The following is an insight into a completed manuscript. (Now published as a book ‘Curious Cargo’ – see home page of main website). It is a book on travel by cargo ship. It is not widely known that some cargo vessels carry a small number of passengers. Hilary, my wife, and I have recently been on two such voyages. One was a round trip for six weeks to the Caribbean, South and Central America on ‘Hornbay’, and the second was a four week voyage into the Mediterranean on ‘Gran Bretagne’.
‘Hornbay’ & ‘Gran Bretagne’
Our ports of call on both trips gave us access to places of interest. On the first voyage crossing the Atlantic we were nine days out of sight of land, and this too is an experience when interest centres on the human dynamic within the ship.
Long periods at sea give plenty of time to think and reflect on politicians, bankers, the media and the state of the world. To gaze at the stars on a cloudless night from the deck of a freighter in the middle of the Atlantic inevitably gives rise to questions about, the immensity of the universe, life, the human condition and all of that.
‘From the Bridge’ ‘The Wash’
Our ports of call on the first voyage were: We boarded at Dover, Antwerp, Le Havre, Guadaloupe, Martinique, (both West Indies), Turbo (Colombia), Panama, Moin (Costa Rica) and The Azores. This voyage was not all plain sailing but this added greatly to the experience.
Market Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadalupe
The second voyage was, Southampton, Salerno (Italy), Piraeas (Greece), Izmir (Turkey), Limassol (Cyprus), Alexandria (Egypt), Ashdod (Israel), Salerno again, Savona (Italy), Setubal (Portugal) and Bristol.
This is not just a travel book but, but also reflections on life.
On the first trip the ship, ‘Hornbay’ was what is known as a reefer, that is, a refrigerated ship. She was bound for the West Indies, South and Central America to bring bananas, pineapples and other soft fruits back to Europe.
We left Dover for Antwerp to pick up containers and from there to Le Havre. We had a whole day ashore in Antwerp and the best part of two days in Le Havre during which we spent a day in the beautiful small fishing port of Honfleur.
Leaving Dover Le Havre Honfleur
When we left Le Havre we passed through the Azores and spent nine days at sea crossing the Atlantic. There were nine other passengers; seven German and two English.
The Bar English speaking table Our Cabin Safety drill
Our first port in the West Indies was Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadaloupe. We had the best part of a day in the town, and for some variety from food on board, we found a good restaurant on the waters edge and had an excellent meal. When paying the bill our delightful waitress invited us back in the evening to a Hallowe’en party. Declining sadly, we returned to the ship.
Fish stall Restaurant
Our next port of call was Fort-de-France, Martinique, the birthplace of Josephine, Napoleaon’s Empress. We had five or six hours to ramble around and as it was All Saints’ day the shops were closed, but the cathedral was open. We arrived in time to see the congregation emerge from mass with the organ in full flight behind them.
Coming out of mass
From there we sailed to Turbo in Columbia where we moored in the harbour but weren’t allowed to go ashore. Drugs were the issue and security was tight. All stevedores coming aboard were searched by special security personnel and before we sailed divers checked the underwater hull of the ship to look for drugs that might be attached.
Security Stevedores Loading Bananas
From Turbo we sailed to lie offshore at the end of the Panama Canal to bunker. To bunker, we learned, is to take on fuel. The name comes from steam ship days when coal was kept in bunkers. Then to Moin in Costa Rico where we spent the day up a river through the jungle that was Tortugero National Park. We saw crocodiles, sloths, monkeys and many species of exotic birds. When we arrived back to the ship, Andreas, the steward who looked after us on board dressed for his day ashore arrived back at the same time:
Andreas and Helmuth
Log on for more at the end of August