A sad April fools a few months early. Our GPS freaked out today and we travelled 24,000 nautical miles and ended up in the Pacific tantalisingly close to New Zealand.
Fuck New Zealand is awesome. I have been giving New Zealand a bit of thought recently. We are going home in a couple of months for much needed friends and family time. Spending Waitangi day in the middle of the Suez canal was odd.
El Fuerte has been taking a few photos. Here is a good one of me celebrating Waitangi day doing my favourite cleaning task. Polishing stainless steel.
I would never wear a cap backwards, but what the hell it was Waitangi day after all.
So we are on the way to our convoy rendevous. We have met boats going the other way so that is a good sign. I am sure things will work out sweet. We have two security dudes on board who are going to keep us safe. We have El Fuerte and we have two New Zealanders.
Our exit from the Suez canal was a bit smoother than our entrance. Our second to last pilot made off with a guest hair dryer and his compatriot had an interesting way of disposing used toilet paper. We will be better prepared for our return passage.
We made a night passage to Abutig marina and have been here since Sunday. The marina and resort town offer a very sanitised version of the Egyptian experience. You will find no street hawkers or beggars here. Our mooring people did not ask for cigarettes and everything is quite peachy.
Kite surfing camp
We have had a very tight schedule preparing for a photo shoot and to make the boat show in Abu Dhabi. We have been promised some time here on our way back and it will be nice to do some reef and wreck diving and some other of the many water sports on offer.
Other than that, team deck has been laughing a lot. This afternoon we entered a delightfully delirious state of tiredness. Many odd things were witnessed.
Whilst we were removing a sand like skin from our anchors El Fuerte was spotted tasting this substance.
Not to be outdone Uncle Phil was soon juggling cleaning products. We were actually cleaning cleaning products at the time.
Respective parents we are working hard as you can see and we always have music playing because it sounds good.
We will leave Egypt tomorrow and join a Chinese navy convoy. We will lose internet coverage soon after and will not be online until the 22nd of February. I will be writing stories but they will obviously not be here until the end of the month.
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My first on the ground memories of Egypt will always be confusing. I enjoy being bamboozled as much as the next drunken panda but Egypt was particularly puzzling. We had just finished a three day passage from Malta to the northern tip of the Suez. Port Said.
Funny play on words announcement. Port Said is pronounced Port Sai-Eeed. But if you are English speaking you probably want to pronounce it Port Said. Right Said Fred are an English pop group formed in 1989. Port is nautical left. A guy named fred saying Port in Port Said would be kind of left said Fred and very funny. As would a bunch of guys singing 'Im too sexy' on the back of a Super Yacht in Port Said.
AAAAAnyway. We were not really expecting to see any Pirates until the Gulf of Aden but while we were parked outside Port Said a dark and swarthy looking ship came out of the dark. It came along side and we were quickly boarded and then the Pirates made their demands........
"Got any cigarettes my friends?"
We had been boarded by our first Pilot and we were all going to be gnashing our teeth very soon.
Nautical tip of the day.
Pilots are used when entering a harbour or special water way. They can be a boat you follow, or they can be a person who comes on board to guide you. Egypt by nature of its canal has a monopoly and its systems are particularly corrupt. Every interaction with an official requires at least a carton of cigarettes. Pilots are particularly demanding but more about them later.
Under the guidance of the Pilot we were soon docked in Port Said. It was nice to see AnnaEva a boat I worked on at the Monaco Grand Prix. We were soon waiting earnestly while we were boarded by shipping agents, quarantine doctors, electricians and other nefarious types. Under the guise of work these people were all got rid of with cartons of cigarettes. Fortuitously our ships gangway decided to have a siesta and invaders were left with slightly difficult route. One would be invader gained my attention from the dock. He demanded to speak with our shipping agent. I asked him what his name was. He said it was policeman. What a charming name.
Because our gangway was having a break, we had to leave some heaving lines on the dock until we could leave. My grand idea was that they could be tied to our mooring lines as we pulled them in. (I am sorry if that sounds awfully confusing. Living and working on a boat can salten ones vocabulary, irrevocably I fear) When we went to leave our heaving lines had disappeared. These were probably pilfered by a guy who would not let our lines go until we gave him cigarettes. We had ran out of cigarettes!
We eventually left at 12am and we were soon learning the Pharaoh like ways of the Suez canal pilots. Rant time.
I got thinking late last night that a good dose of capitalism would sort out the Suez canal and its corrupt practices. I had a quick glance at a map of the region and have picked out a candidate.
The Israel canal,
Straddling the famous 1949 armistice line, The Israel canal is a fantastic alternative to the Suez.
Good idea! Maybe not.
Anway where were we? The gentle cigarette pestering of port Egyptians was nothing compared with the deluded god like ways of a Suez Canal pilot. We had to reply to every request because the pilot will quite happily leave your boat leaving you stranded, impounded and going no where. We had two pilots for our trip. They both took cartons of cigarettes and soft drinks, cash bribes, chocolates and anything else they asked for. The second pilot took one of our guest cabins whilst we had a lay over in a lake. This is all normal practice. The second pilot also had a sycophant who laid waste to our sweets supply. No happy with a few, he grabbed by the bag. He also set up a shop of sorts in our crew lounge selling trinkets and souvenirs. Not many of us were feeling very touristy.
What an adventure! I did get some good photos of the trip.
Ominous sun set outside Port Said.
Sun rise on the Suez.
Biggest container ship I have seen. Photo does not do it justice.
Sunset on the Suez.
The good news is we are now out of the Suez Canal. I have already requested that we take the long way home. The problem...... we do not have a home.
With the fine people of Sweden firmly under my iron fingers I thought it was a good time to turn my attention to another country. Spain beckons and I have already seen huge readership gains with over three new visitors this year.
David joined our boat just before we moved on board. A native of Spain he hails from Galicia and is part of the deck department. My first impressions of David was that he was very quiet and was possibly not Spanish, so soft spoken he was.
Uncle Phil and I took him under our wing and we were soon coaxing Spanish words of the day out of him. When we are in port we usually try to have an English, Spanish and Swedish word of the day. These are usually forgotten quickly unless they are easily adaptable to work. Usually swear words stick.
We soon found out the reason for David's quiet demeanour. He is a deadly weapon. David casually let slip he had broken someone's jaw in a competitive Taekwondo match. The fact that he chose to tell this to Phil was quite relieving for me but I am sure Phil has been very careful not to anger David.
David is a keen gamer. We all bought game controllers for our laptops and have played a few together. David's favourite game is a football game. He is a devout football fan and somehow we ended up betting a lot of money on his home team. Do you want to read something sinister?
I bet on France to beat Italy in the last world cup. It was a good bet until Zinedine Zidane let loose with a crazy head butt which did not belong in a football or Taekwondo match.
Actual photo of David with Z|Z. What the hell? What are the chances of that?
David has impressed us with his willingness to go out exploring. When we had a blizzard in Viareggio he was out pounding the snow covered streets and beaches. When we had a day off in Malta he quickly ran a marathon taking photos as he went.
Readers(Blizzard and marathon might not be the most truthful words but they do sound the best)
David did not drink much coffee when he joined us but he soon came around to the delightful sitting on ones bottom sessions that serious coffee drinking entails. I have even seen him glancing at his watch hours before coffee time. A very quick learner is David.
David's knowledge of Spanish was a godsend when we were in Italy. He was quickly became go to guy when we had tricky questions in Italian. Spanish and Italian are quite similar. Thanks to David I know the Italian word for broom. Two of our favourite yard workers named David Spagnolo , we found a better name.
David is not as quiet as he was. He actually has quite a good sense of humour. David has been known to comment on my penchant for sometimes observing him and Phil work instead of actively participating. I am obviously storing things up to write about.
Why do we call him El Fuerte? When we got our game controllers I also got a copy of Street Fighter 4. There is a Mexican wrestling cook named El Fuerte who screams a lot. When we asked David what El Fuerte means, the translation was.
The Strong One.
Naturally we started calling David El Fuerte straight away and you know what? The name has seemed to stick.
With nothing huge happening and a lot of little things passing by I thought it was time to write a deckhands log. My definition of huge might have changed a bit. So don't be surprised if you are surprised.
We left Malta on Tuesday night. It was a lot smoother than our exit from Italy although customs took longer to clear us than they should have. If you ever want to be a super villain become a customs clerk or immigrations officer. Once we were under way it was time to resume our navigational watches.
Our boat has some seriously advanced hardware which means it drives itself between way points. It only really needs assistance when we enter and exit ports. We still have two people in the bridge to keep a lookout for other vessels and monitor the many monitors, gauges and horizon. With the weather behaving the Captain thought it would be prudent to expand my musical tastes with a very eclectic mix of music. The aural treats included,
Roxette Both halves of Roxette singing Swedish pop Swedish folk music Swedish country Austrian yodelling hits from the 1700's (good music to go skiing to apparently. I told you skiers were weird) Swedish Musicals Hard rock from the 70's The Beatles An assortment of lounge music Swedish comedy routines
Obviously a lot of the lexicon was Svenksa and I was impressed at being able to pick out various swear words in the very bawdy Swedish comedy routines. We have also been blessed by having had some very nice moon rises each night at about 10pm. Roxette, moon rises and the sound of the ocean are a very potent mix.
We are now over half of the way to the start of the Suez canal. Naturally we are excited about spending some time in Egypt but the real fun will start when we join a Chinese navy convoy and head through the Gulf of Aden towards Abu Dhabi. There is a lot of press about piracy in this region but you only really hear about ships that get captured. A lot of ships are attacked and are fended off successfully. We are not a cargo ship which is good. There are also a host of things you can do to lower the probability of attack.
-Travel at night with no lights -Keep your speed at least 16 knots -Post increased lookouts -Carry security personnel -Carry an El Fuerte
What is an El Fuerte ? You will have to read my next crew profile.
I have been giving my birthday month a bit of thought and it has not been festive enough. I think I will celebrate my birthday again when we are back in New Zealand in April. This celebration will be the one third of a century celebration. I think that is a fantastic cause and I am sure everybody will get behind it.
The last week has been hectic. We are due to leave for Egypt today and we are going to lose internet coverage in two days. Somebody think about the children! We had an internet outage on Sunday. It is amazing how quickly people get tetchy without internet! I have worked around the fault for now but it means we can only have 3 machines on the internet at once. This is a foreign concept for some. It is like asking people give up organs.
We have had one day off which I spent golfing so I have only seen a minuscule amount of Malta, which is pretty amazing because it is only a tiny place. The next month promises to be very full on but we should get some time off after the boat show.