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

“You’re going on a container ship? There’s cruise ships, you know!” The person who said this clearly thought we were crazy. Maybe we were. But the trip in question did more than take us from Vancouver, BC to San Antonio, Chile. It got us hooked. Now, 12 years and 5 container ship trips later, we’re about to embark on #6 — a twenty-six day voyage from Seattle to Shanghai on board the MV Hanjin Geneva.

The Hanjin Geneva is a sister ship of the Hanjin Madrid, the ship seen in the header. Patrick took the photo from our window — that and over 7000 others, all posted on the Marine Traffic website. Okay, not all were taken from our window, not all are of container ships, and not all were taken in Victoria. (That’s the thing about living on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. You can become obsessed by what’s on the water both home and away.)

Back to container ships. The Marine Traffic website shows the location of any vessel, anywhere, in real time.

See the little blips? They’re all ships. See the green arrow at the end of a long string of arrows? That’s the Hanjin Geneva a few weeks ago in the China Sea.

Right now the Hanjin Geneva is berthed in Prince Rupert, BC. She’s scheduled to leave for Seattle early tomorrow morning. So are we, via the Clipper. The evening of August 30, if all goes according to plan, we get on the Hanjin and sail off to Portland. Then Vancouver.

Windy day on the waterfront.
(Patrick Lawson photo)

If you happen to be on the Dallas Road waterfront on September 3rd  don’t be distracted by paragliders or whatever. Watch for a hulking big container ship picking up a pilot en route to Vancouver. If you have binoculars handy, and it’s not the middle of the night, watch for us. We’ll wave. Same thing on the 4th when the pilot gets off. After that, it’s Seattle (2nd call) and then — nothing! For two weeks, nothing except for whatever’s on, in or above the sea. Until we get to Pusan, South Korea. First stop after getting our shore leave will be an internet café. Wi-fi au lait!