Land Ahoy!!

Aye Aye landlubbers, “Well shiver me timbers, Yo Ho Ho barrels of rum on dead mens chest, black spots from Blind Pugh, rumblings in the Foc’sle and other assorted salty old sea dog  malarkey.
We have made fast on the lay by berth at Sector 51  Keppel shipyard Singapore. We arrived at about 1700 last night. We are in among some seriously large tonnage in varying states of repair and I should imagine that for a photographer this place would be a treasure trove of opportunity.
I will get some snaps to give you an idea over the next few days.
As is customary there was a mass exodus ashore last night and several of the senior guys ended up in JJs watching the band Heritige until the small hours.
Headaches abound this morning however the fist cold beer (see earlier post) was most enjoyable after an dry period stretching to 115 days for myself.

Luckily the dry dock lay-by berth is miles from any civilisation ( read restaurants and bars) being in the middle of an industrial zone so it is a major effort to get ashore. This is a good thing as it keeps temptation at arms length and will ensure I arrive home in prime condition so Mrs B can benefit from my 4 months of healthy living.
Love and Peace

Date & Time 14 -01-2012 
0000hrs (GMT +8 ) 
Position:- 1* 12.6 N 103* 34’.6 E 
Speed:- 0 (in Dynamic Positioning mode holding station) 
Wind:- N by W 10 Knots (Force 5 Gentle Breeze) 
Sea State:- Calm 
Weather:- Overcast. 
Temp 77F 
Distance to go:- 6 nautical miles 

Jurong holding anchorage 

In the South Western part of Singapore you will see Jarong Island and we are close to the light marked on the chart. On the chart if you zoom in to the north of Jurong Island you will see a depth mark of 10 (meters), we will be tying up on the 1 side of that. 
We maybe getting a berth later today but nothing is confirmed. 

It has been gratifying to know that few people have followed the passage and my various ramblings and reminiscences about some of my life at sea. To be honest I have barely scratched the surface, however what it has done is given me several ideas for some fictional short stories drawing on my experiences and weaving them into the tale. 

I will keep my blog site running as a journal and update regularly as I go along with various musings and rantings. 

I will make one more post this thread once we have made fast and the voyage is complete. 

The music today is two tracks from this genius. 



Date & Time 1301-2012

0000hrs (GMT +8 ) 
Position:- 1* 18.7’ N 104* 48’.4 E 
Course:- 295* 
Speed:- 3.4 Knots 
Wind:- WNW 19 Knots (Force 5 Strong Breeze) 
Sea State:- Moderate (up 8 feet waves with underlying swell, white horses prevalent)  
Weather:- Occasional monsoon squalls.

Temp 79F 

Distance to go:- 79 nautical miles 

Eastern Entrance to Singapore Strait

We are up near the top left hand corner of the chart, of for those of you with a more nautical bent we are in the upper North West quadrant.  

We will be crossing the shipping lane at the end of the traffic separation lanes about between the “e” and “c” where it says Middle Channel

Up on the upper right side of the chart which is the eastern approaches to the Straits.
We have been delayed as we had to stop and pump bunkers to our escort tug.
We have been informed that out berth on the dry dock lay-by quay is not ready so we will be going into the anchorage and sitting in Dynamic Positioning for a few days until we can get alongside.
We are beam on to the NE monsoon swell so the rolling has increased and we are punching the current at the moment which has dropped out speed.
I am missing MrsB today after waking up from a particularly wonderful dream.
So this is to her from me and also for anyone who has ever wanted to sing this to someone or have it sung to them.

Crossing the Line

Date & Time 12-01-2012 
0000hrs (GMT +8 ) 
Position:- 0* 27.4’ N 106* 00’.1 E 
Course:- 310* 
Speed:- 4.4 Knots 
Wind:- NNW 19 Knots (Force 5 Strong Breeze) 
Sea State:- Moderate (up 8 feet waves with underlying swell, white horses prevalent) 
Weather:- Occasional monsoon squalls. 
Temp 79F 

Distance to go:- 162 nautical miles 

South China Sea 

We are up near the top left hand corner of the chart, of for those of you with a more nautical bent we are in the upper North West quadrant. 

The wind has stayed the same force although backed to North a little. 
The sea conditions are still moderate to rough although we are now experiencing an underlying North Easterly swell which is causing us to roll a little. Only about two or three degrees each way but combined with the slamming of the waves it is enough to let you know you are at sea. 
We are not quite up to the “I’ve never known a night like it” stage and it is a level of movement in a vessel that I like. 

We had a one massive bump at about 1350 yesterday which was the time we crossed over the equator. It is normally associated with a bump. 
So I am now back in the northern hemisphere and a few more miles closer to home. 

In days gone by we would have had a “Crossing the Line” ceremony which involves initiating people who have never crossed the equator with some maniacal and horrible rite of passage. 

One crew member would become King Neptune and if there were no wives on board another would become Amphitrite 
Davy Jones would be in attendance and my other made up dignitaries. Basically it was an excuse to get in fancy dress, have a laugh at the expense of new crossers, and go on the lash with a big feast as well. 

The ones who had never crossed the equator would be subject to the law of the court of Neptune which normally involved having old stinking food waste (several days old) big tipped over the hapless victims whilst being charged with various made up crimes such as looking a but odd or wearing unusual socks. 
It often involved the shearing of a chunk of hair as well which often started at the back and went over the top resulting in there being no other option but to have to shave it all off. 

After the ritual humiliation of the new crosses there would be a big feast and p!ss up. With so may vessels being now dry, the various more stringent health and safety laws, bare minimum skeleton crews and more importantly very few new people going to sea, the more excessive ceremonies have died out and I haven’t seen one for 25 years or more. 
They do them on passenger boats but as you can imagine it is a tamed down p!ss poor imitation of what used to go on. 

One of the craziest ones I remember was on a ship called the La Ensenada on passage from France to Durban via several West African ports. 
It was fairly wild bunch of us on there and we had several new crossers on board. 
One was the galley boy who was always up for a laugh but had a bit of an obsession with his rather bouffant hair do. 
During the ceremony a 4 inch wide strip was shaved from his neck to the top of his head and so he was left with no option but to shave it all off. There were 6 of them who had varying chunks of hair out so they all shaved their heads and the galley boy didn’t mind too much, although he said his girlfriend in the UK loved his hair and would finish with him if he had it too short. 
There was also the fact that some men can shave their heads and it looks fine, however some shave their heads and just don’t have the head shape for it and therefore look a bit freakish. He was one of those. 
We were expecting to be out for another 5 months so he was happy he would have a good head of hair again by the time we got back to the UK. 

The day after the shave he stayed outside in the sun to long and burnt his head, but what made it worse was that the fluid his head swelled up like an alien. 
Sympathy is not a known feeling on a ship and he had the mick ripped ruthlessly from him, even more so because the swelling started to subside so the fluid seemed to sink further lower down his head almost as though he had a rubber ring under the skin getting a little bit lower each day. 

A day or two later he had this band of fluid about about an inch thick at ear level around his head, and a glowing red pate that had started to peel really badly. It would be fair to say he was not looking at his best when we docked at Walvis Bay (Namibia) to load 30,00 ton of salt.
In fact he looked more like something out of a circus freak show, but he remained in good spirits and joined the many of us who were off up the road for a few beers (although there was very little in Walvis Bay at that time.) 
Unfortunately for the lad he was larking about and not paying attention when going down the gangway and he slipped and broke his ankle. 
He was whisked off by ambulance and was put in cast at the local hospital but he couldn’t continue to the voyage and had to be flown home. 
I have never seen someone so utterly distraught about having to go home before. 
Six weeks earlier he had joined the vessel for his first trip clean, and fresh and with an extravagant head of hair and he was going home looking like something out of a zombie film. 
Looking on the bright side he did have a Crossing the line Certificate, 
I wonder if he had it framed? 


The music today is from a band called Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs. 
They are long time mates of mine based in Maidstone and although the sound quality doesn’t do them justice I hope you get an idea of the sheer theater of their performances and the total irreverence they adopt when choosing what songs to cover. 
The first time I met the lad singer and guitarist was when they were in a band called the Spice Daves who later went on to become Ghengis Khant, before hitting on the idea of Hobo Jones. 
They are regulars at Glastonbury for the last four years and firm festival favourites as well as touring constantly all over the UK. 
They play and intriguing fusion of punk and skiffle and no song is too big or too sacred for them to have ago at.


Women are Fantastic

Why Women are Fantastic

Bearing in mind I am fully aware that if a man says something, when a woman isn’t listening, he is still wrong, and that there may well be some credence to the idea that we are from different planets, I still enjoy being in the presence of women. 
Do you know that split second feeling you get when you are leaning back on a chair and you very nearly tip over but just manage to catch yourself in time? That’s what it feels like in the company of women for me. 
You can never tell how it is going to go.
There is no mystery that in early religions the female was revered, but this was before men got their act together, when the christians and muslims took over by inventing a man god, and subjugated women to a lesser role, undeservedly subservient to men. 
I don’t think it is a coincidence that the world has been at war ever since. 
The adherents and enforcers of those religions have made great a effort over the centuries to ensure that it remains that way and although some remain firmly rooted in the stone ages a few of the cult offshoots of christianity have loosened up a bit as far as women are concerned.
All of that said, there is something quite magnificent about women and they have an ethereal quality that men can never attain  because women are the ones that give life. It could be what men are scared of.       

As much as I admire and respect women I wouldn’t want to be one because in the cycle of human life they get the sh!tty end of the stick.

For men it’s simple, we are born pretty much intact. 
When we reach the age of 12 or 13 our goolies drop, followed quickly by our voices, then one day the blue veined custard chucker starts spitting when we rub it, and that’s us sorted for the next 60 or 70 years. Job done.

Women have to go though a far more complex metamorphosis which starts when young, because there comes a time when, although you have been running about naked in the garden since you could walk, one day your mum or dad says you have best pop on a pair of knickers. 
It is small change of attitude towards you and it probably goes by without much notice. But big changes are coming.

One day, a few years later when you are in the bath you notice something wrong with your chest as it appears to be separating and expanding into two distinct mounds. Your body is changing shape and morphing in front of your very eyes 
 “Muuuuuuummmm!!! Whats happening to me?”
“It is just part of turning into a woman darling” 

Then a little while later you cant work out why you suddenly want to burn down the house and machine gun your family and friends, this is shortly followed by acute stomach cramps, followed hot on the heels by menstrual bleeding.
“Muuuummmmm, whats happening to me?
“Its your period darling, The excruciating pain, violent and unpredictable mood swings and the mess, well that’s you once a month for the next 40 years or more. Welcome to the club”

Without your knowledge or permission you are now starting to emit a secret pheromone scent that acts as a magnet to the male species of human who’s knackers have just dropped, and you have to spend a few years fighting of the advances of young men with pants afire with desire.
Eventually one of them, after much fumbling about under the duvet of uncertainty, will succeed in convincing you that it would be a great idea if you let him slip you a length, which it has to be said is never quite the “Mills and Boon” moment that you dreamt it might be. 
I think it fair to say that loosing your virginity is rarely a satisfying sexual experience. It is more like a seamless wrapper on a box of your favourite chocolates that takes forever to get off, but until you can get rid of it, the goodies that lie within can’t be accessed. 

Sex often leads to pregnancy which is where a whole new level of the might of being a woman comes into its own. 
Budding breasts and the hormonal hurricane set off by the monthly menstrual cycle pale into insignificance compared with the changes that occur when you have an alien growing inside of you, demanding resources that were normally all yours. 
Slowly but surely the growing, wriggling, kicking, body inside of you begins to pull on your skin and regardless of the amount of balm and ointments you apply you are convinced you can actually hear it stretching.

With the early morning nausea, odd swellings, sudden change in taste and smells, and the new ungainly way of walking you have had to adopt, you feel anything but feminine and womanly, however there comes a time at between 6 to 8 months when  you suddenly say “ I am so so sexy, I am all woman, I am mighty sexy earth mother” as the new curves and shapes define you as the giver of live. Never before have you felt so whole as a woman. Its why you were revered as goddesses. 

Hubby or boyfriend (if any good) will have been as supportive as possible during the whole thing and learnt to say the right things about how magnificent you look, and of course he still loves you etc, but men tend to be a bit squeamish about making love to a heavily pregnant woman. 
Its not a lack of love or not fancying you or anything as ordinary and explicable as that. 
What concerns us (and I know it’s irrational and a biological impossibility) is bashing the baby on the head or worse still feeling a hand grab. 
I know I know, but it is a worry. 

Shortly after the sex goddess, earth mother stage, the waddle walk and back aches remind you of the work yet to come.

You then have the act of giving birth which I have been told can sting a bit.

It is at that moment, when you are probably at the most exhausted, mentally and physically that you have ever been, you have to begin to bond with, nurture, protect and nourish and infant. 
Some mystical hidden reserve comes to the fore and you manage this super human feat, only for a few years later to go through the second stage of a mothers pain.
This is when your child tells you that you that it no longer needs your warm, careful nurturing love and that you have become an embarrassment and that you know nothing and understand nothing. 
This occurs these days when the child is about 12. 

You will continue to provide free 5 star hotel services to your child until you have to go through the third mothers pain, the dreaded empty nest syndrome, which is the day when they flap their metaphorical wings that little bit harder and move in with the person that they have chosen to replace you with. 

It is about this time that you start finding it difficult to know what to wear when you go out as one minute you feel fine, and the next you are having hot flushes, followed by irrational mood swings, which signals the start of the menopause. 
This as far as I can tell is like a period but in reverse. 
(It should be noted at this stage that with many men, if you could convert what they know about the menstrual cycle into air pressure, they wouldn’t have enough to pump up one of the tyres.)

The menopause sometimes coincides with you starting to wear purple and buying those strange looking hand made leather shoes and felt hats or taking up bungee jumping, or in few cases looking at your partner wondering how the woman you once were with the all the  potential you had (and still have) ended up with that dullard.

But once the change is complete and you come out the other end you know you have done it. 
You have cracked it you have come the full circle in the cycle of a woman and emerged then other end, miraculously in one piece, and hopefully still sane enough to get on with enjoying the rest of your life safe in the knowledge of a job well done.

But just when you thought that it was all over and you had done your bit, nature has one more vicious trick up its sleeve for you.
A beard. 
Unwanted facial hair sprouting out all over the place leaving you to question if there no bloody end to what a woman must endure in her life before she can just relax back and enjoy it .

This is why I say that as much as enjoy your company and can only marvel at your resilience to the trials that life puts you through, you definitely get the rough end of the deal when it comes to the physicality required to be a human.



Date & Time 11-01-2012 
0000hrs (GMT +8 ) 
Position:- 0* 39.3’ S 107* 19’.1 E 
Course:- 310* 
Speed:- 4.6 Knots 
Wind:- WNW 18 Knots (Force 5 Strong Breeze) 
Sea State:- Moderate (up 8 feet waves with underlying swell, white horses prevalent) 
Weather:- Occasional monsoon squalls. 
Temp 79F 

Distance to go:- 273 nautical miles 

South China Sea 

We are just below the wreck mark that is juust below the O of South China Sea 
The wind has increased a little and although the sea stil has some fetch to it conditions are a little better and we are making over 4.5 knots This brings our ETA forward to noon on the 13th 
The motion of the vessel is little improved with just the periodic slap of the odd larger wave 

The music today is from a great songwriter called Lucinda Williams 
First one upbeat and second one melancholy. 

Love and Peace

Date & Time 10-01-2012

0000hrs (GMT +8 ) 
Position:- 01* 47’.5 S 108* 38’.5 E 
Course:- 310* 
Speed:- 3.6 Knots 
Wind:- WNW 15 Knots (Force 5 Strong Breeze) 
Sea State:- Mod to Rough (up 12 feet Large wages with steep faces, some breaking waves with white horses prevalent)  
Weather:- Squally conditions with occasional driving rain

Temp 79F 

Distance to go:- 375 nautical miles 

South China Sea

We are 3 miles SW of the island Palau Serutu  

The wind has dropped abiut but the sea has a fair old fetch on it now with the continued regular monsoon squalls.

The motion of the vessel is still uncomfortable although a little improved and now we are moving away form where the sea narrows we are less influenced by adverse currents so we have managed toget up to 4 knots since midnight.

Our ETA at Keppel Dock Singapore is now late on the 14th if the weather doesn’t deteriorate.

The music today is one track from what is a wonderful album.

I first heard this shortly after I had got back from sea a few years ago and MrsB set me up on the sofa with a large glass of wine and said “sit there and stay there until the end of the album as I think you will love it”

I did as bid and am very pleased to say she was right.

If you don’t have The Story of O in your album collection may I heaqrtily recommend that you remedy that as soon as you can

Hard to chose just one track but this one does it for me

Date & Time 09-01-2012 
0000hrs (GMT +8 ) 
Position:- 032* 34’.4 S 109* 24’.7 E 
Course:- 315* 
Speed:- 3.4 Knots 
Wind:- WNW 28 Knots (Force 7 Moderate Gale) 
Sea State:- Rough (8 to 12 feet, Large wages with steep faces, some breaking waves with white horses prevalent) 
Weather:- Squally conditions with occasional driving rain 
Temp 80F 

Distance to go:- 446 nautical miles 

Natuna Sea. 

We are 45 miles SW of the island Palau Karimata and will be transiting between Kerang Ontario and Palau Serutu lights. Above the middle and just to the right of the chart. 
Weather conditions have remained as a moderate gale for the last 24 hours with regular squalls, meaning the seas are remaining fairly rough. 
The motion of the vessel is still uncomfortable with the repeated slamming of our blunt bow into the oncoming seas and we remain at the reduced speed of under 4 knots 
The good news is that I managed to get 40 minutes bronzy walk on the heli-deck yesterday afternoon. Hurraaah. 
In Europe now at about 7C, if you went out for a walk in 28 miles an hour of wind, any area of flesh not covered would be stinging with the cold in a few short minutes, your lips would be dried to a crisp and start peeling even with the application of a tube of lip salve, and you would describe the experience as ‘bracing’ ‘brisk’ or brass monkey weather. 
Walking in a tropical wind is best described as delicious, you still suffer the same amount of buffeting as cold wind but it leaves you feeling like you are rolling in massive, warm, soft feather duvet, as opposed to having cold gravel thrown at you. 

The music today was an easy choice as the Thin White Duke can now start to draw his pension. 
How cool can one bloke be? 
Here are three manifestations of great song writing and even greater cool in chronological order

Love and Peace

The Green Flash at Sunset

    The Green Flash of Sunset
In 1976, on my first voyage in tropical waters, I remember watching a particularly magnificent sunset one evening.
It was one of “those” sunsets where the hues of all colours change so subtly that the light in the sky appears to be a liquid kaleidoscope of wonder.
I think it was probably the first time I had ever taken the time to actually sit and take note of one of the most satisfying, and peaceful free shows on earth.
When I went into the crew bar later and was waxing lyrical about it, one of the old hands asked if I had seen the “green flash.”
I was immediately on my guard, because I assumed this was another in a long line of piss takes and wind ups that all junior crew members are subjected to at sea for at least the first couple of trips.
It is a long standing tradition that when you are on the receiving end you vow that you will not take part in as you get older, and yet when you are a more senior member of the crew you take childish delight in fooling the deck boys or cadets.
Although I have not sailed with a deck boy in 25 years or longer cadets and other first trippers are still fodder for the fun if the opportunity arises.   
These are basically harmless pranks are not be confused with the lack of knowledge of the language on board. which you had to learn quickly.
I remember after three days of being on board my fist vessel and I was helping the AB on the fore spring, steam winch, situated just in front of the accommodation. 
We were moving the vessel along the quay and the AB had let me on the controls of the winch. Simple really, pay out, haul in, and stop. 
We were hauling in as we moved  forward and the Captain shouted down from the bridge 
“Fast heaving” so I speeded up.
The next thing the captain shouted down from the bridge was along the lines of  “Get that brainless fucking idiot off the winch controls”  
A couple of weeks later when I was painting the crane pedestal the Bosun slapped me around the back of the head and asked (if shouting into my face can be considered asking) if the name on the bow was the “MV fucking Butlins, because there were enough holidays in my paint work for it to be”
I didn’t know what a holiday was, in relation to paint work, as the biggest thing I had ever painted was an Airfix model, so rather than ask and appear stupid I decided to confirm my stupidity by guessing that it was the drippy bits where the paint runs, so I tried to tidy them up.
Half an hour later and another slap around the back of the head and the decrying of my entire family both living and ancestral and inquiries as to how much piss I was trying to take, I finally said that I had tried to sort the holidays, pointing to the area of less hanging drips.
After hearing the entire teaching staff and pupils of the deck boy school being credited to “not having one fucking brain cell between them” he showed me that the bits missed were “holidays” and the hanging drips were called curtains.
Whilst still questioning my ability to breath unaided, yet alone put on foot in front of the other at the same time as breathing, he proceeded over the next few weeks to give me extensive practical lessons in painting on board a ship the types of paint and uses and the methods of application as well as the preparation of surfaces.
It was during these painting lessons that he told me that in order for us to counterbalance the painting stage (a thick plank of wood using ropes to hold it in place to access difficult areas) I would need to go to the Bosun’s Mate and get a “long weight”.
Eager to learn I asked what it was and he explained that it was added to the wood of the staging and act as counter-balance to the person on the stage.
I found the Bosuns Mate at the paint store and told him that the Bosun had sent me to get a “long weight”
“Oh Aye” he says  “Hang on there I will just go and get you one”
He came back about 30 minutes later and when he saw me said
“Oh sorry son I had to do a job for the Chief Mate and it slipped my mind. Wait here and in will go and get it”
About 10 minutes later the Bosun turned up and said
“How “long” have you got to “wait” before you realise it’s a piss take?” 
About two weeks later I nearly fell for a variation on the theme which is a “long stand” apparently also required to reach an awkward place. I came back after five minutes and said he didn’t have one but has ordered some for the next port.  
The trouble is that when you are constantly the butt of these wind ups, you end up thinking that everything you are asked to do is just a ploy to have a laugh at your expense and so when asked to something perfectly legitimate you end up in trouble for saying “Fuck off, it’s a wind up”  As a deck boy this can lead to a slapped head or at the very least a serious bollocking.
One more sophisticated one I fell for was when we were replacing the anchor brake mechanism and needed to clean off the old brake drum.
There is a type of cleaning material provided to ships called “cotton waste” which it is basically finely shredded cotton.
It is amazingly absorbent and in those days was used a lot when doing most mopping up jobs.
I was happy to be helping dismantle the old brake machinery and in cleaning the drum ready for the new liner.
One of the ABs said that is was a bit more tricky than they thought and that we were going to need the finer grade of some 3/8ths waste on this.
He said that only the second engineer keeps it down the engine room for specialist jobs so nip down and see him and say we need 175 grams of 3/8ths waste. Watch out he doesn’t try to fob you off with any of the ordinary stuff as that’s what he does and thinks we don’t know, so stand your ground and insist you get the good stuff or you will only have to go back and get it.
Lulled by the technical sounding nature of the task we were about to complete I made my way to the engine room control room, (the domain of the Second Engineer who was not known for his sense of humour), and asked for “175 grams of 3/8ths waste”.
He walked over to the normal sack of cotton waste pulled out a handful and smiling shoved it into my hand and said 
“There you that will do it”.
“Oh No”, says I, “They told me you would try and take the piss by giving me the normal stuff and that you try and keep the good stuff for your own special jobs. I want the 3/8ths special and I am not to let you take the piss so I am not leaving till I get it”
Have you ever seen pictures of the few moments before a volcano erupts?
That’s what his face was like before he let forth an incredible intricate and foul series of expletives mostly related to what was going to be torn from my body and where the tattered flesh was going to end up being shoved. There was also some abusive references to that bunch of piss taking idle bastards on deck, wasting time sending morons like me on stupid errands.

I took the waste I had and made like Houdini by disappearing sharpish although when I related the story back to the ABs  between their thigh slapping hoots of laughter they seemed impressed that I had escaped intact.

Some months later I was there when the new deck boy was about to be sent to the engine room for a “bucket of steam” so we could defrost the winches. I admit to the smallest twinge of sympathetic guilt that passed in a nano second when he looked at me and asked,
“They are taking mick aren’t they?”
I replied, poker faced and all innocence and light,
“No, its straight up mate, last time we did it we needed about three buckets it was so icy”
and so off he went to bathe in the glow of the second engineers fury.
I ‘had’ nearly fallen for the same trick a few months earlier, but at the last minute I remembered a conversation in the crew bar about the same subject. 
When asked to go and get a bucket of steam I grabbed the bucket and set off towards the engine room and the detoured around to the poop deck and put my feet up and had a couple of cigarettes and caught a it of sunshine.
About an hour later I wandered back up the deck with my empty bucket and when asked “Where the fuck have you been for the last hour?” 
I replied that every time I got to the top of the engine room the steam had gone,so I had to go back and get some more but I just couldn’t get it to stay in the bucket. 
I didn’t get sent on any more daft errands after that one, and luckily I had already be warned never to agree to be shown the golden rivet.
Ladies (or gentlemen) if you ever visit a ship and an seafarer tells you that every ship has one golden rivet and asks if you would like to see it, the prudent thing to do is politely decline. 
It will involve having to bend over some obstacle down near the bottom of the ship and then lean into a barely accessible entrance, and while you are bent over…. …..well I think I can allow your imagination can take over from there.
So you can understand my nonchalant air of disbelief about the green flash and despite most of the men insisting it was true, there were 5 of us who had never seen it or even heard of it or had heard of it buitb thought it was a wind up.
Suffice to say that I studiously ignored every sunset for the next few weeks to prevent being caught out as a sucker although I will admit to keeping half an eye open waiting for the big green flash.
That changed after one of the old hands (strange to think he would have been as old as I am now) said that I shouldn’t give up as it was genuine phenomenon, but not to expect something like a green flash bulb going off, as it is much more subtle than that and doesn’t happen every sunset.
I began to pay more attention and was soon rewarded for my efforts.
I have to say I didn’t realise what I had seen was actually what I was supposed to be looking for to start with, as to call it a flash is a fairly large exaggeration.
It is only occasional and is more of a localised, sometimes very small, green tinge just at the moment the sun’s last arc dips over the horizon.
It can often manifest itself as a green spot right at the top of the sun as it drops out of view and sometimes a green band and sometimes nothing.
I would suggest the best place to see it is if you can be looking west over unbroken expanse of water to the clear cloudless horizon, which it has to be said is great thing to do whenever you get the chance regardless of a green flash.
I am guessing that because it is not a blatantly obvious “flash” with a “big impact” and most people don’t get the chance to watch the sun sink to a  western seascape horizon, it is not often spoken of or looked for.
Keep looking when you get a chance but think more along the lines of a small, localised, momentary glow rather than flash.
Love and Peace

Date & Time 08-01-2012 
0000hrs (GMT +8 ) 
Position:- 03* 47’.4 S 109* 55’.7 E 
Course:- 335* 
Speed:- 3.7 Knots 
Wind:- WNW 28 Knots (Force 7 Moderatre Gale) 
Sea State:- Rough (8 to 12 feet, Large wages with steep faces, some breaking waves with white horses prevalent) 
Weather:- Squally conditions with occasional driving rain 
Temp 79F 

Distance to go:- 523 nautical miles 

Natuna Sea. 

We are 45 miles SW of Tanjung Sambar 
Weather conditions have continued as much of a muchness over the lasty 24 hours with the strongest squallm being 48 knots, so the seas have not abated an. 
We are expecting more of the same for the next 24 hours and we haven’t seen the sun in over three days now. 
The motion of the vessel is still uncomfortable with the repeated slamming of our blunt bow into the oncoming seas and we remain at the reduced speed of under 4 knots 

The music today is another “wonderbra tune” ie uplifting. 
Always makes me smile when I hear it and have a go at joining in with the chorus. 

While I was finding the track I came across this solo acoustic version which I think is amazing. 
It reminds me of when we ran our bar the vast number of incredibly talented “bedroom” players that were out there just waiting to shine if someone gave them a stage.

Date & Time 07-01-2012

0000hrs (GMT +8 ) 
Position:- 04* 21’.5 S 110* 48’.5 E 
Course:- 270* 
Speed:- 3.4 Knots 
Wind:- WNW 17 Knots (Force 5 Fresh Breeze) 
Sea State:- Rough  (8 to 12 feet, Large wages with steep faces, some breaking waves with white horses prevalent)  
Weather:- Squally conditions with driving rain

Temp 79F 

Distance to go:- 593 nautical miles 

Java Sea.

We are south of Tanjung Selaka point.  

Weather conditions have continued to deteriorate due to a steady run of squalls, some up above 50 knots, that have continued to heap the sea up in the last 12 hours.

The forecast is for it to reduce but this is monsoon season and, although should be predictable to better degree of accuracy, it is proving to be more temperamental.  

The motion is uncomfortable with a near constant slamming even though we have reduced speed and altered the trim of the vessel to counteract it.

We have also altered out course to the west to put the worst of the swells on out starboard bow and will alter to the north later to then put the swells on our port bow to try and reduce the slamming.

The shelter from the NE monsoon that was to be afforded by Borneo has not transpired as the NW squalls are more relentless than expected.

We are expecting for conditions to be worse and to feel the full brunt of the NE monsoon when we attempt to cross the South China Sea on our last leg to Singapore, however we are hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

I haven’t been able to get on the heli deck for three days now due to high winds and rain and am missing my sunrise walks and afternoon bronzy strolls.     


The music today comes from a Totalfrance poster (suki007) who is the lead singer  with the band Spythriller and just about to start a tour. Hopefully she will also be starting a blog about life on that tour.
She wrote it with Robert Fripp (King Crimson) and Bill Rieflin (REM) and I am sure she would be delighted to hear from anyone about the track.

I think it sounds like a Bond movie track and although it has a definite UK influence it also carries a European pop feel.

See what you think 

Love and Peace

Whale snot

I was working off shore Nigeria in 1994 as the skipper of a high speed, passenger carrying, jet boat. The vessel was 15 meters long and had a beam of about 3.5 meters. It had twin inboard 375Hp turbocharged diesels than ran twin water jet drives.
We carried 20 passengers at  service speed of 36 knots. The wheelhouse was just forward of the stern and above the passenger cabin which was accessible by a short stairwell.
The passengers embarked and disembarked via a doorway at the front of the accommodation that led onto the bow section
Behind the wheelhouse was an area about 2 meters long with handrails around the stern. We had arranged a couple of planks of wood in these rails that acted as benches for us to have a snooze ion during the day or to make the fishing more comfortable for us when we didn’t have passengers.
The crew was one skipper (me) who doubled as the engineer and one boatman (local Nigerian) who kept the vessel clean and assisted the passengers on and off.
There was no living accommodation on board and we were about 100 miles out from the BonnyRiver in the Gulf Of Guinea.
We took people from the main Floating Storage and Offload (FSO) and hotel vessel out to the 6 platforms (spread over an 11 mile diameter) in the morning (0600) took them back in the evening (1800) and ferried them about in the day if they needed to visit other platforms.
We would also transport the food to them at lunchtimes.
We had a sub sea mooring that had a floating hawser attached and in evening, after dropping everyone back at the FSO, we would make fast to the morning and the oil fields standby supply vessel would send across its Zodiac (rubber boat with outboard) to pick us up. We slept on board the supply boat.
If I was actually driving the boat and had the engines running for more than  5 hours a day it was considered a very busy day.
Basically it was great job that paid well, gave me the opportunity to drive a wonderfully responsive and incredibly accurate to handle boat, that also gave me plenty of hours in the day to engage in some big game fishing.
The waters were rich with Barracuda, Sail Fish, Red Snapper, Dorrado, Yellow Tails, Tuna etc that we would sell to the camp boss (catering manager of the field).
There were also an assortment of sharks including one memorable encounter with a 4 meter Hammer-head shark that we had to release.
I can tell you that reaching down with a pair of wire cutters to cut the hook as close to its mouth was a very tight sphinctered moment.
Before this shark catch I used to often jump in and have a swim in the clear blue waters when we had a quiet hour or more, however the Hammer-head incident and one other put a stop to that.
One morning, whilst in the Zodiac on the way to the boat, we were trailed all the way by a very big shark whose fin was no more than 2 meters from our Zodiac and matched us for speed for the one mile, open water journey.
It was predawn we couldn’t see what sort of shark it was in the dark water but it was a big fin which normally indicates a big shark.
I am sure I could hear the bass notes of a cello going DUH Dun…Duh Dun Duh dun  duhdun duhdunduhdun. I never swam after that.
One quiet afternoon I was having a bronzy doze on one of the planks when I was startled out of my reverie, first by a massive whooshing sound, followed closely by a drenching spray of water.
As I jumped up in shocked alarm I came face to face with a Humpback whale who was on the surface calmly looking at me while I stood dripping with whale snot and seawater looking back at him.
I could have sworn he was smiling.
His eye was bigger than my head and I just looked into it and somehow found the voice to say
“Aye Aye Matey, nice to meet you. Where did you come from?
He didn’t answer but continued to hold my gaze for a while.
I don’t know if it was male or female (it just seemed like a he) but he hung around for about half and hour just checking us out from different angles, often very close nudging us with his body, as we drifted on the current and chatted away to him.
He was close enough to touch on several occasions, and so we did, which he didn’t seem to mind at all. All I can say is that if you can imagine what its like to touch a whale, it felt like that.
There was absolutely no mistaking the fact that he was definitely “looking at” my boatman and I as we made polite albeit one sided conversation with him, in both a river delta dialect of Nigerian and in the Dorset brogue of English, as well as some whistles and an occasional attempt to mimic whale song I had heard on a documentary.
I am glad in a way he didn’t understand that as I might have been inadvertently calling his mother the whale version of a fat crack whore.
He was massive, certainly bigger than the boat, however although he possessed an immense and gentle power it was obvious he was absolutely no threat to us.
I felt that he was just as curious as to what we were doing (and what we were), as we were about him, however I don’t think we quite inspired in him the awestruck respect and splendour that he inspired in us.
Once he had satisfied his curiosity he slowly raised his tail high in then air and slipped beneath the surface and was gone.
About twenty minutes later we saw what we thought was a blow (as in “Thar she blows”) a couple of miles away. 
I had seen hundreds of whales of all sorts before that, normally just gently swimming along, where you get to watch their sleek backs and the fountain of their blow, as they go about their business.
I have seen killer whales leaping and somersaulting so beautifully and gracefully for me to think they must have escaped from an aquarium.
I have seen humpbacks breeching alone and as pairs but never had, or expected to have, such a magical and close encounter as that.
When I see a whale I smile.
I think everyone does.
There is not much you can do about it they just make you want to smile.
If you say “whale” the same bits of your cheeks flex as when you smile, (go on try it, you know you want to)
I don’t know if it is some sort of Darwinian recognition of a distant evolutionary cousin, but there is something about them that has an historical resonance, connecting to a forgotten inner sense, when you see then in the wild.
They are totally at one with their environment, they only breed enough to have family groups that their habitat can support. The waste nothing and create no pollution. They are in tune with where they are.
No wonder we smile when we see them, it’s probably out of embarrassment.
The other sea creature that instinctively raise a smile are Dolphins or Porpoise. (I will call them all dolphins from now on)
Have you ever seen an animal that looks happier about being alive in its own environment than a dolphin?
I know its just the shape of their faces but they look like they are having such fun and they are always a joy to see and watch.
I was lucky enough to have a dual encounter with two whales and a pod of dolphins  a couple of weeks later in the same location off Nigeria.
It was a delightful sight that filled me with such joy I thought was going to spontaneously combust.
One afternoon we spotted a pair of humpbacks together only about half a mile away steadily swimming in one direction.
We also noticed a pod of dolphins nearby, which wasn’t unusual as barely a week went by without there being plenty of dolphins about.
The dolphins were never really interested in us when we were just drifting, but when we were speeding through the water they would often come across and try to ride the bow wave and I would adjust the speed to suit.
Many a time I have put the boatman on the controls and I been lying down with my head over the bow at 25 mph or faster and having two or three dolphin weaving in and out of the bow wave just below the surface near my finger tips.
Smiles and grins that big make your face hurt after a while.
The pod of dolphins must have caught site of the whales, or maybe the whales were singing and the dolphins recognised the tune, because suddenly they all changed direction and swam over to the whales.
They began just mucking about jumping over the top of them and swimming right up next to them, and leaping in the air and doing back flips and front flips and belly flops all around them. It was lie lambs gambolling or puppies playing.
I am sure if we could have heard them talk they would have been saying “Whay hay,. Whoop Whoop. Yippeee. Yeee Haaa
It’s the giants. Hey big guys where you going?
Hey come on lard ass chase me, ha ha ha  
Whoop Whoop”
They played for nearly and hour as I followed them at a reasonable distance in the boat. I vividly remember having tears of pure happiness streaming unashamedly down my face as I watched and the memory of it still evokes a tear of joy.

Date & Time 06-01-2012 
0000hrs (GMT +8 ) 
Position:- 05* 05’.6 S 113* 38’.6 E 
Course:- 289* 
Speed:- 3.8 Knots 
Wind:- SW 30 Knots (Force 7 Moderate Gale) 
Sea State:- Moderate (5 to 8 feet, Large wages forming with white horses starting to form streaks on the water) 
Weather:- Squally conditions with driving rain 
Temp 79F 

Distance to go:- 665 nautical miles 

Java Sea. 

We are south of Tanjung Putting point, on the far east of the chart. 
Weather conditions have deteriorated considerably I the last 12 hours against the forecast as one squall after another with little respite between them has had the effect of heaping the sea up into a vicious short but steep swell. It is a steady 30 knots now with gusts up to 45. The rain is torrential and practically horizontal. 
The motion is an uncomfortable slamming every few minutes as one of the steep swells crashes into our blunt bow, which leaves a juddering bounce for a few seconds after each one. A normal shaped ship would pop through this without hardly noticing however we are not a normal shaped vessel. Such is the way the mop flops. 

The music today is two tracks from one of my favourite albums. In 1996 a regular in our bar (The Cavity in Bridport) bought me down this tape and said, I think you may like this. 
Rarely on first listening to an album in a foreign language have I ever been so enchanted. 
If it is not in your collection may I entreat you to remedy that as soon as you are able. 
The DVD that accompanies it is an amazing documentary (with full footage of each song) of how the album was made with these forgotten but beautiful, dignified, elegant old people. It makes your heart soar. 
I haven’t posted a track with Rubens Gonzalez playing piano as I will leave that wonderful discovery for yourselves to make

Strange Skies

I am feeling lovely and mellow today after the Soul 2 Soul track so I thought you might like to listen to this while having a read about feeling St Elmos Fire, and seeing Arora Borealis.

I don’t know what genre this comes under but I think it’s a wonderful track by Saint Germain

St Elmos Fire is a strange one and I have experienced it a few times.
It creates an eerie sensation, the sort to get the hairs on the back of your hands standing on end, but that’s as much to do with the electricity as anything else.

I had been told what to expect if atmospheric conditions were right, but it was still an awesome sight for the first time to see what appeared to be blue flames coming off the sharp fittings on the bridge wing (as well as the mast being aglow on the monkey island).

With the wild recklessness of an immortal teenager I wondered if I could get it to come off the ends of my fingers, so I venture out opntpo the bridge wing and I am stood with my arms outstretched towards the sky trying to get some flaming finger action.
The best I could managed was a blue glow around each finger end which, although unusual in its own right, was a tad disappointing.
Upping the ante a little, I took my deck knife out and held that up and suddenly I was in the blue flame business with a pronounced flame coming off the end of my knife. I also had a smaller flame coming from the collar zip of my thermal oilskin.

Once I was out there and “live” so to speak, with blue flames sprouting out of something I was wearing and holding, and probably saying something like “Far out man” the Second Mate, from the safety of the bridge, suggested that standing out in an electrically charged atmosphere (St Elmos often occurs around thunder and lightening storms) whilst holding my arms aloft, with what was in effect ‘a lightening conductor’ held in my hand, had all the hallmarks of an elaborate suicide attempt or was a sure sign that he was sharing a watch with a f**kwit.

Listening to his words I realised he was making a very valid point and quickly became less brave (foolhardy or f**kwitted) and ventured back into the ‘Faraday caged@ safety of the bridge.
The second mate proceeded to fall across the chart table, clutching his chest with one hand and pointing at me with the other, whilst gasping for breath in between raucous, bellowing, guffaws of laughter.

A quick inspection of my reflection in the window had me joining in with him, because my hair and beard (both quite long in those days) was set up on end all around me like some bizarre hirsute halo up to 18 inches out from my head.
There have a been a few St Elmo instances since then but I tend to stay in the bridge now and watch from a safe distance.

The first time I saw the Aurora Borealis was on a passage from Riga (Latvia) in the Baltic up around to Archangel on the northern coast of Russia.

It was one of those open mouthed, staring and pointing moments, as great swathes of the starlight night sky shimmered and undulated like gossamer curtains in all shades of red purple and green.
This might sound strange but, as beautiful and awe inspiring as it was, there was a sense of something missing.
I realise that it was synthesiser music that I expected to hear and the whole thing was silent and just looked like it shouldn’t be.

It looked like a light show that should accompany a Jean Michelle Jarre or Tangerine Dream live show and it was the lack music that I noticed first.
This shows it up pretty well and although time lapse photography and a bit one coloured it still gives a good idea of the scale of it. (and there is no music)

Tales of whales tomorrow

Love and Peace

Date & Time 05-01-2012 
0000hrs (GMT +8)
Position:- 05* 05’.6 S 113* 38’.6 E 
Course:- 289* 
Speed:- 5.7 Knots 
Wind:- W by N 19 Knots (Force 5 Fresh Breeze) 
Sea State:- Moderate (3 to 5 feet, Waves starting to form and elongate with occasional white horses) 
Weather:- Overcast (total cloud cover) 
Temp 81F 

Distance to go:- 777 nautical miles 

Java Sea. 
We are NNE of Palau Bawean island towards the western edge of the chart 

Weather conditions continue to hover on the edge of turning uncomfortable but the forcast is still amiable. 
We are experiencing some hefty squalls up to 40 knots but they are short lived so the sea doesn’t get chance to build any weight to it. 

The music today is a track I haven’t heard for years and with this talk of dancing reminded me how good it was. It will probably get your foot tapping or hips swinging. Laughing

Voyage up date

Date & Time 04-01-2012 0000hrs (GMT +8) 
Position:- 05* 45’.8 S 115* 31’ E 
Course:- 294* 
Speed:- 5.1 Knots 
Wind:- WNW 17 Knots (Force 5 Fresh Breeze) 
Sea State:- Moderate  (3 to 5 feet, Waves starting to form and elongate with occasional white horses)  
Weather:- Part Cloudy (up to 5/8ths cloud cover) 
Temp 81F 

Distance to go:- 903 nautical miles 

Easter Edge of the Java Sea.

On the chart we are 140 miles north of Bali, or if you prefer, about 75 miles south of the moist southerly tip of Borneo.

Our Course will take us to the north of Pulau Masalembo Kecil (what a great name) and to the south of  Pulau Keramian. Just above the “S” of Java Sea.

Weather conditions are a little above our forecast but are posing no problems and at the moment it is looking good for the next few days.

We have seen a few more vessels today both commercial shipping and fishing boats and that is only likely to increase as we approach Singapore

The music today is as result of a  prompt from a good friend of mine who has often steered me in the direction of good music and who is flowing the voyage on my blog site and is a reminder of when they played the “Endorse It In Dorset” Festival a few years ago.

  Their albums and live work are sutffed full of gems like this beauty

You may know them best for this track


Today three of my most memorable encounter with Albatross

The first ever Albatross I saw in flight was 34 years ago approaching The Cape of Good Hope on a passage from UK to the Persian Gulf.

It was just after dawn on a fairly blustery day and I was on the bridge wing as look out (as was normal in those days).

I noticed this massive seabird skimming just a couple of feet over the water and following the contours of the waves without seeming to move its wings.

It was by far the largest bird I had ever seen and it was mesmerising for its grace and its speed without appearing to move its wings apart from the feathers on the trailing edges and its tail.

It flew serenely and seemingly without effort, and reminded me of how a a swan glides on water.

They have an etheriel quality that gently demands your attention and it is easy to become entranced watching one in flight.

The Chief Mate told me it was a Wandering Albatross, which are known to travel fantastic distances and regularly circle the globe, although they are birds only of the southern hemisphere found mainly between the latitudes of 28 and 60 south.

As with many seabirds they are, in some superstitions, thought to be the souls of dead sailors however a simple mathematical calculation soon puts that myth to rest.

They are sadly in a decline caused solely by mans activities.

One reason is floating plastic garbage dumped at sea, or from land, that’s finds its way into, and blocks the birds digestive tracts.

The other is from long line fishing methods where, as scavengers, they dive on the squid and other baited hooks coming out the back of long line vessel when they are shooting their gear and get caught in the hook and are dragged below the waves and drown.

Of 21 species 19 are now endangered.

There is some more technical info here

The closest I have ever been to touching one was on a cargo ship in 1980. We had been to Buenos Aeries and a smaller port further south in Argentina (the name escapes me) and were heading around Cape Horn for Valparaiso in Chile .

I should add at this point that I have been round Cape Horn twice and it was flat calm the first time with a light breeze and steady drizzle and the second time was about a force 5 with slight seas and clear skies, basically a really nice day.

I would love to have a salty tale of “rounding the horn” sprinkled with phrases like “I’ve never known a night like it” and “The wind howled like a thousand banshees and we were all afear’d for our lives”, but both times we just a fairly pleasant passages in what can be very bad water.

Sorry about that.

I went out onto the bridge wing at about and leant on the dodger.

(The dodger is a curved plate on the forward edge of the bridge wing that deflects the wind up and over the person stood on the bridge wing.)

As I did so I had the shock of my life because I came eye to eye with an albatross that was soaring on the air current that forces itself up the front of a vessels accommodation when underway.

It was close enough for me to put my hand on his back, which I didn’t do as he would have freaked and flown off.

I spent a minute or two looking at him and he had a look at me between scanning the sea. I was thinking “Wow Oh Wow what amazing thing”. Although I don’t speak albatross he was probably thinking

“Hmm to big to eat but doesn’t seem to be a threat, I will keep my eye on him just in case”

The things that struck me was the size of his beak, it seemed huge and looked like it could take a finger or two of without effort and also he was so clean and in pristine condition. I had to force myself to overcome the urge to stroke him. 

Apart from the tiniest of movements on the wing tips and tail feathers he was motionless suspended on the up draught and using these tiny movements to stay in the air stream.  He was no more than 18 inches from the bridge wing

I am absolutely sure I was having a “gob open, staring in awe” moment and I felt ecstatic to be so close to such a magnificent creature.  

I slowly made my way into the bridge and asked the Second Mate if he had seen him and he informed me that it had been there for about couple of hours earlier and then shot off and had something off the ocean and came back about an hour ago. He also said that they often hitched a lift on the updraft as it was less effort for them.

Using a tape along the top of the dodger we measured his wingspan at 3 meters 40 cms. Get a tape measure out and lay it down and it will give you some idea of the size.

He stayed with us on and off for a couple of days and then was gone.     

I have one more “albatross” tale to tell although some may find this abit cheesy, but at the time I thought “when else will I ever get the chance to do it” and I bet that many of you would try the same thing if the opportunity arose.

It was later the same year that I was transiting the Cape of Good Hope on another vessel on our way to Maputo (originally Larenzo Marks) in Mozambique and there was an albatross patrolling our wake for any juicy morsels we kicked up.

It was a rough day and the waves were about 4 or 5 meters and using the ‘close to the water glide’ they utilise, it would disappear from view behind a wave only to reappear up the back of the next one. It was quite magical and serene. 

There is an aerodynamic  phenomenon called ground effect that it is thought albatross and other seabirds are masters off which allows them to stay close to the water and stay airborne with little or no effort.

While watching I suddenly had an idea and dashed into my cabin, grabbed my Sony Walkman, shoved in Fleetwood Macs Greatest Hits album and forward wound to Albatross as I made my way back to the deck.

I then cranked up the volume and watched the bird fly to the track.

the word that best describes the experience is “Wonderful”. 

Here are some photos and the track to help better visualise what I saw.



Date & Time 03-01-2012 0000hrs (GMT +8) 
Position:- 06* 32’.8 S 117* 20’.9 E 
Course:- 294* 
Speed:- 5 Knots 
Wind:- WNW 15 Knots (Force 5 Fresh Breeze) 
Sea State:- Moderate (3 to 5 feet, Waves starting to form and elongate with occasional white horses) 
Weather:- Part Cloudy (up to 5/8ths cloud cover) 
Temp 82F 

Distance to go:- 1021 nautical miles 

Western Edge of the Flores Sea. 

On the chart we 120 miles north of Lombok island and heading for the protection that the land ,mass of Borneo may affords us. 
A slight lessening of sea conditions during the day but as it was raining in the afternoon no chance of my bronzy stroll. 
Not much else to report to day as we slowly but surely devour the miles ot our destination. 

The two bits of music today come from a modern poet of our times. 
(There is swearing in both these tunes so if likely to be offended please don’t open the links.) 

The first is of how an unhinged fans obsession can have terrible consequences. 

The second is the outpouring of the pain that bad parenting can leave and is a harrowing tale so be prepared for the hard hitting and brutal honesty to portrayed in the lyrics. 

(ps My mum and dad were fine, there is nothing autobiographical from me in choosing the second tune. I just appreciate powerful writing and a well put together powerful track) 


Date & Time 02-01-2012 0000hrs (GMT +8) 
Position:- 07* 32’.5 S 119* 17’.6 E 
Course:- 299* 
Speed:- 5 Knots 
Wind:- WNW 20 Knots (Force 5 Fresh Breeze) 
Sea State:- Moderate (3 to 5 feet, Waves starting to form and elongate with occasional white horses) 
Weather:- Part Cloudy (up to 5/8ths cloud cover) 
Temp 81F 

Distance to go:- 1138 nautical miles 

Western Edge of the Flores Sea. 

On the chart we are just by the “F” where it says Flores Sea and we are making our way further to the north (298*) to try and gain some protection from the land mass of Boreno as the Java Sea can kick up a fuss in the NW monsoon season. 
Our course will take us between the reefs marked by the lights of Pelokang and Sarege. 

The sea has picked up again to moderate after a day of 20 knot winds but they are not causing us any problems, with just an occasional gentle slap and a bit of bouncing (much like sex can sometimes be) and the forecast is for it to fall away again tomorrow. 
No bronzy time yesterday as a steady monsoon rain fell throughout the day. 

The music today is a great track and when it starts I have always felt it has the feel of an “Olde English” folk tune from the Robin Hood era about it for me . 
It soon changes and to be honest is about as close to traditional folk music as I ever want to get. 
And that voice is still a great rock voice.

Down Then Up on New Year’s Eve

I left my brothers home in Southampton at on December 31st 1981 and although it had snowed in the night the roads were clear and the sky was blue.
I dropped the soft top of my orange MG Midget and fitted the tonneau cover, with just the drivers side unzipped.

I had on my clogs, patchwork flared wrangler jeans (well it was 1981) woollen jumper faded Levi jacket and my felt lined denim flying helmet that I always wore when driving the Midget.

I found that in anything other than a heavy downpour you stayed dry enough with the roof down (and tonneau cover on) as long as you kept moving. The flying helmet prevented the cold ears and the heaters blasting away kept all the heat trapped under the tonneau, so with a warm top and the flying helmet it was nice and toasty even on the coldest of days. 

I had topped up with petrol and checked the oil and tyres the night before, so armed with my last tenner secure in my pocket I was heading back to my local, the Eight Bells in Beaminster, for what promised to be a raucous New Years Eve night.

Only having a ten quid note left in my pocket was no major obstacle to a long night out on the lash as I had a tab behind the bar and I was looking forward to the revelry to come.

The roads out of Southampton had been cleared of any snow and I was soon on the M27 heading west. I had cleared the Cadnam turning where it becomes the A31 dual-carriageway and was happily driving along on a snow free and traffic free road.  

As I came round the top bend at about 70mph and out onto the heathland of the New Forest the snow ploughs had just not gone any further and it changed from pristine tarmac to inches of snow instantly.

I hit the snow and began to pirouette helplessly along the road.

When in that situation it takes all the will power in the world not to stamp on the brakes and somehow I manage to drop the gears and keep some throttle on and stay on the road and not end up smashed in the ditch.

When I stopped spinning I was about 300 yards along the road from where the snow started and facing backwards up the dual carriageway. Even though it is fair to say that I was I was a little “freaked” by the incident, I was in one piece, so was the car, and so I decided it best to press on but watch out for any more snow surprises.

As far as I could see across the heath it was white, however it was dual carriageway and there were fresh looking tracks along the snow so I spun around and headed off in the direction of Ringwood.

There were area where the snow was quite light and I made steady, if not rapid progress to and beyond Ringwood.

This is years before the days of mobile phones and automatic traffic radio updates (not that I had a radio anyway) therefore I had no idea of the conditions ahead, but with blue clear skies overhead and making good progress I carried on, with the anticipation of being in Bridport before lunch time closing time.

Just outside Ferndown the steady engine note began to miss and the comforting brrrrrrrroooooooooommmmmm became a brrr—-phut brrrooom phut phut brr brroom phut phut phut and eventually silence as I pulled into a convenient bus stop on the outskirts of the village.

Those of you who have ever broken down without warning will know of that slightly nervous and somewhat gormless thought process that takes over your brain for a few moments. A sort of light headed disbelief and failure to admit that it might be something wrong.

That maybe you imagined it.

That perhaps you had turned the ignition off by mistake, or that you had only dreamed that you filled her up with petrol, as you check the gauge ten more times just to be sure.

That brain block is replaced by a nauseous clenching of the stomach as the realisation kicks in that you have a problem.

I climbed out of my warm cocoon, lifted the bonnet and then did what all people do, who are not mechanics but have an understanding of the basics, which is to put my hands on my hips and give the engine a good looking at.

This is done in the hope that something glaringly obvious will reveal itself as being “the problem” and it will just take a quick replacing or jiggling of whatever it is that has come loose and I will be on my way.

When my initial “good looking at” failed to produce a result I allowed myself to start fiddling with the plug leads and checked the distributor and coil wires and all seemed to be in order.

The ignition light was still bright and the dials on the dash indicated that temperature and oil pressure and battery levels were all where they should be.  I decided to close the bonnet and see if I had, by sheer will, along with a good looking at, managed to fix the problem.
I sat myself down and turned the key and she immediately burst back into a phut phut free, reassuring gentle throb.

“Onwards and upwards” thinks I, and with a big grin, and no small measure of smug amazement at my mechanical prowess, I pulled onto the road and continued my journey.

25 yards later I was pulled into the entrance of a house drive, with the owner twitching the curtains as I got out to repeat the task of exercising my full knowledge of mechanics once again. 

I was still secretly hoping that it might be a lose lead but after some twiddling of the same leads and a restart that lasted for 5 seconds I was having to come to terms with the fact that I might have a more serious problem beyond my skills.

My prognosis was leaning towards a fuel problem but with no tools to work with I had no way of checking.

The sight of this slightly hippyish looking young man in bright orange sports car with the roof down in the snow gently tapping his head against the steering wheel, whilst wearing a blue flying helmet, must have proved too much of an enigma for the elderly gentleman owner of the house who approached the car and asked rather tentatively

“Can I help you?”

“Thank you, but unless you are a mechanic I don’t think you can.” I replied with barely concealed hope”

“Where were you going”

“Bridport” I replied

“Ah well says he you wouldn’t have made it anyway as the roads are blocked between Bere Regis and Dorchester and from Dorchester to Bridport. The Blanford Forum route is blocked by snow as well.  It has just been on the radio and TV news.”        

“Ahaaaa!” says I “I will have to revert to plan B then”

“What’s Plan B?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t thought of one yet but I am working on it”

 “Oh Well just as long as it doesn’t involve you being parked across my drive, good luck.” And with that he wandered back inside and left me to come up with Plan B.

I tried the ignition and it started and so I set off trying to make the 100m yards or so to the motel I could see in the distance and where I would be able to park off the road.

It took me over half an hour to make it but I finally did. During this time I am starting to notice that once outside the car and with the heaters now not hot it was a bloody cold day and I had scant protection against the cold.   

I used their pay phone to contact my mate, who I knew was in the AA, and got him to lend me his number. This was in the days before the sophisticated checks were put in place to prevent the sort of caper I was up to.

The AA man arrived at about (and it has to be said he was a very nice man). He soon isolated the problem to the fuel pump having packed up and said it was going to be a garage job. Luckily my mate had recovery cover, but with the roads being blocked there was no chance of recovery back to Bridport for the next few days, so I had to leave the vehicle where it was and try to thumb a lift back to Southampton and spend new years with my brother an his new girlfriend.

Although they already had an arrangement to go out he told me he would leave a key by the back door if I hadn’t arrived by the time they had gone, and there was plenty of beer and rum in and to help myself and see me later. Plan B it seemed was coming together nicely.

It was dark and well below freezing by the time I walked back to the roundabout in order to get hitching and I was feeling decidedly chilly in my levi jacket and jumper but the worst part was my feet due to the clogs I was wearing.

They had black leather uppers, open at the back, and a wooden sole about an inch thick. With nearly every step a bit of snow would manage to flip its way into the clog and my feet were soon wet, cold and getting colder.

A minor problem thinks I because at there is bound to be traffic heading Southampton way and in an hour or two I would be sprawled out on the sofa watching TV and drinking rum. Not an ideal or first choice way to spend new years eve as a 22 year old but none to shabby either considering the situation.

Approximately an hour later I had begun to question my belief that people would be full of good cheer and generosity to their fellow man and be willing to offer a lift on this cold (very cold) night. I had also over estimated the amount of traffic out and about. 

I had the idea of taking off my flying helmet as I twigged that it might look a bit odd and perhaps put peole off giving me a lift so I began using it as a muff to keep the non hitching hand warm. (Both hands were getting a bit numb now)

The removal of the helmet must have made me look less like a weirdo and a car stopped some 20 minutes later. The driver said he was only going as far  as Ringwood (about 10 miles) but I said that would, be fine and I could try again from there.

I had just managed to receive some feeling back in my feet and hands when I was dropped off at the first turning to Ringwood and so it was with renewed warmth and enthusiasm I displayed the thumb again.

After another hour or so (it is now close to ) of sinking temperatures, dwindling traffic flow, and personal resolve, I began walking to the next junction about a mile or two up the road. This is on a clearway dual carriageway so might have had something to do with why no-one stopped but there was so little traffic anyway.

It took me nearly an hour to negotiate the icy and slush at the side of the road to the next junction and by the time I got there my feet were numb and my hands were painful with the cold. I also was getting the occasional shivers which are the first signs of mild hypothermia and I  knew from the survival at sea training I had done that I had to get a lift or get warm soon.

I spent another long half hour or more willing traffic to come along by but now it is closing on towards and I now know I am not going to get a lift. I had to invent then implement Plan C and quickly.

I trudged along the slip road back towards Ringwood and saw the lights of a pub in the distance. I opened the door and it was only then I realised how cold I had become as my teeth were chattering so much I could hardly make myself understood. I asked the landlord if he did B& B and explained my situation. He looked at me like I was a leper and said “No”

I said that the sign outside said he did and he just said well “No vacancies and we are not open anyway”.  I asked if he knew of any other pubs in the area that might do B& B and he said he was busy but vaguely pointed me in the direction of another pub about half a mile away that he thought might but wasn’t sure what with it being new years eve.

I had to drag myself out of the warm and back into the cold night to walk to the next pub. I was chattering and shaking with the cold again by the time I arrived.

I told my story again and asked if they did B&B but she said normally but not at that time of year. She was looking at me guardedly but not with the hostility of the previous place.

I then asked if she could tell me where the police station was as I was going to have to break a window or something similar to get arrested and get a warm bed for the night because I would not last the night out in the cold and I could go no further.

I am not sure what it was about me or my demeanour that changed her mind as she suddenly looked at me and said “you are nearly frozen aren’t you”

I nodded and she said “If I can’t help someone out at this time of the year then when can I, Sit yourself over there by the fire and I will get you something warm. I explained that I only had a tenner and could probably just afford the bed without breakfast but I appreciated the offer of the fire and the bed.

She told me not to worry about it as she could surely manage a bowl of hot soup on the house.

I was in the lounge that was empty apart from a couple near the bar as all the locals seemed to be in the main bar.

I pulled chair up close to the fire and eased my clogs off and started to dry my feet and warm them, which if you have ever been that cold you will know is a painful operation.

About 15 minutes later, with the shakes stopped and some warmth coming back to me, the landlady turned up with a big steaming bowl of turkey broth and couple of door steps of bread.

Never has a warm meal been so welcome or the person receiving it so grateful.

She stayed with me for a few minutes chatting until she had the full story of what had happened and said that I was bloody lucky as she thought I was a junkie when I first arrived in the pub because of the clothes and the shakes and was about to give me the bums rush but there was something about me (later described as my honest eyes) that made her decide to hear me out.

I thanked her again as she left to resume bar duties with her husband and I sat there allowing the warm broth and the heat of the fire revive me.

She must have been telling the story in the main bar of this young chap who nearly froze and who would be staying the night as I noticed a few people peer through into the lounge but I was so happy and thankful to be warm I didn’t take much notice.

A short while later the landlord asked me if I wanted a drink and I explained that I only had enough money for the bed for the night and they had already been more than hospitable enough to me.

Two minutes later the landlady turned up again and said

“I have told people about you bad luck and nearly freezing out there and  they’ve had a whip round for their “new year eve stray” (as they had decided to call me,) and there was more than enough for me to have a few drinks, so come round to the bar and join in with us for new years”

So that’s how I came to see the new year 1981/82 in, and for a few hours I swapped stories, sung, joked and laughed the old year out with a friendly, interesting and generous bunch of strangers, because of a simple act of compassion and trust by the landlady.

In the morning the landlady woke me about and said there was a cup of coffee waiting for me in the kitchen and when I arrived there was also a monster sized full English breakfast. I sheepishly explained that I only had enough for the bed and she told me to be quiet while she was still being generous and I couldn’t possibly be allowed to leave to hitch hike on a cold day with out some food.

During breakfast she and her husband regaled me with some hilarious tales of their locals and their various shenanigans, whilst at the same time making sure I had eaten my fill and drunk enough coffee to keep me warm when hitching.

I thanked them wholeheartedly for their warmth and generosity and when I went to my pocket to pull out my crumpled tenner the husband looked at his wife and the said to me,

“You had best keep that in your pocket son as we would be deeply offended if you tried to pay us for simply helping out someone who needed a hand. You may be able to repay the favour one day, if not to us them to someone else, and I am sure you will”


It was with a heart that glowed with the privilege of being on the receiving end of such a friendly gesture that I said my goodbyes and walked back to the main road and stuck out my thumb heading back to Southampton.
Love and PeaceBentley