Day 14 Monday 29 December 2014

We spend the day steadily heading along the river towards Vietnam.  During the day we cross the border and our passports (which were collected at the start of our journey in Siem Reap) have to be put through passport control.

One of our number (the aforementioned Brazilian) has apparently suffered a leak in her Manhattan apartment which has been discovered and requires urgent attention so she disembarks in Pnhom Penh before we sail and heads for the airport and a local flight to Saigon and then back to NY.  Some of us suspect there may be more to this than meets the eye as she gives my wife a “Ciao” as she departs hardly having spoken to her since we boarded.

My day is however improved by a trip around the lower deck containing key matters to making it a successful journey and also to the bridge – so there are photos over at Flickr.

This is the newest cruiser in the fleet having been delivered on 31 December 2013 and entering service on 6 January 2014 so it has improvements over the earlier vessels.  In particular the crew now have small shared cabins under the kitchen (so on level 1 – the same as our cabin) and do not sleep in the level 0 under our cabin.  They have external access to fresh air which must be far more preferable to the original arrangements.

Food stocks are largely refreshed at the southern end of the journey as the boat is Vietnamese owned (and laoding at the north end difficult as it does not reach Siem Reap at the momen) but fresh vegetables are bought at most stops and some fish I think.

Being a floating hotel the water supplies are important.  Cooking itself uses bottled water.  Water supply for the cabins is taken from the river and double cleaned by various methods before use.  A partial supply is then treated a third time before being used for cleaning of kitchen surfaces and so on.  The waste water is collected and the solid waste is pumped out at the southern end of the journey, whilst the liquid waste is treated and is returned to the river cleaner than the water brought on board.  Hot water for the cabins is achieved by using power from solar panels.

There are two large diesels running when we are under way and there are also two power generators but only one is used at a time but both are used regularly.  Fuel consumption rates are not small either.

Moving to the bridge the controls are fairly simple.  There are only two screw propellors – no side propellors – and sideways movement or turning the boat is achieved by using them in different directions.  Our speed is faster downstream at about 17 km/h – this reduces to about 12 when against the current, so time spent navigating is therefore greater when travelling in the other direction.

There is a wheel but most of the activity is controlled by a small joystick being pushed either left or right as this gives a finer degree of control.  The crewmember responsible largely navigates by sight in the daytime but there are radar scanners and other equipment to hand – although it all seems remarkable bare in the bridge.

There are three staff on duty normally – an engineer in the bay next to the engines (he ought to wear ear protectors as he will end up deaf!) and two on the bridge.  Actual shift lengths vary slightly as it depends on the length of each period of navigation but are typically not more than 3 hours at a time.

Crew wages are considered good for Vietnam – but the vessel only operates for part of the year.  However there is turn around at both ends and so the ship is effectively in non-stop operation during the summer.  It seems however that a lot of the team (particularly in the kitchen) are return members from last year as they are given the first choice for the next season.

The front of the boat also seems to have a small herb garden – just like a Vietnamese house.

We carry on sailing.