Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Banana Boat

It's an odd ship. Apparently.

My fellow passengers are a 24 year old German bloke with a very nice camera (who took all of these photos), and a 69 year old English woman with a vast knowledge of container ship voyages. They are very pleasant company, being constantly positive and happy to be here. As am I.

Mary has done a freight boat holiday pretty much every year since she retired in 1999. She says they are better than cruise ships cos they have less of a focus on wearing gold lamme and who-gets-to-sit-at-the-captain's-table and overeating and shopping. As well as being less crowded and cheaper.

So given that none of the crew or officers have the English (being mostly Ukrainian, Latvian and Russian) or the inclination to chat to us much, it's lucky we have Mary to tell us what's what.

Apparently it's absolutely the least sociable boat Mary's been on. Strict hierarchies are a firm tradition of shipping, and it's normal for there to be a huge big line between the crew and the officers. But there's not always such a line between the passengers and everyone else. On other journeys Mary's taken, passengers have socialised a fair bit with officers, and a little with crew. Although language obviously plays a big part, here it seems everyone is hidden away. Passengers eat in the Officers' Mess. On this boat the Captain and First Officer occasionally make a quick appearance, but the other officers, presumably due to our presence, eat in the Crew's Mess. And we're told that the Officers day room is for our use only. No one is unfriendly. There's just very little interaction.

The first three days there was rough sea and I felt queasy unless I was lying down, which got a little boring. The boat rocked constantly 10-15 degrees from side to side, and things rolled around in a comical fashion. The 2nd officer (the only chatty one) said he'd once experienced 48 degrees of rocking. Wow. Imagine that.

Since then though, it's been very enjoyable place to be. Before I boarded, I found the idea of anyone doing the month's round trip a little strange. Now I totally get it. The rhythym of the structured day is relaxing. And I'm loving having more time on my own than I've probably ever had in my life. Plus some people find the sea calming. (Personally I find its bigness a bit disturbing.)

They weren't joking when they said that there's no guarantee special diets can be catered for. Apparently the quality of the food varies enormously, depending on the agency chef the boat gets given. Luckily this one loves potatoes as much as I do. There's very little variety in the food though, especially if you're avoiding the fish and meat. So although I'd recommend freight boat travel to most people, I'd only recommend it to vegans who were going to bring their own sources of protein.

Yesterday we finally got to see whales. Three of them. Really close to the boat. (Can anyone identify it.) Yey. And flying fish fly a really long way. I saw one go over 20m.

Today we have reached land and are in Guadeloupe underloading some containers (that the Chief Steward thought might have meat in them), and loading our first lot of bananas.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ooh, yes, I know that whale - his name is Siegfried.
thinking of you xx Leila