APPROACHING HOME – MV Milan Maersk – guest no. 1
Day 3,558 since October 10th 2013: 203 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
Another week onboard the good ship Milan Maersk
Fourteen days have passed onboard Maersk’s impressive Tripple E vessel and it has brought us a lot closer to our destination: Aarhus - within my home nation of the Kingdom of Denmark
Last week’s entry: THE LAST SHIP – MV Milan Maersk – guest no. 1
We haven’t called a port since leaving Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia on June 24th. We set out with 264,000 tonnes of cargo onboard the impressive ship. That would be equal to the weight of 44,000 full grown African elephants, for those of you who find it makes better sense to view the world as such. We are dealing with immense powers here! When the good ship moves slightly to one side or the other, she is also shifting the weight of all that cargo! It is utter mindboggling to me! As we made our way west across the Indian Ocean, and south of Central Asia, we felt the wind and the swell jerking Milan Maersk about. It wasn’t a soft rolling from one side to the other. The entire weight of the ship, and everything onboard, was being shook from side to side, forth and back. It only lasted a few days, it wasn’t a big deal, and it didn’t bother me. Afterwards the good ship went back to her smooth passage across the deep sea. You could easily forget that you are at sea when there is no apparent movement to be felt. The engine room is so far behind the accommodation that you don’t notice neither generators nor the powerful engines. This is in so many ways an impressive ship.
Enclosed Space Entrance and Rescue Drill.
We had a safety drill onboard. Drills are common and in place to keep everyone ready in case of an emergency. The most common drills are in my experience “fire” or “abandon ship”. This was an “Enclosed Space Entrance and Rescue Drill”. In the scenario an A.B. (able-bodied seafarer) working within an enclosed space had stopped responding to the radio. Equipped with a gas detector a rescue team headed into the enclosed space searching for the A.B. and found him unconscious with a broken leg. The unconscious A.B. was then strapped to a stretcher and hoisted out of the enclosed space where the other seafarers checked him once more before carrying him to the ship’s hospital. The drill was overseen by Chief Officer Nicolai Boje and everything went well. Afterwards everyone went back to work. The routine onboard is generally: work, eat, rest, sleep, repeat. Work takes up 70-80 hours a week for most.
The routine at sea can be broken up by various things. On Sundays many ships serve ice-cream after dinner. Most ships have an outdoor BBQ once a month when the weather and port calls permit for it. I have been on ships which had tournaments (darts, table tennis, badminton), and I have been with ships which had movie nights. Now I have been on a ship which held a bingo night! It was a fun and fast paced game which offered prizes for 1st row, 2nd row, full house and a consolation prize for the player to the right of the respective winners. We were making our way across the Arabian Sea as Captain Regin called out: “55, 29, 63, 14, 4…” always repeating the number in single digits (55, 5-5. 29, 2-9 etc). Someone said “4 or 44?” The reply was: “single four – SINGAPORE”. That’s a top shelf bingo joke for you right there. Yours truly didn’t win a single thing but still had a fun evening with the brave crew. This ship really has a good crew. A really, really good crew!
Bingo night - Capt. Regin checking the numbers. They checked out.
One day takes the next. I can’t believe how fortunate I have been with the last ship. The crew, the ship, leadership, weather, my cabin… It is all above and beyond. Returning home by sea was a conscious choice and I made it for several reasons. It is true to the nature of a project, in which every country has been reached without the use of flight. It is also a far more memorable and impressive way to complete the overall achievement. But perhaps most importantly; it is a good opportunity for me to prepare myself mentally for the return home. I anticipate that the return home might not be easy and the mental transition can take many months if not years. A relatively slow-paced voyage stretching across more than a month offers some metal preparation. Slowly but steadily leaving Asia, returning to Europe, approaching Northern Europe, slowly making my way home to Denmark.
As we crossed the Gulf of Aden we entered "high risk area" and the portholes were covered to avoid light from getting out. Just an extra precaution. The freeboard on Milan Maersk is so high that it makes any piracy attack practically impossible. Piracy is also way down which is why you don't hear about it any more. The last reported attack was on December 10th 2022.
What was originally (2013) set to be an ambitious challenge and great adventure went on to become a mental and physical struggle of huge proportions. We have accomplished a lot within the Saga – far more than most realize. The body of work behind it has been enormous. Running has for as long as I can remember been a part of my life and certainly a way of releasing steam when everything becomes too much for me. During the pandemic I put myself through a great deal of physical challenges to cope with the mental aspect of it all. After a good run I usually feel that my mind has cleared up. As such I recently became worried when my left knee suddenly began acting up a month ago. I was on the phone with my friend Mike (while in Malaysia between Gerda Maersk and Milan Maersk) and told him about my knee. I guess Mike’s phone was on speaker because his lovely wife Susie, who’s a physiotherapist, joined the conversation. It didn’t take her long to make an assessment and I soon after received an email with a training program for my recovery, complete with an app for my phone and detailed instructions. Boom! I have been doing the exercises daily and have been taking it easy on the treadmill – it is already starting to look better. Thank you, Susie.
The gym onboard is great!
I’m slowly beginning to reflect a bit on the past decade and what has been accomplished. Lives have been touched, and meanwhile the world has changed. What was really accomplished with Once Upon A Saga? Perhaps the biggest accomplishment has been to demonstrate what can be accomplished once you set your mind to it? Or perhaps it is the overwhelming collaboration between cultures and nations to bring together a common goal? Maybe the strength within the project has been to demonstrate that something good can be said about every country and that kind people can be found anywhere? I still have much to reflect upon. Slowly I am beginning to realize what has come to pass. It is also dawning on me what I no longer need to concern myself with:
- Aggressive street dogs
- Tropical diseases
- Venomous creatures
- Intense traffic
- Foreign currency
- Corrupt officials
- Getting deported from island nations (this has been a real pain for the longest time. Arriving to island nations without flying and without your own vessel often generates suspicion about intentions as well as the timeline for departure. If you are unable to prove how you intend to leave then immigration and security forces might block you from entry. If you are permitted to enter then you risk deportation in case of an overstay or if you somehow upset authorities during your stay. Deportation from an island nation would be on an airplane, thereby putting an end to the accomplishment and all the effort put into it. Particular cases involved: the many visa extensions in Hong Kong during the first years of the pandemic while gradually loosing immigrations understanding, having to extend a visa in Fiji due to the delay of a Tuvaluan government vessel, and witnessing the deportation of a foreigner in Tuvalu which the authorities apparently found suspicious).
I’m sure the list goes on but you get the idea. The Saga is essentially done. We reached every country in an unbroken journey completely without flying making the project a success. I’m now on the very last means of transportation which will take me back to my home country where we see the project as completed. Sure, I’m still generating a few blogs, raising funds and awareness for the Red Cross Red Crescent, updating social media, and coordinating the homecoming. But the logistics, bureaucracy and the weight of dealing with an unfinished achievement is essentially over. There we have it in writing. How long will it take for it to leave my body?
In other news we’ve been having some fun onboard with a Q&A between the followers of Once Upon A Saga and the crew of Milan Maersk. I’ve received about thirty good questions and we are releasing the crew’s answers across Facebook and Instagram during the remaining voyage to Aarhus Port in Denmark. Eta Aarhus remains set for Wednesday July 26th. Soeren and Ann-Christina from the Saga’s project group have been putting their backs into arranging the homecoming. It is so far a collaboration with Aarhus Port and Maersk Terminals. Due to port security, it will be limited to fifty visitors including press. Press releases have been sent out to Danish media and we have our fingers crossed for good weather.
“We keep the time zone as close to true time as possible, meaning that we will have the sun at the highest (noon) close to 12 oclock ships time, changing the clocks when required, but also having the same time zone as the port we will come to” - Captain Regin Hansen, Faroe Islands.
"A picture speaks a thousand words". Left to right: Chief Cook Emelie Alarao, Philippines, Wiper Sarah Christine Ramos, Philippines, Ordinary Seaman Alma Corazon Larena, Philippines, Ordinary Seaman Rosemar Diaz, Philippines.
“I think every day. It’s the most beautiful thing to witness at sea in the night far away from all the light pollution. Looking and finding various constellations up there was a hobby I employed from my first vessel.” - Engine Cadet Ritvik Nair, India.
“We have a lot of extra curriculum activities except of job on board. We do play games, barbecues, music, movies, etc. That’s how we involve us at sea” - 4th Engineer Manoj Chaudhary, India.
As we round up this entry, I can announce that we have returned to the Mediterranean Sea, thus bringing me closer to Europe than I have been for nearly five years. Yesterday we made the voyage through the Suez Canal, leaving the Red Sea behind and entering the Mediterranean. This became my second time heading northbound through the artificial sea-level waterway. The first time was back in early September 2018 onboard the good ship Gjertrud Maersk from Salalah (Oman) to Port Said (Egypt) just before reaching Israel. The Suez Canal was constructed between 1859-1869 by the Suez Canal Company. It has since then been expanded upon several times. Approaching the canal and heading through it generated an opportunity to crack several “Ever Given” jokes. Ah yes, the grand vessel which got stuck in 2021. Well, unknown to most it is far more complex to navigate a large vessel through a narrow canal than what it is to drive a vehicle through a tunnel or across a bridge. The gigantic propellers generate suction towards the coast, speed must be managed carefully, wind plays a huge factor on the large ships-side, current must be accounted for…perhaps it’s more surprising that it doesn’t go wrong more often given the heavy traffic of giant vessels passing through?
The good ship Milan Maersk taking up some space in the Suez Canal.
Sadly, I had to say farewell to Captain Regin Hansen as he disembarked while we passed nearby Port Said. The night before, Captain Jogvan Petersen joined Milan Maersk, a fellow countryman of Captain Regin from the Faroe Islands. Captain Jogvan is a good trade off, but I really like Captain Regin and would have enjoyed reaching Denmark with him onboard. Alas, it has been part of the Saga for the longest time; saying hello and farewell to people all over the world. I will now leave you with part one of this intriguing and well produced podcast interview by Jason Moore from Zero to Travel. Until next week – keep on keeping on.
Captain Regin Hansen signing off. Captain Jogvan Petersen signing on.
I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross Energy / Geoop
If you enjoyed this blog or find that I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga welcomes funding. Thank you :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - back in the Mediterranean!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga