After a fully blatant taxi ride ("Turn left in 100m" / "Next crossroads you go right") we now stand again in the same place as a few days ago when we left Baloo - at the terminal O'Swaldkai. While we wait in the interior for our shuttle bus to take us to the "Atlantic Sail", we still ask ourselves whether the taxi driver of Eastern European origin has just learned his German from the navigation device or vice versa. But we don't have long to puzzle about it, because after a short time the shuttle is already at the door.
Only a few minutes later we are in the shadow of our new accommodation for the next two weeks. Via the largest vehicle ramp ever built for a RoRo ship, we reach the interior of this giant. The Atlantic Sail is one of 5 sister ships of the ACL (Atlantic Container Line) and about 300 meters long and 40 meters wide. It was built in China in 2016 and is the largest vessel with the combination container / RoRo currently cruising the Atlantic.
Hardly on board, we get to know our fellow passengers - all globetrotters who have interesting stories to tell from near and far. Frederike and Eckard come from Stuttgart and also ship their Toyota Landcruiser to travel in North America for a year. Maren from Hamburg takes a one year break and will work, travel and surf in Canada. And Elfriede and Gunter from Austria have already completed several freighter trips and are expanding their Palmarès with this one. You will leave the ship in Hamburg after 35 days.
We spend the first days on this super freighter mainly at the ports in Hamburg and, after a one-day intermezzo on the North Sea, in Antwerp. The shipping traffic between these two ports is enormous, a shipping highway so to speak, which we race along at 30 kph. A few containers were probably on the way with the snail mail and so we wait in the latter two full days for the missing.
We use the extra day in Antwerp to go ashore and take a look at the old town, which is highly recommended. Five old cathedrals adorn the city, which can also boast a pompous main station. A masterpiece of architecture!
We also use another stop in Liverpool to stretch our feet a bit before we won't see any more land for 8 days. Liverpool is best known for being the birthplace of the Beatles, the place where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met - the rest is music history. That's why it's pounding all over town. We stroll through Mathew Street, where the Cavern Pub is located. A place where the Beatles and many other well-known bands performed. After a fish and chips lunch in the Irish Pub incl. Guinness of course, we work our way to the Waterfront and end before dinner at the cathedral.
Everyday life on a container ship
After we have left European soil there is nothing left but the sea and us. Our everyday life is determined by 3 fixed meal times (breakfast: 07.30 - 08.30 / lunch: 11.30 - 12.30 / dinner: 17.30 - 18.30), otherwise there is the possibility to use the fitness room (consisting of a few devices) and the sauna, to play table tennis or in our case to watch a season "Game of Thrones" and various other movies. For a change the crew gives us "tours" on the ship. These include walks on the various loading decks where Baloo stands and next to him gigantic agricultural machines, excavators and brand new Jaguars or even down to the containers and the bow, where the water is felt only a hair's breadth away.
We are lucky with the captain, who also allows us to be on the bridge at all times of the day and night and watch the officers at work. We work in 4-hour shifts (4h work / 4h on-call duty / 4h sleep) to keep the officers alert. They give Mathias information about all the technical stuff he wants to know and I can look for dolphins with the binoculars. We can't complain about the yield. We were able to observe 5 whales and many dolphins until the end.
We can also participate in the evening program of the crew, which consists of 22 men, mostly of Filipino origin, and 2 apprentices (cadets). We learn: Filipinos like...no love karaoke.
As the food is, you want to know? - Well, let's put it this way: Basically not bad, there is always fresh salad, fruits and vegetables and the menus are also mostly delicious. Only for some dishes I would have preferred a burger from "Jung und Frech" or a menu from the SV Service in Bümpliz. Some menu combinations are quite funny (fried chicken with spaghetti bolognese AND pizza as a side dish) and there is meat with every meal...I was wondering if I should become a vegetarian in the meantime. But the Italian passenger who joined us in Antwerp doesn't seem to like it at all, at least he opened the conversation with us with the words: "the food is not high quality here".
The weather balloon
The Atlantic Sail participates in the research of the German weather service. To do this, a helium balloon with a sensor must be let into the sky twice a day within a certain time window. For every balloon that exceeds 1000 meters in altitude, the crew receives 30 euros. Of course, not everyone can do this in harsh weather conditions, but there are also high-flyers. The record balloon made it to 25,000 metres.
Speaking of weather: We were wondering if we might see icebergs on the crossing. Risto, the first officer, however, replied to our question "You don't wanna see icebergs". Even today they are still a great danger for ships, because not all of them can be detected by radar. For this reason, someone is always on the lookout from the bridge and we had to change our original course to a more southerly route due to an iceberg warning.
Emergency drill on the high seas
There are regular emergency exercises on board - we participate in one of them. We have already been informed beforehand that there will be an alarm and that we will be ready and waiting in the cabins with our life jackets. When the alarm sounds, we are picked up and have to stand on the outside deck on yellow dots. The emergency scenario: A fire in a material room. Once outside, the first officer counts the crew members and passengers present - everybody! The fire can be extinguished...
Then we follow the yellow lines to the lifeboat, which hangs diagonally in the air at the stern of the ship and has room for 47 people. In case of use, there are two ways to put it in water. Either you have enough time to rope it off with a crane...or the water is up to your neck, you release a hook and the boat falls down 30 meters into the water. By the way, this is not practiced, because the boat is over and people have already died of broken necks. As you can already guess, this method is only used in the absolute worst case when there is no other way to get off the ship.