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

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20 (September 8, 2017) At Sea:


Did get some sleep after an hour or two of getting rocked from side to side. Had our coffee and enjoyed a smooth ride. For breakfast, I had two eggs while Kay had oatmeal. On the way up the ladder, Gabriel told us to expect bad weather tomorrow and to remove all our stuff from our desks and tables.


Back in the room, we checked the internet for wind and wave forecasts and it looks like winds of 20-30 knots and waves up to 15 feet in height. Now that promises to be quite a ride. Let’s hope we encounter them mostly tomorrow during daylight hours – it’ll be impossible to sleep in such conditions. Looking at the direction of the waves, it appears that the flow will be from the north-north west, from whence we are sailing from. So, waves from our rear are better than waves to our sides, right? We’ll see.


Tried, without success, to sync Kay’s FitBit to local time.


We did about 55 minutes of walking on the pilot deck before lunch. The deck was a little slippery, so we had to be careful. With favorable sea conditions for now, we both took showers – it’ll be impossible to stand, let along take a shower tomorrow.


For lunch, we had tomato soup, curried chicken, mashed potatoes & veggies. Kay avoided lunch because she did not want to chance the curry seasoning – which was mild.


During lunch, there was an issue that Igor had with our beloved Jefferson. It appeared that Jefferson was giving Igor an update on the ordering of provisions or some similar subject. Igor then got up and followed Jefferson into the galley and, in loud (not yelling) voice lectured him on the proper use of the English word ‘will’, saying repeatedly that ‘will’ means something that you will do in the future, not the present. Jefferson was advised to do better with his English, the second language for all the crew. Igor sort of apologized to Jefferson (not us) for raising his voice like that but that he was very upset with whatever the outcome of the issue and what bearing the use of the ‘will’ had on the issue at hand.


But wait, there’s more! Igor announced to the passengers that, due to our expected short stay in Montoir, no one would be permitted to disembark. Richard spoke up,reminding Igor that he was disembarking for good in Montoir. No, said Igor, I thought you were getting off in Antwerp. No, said Richard, my ticket says Montoir. But do you have a visa?, asked Igor. No, we all said, US citizens do not need a visa for France or any EU country for that matter.


After Igor left, we joked with Richard that we’d be happy to see him in in Antwerp. It should work itself out in the next day or two.


This afternoon, Kay worked on naming and placing photos for one of her unfinished travel journals, this one the B2B on the RCI Mariner of the Seas from Civitavecchia to Galveston. Meanwhile, I read to her from The Atlantic.


For dinner, we had pork schnitzel, veggies, slaw & an eggroll. Before Richard came in, Igor came in and chatted with us about Richard wanting to get off in Montoir, despite his Maris Freighter & Specialty Cruises ticket indicating disembarkation in Antwerp. Igor was appearing to be going to let Richard off in Montoir but it was going to be a bureaucratic hassle. Igor would have to arrange for transportation, at Rickmer’s expense, to take Richard from the shipto outside the dock.


Bodgan and then Richard came in and we chatted about the upcoming bad weather (looks like it’ll hit us late Sunday night – not tomorrow on Saturday) and, from his engine room visit, the number of engines in the engine room (one main engine running heavy fuel oil and three auxiliary engines running on diesel).


Back in the room, I started one of my Kindle books, Woolly by Ben Mezrich, as she worked a sudoku puzzle and then crocheting a scarf.


Went to bed in heavy seas.

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Thank you, what a wonderful job with this review. You could say I'm a virgin. My first cargo cruise review!


It does seem to be the type of experience one needs to understand very well before making the decision to going for it. And enjoying crossword puzzles. ;)


I look forward to the rest of your review.

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21 (September 9, 2017) At Sea:


Rough night but I got some sleep. Kay reported that she slept OK.


Had oatmeal this morning and had Jefferson refill our sugar jar because it looks like we’ll be running short of Splenda. We saw no one this morning. After breakfast, I went up to the pilot deck to get a GPS reading on the ship. Gabriel was coming down from the bridge and told me to be careful of my footing because it was wet outside. My camera GPS shows us between 2/3rds and 3/4ths of the way across the Atlantic. So, it looks good that we’ll make it to Montoir at noon on September 11th.


Jefferson came in to make up our room. Afterwards, we had coffee and I read from Wooly. Kay worked on her scarf. I took a nap and Kay did some exercises with her elastic bands.


For lunch, we had chicken celery soup, a chicken leg, beets, carrots and some rice-like side. And an apple. Richard, Victor, Bogdan, Arvin, Andrei, Ion and Igor were there. Victor told us that there would be a safety drill at 3:20pm. Let’s hope that we don’t have to get into the lifeboat again – and we won’t forget our hard hats this time!


This afternoon, I made coffee and read to Kay from The Atlantic. We got our hard hats and life vests ready for the drill. As the alarm sounded, we quickly went to our muster station on A Deck. Thankfully, only Richard was requested to enter the lifeboat. We were quickly dismissed – a much shorter experience than our first drill more than two weeks ago.


Back in the room, we resumed The Atlantic while Kay continued her scarf.


Whereare my 15-foot waves? Richard told us yesterday that he understood that the worst would come Sunday night. Maybe we’ll ask for an update at dinner.


For dinner, we had oxtail, some sort of scrapple and mashed potatoes. One of the more tasty meals – for me. Gabriel did not like it and told Jefferson to take it back. Igor walked Jefferson up to us and asked us if we liked the meal and I said yes. On the way out, Gabriel mocked Victor eating his meal with an ‘oink’sound.


Back in the cabin, we had coffee and finished up an article in The Atlantic. Then we watched The Departed with Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio & Jack Nicholson.


Where are my 15-foot waves?

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22 (September 10, 2017) At Sea:


Slept well last night. This will be the last sea day before Montoir. Clocks advanced last night for the last time on this voyage, so we are on Belgian time for the next six weeks!


I had eggs and rolls and Kay had oatmeal. Had a nice chat with Richard focusing on bicycling.


My mashed right thumb is doing OK. It’ll be black for months but the thumbnail probably won’t come off, I hope. A good reminder on our first sea day out of Philadelphia.


Kay spent the morning working on her journal and I read to myself from Rick Steve’s Europe Through the Back Door and worked some crosswords.


For lunch, we had beef spareribs, soup, a steak, French fries and veggies. Most of the officers were there and I lamented that this would have been a great opportunity to get pictures of the major officers. I must bring my camera to all meals from now on. Igor had gotten a haircut and Kay wished that we had got a picture of him before today.


We had coffee and I read from the next issue of The Atlantic. I went down to do a wash. Then we layed topside to the pilot deck to watch some waves. The wind is about 25 miles per hour and the ship is doing about 15, so the wind is coming from the back of the ship – as are the waves at about 3 to 6 feet.


For dinner, we had BBQ chicken and spaghetti with meat sauce. We chatted with Richard – this is his last dinner with us since he is disembarking in Montoir tomorrow. We gave him a zip-lock bag of excess energy bars, raisins and other goodies for his bike ride to Budapest. We envy him his adventure.


For the evening, we read from Wooly.

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From the left; Chief Engineer Ion Morariu from Romania and our Master Igor Katashynsky from Ukraine. We only exchanged daily pleasantries with Ion and never had the chance to get into detailed conversations. Igor was more friendly and welcomed us to our cabin when we boarded - doesn't happen much on regular cruise ships. ;-)


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23 (September 11, 2017) At Sea and Montoir:


We did not see Richard at breakfast. We noticed the lazy susan is getting more and more depleted of condiments.


I spent most of my time up on the pilot deck watching the sail-in to Montoir. Richard joined me. We saw a little of a sea-side town but then it got to be a very built-up seaport. Just before crossing under the highway D213 bridge over the Loire River, We saw the new Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas under construction. That ship dwarfed our poor little cargo ship. Richard and I tried to fathom the difference between 6,680 passengers on that ship compared to us three.


We were supposed to be only dropping off those aircraft parts and expected to be departing at 4:00pm. There was an MSC container ship behind us taking on hundreds of containers. I could watch the container loading operation all day –and I pretty much did. We watched a couple of guys suiting up in what looked like climbing gear with harnesses, helmets, carabiners and the like. We presumed they were some sort of safety inspectors and they proved our supposition correct by slowly climbing a giant container loading/unloading crane and checking the handrails and other things as they ascended. Kay came out and joined us, taking a break from her writing. It was cold and windy outside and we had several rain showers.


At about 10:45, we saw Richard preparing to leave the ship. First, he came down the gangway caring his front and rear bike panniers – Ortlieb, the top of the line. Then, a crew member carried his bike down for him. With lots of effort, he attached his panniers to his bike and was ready to take off. We shouted down to him and we took pictures of each other. Richard had to wait for a port security car to arrive so he could follow him out of the port. We watched him cycle west, following the car and then a few minutes later, back towards the east almost back to us but then turning north and then again west behind a copse of trees.


Richard has left the building (ship). Just the two of us now.


A little jealous of Richard, we trudged down to lunch for a tasty chicken & vermicelli soup with fish, mashed potatoes and veggies. Victor came in and we chatted briefly. We asked about our arrival in Antwerp and he said Wednesday evening. So, it’s looking like we’ll be able to reserve a room at the Ibis hotel in Antwerp for Thursday night on.


Back in the cabin, Kay had a notion of using up some our six weeks in Europe by booking a cruise. At first, I demurred, fearing that with this cruise and the 15-day transatlantic cruise on October 29th, we stood a chance of being ‘cruised-out’ if we booked a third cruise.


After battling a slow internet to check out the MSC & Royal Caribbean websites, I went to a cruise booking website and found one that interests us – a 14-night cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette from Southhampton to the Azores and return, departing on October 7th. Works well with our schedule. We would have about three weeks to knock around Belgium, France and England, take this cruise, and have about 8 days before our return cruise. When we get to Antwerp,we’ll go to a travel agent and see if we can book it.


I started reading some articles from The Atlantic and that put Kay to sleep. While she napped, I went back up the pilot deck to see the unloading of the aircraft parts we picked up in Morehead City. I also watched other port activities. It had gotten a bit colder than it was earlier this morning.


Back to the cabin for coffee and some more articles from The Atlantic. We went down for a supper of tough pork with a tomato and bean sauce with rice and veggies. We saw a printed shore schedule for the ship indicating arrival in Antwerp at 3:00pm on Wednesday, September 13th. If that’s true, and we stay on-board Wednesday night, that’s only three more nights onboard. But since we left more like at 6:00pm instead of the estimated 4:00pm, and with other delays we’ll probably get, it’ll be late on Wednesday night or Thursday morning.


Bodgan came in for dinner and he said that this printed schedule was probably correct but there would be some delay.


After dinner, Kay and I went back up on the pilot deck to see the port and town as we sailed out. We again marveled at the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas – 6,680 passengers to our now two passengers!


As we prepared for our evening boredom, the ship slowed a bit to let off our pilot and the ship began to roll a lot. We hope that when regular speed is resumed, the rolling will ease up. Richard is enjoying a hotel room in Nantes tonight. No rolling for him tonight.


As we tried to go to bed tonight, the ship began to ride rough with the prow crashing into the waves, the stern of the ship, where we are, lifted high and gave a vicious shake which caused all sorts of noises. The superstructure of the ship, our apartment building, was groaning in protest.

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24 (September 12, 2017) At Sea:


In all the nois e and motion of the night, we both managed some REM sleep. But aswe arose, the forward and backward pitching had been replaced with some heavy rolling. Walking was hazardous and stuff started to come off our desks and tables. Kay’s empty suitcase careened across the bedroom scattering clothes she had piled atop it.


But we managed to do our toilet, get dressed and enjoy some coffee. For breakfast, I had two eggs while Kay had some bread with peanut butter.


Back in the cabin, I made Kay a second cup of coffee and read to her from our last The Week. I read myself to sleep in the chair. Kay got her computer out while I awoke to go up to the pilot deck to check our position with the camera GPS. As of 11:00am, we are passing the tip of France and entering the English Channel. France is about 45 miles to the south. I saw several other cargo ships. The seas are getting better and the rolling, while still unacceptable to cruise ship passengers, is not too bad.


The rough and noisy night we had would give me pause if consideration were to be given to another freighter cruise.


For lunch, we had chicken, baked potato and veggies. Igor, Ion, Andrei, Bogdan and Victor were there. I took their photos and we chatted. Looks like we’ll be arriving in Antwerp tomorrow afternoon and will have to go through the immigration and customs formalities and then we’ll probably stay onboard that night and disembark for good Thursday morning.


Igor was pacing in and out of the kitchen arguing with the cook, Vincent, and Jefferson about the food. Kay thinks it had something to do with apples being served to Igor’s table in a bowl – Igor wanted them ‘prepared’ or sliced.


This afternoon, I read to Kay from The Atlantic and she worked on her scarf or did solitaire on her phone. Kay took a nap and I went up on the pilot deck to look at ships and at Guernsey,one of the two Channel Islands that we just might visit in the next three weeks.


I also did a laundry for Kay – our last ship’s laundry. As I went up and down to the laundry room, I could see several pairs of shoes outside Bogdan’s cabin. Looked like he was having a farewell party or something. If his relief gets in tomorrow, this could be his last day on the Jakarta.


After putting Kay's wash into the dryer, we both went up on the Pilot Deck and walked.


For dinner, I had beef with rice and veggies and half of Kay’s pork schnitzel.


In the evening, I retrieved Kay’s wash from the dryer. Afterwards, I read to her from The Atlantic. Then we got in bed at 10:00pm hoping for a good night’s rest.

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Below is a link to a journal for great B2B freighter cruise from Melbourne, Australia to Philadelphia on the freighter Bahia and then from Philadelphia to Antwerp on the Rickmers Seoul (a sister-ship to our own Jakarta).


After the end of this cruise, we were able to meet the author of this journal, the Reverend Canon Andrew Neaum and his wife Diane in Boldre, UK and share some freighter travel memories.


If the link does not work, google Andrew Neaum and "Down to the sea in ships to the haven where they should be."


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25 (September 13, 2017) Last Day At Sea and Arrival in Antwerp:


It was a very restful night’s sleep. Kay got up first and exclaimed “Ron, get up! There’s lights out there! We’re here!” I got up and made coffee. I suggested to Kay that we were probably seeing the lights of Brugges and that we were a bit away from Antwerp. After coffee, I went up on the pilot deck and confirmed,with the camera GPS, that we had indeed just passed the Brugges area and were approaching the estuary leading into Antwerp. We’re not scheduled to reach our berth until 3:00pm or so.


We went down for breakfast and, as usual, we were again the only ones there.


As we draw closer to Antwerp, I’m wondering if Kay will tell me that it’s time to get off the ship today rather than tomorrow. If it’s sunny outside at 3:00pm, why not get off then? As of now, our reasoning is that, by staying on the ship one more night and getting off early Thursday, we’ll be fresher to tackle getting off the ship, saying our farewells, and getting to our hotel. Also, it’ll be a free night’s hotel room aboard ship, saving us $80 to $100.


At lunch, we’ll confirm that we will indeed be porting today and, if so, reconfirm that we can stay onboard another night and leave tomorrow. So, if we decide on our own, or if directed, to disembark at 3:00pm, we’ll have time after lunch to pack and leave. Got to remember to stuff Jefferson’s card & envelope. Also,we’ll book our hotel in Antwerp accordingly.


We went down for lunch and Bogdan was there. We asked him if he was happy to be in Antwerp and be going home soon. He gave his typical deadpan response “I’ll be happy when I see my taxi on the dock.” He said that the ship would be docked in about an hour. Well, that would be about 1:30pm versus the estimated 3:00pm. So,we decided to get off today. We went down to the ship’s office and told Igor and the port-side Rickmer’s representative that we would like to depart right away, like at 3:00pm. We had started packing this morning before lunch, so it wouldn’t take long to finish up. We went back down to the ship’s office, paid Igor 11 dollars for the water that we got from the slop chest. Jefferson was sent up to get our two suitcases and our two backpacks. After saying good-by to Igor, Gabriel, Lennie & Jefferson, we were on the dock and into a Mercedes taxi. Humm…Mercedes. $$$$.


Our taxi drove us to passport control where we got our 90-day EU cachet stamps.Then, as arranged by the port representative, the taxi took us to near our hotel. We got surprised by a 73-euro fare. When Kay asked why Rickmers did not pay for the fare, the driver said that Rickmers paid only for transportation to the passport office only. Oh well, at least it was a nice Mercedes. But the taxi driver was very friendly and pointed this and that out and answered our questions.


The hotel had rooms, which was a relief since we were unable to get online reservations due to a balky ship internet connection. Our room at the Ibis Hotel is a little tiny, compared to our spacious ‘suite’ on board the Jakarta.The hotel is very near the main train station, so we have a very central location for sight-seeing and transportation.


During the evening, walking up and down the broad De Keyserlei looking for dinner, I was just blown away at the number of restaurants and choices of food. I turned to Kay and said “There’s just too many choices to make about what and where to eat! I miss the ship with its set menu.” “I was sort of kidding”, I said.


Now we had about seven weeks to kill in the UK before our return cruise from Southampton to Galveston on the RCI Independence of the Seas. We had a lot of planning and effort in front of us and again, I was missing the regimen of the ship.


This ends our notes on our 25-day journey on the Rickmers Jakarta. I will check this thread from time to time to read your comments and answer any questions you may have.


We trust that we have not bored you, overly. To be sure, one has to be very independent and flexible to do a voyage such as this.


We do not think we will book a freighter cruise in the near future. But I'm turning 72 and Kay is turning 70 this fall, so we have only three more years before our clock runs out - freighter cruising -wise. If it suited our overall holiday plans, we would consider another such cruise to get to/from Europe or Asia.

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