May 28th

Sunday is supposed to be a special day on the boat but with today being a port call in Shanghai and several crew members wanting to go ashore I am not sure what special will mean on this Sunday. I do know that we had croissants for breakfast and that is a Sunday only thing so something was special already.

Last night I was able to introduce the chef to C.P., this is the term we use on the fishing trips when you are not real hungry or don’t want a big serving. It is an abbreviation for Childs Portion. The chef liked that. C.P. I had a CP of spaghetti Bolognese and it was very good. Cheese and fruit to go along with it.

We are drifting outside Shanghai, there is what they term “harbor congestion” so we will be out here for several hours. Shanghai may be one of it not the busiest ports in the world. It is a parking lot outside in the offshore waters. Hundreds of ships of all classification and size are out here, just looking out at the horizon is looks like those fishing shows on TV where all the salmon fisherman are running into each other and frantically trying to find some space. I mean it is crowded.

I still have no idea if we will be given shore passes, it depends on the time we have and if the boat will be tied up long enough. I am getting used to the schedule changes. It reminds me a bit of Los Angeles freeway travel in that you never know how long it will take to get somewhere so you leave hours before you should just to make sure. Usually you need those extra hours. This is on the same level.

I am doing laundry today, there is a washer and dryer on each deck, the mini stacking washer and dryer combo. The washer on my deck is broken so I am washing a deck below and drying up on my deck. I brought enough clothing that I will only need to wash 2 or maybe 3 times on the trip. I have been traveling for 8 days so it was time to clean some stuff.

Laundry done. Cabin all straightened out……plan to go ashore about 1600. We will be on the dock in about 30 minutes and we will remain until 1300 tomorrow. I am going to get my Coke if all goes as planned.

Lunch, well forget the part about the cold kitchen, apparently that will only apply to dinner since the chef will be ashore. Lunch was special, Sunday is a special day. We had smoked salmon as an appetizer, T-Bone steak with mushroom sauce, scalloped potatoes and for dessert an amazing sweet pear with vanilla ice cream drizzled in chocolate sauce and shaved almonds. Every day should be Sunday. I actually will get at least one more Sunday on board. We are due back in Seattle on the following Sunday, the 11th so I will probably not enjoy but one special day on board.

When we arrive at each port, the officials come on board to check documents. There is always a lot of paperwork in China but this is extreme paperwork, they check cargo documents, crew and passenger documents, ship documents, declarations and on and on. When they board all the entries and exits on the ship must be secured and locked. So, for the two hours they are on board I am sequestered to the interior space of the ship, usually meaning my cabin. Now is one of those times, 1400 hours and we are being inspected. Still plan to go ashore at 1600 but this is China and if you know China like I know China, plans can change in a moment. It is never wise to plan on anything in China, you might be disappointed. So, if I receive a call we go, if not, we stay. For the next couple of hours, I will read and enjoy the spacious cabin and its air conditioning. It is hot outside, upper 80’s and steamy humid. I put on shorts again today. I hate walking around in the heat wearing jeans, just too dang hot and uncomfortable.

The crew treats me ok, not great, just ok. The French guys are much friendlier and cordial than the Ukrainians are, I don’t know, maybe it is a Russian thing. I am learning about things as we go along, there really was no orientation other than if you want something talk to the officer on duty. Stay out of the way and don’t do anything stupid. Each stop and departure I learn a little more about how this crew works and where I can be out of the way but still experience the events that are passing. I am an old hand on the fishing boats and know the routine, here not so much yet.

 

It is 1600 and we received shore passes. There are seven crew and myself….off we go to Shanghai.

May 29th

We made it out to Shanghai last night, with the full experience in play. We were taken to town by the shipping company agents. We took two cars because there were eight of us going into town. Our car was a micro van that smelled like motor oil, has no suspension at all and chugged along at a robust top speed of about 35 MPH. The driver was a mid-30’s guy who insisted on playing Chinese disco music at a mind-numbing volume, I think this is a Chinese way of entertaining us? The music was like Giorgio Moroder samples and they all sounded the same just with different singers and different words. At first it was amusing but after 45 minutes it was nauseating.

We were dropped off in the high rent district, across the river from the old Shanghai and what is known as The Bund. I would have preferred to be on the Bund as it is more relaxed and interesting but I was just along for the ride and the crew was fine with letting me tag along. Most of them had never been ashore in China so selfies and lots of picture taking went on. I was amused.

The crew brought a shopping list of things to get for the boat, all electronic related; some new PlayStation controllers, a few new games, some cables and interface connectors and miscellaneous cords and plugs. We wandered around and found a full blown electronic shopping mall and that is for lack of a better description. Basically 3 floors of stalls with tables randomly spread out on each floor. Each vendor specialized in something; laptops, desktops, phones, software, cables and connectors, kind of like an indoor swap meet on three floors and these were big floors. The shopping was hilarious, the French speaking English and the Chinese trying to understand the accents. The French like to bargain but they soon realized that the Chinese are expert negotiators and were going to prevail on each exchange.

A couple of the guys bought wireless Bluetooth headsets and phone cases, they were happy with the prices which were very low compared to back home.

While they checked off their list I snuck off to a convenience store and bought a big Coke and a Snickers bar. Success. My list was complete.

The area where we were in Shanghai is amazing. Big skyscrapers and every Western restaurant you could imagine and a Starbucks on seemingly every block. We walked and the guys took pictures. They decided they may want to go up in one of the observation towers so we began heading to the big buildings. I encouraged them to take a side street and they agreed. One of the guys wanted to buy some fruit so I found a fruit seller and it was game on. My limited Chinese came in very handy and we left with 10 large Fuji apples, some Lee Chi and some Japanese peaches.

We walked and talked and lots of picture taking was done. When we arrived at the big, 100 floor building with an observation floor the guys argued about going up or not going up. The cost put them in a “no” position. The cost was RMB $180, roughly $25 USD, that is a lot of money to ride a long elevator and look at the city. We moved along and they decided they wanted to go to the other, more famous observation tower, the one that is in just about every photo of Shanghai you see. This was built for the sole purpose of being an observation tower, unlike most others that are office buildings with a side business of an observation deck. The walk over was fun and we enjoyed the warm night.

 

When we arrived at the tourist trap known as the Observation tower, the guys were deflated that the price was the same as the first stop. $180RMB, they were quickly understanding how China worked. They went inside the gift shops and I went to the snack stand for a cold Coke and an ice cream bar. It was warm and the comfort of an ice cream bar and cold Coke reminded me of home. Of course, the swarms of people and the calamity of the whole place quickly dashed thoughts of home even though I wanted to think about it.

When the guys finished their shopping, we met up, it was just past 2100 and we were hungry. I would have liked some Chinese comfort food but just followed behind as they chatted in French about food. I was at first convinced they were going to go to a place like TGIFridays or Hooters or some other Western chain restaurant with a Chinese flair. They stopped at each and looked at the menu with no consensus about eating there. I think they were more curious than considering eating there. It was getting late and I told them that most restaurants close at 2200 so we should decide on something and eat.

After much debate and discussion, they decided on a Hot Pot restaurant. I am not a big fan of hot pot, basically a big broth bowl where you purchase vegetables and meats to put inside and cook while you drink beer. Hot pot food really only tastes likes something when you dip it in a sauce. The work of cooking your own food at a restaurant never really sat well with me anyway. I let them order and watched with amusement as they really had no idea what was coming. They tried to use chopsticks and that in itself was enough entertainment for the night out. It was ridiculous. The fumbling and cursing went on for about 10 minutes and so I went to the kitchen and brought back forks. They were all very pleased and then returned with new enthusiasm to the meal. I was picking and just eating easy things to chew, my mouth was bugging me and I really don’t like Hot Pot too much so I just ate a little. I did have another Coke though, so now I was overboard on the Coke for the night.

The restaurant had Wi-Fi and so I was excited to text Dianna and feel a little connected. I miss her and not talking on the phone is hard. We are emailing but it seems like the time lag is so long and a text is instant communication, almost like being connected. That made me happy and it was too short a session as the drivers were coming to return us to the ship. We closed down the restaurant at about 2245, they were glad to see us leave I think.

We needed to walk several blocks to meet our cars and when we did arrive at our rendezvous point the cars had not yet arrived. We stood in an alley and chatted about the evening. I was a bit surprised at how the guys were so relaxed and not a bit like the stereotypical sailor gone ashore stories you hear. They had no desire to be hell raisers or get drunk or chase girls or ask where the bars were. We had a totally tourist evening and they all had things to take back on board.

The cars arrived and despite my hope for an upgrade, we were assigned the same clunker that we came in. We wedged ourselves in and the music immediately began blaring. It was 2345 and no one was really in the mood for bad Chinese disco played loud enough to eradicate any other sound. We endured and laughed about it for it was going to make a lasting memory.

We stepped back on board the ship at 0030 and signed in. We returned our passports to the Chief Officer and they went back into the safe. Funny, we just drove right into the docks with a simple hand gesture and one gate. No customs, immigration, not even a cursory look at who was in the vehicles. China, it never surprises me.

I fell asleep instantly last night despite the banging and clanging of loading. They were loading containers below deck and they make big noise as they bang along the guide posts and into the belly of the ship. It was about 0100 and I was tired.

I awoke at 0630, I would have much rather stayed in bed than get up so early. The small dinner that had worn off in my stomach and the thought of missing an oatmeal morning pushed me out of the bunk and into the shower. I went down to breakfast at 0700 and was the only one in the mess room. While I was eating a couple of guys came in but none of them were members of our excursion last night. I ate oatmeal with honey, some baguette with butter and strawberry jam and washed it down with coffee. The juice was grapefruit and I hate that stuff so I skipped it.

We are due to depart around 1400 hours today. We will make the next run up to Pusan, South Korea and that will be about a 50-hour run. I will not go ashore in Korea; our time is short there and I don’t want to spend any more money off the ship until I get to Seattle.

I will go down to lunch in about 10 minutes, I plan to eat and then take a nap. I think taking a nap is such a luxury, during all those years of working you forget about taking a nap, it never enters your mind actually. I have not had a paying job now for over 3 years and taking a nap has fit into my life quite nicely. I don’t do it regularly but just knowing the option exists somehow makes me feel retired, or unemployed depending on my mood.

I will write again later. Maybe not today. I want to be out of deck when we exit Shanghai and get out into some open water. I am hoping in the next day or two to see blue water. All I have seen to this point is dirty green water and the more prevalent brown muddy water.

 

So just an update on the food scene; lunch was a roasted chicken breast with peas and carrots as a side. Very American.

Dinner was a mixed salad, cod in a beautiful lemon caper sauce, saffron rice and cheese with fruit. I had couple glasses of wine with the cheese, the French do know cheese. It is so dang good. I think after this trip I may just be eating more cheese and fruit after dinner.

We are well under way to Pusan. The company store will open tomorrow. I can get 24 cans of coke for $12. I have a mini fridge in my cabin. If they have some chocolate bars I am going to buy some of those also. The entire crew is awaiting the store opening, they can get beer, liquor, chocolates, sodas and tobacco. The prices are super low and the store has been closed for a week so everyone is ready for sure. I look forward to it.

May 30th

This morning I woke to see the sunrise over the open ocean. We are not exactly in the deep blue yet, we are sailing from China over to Pusan. We are in open water and I was pleased to see the green water slowly change to blue. The water is not exactly what I would call good water, it is a silty blue and there is a lot of Sargasso grass along the way. Many of the floating grass patches have plastic bottles lodged in them and this is a distressing sight to see. At some point the world needs to recognize that plastic has a place but that it is destroying the planet. Of course, we are in a shipping lane and this is a highly-trafficked area of the ocean but that plastic will make it somewhere that it can cause real issues.

I just had some coffee and a bowl of corn flakes this morning. I am not very hungry the last day or so, not much exercise for me in the last week so I just don’t feel like eating much. I will visit the ship store today, take my laptop out on the deck and enjoy the flat sea and the sunny weather. Today seems like a lazy day to me. I have been on board a week now and although from these daily notes it may seem like a long time it actually does not feel like a week, with nothing to remind me of everyday life back home the time passes rather quickly. I am looking forward to the 2 days we have sailing right now, there is a rhythm when we are running that I will need to become familiar with prior to the 12-day run to Seattle.

The ship store opened for about 20 minutes, I bought 24 Cokes and a couple chocolate bars. I think they might open the store one more time before we get to Seattle. I put the soda in my mini fridge and now I can have at least one a day for the rest of the voyage. Nice.

Today I received clean linens for the bunk and clean towels for the bath. This is a weekly thing and I was happy to have clean linens. I don’t sleep under them every night, it is warm and I am sure that as we go north I will be happy to have the comforter. The bedding is Euro style, a fitted sheet and a down comforter inside a case that is the top sheet and blanket in one. They even gave me two pillows which makes me happy.

A very relaxing day in the sun, the water is calm and the weather is warm, we are running about 14 knots and there is almost no sense of movement, just a straight push through the ocean. For lunch, I enjoyed a salad of beets and carrots, beef goulash with roasted potatoes and dessert of pineapple cake with an orange cream sauce. I must say I would probably not put orange and pineapple together in my mind but it was delicious.

I sat on deck and read today. I found the library, books left from previous passengers, it is full of the usual suspects; Clancy, Patterson and Connelly. I watched the Northern China coastline come and go and it was nice to see the voyage making progress. I have discomfort in my mouth today, I am nervous about it but I am cleaning with Peroxide and rinsing, brushing, doing what I can. It bothers me that it causes me concern and takes away from the travel.

I actually took a pain pill today not for the discomfort but to see if it would take my mind off it. Not really, I think it just made me more anxious. Each morning it is a little different and for some reason I keep thinking there will be some catastrophic failure but heck, it has been sutured up now for almost 20 days. Not sure where my head goes and why I cannot be more rationale and less emotional. I have been more emotional in the last year than at any time in my life. That could be a good thing but most of my emotion is not positive.

I just would like to have some more antibiotics, I have enough for 8 more days and the journey is 12. They do no good if you cut back on the dosage. I have been on them for 3 weeks but it makes me feel some sense of ease knowing that if I am taking antibiotics I won’t get an infection that is really bad. This whole thing with the mouth really is the shits.

I decided on just fruit, cheese and a glass of wine for dinner, the main course was a pork chop with sauerkraut and I just was not up for chewing through a tough pork chop. I am a little down so the wine helped…………

May 31st

Arrival in Pusan at 0600.

As today is the last port before we arrive in Seattle I thought I should describe a little about the container loading and unloading process. I have learned a great deal and the Chief Officer has shared his computer programs with me to better understand how it all works.

There is some rather sophisticated programming going on and all the information is very detailed. The containers are loaded based on a 3D modeling program. Each space that can be occupied by a container is assigned an alpha numeric indicator on the model. Since there is space for about 10,000 containers, this is an exact modeling program that accommodates for the placement of each container. There are several parameters to be sorted; refrigerated cargo, dangerous cargo, heavy cargo and then the size of the cargo container. This is all entered into the system and the assignment of location begins. The next step is the discharge location, this is to ensure that a container only needs to loaded and unloaded once. The system takes all the parameters and assigns location along with container identifier numbers, these are the callouts labeled on each container.

The actual loading and unloading is handed off to the individual port, not the carrier. The carrier is not responsible for the loading, unloading or accuracy, they are simply the carrier. This is a liability issue for sure and each port is transferred the load plan electronically prior to arrival so the calculations of berth, time and logistics can be prepared well in advance of actual arrival. Once the ship arrives, all documents are gathered by the port agent and reviewed for compliance, accuracy and customs approval. Then, once this is done, the container loading process begins at a rapid pace. This is usually within 2 hours of docking, depending on the individual port and the amount of traffic.

I have been discussing the process at each port with the Chief Officer and some of the Engineers. They say that as a basis of comparison, each port movement is on the average of 1000 containers. Sometimes that would be 200 off and 800 on, sometimes the other way around. There are times when it is most off or most on but they say that the company is very detailed in how much cargo moves. They have many ships and they usually discharge containers to be picked up by another vessel on another route. The container yards at each port are a distribution step for the carrier. This is very much like flying, you are destined to make a stopover and change planes somewhere along the way. This is the optimization of movement, bringing passengers from many locations together for the final destination. The cargo industry is much the same and it is logistically an amazing revelation. I mean when you load a container in Taichung harbor you immediately imagine it is headed straight to Los Angeles. Not the case in most instances. Your freight could have been loaded and unloaded several times along the way.

The direct routes from Asia to the USA are certainly more frequent and more common but if you are shipping to say Australia from Asia the stops would be more frequent. The average transit time from Asia to the USA is 17 days. The average transit time from Asia to the EU is 28 days. You can imagine the movement and logistics involved.

Each port is unique and on this voyage, I had the chance to see Chinese and Korean operations. The Chinese ports are all modeled the same, if you went to a Chinese port without knowing what city you were in you would have no way to discern the difference. They are all laid out the exact same way.

This makes sense if you understand China. The last 30 years has seen explosive growth in China and they have built countless roads, bridges, infrastructure and entire cities. Many of these new cities are termed “new town” and they are all laid out the same. Same grid structure for roads and the same grid for commercial, residential and mixed use. They are all copies of one another and this makes sense when you are building on a large scale in that you can standardize the process and commercialize the materials, labor and costs for each new project. Of course, the Chinese are the architects of commercialization in modern history and this shows in just how much has been accomplished in such a small amount of time. The flaw I see in this commercialization is that errors are duplicated many times before they are discovered so each “new town” is an evolving and changing environment. This same system applies to bridges and roads, I see the same bridge design in every Chinese coastal town. The first time you see this new design, a wire suspension that is very handsome, you think wow. Then you see 2, 3 ,4 more and suddenly it hits you that this is the “design” that has been commercialized and put in place. I can imagine the assemblies being built and simply sent to the location of each new project. This is brilliant in that it is done very efficient and quick but it fails to deliver on esthetic appeal. All these new projects and towns begin to look, feel and operate in the same way. Imagine if you drove from Los Angeles to Portland and each town you came across along the way was the same layout just with different businesses and different names. Of course, the expansion of our country and in particular the West was over 150 years ago, most of what I am talking about in China has been in just the last 30 years.

The Chinese are a bit more “get it done” in mentality and process. The ports are not clean and tidy and organized, there is a bit of organized chaos in each one. Machinery is dirty and the yards are cluttered, the equipment appears to be functioning but in various states of disrepair. They clearly work non-stop and don’t want to be bothered with “continual improvement”. The trucks used in the yard to move containers create their own traffic jam even when they are the only ones in the yard. There are constant delays which lead to constant bickering and lots of yelling, this is also a Chinese thing and I have come to enjoy it and the predictability of it.

Upon arriving in Korea it is clear that they are on another level. I can only judge from this single port of Pusan but I think the systems and the controls here will be similar in other Korean ports. The layout is much more efficient than in China, the yard is oriented in a much different way so the cargo can move direct to the loading area and not be driven around by trucks. The equipment is highly specialized and they are all electric powered as opposed to trucks pulling trailers around the yard and dock. There is an efficiency that is clearly far above the Chinese system and the whole port seems to operate on a much smoother and quieter level. Even all the cranes and handling equipment are painted, labeled and identified in a consistent presentation whereas in China you have cranes of different colors and logos and identification is not so simple. Korea just appears to me to be much more dialed in and more along the way things should be done. Organized, efficient and process controlled.

When the loading process begins, the crew essentially hands the deck over to the longshoremen of each port. They board and oversee the loading and securing of cargo. In China, the longshoreman talk on their phones and sneak cigarettes in an out of sight location when they get the chance. In Korea they are all business, clipboards, walkie talkies, uniforms. The difference is really evident even at first impression.

 

 

Now with all this being said, the crew tells me emphatically that the best in the world at this whole thing are the Japanese. Well that should come as no surprise as no one informs more than the Japanese. No one. They are the masters of making rules and then following them. I would love to see them do this work someday just for comparison. The Japanese are so good at providing information and this allows anyone to understand the process and how they operate in that process. When I go to Japan I never even have to talk to anyone, the information is “made available” to me. If I take a subway from one location to another there are detailed instructions online or in the station that tell me what train, what time, what exit, where to wait, where to find everything. It really is amazing and this information is available for almost every single thing you may want to do in Japan. The information is so precise and complete it is astounding and this is how they train employees and workers to follow the information. I am convinced this is why Japan is so orderly and educated and systematic, they simply inform people rather than expect people to figure it out. I bet the longshoremen in Japan wear white coveralls and white shoes with little booties like lab workers.

This ship is considered a “medium class” sized container vessel, at 1100 feet it is the workhorse of their fleet. This ship was built in Korea, by Hyundai Heavy Machinery in 2006. There are many newer ships entering the industry and most of these are considered “mega” and are 1400 feet. I have seen a couple of these on our stops and they are much more massive than this ship which I thought was a monster. When we do load and unload there are usually 4 cranes that are working, once we had 5. The amount of movement and activity is interesting to watch as the containers and moving of them is staged and prepared, once it gets started it is rapid and non-stop for hours. Today in Pusan we arrived at the dock at 0600 and we will depart tomorrow morning at 0200. The amount of time to do the loading and unloading today is in the area of 15 hours. The other time is paperwork, loading supplies for the ship and preparing to be pushed back.

Today 6 crew members are going home. There are 5 Ukrainians and 1 Frenchman going home. They will be replaced with new crew members. The Ukrainians have a 6-month contract and stay on the vessel for 6 months before they go home. The French have a 2-month contract. They go home for up to three months and then are deployed under contract again, that is if they are offered another contract. The life of the seaman is not for the homesick. I was curious about the Ukrainian thing here, since most of the seaman over in this part of the world are Filipino. Now the Filipinos are widely considered to be the best seafarers in the world due to the fact that they live in an island country where you must learn to navigate the ocean and it has been handed from generation to generation. The change to Eastern European crews seems to be entirely financially motivated, at least from what the French officers tell me. This has been a recent change and the jury is out but they are paid less than the Filipino crews were paid. I don’t know the exact number but the pay is crazy low. I was told that most crewmen make about $400 a month. All accommodation and meals are included so they don’t have to pay for that but the wage is unbelievable. I was told by some of the Ukrainian guys that of course they don’t like it being so low but in their country, they have few choices. The fighting and the political challenges have given them little choice in finding steady work and so they are happy to have this job. I just cannot imagine sailing for 6 months and taking home $2500. I am sure that would be a monthly wage if this was a USA based operation, which may be precisely why the vast majority of cargo carriers are foreign entities. I am sure they calculate the cabin and meals as income to make it work out to a “minimum wage” compliance if needed.

 

I understand a little better why I see the guys making Nutella sandwiches to take back to their cabins and taking a few yogurts and fruit with them. Paying for anything with such a low wage would be difficult. I paid $12 for 24 cokes, that would be a huge amount of money if I was making $100 a week. I am being as frugal as possible with my internet use but even so, 5 days has cost me $40 so far. We need to be offered credit from the Captain and then he collects at the end of the voyage. There is a credit sheet outside his office and some of the guys have $500 tabs so far. I feel for them, they have families back home and to be away for so long is difficult. I can’t imagine spending an entire month’s salary just to talk to my wife and kids once in a while. All in all, this is hard life for them but they are all happy to be working and making money.

I am certain the French officers have it significantly better. They are all very bright, educated and talented men. They laugh a lot and like to have conversation. They seemed to have no problem buying things on our night in Shanghai so I believe that they are rather well compensated. I guess the heritage of colonialism is still alive in this arrangement? Or simply a corporate policy that forces them to pay the lowest wage possible for a qualified crew. I think most people in America would have nothing to do with this job or career path, hell the Navy pays better.

I am going to spend some time on the bridge today learning a bit about the electronics and the navigation system. I am curious about our heading to Seattle; do we vector straight across or do we head up toward the Aleutians? This is of great interest to me as a trip along the outlying Alaska islands would be an amazing treat for the eyes.

The weather is cold and grey, noticeably cooler than China. I am looking forward to seeing and feeling the change as we head north of Japan and head to open seas in the North. I am sure we will have some weather and a real boat ride once we get away from the protection of the coastline. I am also eager to see the north of Japan from the sea.

As we were docked, we were required to undergo a safety inspection. I think this is part of the crossing. As we will be departing Pusan and headed across the Pacific Ocean the safety systems need to be inspected and tested. They deployed the emergency lifeboats and inspected all our neoprene survival suits. Life rafts were inspected but left in their canisters. This is comforting that if needed, everything is functioning and in an emergency, we have a chance. I was instructed how to get into the survival suit and how to prepare for being in the water if the need arises, god forbid. I have a survival suit in my cabin and would need to put it on at the instruction of abandon ship. There are Korean inspectors running around the ship with mirrors and clipboards, not sure what that is all about. Perhaps I can ask some questions at lunch and see if I can learn something, this is not the time to be asking stupid questions to the crew, they are rather occupied.

With this being our last stop for 12 days, the Chef and galley assistant are out preparing provisions on the dock, this limited our lunch to a mixed salad with sardine and olive. Together with the baguette it was a nice light change to a heavy mid-day meal.

I will head up the bridge and learn some things today. Last port of call.

June 1st

We pushed back from the dock in Pusan at around 0200 and we are slowly moving through a heavy fog so there is nothing to see or talk about. Visibility is about 20 feet. The ship is stacked, the windows in my cabin that used to have a view to the bow and both port and starboard allowed me to peek over the containers. Not now, the containers are immediately outside my windows and stack as high as the house. This ship is plugged.

Last night we had roasted duck in orange sauce and mixed vegetables. I like duck. Why don’t we eat more duck in America? I enjoyed the cheese and a pear with a glass of wine to finish up.

We have new crew members and it will be interesting to see how they fold in, most of these guys have been together for months so I would imagine being a new guy could be challenging.

As we departed at 0200, most of the guys did not get to bed until 0400 or so. Breakfast was just me and one other French guy, a super nice black guy from some small West African nation. He is very bright and I enjoy our conversations when we have the opportunity. Today was croissants with raspberry jam and strawberry yogurt. I am getting to understand the pattern of breakfast, alternating days of oatmeal and cereals with croissants on two days of the week and Sunday. The French don’t like breakfast really, they prefer sweet things in the morning with coffee. The Ukrainians on the other hand consider breakfast their most important meal and grouse about no eggs or meats. I think they are discussing this and what the cost would be, they always talk about the cost. I would think they will be adding some menu options a couple days a week in the near future. As I sit alone at my table I notice the Ukrainian guys eat very quickly and then leave, no social time and no real conversation. They eat and run while the French guys show up later and eat after most the Ukrainian guys have left. They chat and laugh and really enjoy the time at the table. Mind you, these are all officers but it is clear the Ukrainians don’t like to hang around the mess hall. I like to sit and enjoy the time there.

Lunch came fast, I was out on the deck and arrived for lunch mid-way through. Avocado half with a cocktail sauce in the hollow, Steak with fries and a Magnum ice cream bar. One of those big chocolate coated things with almond slivers. On the subject of fries, or as they are universally labeled in the EU as Frites. Why do we call them French Fries? I mean they are like the staple of central Europe. You go anywhere and I mean anywhere in Germany, Belgium, Holland, France, Switzerland, Austria and you will have frites. The Dutch, oh man, they go gaga over them and they are good except the Dutch dip theirs in Mayonnaise, disgusting. I am wondering why we started calling them French Fries in the first place, the French seem to have no idea why we do this. I am sure there is an internet search but maybe someone can enlighten me? I also seem to think that most of the French don’t think eating frites with your hands is good table manners.

Up on the bridge I learned that our course will take us past the Aleutians. We are now in the Sea of Japan between Japan and Korea/Russia, we will come around the northern end of Japan and draw a vector for Seattle. This vector will be the shortest route to our destination. Now keep in mind that we are on the sea and follow the curvature of the earth. This is hard for some people to grasp, that and that we are covering nautical miles as well. When I asked if our heading took us past the islands, I was given the “of course” response which I have learned is just the way French reply when they agree with your position or when you are correct; it is not meant to be a wisecrack. So, we will get a “small pass” of some of the islands……with my luck it will be in the dark.

That slow process of picking up hours is happening. We gained one yesterday and we will gain an hour almost every day until we arrive in Seattle. They posted a chart of the time change date, time and location for each day until the end of our voyage. This is necessary because all the ship schedules adjust for the current time; watches, duty, meals, etc. You just lose your sleep or your time off, an hour every day. That would stink, wouldn’t it?

At 1400, the visibility has improved to about 100 feet, still foggy and no sun. It could be like this for days.

At 1700, we found a bit of stormy weather (I just reminded myself of Carl Hiassen, love that guy). The sea was not rough but we had a really intense rainfall complete with lightening and very loud thunder claps. With the overcast and cloudy weather the lightening just made the sky illuminate. The thunder was impressive and it was the first bout of real weather we have had in nine days. On the ocean that is a big number since nothing remains the same for long. The weather was enough to block our satellite signal for the wi-fi for a bit, not sure how long.

I was going to go walk to the bow and the stern but that will have to wait until tomorrow or until we get a clear day, so it looks like my afternoon will be reading and sitting around. I am no good at sitting, I never really have been. I have a hard time thinking about all the other things I could be doing.

I already know what it for dinner. It was on the lunch menu when they informed us about the time change. Soup, salad and seafood bouillabaisse. Fitting for a stormy afternoon I suppose.

I will visit the library again and see what I can dig up, I will spend the time after dinner reading in bed and listening to some music, I love my Jambox! Thank you Dianna, Jenna and Carson for understanding me.

 

June 2nd

Gaining the time back is just plain weird out here. I knew it would be because I mentioned that when you fly back from Asia, you travel for like 20 hours and still get home before you left. It kind of makes up for losing the day when fly to Asia.

Out here we get it an hour a day. To standardize things a bit, we set the clock movement for 1400. Each day at 1400 it becomes 1500. Since my only clock is my iPhone and it is not in service out here, I scan the phone for time zones that may match. Weird. Every day it is like losing an hour of sleep, I mean when I go to bed at 2200 I can either think it is 2300 or I can think that I will wake up at 0500 instead of 0600. Any way I deal with it this is a big change to what I am used to. I guess the upside is I should not have any jet lag when I return home?

This morning it is still grey and windy now. The weather is turning as we head north and then due east. The Chief Officer told me in a couple of days from here they expect some high seas and rougher weather. I think I will like that because this ship is so big and so heavy that it just pushes through the water with ease. Up to this point it kind of feels like taking a ferry, the slightest movement from port to starboard and a constant push forward. If you have spent any time on a ship you can tell how heavy they are and this one is very heavy. I guess it is kind of like driving in a semi down a long open highway.

I had coffee and juice for breakfast as I just was not interested in corn flakes and baguettes. They do eat bread with every sitting and the baguettes are made fresh every morning. I know much more than I did before this trip that bread, cheese and wine are very important to the French. However, a couple pieces of toast or a bagel sure would be nice. What is that line? “Not a chance”. I think the French consider a loaf of sliced bread as a complete waste of time. Thinking about it, it has been 9 days and I have not seen a sandwich. Consider that. Could you stay anywhere in America for 9 days and not have a sandwich option at some point? Baguettes do not make for good sandwiches I guess. Not that I can eat a sandwich like it should be eaten, I would have to cut it into little pieces anyway. Sheesh.

We are approaching the island of Hokkaido of Japan, the northern most island. We will be traveling through a strait between this island and the island of Honshu, I believe. This strait allows us to avoid traveling all the way around Hokkaido. As we pass through the strait I will request permission to be out on the main deck, I would like to walk up to the bow and look around. Wind is blowing about 20 knots and the seas are 6-8 feet right now. I expect the wind to remain through the strait but the seas to be much less than current conditions. This will be the last land we see until we approach the Aleutian Islands, where we will pass through another strait and then set course for Seattle from there. There is a call for 9-12 foot seas between here and the Aleutian’s so we have modified course a little to stay out of a low-pressure cell that is causing that little disturbance.

1300, the wind has increased to 25-30 knots, seas holding 6-8 foot swells, I feel like I am on the ocean. Smiling. It is also interesting to hear the containers creak and scrape as we roll in this, they creak and moan like the sounds you hear in the movies of old wooden ships. I like it. Remember that they are stacked 8 high above deck. There is a lot of metal on this ship. The lower two rows of the containers are fastened with turnbuckles to the hull and the deck so the remaining containers are simply sitting on the corner blocks sliding the smallest amount which creates the sound of creaking and movement. You can watch the upper containers sway about 1-2 inches as we pitch. Very neat to see.

The wind increased through the strait here in Japan, blowing 40 knots and too windy to walk around the boat for me. There is quite a bit of spray and the weather is snotty. I am disappointed but have 9 days to get my walk in. I will stay close to the house and take pictures from the higher deck where I can stay out of the weather a bit. It is now 1700 and at least I have some land to see and Japanese fishing boats nearby. The water here is significantly better than it was on the coast of China and Korea, cold currents and open ocean all around probably make a big difference. The fisherman I see are trawlers and they are headed back to port.

June 3rd

I awoke to the cold. Last night I put on some flannel before I went to bed, we have been on a North by Northeast heading since leaving Japan. We are headed up to the tip of the Aleutian chain, which is quite long but very far north. The weather continued to be cold, windy and misty rain all night. The temperature is cold, mid 40’s this morning. I am glad I don’t have deck work as a crewman. It is just plain nasty outside, it reminds me of January back on my mountain. The wind is out of the North, I would say Arctic and the entire ship lists to the starboard side in this wind. The ship is like a massive wind block, imagine 1100 feet long and now 150 feet high and solid. The wind just pushes against the entire ship and makes us lean with it. I had to re-arrange some of my things on the desk and in the bathroom to compensate for the leaning. The shower drain is of course, on the port side so after my morning shower I had to cup the water to the drain since the ship was leaning the other way.

There is a small, very small heater in the bathroom of my cabin. When I boarded, I shut it off since we were in the heat and humidity of southern China. This morning I turned it back on and left the door open in an attempt to warm the cabin although I think that is wishful thinking. I put on a long sleeve T shirt and then a flannel. I think it will be like this for the next week.

Today we will have a safety drill. I have no idea what that means other than I go to the bridge and join in. That should be interesting.

After breakfast, which included oatmeal thank god, I went down to the ships office on the main deck. This is Deck “A”. I am in a cabin on Deck “F”. The gauge in the ships office says we are at 5 degrees of lean. Of course, as you go up to Deck F, which is a good 70 feet above Deck A that angle is more, not sure how much more but the vessel can safely handle 25-30 degrees at Deck A level, which is the main deck. So, we will see what happens when we hit some higher seas. Right now, the seas are about 8 feet with a wind that is blowing 40 knots and it is cold. When I went down to breakfast all the guys were wearing hoodies and cupping their coffee to keep their hands warm, I guess their cabins are cold too.

At 0915 I am supposed to go to the Captains office to approve my debts. This would be for the internet credit and the store purchases. They put it in an interesting language; “you are invited to sign your debts in the Captains office at 0915”. I guess this is a form of bookkeeping so you cannot dispute your balance at the end of the voyage, which is when your debts must be paid and cleared. I do not think they will open the store again so this may be a way to settle that inventory and account. I just find it a little odd that the Captain has to monitor this kind of issue, I guess his ass in on the line for the money so he wants to be responsible for it. Some of the guys have hefty tabs. When I went up at 0915 the Captain told me that I was not to be included in the sign off, only for crew members. They have the balance of their debt deducted from their pay, I will pay in cash at the end of the voyage.

The Captain also invited me to come to the Officers lounge tomorrow at 1145 and have a drink, then join the officers at their table for lunch. As I have noted, lunch is the big meal. I wonder how they manage that in France, do they take long lunch breaks? I would like to know about this. I know that in Asia we take an hour, the first half hour is spent eating and the second half hour is spent sleeping. You NEVER call anyone during lunch hour in Asia. Do the French take an hour lunch? A two-hour lunch?

An hour lunch back home even seems short sometimes, if you go out to eat and with the lunch rush it is rarely enjoyable, just eat and run or grab and go. If lunch is such a big deal in France how do the lunch spots handle it? I think of these things. I probably have better things to think about but this kind of thing interests me, should I go back to France I want to have a better understanding. I mean, we as Americans think of French food as world class dining, funny that they pay more attention to lunch.

The weather continues to worsen, I went to see the Chief Officer, a really nice guy named Benoit. He told me that there is a small cyclone a couple hundred miles in front of us and that we will be enduring this weather for the next two days. It is very windy, very cold and we have an angry ocean. I don’t mind it but the chill in the cabin will require an additional blanket tonight to be sure.

They postponed the safety drill. No one wants to go outside unless they absolutely must. At least the oilers and the engine room engineers can stay warm inside the engine room. There are a couple of guys out on deck grinding and repairing something, poor buggers.

Lunch was a salad, veal with mushrooms and mashed potatoes; the instant type. I wonder about veal also. I have never bought or prepared veal, I don’t think I have ever even ordered it intentionally. I just have these memories of hearing my Mom tell me they raise these baby cows in stalls and they never even walk freely, they are held in a stall until they are killed. I have no idea how long a baby cow lives until it is not considered veal? They are raised to be slaughtered, I get that but something about a baby cow being taken for food just rubs me wrong. Veal has never been on my radar.

I finished a Michael Connelly novel. Somewhat standard fare but I like that he has some street cred in his novels. I am looking for a different type of book in the library, I don’t have much patience for formulaic novels any longer. This one was called Void Moon; my Mom will want to know.

I think I will venture outside despite the cold, windy, wet weather. I need to be out there and feel it. I will bundle up and take a look……….as a side note, it looks like we get two Sundays. As we pass the International Date Line it will take us that long to travel through it, so I think we actually do Sunday twice, the weird just gets weirder with the time.

June 4th

Last night I had a nice dinner of a salad, chicken cordon bleu and steamed peas. I finished with the cheese and fruit. Swiss, Brie and a sharp goat cheese with a mango. I was tired without reason and went to the cabin and put myself in bed to read. It was warm under the additional blanket and the HVAC system here is now putting out heat instead of cold air. It really is amazing that this ship has a house on it. When you look at the ship, the house (or as the French call is “the accommodation” and the Engineers call it “the superstructure”) it looks small but it is very large and has 35 cabins, a swimming pool, a gym, a library, three lounges and the mess hall. It really is a house.

This morning I was dizzy and felt unusually weak. I had some coffee and a croissant. The healing of the mouth seems ok but the gum line has receded and I am sure there is more surgical work to be done before we can even think about the possibility of a bone graft. I hate having these problems with my mouth, it has been an ongoing issue for me for quite a while. Deal with it. Not sure why I feel light headed but I think it is just too much time in the interior of the house and not enough air. I will go outside and breath deep. It is still cold and windy, less than yesterday but still lousy conditions with visibility of about a mile with fog and mist. I guess this is Alaska weather?

It is odd that we do not change the time today, we do Sunday again tomorrow (I think of the movie Groundhog Day where the day remains the same). We will change the time tomorrow for another hour. The body has a hard time with these small hourly time changes. Add to that our position in the far North where there really is no darkness to speak of and it is really difficult to adjust your body clock. The sun never really sets, it does get dark but not like night and then only for about 3 hours. At midnight, it is the same brightness as it is at noon. I say brightness because we have not seen sun for days and it may be another couple of days before we do.

Today I have been invited to the Officers Table for lunch and a stop by the lounge prior to lunch for a drink. This is a Sunday special invitation and I think it happens for me once on the voyage. I really am not feeling normal and not sharp and would have much rather been 100% for this special invitation. I have been traveling now for 17 days and I guess there will be days when you don’t feel like yourself. The reality is that I have not felt “normal” for the better part of this trip and that I will have some regret over. An old woman, somewhere near 90 once told me that “getting old is not for sissies”. I think she had some wisdom.

I went the Officers Lounge today at 1145, wow. Nice place, big screen TV, PlayStation, Wi, nice sound system and a full bar. Decorated in Asian theme, very nice. We then went to lunch and I was able to discuss and have nice conversation. I learned that lunch is 2 hours in France. Check.

We had prawns in curry sauce, steak in caper crème sauce, frites and the Magnum ice cream bar. The Captain pulled a nice bottle of wine from the store, an Australian Shiraz and we had a nice Sunday meal. I am going to take a nap. Too much food for lunch.

I went out on the deck and chilled myself sufficiently, it is still cold and windy. We just passed the Kamchatka peninsula of Russia and have set course for the Aleutian Islands, where we slide through a strait and then on to Seattle. We still have 7 days to arrive. I am sure the weather will be cold and windy all the way, I just hope we get some better visibility when we go past the islands.

 

While out on the deck today I spotted some whales, I did not take a photo because they were about 200 yards from the ship and they were just cruising along. No flukes or backs exposed, just blasts of spray as they came to the surface. I could not identify the species but they were not very big, as whales go. Not much but I have only seen some solitary birds the last couple of days and seeing some life was super cool today. There are some small birds that land on the ship and go directly under the desk lights to scavenge any dead insects and moths that perished the night prior. Seeing the whales today excites me for the island that are ahead.

Tonight, we will have a quiche appetizer (which I really enjoy), salmon with a butter sauce and rice. I am not too good at French and there is something different about the rice, not just white rice but I don’t understand the menu. At lunch, we get a menu with lunch and dinner for the day and notes that we need to be aware of. I took some photos to share when I return. It is all in French. Why couldn’t it have been in Spanish? You grow up in SoCal, you take Spanish in school. Dianna took French in school. Maybe she can read the menus for me when I come home. What good is French in SoCal? I think all kids today should learn Mandarin, this is going to be the next global language, Chinese will be the language for the younger ones to know. Not French. Probably not Spanish.

I am now sitting in the lounge, charging my computer and drinking a Coke out of a coffee cup. I am actually hopelessly addicted to drinking from a straw when I drink from a can, despite everything that is said about how bad it is for you. However, straws failed to make my list when packing so drinking from a coffee cup is still far better than a cold can on my lips, I have never liked that. I always think to myself, “you never know where that can has been”. I think the only thing I don’t mind drinking from a can is a cold beer.

I really have not felt great all day today, the surgery sutures are coming loose a bit and tugging at the inside of my gums. Things actually look pretty good in there but hell, I have no idea what I am looking at, it still looks like something left on a plate after a barbeque. I am sure my periodontist will be interested to see what went on in there for the last month. I actually have a tooth that is causing me grief in the back of my mouth on the same side. My ear aches and I have this popping sound in my jaw. This happened to me once before and I ended up in the root canal chair with a nasty infection. Like I said, I have a high tolerance to pain and so when I do become aware it is usually a lousy outcome and an expensive trip to the root canal man, who knows me by name. Crap. I am taking some ibuprofen but like everything else when you are hurt, this really only bothers me when I try to go to sleep. Why is that? Your still, there is quiet, the bed is comfortable. This seems to be when the aches and pains decide to come raging up to the surface. I have a couple of those kick ass pain pills I received after the surgery, the Norco tablets but I am saving those just in case the pain worsens. I still have a week to go.

I spent some time with the Chief Engineer today after lunch, he asked me probing questions about boats I spent time on and how the engine room work, the steering gear, the fuel systems, the reduction gears and other things in the engine room. He seemed very surprised that I had a pretty firm grasp on all this mechanical talk and then invited me to visit the engine room on this monster. Inside I was jumping up and down. We have a visit for Wednesday in the afternoon. The scale of the engine room is enormous I am sure. I know they have 2 oilers, these are the boys whose job it is to make sure the engines, the outputs, the entire system is constantly maintained with oil and lubricants.

 

Since most of the machinery here really never gets shut down, keeping it lubricated and replacing what has been burned off is very important. For these systems, there is a series of alarms that either tell the oilers to monitor or act depending on the alarm code. I will be very interested to see all this and learn something about how you push an 1100-foot ship loaded to capacity through the water.

I see ships just like this heading the other direction from time to time and I wonder just how many container ships there are? This industry has forever changed the world and how we think of things made somewhere other than home. Imported used to be a big deal, it seems in today’s world it is the other way around. Now local is a big deal. When people think of imported now, it usually means cheaper. I can remember as a kid, heck as a teenager that imported always meant more expensive. I think today’s generation just assumes most things are imported.

I kind of like the fact that I am on a container ship and in simple terms, now I am imported too. I am human cargo among all the other cargo aboard.

June 5th

I woke up to see the sunrise but it really was more of a “brightening” because the sun never really set. The weather is much improved today, winds down to 10-15 knots and the seas are 4-6 feet. There is improved visibility and the horizon actually looks like the horizon rather than disappearing into the fog as has been the last few days. There are small blue patches in the sky but for the most part it is overcast and grey in the sky. The water up here is a deep green, not blue like we have back home. I think it is the temperature? Perhaps as we approach some of the islands the water will change and look like it is full of life. For the most part, this is a desert out here. I did see those whales yesterday but there is no bird life to speak of and none of the familiar porpoise that I am so accustomed to back home. This really is a much different offshore experience than I have become so familiar with. When we head offshore back home I know what to expect, where to expect it, when to start being on the look-out. Here there is none of the familiar sights. No kelps, no temperature breaks, no birds. Just open expanse.

This is the “ride it out” part of the voyage, across the Pacific in the vastness of nothing. There is a time like this on every long voyage I have ever done, the area where you are just getting through it on your way to someplace. The ocean is a remarkable place and those who have not been out in the vastness of it really have little idea of its scale and size. I know that in the next few days it will change entirely and there will be new sights to see, much like driving through the desert and suddenly reaching the mountains. This is the part where you can’t find anything on the radio and you put the windows down to let the warm air rush in, the part where you just kill time and wonder what will break the cycle.

The morning was uneventful, too cold to be outside for more than 30 minutes at a time and I am pretty much isolated to the starboard side since the wind on the port side is just howling. The kind of cold wind that just makes jeans seem like a poor choice. I did bring my boat jacket and a flannel plus some sweaters so I am fine out there but with no life to look at the scenery is pretty dull. You can only look at swells, wind waves and choppy water on the horizon for so long.

Today it is Sunday all over again, which in itself is freaky. We will move the clocks forward another hour today at 1400 and the good thing about that is that it means we are getting closer to home. I had oatmeal and yogurt for breakfast, I had one cup of coffee today. I don’t like the way the coffee has been amping me up in the morning so I am backing off. Same thing with the Cokes, I love them and missed them, then I bought 24 in the ship store. I was rationing 2 per day until the end of the voyage. I have not used my ration, with 7 days to go I still have 18 Cokes left. I think drinking all that water just changed my desire a bit. Dianna will like that.

I struggled with lunch, my sutures have begun falling out and where they are still attached is sore and sensitive, I would have thought after a month it would not be an issue but it is. We had hard boiled eggs, halved with curry mayonnaise and tuna over the top, beef in gravy with penne pasta. No desert today. I guess only one Sunday a week is special.

Our safety drill is on at 1400 and because we change the clocks today at 1400, that means it is really 1500. I go to the bridge and we do safety drills. How to get off the ship, where to go, what my job is and that sort of thing. Interesting that the language of communication is English, which is the native language of NO ONE except me. I don’t expect all the commands to be easily understood. It is interesting to hear the Ukrainian guys speak with a Russian accent and the French with a French accent. Some accents are much more pronounced than others, I can only imagine what I sound like to a Mexican when I stumble through my Spanish?

The weather is acting up again here at 1330, the wind is blowing about 30 knots again and now it has begun raining. I had thought we were beyond the depression we were running from but it looks like this may be an edge of it and we are in for a long rainy and windy afternoon. Should make the safety seminar pretty interesting, huh?

Well the safety drill was a downer for me, as a passenger I was instructed to go to the bridge. I am to wait there until someone tells me otherwise or instructs me on what to do. The rest of the crew had a fire drill, they were simulating a fire on the deck inside a hazardous material container, in this instance a container loaded with lithium Ion batteries. I had to stay up on the bridge while all the excitement of a fire drill was going on. Shoot.

They then ran an abandon ship drill and so I went down to the A deck as the drill requires. The entire crew assembled in the ships office and then when everyone was accounted for, they started reviewing the fire drill. I was promptly dismissed. I don’t think the Captain wanted me to witness a butt chewing of the crew, no sense in that. His comment was “after the drill there is a 90% chance we burned the ship”, “Mr. Hess, you are dismissed to your cabin”. I guess fire drills are the same everywhere in the world. I also guess the boss here is like some bosses I had. I hated those guys.

I went back outside to get the wind in my face. OK, remind me if I do this sort of thing again to take voyage SOUTH. It is awful out there. Like being in a winter storm with rain instead of snow, if it was snowing it would be a white out. Actually, this would be an awesome trip in the Caribbean or South America where you could go ashore often. The cabins are awesome, the food is great, there is internet. If you sailed for a day or two, then stopped and went ashore it would be a great trip. I think they have a Caribbean route and a South American route. I wanted to sail across the Pacific Ocean but if you wanted a super relaxing trip that felt private and had great accommodation, I suggest this as an option. Really.

Today is where I feel like going home would be great. I get like this even on an 8 day fishing trip, I miss home, it is slow, the time passes, I miss my girl. Today is that day.

June 6th

Last night I went to dinner planning on just soup and bread. I saw the entrée and did that, glad I did. The soup was a crème vegetable soup, entrée of smoked ham with a side of Brussel sprouts! My favorite. They were not the way I most prefer them but they were a treat none the less.

This morning they put out cookies for the French and eggs with bacon for the Ukrainians, I just had coffee, juice and yogurt. I do not have a big appetite as I have not been burning calories other than going up and down 5 flights of stairs all day. I did take some cookies back to the cabin for that 1030 snack. It usually takes me that long to come down from the coffee and feel hungry.

We have officially come around to the same day as back home. I am only four hours BEHIND you now. It is 0800 here and 1200 back home, communication will be much easier now on the email I think. I just kept the days as sequential and did not repeat Sunday as part one and part two, so I will end up a day ahead of myself on these entries but it is too late now to repeat a date I think. I will think about that.

We are approaching the Aleutians and we will be offshore of them for at least another day I think. Yesterday we passed the Kamchatka peninsula and were within 150 miles of the coast. Weather this morning is still cold and grey but like yesterday morning, the visibility is good and the horizon is the horizon, no fog or clouds on the water. This is still the desert. We are getting close to the Bering Sea and that means in a way I will have crossed the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea in one voyage. Neat.

I spent some time with the Chief Officer this morning going over our position and heading. We are about 40 hours from passing through a strait in the islands, this is good. It means it will be about 4 or 5 in the morning as we approach so I will have good light. We pass very near to some islands and I am looking forward to seeing not only the sea life but also the commercial vessels and fisherman in this area. At this time of year there is good fishing to be had so I am sure there will be activity. In the meantime, we will spend the next 40 hours in the Bearing Sea headed east.

There is activity out on deck today as the boys are pressure washing the decks and all the areas outside the house, this is part of the housekeeping of a big ship. Keeping the salt spray off the surfaces after the wind we have had pays big dividends in maintenance and the puddling of water in the drains is never good.

I really just have the next day and a half to kill until I can be a sightseer, which will be welcome. I only hope the weather warms a bit, I was looking at home and it has been 90 degrees. Living at elevation like we do 90 feels like 110, I can only empathize with my wife and son as they endure a heat wave in early June. I hope the evenings have been cooling so the open windows bring relief. We do not have an air conditioner in our mountain home and last summer there were a few weeks we wish we did. One of our neighbors has a sleeping porch they use in the summer because they do not have A/C either and the house just becomes too hot to sleep in. I think we may try a similar type experience this summer. We do have a portable air conditioner but it really only keeps one room cool and it is an energy hog. I hope this is not going to be a long, hot summer. The temperature swings have been so extreme already, with snow in May and now 90’s in June. The hot weather always comes in August but it seems so unpredictable; climate change, cyclical change, whatever you call it, using the past years as an indicator of weather moving forward is not realistic any longer. The change is so different that the past means nothing.

This is bit frightening. It is not just our little place in the world, this is a global issue. Then I read that nimrod Trump exits the Paris Environmental Agreement, basically sticking the finger to the world. I am so discouraged to be led by this fool of a man. Our country will become a third world nation under his stewardship, I cannot call it leadership. I think the country is headed down a lonely, dark and long tunnel with this administration. I cannot say that Obama was a great President but I can say I admire that he was honest, fair and genuinely cared about doing the right thing. I can say none of those things about this childlike Trump. How does a man live to be 70 years old and still be so ignorant, insensitive and selfish? How did this happen to us? Maybe you need to be a laid off auto worker, who worked a union job with an outrageous salary and benefits package you lost to competition to understand? I can find no understanding that a working man or woman would ever have supported such a change as to choose this idiot of a man running our government. The desire to change the status quo was so high in those who did that they were oblivious to the impending disaster it would create.

Today I feel really good, I am over the anxieties of the mouth, now it will be what it will be. I am enjoying my time on the ship today, it is still cold outside, in the mid 50’s but the wind is down and being outside feels good. The chill on my face and the long views are a nice way to spend time. There is a small picnic table on one of the lower decks where they have outdoor BBQ when the weather is nice so I have a place to sit somewhat sheltered and just gaze. Today is a good day on the ocean.

I had a nice lunch; hearts of palm and cucumbers in a mayonnaise tarragon sauce, roast chicken and ratatouille, which is something I think I will learn how to make. It has vegetables I am not really fond of but somehow in this preparation they are delicious. I think Dianna would like me to make more squash so maybe this would make us both happy. Desert was a prune cake, interesting for sure but I ate the whole slice.

Dinner is going to be Filet Mignon, that sounds French. I am going to nap today and then read a little. The weather is cold but the water is smooth and ride is very pleasant. I saw a couple container ships headed to Japan and it does seem odd to be in the middle of nowhere and see ships pass within a quarter mile of you. I think it has something to do with shipping lanes, can’t just have ships running around all wily nily, can you?