Monday again

June 8th, 2009 by scott and becky

On Friday night (Saturday a.m.), we were abruptly awakened at 3:30 am by the sound of the fire alarm. Becky immediately jumped out of bed and began to contemplate what clothes she needed to put on and what she should be doing next. Scott lay in bed and eventually began to move, figuring it was likely a false alarm. As quickly as it started, it stopped. What felt like minutes, but was probably only 30 seconds later, an announcement was made indicating that it was a false alarm. That pulse of adrenaline and fear ensured that Becky did not get back to sleep for several hours. That was the start of several days of totally screwed up sleep patterns.

The fire alarm surely didn’t help, but our sleep has mainly been affected by the endless changes in time zones. Between Pusan and Seattle, there is an 8 hour time difference. Our journey is 9 days at sea, so we lose one hour ever night of the trip except the last one. We find that our bodies were not meant to live 23-hour days. As we are moving north, we are also experiencing extremely long days – so when we climb into bed at midnight, it is still light! This seems to be a problem only for us – since the officers and crew have a fixed schedule, they are forced to adapt each day, where we can sleep in and take naps.

We also cross the International Date Line, so we have the joy of experiencing Monday twice (queue “Just another Manic Monday”). The double day is not much of an issue for us non-working passengers, but the crew gets an extra long work week – fortunately, when they return to Asia it all balances out as they get to skip a day during the work week. The actual day change is somewhat arbitrary, but it is scheduled to never occur on a Sunday, as that is a short work day for the crew and the closest thing to a day off that they get – if it were to be skipped one week, the Captain might have to deal with a mutiny!

Compared to other journeys by freighter, this one has been pretty uneventful – no sunsets, no pirates, no fishing, and very little visible land. This journey has had the most time zones, but is also the shortest freighter trip of our journey. We have been on board for over week and it feels like we just got here. We are already making our preparations for departure. Because of the colder climate on this route at this time of year, there are no BBQs. Also, the parties seem to be lacking – possibly as a result of the shorter days in this direction. If this were are first voyage, we would have found it to be rather boring. As it was, we relished the opportunity to spend a week without packing, have a space of our own, and feel like we understood almost everything going on around us.

As we do on every ship, we took the opportunity for a tour of the engine room, although didn’t take nearly as many photos. Becky was surprised by how clean it was – cleaner than she remembers the engine room on MSC Alessia. We also continue to be amazed by the sheer scale of things: winches taller than us, lines with larger diameter than our arms, piston liners we could stand in and not reach the top. It is very easy to feel small on board.

The officers on this trip on average are much younger than on previous journeys. With younger officers, we notice that fewer of them smoke, which makes for a nicer time on the bridge. Also, we have noticed that the younger officers and crew typically speak more fluent English. Captain Schmeling, who was also our captain on our first voyage, was his usual affable, friendly self, and really helped to make this voyage more fun. As we’ve observed ourselves, and heard from other passengers, the captain sets the tone for the rest of the officers and crew. By the end of the trip we were comfortably joking with all the bridge officers, especially with the captain. As usual, Becky usurped the captain’s chair on the bridge, so much so that when she came on the bridge one time, as soon as he saw her, Captain Schmeling leapt up, and said ‘gotta go’! It’s too bad he’s retiring in a year or so, so we likely won’t have an opportunity to sail with him again.

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