Elke – passenger on board HS Bach

Elke

I met Elke in September 2013 when she joined our vessel – HS Bach – in Bremerhaven for a trip across the Atlantic, towards Charleston. When I first saw her on the portside wing, upon our departure from the port, I was very happy to discover that, apart from being a very nice lady who loved the sea, she also shared my passion for Italy – Italian music, Italian language and Italian everything. I knew from that second that we would have a lot to talk about during the following days, but I didn’t dare think that our relation would develop into a lasting friendship. For her, the trip was like a dream come true and for me, another reason to be grateful for my life. Meeting new and interesting people was always one of my greatest pleasures since I started travelling at sea and meeting Elke was just another proof to confirm this.

Weather started to get unstable – as autumn was proudly claiming its place – and I was afraid we would not be able to fully enjoy the crossing and the beautiful surrounding. I was mistaken. The North Sea was a little agitated indeed, with 3-4 meter waves and rain coming down from time to time, but we found our perfect hours to enjoy the magnificent surrounding. The first 2 days we spent a lot of time on the upper wing, speaking about our lives, about travelling, and about our never-ending love for Italy – while watching the sea for dolphins or other interesting appearances. Once we stepped out into the Ocean, the weather kept its unstable appearances, but it was good enough to let us spend a very pleasant time forward or on the upper wing, admiring the sunsets, the sea and the waves jumping around. It soon turned out that her coming onboard was about to have another important meaning to me.

As I had tried very hard to learn how to crochet two months before she came on board, I was delighted to find out that Elke was mastering the art of crocheting herself and was happy to teach me the basics. So, we started having our lessons every morning – in her cabin or on the wing – while listening to Italian music and speaking about all sorts of subjects. Studying crocheting alone had seemed so difficult to me before, but when Elke started teaching me, everything made sense right away and I couldn’t believe how easy everything looked like after listening to her explanations. Every day she taught me one stich and every afternoon I practiced what I had learnt until I was very pleased with my progress and ready to start some ‘incredible’ projects myself. I am very grateful to Elke for bringing crocheting into my life and she will always be the first one to find out about everything new I make.

Time flew away and, as I was feeling myself more and more confident about my ability of handling the crochet, the vessel was slowly approaching her destination and her time on board came to an end. I am sure she had a wonderful voyage with us and I hope she will join our vessel again in the near future – as she declared herself.

From my side, all I can say is that I am very happy I had the pleasure of meeting her and I can’t wait to see her again on board another vessel and, maybe, on a different route.

Here’s her story about the voyage on HS Bach. Thank you, Elke, for sharing this with us and thank you for the beautiful words you said about me.

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”  Elke, born in 1961 in Leverkusen, Germany

Since I was a child I have dreamed to lead a seaman´s life, at least temporarily, and to pass the mighty Atlantic by ship, whereas very soon I was sure that a vessel would be the best opportunity.

In 2013 I finally decided to go by vessel to New York City in order to meet my sister, her husband and further friends who spent some days of vacation there. Since I could not find a trip directly to NYC I booked the passage from Bremerhaven to Charleston, South Carolina, and the connection flight from Charleston to NYC. I will never forget how overjoyed I was that my old dream finally came true.

The passage on HS Bach started on 20th of September 2013 in Bremerhaven and 11 days later, 1st of October, we arrived in Charleston.

When I arrived on “my vessel” (HS Bach) at 11am, the loading and unloading were full in swing and everyone was busy. The 3rd officer received me at the gangway and the foreman of the Philippine crew carried my suitcase into my cabin on the E deck. Unfortunately, the elevator was out of order and my suitcase was very very heavy.

I spent the afternoon on the vessel watching the interesting loading activities and exploring the environment. The steward advised me the mealtime – 7am breakfast, lunch at noon and dinner at 5pm, furthermore he told me that I was the only passenger during this trip to America. So, lunch I had already missed and I was quite glad about the early dinner time because I was as hungry as wolf. The Steward showed me my place at the Captain´s table and I enjoyed my first “Captain´s Dinner”. Although it was very short, I could ask many questions and I learned that the officers and engineers came from South-East Europe and the working crew from the Philippines – and that his wife Oana was travelling with us. I was glad that I was not the only woman on board.

At 10pm we finally cast off and I met Oana. At once I liked her very much and I was ultimately sure that I would have a wonderful time on the HS Bach. During the trip I have learned many things about the technic, nature, seaman´s life and the specifics of the life on a vessel. For instance, that almost nobody is called by name: Captain was “Captain”, Chief Officer was the “Chief”, 2nd officer was just the” Second”, 3rd was just the “Third”, the cook was the Cookie, I was just Passenger, and I have called Oana to myself “First Lady” ; And, nobody was wearing uniform; the dress code was casual, except the working clothes which had to be worn during the craft works.

New words I have learned like “swell”, “rolling”, “port side”, “starboard side”; new geographical regions like “Flemish Cup”, “Grand Banks of Newfoundland ”. I was explained the stars and planets seen after sunset, I was taught the animals of the Atlantic and the birds we have seen from time to time like dolphins, sperm whales (cachalot), flying fish, turtle.

I have got to know some marine custom, so I was forbidden to whistle because this calls up the wind.

Due to the fact that we travelled westward the clock was retarded by one hour in six nights. Consequently I woke up very early and before breakfast I went on the bridge and the wings to watch the sunrise. Generally, I spent most of the time on the bridge and watched the sky, the sea, sunsets and the monitors. Every question I have asked was answered, and I had plenty of nice conversation with every single person on the bridge.

Fortunately, I was in a position not only to be the learner but also the teacher. Oana has asked me to teach her crocheting and so we spent some hours together crocheting on the wings or in my cabin. Oana is very skillful and her subtle fingers produced a nice bonnet decorated by a crocheted flower. I was very proud of her.

Every time, when the rolling was not that heavy, we went outside to the bow of the vessel where we enjoyed the view over the water. We have waited for some dolphins or other animals, chatted, amazed by the mighty Atlantic and left the noise of the world outside.

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By the way, throughout the whole journey we were exposed to the swell and we were rolling. Sometimes more (up to 20 degrees of inclination), sometimes less…. But always rolling. Fortunately, I could tolerate it; the only reaction I noticed sometimes was some sleepiness.

The night we reached the port of Charleston I was allowed to stay on the bridge during the docking maneuver which I found very exciting and interesting. The maneuver was led by two docking pilots who came on board whereas the Captain helped coordinating the crew members and their activities. Huge agility dominated on the bridge and all over the vessel and I admired how exactly such a huge ship can be moved and conducted.

After sunrise, when the maneuver was done – suddenly silence; the entire vessel seemed to have fallen asleep. Oana and I were as usually on the wings and have watched the water. Surprisingly we have seen one last dolphin.

Then we had to say good-bye, the parting was very difficult for me because Oana became a friend of mine. All the more I am lucky that Oana has always kept contact with me.

The journey was a complete success to me, I have never experienced any bad moment or feeling. Finally I have won millions of new impressions, I was always treated very well and politely, I was given an idea of a seaman´s life, my childhood dream came true and last but not least I have found a new friend. ”

 

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