Monday, 6 February 2012

Day 2 (22/01/2012)

I didn’t sleep much, not because I couldn’t have, but because I urgently needed to see what was happening outside our window. The containers were slowly being moved aboard. The crane seemed highly inefficient, since almost every container would be dropped down onto the others, but wouldn’t click in place properly, so was then lifted back up before finally being put into the correct position. Sometimes this process would have to be repeated multiple times. As the night drew on the cranes moved closer to the living quarters and the containers began to fill the gaping hole right in front of us. There was quite a lot of clanking and shouting. Fortunately they aren’t piled high enough as to obstruct our view completely.

Having set the alarm for 5.30 a.m., we awoke in anticipation of our departure. There was still a crane hovering around, but by six the cranes were all in upright position, the lights at the dockside out and the engines rolling. Tugboats slowly turned the boat and we were then pushed relatively quickly under the bridge we’d driven over on the bus last night and on past the lights of Charleston. It was hard to work out where anything was with the darkness and fast encroaching fog.

At 7.45a.m. we emerged for breakfast, the boat still being piloted, with frequently sounding foghorn as background music. At the table we met the other passengers, who immediately wanted to know if we spoke French. They are a retired couple- Beatrice and Heinz Peter, from Aigle, near Geneva, and are now pretty settled into ship life, having been on-board for five weeks, coming across the Atlantic, to all the East coast ports here twice, to New Orleans, Houston and Mexico. Previously they have taken four cargo ship ‘cruises’ around Europe, across the Atlantic and to Hong Kong. The sea has apparently only been pretty choppy for two days on this trip so far, but of course the captain dismissed it as nothing. Other passengers have come and gone, one of them it seems was on her way home to New Zealand from a year in England, and didn’t want to fly.

Breakfast consisted of two fried eggs each and a few slices of cucumber. We also had a slice of bread and a sip of some Russian-looking fruit drink, tasting of mango and peaches, but seeming a bit oily. We passengers won’t be participating in the morning and afternoon coffee breaks, the Swiss couple seem to be coffeed out and we don’t drink normal tea or coffee.

After breakfast I read and wrote, while Jenny did something or other on the computer. At some point the phone rung rather loudly, when I’d finally managed to pick it up we learnt that we were to go down to the A-deck for our safety briefing. I jumped at the chance (hopefully the only one) to see inside the lifeboat, it seems quite spacious. I wasn’t imagining it to have a roof for some reason or seatbelts. Tomorrow there is likely to be a practice at responding to the alarm, when we’ll have to go with our immersion suits and life jackets to the muster station on deck A.

Lunch was trouble free, minestrone soup (Jenny thought he said soap) followed by a vegetable medley and ‘French fries’ (last night I thought he said French rice), rounded off with enough ice cream to cost you well over $5 on the streets of Charleston. The captain and three others seem to sit at one table and converse in Russian or Polish, while the remaining European crew sit at another table and don’t seem to converse at all. It does seem rather segregated, like there is a bit of a Poles only club here. I can just imagine the complaints the second engineer on the Hanjin Yantian would have about the downfall of NSB and it no longer being the German institution it used to be. Once again the Filipinos eat in their crew mess room on the other side of the kitchen.

Post lunch we donned our winter coats and took a walk around outside. Even if the waves were co-operative for whale watching, the MSC Flaminia does not seem to be ideal for the task since the front of the boat is covered and hard to see out of. We weren’t even sure if we were allowed to be there since there were signs saying that you have to wear hardhats. The rest of the time before dinner Jenny once again sat before her computer watching something while I finished reading ‘A narrative by Frederick Douglass’, an account by a former slave in Maryland and all the terrible things he witnessed and was subjected to. I also fitted in a short nap (staying up last night has made me exceedingly sleepy) and some more blog writing. We’re leaving the excitement of visiting the bridge for tomorrow, you can’t do everything in one day, otherwise there’ll be nothing left to do.
Supper was a bread, salad, egg and egg and salad in a decidedly American burger bap affair. Heinz-Peter tells us that the waves are around 3m now, but there’s a cold front coming and the conditions won’t be quite so peachy soon. At the moment the ship is scarcely rolling and the horizon pretty horizontal. We’ve just played our first spot of ping pong, realised that our legs are too short for the exercise bike and now we’ll settle in for an evening’s film watching. Hopefully we can get to bed early, the changing of the clocks starts tomorrow morning when we’ll lose our first hour. Fortunately on this ship we lose the hour after breakfast, so we don’t have to get up any earlier, the day will just be shorter!

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