BEYOND THE MEDITERRANEAN – MV Milan Maersk – guest no. 1
Day 3,565 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).
Questions, answers, and then some
On this day, six years ago, I was back in Madrid, Spain. Ten days before, I had left Algeria having visited every country in Africa. Today, we are crossing the Bay of Biscay, which is the body of water between Spain and France.
Last week’s entry: APPROACHING HOME – MV Milan Maersk – guest no. 1
It has been three weeks onboard the good ship Milan Maersk and we have not called a single port. Captain Regin got off in the Suez Canal while the massive ship was still moving. A small boat came up on our side and the captain got onboard and left. The night before another small boat had brought Captain Jogvan onboard while we, for a brief while, were at anchorage waiting to enter the Suez Canal. That was a week ago. This week we have been moving across the Mediterranean Sea. I have crossed it several times between Europe and Africa connecting the two continents with imaginary lines. Now I have crossed all of those imaginary lines moving from east to west. For the first few days I did not like looking at the ocean within the Mediterranean. I was worried I might see bodies floating in the surface. The sea is vast and a body in the surface is unimageable small and hard to see. Yet, I feel I am still carrying some heavy emotional luggage from what I experienced in Libya on June 25th 2017. Just looking at the water brought back unpleasant feelings. I hesitate to use the word trauma. But then I looked it up and found these words in connection to it: upheaval, distress, stress, strain, pain, anguish, suffering, upset, agony, misery, sorrow, grief, heartache, heartbreak, torture; disturbance, disorder, jolt, ordeal, trial, tribulation, trouble, worry, anxiety, burden, adversity, hardship, nightmare. I guess trauma is the right word after all.
Somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Mediterranean also invokes many fond memories of the many kind people I have met throughout the many spectacular countries along its coast. On the African coast we passed by Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. We passed the islands of Cyprus, Crete, Sicily, Sardinia and Malta. On the European coast we (technically) passed the Mediterranean countries of Türkiye, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Monaco, France and Spain. So many fond memories. So many reasons to return. It was special to pass Algeria and Morocco being the last and the first African countries within a 2-year and 3-month long adventure which stole a huge chunk of my heart. I was younger and far more naïve when I entered Morocco on April 6th 2015. I would be curious to travel back in time and meet with the 2015 version of myself. A man confident from having reached seventy-five countries on three continents without flying. Clueless of what was ahead. That man would lie in a feverish malaria induced sweat bath only three months later! – and that wasn’t even the real hardship he had to endure!! There was so much more. But so much beauty too. So many lessons to be learned. So many hearts and minds. No wonder the continent stole his heart.
Pointing towards Morocco across the horizon.
Back on April 6th 2015, Morocco became the 1st African country. Morocco is the birth and resting place of my favourite traveller, and back then I made sure to visit his tomb in Tangier. Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan explorer and scholar who lived in the 14th century. He is renowned for undertaking one of the most remarkable journeys in history, traveling extensively across the Islamic world and beyond. Born in Tangier in 1304, Ibn Battuta embarked on his travels at the age of 21. He initially set out to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca but ended up journeying for over 30 YEARS, covering around 120,000km (75,000mi) and visiting regions including North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, India, and China!! Ibn Battuta interacted with rulers, scholars, and ordinary people, and his writings, found in his famous travelogue "Rihla", offer valuable historical, geographical, and sociological information about the places he visited.
32 days left to donate! We have reached DKK 8,325 (USD 1,250) so far in this perhaps last collection for humanitarian work. We should at least reach DKK 10,000. We're almost there (USD 255 short).
My days have once again been full. I have been helping some fellow travellers, I have conducted a few interviews, I have been reading quite intensively, there are the final touches still to be made in relation to the homecoming, Bob has redone the Once Upon A Saga webshop (check it out), conversations with the seafarers, social media, working out, doing my knee exercises, and the occasional movie to relax my mind. I stumbled upon the “Anna Karenina Principle” born out of the opening line of Tolstoy’s book “Anna Katerina”. The principle has been interesting to me as a way of looking back and reflecting over the overall success of Once Upon A Saga. The principle states that even a single deficiency in any one of many factors causes an attempt to fail. Therefore, a successful endeavour is only possible when every single potential deficiency of several factors has been avoided. Taking a look at the possible deficiencies throughout the last near decade it is truly remarkable that we reached every country, furthermore upholding the rules of the Saga. Simply making it to the final country without losing my life along the way was never a guarantee. The book and documentary film will detail more on this element. But let’s move on now. The seafarers Q&A has taken up a lot of my time this week and I rather enjoy it. Having fared onboard forty container ships I have truly come to appreciate seafarers as a special breed. And I will now let six of them to answer six questions and bring you more insight to the life at sea.
“One needs 24 months sailing time as a 2nd Officer and 2 recommendations in order to get promoted to Chief Officer. One needs 24 months sailing time as a Chief Officer and 3 recommendations from at least 2 different vessels and 2 different superiors in order to get promoted to Captain. Additionally, you need to attend and pass specific courses etc. The crew on this ship is a team of different nationalities. We all work together and live together. Let me finish with a sentence from a famous German writer:
To handle people in the correct way is the same as handling a vessel. Both are inside an unsafe element; both are influenced by unknown mighty forces and both like that you only see their positive side instead of detecting their failures.” - Captain Jogvan Petersen, Faroe Islands.
“I remember my first trip at sea very well. It was with a small Faroese fishing trawler, fishing on the Faroese fishing grounds, I was 14 years old. We went out from Vestmanna on Faroe Islands, the first 3 days the weather was very bad so the trawler was only sailing slowly up into the wind, not able to do any fishing, rolling relentlessly and violently. I was very seasick for those 3 first days, lying in my bunk and throwing up, unable to get any food down at all. In the end it was so bad that I was throwing up blood, there was nothing else in my stomach!! But then the weather calmed down, I was able to get up on deck and get fresh air and get some food, the seasickness went away, and I have never suffered from it since, what do you know. Once things had calmed down, I liked being at sea, guess some inspiration for my present career came from there.” - Chief Engineer Stig Hansen, Faroe Islands.
“Yes. However, antennas or other navigational equipment are designed with lightning arresters”. - Electrical Engineer Ysrael Guillen, Philippines.
“Here on our vessel, I can say that in our department we have Engine Officers and Engine Ratings. As for the Engine Ratings, where I belong, we usually start our work at 0600H up to 1900H and it includes the time for breakfast, morning break, lunch break, afternoon break and dinner. We normally have this 8 hours of daywork to comply and outside this hours goes to our overtime. For the Engine Officers they start at 0800H up to 1700H including breaktimes also, but the Duty Engineer takes a round at night in the Engine Room. We are so lucky to have a good company and ship management that follows and give importance to the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC,2006)”. - Wiper Sarah Christine Ramos, Philippines.
“It's a good question. Right now, there is less piracy activity in the Gulf of Aden, also this ship is so massive that the pirates are unable to climb it due to a high freeboard.” - Ordinary Seaman Phillip Bjorn De Leon, Philippines.
“The containers are secured according to the Vessel Specific Cargo Securing Manual. All the containers are secured on deck by baselocks on the hatch covers and with twistlocks between containers as they are loaded on top of each other. The twistlocks are placed in each corner of each container. And in that way, they are all attached to each other in the respective row, so to say. Furthermore, the containers are secured to the vessel with lashing bars which are attached to the container and the vessel itself. The lashing bars are checked and tightened by the ports stevedores and then rechecked and tightened by vessel crew after departure before longer voyages. During a long voyage the vessel crew also regularly check and tighten the lashing bars so that the cargo is always properly secured.” - Chief Officer Nicolai Bøje, Denmark (he's single ladies!!) ;)
I'm not putting all the other cooks down...but Milan Maersk has some of the best food I've had across all the ships I've been onboard. Well done.
Having been underway for three weeks under the power of the mighty twin engines, we are now approaching our first port call in Rotterdam. Bremerhaven will follow, then Gothenburg and finally Aarhus. We are on schedule for all four port calls which is interesting given that we left from Malaysia in Asia so long ago. Yet, flights and buses are regularly delayed? The journey from Tanjung Pelepas to Aarhus is 16,996km (10,561mi) as per the route we are following – and we are arriving as scheduled. We know that we will be coming alongside at Aarhus Port on July 26th at 06:00am. How about that for accuracy? We are planning for a proper homecoming event and in the words of Soeren from the project group:
Everything is in place regarding Thor’s arrival in Aarhus.
AMP Terminals have given us a big “GO” on receiving Thor the 26th of July
Program for the day
- We meet at the GATE BUILDING, Østhavnsvej 33 at 10.00 in the morning
- Parking will be possible at the meeting address. Everybody must be registered in the Gate building
- A shuttle bus has been arranged to the harbor area – TV-vans are welcome and can enter the area
- Press will be guided to the press and reception area, where Thor disembarks at 10.30
- When Thor has arrived, there will be an opportunity for the press to make an interview.
- The first part is held as a press conference, where questions and answers take place in a group. After that, there is an opportunity for a one-on-one interview and photo of Thor
- End of arrangement no later than 12.30
For security reasons, there are limited places to the arrangement (about 50 persons), registration is required – both press and others that wish to join the arrangement. Press has first priority.
Register on this link: https://forms.microsoft.com/e/4d84J1wyrb
Isn’t self-confidence a funny size? I’m aware that I have all the self-confidence in the world in some regards, yet, there are areas where I have very little self-confidence. Ask me to partake in a karaoke session or invite me to dance and I will become heavy as lead. Yet I confidently took on the challenge to reach every country in the world without flying – go figure? In a collaboration with the worlds perhaps most influential shipping company (Maersk), as a Goodwill Ambassador within the world’s largest humanitarian organization (Red Cross), as the first person ever to reach every country completely without flying; I worry that only few will show up to greet me during my arrival back home. It is a Wednesday, it’s in the holiday season, it’s in the morning, and I am not a well know person in Denmark. I feel like a teenager hosting an open party not knowing if only a handful will come or if the house will be full? I can only imagine the pain of an author at a book reveal where nobody shows up. But, does it devalue the book or the accomplishment? Is the author less of a person? The answer is as far as I can assess: no. So why would it matter? We have passed through the Straight of Gibraltar leaving the Mediterranean and entering the Atlantic Ocean. This was the penultimate entry before reaching Denmark. I hope you enjoyed it. Let's end with this fine read by Sofia Stenlund, United Nations. See you next week.
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) - crossing the Bay of Biscay.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga