May 14, 2005: Headlines: COS - Kyrgyzstan: Travel: Ships: Container Ships: Cleveland Plain Dealer: Kyrgyzstan RPCV Erika Mentrek sails the ocean blue with tons of cargo on a container ship

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kyrgyzstan: Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan : The Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan: May 14, 2005: Headlines: COS - Kyrgyzstan: Travel: Ships: Container Ships: Cleveland Plain Dealer: Kyrgyzstan RPCV Erika Mentrek sails the ocean blue with tons of cargo on a container ship

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - 3:07 pm: Edit Post

Kyrgyzstan RPCV Erika Mentrek sails the ocean blue with tons of cargo on a container ship

Kyrgyzstan RPCV Erika Mentrek sails the ocean blue with tons of cargo on a container ship

Kyrgyzstan RPCV Erika Mentrek sails the ocean blue with tons of cargo on a container ship

Sail the ocean blue with tons of cargo on a container ship
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Megan Mentrek
Special to The Plain Dealer

The cargo container ship gave a slight shud der, signaling that the thrusters had been en gaged. I threw up my cabin curtains. Sure enough, the hazy outlines of cranes and thousands of containers on the docks slowly were drifting away. The CanMar Venture, a Canadian freighter, was heading out to sea from Thamesport, England, downriver from London.

I was headed home on a wintry 11-day voyage, crossing the Atlantic aboard a ship with tons of freight and a passenger capacity of three. We were to cross the North Atlantic on some of the most dangerous waters in the world, even in this day of high tech and automated ships.

We left Thamesport for Montreal, Canada, at 9 p.m. Nov. 29. I threw on my parka to head to the deck to watch the tugboats push us down the Medway Estuary toward the North Sea.

Having just finished a stint in the Peace Corps, my friend Erika and I were looking for a way to head home that would be exciting, but also relaxing, with plenty of showers, good food and space for our 200 pounds of luggage.

The captain and crew of the CanMar Venture provided all this and more.

If you are looking for dance bands, lavish buffets and sparkling casinos, freighter travel is not the way to go. But if you want to travel the globe without crowds, marvel at the majesty of the sea and learn about the lives of the men and women who make it possible to have stores filled with imported goods, then hop aboard the CanMar Venture or one of the other freighters that accommodate passengers.

While far from the glamour of passenger ships such as the Queen Mary 2, the CanMar Venture was designed to make its few passengers comfortable.

Two cabins are equipped with DVD, VCR, and CD players, a small fridge, desk, sofa, and roomy bathrooms.

A lounge was stocked with an entertainment system and games. We could read in a small library, work out in a gym and use the kitchen anytime. Our steward, Manilal, kept us comfortable, including bowls of a special "seasickness soup" to calm the stormy stomach of my friend.

The galley was the highlight of the voyage. With an all-Indian crew, we were treated to the finest Indian food between Europe and North America. We dined on fresh chapattis and pappadoms (Indian flat breads) every day as well as dishes featured from all of the sailor's homes. The captain, a Welshman, offered wine and French cheese. We always left the table full and happy.

Before crossing the Atlantic, the Venture made port calls at Antwerp and Le Havre. Le Havre proved to be the easier and cheaper of the two. It is a fascinating mixture of World War II history of enduring British fire-bombing and 1960s reconstruction architecture. We were lucky enough to be given a personal tour by the CanMar shipping agent, a descendant of a long line of Le Havre residents, including the main architect in charge of reconstruction.

The ship left Antwerp carrying several liquid tons of beer.

The ship's bridge - the command center - was where all the action and stories were. Erika and I spent most of our sea days there, learning to read the seas, plotting our course, listening to sea lore and trying to catch glimpses of rare astronomical events only viewable on the open seas, such as the elusive "green flash" as the sun rises or sets. We were invited to tour the engine room - the massive engine with eight pistons is about three stories high - and work decks.

On the bridge at night, I could barely distinguish between sea and sky. There is no darkness as dark as the sea.

Watching the officers and crew go about their work on this 2-year-old, 25,000 horsepower ship, it was easy to think that theirs was an easy job.

Only when we were slammed by a Force 10 gale with 24-foot waves did we see why there are more than 2,000 ships at the bottom of the Atlantic and why the sailing business still is one of the most dangerous in the world.

The storm, taking an unanticipated path, arrived quickly. I was awakened in the early morning hours by being flung from my bed when waves from the gale pitched our ship at an angle of perhaps 40 degrees. Based on the Hindi expletives resounding through the walls, Erika and I were not the only ones being tossed about.

Later in the day, we learned of damage to various containers, including a massive box holding machines of several tons. The box, in the cargo hold, had broken its lashings, and the crew had to deal quickly with how to prevent the machinery from sliding around and puncturing the ship walls.

While Erika held her seasick stomach, the captain kept describing the heaving seas before us as "calm as a millpond."

Based on the crew's calm under pressure, you really would have thought this storm was a soft breeze. We could stand on the bridge sipping our French-press coffee, marveling at the ferocity of the sea without an ounce of fear or doubt in the abilities of the captain and crew to get us safely home.

Too soon, we were across the Atlantic, greeted by the snow-blanketed coastline of Newfoundland and its stately lighthouses. Along the way, seals lounged about on their floating ice platoons, watching us.

On our last evening, after dinner, I headed to the bridge and was met with the magical view of the Christmas lights of Quebec glowing through the evening's light snowfall. The following day, we disembarked in Montreal.

Mentrek lives in University Heights. She can be reached by e-mail at

When this story was posted in May 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
The Peace Corps Library Date: March 27 2005 No: 536 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related stories in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can find hundreds of stories about what RPCVs with your same interests or from your Country of Service are doing today. If you have a web site, support the "Peace Corps Library" and link to it today.

Top Stories and Breaking News PCOL Magazine Peace Corps Library RPCV Directory Sign Up

May 7, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: May 7 2005 No: 583 May 7, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
"Peace Corps Online" on recess until May 21 7 May
Carol Bellamy taking the reins at World Learning 7 May
Gopal Khanna appointed White House CFO 7 May
Clare Bastable named Conservationist of the Year 7 May
Director Gaddi Vasquez visits PCVs in Bulgaria 5 May
Abe Pena sets up scholarship fund 5 May
Peace Corps closes recruiting sites 4 May
Hill pessimistic over Korean nuclear program 4 May
Leslie Hawke says PC should split into two organizations 4 May
Peace Corps helps students find themselves 3 May
Kevin Griffith's Tsunami Assistance Project collects 50k 3 May
Tim Wright studied Quechua at UCLA 2 May
Doyle not worried about competition 2 May
Dodd discusses President's Social Security plan 1 May
Randy Mager works in Blue Moon Safaris 1 May
PCVs safe in Togo after disputed elections 30 Apr
Michael Sells teaches Islamic History and Literature 28 Apr

May 7, 2005:  Special Events Date: May 7 2005 No: 582 May 7, 2005: Special Events
"Iowa in Ghana" on exhibit in Waterloo through June 30
"American Taboo" author Phil Weiss in Maryland on June 18
Leland Foerster opens photo exhibition at Cal State
RPCV Writers scholarship in Baltimore - deadline June 1
Gary Edwards' music performed in Idaho on May 24
RPCVs: Post your stories or press releases here for inclusion next week.

Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000  strong Date: April 2 2005 No: 543 Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000 strong
170,000 is a very special number for the RPCV community - it's the number of Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. It's also a number that is very special to us because March is the first month since our founding in January, 2001 that our readership has exceeded 170,000. And while we know that not everyone who comes to this site is an RPCV, they are all "Friends of the Peace Corps." Thanks everybody for making PCOL your source of news for the Returned Volunteer community.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Kyrgyzstan; Travel; Ships; Container Ships



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.