Freighter Ship Update – Part One

Good Day!

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 my personal log
from the last week on board this vessel. I won’t be able to check my
own e-mail (or the blog itself) for another week or so … hope this
makes it ok. Here goes!

Wednesday, April 29th – Thursday, April 30th

We boarded the Hansa Flensburg yesterday at about 6:00 PM. It was hard
to say goodbye to our dear friends, Nikki and Brad, especially after the
long and rewarding road trip we had undertaken. They are the very
definition of true friends and I count myself lucky to count them as
mine. We parted ways with a minimum of tears and a maximum of happiness
for the journey ahead. We were shuttled out to the berth where our ship
was docked in no time. This thing is rather enormous and I was more
impressed the closer our shuttle got. As we stepped out, an older gent
stepped out as well. Looking a bit like Dustin Hoffman (but with a Brit
accent) he advised us not to grab the suspending cable near the steps,
as it was very greasy. We assumed this was a learned passenger and took
his advice.

Once on board, we were met by one of our main points of contact, Alex.
Think of a slightly meeker version of David Tennant. He helped us to
our cabin and gave us a brief tour of the poop deck (main dining room,
crew dining room). As we started to ascend to our room on F deck, he
offered to take our suitcase. You know, the one we had just filled with
dozens of books. He took it and wondered aloud if we were bringing
rocks with us to New Zealand, but handled the case with ease. We got to
our cabin and were informed that dinner would be in about a half hour.

Our cabin is fantastic. We have a nice big living room with a couch,
loveseat, and chair. There’s a desk, small TV, and VCR/DVD player. The
bedroom has two twin beds and an attached bathroom w/shower. The window
in the living room opens to the main deck and right outside our room is
a small outside balcony/stairway with some chairs. A little hidden
paradise on the sea. We unpacked some stuffs and went down for dinner

It was there we met the Captain and the gentleman who we had assumed was
another passenger; in reality, he was the Chief Engineer. We are the
only passengers on this leg of the journey. Both the Chief and the
Captain are former Brits that now live on the south island of NZ. We
told them of our travels and they praised our country for electing
Obama. We told them what Oklahoma was like and they gave us a little
insight into what life on the boat was like and how the crew behaved.

After dinner, the Captain invited us up to the bridge to look around.
It is a modest bridge, with a small cluster of computers and screens at
one end. The Captain advised that, if we so desired, we could be called
in the morning when the ship left to watch us leave the dock from the
bridge. We gladly accepted. We stepped out onto the deck and watched
the cranes load cargo for awhile before returning to our cabin. After
raiding some of the DVD collection (many, many chinese DVDs with poor
translations, lol) we retired for the evening and watched Collateral.
Sleep came quickly after.

At about 4:30 AM, my watch alarm goes off and I get dressed. Indi got
up and around and the Captain called us near 5 to let us know they were
about to depart. We went to the bridge and did our best to be seen and
not heard. It was fascinating to listen to the radio chatter and watch
as our ship floated away from the dock and navigated out of the bay. We
had a local pilot on-board to help, and once we were clear he got on his
little tag-along boat and jetted back to Long Beach. After that, we
were truly on our own. Indi and I watched America as she faded into a
lighted line on the horizon. I wonder what it will look like when we
return. Much the same, I suppose. But it’s always the little
differences that catch my attention.

(Side Note: With the current ‘swine flu’ scare, I am filled with a
slight sense of apocolyptic dread. It feels like I’m in some horror
survival story, leaving the shore as this unknown menace is about to
descend on the population, and when we see land again there’s going to
be some worldwide police state and panic everywhere. 28 Days Later kind
of stuff, ha. Either that or some kind of zombie infestation on the
ship and we’ll come into port scared and barely alive, having fought off
ravenous crew members for days. In either case, I need to put my mental
energies to better use.)

We decided it would be easier to stay awake until breakfast, which is
served every day promptly at 8:00 AM. We walked the length of the ship
(it’s roughly 190 yards long) and spent some time on the bow, watching
the ship cut through the ocean. It’s really quite peaceful up there.
We also saw some dolphins jumping in our wake along the sides of the
boat; that was killer. The rest of the day was spent with me trying not
to be sea sick (fail. I was nauseous until after dinner, at which I had
some meds graciously provided by the crew)

It was during this time that I thought of my grandfather, Dick (Mom’s
Dad). He was a marine at the end of WWII and during Korea and has been
passed on for some years now. For the first time in a long time, I
could hear his laugh and the sound of him clearing his throat. I also
thought of Grandpa Hardy (Dad’s Dad), because the captain looks a lot
like him. Hardy was also in the service, though which branch escapes
me. They must’ve known the feeling of being on a ship not too unlike
this one and not being sure what was on the other side. I hope that
they would be proud and supportive. I wonder what advice they’d have
for me. I will listen for it on the waves and in the breeze.

Friday, May 1st

Much more pleasant today, less rocking back and forth. Had some bacon
this morning that wasn’t normal bacon as I know it, it was more like a
slab. Also have been enjoying some Coca-Cola and bits of chocolate from
a Cadbury bar, purchased from the Captain’s Canteen. He has this whole
area of storage just for passenger/officer purchase. He gave us some
crisps, too. It’s amazing how all of the ingredient lists are so
simple. Very little preservatives.

I’m trying to get at least one new food in a day; the menu is limited
but I do have options. I’m going to keep a separate journal of new
foods I’ve tried and perhaps publish it monthly on the blog or
something; not really sure yet. We took a walk to the bow of the ship
today; it’s beautiful out. The water is so blue and pure that the mind
cannot fathom (ha) it. At the bow, you can’t hear the engines
either…so it’s just you and the open sea. It’s one of the most serene
places I’ve ever been.

The Captain is continually hospitible. He showed us his personal
storeroom (the Canteen mentioned earlier), which is a slightly amusing
array of various goods. He is rather proud of it, as he should be. It
is the mecca of consumables.

Saturday, May 2nd

Walked to the bow again today. Dangled my legs off the front this time.
The ocean was a deep Selsun blue; I listened to Franz Ferdinand’s debut
album while I studied the far off whitecaps. Still taking motion
sickness meds occasionally, but not constantly. Only when I’m foolish
enough to try and read. It’s frustrating that I have all these books
and cannot read them. I’m trying not to mow through the DVD/VHS
selections I’ve made but it is difficult. Plus the player in our room
isn’t region free for some reason and not all of the DVDs are playing.
Perhaps I’ll mosey on down to the officer’s lounge later and try there.

Tomorrow is my Dad’s birthday. It’s a shame I won’t be able to wish him
a happy birthday over the phone or anything. I’ll have to make that a
priority once I get back. It’ll have been Brad’s birthday, too, once we
land. Seems so far away, land. I already feel like I’ve been on this
boat for a week. It’s more relaxing than I thought it would be…I seem
to be spending a good portion of my time sleeping. I’ll count that as
good for now.

Finished off the tin of Royal Dansk cookies the Captain gave us.
Ironically, Indi and I saw some at a Walgreens in Long Beach some days
ago and remarked how long it’d been since we had enjoyed some Danish
butter cookies…and here they were. Quite the coincidence, that. They
always remind me of flying due to their prominence as in-flight snacks.
There have been times on this boat that I’ve forgotten I’m on a ship and
feel like I’m on an airplane with the constant engine hum and vibration.

I’m very sad that I didn’t pay closer attention to my music selection
before leaving home. There are many albums I forgot and wish I had here
to listen to. I also forgot my entire 8g iPod in my old laptop bag. I
have my iPhone as an iPod, but it doesn’t have quite as much room due to
applications and such. Argh. The soundtrack to The Life Aquatic would
be perfect on this ship. Thankfully, the Captain and Chief Engineer
have some CD’s they let me rip. Filled a few holes, anyway.

Speaking of the Cap’n and Chief Engineer, they invited us down for
drinks and conversation last night. We sat, drank, and talked for hours
with Captain John, Chief Engineer David, Chief Mate Andre, and 2nd
Engineer Olec. It was good times and I’m sure Indi has more to say
about it than that.

Sunday, May 3rd

Happy Birthday, Dad. The captain was kind enough to let me use his
computer to e-mail Dad a birthday greeting. That made me quite happy.

Breakfast this morning was perfect. I was just about the only one in
the Officer’s Mess as we all got a bit lit up last night. Indi made it
down just as I went up to check the day’s news and shower. It’s cloudy
out, and getting warmer. We should be crossing the equator in a few
days. Not precisely sure where we are, I’ll have to get with someone on
the bridge and have a looksee.

Otherwise, a pretty laid back day. It’s been ‘period movie day’ for
some reason as I’ve watched Master and Commander, Gangs of New York, and
The Last Samurai. Thinking about working in Vanilla Sky, too, as I love
that film…but I may be Tom Cruised out after Samurai and Collateral.
We’ll see.

Monday, May 4th

Nothing much to report today, been nice and quiet. Slept a lot.
Finally was able to start reading; finished Vagabonding and started Deep
Survival, the latter being a gift from our friends Richard and Joe.
Vagabonding was good, if simple, and is a good explanation of what we’re
doing for the next two years.

Tuesday, May 5th

Chief Engineer’s birthday. Bought him some whiskey and beer from the
Captain’s store and celebrated in his cabin in the evening. Indi
started smoking again.

Finished Deep Survival. Fantastic book, I recommend it to anyone. It’s
not just about surviving in the wilderness, although those are the
primary examples used; it’s a book about surviving period. It explains
what the difference is between folks that survive tough situations and
those that don’t. Although I certainly hope that I never find myself in
a Man vs Nature situation of great difficulty, we all have daily
situations that require some degree of survival and this is applicable
to both.

Got to look around the galley, too. Alas, no Romulan Ale is on board.
We must not be far enough from Starfleet to get away with such a breach
in regulations.

Wednesday, May 6th

You may have noticed me changing from past-to-present tense. I’m
writing this at odd times and sometimes it’s current, sometimes it’s
not. Sorry bout that. Party went well last night, but I have the worst
heartburn ever. Breakfast is in about a half hour and I’m hoping some
food will settle my burning interior.

Filled out my little immigration form today for my visa. Sent a few
butterflies through my stomach and I’m still a week away from landing.
I didn’t get a chance to get my hair cut before we left and I didn’t
bring any hair care products with me so it’s been an untamed mess the
entire time. Gotta get it cut as soon as we land, I look like a schmo.

One thought on “Freighter Ship Update – Part One

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