Bilbao - ZeebruggeDAY 1

- by Filip and Joke

- Monday, July 24, 2023, Bilbao

At 8 p.m. on Monday evening, July 24, 2023, the mooring ropes of MV Finneco II are cast loose in the outer harbor of Bilbao. We leave well before the scheduled hour. The 230 m long Finnish roro ship with 5.9 km of cargo space and 7 decks left the port under its own power but was escorted by a sea tug just in case... The 71 hours and 3 nights return trip to Zeebrugge began. At 6 p.m. we were driven by car ahead to the main hold by the staff of the ship's agency Toro y Betolaza. We were wary of the embarkation protocol because on the outward journey they had made our family, 2 other passengers and 3 truckers with their special cargo wait 3 hours when clearing customs and for no apparent reason. Joris then saved us from waiting even longer. But this time everything went as it should.

With a final "eskerrit asko" (Basque for thank you) and "agur" (goodbye) we said goodbye to the TB staff.

We send Joris a message that we are well off and he promptly confirms. At sea, there is a seaway of 2.5 m, winds blowing from NW at 5 Beaufort, and fierce outside regularly. A somewhat unusual rainbow colors the sky. After an hour, the harbor and the numerous anchored ships are a faint line on the horizon. The contours of the green and mountainous Basque and Cantabrian landscape are barely discernible due to the limited visibility. Over the past two weeks, we have explored the coast and hiked quite a bit, including in the unique Picos de Europa from the mountain village of Sotres.

We are assigned two separate staterooms (there are no double staterooms). Each cabin is simply but practically furnished with a berth, desk and comfortable chair, storage space, a refrigerator, reading lamp, TV screen (including two Chinese channels - a legacy of the Chinese shipyard?), 220 V connection, intercom and separate bathroom. Wifi is not there and neither is cell phone reception. We bring an extra camping chair for on deck (for lack of seating) and some extra goodies. All staterooms are on the same corridor above the central cargo deck. The wide arch creates the necessary vibrations during navigation and that due to the pounding engines and longer-than-usual drive shaft; fortunately, the disturbing noise is not as bad as on the outward journey.

In the mess around the corner there is a simple cold dish ready which we are expected to eat as soon as possible. The early European hour is understandable as the ship runs on the Finnish time zone. Is a bit unfortunate so early in the evening because that afternoon we ate a delicious lunch in the brasserie of the Guggenheim Museum late as is Spanish custom. By the way, eating in Bilbao is an experience in itself. The night before, we ate pintxos (small bites of all kinds of local preparations on a slice of baguette).


Meanwhile, we had been scanning the horizon for interesting marine life. After an hour, we spotted a solitary gray shearwater hovering elegantly above the waves, living proof that we were sailing on the high seas. One reason for making this trip is that the Finneco II sails right through the Bay of Biscay, which is precisely one of the best places in Europe to see marine mammals. On the outward journey we saw a group of common dolphins swimming on, a minke whale surfaced several times and afterwards we saw two more unidentified whales. Not bad. It does suppose a lot of peering at the sea and for that I was assigned a seat in the shelter of the smokestack, one floor up from the passenger cabin. Tonight the sea is a little too choppy for reliable observers.

Meanwhile, night has fallen, and we retire to read, catch up and write this report. By 11 p.m. (on the ship 24 hours Finnish time) we crawl under a typical Scandinavian comforter and fall asleep on a slightly rolling and pounding ship.


- day 2-4July 27, 2022

subsequent day
man looks through binoculars with view of sea and containers