Sunday, 1 October 2017

Hellenic day

This Sunday I decided with a few crew go see some hellenistic sites handpicked from the guide book.

Becin castle


Becin Castle is overlooking the town of Milas, the castle itself has lot of ruins in various states of disrepair and there seemed to be an old shepherds hut on top where you could see that the animals had resided below and the shepherd on top. The castle itself was not really hellenistic and had been occupied by all sorts of groups at different epochs. Only sort of preserved structure giving any clue to its use was the old hammam where some of the plaster remained in the steam room and one could recognize the heating compartment. Otherwise the ruins gave a nice backdrop towards the city of Milas and the fig and pomegranate trees gave a nice atmosphere to walk around the fortifications.

Didyma

Didyma (Temple of Apollo)

Next on our stop was Didyma in Didim, this was the largest temple of its time dedicated to Apollo but it was never completed. The temple is massive looking at the small people around the pillars and inside where the spring was used to house the oracle. Both the spring was dry and the oracle gone when I visited.

Miletus theatre

After this we still had some time to motor up to Miletus theatre. A massive stadium that could seat 15.000 persons at best. It still had the tunnels and walkways behind for spectators to get to their seats. Simply stunning construction and when it was still in operation it was next to the sea which now had receded far away. The whole area covers several sq kilometres and other buildings and I think one could spend days here exploring the old ruins. 


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Sunday, 24 September 2017

Bodrum

Having settled into the Yalikavak marina we finally had a chance to take a few hours off and I decided to go to Bodrum to see the sights as I had never been there before. According to the guidebook the only places that have any value historically is the Bodrum castle and the Mausollus mausoleum.
Yalikavak marina

Moonlight II in Yalikavak

The city itself is pretty large and the castle is smack in the middle of it. One can straight see the protective capabilities of the fortress in medieval times as there is a bay on each side of it. Entry to the castle was 30TL which gives you access to the whole area. The route has arrows in red and green and it did not make much sense to me but it seemed the red arrows were dead ends. There were a few displays scattered in various spaces but nothing major. Very nice scenery and I got a few nice shots that I will probably post at a later stage but for now you have to make do with these.

Bodrum castle

After having wondered around the fort for some hours we had enough and headed for a coffee and then decided to check out the mausoleum that was supposed to be one the wonders of the world in its time.

Bodrum castle

Entry to the mausoleum was 10TL and all there is a big hole in the ground with the burial chamber and some drainpiping visible as the rest of the mausoleum was apparently used to build the fortress. Lot of rocks were strewn around so it looks mostly like a sad DIY mausoleum now. At least there was a small exhibition center showing how it had looked in its heyday.

Mausollus mausoleum then

Otherwise the whole seaside was littered with restaurants catering for tourists and of course there was the shopping. For anyone having visited Istanbul I can tell you the same wares were peddled here, copy everything. I think the only really good articles are the leather clothes.

Mausollus mausoleum now








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Thursday, 17 August 2017

Doing a Ferretti

I received a phonecall about 2 weeks ago asking of I was interested to step in as Capt on a 25m Ferretti as the permanent Captain unfortunately had had a heart attack so I thought it would be ok to help out for a few days and said I was available. 

Local boats

Subsequently I was contacted by the Owners office and had to send my requisite paperwork there as well as to go and show my face in person. Luckily it was almost next to where I live so could walk over. After having done the paper exercise my starting date moved quickly fwd as the program changed so almost next day I was back in the office with my luggage to pick up some CtM and directions. 

Local boats

I hopped on the green metro line and trained down to Piraeus and got a speedboat ticket for Poros and off I went. In Poros I had to take taxi to the owners villa to find the boat. I was met by Filipino staff working on the many boats in the private marina and I was showed around by Ray. The setting was excellent, the boat was seemingly alright, systems were tested and showed how they work. Small boat, small systems, Italian design - what could go wrong?

The Orloff fishermens jetty with Ferretti at the end

Next day was departure day, I had a call with the Engineer servicing the MTU engines for the Ferretti and was given a short instruction of how to start the engines as well as the heads up of the easily overheating sb gearbox that was due for service. Pretty straight forward and they started as they were supposed to. The boat was equipped with bow & stern thruster and a colleague of mine had warned me that as fast as you move in the marina is as much you are going to damage the boat so I took it really slowly and was careful with giving engine kicks ahead. The boat was full GRP so any small kick had her surging ahead immediately. Anyway, I cleared the exit channel without incident and soon enough I was heading for Spetses.

Local water barges laid up

In Spetses our berth was already organised in front of the Orloff restaurant and I let go anchors and moored in the Mediterranean stern-to fashion. I had to keep generators running all the time as the jetty did not have power to offer. There was onboard 2 small gensets in soundproofed boxes and they ran very quietly. Usually they were swapped every 12hrs or so in order to keep running hrs equal and to enable service & checks.


Local boats

It appeared that the program was fairly static, young guests were soon embarking accompanied by their father and he gave me and the son instructions to what to do and off he went. The next few days proved that the guests were more like vampires and kept under deck all day long only to emerge when the night clubs started opening. I remember when I used to be young like that. These days I value daylight much more. Luckily I had one Filipino boy helping me out in housekeeping and other small duties so I only needed to wear the Captains and Chief Engineers hat, he could have the Chief Stewards hat.

Local boats

The boat was working well except that the one genset started smoking and after checking it I discovered the oilsump full with oil mixed with diesel. I also checked all incoming water inlets and filters as well as impeller so it only left me the injectors as fault. I informed the office and they sent a technician within days to confirm the same. This left us with only 1 working generator and I was switching it off every day for a few hours to check oil and water levels are ok whilst the guests were ashore.

Local fisherman mending his nets 

Every evening I had the entertainment of watching all the yachts scrambling to port in search of a berth. Some were very good in finding their spots, others were late, fouled their anchors and blamed the boats around them for their own shortcomings and I and the whole port could refresh their vocabulary on Greek cuss-words. One morning some other boat even caught our anchor chain but luckily it did not disturb our anchor.

The misbehaving generator 

Next I discovered that many of the tank level gauges were pretty much not working at all as I had one day flooding in one of the showers but emptying the tank solved this problem. Luckily the boat even after 10yrs of existence had all the manuals intact and this was a great help especially the Ferretti Owners manual. While I was getting acquainted myself with the boat I discovered the irony that the Master suite bed was located on top of the blackwater tank so in essence the principal slept on a pile of sh*t. Not sure if this was done deliberately during construction or no Engineer/ Naval Architect had ever thought the implications in fung shui fashion of how it would affect the harmonies onboard...  

Fishermen clearing their nets

Every day we were eating with the security detail at Orloff restaurant, it may be a 5 star establishment but I soon lost interest in the menu and the daily Greek food fare. Very delicious but the monotony of it got to me eventually. Then came the day of leaving and the patriarch came himself onboard and said he would take the boat back of which I had no objections as it was his to commandeer. 

Orloff at dusk

During the short crossing back to Poros waters we were back in the private marina and I was checking that everything was ship shape and packed my stuff for leaving the next day, my 10 days was up. As it was Friday I stayed the weekend and relaxed at Poros Image before returning to busy Athens. The next week I had to visit the office again to have lunch with the office manager and I gave my observations during my time onboard for what they could be look at doing next winter service period.

Orloff arranged a table for two











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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Lichadonisia islands

Having heard about the Greek Seychelles I decided to go visit. The group of Islands are located on the NW corner of Evia. You can either drive on the mainland to Kamena Vourla and take a ferry over or drive through Evia and boat over. I decided to do it the hard way and drove through Evia to enjoy the scenery instead of the heavily trafficked boring highway (and tollways) up towards Thessaloniki. 

Lichadonisia

So after having left Athens early morning I arrived at Ag Georgios abt 3.5hrs later having traversed all northern Evia. The village is small and the guest house or hotel (Adamakis Studios) was looking dismal but the room was clean and had a/c, fridge and an ensuite. Only a stone throw away there were several restaurants and continuing towards the center there was more outlets. At a whole everything looked a bit run down like an old prostitute in dire need of a facelift. 

The "new beach"

Next morning we got up and got going for Kavos where at the end of the land is a big camping site (most campervans there looked more or less permanently stationed there) and there were big signs for boats to Lichadonisia. Our 1st day we went to the closest beach on the biggest Island (Monolia) and closest to Evia. The ticket vendor said it was the oldest establishment there (the other was the "new beach"). 

One of the lagoons

Anyway, off we went and there was a small tour around the islets and we were showed a wreck that had sunk at abt 5m depth and also a colony of seals (didn't see any) but they were supposedly there. There were visibly quite a lot of current at places and the coxswain warned us of swimming too far from the beach as the currents could be dangerous. 

The "new beach"

Not to worry, we were quite happy to enjoy the sun on the loungers along with pretty good service from the bar. There was a constant stream of people coming and going and at times PA announcements in Bulgarian/ Russian for what I assume group tours visiting the Island. All in all not a bad place although the limited swimming area due to currents was a bit disappointing, on the other hand one could roam the Island at ones hearts desire and visit the now deserted buildings that used to house the residents up until the 70's when the last ones left. There is no water or power on the Island and the beach organisation ran on portable gensets. Even camping overnight was prohibited.

The "old beach"
 Next day we decided to try out the new beach. This place was visibly fresher looking as it appears it had only been organised a year or so ago. There was knee deep water and one could roam all lagoons in front and back of it. Bottom was soft sand with a few rocks here and there. Service worked well and boats came frequently over from Kamena Vourla. Luckily we came early as shortly after the whole beach was jampacked with people. Personally I liked the new beach better than the 1st original organised beach on Monolia.


The "new beach" on left with surrounding lagoons

Of course the Islands have a place in Greek mythology and it is said to be the pieces of Herakles servant who tried to poison him. 

As the story goes, the hero Herakles won a bride as a battle prize. Her name was Deianira. As she was transported to the mainland by boat the ferryman, a wild centaur named Nessus, attempted to rape her. Herakles was watching from the shore and fired a poison arrow. As the half-man/half-horse lay dying he told Deianira to take some of his blood as a talisman to ensure that Herakles would be always faithful to her. As time passed, Herakles took another woman as his favorite. Deianira remembered what the dying centaur had told her and rubbed some of the centaur’s blood on a cloak which she sent as a ‘gift’ for Herakles with a servant named Lichas. When Herakles put the cloak on, his skin began to burn and he realized that the cloak was poisoned so he threw the servant into the sea. Licha broke into pieces and Poseidon, the sea god, turned him into stones creating the Lichadonisia Islands. (Courtesy from Ruth Kozak's blog)

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Monday, 5 June 2017

Road trip

As I signed off Moonlight II in Nice after the open day event and handover to the other Captain, I decided that instead of flying I'd be going to Greece by land. So I disembarked on a calm day and saw classic yachts at the Beaulieu anchorage.


I was surprised seeing s/s Delphine (built 1921) as she had been, according to some media sources, been laid up somewhere in Tunisia but obviously now had found a new Owner so she was back in the game. She did not look very shipshape up close but classic yachts always need a lot of TLC in order to get up to standard.


Next I saw m/y Nero (built 2007) that is not a very old classic but built in China to this design, she looks the part without the age. 

Well in Nice by taxi I checked the timetables and was disappointed to discover there would be no trains east that evening so I booked a ticket to Milan for the next morning. Next I had to find a room and settled to a cheap and cheerful place next to the trainstation. I walked around town in the evening and could not find any appealing places to eat at so I just bought a ready-made sandwich at a 24h supermarket that then refused to sell me a small bottle of wine as it was after a certain hour. In France? Can you imagine. Did not take me long to walk a few blocks around the trainstation to find a hole-in-the-wall shop that sold me the bottle of wine instead.  

Nice train station

Next morning I was up on time and moseyed over to the trainstation, it is not a big affair so finding my train was piece of cake. Last evening I had bought online a continuation to Ancona so I would have a few hours to walk around Milan. Some hours later the train arrived Milan and everything there was huge. Unfortunately it was a holiday so all shops were mostly closed so I was just window shopping and walking around town like any average tourist.

Milan cathedral

Then it was time to head for the train station again and find my train for Ancona which was no biggie and off we went on time. The Italian countryside is not very interesting, lot of fields and country houses with afew cities in between with various factories visible. Coming to the Aegean coast the line was following it to Ancona sometimes almost in the sea.

Ancona

Ancona train station was a very worn out affair and I had to walk abt 1km to the hotel I had booked close to the port in old town. I walked past the quarantine castle and along the coast until I arrived the hotel. Very friendly service and I ended up having dinner there. Next morning I got up early and walked around the old town and palazzos discovering all the things worth seeing, Ancona actually has quite a lot to offer for the odd traveller.

Superfast at Ancona

Later in the afternoon it was time to pick up my luggage and get in the port, the boat was a bit late but eventually it arrived and started discharging it's cargo and until it was empty we had t wait on the jetty and it was scorching hot. After some time we were allowed to embark and I found myself a nice sofa to occupy myself on. It was an overnight trip so I had dinner at the a'la carte restaurant and ordered too much of the Greek food but it was vacation time.

Igoumenitsa

After having slept a few hours on a sofa in the buffet we arrived to the port of Igoumenitsa and I disembarked on the huge open field of tarmac, obviously it was thought the port would be a continuation of the highway or a much larger quantity of cargo was envisaged to move through. By the look of things this has not yet happened. I ended walking up to town and found the bus station to get a ticket for Athens as I did not fancy to stay a night here to explore. I was in luck, the K-tel bus left within the hour and soon enough we were on our way. The trip was quite comfortable and the roads were good, I missed the Rio bridge totally (if we even pased over it), I don't know. Some 5hrs later I arrived Athens and made my way for the metro lines.
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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

s/y A

As we had finished our refit in Greece overhauling all machinery on Moonlight II we were fit for fight for a summer of charters and we set our heading for the French riviera. Our next stop was the open day display in Nice. It's a small event organized by ECPY with ML2 as the largest participant where we went in 1st and then the port was filled up with all other participants coming in size wise, kept 3-4 pilots busy for an afternoon.

s/y A

Anyway, as we arrived South of France we anchored off St Laurent du Var to wait for entry into port, provisioning and to clean up the salt from the passage from Greece. Luckily the weather was good so we were not totally encrusted. As we sat at anchor the widely discussed s/y A sailed past us. 

s/y A

She had just been launched in Germany and, as per the media, enjoyed a few weeks under arrest in Gibraltar. Apparently she had been released as she was sailing past in front of us. There has been many opinions of her design and it is not my place like or dislike her. I do think she is a marvel of man-made engineering and would like to see her actually under sail. I hope the design of the vessel is satisfying to her Owner, Mr. Andrey Melnichenko, as it is he who has decided on it. I wish fair winds and happy wakes to her with plenty of water under the keel.

s/y A





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Sunday, 30 April 2017

Suez

After having departed Dubai in good order for European summer we had finally arrived Suez, the ditch of decay and depravity in form of bureaucrats descending on you like the proverbial plague in search of bribes and presents. I have had a few unpleasant transits where the rot was so bad I have no words for it.

Some of the old wrecks trafficking these waters

This time I was using as Agents Meesa Egypt and having used them once before I trusted them to come through well again. True enough shortly after letting go at the outer anchorage the officials started coming and it was cigarettes galore left and right, the worst were the health officials that demanded 8 cartons of cigarettes and to sign a paper that no presents or bribes had been given (sic!) on their visit.

Anchoring at outer anchorage

After the first round we we shifted to the inner anchorage & our Agents were allowed to board as per the rules and we started stamping all papers for the various instances. I have always wondered where these papers end up and who ever reads them? I remember in India it was the same and the forms where copies of copies that were next to illegible, it only mattered that the file had the right header and that at the end there was a ships stamp and Captains signature on it. Once this was cleared we disembarked our security detail and then were left in peace. Shortly thereafter we were hailed on the VHF and assigned a number on the next convoy. It was going to be a non-stop transit.

Bulker

Our transit started on time in the wee-hours and the electricians and linesmen came first and settled in. There was some deliberations of the area they were allowed to use but our Agent soon put an end to it. Of course the customary shop was setup on our aft deck and crew had a look at the trinkets that was on offer to horrendous starting prices. We offered them food and drink as the trip progressed.

Gas carrier

Pilot came last and soon enough we were on the way. The tenderboats were of course hollering for cigarettes & coke and our boys threw them some packets and cans in order not to aggravate them to damage our paint work.

Tanker

Well on the way we soon enough reached Great Bitter Lake and it didn't take long when we changed pilots midway and we were almost through. Some miles before entering the Mediterranean the Agents took his leave and few minutes after the pilots gave his last instructions out and made his way to the pilot ladder.

Happy guys going home

I must commend both pilots I had did not even ask for a present so I volunteered a carton of cigarettes for their admirable behavior. I think even one of them declined the carton altogether.

Maybe there is hope after all for the Canal personnel & authorities to be cleaning up their act?
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Friday, 3 March 2017

Signing on p/v Moonlight II

After looking for my next gig after the temp on Lady S I was approached by Owners of Moonlight II to come and put together a dream team and get the boat charter ready for the summer things started moving very fast and on 1st March I was on a plane to London to get indoctrinated in the Burgess office.

Cunard house

I already knew a bit abt the Burgess organisation as Lady S was also managed by them and now I got to meet everyone face to face, always nice to put a face to a name you have been emailing for weeks, sometimes months, without meeting. 

I got to London early morning and after a quick check in to my hotel I moseyed over to Cunard house. After a long day at office meeting managers left and right trying to keep memory of what is being said I was going back to the hotel for the evening so I could catch my outward flight to Dubai early next morning.

I arrived Dubai 2nd March evening and was late after dark onboard and got to installed to a guest cabin and short introductions before hitting the sack. 

Dubai by night of Barasti beach

Next day went quickly as usual when you start with the usual paperwork, then how the boat operates, we actually did a sea trial as well, meeting new faces...

p/v Moonlight II

Next thing you know it's way past dinner time and time to go to bed...   

Dubai anchorage with m/y A





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Friday, 10 February 2017

SeaTALK

I was surfing the net and came across a site called Seatalk, It is a wonderful tool for those not so proficient in the english language wanting to get more familiar with seafaring terminology. Best of all it is free for anyone to use. I suggest to go to the FAQ section first or clicking the "how to use" video, as the website is not very straightforward to use.  Below is the excerpt from their homepage.


What is SeaTALK?

SeaTALK presents a unique online platform for Maritime English resources! The platform provides a Maritime English syllabus with materials within a framework of STCW competences, CEFR levels and the ECVET system.
The SeaTALK platform offers Maritime English Training Modules for each rank and function on board:
  • Deck Ratings (Support Level) 
  • Engineering Ratings (Support Level) 
  • Deck Officers (Operational Level) 
  • Engineering Officers (Operational Level) 
  • Electro Technical Officers (Operational Level) 
  • Senior Deck Officers (Management Level) 
  • Senior Engineering Officers (Management Level) 
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Thursday, 9 February 2017

Training

After having stepped off Maryah in January I looked for new challenges but it appeared no one was stepping off or looking to employ Captain's. I ended turning down one offer as I was just about to board a plane for a course so that went as well. Then having been pretty much unemployed for most of 2016 I did my STCW Manila upgrading and renewed my license so I am good to go for the next 5 years.

Courtesy of The HR suite

Then I also decided to further my education a bit and have gone looking at shore side career paths that could be a possibility. The difficulties with choosing anything viable and good as well as recognized by a serious body is very difficult, the plethora of what is on offer is staggering.

For example there is the Maritime training academy that offers dozens of maritime related courses and was about to sign up for them but after discussing it with a few colleagues I did not go for it. The opinion was why go for a half-hearted solution instead of a full MBA at a university? The price of a yacht management course is cheaper than uni but is the certificate really worth it? Will it teach me anything of value at this age and at this point of my career? Is the MTA cert valued in the industry?

Then I started looking at universities offering MBA's in the maritime sector, one criteria was how much could have been done online as distance learning. I got up Liverpool university and another university in Hamburg, the MBA was a couple of years hard study and cost around 30.000EUR. I followed a colleague of mine that did the Liverpool MBA being overworked to the hilt doing assignments. In the end I found a solution close to home and applied for a Master in Maritime Management in Finland. As a citizen the education is free. At the time of writing this I have already submitted my thesis plan to Novia and awaiting news if I will be admitted this autumn or not.

Then as a more practical certification I went of the Lloyd's superintendent training programme that is 1 part online and then physical courses at their training facilities. This is by no means a cheap solution and the Superintendent certificate is ranged from Bronze to Platinum. To reach the bronze level they require a minimum of 5 courses and the more courses you do, the more you pay and you get a certificate attesting to this (12 courses for platinum, one course around 750EUR). As you can see the more courses you do, the more you pay. As a private person they give a considerable discount and as I have attended courses I saw most participants are from shipping companies that pays for them assuming this being part of their policy of improvement.

I also came across an outfit that could be confused with Lloyd's but has actually nothing to do with them, it is Lloyds maritime academy. Apparently this outfit appears to be a thorn in Lloyd's side when I asked one lecturer about them but another said some clients had good experience of their courses. It appears their curriculum is recognized by RINA as well as, when I was in touch with them, the course fees were not too exorbitant. The saying goes that there is hardly anything that is good and comes cheap so I skipped them too but who knows, maybe their courses are good. I don't want to prejudice something I have not actually experienced.

As a a conclusion there is a lot on offer but it is not cheap and it is not easy to ascertain the value in such courses as well how they are regarded in the maritime industry. When looking into these outfits I would carefully read the fine print and then look into the accrediting bodies that are displayed on their pamphlets. The key is the accrediting body and knowing which bodies are recognized in the industry and reputable, not very easy as for me this appears like entering a jungle. I understand there are also the "flag of convenience" outfits ashore too that are more interested in you loosening purse strings to their benefit than educating you.
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Thursday, 26 January 2017

Address to Haggis

I had the honor to be invited for Burns night at the British embassy and took opportunity to record the prayer to haggis that is customary to be done at every party when the haggis is brought in.


When I was in Athens back in 2003 or 2004 I attended a Burns night at the Grand Bretagne hotel with the Athens hash house harriers and it was a grand affair with hundreds of people attending.


Nowadays the expat community has shrunk so much that there is no more parties organised as such and not all whisky flowing with live music, dancing etc. We had a civilized whisky tasting though with pipemusic, not bad blended stuff but had better...

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