Thursday, April 24, 2008

Logbook: At Sea... Finally!

The uncertainty that I have recently tried to describe about freighter travel continued apace when I called the port agent on Tuesday afternoon for my Wednesday morning boarding instructions and was told that there had been a little delay. The ship was now due to arrive in Napier Tuesday afternoon, but -- because it had missed it's "slot" at the port -- it would have to wait until the evening to dock and begin cargo operations. This activity would take place throughout the day on Wednesday and the ship would sail later in the evening. I was instructed to show up at the port mid-afternoon to board and clear customs. Sure enough, as I was walking along the beach Tuesday afternoon with my friends Molly and Richard we saw the ship cross the horizon, approach the port and drop anchor to wait. The good news was that at least my ship had come in. The bad news was that it was still at anchor when I went out to take a look around midnight. Worse, when I got up early yesterday morning the ship was still at anchor, but I was encouraged to see that it had moved into port when I checked a little later after coffee.

After a leisurely morning of packing up, making sure all my documents were in order and saying my farewells to my Napier hosts, my good friend Hamish picked me up and took me back to The Hawke's Bay Club for a nice long lunch with his usual Wednesday crowd. At about two-thirty he drove me to the port where I was cleared by security and shuttled to the ship. The Marfret Provence is indeed a sister ship of my last freighter, but it didn't look quite as big at first sight and I realized that experience had adjusted my perspective. Because of my familiarity with the layout of the ship, I was able to make my way directly to the ship's office where I met the first officer. He asked for my "ticket" and called for the steward to show me to my cabin. Ronald arrived a few moments later and we climbed up five flights to the cabin I expected, the "same" cabin I had before on the port side of E-Deck. The arrangement of the furniture -- bed, desk and sofa -- is a little different from before, but the cabin is otherwise identical. Thus, the feeling of the entire process was very familiar, bordering on a little bit spooky.

Atseafinally1I expected to be taken directly to see "The Man" from customs, but Ronald informed me that meeting had been pushed back until about 11pm. Meanwhile, I was invited to make myself at home and reminded that dinner would be served at five-thirty. I asked if he knew when the ship would sail and was rewarded with a shrug of his shoulders and a pretty non-committal "Sometime in the morning." With that encounter behind us, he left and I spent some time unpacking and stowing my gear then generally settling in. From time to time I went out on my balcony and wandered around the upper decks to take a look at the port and "supervise" the cargo operations, but I have to admit that after all my previous experience it didn't capture my attention the way it once did. I went to dinner as scheduled and met a few more of the officers and crew plus one of the other passengers, a nice guy named Allan who spends half the year in Canada and the other half in NZ, always commuting by freighter in between. After dinner I went back to my cabin until I got a call just before midnight telling me that "The Man" was ready to see me. I made my way down to the conference room where we executed the usual paperwork formalities in a matter of minutes, then I went out on deck one more time to check on the progress of cargo operations before hitting the rack.

Atseafinally2I woke up a few minutes before seven this morning when the starting of the main engine created its customary -- and significant -- change in the ship's vibration. I pulled on some clothes, got some coffee and was outside in time to watch the tugs help us clear the dock, turn around and point out to sea. I stayed on deck for a little while as Napier receded in the distance then went for breakfast where I met the other two passengers, a nice older couple named Margaret and George from The Isle of Man. Although I was back outside in less than half an hour, I was a little surprised to find that that I already couldn't see any land on the horizon. It's amazing just how fast the curve of the earth takes effect when you are at sea level! So, I said a slightly tardy farewell to land which I will not see for about two weeks until we get to Panama. Because I expect these "Freighter Days" to be very, very similar to the last ones I documented in detail, I do not plan to write a daily recap. If anything unusual -- or even of note -- occurs I will write it up, but I'm pretty much expecting a series of "at sea days" -- sleep, eat, read, walk, iLife, coffee, movies, whiskey, etc. -- punctuated, of course, by relentless advancement of the ship's clock. As you know, it is a lifestyle that I really enjoy -- except, perhaps, for "the clock thing" -- and I am delighted to be back at sea... Finally!

No comments: