by Rich Wilson, Skipper Great American III

Looking at our chart explains the parade of ships that I saw last night
by their lights, and heard the night before on our radar alarm. The Vendée Globe fleet intersected, and then joined, the sea route from the northwest corner of France (the entrance to the English Channel) to the northwest corner of Spain.

This sea route connects ports in northern Europe with ports in the Mediterranean Sea (via the Straits of Gibraltar), Africa, and South America. The sea’s commerce is the unseen commerce of the world. A large containership may hold 3,000 containers, each container the size of a tractor-trailer on a land highway. A modern tanker may hold 250,000 tons of oil. Smaller, older, general cargo ships are out here too, carrying a wide variety of goods and resources.

I spoke to the SEAROSE G, an 80,000-ton-capacity OBO (oil/bulk/ore) ship, in ballast (no cargo), with 26 Philippinos in her crew. She crossed my stern, bound from Gijón, Spain to Gibraltar for bunkers (fuel) then on to Turkey for dry dock for a month. She appeared on our radar detector first, then on AIS (automatic identification system), then visually.

The Captain was pleasant and I informed him that there were 20 sailboats in his path. I can only imagine the amazing places and peoples that he and his crew have seen in their lives. These tankers and cargo ships connect the nations of the world.