Friday, 25 January 2013

The Significance of Straya Day

Caution: the video embedded in this blog contains course language, racial stereotypes and a large almost life threatening amount of satire.

A couple of years ago I was introduced to this video by the Great Aussie Battler who could recite sections of it verbatim. It serves to explain why Australians get so excited about Straya day. It will be quite neat to see how Straya day unfolds around us tomorrow.

Please do not watch this if you are easily offended.

The most important thing to remember about 'Straya day is that is always comes after my birthday. Australia for all of its wonderful qualities lies in second place.


Friday, 18 January 2013

Rounding the world

There you have it. I have travelled around the world. I have actually been around the world in the last solar year. Starting in New Zealand I first flew to Barcelona. I then back tracked. Going all the way to the Seychelles by boat stopping in France, Egypt and Oman. I then ended up in Qatar and very nearly went terminally mad before escaping to Newcastle and finally breaking my Middle Eastern shackles.

I then flew to Italy and began my long and interesting voyage across the Atlantic to my vessels port for the foreseeable future, Puerto Rico. But I am hoping you know all of that and are more interested in what has happened in the past couple of days. 

To be bluntly honest I did not want really want to fly through America. I did have a more direct flight going through Peru but it had some lengthy lay overs. I have heard some horror stories of flying through the states. I also have some colorful friends who are not allowed to fly into America. If someone wanted to keep me out they probably could find a reason pretty quickly. 

With all of this tumbling through my brain I actually started packing last week. I cleaned my cabin fastidiously. It was so clean that the stewardess who cleaned it said it was the cleanest crew cabin she had ever cleaned. I hope my Wife is reading that and not reading that. I arranged northern George to give me a ride to the airport on Wednesday morning. My flight was at nine. I briefed George that I wanted the car wheels rolling at 7am

I got up early, ate porridge and protein (food to go to war on) and then put my numerous suitcases by the crew exit. I was outside at 6:45 to find that some of the crew had taken the truck I had pre booked. This was the worst possible thing that could have happened. People that know me well, know that I have two modes of operation. 

And positively flapping. 

I started to flap. Luckily I had only had one coffee and after a few phone calls I got a taxi driver out of bed. I took my bags to the security gate. Whilst I was waiting one of the culprits turned up with the truck. She offered to take to the airport. I left the gate guy $20 to give the taxi that had not shown up. 

Shelly did a great job of getting me to the airport. Even though she missed two critical off ramps we got there with plenty of time. I had my bags scanned for narcotics by the USDA and went to get some cash in case I needed to pay for luggage. 

It is worth noting that the night before I had rang my persistently incompetent bank to make sure that there were no bars on my credit card and to tell my hem my travel plans. This was in vain. So there I was with $6 to my name and a stupid amount of bags yet to check in. 

I must have looked a bit flappy when I approached the counter. The nice chap there said Que Pasa and I told him of my lengthy amount of travel ahead. He was very nice but wanted me to move 3 kilos of luggage across from one bag to another. At this point I said I work on a boat and played my trump cards. My seaman letter and my NZ hat. I got a high five and waved through to customs. 

It was very lucky that things worked out like that. Because I tried ringing my terrible bank once I was through and I could not get a proper line until I landed in New York. The hands on head scanning by us border control was a new experience. But I am happy to say my first leg was relatively smooth and on time. 

I got some nice photos about an hour out of New York.

Sadly it was a grey and miserable day in New York and I did not see any of the famous skyline. I had to make do with sight seeing in the Airport Terminal. 

After abusing my bank I got this hearty meal.

I got stuck into some refreshments. Pro tip. The next time you make a Bloody Mary add some French moutard. For a French Bloody Mary, a Mary Antoinette if you will.

I saw this awesome vending machine and then I waited and waited and waited. 

Our connecting flight was very late. I saw a Gentleman go beyond flapping. He flew off his handle. A broomless witch if ever I saw one.

Our flight to LA was two hours late. It was also very full. I was one of the last people allowed carry on luggage and I had to stow it in the tail of the aircraft. Thankfully there was WIFI on board. I busied myself making inane comments and posting photos on facebook. At one point I added salted peanuts into my cocktail after my vodka. When my Internet time ran out I started writing this. There is probably a lesson I don't want to learn in that.  

Los Angeles was absolutely stunning as we flew in. It was very clear and you could see the Santa Monica pier. At least it was a very rehearsed collection of lights doing a very convincing impression of a pier. The pilots parked the plane ok. I crossed the terminal and magically found my way to the Koru symbols where the Air New Zealands planes were.

Air New Zealand felt obliged to check in my 15kilo carry on suitcase. So that is over 65 kilos of luggage I bought home with me. The last leg of my journey was spent thinking how proud we can be of our National carrier in between discussing the finer points of earth quake structural surveying with a chap from LA and favourite TV shows with a student on the other side. Naturally I did not have anything exciting to talk about. I saved it all for here.

It is so nice to be back in New Zealand. I look forward to seeing you all and sharing NZ with the less fortunate.


Monday, 14 January 2013

Case Closed. Time to turn the page.

Well we made it to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is arrestingly American, Latin American with a dash of Caribbean  After tying the boat up and taking care of US border control formalities a few of us ventured out for a drink at the micro brewery. It was my first drink with a lot of the crew and I did have to put the hand brake on my tongue at one point because it was cleaving egos mercilessly. I am blaming the Gin. I am not sure what they add to the Gin here but it is clearly poisonous as I felt very average upon arising the next day. My direct boss and I went and spent $70 on breakfasts at the local McDonalds. McDonalds is a great leveller  I find if I feel too healthy McDonalds will take me down a peg or two. If I feel terrible McDonalds levels me out. It is franchised lithium.

My department worked half a day. My other colleague named Dan wears jandals when we are not on charter. I have decided that if we are in port and it is a weekend day I will wear my slippers. The conclusion of working half a day poisoned in my slippers was that I needed to go shopping for the boat.

Puerto Rico is endowed with the largest shopping mall in the Caribbean. I think it is called Plaza Americanos. It was huge and it was my first real experience of American shopping. The variety and scope of shopping was overwhelming. I bought three t-shirts and a pair of new shoes. I did not buy one critical article but that will have to wait until we can go to best buy. I have been getting a bit of shit for having three man bags. So it was very comforting to see the ridiculous torso covered carry bags one gets at Abercrombie and Fitch. Not only can you look like a nob wearing it you can look like a nob on your way home. My apologies to Abercrombie and Fitch wearers, not.

I will be leaving the boat on Wednesday. I will fly to New York, Los Angeles and then to Auckland. I will arrive in Auckland on Friday morning. Call me weird but am kind of excited about walking around in Airports that have been in so many movies. I will have circumnavigated the planet. It has only taken me 35 years. There are many things to look forward to in the next little while.

*Getting home
*Moving into a new house
*AVIT'ing the new house
*Going to Sydney to see my long but not lost Sister and partner
*Seeing Above and Beyond in Sydney. Need tickets email me if you can help.
*Seeing all of my family and in laws at home
*Seeing all of my friends at home
*Seeing the Hobbit in Middle Earth
*Annas 30th Birthday
*Days at the beach
*Our Six year wedding Anniversary
*Seeing the Stone Roses
*Some photography lessons(more about that later)
*The end of the Year of the Dragon. I think there will be a bang.

It shall be quite an incredible couple of months. Ah and I arrive home just as my birthday month begins. Perfect timing again.


Saturday, 5 January 2013

My Very Different but a bit familiar Christmas

Happy New Year! I started writing this a few days before but I expect it will be well after New Years when I post it. When I last left you we were in Barbados. After leaving Barbados we steamed steadily northwards to Saint Thomas. America being America, we did not tie up because of the lengthy and ridiculous red tape. Our boss choppered onboard and so commenced our Christmas and New Years boss trip.

To say I was a bit nervous about the trip is a bit of an understatement. I had not met the owner and have had limited dealings with his nationality before. I am not at liberty to divulge details about him but some of my writing might give some clues.

One of my core tasks was maintaining three streaming television channels. After watching hours of camel racing and football in the Middle East my new QC work has been quite eye opening. Firstly the language sounds far more attractive and interesting. The programming also is far more attractive and interesting. One of the shows was scripted like this over two days.

*Women with gigantic boobs who would like them measured on stage and talk about them.
*Attractive twins talk about being attractive and being twins.

These are not channels that I have hunted to find. These shows are on the first main news channel of a country in Europe.

Six days out from New Years we got bundled with the task of creating a party out of thin air with the same setup as we had during our Mediterranean season. What the powers that be did not understand is that the parties we had during our Med season were setup by a dedicated team of roadies who followed on an 80m support boat. Not to be discouraged the technical department and our very capable Purser moved a few mountains to accomplish the impossible.

Our first problem was booking a DJ. Sadly the DJ's that commonly DJ to this circle of people appear to be wankers. One of our DJ's actually wanted to find out how much money our Boss wanted to spend before he set his price. Another one wanted to charge us 5k to hire some DJ equipment.

This incensed me. I know a little bit about DJing. I actually program my Boss's gym music and if I was a bit sneakier I would have casually slipped a deckhand mix in to promote myself.  Anyway as soon as we got to Saint Martin I went off to buy some frigging DJ equipment. It would cost less than 5K and it would be top notch.

I felt a bit guilty leaving the boat, but it was really nice to get some sun. I did some epic bartering and got.

2x Pioneer CDJ 2000 nexus
1x Pioneer  DJM 900 nexus

for less that 5k US. This was a very good price.

My only problem was carrying it back to our tender through Philips-burg  I had side walk singers serenading my stomping self lugging my loot. I even had a taxi driver offer me a ride as I entered the marina. I do not know where he was going to drive me.

What I lugged.

After collecting our Captain at the airport we made a very bumpy and wet passage back to the mothership. We had problems immediately after leaving Saint Martin. The bucket which drives the jet seemed to not be engaging correctly. Being that it is one of our two New Zealand made tenders and I was the only Kiwi and member of our glorious engineering team I felt obliged to investigate.

Photo of glorious engineering team. Photo blurred to protect the innocent. 

After investigating the jet and watching the bucket move freely I declared the vessel "she'll be right' status and she was. By now it was getting quite dark. The sea was quite rough and it felt like something from an old Moby Dick movie. I could actually envisage buckets of water being thrown off camera into my face. The deckhand driving the tender was a little bit worried about finding his way back home. He needn't have been. We stood out like a huge floating Christmas tree with each deck being colored Red/Green or White in led lighting. We are the only yacht in the world to my knowledge that can do that on a whim. I felt quite proud returning to her. 

The next day we got busy and assembled a huge lighting truss. It reminded me of happy days gone by working in the sun before it poured down with rain or hail at one of Jarras awesome parties. 

That evening I got out the DJ equipment and made sure it worked in my office.

It worked fine. The next day was the day of our party. We did a couple of tender runs to get our equipment. It turns out that NZ made tenders make awesome large speaker conveyancing vessels. Our Fijian lead deckhand was more than happy to let me drive for a bit. This was great. I did not get to drive a tender for a whole year on my last boat and it is supposed to be harder to do things like that on large boats. I guess that just shows what a family style boat I work on now.

Engineer 'Mouldy' with a speaker

We had a French sound technician arrive with the speakers. We did a sound check after we had plugged them in with my iPhone. It sounded incredible, things were looking good. Our DJ arrived just before lunch. His name is DJ Jus Ske. I had never heard of him but I think hes someone on his way up. Sadly if you google him his claim to fame is having been Lindsay Lohans BF. The internet is a bitch like that. I befriended him and tried to brief him on the Boss's music tastes. I did put some fear into him when i told him we had over 600 gigs of music on board and the Boss likes to listen to Trance when he works out. Jus Ske retired to his Cabin and I made sure he had some football to watch.

Our other entertainment turned up later that afternoon. I was busy flapping about with other things so I did not meet her until later. Her name is Mia Femi and she is another artist that I think is on her way to stardom.

As darkness fell our party began in earnest. Our first issue was creating a custom lighting scheme out of thin air on the fly for the Boss. These are the sort of things that you would like to prepare before hand but with some clever radio work, use of CCTV and frantic clicking we got a blueish hue working just in time.

The second problem was of a musical nature. Our stage setup was not near our usual entertainment setup. I setup my diagnostic laptop and it went into random mode pulling out some dubstepish tunes from that 600 gig music library. Largess is a curse. I requested that the DJ be summoned. He was summoned and soon busied himself playing to what can only be described as a tough crowd.

Our singer came out about an hour later. I do believe I was a bit gob smacked.

Luckily she was wearing high heels and we had to tell her to remove them. I always find if someone is incredibly attractive asking them to remove their shoes is a great leveller  Thankfully she was very pleasant and made for a good laugh as the party progressed and she and the DJ had to deal with requests. 

Looking back I do not think I could take money to be a DJ. Requests make me angry. I guess that is where being a professional comes in. I guess thats why I like writing. Its not like I have some reader critiquing me as I go and asking me to change things. The words just come out of my fingers freely. Woe betide my first editor.

Mia and Jus Ske were both from New York. They were both New York cool. They both thought tenders arriving with red and green lights were Police boats. Bless New Yorkers. I did illegally take a couple of photos of them both performing. No police boats arrived.

 Jus Ske
Mia, notice the lack of shoes.

I had to do a running repair on Mia's laptop HDD. I felt special. I fetched a couple of strong drinks for our sound engineer who also needed regular cigarette breaks. Bless the French. The night went very well until the end when..... I had to turn down a day of Saint Barths exploring with Mia and a trip to Puffys party with Justin. Puffy is Puff Daddy or Sean Coombs latest nickname. Naturally I had to inform them that I was working and I regretfully decline.

I think that is the definition of a catch-22 If I wasn't working I would be able to do these things but if I did not have the job that I do there is little chance I would meet these people. Until I get famous of course :-).

It was about 2am on New Years eve before we had packed down. Naturally New Years eve was an anticlimax. George the first engineer and I DJ'd in the crew mess to a very fickle crowd, I would say it was tougher than the crowd from the night before. I had my head on a table at 12:01am, I was absolutely buggered.

Quite an Awesome Xmas tale that one I think.