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Notes From A 25-Day Voyage On The Rickmers Jakarta; Houston To Antwerp

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Here are some notes on our 25-day voyage last year on the Rickmers Jakarta from Houston to Antwerp. As indicated on our CC thread entitled ‘Just Booked Rickmers Seoul for Houston to Antwerp Run’, we had originally booked this voyage on the Rickmers Seoul but then switched to her sister ship Jakarta.


The Rickmers Jakarta is one of a fleet of 9 pretty much identical ‘Superflex Heavy MPC/30K’ ships that ply a generally circumnavigational route (East-bound) in the execution of the Rickmers ‘Pearl String Service’. The ships call on basically the same major ports every 5 or 6 weeks and it’s easy to catch a ride.


We hope that aficionados of freighter travel and those who are considering this type of cruising will appreciate our humble journal.


We will be posting some photos from time to time.


Day1 (August 20, 2017) Embarkation:


Our friends Gary & Gracie drove us from Austin to Houston. They were going to Houston to officiate in the swearing-in of their grandson, Coby, into the US Marine Corps. Gary and I shared stories about our enlisted lives in the Army and Marines.


We had arranged for Rickmers to pick us up at the Hilton Americas and bring us directly to the ship. As we awaited our transportation by TMT (Total Marine Transportation) in the air-conditioned hotel lobby, we asked Gary & Gracie not to over-enjoy their sumptuous accommodations and to think of us soon to be embarking unto a cargo ship.


On time, and foiling Kay’s errand to find and buy a diet coke, our shuttle arrived. Our driver was a friendly guy sporting a Rastafarian haircut. As we drove into the port area with its rusty warehouse buildings, we could see the four tall cranes of the Jakarta working. I wondered how beat up and rusty our ship would appear. We had to stop twice for port security to check our passports and tickets. At least we didn’t have to take off our shoes and takeout our laptops. No checking of baggage.


As we approached the ship, she was low in the water and looked quite menacing. The cranes were active and swinging and there were many trucks, forklifts and longshoremen about. I marveled, but was not surprised, as to how beat up and rusty our ship was. After all, the ship was 15 years old and had been around the world, at 120 days per circuit, maybe 50 times. Our shuttle paused at the foot of a gangway and a longshoreman, in an unfriendly tone, told our driver that we couldn’t stop here, this was a working ship! Our driver exclaimed that we were passengers and that we had lots of luggage. The longshoreman shrugged and said that we had to move away further from being under the cranes, about 100 yards from the gangway.


We got out of the shuttle and a seaman from our ship came up to us and asked to see our passports and tickets. Then, four more seamen, in orange uniforms and hard hats, scooped up our luggage and we carefully followed them along the dunnage-strewn dock and up the gangway, which was nearly flat because the ship was so low in the water. Kay said it was like walking on the rungs of a stepladder. The four seamen bounded up a steep exterior ladder (stairs) to the Poop Deck. We then had to lay topside four decks on interior ladders to our cabin on D Deck.


After the seamen dropped off our luggage in our cabin, we were met by an officer dressed in dark-brown trousers and a tan shirt adorned with the rank of captain. This was our Master, Igor Katashynsky. He looked every inch like a ship’s captain with his strawberry-blond shock of curly hair and, of course, a bushy beard – a little intimidating. Igor welcomed us into our cabin and showed us around. Kay, who had missed getting her diet coke, said that she was very thirsty and asked for something to drink. Igor went next door to his cabin and got 3 or 4 bottles of spring water for her. He said he would have his mess man to bring us some more water. The captain said that the mess man would make a note of the water and other things we might purchase from the ship’s store, the Slop Chest,and we would pay at the end of the voyage in cash, US dollars. Kay asked Igor if this store had any sodas. Igor relied yes. “Diet sodas?” asked Kay. Igor shook his head and replied “No, you’ve got to be kidding.” Kay had almost had that diet coke at the Hilton Americas.


We asked if there were other passengers onboard. Igor said that we were the only ones on board but they were going to add one passenger in Philadelphia. He said that they hadn’t had any passengers for two years. Two years! Kay & I looked at each other and hoped that they would not be too much out of practice catering to passengers. Igor reminded us that dinner was between 1700 and 1800 hours (5:00pm and 6:00pm).


The messman, Jefferson, later brought us 23 half-liter and six 2-liter bottles of spring water, an electric hot water kettle, Nescafe’ instant coffee (no decaf!), Coffee-mate creamer and sugar.


We relaxed in our cabin and marveled at how much space we had. Our first suite! A large day-room about 15x15 feet with two ports, a desk, an L-shaped sofa, small refrigerator, a coffee table and small 14-inch TV with built-in DVD player. A separate bedroom with two ports, two bunk-style beds and a second desk, lots of closets, and a nice bathroom with a shower and a regular flush toilet – not those vacuum-flush units like on mainstream cruise ships. We spent most of the time unpacking and setting up our computers and discovering that the TV had no reception and that the DVD player didn’t work.


It was time to lay below to the Officer’s Mess on A Deck. We had to step over an 8-inch high threshold to enter the 15x30 foot room. There were two round tables set up. The one on the left was already occupied by Igor and some other officer. We took the one on the right. The table had a large lazy susan with water, rolls, salt, and pepper, napkins and lots of condiments and sauces. Jefferson brought each of us a big plate of spaghetti and thin beef strips in a light-brown sauce with red peppers. No other veggies. Kay ate most of hers and I polished mine off. Solid chow! We had some cold (no ice) tea which was probably lightly sugared.


After dinner, we explored a bit. We found, to our dismay, that the Pilot Deck above us was closed to passengers during port operations. We did get to go back down to B Deck to see the swimming pool. It was empty and about 15x15 feet and looked like 20 feet deep. No wading pool, this. We understand that it’s filled with sea water only during days at sea, not while in port.


We snapped a few pictures of the sunset and then went to the passenger lounge (on our deck) to check out what kind of entertainment was available. Mostly lots of paperback novels and even a watercolor instruction book. Some table & board games but no TV. I was looking for some house DVDs to test with our cabin TV since I had not been successful in getting Kay’s new yoga DVDs to play. This room really looked like it wasn’t used for the past two years.


The crew WiFi looked to be available but I could not get it to work without a user-name and password (the guest manual said “A general internet access cannot be granted”) but I knew that already but was hopeful that it would be available while in port. Our cell phones had good reception and we could check out CNN and Kay got to call her daughter Karen.


For our evening entertainment, Kay worked some sudoku puzzles while I read articles from a back issue of The Week magazine.


As we got ready for bed around 11:30pm, the ship was still in full operation loading and unloading cargo. Through our ports, which faced forward, we had a good view of the loading and unloading lit brightly with floodlights. We dreaded the upcoming lifeboat drill where we may have to don our life jackets and hardhats and have to climb into a lifeboat poised on a 45-degree slant and take our seats (numbers 20 & 21).

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This is wonderful reporting! Please continue....

I totally agree. I'm fascinated by freighter travel and am definitely looking forward to reading about your experiences with the mess (especially breakfast) and how you handle port access when the time comes.
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I see that you ran into the infamous DVD "region code" that limits distribution of pirate DVD's. The DVD players onboard were set for the region where the crew obtained their discs, or the "zone 8" international code. Your DVD from the US would be typically locked in region #1.

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Those DVDs can often be unlocked to pay all region, if only knew what model it is in advance. No optical drive in your computers?


TV probably couldn't tune to anything as it doesn't use US frequencies or format.


I see the Jakarta does sit very low to the water so you don't have to walk up a steep accommodation ladder,


Not being allowed out on deck, or even in the accommodation tower, during loading and unloading seems to be quite common and probably a good thing.

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Day2 (August 21, 2017) Houston – In Port:


We both slept well, better than on the first night on the Via Canadian.


We had our morning coffee and watched the sun come up and looked on at the loading and unloading operations. Checked CNN and emails.


We layed below to A deck for our first breakfast. The mess was flooded with morning sunlight through the four ports. The menu on the white board said eggs to order, bread and cereal. I wanted eggs but that didn’t happen because when Jefferson greeted us, we were pointing towards the cereal fixings and he took that to mean that we both wanted bread & cereal. I was happy with that but made a note to be sure that Jefferson got my order the next day. They had Wheetabix, muesli, loaves of white and dark bread, jam and – Nutella! The coffee served at breakfast was not too good and we were happy to have our stash of instant coffee in our cabin.


Back in our cabin, Kay did an exercise routine with her stretch bands. While Kay later worked a sudoku puzzle, I read some articles from The Week magazine. I peered out of the ports repeatedly to see loading and unloading operations. Dozens of longshoremen swarmed the dock and trucks were lined up dropping off and picking up. Quite an operation – it went on all last night.


Our first lunch was a large tureen of hearty chicken soup with some veggies and eggs. The soup tureen was set on the lazy suzan and we all served ourselves with a ladle. Main course was fried fish with mashed potatoes. No dessert was served but we made do with Nutella and peanut butter on bread. We met Arvin (3rd Engineer) from the Philippines who was very friendly. We shared our own experiences on Palawan & Puerto Princessa with him.


Started the afternoon with Kay answering our friend Gracie’s text message about Coby’s induction into the Marines with Gary swearing him in.


Started to read to Kay a book on her Kindle entitled The Medical Examiner: A Woman’s Murder Club Mystery by James Patterson. This book will be our replacement to our daily binging of the 19 seasons of Midsomer Murders on Netflix (which I forgot to suspend before leaving).


Kay started an acrylic painting of a flower from a postage-stamp sized photograph. Had some more coffee, looked out the ports of our cell again. Really looking forward to being ‘released’ from our cabin tomorrow when we sail. Right now, port operations limit our movements to the officer’s mess only.


For dinner, we had meatballs and rice with some cooked carrots. The meatballs were a little crusty & dry but fairly tasty. We met another officer, Victor from Romania, who was the 3rd Officer. Victor was rail-thin and sported a dark pointed beard. His English was little hard to follow but he was talkative about his job. As the 3rd Officer, he is the safety officer and will conduct our safety indoctrination and the dreaded life boat drill tomorrow.


The crew, totaling 23, of our ship was comprised of: four Ordinary Seaman, three Able Seaman, two Carpenters, a Chief Cook, a Messman, a Bosun (boatswain), an Electrician, a 3rd Engineer, a 2nd Engineer, a Chief Engineer, a 3rd Officer, a 2nd Officer, a Chief Officer, and the Master (Captain).


There were also four more crew; one ‘E/FTR’, two ‘OLR’, and a ‘TEMMU’ (I think that maybe they were equivalent to the Motorman, Oiler & Wiper in the engine room). [Maybe chengkp75 can enlighten us as to what these exact crew ratings are.]


There was a cabin on C Deck for the Supercargo, derived from the Spanish ‘sobrecargo’ meaning ‘over cargo’. The Supercargo is responsible for the commercial aspects of the ship’s cargo such as buying and selling merchandise in ports to which the vessel is sailing and the buying and receiving of goods on the return voyage.


Read a couple of more chapters from The Medical Examiner and then we moved to the bedroom where I read Kay to sleep with articles from a back issue of The Atlantic magazine.

Edited by Oak Hill Cruisers
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The E/FTR is the Engine Room Fitter, or machinist/welder, who is "higher" in the pecking order than motormen.


Motormen are more the mechanics in the engine room, but terms vary so I believe these are the OLR's (some variant of Oiler in the acronym).


Since the Djakarta is a "geared" ship (meaning it carries it's own cargo cranes), the two OLR's may also be rated as crane operators.


The TEMMU I frankly have no idea what that stands for, but I would surmise that it is the ship's Utility, who works in the Galley, washing dishes, and cleans the Officer's quarters. Who cleaned your cabin? That would be the TEMMU if my suspicions are right.

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The name on the ship's roster did not match that of Jefferson, our Messman/Steward. Looking in the galley, there was only the Chief Cook and the Messman.

Could be that the acronym 'TEMMU' is from the language of the officers drawing up the roster (Ukrainian or Romanian).

On the roster, TEMMU is grouped with E/FTR and OLR.

Thanks for your help.

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Totally stumbled into reading about your journey and now I’m hooked. I grew up watching port and cargo ship activities at my childhood city, and have always been intrigued about freighter cruising. Thank you for letting us journey with you!

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Day 3 (August 22, 2017) Houston – In Port & Sail Away:


Slept well. Kay said that she had a little stomach pain, probably from the meatball sauce last night.


For breakfast, I was successful in getting two fried eggs. They had cold corned beef slices on the lazy Susan which tasted pretty good with the eggs. Kay had muesli with milk. We chatted with Gabriel, the chief officer, who said that the departure today would be delayed from noon to evening today due to a late delivery of cargo. We also chatted briefly with an officer dressed in civvies who said he was the port-based Supercargo. So, apparently, Rickmers was not yet posting a Supercargo on this ship.


Back in our cabin, I checked emails while Kay called her sister-in-law Nancy, our son Clint, and her brothers Ken & Sammy. We got a call from the Master indicating that there would be a safety orientation in about 10 minutes. Victor, the 3rd Officer) came to our room and showed us how to don our life jackets and the immersion suit. He told us that the immersion suit was for only when the ocean temperature was cold. He then took us on a general tour of the ship; the Main Deck, the navigation bridge, the swimming pool, our muster area, and the Pilot Deck. Afterwards, he took us to a conference room on the Poop Deck and we signed several papers acknowledging that we attended the safety orientation and that we understood about what we had to do in case of an emergency.


As we finished up, Bogdan, the Electrical Engineer, accompanied us to our cabin so that he could check out our TV & DVD player which did not receive local broadcast TV stations and play Kay’s new yoga and workout DVDs. He disconnected the cable which I thought had a bad RCA connector. He said that it was for a headphone and not part of the DVD player AV connection. He fired up the TV & DVD player and the DVD played! But the picture was flickering and he brought in a replacement TV to test if it was the TV or the DVD that was causing the flickering. It was the TV, so he replaced it and all is good for Kay’s workout and yoga for the rest of the passage. But still no broadcast TV reception.


For lunch, it was mushroom soup and ‘lemonade’ chicken. I think that the cook meant ‘lemon’ chicken – Debra Barone’s favorite dish on Everybody Loves Raymond. At this lunch, there were six officers, including Igor, Victor & Bogdan eating with us. The fullest the officer’s mess has been for us. At lunch, the Master informed us that the ship would be sailing at 5:00pm and that if we were going ashore, do it before then. We assured him that we were staying put.


Back in the room, I finished reading The Medical Examiner to Kay. I continued to write as did Kay awaiting a call from Victor for our emergency drill. I hoped that we would not have to crawl into the lifeboat perched at a 45-degree angle – it’s hot out there.


We watched through our ports at the final loading & unloading in preparation for sailing. It was looking like the 5:00pm ETS was going to be missed due to late-arriving cargo. We did not get the call for our drill – maybe tomorrow.


Started reading Douglas Adam’s A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’ll take a little more reading to really get us hooked. But all the SF blogs and message boards have been hyping this for years in the top ten SF reads, so Kay & I must like it!


Dinner was beef stew. About half beef stew and half rice with green beans. Would have liked a little more ‘stew’. But it was very tasty. Chatted with Bogdan &Victor.


Back in the room, I read aloud a couple more chapters of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – I think that it’s starting to grow on us, well on me mostly.


Finally, just before sunset, the ship finally sailed! We went up to the Pilot Deck and spent the better part of an hour watching the sail down the Houston Ship Channel, looking at ships, oil refineries and the Houston skyline in sunset. It was strange to think that this ship had only two passengers – us! We saw Gabriel on the Pilot Deck checking his cell phone. He was now dressed in a t-shirt, shorts & flip-flops. Casual Friday dress for him now that we’re at sea!


Read Kay asleep with a deep book review on criticism from The Atlantic magazine. Ship is moving with lots of vibrations and rattling of wardrobe doors – got to fix that tomorrow.

Edited by Oak Hill Cruisers
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Dear Gardyloo,

Great journal! Now I have to get on the stick and starting posting the pictures that we took.

Your ship looks like a luxury ship compared to the breakbulk vessel we were on.

Your journal gives me inspiration to continue, and improve, my future postings.

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Really enjoying this and comparing it to my own experiences almost 20 years ago (Auckland to San Francisco.) I linked to an old trip report on another thread, but that link is broken, so here's the current one: http://gardyloo.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Across-the-Pacific-on-a-Freighter.pdf


Thx Gardyloo for sharing your journal. We are on a road trip and it made for some fun reading as we pass through the north Texas plains.


Oak Hill Cruisers ... enjoying your journal. We’re definitely interested in doing a similar trip, and reading about your experience is helpful to setting expectations.

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Day 4 (August 23, 2017) Houston – At Sea:


We got up at 5:30. Slept well even with all the ship vibrations and rattling of wardrobe doors. Made us some coffee and read Kay another deep book review in The Atlantic on a tome which surmised that the conservative movement of today got some of its impetus from former left-wing zealots who got tired of communism and turned from the left to the right. Found the rattling wardrobe doors and latched the inactive doors so most of the rattling is gone.


Layed down to breakfast and we each ordered eggs, fried for me and scrambled for Kay. Bogdan, the Electrical Engineer, came down and we chatted about his job and education and how he was hoping to hit a Walmart tomorrow in New Orleans and have some drinks on Bourbon Street. Bogdan, from Romania, had a wicked sense of humor and groused about the food and working conditions. Typical seafarer’s griping, we guessed – not unlike water cooler gossip at the office.


We layed topside to our cabin, made our second cups of coffee and Kay started writing in her journal while I dozed off reading a back-issue of Entertainment Weekly. After awakening, I looked at offshore oil rigs and merchant ships though my binoculars.


Jefferson came in to make up our cabin. We stayed while he made up our bedroom and when he finished, he made motions with his vacuum cleaner that he would like for us to leave now so he could tidy up our day room. We took off and spent about an hour on the windy Pilot Deck. Kay did 100 laps (about 110 steps per lap) while I did – less. Kay calculated that we had to do 29 laps to get a mile.


Sailing through the Gulf of Mexico with only us two on the Pilot Deck was quite a contrast to what we normally experience on regular cruise ships. With no one in sight, it was a little eerie plowing through the sea on this big machine with only the two of us enjoying the views with the 23 hidden crew being ‘at work’.


No cruise director. No daily newsletter with planned ‘activities’. No guest lecturers, no production stage shows, no piano bar. No music being piped in. It was sort of liberating to do nothing or maybe a little something without having to be prompted to participate in ‘activities’.


It was a little humbling to realize that the cargo, not us passengers, was the focus of this – was it a cruise, a passage, a crossing? Before this sailing, we read a hilarious article in the New Yorker Magazine by Patricia Marx entitled ‘A Tale of a Tub’ about a crossing she made on the Rickmers Seoul, a sister ship of ours. The piece was wicked in its criticism of this experience. This article, and the reading of many blogs & journals on freighter cruising, prepared me, but not so much Kay, for what we were now experiencing.


For all my cruises, I have always set low expectations so that every cruise is ‘great’. For this voyage, I put the limbo bar directly on the floor (deck) and was bound and determined to really embrace and enjoy this experience. This voyage was too big & unique to fail! I was hopeful that Kay would have a great time and, so far, she was being a trooper.


As we sailed eastwards to our first port, New Orleans, we were mindful that, to our south, Hurricane Harvey was churning away and due to make landfall in Texas in a day or two. The wind that buffeted us on the Pilot Deck was no doubt the northern edge of that hurricane. It was looking like we had sailed out of Houston in a nick of time.


We layed down back down to our refreshed cabin and Kay started one of her yoga DVDs. I sat down to write in this journal.


For lunch, we had a nice soup with meat & veggies and broiled fish with mashed potatoes and some veggies.


Kay finished her crochet bear while I read to her from The Atlantic, her Kindle and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.


We started planning a list of snacks and other goodies we were going to get while in port. We were going to get some movie DVD’s.


For dinner, we had some nice pork eggrolls with rice and veggies.


In the evening, we did mostly reading and working puzzles.

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Found out what 'TEMMU' crew position is.

After contacting Jason Tack, the Houston Port Manager for Rickmers, it has been determined that TEMMU is Trainee Engineer Merchant Marine University. This crew member was a cadet. On The Job training in action.

Mystery solved!

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Found out what 'TEMMU' crew position is.

After contacting Jason Tack, the Houston Port Manager for Rickmers, it has been determined that TEMMU is Trainee Engineer Merchant Marine University. This crew member was a cadet. On The Job training in action.

Mystery solved!


Fancy title, we just call them "gadgets".

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Day 5 (August 24, 2017) New Orleans:


Our first port. After breakfast, we lounged around the cabin and then, about 10ish, we layed down to the conference room on the poop deck to ask for leave. Igor told us it would be somewhat complicated. We sat down at the big conference table and he gave us the drill. He would contact the Global Maritime Ministries to come pick us up and take us out of the port area to their facilities (which provide for the welfare of seamen). Then, we could call for a regular cab to take us downtown. We thought that this would take some time and we asked Igor if we should lay topside to our cabin and await his call once the shuttle arrived. He replied that this would be too hard and that we should wait in the conference room. Only 10 to 15 minutes, he said. In about 5 minutes, we were notified that the shuttle was here. On the way, out across the main deck, I asked Kay if she had some ID. She did not and I hustled back up to the Poop Deck to ask Igor for our passports. After some searching by Igor and Gabriel, I got them and caught up with Kay as she started to descend the gangway steps which, as in Houston, were laid nearly flat on the dock which made for tricky stepping with a final 18-inch step onto the dock.


Alysha, our Global Maritime Ministry shuttle driver, was very friendly. She said that she was also a chaplain. We told her that Igor suggested that we could get a cab into town from her establishment. She said that she did not know why the ship captains always said that we could not be taken into town and that she would be happy to take us there. She dropped us off at the Moriel Convention Center. She said that she would be at the Walmart near the dock around 3:30 that afternoon to pick us, and other crew members, up for return to our ships.


We hopped on a streetcar towards Jackson Square. There, we enjoyed some chicory coffee and beignets at Café du Monde. When ordering, I suggested that we split an order of three but Kay thought that the beignets were maybe too small and that two orders would be better. Well, they were not as small as she thought and we took two of them in a doggie bag.


Afterwards,we started towards the French Market and browsed in some shops. The market, not being held on a Saturday, was geared more to souvenirs and crafts. There were some interesting looking cafes and eateries.


In the midst of a world of Cajun cooking, Kay had a hankering for a McDonalds southwest grilled chicken salad. Using my cell, we found one on Canal Street about a mile away. I was soaked with sweat when we finally arrived. I had a hamburger (only 90 cents).


Afterwards,we walked two blocks on Canal Street to a Marriott hotel where we caught a cab to the Walmart. We loaded up on 12 Coca Cola Zeros, 12 Diet Dr. Peppers, Fibertabs, Tostitos, decaf instant coffee, washcloths, a Poweraid Zero, two bananas and nine DVD movies. We’ll probably donate most of these movies to the rec room (which does not have a TV/DVD player) or to the crew members.


The pickup at 3:30 by the Global Maritime Ministries shuttle was hilarious. In addition to our driver, Alysha, we had a crewman from another ship, ourselves and five crew members from our ship. But all had multiple bags of Walmart purchases and two of our crew members had purchased large plastic coolers. Getting all these people and their stuff in the van was quite something to see.One of our crew said they got the coolers because “We’re going to the beach.”.“Where are you going to the beach?” asked Kay. “In the Philippines.” Came the reply. Laughter all around.


Re-boarding the ship, we saw Igor and Bogdan getting off to go to New Orleans and paint the town red.


We laughed when we recounted the ‘shore excursion’ we had just completed. Compared to the usual shore excursions we have taken on more that 30 cruises, this one centered on some coffee & beignets, a visit to Mcdonald’s, and a stop at a Walmart.


Back in the cabin, we collapsed and rested until dinner. Dinner was a tasty beef casserole with rice & veggies. Afterward Kay had an hour-long phone call with her brother Sammy while I checked the news on my cell and cheated to finish my first crossword puzzle book. Then, we layed topside to the Pilot Deck to view the dock area, the cranes and longshoremen load & unloading the ship. Finally, we were allowed outside to watch the ship work!


The rest of the evening, I read a chapter from A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and then from 4:50 from Paddington: A Miss Marple Mystery.

Edited by Oak Hill Cruisers
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Day 6 (August 25, 2017) New Orleans:


Got up, looked out through the ports (26 Philips-head screws securing the frames of each port) and saw more loading & unloading. Made ourselves some pre-breakfast coffee and checked the status of Hurricane Harvey set to make landfall later today. Looks to be a bad one for the Texas coast.


Kay had PB-fortified muesli and I had two fried eggs with ham. We met the cook, Lennie, for the first time. We were the only ones in the officer’s mess this morning.


Afterwards, layed topside back to our cabin for some journal writing. Later, we layed topside to the Pilot Deck and watched shipping traffic on the Mississippi and loading & unloading operations.


The Pilot Deck was not the spic & span white paint, varnished hand rails and teak deck of a standard cruise ship promenade deck. The deck was green painted steel with a non-slip surface. The bulkheads (walls) were the Rickmers yellow and the overhead (ceiling) was bright white. The handrails were white painted steel pipe with a few dents.


There was a single rickety, weather-beaten wooden picnic table lashed with rope to a steel column. And there was oil & grease everywhere. No camelhair and linen jackets here. We had to watch what we touched to avoid ruining our clothes and shoes. No shuffleboard striping. This was an active working deck.


Also on the Pilot Deck was the Recreation Room. This room, with floor to ceiling ports, was a bright room with a long wet bar. The room was about 20x25 feet. A drum set was lashed to a wall. Picnic tables were lashed to columns. The room looked a little bit tattered but, with some people, booze, food & live music, it could be a fun place to be if the promised at-sea BBQ was going to happen. It would be a great place to meet our mostly Romanian officers (with a Ukrainian Master, a Filipino Second Officer & Russian 3rd Engineer) and Filipino crew. We surmised that this BBQ would most likely occur during our Atlantic crossing later.


For lunch, we had minestrone soup and pan-fried tuna & mashed potatoes. Had an enjoyable conversation with Bogdan about Romania, gypsies, and the true origin of the cabbage dish, sarmale.


This afternoon we washed some clothes in the Officers Laundry on C Deck. Igor helped us figure which machine to use. The larger washer on the left was for the officer’s work overalls, the smaller machine in the center was for personal items, and the dryer was on the right side. After loading our wash and pressing the buttons to get it started, we were shocked to see that a 2 hour & thirty-minute timer started – two and half hours for a wash! And we had two of them to do! Whilst waiting for laundry, Kay painted and I read articles from The Atlantic, a chapter from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and from 4:50 from Paddington: A Miss Marple Mystery. The second load of wash was a little heavier and the machine said three hours.


For dinner, we had a pork schnitzel with a load of spaghetti and some nice carrots and corn.


For the evening, we watched and finished our laundry and read from 4:50 from Paddington: A Miss Marple Mystery.

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Day 7 (August 26, 2017) New Orleans:


Still in New Orleans. May sail as soon as noon, but looking outside the windows at the swinging cranes at 11:02am, I doubt it.


For breakfast, Kay had muesli and I had two fried eggs with salami.


Spent some time after breakfast on the Pilot Deck. Kay did mostly walking while I paced around studying loading & unloading operations. The Filipino seaman are amazing to watch scrambling up and down the ship’s holds like monkeys.


Jefferson came up and asked for our key so that he could make up our cabin. This reminded me of our discussion about tipping. On freighter cruises, it’s customary to tip the steward between $3 and $5 a day, per person with $4 a day being the norm. So, for 30 days times two people times $4, that’ll be $240. We’ll need to hit an ATM in Philadelphia.


Before departing the pilot deck, I noticed an oil stain on my left hand and on the right knee of my freshly washed jeans.


Back down in the room, Kay started writing in her journal while I started a crossword before starting to write myself. I lightly scrubbed the oil stains on my jeans with some detergent. Now let’s go check if a washer is available before lunch.


Before leaving breakfast this morning, we noticed on the white board that lunch today was ‘lemonade’ chicken and, for dinner, onion beef with spaghetti. Looks like the menu is starting to repeat. It reminded us of a conversation with Bogdan about the food on this ship. “I don’t want to talk about it.” he said after we asked him what he thought about the food.


It was a repeat of the ‘lemonade’ chicken for lunch. I liked it. Victor joined us but it’s hard to chat him up.


This afternoon, we dozed and I read several chapters from 4:50 from Paddington: A Miss Marple Mystery. I was able to get my jeans washed and dried – no more oil stains!


At around 4:00pm, we sailed out of New Orleans. We were hoping to go out on the Pilot

Deck to watch the sailing down the Mississippi but we were locked in.Drat!


Dinner was a repeat of the onion beef dish. But it was a little better served with a rice & what looked like quinoa. We also had a nice salad. The chief engineer Ion was at the head table but we just exchanged pleasantries. We think that his English may not be so good. But he is in his late 50s or early 60s, so he is closer to us, age wise, than the twenty & thirty-somethings all around us. We must try to chat him up a bit.


After the pilot gets off at the end of the Mississippi, we might try the pilot deck again. But tonight, it’s movie time with our newly bought True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger.


After the movie, I peered outside and saw, passing close by on the port side, a lit-up Carnival ship. We waved futilely for rescue.

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Day 8 (August 27, 2017) At Sea:


For breakfast, I skipped eggs and had raisin bran with yogurt. Chatted with Bogdan. Swiped some ham and cheese for snacks in our cabin with our Triscuits later today.


Took the better part of an hour walking on the Pilot Deck. Afterwards, we got cleaned up and Kay crocheted a bear while I read & finished 4:50 from Paddington: A Miss Marple Mystery.


Had lunch. Very hearty lentil soup with fried fish fillet, potatoes, cauliflower& broccoli. Treated to strawberry ice cream – they’ve been holding back onus! Bogdan was called off on some electrical-based alarm. As we were leaving the officer’s mess, Victor said that there would be a safety drill at 3:20pm –bring our life jackets and hard hats. Oh, I hope that we won’t be outside very long with those jackets, I took a shower this morning.


At 3:30pm, the ship’s general emergency alarm (seven short blasts followed by along blast) sounded with Igor indicating that this was a drill. Kay and I grabbed our life jackets and layed below to the A Deck muster station. We were greeted to the sight of the crew, dressed in their orange jump suits and hardhats. Oh, our hard hats, we had forgotten them. Victor reminded us that we should bring our hard hats for the next drill – the next drill? We all gathered in a circle while Chief Officer Gabriel gave a short speech in English about the drill. Kay and I felt very conspicuous in civilian clothes and no hardhats. I could feel the sweat running down my back under the hot life jacket.


Then, Gabriel barked a command and we all layed topside to C Deck where the life boat was. This was going to be the dreaded part where we had to get into the lifeboat dangling precariously at a 45-degree angle. Sure enough, Victor loosened a cable as if to get ready to launch the boat. He motioned for Kay to enter the boat. He pointed her into the first seat on the right where she had to lower herself into a seat facing backwards. Victor and other crew members helped her with her four-point harness. I was next. With my bum left knee, it was a little hard for me to maneuver in such tight quarters, but I got in and fussed with my harness. It was tight and cramped – and hot. This exercise is the reason that the upper age-limit for freighter cruising is 75 and why you need your doctor's release.


I took pictures of Kay and I handed my camera over to Jefferson, cute in his orange jump suit, to take photos of Kay and me.


A few more of the crew men got in and sat behind us. But most of the crew stayed outside. Perhaps this part of the drill was for us passengers and newly arrived crew only. Then, to my alarm, someone started the life boat engine. It was looking like they were going to be launching this boat. It was a 30-40 foot drop to the water. I cautioned Kay to keep her hard-hatless head back against the seat just in case they would launch.


Thankfully, they turned off the engine and Victor motioned for us to get out of the boat. The crew grabbed at us and helped us exit with some grace. We all then layed down to A Deck and looked on while some of the crew donned firefighting suits and carried fire-fighting equipment to various locations on the vessel. After this, Gabriel invited us to join him and the crew in the conference room on the Poop Deck for some general discussion on the drill. We piled into the conference room. Half of the crew, mostly tiny Filipinos, sat on the floor. Gabriel read aloud, in English, from a safety manual. He said that he could not read the entire manual and that the crew, and us, were responsible to review and read the entire safety manual.


We layed topside to our cabin, made some coffee, and Kay did some proof reading on one of her earlier journals while I struggled with a crossword puzzle.


For dinner, it was rice, corn with carrots, and a tough beef minute steak. We lent Bogdan our True Lies DVD. In return,he lent us four DVDs, The Artist, Slumdog Millionar (actual spelling since the DVD jacket is in German), Excellence Conference 2002 with Dr. A.R. Bernard (a four DVD set), and The Wonders of Creation Reveal God’s Glory. We chatted with Bogdan about the safety drill. He dryly quipped "If there was ever to be an emergency, there would be total chaos and every man for himself." We felt very safe.


Afterwards, we repaired to our cabin, made some more coffee, and I read from The Atlantic. As it got dark, we went out on the pilot deck for some fresh air. It was dark and rainy. Time for a movie.


Tonight’s movie was a Big Miracle, ‘inspired’ by a true story of saving three whales in Barrow, Alaska, that were trapped in ice and unable to get to the open ocean to migrate to their winter feeding grounds in Baja Mexico. A good, solid family movie.


I read Kay to sleep from my reading to her from The Atlantic.

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Day 8 (August 27, 2017) At Sea:




For dinner, it was rice, corn with carrots, and a tough beef minute steak. We lent Bogdan our True Lies DVD. In return,he lent us four DVDs, The Artist, Slumdog Millionar (actual spelling since the DVD jacket is in German), Excellence Conference 2002 with Dr. A.R. Bernard (a four DVD set), and The Wonders of Creation Reveal God’s Glory..."





This was a pleasant surprise as I was a member of CCC (Christian Cultural Center) where Dr. A.R. Bernard is Senior pastor.

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