Voyage HS Bach (2015)

Voyage HS Bach

Our voyage on HS Bach started in August 2015 in the port of Rotterdam where we signed on together with two other Romanian officers and very good friends. Although we were all acquainted with the vessel – after having spent more than five months on board in 2013 – we were a little skeptical about its route and future trade due to the uncertainty of charter extension. Chartered by MSC, the vessel was under North Europe – West Coast USA voyage which promised me the excitement of the Panama Canal Transit, along with other new and known territories to discover and rediscover. A complete voyage was due to last nine weeks, covering a few ports in North Europe – Rotterdam, Sankt Petersburg, Bremerhaven, Anvers, Le Havre and Sines – crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Panama Canal, transiting the Canal, visiting two ports on the West Coast of the USA – San Francisco and Oakland – and two more ports on the way down – Manzanillo in Mexico and Balboa in Panama – before transiting the Canal again and heading towards North Europe.

Voyage HS Bach

Two complete trips were meant to make up our voyage and with a little luck we were to go back home just in time for Christmas. But things turned around and around due to the charterer’s hectic schedule and our route was changed a few times during our voyage – in fact, ports were changed/omitted or replaced a few times and the route was changed completely at the end of November causing us an earlier and quite abrupt end of contract.

The first 2 weeks passed according to the known schedule and, after visiting the beautiful city-port of Sankt Petersburg and the very familiar ports of Bremerhaven, Anvers and Le Havre, we arrived in Sines, the last European port before crossing the Atlantic. From here, everything changed and the once known schedule became completely useless. The vessel was scheduled for full discharging and anchorage until further notice. No more crossing of the Atlantic, no more Panama Canal transit, but only the prospect of unlimited anchorage and uncertain future. Finally, the ‘unlimited anchorage’ outside the port of Anvers lasted no more than six days – offering us the chance of great fishing parties during the high tide evening hours.

Voyage HS Bach

Voyage HS Bach

After that, a new one month rotation route was fixed for our vessel, including three completely new ports for me – Liverpool, Brest and Bristol. While a heavy rain prevented us from visiting the city of Bristol, we were lucky enough to enjoy wonderful weather during the stays in Liverpool and Brest and we managed to go out for long walks and to admire both cities from different perspectives.

Voyage HS Bach

After finishing the one month rotation, the vessel was again introduced into the old schedule and I was more than happy to reclaim my favourite place on the vessel – the forward station – and start my long and silent hours of admiring the surrounding nature under way to the Panama Canal.

Both transits of the Canal – South Bound and North Bound – took place during wonderful and sunny days – in spite of the rainy season – and they offered my the possibility of admiring one of the greatest engineering constructions of all times (Read more here).

Voyage HS Bach

Seven years ago, while sailing in the same waters on board HS Livingstone, I was lucky enough to pass under the Golden Gate Bridge during daytime, but I didn’t get the chance of going out in the city of San Francisco, due to a very short stay and a busy program.

Voyage HS Bach

This time, things were different and I was happy to turn them in my favour. Since the entrance in the port took place well before the sunrise and I could see the Golden Gate Bridge only as a black huge shadow, I had the whole day to wander around the city and admire some of San Francisco’s most popular attractions.

Voyage HS Bach

Although our stays in Long Beach and Manzanillo were not as long as I would have liked, we managed to go out for a walk in both of them and we had a great time. I really enjoyed the complete sense of liberty I breathed on the beach of Manzanilo while admiring the ‘angry’ Pacific Ocean and I fully enjoyed the colourful and vivid city of Long Beach while having a walk among thousands of happy tourists.

Voyage HS Bach

Voyage HS Bach

Apart from visiting interesting territories and admiring the nature at its best, this voyage offered me the great joy of a new friendship which will stand the test of time no matter where our future lives will bring us. I am always keen to meet new people – regardless of their age, nationality or social status – and during my voyages I had the chance of making wonderful friends with whom I share the same passions, hobbies, fears or opinions about the world. This voyage I had the pleasure of meeting another officer’s wife who came on board for the first time and stayed with us for 2 months. In spite of her young age, Ramona quickly won a special place in my heart, becoming the ‘sister’ I never had and the friend any woman would want. We spent a lot of time together – admiring the nature from the forward station or from the outside wings, baking cakes and biscuits in the galley, practicing English and crocheting, speaking about life and everything in general, relaxing in the outside inflatable swimming pool while sailing south towards the Panama. I enjoyed her presence a lot and hope life will bring us together again, on another vessel and for a longer time and I also hope she will get the chance of travelling with her husband more often as she has just discovered the beauties of such an adventurous life.

Voyage HS Bach

Voyage HS Bach

Voyage HS Bach

During my voyage on HS Bach weather was our greatest enemy – apart from the hectic, unsure and continuously changing schedule. We didn’t experience any bad weather, but a mild (2-3 m) swell accompanied us throughout the voyage and made us feel dizzy for most of the time.

Voyage HS Bach

It was a little worse at the beginning, but after a while, I got used to it and adjusted my program accordingly. I gave up going to the gym and we even stopped playing ping pong, although these are some of our favourite activities while on board. Instead, we chose to spend a few hours almost everyday in the Recreation Room, playing darts and listening to music together with the other officers.

I had my part of fun as well during a few outside barbecue parties which came with very good food and a lot of karaoke music, a baptism ceremony and a wonderful Halloween party where most of the crew took part in the game and displayed a wide variety of scary and funny masks.

Voyage HS Bach

Voyage HS Bach

Some members of the crew – me included – celebrated their birthdays while on board and we highlighted the event with chocolate cakes, more chocolate cakes and group photos.

Voyage HS Bach

Voyage HS Bach

Voyage HS Bach

Despite the continuous slight rolling, I managed to put into practice some of my handy projects – a frame with knots to decorate the Officers’ Recreation Room, a photo project for other walls in both Recreation Rooms and more than 30 crocheted red Christmas decorations for all members of the crew.

Voyage HS Bach

Voyage HS Bach

Our voyage came to an end almost three weeks earlier than it had initially been planned due to another change in the route. We had to leave the vessel in Sines, the last available port for crew chang before the vessel headed south towards West Africa and then farther south and then east towards Sri Lanka and Singapore.

My voyage on HS Bach was the shortest voyage I had so far – three months and 12 days – and not at all full of adrenaline and excitement like my previous voyages at sea. It was, anyway, a wonderful experience which took me from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back safe, introduced me to the Baltic Sea and took me to the northernmost place of all my travelling so far (~60° North latitude), brought a new friend into my life and lots of amazing moments – sunsets, sunrises, rainbows, heavy rains and clear skies, angry waves and mirror like seas. On top of everything, this voyage brought me the joy of spending 3 months and 12 days with my husband, as part of our journey through the world and through life as well.

Voyage HS Bach

Voyage HS Bach

Voyage HS Bach

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