Thursday, January 04, 2007

Logbook: Leaving Land

Leavingland1Late Tuesday afternoon I saw that the MV Discovery had arrived in Limon, so I stopped by the pier and asked the port agent what time I should board in the morning. He said he would be ready for me at nine-thirty, so I went back to my room, did my final packing, had dinner and went to bed. Yesterday morning I got up, had coffee, got ready, checked out and walked my gear the two blocks to the pier. After explaining to the security officer that I was an independent traveler -- and not with the group that would be arriving from San Jose later -- he called the port agent who authorized my boarding and let me walk out onto the dock. As I approached the ship, I was happy to see that Discovery is really pretty small as cruise ships go and I was eager to get on board and have a look around. At the boarding ramp I was asked to wait while passengers got off for their shore excursions, but after only a few minutes I was led up the ramp, had my papers checked, photographed for my ID and led to my cabin. I dumped my gear inside, met my cabin steward -- Rhande, from the Philippines -- and went off to check out the ship.

There were very few passengers on board and the crew was hustling to load supplies, sort things out and go about their usual business so I had a good time seeing how things work. I also took the farewell photo of good old Limon shown above! At noon there was quite a commotion as the buses arrived from San Jose with about 100 new passengers. Watching the process of getting them -- and their mountain of luggage -- checked in, I was really happy I got on board early! Back in my cabin, it occurred to me that it will by “my place” for a month, so I actually spent some time unpacking my gear, putting my clothes in the little dresser and even hanging up a few things. It all seemed a little surreal after living out of my bags for five months, but it was also sort of fun.

Leavingland2We set sail on time at six, and right after clearing the harbor got word from the captain that we would have a little change of itinerary. Apparently, while the ship was in Havana harbor a few days ago, some floating bunker oil had stuck to the hull of MV Discovery. Because we are going to the highly protected Galapagos area, this oil would have to be cleaned off before we get there. So, instead of taking two days to get to Cristobal, we would do it at full speed overnight and use the day saved to get the hull work done in port. The only real problem with this plan was that there was a pretty big swell going and our speed would make the effect worse. As the captain said, “I’m afraid it will be a bit lively tonight.” He wasn’t kidding. The ship was rolling and pitching pretty badly and the crew distributed the necessary “bags” all over the ship. It was pretty interesting to see them stuck in hand rails, on tables, on bars and pretty much every space you can imagine. It was even more interesting to see their numbers dwindle rapidly as many folks put them to use! Thankfully, sea sickness is not my problem, so I was happy to get my sea legs going and walk around the ship.

At dinner, I was seated and soon joined by a nice woman from London named Jean. We commented on how empty the dining room was and then had a lively conversation about travel and similar topics. After dinner I went to the lounge to enjoy a little concert, but found it had been cancelled due to illness of the musicians so I called it a night. I slept pretty well, waking up only a few times due to the heavy seas. This morning we arrived in Cristobal and were met by a couple of work boats with crews to do the cleaning work. We spent the day at anchor and most folks spent their time recovering. I did a little more looking around, watched a movie -- in English! -- did some reading and got my hair cut. I also did some messing around with the on-board internet. After a few experiments, I figured out how to get my Mac to connect to the wi-fi, but only enough to do web-based email. The connection isn’t good enough to do website updates or even Skype calls, so I’ll plan to do those during port calls.

At dinner, Jean and I had another enjoyable conversation and I am happily confident that we will have pleasant meals together until she leaves the ship in Galapagos next week. The captain has just announced that the cleaning work is finished and that we will stay in the protected harbor for the night then move on to our transit of the Panama Canal first thing in the morning! Stay tuned for more from The Voyage of Macgellan!

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