Ship’s log: day two

At last we are off. A hasty unload and load – 18 hours – and before I knew it the shore was sliding past and the pilot was on the bridge.

Even though the pilot is a familiar sight from earlier voyages, he (usually) is perpetually fascinating. Guiding the ship out of the tight heads on a dark and stormy night; the calls on the bridge – port 10, port 10, midships, midships, 222, 222, no 225, 225; preferring experience, visuals and the compass (and not relying entirely on the electronics); and then – most astonishing of all – when out past the heads he goes down to the port or starboard side, depending on which is more protected from the heavy swell, climbs down the side of the massive container ship on a rope ladder and leaps – in the dark – onto a tiny orange pilot boat bobbing in the waves.

Once he is on board, the pilot boat speeds off, while we do a 100 degree turn to port, headed for New Zealand. As he goes I realise that we have just set out on the most substantial and distinctive journey I have ever done.

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