Monday, 23 February 2009

Cruise to Grandi Island

Boss gave orders same day early morning that he wants to cruise Grandi Is. Next morning we scrambled up all agents and navy personnel as the area is controlled by navy. Sailing took us only a couple of hours and we anchored at SE tip of Grandi Is.
We were followed by Augustine and his small fleet of jetskis out of Sinquerim and I had to go around all approach channels and pilot stations so I approached the Grandi Is from the NW.

Grandi Island

Once securely anchored I jetskied around it with Abroe and saw all small beaches (3 of them) and tourists that abound at the only really worthwhile spot in Goa in respect of diving and snorkeling. I also checked out the Navy controlled Hansa beach at the mainland, a long desolate beach with nothing on it. Perfect for a BBQ. The only really good looking beach on Grandi Is is on the NW side where the jetty is. As the Navy has not been that active (it seems) the jetty has partly collapsed and there is no activity on the Island.

Orders were to arrange full dinner BBQ at Grandi Is jetty. Whole afternoon was spent ferrying stuff over and setting up tables, BBQ, cutlery, lights, candles and whatnot. Boss went for lunch at Gautam Singhanis yacht, the “Ashena” and came back at about sunset. The party was ongoing and at about 11pm a decision was made to move out to the beach. I was thinking of staying onboard and Boss asked “aren’t you coming?” so I just hopped onboard the tenderboat and off we went.

Sunset with m/y Ashena in front of us

Once we arrived the jetty we anchored the bigger tenderboat at the head of the jetty and used the smaller Kalizma tender (which is a RIB) to ferry people to the beach.
The highwater was close so the beach had almost receded totally under water. All chairs were pulled up to the extreme end of the beach, the slowly rolling waves kept wetting the guests feet, the barbecue was half in water, tables had to be righted once in awhile to prevent from falling over. The guests was loving it, the wine and drinks flowed and all were in high spirits.

While all was going well, my deckhand Dubey, who had been stationed on this Island during his Navy time, took me up on the Island slope, a concrete pathway leading up to the old barracks. We walked along the pathway in the light of a torch and I saw the old well that had been used, it was huge with about 5m diameter and maybe 10m deep. Now there was hardly any water on the bottom and big trees was growing out of it. We continued up the path and came to the old generator building, only the seat of the generator was evidence there now. All buildings that I saw had only the walls left, roofs had been removed or blown away. Dubey told me that when he was stationed here he would every morning get himself a tender coconut for breakfast in the groves that had been growing there.

At same beach there was also 2 other boats with some local people overnighting there and they had their own party ongoing at the remains of the partly collapsed jetty. After some time they also became curious of our party and approached us and was very excited of seeing our Boss. Eventually they wanted to join the party and Bosses bodyguard needed some serious persuading to do before the youngsters believed him. In the end Boss posed for a photo together with the guys.

Having done all this, the beach had receded quite a bit and was now getting a few meters of legroom to swing, but the clock was ticking and Boss decided to retire. All our guests were ferried back to the Bagpiper tender and left back to Kalizma. Crew started packing up stuff and we waited for the small tender to return.

We packed all our stuff and ferried it back to Kalizma and once all was onboard I sent Augustine with the bagpiper tender, our tender and the accompanying 3 jetskis back to Sinquerim. Our tender had to go as they were the only ones with a GPS chart plotter.

Following orders were to return to Sinquerim as well and that we did. I anchored off Aguada at 5am. All crew still awake went and threw themselves in for a few hours of shuteye, including me.

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Sunday, 15 February 2009

MCA yachts - medical certificates

Many foreigners who work on yachts always get confused when they are asked about their ENG1 medical cert.

This is the medical certificate that states that you are fit for work or not. All commercial ships in the world have the same ILO standards and MCA has their own (following ILO) format that is called the ENG1. In case you live abroad you need to find a Doctor that is MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency (UK)) qualified.

Examining the MCA site one can find listed all MCA qualified Doctors in the world that are entitled to issue MCA ENG1 medical certificates. Any other Doctor not listed but saying he can issue said document is fake.

MCA approved Physicians

However, yachts that are flying other red ensigns, e.g. Cayman Islands also approve the national seamans medical certificate, but it has to be in English and state whether fit for work or not as well as being as per the ILO standards for Seaman's medical examinations.

More can be read at the Merchant shipping notice no 1797,

MSN 1797 (A)

Furthermore, as per MCA following countries seamens medical certificates are considered equivalent to ENG1:


1 February 2009

This list updates Annex A of Merchant Shipping Notice MSN 1765. To obtain an equivalent medical certificate you must approach the respective maritime authority to be advised of the location of their approved doctors.

This list reflects new Regulations, which came into effect on the 1 September 2002. Medical certificates issued by countries previously recognised as equivalent (listed in MSN 1746 (M+F)) will be acceptable until the date of expiry.

Further countries will be added to this list as and when medical standards and systems have been assessed for equivalency.

Czech Republic*
Hong Kong
New Zealand
Republic of Ireland*
South Africa
Sri Lanka

* EU Member States
** EU (European Economic Area) States

Link to MCA website

Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seamen: Amendment 04

Merchant Shipping Notices, Marine Guidance Notes and Marine Information Notes: Consolidated to April 2001

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Thursday, 12 February 2009

Visit to brewery

We arrived the brewery at noon and was met by the various smells of fermenting grains and hops that is associated with a brewery as we were guided to Govind Tiwari’s office where we were greeted with some lunch and cold fresh glasses of Kingfisher. After a short chat we discovered that the brewery was currently churning out abt 100.000 btls a day in 2 shifts, but if demand would rise the production could be increased too.

Richard in front of the brewery

Finally we were introduced to lab assistant Shilpa to show us around the brewery. We started at the big vats and tanks where the mash was fermented and the hops were added and various other ingredients leading to beer. All was connected by different filters, heat exchangers etc, all piping was stainless steel and I could see C/E Vivek eyeing the plant enviously.

Then we visited the laboratory where we sampled beer samples from the line after pasteurizing and before, very delicious. The Master brewer also gave us a short chat. We were also explained the rigorous testing methods and cleanliness requirements by Shilpa and her colleagues.

Quality pledge

After that we went to the bottling plant where we could see the fully automated process where returned empty beer bottles was inserted mechanically into the washing machine, emerging clean, being filled with beer, then sealed, labeled, pasteurized, boxed, box was glued up and finally arrived in store house for delivery vans. The line was at all critical stages monitored by people and one could hear the crash of discarded bottles when guys were throwing them into waste bins. All the hectic activity was punctuated by at time exploding beer bottles while they were happily clinking away along the line.

Exiting the brewery we also took a walk around the distillery and saw the huge ageing sheds where casks upon casks was piled up top the rafters, all with the date of filling painted on the lid. We were explained that alcohol put into used casks would require longer ageing than in new casks. Finally we were offered a small glass of un-aged rum that tasted really good as per all crew.

At the end we went back to Mr. Tiwari’s office and thanked him for this opportunity at the same time I handed over some Kalizma polo neck shirts to him and his family.

All said and done we packed ourselves in the car and drove off to Calingute beach where we started to walk towards the wreck. Unfortunately after a couple of beers and hundred meters down the beach nightfall came and we had to revert to the local outlets inside of the beach shacks. Some phonecalls later found us at the “Flambee” restaurant at Aguada and soon enough food was ordered and we enjoyed and chatted about the day.

Roundabout 11pm found us at the dessert and we got the bill, packed us into the car and got ourselves to the UB jetty to get onboard. Needless to say we added insult to injury and brought Rajaram a doggie bag. Next time is his turn for the outing…
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Spice Garden visit

As we entered the garden on a footpath from the ticket booth we heard group of ladies walking in a circle, clapping their hands while singing local songs and as we passed under the entrance fragrant flowers was thrown on us and everyone got a “lei” around their neck.

Crew and Augustine at reception

After this we were seated at a table and we got some lemongrass tea and cashew nuts to snack on while our guide was assigned to us.

Once finished our snack it was time to get on the tour and we started walking after our guide, the spices were multiple, among many plants I can recall: bayleaves, lemongrass, vanilla, pepper, super hot chillies, nutmeg, banana (world’s tallest grass), cardamon, cloves, cocoa, turmeric (cheap mans , cashew, areca nut, coffee bean, curry leaves, garam masala (5 spices in one tree). While passing every herb or spice the guide was churning out ayurvedic remedies for various ailments the plant could be utilised for. E.g nutmeg is result for the large Indian population being a natural “viagra”…

Our spice guide

Cashew is a 2-part fruit that consists of the fruit and the nut, the nuts are the cashews that we eat roasted and the fruit is fermented into “ourak” and then distilled into “fenny”.

During the tour we also saw some camels and elephants that tourists could take rides on after the tour. As last number we were demonstrated how areca palms are harvested by climbing up the trunk with the aid of a sling around your ankles and then just swinging from tree to tree.

At the end of the tour we were poured ice cold herbal water down our necks to relax us or whatever, at least it was cooling. Then we were offered locally made cashew fenny and lunch. We tasted the fenny but declined the lunch as we had another engagement at the brewery. The fenny was quite a rough experience burning all the way down the throat and leaving a warm feeling in the bottom of your stomach.

We all left happy after the very educational experience.
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Thursday, 5 February 2009

Cruise ship soap opera

A few weeks back I was related a true story from a cruise ship of how a personal drama evolved to remarkable proportions:

This cruise ship was plying between two countries on a regular trade and she was appointed a new Captain (that I have the dubious honor to know of personally) onboard. The ship was manned by two nationalities and the Captain started telling his countrymen how he is going to replace them all with the other cheaper nationality. True to his nature he immediately won the "most likable person onboard" award as he always manages to do.

As with his simpletons mind he started to "command and conquer" and he promised the Security Officer a 3rd Officer's position as he was qualified for it. Naturally this was just lip service to get him on his "side" and also vital gossip and information of what is going on onboard. This was discovered pretty soon too and did not win any sympathies on the would be 3rd Officer's side.

Next the Captain bedded the Chief Purser (from the other nationality) and fell in love with her and they started a relationship. All looked good for the Captain, he ruled as a dictator and the antipathy grew by the day.

Until the day comes when another new Captain (from the other nationality) comes to relieve him for vacation. As it happens this Captain (lets call him Y) had also had a relationship with the Chief Purser a few years back on another ship. Then during a crew party old feelings flamed up and the Chief Purser forgot her new beau and went back for the old salt.

As it happens the Captain (lets call him X) received at 3am from an unknown number a MMS message with Captain Y and the Chief Purser on a photo in a nightclub sucking each others faces in a manner that don't leave much for interpretation. Being the cuckolded party he jumped out of bed and in his car and started a 600+km drive to where the ship was in port.

Next morning at abt 9am Captain X arrives to the ship and storms onboard and demands to see the security log. He checks the times when Captain Y and Chief Purser has come back onboard. Security Officer that had no sympathy for the Captain X knows immediately what is going on and he sees the agitated state he is in so he calls the Chief Officer to report what is going on. Chief Officer tells him to call the Coast Guard, which he does.

Meanwhile Captain X dashes into the Captains cabin only to find Captain Y and Chief Purser snoozing in each others arms. Captain X is speechless, can't get a coherent word out of his mouth. Soon enough Coast Guard arrives and collects him off the ship.

After Captain X gather his wits he comes up with the million dollar idea to ask the Company to sack Captain Y. The letter from the Captain is taken seriously and the DPA calls the Coast Guard, the Officer who made the arrest gives a slightly exaggerated vision of the incident as he happens to be a friend of the wronged Security Officer.

The Company decides it is safer to kick Captain X off board instead. Was not the first nor the last time it happened to him.

What do we learn from this?
Women onboard are always inviting trouble,
Leadership skills are asked for when big crews are in question,
If you treat people badly - don't expect anything less in return,
Never ever bring your private life onboard and especially not to the management.

Some food for thought...

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Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Captain's Blog - January 2009

So, the year of 2009 has been ushered in and a month of it has already been used up, whew, time goes by so fast when you grow older. We arrived Mumbai 22nd Dec and started some quick repairs again to get Kalizma spick'n'span for our Boss and guests.

M/y Kalizma alongside Victoria Docks

We went alongside Victoria Dock #15 an old colonial time dock with ancient lock doors that did not hold water. I had only the centre engine to use as wing engines exhaust valves had been dismantled because they had jammed during the voyage. I had ample space and a good pilot onboard so coming alongside was not a problem. Unfortunately I could not accommodate him with a bottle as requested, all the other bureaucrats had taken it all and I was waiting for replenishment. Pilot said he would be back 2nd Jan, he never came though, which was my luck as well because I had not received any stores onboard by that time.

As the days went by I also came to know about Indian bureaucracy, I thought Greek and Chinese bureaucracy was complicated and stiff but it seems Indians has been able to surpass these countries in paperwork. I wonder if this is the legacy of the Englishmen. Basically nothing happens in India without a paper. Invoices will not be issued without an official request for the job, in the port nothing moves in or out without a paper. Even if you buy groceries ashore and pay VAT, you are not able to bring them into the port area without clearing it with the Customs and these guys needs greasing as well. Needless to say we tried to bring in/ out as little as possible or whatever we were transporting was hidden under the car seat. Even gate passes are issued only for 1 week at a time and has to be renewed with a crewlist and an Official Letter from the Master. The list goes on and on but I think you get the picture.

We discovered our other AE exhaust silencer was also totally corroded and was taken out to the workshop for repairs, they actually built a new silencer around the old one. We also did some carpentry and varnish work and brass polishing, lots of it. Our galley equipment got a go-over and was serviced. We're looking into making our freezer colder, by the time of writing this item is still pending. The carpet was changed in the saloon, Owner's suite and dining area by Ashish Gupta, an upcoming designer that has done a lot of work onboard Indian Empress. An Electrician was working for 2 weeks sorting out small troubles that was on our to-do list.

As what comes for the crew matters: Vivek went to New Delhi to migrate his family to Mumbai and sort out some personal stuff. Jyothi had her ring ceremony and is now officially reserved. Saini signed off and left for UK to further his studies to obtain his MCA certification upgrade into OOW. Jessica signed off after completion of her contract, she wanted to try something new, I wish her all the best in finding it. Sunil left for 1 week to Dehradun to visit his family and he will at some stage go to UK and do his MEOL MCA certification. Our new deckhand, Sandeep Dubey, that joined in Port Blair is doing fine and taking up duties during Saini's absence.

4th January I went out with Richard, Jyothi and Jessica, we met up with Anil, the Chef at Indian Empress on leave, and he took us to the "Indigo" behind the Taj hotel. Indigo is a very hi-so fancy restaurant and has an equally fascinating menu. Anil ordered some chicken in tamarind sauce for starters that was delicious but my meal proved different. At this time I can't anymore recall what I was eating as the only thing I remember is that it was bland and tasteless, call me a hypocrite but I've spent last 10yrs in SE Asia and I like food with some attitude in it. I met restaurant manager Vijay Prakash who is an old cruise ship hand and in ten places at the same time, his suit flaps were horizontal all he time, I swear. Once we finished dinner we left the girls to go their own places and we went to Bombay Fancy.

Bombay Fancy is a restaurant where you sit and watch girls in sari's. Some guys got excited and started throwing 10 rupee notes all around. I thought this was all play money and following the action with a small smile at my face. Soon I saw (Richard assured me) that the dough was not false money, the demimondaines and band was in on it. I had my beer and went back to the ship but can't keep myself smiling at the thought of the corrupt government officials throwing money out at girls. Easy come, Easy go.....

5th January we had a small fire in the lower crew cabin which was successfully put out and did not cause any bigger damages. All similar light fixtures has today been changed into safer ones.

After having done Kalizma all polished up after the voyage we moved to anchorage in front of Gateway of India where we still sit. It is very quiet, you can't hear the hectic traffic from Mumbai and also the birds leave us alone. At VD we got droppings enough to start a guano fertilizer factory. On the other hand we are restricted in our movements as the local constabulary has prohibited all small boat traffic to the Gateway and all other piers during hours of darkness. It is either you stay onboard or stay ashore - for me it is onboard - and off duty crew that has family here will be overnight at home unless the Boss is in town.

We were ready for use on the 9th and we shifted to anchorage in front of the Gateway of India. Brasspolishing and detailing was in full swing. Same day we had the unfortunate event with the waterbarge, luckily nothing was broken.

10th we had a scheduled visit from the boss and a photo shoot. Boss never came but the photo shoot took place. We had the Editor Sandhya Chipalkatti accompanied by photographer Arjun Chipalkatti and Editorial assistant Priyanka Tilve onboard. Sandhya and Priyanka grilled me and Avnish of the history of the boat from every angle while Arjun was shooting away. The party was shown the entire boat and we were drained of all information we could give. Finally Arjun needed a few shots of me and I hope he got some nice portraits. Afterwards we had some snacks and soft drinks.

Sun 11th I was invited for a brunch in Alibaug, it was at a beautiful beach villa with live music and full buffet with a well equipped bar. Not so well-equipped though as one might have expected as they ran out of Kingfisher during the first 2 hrs. Buffet was delicious and the music was very good. Unfortunately I can't recall the name of the band but they were a local talent singing both covers and their own stuff. Anyway, I had to leave before sunset otherwise the boy's in brown would not let me onboard.

12th Jan I got Custom officials onboard accompanied by some spare parts they had been sitting on for a month. I signed the papers and asked "if that was all?", the Officer said yes, so I got up and walked away. His long face was priceless as I did not offer him any whisky. If he would have drunk less whisky and passed our spareparts quicker I could have considered rewarding him but in this case - no way.

Next weeks went in servicing our fire extinguisher as well as preparing for our commercial certification. Drawings has to be prepared and reports filed with classification society and flag state. More deck service was done, some varnishing, carpentry - routine stuff - she is a very high maintenance yacht. In addition the air pollution don't give much respite either, washdown has to be done every other day.

24th Jan I went out shopping with Richard and bought him a new food processor to replace his old one that died en route Mumbai. I also got him a pressure cooker, our dhaal improved considerably after that. Aftre that we went to Crawford Market and saw all sections, fruit, vegetables, chicken, mutton, general stores, beverages, fish and live animals. There were animals of all sorts - dogs, cats, racing pigeons, fighting roosters and whatnot. The fishmarket requires a strong nose, not for the people that easily get queasy by strong odors.

Same evening there was staged a concert at Gateway of India (police had stopped all boat traffic at 5pm already) and we heard it live from outer decks as well as 5minutes later than it appeared "live" on TV. The concert was named "Challenge to terrorism" and was a part of a music reality TV show and also featured some of the Bollywood's reigning jetset e.g. Deepika Padukone was there and looked like a million dollars in her white sari. The concert was finished by the Indian national anthem.

31st Jan I went to Chor Bazaar (Thieves Market) with Richard and shopped for some items required on bridge, I got an old UK Navy sextant and a clinometer for very good price. For myself I splurged out on a Plath sextant a UK Navy telescope and a handheld compass. Otherwise the whole Bazaar was a nice experience, one could find any item you could need, you name it - they go it, streets were lined with small shops and they were all specializing in their own stuff, some had old cameras, another old gramophones, Hindu God idols, shipwrecking items, old watches and clocks, old furniture and anything you can imagine. Just the place where you could expect to find an Aladdin lamp or a flying carpet sold in a shadowy backroom surrounded by odds and ends and funny smells.

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