The schedule is written with ink, but it’s written on water. When we were in Shanghai three weeks ago a rumor began percolating in this big steel pot- another China run was brewing. The schedule at the time had us laying back up after reaching Long Beach, but upon arrival the rumor became fact and we began offloading garbage and taking on stores in preparation for Ningbo, Xiamen, and Shanghai.
|Old photo of my ship (Diamond Head in the background) which hangs|
in the Old Man's office.
I decided to get off in Honolulu this time and forego the rest of the voyage… 90 days of life have passed by and that’s enough time to be incarcerated on the island of misfit toys before the mind begins to go sideways. So the requests were made. I shipped a 45 lbs. suitcase home via UPS. I stocked up on a mere 3 days of personal groceries. T-minus and counting.
Humpbacks and Pacific Whitesided Dolphin escorted us past Catalina Island and out to open indigo water as we pulled out of cellphone range and into the almighty reaches of non-human Earth. Clearing decks was followed by washdown. Fire and Boat Drills were as uninspired as ever, mandate or no. I began packing in earnest. Counting down the days and hours.
|Underway Making Way.|
All my creature comfort items (blanket, bath mats, rug, kettle) I gave to the student cadets- they are only paid $30/day, pitiable by any standard; their lack of cynicism and pie-eyed innocence makes me simultaneously amused, wistful, and melancholy… I am the least sentimental person I know, so I am certain I’ve been out here too long.
I left my watch partner, the C/M, two bags of fine coffee and the pour-over pot I brought on when I came aboard. To my Filipino “brother-from-another-mother” I left my foul weather gear and my pillows. The rest of the crew, with few exceptions (like the bird-watching 3rd Mate, the old man, and the cantankerous-but-harmless old cook) can bite my nethers. I have to admit that I get a sick pleasure from this shipboard version of a Last Will and Testament and thoroughly enjoy parceling up my non-transportables- as much for gifting them to those I like as for giving the middle finger to those I don’t.
The BBQ was held in the rain my second to last day aboard. Two steaks, some smoked salmon, a couple pieces of sushi… I will soon see if I managed to actually lose weight this voyage instead of packing on the fat like a Mexican under deadline loading his burro. I didn’t eat a single lunch since boarding- we’ll see how that math works!
Sleep was elusive the last three days… but I rediscovered melatonin- a solution that has never worked before but now I find is akin to getting knocked unconscious by a hammer blow to the head. One pill, instant sleep. In fact, it is a pill form of narcolepsy. The crazy dreams that come with it are welcome, but I’m glad I don’t have sleep issues under normal conditions- there is a bit of drowsiness the next day.
I woke up on the morning of the 26th and drove us into Hono. The city is remarkably pretty from the water, day or night, and I got both views as the sun rose while the pilot gave steering commands and brought the ship into the harbor. We stopped in the turning basin while the rest of the deck crew did a lifeboat test of the inshore boat, then we spun around and the tugs backed us into our slip a half mile further up the harbor.
|In the harbor, Aloha Tower off the starboard bow... I could only get this photo|
because we had to wait for the "inshore boat test" while in the turning basin.
|Sunrise off the bridgewing.|
|My "secret surf spot," recently discovered on Sand Island. The island forms|
the breakwater for the harbor so the location isn't far from the ship at all. And
best of all? A sand bottom!
Within two hours I had my discharges signed, my bags down the gangway, and the taxi to the airport lined up… this run is over. My sanity will return at the same rate that my earnings will depart. If I’m lucky. All that matters right now is this sailor’s indentured servitude is done and he is going home. Until next voyage.
|Seattle's port facility sitting empty but for the|
highly-protested Shell arctic drill rig (the
yellow thing in the further slip)