Thursday, 27 June 2013

First day at sea

I’m writing this on the deck of the ship, just outside my cabin.  
                This is the second full day at sea.  We left Athens at 01:30am on the morning of Monday, 24th June.  I slept really well that night and rose early to watch the sun rise    I’ve been up onto the Bridge(where the ship is steered) frequently and met the Chief Officer (who I’ve previously mentioned), the 2nd and 3rd mate, both Philippino’s.  All are friendly, make me cups of tea when I’m up there, let me use the binoculars to look around, etc.  There are some fantastic views up here.

What to do on a container ship

You must be wondering what there is to do on a container ship.   Well, so far I’ve not been bored.  I’ve spent a lot of my time on the Bridge, watching sunrise and sunset, plus moonrise.  
And to be honest, I think the crew like someone different to speak to.  It’s interesting to hear their stories about where they’ve been in the world, about their countries and have navigational terms explained to me.  

Joining the ship - first emotions

Hi everyone!  I'm posting this in La Spezia, Italy after about 4 days at sea.  Thought I'd share with you my journey from the beginning.

A very emotional day today.  It was the day it hit me that I’m going to be on a container ship, for approx. 1.5 months, travelling to Hong Kong!
                Joining the ship was easy.  I made my way to the Cruise Terminal in Piraeus, the port of Athens and there the agent for this particular cargo line met me.  He took care of all my paperwork with the authorities.  I was lucky enough to also meet the new Polish Chief Officer who joined the ship with me.  He’d been on this ship before and was coming back from his leave.  I immediately warmed to his avuncular nature:  kind eyes with a weary, yet friendly demeanor, he assured me that any questions I had, he’d be more than happy to answer them.  “Don’t think any question is silly.”  Ahh, that’s re-assuring.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

What to pack for the trip

I was getting stressed because I didn't know what to pack for my trip.  I mean, it’s not as if I’m going on a cruise ship where people get dressed to the nines every evening, yet I’m also not going to be down and dirty with the containers (at least, I HOPE not!)  So I need to strike a balance: smartish wear for meals in the Officer’s Mess, yet comfortable and sensible seaworthy clothes & shoes, especially for walking around in ports of call and on deck. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Full moon sailing day

Source: Google Images
Sunday, 23rd June 2013 will apparently be the brightest, biggest full moon of the year!

And guess where Bex will be?  That's right!  Hopefully the ship will have set sail already.  If not, I'll be in port at Piraeus and still get to see it from the deck.

The nearer the Equator I get, the less twilight there will be.  I'm not crossing the equator, only just.  I shall be skirting pretty near it though.
All that's left for me to do is get packing, which I think I will leave until Saturday.  As I will have a whole new home for 37 days, I might as well just throw everything into a bag - a glimpse into how Bex organises her travelling!

Remember: keep your eyes peeled for more updates as the day approaches, and, of course, when I'm under way.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Not entirely alone?

It appears I won't necessarily be alone on this trip!  I received word from my agent this morning:

"When [Bex] embarks [in Piraeus] she will be on board with another young lady passenger until La Spezia.  From La Spezia onwards she will be alone so far."

You'll have seen from my previous post my itinerary that shows La Spezia is in Italy and is the next port of call (get me with all my naval terminology!), so I have two days to chat to another 'young lady' and see the how's, why's, etc and interview her.

You'll note the end of the comment " far."  There is, then, the possibility others might be joining the ship too. 

So you see?  Container ship travel is doable!  Keep tuning in and I'll be bringing you more.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Six days to go - and problems already?

I had a bit of a fright today - but then again, this IS Greece, and as much as I enjoy living here, I shouldn't be surprised.  Let me explain:

"Contact the cargo terminal no more than 7 days before departure to check the exact arrival/departure of the ship" I am informed by my agents in the UK.  And so today, approx. six days before departure, I call the terminal in Piraeus.

I should learn not to be so British - you'd have thought I'd have learnt after four and a bit years in Greece.

The first bit is easy.  I am told by a nice man that the ship arrives on 23rd June and leaves very early morning 24th June.  As I'd been given the Internet site for tracking this, I knew this already.
"Just give the men at the security gate a ring to let them know you'll be boarding" says the nice man.

So I do.  And this is where the 'problems' start.

"This is not a cruise ship.  You cannot just turn up and expect to get on" the man shouts at me.  'Shouts' did I say?  In retrospect, maybe he was just at normal Grecian pitch.

"I have a booking" I patiently explain, lowering my voice, hoping he'll lower his.  Er, no...this merely serves to increase his shouting.

"Listen to me, kyria [lady].  You have to contact the agent and we have to get papers stamped to approve you.  You cannot just turn up at the security gate, expecting to get on a ship."

I was in the middle of telling him that I was told to call him when I heard the distinct click of the phone being replaced.  Hmm, OK, time for Bex to get 'efficient' (think no more lowered voices from me).

After a phone call to my agent in London, she kindly sorts it within an hour.  I, in the meantime, had been given the wrong agent's details in Athens, yet was liaising with a VERY nice man, a Mr. Klimis who spoke in a calm manner and even teased me good-naturedly about my efforts to speak Greek. 
Once we established (after about an hour) he was the wrong shipping agent, he even wished me a nice day and gave me the correct agent's details, plus the name of who to speak to.

Upon phoning the correct agent, the man there was equally as nice. 
"We can come and collect you from the airport Kyria, take you directly to the ship."

"I live in Athens.  Can you come to my home instead?"

"Ah no, I thought you come through airport.  So, you must clear Immigration first as no immigration at cargo port.  Call again later this week - more likely we will arrange to meet you at the cruise terminal where you will clear immigration and then we take you to ship.  OK?"

Yes, this was OK thank you very much as both the wrong and the right agent were very nice!

"Will you help me through the security?" I hesitantly asked.

"Yes, don't you worry Kirya, we will help you. Call later in the week, it's too early at the moment" (I mentioned I'm so British sometimes).

So now I am becoming somewhat excited!  Here's a little video I made so you can see and hear the Face of Bex ...also good practise for my video camera.  You'll notice that I'm not very good at making such films, so please cut me some slack!

Stay tuned all.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Seven and a bit days before departure!

My Big Adventure, as it's now referred to, is fast approaching.  The times and days have changed slightly.  See below for my new schedule. 

Counting down the days
I'm starting to feel slightly nervous now.  Before I was busy with work so didn't have time to think.  Now we've broken up for the summer, I've been busy running around making my final arrangement and buying suntan cream, making sure my video camera works & ensuring I have PLENTY of reading material on my Kindle.

I'm also hoping to get my book finished, finally!  I figured I'd use this quality time with nature to be inspired to write and finalise my first novel.

But there's also excitement mixed in with the nerves.  It sure is a different way to travel, and one that I'm looking forward to, being a lover of the sea.  I was told by a friend that I might have the opportuntiy to see blue whales in the Indian Ocean!  Here's hoping. 
In fact, being such a different way for a passenger to travel has piqued the interest of NPR (National Public Radio) in the U.S and they hope to interview me and feature a before, during and after piece, as does the Daily Telegraph in the UK want to feature a travel piece.
Fame at last for Bex?  Let's see.

Keep an eye on my blog. I'll be posting here before I leave on 23rd June, and whenever I can get internet access (sadly not on the ship, but I'm bound to get it in ports).

Until then - yasas!
                                                                                                               Arrive                Depart
PIRAEUSPCT SACostal Schedule2013-06-23 05:00Costal Schedule2013-06-23 23:00
LA SPEZIALA SPEZIA CONTAINER TERMINAL SPACostal Schedule2013-06-26 06:00Costal Schedule2013-06-27 08:00
GENOATERMINAL CONTENITORI PORTO DI GENOVA SPACostal Schedule2013-06-27 13:00Costal Schedule2013-06-28 18:00
BARCELONABEST (BARCELONA EUROPE SUD TERMINAL)Costal Schedule2013-06-29 13:00Costal Schedule2013-06-30 08:00
VALENCIANOATUM PORTS VALENCIANA S.A.Costal Schedule2013-06-30 19:00Costal Schedule2013-07-01 16:00
PIRAEUSPCT SACostal Schedule2013-07-05 06:00Costal Schedule2013-07-06 07:00
SUEZ (EL SUWEIS)SUEZ CANALCostal Schedule2013-07-08 18:00Costal Schedule2013-07-09 18:00
SINGAPOREPSA CORPORATION LIMITEDCostal Schedule2013-07-24 07:00Costal Schedule2013-07-25 03:00
HONGKONGCOSCO-HIT TERMINALCostal Schedule2013-07-30 00:00Costal Schedule2013-07-30 20:00

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Each dawn is a new beginning...

Who doesn't like a sunrise?  And when I last travelled by container ship across the Atlantic, I certainly got my fair share of those!

Well, as we all know...I'll be heading off into the sunrise again - in roughly two weeks in fact.  And if my Atlantic trip was anything to go by, I'll be sure to see plenty of these:


Sunset from the Bridge

I've posted my route here - if anyone's going to be in: La Spezia (Italy), Genoa (Italy), Valencia & Barcelona (Spain), Singapore and, of course, Hong Kong on the dates specified, do please get in touch for a coffee / to show me the sites!
Unfortuntely I won't have internet access on the ship - only on the sooner the better!

Like what you've read here?  Be sure to follow Bex on Facebook, Twitter and her regular site.