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Stage 4: Africa to Argentina
(The Very Long Way)

The Most Annoying Ocean

When I was planning the Tour, and the ocean crossings in particular, I knew that, at some point, whatever advance preparations I had made would be thrown into chaos, thanks to the vagaries of modern shipping. However, after already having dealt with significant changes to the Stage 1-2 and Stage 2-3 crossings, I held hopes that all such cases of bad luck were now in the past. That feeling was enhanced by my booking passage, several months earlier, on a ship whose route and schedule seemed unbelievable close to perfect for my needs. In that case, I was to sail from Durban, South Africa, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in November of 02006. Of course, at the last minute, that ship was cancelled, and I was forced to scramble around for another alternative.

My best, in fact my only, choice was a two-ship option, a situation almost guaranteed to cause problems. The first ship, the MSC Geneva departed from Cape Town on December 16, 02006. The advantage of that change was that I then had an extra month to extend the Stage route all the way to Cape Town, a much more satisfying destination for Stage 3. The ship itself was one of the newer vessels that I used during the Tour, and its accommodations were excellent, its crew friendly, and the Holiday atmosphere on board was a welcome change of pace for me. Another pleasant surprise was that, for the first time during the Tour, there was a second passenger on board during the voyage, which significantly decreased the boredom factor while at sea. That was especially handy, as the route the ship took did not include any intermediate Ports of Call, and so the vistas available were limited to the open seas of the South Atlantic. Overall, that section of the crossing was relaxing and enjoyable, which was fortunate, as I certainly needed a nice rest.

The disadvantage of that particular ship was that its ultimate destination was in Europe, a half a world away from South America, where I needed to be. I was able to disembark the MSC Geneva in the Islas Canarias, off the coast of Morocco, which kept me in the vicinity of Africa, at least. Getting from there to South America required a second ship, and that is where things really became problematic, as described below.

The M.V. MSC Geneva at port

Under way in the South Atlantic

A Holiday at sea

The MSC Geneva arriving at Las Palmas

Las Palmas, in the Islas Canarias, Spain

I was actually pleased about the change in plans up to that point. A second ship was scheduled to call the Canary Islands around the same time that I would arrive, and its destination was Rio de Janeiro, so I had made arrangements for passage on that vessel, and I thought that my worries were then over. Of course, I spoke too soon, as, just about a week before I was to leave Africa, that ship was also cancelled. Trying to arrange passage on another ship, on short notice, and while at sea, was no small feat, and was complicated by the fact that there were few choices available under the best of circumstances. In the end, I was forced to transfer to Bilbao, Spain, and then board the Repubblica Argentina, a ship which makes a regular loop between Europe, north Africa, and South America. The advantage of that particular vessel was that its destination in South America, at least the destination where passengers were allowed to disembark, was Buenos Aires, which helped me quite a bit, as its more southerly location would help make it easier to reach Tierra del Fuego, before the weather turned too cold. That advantage was partially counteracted, however, by the fact that the ship made numerous port calls along the way; in Casablanca, Morocco; Dakar, Senegal; Banjul, The Gambia; Conakry, Guinea; and Freetown, Sierra Leone along the west African cost, and then; Vitoria, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, and Rio Grande in Brazil, and Zarate in Argentina, before finally calling Buenos Aires. The relevant result of all that was that my arrival in South America was two months later than what it would have been had my first ship not been cancelled.

The cruise on the Repubblica Argentina was different in a few ways in addition to its frequent stops. The Grimaldi shipping lines, who manage that vessel, are one of the few companies which makes a concerted effort to take passengers on board, and in that case there were eight others. The resulting companionship helped diffuse my concerns about being so far behind schedule, at least. Also, the nature of that ship was different from the pure container ships that I had used before. Its main purpose was as a vehicle carrier, and because of that I was able to observe first hand one of the more ridiculous aspects of Globalization. For the ships holds were mainly filled with luxury automobiles, manufactured in Europe. These were then shipped to South America, where they were offloaded, and then returned to Europe on the next ship of the line. Whatever crazy tax loophole that provided must have outweighed the cost of shipping heavy cargo across the world and back. Sigh. In any case, the ship did, finally get me to South America, and for that I was grateful.

A slightly longer post for a long voyage is: ~HERE~

Bilbao, Spain; An unexpected transfer stop

The M.N. Repubblica Argentina at port

Port of Call; Casablanca, Morocco

An East Atlantic sunset

Port of Call; Dakar, Senegal

Port of Call; Banjul, The Gambia

Port of Call; Banjul, The Gambia

Port of Call: Freetown, Sierra Leone - Last sighting of Africa

A mid-Atlantic sunset

A Masked Booby circling the ship

Port of Call: Vitoria, Brazil - First sighting of South America

The Repubblica Argentina arrives at Buenos Aires

The M.V.
MSC Geneva

~ Master: Captain Andres Schneider

~ Chief Engineer: Dietrich Jurgensen

~ 21 additional officers and crew: Germany; Philipines and; Finland

~ Registry: Hamburg

~ Shipyard: DMHI, Constanta, Romania

~ Delivered: July, 02005

~ Length: 275 meters

~ Draught: 13.5 meters

~ Gross Tonnage: 50,963

~ Net Tonnage: 30,224

~ Cargo Capacity: 4,892 20-ft. containers

~ Main Engine Output: 20.5 kW

~ Max Speed: ~24 knotts

The M.N.
Repubblica Argentina

~ Master: Captain Giuseppi Minervini

~ Chief Engineer: Vincenzo Lavagna

~ 27 additional officers and crew: Italy

~ Registry: Palermo

~ Shipyard: Sestri Cantiere Naval; Genova

~ Delivered: 01998

~ Length: 208 meters

~ Draught: 9.2 meters

~ Gross Tonnage: 54,000

~ Net Tonnage: 16,200

~ Cargo Capacity: 2,200 small vehicle equivalents & 195 20-ft. containers

~ Main Engine Output: 17.6 kW

~ Max Speed: ~21 knotts