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We are at the southwestern exit of the English Channel, north of the French city of Brest and south of Cornwall (N49° 09.429′ W5° 06.121′). At noon today, the captain says at breakfast, we will see what the Atlantic Ocean has for us.
The water of the English Channel is dark green. Where the bow of our ship cuts into the water and whirls up foam, it is turquoise blue. The waves have white spray crowns. The sun is shining; the view is clear.
In the night I wake up from the rocking of the ship. Depending on where the current and the wind come from, the ship swings to the left and right, but also rolls from front to back. The Bright Sky is built in such a way that the accommodations are at the back. We feel the full leverage from front to back. And up here, on the C deck, also the lateral movements from left to right.
My body reacts to the rocking with slight seasickness. It’s not as bad yet that I have to do something about it. At the moment, I simply perceive it. I notice that the swinging has a rhythm and let my body sway in that rhythm.
It is most bearable when I lie on the bed. Then the whole body is supported. It is like a cradle. Sitting makes the body move more back and forth. That causes greater nausea. The worst is when standing and walking. I walk with my legs apart and try to slacken my knees.
Maybe I imagine it, but since I’ve been paying attention to the swaying, I’m less seasick.
It’s a little nauseous, but I don’t want to do anything about seasickness yet. I want to observe and examine it first. I want to know what intensifies it and what reduces it.
After breakfast, I go up to the balcony of the bridge. From there, I look out over the ocean and watch the waves. Again, a squadron of seagulls accompanies us. They are keeping up with our ten or eleven knots just by floating. Because the English Channel is so heavily frequented, it is divided into lanes. We follow in the direction of the ships heading southwest. All other vessels around us sail in the same direction. The ships that travel to the northeast have no business here on our path.
At lunch, which I do not finish, the captain says that every healthy person reacts with seasickness to these circumstances. There is something wrong with those who do not get seasick. We talk about why this kind of swell has such an effect on the body. Much more muscles are used to stand upright or walk than on the solid ground. His recommendation: if I feel sick, I should not force my eyes to recognize small patterns, i.e. I should not read. It is best to be in the fresh air and look at the horizon. Then there is only sky, horizon and water and the body relaxes. The horizon is a fixed point that helps the brain find balance.
But it’ s cold outside. It’s warmer than Antwerp, and it’s going to get warmer every day now, but it’s still not weather where I want to be outside for hours.
At lunch, Pierre, the captain and I also talk about piracy. Shortly before my departure, I had read that West Africa had become the stronghold of piracy. The captain confirms this. It used to be the Strait of Malacca and the Gulf of Aden. The problem at the horn of Africa was solved, as Pierre tells, “from above”: All pirate ships were destroyed with bombs. And also the Strait of Malacca is too crucial for international trade to let pirates make their mischief there. But West Africa is different. Under no circumstances does the captain want to have to steer the Bright Sky to Nigeria. He mentions the movie “Captain Phillips”, in which Tom Hanks plays the captain of a ship that is attacked by pirates and considers the film to be very realistic. It’s also a true story. He never wants to experience this for himself and doesn’t want to expose his crew or a passenger to it.
After a walk outside, I take a nap. Now that we have left the English Channel, the direction is being changed from WSW to SWS. While in the morning the waves came from the front, now they come from the side and rock us. They lull me to sleep.
Maybe one has to connect this unusual movement with positive terms. When you think of nausea, you are worse off than when you associate the rocking with the word “cradle”.
In the evening, after dinner, the bottle store opens. Only the captain is allowed to sell wine and strong alcohol on board. Beer is available from the steward. Pierre has been talking for days about the fact that he wants to drink wine tomorrow, on Sunday, and is probably one of the first in line. I think about whether I would like alcohol and decide against it.
The Bright Sky is a standard cargo ship. The crew may drink alcohol as long as it does not interfere with their work. By the rule that only the captain is allowed to sell hard alcoholic beverages, this is also under control. Freighters transporting dangerous goods are “dry ships”. Not only may alcohol not be consumed on these ships, but it may not even be on board.
While the crew lines up at the bottle store, I have the crew computer for myself and can quickly send an e-mail to Anita. I am happy that she reads and answers my e-mails. It’s not as if I feel lonely – I can be alone. But I am glad because she is happy for me. Especially today, I often think of her – she would have hated the swell on the ship and suffered a lot.
According to the captain, once we have crossed the Bay of Biscay, everything will be better until Cape Town. In one or two days, the worst will be over.
At sunset, I go onto the bridge and out onto the balcony on the starboard side. The sun illuminates a few clouds on the horizon in orange and goes down as a golden ball. I intend to photograph every sunrise and sunset on board. Tonight it was worth it.
I stay on the bridge and try to estimate the height of the waves. In contrast to the other ships Pierre has already sailed on, there is no measuring device for the wave height available here. The captain, who comes a little later with his wife to the bridge, and the Chief Officer, who supervises the voyage, estimate a height of 3.5 m with high waves at 4 m.
Slowly I get used to the swell. With very strong swaying, I notice that my body, which has to strain its muscles more than usual to keep me upright, is working harder. Sometimes I get a slight outbreak of sweating and little nausea. But on the whole, I can handle it.
The loading crew in Antwerp didn’t always work as excellently as I first thought. One of the trucks on deck has a burning light. It won’t burn for long. The question is whether the lamp should be switched off. The captain decides against it. The light does not affect navigation at night, because the truck is parked behind a wall of containers as seen from the bridge. He doesn’t want someone for hours trying out a bunch of car keys until he finds the right one.
Would you like to see an overview of all articles about my journey on the cargo ship Bright Sky? Click here for a table of contents.