By Container Ship from New Jersey to Pernambuco
2013 February 13 - March 1
Lee De Cola

  1. Getting aboard
  2. Un/loading the boxes
  3. Piloting to the ports
  4. On deck
  5. At sea
  6. Bridge and engine room
  7. Interiors

For 17 days I traveled about 5700 miles from Bayonne New Jersey to the principal cargo port of Pernambuco, Brazil aboard Hamburg-Süd’s Cap Jervis, an 870-foot container ship that makes a 49-day circuit between the US and Argentina. The first 9 days the ship visited 6 six east coast US ports and the last 8 days was a transoceanic passage from Ft Lauderdale FL to Suape, Brazil. This journal is organized not chronologically but according to the themes at the left, which you can visit in any order you like, or just skip around according to the pictures that interest you.
    The trip satisfied my curiosity about life aboard a large cargo vessel, got me to Brazil, and checked off another item on my geophysical bucket-list: to cross the Equator.

Getting aboard

On the train from Washington DC to Newark NJ I noticed containers everywhere; here, center left, a red 40-foot container (or 'box' as they are known in the business) is behind a warehouse. If you are attuned to things they can become ubiquitous, like the container being used for some kind of enclosure at Rutgers University in Newark.
    Study this picture and contemplate the rampant cubosity of 'modern' life: blocks, buildings, rooms, cubicles - the tables and spreadsheets of logistics. Almost everything in this photo is a cuboid except for the sorry vegetation. We love 'nature' for its disregard of those rules.

The ship stopped at 6 east coast US ports and then headed southeast for Suape, south of Recife Brazil, and although each container port has unique features, this is essentially the view that I saw at every terminal we visited: thousands of identically shaped boxes awaiting to be either loaded on a ship or carried away by a truck. Although they are colorful, nothing indicates what's in the containers, and only a serial number links each one to a document declaring its contents (sometimes bearing the phrase 'said to contain...'). There could be a bomb in one of them, or even people, but I doubt that they would be trying to get to South America.
In fact, many of the boxes - up to half those aboard some ships - are empty, so the modal cargo is usually just air.

This view greeted me when I was dropped off by the container port's security van: no smiling steward with a glass of champagne, just a small-looking man in overalls beckoning me up a very long and jumpy ladder.
    The white part of the superstructure is the ship's 8-level 'accommodation' block: all spaces for the crew's sleeping, eating, and leisure activities, the ship's office, and topped by the bridge, about 120 feet above the water. Occupying all of the below-decks under the accommodation is the engine space.

From the dock Cap Jervis is a red wall surmounted by containers. It is 870 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 170 feet from keel to bridge. The ship has a length-to-beam ratio of about 8, as opposed to that of a cruise ship which is around 3. This narrowness increases access to all the containers by the 'gantry' cranes seen here reaching over the forward section of the ship. The gantries travel on railway wheels that fit in the tracks on the dock.
The overall design is fairly simple: begin with an 8×8×40-foot container, create a stack them 15 high, arrange 13 stacks next to one another in a wall, place 16 walls into a long 'package' and put a hull around the 3120 boxes. This gives a capacity of about 6240 twenty-foot equivalents (TEU), but making allowances for the tapering hull and visibility reduces this capacity to 4600 TEU.

We were the only vessel at the Charleston SC container port, so when loading was complete I had an opportunity to wander around the dock unthreatened by moving gantries and trucks. This view of the ship's transom (after end) shows its Liberian home port and flag and the lines that extend between bollards on the dock to the mooring deck, where I spent much of my time when I wasn't within the ship. The two after portholes of my stateroom are at the top left of the white accommodation superstructure. When underway the aft end of the ship settles in the water, covering the darker red part of the hull.
    In Charleston porpoises swam lazily around the ship; I saw a few at sea as well and there could have been more, but I didn't see much sea life because one so far from the surface of the sea and the vessel is very noisy.
(The crew generally referred to Cap Jervis as a vessel, and I wonder if this is because the machine's function as a carrier dominates.)

Any close-up view of a large object gives little sense of its overall shape. Here the bow and mast look like a ship, but the hull appears to recede endlessly. And indeed I wondered how long such a ship could ultimately be. Just forward of the bow is the 'bulb' that improves the way the ship plows through the water (see video below).
    This picture shows how the huge blue gantries, or cranes, extend over the decks to load and unload the boxes. I was told that all the gantries are made in China, and they certainly did look identical from port to port.
    I had time to wander the dock while waiting for a van to take me to a Charleston dentist to see about a sore jaw (never found out what the problem was), but I accompanied our cook, who had a tooth removed. The ship is rarely in port for more than 24 hours and because the container ports are so far from town, the crew sees little of life ashore. My two lengthy forays ashore in Charleston and Ft Lauderdale gave me a faint sense of the crew's life away from the ship - but of course I was a fluent citizen of the port country.

This is a view of the New York City skyline (including the beckoning Freedom Tower) from the Bayonne NJ container port, where Cap Jervis was being loaded with containers and its only passenger for the trip to Brazil. From here we headed out to sea under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, an impressive sight that I witnessed that night from the fo'c'sle at the bow of the ship, reached by gingerly negotiating 600 feet of deck 40 feet above New York harbor.
    The next morning on the bridge the captain introduced himself: "Mr De Cola, welcome aboard. I must warn you that this is not a passenger ship, and I can't have you walking about the decks on your own, especially at night when the ship is unlit. You could fall overboard, or break a leg and it might be hours until someone found you. Please confine yourself to interior of the accommodation for your safety."
    Eventually, by participating in a couple of drills, asking for permission, and demonstrating my knowledge of the organization of the ship, I obtained the run of Cap Jervis - but I had been put in my place. In fact, I eventually had much greater freedom than a cruise ship passenger, who may never see the bridge or engineering spaces, to which I had free access.

Un/loading the boxes

The business of the ship is moving stuff, not carrying passengers; I tried to safely disappear among the dynamics of the loading and unloading of the boxes. Here the gantry grabber clamps down on a box and then the 4 corner guides rotate up so that they won't be in the way when the box is lowered either into the hold or on top of other boxes that may be close to other stacks. As soon as the truck is unloaded another takes its place so that the cycle is a minute or so.
    The whole process is extremely noisy and goes on all night as the ship is un/loaded. When a box is dropped on another a loud 'clunk' explodes and a half-second later the ship vibrates with the impact. Eventually I was able to sleep soundly though this racket; one gets used to practically anything.
Container ships, gantries, ports are all quite similar and reflect the uniformity of the boxes, which are emblematic of contemporary modularity.

This video shows a large hatch being removed by the gantry so that boxes may be removed from or placed in the hold. Note that as soon as the gantry operator is sure that the hatch is free of the deck it is rapidly swung through the air. A man can be seen at the far left corner of the hatch.
    You can see that there will be room for 5 rows of boxes, which will be stacked belowdecks up to 8 high. When the hatch cover is replaced one or two layers of containers will be secured to it and then stacked up to 8 high above the deck. One of the reasons the gantries are so large and so much space is provided around them is that although these large hatch covers and the containers are precisely lifted and lowered into place, speed dictates that they are freely 'slung' about.

Because boxes can be 8½ or 9½ feet tall, this hold is full, but there is varying space left. Corner guides that keep the below-deck containers from toppling over; the next 2 divisions are hatch covers waiting either to be removed or to have boxes stacked upon them. The entire system is geometrically elegant, extremely speedy - and needs very little human intervention.
    The furthest blue gantry is folded up so that it can be maneuvered over the ship's accommodation whose bridge deck naturally needs to be higher than the highest stack of boxes. One feature of this particular technology (as opposed say to a watch that is complicate and precise) is the elegant simplicity of design: boxes in slots below deck or strapped to one another above. A lot of computational power goes into placing a particular container in a particular place, but the overall arrangement is quite easy to comprehend.

As soon as one box is dropped onto the truck its serial number is quickly checked by a worker and the next truck moves into place. This is a rare appearance of a dockworker, who looks very small among the machines
    A study of the literature would reveal how many stevedores are replaced by containerization. It takes about a minute to un/load a box, whose capacity is about 2700 ft3. I wondered why the containers aren't simply bar-coded so that a scanner could more quickly, reliably - and cheaply - check that it was the right one. Would this woman get another job so that she could keep buying the stuff in the containers? Technology doesn't need us.

All of the interior of the ship except the accommodation is devoted to the holds, which can be packed with containers. I spent an afternoon with a cadet as he visited the refrigerated 'reefer' containers to check their temperatures, which must be noted twice daily. We gained access to the boxes along the passageways seen across this view, which shows an unusually large amount of free space. Note the grooves into which the boxes fit, and the hatch covers between which daylight is shining.
    Our presence also checked to see if there were problems with any of the hazardous cargo, which is generally stowed above-decks. Although all hazardous cargo must be declared, an officer told me of a time when an unmarked and supposedly benign box began to leak a liquid that dissolved the soles of a crewmember's shoes. Technology daily produces new chemicals, but at that time the box's contents technically wasn't classified as hazardous.
    I fancy myself a pro-labor liberal, I thought about automatization; a shipboard intranet could continuously monitor the reefer temperatures and 'sniff' the holds for hazards, so what were humans needed for here?

Piloting

From February 13 to 22 the ship loaded and unloaded at 6 US East Coast ports, which entailed often complicated river navigation during which there was a lot to see. Here a tanker is passing us port-to-port with a red channel buoy to its starboard ('red right returning'). As all the pilots know one another, they'll go out on the port flying bridge and wave, perhaps even chat on their cell phones. When the pilot settled in aboard and if there were a lull in the action, I would introduce myself by saying: "I'm the passenger - all these boxes are just for show!" The pilots were friendly fellows (there was one woman) some of whom seemed actually envious of my adventure.
    In addition to studying other ships I would: watch the birds, inspect bridges from below, wave to folks on pleasure boats, bask in the awe I suspected know was felt by the families watching us.

The longest sea-to-port passage was the Delaware River, and the second longest was the St Johns River to Jacksonville FL, where I saw this. At first I thought it was our wake because the waves were moving at just about our speed, but I saw no connection between our bow wave and what turned out to be a tidal bore, which I watched for several minutes. As a kayaker I fancied what it might be like to surf this nearly endless wave.
    During the piloting I was almost always on deck or on the bridge, so I had plenty of time to ponder the various disturbances the ship made in the water, and arrived at the following typology:
      1. bow (or Kelvin) wave, V-shaped and widening
      2. hull turbulence along the side - minimized at ‘full’ speed
      3. stern turbulence - after the stern
      4. prop turbulence - not present with sailing vessels.

Before the ship can navigate rivers or through the harbor to the container terminal it must take on a pilot. Here a very small-looking fellow reached for the bottom of the accommodation ladder as a cadet waits for him at the top. After the pilot took command (he gives orders with the tacit approval of the officer of the deck) and things on the bridge settled down, I could study the piloting process. As geographer and a rated US Coast Guard (reserve) Quartermaster with perhaps a lifetime's six months of sea time, I was naturally very interested in this business and could absorb most of what I was told.
    Even though piloting is far more complicated than standing watch on a transoceanic voyage, going up and down the same stretch of river can become tedious, so the pilots were generally quite eager to talk - perhaps especially to the only American aboard.

As we approached or left the dock tugs push and pull the ship, and are ready to nudge the vessel as be needed. A few minutes after this picture was taken in Ft Lauderdale that line parted and the bow was adrift. The danger of this situation is due not only to a loss of control, but also to the fact that a snapping 3-inch line can whip around with tremendous force, causing serious injuries. I was on the bridge listening to the urgent but calm exchanges between the pilot, our captain, and the tugboat master; later the pilot said it had been 10 years since he'd had a line part.
    It's hard but not impossible to imagine how piloting could be completely automated; there are thousands of drones in the air and below the sea, and driverless cars are in our future - why not pilotless ships? Ah, but what happens when a line parts?

The trickiest piloting was here at Port Everglades (where the tug's line parted) especially as we had execute a 110 degree turn to pass this floating hotel. Liberty of the Seas (silly name) is about 1/4 longer than Cap Jervis and 4 times wider, but they are of similar height, as you can see here.
    Probably the most significant statistical difference is that our vessel carried 24 people to Liberty's 4000. But then it had no containers aboard so far as I could see. As we passed I could see people standing at the buffet, maids making up rooms, a cartoon being shown on the top deck - while I was on the bridge watching the pilot at work, which I very much doubt the Liberty's passengers would get to do.

On deck

This view forward along the main deck port passage gives some sense of the length of the vessel. The main deck is the level of the hatch covers and also provides access forward and aft, and it's the only part of the ship that doesn't carry containers. The distance of this view is about 600 feet; there's a crew member barely visible far ahead. As I walked forward I could hear the roar of the ventilators providing fresh air to the hold and the clanking of the containers as we rolled; they sounded like a dinosaur trapped below thrashing to get out.

This video is forward on the starboard side of the main deck. If you keep your attention focused on the very center of the scene you may be able to see how the ship flexes, mainly to the right and left. All large ships do this, much as airplane wings 'flap' in turbulence; if these 'ships' were rigid they might break apart. (The image is jerky because the ship was always vibrating and I was crouched down on the deck.)
    My experience is that smaller ships roll with a regular period, but Cap Jervis lurched from side to side in a pattern that was difficult to anticipate. I was told that this is because its size makes the ship subject to many scales of ocean dynamics, but the narrow design may also accentuate this.

This is the view aft from the mooring deck, my favorite place on the ship. Most afternoons I would retire to this space, one of the few places on this huge ship with enough room to let me walk around with relative freedom. The space was just above the propeller, was towered over by creaking stacks of containers, and therefore was quite noisy; but I could smoke a cigar or drink a glass of bourbon in relative freedom, and it was rarely visited by the other crew members, although once I watched a group of deckhands splicing mooring lines.
    As I edit this journal I'm struck by the almost universal presence of 'Hamburg-Süd red,' part of the company's careful visual identity campaign. Soon after we left Florida the crew set about priming and painting over the various dings the deck had received as we loaded at the U.S. ports.

At sea

Every morning at sea I would wake up about 0600 (3 hours before my usual time) and climb up one deck to the bridge to do my stretches, meditate on the rising sun and see how things were going. Given that our course was Southeast by East, the sun was always off the port bow. This is the view that I most remember from the cruise: watching the ship roll, pitch, and yaw; following our wake, studying the way the early morning sun would cast shadows on the waves, looking for whales (we saw a few), and watching the rare bird.
    The bow of the ship is an eighth of a mile from the bridge. Moreover, visibility is such that if the ship's decks are fully loaded, a further 1/3 of a mile of sea in front of the bow will be obscured by containers. Even bigger container ships have the accommodation (topped by the bridge) further forward, but still, anybody out there needs to get out of the way...

I love being at sea in any kind of vessel in any kind of weather, but especially heavy weather, and I've never been seasick (although I sometimes experience mild queasiness on my first day aboard). I was anxious that a ship of our size might be so big as not to let me feel the sea but I soon learned that Cap Jervis would roll quite a bit even in calm weather because it felt the largest ocean swells.
     Occasionally the ship would roll up to 10 degrees, which doesn't seem like much, but is accentuated by my cabin's being 100 feet in the air, for a horizontal motion of up 40 feet. As we lurched from side to side during the second night of the Florida-Pernambuco passage I had some trouble sleeping so I went to the bridge. During a particularly severe roll the captain suddenly appeared, took command from the 2nd Mate and changed our course slightly to lessen the rolling, but it didn't help much. At first the motion can fun, then an annoyance as you try to sleep or do simple things, and finally subliminal.

Although I studied the sea for a couple of hours each day, other ships were a rarity. There are thousands of large ships in transoceanic transit at any time, but the sea is very large, which added to my sense that people weren't really necessary to safely operate the vessel. A couple of dozen crew members doesn't seem like many: imagine 24 people working in an 80-story building about 120 feet on a side; but one by one their jobs are disappearing.
    A small irony of ship travel is that you can't see your own ship; hence I had to go elsewhere for a photo of Cap Jervis, and we looked like this from that other ship.

This is the scene from the bridge and the image I recall most from the voyage. You can see that the ship rolls quite a bit, especially in the relatively heavy seas we encountered on the first few days of the passage from Florida to Brazil; the North Atlantic in February.
    The ship can carry up to 4000 TEUs, which is 2000 40-foot long containers; here there are lots of gaps in that maximum capacity, but you can get an idea of what a mass of boxes we were - and could - carry.
    The video also records the wind as we surged across the sea; outside was the whistling wind and the creaking of the containers, inside was the ventilation - and everywhere the 1.5 Hertz vibration of the engine.

This is the view at sea from my porthole. On this particular day the Chief Mate pointed aft and asked "Do you notice anything about our wake?" I said it seemed narrower than usual, and he replied that we were making about 22 knots in order to make up for the time we lost waiting for the tide in Jacksonville FL. This is the ship's designed optimum hydrodynamic speed, at which hull turbulence is minimal (hence the narrow wake) but fuel consumption is lavish. It is also interesting that the turbulence remained confined to the ship's width for many miles behind us. Although the gross engineering of a modern container vessel is revealingly simple, a lot of sophisticated complexity goes into the design of its dynamics.

The huge bulb dramatically protruding below the prow of the ship seems rather ugly but results in significant fuel economy. When my wife saw this video she asked me if I was hanging over the bow for the shot: no, but I did have to lean over, and fortunately the captain didn't see me.
    The shot also shows the lovely blue of the Caribbean sea; one source of frustration about being on such a large ship is how far one is from the water.

Bridge and engine room

Most of the ships I've been on were sailing vessels where the bridge consisted of a wheel and a compass, with charts, radar, etc. housed in a protected space. The Cap Jervis bridge looks more like a roomy space ship - until you look out the 270-degree windows. You see the two radars (set to the same view but they can be used independently) and the central 'dashboard' showing our position, heading, rudder angle, speed, distance to bottom, among other things. Here the First Mate talks to another ship confirming our intention to pass in front of the other vessel (starboard-to-starboard). Although I could freely walk about the bridge at any time, as a former US Coast Guard sailor I could never be completely comfortable there, and I always addressed the personnel by their titles: Captain, Mate, Cadet, etc. But I did spend a lot of time watching the sea, looking at the charts, and asking questions of the crew, who were almost consistently patient and even eager to explain things.

Behind the control section of the bridge (and shielded from it by a curtain at night) is the navigation table where the log and a charted record of our course are kept. In the foreground is a piloting chart of the Atlantic and in the background a larger-scale chart of our immediate vicinity. Between them is my notebook where I recorded my own journal, sketches, calculations, etc.
     On the wall was also a few hundred DVDs; comedies, thrillers, the usual light fare. Porno videos circulate as an informal floating library aboard cargo ships.

The engine 'room' is the largest single space within the ship; in fact the vessel is built around its diesel engine. A few days out of Florida I was given a tour of the engine room by the Chief Engineer, who spent a couple of hours lovingly pointing out all of the features of this extremely complicated system of motors, valves, controls, and other mysterious machinery. The main engine is an 8-cylinder diesel that ran at a constant 90 RPM for a week as we crossed the Caribbean and coasted NE Brazil.
    The large cylinder at center left of this picture is the turbocharger, responsible for most of the literally deafening noise that pervades this space and in comparison to which the engine itself is quiet.

After I'd been given an official tour of the engine room by the Chief I was able to visit this space on my own to study the machinery and photograph its abstract beauty, so long as I wore coveralls, proper shoes, and ear protection. In fact, on my first visit I was made slightly ill by the vibration and the sound (and perhaps the slight smell as well); but I found it thrilling to wander among the bizarre shapes and throbbing machinery, and to chat with the engineers, who could take refuge from the heat and noise in the control room. I put my hand on one of those hot but not burning silver hoses and felt the fuel being injected into the cylinders.

For a week the engine turned this shaft 90 times per minute. In my modest effort to explore the future of this industry, I asked the Chief Engineer how long the engine would run: "If it is kept cooled and lubricated - and supplied with high quality fuel - it will run indefinitely," he replied. So his crew are needed to perform minor maintenance tasks and check the various instruments. A spare cylinder is kept aboard, which they could replace; but it's clear that people are slowly but surely being shaved from the crew. For example, there is no 3rd Engineer anymore, so Hamburg-Süd offers passage in that empty room, in addition to the 'Owner’s cabin,' which I occupied.

Interior

The bosun's compartment is at the bow of the ship, immediately below the foc'sle. The first day out I was given a tour of the ship and was startled to encounter these two cold-weather outfits hung out for easy access and to be dry. As part of the drill on day 2 I donned an immersion suit very much like this one, designed to keep one alive in cold water for up to 24 hours. Because almost no fuss is made over the passenger, you soon feel quite comfortable wandering the ship and asking questions. None of the staff has unusual amenities, so all share in the boredom. A couple of deck crew are working in the background.
    Like all interior spaces aboard, this compartment is clean, well-lit, and orderly; a far cry from the filthy, gloomy, and often chaotic spaces usually within a 19th century cargo vessel. In conversations with several crew members I got the impression that, although Cap Jervis wasn't a particularly jovial or relaxed ship, it was well run by skilled officers who treated their crew with consideration and fairness. One might ask for more, and might fear having very much less.

Just as the exterior of the ship is naked engineering with no design feature yielding to esthetics, so is the interior completely utilitarian, with almost no concessions to decoration. Each of the passageways of the accommodation block looked like this; in order to know which deck I sought I'd remember how many levels to ascend or descend (I just remembered the 'Saturday Night Fever' band and headed for decks B and G: the mess and my room, respectively).
    That's the back of our cook, who seemed unable to prepare any but the most utilitarian fare: meat and casseroles, a rather flavorless, watery soup, with a few sliced vegetables on the side. I'm told the cuisine aboard container ships is usually much better, often cooked by skilled chefs from developing countries. Fortunately I'm not a fussy eater.

This panorama of the Officer's Mess illustrates the plainness yet relative comfort of the interior. Although the forward window looked out on the boxes, I could see the sea over the captain's left shoulder.
    Below the clock is an alarm panel which would often sound an E-major warble every hour, even at night. The Chief Engineer said it was reporting problems with the cheap American fuel they had bunkered in New Jersey, for which I duly apologized. A few days later the captain speculated that I might have trouble getting off in Suape, Brazil if my papers were not in order. I thought this unlikely, but went along with his teasing: "Suppose the Brazilians don't let me in?" I asked. He said, "You would have to remain aboard until Buenos Aires." "But I don't have a visa for Argentina," I replied. "Then you'd have to stay with us until we returned to Philadelphia - in 5 weeks."
    I would make a deal: "You know those alarms that go off every hour day and night? I'll stay aboard if I get the title of Chief Alarm Monitor, along with a red coverall suit!" He agreed, but I wasn't going to pay for my being Shanghaied, so I demanded my fare for the return to the US: “I want €100/day; the price of my passage," and he agreed. I recount this story in part to prove how comfortable I had become among the personnel - but as we approached Brazil I was ready to leave this ship.

This is my entertainment center. I had to rewire the audio player for the ship's sockets and extend the speaker wires so that they could be placed on the shelf above. One evening I watched a video that didn't hold my interest, but I would listen to music as I wrote or sketched in my notebook.
    The poster was from a National Geographic I filched from a Seaman's Mission because the walls were devoid of any decoration save a bland print over the bed. And that's a bit of my laundry hanging to the right - on insulation from the speaker wire! The utter plainness of the compartment invited one to personalize it.
    I also brought a soprano recorder to play; on the ipad were music lessons as well as Portuguese exercises. The single qualification necessary to anyone contemplating such a voyage is self-reliance; you must be able to enjoy your own, and often your only, company.

I close the journal with two pictures of me and a video clip. This is a shot of me taken while accompanying a cadet on an inspection of the holds. I think of it as my 'Chief Alarm Monitor' portrait. I was offered the brilliant red coveralls which I did indeed covet, but couldn't add them to the few items of tropical clothing I was taking to Pernambuco (in fact I left a few items of cold weather clothing aboard for the crew to pick over).
    The picture was taken in one of the below-decks passages that run the length of the ship and offer access to the holds.

This is as close to a 'cruise' picture as I was able to take; trying to relax with my feet precariously balanced on a fire hose valve, sitting on a cheap plastic chair, the wind blowing cigar smoke in my face, the whine of the ventilators buzzing in my head. Still, it was a great adventure.
    I'm often asked if the trip was 'fun' and I cannot answer that it was. In fact, I probably wouldn't do it again. Having had the adventure once, there seems little reason to repeat it; but I'm very glad I took the trouble to prepare for the trip, which was never boring, however restless I might occasionally feel.

Contemplating the wake made me ponder the fate of someone who fell - or jumped - overboard at sea. At breakfast I asked the captain what would happen if I didn't show up at breakfast. "We'd figure you were sleeping in, but if you didn't show up at lunch we'd go to your room and if you weren't there we would search the ship." "And then?" I asked. "Then we are required to turn around and retrace our track to the location at which you were last seen." We agreed that the chances of finding me 20 hours later - dead or alive - were essentially zero, but that's the rule at sea...
    I'm stumped for a reply when people ask me "How was your trip?" Interesting is far too mild and thoughtless a word; exciting rather overstates the long hours doing nothing but gazing at the ocean; but to someone who loves the sea, is intrigued by ships, and wants to meet the people who run them, it was a fascinating experience, filled with discovery and daily wonder at the sea and this latest species of transoceanic vessel.

References

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Langewiesche, W. (2004) The outlaw sea: a world of freedom, chaos, and crime New York, North Point Press.

LaRocco, L. A. (2012) "The invisible network that keeps the world running"Dynasties of the sea: the shipowners and financiers who expanded the era of free trade Stamford CT, Marine Money.

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