Trinidad, Cuba. This year's destination?

Cargo ship travel

Inspired by Josie Dew’s book “Saddled at Sea” the management started investigating travel by cargo ship in 2007. He had always wanted to go to sea and was able to realise his 50 year old ambition when we travelled to Italy on a huge Grimaldi car carrier. We both enjoyed this leisurely way of travelling.

Josie Dew, whose book Saddled at Sea partly inspired this trip

Last year the management investigated just about every possibility of cargo ship travel on the web. Cuba sounded like a good idea. It is a nice warm large island big enough for us to take a couple of months to explore. It was not possible then. The Americans have messed that up by not letting in any ships including even humble ferries. But this has now been solved by the pragmatic Germans. They run a freighter route which takes about 36 days. It circles the Mediterranean before going to Halifax, Nova Scotia and Havana, Cuba. It then crosses back to the Med. By mercifully and sensibly avoiding the USA they can go where they like.

The Melfi Iberia

Unless you are a Somalian pirate jumping a cargo ship is a thing of the past. You can still get a slow boat to China but it is expensive and you need to book. In 2002 in Bergen at the end of our North Sea ride we tried to get a passage home on a cargo ship. After much unsuccessful wandering around the docks we gave up. We eventually paid for a cabin on a cruise liner vacated by passengers who had become ill and even that was not easy and very expensive.

With the approaching disaster of global warming we have become very aware of our carbon footprint. It is also an absolute pain to go anywhere by air with our kind of luggage and the baggage handlers keep smashing bits of the tandem. Being cooped up in airline seats is not good for the stoker’s leg.

Cargo ships go to interesting places

We ended up booking a cabin on the Melfi Iberia, a medium sized container ship behaving in many ways like an old fashioned tramp steamer. Unlike many cargo ships it seems to have a timetable. There is a good chance that it will run which is not the case for all cargo ships. It is also a straightforward route, which is the only real possibility of us achieving any cycling.

Again this year the practicalities were dealt with by Strand Travel. Once we had done the planning fixing the insurance was difficult. We again managed to get our cheap annual multi trip policy extended to cover cycling and cargo ship travel. It took some time to assure ourselves that the expensive insurance offered by specialist insurers actually offered less cover. None of the policies cover us if we need to be rescued at sea so if this happens we may have to pay for our own helicopter. Let’s hope it does not happen.

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