Annemarie, passenger on board HS Bach

Annemarie came on our vessel in August last year and she joined the ship in Hamburg. I could not meet her when she arrived, as I was busy entertaining some guests, but I managed to make her acquaintance few minutes before the ship left the port. I was accompanying our friends who were leaving the vessel and I got stuck in the door, being kept prisoner by our guests’ two kids. Annemarie came to greet me very happily and started to make a conversation with the kids whom she thought were mine. She found out the kids were not mine, but the next day she confessed that she had been a little concerned about the fact that the kids would travel on the vessel all the way to America. The kids were not travelling, but I was. And so was she. We became friends in an instant and, after sharing the stories of our lives to each other, I felt as if I knew her all my life. We spent many hours outside together, watching different birds, fish, clouds and waves. Being a retired veterinarian, Annemarie taught me interesting things about the life of different kind of birds and even told me the names of all the birds we saw. I used to call most of them seagulls, but now I know – thanks to her – that not all the seagulls are actually seagulls, but have distinct names. I enjoyed spending time with her, finding out interesting things about the life she spent working in Africa, about her passion for animals and birds, about her travelling to Antarctica. We spent also a lot of time in the Recreation Room, watching hundreds of photos from her private collection -showing her mostly in Africa ( going on safaris) or in Antarctica, for penguin and bird watching.

The barbeque party was a very interesting event where she socialized with all the members from our crew. It included also a ‘baptism’ party for two guys on board – who were for the first time at sea – but it was not meant also for her because she had already been on a vessel before, even if that vessel was a cruiser. I don’t know if she would have also liked to have a seaman baptism (as she did not have one on her first vessel) and I am sorry I did not asked her. I know she really enjoyed the party with everything it meant and I am very pleased she got the chance to experience such an event onboard.

I was really sad when she had to leave the vessel in Charleston. She was a little sad, too, but also excited to go off the vessel and catch up with her sister whom she hadn’t seen for a year. We said our goodbyes on the pier, took a photo together and promised to see each other again, somewhere around the world. I intend to keep my promise.

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Here’s Annemarie’s story about her trip on HS Bach:

Thank you, Annemarie, for sharing this with us.

“Over the years I have visited my sister Ingrid (Gigi) in Marietta/Atlanta several times. Non-stop flights Stuttgart – Atlanta, nothing easier than that, almost routine. Another visit was agreed upon, with a “detour” by air to Pullman before starting our intended trip along the West Coast from Seattle to San Francisco… I wanted to leave routine and thought of crossing the Atlantic by ship. And really – there is a variety of offers, “be a passenger among containers”- sort of advertisement, experience something new, get to know life on board and meet the crew and so on. Booking wasn’t easy, we sisters had to “come together” with weeks, appointments, visits and the like. But eventually a compromise was found, and “Lufthansa Frachtreisen” did the necessary paperwork: start at Bremerhaven and travel to port of Charleston, and all that with  HS BACH.  Still, one hurdle had to be overcome: ” Madam, you will need a visa type B1/B2…..”. This really was not easy for me. After finding out the procedures, I had an appointment at the US consulate in Munich (which is NOT around the corner), the visa was granted, I received my  ticket, signed contract, provided a medical check-up, paid all the bills, managed to organize my transfer to the container harbor – my friendly relatives at Walsrode agreed to help. Thanks to them!!

Reaching the pier, I was very surprised to realize the size of “HS Bach”, something like 240 m in length, and containers on end stacked high on top of each other, a new experience for me. A Crew member welcomed me, ticked off my name on a list and asked Filipino to help with the luggage. Cabin on D-deck, a spacious room, shower, monitor, nice window to look over the containers but also watch the horizon!

At first, I did not really know where to go, but soon I found the Officers’ Messroom and there was something to drink. The captain was not to be seen, “He is very busy” with various tasks as always at port, I was told. Where are all the other passengers – that is, what I asked myself – only to find out we were only two of us – me and a young friendly nice man from Switzerland travelling to Mexico, to meet his mother’s family.

“Who is this young woman onboard” I was wondering, and when we met at the captain’s table, I found out she was Oana, captain Christian’s wife. Soon we made friends and she showed me around after I was first a bit uncertain about my movement around the vessel.

Interesting: the kitchen and the cook and “Baloo”, the messboy. Really friendly people “and if you need anything, please let us know”. Eventually I found my way around, how nice to stand outside, after crossing the bridge, and watch water, air, sun, sky and waiting for birds or hopefully a whale or dolphins… The various officers – all from Eastern Europe countries (Romania, Montenegro, Ukraine, Croatia) and all English speaking – in between had time to let me have a look at their various nautical equipment, and especially the huge engines deep under deck in the ship’s belly in impeccably clean surrounding. All so exciting for me. The “under deck crew” were all from the Philippines and a funny, laughing, hard working lot. Yes, and the Captain, the ship’s master was NOT THE BOSS IN UNIFORM, but preferred to wear easy t-shirts and jeans. And this attitude was also felt when he was together with his officers, he did not “show off”, and was also very helpful and friendly towards us, the two passengers.

Oana promised to show me flying fish, and indeed we saw a good number, flying away from the ships hull, giving the impression of jewels or dragonflies. Various bird species could be observed including a TROPICAL BIRD, which seemed to inspect our vessel for possible bits of food … but before this exception we have seen sea gulls, some petrels and the like. The weather was friendly, only a little overcast and rainy in between. We enjoyed being on deck or at the very front, next to the giant anchor chain.

And then came the weekend … and what was I told?? “There will be a barbeque for all of us”, I could not believe a barbeque with roast piglet – on a ship? But it was true; I found one of the crew (a formerly trained sail maker) stitching tightly the belly of a rather big piglet, the same being turned and turned over a good fire somewhere aft for a long time. Finally the “little” crew had carried up everything – from chairs / tables, beer bottles, ice cubes to cutlery and crockery, piglet and sausages, fish and squid – you name  it was there. Mr.Croatia (Chief Officer) acted as grill master, the Captain was the music man, Oana and I were running around taking photographs (the only females among so many men!). It was such a surprise for me and a lot of amusement, food and drink, one officer had brought some wine from his home area, I could only buy some from stock. Anyway, I think this was an event for all on board to feel at home – far from home. Well done, all of you! Oana, thank you, too!

The Captain had offered to contact my sister and pass on some info for her to manage meeting me at the container harbor. This was very good indeed – and once we were moored at Charleston container port – passports checked by the authorities (aboard still) – suddenly Gigi turned up with her friend Weston!! What a nice surprise and a very abrupt end of a trip across the Atlantic.

I hope more interested people – especially single travellers – should think about this “unhectic” way of travelling. BUT: don’t forget the proper visa!

Annemarie Lohding (Ami) 2013, but recorded 2014.

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IMG_2173– After the baptism ceremony, with the crew of HS Bach –

IF– At destination, in the port of Charleston –

 

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