Grimaldi, Part 3: Engine Room and Landing in Europe

March 6 – 14, 2011

From Dakar, we headed up the western coast of North Africa and then rounded Western Europe before sailing through the English Channel for the final leg to Hamburg. It got a lot colder as we moved north and the waters were choppy around France as everyone was in anticipation of getting back on land.

By now, 18 days into the trip, we were well-settled in our routines on board, which was dictated by meal times. Enjoying a conversation with Sandra over some after-meal espresso.

Some of the fish that was caught in Dakar was salted and sun-dried on the top deck.

Mmm, this would make a good snack.

And then, we finally had the fish barbeque, which was delicious.

The officers were out back manning the grill.

They were a friendly bunch and enjoyed sharing this moment with us.

With Chief Engineer Hufalar from The Philippines. When I told him I was from Madras, he said he was in port there on a ship in December 2004, when the Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunami struck and his ship was lifted 10 m (33 ft) and dropped back down, but many other ships sustained a lot of damage there. We asked him some questions about the engine and he said the ship carries 3,000 metric tonnes (3,000,000 liters or 792,000 gallons) of heavy fuel oil for the round trip two month journey from Europe and back of 24,000 kms (14,906 mi), which translates 12,500 liters/100km (0.008 kpL, 0.019 mpg). This is a very crude fuel and is highly polluting, but since it’s been difficult to pass pollution laws for ships due to their trans-boundary nature, they go on burning this fuel. However, Europe has enacted very strict laws regarding pollution, so the ship also carries 400 mt of light fuel oil for burning when they enter European ports. There’s also 100 mt of gas oil on board, which is slightly heavier than diesel, for all the heavy machinery that is used in moving the containers around. The Chief Engineer was also delaying on giving us a tour of the engine room, so we pushed him on that.

A world map highlighting the regions that have increased air pollution due to ships. The heavy fuel oil (bunker oil) is not controlled by any regulation for its particulate emissions and us passengers felt a bit guilty seeing the thick black smoke bellowing out of the ship’s chimney stack as we used its dirty services. It would be simple to throw a filter on their to reduce the amount of particulates being ejected out, but this would reduce performance slightly and no one has been able to pass such global regulation. However, each region can set its own rules, as Europe has done, and with climate change mitigation becoming a reality across many industries, it’s only a matter of time before cargo ships have to shape up and do their part to reduce their carbon footprint.

For some reason, I didn’t take too many shots of the food, but it was mostly very good. This is some breaded steak (like a milanesa) with green beans. After pigging out the first two weeks, we all slowly started refusing the second course of meat. We knew we had to get accustomed to normal eating quantities as we would be getting back on land soon and feeding ourselves. An interesting point about meal times was that we had to sit in the same seat for every meal. In the first few meals, we all shuffled around to get to know everyone, but Franchesco didn’t like this since he wanted to pre-place our drink orders and forbade us from moving around. The ship certainly likes its order.

There were TVs in our room that were meant for capturing over-the-air channels when we got into European waters and after we got near France, we could get BBC World News. I was fine without internet access for so long on board, but was starving for world news. The first day was just the usual news reports, but the next morning, March 11, brought news of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. I was glued to the TV from then on as this incident was slowing playing out in real time. When people in Tokyo complained of experiencing motion sickness due to the 6 minute long quake, we could relate, as the ship was swaying quite a lot in the stormy waters off France. It was also a strange feeling to be out on the high seas, albeit on the other side of the planet, in a different ocean, as the tsunami was rapidly spreading across the Pacific. It took about 22 hours to reach Chile. Klaus managed to capture the moment when the Fukushima 1 reactor exploded due to a build up of hydrogen inside the damaged nuclear reactor. The Japanese people are resilient and I wish them strength as they climb out of this massive disaster.

As ‘Fukushima’ was becoming a common household name, the Grande Francia passed through the English Channel. We had also crossed the Prime Meridian the day before and were now officially in the Eastern Hemisphere of the planet.

The White Cliffs of Dover across the channel on England’s southeastern coast. The South Foreland lighthouse can be seen on top of the 100 m (330 ft) high cliffs of chalk, which are the compacted skeletal remains of millions of single-celled planktonic algae. The cliffs have stood as a symbolic guard to England through the ages of attack from continental Europe.

Looking the other way at Cap Gris Nez, near Calais in France. The English Channel is at its narrowest between Dover and Calais, with only 34 kms (21 mi) of water separating the British Isles from Continental Europe.

The channel connects the North Sea to the Atlantic and is a very busy shipping lane, as is evident by the close proximity to this MSC container ship.

During the entire trip, it was reassuring to see how safety-minded the crew was.

And finally, we got our tour of the engine room.

Looking down at the top of the eight in-line cylinders of the diesel engine that’s…

…made by Sulzer, a Swizz company. The model number is 8 S20 U and it’s maximum power is 1,280 kilowatts (1,715 horsepower) at 900 RPMs. It was made in 2001. It doesn’t seem like that much power for moving such a huge ship, but it gets the job done. Sulzer have been in business since 1834 and a certain Rudolf Diesel worked for them, leading to their first diesel engine in 1898.

The sounds emanating from this mechanical symphony were astounding. However, I must say I was expecting the cylinders to be much larger. Ok, each cylinder could fit a man in there, but I had this image (I think from the Titanic movie) of room-sized pistons moving up and down, which was ill-placed.

Some spare parts (left to right): piston, cylinder head and cylinder liner. Looks like the stroke (the distance the piston moves up and down) is much larger than the bore (the diameter of the piston) and this ratio would produce much higher torque than horsepower, which is what a diesel engine on a ship would need to do. To distinguish between torque and horsepower, to me, torque is more relevant at low speeds to get things moving and horsepower is more relevant at high speeds to keep things moving.

The engine is on remote control (comando a distanza), meaning the engine is being controlled from the bridge. Wonderful to see such huge, manual levers.

More than an engine room, this is a cathedral for mechanically-oriented people. The engine spanned three floors.

Chief Engineer Hufalar giving us the tour of his control room. I tried to find out some more details on the engine, but could not get from him the capacity of each cylinder. Regardless, he was very eager to show how all the controls worked and even started and shut down a generator from his touch screen just to show us.

Filipinos are known to be highly religious and besides the good people at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, El Cristo is also looking over them.

While the engine spins in the hundreds of RPMs, the output/propeller shaft is geared down to spin in the tens of RPMs. During the Brazil-Dakar leg, we were on time and had enough days to cruise at the slower speed of 13.5 knots (25 kph, 15.5 mph) to save fuel and the output shaft was spinning at 89 RPM. After the two day delay in Dakar, the ship had to step it up to still make it on time to Europe and the propeller shaft increased ever so slightly to be now spinning at 93.4 RPM. That translated to 17 knots (31.5 kph, 19.5 mph) and now we could feel the engine vibrations throughout the ship. On the Atlantic crossing, it was smooth as glass. It was amazing how such small differences in speed are highly relevant when the size of the object and the distances covered are enormous. When cruising at 25 kph, we were covering 600 kms (373 mi) per day and now at 31.5 kph, we were covering 750 kms (466) per day, since the engine is running 24 hours a day. The second readout on the display is the amount of torque being applied through the shaft of 293.8 kilonewton metres (216,296 foot pounds). Now, that’s what I’m talking about! For comparison, your average car puts out around 150 ft-lbs. This makes logical sense, because to move such a huge object, it’s all about the torque. The third readout is the amount of power being produced by the engine of 2,873 kilowatts (3,851 hp), which I don’t fully understand as it’s more than double the amount stated on the engine plate, but perhaps the engine has been upgraded. The last readout is of energy, which is power produced over time (or work done) of 8,337.5 megawatt-hours

Control board showing that the engine was being controlled by commands from the bridge, instead of directly from the engine room’s controls.

A reminder on when to use the booster pump; must be like a turbocharger. It probably kicks in when we cross 90 RPM.

I wonder what the third item from the bottom refers too… (joking aside, it reads Sea Chest)

This is after all just another office desk, albeit one that controls a massive engine plowing through the oceans.

Andres, sitting at one end of the control desk, was in charge of all the electronic components related to the engine. He was a cadet, in training to become Chief Engineer.

The massive propeller shaft coming out from the engine and spinning at a stately speed with copious amounts of torque.

The shaft going out the back of the ship and working round-the-clock to propel us ever forward.

The Chief Engineer was delaying our engine room tour because he was still cleaning up some oil spills. A few days earlier, the ship came to a stop out in the open water for a few hours and later we found out that the increased vibrations from the higher speed after Dakar had cracked a bolt that held an oil filter in place and oil was spewing out. They fixed the issue, but had a big cleanup task. After that, there were two more engine stops and I was impressed that we still made it on time with those issues.

Another piece of information that I couldn’t glean from the Chief Engineer was how long was it between oil changes. It’s obviously a very large quantity of oil that lubricates the internal parts of the engine and it sounded like the oil was never changed or maybe only at a major servicing. He said oil samples were periodically submitted to a laboratory to inspect the condition of the oil and I couldn’t get an answer to what happens when the oil is no longer suitable. I think the lubricating oil is slowly consumed by the engine and it’s constantly being replaced.

One fact to appreciate while being on board was that the engine never stopped running (except for those 3 unexpected incidents), as even when it’s not providing forward momentum, it has to run the generators to provide electricity and desalinate seawater. Once the ship is in service, it’s constantly running back and forth along its route with periodical crew changes. If the ship is ever docked for maintenance, it’s losing money and thus, I’m still wondering when the oil is changed in this engine.

Engine art. Looking at the back side of the cylinder bank.

A crew member painting a part of the engine.

More engine art. Huge plumbing and joints.

Another crew member down in a nook, painting over some of the ugly parts.

The front of this hard-working Sulzer 8 S20 U.

A gauge in the engine room indicating that we were cruising somewhere between ‘slow’ and ‘half’ speed. I love how ‘dead slow’ is a proper speed. With the vibrations we were experiencing at just this speed, I can’t imagine what full speed feels like. The engine probably shakes itself loose from the ship.

Käthi having a go at covering up some of the recent mess with new paint.

A huge engine has huge nuts and bolts and along with that comes a set of huge wrenches.

The Chief Engineer in the machine shop, where replacement pieces can be made to specification.

A tool board with mega-sized wrenches.

That’s a 105 mm and 90 mm wrench. Wow. The biggest I use on my bike is a 24 mm for the rear axle nut. That concluded the engine room tour and we thanked the chief for showing us how the ship locomotes through the oceans.

Walking around the ship, I captured a few more shots of my time on board. Deck 6 and the access to where our vehicles were kept.

Checking up on sanDRina and her enormous deck mate. This would be the longest time that I’ve been off the bike on this trip and I was wondering how riding off the ship would feel like after being at sea for close to four weeks.

The stairwell, descending down into the depths of the Grande Francia.

Just so you know. Also, alcohol is banned for the crew members when they’re on board, because an emergency situation could arise at any moment and that’s why sailors love shore leave; time to booze up.

Looking out the porthole of the door I went thru to get outside on deck. They’re sealed shut when the weather gets nasty outside, which was mainly cold winds as we went around Europe.

The hallways are lined with all sort of charts with information on the ship. As an engineer, I spent quite a while examining all of them, as it was part of my previous job to produce such prints.

Charts detailed all levels of the ship and it was interesting to see where all the fuel was stored, which was in the bottom-most level and along the sides.

An external view of the ship.

Laundry room for the crewmen. The passengers and officers had their own laundry machine and as we neared the end of the journey, I reorganized all my belongings and washed everything possible.

The on board gym, which had some weights, a resistance machine and a cycling workout. There was also foosball and table tennis, which Klaus and I played a game of everyday at 3 pm to break up the afternoon and get the blood flowing.

The computer room where we were allowed to send one email a day with a limit of 2 kilobytes. They stressed that we were not allowed to attach any pictures or include the original message in our replies as they are paying a hefty rate per kilobyte of data sent via the satellite linkup. The communication link is mainly to keep the head office in Naples in constant contact with its ships, to inform them of cargo pickup and drop off. It was nice of them to even offer this to us as it was a vital connection to the outside world in this day and age of internet communications. That’s the only thing I missed after about two weeks on board. I think I could’ve gone for a longer journey if more access to the net was possible. This was the longest time I’ve ever been off line. I can see satellite data connection becoming cheaper in the future and it’s only a matter of time before we can roam the planet with a decent connection to our second life on the net.

The skies changed as we cruised around Europe and it was much more overcast and gloomy. I couldn’t spend as much time outside compared to the beginning of the trip.

One last safety drill before docking in Germany.

This time the crew simulated a fire in this control room on the top deck.

A day before landing in Hamburg, we woke up to this eerie sight of wind turbines sticking up through a thick layer of fog and rows of white cars. This is Emden, the westernmost city on the German coast with Holland just across the border.

Rows upon rows of white-clad cars ready to be shipped.

Nice, clean panniers, after hauling dust and grime from all over South America. Tomorrow we would be getting down and I repacked all of my belongings.

These are all my clothes, that consists of one pair of pants (that zip-off into shorts), sleeping shorts, 2 boxers, 5 t-shirts, 3 sets of base layers (for wearing under the outer riding gear) and two sets of increasing thickness thermals, along with 3 pairs of increasing thickness socks (natural silk, regular and smart wool). It’s been good to see that this amount of clothing has been comfortable enough to live with for this past year. However, if I stay in one place for more than a week, I’m left wanting for more tops to not feel socially awkward. So, the trick is to keep moving and no one notices.

All the clothes are packed in vacuum travel bags that squeeze out the air and compress the volume taken up. These bags are fragile, so I reinforced them with a roll of clear, plastic tape and they’ve been effective since São Luís in Brazil, which was about 6 months ago. I buy them from this eBay retailer in South Korea who ships a set of 4 of them for $10 (price went up to $12 now) with worldwide shipping included (except Africa). With the air squeezed out, it also lightens up the load, since air has weight and this all fits in my right pannier along with my toiletry/daily chargers bag, water filter and a tool bag.

The four vacuum bags above fit into two large liner bags (like the one on the left) and then I have these four packing cubes for miscellaneous tools and spares, including my medical kit, an emergency meal, multimeter, zip-ties, spark plugs, spare fuel hose, etc. These bags are great since they allow for different configurations inside the panniers and their elongated shape allows me to pull out just what I need, staying organized while on the road. I bought them from eBags.

My original air compressor rusted due to a water leak and I picked up this spare in Argentina, but didn’t have the time till now to strip it down to bike-travel mode. Remove the screws and…

…with the plastic housing discarded, this is all you need, the actual compressor, which is very small and fits in the cap of one of my mega tool tubes. You can buy these compressors from any auto parts store and they are quite durable if you take care of them. They make adjusting the tires to the appropriate air pressures for the conditions a breeze.

Clearing out and discarding stuff, I left behind my Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring and Latin American Spanish phrasebook on the ship, for southbound travelers heading that way. This was a good guide and I like the books Lonely Planet puts out, especially because they have lots of detailed maps from regions down to cities and some information on road conditions between towns. However, it should be noted that this is a ‘guide’ and not a ‘travel bible’. I take what they say in there as a suggestion and then see what it’s really like on the ground. Most of the time, it’s accurate. It is primarily geared for backpackers taking buses and I even wrote to them suggesting that I could help them make a motorcycle edition with more information on border crossings and motorcycle-friendly lodging and recommended mechanics, but they turned me down. Alisa (MotoAdventureGal) had a good idea about adding a small motorcycle logo next to lodging that had space to park a bike (like a courtyard). However, I think we’re too small a market for them to care. The phrasebook was also highly useful. After listening to the language lessons from Michel Thomas, I would then use the phrasebook as I was walking around and this helped me to pick up the language. I also used their Brazilian Portuguese phrasebook and now have one for all of Africa with a little bit on 13 different languages.

In the afternoon, the fog cleared and now wind turbines were visible into the horizon.

Emden is a small town and its biggest employer is this huge Volkswagen plant, which was setup here in 1964 to take advantage of being on the westernmost port of Germany for the shortest route possible for exports, making this one of the three main ports for car shipping in Europe.

Besides the Volkswagen brand, the company owns Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, SEAT and Škoda. Here, newly finished Audi A4s, covered in a protective wrapping, await shipment to foreign destinations.

New Porsche 911s, Cayennes and the 4-door Panamera saloon, ready to keep the German export-oriented economy going strong as emerging markets increase their demand of high quality German automobiles. I’ve been a BMW (car) fan since a young age and had an old 325i and the new Mini Cooper, so I see where the reputation comes from. Even with a relatively small population of around 81 million, Germany is now the world’s second largest exporter, behind China and they didn’t feel the blow that other western economies experienced during the recent financial crisis.

Pushing off from Emden, after a search by the Zoll (German customs in the orange van) of our rooms and our vehicles as this was our first port of call in Europe. They weren’t really that nice and all the passengers said it was a rude welcome to Europe. They came into our rooms and asked, “Anything to declare? Cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana?” Then they searched our vehicles in the hold and said we would be called back down if the dogs smelled anything funny. I was worried about the spices, but all was good.

The pilot boat coming alongside…

…and steaming out of Emden, around the north coast of Germany for one last night on board the Grande Francia.

I enjoyed this journey on board a cargo ship for 26 days. I especially liked the part about sleeping in the same bed for more than a week and having my own room for these days, as privacy is a luxury when traveling like I do, staying frequently with others. I cherished the small things like being able to put things on the small table next to the bed and not having to worry about packing up all my things every morning. However, I felt refreshed now and it was back to living on the road. Europe and Africa lay ahead.

Last dinner on board and this group of passengers were good company, making the voyage enjoyable. We shared lots of stories of our travels, along with photo slideshows and videos. The French couple helped me practice my French and Jean was a friendly American to connect with. The Europeans gave me some tips about what to expect from driving in Europe and I was happy to share some Indian cooking with them.

I was excited about this ship journey before my trip even began and I wasn’t let down. It’s a unique experience and a thrilling way to travel slowly in this age of instant everything. The 12,000 km (7,453 mi) journey from Buenos Aires to Hamburg took 26 days and called in to 5 ports along the way, giving us a glimpse into the freigther side of our modern world. We crossed from 34 degrees south and 58 degrees west to 53 degrees north and 10 degrees east, traversing across a huge swathe of the planet. I’ll be looking for further freighter travel in the future.

Next: Europe, Part 1: Authobahn into Paris

Previous: Grimaldi, Part 2: Crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Dakar

Grimaldi, Part 2: Crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Dakar

February 24 – March 6, 2011

After visiting various ports up the South American coast, it was now time for the big water crossing from Brazil to Senegal. It had been 7 days on board already and now it was to be a 9 day stretch to Dakar across the Atlantic, heading back into the northern hemisphere.

With the ship being the only object on my horizon, the objects in the sky became that much more prevalent. Beautiful sunsets everyday. As we were moving from southern latitudes into the north, I was interested in noting what time the sun went down every day and with the time changes, it was initially after dinner and then became before dinner. On this leg from Brazil to Dakar, while still heading north, we gained time heading east and every few days, it would be announced that the ship’s clock would be advancing that night. So, while we lost an hour of sleep, there was no jet lag in crossing the ocean.

The ship’s wake telling where we had come from. I spent lots of time up on deck and looking out across the waters. Being land-dwelling creatures on this watery planet really sunk in as we were rushing from one land mass to another on our floating metal island. After the rocky core of our planet formed 4.6 billions years ago, all this water had to come from somewhere. Small bits were probably present in the formation rocks (like we can see in asteroids today), but they say most of it came from a bombardment of icy comets and collisions with other icy moons, probably perturbed by Jupiter. How lucky we are to live in such a stable period of our Sun’s history.

Freighter travel is not designed with entertaining passengers in mind and thus you have to keep yourself busy. Most passengers read books or watched movies, but I had my work cut out. I was a few months behind on my website and ride report, and put in long hours at my ‘office’ here processing photos, videos and writing. I took breaks by reading up and preparing for Africa.

After acquiring this thermos from a man at a petrol station in Argentina, I felt I had to complete the package and bought some yerba and maté (the cup). I got yerba that was flavored with guaraná, an energy supplement, to keep me going.

Since my cabin lacked a window, I took frequent breaks to get outside and see that we were still moving. The crests from the disturbance waves of the ship were quite entrancing. Compared to land speeds, the ship’s cruising speed on this segment of 13.5 knots (25 kph, 15.5 mph) appears very slow, but looking down at the hull cutting across the waters gives the real sense of speed and appreciation for this massive object to be moving at such a velocity across the planet.

Playing with the colors and inverting the previous photo of the waves produced this negative, which to me resembles a planetary nebula out in space. The dark filaments could be the dust clouds shrouding a bright neutron star that exploded as a supernova. Or perhaps looking out further in the Universe, this might resemble the dark matter filaments and voids that exist between superclusters of galaxies. And remember, we’re looking at cresting water. The symmetry in our Universe is so beautiful in showing relations from the ultra-small to the ultra-large.

Spending time at the back of the ship…

…pondering the beautiful realities that exist. I reflected on the past year and how calm and assured I felt having made it on board this ship, after leaving Chicago and crossing the Americas. Now, a new chapter would unfold once I landed.

The open space on the top deck was very much appreciated. On the southbound journeys from Europe, the deck is packed with used cars heading for Africa. This is the garage ramp entrance and the ship’s engine’s exhaust chimney in the back.

I couldn’t get over the blueness of the ocean. The color was remarkable. Deep. While some of the blueness comes from the reflection of the sky, most of it is due to the way the shorter wavelength of blue light is absorbed and scattered to our eyes. Water also inherently has a tinge of blueness to it, which is more evident the deeper the water is.

It was time for another safety drill and this time we got to get inside one of the life boats. Michael is feigning panic.

Getting down from the life boat. Besides meal times, this is the only other form of entertainment on board.

A few days later, we crossed the equator from the southern hemisphere back into the north. As it’s obvious from a world map, South America and Africa were once joined, back in the supercontinent of Gondwana (the continents are constantly moving and inevitably join up in a supercontinent from time to time and then break up and drift away to meet up on the other side). A rift opened up about 130 million years ago and after 20 million years, the split was complete and the drifting apart began. We were crossing in 9 days what the continents took over a 100 million years to create, the present South Atlantic Ocean. It’s predicted that the next supercontinent will form in 250 million years from now as the continents continue to drift.

It occurred at 5 am, but I got up to get this shot. We officially went from being at the tail end of the southern summer into the end of the northern winter and with that, it started getting cold outside.

I celebrated my 30th birthday on board, a few days out from Dakar and the crew presented me with a cake. Leaving the twenties would be a memorable moment, along with being out on sea when it happened.

It was super tasty and moist like tiramisu and the other passengers enjoyed the change in dessert from the usual apples.

Katie and Michael presented me with a gift…

…of some Moroccan Dirhams, as I was planning to head there next. What a nice gesture.

Enjoying cake and espresso in the social room after lunch.

Finishing off the nice day with a birthday sunset.

The next day, I was allowed to prepare my chicken curry for dinner in the ship’s galley. It took a while to get some of the officers on our side to ask the master (captain) for permission as it’s usually a no-go zone for passengers, due to the safety risk. But, being out at sea, things are more relaxed and Nicolai, the cook, was asked to accommodate me. All the other passengers were excited to help out. Jean was amused that after I offered to cook, I enlisted everyone to help. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Nicolai was throwing some funny looks and was a little flustered at this intrusion into his kitchen, but he went along with it.

Being in the kitchen, we also got to see the store room, which is usually not part of the ship tour.

We set about chopping the onions, ginger and garlic. You can never have too much garlic.

Three cooks at work. I’m chopping the last of the onions, Klaus is stirring the first batch of onions and Nicolai is at work on a pasta soup.

The chicken pieces going in. It wasn’t an open flame stove and the weak heat extended the cooking time. No curry ever comes out the same as it’s influenced by the cooking vessel and the strength of the flame.

Käthi taking her turn at the curry pot. This dish requires constant attention, so it was good to have so many helpers.

Sandra captured the questioning glances from Nicolai, which I found very amusing. He was watching me very closely at first when I was cutting up the chickens and after he saw that I knew what I was doing, he let me be.

Besides sitting on the saddle of sanDRina, this is my next favorite place to be.

Serving up the Jammin Chicken Curry on the Grande Francia.

Not my best curry as the tomatoes were lacking and I went too conservative in the spiciness, but enjoyable nonetheless and everyone appreciated the change from the usual Italian fare.

The ship’s officers found it amusing and said it was the first time passengers ever cooked on board.

Thanking Nicolai for allowing me to use his kitchen. He said I was now promoted to Second Chef.

A shot of the officers at the Captain’s table.

After nine days out at sea, we made landfall at Dakar, Senegal on the west coast of Africa. The ship’s mast flew the country’s flag that we were heading for, along with the country the ship was registered at. The yellow flag indicated that our last country (Brazil) is one where yellow fever is a risk.

Local boat skimming across the water. When we arrived at Dakar, we had to anchor offshore for two days since the port wasn’t ready for us; another ship was ahead of us.

Sister ship Grande Africa arrived just behind us, but she was allowed to berth first.

Local fishing boats came up to the ship and Nicolai bought from fresh fruits from them.

Since we had two days to wait, the crew set out doing some tasks that are not possible while out at sea or at port, such as testing the launch of the life boats.

Officer Mantilla in the driver’s seat of the life boat.

The lifeboat was actually stuck and it took a lot of time to get it free, which didn’t bode well for a real emergency. We were told the Chief Mate was upset with the Second Mate (Mantilla, in charge of safety) and all the crew were on deck working on the problem.

After much work, in the afternoon, the lifeboat’s crane was freed and the test continued.

It was good to see that the lifeboats are enclosed as it can get very cold out on the open sea.

Practice launch.

Along with the safety review, the crew was busy banging away and chipping off old paint. I saw a report in the social room where the head office instructed the ship to get in tip-top shape before entering Europe as the environmental policies are very strict and everything had to be clean and tidy as they weren’t scoring as high as they wanted in the audits.

Chief Mate Salvatore on the right with Relief Chief Mate Balsicas. The Chief Mate can also be referred to as the Chief Officer, First Mate or First Officer. Their roles are primarily to manage the cargo on this merchant vessel and the deck crew, along with overall ship safety. They get very busy while at port, dealing with customs and paperwork. However, while out at sea, they are more relaxed and were more often seen in their work overalls than officer uniforms.

In the evening, I went out for some fresh air and saw a fish lying on deck.

Crewman Raymond was busying fishing in the rich, cold waters off of Senegal. I had seen the crew fishing when we stopped at previous ports and figured it must be their one form of release from being on the ship the whole time.

However, Raymond informed me that this time the crew had orders from the master to collect as much fish as possible for a barbeque later. So, every free crewman was fishing all around the ship. In the end, they collected over 15 buckets of fish.

I hung out with Raymond and later Cadet Choru joined us. He’s in line to become a chief mate after many more years of experience.

We were fishing with just a line hung down from deck and about every minute or two, a haul of fish would come up.

Raymond gave me the line and on my first try, I managed to get the full load of three fish per line. I’ve never fished before and was thrilled with how easy it was here. After dropping the line, I was instructed to sway the line until I felt a tug, then it was time to haul the catch up. A fun evening.

From our boat, we could see Gorée Island, just off the coast from Dakar. It was first settled by the Portuguese, then later the Dutch, British and French. It played a minor role in the overall slave trade.

After two days of anchoring off shore, we were allowed to dock at the Port Autonome de Dakar, operational since 1857.

A view of the Dakar from the ship. Its prominent location on the western tip of the African continent ensured its importance to the colonial powers of Europe through the centuries. Before independence, it was the capital of all of French West Africa.

Initially, we were told we couldn’t go into the city, but were allowed to stroll around the port, which was deserted except for our ship.

Grimaldi has invested heavily in various West African ports and these refrigerated containers are moving fresh produce from here north.

After a few hours, we were told we could now go onshore, but had to be back within two hours. The onshore leave is up to the master as he is ultimately responsible for everyone on board. We went for a stroll around the city and close to port is the Hotel de Ville de Dakar, built in 1914 and now functioning as the city hall.

Mile marker zero of national highway 1 near the central square. I thought I would be coming back here on my way back south, but plans changed in the coming weeks.

Jean wanted to get her sandals fixed, so we found a market that had some cobblers. As soon as we stepped on land, the touts were out enforce and were being ever so helpful and tagging along, expecting a payment for giving us directions. They were persistent in their offer to sell us perfumes but lots of no, thank yous finally did it. It’s about being firm, but respectful.

A thrilled Jean, getting her Keen sandals fixed up. She couldn’t wait to tell her friends back home how she fixed these sandals for a few bucks, compared to the fifty or so the company would ask for repairing them back in the States.

After a short walk around town, we headed back to the port.

I was taking some shots around the port, like of this trailer neck and…

…a shot of the ship, unaware of the drama about to unfold.

When I clicked the above shot of the ship, this port officer jumped out of his car by the ramp and informed us that it was illegal to take pictures in port and he ‘could’ possibly write us a ticket for this offense. With his phrasing and attitude, he indicated his corruption, meaning there was something else we could do to get out of this. Käthi took these nice shots from the top deck.

The port officer said we had to see the master to sort this out and put the fear in us that we had done something terribly wrong. We were not sure what was happening, but were glad to be walking back onto the ship, which is our territory, not his. He was telling us it was forbidden by international maritime law to take pictures in ports due to security issues, which probably has some weight to it, but we didn’t have a problem at any previous port.

Earlier in the day, Franz and Sandra were caught for the same offense and this time, the master was already down on the ramp to save them from this sleazy official.

‘Eh, please leave the passengers, alone, OK? What, you want more cigarettes and whiskey?’ Excellent shot by Käthi, who was trying to get our attention and warn us before we took the pictures of the ship. So, when we got caught, this official made it up to the dining room and demanded to see the master, who had to smooth things over once again. We think he was just trying to get on board for a free lunch and perhaps some ‘goods’ from the master. We were initially stressed, but I soon saw what this was about and relaxed when the Chief Mate indicated to us that we were not at fault and this always happens. First taste of corrupt Africa.

After lunch, we continued taking pictures from the ship. The crew didn’t care and said not to worry about it. The beauty of ships like this is that they carry their own cranes so that they can visit less-developed ports that lack cranes to move containers on and off.

A Grimaldi port worker waiting to hook the cables onto the next container to be hauled up.

Up she goes, being held on by just four cables.

From the ship, we could see lots of cars lying around the port, collecting dust. The reason Grimaldi doesn’t allow passengers to disembark with their vehicles at African ports is due to the extreme complexity of dealing with the customs officials (read as: too much corruption to deal with). When will they realize that they’re just strangling their own people and tourism with such draconian ways of running things. In 2010, Grimaldi finally managed a deal with the customs at Dakar to allow personal vehicles to disembark and for most of the year, I was planning to use this option and get down in Dakar. However, a month before I was planning to sail from Buenos Aires, Grimaldi informed me that they no longer offered this option and I could only get down in Europe now. This was because a few Belgian bikers who got down in Dakar didn’t have the patience to process through the hours long paperwork and simply just rode out of the port and illegally crossed Senegal. This left Grimaldi with the headache of illegally importing motorcycles into the country and they had to pay a hefty fine. So, no more nice route from Argentina and Europe to Senegal for overlanders. These Belgians apparently also made things worse for travelers in other parts of Africa.

Officer Mantilla supervising the removal of garbage from the ship.

We saw another communique from the head office informing the ship to clear out the garbage area before landing in Europe, as the German port officials were very strict about letting in dirty ships that might be bringing in diseases. We also saw lots of international maritime law notices in the kitchen area informing of pollution controls, where now it is banned to dump plastic waste at sea (finally) and food waste can only be dumped a certain number of miles from shore. However, they still allow packaging and crates to be dumped way out from shore.

The ship’s garbage being collected on shore.

After an interesting day in Dakar, it was time to set sail for Europe. I hoped I would be coming back through here on the bike in the next few weeks, but alas, plans changed.

A closer look at Gorée Island on our way out of Dakar.

Powering around Cap-Vert and turning north for Europe.

A parting shot of Gorée Island with Dakar in the background. From here, it would be another 8 days till landfall in Germany.

Next: Grimaldi, Part 3: Engine Room and Landing in Europe

Previous: Grimaldi, Part 1: Buenos Aires up the Brazilian Coast

Grimaldi, Part 1: Buenos Aires up the Brazilian Coast

February 17 – 23, 2011

When I told my father about this trip, one of his first questions was how was I going to cross the Atlantic Ocean. No problem, dad; there’s this cargo boat that takes passengers and their vehicles from South America to Europe. In the route planning stages of the trip, I decided on a route back to India with as little shipping and transporting of the bike as possible as that’s usually an expensive event, and I also wanted to stay on the surface of our planet and not take any shortcuts (airplanes) to promote the idea of slow travel. Besides the Darien Gap, crossing the Atlantic was the big shipping event and after following Brian and Marie on their 2upRTW journey, I was glad to see that traveling with Grimaldi Lines and their freighter cruises would be an excellent option.

After Argentina, I wanted to enter Africa in Morocco and go down the west side to follow the dry seasons around the continent (this plan would later change due to visa issues). The fastest option would be to air freight the bike to Spain and fly there myself, but that’s no fun and too fast. The next option would be to send the bike as crated cargo via ship and fly to meet the bike. Again, not exciting and I didn’t want to deal with crated cargo and customs brokers on either side. The last option was to use Grimaldi Lines and their Ro/Ro (roll-on/roll-off) ships to transport the bike and myself across the Atlantic. This option would give me the unique experience of traveling by sea; crossing an ocean on a cargo ship. A first for me and I was super excited about this part of the journey. All three options probably cost the same in the end.

Grimaldi Lines is an Italian shipping company, based in Naples, with a fleet focused on Ro/Ro cargo and numbering up to 85 ships across their group. They are primarily focused on the European market and run many services to Africa and luckily for us overlanders, there’s a South America to Europe service. The ships on that line are of the multi-purpose category because they can also take on regular containers along with rolling cargo (vehicles). Because they take rolling cargo, opposed to regular cargo ships, overlanders can simply drive their vehicles onto the ship, avoiding the hassle of crating the vehicles. And since Grimaldi runs passenger ferries across Europe and is experienced with passengers, they allow up to 12 passengers per cargo ship to make the journey. They take only 12 passengers, because if a ship has more than that, they are required by international maritime law to carry a doctor on board with medical facilities and since they are working cargo ships, they can’t afford the space on board for that and I presume, don’t want to pay for a doctor. So, when you book your ticket, you sign a liability waiver saying that if anything happens to you while out at sea, it’s your responsibility.

When you take your personal vehicle with you, it’s basically considered as oversize luggage and the cost of transporting a bike across the Atlantic is €340 ($487). The passenger cost for a single traveler is €2,006 ($2,873) and it’s a little cheaper if a couple is traveling since a single traveler is required to pay for the whole cabin. For the 26 day journey from Buenos Aires to Hamburg, that comes out to about €90 ($129) per day, which is not a bad deal considering you get a private room, 3 big meals a day and transport for your bike across the ocean. Plus, the awesome experience of traveling across an ocean. One of my close childhood friends, now working as an investment banker in Frankfurt, offered to pay for my journey across the Atlantic and that greatly helped my trip budget. I had helped him out earlier when times were rough and he was looking out for me now. And besides, what’s a couple thousand between friends 🙂

To make a reservation from Buenos Aires, contact Ines ([email protected]) who is very responsive and helpful.

On the day of departure, February 17, 2011, I rolled into the Buenos Aires Cargo Terminal, which is very close to downtown and met my fellow passengers who were heading back home after their trips around South America. I also filled up my bike with cheap Argentine petrol, since it costs half as much as in Europe.

There was a lot of waiting around in the hot sun and after the Grimaldi agent met us, we were taken for a ‘tour’ of the port, waiting at a few different places. Initially, none of us knew what we were waiting for or what was going to happen, but we were all happy to be in the port and eagerly awaited the moment we could enter the ship. This is Franz and Sandra, who just did a four month tour of southern South America in their LandRover Defender. Franz runs an outdoor shop in southern Germany and is traveling in style with a Suzuki DR350 on the back and two canoes on top.

While seeking refuge from the sun in between the container walls, I spotted this nice play on perspective and colors of containers on the other end.

A cargo terminal is a busy place and we had to move out of the way of this container mover.

This is Michael and Käthi from Switzerland who are returning home after a two year trip down the Americas in the other green Defender. They left with a good taste of yerba maté from Argentina and to while away the time, waiting for whatever was going to happen next, we shared a round of the hot, bitter drink.

‘Green LandRover Defender Parking Only’

Ah, this is what we were waiting for – giving the vehicles an x-ray scan from a mobile scanner, which is standard procedure in ports around the world. They’re looking for hidden compartments and weapons and other such items.

After the scan, we finally caught sight of our home for the next few weeks…

The Grande Francia, a 214 m (702 ft) long multi-purpose Ro/Ro cargo ship, with a capacity to transport 2,500 vehicles and 800 containers. She’s part of the Grande Africa Class of Grimaldi ships and was put into service in 2002.

The unique feature of these kind of ships is the angled rear ramp that allows for vehicles to roll on board.

Klaus, in his Mercedes camper van, entering the ship and me, following behind.

Once on board, we were directed to the 6th deck and Nolan here, a Filipino crew mate, tied down sanDRina securely and helped me carry everything off the bike and up to our cabins on the 12th deck.

After settling in to our rooms, we all got on the top deck to waive goodbye to Buenos Aires.

The ship set sail around 7 pm and we were moving quite quickly right away.

With a glass of red wine from dinner, I bid farewell to Argentina and my marvelous ride thru South America. Lots of wonderful experiences passed in this beautiful continent and I hope to return one day to explore it further. Ciao!

Powering out of port and heading to the open sea.

The route map of the ship’s 12,000 km (7,450 mi) journey from Buenos Aires, up the Brazilian coast, across to Africa, then up to Hamburg, Germany over 26 days. Click on it to go to the interactive version in Google Maps.

I was excited as this was my first journey on a ship (besides the 5 days on the Stahlratte).

My cabin, which was very comfortable, but had no windows, since having a room with one cost a few hundred more euros. If there were two people sharing this room, then the upper bed would be folded down and I think that would make the room feel much smaller.

The spacious-enough bathroom.

A shot of the passengers with Franz and Sandra on the left, me, Klaus (a German biologist who traveled all over the Americas), Anthony and Marie (a French couple returning from a year of study abroad in Buenos Aires) and Käthi and Michael, whom I connected with the most.

The next day, we were given a safety briefing by the Second Mate, Officer Mantilla, who is in charge of all the security issues on the ship. We just had a tour of the bridge, the ship’s command center.

He informed us of all the lifeboats on board and the procedure to follow when the fire drill alarm was sounded. It was very windy just offshore from Uruguay. The white container he’s pointing at has an explosive lock on it that will release an inflatable raft if it detects the ship has capsized and this container is under water.

There are two of these big boats on either side and they are the primary escape vessel. It is an enclosed boat and each one can carry all the passengers and crew (totaling 42, but 37 on our trip) in case the ship is listing (leaning into the water on one side) and one boat is not deployable.

I headed out on deck every night after dinner and enjoyed the full moon in the early days of the journey. I was looking forward to tracking the stars and seeing how the constellations changed as we went from the southern hemisphere into the north. Orion would be the most obvious as his three dangling stars changed from him having a ‘tie’ in the southern sky to him having a ‘sword’ in the familiar northern constellation.

The first fire drill on board. They announce at lunch when the fire drill is going to sound, usually an hour before dinner. When it goes, you have to leave your cabin with hard hat, life jacket and cold water suit (in the red bag) and head to the muster station on the top deck where roll call is taken to account for everyone.

This was the first time we got to see all the crew members. Most of the officers were Italian and the rest of the crew was Filipino. I was told by previous passengers that sometimes the crew is Indian (meaning Indian food in the crew kitchen), but this time, no special food, just Italian. The Filipinos were mainly young guys, working either in the engine room or miscellaneous tasks around the ship. The officers were friendly, but there wasn’t much interaction with them.

This is Jean, the 9th passenger, who’s a retired lawyer from Washington, DC. Crazy woman would be spending two months on this ship. She did the southbound journey from Europe and was now returning. All the crew were amazed that a passenger would want to stay on board for so long. She was just traveling for the heck of it, exploring alternative travel instead of the usual cruise ships. Kudos.

After roll call on deck, the passengers were made to wait in our social room, while…

…the crew carried out additional safety drills. Photos provided by Officer Mantilla. Here, they’re playing out the scenario of a fire in the kitchen.

The cook was presumed injured and carried out on the stretcher. They take it very seriously, but smiles are breaking out.

Dinner time. This is Franchesco, the steward responsible for the passengers and his assistant, Manuel in the back. The ship runs on a tight schedule and meal times are breakfast from 7:30 – 8:30 am, lunch from 11:00 am to noon and then dinner from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Lunch took some getting used to, being quite early for all of us, especially after being in Argentina, where the meal times are skewed the other way (very late) but after a few days, we fell into the routine. He said lunch was so early because we had to clear out so that the officers could eat at noon, which was strange because all though this was the officer’s mess, they had their own tables. Bottled water and wine or soft drinks were served with lunch and dinner.

A tasty entrée of antipasto (cold cuts and eggplant in olive oil). The meals were very heavy and no one was left wanting for more food. I bought snacks for the journey and didn’t even touch them. I definitely put back the weight that I lost from traveling.

An example of a daily menu. Each meal started with a pasta dish, then there was a seafood course followed by a beef course. The vegetables refer to salad, which was just cut tomatoes and very white lettuce. Fruit was usually apples followed by excellent Italian espresso coffee or tea. I got tired of pasta and asked for a plate of rice from the Filipino dining room, which the other passengers appreciated too.

After a few days out at sea, we arrived in southern Brazil for stops at three of its main ports before making the crossing to Senegal. It had rained overnight.

Looking down from the top deck, the ramp was down in Paranaguá ready to pick up some new rolling cargo.

Right behind us was the Hamburg Süd ship, Monte Pascoal, a Panamax container ship.

It was interesting to see how close we were docked next to another huge cargo ship. A closer look at its anchors.

New Volkswagen compact cars, manufactured in Brazil, being transported to Europe.

At the ship’s main entrance, which was busy with cars driving up to their holding decks and trucks hauling out containers.

Another look at the Monte Pascoal and how close it was to the Grande Francia.

A shot inside one of the decks of the ship where a loader was placing containers on truck beds.

I strolled up to Deck 6 to check up on sanDRina. The ports in Brazil are pretty safe, regarding the vehicles on board, compared to some stories about damage and theft after visiting some African ports.

While the ship is underway at sea, the car decks are secured (locked) but passengers can still access their vehicles with an officer escort. However, while at port, the decks are open and you are free to walk around.

Some Volkswagens were rolling off while others were rolling on. It was a hive of activity as it takes quite a while to move so many vehicles on and off the ship.

Walking around the ship, I noticed many signs posted about. This one wants to ensure that the first and second in command of the ship’s operations (captain and chief mate) and engine room (chief engineer and 1st engineer) don’t get trapped together in the elevator, leaving it to lower ranking officers to run things. The same thing applies to corporate officials where say the CEO and another high ranking official are not allowed to travel on the same plane together so in case it crashes, the company doesn’t lose too much leadership. For the minions (regular engineers), the company had a policy that no more than 10 of us could be booked on the same flight.

Inside the elevator. Our vehicles were on Deck 6, so we had to take the elevator to Deck 5 and walk back up. The M/V prefix in the name of the ship refers to ‘motor vessel’, as in, powered by diesel.

It’s all about safety on board.

Besides driving containers into the hull, some were also driven to the deck out front. It was nice to see the tightly coordinated maneuvers.

Sliding a container with very little room for play. However, it wasn’t all smooth with lots of banging and scraping.

At the end of the day, I had one last look at sanDRina and was surprised to see her new deckmate, this huge John Deere 1470 combine, manufactured in Brazil, heading to Germany. I think the bike could easily fit inside one of those tires. This is the high and heavy load deck, suitable for these 10 tonne machines.

Looks like it spits out Defenders out the back. Even the huge Unimogs in the back look tiny compared to this behemoth of a machine. So, this is what industrialized agriculture looks like these days.

The cook, Nicolai Barba was a funny and light-hearted man, but still rough around the edges. We always thanked him after dinner (‘grazie mille’) and here he’s standing outside the kitchen with a sign saying that he will lend you money in dollars and euros but the interest rate is 150% per hour. When he found out I was Indian, he happily showed me his huge bag of Madras Curry Powder and that started the process of seeing if I could cook my chicken curry in the ship’s galley. It would take some time to make it work since passengers aren’t allowed in the kitchen, due to safety issues.

After an overnight journey, the next morning we pulled into Santos, the big port city linked to São Paulo.

Sailing up the harbor, which was on both sides of this channel leading to the Estuário de Santos.

Slowly maneuvering this huge ship with the side motors to kiss the port bumpers. It was impressive to see how precisely the ship could be maneuvered.

Docked at Santos.

Brazil’s economic might really shows through on this tour of its huge ports. Hundreds of cars and construction equipment waiting to be loaded onto ships. Not all of it was for our ship.

We were in Santos into the evening and here’s a shot of an MSC ship, which was docked behind us.

A view from the top deck of the access door for vehicles and the monstrous cranes towering overhead.

Catching the dance of the port trucks moving containers into the ship’s hull.

Traveling by cargo ship gives you a nice insight into the freighter side of our world, which is usually not visible to the public. Most of the goods in the world travel by sea and this keeps the global economy swimming along.

The next morning, we were cruising close enough to see land and I saw on my GPS that I was looking at Picinguaba, my fishing hamlet slice of paradise in southern Brazil. Oh, how I yearn to be back there…

A few hours later, we had the grand view of seeing the marvelous city of Rio de Janeiro from sea. Left to right are the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana with Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer statue), the highest peak in the middle, finishing off with Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain). I enjoyed my ten days that I spent in Rio, back in October and was happy to be back in this unique city with its varied geology and happy people. The view from shore was impressive enough and now I could marvel at her from sea.
Click here to see the high resolution version.

Sailing around Pão de Açúcar and heading into Guanabara Bay, the natural harbor that Rio sits on that made it an important city in the early days of colonization in the 16th century. The 396 m (1,299 ft) granite peak jutting out of the water creates enough of a disturbance to the winds to have it owns clouds at the top.

A view of one of the favelas of Rio, covering this steep hilltop. Favelas are part of most big Brazilian cities, but the ones in Rio are unique because these poor areas are very close to the rich areas of town due to the rocky geography of the city. A lack of space in the flatlands, where the rich people live has driven the faveladors to make home on the steep hills. Besides being trapped in poverty, living on the steep hills leaves them vulnerable to the frequent mudslides during the rainy season that shows up regularly in the news. Instead of referring to them as a slum, the word ‘comunidade’ (community) is more appropriate these days, but sadly they are still easy targets for the crime gangs that Rio is trying to get a handle on before the 2014 Football World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Once docked at port, the huge ramp is lowered down. You can see the dirt stirred up by the ship’s propeller in the waters of Guanabara Bay, which were once pristine and had a rich ecosystem with mangroves along its shores. However, the constant urbanization and inevitable pollution that comes with it, along with an oil spill in the bay in 2000, has dealt a big blow to biodiversity in the bay.

About halfway down, the lower part of the ramp swings out from underneath and flattens out as the ramp is lowered the rest of the way.

Another Brazilian port and another thousand odd cars waiting to be shipped out. There ain’t no recession here.

I walked into town and noticed this homeless man sleeping in front of a McDonald’s with streegoers passing by. Since I had already visited Rio earlier, I wasn’t up for the rushed tour around town that some of the other passengers went on to get their first glimpse of this beautiful city. At each port, if the captain decides it’s safe enough, the passengers are allowed to get down for a few hours and generally have to be back on board about 2 – 4 hours before the ship sets sail.

I mainly went on shore to get some internet, as I was eager to keep track of developments in the Middle East to see where the Arab Spring was spreading to next and whether it would affect my plans for Africa. There is satellite data access on board but it’s mainly for ship communications. However, they let passengers use their email system with a limit of 2 KB per text message per day, which is not bad. I got the feeling that if we abused the system, then they would make us pay for it, but we used it sparingly, then all was good.

I was walking around with Marie and Anthony and we came across some of the Filipino crew who were having a day off on shore and relaxing with some beers. Very friendly guys. They invited us for a drink but the French couple wanted to get back to the ship in time for dinner.

Walking back to our huge, floating, metal home on the seas, the Grande Francia. It was an interesting feeling to be able to see the ship while I was in town and reflect that unlike all the other people around me who were busy hurrying back home, I would be getting on a ship to sail across the Atlantic tonight.

After dinner, we got on the top deck to see the push-off from Rio. After waiting a while, the harbor pilot boarded the ship, without whom ships cannot move in harbors and ports. A maritime pilot is a mariner who guides ship through busy waters, typically a port or harbor. It’s one of the oldest, least-known professions, being used since ancient Greek and Roman times. In relation to aviation, it’s basically like having a dedicated air traffic controller on board to guide the ship out to sea. The pilot’s job is quite tricky as he has to board the ship while it’s still moving out at sea. Even if a ship’s captain (the master) has been to a known port a number of times, a pilot is still required as he has knowledge of the local currents, tides and any other changes in the port, which are not always evident in the nautical charts. The master is still in control of the ship, but the pilot guides him around any obstacles. Another crucial role of the pilot is in relieving the master of any economic responsibility of damage while in port.

We moved away from our berth and then went backwards into the main waterway, passing a sister ship, the Grande Brasile, which is of the same Grande Africa class as our ship.

The Grande Brasile had lots of used trucks on board and usually when the ships come from Europe, they bring used cars and trucks to dump them in less stringent economies, where emissions and pollution aren’t that tightly regulated.

After making a 90 degree, on-the-spot turn, we cruised out of Guanabara Bay and bid farewell to Rio and finally to the South American continent. From here, it would be 9 days across the Atlantic to Dakar in Africa.

Next: Grimaldi, Part 2: Crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Dakar

Previous: Argentina, Part 6: Bahia Blanca, Azul and Buenos Aires