Category Archives: UK or Bust: San Francisco to Bristol Car/ Plane Free

These entries describe my 3 week overland trip between San Francisco California and Bristol United Kingdom

BBC Covers My Plane Free Journey from S F

Here’s the BBC coverage of my plane free journey from October 2006, uploaded to youtube with sound included finally…

UK Media Picks Up My Story



The last few days have been a bit of a whirlwind around here, with media knocking on the door, and the phone ringing off the hook. My new roommates have been very good natured putting up with it all- two of them were even filmed riding their bikes and listening to me playing guitar as part of the feature on BBC Points West TV news, so they got some exposure out of it (yes you have nice legs Alastair I think the whole Southwest of England will agree).


You also may have noticed that I’ve changed the name of this blog to “On the Level- Car Free Blog” This is a reference to staying firmly rooted to the ground by deciding to forgo air travel, the pleasure of a flat grade for bicycles and trains, and of course straight talk about the reality of transport in the 21st Century.


Anyway, all the fuss started last Friday when the UWE Press Officer convinced me to send out a press release (ok i admit it didn’t take much convincing). Soon BBC and ITV news teams both had camera crews on the way, and the newspapers and radio weren’t far behind. It seems to have been a case of good timing , with local debate about the Bristol Airport Expansion raging and An Inconvenient Truth just having arrived in the UK. People are thinking about the environmental impacts of air travel perhaps more than they ever have before, which is a good thing. The BBC even compared me to Al Gore! (Although An Inconvenient Truth is a very necessary and timely film, why didn’t Al do more and speak out when he ran the country?)


All in all, I think it was positive exposure about climate change, and hopefully people took away something other than the fact that there’s this San Francisco hippie preaching about the evils of cars and airplanes. Talk about the media sensationalizing something, the Evening Post (sadly a tabloid is the major “newspaper” of Bristol) reported “green student VOWS NEVER to fly again” In reality, what I said on the press release was that I’m “giving up” flying. (much as you give up any bad habit, like “giving up” smoking, for example)


The most annoying question I was asked repeatedly was, “you don’t actually expect people to follow your example and give up flying entirely do you?” (I mean people HAVE to fly- it’s our RIGHT as human beings to load up the atmosphere with carbon so we can take cheap beach holidays with EasyJet!) In response to BBC Radio Birmingham DJ Danny Kelly’s question, “what would you do if a future Mrs. Hart wanted to go on a beach holiday? I mean this (not flying) would be pretty limiting wouldn’t it? I responded that it’s now an open question whether there will even BE a beach to fly to within a generation or two, because of sea level rise. Besides, I’m sure that any future Mrs. Hart would be happy to take the train with me- we could even get a compartment– ooh baby.


I mean, what WILL we say when the beach goes away? Oh well we had tumble dryers, SUV’s, cheap flights cheap plastic shit- I say it was WORTH it! (credit to Polyp’s cartoon)

We are working on getting the DVD of the BBC broadcast, as it far outstripped the ITV broadcast for investigative journalism and content, and will post it on Youtube eventually. For now though, you can read the two articles and the original press release by following the links below. 🙂


Media Coverage:




ITV Bristol: 2 substantial teasers during the day, 1

live in studio interview

BBC Points West: Segment on Evening News




Star Radio interview

BBC Bristol in studio interview

BBC Birmingham interview with Danny Kelly


Print/ Web




Original Press Release on UWE site

Hero UK Higher Education Site

Article in Evening Post

Article in Western Daily Press

Yahoo News UK

The Green Guy: Ethical Consumer

SF Bicycle Coalition: Biker Bulletin

Venue: Bristol and Bath’s Magazine

Yorkshire Post

Dundee Courier and Advertiser

Birmingham Post

Lancashire Evening Post

Swindon Advertiser

Edinburgh Evening News

Sunderland Echo

Liverpool Echo

UK or Bust: Arriving by Bike in London!

img_6398.jpg        img_6386.jpg

Day 23

1:56pm London Time



Location: Grandmother’s house, London England Weather: Sunny, warm, beautiful London day

Speed: O knots 🙂


Yesterday afternoon, the Malaga pulled into the whirlwind of activity that is the Port of Antwerp. Surrounded by huge factories and power plants belching smoke, and huge piles of coal, we came through a huge lock, and finally pulled up alongside our designated pier. At once, a massive refueling barge pulled up next to the Malaga, refueling her for her next voyage to the Bahamas, and then to Africa.


I waited patiently for about an hour to get clearance to disembark- it was about 2pm by this time, and I was thinking about making it to London that day rather than having to stay a night in Belgium. I hurriedly said goodbye and thank you to the crew of the Malaga, and finally carried my bike, guitar, empty suitcase, and 4 panniers off the ship, waiting patiently for a shuttle to drive me to the Port entrance. While I waited, a huge crane rolled on tracks within inches of me and my luggage, already getting in place to offload our 1000 container cargo. All around me, huge cranes transferred containers, huge machines on stilts rolled rapidly around amongst piles of containers like ants carrying their precious bread crumbs. And the Port stank- I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I felt in the way, and out of place amongst all that massive machinery.


The whole Port operation was staggeringly huge and looked like an alien invasion, or some scene out of star wars (the container port cranes were actually the inspiration for those big walking mechanical beasts in Empire Strikes Back). Very surreal. I was about to mount my bike and ride through the chaos when a van finally pulled up, loaded my bike, and drove me to the Port entrance, giving me directions on how to ride into Antwerp Centrum, and get a train.


I rode out of the Port with my heavy load, taking the lane on a two lane roadway with container trucks passing fast and furious on my left. Finally, a concerned guy in a Ford Fiesta leaned out his window and suggested I take the adjacent bike path. He was clearly worried for my safety, so I thanked him, and moved over to the pathway, which I had thought was just a sidewalk. The bikeway became better surfaced, better marked, and featured bike traffic signals as I neared the center of Antwerp. All in all, about a 10 mile ride. Fun to be in Europe riding my bicycle around.


As I entered the city, I smiled and asked directions of attractive girls on Dutch style bikes sharing the bike lane with me, and eventually found the station, where I was told that to take my bike on the Eurostar from Brussels to London, I would need to check in at least 24 hours in advance. My heart sank, as I just wanted to get to London at that point and see my family.


I decided to tale a train to Brussels, and see what I could do to get to London that evening, knowing I would probably have to find accommodation there. I hopped on a clean, fast, quiet train to Brussels (they leave every twenty minutes) and was on my way past tidy suburbs, quaint villages, and rolling fields and medieval churches. What a difference from the aged, slow Amtrak! I got to Brussels and bought a ticket on the Eurostar leaving at 5pm- no problem about the bike- just cost 25 Euro extra. Then I was on the train flying through Belgium at an incredible 300km/hr, through the tunnel, then pulling into London, which was leafier and greener than I remembered, the feeling of coming home, and a journey about to be completed. I claimed my bike, popped on my Ortlieb panniers, hoisted my trusty guitar on my back, and then I was flying through London traffic, joining the thousands of other bike commuters on their way home, and trying to remember to keep to the left.


Over the Vauxhall bridge, by Victoria station, passing by Buckingham Palace, then I was on familiar ground as I made my way through Hyde Park, waiting with a crowd of about 40 cyclists, as American suburban tourists gaped in awe from tour buses at the unfamiliar transport mix in the capitol city. I felt buoyant and invigorated, a bit wild as I tried to stay in my lane on the pathway through Hyde Park, sometimes unsuccessfully (as oncoming cyclists yelled at me- so sorry old chap!). Then it was out onto Edgeware Road and pulling into my grandma’s street, I had arrived! I pulled up to my grandmother’s house, she threw her arms around me, and said, “I can’t believe it!!!”. It was so good to see her, and now I am in London, building a new life for myself, excited about starting my Masters program in a week.


So did I achieve my goal of getting from San Francisco to London without the use of a plane or a car? Yes and no. For my basic journey, I only used a vehicle when required by Port staff at Antwerp and Montreal to get through the Port areas safely. But I did hop in a car once on a side trip for Vietnamese food in Montreal (what can I say? its my weakness), and once to get a cab back to the Port of Montreal after being out late. But I walked ten miles the next day as penance for my sin.


Nevertheless, I am so glad that I had this adventure, meeting so many great people along the way, and experiencing the geography between SF and London in such a different way than I usually do. Now I’m starting a different kind of adventure, one that will bring me into contact with some of the best minds in the world working on our biggest transport problems, and I can’t wait to get started!! Thanks for following my adventures, and keep posted as I will continue updating this blog regularly.


Cheerio for now, everyone!

UK or Bust: Land in Sight!!

Day 21

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!!

UK or Bust: The Great Fossil Fuel Burning Beast

Day 20

Time: 5:06pm Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)

Location: 380 nautical miles SW of Land’s End, Cornwall

Weather: Sunny, 2 metre swells, slight breeze



I made peace with the German engineer crew, and went down to the engine room this afternoon to get acquainted with the beast that is powering us, and our 1000 container cargo, to Antwerp. Holy shit. It is a behemoth. I had to wear ear plugs as well as larger ear protectors (affectionately called Mickey Mouse ears by the crew) before entering the engine room, a cavernous expanse of gleaming steel, whirring motors, dials, switches, and the constant smell and sheen of fuel oil coating almost everything, despite the crew’s best efforts to keep things clean.


I asked the head engineer how much fuel it takes to power us from Montreal to Antwerp, and he told me about 60,000 litres of bunker oil PER DAY, so 9 days x 60,000 litres is about 540,000 litres of bunker oil needed to get 1000 containers and 23 people between North America and Europe. 540,000 litres is roughly 135,000 gallons. Assuming (conservatively) that each gallon equals 25 lbs. of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere when burned, this equals out to 3,375,000 lbs. of carbon for our crossing. That’s 135 gallons of bunker oil, or 3,375 lbs. of carbon dioxide per container.


Also this figure does not include the massive fossil fuel consumption at the ports, getting the containers on and off the ship, and to and from their final destination by road or rail.


The Malaga has six massive fuel tanks, and contains enough fuel for a roundtrip between N. America and Europe, so it only has to refuel in Antwerp. All that fuel most likely comes from places like Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Iran, where it contributes to corruption, political instability, environmental disaster, and human suffering. And that’s not even mentioning the refineries, which are typically located in neighborhoods that are home to low-income, people of color. So fucked up.


It’s pretty clear that the international shipping industry contributes massively to global climate chaos, and our collective dependence on fossil fuel. And it is largely hidden from public view. Yet most of everything we consume, from toothbrushes, to food, electronics, and clothing, passes through the container shipping network, and each item has its own share of the overall massive impact of this power hungry industry.


Think about that the next time you go to the mall or the grocery store. Supporting locally made or grown goods is not just a hip lifestyle- our lives truly depend on it- Planet Earth simply cannot take another fifty years of “free” trade and globalization. Now what we need more than ever is LOCALization.


One glimmer of hope in the intl. shipping industry is that a German company (not NSB, who owns the Malaga) has plans to supplement the oil powered engines with giant sails that would take advantage of trade winds. While not entirely replacing the oil needs of container ships, these gargantuan sails have the potential to significantly reduce the fossil fuel consumption, and thus carbon dioxide emissions, of international shipping. Not enough in and of itself to solve the climate crisis, but a piece in the puzzle to be sure.


Tagay and Prost to that!!! (Cheers in Tagalog and Deutsch)

UK or Bust: Refuge at the Bow

Day 19

8:20pm Reykjavík – Iceland (GMT) Time

Location: About 450 nautical miles west of Spain

Weather: Whitecaps, about 4-5 metre swells

Speed: 21.4 knots

I spent the morning out on the bow of the ship with my guitar. The only sounds up there are the waves crashing against the hull and the wind whistling. In fact, it’s the only place on the ship where I can tune my guitar, as the vibrations of the engine interfere with my electronic tuner back in the accommodation. It’s also the only place on the ship where you can’t smell gasoline, oil, or exhaust. It’s really peaceful, and hardly anyone else comes up there. Leaning over the railing, gazing down at the ship gliding over the water passing underneath, it feels as if you are flying. Kinda cheezy, but it reminds me of that romantic scene from Titanic, except on this voyage, Leonardo (ha! hardly…) is going solo….

I ran into the engine crew in the officer’s lounge right before lunch and patched things up. I have a tour scheduled for 3:30pm tomorrow, and all is good.

I was hanging out with the crew after dinner, and they were smoking and singing bad karaoke, and I just couldn’t hang, so I’ve retired to my cabin to read my book.

I’ve been listening to Metric, a great band from Montreal. In addition to some great music, they have timely, relevant lyrics:

“buy that car to drive to work

drive to work to pay for that car….”

and “buy less- use less- we’re asking for too much I guess…”

I went to the Metric show at the Fillmore in SF, and the place was packed with teenieboppers. You know when teenieboppers are bopping to lyrics like these, that the movement has gone mainstream…

UK or Bust: Challenges at Sea

Day 18

7:04pm Mid-Atlantic Time

Location: About 150 miles northwest of the Azores

Weather: about 4 metre swells (relatively calm, though the wind is blowing and it has been overcast all day, and has just started to rain)



This has been the most challenging day so far at sea, to be honest. First of all, I partied with the crew last night which was actually really fun- we watched Guns n’ Roses and Shakira DVDs and sang karaoke, and I probably had one too many Becks…. and then before I fell asleep last night, I opened the window in my cabin in order to get some fresh air. Well I woke up at some point in the morning gasping for breath, as my whole cabin had filled with noxious smoke from the ship’s smokestacks. Apparently the wind shifted, and it must have taken me a while to wake up, because I felt really poisoned when I finally woke up and shut the window. Ugh.


Even with the window closed, in the accommodation block there is always at least the hint of fuel oil exhaust. That, combined with the cigarette smoke from the officers and crew (some of the crew and most of the officers smoke) makes the air quality less than pristine in the best of circumstances.


I ate dinner with the German officers this evening, and they and the other passenger Barbara were speaking in German, so I decided to read my book and keep to myself. I’ve been giving the cook veggie burgers to replace the pork and beef with, as I usually don’t eat much red meat. Well I’ve run out of veggie burgers, so I was forced to eat their beef, which wasn’t the best.


Yesterday, I had asked one of the engineers about touring the engine room. They told me the best time to come down was 2pm. Apparently they considered this an appointment for a tour, whereas I understood it as simply a possible time to come by for a visit. Anyway, being poisoned the night before by said engine, needless to say I was not too enthusiastic to get closer to the great fossil fuel burning beast (albeit a beast that is powering us to Europe) so I decided to give it a miss. I probably should have told them, but I didn’t.


At dinner, one of the engineers who looks a little like a member of the Addams Family, suddenly switched into English: “Hey YOU! Where were you this afternoon for your tour of the engine room???” I said, “oh sorry I thought I told you I would maybe come by..” He replied in a gruff tone, “no MAYBE about it blah blah blah…..”


I was pretty pissed off that he was speaking to me like some junior deckhand. I said, “I’m sorry I missed the tour but I think it’s inappropriate the way you are speaking to me. I’m paying a lot of money to be here and the least you can do is to treat me with respect!” I felt good about standing up for myself, but at the same time, a little apprehensive about rocking the proverbial boat when we still have 4 days out in the Atlantic together.


Ultimately it was just a misunderstanding, and I will speak to the guy and hopefully smooth things over, but the German officers can be quite gruff at times. The Filipino crew are generally very friendly, and I have been getting on very well with them.


We’ll see how it goes the next few days- I guess this is the midpoint of the voyage, so we’re getting there- hopefully the remainder of the trip will be more pleasant than today!

UK or Bust: Endorphins, Flying Fish, and Burning Man Rant

Day 17

10:39pm Ponta Delgada – Portugal time

Location: About 400 miles southeast of Grand Banks (where the film The Perfect Storm was set)

Weather: 1.5 metres swell



After lunch, I went up the bow, and tried jump roping and dancing around while listening to my ipod playing electronica thinking about Burning Man which is currently raging in the Nevada desert.


Speaking of Burning Man, I was glad to read that a group of burners is attempting to spread awareness about BM’s climate impacts, and even make Burning Man “carbon neutral,” attempting to absorb all the carbon from the RV’s trucks, cars, generators and er….burning men. As things stand now, Burning Man, fun though it may be for those attending, is no fun at all for those whose houses and towns are being destroyed by rising sea levels and stronger storms resulting from all that carbon being emitted into the atmosphere. Creating a temporary city of 30,000 people, with all their crap, in the middle of the desert for a week, can in no way be considered low impact. In my opinion (and this might change if I ever actually attended) Burning Man is a disgusting hedonist planet destroying indulgence fest for those with nothing better to do over labor day. I’m sure my burner friends will send me lots of hate mail for this, but that’s just the way I feel. When oil prices rise, and the true scope of the climate crisis becomes clear, Burning Man in its current manifestation, will be over. Likely to replace it are a series of local celebrations of music, art, dancing and culture that don’t require long distance car, air, or RV travel. Why not move in this direction now, without having outside circumstances force the organizers hand?


As far as attempts to buy carbon credits, to offset emissions from Burning Man, I think this is largely bullshit. Trees are planted to theoretically absorb a given amount of carbon over the course of their lifetimes. However, climate change is already killing forests, and there is no guarantee that these poor saplings will ever get the chance to absorb the sins of Burnings past. The only way to realistically deal with the looming threat of climate chaos is to STOP OR AT LEAST REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF FOSSIL FUELS WE BURN. Oh well, at the very least, the Cooling Man effort will raise awareness, and could lead to stronger efforts in the future. Check it out at


And to be fair, groups like Burners Without Borders have done great work traveling to Louisiana and volunteering to aid Katrina victims etcetera. But it’s still better not to spill the milk in the first place rather than make heroic efforts to mop it up…..


So anyway, it was great to get some exercise. I’ve been lying around for the past couple of days, reading and watching movies, and I began to feel a little like a blob. After dancing around on the deck, looking very silly, I went down to the exercise room and rode the stationary bicycle for a half an hour, sweating like a pig as it was warm in there, being right above the engine room. It’s easy to forget sometimes how good it feels to exercise, and I feel sorry for the millions of people out there who are missing out on that great endorphin high, sitting in a traffic jam or in front of their TV’s eating processed food. Get out there and ride your bike people!!!! It’s fun!


Right now I’m sitting in the crew’s lounge, with a couple of very drunk German officers, and Warren, an AB (able-bodied seaman) watching a DVD of Shakira, drinking beer and celebrating Friday Night!!!! I saw flying fish earlier- thought they were birds at first, but they disappeared underneath the sea. Pretty cool…….I’ve never seen that before.

UK or Bust: Seasick!

Day 16

8:17pm Grytviken – South Georgia time

About 100 miles southeast of Newfoundland

Speed: 21 knots

Swells: 5 metres



The ship was really rocking and swaying when I woke up this morning. I was feeling a little funny when I went down for breakfast, but felt a lot worse trying to eat the eggs and toast that were set in front of me. I left half of them, and returned to my cabin, where I lost the other half. I felt much better after that, though, thank God. Spent the day in bed, read most of Ben Elton’s Gridlock, which is hilarious- he sends up the road lobby so well. Would be really funny if it weren’t so true and scary. Well recommended though.


I skipped lunch, ate a peanut butter and banana sandwich from the food I brought on board, and napped through much of the afternoon. I guess I’m going to have to get used to this rocking and rolling- there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it- sometimes we roll forward, then diagonal, then left and right. Helps to look at the horizon, though this is difficult when in the stairwell without any windows.


The crew and officers have been very sympathetic, and all have given me their own recommended cures: drink lots of water and eat lots of food, get fresh air, eat dry biscuits, look at the horizon, and take dramamine. The last suggestion I’m holding out against unless I really need it. I’m feeling a lot better this evening, even though the swells have remained, which is a good sign I suppose.


At dinner, I was sitting with the Electrician, Ariel (or Elec as everyone calls him), pictured above. He is such a nice guy, and has made me feel right at home onboard. One of the officers, a guy named Bernie, extinguished his cigarette and came to sit down next to us. He is from a border town between France and Germany, and he was happy to have someone to speak French with. It turns out he served in Algeria and Vietnam for the French forces and witnessed some pretty horrible things that he still has nightmares about til this day. The Algerians killed three of his friends in front of him, stabbed him repeatedly, and cut out one of his “eggs” as he put it. Ouch. When he decided to withdraw from the Army, he was given a dishonorable discharge, and says he will never fire a weapon again in his life. Though he understands why the Algerians wanted to have their freedom, he still says he hates Muslims, and started going off on religious hatred, when Elec, the Jehovah’s Witness, calmed him down, reminding him that killing in the name of religion is a bad thing.


Bernie left us, and I asked Elec whether there were ever fights onboard. He pointed to a scar on his forehead, and explained that he had tried to break up a fight amongst drunken crewmembers, and had been attacked himself, long ago.


After dinner, I wandered up to the bridge, to ask if I could walk out to the bow. They said no, that it was too dangerous, that it was evening and that there wasn’t any crew up there to help if I got into trouble. I hung out outside the bridge, taking in the vast expanses of ocean on all sides, and watching the huge ship rolling over the swells.


I haven’t seen much sea life- the seagulls have disappeared now, but I did see a couple of what looked like starlings gliding and flirting around each other in the wind. I think they may be using the ship as an “island” as I saw them hanging out near the bow.


It’s pretty amazing that 2/3 of the planet is covered by ocean, yet most of us have little direct experience of it. Being out here gives me renewed appreciation for the early mariners who lacked all the safety, communications equipment and weather info we have at our fingertips today. Such a vast expanse of water- it must be terrifying to be out there in a lifeboat on your own.

UK or Bust: Tagalog, Table Tennis, and Open Ocean

Day 14

9:28pm Nuuk Greenland Time


I woke up to a dreary, grey, rainy day at the mouth of the St. Lawrence. Yet still the sea was calm, and there was hardly any motion of the ship. I saw a family of dolphins this morning jumping out of the water alongside the Malaga. At breakfast I ate with the Filipino crew, in the crew’s mess hall. They set a place for me with in the officers mess, but the German officers are more reserved than the crew, and I find I’m more comfortable, and have more interesting conversations with the crew. I’ve been slowly learning names, as well as some Tagalog, like salamat for thank you. The electrician, a man named Ariel (we call him Elec), is quite intelligent, and speaks good English, and was telling me about being a Jehovah’s Witness. I’ve also had good conversations with Joelas, Cirillo, Regner, Warren, and Mario. I played my guitar a little, and the cook especially was fascinated- he’s saving up for an Ibanez electric himself.


This afternoon when it got sunny, I took my thermarest, a bottle of water and beer, and headed up to the bow, where it is quiet because it is far away from the engine, and the refrigerated containers whose fans make a lot of noise. There’s never anyone up there, and it’s a nice place to reflect. It’s a wonderful feeling of freedom feeling the salt spray and the wind, leaning over the railing and watching as we glide across the water. It’s also a little unnerving to think that if I fell overboard, most likely no one would ever notice and that would be that. I fell asleep in the sun on the deck for a while, and then read some of my Ben Elton book, Gridlock. I decided that a week at sea (the captain estimates arrival in Antwerp on Sept. 5th) won’t be so bad, quite relaxing actually.


After dinner, I joined the crew for a few games of table tennis downstairs in the gym. They’re quite competitive, but very good natured, and I shared my case of beer with them. They tell me they will fill the pool with sea water tomorrow, so I can go for a swim (just gotta watch for sharks).


I can stop by the bridge any time I want, and they have multiple printers and faxes spitting out the latest weather conditions in the Atlantic, and computers plotting the course. It’s like having your own personal NOAA.


We are passing just to the south of Newfoundland, and there are now swells in the ocean. I began to feel a little queasy, so I put on my anti-nausea wristbands, and ate a couple of ginger candies. Hopefully that’ll do the trick. Tomorrow when I wake up, we’ll really be out in the Atlantic Ocean.