Note: This blog also contains some articles about my obsession: airlines. Enjoy!
Truly, one of the most happiest event in the life of a seaman is finishing his contract and to go home. After months of hard, thrilling and exhausting work onboard their vessels, it is the point where seamen can really enjoy the “freedom” as they say. Finishing your days onboard without hard or sickness is a very wonderful and great blessing, not only for themselves but also of their family, loved ones and friends.
This year, I signed off from my vessel after six hard, emotional and roller coaster like adventure months. My contract was very stressful- not only in terms of work but many things happened to me while I was onboard MV Oceanus Leader. I admit, I felt like I haven’t given my all in my work because of these things and my mind was about to explode. To aid those things happened, I requested for an extension of contract on my fourth month. Unfortunately, my request was turned down due to some reasons.
After our last port for Voyage 034 in Richmond, CA USA, we were instructed to go back to Gamagori, Japan. The next day after our departure, we received a tip-off that my name was included in the list of offsigners on our arrival in Japan. At first I was really devastated due to the fact that I want to stay more onboard for many reason like studying more for promotion. But after some weighing in of things, I finally decided to go home.
We received the on/offsigner details just about three days after our departure. We were kinda shocked because a month before, we sent a letter of extension to extend our stay onboard for two to three months. Sadly, our requests were denied because we have replacements as early as three months ago.
As soon as we have already got our names on the crew replacement details, the next step is the preparations. These are very important for an offsigner because the smooth operation of the vessel must not stop whenever he or she disembarks and his good works must be continued and be passed on to the next crew.
Aside from preparing turn-over noted and some documents, the very important thing to prepare is the baggage. Unlike onsigning, going home makes a smaller space in the baggages due to some uniforms are no longer needed to be packed, and thus more “pasalubongs” can be placed inside. In some instances, “kartonite” or boxes are used to fill up their pasalubongs like chocolates, clothes, shoes, even appliances!
Another thing to prepare also is the cabin. Of course, cabins must be clean and presentable to the onsigners. Thorough cleaning, washpainting and fixture of some damages must be done at least before going home.
But before we go home, can we ahve a despedida party? Hahaha!
During the despedida party. Kinain na rin kami ng sistema.
Flight details usually arrives onboard three to five days before offsigning. Sometimes, it comes hours or even moments before we go off the ship. This is to ensure that the flight is somewhat close to the date of the port of call and the scheduled arrival at port. Sometimes, it comes in “batches” if a huge amount of crew will go off.
The company will send the details to the crew via ship’s e-mail, reflecting flight number, airline, airport and baggage allowance. This is so important so that the crew can adjust the total weight of their baggages.
After approving, the office will then send the flight tickets onboard. Take note that this is not yet final in some cases due to some unforeseen circumstances, but nevertheless the most important is that we can go home.
For this batch, the 2/Off (me), Chief Cook and 2nd Engineer were the scheduled to go home. Unfortunately, Messman was repatriated hours after arriving at the port of disembarkation because of medical reasons.
On 10 August we received our tickets and finally, we’re off to go!
Last Port For The Contract
On the 16th, at 0820H, we arrived at Kawasaki, Japan after a short voyage from Gamagori, Japan. As soon as we arrived, the onsigners or the ones replacing us also arrived onboard. We were notofoed because we have only 3 hours to have turn over, briefings and preparations. The agent will pick us up at 1300H so we have to move fast.
Unfortunately, my reliever has no prior experience in Furuno type ECDIS so I have to orient him very quick on its operation. Aside from that, I have to teach him how to set the ramps of the vessel safely in the port, and show to him the medicines and medical eqipment inside the hospital. At 1205H, our turnover was finished.
After that crazy turnover, I have to make a quick shower, wear my “pang flight” na clothes and say goodby to my crewmates. This is it!!
To The Airport We Go
At exactly 1310H, we left our ship and traveled to Narita International Airport. But first, we have to stop over in the Customs and Immigrationsso that we can have an exit clearance.
At the Customs Office in Kawasaki Port, we were offloaded with our baggages for a quick inspection. This is to ensure that we do not have any drugs, prohibited items such as bullets or firearms and excess money on hand. Next stop is the immigrations office in Yokohama to have a formal exit clearance from the vessel. After clearing, we are now officially “offsigned” and ready to exit Japan.
Travel time from Yokohama to Narita Airport takes about 2 hours by land so we got to rest for awhile and chill after a very tiring day, Whew.
Narita International Airport
We arrived at the airport at 1600H, about 2 hrs before boarding Japan Airlines JL 745. Upon arival, we checked-in immediatelyto avoid inconvenience because a huge number of Japanese students going to Australia also checked in at counter F (where we are also queuing). After checking in our baggages, I had to exchange my Mexican peso in the money exchange because I can’t exchange it in Manila.
Dunno why I’m staring at Mayor. Oh yah. He forgot where his shore pass was.
After clearing airport immigrations, we went to the boarding gate, only to find out that the remaining time is still ample, so we decided to eat ramen first. For JpY3,600, the miso ramen served near Gate 68 is sumptuous and affordable. It has juicy meat, the noodles are firm and thick, and its broth is heaven. 10-10.
Miso Ramen. Yum!
Japan Airlines JL 745, a Boeing 767-600.
Fifteen minutes before boarding, the abnnouncement for JL 745 was broadcasted so we ran back to the gate, queued and boarded the Boeing 767. At 1817H, the plane took off and flew 38,000 ft for 4 hours to Manila, Philippines (RPLL/ MNL).
First Time With Japan Airlines
The flight was very smooth and quiet, although takeoff was a bit bumpy. That time, a typhoon hit Japan and the center of it crossed Tokyo area, so a bad weather hampered the flight a bit. It was my first time to fly with Japan Airlines, and a Boeing 767 because for the past years, our company books us with Philippine Airlines, so I am kinda excited with it.
Moments after, my most favorite part of the flight arrived- meals! Since Japan Airlines is one of the most sought-after airlines in the world, I expected that the meals are delicious and well- prepared. We were first given hot towels, and then served in the economy class a true Japanese meal- which is also my favorite- Chicken Oyakodon, with salads, mashed potatoes, fruits, Japan Airline’s signature Kiwi Juice and hot coffee. Truly it was a very good meal. 15.5248/10
Selection of movies, TV shows and games in their seat screens are also wide, so I can rate it 9/10.
We, seamen has a common proverb, “You cannot say you are truly repatriated until you stepped in NAIA”. Funny it seems, but it’s true. 25 minutes past 2100H, we touched down at NAIA. While the plane is taxiing to the gate, I quietly reflected and prayed to God for the six crazy but fun months onboard MV Oceanus Leader. Although I was never given an opportunity to act a rank higher, I know God has plans for me in the future, and will give karma to those scumbags onboard (hihihi). It has been a truly memorable experience on my 7th vessel in my life.
After clearing immigrations, picking up bags and saying goodbye to my co-offsigners, my younger brother, Lawrence and his wife, Jessica fetched me. This is also memorable because for the first time after 3 years, my brother and I will see each other again. The last time I saw him was way back 2014 when he also left to work onboard. Another thing, my parents never knew I came home. So after we arrived at our home, we quietly sneaked inside their room and woke them up. To their surprise, they just said, “Bakit andito ka?” (“Why are you here?”)
Truly, I am home.
Let the wandering begin!