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Voyage report Thun Lundy.

The on-signers..

Finally, our crew department succeeded in finding a (semi) suitable place to have 8 crew members replaced on board of the Thun Lundy. And this place was Galle in Sri Lanka. This also happened to be the place where I left the Thun London when she went to Europe, so personally, this was my chance to complete the voyage.

For the crew signing on, the journey towards the ship was quite a nightmare with multiple COVID tests, quarantine in hotels and very long transition times in airports, sometimes wearing facemasks for over 48 hours. Anyway, we all collected in Colombo, awaiting the latest test results, and when we were all negative, we only had a 5-hour drive by minivan to the boat which was going to bring us to the Thun Lundy.

The on-signing

On the boat, we met the security team and after one hour, we finally laid eyes on the Thun Lundy, in the open ocean.

The crew which was relieved by us could hardly wait to cast off and get home since a lot of them were already overdue. They left with the same boat a few hours later and here we were; on us the responsibility to complete the voyage which already started from Taizhou in China to Pyeongtaek in Korea, via Singapore to Galle, the place we were now. After the bumpy boat ride, the weather became gradually better.  We started to settle in; besides all the work which needed to be done, there were the easy-going watches as well. Calm seas and beautiful weather were greatly enjoyed.

Risky waters

But anxiety grew every day as well, as we came closer to the so-called HRA or high-risk area. These waters are known for their pirates and therefore we had an armed security team on board, two gunners, and a team leader. Drills and security measures were now becoming an integrated part of our daily routines, making enjoyable moments a bit more stressful. Every little boat was considered to be a potential risk and carefully plotted by us and the guards. Luckily, we learned fast enough that the boats were mere fishermen, and is backed up by the guards, I was using my spare time, making images of the wildlife surrounding us. I was especially intrigued by the Brown Boobies which were following the ship, chasing the flying fish, disturbed by the vessel’s bow wave.

We reached the point where it was considered to be pirate safe and we dropped the security team off. They were picked up by fast Ribs and went to their mothership, awaiting their next ship. Ironically more or less the way the pirates do, but I was happy enough that these were the good guys. We waved a last goodbye and went back to track.

The Suez Canal

The next stop was going to be the Suez Canal. Of the tens of times that I passed this passage between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, this was going to be my first as a captain. I was nervous enough since some of my former experiences were not exactly pleasant ones. I even brought my captain’s epaulettes to be worn on the spotless white (not for long though) shirt with the Marin logo.

I could have saved myself the trouble of worrying at forehand; although not a cruise, it was doable above expectation, although wearing face masks all this time, was quite a thing for the crew and pilots. It was also the first time for me that I passed the new passage on the east side, which was completed in 2015.

You move through the Canal in convoy from south to north. From Sues to Port Said. In Suez, an electrician crew comes on board, to connect and man the Suez light. This is a powerful searchlight, installed at the bow of the ship. I have never seen it used in my life but it seems very necessary by the Egyptian authorities. The crew comes on board with a dinghy that needs to be put on deck, again for reasons obvious to all but us.

Halfway, you come to pass the so-called Bitter Lakes, a place where earlier convoys were passing each other but at present, this is mainly done in the newly dug Canal north of the lakes. This is a crazy place where fishing boat crews are risking their lives to catch a few fish between monstrous ships moving 4 times as fast as they do.

There are no real highlights in the Canal; it is mainly desert and an occasional camel or sailing boat you pass. The pilots are changed every few hours. After 18 hours, when we reached Port Said, just after sunset, the relief onboard was high, when the face masks finally could be taken off. Time for the next stage; the voyage leg to Malta, the island where we needed to bunker fuel.

Bunkering in Malta

Although Malta is a beautiful, historic island, occupied by many nations in the past, we didn’t come to see more of it than a contour from a distance. Luckily the sun was setting over it, making it a lot more appealing. The bunker barge, or actually ship, came alongside after a few hours waiting for better weather conditions (it was blowing a bit with some swell). It was more exciting than expected because she was rolling quite heavy, coming closer than good is for the hearth. Anyway, all went well in the end and we could set course to our first discharge port; Barcelona.

Barcelona

The passage from Malta to Barcelona was mainly characterized by the preparing for a vetting and a possible port state inspection. During sunsets, the skies were spectacular, as were the starry nights. A remarkable thing happened the day before arrival; we were visited by a long-eared owl. I managed to make some nice shots from it during sunset. Quite extraordinary since owls are nocturnal creatures by nature. We had to anchor on arrival, awaiting our berth to become available, and we did it with a view on the Sagrada Familia. In Barcelona, we had our first discharge which went quite well. We had some observations from the vetting inspector, despite all the hard work and efforts of the crew and passed the port state control inspection. A very busy time, in which I didn’t find the time to take photos.

The last leg: Rotterdam

From Barcelona, the last part of the voyage was to Rotterdam, our final discharge port.  Again, a very busy port to call, and hopefully the last heavy load laid upon the crew’s shoulders. This is also the reason that I didn’t take as many pictures from this last part of the voyage as I would normally do. First, we needed to go to Gibraltar and then pass between Gibraltar and Ceuta, underway to the Atlantic Ocean where we spotted some dolphins. Then we had to pass the Bay of Biscay. The metrological conditions were becoming back to normal European winter storms and we had to learn the hard way that all nice weather comes to an end one day. We sighted some whales though, blowing their fountains high above the waves. Too far to see which kind but spectacular as always.

The English Channel and the Dover Strait were empty, a very unrealistic feeling but luckily a few fishing boats were sailing against the traffic in the TSS of Dover, so the officer on watch was properly challenged and did a good job in avoiding close counters.

And there it was, Rotterdam. Another job well done. Our jetty was Vopak Vlaardingen, on the river Maas. We discharged, had a million things done, were welcomed by Claas and Ellen, and prepared for our upcoming trade in Wales, the Irish sea (passing the Lundy area almost every day), and the Saint George Channel where we are currently working happily after.