Archive for January 30th, 2009

Another day another freighter!

Friday, January 30th, 2009

One of our new Izmir friends, Mustafa, works for the government and is somehow associated with Ulusoy Freighters. He was able to get us passage on a small (180m) roll-on-roll-off freighter from Cesme Turkey to Trieste Italy. This has been a huge help, and meant that we could spend an extra week in the Middle East and Turkey.

We arrived at the boat without any difficulty – looking into the harbor in Cesme, they are pretty hard to miss. We entered the Ulusoy office and the staff there processed our tickets. While we waited, we asked if anyone wanted to try out the bikes. One of the guys from the office was brave enough to give it a try, much to the amusement of everyone else in the office and the customs police too.

Several of the customs police in Cesme remembered us from our arrival in Turkey back in November. We guess our funny looking bikes provide a pretty good memory aid!

After clearing customs, we were escorted onto our ship, the Ulusoy 10. The ship had not started loading yet, so boarding was easy. One of the crew helped carry our gear up to the crew lounge while our cabin was being prepared. Originally they were going to give us two cabins, as the bed is only a single bed. Upon seeing the cabin (the 3rd mates cabin), which had a sitting room with a couch and a separate bedroom, we decided that we did not need a second cabin – there is plenty of room in this one for the two of us.

We have since learned that the Ulusoy 5 is better outfitted to take passengers, as it has extra cabin space for 10 additional people. The Ulusoy 10 only has 1 passenger cabin with 3 bunks. Given the economic downturn the ship is running with a skeleton crew of 19. Her normal crew compliment is 30. As a result, there is no 3rd mate, which is why we were given the spacious 3rd mate’s cabin rather than the smaller passenger cabin.

The ship did not start loading until after dinner. At 2 am, while we were fast asleep, it left the port of Cesme – so we missed a ceremonious departure from Turkey.

When we awoke, the ship was loaded and under way, with semi trailers filling about half of the main deck and fire trucks in the covered deck aft keeping our bikes company. The lower deck and the bilge deck are apparently full, but we haven’t been down to check.

By the afternoon of our first full day at sea (Thursday) the waves picked up. We passed through a few storms (wind, rain, hail) early in the afternoon and the waves continued on into the wee hours of the night. Both of us spent most of the afternoon reading and relaxing. We do wonder if we would have noticed the waves as much if we were still on the MSC Alessia – it is 300m long compared to the 200m of the Ulusoy-10. It reminded us of how lucky we had been on our Atlantic crossing with such beautiful weather. We can only hope our trip from Italy to Singapore will be so calm!

One of the biggest joys with being on the freighter is the ability to take a long hot shower. It may sound trivial, but after staying in so many budget hotels where the water may be solar heated or the heat only turned on for selected hours during the day, hot water is nice. Also, the shower head is not clogged or damaged and is affixed to the wall at a height that allows each of us to stand up straight and enjoy the hot water pouring over us. It is quite a luxury. There is no shower curtain, but we have become so accustomed to this that it isn’t a big issue. We just lift the toilet seat so it stays dry, and sweep the water off the floor into the shower basin when finished.

Like the MSC Alessia (and virtually all other large ocean-going vessels), waste heat from the main engine is used to run an evaporator, creating fresh water from sea water. It typically isn’t used for drinking, but provides virtually unlimited (18 tonnes per day) hot and cold fresh water for personal use. Large volumes of fresh water are use for cleaning, especially when pressure-washing the decks and other exposed surfaces.

On Friday with some calmer weather, we explored a little more. We were quickly invited onto the bridge and subjected to Turkish hospitality – coffee, tea, and interesting conversation. In the afternoon, the steward knocked on our door to let us know that cake was being served. Unsure where to go (the message involved the words Captain and cake), we went to the bridge where the steward brought us tea and some delicious banana, nut, carrot cake – yummy!

We also got a chance to see the campaign brochure from the AK Party candidate for mayor of Cesme. One of the crew had brought it on board, and it was quite interesting. The AK Party is the Islamic party in Turkey, and currently holds both the presidency and a majority of parliament. Municipal elections are coming up, and they are pushing hard to win in many places where they are not yet in power, especially in the coastal areas like Izmir and Cesme. The mayoral candidate for Cesme is a wealthy local architect, and has produced a 40 page glossy brochure with his vision for Cesme in 2015. It is filled with fanciful high rise buildings, glorious monuments and floating holiday islands – like Dubai on steroids, all up and running 6 years from now! We had a good laugh about this with the crew, but later Scott wondered how a candidate for a mainstream party could produce something so off-the-wall, and whether it would help or hurt his chances of election.

On Saturday, we arrived at 1330, but did not clear customs and immigration until 1500. This did not mean much, as our bikes were blocked by the fire trucks being shipped to Italy, so they needed to be unloaded before we could depart. By 1730 boat time (1630 local time) the upper deck was clear and we could proceed into Trieste. With darkness soon approaching and no Internet in sight , we found an inexpensive 2 star hotel for the night – it was quite the luxury to have heat, two sheets, unlimited hot water, and an enclosed shower stall all in the same hotel room! We were surprised at the comforts that we had become accustomed to doing without over the past several months.