25-Feb-2005 -- Three and a half days to go to Germany, which means, we are now due to entering the Bay of Biscay, known to the Spanish as Golfo de Vizcaya and to the French as Baie de Gascogne. 43N 10W is located West of Cabo Finisterre (“Cape of the End of the World”).
Looking towards East we see the Nortwestern tip of Spain with Cabo Villano, Cabo Toriñana and Cabo Finisterre. Towards ESE there are the high mountains around the Ría (Bay) de Muros, and looking further towards SE there are the mountains between which the Ría de Arosa and Ría de Pontevedra are embedded.
The people living on this coast are Galicians. Spain has not a homogenous population. A lot of different languages are spoken there and the various peoples of Spain have quite different customs and habits. There are Castilians (they are what we call “real” Spanish and their language is the official Spanish one), other major groups are e.g. the Catalans in the East (being not very amused when one calls them “Spanish”), the Basques in the North (being absolutely not amused when you call them “Spanish”), and the Galicians are very close to the Portuguese. Their language, Galego, is easily understood when you know Portuguese.
During the fascist Franco-era, which lasted from 1936 to 1975, all these local languages and habits were suppressed and Castilian was the only official language. Everybody should feel as a Spanish and nothing else. Nowadays these local languages are officially in use again, and everywhere in these provinces with a native language other than Castilian Spanish you see bilingual inscriptions. Most towns and villages in Galicia have two names, a Spanish one and one in Galego. Santa Eugenia de Rivera is Spanish, in Galego it is named Sta. Uxia da Ribeira. La Puebla del Caramiñal is Spanish, and in Galego it is A Pobra do Caraminhal.
The most famous town of Galicia is of course Santiago (St. Jacob) de Compostela, not far from Cabo Finisterre and a major target for Christian pilgrims. The “Jacob’s path”, i.e. going to Santiago de Compostela by walking for hundreds or even thousands of kilometres is used by many thousands persons every year. The purpose is to prove to one’s own self to be able to do something special and to purify the soul. I am planning to do it myself one day, too. On the one hand I am more and more in doubt whether I am still able to do something special, and a purification of my soul cannot do any harm, as well.
The weather today is not bad, but over the shore there are sometimes scattered rainclouds with showers.
In several former visits I have mentioned container ships and their operators. Shortly after our visit the “Chastine Maersk” did overtake us. Maersk-Sealand from Copenhagen is world’s biggest container shipping line. The “Chastine Maersk” has a capacity of 6,000 TEU (twenty-feet equivalent units), which means they can load 6,000 containers of 20 feet length. This quantity on a train would result in a length of about 42 km (26 miles).
I believe I have not introduced yet another new achievement we recently got installed: We are now equipped with AIS. AIS stands for “Automatic Identification System”. It has been developed for aviation, in order to help air traffic controllers in the airport towers to identify the aircrafts in the areas they are responsible for.
AIS is now compulsory for ships, too. In the pre-AIS-time it was basically impossible to identify another ship in the vicinity, unless you was so close to be able to read her name painted on the bow and the stern. But this requires a very close distance which often is no longer safe. During darkness, however, it was anyway impossible to identify other ships, unless you called them by VHF and asked them (and even then they could not reply you at all or tell you the untruth, especially when they did something against the traffic regulations and were afraid you report them).
So let’s have a look to our AIS machine: We see a bunch of ships, nicely steaming around Cabo Finisterre in both directions, but beautifully separated. This is of course to avoid dangerous (so-called “close quarter situations”) between ships in this busy corner. Where is the “Chastine Maerks”? No problem, she is already ahead of us, and lets put the cursor on her.
And then we press “extended info” and we learn the following:
The “Chastine Maersk” has the international radio call sign OZZB2 (“OZ” stands for Denmark. My ships for example has V2PE8, where V2 stands for Antigua & Barbuda). She is in the position indicated and is underway using her engine (other options would be: at anchor, moored, not under command, etc.). She is 1.1 nautical miles ahead of us and bears 048° (roughly NE). Her speed is 23,7 knots (23,7 nautical miles/hour – 43,8 km/h – 27,5 statute miles), and against such a Danish container-monster I have no chance with my just 14.5 knots.
She is steering a course of about 023°, thus to NNE towards Ouessant. She is a cargo ship, 347 metres (1,140 feet) long and 42 metres (138 feet) wide. Her draught (American English: draft, i.e. the immersion of her hull under water) is 12,8 metres (42 feet), and finally she estimates her arrival for Feb 26th at Felixstowe in England. Felixstowe lies near Harwich/Ipswich and is today not only Britain’s hugest Container terminal, but a very important hub for many container ships in Northern Europe.
The “Chastine Maersk” is employed in the Europe-Far East service. After a short rotation in Northern Europe, which takes about 6 days she will go back to Singapore and Japan.