Signing off

by Guest Blogger

February 7, 2006

After 74 straight days at sea we arrived in Cape Town under a hot, sunny African sky, greeted by the continuous chatter of gulls, an escort of harbor porpoises and the ambivalence of sea lions. Our entry was easy and we breezed through immigration and customs. We are now tied up alongside a dock within a short walk to the public waterfront, which bustles with shops and restaurants. The Arctic Sunrise and Esperanza are tied up together so for the first time since we left in late November, the two crews can finally, fully mingle.

Returning to land was a welcome event and all around it seems that spirits have lightened. The local pubs have no doubt noticed the sharp decrease in their draft stores and the increase in their coffers as returning sailors are doing what sailors are known to do. However, the delight in having a real beer or cocktail was heavily overshadowed by the happy riot that broke out when the fresh fruit and vegetables arrived within hours of the gangway landing: after more than five weeks without any fresh fruit and only the random fresh carrot or cabbage now and then, crisp, cool lettuce and crunchy grapes sparked a celebration on the foredeck. I kid you not. It took most of us hours to even bother setting foot on land due to the joyous labor of attempting to eat all the lettuce that was brought aboard.

All’s well overall, and already the crew change is well underway, as folks trickle off in a slow but steady stream and others arrive. Business carries on as stores are loaded on, recycling, garbage and such are unloaded, briefings with replacement crew are conducted and various equipment specialists come and go. The Arctic Sunrise will go to dry dock for major repairs soon then leave for the Amazon; the Espy will stay in port for several more weeks before heading up the west coast of Africa, continuing the year-long ocean’s campaign. For us, the Southern Ocean expedition component of this year’s ocean campaign work will end as most expeditions do: with a quiet grin and a wave more than a bang and shout, the crew splits up and slips off quietly towards home as the work carries on in the hands of the next crew.

The Billy G. is ready to ship home, back to the states. She’s been given an inside and out fresh water rinse and dried in the hot summer air. She’s been lifted from her portside sea cradle and set on her shipping cradle, which has been built on the helideck. Her sponsons have been fully deflated and lashed in tight and the equipment has all been cleaned, inventoried and packed. In the next few days the container truck should arrive to start her trip to the Port of Baltimore, for hopefully a hero’s welcome (she’s been among the most valued and reliable tools we had) as well as some much-needed repairs and well earned TLC.

So, well: that’s it. It’s been a great honor to work alongside this crew and my deepest respect and gratitude goes to all those who made this campaign possible.

-Nathan 

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