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The small but busy port at Rio Haina had a certain intimate feeling to it. Almost the entire port could be seen from our berth.

Shore Leave

Our next stop was only a few hours to the west.  Puerto Cabello, Venezuela was a nice port, in a relatively nice area.  There was an area with shops, restaurants and seaside public areas within walking distance of the ship.  By this time, I had gotten to know some of the crew fairly well, and accepted an invitation to go ashore with them that evening.

It can be interesting to see how reality compares to long-held stereotypes.  I am probably not alone in having images of freighter crews going ashore dressed in dirty T-shirts, getting drunk and looking for fights.  Instead it seemed that everyone showered and dressed up for the event (nice clean golf shirts, for example).  I didnt see any fights, either, despite the fact that the bars we went to were all filled with crews from various ships.

The first bar of the evening was part of a seafood restaurant that overlooked the sea.  After a couple of hours there, we went to a karaoke bar, where we spent the rest of the evening.  I thought it was interesting that the songs they played there were mostly in English or Tagalog (the main Filipino language), rather than Spanish, the local language.  It was clear that the bar catered mainly to seamen.  A number of the people I ran into that evening assumed that I was a ship Captain.

We were in Puerto Cabello for most of the following day.  I spent some time walking around the shops and restaurants near the port, and found it to be a pleasant place.


That evening, I threw a party for the crew, in the crew lounge. The party was more out of convenience than altruism...


From Puerto Cabello, we returned once again to Rio Haina, in the Dominican Republic.  The port here is located just inside the mouth of a river.  Since it had been raining heavily near here, the river (and as a result, the port) was full of floating trees and lots of other debris.  Once again, I spent my time onboard, watching freight operations and other ships, as they entered and left the small, but active port.

We left Rio Haina the next evening at dusk.  Once again we followed the standard procedure for leaving the port.  This time we did have swimmers attempting to board our ship, though I didnt have the opportunity to witness the event myself.

Party Time

By the end of the next afternoon we passed through the Windward Passage.  With both Cuba and Hispaniola clearly visible from the ship, I took the opportunity to pour myself a scotch, light a cigar and relax at a wooden table and chair on the deck outside the bridge, as the sun settled into the hills of eastern Cuba.

That evening, I threw a party for the crew, in the crew lounge.  The party was more out of convenience than altruism, as I had a very large supply of duty-free beer and liquor in my cabin.  Having a party seemed like the most practical way to deal with the problem.  It also seemed like a nice way of thanking the crew for their hospitality.

For the rest of the evening, and for most of the next day, we followed the northern coast of Cuba.  Late in the afternoon, we turned to starboard, leaving Cuba behind, and headed northward toward my final destination of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

We arrived outside the port by mid-evening, but couldnt be accommodated until daybreak the next morning.  We spent the night drifting up the coast, waiting for our berth.

The ship finally docked around 7:00 AM.  This was on Sunday, three days or so after our scheduled arrival.  It was disappointing to have to leave the ship.  Over the previous two weeks I had gotten to know the officers and crew, as well as the other passenger, quite well.  I would gladly go on another freighter trip, even one which was longer.  Although I can understand the reasons why many people might find freighter travel boring, I found it both fascinating and relaxing.  Sextant (section-end indicator)
 

Continue to the next section of Freighter Bum: Room and Board.

 

Trip Narrative, page  one - two - three - four

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