Around the World on a Container Ship

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Aboard a mammoth container ship and surrounded by an endless ocean, Don Merry finally felt he’d made it home.

The Bremerton resident was 15 days into an around-the-world journey on the Cendrillon, near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, his only company being the ship’s crew and 8,500 containers of cargo. The 64-year-old felt a peace he’d never experienced.

“I thought the vastness of the ocean was not a lonely or fearful place. I realized the sea is the mother of us all,” he said. “I felt like I was finally home and I never wanted that to end.”

Merry, a retired architectural engineering project manager, felt that going around the world on a vessel of industry rather than tourism was not something he could experience once. On that 15th day he realized he’d have to go around again.

“My life will never be the same,” he said.

He boarded the Cendrillon — French for “Cinderella” — in Seattle in February and rode it through Southeast Asia, the sweltering heat of the Arabian Sea, Europe and finally to New York. Then he did it all again in reverse, for a total of more than 40,000 nautical miles traversed.

Why did he want to travel the high seas? He thought of Indiana Jones, and the montages between scenes in which dotted lines and X marks follow Indy’s journeys around the world.

An avid traveler, Merry read a blog post about traveling from the United Kingdom to Australia via cargo ship. As he read further, he realized he would have to do all the legwork. He contacted French shipping company CMA CGM, and after negotiating a fee of 100 euros (or $118) per day for the trip, he felt he’d found “the best, easiest and cheapest way to see the world.”

“Such a small percentage of us have gone around the planet,” he said.

He said his wife, Kathy Parker, supported his journey. But the fact was that “nobody in the world that I knew would go on this trip.”

Such a journey is “rugged” and “rare,” according to Arthur Ferguson, a Port Orchard-based travel agent who works for Allure Travel.

“We don’t book people on container ships,” said Ferguson, who has almost 30 years’ experience as an agent. “It’s just unheard of in the travel industry.”

In some ways, he became part of the crew of 26, who hailed from all over the world. He stayed in modest accommodations and had to roll with the punches just as crew members did. If an elevator broke down, he would climb eight flights of stairs. He ate in the mess room and often spent time on the bridge. “They made me feel like a movie star on board,” he said.

Stopping at 22 ports all over the globe presented its own set of challenges. When he wanted to wonder in such exotic places, he’d have to take great care in leaving and returning to the port, which were in many cases well outside big cities.

He meticulously documented his whereabouts and developed local contacts to ensure he’d get back on board in the end.

“You have to throw out breadcrumbs or you’ll never make it back,” he said.

He didn’t worry about piracy until he discovered a wall of warnings on the vessel. But he was reassured by the vessel’s crew that they had emergency plans for pirates, and was heartened that a friend in the cybersecurity industry was monitoring the vessel through the Internet.

Don Merry received a certificate when he completed the around the world journey. 

He didn’t actually experience sea sickness until he got off the ship. The month he’s been home, he’s actually had dizzy spells from his inner-ear getting used to things back on land.

Despite that, he’s eager to set sail on the next voyage. He’s written a book about the experience “and I’m looking forward to going back,” he said.

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Source: Kitsap Sun

 

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