Friday, 21 December 2012

Let the Games Commence

Well I safely made it across the Atlantic again. Obviously this crossing was a bit different for me. There was an absence of rinsing, sanding and watch keeping. My only excursions outside were to take part in our Atlantic crossing games and to have a swim about one day of of Barbados.

I am happy to say that things started to *click* work wise about four days ago. Strangely enough this coincided with me discovering and starting to use our Crew gym. The gym is a converted play room which has Scifi murals and a slide which descends two floors. It is the perfect place for me to exercise.

I did some freakishly admirable hacking the other day to balance one of our TV Sat domes. Without a proper weights kit I used some nuts, bolts and cable ties. This worked incredibly well, so well it will be a shame and a little bit embarrassing when a professional comes to balance it properly.

Barbados is nice enough. I had a traumatic shopping experience when I went to the local computer super store. I was not sure I was ever going to leave that part of the island. However comparing Barbados with other parts of the Caribbean it is obvious that people take pride in their houses and enjoy a good standard of living.

We got the firm word from our stand in Captain about what we can say with regards to cruising plans. All I can say for now is that i will be spending New Years and Christmas in a familiar place with at least half of Hollywood and the wealthier enclaves of Europe.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The really deep and dreamy end

Bon Journo.

Well its been a week since I left the Middle East and I thought it was high time I wrote something. It's been an adventure of the rather large persuasion. I don't live an ordinary life but I guess I never have.

I got out of Qatar in one piece. In an odd turn of events it rained solidly the whole day that I left. There was some nice poetry in that. I landed in Roma in the evening. It took me days to get across the airport. My NZ cap is as good as diplomatic immunity in Italy at least. I'm not even sure passport control stamped me in.

I had a short flight to Pisa and then I waited for a while for Dan, one of my new colleagues to pick me. We had a drive to La Spezia where I finally got on board my new home. Now I have signed a confidentiality agreement, but I have a pretty good understanding of how these things work. I don't think will be treading on anyones toes by sharing a little bit here on this very blog.

First impressions, an overpowering desire to append wow to every sentence. She is a stunning boat and everything is so shiny and new. I have spent the last week getting lost on an hourly basis but I am slowly starting to get a feel for things. We had a fire drill yesterday and I found my way to my muster station without too much hassle, so that is good to know.

The crew accommodation is top notch and I have a positively cavernous cabin to myself. This is a big plus as given our size we do not tie up that often.

my cabin

My department is a subset of Engineering. There are four of us in our office which is broadly speaking Electrical and AVIT. Having spent many years in offices, it is both satisfying and comforting to return to one even if it is a bit chaotic. Rest assured I have my label maker out and am making gentle improvements.

My desk

We have a staggering amount of Apple equipment on board. We have a staggering amount of everything for that matter. Sadly there are a few mountains to climb with regards to the AV system but there is a plan and if I can make a good impression over the next few weeks the next year will be a very exciting time.

That is not to say things have not been exciting. Oh no. We had a sea trial on Tuesday which was heart in the mouth stuff and I am glad that I had been here for a couple of days otherwise I might have packed my bags and left. My wife used to always say "All I want is a normal boat" I thought about this on Tuesday evening "Honey all boats are crazy"

We left on Tuesday for Gibraltar, the passage was quite bumpy and there was a bit of spontaneous reorganisation all over the vessel. Our office was shaken up a bit, thankfully we have an unending supply of cable ties. 

Gibraltar yesterday was an anticlimax. We only had a berth for 8 hours as there was a ferry coming in. I did get to go ashore and stock up on Protein powder. It was very odd to see shops openly selling alcohol. It was hilarious to see an English magazine in the crew mess with a tops bums of the year feature this morning.

The highlight for me so far? This morning we raised the helicopter pad to take on our helicopter. I took a couple of photos.

It was eerily spine-tingling stuff. Im sure the blokes and the blokes at heart will agree.

Thats it for me and the Med for now. We are Barbados bound.


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Finishing my Tour of Duty in the Middle East

I remember being quite dispirited and low leaving my last boat. Our Med season had been a grind and I dont think we ever had time to get over our brush with death and the man over board we dealt with in the Bay of Biscay. My wife had returned home to New Zealand and I was quite fed up. That said I didn't write anything down and to be fair time has healed a lot of what I was unhappy about.

I don't think time will be quite so kind with my time here. I have already penned some of my grievances. There are many juicy things that I will not be able to write about until I have finished in this industry. Outside of work these castles made upon sand and the fragile society that surrounds them still puzzles me. It doesn't feel right. The Doha fire tragedy that happened two days after we arrived is still dragging its way through the court system. The thing that mosts irks me, is having my broadmindedness slowing eroding away. I do believe I have developed racist traits living here.

My Sister called this my tour of duty and I think thats the best description. Everywhere I have travelled or lived I have felt or seen common threads. Here the threads are so tenuous that I might as well have been living in a space station for six months.

I am still not free and will not feel so until I am on that plane. I broke a few rules leaving here. Usually there is a one month notice period. Through careful negotiation and clever writing I got that down to a week. For my residency to be cancelled there were numerous paper hurdles that normally take a month to process. Fortunately I had unwavering faith that I will join my new boat and I am not supposed to live in the sand. My final paper work came through 2 hours before the close of business day on Thursday. I will fly out of here at 11:45pm on Saturday.

That is my glance back over my shoulder. My future is incredibly bright. There is much to be happy about. I am in good health, I have a great job to look forward to. I now have a 50% work/life balance. Im going to be travelling to places I have never seen. I am going to have plenty of things to write about.

Let the dice fly high.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Rekindling the magic

At some point during the year of the Dragon 2012 the FireDragon forgot how intrinsically magical he was. It wasn't until the full solar eclipse the FireDragon remembered how to use magic.

First he asked for good luck wishes and spells far and wide. He had two replies. Two were all that he needed given the highly esteemed two Snakes that wished him the best. Two of his previous Captains were too busy to give the FireDragon written references. It turns out FireDragons don't need written references, they just burn on proximity anyway. The FireDragon got two stirling references one from an unexpected quarter who praised the FireDragon for being humble. Things progressed and the FireDragon will now start a new course of Employment on the 3rd of December. The 3rd of December is when this happens,

Planetary alignment that will take place Dec 3, 2012 is dead-on alignment with the Pyramids at Giza. 

Mythical creatures aside. I have landed a real dream job. I will be working as an AVIT officer on a very large Motor Yacht. The vessel is the top ten size wise and is very new. We have an interesting itinerary and I will share some more details when I know my non disclosure obligations. This is the big time.

Somebody asked me what an AVIT officer is. My explanation is that an AVIT is basically a Dan. Anyone that has visited one of my abodes over the last 10 years would have seen the foundations of a career as an AVIT officer. Entertainment/Computers/Gaming and Music. I will be getting paid to be myself. I think that is the best possible job.

The huge thing for me is to be finally working time for time. Time for time means I will work two months and then have two months at home. I will get paid over 12 months.. I wil probably drive my wife mad but at least now I will be at home with my friends and family being annoying :-).

I can not stress what a difficult year it has been. I have seen my Wife for about 1 month over the last year. I have doubted what I have been doing many a time. Unfortunately my working environment was starting to erode my confidence. I have not enjoyed living in Qatar. I have no affinity with the culture its people and do not want any.

Working at sea has and continues to push me in ways that I never thought possible. I always knew if I could survive that first season I could achieve anything and this is just a continuation of that.

By the way I have to say thank you to Richard Dunnais who's teachings must have rubbed off on me as I have never been called humble in a reference before.

I thank you all for your support. I certainly felt the love last night. Sometimes you just need to ask for it.
Exciting times for this FireDragon. I feel like my whole life has lead me to this juncture. Very happy days indeed.

Big sigh.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Study Bugs

Well I passed my course.

<Insert Applause here>

It was very difficult. I wager I did more study in two weeks than I did in years at high school. I was lucky that my hotel was only 3 minutes from the Marine school and I did not have to walk past any pubs. I did do some nice walks early in the morning and I marvelled the dampness that pervades urban England. You can feel it encroaching your senses. It made a pleasant change after having sand enter your pores for five months.

After the first week I was spending so much time with my books that I had to pass up a trip to Cambridge to see some old young friends. I did have a study break of sorts and went into Newcastle. I wrote earlier how I was struck at how friendly the people were. I was told later in my trip that the Southshields locals think of the Newcastle people as being stand offish. I guess nice is just relative to what you know.

I engaged in some retail therapy. I returned to my hotel in Southshields. I have created some rockstar hotel rooms in my lifetime. This is about as rockstar as my hotel room got in my time up in Newcastle.

That is a handbasin in the background not a toilet basin.

By about the following Wednesday the participants in my course were starting to get a bit frayed. I was still gaiting around and trying to seem uninterested but some of the practice exams were making me angry. We were to have our real exams on the Thursday and a practical Oral exam on the Friday.

The following Thursday our sole master mariner on the course broke out in hives right before our exam. It was at this point I started to get a bit uneasy. The two Irish and Scotsman on my course went for pints while they waited for results. It turned out we had all passed. Most of the tension disappeared.

my last walk in Southshields suitably damp

I passed the Oral exam on the Friday. I then had the perfect post exam relaxation. A session with the Brumbler the Pocket Battler who just happened to be doing a course at Southshields.

We met at a cheap pub and started drinking. It turned out it was the wrong pub as we were supposed to meet some Engineering cadets who had been doing advanced firefighting with him. Advanced firefighting sounds very dangerous. Brent was sporting a burn to his foot after getting up close and personal with fire. After witnessing somethings later I could see why this happened.

Reunited with his classmates I set about showing there are clearly defined boundaries between New Zealand and Australia. We are longer limbed for starters. We also are more cultured and less prone to rash things as would be demonstrated. Brent and I have spent good chunks of time in Italy, We both look forward to returning to Italy at a later date. Our charming company meant we were added to the Cadets table at a classy (for Southshields) Italian restaurant.

Upon reaching the Restaurant we were told to behave to an impecable standard. There was some nebulous connection for one of the Cadets to the Restaurant. We destroyed this rule after about 30 seconds of getting our first rounds of drinks. One of the Welshman overturned Brent's Italian bira showing us all how flexible he wasnt.

We were ushered to our table to stop disrupting the diners waiting to get tables. We then started swearing a normal amount for Sailors and soon to be Sailors. We were warned multiple times for making too much noise (swearing) Brent and I then decided to stop swearing in English and start swearing in Italian. I started ssshing pretty much all interactions of a non volatile nature.

We ate a very average Italian meal to Brent and my own best of Tuscany standards. The menu was definitely the most Italian thing in the place. Brent and I had a celebratory Brumble which was vodka/barcadi and a local energy drink. We dubbed it the Newcastle Brumble.

Taste testing the Newcastle Brumble

Moments directly after taste testing the Newcastle Brumble.

At some point Brent decided to start cooking a spoon with a candle. The candle resisted ssshing.

I remember something else refusing sssshing.

After dinner we decided to treat the cadets to some Limoncello.

I made the very brave have an espresso with a little drapple of milk a Machiato if you will.

It is here the night took a turn for the unknown. We went to a very vibrant rock bar in Southshields. Brent swears he felt very amplified. I saw things I have never seen before on a dance floor but I had to leave with one of the Cadets pushed someone to the ground a couple of times. Apparently nothing came of it, maybe its a local custom. I did not hang around to find out.

The next morning I arose early with a considerable hangover. Brent however slept through our taxi and I had to ring him late to wake him up. He did come through a taxi eventually. We had a very amusing ride to the airport. Brent had footprints all over his shirt from the night before. I told him he had been all over the dancefloor horizontal so that was the logical explanation.

And fair readers that was the second time I have known Brent to affect airports by just going out for a couple of drinks.

Monday, 5 November 2012

At the drop of a hat

We had quite a successful boss trip last week. It lasted about six days and we had some very good feedback from all key steakholders (intentional pun).

Directly after the trip our Captain congratulated us. He told us we had three days off and all crew were entitled to a massage from the local therapist. This was pretty awesome news.

Joe and I went off to our surfing spot. We ironically took a personal photographer Theo. We were commenting in the car how out of all of the bosses numerous entourage the photographers seemed the most worthwhile. That and the Tea/sisha man. 

November looks to be the best time of the year for surfing and upon reaching Police bay we set about wooping and making convincing impressions of people who know how to body board. Theo did a great job of cataloging our outing.

I wiped out a couple of times quite spectacularly. I also cramped up at one point with such fervour that Joe thought I had been bitten by a shark. On our way back to the boat I broke my alcohol sabbatical of two months with a couple of glasses of red wine. It was dirt cheap and tasted divine. Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.

I went into a deep sleep after eating some dinner and awoke to what could only be interpreted as a nightmare. Joe was telling Shane and I that we has to take the boat to the Middle East. 

The mood on the boat the next morning could only be described like a zombie aflicted morgue with a hangover. It was a bit of a slap in the face given that we have only just left the Middle East. Having had one of our best charters ever and to be heading back that way. 

Luckily for the Chef and I. We had prior plans. Mine involved flying out the day the boat departed for Newcastle on Tyne. I'm writing this from the perpetually confusing Charles de Gaul. Everytime I come here is an ordeal. I'm quite stoked I got onto my plane after four bus rides. 

Newcastle after being away from the western world for so long is marvellous. I have been struck by how friendly everyone is. More about Newcastle later in the week. My heart goes out to my home and pseudo family which is beating its way up to parts unknown.

The moral of this story. Seize the day and your board. You never know what might happen or what might seize up.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

How to procure an NZ Seamans Book

There are occasions when Google fails me and I have to resort to more archaic methods of finding things out. Such was the case late last week when I set about trying to find information on this topic. A Seaman book is a travel document which records when you join and leave boats. It is very useful for the taxman and allows you to get special fights. It is also very helpful when you are working towards Maritime qualifications or tickets as we like to call them.

Now I have the information I would like to impart the knowledge so in the future people do not have to go through the trauma of emailing somebody.

Good morning,  
Thank you for your email.
I have attached a copy of the form we will need to have completed before we can issue a NZ Seafarers Discharge Book to you.  Once the form is completed in full and returned to us in Auckland, we should be able to issue the discharge book within a few days of receipt.    Please supply the following to us:
1.  Completed form.
2.  Copy of a current NZ Passport or passport showing NZ Residency. 
3.  2 x Passport sized photos - colour.               (Please DO NOT supply photos printed on Fuji Film as these are incompatible with the paper used in our Discharge Books)
4.  $100.00 (cash or cheque (payable to Manukau Institute of Technology) , Credit Card number (not Amex or Diners) or a purchase/works order from your company (this can be faxed to us at (09) 379 4999).    Alternatively you can pay directly into our bank account, see below. 
5.  Indicate on the bottom of the attached form how you wish to receive this document. 
            Bank Details are:
            Bank:              National Bank of NZ
            Branch:           East Tamaki, Auckland, NZ
            Address:         116 Harris Road, East Tamaki, Auckland
            AC #                06-0293-0073560-00
            Swift Code:     ANZBNZZ22 (to be quoted on payment) plus
            Quote:             Student Name / ID number if Known, any other details which may be available   
5. A postal address to send the book to once it is completed or a A5 self addressed envelope/courier bag.  If you wish us to courier this document to you, Freight charges will be payable (to the value of the service provided).


Thursday, 25 October 2012

Joe Versus the Curb

Yesterday morning after some more than pointless running Joe and I took a rental car and went surfing. We are lucky on the Seychelles that there is usually a swell of some sorts. I can't think of many yachting cruising locations that you can go for a surf before and after work.

Joe drives quite quickly, I named him and the Chefs car the white knuckle in Doha. But Doha is a bit different to here. It had been raining heavily and Joe was driving quite aggressively. We made a turn away from the coastline and snaked along a small tarmac road. With eerie premonition I said to Joe, "I wouldn't be driving this fast here Joe, I would be treating the road like a dirt one" Exactly two seconds later we left the road grinded the curbside and came to a halt. Local crash scene investigators stopped immediately and with the help of 8 locals we had the car back on the road.

Given the response I think going off the road is a common occurrence here. I'm just happy nobody was hurt and the white knuckle has been put in a glove for a few months.

The Myth of the Runners High

Past readers may remember me complaining about the futile exercise that Running is. Having been a while I thought it would be prudent to resurrect this favourite topic of mine. For the past two months I have been engaged in a regular running. I get up before Sunrise, don armour and stagger, stumble and canter in the great out doors. Most of my running is intermingled with walking and cursing. I really detest running. My body protests and my mind rapidly starts thinking up excuses as to why I should slow down and walk.

Avid runners talk about a runners high. An endorphin filled nirvana which is there for the taking. My experiments have found no evidence of a runners high. The only thing I have found slightly resembling a high is when I stop stop running and I get a small flush as the blood leaves my legs to circulate through the rest of my body. I think that I am actually a highly evolved specimen. Future evolution of the human race will leave running left behind. We will float above the earth or maybe slide gracefully like ice skaters.

On a happier note. I did see something this morning which filled my pumping heart with joy. A beautiful sunrise which I was more than happy to stop running for and take a photo.

When I got back to the boat, I turned around and there was a radiant rainbow. Highs all around and not a runner in sight.


Monday, 22 October 2012

Much Better

I think my whole body and mind sighed with relief this morning when I went outside for the first time in five days. The temperature was probably about 26 degrees. The air so clean it felt like breathing menthol and the view was this.

I am looking forward to returning your normal scheduled programming here.

Happy Crossings

With only 6 hours to go I think it is safe to say that we have had a happy and peaceful crossing. I have had a lifetimes worth of traumatic passages in my short career so I am happy we have had a good one. What did happen?

Well our Security guards managed to put our treadmill into a state by setting the incline to 40 degrees in a 2 metres of sea. This caused the worm gear to get horribly out of sync. The Second Engineer and I took it apart and after consulting the manual I managed to recalibrate the incline setting with the computer and it is back to normal. I seriously wonder why we have security guards. On our last crossing they destroyed an exercise bike. I think you could set up a company with robotic ScareSentries (patent pending) and make/save a lot of money.

We did an equator crossing. I again sat it out. Its a revolting shameful tradition which should be phased out. One of the stewadess's asked me why I did not take part. I replied "I am too old and sensible." Words I do not think I have ever uttered.

Does that look like fun?

Our Second Officer has just made an announcement of land ho. I actually think I will kiss the first grass that I see. We had an announcement of rain on the way down. Its funny how you miss things after a few months.

Today I targeted our television Satellite and got a call centre in South Africa to hit our decoders. On a Sunday no less. Getting South Africans to do anything is an achievement in my books. Getting them to do it on a weekend is impressive.

Clever me.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Just Deserts

We left Qatar today. We had 48 hours to leave and it was satisfying to see how everyone hustled to vacate apartments, fuel and provision up and slip our lines this afternoon. Five months in Qatar was a couple of months too many for me. Ramadan as eye opening as it was, felt unsettling and there are many facets of Middle Eastern living that will never sit easy with me. The military build up in and around Iran has not gone unnoticed and I hope we have a smooth trip down to the familiar Seychelles.

Looking forward we should have 1-2 months down there before we come back for Christmas. I will be going to England in November for a couple of weeks and returning home to New Zealand for a month at Christmas time which I am dearly looking forward too. I also plan on spending a few days with my Sister and freshly married partner in Sydney. It will be fabulous.

I'm hoping to catch a bit of surf in the Seychelles. I'm still sober, not a drop since the Second of September, but I am hoping I have something to celebrate after I complete my course in November.


Monday, 8 October 2012

X-Ray Vision

Last week I got a seaman medical. My last seaman medical was a very professional and expensive one gained on Harley street in London. I would have preferred to get one there again but with my old one expiring and my next trip to England not till November getting one here was the best option.

I have to admit that the clinic I visited was very good and although I had to visit four different departments It was relatively uneventful. The only funny part of the trip was getting a chest X-Ray. I managed to get my X-Ray with my nipple ring attached. To be honest I don't know how to remove it. I forget about it most of the time until someone spots it loitering under a white polo shirt or I am dis-robed. Anyway after my X-Ray I was ushered over to a screen to make sure my spine was still intact. The poor Philippine Nurses were freaking out. They had not spotted my nipple ring before the X-Ray and it looked quite a sight.

Nurses placated I left the clinic with a very smug smile.

On my return to the clinic to get my results I made the mistake of standing next to water dispenser. I got a grunt and dismissive back hand from a local lady dressed in full costume. I hope she was there for some strong medication. The good news is that I am a healthy specimen fit for duty. My hearing is surprisingly good. I guess years of talking to myself have been done at safe levels. My eyesight its slowing decaying. I still blame years of game-boy playing but it is fair to say I am growing old. I have shrunk a centimetre, I blame that on working with a few short angry people in my time and having had to stoop to various unsavoury levels.

Obviously we are still in Qatar. We hope to head South soon. Selfishly I want to get a good tan minus sand abrasion before I head to England in November for a GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) course. I should have a day or two layover in London and I hope to see some of you there.

What else? Well its been five weeks without a drop of alcohol. You would be amazed how easy it is not to drink when you need a licence to purchase alcohol and have to visit expensive hotels to purchase a drink legally. If you want to have a dry month, both figuratively and climatically the Middle East can't be beat.

I'm going to try and go for three months without a drop. I should be positively parched before I head back to New Zealand for Christmas. Please save a drink for me.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

The DanHammer

In a concerted effort to return my brain to tip top condition I have embarked on a body reconditioning program which should return my physique to the incredible marvel of a nutritious diet, regular exercise and vice less paragon I was before I embarked on a career in yachting.

My brain has already started to bear fruit and I have been thinking on how to improve my internet experience. My findings are the framework for an application which could have far reaching consequences.

Much like the advertisement and pop up blockers from days gone by the DanHammer ™ works like this.

The user completes a profile to create a settings file, for example.

I have no interest in reality television
I have no interest in the *stars* of it
I do not subscribe to political manifestoes
I detest talent shows
I am not religious

The DanHammer program then acts as a proxy filter hiding away these wastes of space. A logic routine might looks like this

Key word Kardashian found
Trigger Delete offending text, ban website, block facebook friend
Key word Simon Cowell found
Trigger Send Abusive email
Key word X-Factor picture
Trigger Replace with picture of Llama

Already the users internet experience is far better. This is not censorship. It is taking out the trash.

Sadly my body reconditioning program is taking up far too much of my time for me to pursue this further but I take heart that some of my previous ideas were inspiration for this little app.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Desert House

Following by camel caravan slowly after Cowboy Trance comes the Deckhand Desert House mix. I recorded this mix this morning after feeling suitably inspired. Kind of rough like my shaving after a night out but like my shaving I figure something is better than nothing. My Wife has been asking me to record a house mix for as long as we have been together so this one is for her and my brothers struggling in this flaming Desert.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

One more Reason

I miss being the Med for summer.

Yes I do know one of the crew members. No I do not know Beyonce and Jay Z. Yet.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Words left unread

A friend emailed me wondering what had been happening for the last couple of months. To be perfectly honest I have not been enjoying this part of the world greatly. I have plenty of uncharitable words to write about here. Perhaps it would be enlightening to write what I miss instead of writing what I do not like.

  • I miss walking off my gangway and being somewhere hospitable
  • I miss grass and trees
  • I miss seeing skin
  • I miss seeing faces for that matter
  • I miss people obeying traffic laws
  • I miss sub 30 degree temperatures
  • I miss meeting other crews from boats
  • I miss hearing languages that I sort of understand
  • I miss freedom, you don't realise what you have until it is taken away

On a slightly more positive note we should be leaving here at the end of September. I am booked in for a course in November in England and will be trying my best to schedule a few days in London to see a few people.

I have also requested a months holiday at Christmas and I will drown and douse myself in all those things I miss.


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Hoha in Doha

I do not think words can adequately describe the climate induced shock that Qatar renders so efficiently on a foreign body but I will try. You know that feeling you get when you open an oven that has been roasting something, or a hair dryer about to explode? Well that is what greets you every time you venture outside. Currently we have a low of 32 degrees and its hitting 40 degrees during the day. Americanos that is degrees Celsius. I am very thankful that my job allows me to be inside most of the time. I did have the pleasure of removing those cameras I was so enthused about a couple of months back. After a few hours outside I realized that my brain malfunctions at elevated temperatures. I actually become a bit hoha (crazy).

Inside I am less crazy but a bit starved for inspiration. My apartment looks out across a building site and a busy road. With no real public transport, footpaths or climate encouraging alternative transport the roads are perpetually busy which allows for a hypnotically distracting vista. Thankfully I have my laser to fall back upon when the road is obscured by nightfall or sand.

On Sunday I went on an expedition to get my blood tested, chest x-rayed and blood type for residency purposes. Being one of the older crew members I went with the Chef and Chief Steward. The experience was mildly harrowing. The queues and efficiency shown were somewhat soberly akin to a concentration camp. I left with a little less blood an the only anomaly found during my chest x-ray was a nipple ring. My blood type is A+ and I was a little gutted that nothing stranger turned up but given the circumstances it was probably just as well.

One of the Deckhands and I have bought Badminton rackets. I take great lengths to educate anyone and everyone that Badminton is the fastest racquet sport and anything else is just a waste of time. Sadly Qatar for all of its infrastructure only has two Badminton courts and they are always busy. That has not stopped James and I playing freestyle hot air Badminton downstairs in the very large car park. We do not have a net but our efforts have not gone unnoticed with a crowd of three people watching us play on the weekend. The hot air and abundant concrete make for a very challenging venue which will only get better once we get some blue tape down to mark out a court and erect a net made from purloined materials.

My flatmate bought a shish-a for use in our apartment. Having not indulged in a conventional shish-a before I approached the device gingerly at first. After a few sessions I have grown quite attached to it. It has a football theme which makes it infinitely more entertaining than real football. I must confess to watching the second half of Italy versus Spain. I guess I am more Spanish now than Italian as I was supporting Spain before I fell asleep.

On that note it is time to sleep. Only 12 more of those until my wife arrives. Yippee.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Das Rude ein Sandstorm

Alas I am so very punnie.

A week into my tour of duty in Qatar and I can report with a few nuances and nuisances of living in the Middle East. I have been enjoying living ashore and my house mate Joe has turned me onto a few delightful traits of his which can only be described as liberal and swashbuckling outsourcing on a grand scale.

When we moved into our apartment we took our laundry to the local Laundromat so it could be washed and folded to a good standard for storage in our free standing closets. We have a kitchen drawer full of fine eating establishments that are quite happy to deliver at all hours. We had a cleaning lady come and clean our apartment yesterday. There is some talk of getting a cook into cook us dinner a couple of nights a week. I am not sure if I agree with all of this but I will happily go along with it if it frees me up for....

Playing Diablo 3. Imagine waiting 12 years to do something. Imagine waiting an additional three weeks because of work commitments. Imagine finally getting a day off and the time to fulfill your destiny and the servers being down for maintenance. Needless to say I was positively thermonuclear last Wednesday I am sure you could have heard me screaming where ever you live.

Needless to say when the weekend finally came on Friday and Saturday I played so much Diablo 3 that my eyeballs almost fell out of my head. A sandstorm literally sanded me into my room and although people came and talked to me they could have been figments of my sleep deprived mind. I made the mistake of leaving the apartment complex on Saturday afternoon and was hit with both sand and a huge culture shock. I am a million miles away from home. There are sand people (Jawas) walking around. If I do not want a kebab, shesha or mobile phone my part of town is a bit lacking.

I completed my first run of Diablo 3 on Saturday evening. I could breathe again but I picked up a cold. I have named this illness sand flue. In my ever so smart but completely bullshit capacity I have worked out that new comers to the Middle East get a cold within the first week due the climate. Hence a lot of our crew stricken with this mystery illness.

Indeed it was a dire sight that greeted me at work on Sunday morning. A lot of sand. Luckily I do not work outside any more and shall not be working outside until a decision is made about those blasted mast cameras.

What else? well liquor laws here are interesting. To purchase alcohol for use at home you need to get a licence and buy it along with bacon at the "naughty' shop. The only other way to have a tipple is to drink at one of the numerous bars and clubs that are part of hotels. The really interesting thing is that these hotels are never full of guests staying in rooms. I surmise that Qatar is not a hot tourist destination for many so what keeps these hotels running is the large and thirsty ex patriate community that frequents the bars and clubs.

In an effort to make things a bit homelier I printed off 45 photos to adorn our living room. I organized them by geo location and time of day. It became blazingly obvious quite quickly that I have a sunset and cloud fetish. When I go I want to be on a cloud drifting off into the sunset.

What what else? Well my wife and I will be reunited next month. If that is not cause for sensible celebration I do not know what is.

More news as it hits me in the face. Ciao!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Touchdown Qatar


Its not often I am near tragedy but there was a massive one here on Sunday night. A local shopping mall had a terrible fire which enveloped a creche. 19 people died including three triplets from New Zealand. All of our crew had visited the shopping mall in the previous days and my flatmate was barred entry on the night of the disaster when he tried to get a puncture repaired. This is a first of the kind for Qatar and my thoughts are with the families of the victims.

We arrived in Qatar on Saturday afternoon. My more persistant readers will know I have been to the middle east before but never Qatar. A rule of thumb is that Qatar is a few years behind Dubai with its westernization but coming from the Seychelles it feels like another planet. Everything is done on a grand scale and one only needs to get in a car to feel like you are in an asteroid belt. The heat is blistering and we are still a couple of months away from the real hot season.

We have been lucky enough to get apartments to live in whilst we are based here. Coming from our probably quite large for a yacht crew accommodation the apartments feel positively palatial. My flatmate and I have been busy decorating and our substantial efforts have left the place looking like a cyber rave post modern bat cave. We are not finished yet and a laser will be arriving next week to supplement the chin up bar, Bose q10 sound dock, PS3, Egyptian papyrus and trimmings.

You would think I would be not reminded of home much here but there have been a couple of moments that have made me feel right at home. The first was being allocated a crew car with one of the Australian Engineers. We have earned the one and only Toyota Hilux. Hilux's are a bit of an institution in New Zealand and it looks like they have a fan base here. I only wish ours had bull bars and an air conditioned dog on the back.

I thought of dogs with my second experience. I left the boat and was struck with a very familiar smell. The smell of a wool shed on a hot summers day. I could not see any shearers and showing ones shoulders through a black singlet is not allowed here so I Sherlocked  the situation. There was a large sheep carrier upwind.

For now much of Qatar remains a mystery but its nice to know small parts of home are abound. I shall be taking some photos over the next week and will share these with you soon.


Sunday, 27 May 2012

Pirate Attack

Exactly three years ago to the day I was busily day working at the Monaco Grand Prix. My jaw was bouncing off the deck in between saying wow every other minute. In a moment of relative coherence I asked one of the crew does one ever become used to this life. The South African replied with a smug look "yes you will get used to it"

This all came flooding back to me last night when we had a couple of pirate skiffs circle us at high speed and were consequently seen off by our heavily armed security force. When the call came over the radio for us to muster in the crew mess I was sure it was a drill. Why we would be running a drill coming out of the pirate zone escaped me at the time.

I reassured the crew around me that it was a drill. It became evident it was not a drill when we saw our Grunts tooling up and manning strategic sniper stations. I still did not really click, and I watched bemused as everyone seemed to receive and amplify each others excitement. Not me, I watched bemused. The Grunts as I affectionally call them would take care of any danger. They are huge impressive beings, who previously turned up to our fire drill underway strapped locked and loaded. I have a new definition of irony. Watching a walking weapon, watch The Expendables.

The Pirates were seen off. It was perfect conditions for an attack, the heavy sand fog had lowered visibility. The weather conditions were calm allowing the pirate skiffs to circle us at high speed. Thankfully we had security and had prepared as well as we could. We subsequently learned a ship had been attacked by 21 skiffs a couple of days earlier in the same waters.

This is all normal for me. Is this normal?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Goodbye Seychelles

Sorry to be a bit slow with the blog updates. I hope this movie makes up for it. Its been put together by a very talented crew member. There are couple of my photos in there and I play a small part in the proceedings. Sadly there was no suitable footage of my two DJ outings. This is probably a good thing.

 In other news, we have left the Seychelles for a yet to be disclosed location. It should be a nice jolt to the senses and should prove to arrest the cardiac functions of my brain and fingers. More blog updates on the way.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

How to have an EPIC weekend

On the weekend just past I concocted a recipe of sorts for having an EPIC weekend.

It began averagely enough, I had agreed to spend a day with three of the deck lads. They are all considerably younger than me and prone to dare devil stunts and flights of fancy. In my agreeable state I said I would go along and make sure nobody was injured and local customs were obeyed.

We drove around the island towards Police bay where there was heaving surf. The drive was nice, although our driver James did stop the car to watch two dogs fornicating. The conversation then lurched onto a David Attenborough like speil by Theo who's family breeds dogs and has spent a lot of time watching David running around with wolves.

Sadly we were not allowed to enter Police bay. Being polite has its disadvantages, we should have just waltzed through like we own the place. The problem is that Police bay is owned by the King of Abu Dhabi and we were clearly not him.

Not discouraged in the lightest we made our way to the nearest shop and purchased essentials.

And a large pink bucket.

It took us about 15 minutes to find out next stop an idyllic and very welcoming small beach. This was to be our home for the rest of the sunlight hours.

For the rest of the afternoon we capered around, some of us more energetically than others. Theo took some remarkable photos that I will share with you.

We made ourselves more than known to the native fauna.

I shouldn't have batted an eyelid when James suggested a nude photo shoot but I did. Theo joined him and Craig took the photos. I chortled as the beach seemed to empty before my eyes.

I went for a paddle out into the waves. It was the kind of day you wish would never end. The beer did end. We got more. We eventually retreated back to the boat as the Sun set. Some of us had a party to play at.

Brent the pocket battler was to have left the next day for Milan so we commandeered the nearest bar and grill for a farewell party. I played three chunks of music over the night. For as long as I have been on tropical islands I have wanted to listen to my kind of music. It was impossible in the Carribean. The closest thing I found to good music was a sushi restaurant on Saint Martin. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and gained a couple of fans. Some people are starved for good music on the Seychelles it seems. Others are blissfully unaware.

We had a ceremony for Brent at 12am when his birthday kicked in. Something went a bit wrong as he ended up drinking chunks of glass. Brent did the worm(break dancing worm). It was stifling hot. At about 2:30 things winded up as the bar staff wanted to go home. I walked my gear home and Brent followed behind to eat my toasted sandwich and tell me what a great guy I am. I went to sleep content and slightly worried about the burnt toast smell. We burn a lot of toast in our toaster and burnt toast equals fire alarm.

It had been planned the night before that we would recreate our epic day with a different bunch of people. The first surprise of the day was finding that Brent had missed his flight to Milan. This was hilarious and it became abundantly clear that there was a reason for it.

The reason was this stunning beach which was a perfect place to spend a day. We even found beer, and  made this advert.

Despite doing his best to be somewhat put out about missing his flight to Milan, Brent seemed to take the trauma quite well.

We knew we were doing something right when a boat load of Russians turned up to try and crash our party. By this stage we were quite hungry so we took a long drive to the nearest Japanese restaurant.

The Japanese restaurant was part of a resort and I think I would like to spend a day by the pool.

The food was fabulous, they even made very drinkable Mojitos and espresso martinis. With Sunset approaching we had one more destination, the Sunset.

Coral Island resort backs onto a great beach with a great vista of the sunset. Let me show some photos and they can talk for me.

And that my dear friends is my recipe for an EPIC weekend. The only way it could have possibly been better if it had been with you.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

She Sells Seychelles

I think it is safe for the cat to escape the bag. The mystery location that I have mysteriously arrived in is the glorious collection of Islands called the Seychelles. The journey was uneventful, there was a boat ceremony which involved throwing days old rotting food at people who have not been across the equator. Naturally I declined such an offer and barricaded myself in my cabin. It was bought to my attention the very next day that I missed a centuries old custom. I may not be centuries old, yet but I do have some sense of dignity which is still very intact., silly me.

I was asked to give a hand outside when we came into port. I had not been outside for a few days, usually going outside for me entails going up a mast or something equally exciting. The warm clime and stunning water was definitely a tonic for the soul.

Thankfully our owner visited the next day throwing us into disarray and chaos that only a Boss visit can provide. The highlight of the trip for me was getting my epaulettes. Not only are my epaulettes three striped works of art they have lightning bolts which are a nice nod to my internet handle. Thanks universe for that bit of magic.

I am not at liberty to discuss any details of the trip but I would like to say that when I become incredibly rich I do not want a huge entourage just a man that makes me cups of tea. A tea man if you will.

With our boss departing just as soon he he arrived we got a day off yesterday. I spent my day doing Dan things. With the pocket battler departing us this weekend I have been preparing a selection of tunes to play at his farewell. There is a a quite nice bar that is very close and we have schmoozed the manager quite sufficiently.

Other than that, I wont go on to much about how warm it is or how beautiful things are or even how our Captain is going to move the boat out to anchor this week so we can go for a swim under the guise of testing equipment.