Time: 6:43pm Antwerp, Belgium time
Location: About 14 miles NW of Cherbourg France
Weather: Sunny, swells about 1/2 meter, breezy
After the fog cleared this morning, a brownish haze replaced it, along with tankers, sailboats, and other cargo vessels visible to Port and to Starboard, a dead seagull floated by and I knew we had entered the English Channel and arrived in European waters! We arrive tomorrow at port in Antwerp around 2pm, and my plan is to make a break for it on my bike and try to catch the train (through the Channel Tunnel) to London.
At the moment, I am sitting in the crew’s lounge, typing in my blog while the crew riotously watches Weakest Link on BBC 1, which we are receiving onboard, being about 40 miles from the English coast. It is pretty hilarious listening to a roomful of Filipinos trying to imitate an English accent. We just passed the Channel Islands to Starboard.
In retrospect, it is pretty amazing that we have arrived and are watching BBC. In some respects, it is even more amazing than when you arrive on a 747. Traveling from America to Europe at bicycle speed (about 21 knots) gives you a new appreciation of the true distances involved. Airplanes, like cars, tend to exaggerate distance and make travel seem impossible by any other mode.
Speaking of bikes, Elec brought me down to his workshop in the engine room to pump up my flat tire (I accidentally shipped all my tools-oops). We successfully pumped it up to about 30 psi- not ideal- but hopefully it will get me and all my luggage to the nearest bike shop, and then to the train station. Even though I rode in a car in Montreal, it was only a secondary trip. I’m still trying to go car-free for the primary legs of the voyage….
To express my appreciation for the crew and the officers, I burned them a mix CD with many of my favorite songs, with one CD dedicated to dance songs. The Malaga’s next destination after Antwerp will be the Bahamas, and then Chile, so now they can get down and groove on their way to South America. I’ve developed some close friendships with the crew, and I will definitely miss hanging out with them. Several of the crew have invited me to visit them in the Phillipines, which I may take them up on one of these days.
Tomorrow I will disembark from the Malaga having learned much about seafaring and the container shipping industry. As such, I’ve decided to list the top eleven things I’ve learned, so here goes:
Top Eleven Things I’ve Learned About Seafaring and the Container Shipping Industry
11) Even large freighters are tossed around quite a bit even when the ocean looks relatively calm (5 meter, or 15 foot swells don’t look like you’d imagine them)
10) The ship has its own desalination plant (who knew?).
9) Even freighter vessels have swimming pools (though no women in bikinis unfortunately).
8) The ship has an emergency submersion beacon that sends an alarm if the ship sinks so fast that no one has a chance to send an SOS.
7) The massive compression engine has no spark plugs- it simply compresses the bunker oil until it explodes- no spark required.
6) Throwing glass, cardboard, and food waste overboard more than 25 miles from shore is legal (never plastic).
5) You can open one of the portholes in your cabin, and there is a rope ladder in case of emergency evacuation.
4) Freighters sink down about 20 feet when fully loaded.
3) I saw birds every day, even in the middle of the ocean (don’t they get tired?)
2) Ping Pong is far preferred to billiards as a pastime, for obvious reasons
and the number one thing I learned aboard the Malaga:
1) Karaoke on board a freighter vessel is even worse than I imagined……
All in all, I’ve had an incredible time onboard (well….except for the Karaoke and Day 5- see the Challenges at Sea entry). What an incredible way to travel. And surprisingly I was almost never bored, unlike sitting on an airplane, which can be 12 hours of torture. I’ll definitely travel this way again, and recommend it to anyone with a sense of adventure.
University of the West of England, here I come!!