Saturday, February 13, 2010

At Sea

The view from my cabin.
On the bridge

As I write these words I am still on board the ship, even though I will have disembarked in Wellington in order to post them online. The ship left Lyttelton early this morning and I felt it start moving as I was half-awake. So, what does a person do while traveling on a freighter? There’s not much - a very small gym, a TV room, a games room, and a small pool but nothing in them to keep me occupied for long. I felt a bit restless and then worried that this was only my first of nine days aboard! However, I think the restlessness is due to having been rushing around the previous two weeks doing lots of things preparing to leave and now suddenly being constrained in a smallish space. Once I get used to it I reckon I’ll relax. After all, some of the crew (as I just learned over a cup of tea) spend eleven months on board. I have books, magazines, music and dvds, and chatting with the crew is also good. I’m the only passenger on board at the moment but apparently a married couple are getting on in Wellington, bound for Brisbane.

I’ve started reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville which I brought along with me, thinking it would be ideal reading on a sea ship. According to the book’s narrator Ishmael, I’ve chosen the wrong capacity to travel in: ‘Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea ... I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger... Passengers get sea-sick - grow quarrelsome - don’t sleep of nights - do not enjoy themselves much.’ I’ve felt a bit sea-sick, for which I’m taking some ‘Travel Ease’ and I didn’t sleep great, but haven’t yet grown quarrelsome. However there’s still time.

The only disturbing thing I’ve noticed so far is the racial segregation. There are two mess-rooms, one scummy and like a tiny factory canteen, the other relatively plush, and could be a dining room in a mid-priced hotel. The Kiribatis all use the first while the rest of the crew have the second. Now perhaps there is some good reason for this - perhaps one is for engine-room crew and the other for navigators, technical officers, paid passengers and so on, and it just so happens that the first are Kiribatis (though arguably even that would not be a good reason). But to see a workplace in which all the workers with dark skin have the scummy tea-room while everyone with white skin has relative luxury is not a good look. Will there be a race-based mutiny? I’ll keep you posted.


  1. The quote from Moby Dick is fantastic - even more so because its appearance in front of you was almost accidental. These are contrived in comparison, but how about:
    "Being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned." -- Samuel Johnson
    or, more accurately:
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain
    It is so very, very wonderful that you are doing this. Bon voyage!

  2. Beware of mutinies at sea or you may finish up ,like Fletcher Christian, on Pitcairn Island, for the rest of your life!.