“Drinking Wine at the Captain’s Table.” My journey by container ship, Part 3.

19.01.18 | Pacific Ocean, Sabbatical, Travel

The third article extracted from “Revolutions” about travelling on a container ship. Ever wondered what it’s like to drink wine at the Captain’s Table whilst crossing the Pacific Ocean?

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (09)
Reading time: 7 minutes.

“Drinking Wine at the Captain’s Table.”

The third part of my journey

across the Pacific Ocean by Container Ship.

Today is Day 40 and exactly half of my trip around the world is done.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (01)

I slept well but kept being intermittently woken, as the rain battered the side of the ship in the night and noisily rattled on the metal containers. However I feel at peace with everything, including the sound of the rain. My mood is very similar to how I felt in the second week of the retreat in India. I must bottle it up and sell it.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (02)
2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (03)
2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (04)

After breakfast, I spend some time on the Bridge again. As it was yesterday, the sky is totally grey and misty. The rain has stopped but visibility is very poor. I can see only slightly further than the front of the vessel. It’s quite a shock to see a vessel of this size relentlessly moving forward into the unknown.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (05)

The crew has to trust in the electronic equipment more than ever and, with the poor visibility, my appreciation for the seamen and seawomen increases. It’s fascinating to think how the great explorers, the captains and the pilots of the past discovered the new worlds by means of rutter and map (often created as they went), by memory, by word-of-mouth and by the sun and the stars.

By mid-afternoon, I’m back on the Bridge.

On the radar screen, I can see that we are currently passing Aguti Island, one of the Ratt Islands, which is about ten nautical miles to port side, but, in this weather, I cannot see it outside. In an hour or so, we will leave the North Pacific Ocean for the Bering Sea.

It’s the choppiest day so far, the vessel pitching in the strong winds.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (08)

I find the motion and atmosphere inside akin to flying (although it could be the constant noise of the heating and ventilation), but, unlike flying and more like train travel, the motion just makes me sleepy.

My treat for having the same day twice – as tomorrow will also be Saturday 15th March in honour of our crossing of the International Date Line – is to begin watching Michael Palin’s “Around the World in 80 Days” on DVD. Palin did his trip in 1988 when I was twenty years old and I had just moved to London, which was the extent of my horizons at that time. It’s quite emotional to think that in another forty days I too will be a circumnavigator of the world. (I’ve been called worse!)

Day 41 is Saturday 15th March all over again!

This is so funny. From being twelve hours ahead of the UK, I’m now twelve hours behind. I’ve lost twelve hours in my travels so far, with the time advancing each time I’ve crossed a time zone going eastwards. Today I get credited all these twelve hours back, plus I get another twelve, which I will lose as I continue my journey eastwards back to my starting point.

On the Bridge after breakfast, there is nothing to see outside, just a blurred line where the grey ocean meets the grey sky at the horizon.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (06)

Mid-morning, the Captain calls me to check on my welfare. He is concerned that some passengers get very bored with nothing to do on a working vessel. I tell him it’s perfect and that I’m enjoying the solitude, my writing, my reading and especially the food, although I’ve had to cut back as it’s too good. He politely invites me for a beer and to eat with the officers at noon tomorrow for the traditional Sunday meal. He will also organise a trip to the engine room and one to the outside decks.

This evening I continue watching Palin. On his voyage across the Pacific Ocean, also on a container ship, the crew played bingo for entertainment. Now in the Officers’ Recreation Room they have PlayStations. Palin is bored on his container ship voyage, whereas I love every minute of this. I do think this had a lot to do with Palin being on Day 58 with only twenty two to go and he was frustrated with the slow life jarring against the need to meet his deadlines. I have done half of my trip, with half to go, and I’m not stressed at all. Of course, our journeys are very different, not only in our routes, but Palin was in a race against time whereas I’m not. As a reward for crossing the International Date Line, Palin was given an initiation ceremony by the crew which involved having dyes thrown at him and him having to drink some awful concoction.

At dinner, the Ship’s Mate gives me a new bottle of wine. I think I am getting the better deal. Life is wonderful.

Around three o’clock in the morning, I wake up. There’s a bright light outside the window. For some reason, I’d forgotten to close one of the blinds. When I open the curtains further and look out of the window, there’s a bright white light shining on the black ocean. I follow the beam to its source. There’s a huge full, white moon shining down on to the sea. With the movement of the water, it’s like someone is shining a giant torch with a shaky hand.

It looks beautiful out there on the ocean.

With the time zone adjustments, it’s harder to work out when to sleep. I’ve moved forward four hours already on the voyage, gone back twenty-four and have five more hours to adjust between now and Seattle.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (10)

I’m about to go for breakfast, however as I open the blinds and curtains, the night has given way to the day and directly out of my window is the snowy, white peaked island of Akutan. This is the first of the islands that mark our passage from the Bering Sea back to the Pacific Ocean, through the Unimak Pass.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (11)

I look further out and the sun is breaking over the Alaskan islands further to the east. I forget breakfast and take the stairs up to the Bridge. The visors are down on the windows as the early morning sun is already glaring off the containers at the front of the ship. The poor visibility of the last few days has been replaced by a bright and clear blue sky. The sharp sun makes the various colours of the containers brighter, as though they’ve been jet washed in the night.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (12)
2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (13)

In the distance, the sun shines just above the snow covered volcanic mountains of the Aleutian Islands. Directly ahead, there is a small fishing vessel and, further out, as though it may sail off the edge of the world, a container ship sits as far on the horizon as it could possibly be.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (14)

At half past nine, we’re at the mid-point of Unimak Pass. The small island of Akun is starboard side and the bigger island of Unimak itself is port side. These Alaskan Islands look like icebergs rising out of the deep water.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (15)
2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (16)

The swell of the sea is high today too and the movement of the vessel can be felt in all directions. By lunchtime, the weather has changed dramatically. The sky is darker and there are low clouds hovering over the sea. The sun tries to break through behind it, forcing rays of light on the sea behind it. The ship is now rolling, rather than pitching, as the swell and the wind catch the aft of the vessel causing us to rock from side to side.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (17)
2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (19)

Today is lunch with the Captain and the Officers.

I join them for a pre-meal beer in the Officers’ Recreation Room. It’s a traditional Sunday lunch complete with roast beef and red wine. It’s really pleasant and they all speak English to accommodate me. They are such a good bunch, but I notice, even at dinner, rank is observed. Everyone takes their lead from the Captain but the Chief Engineer is also given great respect. They’re all dressed casually, but still wear their white officer shirts with their wings that denote their seniority. It amuses me that, even here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the majority of us have shaved for the first time on the voyage as a mark of respect for the traditional Sunday meal. The junior officers are quieter and sit at one end of the table, whereas the senior officers dominate conversation and sit at the other end.

The Captain and Chief Engineer warn me that the rolling of the ship will continue probably all the way to Seattle. They also explain that the constant growling outside, that I had assumed to be the wind on the containers, is actually the movement of the containers. The containers sit on adjusting bases which are allowed to move slightly with the movement of the ship. There is coffee in the Recreation Room afterwards and the Chief Mate, Second Engineer and I chat for a while about football. The Chief Mate can be quite surly at work, as he is the one who has to implement the Captain’s Orders, but today he is very engaging.

2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (18)
2014 03 15 Container Ship Part 3 (20)

For all of us, it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The weather brightens up by evening. I have some cheese and wine and finish watching the Palin series, happily enjoying life. The Captain was right about the ship rolling.

What the Captain didn’t tell me was that it becomes very hard to drink my wine as the glass continually slides along the table. Such are the extent of my worries with life on board.

This is the third article extracted and adapted from my book “Revolutions” that was supposed to be featured on GoNomad.com. GoNomad requested these articles after the first one was published in July and have promised month after month to publish the second one but it has never happened. I have given up waiting and so now they are here to read.

This is the first article in the series: “Alone on the Ocean. The beginning of my journey across the Pacific Ocean by container ship”.

This is the second article in the series: “Dodging Icebergs in the Pacific Ocean. My journey by container ship, Part 2″.

Sign in to receive the latest news and updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This