My first Atlantic Crossing by ship

As I wrote here before I boarded the Independent Horizon on August 2nd, 2019. On August 4th at about 2 pm we left Antwerp almost fully loaded. First we went down the river Schelde into the North Sea and then across the English Channel into the Atlantic Ocean. There we drove straight on for days until we reached our destination. In a dead straight line. Pretty much directly to the west. Exactly the same direction at the same speed of about 30 km/h (19 mph).

For this crossing I had the cabin of the ship owner. A good decision, because this is almost luxurious to call. Altogether three rooms. A kind of living and working area with a big desk at the window with a view to the front, a sofa corner with sofa, two armchairs and a big table, a flat screen TV and a refrigerator. Then a bedroom with double bed (1.40 x 2.00 m / 55 x 80 in), table, armchair and window to the front. Finally a small bathroom with shower, WC and washbasin. In all rooms there was still enough storage space in various cupboards. So it can be endured well!

After we left the range of the land-based mobile radio coverage, I bought satellite-based Internet from the captain for USD 16. At five cents per megabyte this corresponds to 320 MB. Mainly I want to use this for LocaToWeb to track the route live during the crossing and to make it available to my friends as usual on my Live-Tracking page. I also want to fly over the headlines of my mails once a day, but only react in an emergency. WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and everything else, including internet surfing, is taboo. Finally, I have prepared myself for a crossing without Internet and that should remain on the whole also in such a way!

Then I wanted to afford some soft drinks. They are not included and have to be bought on board. I had to learn that these are not sold individually but always on pallets. 24 cans á 33 cl on one pallet. Then I take a whole pallet, I am finally still one and a half weeks on this ship. For USD 14 I call it a bargain.

During the whole crossing the weather was almost perfect. Sometimes it had rained at night or in the morning, but during the day the sun always came out. The ocean was as smooth as a mirror. The ship only made very slight rolling movements. Only on the seventh day there was no sun at first, then the sky closed in the morning and we drove through a fortunately only small thunderstorm front with downpours, lightning and thunder. But the sea remained calm and not two hours later at noon the sun laughed again from a bright blue sky. A crossing couldn’t be better.

I would describe the food as rustic. I am not on a passenger steamer but on a cargo ship. The crew has to eat energy-rich food, the work on a container ship is not easy and the days are very long. For me, the food was usually too greasy. For breakfast we had eggs and sausages. Depending on the day of the week, pancakes were added. Bread with sausage and cheese anyway. Lunch was warm, with soup changing daily and then the main course with meat or fish. In the evening there was again a warm meal, of course also meat or fish. The meat was mostly streaked with a lot of fat. The men here need that. They add a whole bowl of rice to every meal and still look very slim. There are no vegetarians here, they are not strong enough. Since I have not worked as a passenger of course, I have certainly gained some kilos in the few days. I am allowed to get rid of them during my further trip.

Flying is jet lag. From Europe to the USA, depending on the destination, at least six time zones are flown through in the shortest possible time. When crossing by ship, the time zones must of course also be crossed in order to reach the same destination. But much, much slower. In six out of nine nights, the clock on board was set one hour back. This is like switching from winter time to summer time. Or was it the other way round? Only one hour at a time during the night passes me by almost unnoticed. I feel that a little bit, because it is always two nights in a row, then follows a night without change. The “Shiplag” is present, but – at least for me – hardly noticeable.

The drill in the middle of the Atlantic brought some variety. There was an alarm and then the leaving of the ship was trained. First with the lifeboat on deck three, that falls from there over a ramp into the water. Since it was an exercise, it remained of course on board. Then the evacuation was trained with the life rafts on the main deck. Afterwards the elimination of leaking dangerous substances was practiced and as a crowning finale an imaginary fire in the engine room was to be fought. As far as I can judge this as a mostly silent extra standing around in the corner and observing, the ship was rescued in an exemplary manner.

On the first Saturday at sea, barely a week after leaving the port, there was a party. This is often held regularly on cargo ships, as the crew usually spends nine months at a time here. There was a rich barbeque with meat, poultry, shrimps, mussels, various salads and of course drinks. This is the only day on which the crew receives alcohol. They could buy something on board, but it’s not cheap for the simple crew. Of course, what should not be missing at a party on board? Exactly: Karaoke! I just looked at it, whizzed some vodka with the officers and then, like the past days, I was lightly jetted into bed at about 10 pm.

On the morning of the seventh day, after a week of uninterrupted and flawless work, the LocaToWeb app on my Nokia smartphone crashed. Just out of the blue. After a restart, the app sent the not yet transmitted data to the server, but the app doesn’t find any satellites for more than an hour. I hoped they weren’t shot down in preparation for an alien invasion and the error is in the device. After much too long I had the idea to try a soft reset and restart the whole device. Luckily that helped! I guess I miss about two hours of tracking. At around 30 km/h (19 mph), this corresponds to about 60 km (40 mi) of travelled distance. At about 6’500 km (4’000 mi) crossing, that’s less than 1 %. That is to be got over.

Today, after 11 days on board, 9 days crossing and 6’644.6 km (4’128.8 mi) covered at an average speed of 30 km/h (19 mph), we arrived in Philadelphia at noon. Or better said in the port of Chester, about 20 km south of the city center of Philadelphia. After passing the migration and the entry I only drove the short part to my hotel with my bicycle. Here I prepare for tomorrow’s start. Hopefully I can sleep well today. In a bed that doesn’t roll from left to right. You can have a look at my current planning with all stages at Komoot:

View current stage planning at Komoot

Of course there will be a Live-Tracking again tomorrow and I will report about my experiences here in my blog and also publish some photos. I will continue my experiments with the GoPro, so there will probably be some moving pictures from my trip as well – but with some delay, because the video editing takes some time and for uploading I need a stable and fast WiFi. It remains exciting!


Written on August 13, 2019