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Thanks for your e-mail, it is always nice to hear when somebody out there has enjoyed my web pages, enjoy your cruise on that container ship! I have just returned from my seven month tour of duty - it takes some time to return to normal! I have been having some problems with the web server so have not updated the pages for some time. I intend to fix things this leave, it will probably mean a change of address which could be a bit disruptive.

These voyage numbers are the consecutive numbers of individual charter voyages that the ship makes. The charterers are the companies who fix the cargoes and then charter a ship to carry it. I work for the Owner but carry the Charterer's cargo and go where he tells me to, just like a deep-sea-truck driver!

Ghent Max, Voyage #004

My latest tour of duty was on the 8 year old panamax bulker, Ghent Max. Joined in Ventspils, Latvia, where we loaded fertiliser for Convent, up the Mississippi. The countryside of Latvia is flat, very green and neat, everybody was friendly, could be a good spot to visit. We completed the loading of fertiliser in a day or so and departed, the weather in the Baltic and North Atlantic was calm until Bermuda. Dodged a routine hurricane after passing Bermuda and arrived on the Gulf Coast in good weather. It is always interesting to go up the Mississippi. Took about a week to discharge into barges at St James Buoys about 125 miles upriver then another week was spent at anchor further down river near the New Orleans Airport. Holds were cleaned by contractors to be fit for a grain cargo. My US visa had expired two days before we arrived in the US so I could not stretch my legs ashore as is normal but I did get ashore to the dentist in New Orleans. Root canals are not fun!

 

Ghent Max, Voyage #005

We moved a few miles upstream to Ama to load six holds of corn (we call it maize, the Afrikaners call it mielies) and one hold (about 14000 metric tonnes) of something called "cookie meal", which is mashed up time-expired confectionary. This was for Damietta, Egypt. The cookie meal was classed as animal feed but who knows just where it ends up! We sailed from Ama just ten days before The Big Hurricane hit New Orleans! While we had great weather across the Atlantic the Mississippi Delta had some drama. Discharging in Damietta stretched out to ten days, the Polish crew got shore leave but being South African I was not allowed ashore! There had been a bombing in Egypt so any "African" was suspect. Then they bitched when I didn't hand out the usual cartons of cigarettes! Have you seen those drawings of ancient Egyptians walking with one hand out in front and one out behind? Even then they were begging with both hands!

 

Ghent Max, Voyage #006

This took us from Damietta through the Dardanelles, Bosphorus and Black Sea to Yuzhny in the Ukraine, to load feed barley for Bandar Imam Khomeini in Iran. The Dardanelles and Bosphorus are interesting to transit, would be even better in a yacht. Never been to such a graft riddled country as the Ukraine! Bribes are standard practice and about 100 cartons of cigarettes disappeared as "presents" for port officials. Otherwise the Ukrainians are very friendly. This voyage took us through the Suez Canal (sometimes called the Marlboro Canal) which is not a favourite place for seafarers. More cigs handed out. Bandar Imam Khomeini (BIK) is just a big oil and chemicals port surrounded by mud-banks. Not a fun place. Discharged the barley as fast as possible and sailed for Mormagao, India.

 

Ghent Max, Voyage # 007

Took bunkers at Fujahira in Oman on the way to Goa, the last outpost in Portuguese India. Loaded iron ore at anchor off-shore from barges using a powerful crane-ship. The Ghent Max has no cranes. I was hoping (but didn't) to go ashore in Goa as it is a historical spot. Vasco da Gama was the first European to sail around The Cape of Good Hope (called Cabo Esperanza by the Portuguese) to India, he landed at Goa. After loading we sailed for Rizhao in China, with a bunker stop at Singapore. In addition to the bunkers, stores and lube oil were taken at anchor near Changi Airport. It was the usual rush, doing it all in about six hours. Two days after departure we hit the north east monsoon which was blowing hard. This slowed us down from 13.5kts to less than 10.0kts. A typhoon threatened us near the Philippines but turned north in good time so the sea was just very rough, not extreme. Anchored for a day before discharging the iron in Rizhao, which is near Qingdao. Qingdao is Chinese for Green Island and is famous for it's German style beer. Twelve crewmen were relieved here after their tour of seven months. Discharge of cargo took four days with modern equipment. The sky-line of every city in China has dozens of construction cranes, a sure sign of fast development. Buy American! After discharge we sailed at midnight for Albany, Australia. We always seem to sail at midnight or on a meal time!

 

Ghent Max, Voyage #008

A fast voyage to Albany was helped along by the strong NE monsoon and flat seas through the west Philippine islands. A couple of days of rough seas with big swells around Cape Leewin on the South Eastern corner of Australia messed things up. Albany was the first European settlement in West Australia, it was called Fredrickstown then. It is a nice town filled with friendly people. We needed to fumigate the holds because we were to load barley for Saudi Arabia and the local inspectors found some weevils in the hold, the crew had a night at the Dog Rock Motel for free! We all had some good runs ashore, did some shopping and sank a beer or two. Drunkenness or big drinking is very much out of fashion at sea now. The Cook bought a heap of goodies for Christmas and had a battle getting them back to the ship, Aussie taxis are not cheap! We had to load to a set draft of 11.50m as the available depth in Albany port is limited so it was tricky.

Sailed in a rush on completion of loading as they don't allow big ships to sail after dark in Albany. Once again it was rough around Cape Leewin with the big Southern Ocean swells on the beam. We had a rather bad experience two days after sailing, the Chief Engineer (53 yrs old) had a stroke and had to be airlifted to Perth. This involved a deviation of nearly twelve hours. Sadly, he died four days later, on 27 December in the Royal Perth Hospital. He was a great guy. I was hoping to get through my career at sea without that sort of thing happening. The Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) Australia crew in Canberra and the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) rescue helicopter, Rescue 1, crew were very professional. The rest of the voyage went without problems. Jeddah was nominated as the discharge port, not my favourite port but I was due to go on leave from there so was glad to see it. My flight home was routed from Jeddah to Kuwait, Dubai, Johannesburg and then at last Cape Town. Jeddah airport is really sub-standard, had a quick stop at Kuwait, Dubai is great for shopping but not cheap. It was very good to see Table Mountain and then the whole family waiting for me in the airport. I didn't even carry my bags! Home is great after a seven-month tour at sea.

 

Cheers!