Monday, January 14, 2008

Logbook: Freighter Days IV

Freighterdaysiv1Day 7 - January 11th

A "routine" day on the Red Sea, starting with my spending most of the morning doing my end-of-year accounting. That's right folks -- sad but true -- there's just no getting away from "The Man" no matter how far you voyage! After lunch I noticed that the crew -- which is always busy -- seemed to be even more active than usual. I had coffee with George -- the Chief Engineer -- who explained that with our last port call behind us until we reach Melbourne in a couple of weeks, they were cleaning up and making everything ship-shape for our long open-ocean cruise. This included giving the lifeboats a fresh coat of paint, which required a few of the lads to perch themselves somewhat precariously over the side of the ship. The photo doesn't give a very good sense of depth, but the crewman you see is about 30 feet above the water and I am about 20 feet above him. The Chief also commented that since nobody has previously worked with the new Captain we picked up in Port Said, the crew is working to make an especially good first impression. Like I said, there's just no getting away from "The Man" anywhere! We're heading south fast now, so it was noticeably warmer and more humid today. I may start doing some sunbathing in any day now!

Freighterdaysiv2Day 8 - January 12th

Another pretty "routine" day at sea, but with a few notable events. First is that late in the morning we passed through the straights from the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden. It was pretty unremarkable and there was sufficient haze that there wasn't much to see or to photograph, but it does mean that we are now working our way out toward the open ocean. Second, the ship's clock moved another hour ahead, once again at 12:30 in the afternoon. I was chatting with Cookie -- the cook, of course -- who was griping a bit about the fact that he'd lost an hour in his day which would be deducted from his three hour break in the afternoon. I asked him why the clocks were advancing in the daytime and he told me that when he asked that very question of the new captain the answer he got was "So the crew can get a full night's rest." I pointed out that only part of the crew sleeps at night, to which Cookie replied "The Captain does." We gave each other a semi-conspiratorial smirk and left it at that. Third, we had another safety drill in the afternoon, a chance for the new Captain to see that we all know what we're supposed to do in case of emergency and a chance for me to take this photo with Cookie and Randy. Thus, the new Captain's program had sufficiently exhausted me that I was forced to take a nap before dinner, then made it an early night.

Freighterdaysiv3Day 9 - January 13th

Today was a special day aboard ship. For one thing, it was Sunday and that means you get steak for lunch with ice cream for dessert. The food has all been very good and satisfying, but let's be honest that steak is best and ice cream is a treat. It's also special that the "Slop Chest" is now open. Otherwise known as the ship's store, we can now purchase wine, liquor and snacks on board at very, very cheap prices. This was not permitted while we were in Egyptian waters and Randy -- who is the official merchant in charge on behalf of the Captain -- was very busy today. The third special aspect about today is that we sailed in a "pirate danger" area all day. There has been a growing amount of piracy in the Gulf of Aden -- between Yemen and Somalia -- recently, so we were in "lock down" all day. All that really means is that you have to lock the exterior deck doors when you come back inside. Our ship is pretty fast -- averaging about 19.5 knots -- so we are not a prime target for pirates, but there is a risk. In the past, pirates who have boarded ships have mostly just messed with some containers, but there has been increasing violence against crews recently. Locked doors is the standard defense. I have to admit I was hoping to see some pirates, but it didn't happen. The crew says we will be in another "pirate danger" area in another week or so -- I'm not yet sure where -- and I will keep my camera handy just in case!

Day 10 - January 14th

A completely "routine" day with the only exception of moving the ship's clock another hour ahead. Once again done at 12:30 in the afternoon, I am sticking with my semi-conspiratorial theory. Plus, with only four hours between breakfast and lunch, then only four more hours before dinner, I could hardly work up an appetite! There's not much else to report as we are now well into our sea "routine." My fellow passengers remain pleasant and companionable, and are all holding up very well on what I have found out is the first long sea cruise for any of them. That's right, it turns out that the Swiss couple -- Aldo and Hedi -- have only taken a couple of short cruises before and Charlotte has never been on a ship besides a day-long channel crossing. For them to have signed up for this very long freighter cruise that requires a lot of self-sufficiency is quite impressive and they are, as I said, all holding up very well. Our combined interaction with the crew has been gradually increasing from the minimal greetings-in-passing in the halls and stairways last week to some actual conversations and shared recreation/entertainment time. We are a little less like "passengers" and a little more like "guests." I will try to keep you posted on these developments!

No comments: