Our third day at sea…

Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens. The Acropol...

Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens. The Acropolis in backgound. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s 9.30 AM on day three. We left Piraeus (Athens) at 7.00 AM this morning and our next destination is Izmir, Turkey. We were on the bridge this morning as the pilot guided us out of Piraeus which is incredibly busy with sea traffic. It did not take long and we were in open sea again, passing lots of beautiful islands.

We have settled into a routine at sea and now fully understand that we are on a cargo ship and not a cargo cruise. There are twenty-five crew and just three passengers. The ship is Italian registered in Salerno and the majority of the crew are Italian but there are also a twelve Filipinos. The chef is really keen on pasta and pizza!

Last night, we managed to get into Athens for a few hours, took in the Acropolis, a walk around the centre and a couple of drinks, before returning to our ship. It was strange being in Athens the day after the election and observing life in Athens first-hand, with our own eyes. On the surface, Athens was as we remembered, bustling, with lots of traffic and shops full of produce of the World. However, when we looked more closely, we saw a heavy presence of police in the city centre, and we were pestered by a beggar who clearly had a drug problem. Nevertheless, we resolved to return to Athens and explore it a little more leisurely.

Our second say at sea…

General Cargo

General Cargo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the second day, we were adjusting to our new adventure.

At breakfast, we went through the Nissos Islands separating the Ionian and Aegean Seas. We were advised that we should be in Athens by about six o’clock this evening. The captain had given us completely unrestricted access to the bridge, so the views of the sea, the islands and other traffic from the bridge were just amazing.

Our first day at sea, we were to learn a lot from the only other passenger, Jean Pierre, a Belgian, who was travelling alone, and had completed half of a thirty-five day round-trip. Jean Pierre lent Alf a copy of a French book entitled “Le Guide des Voyages en Cargo”, written by Hugo Verlomme, which is a recognized guide to the different types of sea travel for passengers. It was quite significant that in French the word “cruise” had been dropped and it is simply a choice between “le cargo” or “le paquabot” (cruise-ship/liner). The book very much romanticized travelling “cargo” as part of the “slow” movement and contrasted it strongly to the mass tourism market of the air travel and the modern cruise ship with six thousand passengers plus.

When we were describing our expectations to Jean Pierre over dinner, he indicated that we were referring to a “mixte” or hybrid between cargo and cruise. Technically, there is a third category that takes cargo plus up to a hundred and fifty passengers, with more normal cruise-ship facilities – this is a mixed (or mixte). A mixed has more facilities, including a doctor etc. Without a doctor on board, international regulations stipulate a strict maximum of twelve passengers on a cargo ship.

We were learning quickly about the different types of cargo ships and their relative advantages and disadvantages. This included container ships, bulk carriers, traditional cargo ships, and Ro-Ros (roll-on roll-off) for transporting vehicles. We are actually on a Ro-Ro which could carry four and a half thousand vehicles, a sort of multi-story floating car-park – we were to learn later that on this voyage our ship’s cargo was described as “general cargo”. The only major problem with Ro-Ros is that they are highly susceptible to rolling in bad seas. Let’s hope that the seas stay calm for our voyage.

Anyway, whilst we do not have internet access, we do have satellite TV and have been monitoring the Greek elections. It will be amazing to arrive in Athens the day after the election – we were actually talking to the captain about the relative safety on the Athens streets so soon after the election. We still have time to decide whether to go ashore in Athens.