Date & Time 01-01-2012 0000hrs (GMT +9) 
Position:- 07* 38’.4 S 121* 10’.5 E 
Course:- 268* 
Speed:- 4.5 Knots 
Wind:- WxN 15 Knots (Force 4 Moderate Breeze) 
Sea State:- Slight (2 to 3 feet, small wavelets) 
Weather:- Part Cloudy (up to 5/8ths cloud cover) 
Temp 81F 

Distance to go:- 1263 nautical miles 

Flores Sea. 
In the lower eastern quadrant of the chart you will findus south of P Kalao 
Island. This afternoon whilst on my heli deck stroll, in the absolutely blissful conbination of sun and warm breeze, I could make out the small islands of Kauna, and Kalaotoa to the north of us and I could see the classic shaped volcano top of one of the highest peaks on Flores. 
I also saw the first vessel in 9 days, a container ship heading in the opposite direction. 
We have made some some provisional amendments to our passage plan so the distance to go will seem to vary. We have also prepared a back up course plan for foul weather evasion as we come out of the Java Sea and enter the southern part of the South China Sea. Hopefully we wont need to use them and our current three day forecast looks good. 

The music today is a marvellous example of a virtuoso performance on the acoustic guitar with an echo delay box. 
The technical difficulty of getting the timing right so you can sing over what is a delayed echo of what you are playing is extreme. 

This is John Martyn at his absolute best with his voice as much of an instrument as his guitar. 

Cheers M’Dears 
and happy new years 

100 days

Date & Time 31-12-2011 0000hrs (GMT +9) 
Position:- 07* 11’.2 S 123* 16’.2 E 
Course:- 250* 
Speed:- 5 Knots 
Wind:- WSW 10 Knots (Force3 Gentle Breeze) 
Sea State:- Smooth  (1 to 3 feet, small wavelets)  
Weather:- Part Cloudy (up to 5/8ths cloud cover) 
Temp 78.5F 
Water depth 3650 meters
Distance to go:- 1340 nautical miles 

We have left the Banda Sea and are now on the eastern fringes of the Flores Sea.

It is much the same as the previous sea (wet and deep) although things are getting calmer every day. There is no discernable movement in the vessel now at all apart form the slight vibration form the engines

On the chart about 1/5th of the way up and to the left (west) of middle is the island of Andunara and we are about 70 miles north of that.

There is an unbroken horizon for 360 degrees and today marks the 9th day since we last saw another vessel.

Today also marks the 100th day I have been on board so only about 14 days to go before I get home and into the comforting and loving company of Mrs B.

The music of the day is one of my favourites and when ever I hear it I think of her.

Swearing (Good and Bad)


I believe swearing has a place in conversation (even polite conversation), although I will admit that the more devastating, and often hilarious, effects can be wasted and diluted by over use.

I am reliably informed by Mrs B that I swear a lot and she is probably right.

In justification that is probably a result of working for weeks at a time in a male only environment where inventing combinations of swear words (that would have a lexicographer agog in silent awe) whilst complaining about the companies we work for, is almost a rite of passage.

Swearing, when performed with imagination, thought, and used as a last resort where no other word will do, can be hilarious, inspiring and often the correct thing to do, but I do think swearing is wasted on youth.
I don’t mean wasted as in swearing at them, that’s fine and there are circumstances when it can be used to perfection, but I do mean when the young find their sweary stride and pepper every sentence with as many swear words as possible in the attempt to gain some street cred among their peers.

For some reason this squandering of swear words always sounds worse from young females.

The problem lies with the over kill and the lack of suitable vocabulary to back it up.

If you know someone who swears all the time, hearing them swear is mundane, however, if someone who never swears lets rip then it has a much more profound effect.

Here are two incidences of swearing, one profligate and one unexpected and joyous. 

The first happened on the way to Bridport after I had caught a bus and was happily sat minding my own business watching the wonderful scenery go by.
Four schoolgirls embarked and sat in the two seats in front of me and began gabbling away at each other.

To get the full scope of how it sounded you have to speak this out loud and  adopt a fairly high pitched, high volume, and high speed voice that only 14 years old girls can manage.

It must also be laced with as much of the “whatttevvva” attitude as you can muster and to make it totally authentic it needs to be done in a west country accent. (although you can insert any regional UK one and it will still work)

“Ear, right, like, I was down fucking Top Shop right. And like the fucking bitch that works on the fucking changing rooms gives me a fucking hard time right”

What that fucking blond bitch?

“Yeah like fucking right”

“What a fucking slag”

“Well yeah, right, so like, I say to her like, can I try these four fucking tops on like, and do you know what the fucking slaggy bitch says like?”

“What, like?”

“She says you can only take like three items in at a time,”

“No! What a fucking slag

“Yeah!!! fucking bitch slag”

“Well yeah, like, I am like, what the fuck, like. It’s only one fucking extra fucking top and it’s not like I am gonna fucking nick sumfing is it, wot wiv the fucking slag fucking knowing like”

And she looks at me like all fucking snobby like and says, 
“Sorry but its the same rule for everyone, 3 items at a time” 


“Fucking bitch”

“Yeah what a fucking slag”

And I was like Duuuuhhh its only 4 items Duuuuhh you fucking stupid slag

And on and on and on for 10 minutes.

In the end I disembarked a stop early in case my brain melted and started seeping out of my cranial orifices due to the sheer unending repetition and banality of it.

Perhaps to 14 year old girl these things are important but in my opinion it is a waste of swearing.

Later the same week I had popped over to see if my mother in law needed any help as she was recovering from a hip replacement and was having trouble with her gas fired Aga (the two, hip and aga, being coincidental). 
I wanted to check she was ok for any lifting of dog food bags and chicken feed etc and some logs for the front room log burner.

She is a well spoken woman in her late 70’s who apart from a “Bloody hell” once in blue moon never swears.

It was a cold rainy grey day and when I arrived in her kitchen and said

“Aye Aye, How are you today”

 She relied with perfectly modulated English.

“I am fucking fucked off with all the bollocking fuckery of it all Bentley”

Seeing the amused surprise on my face she said

“Oh I can swear you know and so I should because those fuckering shit bastards at the gas company wont come out for another week and what am I going to do”.

Now that swearing was a joy to my ears because it was such a rare thing and wonderfully executed.

The use of “bollocking fuckery” and “fuckering shit bastards was an inspirational collaboration of words to a seasoned swearer like myself.

The only downside was that I felt like a dedicated twitcher must, when alone in the hide he spots a bird that only visits our shore once every 50 years, but he has no camera with him and no-one there to share or authenticate the moment with. I knew that when I shared the story with my wife she would think that either I was elaborating or that I had taught her mother to say it as some sort of practical jke hopoingh she would pop a “fuckering shit bastards” into casual; conversation the monthly bible group.  
As a parent I understand that you try to teach your children not to swear and to look for the alternative words, of which I admit there are a plethora, particularly if it is just gratuitous swearing, however I found it impossible to scold my daughter the first time I heard her swear. 
She was about about five and the whole family were heading home after a summers day trip to the beach with the roof down in our 2CV called Johnny Onion. 
I had decided to take the overgrown green lane that ran for a couple of miles from the back road to just opposite our house. The kids, as ever when clear of the main roads were stood up on the back seat heads out of the roof. 
The lane was deeply rutted but mainly down hill and Johnny Onion was coping well. 
On one tight and steep bit I had to go up the bank a bit and we bumped and bounced over a coupe of really deep ruts with the kids having on gamely in the back when suddenly she shouts out very seriously 
“For fucks sake daddy”

A perfect, out of the blue, well timed piece of swearing that was deserving of the laugh it received.

One way of swearing at someone, without using the words yourself, presented itself to my wife a few years ago.

The housing association house we were renting had a massive lawn surrounding us on three sides, so during the summer months we asked her mums gardener if he would be up for some extra work and mow our lawns once a fortnight.

(The gardener, his wife who he calls Fatso, and his son who he calls, stupid bastard, and how they ended up being the mother in laws gardened is the subject of future article but you can take it from me they are very real.)

There were the four of us  (the kids aged 12 and 10) and 3 cats and Jack Russell and we lived in a small three bed roomed ex council house (with large garden) on the outskirts (aren’t they always) of a very picturesque west Dorset village. 
I was at 8 weeks on and off and Mrs B was at college finishing her advanced counselling course  and teaching the basic course.  

The neighbour was on long term sick benefit, grotesquely obese, married with 6 kids ages in the house next door.

He would be almost aggressive and bullying towards Mrs B when I was at sea and all sweetness and light when I was home.

One summers day the gardener knocked on the door to tell Mrs B he was going to do the lawns.

She cringed as she heard him shouting at Fatso to “Help me get the fucking mower out, you fat idle bitch and you just had well stay in the fucking van on your gert big fat ass cos it will only take 20 minutes and I can leave the cuttings on her compost heap.”

While the gardener was cutting the grass the neighbour returned from wherever only to find the gardeners van in his space.

Being the sort of cowardly bully he was he saw a woman on her  own so he waddled over to tell her to get the van shifted.

She looked up from the passenger seat and said “Fuck off you fat cunt”

Somewhat taken aback he puffed up his already bloated frame and with some indignation he said

“What did you say to me?”

She was out of the van in flash then right into his face and screamed

“I said fuck off, you fat cunt” which he promptly did, at high speed.

(I received that eye witness account from the neighbour 20 yards  down the road where we parked.)

Later in the day, when he must have deemed it safe to return, he knocked on our door, no doubt now trying to intimidate MrsB and blustered “You gardener’s wife called me a fat cunt”

Mrs B looked him shrugged her shoulders and said


then gently closed the door.

Oh how I love that woman.


The English (all of the UK) are without doubt the best and most inventive swearers in the world and we have a rich diverse and plentiful pool of words that can be used and bastardised to create some magnificent swearing.

One often unsung benefits of swearing, and something the UK has donated to the world, is that wherever I have traveled in the world over the last 35 years and been on the receiving end of unwanted hassling attention I have found that a direct, loud, clearly spoken and honest “Fuck Off” works wonders regardless of the country you are in or the country you are from. People just  know what a “Fuck Off” is.  
Swearing is a bit like taking drugs (wet or dry) in that if you do it all the time you wont feel the benefit of it when you really need it.


I would be sorry to see profound, serious, funny or well placed swearing eliminated from the language but I wouldn’t be sorry to see wasteful, lazy and pointless swearing go.

Love and Peace 

Date & Time 30-12-2011 0000hrs (GMT +9) 
Position:- 06* 31’.1 S 125* 07’.1E 
Course:- 250* 
Speed:- 4.2 Knots 
Wind:- WNW 15 Knots (Force 5 Moderate Breeze) 
Sea State:- Slight (3 to 5 feet, occasional white horses) 
Weather:- Overcast with drizzle (Cloud cover complete) 
Temp 78.5F 

Distance to go:- 1449 nautical miles 

The Bandu Sea 
The sea and wind conditions are slowly abating. The most noticeable is the sea state and the effect that has on the vessels movement. 
The bouncing and occasional slamming has now ceased and we just have a very lazy barely perceptible roll of about half a degree either way. 
This movement has a mildly soporific effect and leads to very restful, longer than normal sleeps. 
I usually get by with about 6 and half hours sleep a night but 7 and even the very rare 8 hours are not unheard of in these conditions. 
Always a joy to sleep so long when aboard, because as the adage goes “More kip = Less trip”. 

Today’s music is something a bit off the wall, up beat, and zany. 
It may have you breaking out into some mad arm waving jiggy dance and lunatic screeching along with the chorus (or it might not Laughing ) 
I think the video is superb–fI

Flying Fish

Date & Time 29-12-2011 0000hrs (GMT +9) 
Position:- 05* 56’.5 S. 126* 50’.1 E 
Course:- 250* 
Speed:- 5 Knots 
Wind:- NW 20 Knots (Force 6 Strong Breeze) 
Sea State:- Moderate (3 to 5 feet, Waves forming with some white horses) 
Weather:- Cloudy (Up to 6/8+ cover) 
Temp 82F 

Distance to go:- 1608 nautical miles 

The Bandu Sea
The sea and wind conditions are much the same as yesterday with a steady 15-20 knot warm north west wind and slight chop on the water. It is the sort of weather that a yachtie would be very happy with.
I did see the islands yesterday and although they were only 8 miles away they were low lying and I couldn’t see any endearing features, even though the binoculars. It was a shame as it will be the last land we see for at least 4 days and I would like to have been able to report something of note.

Today’s music is this wonderful live performance of a song about the end of a relationship and the bittersweet pain that comes with it. 
I think it fair to say that she has got a magnificent set of lungs on her and you can have all the flashy pyrotechnics, elaborate costumes and gyrating scantily clad dancers in the world, but when you can sing like that all you need is a piano.

Because we are so slow through the water I have missed one of my favourite sights at sea, which is flying fish breaking from the bow wave and gliding across the water.
A normal ship travelling at about 15 knots creates quite a significant bow wave which alerts the flying fish to danger. 
Their defence instinct kicks in and they use their slightly lobsided, but powerful, tail to launch themselves at speeds of up to 60kph from the water in an iridescent flash, then spread their wings (enlarged pectoral fins)  and glide a few inches (up to 4 feet) above the water until they perceive they are out of harms way. 
Due to their tail shape they are able to use it like at outboard motor when they get back close to the water and work it side to side to gain thrust and keep themselves in the air. 
I have watched them glide for over two hundred meters and thirty seconds or more out of the water.
The way the sunlight catches and glistens on their extended ‘wings’ and shimmers off their backs as they glide over the waves invokes an almost primeval feeling when you first see them.  

Often, in rougher or windy weather, they will end up on the deck of the ship because as they launch out from the bow-wave, in defense mechanism flight, the wind can get hold of them and whip them up onto the deck before they have a chance to correct, especially if your freeboard (the distance from the main deck to the waterline) is only two or three meters.

On my first trip to the tropics in early 1976 my job, as the most junior member of the crew, was to go out onto the main deck just before sunrise and gather up any that had landed for breakfast for those that wanted it. 
They look a bit like a blue tinged mackerel and taste similar although a tad more bony. The largest I have collected (and eaten) was just over 40cms long but normally they are about 20 to 30cms. 

There is a little more about them here with some pics

Love and Peace


Flammable Flags

At a football match, or any other sporting event, and in the immediate environs of the ground, I expect to see people carrying, waving and even, in some cases, wearing flags.
On public, or private, transport to and from the ground I expect, and am indeed heartened, to see the same thing.
It is in context, appropriate and in keeping with the event. It identifies the people involved as being supporters of whichever team, or country, and displays their allegiance to that team.

All fine and dandy and I have no complaint or issues about it.

Where I do take exceptional issue is when I am at an international airport and I see a family (heading or returning from holiday ‘not’ a sporting fixture) all decked out in matching England kit (or insert your own flag here) displaying the cross of St George.
I wonder at the grossly insensitive, thoughtless and pig ignorant mind set that thinks it is acceptable to display the flag of your own country when abroad.

Flags conjure up different and often heated emotions in various parts of the world, compared to the lackadaisical and often irreverent away in which the British public treats it flag.
Not many countries in the world use a likeness of their flag in such a disrespectful way as the brits seem to excel at, such as to do the drying up or wear flag underwear, in order to soil with body seepage and skid marks the symbol of their nation.
The populations of some nations fought hard and endured enormous suffering and sacrifice in order to be recognised in their own right as an independent nation, to be prepared to show such crass dishonour to those who had died in obtaining their own flag.
Flaunting your own flag when on foreign soil is an insult and an act of aggression towards the land you are in. It is akin to arriving at your destinations immigration desk and then dropping you pants, bending over  and showing them your arse, whilst shouting between your legs “pucker up and kiss that Johnny foreigner”.
It shows an utter contempt and disdain for the sensitivities, customs and history of where you are.  

Flags are planted on top of hills and buildings when a battle or war has been won; They are a highly visible and symbolic display of conquest of a nation and subjugation of its people.
Their significance is not to be taken lightly, or as a thoughtless fashion item, comfort / security blanket, or just brainless misplaced national pride for the wearer.
Flags are torn down, ripped to shreds, trampled on, urinated and defecated on, or burnt to ashes as a show of hatred to another country and its people.
The only people I have no issue with wearing their national flag when travelling are the Canadians, because hopefully it prevents them from the ultimate and most heinous of insults, which would be to be mistaken for americans.
Anyone could forgive the Canadians for wanting to avoid that ignominy.
Despite my dislike of flags and their ability to invoke unsavoury, nationalist fervour I have seen a good business opportunity.
There is sizeable niche in the market at the moment that is not being adequately exploited and I can see some juicy profits that are ripe for picking.
Every time you turn on the news and see some trouble hot spots, particularly in the middle and near east, there will always be a mob of angry people (usually men with beards) shouting frenzied slogans, which usually translate as castration or death to the infidel invaders from america England israel and others.
This shouting and running about by mobs is always, and I mean always,  accompanied by the burning of the flag of the offending nation.
This burning is normally followed by some stamping on the flag, often with some spitting and pissing as well. (The later events I assume are to put the flag out so they can be set fire to again at a later stage as it is often difficult to obtain a foreign flag in some countries.)
So ladies and gentlemen I present to you a fantastic opportunity to invest in my latest business venture “Flammable Flags” (or FlamFlags for short)
These are a durable flag made of a light cotton / polyester mix, infused with paraffin and come with a strong (and flammable) cardboard pole, that also doubles as the packaging.
The pole enables them to be first waved in a menacing and degrading way above the heads of the crowd to gain attention.
Neatly concealed in the corner of the flag is a small self ignition source (imbedded match heads and striker) so with one quick flick of a thumb and forefinger the FlamFlag will ignite.
The pole enables the flag to burn for longer without anyone getting their fingers burnt.
The paraffin impregnated cotton/poly mix ensures a steady and reliable burn, which also means that the FlamFlag can be lowered to the ground when fully ablaze, for some trampling and spitting, and then raised to the air again still afire and ready for more jeering and slogans.
Through a careful combination of chemistry and design the FlamFlag will burn for up to 8 minutes which is more than long enough to attract the attention of any roving TV crews.
The combustible cardboard pole is designed to burn after the FlamFlag has completed its process, which enables it to be throw to the ground for some more spitting trampling and perhaps some pissing.
I am also considering extending the range with the introduction of Ignitable Effigies. (IggyEfs for short)
These life like combustible effigies use the same simple ignition source as FlamFlags and come in range of world leaders, however the big sellers are expected to be Obama, Cameron Sarkozy Putin, and perhaps not surprisingly the still a hot favourites of Blair & Bush.
They all come with their own pole and can be dressed in a range of outfits including a tailor made FlamFlag suit for that ultimate protest pyre.
Don’t delay. 
Order your FlamFlags today 
(flags of all nations available discount available on block bookings)
At the next mass demonstration you attend don’t be left as just an angry face in the crowd, fire up a FlamFlag and gain the admiration of those around you     
and let your indignation ignite into a feisty flag fire.  

Date & Time 28-12-2011 0000hrs (GMT +9) 
Position:- 05* 18’ S. 128* 39’.1 E 
Course:- 250* 
Speed:- 4.5 Knots 
Wind:- NW 15 Knots (Force 4 Moderate Breeze) 
Sea State:- Moderate (3 to 5 feet, Waves forming with some white horses) 
Weather:- Cloudy (Up to 6/8+ cover) 
Temp 82F 

Distance to go:- 1723 nautical miles 

The Bandu Sea 
We are plodding along nicely now and the sea has died down to make the passage feel smoother. 
You may have noticed we retarded the clocks last night by an hour and will do the same again on the morning of the 1st Jan so we are then on the same time zone as Singapore. It has the effect of keeping the sunrise to about 0615 0630. 
The ETA now is 13th Jan for Singapore as long as we maintain 4.5 knots. The only problem we expect to encounter that could delay us is bad weather in the Java Sea that acts like a funnel bringing swell and choppy water down from the South China Sea. 
As we progress further west we also expect the easterly current to increase which may also hamper our progress. 

On the chart we are about 50 miles to the east of PP Penyu. 
You can find that on the chart just below the center and to the right. You will see the legend Bandu Sea – east of that are two reef island PP Masel and Pp Penyu. 
We will pass about 10 miles south of them later so when I am out having my afternoon, apres gym, sunbathing stroll on the heli deck I should be able to see them. 
(On the left and right of the chart you will find the latitude scale and each degree of latitude = 60 miles so you can work out the distance from that) 

I dreamt of Mrs B last night so the music track today is an easy choice to make. 
A perfect track to listen to when you are away from the one that you want to be with.

Date & Time 27-12-2011 0000hrs (GMT +9) 
Position:- 04* 39’.6 S. 130* 27’.9 E 
Course:- 250* 
Speed:- 5 Knots 
Wind:- W 22 Knots (Force 6 Strong Breeze) 
Sea State:- Moderate to Rough (2 to 5 feet, Larger waves forming with plenty of white horses) 
Weather:- Part Cloudy (Up to 5/8 cover) 
Temp 83F 

Distance to go:- 1869 nautical miles 

The wind has slowly decreased and backed to the west during the day and with it the wave height as well. 
Looking at the swell pattern earlier we expected to roll when we came onto the new course of 250* however were pleasantly surprised that we have just a gentle barely noticeable movement from side to side. 
We are still getting the odd slam from some slightly bigger seas head on, but the incidences are getting rarer and it is much less violent. 
All in all a lovely day for a sea passage. 

On the chart we are 35 miles east south east of Kepulauan Banda. That is below Seram on the left of the chart. 

As we came close to Watubel yesterday morning I tried to get some photographs of the islands to give you an idea of what they were like, but they just ended up as grey/green indistinct blobs. 
All I can say is that they look like you would imagine a large tropical island to look like. 
Irregular shape reaching up to a height of maybe 150 metres. 
Jungle foliage on the slopes right down to the shoreline and to the cliff tops in places. 
A couple of outlying reefs sending up surf, some rocky shoreline and some sandy shoreline. 
If you can remember the island from the Tom Hanks film Castaway, a bit like that but without the film crew. 
In the distance we could make out the distinct volacano-ish shaped mountains on the eastern tip of Seram. 

The music today 
When I used to fly back to the UK (heathrow) from wherever I had been on the ship I would always get a hire car and drive back to Bridport in west Dorset. 
For some reason it has been normal for me to land early morning so I would pick up the car and after adjusting the seat and mirrors I would tune the radio into R4 R2 & R1 for the journey. 
I would tune into R1 once the usual ghastly breakfast show garbage was over to see if there was any decent new music about, worthy of an album purchase. (It is pointless doing this on R2 as I already have all the Eagles and Dire Straits albums I want) 

I would often hear a good tune and make it my mission to visit the Bridport Record Centre to see if they had my new find in stock. 
They were /are used to me turning up asking for unusual or obscure or yet to be released tracks. 

I had driven straight to the music shop but had forgotten the band name or had it slightly wrong so I gave them my best rendition of the “Aoo Woo ooo” and the “Doctor Doctor I’m begging you please” bits. 
The boss and his wife (or should I say the boss and her husband) both looked at me somewhat askance, with that faint shaking of the head that means you are either a worse singer than we first suspected, or you have the tune all wrong, or we have never heard of it, when this young goth/emo looking girl who was browsing said “Oh wow that’s the new tune from the Zutons. The album isn’t out for another month.” 
I have to admit to a certain smugness when turning to the owner and saying 
“Ah yes I thought so. The Zutons. Order me one my good fellow, and have a shiny sixpence for your troubles” 

They also did this which the Winehouse girl went on to cover although I prefer the original

Staying in Contact

When I am home during chirstmas (which has only been about 3 times in the last 10 years) I don’t spend much time thinking about the people I haven’t seen for a while as I am too busy being with the people I am with. 
Although Mrs B makes the effort with cards to old mates I have never sent cards and am not about to start. 
I like writing letters and the electronic equivalent but at the risk of sounding “bah humbug” I find the whole card thing to be one of the more pointless habitual duties that people perform at this time of year and a complete waste of time and energy. 

Never have I felt my spirits soar to receive a card (one out a bargain box of 50 for a quid) from someone who scrawls my name at the top (and their name at the bottom) of the impersonal message of ‘seasons greetings’ or ‘merry christmas’ printed in the middle. 
Why bother if once a year you cant find the time to write a few lines about how you are and whats happening in your life and to inquire after the other person. 

If this annual, hastily scrawled, reciting of names is the only contact you have, then is it even worth the effort of staying in contact, and what purpose does this vacuous form of non-contact serve either of you? 

Some would say that “its the thought that counts” and I counter with “What thought?” 
As far as I can see there is no thought involved in dusting off the address book and hastily scribbling your way though one bland, unimaginative card after another to people you haven’t seen, or heard from, in a year or more. 

If someone cant spare me more thought than a random selection from a generic bunch of bargain bin cards once year, then it would be just as well if they didn’t think off me at all, and save us both from the pointless charade. 
I think it is up to us all to question if we can, or want to, be bothered in putting some energy into keeping the contact alive. 

If through circumstances or geography it is not possible to spend much time in each others company (and whats the point of staying in contact with people, friends or family, that you wouldn’t want to spend time with) then at least make the contact you do have be meaningful and informative. I think I am saying “show you care” 

Based on the above, and also because I am stuck in the middle of the ‘oggin and have time to think about such things, to the people I haven’t heard from (or taken the time and made the effort to contact myself) I am going through every one of my e mail contact addresses (that are not professional related) and writing a personal message saying I am thinking of them, and with some info about what I am up to. along with wishing them an enjoyable festive season and a good fortune filled year to come. I am basically letting them know that they are people I want to stay in regular contact with. 

I am only up to the D’s and have already had a couple of “wrong addresses” back so I have deleted them. 
I am finding that this exercise in communication serves two purposes:- 
1- It will tidy up my electronic address book 
2-It will let the people I know, care about, and want to remain in contact with (but may possibly be guilty of neglecting that contact) that I am thinking of them personally and that I am making the effort to let them known that I do value their inclusion in my address book and in my life. 

I will let you know how it goes. 

Date & Time 26-12-2011  0000hrs (GMT +10)

Position:- 04* 26’ S.   132* 04’.4 E

Course:- 285*

Speed:- 3.3 Knots

Wind:- NW 30 Knots (Force 7 Moderate Gale)

SeaState:- Rather Rough (5 to 8 feet, Sea heaps up.  White foam from breaking waves beginning to be blown in streaks along the direction of the waves)

Weather:- Overcast (Complete cloud cover)

Temp 82F

Distance to go:- 1970 nautical miles

We continue to encounter strong head winds at a steady 30knots and this has been holding our speed back to 3 knots. The vessel has the aerodynamics of a concrete block.
Taking into account how the swell has developed we have decided to maintain this course because if we change to come down to the south west now, we would have the swell on out beam.
We are expecting that the swell will have died down in the next 18 hours by the time we reach our next way point.     
We are now 50 miles south east of Manawoka and our intention is to pass between Watabela and Manawoka and set a new course of 250 which will take us back down towards the island of Flores and our original track
Our location and intended alter course point are the small islands to above and to the left of the centre of the chart.

The music of the day are two tracks you can sing along too as loud as you can muster
The first is a  reminder to people who didn’t receive in their stocking what they may have wanted, not to despair as with a little effort you might receive what is required.

And I liked that so much I thought I would double up with this which is one of thoise occasions when a cover is bettr than the original and this has to rate as one of the best covers ever, just for the irony alone.

Holding hands with Mrs B

Date & Time 25-12-2011 0000hrs (GMT +10) 
Yo Ho Ho Merry Christmas 
Position:- 04* 45’.2 S. 133* 14’.4 E 
Course:- 285* 
Speed:- 3 Knots 
Wind:- NW 30 Knots (Force 7 Moderate Gale) 
Sea State:- Rather Rough (5 to 8 feet, Sea heaps up. White foam form breaking waves beginning to be blown in streaks along the direction of the waves) 
Weather:- Overcast(Complete cloud cover) 
Temp 80F 
(Wind Sea & Weather are all taken from the Beaufort notation to indicate the given conditions) 
Distance to go:- 2020 nautical miles 

We have been encountering strong head winds all day (in gusts up to 50 knots) and this has been holding our speed back. Also our assist tug has had to reduce power for a while due to an engine cooling problem which tirned out to be a plastic bag taken in through the sea suction. 
Although all clear we have had to slow down due to the slamming effect of the larger waves that have built up in the windy conditions. 
Our position specific forecast is for reducing wave and winds 
We are about 35 miles north of Nuhu Cut island which is just above the center of the chart 
The music of the day is this because I adore this track, the sheer drama of it and her soaring voice. 
Dont forget to sing along.  
Loud and proud  
Don’t be shy just sing as though no one was listening. 

I will give you a clue to see if you know what it is before you open it 

And I cry sometimes, when I’m lying in bed 
just to get it all out, whats in my head, 
And I’m feeling a little peculiar. 

Can you tell what it is yet?

Holding hands with my wife when out shopping, browsing, or just strolling along, never fails to lift my heart and provide my face with the distracted half-smile of the content.

I find the simple and unconscious way our hands find each others, the smooth fit of them together and the natural feeling of warmth and love we extend to each other through the connection, to be one of life’s great joys.

It is something we started on our first walk when I offered my hand to help her up the slope of the Chesil Bank at West Bay 26 years ago, neither of us blushed and it seemed correct so we didn’t let go. (We hadn’t even kissed then)

It is one of the many things about our togetherness and love that I miss when I am away at sea. The physical joining of hands with the one I love and the sheer pleasure and comfort it brings.

We are quite a tactile couple and one reasons is because of our regular separation, due to my work, and our willingness and desire to be “in touch” for the entire time I am home. Holding hands is a manifestation of that shared want.

There is a sense of reassurance for us that this is not our imaginations, or dreams, but a very real and vivid moment that we have both been eagerly anticipating. We are together, as one, so it makes perfect sense to be in physical contact when we can.

As I write I realise that there comes a time when your partner is the only person (and vice versa) you can both comfortably feel at ease with to hold hands as you walk, although in some cultures that is different.   

It is a feeling completely apart from the nurturing or protective holding hands that you do with your children when they are young.

That sort of holding hands gives a different feeling and has an altrntaive importance for you both. For them it is knowing that they safe by your side and for you the satisfying and instinctive knowledge that you are looking out for them.

Sadly (and all to quickly for you), and as good sign of healthy confidence and development from them, there comes a day when they no longer reach for your hand out of habit, or they no longer make their hand available when you reach for it. They are saying “It’s alright dad I’ve got it”.

I remember the day when I realised that neither of my children held my hand anymore when we went into town but I cant remember the day that it stopped happening. It just evolved.

I know that it instilled in me a sense of loss, or worse still that I had missed an important event in their lives, but I didn’t beat myself up over it as I also understood it was part of the growing up process that all parents have to endure.

What I do remember is when I was going up into town with my daughter, just after her 18th birthday, for some shopping and she slipped her arm though mine as we walked. Although it was easy and natural I nearly burst with pride and joy and she still does it now if we are off out anywhere together.

It is the same feeling I get every time my son and I perform our special handshake.

At the same time I am sure we would all appear (and feel) a bit weird if we held hands when we walked. In fact I am laughing about how it would look as I type as I know they will if they read this.

I have never seen it occur so I wonder if I am alone in this, or do other people hold hands with their grown up children when they walk?

The good news is that I can content myself knowing that when my wife and I hold hands it is an unconscious, yet for us delicious, expression of our happiness and love.

This is for you MrsB if you are reading form the time when we first starting holding hands .

Love and Peace


Christmas Rant

I had one of those shouting at the TV “Oh for fucks sake” moments earlier today.
I was watching ESPN for the highlights show of the last few premiership games and during the ads some be-suited presenter herbert came on talking about the year’s sporting highlights for him, and then at the end he said “We all wish you a happy holidays”
Arrrrggghhhh what sort of politically incorrect fawning gobshittyness is that.
Happy Holidays????
Its Christmas, it is the world recognised date of December 25th.

It doesn’t matter if you are some foaming at the mouth, brain dead, jihad warrior, strapping on your bomb vest, or a swami guru shaman type in some remote Himalayan cave, or any other follower of the large and exceedingly odd collection of superstitions masquerading as the “one truth” around the world.
It doesn’t even matter if you are one of the fence sitting agnostics or a vocal and unapologetic atheist (that’s me, that is) it is still “Christmas.”
What numbskull came up with the theory that anyone in their right mind could possibly be upset or offended by hearing the words Happy Christmas.
It doesn’t clash with any other dates, even the historical ones that long preceded the time that Christianity was invented and foisted on people as the the new god on the block. (ie Saturnalia, Natalis Invicti. The Feast of Juul, (where the yule log comes from)  Polo Voladore,, Gody ) 

I am not offended when the Muslims on board wish me good grace when they are having their end of Ramadan feast (Eid-ul-Fitr,) as they end their month long diet that allah insisted they went on, or when the Hindus pass on good will for Diwali, or when the Jedis remind us “the force” is with us. ( I may question their beliefs and perhaps sanity but I am not offended)
They dont say “Happy Holidays”, they just say the name of whatever festival time it happens to be.
It is an expression of good will to others.
As Christmas is now the only one that falls on 25th December the correct saying is Happy or Merry Christmas and it doesn’t matter a toss if you are a christian or not. Nor should it.
Happy Holidays!!!! Beauuuurrrrrrggghhhh It is sounds like some ghastly vacuous americanistaion and is a ludicrous thing to say.
I posted a message extending good will to all people who use the Total France forum and was reminded that for some it is one of the busiest times of the year, what with having to cook a monster dinner and looking after relatives descending from here there and everywhere as well as making sure that everything runs smoothly and there is hot water & clean towels and the dog gets a walk a nd that the fox doesn’t get the chickens.
To those people it is anything but a frigging holiday and sometimes far from happy.
The hand wringers and the more pious of christian types often try to impose their own interpretation of the “meaning” and “symbolism” of christmas waffling on about this fantasy la la land we are all supposed to inherit (or end up in once we are dead) and how we should be, at this time, thinking of those less fortunate than ourselves.
Oh really!, I tend to  do that all year round as matter of fact, and I don’t need some fake dated festival to tell me when to care. or for whom.

If you were to take  random sample of people on the street in the UK and ask “What does christmas mean to you personally?” I am sure that it would be a tiny minority that mentioned anything to do with christianity.
Lets face it such is the power of marketing that the Coca Cola logo is now the colour of christmas.
With so many people divorced from the religious principal of the festival why would someone seek to use the glib phrase Happy Holiday on a public broadcast site. It is a piss awful situation that arises out of a committee mentality and has the odious yet disgustingly bland stench of compromise for compromises sake about it.  
It is the same as broadcasting on Thursday the 12th that tomorrow will be known as “Saturday the 14th eve” just in case some friggatriskaidekaphobics (fear of Friday 13th) get abit upset of offended.
I dislike the phrase Happy Holidays almost as much as I dislike the phase “That’s political correctness gone mad that is” but this really is a case of political correctness gone mad, this is.
If someone like me is comfortable with saying happy christmas and I make absolutely no bones about the fact that I don’t believe in god (or gods) and by extension I most certainly don’t believe that jesus was the son of god (that doesn’t exist) or any of the nativity nonsense and associated claptrap that goes with it, then if I can manage to identify a festival by its proper name so can broadcasters.
I am fully aware that some people believe in the various gods that have been made up by man over the years in order to offer some convenient explanation to the inexplicable or give those people who need it a sense of meaning. Those people will probably have faith strong enough and skin thick enough to put up with anything I can say to the contrary, and although I think they should do something more worthwhile with their time other than worshiping, or begging from, an imaginary being, I defend their right to call christmas “chirstmas” and for everyone else, christian or not, to be able to accept the phrase “Happy christmas” it for what it is.
It is a simple message of good will and good intent from the giver to the receiver.
I heard somewhere that the acceptance of a gift honours the giver, which I thought sounded fair enough, and if that gift is good wishes then I see no harm in calling it by its proper name.
Happy Christmas to you all, whatever it means to you and however you spend your time during it.
Love and Peace

Date & Time 24-12-2011  0000hrs (GMT +10)

Position:- 05* 09’ S  134* 42.6’ E

Course:- 285*

Speed:- 4 Knots

Wind:- NW 21 Knots (Force 6 Strong Breeze)

SeaState:- Moderate (3 to 5 feet Moderate waves taking ona more pronounced form. Many white horses are formed. Chance of some spray)

Weather:- Overcast(Complete cloud cover)

Temp 80F

(WindSea & Weather are all taken from the Beaufort notation to indicate the given conditions)

Distance to go:- 2090 nautical miles
We had to stop for a few hours while still in the lee of the island yesterday to give 300 tons of bunkers and 200 tons of fresh water to our assist tug the Kestrel.
We got going again and then after we had altered course to 285* at the northern tip of   Wokam (Kepulauan Aru) we hit a strong current that had us down to 1.5 knots for a while.
If you check the chart you can see it is fairly shallow water (about 75 meters but displayed in fathoms in the chart ) and just ahead of us it drops to nearly 3300 metres. This depth difference can often play havoc with surface currents near where the transition in depth takes place. Once we get into the deeper water we are expecting things to calm down for a while.
The music for today (three pieces) is from the magnificent album One Giant Leap which is a glorious piece of work that no music collection should be without.
It features a whole range of marvellous musicians and has beautiful tracks created by two guys travelling the world and recording vocals and music by numerous artists and then mixing it in the studio on their return.  
In light of the latest racism rows in the press it brings the words of Martin Luther King sharply to focus.
“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools”


IPod I Wish!

Date & Time 23-12-2011 0000hrs 
Position:- 05* 38.4’ S 135* 01’ E 
Course:- 335* 
Speed:- 4 Knots 
Wind:- NW 17 Knots (Force 6 Strong Breeze) 
Sea State:- Moderate (3 to 5 feet Moderate waves taking ona more pronounced form. Many white horses are formed. Chance of some spray) 
Weather:- Overcast(Complete cloud cover) 
Temp 80F 
(Wind Sea & Weather are all taken from the Beaufort notation to indicate the given conditions) 
Distance to go:- 2130 nautical miles 

Our distance to go has now increased as we head north around Wokam (Kepulauan Aru) 
It certainly seems our ploy of running to the north and away from the central area of the storm has worked as our route forecast now only shows seas of up to 3 or 4 meters. 
The current conditions are very good and I managed to have a walk on the heli deck earlier, in glorious sunshine and strong breeze, trying to top up the bronzy for paying off in about 30 days time. 
We have the distance from the storm and the lee of the island as protection. Once we round the northern tip of Wokam we will make good a course of 285* towards the northern tip of Palau Palau Watabela where we will slip through the reefs and head south west (250*)1200 miles towards central Florres. 

The music of today is this magnificent track from a fabulous band. 
Sadly the light that burns twice as bright only shines for half as long. 

We have just received orders that we are now going to the lay-by berth at Keppel dry dock in Singapore in preparation for docking on the 20th Jan. 
Great news as it means I will be able to get a bit of shopping done in Singapore including some new custom made gold earrings as I have managed to break one of my last ones. I may even treat myself to a made to measure silk shirt. 

I am also on the look out for a Samsung Galaxy 10.1 (64Gb) as a light weight alternative to my lap top. Singapore used to be one of the best places to buy new electrical goods in the world years ago.
I can remember in 1979 buying one of the first Sony Walkmans there and saving over 60% on the UK price when they eventually arrived. 
But times have changed, so you have to search harder to find the best deals and the place is full of rip of merchants selling Chinese copies. 

I found this out to my expense when Mrs B had asked me to be on the lookout for an IPod in a trendy green colour about 3 or 4 years ago. 
I searched the net to find out what sort of money I should be expecting to part with and then went to buy one. 
I stopped at this respectable looking main street store that had all sorts of goodies on sale and asked for an I Pod in trendy green. 
He showed me one and the price was about right so the deal was done. 

On arrival an Changi Airport a couple of days later I noticed an Apple store so thought I would “accessorise” with an arm strap for when running and an IPort with speakers for in the house. 
I told the sales chap what I was looking for and he asked if he could see my IPod to match the colours. 
I proudly handed over still in its box IPod and he said, 
“The only problem is that this is not an I Pod sir” 
“Wha whem Urmn eh? Are you sure I have only just bought it” 
“Quite sure sir, here hold yours and feel its weight and texture and look at the apple logo, and now hold one of ours (which is an original) and do the same.” 

It was obvious in about half a second that the original ‘felt’ heavier, more metallic, the button ‘felt’ more solid, and the apple logo looked more like an apple. And I ‘felt’ like a prize pratt. 

I looked at him, with the face of someone who has just lost a twenty quid note and then found a fiver, and asked the obvious and somewhat gormless question that the recently duped are prone to do 
“I have been ripped off haven’t I?” 
To the salesman’s eternal credit he remained chipper in the face of my adversity and obvious slump shouldered, dejected, long faced and embarrassed demeanour and said “Well perhaps not sir” 
Desperate for a straw to clutch I perked up and said 
“Phew that’s a relief, how might I have not been stitched up?” 
“Well Sir, as long as you didn’t pay more than $50 Singapore dollars you have done alright.” 

Have you ever had one of those moments as small child when you had been given money to buy an ice cream and after you had bought it and were just about to take the first lick, it fell off the cone onto the floor? 
That’s the feeling I had at that moment. 

I mumbled something about not paying $50 for it, thanked him for his time and trudged off muttering to myself dark oaths about checking and double checking when buying stuff, and wondering how old I was and how long had I been at sea, and how many lessons had I learnt about not buying stuff quickly and snarl gnash fume. 
I did go back and buy the arm strap and the speakers after I had stopped feeling sorry for myself. 

When I arrived back in the UK I presented Mrs B with her new “trendy green” IPod and she was over the moon with it until I did my best Apple store Singaporean salesman impersonation and said “Yes but the problem is that it is not a real IPod Madam”. 
After telling her the story she became less enamoured with the Chinese fake but I replaced it with the real deal a couple of days later (20 bucks less that the originals in Singapore Airport, mumble mumble mutter, lessons learnt snarl, grrr, gnash) and it is still going strong and bursting with great music. 

Love and Peace 

Tiger (People2)

Date & Time 22-12-2011 0000hrs 
Position:- 07* 27.3’ S 135* 52’ E 
Course:- 335* 
Speed:- 4 Knots 
Wind:- NW 30 Knots (Force 7 Moderate gale ) 
Sea State:- Rough (2.5 to 4 meters, Seas heaping up and white foam from breaking waves beginning to run in streaks along the waves ) 
Weather:- Part Cloudy (about half cloud cover) 
Temp 80F 
(Wind Sea & Weather are all taken from the Beaufort notation to indicate the given conditions) 
Distance to go:- 2111 nautical miles 

We are only about 65 miles south east from the island of Kepulauan Aru and the shelter its land mass should provide. 
(island about half way up the chart and just to the right (east) 
The seas have picked up considerably in the last 12 hours and we are now slapping into some bigger waves and taking some heavy spray on the main deck. 
The motion of the vessel due to her size and shape isn’t like the rolling and pitching you would expect from a normal ship shape hull but more of a constant slight bouncing and a juddering slam every few minutes. 
We continue to monitor the weather system and are happy for now that our actions will have protected us from the worst of the storm should it really develop into a howler. 

Today’s music is a track I hadn’t heard for years and for some reason it sprung to mind last night when I was reading. 
The cynical and thinly disguised contempt in her voice is mirrored in the superb guitar work.

People (1) Tiger

Fresh farm produce.

Computer Bis and Bytes,

Fishing tackle,

“Hello, how are you?”

Bric a brac,

Out of date cakes,

Pre read Books


French Cheeses,

Bike Bits


“Excuse! me”

Garden Ornaments,

Watch Straps fitted while you wait,

“Sammy come away from the edge of the pavement”

Ethnic jewellery,

Organic vegetables,

Cheap trainers.

I was meandering through the weekly street market when I bumped into Tiger, who I had not seen for about 6 years, but he was instantly recognisable as he always has been during the thirty years I have known him.
At five feet two and weighing twelve stone, Tiger bears no resemblance whatsoever to a tiger. 
Words like fierce, majestic, powerful and dangerous predator would not win the race to the tip of your tongue when describing him. 
Middle aged, dumpy, piggy eyed, heavy metal fan with bad hair would probably be the front runners.

Tiger still sports a “mullet” although now the front and top have receded leaving a back curtain of bright blond hair hanging to his shoulder blades.

His clothing is, as ever, black steel toe capped work boots and Levi jeans held up with a large buckled belt, depicting a skull or dragon.

In the winter there would be a Levi jacket with the back panel covered in a skilful reproduction of an Iron Maiden or Motorhead album cover, as this is summer the denim jacket is replaced by a waistcoat with the festivals and gigs attended over the years embroidered in tiny, but perfectly formed, gothic script on the back.

Apart from the disappearing top of his mullet the only noticeable difference in Tiger over the years would be the name of the band on his t-shirt, which today was “Def Leppard”.

He has a round face with a ruddy complexion, the sort of face you could imagine in a Hardy novel on one of the peasants sat in the background of the cider barn.

His deep set grey-blue eyes are hardly visible under a pair of ludicrously bright blond lashes and eyebrows.

The nose is flat and fleshy with unusually small nostrils and his lips are large and hang open a little when not talking, but the initial impact on meeting Tiger is blown away when he smiles. 
It seems as his entire face is involved in an explosion of movement that displays pure happiness and is an infectious expression of utter contentment. There is no way that a person who displays a smile like that could be anything other than the real deal.

It is not the sort of smile you could ever fake, and anyway Tiger is no faker, he is who he is and happy about it.  

He walks with an unhurried amble and there is always the trace of a smile in the corner of his eyes. His speech, like his gait, is slow and deliberate and carries a rich Dorset drawl.

He prefers to work as casual labour so that there are no ties if a band he wants to see are touring. That eagerness to see bands combined with his physical appearance may explain his bachelor status, however, I like to think it is because he is just very happy as he is.

Regardless of his appearance, Tiger is one of those uncomplicated, peaceful, contented people that you occasionally meet in life and who I can say it is a pleasure to know.

We have a similar but comfortable conversation each time we bump into each other, normally about what bands he has been of to see lately, where I have been to on the ship, and if either of us has seen Colin or Anne, who were the landlord and landlady, or any of the other regulars, of the best pub in west Dorset. The Eight Bells in Beaminster.

I will always associate Tiger with a great smile and a great place.

Love and peace 


The First Cold Beer

Date & Time 21-12-2011  0000hrs
Position:- 08* 50’ S  136* 45’ E
Course:- 2307*
Speed:- 4.4 Knots
Wind:- NW 10 Knots (Force 3 Gentle Breeze ) 
Sea State:-  Slight (Up to 3 feet small waves becoming more pronounced with a few white horses)
Weather:- Cloudy (6/8ths and above cloud cover)
Temp 81F
(Wind Sea & Weather are all taken from the Beaufort notation to indicate the given conditions)
Distance to go:- 2162 nautical miles

On the chart about 1/3rd up on the right (East) you will see a small bit of land sticking out Tanjung Vals. 
We will be crossing over the La Cher Bank 60 miles to the west of that and just doing what we can to stay to the north of the potential storm. 
This detour is going to add a couple or three days to the journey length.

Today’s music is a gorgeous track and if Mrs Bentley is reading, it’s to remind you of us dancing to it in YeeHaw shed in the summer. 

I am aware that some readers may find the Hip Hop genre not to their taste but this track is so beautifully put together I think you would find it hard not to want to slowly move your hips to its rather sensuous and hypnotic beat.

The First Cold Beer

The vessels I work on are dry as far as alcohol goes. It is a safety issue as much as anything else, although I have found that wherever there is alcohol someone will make a complete turd of themselves on it at some stage. The ramifications of some peoples inability to be around booze without getting publicly, slobberingly, pain in the ar*e drunk have had a knock effect to nearly all ships now.
The only guaranteed way to prevent the above behaviour is to have no alcohol board. If someone is addicted enough to not be able to go a few weeks without it in a controlled situation then they really do need professional help. 

In my early days at sea I was sailing with mainly Brit crews and drinking was as much part of life as eating, sleeping and working. All ships had their own bars and it was the only place where you socialised. 
As the industry changed with “cheap to hire and easy to fire” multi national crews all with different cultural habits, alcohol became an easy target for the safety splurge and slowly but surely more vessels became dry. 

I cant thing of many bad things about it as a result of this prohibition, but if I really scraped the barrel then perhaps not being able to have a glass, or two, of wine with dinner would be about the only negative aspect I could think of.  

There are many plus side including that my kidneys get a rest for at least 6 or 7 moths a year as when I have access to it I do like a good red wine or cold beer and I am of the “there is no such thing as “one” beer or one glass of wine” school of thought. 
In fact if I am only going to be able to have one, then I would rather have none.

Another good point is not having to put up with someone who has had more than enough deciding that you would be a good audience to listen to their garbled warblings of guff. 
Some even think that because you have acknowledged their existence they should then treat you to a rendition their favourite song.

Although not a balladeer when drunk I have been known to “go on a bit” and at times this has been a source of consternation for Mrs B. (possibly an understatement by me)
Although these instances are now rare we have a secret signal for when I need help recognising that I need to shut up, We also have one that is not so secret. 
The secret one is a discreet kick under the table or a pinch just hard enough for it to register that it is time for me to quiten down and let someone else have a go. 
The not so secret one is for Mrs B to say “Bentley you are talking bollox.  Why don’t you be quiet for a while and let someone else have a go”.
I will admit to have occasionally ignored the odd kick and pinch just to hear her say it, so I can then see the looks of shock and respect on peoples faces. 
You can see the blokes thinking “surely he isn’t going to let her speak to him like that” and some of the women thinking “I would like to say that when my fella is being a boorish oaf”, (and some of the men thinking the same about their wives)
If anyone is ever daft enough to try and reproach her by saying “Oh don’t be cruel he isn’t that bad” or something along those lines I will normally leap to her defence and say “No she is right, I am rambling. Ever since she bought be the nobbly stick and walking boots, I just can’t stop.”

An unexpected but most pleasurable thing to come from being dry is the reunion. That first cold beer after several weeks without one.

If you have something all the time it becomes expected, normal and part of the routine, therefore less of an experience. There is little or no excitement involved in being able to open a fridge or walk into a bar and have a cold beer anytime you fancy one, but a few weeks without it and it different story.
The delicious anticipation of the first mouthful.

There is no rigmarole of opening it an hour before hand to let it breath, or taking in the bouquet, or pouring carefully into the correct glass and sighting the colour and body, because it doesn’t matter if it is out of a glass, a bottle or a tin, just as long as it is cold and a good brew. 
The second one is often even better as the first is already setting about doing its work and the taste memory has been rekindled, but after that they become much of a muchness. 

The combination of taste and temperature combining in harmony gives truth to the phrase “the amber nectar” and for me being able to enjoy “the first cold beer” after along absence is one of the perks of what I do. 
Love and Peace 

Chad The Whore Junkie (People1)

Chad The Whore Junky.

Earlier in the year Chad and I were in the Johor dock bar which is set up in the corner of a musty old warehouse inside the dock complex at Johor Baru.
It is the ships chandlers depot who provides the duty free booze and fags to the various vessels that dock there.
There are three raggy old blue vinyl sofas, a selection of dodgy old plastic chairs and stools, in faded red, yellow and white, that look like they have been reclaimed from the dump, and some upturned barrels cut in half and painted blue that serve as tables.  
It is known to the vessel as the 4 Ringgit Shop because that’s how much he charges for tin of a cold Tiger beer.  (about 80p)
Most seaman enjoy a beer and as the town is about 40 minutes in a taxi and is notoriously dangerous he saw a business opportunity and bought some big fridges and a huge cool box and set up speakeasy bar in his warehouse space.
It is a great spot just to pop in have a few cold ones being only walking distance form the ship. It is good to just let the booze loosen the tongue with some shipmates or seafarers from other vessel from around the world and “swing the lantern”. ( A seamen’s phrase for swapping tales of ships shipping companies and runs ashore)   
One of the best things about it for me is that it is inside the dock complex so it isn’t infested with the working girls who make going up the road for a beer a pain in the arse in most places.
It is very difficult in many ports to find just a simple bar where you can sit and have a few beers and a yarn, without some scantily clad young thing hustling you either for drinks, or sex for money, all to the over amplified cheesy dance or pop tracks blaring away in the foreground.
If you look hard you can find simple quiet bars but in some places it is not easy.
The single blokes, and sadly the married ones who don’t care about cheating on their wives, would disagree with me, however, some pretty young desperate thing, in high heels, a mini skirt and in her late teens early twenties offering me a blow job for 10 dollars or love me long time for 40 bucks just doesn’t do it for me.
30+ years ago as a single young man was a different story, but as time rolls along responsibilities, and sensibilities change.
They did for me as soon as I met my future wife and realised that she was the one I was gong to get old bones with and there was no need for anyone else.
Not everyone shares my opinion on absolute fidelity to the one you love and that is up to them, as they have to live with their own value system as I live with mine. 
A few trips ago, one of the older blokes (married, who a week earlier had been telling about his 23 year old daughters degree) got decidedly upset with me when he told me he was off trawling the girly bars for some sex, and I suggested to him that having sex with someone younger than your own daughter was just a form of paedophilia by proxy.
I thought there was something decidedly sordid and just plain wrong about the whole thing. He became almost violent when I asked how happy his wife would be if he gave her a dose of clap or even worse, how his daughter could explain to her mates that her mum died of AIDS, that she caught from her husband, who wanted to have sex with teenage prostitutes in Asia.
Still I digress as this is about Chad.
 Chad is a single, childless, Australian in his late 50’s and is the vessels head rigger.
When on board he is a quiet, calm, unassuming and engaging chap  who looks dapper with a close cropped neat grey beard, deep blue eyes and an engaging smile and manner that make him easy company.
He is a whore junky.
I don’t mean he is the sort of bloke who goes ashore everywhere seeking out the girly bars for a short time or an all nighter, that would hardly be cause for comment. No, it is different for Chad. He falls in love.
We were sat in the 4 Ringgit Shop and I had been waxing lyrical about the house renovation and what it was like living in Brittany as opposed to Britain, when I remembered my wife’s wise words of “Bentley other people have stories to tell as well and if you stop talking sometimes you might hear them” (She knows me so well)
 I asked if Chad lived in Aussie and he said no he was currently living in the Philippines with his girlfriend.
“Was she an ‘internet’ meet?” I asked.
“No, I met her in a titty bar in Manila and we just sort of hit it off and ended up together” 
It turns out that after her “turn” he had bought he some drinks and they ended up spending the night together. (A business arrangement)  
In the morning (yep I know) he told her he was planning on renting a house in Manila and did she want to set up with him. Although 25 years younger than him she said she did want to live with him as he was a “nice man”.
I asked if she still worked in the titty bar and he replied that she didn’t need to but it was up to her, however when he was home she didn’t.   
I was a bit “raised eyebrow” about the arrangement but decided he was old enough to know what he is doing and left it that, although I did mention the age difference. He said it didn’t seem to matter to either of them.
I moved the conversation to actually day to day living in the Philippines and health care banks and stuff like that, and it was an interesting insight.
For 700 yankee dollars a month he had a large house with pool garden and a live in housekeeper. Health care was pay as you go and for someone on western wages not expensive. Normal living expenses were minimal. Basically he was living exceptionally well on l500 bucks a month.    
I asked how long that had been going on and he replied it was about 8 months, but he said she was becoming a bit demanding and complaining about him being at sea half the time.
He was on the verge of moving her out and when he went home the next time he was considering letting the rental go, getting rid of his stuff, selling his 4X4 and saddling up his Harley and just having a tour on his own for a while.
When I asked about the woman he said she would probably find someone else but he would give her the opportunity of mellowing out, but that he didn’t ask for, or want earache in his life.
A couple of trips later I bumped into Chad again as our rotas meant we hadn’t sailed with each other for a while.
I asked how it went when he got home, he gave a sort of cross between a gallic shrug and a sheepish grin and said “ She got in first and wiped me out.” She had emptied the house of every piece of furniture (that was rented and came with the house), had cleared off with about 35,000 dollars worth of jewellery including his Rolex etc she had emptied 40,000 from the joint bank account and taken his 4×4 and his Harley and disappeared.
All he had was what he was stood up in. (although he has property in Australia and a well purchased art collection also in Australia that he accumulated when he was younger)
He had been to the police and they managed to find the Harley and reunite him with it, but the girl and the goods have long gone, and his chances of him ever seeing either again are none.
I said, “Bloody hell you must be gutted”
to which he replied that no he already had another girlfriend and he was about to set up house with her.
She is 24.
“Where did you meet her?” I ask
“In titty bar in Batam” says he.
I didn’t know what else to say apart from tell me the story next time we are in the 4 Ringgit Shop.
I have since found out that this has been a regular occurrence over the last 20 years or so and despite of advice from old friends it is his pattern and he doesn’t seem that bothered by it.
I hope I have not come across as judgemental about him as that is not my intent he is free to live his life how he sees fit however it does add credence to the saying that “there is nothing quite so strange as other people” eh?    

Squalls (nice word but nasty things)

Date & Time 20-12-2011  0000hrs

Position:- 09* 54’ S  138* 19’ E

Course:- 300*

Speed:- 5 Knots

Wind:- NW 20 Knots (Force 5 Fresh Breeze)

SeaState:- Moderate (3 to 5 feet Moderate waves taking ona more pronounced form. Many white horses are formed. Chance of some spray)

Weather:- Overcast(Complete cloud cover)

Temp 81F

(WindSea & Weather are all taken from the Beaufort notation to indicate the given conditions)

Distance to go:- 2270 nautical miles

On the chart we are to the east of the top left compass rose near enough where the 10* Latitude line and 138 Longitude lines cross  

We are heading to the North as fast as we can to evade the worst part of the potential tropical storm. The forecast last night was slightly mellower than the previous one with a maximum predicted wave height of only 5 meters.
As the depression has not deepened too much and therefore the storm has not yet configured we are hoping that it dissipates as they often do. If not we are travelling north to get away form the worst of it and use the available islands to afford ourselves some protection.
One of the weather features out here are the short vicious squalls that come out of nowhere. (In fact that description reminds me of Chad the Whore Junkie’s latest disastrous chapter in his somewhat unusual life which I will share with you later.)
A squall is a localised mini storm that just appears out of the blue and can strike with considerable force. You will first notice a sudden accumulation of dark cloud in a localised area, this is often accompanied by a large fat line on the ships radar.
Experience tells you what it is, however it is difficult to tell if it is just a localised downpour or a fast moving squall. The radar will show some tracking but your eyes are the best tool in this situation.
Sailing vessel were particularly prone to serious damage if they hadn’t shortened sail in advance of a squall and many have been de-masted, lost sails or been blown over as a consequence. The importance of a good all round lookout on a sail vessel cannot be stressed enough.
For a motor driven vessel the dangers are not so bad but care and attention still needs to be taken. If we are close in next to a platform with divers down of engaged in a heavy lift, or any of the other position critical jobs we do, then a large powerful squall could have serious consequences to the operation.
What we do in the daytime is search the front of the squall with binoculars looking for the amount of disturbance on the sea surface to give us an indication of the severity. The more disturbance the more powerful the squall and with enough warning we can suspend operations, move the divers to a safe haven and or move the vessel further away from the platform. At night we are dependent on the radar to show is the track of the squall and give us an idea of how quickly it is moving.
You can be sat in glorious sunshine as a squall approaches with a 5 to 10 nmot gentle breeze running and the squall will hit like a hammer and within 10 to 20 seconds the wind could be 50 60 70 knots or more.
Last year we had one that hit with the ferocity of a steam train and had roared  from 10 knots to 75 knots in the blink of en eye. When you are in that sort of wind on the panoramic windowed bridge the noise ins incredible. It is all wind and rain withy the rain being driven horizontally and reducing visibility to just few meters. On this occasion after we thought the wind had peaked at 75 knots there was sudden deafening bang, enough to make us all duck on the bridge and the wind shot to 102 knots for a few seconds before reducing to amore respectable 80 knots and then slowly over 15 minutes or so down to 25 and then half an hour later back to clear blue skies and a gentle breeze.
The outride of the vessel looked like it have been scrubbed by a thousand charwomen it was blasted so clean.
The sea itself whips up and gets a bit frothy locally during that time but because the winds are so localised and moving so fast it doesn’t have a chance to heap the seas up into proper waves and after the wind has passed it is back to normal for the wind conditions very quickly as though nothing had ever happened.
That is one of the bizarre things about the sea is that if you suffer a massive storm on land there is always tell tale signs of its passage.  Roofs gone, massive trees that had been part of the landscape gone, it leaves a scar that takes along time to heal.
At sea you can travel through a patch of sea that is a raging maelstrom, with towering violent waves smashing into the ship and a wind so powerful it threatens to rip your breathe out of your lungs. A violent, roaring, dangerous, expression of raw power.
A day or two later it is a calm, peaceful, silent, welcoming oasis of gentleness.

It’s only me from over the sea

It’s only me form over the sea said Bollicky Bill the sailor.
Well shiver me timbers, batten down the hatches, and set the lantern swinging, 
The glass is falling and things don’t look to sharp landlubbers. 
In fact they are looking decidedly ordinary as far as the future weather goes.
Unfortunately we just received our morning forecast and things are starting to look a bit grim for us. We are heading to exactly the center of the predicted start of a tropical storm. 
Being a specialist type vessel we don’t have the lines of a normal ship nor do we behave like a normal ship in adverse weather and we are expecting up to 7 meter seas on the current forecast. 
This is not a good thing for us. 
We have made the decision to try and run to the north as we expect the storm to track south. 
If we can get up towards the island of Yamdena it may afford us some protection from the worst of the weather. Just to the left of center of the chart. 
We are 10* 20’S 139* 16′ E and making 292* at 6 knots. 

The concern on page one is in the recommendations boxShocked 
The position is our estimated position over the next few days and on the 23rd our position was destined to be bang slap in the middle of thThe only flaws in our plan are if it develops quicker than the forecast, that we are so slow at only 6 knots flat out, or that it changes course although that is unlikely for storms of this region. 
Apart from that we should be fine. 

Below is this mornings forecast. e forecast area. 


This one shows the wind speeds and expected wave heights 

This one is the current scenario 


And there I was expecting to get a decent bronzy on the way up to Johor Laughing

 Love and Peace 

I’ve never known a night like it

Date & Time 19-12-2011  0000hrs

Position:- 10* 29’ S  140* 09’ E

Course:- 280*

Speed:- 5.6 Knots

Wind:- W 6 Knots (Force 2 Light Breeze)

Sea State:- Smooth (1 to 2 feet)

Weather:- Cloudy (6/8ths and above cloud cover)

Temp 81.5F

(Wind Sea & Weather are all taken from the Beaufort notation to indicate the given conditions)

Distance to go:- 2390 nautical miles

On the chart if you look at the middle of the three compass roses we are just to the north and east (about ) form that one.

After we cleared Booby Island we set a course of 280 and will remain on that for the next 870 miles.

This will take us to the north eastern tip of East Timor and take 7 days or more.

There is a slight problem which is at the moment all of our weather information and forecasts indicate a tropical storm developing near Darwin and we will be travelling 150 miles north of that so we are likely to feel some action.

Our forecast shows the current low winds and calm seas suddenly increasing up to 35+ Knots and 3.5+ Meter seas by the 24th.

We are already taking precautions to ensure that everything is well battened down and the extensive deck cargo is well lashed.

The music for today is this classic from probably the best rock and roll band the world has ever known or is ever likely to.

I adore the way it turns into a brilliantly played jam session about a third of the way through.  

As a seafarer you just accept rough weather as a hazard of the job. You batten down the hatches, lash everything down and, depending on the size and ferocity of the storm forecast, get ready for a few days of uncomfortable living. You have no choice but to just trust in the vessels ability to ride the storm.

People often wonder why we don’t just run for cover and shelter in the lee of a land mass, but ships are designed to cope with foul weather and in the middle of the ocean there is no where to run.

The days of vessels being routinely over-laden in order to squeeze a few more quid profit for the owner are thankfully long gone, although it is still the case with some smaller vessels in the less well regulated parts of the world, where the compliance with safety regulations is directly related to the amount of money to be found in the brown envelopes handed to the surveyor and port officials.

Many ships sank trough overloading before the Plimsolle line was adopted.

It was not the loss of seafarers that instigated the introduction but the loss of cargo, however ship owners continued to oppose the introduction for years.


All seafarers prefer it when it is calm (who wouldn’t) but there is something awesome and extravagantly dramatic about being at sea in a big storm. It makes you realise that this has been going on long before man set about trashing the planet and will continue long after we have completed the task and are long gone.

In a full blown hurricane or typhoon one can only marvel at the energy produced, and how, if we could work out how to harness even a fraction of it, mans energy needs would be solved.

You only have to survive one freak wave, also known as rouge or pyramid waves, to realise just how puny mans engineering achievements are in the face of the natural forces of the planet.

The first and probably the largest “freak wave” I ever encountered come out of the dark in a storm force 12 conditions (Huge waves. Sea is completely white with foam and spray. Air is filled with driving spray, greatly reducing visibility.) 

It hit us just aft of the accommodation break and ripped the port lifeboat and one of the davits clean off the deck.

The lifeboat was a 40 man boat about 8 meters long and was situated 15 meters above the water line.

If you take the average two storey house has having a roof ridge of about 7.5 meters and work up form there to about 20 or more meters, that will give you some idea of the size this wave had to be to have enough grunt to overwhelm us like that.

If you can see them coming they look like this

Once the weather starts to deteriorate you find that each hour, when on watch, is just a little longer than normal. Much of that will be due to interrupted sleep pattern as it is difficult to sleep on a moving platform. This is why you will find on proper working ships that all bunks face fore and aft and never thwart ships.

When fore and aft you can wedge some clothing or something under one side of the mattress and it will wedge you in against the bulkhead so you are not flopping about or rolling out of your bunk.

If you are athwartships you will be sliding feet first down the bed one second and then head first back up it the next.

(It is a useful tip for you landlubbers that feel a bit queazy on a ferry to book a cabin that has the bunks bow to stern if you can.)


When on watch on the bridge, depending on the violence of the storm, you will attempt to wedge yourself in were you have a good view of the radar and the horizon ahead of you, although in bad conditions you cant see much and only the largest of vessels show up on the radar.

Luckily most offshore vessels will have a decent conning chair from were you can see all around and have access to the engine, rudder controls and radars.

With a modern integrated bridge using electronic charts I can superimpose the charts over the radar display in order to monitor where I am in relation to navigational hazards at all times which saves me having to risk moving about too much in bad weather.

To get around you develop this wide legged, bent kneed, stance for walking about with your arms flexed out a little at your sides to prevent you from smashing into to objects, or to enable you to be able to grab quickly onto a hand rail to prevent you from being thrown around. I have been in some weather where we have been rolling over 30 degrees at a time and to walk along an alleyway you would have one foot on the bulkhead (wall ) and one on the deck and scuttle along until she rolled back the other way and you would change feet at bulkheads. After a particularly nasty storm your arms and legs will normally be bruised up. 

After a 6 or 12 hour watch you will be exhausted and even in those conditions sleep comes easily albeit fitful.

The sheer volume and violence of a ship repeatedly running into large waves and the associated crashing, banging, rolling, pitching and corkscrewing all take their toll, both physically and after prolonged time mentally. You just feel dog tired once the novelty has worn off like being trapped on some manic fairground ride that no-one can turn off.

The cooks have the worst job as they still have to try and produce something to provide us with nutrition. You should try and imagine what it would be like in your own kitchen if it was roiling from side to side by just few degrees, yet alone 20 or 30 degrees at a time, and an occasional, no warning, shuddering smash enough to nearly knock you from your feet as another big one crashes in.

Good ships cooks are the unsung heroes of rough weather, and if from a safety point of view we are not down to sandwiches, they will normally knock up something that can be eaten with just a fork or spoon as you need the other hand to hold on to the table with or stop your plate from sliding away.

Bizarrely I have sailed with people (professional seafarers I mean)  who get sea sick every time there is rough weather and having seen how miserable people get when in the grips of “mal de mer” I cannot understand why they would continue to go to sea.

It would like being a butcher if you were allergic to meat, you would have to finds something else to do.

That said as reasonable weather 85% of the time, if not more, I can see that the benefits outweigh the cons of the life on the ocean wave even for those with a delicate constitution.

Love and peace
See here for a modern navigational bridge layout of the Dive Support Vessel Bibby Sapphire I sailed on as SDPO a couple of years ago.  

Starting at the left of pic one at the lower level is

Radar 1, Engine management and monitoring, Radar 2, Electronic chart, various lighting and emergency stop panels.

You can see the engine controls thruster controls and joystick, auto pilot controls and comms  on the level and above are Echo Sounder, Compass repeater, Thruster and Rudder displays.


The Smell of the Land

Date & Time 18-12-2011  0000hrs
Position:- 10* 34’ S  142* E
Course:- 271*
Speed:- 4.9 Knots
Wind:- SSE 5 Knots (Force 2 Light Breeze)
Sea State:- Smooth (1 to 2 feet)
Weather:- Drizzle
Temp 82F
(Wind Sea & Weather are all taken from the Beaufort notation to indicate the given conditions)
Distance to go:- 2502 nautical miles

We are 7 miles North East  of Booby Island.

If you look on the chart just left of the middle (142*) and about 1/6th of the way up, you will find Booby Island.

The pilot has just disembarked from the Kestrel and we are now clear of land for a while as we head across the Arafura Sea.
Talking of Booby Island I have made a booby on the latitude position of the last couple of days as we have been at 10* lat not 9* and I failed to update it correctly on my template three days ago. (apologies to any budding navigators out there who twer wondering where the hell we were going)

Music of the day is a track from Anthony and the Johnsons “I Am A Bird Now” which if you don’t have in your music collection I heartily suggest you put that right. Beautiful and haunting are word that aply to the whole album.

In fact I like him so much you can have two tracks

As we now leave the land behind for a while I am reminded of the smell of the land.
Unless you have ever been on a long sea passage that takes you far enough away from land for long enough you will probably not have experienced it.
I am not talking about the smell of a different country when getting off a plane that we can now all experience. Those of you who have  landed in places that don’t have the luxury of an air conditioned cocooned walk ways leading you from the sterility of the plane to the air conditioned blandness of an international airport will  know the feeling.
The assault on the senses of first the heat and then the smell. I mention heat as you don’t normally get much of  smell with cold countries but hot one normally have some sort of a stench about them.

The first time I ever experienced smelling land was in 1976 on a super tanker (VLCC) called the British Explorer. It was in the days of what was known as “slow steaming” because there was a recession of sorts and oil prices were all over the place.
You would set sail from the UK or Europe and just head in the general direction of the Persian gulf via the Cape Of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa.
Between 3 and 4 knots was the slowest we would go to preserve our own fuel but make progress at the same time
On the return you would fill up with crude in the Gulf and then would receive orders that said LEFO, which meant Lands End for Orders.
You would slow steam all the way back until the brokers had managed to flog the oil off and then you would speed up and head to the discharge port they had chosen.

I only ever sailed on one VLCC as it was a tedious existence for a 17 year old although at the end of that trip I paid off with my entire wages intact which was the only time that ever happened because normally I would be ashore and partying as soon as was possible after tying up in port.

I remember leaving the Isle Of Grain, at the bottom of the Thames estuary, on December 10th and arriving at Kharg Island in the Persian Gulf on the last day in February, and we had speeded up to normal service speed of 12 knots once we got past Capetown.
Kharg Island is a large sand dune belonging to Iran in the Persian Gulf that was covered with oil tanks, and absolutely noting else, so there was no gadding up the road there.

We were heading south towards the Cape and It had been about six weeks since we had even been within 200 miles of land, then  one morning we came out on deck and you could smell earth, leaves, wood, mulch with hints of smoke and dung. It was like a damp old compost smell.
The smell was at first a complete shock that made you just stand smell the air, much like a dog does when it catches a waft of something interesting on the breeze and it is not sure what it is. It invoked all sorts of images and speculation although one of the old hands (who had been at sea since the 20’s) soon broke us out of our reverie by telling us that it was the smell of Africa and it stank even worse close up. From my experiences since he wasn’t wrong.
I remember thinking of the stories I had read of the old sailing ships who would be at sea and away from land for moths at a time and how exciting and at the same time slightly concerning it must have been for those men to smell land days before sighting it . You only have to go back to far in history to find that where you were was as much guess work as much as anything else, due to the lack of decent charts.

At the time of my trip there was a fuel embargo against South Africa going on, however our first cargo was to be from Kharg Island to Durban.
I was excited to hear about going to Durban however when we arrived it was at a Calm Buoy import mooring some 20 miles offshore and although we could see the loom of the city lights and smell the smells of the city there was no hope of getting ashore.
We discharged and steamed back up to the Gulf and loaded up another full load. WE then received the orders LEFO so we slow steamed back round Capetown and up towards the Cape Verde Islands when we were told to speed up and head to Genoa,where we arrived in mid May. I had been on board for just over 6 months and not stepped ashore once during that time.

We had two days to wait for a flight and I remember waking up on the first mooring in a hotel in some piazza after a wild night out in the slightly l sleazy part of town, as was in those days, called the Golden Mile. My balcony windows were open, and the smells of the early morning fresh bread and car fumes mingled in the room along with the remains of a couple of bottles of red wine and her cheap perfume. Nectar for the nostrils.
All I could hear apart from the rumble of the traffic was a heavily accented Italian high pitched male voice shouting “ELLO ELLO, Licky Licky Ice Cream ELLO”
Never in my short life had things smelt or sounded quite so good.

I Cry at Sad Films

Sorry about this but I don’t seem to have the hang of putting up a link so you can listen to it whilst reading the post. I will work on it although all suggestions gratefully received.

Todays music (its OK just dance like no-one was watching)

I cry at sad films. 
I always have done. 
The first time it became an issue, or more accurately when I realised that I might be in a minority of men, is when I went to the cinema with my then girlfriend to watch Love Story and when the lights came up it was obvious I had big crocodile tears running down my cheeks. 
She took one look at me and said “You soft twat” and walked out and left me there using my shirt sleeve to wipe away the tears. 

The strange thing was that her reaction didn’t bother me in the slightest. 
I already knew I cried at sad films, and ones with happy endings, or when something wonderful happens that is enough to stir the emotions. 

So today I am going to cheat a bit and just list some of the things that have moved me to tears over the years. 
I will add links where appropriate 

I toyed with the idea of working out what it was about each thing that moved me to express tears, but I think I have always known that tears don’t always mean pain and sadness. They are the release of a whole series of other emotions as well such as (but not limited to) joy, appreciation, gratitude, sorrow, wonderment, anger, frustration, pride and happiness, and it is far far better to let themselves manifest as tears, than it is to bottle them up and refuse them for fear of appearing to be soft or unmanly. 

Although no doctor or psychologist I am sure that many illnesses, both mental and physical, are a symptom of suppressed emotion, and I am not talking about the heart wrenching, body wracked with sobs tears that deep sorrow signifies, but more with the tears left to freely roll down the cheeks type of crying. 

The freedom to cry without pain if you like. 

Here is short list of things that have made (and make) me cry.
Happy endings in films (Like the final scene of the Shawshank Redempntion)
Sad endings in films (Love Story being a classic case in kind or the end of El Postino)
 Torvil and Dean dancing Bolero
The moment of my first child’s birth and holding him in my arms for the first time.
The moment of my second child’s birth and holding her in my arms for the first time.
Seeing my wife in her wedding dress
Seeing and  mingling with the hundreds that came to our open wedding party.

Swimming alongside my daughter as she swam and spluttered her first length of the town pool so that we could get the lifeguard off our case and stay up at the deep end larking about. The sheer guts and determination that is inherent in her. 
Being there when my son in his roller blades dropped into his first vertical ramp (4.5 meters and he was only just over a meter tall himself) at a skate park. That look of pride, relief and an internal battle won in his eyes.
Countless other moments of pride and joy with them or at them at various events and achievements through the years.and seeing  proof that my children are really good people.
Watching my wife collect her MA in Psychotherapy and Counselling
Watching her cross the finish line in her first half marathon.   
The sound of the lone bugler playing the Last Post at my dads funeral and the sight of those dignified old men of the Burma Star Association saluting.
David Gilmore playing Shine on You Crazy Diamond with David Crosby and Graham Nash on backing vocals.
Hearing from his son that one of my best mates had died of a massive stroke.
When ever I am at an airport waiting for someone the arrivals but where everyone stands and waits. I always get there early just to watch people greeting their loved ones and long time not seen ones. Never fails to get me.
Seeing my wife’s smile when I wake up on the first morning after getting home from sea.
And this had tears of laughter rolling down my face because it reminded me of the many times when we have been out as a family and ended up in fits of laughter for no apparent reason than just being happy to be around each other.
Love and Peace

The Torres Striat

Date & Time 17-12-2011  0000hrs

Position:- 09* 23’ S  143* 35.7 E

Course:- 236*

Speed:- 4 Knots

Wind:- NE 2 Knots (Force 1 Light Air)

Sea State:- Smooth (1 to 2 feet)

Weather:- Partly Cloudy (30% cloud)

Temp 78.5F

(Wind Sea & Weather are all taken from the Beaufort notation to indicate the given conditions)

Distance to go:- 2622 nautical miles

We are 4 miles nort of Stephen Island and 17 miles west north west of Darnley Island:- more info on them here.

I have just found a great site where I will be able to post up the chart every day of where we are so you can have a wander round and explore and google up the islands as we pas them.

You will be able to mark my position by using the Latitude and Longitude co-ordinates I give you each day. The Latitude is taken from either side of the chart and the Longitude is taken from the top or bottom. Just like plotting a graph.

The Torres Strait is a beautiful yet treacherous stretch of water with hundreds of reefs and strong currents. There is a safe designated charted route and pilotage is compulsory for large vessels. Even in the designated channel the depth is down to 15 meters in places so the big tankers and bulk carriers are unable to use it as a short cut and have to go round the outside of Papua New Guinea.

When you see a chart of this place it is easy to understand why.

We entered the Strait up by Bramble Cay (top left of this chart) and travelled west just north of  Stephen island  We pick up the pilot at 0400 and then follow the course 224* marked on the chart

On the next chart just follow the more southerly route to Prince of Wales Channel and then west to Booby Island .

For more detail of the Prince of Wales channel see here

One can only imagine the number of ships lost her over the years before they had the marvels and accuracy of sat nav, modern well surveyed navigation charts and reliable engines. To have come through here under sail in cumbersome square rigger and with no accurate charts or sophisticated navigation equipment is a feat of incredible seamanship and no doubt a large slice of good fortune. 

Falling Off a Wave

Falling Off a Wave

Date & Time 16-12-2011  0000hrs
Position:- 09* 19’ S  144* 56 E
Course:- 277*
Speed:- 3.2 Knots
Wind:- S by W 14 Knots (Force 5 Fresh breeze)
Sea State:- Slight (< 1 meter)
Weather:- Partly Cloudy (up to 60% cloud)
(Wind Sea & Weather are all taken from the Beaufort notation to indicate the given conditions)
Distance to go:- 2709 nautical miles

We have had to drop the speed to delay our ETA at the Torres Strait pilot station situated at Dalrymple Island. We are now just a few miles from the northern most tip of the Great Barrier Reef  and have just moved from waters 1000 meters deep into 100 meters.

Todays music

Falling off a wave.

I think one of my worst nightmares for a holiday setting would be a cruise. Not just because of the forced tourism part of ending up in some place that suddenly has an influx of a couple of thousand passengers and crew descend on the town all looking for that “unique experience” and which has just become 150% more expensive as soon as the locals saw the ship on the horizon (OK in large cities that may be different but I am sure you get my drift) 
All those hundreds of landlubbers (including most of the crew) with no clue of the difficulties should it all go a bit pear shaped. “Fuck my tall boots” I am breaking out into a sweat just thinking about it.
All those people running about screaming and panicking and all assuming that each one of them are more important than anyone else and should be saved first, many of the more stupid (and possession desperate) thinking it is OK to bring their luggage with them to the lifeboats.
Add into the mix the myriad of different languages spoken by the multi national crew recruited from all of the “cheap to hire” parts of the world, splash in a dash of  how the different cultures react when the shit hits the fan and you have a recipe for a massive clusterfuck.
Even on here, which is a working vessel crewed by supposedly trained  professionals, we have had people in a near state of blubbering panic during a muster drill convinced they are going to die and the ship is going to sink even though its just a training practice.
We had a small oven fire in the galley the other day and apart from one guy the rest of them  all ran out to the main deck towards the lifeboats, with all sense of training and practice lost, in blind panic. We are talking about a fire in the oven that your granny would put out with a damp tea cloth.
The mind boggles.

The true story of a small incident but demonstrates how quickly things can go wrong on a passenger carrying vessel and how quickly people lose the plot.
I was working on the Condor 9 which was the first passenger only, water jet drive, wave piercing catamaran to enter service in the UK.
It operated from Weymouth to St Malo via Guernsey and Jersey. It was the original “vomit comet”. 450 Punters sat in cheapo aircraft style seating with 6 toilets and one small snack counter for the lot.
The passenger demographic was normally 65% plus elderly (who else would want to go to the Channel Islands) on some sort of holiday deal, and the rest of all ages. The main passenger traffic was between UK and Channel Islands with only about 20% completing the whole trip to St Malo.
Condor 9 was about 45 metres long and had a supposed top sped of 35 knots although that would have to be empty, with a following wind with all four engines running flat out (rare) and downhill as well.
She had the new Ride Control System which was a set of hydraulically powered fins, one on each side of each bow and one on each inner of the sterns. The idea of the   RCS is to keep the vessels aspect to the waves level so the bows could cleanly pierce the wave. Sounds like a good plan and to a degree it works if the waves were nice and compliant and came at the vessel from directly ahead and all were a pretty uniform shape or size (no doubt like the ones found in the test tank of the designer). Unfortunately waves in the western channel are rarely like that and if they were just a couple of points or more off the bow (25degrees +) then the vessel adopted a somewhat jarring motion and it was common that out of about 450 punters, 300 or more might throw up. Because of her destination being due south and the prevailing wind and sea from the south west this was often the state of affairs on board when travelling towards the Channel Islands and France.
The motion of the vessel would be violent enough to make walking very difficult so most were confined to their chairs and had to “barf in the bags” provided.

I was sailing as an AB at the time and eating an enormous portion of humble pie (which doesn’t taste good hot or cold I can assure you ) because I had been ashore working in financial consultancy and had gone personally bankrupt early in 1992.
For those of you whose first instinct is to suspect the worst, this was personal debt and had nothing to do with clients money.
I was one of many thousands who not only found themselves in negative housing equity, with big outgoings and diminishing incomings, but who also learned the important and relevant lesson that wealth is not what you owe, it is what you own.
The humble pie comes from a conversation at a senior managers and shareholders convention in Bankok two years previously. Over dinner of lobster and champagne I was asked by colleague if I would ever consider going to sea again. After a mouthful of Moet I said (and I can still hear myself) “Fuck Off, If I ever do it will only be as a first class passenger on the QE2”
Oh Dear how ones words can come back and bite one on the arse eh?,
So two years and a few short months later I am sailing as an AB clearing up puke and placating old biddies about how rough it is likely to get on a  poxy little ferry. My Chief Officers certificate had expired because I had not done any sea time in the previous 5 years and being bankrupt I didn’t have the money to afford the two week re-validation course. In the words Buddy Guy “I couldn’t even afford to spend the night”

The crew spent 3 days on the vessel and although it had no accommodation we had a crew flat inside the old city of St Malo. The day started at 5.45 when we would arrive at the vessel and would finish whenever we managed to limp into St Malo after the round trip to Weymouth which was rarely before 7 or 8 pm and often later.
The vessel would sail from Weymouth at about (although often later) so the people had the chance to get to Weymouth early, have a couple of pints and some nice greasy fish and chips and then board. Loading was always quite a quick affair, being no cars to worry about, and we would sail through the breakwaters and out towards Portland for our trip to the first stop, Guernsey, which was supposed to take about 3 and half hours.
On the rougher days (of which there were many) Fraggle Rock, as Portland is known, would shield Weymouth Bay from the worst of the south westerly weather but as we approached closer to the the Bill the swell would start to increase.
At first the punters would get all excited and go “Whoooo” as we rode over the first couple of swells, but the whoooo’s would slowly turn to “Wooahs” and then to slightly hesitant and unsure “Woes”  as the swells got larger.
After the woes it would quickly deteriorate into beeeeuuuuurrrerks and huuuuueeeeeys .
The vomiting would nearly always start at the front (the worst place to sit) and would spread like a chorus of bullfrogs towards the stern as one after another would succumb to the inevitable as we rounded the Bill and headed out into the channel proper.      
When it was really rough (quite often) many of the stewardesses would also fall ill, such was the movement of the vessel, so it was left to the AB’s to patrol the passenger decks taking bags full of vomit from the sombre, and in some cases distraught  looking victims, and hand them industrial paper wipe and new bags for the next onslaught of heaving.
My favourite method of working on the bad days was to amble down to the front before the “Whoos” started. I would have a heavy duty bin bag hanging from one side of my belt, about 30 sick bags tucked in the other side, and underneath my left arm a large roll of blue industrial wipe. My fellow AB and I would choreograph our move down each side of the vessel till we were level with the front emergency exits and from there we had a good view of everyone, we would then turn facing everyone, smiling and nodding at people in a very friendly and knowing manner.
On the first “Whoooo” we would reach into out pockets and don a pair of white latex gloves with a snapping flourish, like surgeon donning the gear before and important operation, all the time smiling and casting an eye over the seated passengers. Then we would go to work.
We were looking for the ones most likely to barf first and we could tell them by the way they were fanning themselves with the emergency card.
Experience taught us that these people were two or three minutes away from a technicolour yawn and would be our first targets. We would move to them handing over a couple of extra bags and generous helping of wipe whilst ignoring the protestations of “ Oh thanks but I will be fine” and replying with “I am sure you will be flower, but have these just in case.”
By now it would be difficult, even for us practiced hands, to stand so no-one could make it to the toilets and the chunder chorus would be in full swing. There would be no respite for at least a couple of hours .
We were like the blokes who operate and take the money on the Waltzers at the fairground, walking around with a sailors easy gait among the punters, cracking jokes and generally trying to cheer up them up.
I have had grown men crawling on their hands and knees begging me to shoot them as they thought they were going to die and by then wanted to die. Some people would drag their way to the toilet and then selfishly lock themselves in, engaging in the “porcelain cuddle”. They were not to know we had the special type of hinges we could open from the outside, which we would do after a warning, and then help them back to their chairs. If it was a member of a family travelling we would remind them all with a hearty grin, once reunited with the toilet hugger,  that a family that throws, together grows together.
The miniscule bit of deck space available was off limits in rough weather and even in good weather was so noisy and windy as to deter even the most gaggingly desperate of nicotine junkies.
We developed our own black humour to insulate ourselves against this torrent of vomit, but beneath it, particularly for the more experienced seaman, there was always an undercurrent of ‘this is the wrong sort of boat in the wrong sort of sea’ uneasiness .
We all knew that if anything ever went wrong, such as hitting a semi submerged object, we would be in serious shit and the chances of getting everyone off with no losses would be poor at best.

As luck would have it we never did hit a submerged object, but we did fall off the top of a wave when we were on a passage back to Weymouth.
It was rough (SW7) and getting rougher as we approached Portland.
I have explained how everyone would be sick if the weather was a couple of points on the bow, but if it was couple of points, or more, abaft the beam then about 70% of people would fall asleep. It was quite bizarre to watch.
The crew knew we would be in for an easy ride when it was like this, however you will always get one or two chucking up, even on the calmest of days, and we often  wondered how some people ever managed to have a bath or even stand on a damp towel without barfing.
We were only about half full and had spent some time convincing people not to sit at the front (it is not the best spot if the weather is a bit suspect). There were a few “I know what I am doing” types but they were mainly on the outboard window seats so we left them to it.
The person with the hardest job on his hands in those sea conditions was the Captain as when a big sea is following, you stand a chance, because of our speed and diminutive size, of running down the face of the wave and burying the vessel into the back of the previous one.
It takes concentration, experience and something of a surfers eye to maintain the vessels integrity and keep to a commercial timetable in weather like this on a small, high speed vessel.
You have to climb the back of the wave you are on and adjust the speed and direction, so as to almost surf the crest, and then twist her around to be in proper alignment again for the next wave.
As is normal the waves tend to heap up a bit near Portland in any sort of a blow, and we had a good south westerly 7 going, when a secondary wave heaped up behind the one we were on and, catching the captain unawares, pushed us over onto the face.
It gave the Captain no time to react and we shot down the face of the wave and buried ourselves (being a wave piercer) into the back of the next wave, practically stopping us dead. The entire bow of the vessel was submerged as were the main deck front windows.
As the captain struggled to force her out of the wave the lashings that held down the aluminium window protectors snapped and the motion of water and vessel caused them to crash into two of the forward windows shattering them instantly.
That’s when things started to get tense and people started to scream.
Being submerged when the windows broke they exploded inwards sending glass and a wall of water into the front of the passenger deck completely flattening 3 rows of seats. Luckily myself and the other AB had stationed ourselves near the forward escape doors so were close at hand when it occurred.
As I said earlier we had managed to dissuade most passengers from staying at the front and we just had the few sat on the side. These were now up to their waists in icy cold water and a couple of them had sustained cuts and one old girl looked in difficulty. I waded in and grabbed the old girl while my shipmate led the two injured chaps out of the water. We then ushered the rest of the wet ones out.
One of the stewardesses had come down the stairs from the upper deck and stood frozen on the steps crying. I had to fire a few harsh expletives in her direction, reminding her about the job she was trained to do and that is was now ‘show time’ so either “p!ss or get of the pot”. It seemed to snap her out of it and she took over the injured party and was an absolute rock from then on.
One woman holding a child came running to me from the dry bit screeching and screaming about a lifejacket for her child and then started screaming “We are going to drown” which sparked up a few of the others who started shouting and trying to get up from their seats.
I shouted into her face “Shut the Fuck Up” and it had the same effect as if I had slapped her. I then said loudly and forcibly to the others, who were on the edge of freaking out, “Sit down, put your brains in gear, and look out of the window. It’s alright we are not sinking, we just have some water through a window.”
I said to the lady with the child and to anyone else with kids that if they would feel safer then go up to the upper deck and the stewardesses would take care of them.
That seemed to calm things down a bit.
At this time the Chief Steward turned up with another couple of stewardesses and they began to look after the other wet ones.
The Chief Mate arrived from the bridge and called up the report to the Captain who manoeuvred the vessel to protect the foc’sle so myself and the other AB could go out and secure the window protectors (known as dead lights) over the broken windows.
It is always an adrenalin moment when you are out on a deck and all around the waves are towering above you, but you learn to trust the powers of buoyancy, although we didn’t dawdle in boxing the job off.
By the time we got back in off the deck the Chief Steward and the girls had done a good job of settling everyone down and getting all the people with kids up to the top deck.
We tried to get the water out by draining it down into the void spaces in the hulls but could not open the lids against the pressure, so it was decided to get to port and worry about it there.
As the Captain accelerated the vessels the ride control system kicked in and levelled the vessel up from her head down position. The water that had collected at the front just followed gravity and with increasing force this little indoor tsunami went hurtling towards the stern of the vessel, hitting the legs and knees of all the dry people sat towards the stern and splashing right over them. It washed away handbags holdalls and duty frees and it smashed through the back doors and was gone.
We had gone from about 20 people wet to about 120 wet in 10 seconds but seeing it splash over people sat in their chairs and who could do noting as they watched it coming  was still one bright spot of humour in what could have been a very bad incident.
Although there were about 4 ambulances to meet us the few injuries were minor although one old feller had some sort of heart tremor but it could so easily have been a lot worse. The old lady who I had dragged out of the water first was just a bit shocked but suffered no other injury.
We sailed back to Guernsey to get her dried out but it was about a week before all the carpets were dry again however she was back in service the next day.

Love and Peace

Setting sail on a voyage.

Date & Time 15-12-2011  0000hrs
Position:- 09* 34’ S  146* 43’.6 E
(Nothwesten edge of the Coral Sea)
Course:- 277*
Speed:- 4.5 Knots
Wind:- NW 18 Knots (Force 5 Fresh breeze)
SeaState:- Slight (< 1 meter)
Temo :- 82F
Weather:- Rain
(WindSea & Weather are all taken from the Beaufort notation to indicate the given conditions)
Distance to go:- 2818 nautical miles
Music track of the day
Aye Aye,
The paying off crew have gone and we finally got underway at 1945 13-12-2011 for our voyage to Johor Baru. The crew have been trimmed down to 102. I am on watch from till , although there is little to do as we are being assisted on passage by the Lewek Kestrel because the engineers will be working on the thrusters on the way. We are on a sort of assisted half tow half own power passage.  
I have been at sea for 35 years (not all in one go) and there is still a special exhilaration of knowing you are on passage.
I have never been sure if it’s because you are leaving where you were, or looking forward to getting where you are going, or just the unknowing excitement that most of us feel when embarking on a journey. For me it is the journey itself as opposed to the destination or departure points.
The only time I am less interested in the journey and more concerned about the destination is when I am travelling home to be with my wife.  
When I hear of people saying they are “going travelling”, for example on a gap year, or just deciding to take off and see more of the world, I think “Good for you” but I am so glad I am not going. I just know that I would not enjoy it.
When people start to tell me tales of seeing the tourist trail sights of whatever country or how they immersed themselves in the local culture by surviving on a diet of yak snot and wearing a silly felt hat for a year, my eyes begin to glaze over very quickly.

I am a crap tourist, I have never liked being a tourist or being mistaken for one. Nothing fills me with a bigger sense of utter dread of dying the slow death of   boredom than traipsing about with a load of other people looking at stuff, be it old buildings or wandering around markets and gawping at other cultures.
For me there is so much not to like, the places you are allowed to walk, the railings that keep you fenced in, the rule about what you may and may not touch, where you may and may not take photographs, who you have to pay, what face or version of the real history is going to be sold to you, the whole “industry” and façade of tourism. All those other people trying to get their monies worth looking at the same stuff that a load of other people have just looked at. I just don’t get it and am happy not to have to take part in it.  
The reality is that a decent documentary maker will obtain better footage, better clearer views and access to places that the general public (oh how I despise that term) are not allowed to go.
I know some people enjoy that sort of palaver and spend hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pounds to obtain a few hundred digital snapshots and some “experiences of foreign culture” to file away in the memory bank and good luck to you if you are one of them, but please don’t get out the photo album if I ever visit.

I find the whole thing as dull as dishwater, but what I thoroughly enjoy is the travelling to get there. Be it by plane train car helicopter, boat, tuk tuk, motorbike taxi, ship, I enjoy them all, it is just the end result that is too often the let down..

Even if you are a seasoned tourist there are becoming less and less places that you can visit safely unless you are a member of the special forces or harbour some sort of weirdo, rubber necking, penchant for looking at the sites of recent riots, catastrophes or natural disasters.  
I would travel to see one thing and that is a mid ocean sunrise or sunset.
Luckily for me they come with the job much like this mornings magnificent effort which has the colours and shades akin to staring into a bowl of tropical fruit, however  there is a down side in that I cant share it with the one person in the world who I would like to, as Mrs B is not much of a sailor.
I have always found (on land or sea) watching a sunrise, or sunset, invokes in me something  primeval hidden inside under the cloying and hectic layers of modern life we cover ourselves with  A hint or trace of something simpler, something more natural. Something pure.      
Love and Peace