Curiously, one of our large tankers in the convoy is named the “Orion Star”. They can just scrape by in light ballast. Sitting high out of water in this ungainly look, like a tall man with bellbottom pants many inches too short (what we used to refer to as “highwater bellbottoms”). Going back, full, they will have to go around Africa.

I go to bed at 03:50. When I awake at 0530, I look out the window upon a dream. The sun is raising, a golden glow to sand dunes the likes of LOA (Lawrence et al). On the other side, a sleepy white village with some date palms slipping by at eight mph (Ismailia?). It is too beautiful, I am too tired. I go back to sleep.