We arrived at the container port in La Spezia without any surprises and were required to place our bikes inside a van – which meant one bike at a time and removing all the gear from the bikes. A bit inconvenient, but much safer than riding our bikes through the port, so probably for the best.
Our big surprise for the day was to be welcomed on board by Joern, the First Mate on the MSC Alessia when we were aboard. The chances of this are pretty slim, since NSB (the company operating the ship) has over 100 ships, and the officers can be assigned to any one of them. He had two months off over the winter, then decided to take a 2-month deployment so that he would have 4 or 5 months off in the summer to spend with his family. It was nice to see a familiar friendly face and hear a little bit about the MSC Alessia after our departure. Joern showed us how to use a sextant while aboard the last ship, so we’ll see if we can actually take a celestial fix or two while we’re crossing the Indian Ocean. Last time we were too slow – there’s only a short period where both the horizon and the stars are visible, so we clearly need more practice.
The Hanjin Brussels had originally been scheduled for Monday Feb 9, but was delayed by weather off Naples. We were first told Feb 10 for boarding, then on Feb 10 were told that a further delay to Feb 11 would ensue due to another ship (MSC Sarah) holding the berth our ship was to use. On the morning of Feb 10 we got another update from the agent that the ship would be berthing on the afternoon of Feb 10, and wondered what had happened this time. As we later found out from the Chief Mate, Hanjin Brussels had left Naples two hours after MSC Sarah, but pushed the engines to full power, and was able to pull ahead before La Spezia. This meant we got the berth originally allocated to MSC Sarah, and she had to wait for another berth to clear. It’s nice being aboard a fast ship! Amusingly enough, MSC Sarah spent less time in La Spezia and is berthed in-front of us in Barcelona .
We were very impressed by Umberto, the port agent for Hanjin in La Spezia. He knew exactly what was happening with our ship, spoke perfect English (better than the agents in Miami, Florida), and was happy to provide updates even on the weekend.
On this voyage there will be two other passengers. Peter, a Brit who has lived in Italy for 20 years, joined us in La Spezia. A second passenger will join us in Barcelona. So far, we have enjoyed being the “experts”, since this Peter’s first voyage on a container ship.
So far, the food on board has been excellent. We think it has been a step up from our last trip, which was also excellent. That being said, it is very different from Italian or Turkish food, we could just be enjoying the honeymoon period, where we are enjoying the change and familiarity of it all.
Last night we experienced our first bout of rough weather. It never got rough while we were on the MSC Alessia, so we had no idea what to expect. We had been warned that at about midnight things would get rough. We even enjoyed watching a storm in the distance while the sun was setting. However, when we went to the bridge after supper, the storm had passed and the skies were clear. At about midnight we experienced rough seas for 4-6 hours while we entered a patch of open sea with Force 10-11 winds (around 50-60 knot or 90-120 kph winds with 6-8 meter waves). It definitely did get rough, and we awoke to things getting tossed off of the table tops in the cabin. Foolishly, we did not clean up the room before going to sleep. So, eventually, Becky got up and did some clean up and moved the computer to a safe position on the floor. Then it got rougher again, and both of us got up to clear up anything that might fall down or break. After another 10 minutes of clinking glasses and crashes (projectile fruit that had been on the sitting room table), Becky remembered the glass bottles of water in the fridge. She placed some plastic bottles between the glass bottles and collected the apples and oranges from the floor and placed them in the fridge. She also added some toilet paper to the door clamp so that it would stop creaking. It is amazing all the noises in the night when the ship is rolling and pitching.
In the morning we awoke to a bright sunny day, with papers, water bottles, fruit, and other random things spread across the floor in our cabin (oops). We were both a little tired for not getting a great night’s sleep, but otherwise we were doing well – happy to have survived our first rough weather event. When going outside, we notice that all the hand railings are caked in salt and we can barely see through the windows. We guess that the high winds and waves sprayed water over the superstructure throughout the night.