Shipping Sockdolager (and ourselves) to San Francisco Bay on a container ship.
|Our container ship, the M/V Hugo Schulte, leaving a straight wake in the tropics|
|View from wheelhouse|
Trucking the Boat to the Ship: Our last few days in New Zealand were very pleasant. After enjoying a nice brunch with our dear friends Alison and Stuart at the beach in Mount Manganui, we had dinner back at the boatyard with fellow yachties Robbie and Bev aboard Mersoleil.
|A beachside farewell brunch with Stuart and Alison|
Then it was time to get cracking. Brian arrived with his travelift, ready to lift all ten tons of Sockdolager and her cradle and flat rack. Our truck driver, also named Brian, arrived. He looked at the height of our solar panel and said hmm, better measure that. He measured it twice, then made a phone call to double-check height clearances. Then he measured it again. A very careful fellow, that Brian. We liked him.
|Brian the Trucking Genius|
Brian concluded that the boat would be too tall, or too close by mere millimeters, to fit under some road signs and bridges if we put the boat on his rig, so he called a mate named Ian, who had a lower truckbed, and Ian said he’d be right over. Meanwhile Brian the Travelift Genius (now you see why we had to add the titles) moved Sockdolager to the center of the Hardstand yard.
|Brian the Travelift Genius|
The owner of the Bridge Marina Hardstand is Bruce Goodchap, and he lived up to his name by making sure we had everything we needed.
|Bruce, a Goodchap|
We noticed that Brian’s knees were far dirtier than Bruce’s, and pointed this observation out. Jim asked Bruce, “Look at those knees, man. Does Brian work harder than you?” It was the perfect intro for a chivvying session over who works harder. Bruce and Brian decided on the spot to have a dirty knees contest. The winner is obvious, no?
|The Dirty Knees Contest|
This was a great way to keep our minds off the worry that the boat would be too tall for the road, and when Ian arrived and backed his huge truck under Sockdolager with the ease that you and I only wish we could even drive forward in, we were amazed. Brian the Trucking Genius measured the boat’s height again, and said, hmm. He told us it’d be closer than he normally likes to see, but he planned to drive his own truck behind Ian’s to make certain we would clear each obstacle. A last resort would be letting air out of the tires, but he was pretty sure we didn’t need to do that, and he was right.
|Precision backing was a treat to watch.|
Time for the run. Because of a series of low overpasses, we would have to take a roundabout route, getting off the highway and then back on, then off again. Brian invited Jim to ride with him, and he asked Ian if I could ride in the other truck. Amazed and pleased that we were both allowed to do this, Jim and I climbed into separate cabs. Each time Ian needed to move to the center of the road to avoid something, Brian, driving behind, moved his truck to center position first, to clear the way and keep cars from interfering with Ian’s turns.
|We got us a convoy!|
As we approached the ramp taking us to a roundabout, Brian radioed Ian: “Better stop, we need to have a closer look.” From where I sat with thumping heart, it was impossible to tell if we were going to hit or not, and I tried to hide my nervousness. Then we heard Brian on the radio: “Sweet as, keep going.” Whew.
|Sockdolager squeezes under a highway sign.|
Next obstacle was a foot bridge, but we cleared it with plenty to spare.
|Sockdolager goes under the foot bridge.|
Sockdolager sailed neatly through the roundabout, got back on the highway, and headed for the next obstacle: low road signs at the exit ramp.
|"Gybing" through the roundabout|
Brian cleared the way for Ian to get to the center of the road in order to make a wide left turn onto the exit ramp. Again, we held our breaths.
|Wide turn under signs to Port of Tauranga exit ramp|
We were through! With huge relief, we drove into the Port of Tauranga, and Brian and Ian dropped us off at the gate. Security precautions allow only authorized people on the wharf. We waved goodbye and walked back to our hotel room.
One option could have been to cut off the stainless arch and solar panel, but what a headache it would be putting all that back together again. When we learned that we could do a “water discharge” by crane directly from the ship into the sea at the Oakland terminal, it eliminated the need to truck the boat by road to Svenson’s Shipyard and risk even lower clearances, so we opted for that. More on the water discharge later (it was exciting.)
Boarding Day: With tickets in hand, we were driven to the Port’s security gate by our friends Robbie and Bev, and then got into an escort van which took us to the wharf. On foot we threaded our way along a narrow yellow pathway that avoided the work area, and walked past two long, shrink-wrapped forms. Glancing back I was surprised to see a small group of men with America’s Cup logos on their jackets, and guessed that these white shapes were the twin hulls of another AC 74, bound for the Cup races in San Francisco Bay.
Here’s our container ship, the M/V Hugo Schulte, home for the next 19 days. We initially thought it was an 18-day voyage, but because there were two Wednesdays when we crossed the International Date Line, the time at sea was actually 19 days in spite of the fact that we arrived 18 days after we left New Zealand.
|Our ship at the Port of Tauranga docks|
We boarded the ship via its narrow aluminum gangway that’s designed for footsteps at all sorts of angles, and a crewmember who helped us with our bags led us to the stairwell on A deck, which is the main deck. We climbed an internal staircase way up to G deck, which is located just under the “Nav deck” and wheelhouse at the top.
|Our cabin had the two center portholes.|
After unpacking, we were called down to the Ship’s Office, where a pleasant NZ Customs agent cleared us to leave the country.
Loading the cargo: We settled in to watch the busy cargo loading scene from our two large portholes, located front and center to the action.
|Jim peeks from one of our cabin portholes.|
We each had our own porthole!
|Our own portholes! How cool is that!|
We enjoyed a last misty evening’s view through the cranes, of Tauranga and Mt Manganui, an old volcano.
Suddenly Bruce Goodchap and his crew sailed past on Squealer, the boat he’s racing to Fiji. Squealer can do 17 knots. We waved, but couldn’t tell if he saw us.
|The 17-knot, hard-core ocean racer, Squealer|
We were endlessly fascinated by the hustle and bustle on the wharf. Look how high the driver is in this container transporter. Wouldn’t you just love to drive one of these around in a Best Buy parking lot, heh, heh.
|Container transporter. White containers are refrigerated units.|
And check out this guy, a hundred feet up, doing precision crane work.
Here comes the first hull of the America’s Cup catamaran. That hold looked canyon-esque from our vantage point.
|Shrink-wrapped America's Cup AC74 hull|
Workmen guide the hull in, leaving space for the next hull.
We kept watching for Sockdolager, and suddenly there she was! Look between the wheels of that container transporter.
|Sockdolager in container transporter|
The transporter left, and she was ready for the crane. Here it is lowering toward her. There’s a yellow “spreader bar” atop the flat rack that will be used to lift her.
|Ready to lift aboard!|
It locks on…
|Crane locks on for lifting Sockdolager|
And lifted her like a feather. They placed her inside a hold atop some other containers.
|Sockdolager is hoisted aboard.|
Then, out came the spreader bar, and after a few more minutes the hold was sealed with a gigantic hatch cover that covers only 1/3 the width of the deck.
|Giant hatch cover over hold|
Meanwhile, back at the America’s Cup, the second hull was coming aboard.
|2nd America's Cup hull lifted aboard|
The stevedores carefully stowed her next to the other hull, and those two hulls were the sole contents in a hold that can normally take about 33 containers. What looked like the mast and foil were later hoisted aboard to be stowed amidships just forward of this hold. Doesn't this photo look like a cubist painting?
|Stowing and securing an AC74 in the hold|
While all this was happening, another ship came in. I counted at least eight ships on both sides of the river.
|Another container ship arrives at the Port of Tauranga|
The tugs slid this ship into the wharf right in front of the Hugo Schulte.
|Tight fit ahead of the Hugo Schulte|
Containers were stacked and then tie-rodded down.
|Containers secured with tie rods and corner locks.|
It rained and got dark, but operations continue 24/7 in shipping ports. Suddenly the cargo loading was finished. Cranes began to fold up, out of the way of the Hugo’s own cranes.
|Giant crane folds up.|
Here they are, folded and out of the way. The operators can get up and down in little 1-man elevators, and there are stairwells, too.
|Cranes folded, ready for departure|
Getting underway: The wheelhouse was brightly lit until the ship was ready, then all but red night lights were turned off to ensure good visibility. This is Captain Zoran Mufa preparing his ship for departure, with Jim and me quietly watching.
|Wheelhouse of M/V Hugo Schulte|
After the lights were extinguished, a curtain was drawn around the chart table so as not to interfere with night vision. Here’s Jim in the chart area.
|Chart and nav area in wheelhouse|
The harbor pilot came aboard at 1:15 am, and a pair of tugs began to work us away from the wharf.
|Tugs pull ship away from wharf.|
We looked astern for a last goodbye.
|View aft from bridge|
We’re underway, very slowly but picking up speed.
|Leaving the wharf|
Two tugs escorted us down the channel in the darkness.
|Tug escort down the channel|
The channel twisted and turned, and we listened raptly as the pilot gave helm orders that were repeated by the helmsman. Buoys passed close by, and Mount Manganui slid past. When we reached the open sea at outside the harbor, the pilot boat came alongside the partially lowered boarding ladder.
|Pilot boat approaches in darkness.|
Around 3:00 am the pilot climbed down the rope ladder hanging off the metal one, and leaped aboard the pilot boat. It sped off to guide the next waiting ship into the harbor.
|Pilot climbs down gangway to jacob's ladder and waiting boat.|
Good weather followed us to sea, and we enjoyed the view from our cabin.
|At sea. View from our porthole.|
How about a little tour of our cabin? Here’s the main area.
|Owner's cabin. We brought charts to do our own navigation, for fun.|
And here’s the same space seen from another angle.
And here is a view of the head and the bedroom. Simple but comfortable accommodations. Single cabins are studio-style.
|Head and bedroom|
To get to the galley and officer’s mess where we take our meals, you descend 5 decks. There aren’t any elevators. Our legs got lots of exercise.
We immediately set up our handheld GPS and laptop with Open CPN charting software, and began plotting the course both electronically and on paper. It’s fun, and for a couple of sailors, necessary to know where we are.
|Plotting each day's run.|
That’ll do it for this post because there are so many photos to share that it would be much too long for one blog post. More on life aboard a container ship coming very shortly in Part 3, and on our adventures with the water discharge in Oakland in Part 4. Stay tuned!