I asked my wife about going on a Fred Olsen cruise to the Baltic, but she was not very keen to go. However, she did not object to me going on my own, so rather than a cruise vessel, I began to look at passenger carrying cargo ships which traded to the Baltic.
Finally I settled on a run between Goole and Sweden, hopefully passing through the Skaggerak and the Kattegat, as well as the Kiel Canal, in the course of the voyage.
Booking my trip through Strand Travel of London, I travelled to Goole by train from Ipswich and joined the Transfrej on a Monday morning in May. Transfrej was a small containership of 4,466 dwt and container capacity of approx 400 TEU. The ship was the usual modern mixture of ownership, manning and flag. Swedish owned and German managed, but with a Russian/Polish crew and flying the Antigua flag!
My accommodation was the owner’s cabin on deck E – just below the bridge and next door to the Captain – with a dayroom, bedroom and bathroom. The ship could carry four passengers, but I would be the only one on this voyage. Total manning was only nine, including the Cook and the Chief Engineer. I found that the Russian Captain and Polish Chief Officer both spoke good English, as did the Polish cook, Derek.
With the afternoon free before the evening sailing, I walked ashore to have a look around Goole. I had been here before in 1973, when I joined the Rosemary Everard in drydock, before sailing to the Continent. The docks were now modern and also very busy, but the former shipbuilding & repair yard was long gone. I also came across a fairly new seafarers memorial, in a riverside park.
After leaving the berth in the evening, our ship locked out into the River Ouse at about 21.30 and we were on our way.
I stayed up on deck for a while, as we headed down the Ouse then into the Humber, on our 50 mile passage to the North Sea. It was dark by now of course, so I returned to my cabin for a read before having an early night.
Breakfast was served in the officer’s mess between 7.30 and 8.15, so I went in at eight, to give the watchkeepers a chance to eat first. Derek the cook actually offered me bacon and eggs, which I didn’t expect, but gratefully accepted. The weather was fine, but cold in the wind and we were heading north-east to the Skagerrak. I had been told initially that our first port would be Amsterdam, but the orders had been changed and we were bound for the small port of Ahus in southern Sweden.
We had almost a full load of containers, with a mixture of 40 and 45 footers on deck, so setting off to see the foc’sle, I walked forward through a centre passageway between the containers and over the hatch covers. However, the ship was pitching a bit, with the sea breaking over the foc’sle head, so I returned aft and visited the bridge instead.
Transfrej arrived alongside in Ahus at 07.00 on Thursday morning. Ahus was a very small port, with just one long quay, where two ships were already berthed. One of these ships the Transnjord, on charter to Transatlantic line, was the same type and class as our vessel. We were only supposed to be at Ahus for a couple of hours, to drop off some boxes. However, their only crane broke down and with no sign of repairs being completed, we finally left about 15.00, closely followed by Transnjord.
We would have to complete the Ahus container movements on the way back to Goole. While at Ahus I visited the engineroom, where I was shown around by the AB/oiler, as the Chief Engineer spoke Russian and German, but no English at all. The engineroom was very clean, but quite small of course.
After leaving Ahus, we headed north for our next port, later passing a PAL Line ship, Transodin, on a foggy evening at sea.
Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - August 2011 Issue
Click here to subscribe