Can I get off now please?

Trip Start Dec 31, 2011
Trip End Apr 20, 2012

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, March 16, 2012

North Pacific Ocean

Tuesday 13th March 2012 – again

I wish I could say that having one day again allowed me to correct all the things the second time round I could have done better on the first. Except when the days are so remarkably similar, it is a struggle to identify the highs or the lows to improve or avoid.

However, the weather is improving day by day and although we are still rolling, the extremes are reducing. This ship will always roll given that it is 294.11 metres in length and 32.20 metres wide, so long and thin – a shape that lends itself to rolling.

Wednesday 14th March 2012

I think I’ve had enough now! Can I get off and come home? Over the last few days I have started to think that I can have too much of a good thing. And then I wonder if this is part of what I have to experience – the total self reliance for entertainment and stimulation that has become more focussed now that we are at sea day after day. On the bridge this morning the AIS showed another ship to port. I got quite excited but couldn’t actually see it. It turned out it was 10 miles away and visibility wasn’t that good. Further, it was just astern of us and we were going about 2 knots faster so we had actually overtaken it and therefore unlikely to see it again.

I suppose I had visions of the Pacific with blue sea, cloudless sky and the stars close enough to touch as I made my way home. Instead we have been rolling around in grey cold seas, with the rain lashing down and poor visibility.

I was going to write that the food isn’t much good, but in fact the food is dreadful. The closest we came to a decent meal was this evening when there was steak and kidney pie with mash potatoes on the menu. Credit where credit is due, the mash potatoes were excellent – light, creamy and fluffy. I haven’t had such praise for anything food wise since the new cook joined in Busan. I don’t know how he managed to get the pastry to resemble heavy duty cardboard but it would have made a great packing case for something fragile – totally wasted on the small bits of processed meat and mushrooms that were hiding inside. I always think vegetables should be slightly crisp and on this the Chief Cook and I agree, except he takes it to extremes and hardly cooks them. Uncooked broccoli is an acquired taste and the Brussels Sprouts yesterday – with Chicken ‘Gordon Blue’ – were just warm so I guess they had seen some tepid water for a quick dip at some stage of their lives. I can’t understand why the officers all left the cold little orbs on their plates. No sense of adventure is my opinion. Our Messman proudly pointed out that ‘Gordon Blue’ was French cooking. I’m not sure how many restaurateurs would have stuffed a piece of processed ham into a chicken breast and then given it such a title. But as it too was nearly cold - it set the Brussels off nicely.

I am taking this opportunity to lose weight – it would be so much harder if the food was appetising but unless there is an amazing culinary revelation in the galley over the next couple of weeks, my eating plan should see me more sylph like by the time I get home.

Mendocino Fracture Zone (N 39 30’ W 154 48’)
(There’s a name to conjure with! We are in that region now)

Thursday 15th March 2012

I wrote the last entry yesterday and afterwards wondered whether to include it in the blog, but this morning as I awoke to another grey featureless day I decided I might as well share how I am thinking.

I went up to the bridge this morning and saw on the far right hand side of the chart they were using to plot our course, the word ‘Canada’ was clearly printed. Beneath that, ‘United States of America’ and whilst the scale is huge, it does at least show which part of the world we are heading towards. That was the ‘high’. The low was on the navigating system that is programmed with the distance to our next port and then calculates our ETA given our speed. This little machine calculates that doing 22.4 knots will have us reach land in another 8 days – 23.00 hrs on the 23rd March to be exact. 8 more days!!!

So what has changed my philosophical attitude to my self imposed exile? I am still on a ship, crossing the oceans and doing more or less the same thing for the last 2 months that I haven’t previously found so tedious. And the answer to that question is, I don’t know for sure, but 2 things keep coming to mind – one very silly and one not so silly.

The silly one first. In an email from Class 3 at school one of the questions they asked was, ‘Can you see islands in the distance?’ and while the answer is absolutely ‘No’ there aren’t any islands to be seen, I can see why they asked the question. When the words ‘Pacific Ocean’ are spoken, doesn’t it conjure up images of islands, beaches, palm trees etc? Surely Hawaii is in the Pacific – there are islands – beautiful ones at that. But not in this bit! As I have written, it is cold, windy, wet and featureless. The silliness by the way, is not in the question but my irrational response to it – I would like to have seen some of those islands!

The other less silly thing is the information I am receiving from home sources that Spring is sprung – the daffodils are out, crocuses too, fresh buds showing through after the winter. There are many reasons I love living in the country I live in and the changing seasons is certainly high up in the list. The fact that the seasons are so different, each with their particular character is something that I have taken for granted. I have seen weather changes since this trip began – some quite dramatic changes in the early parts but since arriving in China at the beginning of February, the principle weather has been dull, grey, foggy, cold, windy….. you get the picture, I’m sure. But the weather changes are only part of the story. The harsh metal environment in which I am living shows complete indifference to the weather or the seasons. It remains the same throughout – nothing grows here. It is an obvious thing that I haven’t previously thought about – the weather provides the variables for sure, but the ship and its environs are just a huge working metal structure that are totally functional every day, every night, every everything! And at home, the grass, trees, fields, flowers all play their part in the season change – not just weather change.

And the bottom line is I suppose, I am missing the variables that being with ‘real’ people bring, that the seasons bring, that a ship can’t supply.

Sent by email from the ship and posted by the Old Sea Dog's PA - it is difficult as the Old Sea Dog's PA to hear him sounding so glum (particularly as he is normally quite a chirpy Old Sea Dog), so if you are able to spare a few minutes and send him an email, I know he would be very grateful. I have included his email address again in the notification you received of this blog update and I have also been passing on some of the comments that people have kindly left here on Travelpod.  I'm sure as he gets closer to the Panama Canal and the prospect of more interesting ports he will perk up a treat, but any encouragment you can offer over the next eight grey days would be very much appreciated. Thank you
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Gus on

Hi Peter,
To add to your glumness - the crocuses are nearly over. But, the upside, Mike Blakey purchased Scott's Forgotten surgeon at the UEA Fellows meeting.
Do you have access to international TV - it's the climax of the Rugby Six Nations tomorrow. Wales probable winners, England close second (perhaps).

Veronica on

Enjoying the blog, keep well. God Bless x

sacha brakenbury on

Dear Phileas...
I thought I would send a short email to a legendary mariner to keep him company for a little while whilst he sails through his metaphorical doldrums!! I did try to email your "onboard address" as there were some photos for you..but it got returned will try and post here...

Your journey has been an inspiration...and its been "real" - sharing the highs and lows of a journey give a real feel for the enormity of your adventure..

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner describes the pacific doldrums..and, although you are far from being in flat seas I thought you may like it...

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Very soon you will back in the land of short horizons..where a view into the distance is nearly always obscured..the move of the sea beneath you will be no more..and the background hum that I love about life at sea will soon be a distant memory.. Yes, the crocuses are through..the daffs are out and suffolk is chugging along through spring towards summer..and everyday you get a little closer to greeting her when she arrives! They will be back each year and the year 3's of today will be the year 4s of tomorrow..we'll all still be here (god willing!)...Enjoy the grey endless skys..and the time to think.. we are a short time on this planet and most of us never get a window of time with "just ourselves"... Enjoy a "Mandela moment" and enjoy the words of my favourite "poem"...

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy

Heres a few pictures to lift your spirits..

(They were daffs..cavendish..clare..and felixstowe!)

The monotony of the journey is all part of the package i guess :o) interestingly the definition of monotony that i just saw online mentions the sea...and food! :o)

Noun 1. monotony - the quality of wearisome constancy, routine, and lack of variety; "he had never grown accustomed to the monotony of his work"; "he was sick of the humdrum of his fellow prisoners"; "he hated the sameness of the food the college served"
humdrum, sameness
unvariedness - characterized by an absence of variation
2. monotony - constancy of tone or pitch or inflection
constancy, stability - the quality of being enduring and free from change or variation; "early mariners relied on the constancy of the trade winds"

Just ramblings... it's too early in the morning to make much sense! Sorry! xx

We are all so enjoying your journey... the ups..downs and stay-the-sames... xx Take care! Happy Travels xx

Love Sacha. xx

beaker9 on

Hi Peter,
My single entry on TravelPod says "Not going anywhere yet". I think I'll leave it that way for a bit although we have already booked our annual holiday - this time to Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire where the children are already planning climbing expeditions based on their previous trips. We're not going until October so we're taking a chance on the weather but hopefully, we'll be able to get out and about most days.

Before that, we've also got our annual camping extravaganza to look forward to. We'll find out what the state of the tent is like and perhaps look at upgrading it. It has done us very well but it starting to look a bit tired and with the older ones wanting to camp in their own tents, we may be able to down-size the main one as well.

Work is very busy at the moment. We've switched to a completely new model throughout and I've been seconded to help out with the Intranet. I'm hoping to use the experience to finally convince them that it needs to be modernised to keep up with the rate of change with the web on the outside world - not least the rise of social media. We have moved offices again and we're now hanging out where the old EPC canteen used to be. Strange to be working on that space but it does look completely different - you wouldn't recognise it now except for the original aluminium patio doors which still remain.

There was fairly serious talk recently in the house about getting a dog. A border collie was top of the list but follow several family discussions, we went with my idea which was to start off with a hamster and build up from there. As I'm the only one who has ever actually lived with a pet (other than Sam's goldfish), I thought this was a good 'first step'. So the hamster is called Penny (named by Anna) and she seems very happy. She has two cages linked together by a series of tubes and there is all the other usual stuff in there too - wheel, house, bowl, water bottle . . . even a wooden puzzle with a ball inside it. I seem to be the only one who handles her regularly but the others are gradually gaining confidence.

I've got myself involved in two new ventures with a possible third in the planning stage. The first one is a not-for-profit venture called which is intended to bring services and information for disabled people together in one place. I'm only helping with a bit of technical stuff but its good fun. I've already set them up with an online discussion group and they seem to be finding it useful. The next is an unconference - which is for anyone interested in the blue light services to come and talk and pitch ideas they'd like to develop. It follows the conventions (or unconventions) of an unconference. I've been to a few recently, the most recent one was a citycamp in Brighton where I got involved in a project to enrich a black history tour of the city with QR Codes so people can scan them and find out more. The prototype site I built for them on the day is as

Finally - did you know that Chelmsford is now a city? We beat Colchester and Southend so my other idea is to try and get a citycamp running in Chelmsford. I've got good contacts with the Essex councils via the Essex OnLine Partnership so I'm hoping they'll back it and allow it to take place, perhaps as early as winter 2012. The only other cities in the UK to have run a citycamp are London, Manchester and Brighton so I think it would be a great way to celebrate our new city status and put Chelmsford on the map.

Chris is getting more and more into his games on the Playstation - Grandad loaned him Call of Duty and he is playing that as I type. Not sure I like it but he seems happy enough. They all like a game called Little Big Planet which is very clever - too clever for me.

Anna swam a length and a half at swimming this morning and in getting on very well at school.

Peter has been ill this week but is fine now - just a bug going around at school. He missed swimming this morning. He is soon going on a school trip to West Stow near you. He is looking forward to it.

Sam remains mega-busy with the allotment, various jobs and keeping us all in order.

Lauren is very busy with her college work and spends a lot of late nights in the loft-room.

If it makes you feel a bit better - it is pouring with rain, cold, overcast and grey here right now and due to stay like that all weekend. Considering the threat already of hosepipe bans, this isn't too bad and is good for all the stuff Sam put in over the allotment yesterday as they have not yet turned on the taps over there. I was looking forward to the F1 racing in Australia but it is only showing live on Sky so I'll have to make do with highlights later.

Keep us updated with the blog - maybe you could interview the crew and provide us with Q&A style entry? You could also prepare something to propose to the TravelPod people so that you can pinpoint the location for each blog entry to your Lat/Long position rather than having to ping to the nearest land site. The blog says you're in California when we all know your are hundreds of miles from there! What about writing a proposal for CMA too? I'm sure their public relations would be improved by explaining the complexities of their business through this medium. It would also be a great way for them to develop some education materials which would raise their profile as a career choice.

I'll stop there - keep blogging :-)


Fr Eoin on

I gues that there is a permanance in both our worlds. Here in the countryside there is the ever changing seasons which in their own way can show a tedium of one-after-another. We all know what is to come, with the odd hiccup here and there. The ship, the same. The tedium of metal walls and vista of metal boxes. All very permanant until the unexpected comes.
I suppose you would expect a bit of Biblical input from a vicar so how about Ecclesiastes and "for everything there is a season..." For your restlestness the season is of changing seas and changeless metal walls with the odd glimpse of the eternal heavens to guide you homeward. For us it is a season of Spring interspersed with news of killing, suffering, poverty and a decent pint!
May God's Brussel Sprouts be with you in their tepid reality and may He speed you home...God that is, not his BS's!!
God bless

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