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Panama Channel - Auckland

Leg details

October 8 to 24, 2005
Panama Channel (PA) - Pacific - Equator, crossing-the-line ceremony - Tahiti (FR) - Auckland (NZ)


Leg map (click to enlarge in separate window)

Saturday, October 8, 2005 - back to top

Pacific, east of Isla del Coco (N5, W 86)

We wake up to a warm (26° C) but rainy day.

Today there is much work to be done as we have taken lots of pictures (aprox. 1'000) and movies (aprox. 50!) in the Panama Channel and this requires a serious cleanup.

Sunday, October 9, 2005 - back to top

Pacific, north-west of Galapagos (N 3, W 93)

Today it is a perfect day, sunny, every so often some small clouds and 25° C.

We are in the vicinity of the Galapagos Island, but no land can be seen.

Even though we are still travelling in the Humbolt current it is warm enough to enjoy live on board in a long-chair.

The clocks have been moved back by 1 hour and we are now on GMT -6.

Today is Sunday and the captain fetches a special wine from the "cellar".
We get spoiled again by Xavier, our cook, and by Marian, the maître d'hôtel.

Because it is Sunday Roquefort cheese is served, much to Roger's and Susi's delight.

For one day the diet is forgotten and we fully enjoy the dessert with the ice cream and the rich caramel sauce.

In the afternoon we gather on the bridge where the Chief Mechanic picks us up to see the engine room.
The captain is amused how eager we are to finally see the machine.

The machine room is below the main deck.
It is about 3 stories high.

The first stop is in the control room. All monitoring is done from this room.
All instruments are available at least twice should one fail.
The instructions from the bridge are received and executed here.

Due to the noise in the engine room all is explained here.
Then we receive ear-muffs and start descending the stairs to the lower engine flat.

Even though they have air-conditioning it is very hot.

Like good tourist are supposed to do all is photographed and lots of notes taken.

Four power generators are available, two are in use and two spares.

turbo charger

The engine has seven-cylinders and is turbo-charged.

One spare piston is available on board.
The pistons can be exchanged during normal operation.
As the "CMA CGM Matisse" tours the world all year round all maintenance work is done during the trips.

The work-shop is well equipped, from the largest to the smallest tools.

Two sailors are employed solely to paint the vessel.
The other also help every so often, but only if they have nothing else to do.

In a small incinerator the rubbish is burned.
Only things that decompose are allowed to be thrown over board (e.g. vegetables, wood, etc.). Even wastewater is brought back on land.

We go even further down and visit the main floor.

The drive shaft is directly connected to the propeller, without any clutch. It turns at a maximum of 100 revolutions per minute

For more details on the "CM CGM Matisse" please click here .

Monday, October 10, 2005 - back to top

Pacific, west of Galapagos (N 0, W 102)

Even though we have almost reached the equator the weather is cloudy. Only in the afternoon the sun appears.
The temperature stays rather cold (22° C).

Today is THE day: the crossing of the equator!

Ruedi and Roger are very busy programming their GPS so they don't miss the important event.

Proudly they show their course to the captain, 30 minutes to the equator.
No, 10 minutes .... says the captain.
The course of the "CMA CGM Matisse" had been altered. Cheating!!!!

Quickly all is changed and they are set again.

Everybody is now waiting for the big moment.
Will we feel something once we cross the equator ....?

No, of course not.
So all equipment is ready to catch the second when the GPS goes to 00.

Yeah! We made it!

Equator, crossing-the-line ceremony - back to top

Not for long Ruedi and Roger can enjoy the feeling of having crossed the equator.

The police arrives to arrest them because they crossed the equator line the first time without asking permission from Neptune first!
Together with Alex (the kitchen-aide) and Tanguey (the cadet) they are arrested and taken away.

Quickly a solicitor (one of the officers) is taken to defend the accused.

Neptune (one of the mechanics) and his wife Amphritite (Susi) are already waiting in the bow.

Some of the crew have also dressed up.

The whole crew including the captain is present to watch the trial.
Just one unlucky sailor is manning the bridge, but they all have their handhelds with them should a problem arise.

Marian arrives as last one with the required "equipment": Cocoa grease, eggs, chocolate cream, flower ...

The solicitor and the executioner discuss the case ...

The accused have the last word .... but all is in vain.
Nobody is really interested in their speech, they all want to see punishment.

The executioner starts his dirty job.
Tanguey is his favourite "object" and gets it first.

Then the rest also get "treated" with Cocoa grease.

The executioner gets his next tool: the electric clippers

You are not going to cut my hair?
I sure am ...

Poor Tanguey! Deep wholes are cut into his long hair.

Then it is Alex's turn to get wholes cut into his hair.

The rest of the crew watches and gets a good laugh.

Then the wind has mercy with the accused and blows the carton with the eggs away.
Quickly what ever can be rescued is rescued and smeared on the accused's heads.
Ruedi gets an egg shell into his glasses that mercifully is removed by a sailor.

But even after such a treatment the accused still stand proudly .....

Not for long .....

The executioner pores chocolate cream over Amphritite's and Neptune's feet .... the accused will have to kiss the feet!

Tanguey is first in line.
Bravely he gets it done and over.

When it is Ruedi's turn Amphritite gives him a "special treatment" and smears the brown stuff around his face and neck.
Much to the crews amusement in return Ruedi smears the stuff back onto Amphritite's legs (being her "civilian" husband he is allowed to do this!).

Roger is careful and holds on to Amphritite's leg before he bends down to kiss it.

After this the chocolate cream is pored over the accused ...

.. and the whole thing done and dusted with flower!

The accused are released.

What a mess!

The crew assists with towels and water.

As last step of the baptism they all have to jump into the pool .... including chocolate cream, grease, eggs .....

Later in the afternoon Tanguey comes for a hair-cut ....

In the evening a barbecue is held in the stern of the ship.

Neptune and Amphritite, the executioner and the solicitor all join incognito.

The punch is good and goes down well.

Marian (the maître d'hôtel) and Xavier (the cook) set up the buffet.
The selection includes fish, beef, lam, jacked potatoes, vegetables, various salads and apple pie for dessert.

The crew is instructed on how to create their skewers.

Soon the party is in full swing and one can see the phantastic atmosphere on board.

We can hear the last ones "go home" at 2 am ......

Tuesday, October 11, 2005 - back to top

Pacific (S 3, W 110)

Today it is very calm day, almost no waves, but is is still not much warmer, only 21° C.

During the night the clocks are changed to GMT -7.
We have another busy day working on our pictures and Susi is happy that there is no rolling or pitching.

The captain proposes tomorrow for the Apero that we passengers want to offer to celebrate the crossing of the Panama Channel and also now the crossing of the equator.
So we discuss the "menu" and also place the order of the required alcohol with Marian, as he is the keeper of the cellar.

A glorious sunset closes a peaceful day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - back to top

Pacific (S 6, W 117)

Today the sky is cloudless and the temperature starts to rise to 23 - 26° C.

The waves have small white caps.

The weather is perfect to enjoy the sunshine in the bow of the ship ...

.... or relax a bit.

At sunset the machine of the "CMA CGM Matisse" has breakdown and the alarms call most of the crew.
On short notice the apero is cancelled and postponed to tomorrow.

Thursday, October 13, 2005 - back to top

Pacific (S 8, W 124)

During the night the clocks are changed to GMT -8.

As the temperature over night have not dropped too much at 2 am we go to the bridge to watch the stars.
Many shooting star can be seen and we even manage to identify Orion and some other stars.
After finding out how to use a star-map we are proud of our first try with the firmament.

We wake up to a sunny and warm day with 26 - 25° C.

Even though the waves increase and the ship starts rolling today Bosco, one of the sailors, decides to fix the gangway.

For that he needs to work "outside" of the ship.
He wears a harness but we still hope that he does not slip and fall down.

The crew starts painting the ship, a never ending tasks.

At lunch we get spoiled by Xavier, the cook.

In the afternoon we try to take pictures of the waves but this proves to be a very difficult task.

There are different ways of taking pictures of waves ...

As the night closes in a beautiful sunset closed another peaceful day on the open ocean.

Tonight the apero can be held.
Xavier produces excellent finger-food and we ruin our appetite.

We appoint Roger to hold the speech and thank the captain and crew for being such a lovely team and make us feel so at home on the "CMA CGM Matisse".
We promise the crew that we will provide them with CDs with the pictures taken by us during the trip.

Thanks again to all of you!
The trip was made so special by you, your friendliness and also the time you were willing to spend with us.

Over night we have some heavy rolling but are so used to it by now that we sleep like babies.

Friday, October 14, 2005 - back to top

Pacific, east south-east of the Marquesas (S 11, W 132)

Today we have some very comfortable 27 - 28° C and it is sunny.
The waves are strong during the whole day and we see some rolling of 11 - 12 degrees.

Today we can visit the bow of the ship with Adrian, one of the officers.
They have to fix a pump that don't work properly.

As we wait outside one of the sailors walks past with a bucket.
We learn that during the passage of the channels (Panama, Suez, etc.) they have a room for the local crew.
As the room does not have a toilette the locals are asked to pee into the bucket and not into corners on the ship.

The crew starts their work and we have ample time to inspect the inside of the bowl and ask questions.

Of course many photos are taken and we have lots to laugh .....

We can even go down to the bow-thruster room and have a close look at that.

As usual we have our daily excursions to the stern and bow to watch the waves and flying fishes.

Any words required for such a sunset? Not really ....
Amazing that the sunsets can be so peacefully and during the night the rolling is so strong that one is almost rolled out of bed.

Saturday, October 15, 2005 - back to top

Pacific, south of the Marquesas (S 14, W 140)

During the night the clocks are changed to GMT -9.

In the morning we still have strong waves but is it sunny again and the temperature is at 25 - 26° C.

We are getting closer to Tahiti and pass the Marquesas.
The captain informs that we can not enter into the Papeete harbour because no berths are free.
We will have to fish in front of Moorea for 1 day.

The night-shift detects that we have the "Spring Tiger" ahead of us, sailing with some 17 knots.
The night-shift has seen the speed of the "Spring Tiger" increase to 18 knots as they don't want to be passed by the "CMA CGM Matisse".
Now it is up to the captain to decide if he wants to start the race and also increase the speed of the ship.

He decides to do so and the race begins. We increase our speed to appr. 20 knots
At noon we pass the "Spring Tiger" and see them reducing their speed back to 17 knots.

At 3:20 PM suddenly power is interrupted and the engine falls silent.
The "CMA CGM Matisse" turns into the wind in no time.
We all go up to the bridge to find out what is wrong.

The captain is not too excited. One of the power generators has failed.
The electrician needs to get the spare one ready for service.
We wait on the bridge and see the "Spring Tiger" appearing again on the horizon .....

After a short break the spare generator springs into life.
Quickly all is changed over to it and the engine restarted.
Soon the ship is back on course and the "Spring Tiger" disappears again on the horizon.

The sun sets beautifully behind some clouds.

Sunday, October 16, 2005 - back to top

Pacific, east of Tahiti (S 16, W 147)

The day is sunny and only small waves gently roll the boat.
The temperature has reached 27° C already early in the morning.

Today we reach the first islands of Tahiti.

They can be spotted as fine lines on the horizon. With binoculars some palms and houses can be recognised.
Roger explains the specialty of each island we pass.

The captain informs that even though the "CMA CGM Matisse" has passed the "Spring Tiger" we still have to wait for 1 1/2 days in Tahiti to be able to enter into the harbour of Papeete.
Reason is a leaking ship which blocks one dock. It leakes oil and must be repaired first.
As we would have to pay fees if we anchor, the captain decides to let the ship drift in front of Moorea, go fishing and only sail to Papeete the next day.

On the way to Moorea the lifeboats motors are tested.

As we sail through the the islands Alex explains to us that in Tahiti a special phenomena can be seen:

Because of the clean water the speed reported by the sonar does not match the one on the radar.

Xavier has prepared a dessert surprise for Roger as today is his last full day on board.
The ice cream cake is flambé in our dining room.

For the last time Ruedi and Roger compare their GPS positions.

As the sun sets Adrian checks the position manually and then compares the findings with the electronic gear.
Apparently it is best to do it just as the sun disappears over the horizon as the sun then "sends" a green ray of light.
They get the position manually every 2 - 3 days and calibrate the electronic navigation equipment if required.

After midnight the "CAM CGM Matisse" arrives between the two islands.
The crew puts down the bait for the sharks.
Hopefully in dusk when the sharks feed there will be a catch.

Monday, October 17, 2005 - back to top


Over night the clocks are moved back by 1 hour to GTM -10.

Early in the morning we check for shark, but no luck so far.

A few clouds are still around but the temperature is already at 28° C.

The sun raises beautifully behind Moorea.

Even though the sun shines the whole days some clouds remain over Moorea.
The island is tropical and the humidity from the rain forest collects again as clouds.

We find out that friends of ours, Esther and Petr, that have been travelling in North- and South america for the last 3 1/2 years, are in Moorea these days too.
But as we are on Tahiti we decide to meet later on in Auckland, where they also will be at the same time as we are.

Some more painting has to be done.

As the vessel runs on crude oil after such along journey all is covered with a layer of soot and needs to be cleaned.

The "CAM CGM Matisse" is now drifting between Moorea and Tahiti.
The vessel needs to be repositioned a few time during the day.

At lunch time a 1,5 m long shark takes the bait.
We all run to the stern to watch but the shark frees himself again and no other one takes the bait anymore.
We wonder if the one that freed himself warned the other ones ...?

After 6 pm we start sailing into Papeete.
The sunset behind Moorea is spectacular. Note: Moorea is thie only island behind which the sun rises in the morning and falls in the evening :-))

We have a last Apero with Roger. We "loose" a good friend, most likely for ever and we will miss him a lot.
After 32 days on board he will leave the "CMA CGM Matisse" tonight.

The berth in Papeete is in the middle of the town.
We grab our PCs and walk to the business district to upload new pictures and stories to our webpage..
We try several internet coffees but the speed is so lousy and the prices such a rip-off that we give up.
Even we worked like crazy for the last few days, the update of the web page will have to wait until Auckland.

As we return to the harbour we find out why we had to wait so long outside the port.
The freighter just behind us has a leak in his side and is loosing oil.
They have been trying to fix it for the last 3 days.
As there are only space for 2 vessels at the same time there is not much they can do but have the ships wait.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - back to top


There are still some small clouds left in the morning but the temperature is already at 28° C and will raise even more.

The harbour of Papeete is not very large.

The navy is located just around the corner of the container berth.

The depth under the kiel is only 2,2 meter ..... not very deep.
Lucky that full containers will be unloaded and empty ones loaded.

A ferry trip from Papeete to Moorea takes aprox. 40 minutes.
Many people commute daily.

In Papeete the local cranes will be used for unloading as well as one local one.

All unloading and loading is again done by a local crew.

In Tahiti all is done a bit slower and with many more people as in other places.
We count and find that instead of 1 person unloading 1 container in 1 minute and 15 seconds (like in Hamburg) in Papeete it takes up to 8 people and up to 9 minutes.
The jobs are much more dangerous as elsewhere and due to the way they work they also generate much more damage to the material.
The saleries will also be different to Europe of course. It's not really fair to directly compare this two different worlds. Still, its amusing to look at how they do it here.

As each person has a only one particular job assigned, there is plenty of time for breaks .....

Some are supervisors ...

... some handle containers ....

... some give instructions ....

... some wait for instructions ....

... some wait until the next container is ready to be loaded ....

... some just wait .....

Click here to view the movie.

At 9 AM Roger shows up right beside the "CMA CGM Matisse" with a car. He rented a car for today to be able to show us "his" Island Papeete.
We wonder how he managed to get into the protected area of the harbour but he just says that you need to talk to people ....

First stop is the city square where we have an excellent view of the "CMA CGM Matisse".

Next one is point Hotuarea, just beside the airport (no, the runway is not that crooked, the panorama is not ok ...)

Here they don't seem to mind living just beside the runway ... well, there are not too many planes arriving in Papeete either!

In Tahiti the local busses used to be called "truck". Today they also have new busses but people still like the "truck" better.

Fresh coconut milk is sold on the side of the road.

Roger takes us to a "Marae", a place where in the olden days human sacrifices were given to the gods.

The plants and fruits growing on Tahiti are all tropical.

Mainly mangoes and coconuts are grown locally.
Some Chinese have started some farms but still most of the fruits and vegetable are imported form overseas.

In Tahiti some moss can be seen growing on fences. This is the fence in Roger's garden.

This is the view from Roger's kitchen .....

Roger shows us some beautiful lagoons and somehow we understand why he likes it so much here.

As he walks into the water one can tell that he has come home ... and we realise that we loose a dear friend .....

Amazing how one can get used to having somebody's company in such a short time.

Roger takes us all around the island and we see the different "faces" of Tahiti.

At the end he presents us the view from the hill towards Papeete.
It is a very beautiful island but it will have big problems once the French stop paying .....

Roger comes on board for the last time and as usual he clowns around.

He gets a bit upset because he has to write down his name in the list of the "non-crew" people on board.
But the rules have to be followed, even for the 5 minutes he stays.

The new passenger has already boarded.
She is the local agent from Tahiti and will sail with us until Auckland.

There is still lots of activity and loading ongoing. The captain allows for another hour of extra loading.
This gives us time to watch what is happening in the harbour.

There is a yacht that used to be a army vessel.
The yacht belongs to a rich American News tycoon.
It has its own sailing boat on board and also a helicopter.
Price is just about 12 mio US ... some have it some don't ..... but neverless we are happy ....

The ship behind us still has not been fixed.

At 17:45 the captain stops the loading even though there are still some empty containers waiting.

The crew prepares for sailing and the pilot comes on board.

As we leave the berth the "Spring Tiger" comes in to take our space.

Once more the sunset is just spectacular.

We have to wait because a plane is approaching Papeete airport and crosses our exit of the harbour.

Finally our way is free and we can sail.

We leave in direction of New Zealand.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005 - back to top

Pacific, (S 23, W 157)

We wake up to a sunny morning but only 25° C. Later on it even rains a bit and the temperature drops a bit more.

The crew cleans up the lashings that have not been used by the Tahitian crew.
As a storm is approaching all has to be put away.

"Neptune" shows up to additionally fix on the TV.
They don't want to run any risk with the storms they expect until Perth.

Thursday, October 20, 2005 - back to top

Pacific (S 27, W 164)

Over night again the time is moved back to by 1 hour to GTM -11.

The morning is still sunny and the temperature is 25° C.
We take the advantage of a last washing day before the announced storms hit us.

But after a few rainy patches the a beautiful sunset is what we see, no storm, no waves, just a calm see.


Friday, October 21, 2005 - back to top

Pacific (S 31 W 172)

The morning is sunny, small waves, but the temperature has dropped to 20° C.

The crew is busy doing some repairs. Also another painting session is due.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

This day did "not happen" due to the crossing of the date line.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 - back to top

Pacific, (S 27, W 164)

Over night the swell has increased to 3 meters and the waves to 2,5 - 4 meters.
The vessel pitches and also rolls which makes sleeping a bit uncomfortable.
But the waves get lower in the afternoon and a siesta fixes that small problem.

Even though the sun is shining the temperature is only 15° C.

At aprox. 15:30 we cross the date line at S 34 O 180.

Before dinner Tanguey, the cadet, celebrates his 22nd birthday with an Apero.
The punch is served again but this time instead of 1 : 2 Rum : juice it is served 1 : 1.
Nice but very dangerous ....

Thanks to the waves having become smaller the Ping Pong Finale is carried out.
It is won by Marian, the maître d'hôtel. The two finalists played the game on a amazingly high quality.


Monday, October 24, 2005 - back to top

Auckland - back to top

We arrive in Auckland on a sunny but cold morning (only 11° C).

A long sound has to be sailed before one arrives at the berth.

A lot of small fishing boats cross our way as the "CMA CGM Matisse" makes its way into the harbour.
Even though is is already 7 AM there is almost no traffic to be seen on the bridges and roads.
We later on find out that it is Thanksgiving .....

The container harbour is just beside the4 central business district, some 20 minutes walking distance.

Due to the public holiday not much is happening in the harbour and we can wander around freely.

Once again we grab our PCs and make way into town to find an Internet coffee.
This time we are lucky and find a very fast connection.
All is uploaded and updated and we are ready to explore the city.

Auckland is a nice little city with interesting houses and cars ...

We decide to go to the Observation Tower.
For the ones that want to there is the possibility to jump off the tower, down to a marked platform.
As we are watching a man appears outside of the observation floor, hanging on just on two ropes.
He is stopped for a few seconds and one can see that he is not really feeling too comfortable.
Then he is released and "falls" down.
Not really something for our nerves we decide.

The "CMA CGM Matisse" viewed form the tower ....

Views from the tower ....

The roofs underneath the tower are also quite interesting to be looked at.

The glass floor is not to Susi's liking, but Ruedi finds it quiet interesting.

We finally meet with our friends Esther and Petr ( and enjoy a delicious dinner at "Cin Cin".
We have lots to talk about and also plans to discuss as we aim to travel together for a while in Australia.

Even though we are used to good cuisine from Xavier, our cook, we appreciate the fine food and service here.

Later that evening it is time to leave Auckland in direction of Numea in New Caledonia.





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Last updated: Thursday, 07.02.2019 11:40 AM

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