Freighter Ship Update – Part One (Indi)

((Same situation as other post, but I’m not sure which one is going to
post first. In case it’s this one, here’s the deal: It’s 12:45 PM on
Wednesday the sixth of May out here in the Pacific Ocean. The Captain
of our vessel has been kind enough to allow me to send a few e-mails
from his desk so I figured I’d get an update out there to all of you
following our blog. What follows is Indi’s first blog entry. She’s
written more, but has a better gift for writing and don’t want to
inundate everyone. I’ll update again when I can.))

Day 1 – Wednesday, April 29th

What. A. Day.

The day began at 8am, with Nikki, Brad, Doug, Rhys and I rushing
to get ready and racing to the US-Mexico border. Rumors of swine
flu-fueled border closings were beginning to pop up and we were
concerned about making it across. Well, except Doug, he didn’t seem at
all concerned, really. Except when Kathleen offered to host a party that
night if we were turned away – he looked a little shaken then. Maybe.
We said goodbye to lovely Mexico and drove away from La Mision
with more than a tinge of sadness. I imagine I’ll look back on it as if
on a dream. I certainly hope I’ll be able to see it again someday,
sooner than later. As we neared the border, traffic slowed to a crawl
and vendors – some temporary, some permanent – strolled brazenly through
the lanes of traffic hawking wares as varied as icicle pops to ceramic
piggy banks. From Jesus and Mother Mary to anti-swine-flu sanitation
masks. I was impressed by the speed at which these bipedal entrepreneurs
were able to cash in on the plague du jour. I still didn’t buy one.
The border crossing was anticlimatic. Prior to reaching the
booths, we all swore not to a. cough, and b. mention we’d been to
Ensenada or any major Mexican city. We did roll through one more heavily
armed military checkpoint on the way out. The war on drugs and the
cartels is waging heavy south of the border, but not without cost. Even
in tiny La Mision, we saw patched up bulletholes on the police station
facade – retribution for a police bust a few weeks back (no one was
injured). Yesterday in Tiajuana (“TJ”), eighteen police officers were
injured or killed by the cartels. At the checkpoints, many of the
soldiers or police wear bandanas over all but their eyes to protect
their identities. Being known as “policia” is still not so great for
your health in Mexico.
Don’t get me wrong. Mexico is lovely, well worth it, and
deserving of your tourist dollars if you are inclined to go. I can think
of few more beautiful places to spend retirement than Playa del la
So ensued a mad rush back to Long Beach… well, not so mad that
we didn’t take time to stroll through the Burbank Ikea location (I love
that store), a thrift shop for twenty-some-odd books, and then still
arrive at the docks early after teary goodbyes. Thank you to Doug for
being a fabulously hospitable host and all-around neat guy. Of course,
many thanks to Nikki and Brad for accompanying us, driving us, on this
last leg before… well, that brings us to the ship.
We split off at the ITS terminal, and a shuttle took us out to
the pier. From the moment of climbing (yes, climbing) aboard the vessel,
it was clear that this was no pleasure cruise. This is a working ship. A
nice, older man climbed aboard just ahead of us, warning us not to take
hold of the uber-greasy gangwire that appeared to be the most obvious
handhold. He turned out to be the Chief Engineer, back from shore leave.
We flashed our passports again, and a nice Russian? German?
officer named Alex carried our suitcase fulla books up six flights of
stairs without breaking a sweat. Rhys and I trudged up behind him,
red-faced and wheezing up the tiny corridors. Remember my comment about
the Grand Canyon being “unsanitized,” not made all tourist-safe and
antiseptic? Yes, well, this ship is its equal in ways for clumsy people
such as myself to accidentally kill themselves – especially once you add
choppy seas to the mix. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Everything tastes briny on the sea. Even cans of coke. I think
it’s more the air we’re breathing.
Anyway, Alex advised us that we had exactly 42 minutes until
dinner. I was all smiles, but I didn’t notice a lot about him or the
ship or anything, since I was too busy dragging air greedily through my
grinning teeth. Six flights of steep stairs doesn’t sound like much
perhaps (and it’s not, really), but it wasn’t fun with a full pack and
trying to pace a good-looking, lanky, young officer.
Several minutes and six downward flights later, we ate with the
captain and chief engineer in the officer’s dining lounge, which is
where we will take all of our meals. This is located on the poop deck
(yeah, yeah), while our quarters are on F deck. The decks go: Main,
Poop, A, B, C, D, E, F, Bridge. Dinner was small but delicious, some
sort of slightly spicy fried rice they called “Nasikoreang,” and were
surprised to hear we had never heard of it. I added some sweet n’ spicy
ginger Thai chili sauce and was in heaven. The captain (John) showed us
up to the bridge, to which we have full access and can visit anytime.
Night was falling, and the docks were lit at twilight, the massive ITS
cranes loading tetris-blocks of containers seemingly haphazardly. If
there was a pattern, I couldn’t detect it. The bridge is also home to a
stash of hundreds of DVDs. Most are asian knock-off copies with
hilarious results – like the Star Wars-titled DVD with the “directed by,
starring, etc.” legalese from Fight Club, and a wholly inaccurate plot
summary detailingan African prince and diamond thieves. Whoa.
During dinner, to backtrack a moment, the subject of piracy came
up. This is a much larger problem than we hear about in America. There
are currently 18 ships missing or held. Virtually all waters in which
these pirates attack are “international” waters, meaning no one really
has jurisdiction – so countries don’t know what to do with pirates when
they are able to capture them. It’s a big problem. Most attacks appear
near the horn of Africa (Somali pirates) AND Indonesia – guess that
means we’ll be flying from NZ to Bali or Jakarta or whatever. No cargo
ships on that leg.
Our cabin is lovely, with a sprawling day room, two twin beds
(or smaller, I can’t quite tell – they’re very narrow), ample closet
space, and a nice private bathroom. Alex visited us in our cabin to go
over some paperwork re: safety guidelines, drug smuggling (a no-no,
apparently), and the location of things on ship. The all-important
mealtimes are 8am, 12pm, and 6pm (six flights each!). As he spoke, the
tall, think man with the slightly too-large eyes, high cheekboned,
pretty face and rambling, heavily-accented speech, it occurred to me
that he looks pretty much spot-on David Tennant. We’re sailing with the
Doctor (Dr. Who? Yes.) Sorry Brock, he’s wearing a wedding ring.
Ship sails at 5am, so we are watching a DVD and going to bed.
Also, started the House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III. Loved the
Raw Shark Texts (similar to House of Leaves) and liked the Girl who
Loved Tom Gordon. We have more than 20 new books, so I shouldn’t be left
wanting for things to do…?

One thought on “Freighter Ship Update – Part One (Indi)

  1. Dammit, Indi! Way to ruin my dreams!It is so great to hear from you guys! I have been coming to the site every day for a week, hoping you’ve found internet in the middle of the ocean.You are just on a boat, and it is already so exciting to me.

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