Saturday, February 02, 2008

Logbook: Freighter Days VIII

Day 27 - January 31st

Charlotte and I are now the only passengers on board, so the breakfast table was even quieter -- and less populated -- than usual. I spent the day doing the "routine" and taking my camera along while I went for a walk around the ship to gather video for the "Freighter Tour" Reports which I edited during the afternoon. Late in the evening we sailed "up the river" -- as the crew called it -- to the Port of Brisbane, and I stayed up late enough to observe the now very familiar process of mooring and getting ready for cargo operations before going to bed.

Day 28 - February 1st
I awoke this morning to the sounds of the Brisbane Port in full scale cargo operations and went down to breakfast. I inquired about the possibility of going ashore but was informed that due to our limited, "pre-dry-dock" cargo operations having been conducted throughout the night we were only an hour from the end of shore leave and subsequent departure. In that amount of time I would only have been able to get to the front gate and back, so I skipped it altogether and stayed on board to "supervise" the activities. Thus, all I got to see of Brisbane was the city skyline far in the distance from the deck of the ship. It's worth mentioning that "in the old days" freighters would typically pull into a port for a few days or a week in order to conduct cargo operations, giving everyone plenty of time to go ashore and really "visit" the various port cities. Modern container operations are so efficient -- and there is such an emphasis on speed of delivery -- that overnight or one-day port calls are now the norm. As a result, much of the crew never gets to really go ashore and you know by now that passengers typically only get a few hours ashore if at all. Thus, I think it is fair to say that modern freighter cruising is an excellent way to have many "routine" days at sea but not particularly good for "visiting" ports of call. Something to keep in mind if you think about giving freighter travel a try. As predicted, we departed around lunchtime and after a couple of hour cruising back "down the river" we headed out for a quiet night at sea.

Day 29 - February 2nd

After a brief respite from the "clock thing", the ship's clock advanced an hour last night and again this afternoon. The Captain informed us that he will advance the clock another hour again tomorrow in order to be acclimated for our arrival in Auckland in a couple of days. Speaking of Auckland, it looks like my "plans" may have changed. As you may recall, in order to sync up with the summer/fall season as much as possible, I had intended to sail as far south in New Zealand as possible then work my way north. When I went through what I'm sure you will recall was the rather chaotic process of booking my passage on this freighter, I was told that I could certainly get as far as Auckland with Port Chalmers -- way down south at Dunedin -- as an "optional" destination. I have since learned that the "option" was the ship's -- not mine -- and thought I had learned early in the cruise that the ship would not be calling at Port Chalmers after all. So, I had just started to make my "plans" for begining my New Zealand exploration in Auckland when the Captain asked me this morning if I want to go to Port Chalmers instead. Forget trying to straighten out whether the ship's plans had changed or whether I misunderstood things, the answer I gave him was an emphatic "Yes!" So, as of today, I am headed to Port Chalmers instead of Auckland, schedule to arrive there on Saturday. To round out this uncertain picture, I will add that the Captain also said something about a possible change of plans in Auckland! Although the ship's "sailing schedule" has us arriving there late at night and leaving late the following afternoon, the Captain is in "competition" with another ship to arrive earlier in the evening and leave the following morning. Depending on who wins the "race" for the pilot and the berth, we may or may not have any shore leave in Auckland. Thus, you may or may not about my change of destination plans until it is all over! Besides all that, we had yet another safety drill this morning and, because it is some kind of "holiday" in France, Charlotte got permission from Cookie to make yummy crepes which we all enjoyed as dessert with our lunch. Vive la France!

Day 30 - February 3rd

We had an "officers and passengers only" barbecue party last night in the Salon. Although I would have enjoyed having more "informal" time with the crew -- and the exclusive nature of the evening raised further questions in my mind about the veracity of the company's "no discrimination" policy onboard -- it was fun to dine with the senior staff and enjoy lively conversation. During the party, the Tasman Sea treated us to heavier seas which caused the ship to pitch and roll considerably -- the first significant "liveliness" of our month at sea -- and we had the usual fun of trying to eat and drink while our chairs slid around the table. The motion continued to build throughout the night and although I was not particularly affected by it, a general lack of quality sleep was noticeable at breakfast this morning. The ship's clock advanced for the last time this afternoon and we are finally on New Zealand time! With that change, I can leave the "clock thing" behind me with the final observation that it has probably been the most difficult aspect of my entire month-long freighter cruise. That may not sound like much of a hardship, but don't underestimate the impact of so many incremental time changes. The details of our arrival in Auckland are still uncertain, but I have pre-prepared a full upload to the website just in case there is time -- and facility -- for doing so. Either way, I expect to see the coast of New Zealand when I wake up in the morning and am very much looking forward to spending an extended amount of time exploring there.

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