Pirate Watches and Barbecue Fun
After one cargo ship voyage, I thought that was enough for me. It was fun and a good experience but it was a long time to be aboard and anyway for no other reason 'once is enough' .... I thought.....I had lots of exciting dreams for my return journey but sadly due to various restraints they were not all possible. Going back through India and meeting Ben and Tabs and travelling on a camel and then through the Middle East sounded like a challenge but was unrealistic and unsafe it seemed. Also visas were hard or impossible to obtain and overland routes were not all open to foreigners. Another idea was to 'go all the way round' but the Pacific and the Atlantic are pretty large bodies of water (!) and I seemed to be having trouble finding sailing options. In the end I decided the best thing to do was take the quickest and most direct route home. This turned out to be another cargo ship from Singapore to Genoa via the Suez Canal. It was approx. 6500 nautical miles in 16 days. I have had to borrow the money but it was worth it to escape the madness of Asia and get back to Europe.
So I boarded the ship at midnight, met the Captain and went to bed. Next day I got to meet the rest of the Officers - German, Polish and Filipino, the Crew -Filipino and the one other passenger, Melanie - Canadian/Dutch a mixed bag we were! Melanie was great and it was so different having another passenger to talk to. We spent a long time chatting to each other and it was great to get to know her. I found there was lots more to do on this ship and everyone was overall more social than my last voyage. I had a tour around and saw the 'gym' (exercise bike, rowing machine and huge sailor style weights!), the pool - small but excellent for floating and swimming in circles. I saw the karaoke machine and the drum kit and thought it looked like people planned to have fun on this ship. I was also informed of the barbecue party on Saturday where they were planning to roast a whole suckling pig.......
Onwards for my safety tour and I had to prove that I could get into my red 'teletubbie' immersion suit and lifejacket all by myself which was v. amusing to watch I imagine. A few days later we had an abandon ship drill where we all had to gather at the Muster station with our lifejackets and helmets on, find our 'buddy' and clamber into the lifeboat which was hung precariously at a steep angle by the bow. It was solar powered I was pleased to discover but did never find out if there was a toilet....I think it was just stick your bum out the hatch!
Everyone was super friendly and I spent my days 'hanging out' with the officers on watch on the bridge and trying to understand navigation, radar, charts and even looked in a sextant (they don't use them anymore). We got a tour round the engine rooms too with the lovely Chief Engineer. As it was Easter I organised an Easter Egg hunt and we painted real eggs to decorate the ship. I also celebrated my birthday on board which was strange but fun. I got some champagne and other presents and a hand-made card which was so sweet. Everyone was keen to wish me a happy day and make it fun. It was Sunday and we had had another party the night before (with more roast piglets...eek too cute I couldn't eat them) so I was pretty hungover and just drank more (Campari and Orange at 'Church' with the Officers) and loads of great food (always best on Sundays it is just lucky it was my day too.) I was so pooped and ended up going to bed about 8pm, my earliest crash for a long time on my birthday.
Each day passed fairly quickly. Breakfast 7.30am to 8am then I usually did an hour of cycling (training) and some reading or went back to bed! Then it was time for coffee at 10am. More lazing around reading or writing until 12.30 and lunch. After lunch it was a bit of a swim in the pool and some more reading and writing lots of letters. 3pm was tea time and time to have another chit chat with Melanie and eat biscuits and then it wasn't long til dinner at 5.30pm. The food on board was fantastic, partly due to our cook having been a 5*chef for years! I usually stayed in my cabin in the evening but on a few nights I ventured out. I played 'I Spy' and Charades with the 3rd Mate and swapped music with the 2nd Mate. I also played cards and drank wine with a few of the guys but it was a bit lame as I was trying to teach poker which I have played about 5 times in my life. The Filipinos had the karaoke running 24/7 it seems and a drumkit to keep the rhythm. I had a bit of a go but wasn't as good as Jerrol the Steward. Gutted I didn't have my accordion.
We had a few nights with extra pirate watch. It is a real problem in the Straits of Sumatra and near Yemen/Somalia which was a slight worry but not much I could do about it. By day 11 we were safe and waiting to go through the Suez Canal. We stopped to queue and put the fishing lines out, but no catches sadly. It took 11 hours to transit the Suez Canal. We could only go at 9 knots so as not to make too much wash which erodes the sides of the canal and they have to dredge it all out again. It costs 100,000 US dollars for each cargo ship that goes through and there are about 120 ships a day...so there is a huge amount of logistics and cash here....It was pretty nice to see land again even if it was a lot of sand and electricity pylons and armed guards every few hundred metres. We went under the Peace Bridge, the connection between Africa and Asia, in the dark and then it was time for bed, another busy day over!
Near to the end of the voyage I started to feel a bit of 'cabin fever'. I needed more space and wanted to get out. I had read so much and written a mountain of letters and cycling on an exercise just isn't as good as the real deal. (will she stil be saying this in a few weeks they wonder?!) It was ok, just one day of crawling up the walls is not bad. Soon enough we were heading towards Genoa. We arrived late at night and I woke up to see the most beautiful view of this lovely city in the morning haze and sun. I was going to meet my Mum and Sister the next day who had come to visit which was exciting and in a way this day in port was the worst wait of the whole journey. I got some shore leave and went to the Seaman's Mission and drank ciocolatta and whiskey and tried not to feel like I looked like a prositute sitting there with some Filipino sailors! All in all I had a great time and was a bit sad to leave all my new friends who were all so friendly and smiley and kind. Thanks to everyone.
So now the readjustment takes place to being back in Europe. It is wierd in a way and thankfully we had Mum to speak fluent Italian so we were set for a few days of eating and being on 'holiday.' Will she ever get back to work we wonder......