04.12.2009 - 04.12.2009
Being a cargo ship means that things are not always as smooth as on a passenger boat or a cruise liner. We had made good time to Walvisbaai, and were in anchorage outside by midday on the 3rd day. The trouble was, so were many others. At one point i could count 18ships at anchorage, with more arriving every few hours, and all awaiting clearance to dock at the quay.
On arrival, we were number 7 or 8 in the queue, even though at least a couple of the ships ahead of us had not yet arrived. As is the way with port authorities, we were just told to wait and listen out. Rumours and guestimates abounded. And so we waited 33hours without any information except what we could ascertain with our own eyes before being given clearance to proceed (several hours earlier than most guesses). It was almost another 3 hours – just before midnight on day 4 - before we were finally berthed in Walvisbaai. A cruise ship that had arrived earlier went straight in without even pausing outside.
Anchorage is one of the most frustrating times for most sailors and seamen. It involves – sometimes protracted (one seaman told me they had once spent 3.5weeks at Panama with no information and then another week once they had traversed the canal) – waits, generally with no information. You can see land, but can't do anything about it. You are also ready for the work of socking and then doing cargo movements: In our case, we had about 130 containers to load, and yet all you can do is sit and twiddle your thumbs.
And as a passenger, it can be even more frustrating: You know that you have no duties in port, and in normal situations can get off and go and explore for a few hours. I could see the sand dunes. I could see the town in the distance. And I had ideas of having a walk and stretching my legs, doing some bits of shopping for extra supplies and maybe finding an internet cafe for an hour or so and checking up on the world. But that mean't nothing. I just had to sit and wait like everybody else.