Boarding the Cap Cleveland

Since Monday was a holiday, we called our Philadelphia boat contact on Friday from DC. Was the Cap Cleveland still leaving on September 7th? Yes, he said, the boat was slated to arrive that morning and would depart that night. He said we should show up at 6pm, but of course call Tuesday morning to confirm.

So we enjoyed a lovely Labor Day weekend with my cousin Chris, his wife Fran, and their two children Emma and Luke in New Jersey (they live across the river from Philly). I met Emma just a few weeks after she was born, shortly before I moved to California (five years ago). Here I was once again intersecting with them at another major juncture in my life. It’s funny how that happens.

Emma and Justin on laptops
Emma and Justin on laptops

Tuesday morning I called to confirm the boat details, and spoke with someone who said we should show up “at lunch” instead. Ohhhk. Change of plans, but it actually worked out pretty well. I was able to get a much needed haircut at a local barber, then we packed our bags, sent Emma off to her afternoon preschool, and Fran drove us over to the Philadelphia marine terminal. Here’s a neat satellite image of the area with what might have been the Cap Cleveland being loaded with containers.

Possible satellite image of the Cap Cleveland being loaded with containers in Philadelphia
Satellite image of the Port of Philadelphia

We got to the gate a little before 1pm. Fran couldn’t take us any further, so we unloaded our things right there while the gate agent tried to figure out who we were and whether or not to let us through. There were big signs that read “No Photography at this Facility” so I didn’t take any photos (besides a clandestine one of the Cap Cleveland below). A US Customs and Border Patrol agent drove up and asked us a few questions, and then chatted with the gate agent. I’m not sure if he just happened to be driving by, or if he was dispatched specifically for us.

Cap Cleveland behind containers at the marine terminal in Philadelphia
Cap Cleveland behind containers

Eventually a white school bus arrived and the gate agent said we were fine to pass through. We loaded our things onto the bus, and it headed for the boat. Speaking of “our things”, they’ve ballooned a bit since Austin. We left there with our two backpacks, plus two small bags full of books and one larger bag full of crocheting supplies (all three intended for the boat). Since arriving in New Jersey, we’ve added three boxes of food (one beer, one wine, and one goodies from Trader Joe’s), as well as a few more books and… a rented BGAN satellite “cable modem”. So if you’re reading this on Tuesday, then it works! Sadly I couldn’t get it working on the boat, and foolishly hadn’t made the time to test it on land—like the instructions said! Hopefully I can get it configured correctly when we stop in Savannah on Friday.

The bus dropped us off right at the edge of the port. The Cap Cleveland was too big to fully appreciate. All I could really comprehend was a red wall (the side of the boat) with a staircase leading up and to the right. We unloaded our stuff from the bus, and started bringing it up. Some of the crew members grabbed our boxes so we didn’t have to make multiple trips. We showed our “ticket” and passports to a man at the top of the staircase. He filled out some information in a log book, and we continued up more stairs where we ran into the captain and the 3rd officer. They introduced themselves as Alex and Jeoffrey, and then passed us off to the steward, Cyrille, who took us into the boat and up to our room on the D-deck (the 6th floor from the main deck).