Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Making Landfall

We just made landfall this afternoon and expect to be past Land's End UK
this morning when I get up for watch. We will spend all day tomorrow
transiting the English Channel and are due to arrive in Germany at a
reasonable eight AM on Friday morning. The Channel is a pretty
incredible body of water when it comes to shipping. So much cargo moves
from the North Sea to Lands End everyday coming in and out of all the
ports in between. Not only is there deep sea shipping, including the
behemoths that can call only on Rotterdam in this part of the world but
there is also a huge amount of Short Sea Shipping plying the coastal
routes as well as fast ferries, fishermen, and recently the protesting
French fishermen. The Captain laid down some ground rules based on
personal experience and past casualties for the third mate and myself.
We have both handled traffic in the Straits of Korea, Malacca,
Gibraltar, and Hormuz but this will be his first and my third run at the
Channel. I get a little excited when I contemplate all the scenarios
that could arise as I'm on watch for the next two days.

We've received our working schedule delineating the hours the
stevedoring company has been hired for. Most of the cargo onboard, BMWs,
Jeep Cherokees, shrink wrapped boats, and what are called house hold
goods are destined for our first port of Bremerhaven, so we will be
spending the most time of our four ports in Germany. Cargo will run all
day Friday and the discharge should end on Saturday making room for the
cargo that is slated for shipment back to the United States. Luckily for
us the crew, our company would rather not pay the premium rate for
Sunday labor and will instead keep us idle at the berth until Monday
when we will resume and finish loading. This means four; count them,
four full days in Germany with only two and a half days of cargo
operations. For a Roll On Roll Off vessel this is absolutely unheard of!
I'm stoked for some sight seeing in Coastal Germany this weekend, a
country I've never been to in a continent I've hardly visited. On top of
that, if the Germans make it into the Euro Cup this week and play this
weekend it's more than likely there won't be anyone in the port of
Bremerhaven Monday morning to work cargo anyway so we may get five days!

Yes it's the little things in the shipping life that make a difference.
Between my twelve-hour watches in port and getting just enough sleep to
get up and do it again I'll probably max out my shore time at about six
hours per day. This is enough time to get one or two of the Red Star
Heinekens I've heard so much about and still get some shopping and
emailing in before having to hike back to the ship and crash out. Hiking
in fact is my favorite thing to do when I'm off the boat for such short
amounts of time. I'm constantly disappointed when my walking buddy walks
right into the first bar and I'm left to trek an unknown city alone but
I'll still do it solo knowing that bars always look the same when cities
rarely do. I've covered some ground in three or four hours in places
like Ulsan, Kobe, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and Livorno. Having six or more,
and a few days at that makes me feel like I'm going on vacation. Hope to
send some pictures of the ship and our first port from the American
Seamans Center. Until then, good sleeping.

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