Thursday, 25 March 2010

Leaving Las Vegas sans Bars, Strippers and Casinos,

Our exit from Abu Dhabi had just as much comical energy as our entrance. We said good bye to our Kiwi ship yard and headed towards the dreaded Abu Dhabi commerical port to get our passports stamped and exit.

Upon arrival we were told that our fuel trucks from Dubai had been barred entry to Abu Dhabi and we would have to go to Dubai. Luckily this time we had not prematurely celebrated. Dubai did not want us straight away, they even tried to make us wait twelve hours.

Dubai commercial port was even less interesting than Abu Dhabi. We did get to see the currently largest Super Yacht in the world, Dubai.

We have bigger lines.

We had a productive day in Dubai and at about 7:30pm we were rounded up and driven to customs to get our exit visas. Immigration offices are always very clinical affairs. We livened things up with El Fuerte attacking a coffee machine.

We also rammed ourselves into a passport photo booth and made like giggling Japanese schoolgirls to take this masterpiece.

That is Uncle Phil, Anna, El Fuerte and myself.

We did leave Dubai and the Emirates for the Maldives but that is another tale..

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Swedish Lesson #3

So we made it to the Maldives, I am sitting on a whole pile of things to write. Time is scarce but there is always time for Swedish!

What would a Swedish gangster say to his bros if he was hanging off a Super Yacht cleaning it?


Sunday, 14 March 2010

To the Maldives

We leave Abu Dhabi tomorrow for the Maldives. Our awesome Kiwi run shipyard has kindly provided internet via a UTP cable for the last couple of weeks. Kiwis; making stuff work since always. Anyway once we leave the shipyard we will not have internet for the next little while. We will also be working like mad until the 7th of April.

After the 7th of April Anna and I will begin our ascent to the gloriousness that is New Zealand. I do believe we left New Zealand on the 7th of April to come to Europe last year. How is that for symmetry?

In the last month Spain and Sweden surpassed New Zealand for visitors to my blog. With this in mind it will be neat to share some wonderfully New Zealand things with the people of the world.

Bye bye for now.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Abu Dhabi & Dubai

Still suffering the fallout from the horse bomb we were eventually given clearance to make our way to the yacht show and civilisation. I say civilisation loosely because yacht shows are a very distorted slice of humanity and the whole Emirates experience can be very overwhelming.

Large circular building that beggared my beliefs.

The Emirates are full of impressive monuments to money, engineering and some would say a foolhardy disregard to physics and geography. Our marina was purpose built beside a purpose built racetrack and a very impressive hotel.

Imagine if you will (use the pictures where your imagination fails ) entering the lobby of said hotel and being blinded by a white everything. So white you could think you were inside a bottle of bleach.

You enter a lift and notice this pearl of wisdom beside the buttons.

We were actually on our way to the roof top pool bar. Imagine our surprise when we came upon a very unfurnished and unfinished room. Even with my formidable lack of carpentry skills I would have struggled to do less. This was a recurring theme for our trip. Large tracts of the Emirates are under construction. It is a great place to be if you are in city planning or enjoyed Sim City.

We had a very enjoyable day in Dubai following the yacht show. It was our third day off for the year and we were determined to make the most of it. Our morning began with a delicious buffet breakfast followed by a furious bout of relaxed shopping. We then ordered room service for lunch, had a scrumptious day spa session and headed towards the Burj. I ate lobster for dinner and we drank some very expensive New Zealand wine

I can safely say the service provided by almost every person in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is exceptional. The only place where things go awry is when you step into a taxi. We had some abysmal taxi rides. in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The offered excuse for this is that the rapid development in this region makes GPS, maps and a memory better than a gold fish helplessly redundant. If I was professionally travelling again I would have unleashed my wife of war but I am now a professional who happens to be travelling and time off is a very precious commodity best not soured by anger.

Please enjoy the numerous photos I took.

Interesting solar cells covering that magnificent hotel near the marina. Power generation other than oil is illegal in the emirates. Abu Dhabi is exempt.

Bentley on a floating pontoon. Exotic cars a plenty here. More impressive than Monaco.

Burj from the highway.

The Burj up close.

Water fountains in front of the Burj.

Just another amazing skyscraper.

Dubai is what I imagine Las Vegas to be like without strippers, bars and Casinos. I look forward to testing this theory. For arts sake of course.

I do have a lot more to write about the Emirates but we are going to leave here on Sunday for the Maldives and we will soon be without internet again. The numerous things might take up pages in that book which more people are starting to make noises about.

The really exciting thing is that we will be heading home to New Zealand after the Maldives. The last week has been a very challenging one for Anna and I. It is good that learning English as your first language endows one with a stiff upper lip.

God save the Queen.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

El Fuerte the Horse Killer

So there we were, booted out of Abu Dhabi and anchored off shore. We were cleaning the boat and conversation was sparse. I delved into a special conversation starter that I had been saving for over a year. Feel free to use it at your next cocktail mixer or when ever there is an uncomfortable silence.

"Would you kill a horse with your bare hands for a million dollars?"

Now think about that question. There are a few considerations. There are the physical problems of killing a horse. They are large animals and have powerful legs. They can also run very fast. A successful kill would require subterfuge and a good deal of luck.

Also think about the emotional problems. What kind of person could kill a horse ? Let alone with nothing but his/her body.

I got a wide variety of answers, one of our security detail would not only have killed a horse; he would also engage in enthusiastic love making with one for a million dollars.

The real surprise was the always very mild mannered and perhaps borderline LOCO, El Fuerte.

His steely eyes narrowed and said "I would kill a horse for a million dollars"

Every spare moment since this conversation has seen El Fuerte puzzling over how to kill a horse. His solutions included.

"Jumping on a horse and biting its neck"

"Eye gouging"

"A flurry of jaw breaking boots"

I could not kill a horse for a million dollars. My respect for horses is well documented. My only real contribution to this conversation was to somehow have a horse fall in love with me and then leave breaking it's heart and therefore killing it.

El Fuerte has since emailed his sister who is studying to be a veterinarian asking for horse weak spots. She has replied you could theoretically kill a horse with a heart stopping punch ala Kill Bill.

Woe betide any horse spotted in our travels I fear for it's life.

So close and so far

A strange mental state enveloped the crew of RoMa as we neared Abu Dhabi. We had been at sea for 11 days. We had had a few hic ups, stoppages and the prospect of land did not seem entirely real. We gradually got close to land and discovered our view was limited due to a sand storm gathering.

We made our way to the Abu Dhabi commercial port. I am a huge fan of commercial ports having been stuck in the Livorno one for a few days. We moored RoMa ok and I exchanged pleasantries with one of the locals who was fishing.

We had twelve bags of rubbish to dispose of. I very cleverly delegated the extraction of the said rubbish bags to El Fuerte and Uncle Phil. After dinner we engaged in a small celebration of sorts. I retired to bed and was soon awoken by Uncle Phil.

"Dan we are going out "

"Oh you crazy guys, have a good one"

"No we have to leave, something about customs"

Naturally I was enchanted at the idea of leaving Abu Dhabi before I had even seen anything other than a rubbish bin. We set about getting the boat ready to leave. El Fuerte did not believe we were going until he heard our Captain giving orders on the radios.

A small hic up by our agent in Egypt mean our crew list was missing three people. These three people could have been illegal aliens or disposed of with our rubbish. We spent the night 2 miles out to sea. What happened next? Keep reading.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Running the Pirate Gauntlet

The actual art of dodging Pirates in the gulf of Aden is as close to being in a war as I would like. We joined a full convoy, adopted aliases and basically made like a floating submarine for four days.

We missed our Chinese convoy and were going to have to travel through pirate alley without military support. It is good luck that some rope dangling down from out battle with King Neptune was enough bait to solicit some advice from an Indian cargo ship called Guru Govind Singh. After listening to sea bored Philippinos babble on VHF channel 16 for 3 days it was wonderful to hear an Indian accent speaking good English. The Captain was kind enough to send us details on the Indian convoy.

It has to be said that the Indian navy did an admirable job of shepherding us along the safe transit lane. Keeping nine very different boats in a perfect 3x3 grid almost all of the time is something that was lost upon the Chinese and Korean convoys that we saw travelling the other way. Here are some of the highlights.

Biggest miss match,

The closest we got to any actual pirates that we know of was spotting a fishing vessel that was very interested in our convoy. He was probably getting intelligence for a pirate mother ship further along the transit lane. Our Indian frigate was very interested and very intimidating.

Most beautiful sight,

On our very last night in the pirate hotzone we were without military support. We turned off all of our lights and were a ghost ship. We had a full sky of stars and the schools of plankton gave us a fluorescent wake which was stunning.

Scariest moment,

At one point we had up to five different objects on our radar circling us in the moonlight. It was a like that scene from Aliens when the marines figure out they in deep shit and can not see anything. Luckily it turned out to be whales feeding on plankton.

Actual simulated pirate boarding,

Our security personnel moved our fenders into our stairwells to hinder the movement of any boarding. Naturally the deck department had to test the efficacy of this.

On the whole pirate gauntlet running went very smoothly. The bad weather that slowed us down heading into the gulf of Aden made for poor pirate weather. The pirate threat remains very real and it was interesting to experience it.

Tune in next time for the story of how we got kicked out of Abu Dhabi.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Three Rounds with Neptune

When I last left you. It was an edge of the seat ending. The weather had turned, we had missed our convoy and we were about to lose our internet connection.

The weather was really something. We had a wind of up to 50 knots blowing straight at us and 5 meter waves to match. I took some footage of the waves from the safety of the bridge. Actual footage does not do it justice hopefully the words will.


You can see the bow getting covered with water. We are some 15 meters behind the bow and quite elevated in the bridge.

The only thing that could have made it more exciting would have been going to the bow to do some work. Imagine my glee when I was ordered to go and investigate the suspicious looking rescue tender. Now I have mentioned cleaning cleaning products before. Rescuing a rescue tender is probably in the same realm of work place sentence inanity.

Luckily for me, El Fuerte and our chief officer Dragan came along. Uncle Phil was strangely missing. He was happy to tell us afterwards that he had been blissfully asleep in the crew lounge. Initial diagnosis of the tender was not good. The heavy pitching of the bow had ripped all of the fixing shackles off the tender.

The tender had then been pushed backwards and had come to a stop wedged under the crane. The jet engine was damaged and the tender was full of water causing all of the safety equipment to swim. It was heartening to know the hydrostatic release on the remaining life jacket worked.

We set about trying to tie the tender down. Danger levels were rising when I took my first wave of water in the stomach. My second round with Neptune caused me to fall over backwards. Luckily I broke my fall on my neck with a handily placed bench seat. El Fuerte was washed off his feet. Dragan held onto the tender and nearly broke his leg wedged between a capstan from the force of the water. Dragan quietly told us quite loudly that we had to get out of here and our situation was FUBAR. The third round with Neptune caused me to get washed under the broken tender. El Fuerte was sent careening between Dragan’s legs in a most undignified fashion. It was time to abandon the tender. It wasn’t going anywhere and it was not going to be rescuing anyone for a while.

I do believe I was in a mild form of shock after fighting Neptune. We were all very lucky none of us was not seriously injured or washed overboard. My ipod was not lucky. Even being inside a Gill suit was not enough protection for him. The tender is a write off. We are going to replace it with something a bit more hardy and with a detachable engine.


So it has been a while. A lot of water has been under the hull. Over the next week or so I will be retroactively writing up stories from the voyage. I have a few planned, here are the headlines in no particular order.

Running the pirate gauntlet
Three rounds with Neptune
El Fuerte the horse killer
So close and back again
Roland the terrible
Swedish Lesson #3 the Gangster Edition

I think there will be a myriad of other musings coming. Sounds like we are off the the Maldives. Yipeeee.