Slow Boat to China #6

September 5, Hanjin Geneva’s second call in Seattle. At 4:43 a.m. U.S. Immigration is on board and all crew and passengers must report for clearance. We’re asked the same question, “Why didn’t you board in Vancouver?” (Same answer: We wanted to go up the Columbia River.)

The loading of tons of Asia-bound containers (including reefers of apples and fish) will take hours, so we leave the terminal after breakfast with no need to be back till midnight. A 10-minute walk along Alaska Highway takes us to the Washington State Ferry terminal. From there it’s a short walk uphill to the magnificent Seattle Central Library and this time, the doors are open. A guest pass gives us 30 minutes of free wi-fi on Level 5, a mini-mall of computer terminals (almost every one occupied) and tables for laptop use. Impressive! And, given the number of users, amazingly quiet. When our time’s up we go to Level 10 for a spectacular view from the Atrium.

Spend the afternoon and evening on Bainbridge Island, a 30-minute trip by ferry. We sit in the sun and enjoy the ride, about as scenic as you can get with views of Mt. Rainier, the Seattle skyline and, of course, ships and cranes in the container port (including ours). Bainbridge Island is a big island but you can walk the town of Winslow (where the ferry docks) in 10 minutes — provided you don’t stop at any of the unique shops and cafes, like Roosters, or the well-named outdoors shop, Wilder Nest (where I overdo my shopping time).

 Next stop, the waterfront, to pick up the “Waterfront Loop Trail.”

One of stone sculptor’s Ethan Currier’s rock figures at work on the waterfront.

What we imagine will be a delightfully long walk turns out to be about 500 metres on a boardwalk that abruptly ends with a No Trespassing sign. We settle for Plan B: a visit to the heritage Harbour Public House (conveniently located on said boardwalk) where we sit on the terrace and drink WA beers Chukanut Pilsner and Pike Witt (with slice of lemon) on tap.

We have dinner at the Streamliner Diner, a great little restaurant close to the ferry. Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley WA), lasagna (chicken, parmesan and ricotta in a Pomodoro sauce) and Alaska scallops with heirloom tomatoes and arugula pesto over couscous. Yum! Our last meal ashore until Pusan, South Korea.

The sun’s going down as we head back on the ferry. We look over at the humongous Hanjin Geneva in the container port, spot the windows of our cabin and think, “Home sweet home.” How cool is that!

Hanjin Geneva in Seattle container ship port. © Patrick Lawson

Slow Boat to China #5

Slow boat, slow blog. So much for good intentions. The plan was to merrily post a blog whenever we were in a port and could find free wi-fi. But for various reasons (one of which is the fact that I’m blog-challenged), this did not happen. Consequently the posts that follow are behind schedule. Oh well. Does it matter? It is what it is.

We sail into Vancouver the night of September 3. Past all the ships at anchor in English Bay, under Lion’s Gate Bridge, and into the container port VanTerm. As if the city/ship/port lights aren’t enough, fireworks explode over Burnaby.

Next morning we hang around the ship waiting for immigration. By the time they arrive, check our passports and ask questions (“Why didn’t you board in Vancouver?”) there’s not much time to spend on shore. So much for our plan to have lunch at the Vancouver Art Gallery Café and walk around the seawall. We muddle through the port (not as straightforward a process as in Seattle or Portland) and take a taxi to the Vancouver Public Library for wi-fi and coffee. Back on board, we discover that the time of departure has changed. If we’d given the captain our cell phone number, we could have gone ahead with Plan A. But Plan B isn’t so bad—a relaxing afternoon on the wing deck reading, chatting with the captain, watching the loading of containers. We sail out of Vancouver at sunset. Once again, nice timing.

A full moon lights our way as we approach Lion’s Gate Bridge. Moments later, fireworks explode over Burnaby. Last day of the PNE? Nice timing! © Patrick Lawson Photo