Last night, January 16th, we arrived in Nadhodka to refuel. We left Vancouver the January 3rd and twelve days later we arrived here. If the math on that seems a little off, it is because we lost a day as we crossed the international date line.
We have seen a few beautiful sunrises, many very grey days and a some spectacular sunsets.
Our ship first headed north to the Aluetians and we crossed the chain of islands on a pretty clear day.
As we traveled west we would set back the clock an hour almost every day at 1300. This meant 25-hour days and each of the three day-watches would add twenty minutes to their normal 4-hour watch to spread out that hour. Dinner kept getting later and later.
Finally we skipped a full day, I think it was a Monday. After the date changed, we had several rough sea days and I was reminded to avoid the elevator as there was a chance of getting stuck. I usually take the stairs, however I have read all the “escaping a stuck elevator” directions posted in our small, 6-man elevator just in case.
The Chief Officer gave me a run down on ships loading operations one day and walked me through their tasks for sea days, which included a lot of preventative maintenance procedures. I could relate that back to my days in Plant Maintenance in my former career. I also learned about all the planning and layout of loading containers on the ship. Each container has a tare weight of about 2 tons and some of the ones he showed me were over 28 tons loaded. The process of loading and balancing the cargo is very complex and amazing.
In Vancouver, one of the containers was damaged during the load and about 3 tons of dried lentils were spilled into the cargo hold. The port operations sent about ten men with shovels and buckets to clean it up and haul the lentils off the ship. The container continued to spill lentils after we were underway and the crew had to bag all that up before it got into the bilge. We will offload all the spilled lentils somewhere in China.
Nothing gets tossed overboard other than some small food waste from the galley and only then in international waters. This shipping company does a lot to keep an environmentally sound ship.
The next day, I got a tour of the main engine room with the Chief Engineer. I got to put on a ship’s coverall, ear protectors and helmet. It is really loud in the main room. The engine control room is sound insulated so I could ask a lot of questions. There are twelve cylinders on the main engine and it takes up two full stories. The also have some enormous boilers to make steam and run the 4 generators. They generate 6,600 volts of electricity and then transform it to 220 for ships operations.
Standing next to the pistons in my ships protective gear.
On Friday the 13th, we crossed between the main island of Japan and the island of Hokkaido. The sea was calm and the sky was clear. We were close enough to land for me to occasionally get a cell signal. I love my T-Mobile plan that gets me 2G data in 140 countries! I was able to get email and check the news and a little browsing on Facebook. My digital drought was temporarily over!
We arrived off the coast of Russia the next day and then waited two and a half days for our turn in port for fueling. The ship was adrift most of the time as it was too deep to set anchor. The autopilot would kick on from time to time to keep us in place.
During our wait, the swells would continue to rock us. When the swells hit the back, aft, of the ship, the whole ship would shake and shudder as if it was an earthquake. I named this “Neptune’s Spanking” and tried to get used to it. While underway, these “spankings” had less of an impact. On a stationary vessel, they were a little bit scary. I think the ship is built to be flexible though and I have decided to trust it to stay in one piece.
On the 16th, we got the go ahead and made our final approach. The sunset was just amazing and I kept popping out on the wing of the bridge to get photos. The air was cold and brisk, refreshing really and the Captain might have thought me crazy, as I was popping in and out there without any coat.
I thought my first set of photos were terrific and then I continued to watch as the sky turned pink and purple.
Once we were parked and about the time I was ready for bed, Russian immigration boarded and we all were asked to report to the ship’s office to be compared to our passports and all checked in. I exchanged a few waves and tried out my 7th grade Russian on one of the agents. She smiled and wished me a good nights sleep in gestures.
Somebody came in board and sold us local SIM cards, $20 for 5GB of data. Most of the crew will use their cards to contact home. I am using mine to upload photos and write this blog post. The 2G data speed on my T-Mobile SIM card is fine for quick tasks and too slow for loading photos. If I have any data left, I might be able to download a movie, maybe?
Today is another cold, clear, crisp day and I finally had a good chance to walk to the front of the ship and explore. Any time I want to leave the accommodation structure I need to inform the bridge and then inform them when I return. Safety is a big culture here. I have my own yellow safety vest and hard hat for walking outside.
It is supposed to take two barges and 50 hours to refuel. This fill up is supposed to last for the next four months so I think 50 hours for refueling sound about right.
At this point we are about 6 days later than our original itinerary. When you travel by freighter schedules are less than fixed. It is a very relaxing way to travel. I am almost ashamed how lazy I have become. I think I am about half way through my part of the voyage and I feel very at home here. I enjoy being rocked to sleep every night….and every afternoon for my 😴