Port Said

Acknowlegement – Mastoom/Asmar Turku, Nomads of the Silk Rd

We got our first taste of ‘The Exotic East’ when the ship berthed at Port Said. The ship was anchored offshore, because of inadequate draught1. Shortly after arriving, dozens of small trading craft (bum boats) arrived, loaded with toys, fruit and clothing.

Sales were conducted by shouting and sign language. A line was thrown up and tethered to the ship’s rail. The goods were delivered in small baskets and the agreed price sent back down to the bumboat.

Bum Boats at Port Said

After much haggling with a trader, one of the passengers bought a full basket of oranges at a ridiculously low price. When the basket was hauled up, he jokingly pointed out that one of the oranges was rotten. Much to our amusement the trader tried to throw up a replacement. I was very impressed by his honesty. The whole event was most entertaining and conducted in good spirit.

Unfortunately, one or two of the passengers kept the goods without payment. During one such incident the trader politely asked other passengers to step aside so he could get a good aim at the offender with his knife! Passengers were warned to be careful and to lock their cabins while the ship was in port as it was common for the locals to scale the side of the ship to steal.

John had found himself a lonely young mother who was travelling with her two children to meet her husband in Queensland. He tried like hell to get rid of the five of us so he could have the cabin to himself and his lady friend. We were not too impressed by the arrangement, so decided to disrupt the proceedings.

Ten minutes before John and his girl were due, we hid in the space between the hull and the bulkhead. There was a louvered shutter in the bulkhead to let light into the cabin from the porthole so we positioned ourselves on either side of the opening. John and the lady eventually arrived and proceeded to get down to business. As they were getting comfortable, John must have seen a movement or shadow.  Everything went quiet. After a brief pause all hell broke loose.

“Come out you black bastard,” he yelled, brandishing a piece of wood.

We broke up into fits of laughter. He had quietly removed the woman from the cabin, thinking the intruder was a local native and was ready for a confrontation. The woman never returned and John gave us a wide berth for the rest of the voyage.

We woke up to silence. The Stratheden was motionless in the Bitter Lakes. The lake was like glass and an eerie mist hung over the water. The lakes are the passing point for ships in the Suez Canal

Roy Orbison – ‘In Dreams’ 1963
In dreams I walk with you
In dreams I talk to you
In dreams you’re mine, all of the time
We’re together in dreams, in dreams

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  1. Draught is the number of feet from the waterline to the lowest point of a ship’s keel; how low the ship sits in the water. Since large ships have deeper draughts, they cannot enter shallow harbours