Monday, 27 June 2011

Day 9 (7th of October)

After shipgazing, stargazing and chatter between 3.00a.m. and 4.00a.m. I must have got some sleep because the alarm clock went off again and I was in no mood for getting up. Today was ‘eggs to order’ again. Keeping on the mango theme from yesterday there was mango juice with added sugar in true American style. As is almost usual we played ping pong and then dithered about going outside. In the end we decided it was too sunny not to go outside. There was nothing to be seen. Jenny even chanted “Come on Whales” into the waves, sounding as though she’d suddenly become a verdant rugby fan, but the whales were unimpressed. It was very nice though to bathe in the sunshine on the recently hosed down and now spotlessly clean bow. Everyone is still busy in preparation for all the American inspectors coming aboard in Long Beach. Jenny sat on her ‘bench’ on the side of the boat doing sudokus, aiding the whale spotting with the occasional upward glance, while I sat on the round metal things that are probably used to twist the rope round when docked.

Lunch was chilli potatoes, cauliflower, tofu, onions, kohlrabi or somesuch and broccoli, pepper and carrot slices. We had thought it unjust that we should receive two slices of cake for dessert on Thursdays, but discovered that everyone else was going to eat theirs during their afternoon ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ break. Ice cream was an option too, but only the captain wanted some. It seemed we weren’t the only ones awake for most of the night as the second engineer (who complains a lot less than the chief engineer) moaned that he’d been unable to sleep.

Our presence was requested on the bridge to fill in our embarkation forms in preparation for our arrival in the United States. Martin also showed us the charts of our current position and where we’ll be going as we enter into Long Beach in less than three days time. We looked at the charts to see where we are and where we’ll be going. The depth of the sea was over 4000m and we were at 45.01’N and 144.36’W. When a buoy marked on the map is not there they have to add corrections and inform the mapmakers. On the other chart were lots of arrows showing what percentage of wind comes from what direction in the Pacific during October, along with the currents. Due to climate change and the variability of high and low pressures this chart, apart from having the main shipping routes on it, is now not much more than pretty wallpaper. The charts are all made in the ‘picturesque’ Somerset county town of Taunton, not so very far from home.

The crew seem to get really annoyed about all the legislation that the Californians have put in place. Within 24 miles of the coast ships have to start burning diesel rather than the dirty fuel they burn out here to reduce air pollution. It is also forbidden to change the ballast water around the coast, because of the risk of bringing in invasive species. Martin thinks this is a waste of time, because the ballast water all has to be renewed halfway across the ocean anyway (US legislation). Obviously transporting invasive species in ballast water has been a big problem, but I think there are probably a lot of shells attached to the hull too. The Americans also need the ship to be spotless, which is why the crew have been doing all this cleaning. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for all this cleaning and the captain and officers thinks it’s just to make money from fines and inspections. It is most likely to do with invasive species, but it’s unlikely that they remove all of them and then there is dirt and life on top and between all the containers, which they can't get to. Interestingly it seems they don't have to bother with any of this washing when they sail the other way across the Pacific. During the whale migration season vessels are asked to reduce their speed to avoid collision, which can only be a good thing for the whales. Max has told us that whales often get impaled on cruise ships coming from Alaska into Vancouver. In the past Americans have launched full-blown inquiries for cargo ships arriving with whales draped over their bows. There is not a lot that can be done to avoid collision, especially at night.

Mahlzeit was potatoes, mine with a very nice cheese sauce, red cabbage like they make it in the Greenhouse (cafĂ©, Norwich), kohlrabi and carrots. After dinner the engineers shared their woes with us about the world of shipping. No ping pong, but back to blog writing and picture sorting. Martin wants to see some pictures of Mongolia, so we’ve got a deadline! Tomorrow the waves will be catching us from behind, and a ship always ‘hurts’ more when it’s hit from behind. Cameras, laptop and hard drives on the floor in preparation, and we don’t yet know if we’ll end up there too!

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