Friday, October 18, 2013

Onboard the Aranui 3 - Part 1

I've been trying to decide how to post the information about our trip. I took all kinds of notes. Some had to do specifically with the ship and the cruise. Other notes had to do with the specific islands. The notes are day by day and I have, in the past, posted our day-by-day activities. But on this trip a lot of the day-by-day happenings were the same. For instance, we had a meeting every evening about the island we would be visiting the next day. Somehow I think reading daily reports that included "6:00 p.m. Meeting about tomorrow's island" would run stale pretty fast.

So I decided to do a "Life Onboard the Aranui" type post, giving my readers an idea of how we spent our time (when not on an island), what we learned, thoughts about the crew and ship, (and things I wish I had known before the trip), and then write another post with details about the islands. So here goes .....

First, I need to say that this cruise was not what I expected. I had hoped for lots of opportunities to watch the ship "work," loading and unloading cargo while anchored in the harbor. We could not do this AND take advantage of the planned excursions ashore. Yes, we had some time to watch early in the morning before the first pax barge went ashore. But the majority of the work was done while we were away. Additionally, there was really no good place to stand and watch the crew at work. While there were two suitable areas for watching (both accessible by outside stairs), pax were shooed away - for obvious safety reasons - if they were too close to the cargo being loaded and unloaded.

The other thing I didn't expect was how physically difficult this trip would be. I reread the brochure a couple of times to see what I missed. The fact is I didn't miss anything. The brochure could use a re-write. For instance, the brochure says that after lunch on Nuku Hiva we "will travel to the valley of Taipivai. The area is dotted with stone tiki gods and sacred ritual sites." What the brochure doesn't tell you is that to see the archeological site, you have a 20-30 minute uphill hike. Fortunately I found broken branches that we could use as hiking sticks. I wished we had brought our hiking poles and many other pax felt the same way. Between the steepness of sections of the "walk" and the heat, we were exhausted and dehydrated (yes we had water with us) by the time we were done.

The other part that could be difficult was the boarding and disembarking the pax boat. We walked down the gangway and instructed to step onto the black platform at the bottom. From there we were assisted aboard the pax barge. The video below shows how it works in calm seas.

Now imagine doing this in water not quite so calm. There were times the black platform at the bottom of the gangway was a foot or more underwater (YES! underwater) while the pax boat was on the crest of the wave, with the barge entrance 3 to 4 feet above the platform. We soon learned not to time the transfer ourselves but, instead, to leave it up to the very experienced crewmen who would sometimes launch us onto the barge. They knew what they were doing. No one fell. No one got hurt. It truly was an experience.

Our other embarking and disembarking experiences?

At ports of call with a pier, getting on and off the pax barge was by stepping onto slippery concrete steps or right off (or onto) the front of the barge onto the beach. Oh, and lets not forget the time a different boat was used -- with a ladder -- loading pax in the surf. I've got pictures and video showing all this too but I'm going to put that into the next post. (Don't want this post to take too long to load.)

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