Monday, 31 January 2011

STRANDED IN LE HAVRE

31st Jan - 1st Feb 2011

Returned to ship from 'old town' Antwerp loaded like an Egyptian water-carrier with emergency supplies and staggered up the vertiginous gangway ( it's like an assault course ). Met der Kapitan Pugwasche who told me that 3 more passengers had joined the ship and that the French dockers were definitely downing tools, or cranes, in Le Havre. Chances are that we would be port-bound there for a few days.
Met the new passengers at breakfast ( 0730hrs and don't be late or it's gone ) the next morning. We, and the ship's officers, always sit at our respective tables of 4 and always sit in our same seats. Alles in ordnung! It is probably a plank-walking offence to sit in the Kapitan's place. There are 9 'officers' and 12 'crew', and now 4 passengers. The new arrivals comprise an Englishman and two French studenty types. They all look remarkably alike; mid-twenties, same height, slim, dark hair and all in need of serious attention by Messrs Wilkinson & Sword. The English chap, called Jack, is a Cambridge chemistry graduate now doing a doctorate in statistics ( specialising in genetics ) at Oxford and on his way to the USA to do a three month project. He is, presumably, breathtakingly intelligent. Claude, from Nice, is a hotel receptionist working in Antibes and Florian, from Poitiers, is a 'renewable energy' graduate from Chambery university on his way to visit his girlfriend in Montreal. They seem a very pleasant bunch, thankfully. I don't think they fell for the bullshit I span them.
We 'set sail' that morning and then us pax were taken on a guided tour around the ship by the 3rd officer, a Russian called Andrei, 30 something and quietly efficient looking ( he looked very like an ex-colleague of mine, Sulek from Poland ...........hello Sulek? ).
It is over 1/2 mile around the deck, cold and slippery and with railings that only come up to one's hip ( unless you are Martin Vanderhoek that is.....sorry Martin ) and remarkably easy to fall overboard, if you ask me. We were given all the required safety briefings and lifeboat drills etc. They have a special little boat to rescue anyone who does fall overboard, but I can't think how they would know until he didn't turn up for the next meal, or two!
It was that afternoon that I realised my original panic over the non-existent bar was a little premature. Kapt Pugwasche showed us the 'canteen cupboard' and 'bonded store' which could be opened at his discretion. How silly of me to forget that there is absolutely no way a semi-Russian crew could survive for more than 24 hours without a supply of Vodka, plus other beer, wines, spirits and cigarettes ( smoking is allowed but discouraged, according to a notice in one's cabin, in bed ). Anyway, that was our intro to the Russian Fuel Tank ( RFT ) and most welcome it was.
We chugged along...............

Good heavens, I've managed to attach a photo! This is a pic of my Kabin; two windows face for'ard.
Will try a few more spater.
Awoke on the 29th to find ourselves 'at anchor' somewhere off Le Havre, the Frenchies being very much on strike ( are you reading this Florent? ). Boring. Hung around ship all day. Mr 'Oxbridge' said he had managed to get his lap-top connected to the internet by some magical router from his mobile phone. I suspect he just needed to stick his finger in the thing and his brainwaves would fire it up.
I went on a recce up to the flight-deck, sorry bridge. Andrei was alone up there doing paperwork. There was a fascinating array of monitors, knobs, switches, dials, levers, handles etc. It was so tempting to push/pull the handle marked Full Ahead/Full Astern and see what happened. I resisted, just.
This is a pic of the Bridge. I'm getting better with these photos! Handle in middle of console is the forwards/backwards one.

We got into Le Havre port on Saturday morning, but as there was no port staff around to do the ship's 'formalities' everyone had to stay on board.
I must say, plenty of time on this ship for reading and kipping ( and writing drivel like this ... actually I'm doing this from a bar in town ) and, so far, the sea has been remarkably calm. No call on my vast supply of seasick pills, yet.
Sunday 30th, all four of us passengers went downtown Le Havre ( a run-ashore, I think my naval friends call it ..... hello JT? ). Not a bad place; very open-plan and clean town with big squares, big streets, big architecture but, being Sunday, bugger-all open. Managed to catch up on electronic mail and reply to several rude messages. Photo on right is of my fellow pax having a wild time in Le Havre.
Monday, still in port. It is rumoured that loading will be complete by tomorrow morning so, with a bit of luck and a fair French docker, we might be away on Tuesday....maybe....and onwards to New York.
It is interesting to note that I have been on HMS Tanzania for a week now and am still only 50 miles from England. It would have been quicker to walk and swim. At this rate I won't be back home until 2021.
'Run-ashore' again for lunch and sent this. As you will appreciate by now, I have plenty of time on my hands to help insomniacs by writing this interminable rubbish. I will have no mercy.
You may be interested; our ship is 300m long and holds 4800 containers. It looks big. There is  Maersk container ship in port here which holds, apparently, 14,000 containers. Extraordinary.
I expect this to be the last 'blog' entry I will send before heading out over the wild Atlantic. I expect we on board will get to know each other quite well and I have yet to try my basic War Picture Library Deutsche on Kapt Pugwasche. I must be quite careful. If you never hear from me again you can guess what happened.......and the little man-overboard boat will have remained firmly on it's derrick. Klop!


Containers on dockside - Antwerp

                                MSC Tanzania. Le Havre.

Note busy French dockers.
View towards the pointy-end from my cabin




My fellow pax at the 'bow' listening to safety brief. The one in the furry hat is Mr 'Oxbridge'.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

AT SEA - NOW ANTWERP

26th Jan 2011

Boarded ´Tanzania´ at 23.45 on 25th after 'sharpener'  in Queen Elizabeth Hotel in rainy Felixstowe. Climbed 100 ft up gangway like north face of the Eiger plus heavy bag. Cabin up another 4 decks, but quite comfortable with twin bedroom, bathroom and largish sitting-room. DVD, CD player, radio etc. No internet. Several windows with delightful views over grey sea, cranes and hundreds of picturesque containers. Early to bed.
Woken next morning at 07.00 by telephone call; reveille and fruhstuck in 30 mins. Met fellow passenger over ´ei und brot´. He is called Dennis from Massachusetts en route to Le Havre. He had very shaky hands. Ship´s officers are a mixture of German and Russian and the crew are mainly Phillipinos. The Kapitan is called Hans Willbrusch, or Wishbull or something similar ( not Steiger, as I was hoping ). After breakfast first major disaster struck. I discovered that THERE IS NO BAR ON BOARD ( also just discovered that there is no exclamation mark on this poxy Belgian computer ). I don´t believe it. Someone was joking that this might be the case a few days ago. Left wondering whether to put out a mayday call, jump ship or plan a mutiny. Incredible: this should have been flagged up on the agent´s info in big red letters ´NO BAR ON BOARD´. It is simply unthinkable to travel for 12 days, stranded mid-Atlantic, without a bloody drink. No wonder Dennis´s hands were shaking. OK, it might be possible to get ashore at Antwerp to aquire suitable victuals but I will need a ´ container´ of my own to house them. Morale has taken a big dive and it´s only day 2.
Intend to sleep this afternoon to forget. At least the sea is still calm ( but then they only ´cast off´10 mins ago ).
Supper at 17.30. Dry. Due in Antwerp sometime tomorrow.

27th Jan. Woke up in Antwerp port. Dennis has disappeared. I am told we have until tomorrow 06.00 in port. Apparently the French dock-hands in Le Havre may be on strike ( now there´s a surprise ) so this might be the last stop-over/missive until Noo Yark. OK, left ship and taxi ( 35 Euros - bandit Belgian taxi driver ) to Antwerp city. The old city in Antwerp is rather nice. Writing this and then off to buy emergency fuel from the first supermarket that I can find. Hope I manage to carry it all up The Eiger Gangway to get back on board. Troi Oi, as they so tactfully say in Vietnam. More to follow spater......................

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

THE BEGINNING


25th Jan 2011

D Day.Well, here goes. My initial attempt at a 'Blog'. Firstly, apologies for those who received about 6 copies of the e-mail informing them of the blog address. I have bought a new, small and very expensive 'apple' lap-top and I really haven't a clue how to operate it efficiently. I will probably lose it, break it,  have it stolen or drop it overboard before too long.
The Ship, MSC Tanzania, a German cargo vessel, arrives in Felixstowe tonight. I am supposed to board after 10 pm. It is about 300yds long and 30yds wide and carries 'containers', containing what I know not, as yet. I am not familiar with German nautical etiquette and my only Deutsche lingo is gleaned from the 'War Picture Library' comics; I hope Herr 'Kapitan' has a sense of humour.
I think we set sail at about 7.00am tomorrow bound initially for Antwerp, then on to Le Havre and then New York. I have copious amounts of anti-seasick pills, wristbands and a bottle of whisky. I suspect the internet does not work at sea so this may be the last 'blog' entry until ( hopefully ) ashore in USofA.
Nothing much more to be said, so far, and assuming I am not made to 'walk the plank' en-route, will let you know later about the joys of a transatlantic crossing in January in a German Schiff  ( duration is about 12 days ). I think I can safely say that 'deck-quoits' is out, as is the factor 50 sun-tan lotion, but we should, at least, be safe from the Wolfpacks.
Wait out.......................!!