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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