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Melbourne, Australia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA by Container Ship  

April 9, 2017. Klaus Schmidt (MONIKA, Pacific Dolphin #301?) and his wife Patricia share their 36 day 'cruise' on the container ship Spirit of Auckland from Melbourne, Australia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the USA


Patricia and I 'sailed' on the SPIRIT OF AUCKLAND for 36 days. Before boarding the vessel we toured Australia and Tasmania.

Dec. 30, 2016, Quantas L.A. to Sydney, 15 hours ( excellent first class flight, without lying down I would not do these long flights anymore ). A 380 plane. New Years Eve in the air

- 5 days Sydney, a city I like a lot. Spent several weeks here with my catamaran Zero Gravity in 2008. Took in LA BOHEME at the Opera House

- Flight to Melbourne. Also a fine city but I prefer Sydney, not only do I know it better, the expansive harbour of Sydney is second to none. A few days with Ray and Linda at their house about 70 miles from M.

- William and Jenny arrived from Victoria and we drove the scenic Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. A new for me, city of churches, smaller then S. and M. More colonial. Visited Barossa Valley, wine region founded by Germans about 1850.

- 12 hour nice train ride back to Melbourne

- Visited Australian Open Tennis for a few days. Good atmosphere. Saw a few games. Unusual for me. Spending money watching prof. sports athletes often earning ridiculous amounts of money, not my thing.

- Six of us overnight stay with Ray's sister and husband in their nice estate in the ' bush '. Roos and deadly poisonous snakes

- Flight to Hobart, touring Tassy by car for a week. Much history, rugged country side, penal colonies, steam train ride, great beaches


Jan. 30, 2017 boarding container ship, SPIRIT OF AUCKLAND, original name BAHIA, ca 56 000 tons, 3650 TEU 40' containers. Ship is a reefer = refrigeration. Add. aggregates and motors in the cavernous 5 storey high engine room. – 20 C temp in containers, thousands of plugs and electrical cables en masse. HAMBURG SUD ( SOUTH) SHIP, registered in Singapore. Manager RICKMER RICKMERS, Hamburg, 4 sister ships, all built in Korea, all ten years old. Our ship' schedule was about 72 day round trip, - the ports included Charleston, Cathagena, Colon, Sydney, Melbourne and 4 ports in New Zealand - Auckland, Tauranga, Napier and Dunedin

- 21 crew, mostly Burmese, incl. all 4 deck officers. 2 Russians, 2 Ukrainians, 2 Ethiopians. 3 passengers. The third passenger an unfriendly, miserable limey, who did not endear himself with captain and crew. He did the 72 day round trip.

- Cabin clean and serviced regularly. Deck chairs rusty and in poor shape, should be replaced.

- Money tight in the container shipping business

- Crew very friendly , professional, courteous, language difficulties of course, cook challenged cooking for different nations

- We spent much time on the bridge, studying charts, instruments, talked with officers and pilots

- Food aboard somewhat monotonous but we did not come for the food. Apparently only $ US 7.70 day/person food budget for 3 meals a day........not much. We were never hungry and I gained 3 kg. We shared a table with captain, chief and the 3rd. passenger. Another dining table for 5 officers next to us. Crew ate on the same floor on the other side of the ship, galley is in between

-Wine and beer could be bought aboard, other alcohol one has to bring,

- Small gym, dunk pool and sauna

- We walked hundreds of stairs every day, up and down to the dining area, our cabin was on floor below the bridge. Ships office at deck level, computers/email here too.

- Freighters are working vessels, nothing ' Schicki Micki ', often areas are a bit grubby

- Patricia and I had the ' owners cabin ', captain on one side, chief on the other. Spacious living room ( desk, chesterfield, 3 lounge chairs, fridge, TV, cabinet ) bedroom with 2 good size beds ( much storage for clothing ) and bathroom/shower. 3 good size opening oval port holes, air conditioned and heated.

- Harbours where freighters dock, not cruise ships. In small harbour may be close together - in others far apart. Fine in Australia and NZ, terrible in Panama and Columbia......dirty, not safe, dangerous

- Impressive how containers are loaded and unloaded. Also how quickly, night or day. Time is money. Harbour times 8 – 20 hours.


- 5 days Bass Strait and Tasman Sea, both known for often rough seas. We had up to 45 knots ( 85 km ) wind, steaming with 18 knots into it made it a rough ride with much water coming over the bow. On those days we did not walk the deck. Too dangerous and too wet. Once around was about 500 meters, always walked with hard heads (hats), one walks much below containers, Exciting climbing up to the bow. We always reported to the bridge when we went for walks and when we came back

- 4 harbours in NZ, named above. Sailed with ZERO GRAVITY, my 41' catamaran, into all of them in 2008 and 2009. Son Lance's prognosis that Patricia would leave the vessel in Auckland, fortunately did not happen. She did not get sea sick crossing the Tassy and also not during a few rough days later on. We met Leo and Diane in beautiful Tauranga. Meeting with Carey ( he crewed for me several times ) in Auckland did not happen. Vessel left earlier than planned.

- 17 days crossing the PACIFIC, also known as the GREAT and/or QUIET OCEAN. 12,700 km for land lubbers. Mixed weather, mostly fine. A few days 40 knots of wind.

- Flying fish, dolphins, whales, birds only about 1000 km close to shore, no other vessels until about 800 km close to shore. IT IS A BIG OCEAN........I previously crossed it in a 40' sail boat from Mexico to the Marquesas and did not see land for 21 days.

- Freighters have no stabilizers like cruise ships. Ship rolls from left to right and right to left. The more wind and waves, the stronger the roll. At 20 degree roll the elevator aboard ship can no longer be used.

- All hands on deck, fire aboard, ship is sinking, abandon ship.......we did all the required manoeuvres with only the captain on the bridge.

- Panama Canal – SPIRIT OF AUCKLAND is ' Panama size '. Uses the old canal with about 50 cm room each side. Old Panama uses locomotives on both sides to pull the ship along. 18 Panamanian line handlers came aboard.
2 locks each end of the canal. New Panama canal uses tugs to pull/push freighters etc., through. All very impressive and interesting. A HAMBURG-SUD ship with 13,000 !!!! containers went through the canal, parallel to us

- Carthagena and Colon commercial port areas slums and dangerous

- 5 days steaming to Philadelphia, 4 days, city of brotherly love, liberty bell, independence from Britain, that is where it all began for the USA. City of Ben Franklin. Impressive art collections, biggest pipe organ in the world in the WANNAMAKER (now Macy's) shopping centre. Listened to an imposing noon hour concert

- Rode in to the Philadelphia Schlaraffen PENN CASTLE. Patricia was made ' invisible '. Fine visit.

-Six hour plus flight from Philly to Seattle, 380 km head wind/jet stream. I have flown faster from Montreal to London

- In 1966 I was aboard the 8500 ton Polish freighter OLESNICA from Mombasa to the Kiel Canal ( near Hamburg ). I had booked an 8 days passage to Suez. However, one of the 4 propeller blades broke off during the trip. Long delay and I changed the trip from Suez to the Kiel Canal and was aboard for 50 days. This trip and also that I had worked as a deck hand on a 500 ton coaster in the Baltic and North Sea in 1966, had given me some knowledge of what to expect.

- Patricia knitted, I wrote a book ( not yet finished ), we read, watched some movies, did some games, looked at the ocean, studied wind and weather, meditated........we became part of the ship, part of her routine and felt very much at home after a week.


Learned much and saw a lot, we found it a terrific experience. It was good to see Patricia enthusiasm and enjoyment of the many technical and mechanical workings of a self contained ocean freighter. She spent much more time then I studying charts, the many navigational instruments, those that watch over the containers and controls over the entire ship.

It is not for everyone, actually not for many. One has to be healthy, fit, flexible, adventurous, adaptable, put up with some dirt and some inconveniences. This is REAL LIFE, not another ' canned holiday '. You make your own entertainment. You live without cell phones, news and televisions (perhaps watching a DVD sometimes) ------ ALL THAT I LIKE ------ in today's life of hurry sickness, instant connections with anyone, anywhere, anytime, with little eye contact among people who always staring in devices. Smell the roses, hug a tree, enjoy ocean surf, birds soaring. BE YOURSELF, DON'T FOLLOW BLINDLY.


Thanks Klaus and Patricia!!





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