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On a Freighter Even the Routine is Extraordinary
And the Destinations are Some of the Most Exotic in the World
North America - Australia and New Zealand

From the East Coast

Sailing approx. every other week: Philadelphia, PA (Day 1); Charleston, SC (3); Cartagena, Columbia (8); transit the Panama Canal (9); Balboa, Panama (10); Auckland, NZ (28); Sydney (31) and Melbourne, Australia (34); Timaru (39), Port Chalmers (40), Napier (42), Tauranga (43) and Auckland, all in New Zealand (44); transit the Panama Canal (61); Manzanillo, Panama (62); Cartagena, 2nd call (63) and Philadelphia (70).

The Spirit of Auckland, Hamburg, Singapore,
Shanghai and Bernhard S*.
Passengers: 3-5
Deadweight: 53,125 tons
Containers: 3,630 teu
Length: 254 m
Speed: 21 knots
Built: 2007
Officers/Crew: Int’l
Owners: Rickmers, German:
Operators: Hamburg Sud, German

Owner's twin-bedded suite, located on the Captain's deck and facing forward, consisting of a bedroom, separate sitting room and private facilities with shower. - €100 per person, double, €115 single occupancy, per day.

A single cabin, located on the E deck and forward facing, consisting of a bedroom (bed size 2.05 x 1.25 m) with a sitting area and private facilities with shower, - €95 per day.

Plus €435 for port and vessel fees, per person, per voyage.

From the West Coast

Sailing every 7 weeks: - Long Beach, CA (Day 1); Auckland, NZ (16); Melbourne (21) and Sydney, Australia (24), Tauranga NZ (29); Oakland (47) and Long Beach, CA (49).

The Cap Capricorn
Passengers: 4
Deadweight: 51,599 tons
Containers: 3,083 TEU
Length: 228 m
Speed: 24 knots
Built: 2013
Officers/Crew: Int’l
Hamburg Sud, German
      The ANL Bindaree may sail
on this route as a substitute vessel. (1 pdf page, 194 KB)

Owner's double bed cabin, located on the G (7th) deck, front facing. - €100 per person, double, €115 single occupancy, per day.
      Two single cabins, one located on the G (7th) deck, front facing, and one on the F (6th) deck, forward facing. - €95 per day.

Plus €435 for port and vessel fees, per person, per voyage.

For reservations and general information about these services, please visit
General Information and Reservations

Editor's note: Excerpts from the story written from a voyage and ship sailing earlier on this route.

“... Around midnight the captain made a slight adjustment in our course and the chop, which had been affecting us, has ceased. Now there is merely a gentle roll.
      There is only one other passenger, Jill, a lady forest ranger from Orleans, California, recently retired and traveling to New Zealand for her yearly visit with her married sister. She will get off at Auckland and I will continue on to Sydney where this ship will go into dry dock for 10-14 days, they tell me. Once it is out of dry dock, I will board again and resume the trip home.
      There are about 23 sailors on board, 8 of them officers and the rest crew. The officers’ mess (where passengers also eat) is well-appointed, with linen-covered tablecloths and place mats, good food and good service. The officers are Polish, Romanian and Latvian and the crew is all-Filipino. The accents are difficult to interpret, even though English is the language of the ship and currency is in US$.
      It is over 5,700 nautical miles from L.A. to Auckland and there are no other ships on this route. The captain and crew take very good care of the ship and you can tell they are proud of her.
      I bought two bottles of California wine and a case of bottled water from the ‘Slop Chest’ which seems to be the weekly duty-free store of the ship.
      You fill out a little slip of paper with what you want from the published list and the steward delivers it to your door. The charges are then added to a bill in your name, which is settled at the end of the month. The wine was $4 each and 15 1-quart bottles of Niagara water was $8. A real bargain even though the water on board is good to drink right from the tap.

      The ship is extremely clean and kept in good repair. They constantly wash and clean the decks.

The ocean is about five miles deep according to the nautical charts they use on the bridge. We travel at approximately 20 knots, with a head wind standing on the cargo deck , the first deck entered when boarding the ship, it feels like much more. The sea is an incredible cobalt blue. They say it reflects the sky, but I have never seen a sky that color.
      The captain is Polish and is a happy, gregarious man who loves to talk and will be going home to see his wife and two children at the end of this trip. One of the mechanics (Bos’n) says the crew members sign contracts for nine months at sea and then go home for three or four months before signing up again on another ship going somewhere else. I guess when you are at sea it is academic where exactly you are going as long as you are doing the same type of work and plotting the same type of course. Usually officers’ contracts are for three months. I have what I like to think of as my own private patio where I drag the lawn chair from my cabin and commune with nature. It is just outside my own porthole and cabin. In reality, others may enter simply by climbing the outside stairs, which take you up or down to the other decks, and they do regularly and always say hello and smile.
      There is a conference room a few steps from my cabin door which contains a large conference table with chairs, several reading or conversation areas with coffee tables and sofas, a large selection of DVDs, novels, magazines, newspapers bought at the last port, travel books for the places they visit, a TV, DVD player and even religious tracts. The officers usually are the ones taking advantage of that; I believe the crew has their own. The door at the end of each hallway is not locked and you may go outside at any time. We are in a very controlled environment and there is no way anyone could get on board ship until we are in port, at which time all doors are locked. In port you must wear identification (provided to all passengers and including their fingerprint, picture and status) at all times until you sail again. My cabin has a DVD player, TV, stereo system and VHS player, none of which I can play yet, but the manuals are here. We are probably getting close to the equator but the captain says they do not notify the crew of this as the crew would take the day off as a holiday and get no work done. This is second-hand information so I’m not sure why that happens, it was just reported to me by Jill that it is so. Saturday we are to have a barbecue on deck for everyone.

The sea is quite calm most of the time and just a mention of a walk on the deck gets you permission and encouragement from the officer on duty. Permission is required because you cannot be seen behind the cargo containers and if you fall or are hurt the officer in charge would not know. However, you will not receive permission from dusk to dawn nor when the ship is working in port.

Jill and I were given certificates that we had crossed the equator during the night and I was given the sea name of Mermaid while she was called Sea Nymph. We should be crossing the International Date Line soon. The captain says that the Tasman Sea will be rough, but we won’t be there too long, a couple of days on the way from New Zealand to Australia.
      I enjoy visiting the bridge and the view is spectacular all around except directly behind, where the superstructure gets in the way. Once out on the bridge wing, which is the outside extension of the bridge over each side allowing viewing behind the ship, the view is unimpeded.
      The air is soft and tepid. During the day, being in the sun can be hot, but in the shade it is quite tolerable. The ship is air-conditioned and it operates day and night. Living on a container ship is like constantly having your ear pressed to a giant’s chest and listening to its huge heartbeat 24 hours a day. I cannot remember what the Holland America pleasure cruise ship sounded like, but this must be louder.
      We are approaching the Tasman Sea and the effect of its currents so today the sea is starting to get rough. Nevertheless, no one is seasick and we just had lunch ...
      Here I sit in Auckland, New Zealand, after taking a trip into town while they load and unload the ship. It was two weeks of peace and serenity and five hours of chaos on a Friday night downtown. Auckland is rather like San Francisco (much smaller in scale) built on hills, wide sidewalks, lots of traffic and a bustling population. The local ‘Red Lions’ and ‘All Blacks’, two rugby teams, are in town for two weeks of national meets along with 50,000 fans. Rugby seems to be the national insanity, but I must admit all accounts give it good reports. Unlike soccer in the UK, Europe and South America where they trample on everyone and tear or burn things down, here they respect themselves, the other team’s players and fans, and spectators, from the youngest to the oldest. Everything remains relatively orderly and at the end of the game everyone just goes home. I haven’t seen a game yet, but I may once I get to Australia. They tell me it is like our football, but without any padding or helmets and no time outs!
      There was a big storm all day yesterday, which kept me in my bunk reading for most of the day. Too difficult to be up walking around. The big dips and bumps were exciting, like a thrill ride at the carnival. It did calm down considerably later in the day and I had my dinner of pizza, salad, cold cuts and the most delicious chocolate meringue cake I have ever tasted. The cook on this vessel is very good and it is a wonder to me how he does such nice things while being tossed here and there.
      Luckily, I had downloaded quite a few CDs and can enjoy music at all hours. There is no live radio here or TV, only what you bring with you. I do watch my movies almost every night or read and jump into bed and let the ocean rock me to sleep. Its part of what I came for, and I enjoy every single minute.

A curious sight, about 100 yards out my porthole I saw strange flat whitecaps. So I grabbed my binoculars and dashed out on deck. It appeared there were fish being herded into a ball by bigger fish, driving them up to the surface where they were probably feeding on them. The smaller fish were jumping out of the water and causing a big disturbance on the surface of the waves. I’ve seen this phenomenon before, on National Geographic, and assume this is what was happening here. The disturbance was more or less stationary and as we continued on we left the white water behind.
      Arrival at Sydney harbor was smooth. Several of the crew picked up my luggage and set it on the deck and waited with me for the shuttle to take me to the gate and my entrance to Australia. Here, while the ship was in dry dock, I spent almost three weeks touring Sydney’s harbors, the aboriginal villages as well as the Great Barrier Reef and Rain Forest ...
      The port agents with whom I had kept in touch were kept me informed of the ship’s whereabouts and told me when to board. They advised me to check in with the office at the terminal, take the shuttle from there to the ship and wait until crew comes to help with luggage and guide me up the gangway. I had learned that those were the best ideas to prevent any injury.
      Once I boarded the ship, the assistant engineer greeted me with open arms and a beaming smile saying, 'I missed you.' He asked about my vacation on land. Then Roderick stuck his head in the door to welcome me with a big smile and take my luggage on his shoulder. Although Roderick isn’t any taller than I am, and he is probably 22 or younger, and he is a cabin boy, not a dock worker, he was able to heft my suitcase onto his shoulder and pick up my heavy computer case and away he went. I had to visit with the first officer for a while and greet some of the crew, including the Bos’n, whom I had met the first few hours on board, and who came in to shake hands and smile. All in all, a lovely reunion. It was almost like coming home.
      All members of the ship, regardless of their rank, behave toward me with consummate politeness and formality.

They seem to be painting everywhere, above me, below me and probably my patio tomorrow. They painted the bridge deck and F deck yesterday. Today, they painted E deck and the one below. They seem to be painting, cleaning or fixing all the time. With the humidity in the air, it needs it all the time.

What a lovely, lovely evening. We all gathered just before the sun went down behind a few horizon clouds. The air was tropical and warm and the ship stirred up its own breeze, adding to what the weather was doing, so you didn’t get too hot, just right. One of the crew had a huge BBQ going and added more charcoal to it as people came and decided on their preferences. There seemed to be way more food than our 25 people could eat. One whole table was filled with rice, salad, rolls and cakes. I ordered the chicken but during dinner they also served plates of steak, ribs and sausages. And the roast pig was up there for anyone at any time.
      I fixed my plate and saw one Filipino crewman sitting off by himself at the corner of a completely empty picnic table. So I asked if I could join him and he lit up like a Christmas tree and was so gracious to me all evening that it was quite touching. For a while the chief engineer joined us as did the other passenger, and the captain. Mostly the captain circulated around on foot munching on a rib or piece of chicken and laughing with one person and another. But then he had to go to the bridge so the first officer could come down, where he also joined our table.
      After everyone had eaten and had cake, the karaoke started with a few of the crew taking turns singing using the microphone. Even the chief officer got into ‘I Did It My Way.’ Some were quite good and some were teeth grinders, but all were applauded loudly for their efforts. We all talked and laughed a lot and people told funny stories and got philosophical and we enjoyed each other as well as the night. Everyone thinks I am counting the days until I get home. Not so. I told them they could make a bed for me on the muster deck and give me a little job to do such as cleaning or cooking or keeping the books and I would just continue sailing. Of course, that is not entirely true, but they appreciate the sentiment and want to halfway believe me. They have loved ones, wives and children, they want to go home to, so for them this is only a job to provide for their families. Unfortunately it takes them away all too often, but this seems to make them draw closer to each other. I’m not in that position and have only myself to care for, for the most part. But they have allowed me into their world without hesitation, which has meant a great deal to me on this trip.
      Lots of flying fish this morning. Elias says they are fleeing from a shark. I thought they were just doing their flying fish thing and playing. Maybe they come up to catch the first rays of the sun. However, since the chief engineer tells me that the water temperature is averaging 30 to 32 degrees Celsius, which are 86 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit, I have to believe they fly up out of the water to cool off and flap their fins, much as we would flap our arms and the front of our T shirts to cool off …
      Visiting on the bridge with Elias, I ask him what ‘amidships’ means since you hear it all the time in the old movies. He tells me that when wanting a change in heading or direction, 10 degrees port for example, the captain (or pilot) will wait until the ship is heading in the direction he wants before calling ‘amidships’. Upon hearing this order, the sailor who is steering the vessel will bring the wheel in the neutral position, in the middle, and so stop the turn and set the ship on its new course. You learn something new every day …

This may be the last time I have any quality visiting time with Elias and will say good-bye just in case. I have already said my good-byes to the chief officer. I hate saying good-byes and it will be harder to do so with Elias and the bosun, but it will be particularly difficult saying it to Gheorghe who has kept our dinner table jumping and happy. They are all really sweet people and I’m glad to have them in my memory banks.
      Back in a deck chair, watching the ocean becomes hypnotic. You either think about what’s coming, what’s been or nothing at all and end up with book in lap, glasses in hand and brain on hold. My outdoor session was cut short because the crew is out washing down the decks again.
      Off my own patio are dolphins/porpoises, at least dozens of them as they cavort in a very wide area. Three California brown pelicans skim the water looking for food and are flying slightly faster than the ship is traveling. I go to the bridge and watch as the pilot, a very tall, thin man, takes us in. It takes less than an hour. Now the customs and inspectors will board and do whatever it is they do and I will be called and questioned and released, I’m sure”.

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