Two if by Sea…

BANGKOK—So how does one travel around the world without taking a plane? Well, with a great deal of patience, for one. A tolerance for long bus rides doesn’t hurt. But none of that gets you across those pesky stretches of open water, known as “seas” and “oceans”. For that, you need a boat. And I finally found one.

I’ll be boarding the White Sea, call sign 9HA3050, in Singapore on about Dec 10, setting sail for Perth. I hear this freighter ship made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. (#nerdhumor!) She’s flagged in Malta, is 180m long and has a beam of 32m. In short, she’s big. Her last reported position was off the east coast of Australia, so she’s going to have to put on a head of steam if she’s going to make Singapore by Dec 10. The trip to Perth will take about 10 days, with at least one port of call in Jakarta.

To book a freighter ship isn’t as easy as showing up at port and badgering captains to take you on. I scoured the Internet, a wretched hive of scum and villainy if there ever was one (#morenerdhumor!), until I found the somewhat ominously named Globoship, a Swiss firm that handles freighter bookings.

This is not a cheap way to travel, and there’s little doubt flying would be more convenient as well. (Most common question I hear these days: “Why don’t you just fly?”) It’s costing me about $1700 for the passage to Australia from Singapore, but that includes food, the chief steward’s stateroom (which is very nice!) and, I assume, all the grog I can drink. Urs, from Globoship, has been most helpful, and has worked hard to get me on this ship.

According to the German-language brochure Urs sent me, White Sea has a small swimming pool, a “fitness room” that seems to consist of a ping-pong table and a dart board, a pretty swank lounge with TV and DVD collection and even a sauna. My cabin may or may not have a view, depending on the cargo. Still, for 10 days in what can be considered a 3.5-star hotel, the price isn’t bad. I may or may not be the only passenger on board. I’ll find out soon enough.

There’s no Internet or phone while at sea, except for emergencies, although I think my need for hourly checks of email counts for that, right? Maybe not. At any rate, I’ll have a great chance to photograph on board a cargo ship, from the bridge to the bilge, and I’m definitely looking forward to that. Look for the gallery after I wade ashore in Perth. I’ll then have until about March 22 to get to Aukland to brave the Pacific passage to Panama. But that’s a whole ’nother story waiting to happen.

Now all I have to do is get down to Singapore. Train from Bangkok, anyone?

Image courtesy of Chris Allbritton

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