Sunday, 28 June 2009

Friday Night in Livorno

I am feeling a bit lazy today so let me dispense with some photos and captions from last night.

Evening/Dusk is rapidly becoming my favourite time of day. My temporary work day has finished. The temperature cools down and the bicycle beckons...

First off let us spy upon the garden below the apartment which has offered to home me when ever I need.



Beautiful.

I wander contented across to the street window and take another photo.




A bar devoted to Champagne. Quite nice Champagne if I remember correctly. It is probably fair to blame the Champagne for my lethargy today.



A quite apt piece of art to look at whilst sipping on Champagne.



One of Livorno's many canals on the way to Marcos bar.



Arrived at the bar safely. It is time for a toilette stop. What an interesting wall.





And the band played on









Time to head home. Temporary home sweet temporary home.



Friday, 26 June 2009

One Night in Napoli

This is a tale of decadent food, a road trip and an interesting Chef with a possibly undiagnosed mental illness.

We had survived a momentous journey to Pozzuoli, Napoli. Our friend had escorted us to our temporary home and place of work for the next couple of days. We were deservedly hungry and looked forward to the yacht Chef whipping something up as they like to do.

The Chef in question was from Argentina. I have not had many dealings with Argentineans in my life. Diego Maradonna I respected and then felt sorry for from afar and that is about it. This Chef we shall start calling Havenofear which is a cunningly disguised pun which both masks and pokes fun at his real name. He does deserve being poked fun at just wait and read.

The Chef was full of bravado and himself. He proudly told us that he was the Argentinean Gordon Ramsay. Interesting fact. Gordon Ramsay did try Super Yacht cheffing. He could not handle having a Captain in charge of him.

Havenofear turned up to the boat late. He had had a hair cut and some savage from Napoli had attacked his mono brow. He could not be bothered cooking but had a friend that would pick us up and take us to a fabulous sea food restaurant Napoli styles.

His friend arrived and six of us crammed into a VW polo and headed for restaurant. It was during the car trip I learned that Argentinean's speak fluent Spanish and Italian. The stewardess from the boat was Argentinean as well so the two Kiwis and the Aussie in the back started talking about rugby or beer or something we have in common.

Being proud of my built in compass I did start to worry about the potential quality of the sea food restaurant when we were about twenty minutes from the sea. I think I started to worry about the Napoli Mafia restaurant scam that I should have read up about before we got in the car at some point as well.


video

Section of the car ride for your enjoyment. Still having issues rotating movies. Please tilt head 90 degrees. Think of it as a neck stretch.

It was with some glee that we finally spotted a restaurant and it was indeed our nautical cuisine destination. The restaurant was dead. We were the only customers. Its location meant it was unlikely to get much walk in traffic. It was probably good practice to have a family member scouting for customers.

What followed is with out a doubt the finest meal I have ever had the pleasure of eating. It was seven courses long. In true beginner fashion we gorged ourselves on the first dish leaving no room for the subsequent dishes.

If the French think they invented Sex. Italians surely invented food. They will go at great lengths to describe dishes in Italian even when it is painfully clear you do not speak it. Cook books and menus are all written in Italian you see. I am not jesting.

Off the top of my head we ate.

Squid and anchovies Antipasta
Deep fried sea weed
Some crazy spaghetti dish
Some crazy stuffed ravioli
More stuff I can't pronounce or remember
A lot of wine
More stuff I can not pronounce or remember




A more authentic menu

As I mentioned earlier we were bursting after one dish. Our waiter was informed and our dishes slowly started to get smaller. He seemed to have an innate ability to judge our relative hunger and kept the food flowing an an almost manageable rate.

Eventually we hit saturation point and we actually had to skip the meat section of the meal. I perish to think of the 300 kilo Marlin of other sea animal they had ready for us to sup on. It was a relief when the waiter bought us all out some fruit to eat.

No matter how full you are you can always fit in some fruit. It cleanses the palate and we thought we were safe. The waiter then snuck out this devilish Italian cheese cake which of course had to be eaten.

Then it was spirits time. Italians all enjoy spirits after meals, preferably with coffee. The coffee I have learned helps you to get off your chair. The restaurant gave us a bottle of limoncello to take home. Made by Aunty of course.



Havenofear skillyfully tampered with to protect his identity and more importantly our Chef for the night. Bottle of limoncello to the right.

It was a fantastic meal and I am proud to have attended such a great restaurant. Now some of you might think I have given Havenofear a bad rap. He did organise a great meal for us. But you see I am writing this story for our good friend who has to share a cabin with him.

Havenofear has been burning the candle at both ends. He was not pulling his weight and on the day that the charter guests were to arrive his galley was a complete mess. He had not slept all night, had gone to bed and locked the door.

With no way to wake him I did suggest the engineers solution.

Disconnecting the air-conditioning from his room..

Engineers are the most important people on any boat in my opinion. If the boat don't work. No body does.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Magic!

Well into my second week of Super Yacht living I have a couple of magical stories to tell you all about.

Firstly we have a magic fridge on board.

It auto magically refills itself when you are not watching. I have tried in earnest to deplete it so I can at least see the back of it, but try as I might it always seems to refill with beer, water and soft drinks when I am not looking.

We also have a magic laundry. There are two baskets, one is labelled whites and lights and the other is labelled darks and colours. As long as you file your dirty clothes correctly they magically appear on your bed one day later clean and folded.

This magic is playing havoc with my own sense of decorum. I have started to notice how clean things are. I actually caught myself being quite excited at the prospect of washing down the boat ahead of a visit we have on Saturday.

MAGIC!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

My first Ducati

And what a nice ride it is. The shop keepers did pull out a Japanese/Italian phrase book to help me? But getting on the back of my latest toy was relatively painless.



Only the Italians would create a USB modem this size and brand it so. Leave the Hello Kitty modems to the Japanese.

Enjoy the statistics in Italiano.

  • Modem USB 7.2 MEGA GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA
  • HSDPA 2100 MHz - fino a 7,2 Mbps ricezione
  • UMTS 2100 MHz - fino a 384 Kbps
  • Tri-Band EDGE/GPRS (900/1800/1900 MHz) fino a 200 Kbps
  • Dimensioni: 93,5 x 54 x 13 mm
  • Peso: 59 g
  • Software per Windows autoinstallante
  • Supporto driver NDIS
  • Antenna integrata
  • Invio e ricezione SMS (per sistemi Windows)
  • Gestione rubrica SIM (per sistemi Windows)

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Life on a Dry Dock

Having now spent 5 days in an Italian ship yard I believe I am more qualified to speak about the goings on inside one than all of my readers and most of the people that work inside Italian ship yards.

To broadly stereotype the workers of Italian shipyards in three channels my method would be.

Know nothings.

The know nothings know literally nothing but do 99% of all of the work inside Italian ship yards. They do a lot of stupid shit. But it is not completely their fault. They know nothing.

Know it alls.

The know it alls know everything but do nothing.

Swagger all the timers.

The swagger all the timers all look like they have just jumped off a Ducati motorcycle. They have impressive sunglasses and swagger from place to place. They are also masterful cigarette smokers.

Now to excite you with some of the wonderfully eccentric things I have seen in my short time here.

On Monday we took the small journey from the port to the ship yard. We drove our Yacht into a huge dry dock which rises five floors out of the water so the boats hull can be worked on. Impressive stuff. There was one small problem when we arrived on Monday. There was no one here. The place was empty.

Gradually some know nothings turned up. Then a few know it alls turned up to start barking orders at everyone that could hear including each other. A dive boat swaggered up and waited at the aft of our boat and hung out long enough to beg some morning tea from us.

Eventually the divers could get to work and start moving supporting structures under the boat so when the water drained the boat would stand up by itself. When we sat down for lunch we noticed the boat was leaning to one side.

Our Captain spoke to the ship yard. He was told that we had more weight on the port side and that is why the boat was leaning this way. This was noted as being a tenuous conclusion. The boat sits perfectly level on the open sea. Do you see?

The air conditioning and cooling systems on Super Yachts pump sea water in from the ocean and out again to keep everything cool. One of our first missions was to connect a sea water hose to the engine room. This was abandoned on Monday as the hose the ship yard supplied was full of small holes which is unsatisfactory.

I have to say at this point to say the engine rooms of Super Yachts have cleaner stainless steel than most kitchens. Imagine our horror when a know nothing reconnected the hose on Tuesday morning and promptly pumped 250 litres of high pressure salt water all through the engine room.

Everything had to be shut down on the boat whilst the damage was inspected. Let me get to that later. When our Captain rang the ship yard to get some answers he was told the water was residual water from inside the pipe and inertia had created a siphon effect.

Sounding unbelievable?

We also have a large three masted three hulled boat behind us. They have effectively boxed us in. On Tuesday we were told by the ship yard that they require two weeks work and we will have to stay here until this work is completed. This is apparently quite common practice for ship yards.

On Tuesday night I was left on the boat by myself for a few hours. This would have been fine if we had had no power problems earlier in the day. About 30 minutes into me feeling quite chuffed with myself the power went off. Three minutes later a fire alarm went off.

video

Sorry the movie is on its side. I don't have much spare time at the moment. Dramatic affect is still the same :-)

If there is anything that has terrified me in my life it has been being alone on a 20 million dollar boat with a fire alarm going off. Luckily it was a false alarm and the choice dude who has taken me under his wing talked me through correcting the fault.

I will get onto the choice dude in a bit.





That looks like a bit.

The choice dude is the first mate on this boat. His name is Ilyia and he has had a chequered life from what I can make of it.

A representative swimmer he swam for Serbia at the Barcelona Olympics, and then after being drafted into the army for a year he hid out in Greece dodging the war before embarking on an economics degree to work for his family business. He then started a scuba diving company with his brother and was doing underwater demolition work and retrieval before starting work on Super Yachts.

He is a top bloke and has jumped through hoops to show me as much as he can and have a good time as well. He calls me Dany as do the whole boat and such is my respect for him I have grown to like being called Dany in a thick Serbian accent.



Ilyia.

It is thanks to Ilyia that Anna has moved onto the boat and we are able to stay here for a bit until we find those elusive permanent jobs we have been hunting for.

I am going to finish writing now.

I would just like to say thanks to the Italian ship yard for providing me with free wireless internet.

It is quite convenient.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Livorno to Napoli

A few hours south of Roma(Rome) lies the gritty port city of Naples(Napoli). Bordered by Mount Vesuvius on one side and the sea on the other. Napoli feels dangerous and deservedly so.

Our arrival into Napoli was suitably dramatic. We had earlier been congratulating ourselves on our effortless grasp of the Italian public transport network. We knew the pronunciation of where we needed to go and asked for the best method at the information centre. At the ticket booth our trip entered amazing race mode as we waited an incredibly emotion charged length of time to get a ticket. We then ran to a platform to get on the wrong train.

Seeing an undisclosed section of Italy was an unexpected and unwelcome treat. We got to enjoy Italian laughter in several octaves when our fellow passengers discovered our mistake. We were close to breaking point when the return train did not want to let us on board.

Luckily my amazing race partners impassioned pleas and theatrics allowed us to board the train back to Napoli. At the train station we boarded the *correct* train to the port suburb of Pouzouli. I say *correct* because there are two train networks in Napoli and we ended up at the wrong stop. After an hour of waiting for our ride and a variety of ineffectual communication methods we had the welcome distraction of a native bird making a deposit of my wife's head.



This of course is good luck!



Let me digress for a moment. What exactly is good luck about an animal crapping on your head? The originator of this fallacy was no doubt a master of public relations as he should have been laughed mercilessly at but managed to spin his problem into a tale of impending good luck.

Needless to say we both laughed mercilessly at our time in Napoli so far and then the fun really started.......

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Off the radar

I am in a dry dock for the next seven days so updates will be in infrequent. I am taking notes however so expect a deluge in about a week.

Dry docks are fascinating if you have never been in one.




I have written a couple of stories about Naples as well but they will have to wait until I am back online.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Italiasia

During my sixth visit to Italy I became to realise why I love it so much.

It has many things in common with South East Asia.

Now hear me out if you are not yet a believer. I can actually pin point the exact moment when Newton like the apple struck my head.

I was outside an oddly named hotel watching over our incredibly large baggage vanguard and my wife was inside bartering for two nights accommodation, There was an interesting market just across the road and it was teaming with scooters.

Sound just like South East Asia?

Italians are fabulously welcoming hosts. The language barrier exists but you can conduct most transactions with,

Ciao (Hi) and Grazie (Thank you)

An added bonus for a weary traveler is that Ciao doubles as good bye or you can just toss it in anywhere when you are lost for words. Kind of like ummmm.

The alcoholic beverages seem to use a curiously strong 50/50 spirit mixer recipe.

Our hotel has a combo shower/toilet/wash basin/mirror/bidet

Just like South East Asia.

Same same but different.

Trip news.

We are in Livorno for two days before we catch the train down to Naples for some work. Livorno is a spacious port town (surprise) We went and said hello to the boats we are working on next week last night. Both of them are for sale sadly. (CLICK THE GOOGLE ADS! CLICK THE GOOGLE ADS!)

The Yacht I worked on before the Monaco Grand Prix was there as well. They were pushing off for Naples and they seconded me into helping them cast off. We then sat down to dinner(on some yachts tab) and watched Annaeva slip out to the open sea.

Horribly stunning times in Italy :-)

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Current Plans

I am not a fan of unknowns but will try and write the next week as best I can.

We are trying to find someone to take over the remaining week of rent in our apartment in Juan Les Pins. Once the apartment goes we will bunny hop the way to Livorno by train. It is usually an eight hour train ride and as I have some computer work to do on the way it seems best to hit a few ports on the way up.

On Sunday I am going to be working for seven days on a 37 metre Benetti motor yacht which is going into dry dock for a week. Benetti is a famous brand of Italian boat. They are good looking, have smooth lines and are a bit quirky. A bit like me really.

This is work from our fantastic Australian hook up. I am going to get a cabin to stay in which is very rare for day workers. This should keep costs down. Anna should be getting some work as well.

Odd. Just as I was writing this blog entry we have been offered some work in Naples for Saturday. We get to stay on the boat on Saturday night. Naples is a monster journey. Its probably a full Nintendo DS charge and half a book long.

We would have to go through Rome. Bummer.

Anyway must dash. Bags to pack ect.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Madame Grunty

Where ever I travel dogs are a great barometer of the people and the places. As noted earlier France is awash with splendid dogs. I have seen many a fine four legged beast. It is hard picking a stand out canine but we have got to know a particularly cute and charming one. This female we named Grunty on the charming grunting noises she makes. She lives behind the counter at a hotel we visit for free internet. We have become almost locals and we have a usual order which the staff have started to remember.

"Deux cafe ole s’il vous plait" which equals "Two Coffee with milk please"

Grunty was a mystery for the first few days as she does a lot of sleeping. But on our third visit she came out grunting and snuffling and made her self known to us. She has a gorgeous coat and a nice owner to boot.

Now we are leaving France I thought it was prudent to take some photos of Grunty for you all to enjoy.




Grunty in her favourite place behind the hotel desk.


Grunty waking up for a photo .



Grunty posing.

I will miss Grunty.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

A small slice of Pisa

In between a furious bout of dock walking and our record five minute job interview we decided to take a quick trip to Pisa and spy upon its famous tower.

The drive from Viareggio is great. Tree lined avenues combine with rich farmland to make for splendid vistas. Normal highway speeds seem positively sedate after the heckle raising autostrade highway. The farmland soon gives away to hotels and then all of a sudden you are in the town of Pisa.

Without any research before this impromptue visit we took the time honoured approach of first parking with tour buses and then slip streaming an English speaking tour party.

The first hitch was a train crossing. We cleverly waited on the left hand side of the crossing away from the tour party. This did not stop a native from the USA cozeying up to us with a camera. He was pained that the train that passed was not a steam train.

With the barrier arms up we quickly left the tour party behind and headed towards the tower enclave. After running a gauntlet of strangely familiar sun glasses, almost designer bag and coffee merchants we passed under the wall for our first glimpse of the tower.

The tower itself is very surreal. It has an ethereal quality which makes it seem otherworldly. If my feet were not so firmly grounded I would have picked it for some space station super structure.

The people walking around the top of the tower spoil this conclusion. They obviously are not looking for work. Still a worthwhile respite from what has been a two month grind. Bring on more success!

D Day

So yesterday we found out that we would not be working on the charter yacht. The charter had been cancelled.

Mass carnage ensused. Expletives were hurled. Gin was drunk. Baguettes were desecrated.

This galvanised Anna and I. We are moving to Italy.

After a sleep the world seemed a kinder place.

We had a great trip up to Italy again. I got some day work fixing up some computer things on a Yacht. We made some great contacts and are back on track to conquer the world.

To bastardise an often missquoted quote

France.

We came. We saw. We went back to Italy.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Recruitment Hell

Believe it or not my last job was at a recruitment company. After about a day of work I actually started to think that all of our consultants were on some powerful drugs. They were so nice, upbeat and friendly. This is how you have to be in New Zealand.

Fast forward to France and it was a shock to start dealing with them here. Out of the gate we found them very cagey and quite negative. The first question was always "Are you looking together?"

"Well of course we are. We are a two piece Voltron. We came to see you together didn't we?"

Luckily most of companies started to warm to us. We have learned some good things, made some good friends and even managed to have a laugh.

I do have to retell the story of one particularly crappy recruitment agent from a company called YCO.

First think of a blonde English lady with a slightly up turned nose. Then add an ever so slightly posh accent and a ridiculous surname.

This snob and I do not use the word snob lightly actually said the following to us.

"You need more water sports on your CV"

"I spent two years in Auckland and everyone I knew had a Yacht and was out on the water every weekend"

"Surely your family has a Yacht"

Naturally I was at pains to tell the many hours I have spent fishing and of my own private yacht a six foot dinghy. My wife did not mince words. She said the only people in Auckland yachting every weekend were the incredibly wealthy and if we were incredibly wealthy we would not be here.

This dialogue ended with us being blacklisted. No one has bothered to respond to our emails informing them of our increased experience gained and how bloody hard we have been working to find work.

Today I will email them to tell them we will no require their tireless services.

I guarantee I get a response in five minutes asking for the name of the Yacht. This is a lead for them you see.

I will take great pride in responding.

MY Lady Good Pussey

Count!

How much do I love today? Let me count the ways.

52 days
3 Apartments
31 Train Rides
21 Bus Rides
15 Days of Car hire
2 Nights in Hotels
3 Countries
8 Seasons of Fraiser! (cheers Doug)

16 Bottles of Gin
12 Bottles of Cider
10 Bottles of Roset
31 Baguettes
4 Pizza
2 Calzone

3 Broken toes
2 Pairs of broken Sunglasses
1 Nokia Phone (presumed dead)

6 Polo Shirts
3 Pairs of Boat Shorts
28 Dock walks
200 copies of CV printed
8 Recruitment agencies
5 days of 3g Internet
31 visits to Internet Cafes

Now let me commence with the series of odd events that led up to today. Last week was a write off. A new moon zapped us of all motivation and we were left stricken. On Sunday a three day self blood sacrifice began. During my morning shave I managed to clip my earlobe and the bleeding began. On Monday morning I did exactly the same thing. Then on Tuesday morning I cut my thumb opening a can of fruit that some Australian vagrant left in our house

Naturally we were quite happy to leave France behind and head to Italy. It was in Italy we met a fabulous couple from Tennessee who wowed us with their commanding grasp of Italian and charming obliviousness to Super Yachts. This is salvation when you have been thinking about them non stop for six months.

Refreshed, fed and happy our dock walk this morning culminated in an interview of sorts with the Captain of a fantastic Yacht. The interview was about 5 minutes long. There were no questions. We could have actually jumped on the Yacht right then and there but we had to return our rental car. The Yacht picks us up on Saturday. We have ten days work together. We think it is a trial. If it is anything like the interview we might just crack this Super Yacht thing.

SUCCESS!

Monday, 1 June 2009

The Search for YMDs

I had hoped to write this post once we had secured full time jobs. But the start of another month and a lack of other things to write about has given me impetus to commence this opus early.

It appears we were given dodgy intelligence on Yachts of Maximum Dimensions.

Disseminating the tons of written, verbal and digital information has been a full time job. Countless interviews with recruitment agents, shipping agents, port security, dock walkers, gangway attendants, runners, stray dogs and rope lines has stretched my processing power to its very limits.

Three reoccurring themes have struck again and again.

It is who you know.

It is good luck and timing.

It is good luck and timing.

A few people I know have had good fortune after spending all their money in bars and at the beach. The Scotch man in me baulks at this idea. The Devil in me thinks this idea has some merit.

A few people I know have had some luck with recruitment agencies. Sadly the recruitment agencies here are largely ineffectual. I am reminded of a Murphy's law

Why is it to get a bank loan you must first prove that you do not need the money?

This could easily be adapted to getting a job here.

Why is it to get a job on a super yacht ,you must first get a job and have had a perfectly good job for at least a year?

My best friend the internet, in true internet fashion has plenty of great resources that you must pay for to get the most out of them.

I am starting to get bored.