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Trip Narrative   (...continued)

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The late afternoon sun casts its rays on the starboard bridge wing and the hills of northeastern Cuba, early in the voyage.

We left Miami about midnight, nine hours or so after I had joined the ship.  I didn’t sleep much that night, mainly due to the excitement of the new adventure, and perhaps also because I wasn’t used to the earthquake-like motion of the ship.  The slow, back and forth rocking that one might expect was only part of the ship’s motion.  Another contributor was the vibration from the 13,000 HP two-stroke engine providing power to the ship and what seems to have been the mechanical resonance of the superstructure (about one cycle per second, or so).  It wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling at all, just a little unusual if you are used to things like the floor and your bed staying in one place.

Hurry Up and Wait

We arrived at Freeport/Lucaya in the Bahamas around breakfast time.  Our berth was not yet available, so we had to wait.  The Katrin S. never anchored while I was aboard.  During the many times we had to wait for a berth, the engines were shut off and we just drifted.  We did a lot of drifting in the two weeks I was on the ship.

We finally got to a berth at about 10:00 PM that evening.  The port in Freeport/Lucaya seemed to be in a fairly isolated area, with no towns or cities in obvious view.  The environment seemed somewhat sterile here, without much but the gantry cranes and the stacks of containers to look at.  Our stop here was intended to be short and I don’t believe anyone left the ship.  I immediately noticed a difference in the stevedores here, compared to those in Miami.  The stevedores in Miami seemed somewhat intimidating, and I didn’t feel compelled to strike up a conversation with any of them.  Those in the Bahamas, by contrast, seemed very down-to-earth and approachable.  I talked to one guy for fifteen minutes or so while he made notations on a clipboard as each container was loaded.  He told me that working at the docks was considered one of the better jobs to have in that area.

Leaving Rio Haina was an adventure.  Despite the fact that the channel is narrow, the captain usually leaves the port at a fairly quick speed to reduce the likelihood of stowaways getting onboard.

Our planned departure from the Bahamas was delayed for a few hours when it was discovered that the Katrin S. had been overloaded.  I am told that it took the first officer a while to convince the shipping company to have some of the extra containers removed.  Weight and balance is the responsibility of the first mate, and is critical to the safety of the vessel.

Up the River

The Katrin S. left Freeport/Lucaya to the south and proceeded along the northeast Cuban coast.  We were only a few miles from Cuba, and we could clearly see the spray shooting up as waves hit the rocks on shore.  We passed through the 50-mile wide Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti on our way to Rio Haina, near the capital city of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

The port at Rio Haina wasn’t really in a "good neighborhood", and the captain recommended that the passengers stay onboard.  A number of security guards took up posts on the ship to protect against stowaways.  All unsealed containers were also checked for “passengers”.  Despite all this, however, Rio Haina was a great place to “ship-watch”, since it was fairly small and the picturesque port entrance was in easy view.  It was relaxing to sit and watch the ships enter and leave through the narrow channel.  (continued...)


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