Around the World in 3300 Days
July 12, 1999
Today I want to begin telling you about our latest adventures.
For 14 days we have been on board of the MV CSAV Atlanta. As you know we were supposed to travel from Miami, Florida, to South America by a ship of which I am a shareholder. Unfortunately this line was suspended in June, and for a few days we were really desperate. But everything turned out to become perfect. We found a ship of Rickmers, our ship owner, that called in Long Beach harbor. Rickmers warned us though that the charter company was not very reliable, that they have no agent in Los Angeles, etc. but we ran the risk. This saved us a long, tedious drive of 3000 miles through the scorching heat of the central USA.
In the temperate climate of California it was much easier to pack our things and to get all our formalities done. Everything went absolutely perfect. Then came the storing of the vanagon into the container. The first ramp was too steep. At the second ramp the door height of the container was one inch lower, and this inch was crucial. The chief worker, a Mexican, gave up and requested that we use a higher 40-foot-container that costs twice as much. So the owner of the company, a courteous Chilean, calmed everybody down and took charge of the stowing. He directed Richard with clear hand signals so that the vanagon nearly touched the cross bar of the container. Then we deflated the tires just enough and had six workers sit in the vanagon so that the springs were compressed. Slowly Richard drove into the container - well done. Once inside we inflated the tires again somewhat. With wooden blocks the tires were fixed to the floor, with ropes the body was kept from moving too much. The container was locked and sealed and off it went to the container harbor on Harbor Island.
We had to spend another three days on land. In the evening of Sunday, June 27, our new Servas friends Dolores and Bob saw us off to the harbor. Bob was allowed to drive directly to the gangway of the MV CSAV Atlanta. The boys swiftly carried our seven pieces of luggage to our cabin.
This is really a huge ship, 653 feet long (photo). Six containers are stacked upon each other on deck, 12 besides each other, nine rows of 40 feet each fit from the bow to the deck building, and behind it another two rows. Still you cannot calculate how many containers this ship can take, because a lot more fit into the interior. The maximum would be 1350 40-foot-containers. Right now we carry 1500 containers, many are only 20 feet long.
The deck building has seven floors. The ship runs 21 knots, about 25 mph. Until Iquique we will cover 5082 sea miles, about 5875 miles.
The captain, a pleasant man in his late fifties from Bremen, Germany, received us in the mess with a big smile. After a welcome beer he showed our Servas friends and us the entire ship, from the engine room to the bridge. When we came to our cabin, Dolores nearly got a shock. She had been on many cruise ships, but she had never seen such an apartment: a spacious bedroom with two windows and a bath with shower; a living room with a couch, armchairs, table, desk, refrigerator, and three windows (photos). The captain brought in even two pots with plants.
The ship is nearly one year old, but we are the first passengers in the owner's cabin.
We sleep very well this first night. But at 6 o'clock the bed starts vibrating, the sound of the engine grows louder. We are sailing. Slowly, very slowly we move through the morning mist towards the huge Vincent Bridge. We dive underneath it, leave the harbor and the last light houses behind. Ahead of us lies the wide sea, dark, somewhat dangerous.
One by one we meet the crew: the chief engineer, a German, the first officer from Lithuania, the Polish electrician. The rest of the crew, another 17 men, are from Burma (Myanmar). They are peaceful guys, always smiling friendly (photos).
We eat at the table of the captain and soon find out that rules are very informal on board. The formal clothes that we bought especially for this sea voyage will remain untouched.
The food is quite decent. In the morning various egg dishes or pancakes are served, but also rolls and cheese or sausage as well as muesli are available. For lunch and dinner meat or fish is prepared. I compliment the cook for especially delicious dishes or ask for its recipe, and day by day the food becomes better, that is more to our taste. The captain enjoys namely hearty meals. Every day we get salad twice, and besides the fruits for dessert the steward brings a basket of mangos, avocados, apples, and pears in our room.
After breakfast we play table tennis or once in a while I use the swimming pool. It was filled especially for me, and I was the first one to use it. Well, it is not exactly great. Inside, just four strokes long, and with every wave it gets nearly empty on one side and head high on the other side. Besides that our exercise consists of climbing stairs. Our cabin is on the sixth floor, the mess on the second, the pool on the first, and the bridge on the seventh floor.
Sometimes the captain invites us for a glass of wine into his cabin that is next to ours. He tells about his family and adventures from his long life on sea. The chief engineer looks like a doorkeeper of a nightclub, but he philosophizes about the trinity and is well versed in the history of the Slavic people, in solar technology, and the underground flow of water. The Lithuanian works quietly and correctly, it takes time to get more than a smile from him. Very humorous is the Polish electrician. He sees the positive side of every situation and is always in a good mood. Our steward never needs to be told anything. He always recognizes what is missing or what needs doing. Such a boy we should have at home.
The ship called in three ports, so far. We spent several days there each time. In Manzanillo, Mexico, we almost felt at home, as we had been in Mexico for a while just lately (photos). In Panama, too, everything looks very civilized (photos). The Canal Zone belongs to the Americans until December 31, 1999, and the administration buildings are beautifully landscaped. In the center of Panama City stand many high-rises, and the shopping malls are more reminiscent of Singapore than of Central America. Completely different is Buenaventura, Colombia. Except one freshly whitewashed hotel in colonial style everything seems to move towards decay (photo). The inhabitants, almost exclusively of African origin, were in a really good mood, the women very body conscious and sexy, as one might expect it in a red light district.
Time passes very fast. I try to learn Spanish for a couple of hours every day. Richard sits mostly in front of his notebook computer and works on his homepage (photo). The books that the captain made us available would be enough for many months.
Today we shall cross the equator. I'll tell you later about it.
July 15, 1999
The crew had really great fun with our Equator Baptizing. Outside of Ecuador we crossed the equator. This was not the first time, but the first time by ship. We had to wait in a locked room, together with four other victims from Myanmar.
Blindfolded and with bare feet I was led down a couple of steps. Hair-raising noise from ship bells and drums greeted me while I was led through icy water and sticky grease, kept in balance by strong hands. In front of Neptune, equipped with a trident, the blindfold was taken off. With a roaring voice he asked me questions. I answered yes to all of them to be on the safe side. Three times my head was pushed with gentle force into a barrel of water (photos).
In the evening there was a huge party with food for a hundred guests and we received our baptism certificate. Not far from the ship some whales were celebrating, too, and blew water high into the air.
Unfortunately the equator brought a change of the weather. It became cold and foggy, the waves increased considerably. Most difficult in high seas is it to sleep well, because the body rolls from one side to the other. Climbing stairs is also quite a balancing act.
In Callao, the harbor of Lima in Peru, we were tied to the pier for the previous two nights. Now, on our last leg, the sea is rolling quite heavily again.
Tomorrow we shall reach our destination, Iquique in Chile.
Due to the delay of the vessel I could celebrate my birthday on board of the Atlanta. Ursula had found some flowers and a few small candles on the huge ship. For lunch the cook had prepared a delicious beef dish. The officers sang "Happy Birthday to you " and presented me with a quart of shower gel. The captain handed me "The 5 Tibetans", nicely typed and printed with his notebook computer.
At 6 p.m. the pilot arrived on board. In front Iquique shimmered in the shine of many lamps. At 7.30 p.m. we landed smoothly under own steam at the pier.
We had reached our destination in South America.
The captain allowed that we stay another night on board and he invited us for a farewell with a glass of wine. Around 11 p.m. the crane moved our container on the pier, and it was stored in a safe warehouse.
On July 17 we got up early to pack our seven suitcases and bags. After breakfast the "Receptor" came on board. Mr. Olivares had all papers with him and had the harbor procedures well arranged. A couple of yards away our container and the unpacking team were ready. I unlocked the doors and connected the battery by means of the broken connector. With such a bad contact it was not surprising that the vanagon would not start. But two men pushed the vehicle and another six compressed the springs - we rolled out of the container.
Mr. Olivares took us to customs, got a missing signature under a harbor document, and copied our passports. A customs officer finally searched our luggage for prohibited fruits. We bode our good steward Siemien and the officers farewell, and at noon we passed the harbor gate for Iquique.
We can start our journey through South America.
|Pictures from our sea voyage||
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