Typed up at: Laura and Alan's place in Emeryville, Starbucks in Palo Alto
Posted from: Laura and Alan's place in Emeryville, Andy and Juliette's place in Newbury Park

The port agent drove us to the place where our ship had just docked. The gangplank wasn't down yet, so we spent a while just standing next to the car taking pictures. It was dark, and huge cranes with bright lights were already starting to take containers off the ship. Trucks drove by to move the containers to different cranes further back. Those cranes would haul the containers onto big piles about a hundred yards away from the water. It was awesome.

After maybe half an hour of picture taking, the gangplank came down. In the ship's office we met the captain who took our passports and sent for the steward to help us with our bags. We took the elevator to our cabin, and were impressed with how nice it was. We had a very comfy bed. A table, a lazy chair, an L-shaped seat around the table, TV, DVD player, mini fridge, plenty of storage room, and a nice little bathroom. Most amazing of all was that we could drink the tap water.

We got into our ship routine pretty quickly, and it was built around our food schedule: 7:30am breakfast, 10:00am tea, 12:00 lunch, 3:00pm tea, and finally 5:30pm dinner. At mealtimes we would sit at the captain's table and eat whatever had been cooked for this meal. The food was nothing special, but we enjoyed it. The captain was quite the talker, and we enjoyed him also. He was German, had been a sailor for over 40 years, and enjoyed talking about his experiences, or just answered the questions we had about life at sea.

Some people might get bored on a container ship, but we both kept plenty busy. Danielle knitted and read a lot of books. I worked on random programming projects and played on the PS2 in the officers' rec room. We both took advantage of the gymnasium to get some workouts in, and every day we take a walk on deck at least once. The deck was 260 meters long, so an easy walk all the way around could be stretched to last quite a while.

We stopped by two ports on our way: Osaka and Tokyo. On those days I spent a lot more time outside, watching everything that was going on in the harbor. As I mentioned before, the best part was seeing the containers be moved by the truly enormous cranes. I don't know what to say about it, except that it was the highlight of our sea voyage. One day we went down to the engine room, and got a tour from the chief engineer. For the curious, the engine has 9 in-line cylinders, generates 55,890 horse power, and is still bigger than you think it would be.

After more than 10 days of seeing nothing but ocean (and a very rare passing ship), we stopped just in sight of the California coast. We were ahead of schedule, and the engines don't like going slow. During this time all the lifeboats were lowered to make sure they all still worked. We also saw quite a lot of whales which were making their way north. None were really close to the boat, but with binoculars it was still great to see. Several of them showed us their tails as they dove down. We also saw dolphins, and even a mola mola which came to the surface briefly. It was a beautiful day.

In the evening we sailed through the Santa Barbara channel, arriving in Long Beach just as the sun was coming up. US Customs came aboard, asking us about our trip and checking the fridge for contraband. After breakfast we got off the ship and took a shuttle to the harbor's parking lot. The security guard called us a taxi, and soon we were on our way. We should have just gotten a taxi to the closest Metro Link, but instead we spent a small fortune going all the way to Union Station. From there we took a train, and early in the afternoon we arrived at Andy and Juliette's house.