Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A wee something

Just a few words I wrote for my Dad turning 70.

Welcome all to Wally's 70th.

I am Wally's son Daniel. Although I am not an accomplished orator like my father; I do like to tell stories it is usually to smaller groups or to myself. Most of you know Wally as Wally. I know him as Dad.

My family knows I am bad with birthdays. It was only a couple of weeks ago my mother delighted in telling my wife that I am only good with international days like Father's Day which are publicised internationally but not so good with birthdays.

I can remember calling dad on his birthday once to have a chat and not saying happy birthday only to find out a week later from Natalie that it had been his birthday.

I must have known something last year when I took my current contract as it has meant I am home for dads 70th.

Wisely my mother told me yesterday that I would be saying a few words. If she had told me a week earlier I would have had a week longer of stress.

I have many fond memories of dad and many of his nuggets of wisdom that travel the world with me.
As a child given our location and relative isolation we were often late to functions and events. Dad would always remind us that one should always be late to a party so you do not get a job to do. If you were late getting here well done.

Dad was always very calm with us as children despite our best and worst efforts. I can only remember a couple of times where he might have entered a state of mind anything other than harmonious. This has served me well in rough seas.

Dad has always had a tremendous energy for sport and community. We are all here in his Sunday place of worship.

Dad was a champion boxer amongst other things. When I was young we would have boxing matches in the lounge. These usually took place on Sunday afternoons after golf. Being a true sportsman dad would handicap himself by fighting from his knees. Sadly our boxing matches did cease one Sunday afternoon when dad overly supplemented his handicap with performance inhibiting beer and he may have hit the ground.

Dad has an amazing memory. It is quite frightening the facts, dates and names and places that can be summoned at will. And I don't think he realises that he could say anything he wanted and no one would question what he says so powerful his recollection is. Maybe he does ?

In closing we are very proud of our father. He is a special man and has done well to reach 70 not out.
I would now like to all raise your glasses for a toast.

To Wally.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Seattle, Cool

I think I have talked about New York cool before. I may have even mentioned Italian swagger and Caribbean time. New Zealand is cool of course and Sweden whilst I am yet to experience it is bound to be cool if not the weather. But we are not in Sweden, we are in Seattle and Seattle is cool.

We have created quite a stir being here. There has been a lot of press. The press has been quite creative with facts and it makes one realize how much of what you read is fiction. When I do end up back in New Zealand on board a yacht I hope the press is not so inept and checks it's facts. It is probably too much hard work. Just make something up. It is what I do.

Seattle is a green and leafy place with an abundance of flannel and tattoos. Heavy use of abandoned textiles and reinvigorated antiques droop from every angle. There are plenty of weird combinations of things that should not be near each other. In short it is my kind of place.

Working Monday through Sunday does sap a bit of passion for exploring but our ingenious Engineering department came up with a cunning plan which gives us a bit of flexibility. We work 7-6 during the week days. This in turn allows us a few precious hours on the weekend to seek out new life forms.

Sadly as is often the case our first real exploration was a bit disappointing. I had a hankering to shake a bit of tail feather. I ended up being cajoled into going to a very ebullient part of town for serious drinking. The part of town is Capitol Hill which is famous for its many and differing bars.

The bar scene in Seattle is quite incredible given it's depressing liquor laws which render you unable to get a drink after 2am and unable to enter a bar if you are foreign and not carrying a passport. Being a dedicated Sailor getting loose with ones passport is not really the done thing. Especially in bars like the Unicorn.

We had been in a bar which had a wolverine on the wall.


This was not exciting enough so we jumbled up the road to a bar dedicated to unicorns and fanciful creatures. Imagine walking around in a fairground maze that served alcohol. You have the Unicorn.


The bar below was named the Narwhale. It was adorned with pinball machines and patrons which you could loosely describe as a freak show. Again my kind of place. We left heading for a nocturnal club of the dancing variety. They did not like the look of us and played the passport or no entry card. George the Geordie got into a lengthy debate for 15 minutes quoting maritime law, American history, the monarchy and his best Geordie shore impression. We did not get let in. It turns out Bouncers are never up for a real debate. Its never a fair fight you see.

North of the boat is an area called Ballard. I have been there the most. Its the kind of place where you might see a man commuting in a suit wearing chuck tailors riding a unicycle or penny farthing. Anything goes in Ballard and it does have an NZ/Australian bar called the Kangaroo and Kiwi. Notice the lack of anything South African. We are that different. The Kangaroo and Kiwi is great because of the lack of micro brewed beers. Washington state is big on weird beers that taste far too fruity. Sometimes you just need a normal beer.



A couple of K&K patrons with Ned Kelly.

On my third weekend in Seattle I was very lucky to have an extended tour and cultural show of some significance. The boss of one of our contracting companies whisked me away from the boat on a Saturday night for a Russian bbq/dinner party. Having learned a bit about Russians in my time abroad it was an opportunity to learn a bit more and also to soak up some suburban time.

My first mistake was believing that 14 Russian speaking ex-pats would speak anything other than Russian at a Russian themed gathering. That being said I did convince them to say cheers at the numerous opportunities to toast good health and other things in Russian. The Russian beside me took it upon himself to start elbowing me in the stomach when I was not drinking or eating. They all thought I was too skinny and could do with some feeding up. I was also far too sober and needed to drink more. That being said I did develop a taste for cognac. It is a fine drink for times like these where you need a certain amount of fuzziness to stay in tune with your unfamiliar surroundings.

I stayed at my friends house. The next morning he promised to take me for a drive before returning me to the boat. It is here I gained an appreciation for how vast America is. Going for a drive means a totally different thing. We drove,



 and we drove


paused. 


Saw my first American Eagle in the wild


And drove some more until we reached the base camp for Mount Rainer.


Inconvenient clouds obscuring snow covered Mount Rainer.

Being the height of summer a couple of steps away from the Lodge felt just like something from a Disney movie. It strongly resembled Bambi I commented on this and paused for a photo.


By thins time we were pretty hungry. We drove back down Mount Rainer looking for a place that had been selling Elk Burgers. It turns out Elk Burgers are pretty tasty. It was the opening weekend of the NFL and watching NFL at a bar eating Elk and drinking a micro brewed beer I did begin to think this is pretty good. Naturally my driver had been selling me on Seattle and Washington state. I was being schmoozed and I liked it.

American as it gets without being American and wearing an NZ hat.

So long was our drive back to Seattle we stopped at a garage to get some jerky and water. The garage was unremarkable but it did have a couple of goats tied up outside mowing the lawn. One of the goats had moved far away from its water bucket so I did a good deed and saved the goat a thirsty day. 

We took the long way home. My driver forced a lot of information into me over the course of 24 hours and it is still seeping from my brain mouth 2 weeks later. We did go to a heavenly like electronics store called Frys. I still have dreams about it.

My Rotation partner arrived last Saturday. He is much the same and I think our leisurely handovers will become a staple of us working together. We are such brilliant individuals that it seems ridiculous to try and cram our work and numerous achievements into one lonely day. We are already planning our next extended handover which should be in New York.

One of my colleagues Katy is leaving our fair work place next week. She is a food blogger which I think is pretty neat. She's good value for a Southern African. Definitely the smartest I have worked with. We did try to visit the world famous EMP museum one night after work. Scott followed along knowing we would probably go near a bar of which there are many.

Sadly the EMP museum was closed. 


Exterior of EMP museum. Pretty cool.

We did get up the Space Needle which was closing. 


Seattle City.

By this point we were a bit brow beaten. We were going to go to a drive through Tacos place. It was taco tuesday and we were in a rather large car. I am glad we did not . We stopped next to a 'Dicks'




Dicks sells hamburgers of the variety that taste amazing at 3am. We did not eat there. We went to a mighty fine Mexican restaurant called Peso's kitchen. Thankfully for Scott the Mexican restaurant did sell beer. They also did a stirling rendition of a burrito.


Satiated and happy we paused to commend ourselves on finding such superb solace. My time is dwindling in Seattle but I have enjoyed it. I do think I could live here with not too much hassle. It's made all the easier when you see movie theatres showing odysseys like Airplane.


New Zealand does beckon but there is still time to visit the EMP museum when it is open. I might get to see another unicorn or unicycle. It will probably rain at some point. Seattle is cool.

Afternote

Seattle is my first extended experience of America. Once you get over the fact that lots of people have guns and you are in the U.S of A its actually not a bad country. This is a tremendously self indulgent blog with at least four photos of myself. But America is an indulgent place. Don't go changing.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Alaska

On the other side of Canada lies one of the great frontiers Alaska. Russia sold it on the cheap to the U.S.A many years ago. With great cultural works like Ice road truckers, Gold rush and Deadliest Catch making Alaska home I am surprised Russia has not invaded yet.

Jokes aside, Alaska did meet my expectations. In summer it is a great wild wilderness. At times a lonely place with a vastness which stretches forever. Luckily when you are bobbing about in an office like mine loneliness never grips you.

Our first stop was the cruise ship town of Ketchikan. Ketchikan was pretty small. With three cruise ships berthed you could not see much of the town. Landfall in Ketchikan meant visiting the homeland security office to verify my fingerprints and eyeballs. America if you want visitors to feel a bit better about your fine country. Please remove the word Alien from your immigration slip. Being part Alien I do not like being lumped in with rest of the earths populace.

If you are not making way by sea, Seaplanes are the best transport going. We used them frequently for organized trips. They can come alongside like a tender does and were very handy. Why are there not more sea planes everywhere?


As is often the case with exotic destinations most of my viewing was a bit of hurried glancing as I made my way around my day to day tasks. Needless to say I did get to see some stunning vistas.







All taken from the same spot near the crew entrance on main deck.

Of course I am not a professional photographer. Luckily and unluckily we had one on for our second trip. He was an immense pain the ass. He did take nice photos however, I will give him that. I expect to be able to share some of them at a later date. He did not leave any with us but he lives in Seattle where we are heading next.

We were lucky to have a couple of excellent pilots and a real bushman of a guide. They were knowledgeable, professional and most importantly flexible as our plans often changed by the minute.

We did visit a glacier and when we were not dodging ice bergs we did get up nice and close to see ice being calved off.






My one and only real excursion ashore was on the day we left Alaska. I needed to visit a lawyer to have some documents notarized. I got collected by the taxi driver of Juneau, a lovely lady who I jokingly said I would see when I needed my ride back to port. She did collect me and she talked about how they had had a great year for berries with the warm summer. She obviously had some indigenous blood as she also talked about having done a cultural exchange with New Zealand. It was a nice human interaction in a place where you might go days without seeing one.

We are now steaming to Seattle. I have a few friends in Seattle. I have a few things I would like to do.

This should be good.






Saturday, 17 August 2013

Alaska Video

Charters over. Alaska done. Plenty of stories to tell. But whilst I have well deserved beverage.......


Enjoy this video,




Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Baked Alaska and Flannel

For my next trick I will fly to Vancouver then travel north into Alaska by floating office. I will catalog this period with a few photographs and choice whitticisms. After Alaska we will travel south to Seattle, Washington. Seattle Washington is not to be confused with White house Washington. I may have thought they were semi attached at one point.

We will have an extended stay in Seattle. There are few things that I am quite excited about Seattle.

It is the birth place of Jimi Hendrix.
It is the birth place of Grunge.
It is the birth place of Fraiser Crane.

Only one of those highlights is fictional.

I look forward to sharing more. Stay tuned.


Thursday, 27 June 2013

Ruby The Dog

I thought it was about high time I wrote about being at home. This is the first time I have been at home in a colder part of the year since 2009. I am still not a fan of the cold although it has been nice to have an excuse to pursue the finer things in life like reading, red wine and wearing scarfs. Rotation affords running parallel lives but it still takes some adjusting at each end.

The biggest change this time as been the newest family member. My Wife's dog Ruby. Ruby is a 3/8s Pug and 5/8's Brussels Griffin. Or Bug. She is a charming sort, prone to enthusiastic sleeping, sporadic fits of biting and over the top cuteness.

If I look back at my photos of being at home for the past month or so they are largely of Ruby in her three moods.

She is very fond of sleeping. She uses it as a time travelling mechanism for when she is in captivity or travelling by car. She does not like being patted or interrupted when she is asleep. How many times have you wanted to bite someone when they have woken you up?


Speaking of biting Ruby is prone to a zombie like affliction that usually kicks in just before she has to sleep. During this mood swing she will gently bite anything that comes near her face. There is also a lot of snarling and she has been known to run around in circles.







You get the idea.

Thankfully when she is not biting or sleeping she is very cute and mostly well mannered. 


She enjoys the sunshine on a bathrobe.



She especially enjoys eating the drawstrings from hoodies

And she does have a couple of different outfits to wear.

Having a dog has taught us a few new tricks. I will be happy if we have children that are as well behaved as Ruby. Minus the biting.


Monday, 20 May 2013

Manzanillo to Vancouver

There has been a bit of water under my keel since my last correspondance. I hope this fills the gap.

After the Galapagos we made a quick trip across to Manzanillo, Mexico. It was an opportunity to change out some crew and get some fuel. I was dragged off the boat protesting for a dinner with a few crew. The restaurant was nice, the tequila afterwards not so nice. Conveniently there was a roadside fiesta that waylaid us on our way back home. Mexicans seem to be quite fond of fiestas. The Mexicans in Manzanillo seem to be quite fond of LED light strips underneath cars as well. We departed for Vancouver the very next day.

It was a long voyage north hugging the coast of North America. We had very large seas but it was relatively comfortable. I did not go outside at all. Nobody jumped over board. Our head Chef lightened things up by throwing increasingly dangerous amounts of chillies he sourced in Manzanillo into every dish. There was no escaping the chillies  I did enjoy his spicy carbonora, spicy pesto gnocchi and spicy pumpkin soup.

I have to say the final cruise into Vancouver was astoundingly beautiful. Vancouver is a very pretty and very accommodating city. Our ship is berthed on the north shore which is a short ferry ride into the City. After ten days at sea we made a quick trip to the local pub. The Rusy Gull was chosen for one reason only. Its distance. The commercial seaman on board were disappointed with its cleanliness, full heads of teeth and lack of immediate danger. I was quite amused to find Steinlager on the menu and Australian rules football on the television. It was Anzac day.



My rotation partner decided not to come back to work. Being Canadian I thought he would have lept at the chance to work in his own country. He did not. This was a bit frightening as I was due to go home on the 12 of May. It turns out AVIT's are a rare breed. Luckily our Chief Engineer is a rarer breed and found a stirling candidate who needed to be evacuated from the Middle East. Sound familiar? It should because it is exactly how they found me.

With a replacement found I did begin to breathe a bit easier and threw myself into experiencing Vancouver. On a sparkling sunday I caught the Seabus into town. I then rode the sky train to the middle of somewhere called Broadway and cantered about experiencing suburbia in Canada. My experience was middling in that I did not end up where I wanted to be. When I got back to downtown Vancouver I was taken by the sim city like precision which has left the Commerical district missing all street level retail. Clearly my dead reckoning was a bit out.

The following Saturday was a bit special as Armin Van Buuren played at the convention centre. Way back in 2010 my Wife and I got to see Armin trott out his new album Mirage for the first time. The universe provided me with the opportunity to see Armin play his new album for the second time. We couldn't not move the boat to Los Angeles at three day notice. It was here I discovered the curious effects Jaagermeiseter has on ones personality. One of our crew members is very fond of Jagermeister, she does not leave the vessel with out a bottle. It is almost medicinal. So after consuming an undisclosed amount of Jaagermeister I found myself yelling very loudly during Armins concert. Certainly louder than I have ever yelled at a dance party before.

Listen carefully you can hear me yelling


It is fair to say I was a bit yelled out the following week. I did however make a remarkable recovery in time to pick up my replacement from the Airport. If I have a solitary complaint about Vancouver it is the roads going to and from the Airport. It took us over an hour to travel one arduous ten kilometer stretch. I am not sure where all the cars are going that are on this road. I am pretty sure there is a lemming like offramp which goes straight to hell because it is an most un heavenly journey.

On Friday we had a small gathering to celebrate the end of the week and the group of engineers departing. To provide a suitable floating venue we commandeered the adjoining barge. If I do have some advice to party promoters who want to put on a boat party it is this. Barges are cheaper, infinitely more bespoke and rustic than any boat you will ever charter.



We had a fine party with some of the shipyard workers and some guests of the crew. It was my monthly chance to dust off the CDJ's we purchased for the boat last year. It was to have been a lead into to another famous DJ who happened to be playing in Vancouver, Arty. The core crew that left the North Shore were in fine spirits. The 55th Crew Member Jaagermeiseter made the trip with us.


We made our way into the nearest Irish bar. Irish bars always amuse me. People are forever telling me you will never have a bad night at an Irish bar. I have had some positively average evenings at ones. This particular Irish bar had a cover charge and an ATM that was on holiday. It turned out we all had a great night at the Irish bar. Arty was not allowed into Canada so his gig was cancelled which probably was a good thing. I do remember yelling a lot at the Irish bar about how I was in an Irish bar. I phantomed out of the Irish bar before it was too late and caught a limo home. Thats right, after about 12am all of the Taxis vanish in Vancouver leaving limousines the only viable travel option. Earlier in the week I had chuckled at half a dozen crew catching a limo home. Riding in a limousine by yourself is a very sobering option.

The next morning Scott had the audacity to complain about his jetlag. I am not sure how Jetlag works in Scotland but the people you have flown to should not have the same ill effects. It was about now I let go with a Fruedien slip. "These four day hangovers(handovers) are not healthy". Thankfully I was able to get on a plane on Sunday for New Zealand.

New Zealand is great. I am reunited with my Wife, Family and Friends. I have a new dog who is quickly becoming a favourite. My adopted cat Ollie has been wisely absent.

It is good to be home.







Thursday, 11 April 2013

Dat Galapagos

It is a good thing that I did get some time ashore in the Galapagos. Otherwise my impressions of it would have been horribly distorted.

One of my core responsibilities is managing our internet connection. Given the sparse population of the Galapagos the solitary Satellite which looks after the region is oversubscribed and under resourced. We have over 50 crew, can have up to 24 guests and a myriad of devices which utilise the internet. We pay a yearly salary every month to have 5mbps of internet worldwide. For our time in the Galapagos our connection fluctuated between 2mbps and .5mbps. Clearly this is why the area has remained in a perpetual time warp. After 4 days of phone calls, cursing, fretting and stressing I abandoned all hope of us having a good internet connection. Consequently I relaxed and began to look outside.


Visiting the Galapagos is an interesting proposition. There is a solitary flight from Ecuador each day.To take a private yacht through the Galapagos you must pay a few hundred thousands dollars for a weeks permit. To visit the National park regions you must have a guide on board in addition to your agent. If you want to use your helicopter you must sign up to do some missions. The region is rightfully well protected and the humans that choose to live here are a very proud people. The population is steadily increasing although it is limited to small regions of less than 5% of the landmass.


So for one week I took very occasional photos and did a little day dreaming. It wasn't until our last night with the guests that I got to see the video that our onboard Videographer had taken that I began to see some of the incredible wildlife this region is famous for. I was quite startled at the amount of animals above and below the water. They are fearless of humans. Not in a tame sense but in the sense that they have no fear or reason to have fear. What an amazing idea.

The very next day our Captain had arranged some excursions for us to take part in. He is an ex Cruise ship Captain and is very used to organising things for people to do. It turns out corralling 50 crew off a boat to take part in Diving, Fishing and Walking tours is worse than a few thousand Cruise ship passengers. Having not left the boat in a meaningful sense for a month I decided to go on the walking tour.

We made a very chatty tender ride into the port and boarded a bus with our Guide for the day. He immediately raised a few eyebrows by telling us he was a Naturalist and pined for the days when Galapagians used to walk around topless. It turns out he had not spoken English for over a year and was merely expressing his fondness for nature. It was this enthusiasm for flora and fauna that started to rub off on us all. Especially me, remember If I had not taken an excursion the only this I could have spoken about knowingly about the Galapagos region is its terrible internet.

The roads of Galapagos are largely dirt, jungle lined and uninhibited. I took a lot of photos out the side of the bus. These photos highlight the populated and farmed regions of the San Cristobel.


roadside grass

power pole

Posts mean it is farmed. Obviously.

After an hour of driving and the practiced banter of a career tour guide we made it to a Giant Tortoise reserve. I was very excited. Giant Tortoise it turns out are very noble and interesting animals.


Like many things you never forget your first giant Tortoise. They are incredible.

Me and my first Giant Tortoise.

It wasn't all about Giant Tortoise. Soon we were looking at endemic moss, lizards, birds, trees and flowers. Endemic means only found in one place. If you put endemic in front of things they suddenly become very interesting.

endemic bird

endemic lizard

Even baby Giant Tortoise made an appearance. We were informed about the very successful breeding program.



Our next excursion took us up a small mountain to the Galapagos regions only freshwater lake.


I am thinking the lake was a dormant volcanoe.


There were a lot of birds flying around this lake. It turns out the fresh water allows the two different species of Frigate birds to clean themselves in freshwater. They are a sea bird that can not clean themselves in salt water.

A scientific study that examined genetic and morphological variation in Magnificent Frigatebirds found both expected, and also highly unexpected results: firstly—as predicted by the flight capacity of the species—the authors found signatures of high gene flow across most of the distribution range. This included evidence of recent gene flow among Pacific and Atlantic localities, likely across the Isthmus of Panama. This geological formation is a strong barrier to movement in most tropicalseabirds. However, the same study also found that the Magnificent Frigatebird on the Gal├ípagos Islands is genetically and morphologically distinct. Based on this study, the Gal├ípagos population has not been exchanging any genes with their mainland counterparts for several hundred thousand years.[3]

Thanks wikipedia. I learned that in the flesh.


First and only time I ever took a photo of a flying bird.

By now our hardy group of adventurers were wavering. You have to remember we had just finished a charter and the first thing yachties generally do after a charter is either drink or sleep or both. We made our way back to town. Our guide impressed upon us the problems of modernisation and how corruption is slowing making its way into life in the Galapagos. I couldn't help wondering as we walked down that hill path, where the few hundred thousand dollars my owner had paid would be going.

Obviously there is a lot more to the Galapagos than you think. I think the profound impact it had on me was to stir a real interest in flora and fauna. Maybe there is a bit of naturalist in us all.

I am sitting on a lot of video footage, underwater and helicopter. I will upload this at a later date.