Monday, May 12, 2008

Logbook: Panama To Savannah

Panamasavannah1Following Marius' suggestion, I hit the rack late last Tuesday night and got few hours sleep before my alarm woke me at 3:30 when I could find out whether or not we'd made it in time to meet our convoy's deadline for transiting the Panama Canal. When I glanced onto the bridge and saw that the Panamanian pilots were on board I knew we had made it, so I got coffee and spent the next hour or so setting up my camera and experimenting for the Report you see below. It was a busy, long and very hot day of transiting the Canal, and I was completely wasted by the time evening rolled around. I tried to hit the rack early, but we proceeded straight to the port of Manzanillo and conducted cargo operations throughout the night, the noise of which made getting good sleep impossible. By the time we headed out to sea early Thursday morning, everybody was showing signs of real fatigue and it was a very quiet "recovery" day aboard ship. Unfortunately, the heat and humidity remained really oppressive as we steamed across the Caribbean and the ship's air conditioning could barely make an impact on it, so that continued to wear us down and interfered again with getting decent sleep Thursday night.

Panamasavannah2We turned the corner south of Cuba on Friday and headed toward the Bahamas on smooth seas with moderate winds. It cooled down a bit in the evening so I was finally able to get a good night's sleep, and I awoke Saturday morning greatly refreshed. The weather was absolutely beautiful and the seas were perfectly calm, so we had a delightful day of sailing and capped it off with a nice BBQ on F-Deck. Another highlight of Saturday was final confirmation of my point of disembarkation in the US. You may recall that when I booked this cruise my destination was uncertain and Hamish could only assure me that the ship would be making port "somewhere on the east coast." Shortly after I got on board in Napier, the Captain informed me that we would be making port in Savannah and I started thinking about how I might get back across the country to Seattle from there. Last week the Captain told me we the ship would also be stopping in Philadelphia and -- since that offers a much easier rail-route to Seattle -- I immediately requested that destination instead. After some back and forth with the home office, the Captain was finally able to confirm my extended passage and I ended Saturday with the first real sense of destination I've had in quite a while!

Panamasavannah3We approached the coast near Savannah in pretty heavy weather on Sunday morning and I was up on the bridge listening to a local weather forecast for high winds, thunderstorms and possible tornados when I caught the first glimpse of US land that I've had in almost two years. Thankfully, the weather started lifting as we continued our approach and by the time we had made the slow, two-hour river journey to the city of Savannah it was bright and sunny. The actual Port of Savannah is up-river from the city, and the view during final approach through the heart of town was very attractive. Standing on deck, I replied in kind as various people on shore waved at our large ship passing by them in the narrow river channel and enjoyed a real sense of "returning from sea" with my fellow passengers and crew. As soon as berthing was complete, the US customs and immigration agent came aboard and conducted the formalities. Although still far from my ultimate ending point on The Voyage, I was "back in the USA" and I took a nice moment to reflect on all that I have experienced since I crossed the border into Mexico such a long time ago.

Panamasavannah4At the BBQ party on Saturday, Marius had told me that he needed to go ashore in Savannah to get some things for himself and the other officers, then asked if I would be willing to go along with him to act as "translator" and "guide" on his quest. With so much personal experience of how hard it can be to navigate and negotiate in strange lands, I immediately said I would be delighted to. Although I knew nothing about shopping in Savannah, I was pretty confident that I could be of some help to him and I was honored to have been asked. So, when the other passengers went ashore and into town for an evening of sightseeing, I arranged transportation to a local mall where Marius and I hustled around to many different stores. We eventually got everything on his shopping list -- everything from underwear to computer hard drives -- including the most important item, a new suitcase for him to use when he finishes his contract and goes home to Romania in a few weeks! We'd had a hilarious time together and returned to the ship in triumph, distributing the goods, telling stories and hanging out with the other officers well into the evening.

Thus, what I would call my "technical" re-entry into the US was really just like a port call anywhere else in the world. Even though I was back on US soil, the time was so short and hectic that it didn't really feel like a "true" re-entry. That experience, I believe, will happen in a couple of days when I reach Philadelphia!

1 comment:

Doru Dragomir said...

Hi, i am all ready home. The contract was prolonged for more one months.Marius take the promotion as second mate, and for me i waiting midle of september to pass the examination as captain, and then will see.
All the best from Romania ,
Chief Officer Doru Dragomir