June 29, 2011

Container Ships Among Us.

While the sight of container ships moored on the Indian Ocean somewhere near the Dar es Salaam coast line is an everyday occurrence for us, rare is the case that we get to see one of these container ships actually moving on the high seas. They are usually waiting in queue to enter Dar es Salaam's rather inefficient port system, often times for weeks, even months on end.

For anyone who has not seen one of these container ships up close and personal, I can attest - they are massive with a capital M.
We used to sail almost every weekend here in Dar es Salaam, which unfortunately seems to have been a short lived thrill in our lives here, but the more enduring thrill for me was sailing between and among these container ships moored on the Indian Ocean outside of Dar es Salaam. From a yacht (aka "tiny sail boat") below assessing the sheer size of these ships proved to be a contortionist act. Incidentally, I remember the first time I visited NYC with an ex-boyfriend and his jaw was agape and his necked craned for the duration of our visit, as he was completely awestruck by the size and height of the city. In much the same way, Andrei had to calm me down on several sailing trips.

One time, we witnessed a guy catch a ride to one of these ships on a ferry that provides transport to a nearby island. The ferry is not small by any means, and holds the capacity to carry upwards of a 100 or so people. Our ferry started to get precariously close to this container ship moored in the Dar es Salaam Bay. Suddenly a rope ladder unfurls from the enormous container ship, it must have seriously been 75 feet in length with wooden "stairs" to aid in the ascent to the container ship. A man standing at the bow of the ferry takes flight and lands squarely on the rope ladder, which then begins to swing in 60 degree arcs from the pendulum-like weight of his body. I watched in awe as he scaled the 8 story container ship. It was obvious he had some practice in doing so, although I have no doubt I bit all of my nails off in the mean time.

Interestingly, on our once upon a time regular sailing trips, we started to see "scare-a-pirates" perched on the bows of these container ships, in what appeared to be a feeble attempt to outwit Somali pirates with an ever-expanding reach and choke hold on the region. Literally, there were stuffed human like "bodies" tied to the bow of the ship. You can imagine the Somali conversation that takes place upon notice of one of these creatures. Should we? No way man, look at that lifeless watchman, it is clear these guys are prepared to defend themselves. Right, let's get outta here, QUICK! Um, right?

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