burgeetree.jpg (15266 bytes) The Adventures of Lynn and Les on "Cottonwood"

   Shipping "Cottonwood" Home
wheel.gif (3486 bytes)4/7/2005 to 4/29/2005

The Final Chapter: The Transport Home

Herein contains the latest and last entry of the saga of the “Cottonwood” journey from Newport Beach, CA Nov. 1, 2003 to her return to San Diego, CA April 29, 2005.

My last entry was April 6th, the day before we put our “Cottonwood” aboard the big ship, Dockwise Express-12 in Ft. Lauderdale. The transport company allowed only one of us to accompany our boat on the trip back so I, Lynn, decided to go. I thought I was prepared mentally for the trip, but it proved not to be the case.   

The night of April 6, 2005, Les and I slept fitfully tied up at the knowing we had set our alarm for 4 am. We wanted to have coffee and something to eat before we left the dock at Las Olas Marina, around 6am, to head for Port Everglades, where we were to board the big ship at 7am. After our engine check, emptying the trash, and making sure Les was packed for home, we untied from land once more and set sail ( a figure of speech since we are a power boat). Naturally, nothing went smoothly. We were already slightly nervous about getting there on time and anticipating the whole boarding procedure. Besides which the recent time change had made it darker still at 7, and unlike the glorious day before, the wind was gusting around 15 knots and it was looking stormy.

We motored carefully in the dark down the unfamiliar channel to our destination about 4 miles away.  The instructions as to where to find the transport ship were, “You’ll see it, it’s a big orange ship”. As we got closer we were hailed over the radio by the Captain of Dockwise (the name of the ship company). He was calling roll, “Evening Star”, “Bountiful II”, “Pegasus”, “Ashanti”, “Cottonwood”, etc., etc. -21 boats in all. We responded, “Cottonwood” standing by to board”.

The boarding was then postponed for an hour. All 21 of the boats motored around in circles trying to avoid each other in the channel, to stay close to the “mother ship”, and dodge the freighters and other ships passing us in the busy channel. Not fun! Port Everglades is a huge commercial port.

After a couple of hours of hovering around and fighting the wind we spotted a large concrete dock, empty, except for one tugboat tied up. We decided to throw a line over a bollard, keep our engines running and hang out there until we were called. Bad idea! We were there about 30 min. when I heard Les yell, “Release the line quick!” I jumped up and ran to release the line but not before 3 tugs had us penned in. Granted, we shouldn’t have been there, but they were really rude and shouting at us to move without giving us room to do so. Les repeatedly attempted to power away from the dock but the backwash from the powerful tug’s props pushed us back and the wind was making it worse. I was yelling for them to turn off their engines and they were yelling back, “Get out of here, call a towboat if you can’t get out”. We ended up hitting the concrete wall during one surge and scraping off strips of our new paint job and several chips of wood! Urgh!! I was so mad and it was scary, too. They had absolutely no reason to not give 1 minute to move. We Never received this kind of treatment in the foreign countries we visited.  I was going to write a letter to the agency in charge of tugs, but thought it would be futile as we were obviously in an area where we had no permission.

So once they saw we were not going to move until they powered down, several minutes more than if they would have been considerate, we got out into the channel again and went back to motoring around in circles. Other boats were having trouble also, one lost an engine and required assistance to board, and another was late leaving their home dock because of the wind. Several boats ahead of us were ordered to back in and we hoped we wouldn’t have to because we have no fly bridge and have a hard time seeing astern.  Finally, at 10:30 we were ordered to board, bow in, along the port wall of the ship. The transport ship was like a big barge with a hold that was filled with water and we just drove in.

 Thankfully, our loading went without a hitch. It was quite a sight with all the boats crammed in like sardines, fender to fender. The sailboat in front of us was backed in and our anchors were separated only by a small fender wedged between them. Lines and nylon straps crisscrossed from boat to boat and up to the catwalks overhead while the crew in orange jumpsuits and caps shouted orders. A large orange strap encircled each sailboat mast, to steady it, and was cinched up in a buckle on the catwalk. Divers were swimming in the water under and between the boats placing the support structures to secure the boat keels prior to letting the water out of the ship. After a few more hours all the boats were in place.

Our "Cottonwood” was toward the middle of the ship since we would be getting off in Ensenada, MX , the third stop of 4. Those in front of us were to get off last in Vancouver, British Columbia. By the late afternoon ladders were lowered from the upper catwalks to the top decks of the boats along the walls to allow people off their boats. The people on the boats in the middle of the ship had to climb from boat to boat until they reached a boat along the wall with a ladder to get off. At this point there was still water in the hold so we could not climb down to the deck of the ship. Then we all had to climb several flights of metal stairs on the outside of the control tower superstructure of the ship in order to get to the bridge.

There we met the Captain and some of the crew and signed paperwork, showed our boat documents, and I had to surrender my passport since I was to stay aboard as a “rider”. I kissed Les goodbye as he left for the hotel, feeling sad that I would not see him for another 3 weeks. He was to fly home the next morning.  I found out later that I was the only rider on the boat that night since the other two had elected to stay in a hotel. My misadventure was just beginning!

I was told I was to eat my meals, shower and do laundry aboard the big ship and sleep and generally live aboard our boat for the duration of the trip. That was OK. I was supposed to get a tour of the ship as well as obtain rules and regulations later that day. I was to be supplied with 2 salt water hoses, one for the air-conditioning unit aboard and one to wash down the bottom of our boat, as well as an electrical supply connection. The only reason I was allowed to be a rider was due to our wooden hull which needed to be kept wet to prevent the boards from shrinking and letting in water when the boat was put back in the water.  Then I was told there would be no power or water supply until the next morning when the sea water was completely let out of the ship and it was dry.

Lunchtime came and went, dinner time came and went, and no one called for me.  I ate a PowerBar and decided to rest, assuming meals provided wouldn’t start until the next day. The ship was abuzz with activity. Boat positions were being adjusted, orders shouted, and the heavy breathing of divers as they came up for air. The sea water was slowly being let out. As dusk approached, huge flood lights were turned on.  I heard an odd noise and awoke and went out on deck.  It was a splashing, slapping noise.  I glanced down toward the stern of the ship and saw an exhausted looking diver breathing heavily and sloshing his way through a foot of water toward the bow.  He had a mask on his brow, flippers on his feet, with flood lights silhouetting him against the criss-cross of braces holding up the keels. It would have been a great photo op, but I didn’t have time to get a camera. 

The more permanent sea fastenings were welded into place.  I could hear the hissing, see the bright flash and sparks emerge up between the boats, and smell the phosphorous as the welders proceeded with their work.  Metal wheeled carts, holding the steel braces rolled thunderously across the ship’s sole.  The steel sea fastening were pushed and scraped across the metal floor. The work went on until 10 PM. For a few minutes there was quiet.  Then, as if nature had to respond in return, angry clouds shrouded the moon, moving quickly overhead. Rain plummeted and thunder reverberated in the ship’s hold.  A strange night spent all alone.

In the morning, one of the engineers called down to say to me that he was going to hook up power and salt water.  I asked him about getting a ladder so I could climb down and get something to eat.  He was surprised I had not eaten. He said people had called down last night and received no response so they thought I was not aboard.  After climbing down the ladder and winding my way between the boats and beams, I was shown how to get to the shower, dining room, and bridge.  I had never been inside a big ship and it was very difficult to remember where everything was at first.  Breakfast was over by the time I got to the dining room, but the cook kindly fixed me something to eat.  Up on the bridge, I was shown where and when to send Email.  I was very grateful to have that contact with Les available. 

At midnight on April 8th, we left the dock at Fort Everglades, bound for Panama.  We cruised through the Straits of Florida, between Cuba and Jamaica.  The next morning I was able to see Cuba from the bridge and the following day we approached the west end of Cuba near Guantanamo Bay.  We were close enough that I could see buildings on shore. 

We cruised at an average speed of 14 knots most of the way.  The nights were long and noisy. It took an additional day after we left port for the workers to complete the welding and clean up.  There was scraping and painting and un-welding and re-welding going on just about the whole trip as boats were let off and others moved and re-welded.  The constant rumble of the ship’s engines below our boat, vibrations and the thwack-thwack-thwack of the smoke stacks above were deafening.  It sounded like a helicopter was hovering right over head.  I tried wearing ear plugs at night but they didn’t help much.

I met the two other riders, Richard and Steve, the day after we sailed.  Steve pretty much stayed on his boat the whole time and seldom joined us for meals.  I usually saw Richard once a day for lunch.

Now here is the significant Bad part of the trip. I had anticipated just about everything I thought I would encounter on the trip except for the attitude of the crew.  The Captain seemed to set the tone and the crew followed suit. The Captain told me to my face that “they”, (the Dutch officers) did not like Americans, and that having riders aboard was a bother to them.  This, despite the fact that they were eating, drinking, and smoking American products, watching American videos and DVD’s, and caring 21 American ships aboard for hundreds of thousands of American dollars!  I’m not naďve enough to think Americans are loved the world over, but I was shocked at their behavior.  They all spoke English, but only spoke Dutch in my presence.  I ate with the officers at a small table with about 10-12 chairs.   I was not acknowledged unless I spoke first, which, of course, I did.  The Captain had introduced himself on the first day, but no one else did unless I asked them their name and position.  I memorized their names and greeted everyone by name when ever I saw them.  There was only one other woman on board, the 24 year old third officer, Esther.  She was as cool toward me as the men.  After a few days I decided to eat only one meal, lunch, while I was aboard.  It was the biggest meal of the day, and the best.  It was just too stressful to sit through three meals and feel invisible.  There was a steward who served the entree to each person’s plate. The rest of the food was on the table, family style.  No one offered to pass me anything.  I had to ask for each item, and then they would go back to their speaking in Dutch. 

My routine every day was to trek up with my clean clothes and toiletries to take a shower around 11:30, arrive in the dining room around 12 and read, then have a beer before lunch at 12:30.  All the officers arrived in the lounge around 12 noon.  If I arrived later, the lounge seating was crowed and no one would offer to move or even look up as I entered.  Therefore, I had arrive early and claim a seat.  I would say hello to everyone as they entered, and attempted to engage them in a bit of conversation.  When they all stared speaking Dutch I would start reading my book.  Richard usually arrived a little late, and no one looked up or offered him a seat except me.  I made everyone move over so he could sit down, and made a point of asking him how he was and engaging him in a discussion.  One of the officers, the Chief Engineer, never spoke a word to me the entire three weeks, even though he saw me everyday at lunch.  However, by the end of the three weeks, a few of the officers were more friendly, passing food became automatic, and everyone began pouring extra glasses of water, not just their own as before.

One evening there was to be a BBQ up on the bridge deck.  The Captain had been unusually rude at lunch.  He said he thought all Americans were boring.  He often made generalizations about the U.S. or Americans which cast them in a bad light.  I couldn’t keep quiet, (no surprise) and said that I preferred to judge each individual on their own merit and not grouped into a whole and labeled.  He proceeded with the comment, “If I met 99 of 100 Americans that are idiots, I conclude then that all Americans are idiots.”  Some of the crew nodded in agreement.  I restated my case and he said, “Ja, Ja, Ja, I heard you”, waved his hand and dismissed me as if I were a child.   I was fuming and left to go back to my boat.  I stewed all evening, I was so irate.  I decided, ‘Why should I go to the BBQ, to be ignored and insulted?’ Instead I stayed up late and watched two movies, all the while upset. The next day only two officers (not the Captain) asked me why I wasn’t at the BBQ and I said I was tired of all the America bashing and didn’t want to be a party to it anymore. No one replied. That gives you the gist of my encounters with the Dutch. Not pleasant! I should add here that while visiting Amsterdam on our honeymoon in 2001, we had a wonderful visit and really enjoyed the Dutch people and had no bad encounters.? Even though I cannot understand their hatred of all Americans, we have to let you know that they handled the transport professionally and treated our boat well. They do a very good job of transport.  Just don't expect them to give you any respect.

We arrived in Cristobal, Panama, on the 13th after 5 days at sea.  It was a calm ride, sea wise, and very, very hot and humid as you might expect in the hold of a ship.  Our AC unit could hardly keep up.  We anchored for a few hours and then moved inside the breakwater and waited for a fuel barge to arrive.  It pulled up along side and took about 10 hours to refuel the ship.  The next morning, on the 15th, we transited the Canal.  It was quite a different perspective on the big ship than when we went through on our boat.  The big ship barely fit in the lock.  It took about 10 hours to get through to the Pacific side. 

We arrived in Golfito, Costa Rica, the next day.  After our boats were un-welded, the holds were flooded and a few boats left, while others got on.  I was without air conditioning and power for the next two days while we were in port, and it was hot and steamy.  Since the hold was flooded, I had to climb up a ladder from our boat to the ship catwalk.  Gratefully, a huge storm approached and I sat outside and watched it come and enjoyed the cooling wind and rain.  We left Golfito the 18th after re-provisioning. The crane on the ship moved food in and trash out over several hours. 

We had a fire and an abandoned ship drill while aboard.  The sirens alarmed and the radio announced the drills.  We donned life jackets and reported to our stations.  It was a long fast climb to get there. 

The 21st we arrived in Lazero Cardenas, Mexico, just north of Acapulco.  There was a huge refinery close to the dock that dumped soot all over the boats.  The holds were again flooded and some boats were moved off and on.  We left LZC on the 23rd bound for my last port in Ensenada, Mexico, and I couldn’t have been more relieved.  I wet the bottom of “Cottonwood” the last time on the 24th and then went up to take a shower before lunch.  I must mention here what the “wetting down” was like.  I got thoroughly drenched with salt water in the process.  The hose provide was about 50 ft long and about 3 inches in diameter.  They had spliced together two sections of hose with a metal pipe to make it longer.  It usually came apart at the pipe two or three times during the process and I was so wet already I didn’t bother turning off the water.  I just shoved it back together and doused myself some more.  I had to climb and duck between the boats to reach all of the hull and maneuver the hose around all the sea fastenings.  The water hit the boat and bounced off and hit me.  It would have been refreshing if it had been fresh water and cool.  But it was warm, salty water.  I’m sure I was quite a site soaking wet on my way to the shower, but thankfully I never saw anyone. 

We arrived in Ensenada on the 26th.  Les and Howard, our crew mate who accompanied us of the first half of our trip, came aboard “Cottonwood” that evening.  And I was so glad to hug and kiss my hubby.  We slept aboard that night and the next morning the hold was flooded once more and we disembarked quickly and easily.  We stayed in the marina in Ensenada for two days due to bad weather.  We enjoyed a few meals in town between cloud bursts.  We then departed early on the 29th and arrived in San Diego that evening.  “Cottonwood” is now in her new home in Long Beach Marina after a few months in San Diego waiting to find a slip to move to Long Beach.  So ends the saga.

Even thought this leg of our adventure has been tainted by my unbelievable treatment by the Dutch aboard Dockwise, I am still glad I went on the big ship home. This gives me the satisfaction of having accompanied our "Cottonwood" on the entire journey from our home port, through all our adventures to complete The Great American Loop, and back to our home port.  It has been an adventure of a lifetime, meeting so many great people, establishing new friends, and seeing so many beautiful places both in our great America, and all the other countries as well. Les and I can't wait to replenish out cruise kitty, and go on a new adventure.


Note from Les: As you may wonder, I was horrified of the Dutch crew's treatment of Lynn while she was aboard the "Express 12".  I can only say that they disgrace themselves when they treat Americans in this manner, and they disrespect the Dutch people by their behavior. Lynn is one of the most respectful people I have ever met when it comes to the treatment of other people, and her attitude of Not Judging other people before she gets to know them. I just wish there was a way to let the Dutch people know how their representatives are displaying this outright aggressive disrespect for an entire people because of the experience of 'this Captain'. I'm not even sure a letter to the corporate office of Dockwise will do any good. We must, however, make the effort.

On to the other side

Bridge of the Americas, Pacific side

Back to the Pacific

Back in Catalina

 Yacht Club walk - Our Anniversary and start of our Journey

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~ Clic on Pics to Enlarge ~

The Dockwise Carrier Ship

Circling and Waiting

The Ship fills with water




Underwater workers

Loading provisions

Forward from "Cottonwood"

The Bridge

Two other Riders, with crew

On our way

Third Officer at the Wheel

Mess Hall

Boat supports

In the hole

Wet Route to the Bridge

Ready for wetting down

Approaching the Canal

Locking through



The Locks




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