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On a Freighter Even the Routine is Extraordinary
And the Destinations are Some of the Most Exotic in the World

Passenger Firsthand Stories

The French Line CMA CGM, around-the-world cruise

      “The $9,990, eighty-four-day voyage is scheduled from New York City on January 9, 2004. Prior to departure I must check my passport, purchase insurance, get a visa for Australia, have a physical examination, and get a shot for yellow fever. This book has been written in real time. You will read about the adventure as it unfolds. You will be there when the ship departs and you may even feel queasy when it starts to roll. You will see new sights abroad and be part of everyday life on board, and if you pay attention, we may both learn a thing or two about our world. So check your passport and get your shot. It’s time to cast off”.

      Editor’s Note: This delightful wonderful story about a freighter voyage offers you much to learn about the ship, ports, oceans, and the world while leisurely navigating with Mr. Hartley. We are pleased to provide you a few excerpts of those parts of the 160-page book of which we have enjoyed the most the everyday life on board.

      “... Times Square, crossroads to the world, is hereby designated ‘Official Starting Point’ for our trip. Located fewer then five miles from where our ship will dock, Times Square is actually a triangle with geographical coordinates of 40° 45’30” N, 073° 59' 09" W. We will learn all about coordinates later in the trip. For now, the question is, how did this trip mature from a daydream to a day of departure?
      Before discussing the logistics of preparing for a round-the-world voyage, it would seem appropriate to explain why I want to circle the globe. What good reason would there be to spend $10,000 and leave the comforts and security of home for three months? Adventure, thrill of travel, meeting new people, are all good reasons. But they seem trivial. From past travels I know that an extended trip in unfamiliar surroundings strips away our blanket of routine, producing a stimulating experience. That is my objective ...
      Transition is too weak a word for today’s events. This morning I woke up in New York City, familiar surroundings for me. Seventy years ago I was born in Manhattan, grew up in New Jersey, and as a teenager, often roamed the streets of this fascinating city. After college it was home for several years while working on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Tonight I will sleep at sea, resting on a strange bed in an alien world. The events of today transcend transition. They are a major change, a giant leap. However, after walking the decks of this ship for a few days, it too will become familiar and I will again feel at home. Some of us worry about, and resist change, others seek it out and are enriched by it. Since you are still with us, you belong in the latter group. Welcome to our new neighborhood.
      I write this as we head southbound somewhere off the coast of New Jersey. A few solitary beacons struggle through the darkness. This is truly a new world ...
      I got to my ship, the Manet where I was spotted by a deckhand who came down and carried my fifty-pound suitcase up the gangplank. On board, an officer greeted me, asked if I carried weapons, drugs, explosives, alcohol, or tobacco, then summoned Crispin, the steward, to show me to my cabin. Minutes later another officer came in and asked to see my tickets, passport, physical exam results, and yellow fever record. He carefully studied them all and then left. After years of dreaming and months of planning, I was on board!

      At noon I headed down to lunch where I met Carl and Pancha who had boarded just before me. They are going as far as Auckland, New Zealand and at first glance seem to be good fellow travelers. Just before dinner Reginald and Lynne returned on board from their one-day excursion of New York City. Right jolly English folks they appear to be, so it seems we are in luck with our traveling companions. Halfway through dinner I felt the ship move and quickly excused myself to go witness our departure ... Reginald and Lynne on the left, Carl and Pancha on the right, and our writer in the center.

... It seems so long ago that we watched in biting cold, as the Verrazano Narrows Bridge slipped away in darkness. Since then we have been through blistering heat in Adelaide, pelting rain in Auckland, and sweltering humidity in Noumea.
      We will remember what it is like to live in a cabin high above the sea, enjoy a delicious cup of coffee with three butter cookies in the morning, and be lulled to sleep at night by the throb of the engine. We will long for the serenity of those warm afternoons as we gazed from the bow at the Southern Ocean, searching for flying fish or, failing that, the meaning of life.
      Strange ports have opened our eyes to different cultures, natural oddities, and man-made wonders. Stimulating discussions at the dinner table have broadened our knowledge and sharpened our thoughts. Lighter conversations with crew and local townspeople have reinforced our belief that most people are good, simply wanting to live their lives in peace ...
      For the past eighty days I have not driven a car, answered a telephone, or read a newspaper. Not many days from now I will miss those freedoms. I will miss watching the sunrise with the first mate and my daily banter with Crispin. I will miss my afternoon walk to the bow, standing on the monkey deck, seeing nothing and everything at the same time. I will miss the excitement of discovering a new town, and the relief of returning to the ship.
      I will miss all these things, but in the future I will experience them over and over as my mind drifts back to Manet and the sea. Descending the gangplank tomorrow and returning to Times Square will close the circle and complete the journey, but within that circle there is a world of memories, and like education, they can never take it away from you ...
      Being ahead of schedule, we traveled all night at the reduced speed of seventy-five RPM, about twenty miles per hour. Incidentally, seventy-five RPM equals seventy-five thumps per minute from the engine which equals the normal heart beat which may account for why we sleep so well at sea. That’s just my theory, don’t bet the farm on it.
      At 05:30 I went to the bridge where both the captain and first mate had their eyes glued to their radar screens. At that time we were passing the eastern end of Long Island. I was back on the bridge at 10:30 as we dropped our anchor and called the pilot station to confirm our arrival. There was no mistaking the American voice at the other end, strong, with a little bit of swagger and a lack of formality. We are home.
      After lunch I took my final walk to the bow. Every daily activity that had become routine was savored today as something special, knowing it was for the last time. Seeing the Manet chained to an anchor on a cold gray afternoon seemed an injustice to this lady that had carried us through dancing waves on sunlit afternoons. Then there were the closing rituals. Alfredo gave me a declaration form to fill out for Customs and presented me with a bill for sixteen dollars for a case of beer ...
      Of course the best way to combat restlessness is to have a party and Captain Bozanic was gracious enough to provide just that. And all in my honor. Wow! As I entered the mess hall Danny, Oscar and Crispin were bringing out the salads, meats, vegetables, and a freshly roasted turkey, all topped off by a cake that said ‘Thank you Mr. Bob.’ Thank you for what? I should be the one to say thank you to these men who gave me a lifetime of memories.
      At my table sat Philip and Steven, two engineering cadets, who had been sharing the table of a lone passenger. I had come to know them well but always felt guilty drinking wine while they sipped water. For the first time, the captain allowed them to share my bottle. Tonight, a good time was had by all.

    Equating these men to family is overstating it, but I have learned to respect their ability and certainly enjoyed their company for the past twelve weeks.
    After dinner I went to the crew’s recreational room where they were watching New York television. This is the other half of the family. Different, but equally honored and respected. These are the men that care for the Manet as a mother cares for her child. Without them, the Manet would be lifeless. I thank them all. The celebration is over, the bags are packed. Time to rest for an early morning departure”.
Relaxing in the deck chair

      The book, Around the World by Freighter, by Bob Hartley, is available at Amazon for $18.50. For more information and reservations, please contact us at Maris.

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