Friday, January 25, 2008

Logbook: Freighter Days VI

Day 17 - January 21st

Today was another completely "routine" day at sea. We have crossed the southern tropic and are in more "active" seas. We are also in heavier winds which makes walking the deck more dangerous -- it's slippery in many spots, plus there are numerous obstacles and ladders -- so the officer of the deck has been disinclined to allow us out. As a result, I have been reading even more and have rummaged through the ship's eclectic collection of DVDs to find a few titles worth watching. For me -- as self-entertained and accustomed to "alone time" as I am -- this lengthy freighter cruise remains delightful. My fellow passengers also seem to be holding up well, but I will caution that if you are someone who needs external stimulation and/or interaction this may not be a great mode of travel for you.

Freighterdaysvi1Day 18 - January 22nd

The ship's clock was advanced again today and I finally had a chance to inquire of the Captain about his program for the "clock thing." It turns out that I was correct, he has been "getting us ahead" but there is a little more to the story. We have been on a southeasterly course since we began, but in a few days when we reach the southwest coast of Australia we will turn due east. When that happens, we will be going through a few time zones on a daily basis. The Captain does not like to change time every day and he does not want to change the clock on the day or the day before that we reach port. So, he has been advancing the ship's clock on a regular interval such that we will be "on time" for Melbourne two days before we get there. This has worked out to an advancement every other day, and I have to report that it has been a bit grueling -- kind of like two weeks of mild jet-lag. The first couple of shifts weren't too bad and it feels like you are acclimated to the new time, but as the clock keeps marching forward, you're just not sleepy when the clock says you should go to bed. As a result -- and I am not alone in this -- you can't get to sleep at night, you wake up at odd hours and can't go back to sleep, then you are dog tired when you have to get up. It took me 18 months to advance nine hours on The Voyage, but I have advanced another nine hours in just 18 days! The good news is that you occasionally find yourself wide awake and standing on deck in the middle of the night, just in time to catch a really good shot of the moon. As the "clock thing" continues, I will keep you up to date on the experience.

Freighterdaysvi2Day 19 - January 23rd

A couple of days ago, I mentioned something about the wind and its impact on our being able to get outside and walk the deck. Since today was another totally "routine" day, I thought I'd add a little more about the "wind thing." Two important concepts to keep clear are "true wind" and "relative wind." True wind is basically what you feel if you are standing still and it is the combination of the speed of the wind and the direction that it is blowing. Relative wind is what you feel when you are standing on a moving vessel, and it is the combination of the true wind plus/minus the speed and direction of your vessel. For the past week, out true wind has been 20-30 knots from the southeast, sufficient to generate the moderate white caps you see in the photo. Now, add to that the fact that we are traveling southeast at a speed of about 20 knots and you can calculate that our relative wind has been in the 40-50 knot range. Being out in that kind of wind is challenging enough, but when you add the slippery spots that are inevitable on the steel deck of a working ship plus the many steep ladders between decks you have a dangerous situation for anyone who feels like taking a walk. We have also been in a area of ocean with moderate swells, and these have had the deck pitching and rolling to a greater degree than you might think of for a ship our size. Put is all together and you have a recipe for disaster, and good reason why the officer of the deck says "You no walk today, okay?" So, now you know about the "wind thing."

Day 20 - January 24th

We are now well into a "zone" that I am finding fascinating. You know by now that the "clock thing" has us all a little bit whacked out on our sleep. You also know that the "wind thing" has kept us indoors. Today I noticed something that seemed like the culmination of a trend I have noticed over the past week or so, and that is the absence of fresh food at mealtimes. I checked out my observation with Cookie, and he confirmed that the fresh vegetables are long gone, the meat is now all frozen and the "long life" fruits -- like apples and oranges -- are running out fast. He knows that I have enough experience at sea to have been expecting this development, so with his typical Cookie grin and a wave in the general direction of my fellow passengers still sitting in the mess he said, "Now we see who is really sailor man, yes?" I laughed so hard I practically spilled my coffee! I'm not worried, though, because my fellow passengers are all good sports and we will be making port in Melbourne in just a few days. If Cookie isn't expecting a resupply of fresh food, I will find out if he plans to do any shopping on his own. If so, you can bet that I will try to join him in that experience. If not, I may just do a little shopping of my own! Also, we have reached the point where the crew has run out of new movies to watch. They have completely exhausted both their own and each others libraries, and last night the Chief Engineer asked me if I had any movies on my Mac. I explained that I have only three of my favorites that I keep "on file" but will be happy to share them with him (and obviously with the entire crew as well). I'm reasonably sure that they will enjoy "The Razor's Edge" and "Immortal Beloved" but I wonder how they will take to five-hours of "Pride and Prejudice." I will also try to see if I can plug my Mac into the TV in the salon and show my last season of "24." Like I said, we are well into the long-time-at-sea "zone" and it is a fascinating experience. By the way, the ship's clock advanced again this afternoon and at this point I don't know what time it is!

Day 21 - January 25th

After resisting the urge to take a nap all day yesterday, I went to bed last night at about 11pm and read for a while before falling easily asleep before midnight. That's the good news. The bad news is that I was wide awake again at about four this morning, so I read for a couple of hours before going down to the galley/mess to get coffee and goof around with Cookie and Randy as they did their morning routine. The clock will be advanced another hour today -- that will make twice in two days -- in preparation for our arrival in Melbourne, so who knows what my internal clock will be like. I saw the Chief Engineer at breakfast, and the first thing he said to me was that he had watched all nine hours of the movies I gave him last night. Like I said, we are in a "zone." We had another boat/safety drill later in the morning, and this routine has reached the point where it consists entirely of putting on my life vest and safety helmet, grabbing my survival suit bag, going down six flights of stairs, walking around to the muster station, checking in with the officer in charge, receiving a pleasant "Thank you for coming" -- like I had been invited to a party or "something like that" -- then turning around, climbing back up to my cabin, taking off and stowing my gear. Poor Charlotte was so tired this morning that she said she laid out her safety gear before going back to bed after breakfast then let the safety alarm wake her up in time to complete the drill. I'm aware that it may sound like I'm making a big deal out of the "clock thing" but it really does take a toll on you as the hours continue to advance over such a long time.

Day 22 - January 26th

Last night, a few of the officers and passengers gathered for a little celebration of Francis' -- the electrician's -- birthday and we had a nice time together. As you may recall, I am the only native English speaker on board and sometimes the different second-language accents -- Romanian, Polish, French, Swiss, Filipino and Chinese -- are hard for me to follow. It's funny, but at times they all seem to understand each other better than I do and at others they seem to miss each other completely. All in all, our communication works very, very well and I am certainly delighted to be able to understand any of it, especially considering that I might have been on an all foreign language ship! A little after midnight I hit the rack, went right to sleep and woke up in time for breakfast. A good night's sleep for a change really felt good. We had no clock changes or safety drills today so I was able to enjoy a completely unstructured day at sea, making the most of it by spending a couple of hours this afternoon doing a little repair work on a cable for one of my computer accessories. I joked with the Chief Engineer that I did some "underway repairs" today, to which he smiled and said, "Me too!" He is a real character and I enjoy him. We are scheduled to arrive in Melbourne midday tomorrow for a port call of unknown duration. I am hoping that we will be able to go ashore and that I will be able to find an internet connection for at least a couple of hours. Accordingly, I have spent some time this evening organizing my material -- and myself -- for efficiency to get as much stuff posted tomorrow as possible. You'll soon know if I was successful!

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