The legendary “Capitaine Quiros” – passenger no. 1 (one ship THREE countries)
Day 2,257 since October 10th 2013: 192 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).
A unique ship within the Saga
It is yet another cargo ship story but on a ship unlike any other. Read on and get a taste of what life is like at sea as seen through the tired eyes of a passenger who has already had the privilege of being on board twenty-two other vessels…and yet this one was different ;)
In this the third week attached to the good ship “Capitaine Quiros” from Neptune Pacific Lines fleet, I have decided to continue the day by day style from the first week. I spent a single night on Nauru. It was the night after I walked around the country (all the way around the country). All other nights, since November 20th, have been spent in my cabin on board the good ship. We would typically be moored to the buoys just off Nauru’s reef around 09:00am every morning. And on the best days cargo operation would continue until 6:00pm. So those nine hours were my window to go and explore Nauru. That is why this entry begins with ‘Day SIXTEEN’.
To catch up on the previous two blogs please follow these links:
Day SIXTEEN on board – Dec. 6th 2019
The ship was ready just outside the mooring point at 08:00am waiting for information as it had been every day. However due to swell we were told there would be no cargo operations in the morning. We sailed until we were clear of Nauru, the engine was shut off and then we drifted as we did each night at Nauru. There were no cargo operations that day which meant I did not get a chance to go ashore. All the same…my injured knee still had me humping around.
Day SEVENTEEN on board – Dec. 7th 2019
This day was a repetition of the day before. Thought the swell looked bigger on this day. I managed to edit the video for the walk around Nauru. I’m happy with the result and you can watch it by clicking HERE :) My knee was already much better but I still had a little way to go before I was 100%. It was Sandro’s birthday! He is an oiler in the engine room. That meant there was a Coca Cola on my table for dinner – and everyone got to enjoy a beer after hours…except nobody did. Because of Nauru customs the beer was all locked up and sealed.
You can also click on this photo to watch the video. Remember sound! :)
Day EIGHTEEN on board – Dec. 8th 2019
Under every drain in your home there is a trap that holds water and prevents sewer gas from flowing up to the air you breathe. That is tricky business on board a ship which moves from side to side. The movement can clear the water out of the trap and that leaves a foul smell in the air. I have experienced that on several ships. The trick of course is to let the water run for a little while to fill up the trap. Ah yes…life on board. Cargo operations are dragging out in Nauru. This day was another one where we did not load any containers. Another day of drifting and waiting. The ship is busy. There is always something to do for the seamen. Maintenance is a big part of life on board. I did my laundry and lost a sock. My ship out of Fiji on December 22nd has been rerouted and is no longer calling Funafuti. However I was given another option on a vessel leaving Suva in Fiji on December 18th. The next opportunity would be eighteen days later. I spoke to Captain Zemtzov who said we were unlikely to make it to Suva for December 18th. We were still expected to have two days of cargo operations loading empty containers from Nauru and we were expecting to have headwind on hour voyage to Fiji which would slow us down. This evening it was raining so I had no internet although I could see light from land. I guess a lot of people back home don’t even know that rain can block an internet signal. Where I come from the internet never fails.
Day NINETEEN on board – Dec. 9th 2019
The ocean was rather calm and the cargo operations continued from the morning as soon as we were moored to the buoys. I did not have confidence in the cargo operations continuing into the afternoon. Not after observing the crane operator struggling to keep control over the first container he lifted on board. So I figured I would stay on board and go ashore the next day for a last time. As the day continued so did the cargo operations. Dolphins were playing in the water in front of our ship. Nauru has plenty of dolphins…and fish as well. There were a few small fishing boats drifting about in the water ahead of us. The dolphins did not seem to mind all the activity. I guess there was plenty of fish for everyone. After dinner I found out that they would continue loading until 10pm. The day had mostly gone with coordinating the next leg of the pacific. In collaboration with Swire/CNCo and PIL we landed on putting me on a vessel towards Majuro (Marshall Islands) scheduled to leave on December 22nd. I also coordinated a bit with Jessi at W luxury resort in the Maldives, which is to become the final country for the Saga towards the middle of next year. I had an idea for an epic meet-up involving Lexie Alford (youngest to visit every country in the world), Gunnar Garfors (first to visit every country twice) and myself. What a photo the three of us would be able to make together. On this day I also took my last doxycycline tablet. Yeah! There is a risk of catching malaria in Solomon Islands. So as a precaution I took doxycycline every day. However the practice is that you continue to take it for fourteen days after leaving a malaria area. And that happened to be this day. Felt like forever.
My final doxycycline pill (for now).
The sun set and the ships lights came on. Work continued. It is a noisy affair when containers are loaded or offloaded as they often bump into the side of the ship or the container next to them. It sometimes makes the ship shake. I went up on the bridge sometime past 11pm and found the Captain there along with the pilot. I assumed it was business as usual and that we were heading back to sea for the night. But no!! We were leaving Nauru!!! WHAT?!? I thought we had several days left?? That had been the indication all the time. I reconfirmed with Captain Zemtzov as he has a good sense of humour and could had been joking. Nope: we were about to leave! Holy heck! Where was immigration? Where they still on board? Had my passport been stamped? My passport was never stamped when we arrived as I was regarded as crew and could go ashore on my ships id. But I had an e-visa for Nauru and the stamp in my passport would serve as proof of having visited Nauru. I got a hold of my passport and raced down below where I found the immigration officer already on board the barge along with 15-20 others (stevedores, police, officials). The agent was there and helped me convince the immigration officer to climb back on board and write and sign my passport.
Can you spot the dolphin?
All well! Next step was to schedule social media posts for the next 7-8 days while at sea. I had about thirty minutes to program Instagram and Facebook. I was intensely pounding away on my damaged phone which desperately needs to be replaced. Around 01:00am Nauru had turned into some lights in the far distance and I was done online. That was not how I wanted to leave Nauru. But I got more than what I came for and we were now on our way towards Fiji.
Cargo operations. Loading containers on board until late at night.
Day TWENTY on board – Dec. 10th 2019
The good ship was now much lighter than before offloading in Nauru. That meant that the propeller now sat higher in the water and that in turn meant greater vibration in the ship. You would be surprised to discover how much the ship can shake!!! It is to a degree where one could go insane! We experienced such extremes one evening at Nauru and I truly could not phantom how it was possible?! This morning the ship was shaking more than the vibrations I had gotten used to from what we had had between Kiribati and Nauru. But not at all as extreme as I had previously experienced one evening off the coast of Nauru. The empty containers we had loaded in Nauru also added some weight but nothing significant. The ship can be calibrated by taking in ballast water. Perhaps they had done that? We probably had. It is the Chief Engineers responsibility to adjust the ballast water of the ship. We were deep at sea with nothing around us but the deep blue ocean and the light blue sky. The weather was very good so the eta for Suva in Fiji was set for December 15th. What had happened? What about the extra two days of loading and the headwind on our way to Fiji? Well the shipping industry is at times full of surprises. While they in Nauru had been offloading or loading around thirty containers per day, they suddenly managed to load more than eighty on our last day? And the weather ahead of us looked remarkably good. So it now looked like I might be planting my feet in Fiji no later than December 16th. I could do with the extra time. The Fiji Red Cross would probably shut down for Christmas so it would be good to get there as early as possible. Furthermore it looked like I would need to go to Guam twice in order of reaching Pohnpei (Ponape) in Micronesia. And Guam is US territory which could mean that I would need to visit an embassy of the USA and apply for a visa because I would be arriving on a containership and not a cruise ship or commercial aircraft. Furthermore I had to look into getting a measles vaccine due to outbreaks in the area. I got my MMR vaccine as a child but can’t prove it and some countries are not letting anyone in without the vaccine. So far I have heard about measles spreading in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. I could do with the extra days…
The journey throughout the Pacific. The entire list can be found HERE.
Day TWENTY-ONE on board – Dec. 11th 2019
I woke up with the alarm at 07:15am, dropped to the floor and did 25 push ups. The push up tradition had been going on for over a year now and began when I first saw the “30 day push up challenge” in the gym on another ship in 2018. You simply start the first of the month with fifteen push ups and build your way up to forty. It’s about as much exercise as I get while on board the good ship “Capitaine Quiros” apart from running up and down the stairs. After breakfast I spoke to Gene Lois Cabason Lindo who was our messman on board. As messman he would serve us at meals, clear the tables afterwards, clean the high-ranking officer’s cabins and operate the ships slopchest etc. We would often small talk around meals. Good guy. I told him that I was tired and didn’t really know what to do on this day. He replied that in the Philippines people would just sleep in such situations. That did not sound like bad advice so I headed back to my cabin, brushed my teeth and fell asleep. I woke up in time for lunch and went back to sleep afterwards. I woke up again an hour before dinner and wondered if I would be able to sleep that night? At dinner the Captain told me a message had come from the agent in Fiji who wanted to know if I had my visa, how long I planned on staying and where I would be staying. So after dinner I wrote down the answers to these questions and brought it up to the bridge but the captain was not there. The chief mate was on duty. I looked across the cargo deck and saw the Captain running in circles on top of it. Very cool! I had never seen that before. Usually the cargo deck is covered in containers but the port in Nauru had suddenly decided that we would load less containers which left much of the cargo deck bare. And the Captain was exercising by making laps. I suspected that a lap might have been around 150-200 meters (500-650 feet) and first thought to try it myself but then remembered my knee which still wasn’t quite good. Instead I fell asleep again but woke up before midnight, saw a movie, brushed my teeth and went back to sleep again zzzz….
Day TWENTY-TWO on board – Dec. 12th 2019
I woke up around 09:00am. Apparently I had not set my alarm the night before. I guess I needn’t worry about being able to sleep?!? How the heck could I have slept so much? Well, this was another day of nearly nothing for me. The crew was busy with duty and maintenance. My days on board were getting pretty long. Looking across the ocean to the horizon is however fascinating. People are so wrong when they say “it is a small world”. The third mate, Joan Caraig Manansala, was on duty and told me that he had seen nothing but water since we left Nauru. Just imagine that. 360 degrees around the ship we had clear visibility to the horizon: no ships, no land, no nothing… Just emptiness as far as the eyes could see. And depths around 4,000-5,000 meters (13,000-16,500 feet) below us. The sky above us. And yet the part of the planet which I could observe with my eyes from the bridge of the good ship was nearly nothing in comparison to the vastness of our globe. It is certainly not “a small world”. Well-connected perhaps…but not small. My level of activity during this particular day was otherwise small so let’s take a quick look at the good ship “Capitaine Quiros”:
Same window, same ship, different times, different days.
She was completed in 2001 at Chengxi Shipyard, Jiangyin, China. She is classified as a multi-purpose dry cargo ship, equipped for carriage of 595 twenty foot + 10 forty foot containers and has been strengthened for heavy cargo. She is a “feeder vessel” which means that she collects the containers which large ships unload at container hubs, and feeds them to smaller ports e.g.: Honiara, Tarawa, Nauru, Suva etc. In comparison the largest ships in the world can carry more than 20,000 twenty foot containers. She has been known by several names over the years: “Forum Samoa”, “Opal Harmony” and “Capitaine Fearn” before the good ship became “Capitaine Quiros” in January 2016. She is operated by a crew of twenty-two brave seamen, measures 126.42 meters (415 feet) in length overall, the MAN B&W engine generates about 7,000 horsepower (your car might have 200) and her home port is in Singapore. The economical speed is around 10 kts (18.5kph/11.6mph) however against the wind or current it easily drops to 8 kts (14.8kph/9.3mph). The twenty-two brave seamen while I was on board represented three different nationalities: three Russians, one Romanian and eighteen Filipinos. A good ship with a good crew!
The brave crew!! If you want a swinging party then just make sure to invite some Filipinos ;)
The Filipinos were partying in the crew’s mess room on this night. Four crew members would be leaving the ship in Fiji as per the scheduled crew change. I was invited to join in for a night of karaoke, snacks and beer. Filipinos are good like that! The party was cheerful and loud. I retired to my cabin around 9pm but the party continued long after that. Life at sea – not always bad. As we left Nauru just three days earlier I couldn’t help to think about how the good ship only measures 20 meters (66 feet) below Nauru’s highest point when measured from keel to mast (51m/167ft vs. 71m/133ft).
Day TWENTY-THREE on board – Dec. 13th 2019
Friday the 13th!! As far as I recall this date and day traces back to a time when the Catholic Church felt threatened by the ever growing power of the Nights Templars across Europe. So back in the dark ages the church organized a mass slaughtering of the high ranking Templars on a single night. I do not remember the year or the month. However I remember reading that Friday 13th is famous due to this (you may want to fact check it before spreading the story). In other news I made some calculations and it seems that once the Saga reaches Fiji we still have another sixteen containerships ahead of us! Which other project across this planet would be in such a position? The Saga is highly unique in whichever way you wish to view it.
I would have thought my knee would have been fine by now however it was not the case. For small tasks my knee would not bother me at all. However when in more frequent use it once again began to act up. My cabin was located on C deck. The bridge was on E deck and the mess room was one level below A deck also known as “poop deck” (that used to make me smile but not twenty-three container vessels into the Saga). After my “Nauru tumble” I found it somewhat harder to walk up and down the staircase. However a few days later I could pretty much walk normally without any pain. Well…I’m not getting any younger. To get the blood flowing I decided to ignore my leg and go for a walk around the ship. Five rounds later I had managed 1.6km (1mi). On this day I also began to watch the BBC South Pacific series narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch. The series mentions that the South Pacific is home to more than 20,000 islands, a quarter of the world’s water and birthplace to around thirty typhoons every year. That is not nothing. This night we advanced the clock by one hour which placed us exactly opposite around the planet in relation to time zones from my home in the great Kingdom of Denmark in the high north of Europe.
There is nothing out there. Nothing but water and sky.
Day TWENTY-FOUR on board – Dec. 14th 2019
There is nothing but water out there!! I’ve spent hours upon hours staring at the ocean and all I see is water. No plastic, not leaves, no dead fish, no floating coconuts, no islands, no ships, no dolphins, no whales, no mermaids, no Aquaman, no Kraken, no UFO’s…just water, the horizon and the sky. It is beautiful at times and monotone at times too. The swell has the good ship moving up and down from front to back (pitching). Or from side to side (rolling). She’s a small light ship so it doesn’t take much to make her move. The pitching and the rolling was minute for the entire journey. For a while I had my eyes fixated on the ‘clinometer’ which is a very simple device which indicates how much the vessel is rolling. The clinometer is basically just an arrow attached to a plate with degrees marked upon it. We never rolled more than four degrees. I was rooting for five but it never quite got there. Third mate Manansala was on duty again. He is father to a six year old boy and his wife is expecting with their second who is due on January 1st. Manansala is a happy man as the company has granted him to disembark in Fiji so that he can fly home to the Philippines and be present. Otherwise he would have had to stay on board for another month. Life at sea is sometimes good. Sometimes not so much. It can be mentally stressful for the seamen. Work, work, work and nowhere to go. Five months, six months, seven months…you win some you lose some. I’m “just a passenger” and the only man on board who does not serve a purpose. Being on board is a privilege for me. The good ship “Capitaine Quiros” and its crew is legendary for the Saga. It is the only ship ever to take us to three new countries and it is also a record for time spent on board. No other ship has come close. On this evening the Captain helped me organize a group photo and we managed to get everyone in it less four people. What an amazing crew!! On this evening I also finished watching the BBC South Pacific series (six hours in total). We should all have respect for these men who ensure that nearly all which we surround ourselves with gets to us from far flung places. Shipping is whether people like it or not a vital part of the world we live in today. And many seamen make great sacrifices. You could argue that they are paid for it and that would be true – however there are easier jobs on this planet. Consider this: I asked third mate Manansala how many vessels he had sailed on board and he replied twelve. Then we added up the months he spent at sea which came to a total of almost 7.5 years. He began sailing in 2009 so that means he has only spent 2.5 years of 10 with family. This Christmas will be the first Christmas in all those years which he will spend with family. Mansala does not complain. It is the life: life at sea.
Day TWENTY-FIVE on board – Dec. 15th 2019
I got up with the alarm at 07:15am and did twenty-five push ups although it was a resting day according to the schedule. Land was now visible and we were scheduled to be at the pilot station at 2:30pm. Fiji here we come! I had already decided to stay on board an extra night as December 15th was a Sunday. I had been offline for six days and who knew what kind of messages I might have received? Had someone offered accommodation? Would someone come to receive me? Did I have an appointment at the American embassy? Had aliens landed? Being offline in 2019 is being disconnected from the world. While being on board a ship even more so.
It is hard to imagine the amount of constant maintenance on board a ship. But think about how much maintenance a house requires and then multiply it with a gazillion!! ;)
The shipping industry has changed massively over the past decades. Captain Zemtsov (1961), Chief Officer Buse (1957), Chief Engineer Simonenko (1960), Second Engineer Ravkovskiy (1973), Third Engineer Borja (1971), Bosun De Lara Arvin (1971) and a few others are old enough to remember a different life at sea. A life much slower, more social and less regulated. A time before smartphones, laptops and internet took over. An age when there was still time to go ashore and be a sailor. 2019 is a rushed age and while in many aspects there has never been a better time to be alive one can easily see the attraction of being a seaman back in the day. I was born in 1978 which made me older than twelve of the twenty-two strong crew on board the good ship. Most of them would only be familiar of the olden days through the stories of those who lived them…as am I.
The brave crew of the good ship "Capitaine Quiros" under the leadership of Captain Zemtsov! :)
Fiji was a sight for sour eyes for our ship. The galley received fresh supplies. The salads were getting more and more boring as we ran out of more and more vegetables. However chief cook Julius Malacat Hamoy had done well. Three meals a day and I’m quite sure I gained weight. The ship also received fresh water in Fiji, fuel, it was the first sight of land after six days at sea and the crew could connect to internet (which meant family). This is where I will leave you. Tomorrow I will set foot on Fiji as we make that country number 192 in an unbroken journey completely without flying. It is already unprecedented what we have done with the Saga however I strongly feel that the real interest is in reaching every country without flying and not 192. “I get by with a little help from my friends” and I have confidence in that we will reach the final eleven countries one by one as long as we keep on keeping on.
Captain Zemtsov :)
For now I would like to thank the brave crew of the good ship “Capitaine Quiros” along with Neptune Pacific Line for facilitating. The crew has been absolutely outstanding and made me feel welcome on board. To them and anyone at sea I wish:
Fair winds and following seas.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - grateful to the many men at sea.
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Once Upon A Saga