A container ship cares less for its passengers than its cargo, its arrival and departure moments to which one must adapt rather than expect it to bow to one’s own tight schedule. So also with this ship, La Tour: I lost count of the changes in ETA and ETD for the Melbourne docks. So we arrived in Melbourne to find yet another alteration of schedule: instead of early afternoon, it would not arrive until later that night. We made the day our own, walked the streets of Melbourne, found some bookshops and stumbled across the Post-Deng Cafe (where I had been once before).
For most of the day we made the Stella Maris Seaman’s Mission our home. Part of a port-city’s life that is usually hidden, these missions are often staffed by volunteers, providing quiet space away from the ship, a chapel in which to worship, the soft spiritualisation of life at sea and then all manner of practical, earthly matters: bar, tea and coffee, karaoke, post office, sim cards, gift shop, money exchange, counselling, internet services, free trips to and from the ships.
Finally the call came from the port agent to board ship, so we made our way late ot the docks, where we had to wait for an offocial mini-bus to take us to the ship, clambered up up the rough and swaying steps onto what would be our home for 37 days.
On board the captain, Dranko Dojcinovic, breifly greeted us and then left again – the time at port is always the busiest. Late into the night I watched the loading of the ship from the cabin’s porthole.