Thursday, 30 April 2009

One Year onboard Kalizma

Today is the 30th April and if you have been reading my posts you realize that I have been onboard Kalizma continuously for one year.

Richard & Jira in front of the Buffalo Park

Usually I have been earlier only been doing 6-7 mths turns onboard, sometimes due to length of contract other times due to force majeure.

Anyway, the cycle is the same, every 3-4 months you go down on your mood and hardly feel like doing anything, this I call the process of being institutionalised. When you get over the feeling that you need to go somewhere and accept he inevitable that you gotta do some work too, the load lightens on your shoulder and you can live another day.

Although Kalizma have not been used that actively by her Owner I sure have been happy keeping her running. All kind of Engineering problems has been solved during the past year and hopefully this year will be a bit quieter.

I have to look forward for a drydock again and after that we will hopefully be a commercially certified yacht.

My vacation is kicking in sometimes in June and I will be relieved by Avnish, it'll be good to sit back and really relax, not needing to wake up in the morning and think about running the ship.
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Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Mumbai - Cochin - Langkawi

So, we left Mumbai finally and were underway to Langkawi via Cochin. The reason for stopping in Cochin was to take cheaper fuel from there as in Mumbai nobody was selling tax free fuel.

Once at sea we got the waves from our stern and a strong NW'ly breeze. Everything was hunky-dory. Our Naga girls got sea-sick of course and for the 1st couple of days resembled zombies as we were trying to get them cheered up. Finally I resorted to giving them motion sickness pills so that fixed that problem.

Kalpu prepared for the worst

We arrived Cochin early morning on the 19th April. We tied up at Mattancheri Island and I met Augustine from Goa and Mr. Judy, our agent. I had prepared a record amount of paper that the agent specified me to have at hand. Indian bureaucrats really support the paper industry. Once all was done, the mandatory bottle gifts were asked for. I complied happily to get them off the ship.

In the afternoon I managed to sign on Richard that had arrived from Mumbai via land as he had to be left behind for some paper work. Then I went ashore. I saw the Dutch Fort and the Jew town. That is really the only attractions that can be mentioned about Cochin. The Jew town is mostly full of shops catering for the tourists, selling brass statues, perfumes, fragrant oils, textiles and whatnot. I even slipped for once and spent my last rupees on brass figurines of Shiva, Parvati, Ganesh and another one half Shiva half Parvati. Then I got some fragrant oils, I settled for Jasmine and Kerala flowers, wonder who I will give them to. Toddy was also sold at many bars in Cochin, I sampled one bottle with Richard and must say it was much tastier than the toddy I had in Burma.

In the evening after our shopping spree we went with Richard to a hindu temple where the deity was the son of Shiva. We paid to do pooja and I asked for favorable weather for our remaining voyage. It turned out Richard did the same.

In Cochin the men wore mostly lungi's (sarongs) and in the heat they were lifting the hems all the time for better "ventilation".

After wards we went out with whole crew for dinner. Our first restaurant was not really that good so we just had some drinks and then headed out for another restaurant called the Tandoori. I and Saini had to leave earlier as a heavy rain shower came and we got some leaks onboard so had to go and help the standby crew.

Next day we received bunkers and filled our fuel tanks up to the brim, well, only 98% as per good seamanship standards. Then one of our gensets malfunctioned and we tried to find spares to no avail. Meanwhile I went out with Richard for last provisioning. We also got for crew lunch boxes of biriyani made at the famous Kayees restaurant, the walls inside were plastered with news clippings.

Pilot was booked for evening as we could not delay or wait for spares for the genset, so I decided to depart as the weather forecast also looked good.

Once again away we left Cochin with last rays of the sun and headed south along the coast, when passing the Guld of Mannar the wind got a bit stronger and a day later while rounding Sri Lanka the wind was still persisting at force 4. After that the close we got to Malaysia the wind was getting weaker and weaker.

Two days enroute our freezer broke down, Richard was boiling meat by the kilo in order to preserve it somehow.

Three days enroute our A/C packed in. Needless to say the ship turned into a furnace, not only was the sun heating up her but also the engines. Crew slept out on open deck. Bridge was the only place where you could stay inside reasonably cool as we had both doors open and a cross draft was cooling us down.

On the 26th we entered the Straits of Malacca and as we were passing north of Sumatra we could see the mountains in the horizon and Rondo Island just N of Sumatra. It looked round as the name suggests. Beside the Island were jagged stone pinnacles sticking out of the sea that looked almost like the Stonehenge from a distance. All meat was finished so we were on vegetarian fare from this day onwards.

The last night crew was forced to seek shelter inside as we had rain showers coming down. I resorted to sleeping inside the tenderboat, the cover held rain just fine.

The last day we were not so much scorched by sun as the skies were overcast, the humidity was in the 98% region. We sighted Langkawi Island on the 27th around noon, after that it took us about 2 hours to get up the channel into Kuah and finally alongside Royal Langkawi yacht club.

I was met by a familiar face, John Orr our agent and after the initial chit-chat he went to clear us into the country. In the evening John invited all crew for some drinks at the RLYC bar and later on we headed out for "The Pier" restaurant and had some delicious Thai food. Captain Graham of Queen of Andaman joined us there too and we swapped stories of latest gossip in the region.

Of course the 1st thing in order of our list was to get our A/C fixed. I'll let you know what happened to that in my next instalment. Until then.
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Thursday, 16 April 2009

Leaving India

As you may know if you have followed my blogs I've been in India since December and I am soon to leave the subcontinent for Thailand as not to spend the rainseason here.

Firstly one do not want to spend the rainseason here as everything gets inundated in water, flooding is very common. Secondly the seas are very rough as the monsoon will bring the swell in from the Indian Ocean. In Thailand and Malaysia we can enjoy the sunny day and be safe from the Indian Ocean swell on the East side of Phuket.

Otherwise India has treated me very well, the people have been friendly and helpful, the only thing that nags on ones piece of mind is the bureaucracy, the corruption of officials and the utter inability of contractors to deliver on their promises. There is a paper for everything that is done in India. E.g. just getting a tanker truck of fuel is so difficult and requires so many bribes that it is more easier to get a barge, the cost eventually will be the same.

When planning something to be done reserve thrice the time the contractor estimates, he may still overshoot that timeframe. E.g. in Goa is useless to try and get anything technical done, there are no facilities available. For repairs and services, go to Mumbai.

I can't say that I have experience of other places on the westcoast except Goa and Mumbai. On the way here I had to detour to Port Blair and as usual the Islanders have their own concept of time, services etc. I for one would never do any big works in Port Blair, unless one has a lot of time on their hands and is willing to fly any spares in.

Kalizma at Victoria Docks

On the other hand if you are in Mumbai you can find most services available, skilled Technicians and Engineers, materials and stores. Only thing here again is that either you stay at anchor in front of Gateway of India (where is curfew during hours of darkness) or you can get a berth in Victoria Docks. In VD you will suffer from blowing dust from the field and bird droppings. Washdown every second day is a must. The airpollution in Mumbai is remarkable. Furthermore, it is said that VD will be filled up and made into a container terminal. Surely there must be other solutions VD could be used for, just look at what they did to the old London docks but I suppose it does not have much value for the dinosaurs of Mumbai Port Trust.

Another view w/ Kalizma at VD

I guess the scheme is to make it to an endless government subsidy/ development area as there are several issues that has to be tackled before even one container ship can come alongside. Consider jobs as filling the dock, then dredging the 5m seawall and channel to 12m or more (strengthening the seawall too), after that there is continuous maintenance dredging of the channel required, then consider the infrastructure to transport the containers to and fro the terminal (construction of elevated highway?) not to mention installation of the container cranes and other equipment needed for a container port. As anyone can see all these projects will cost millions if not billions, but the area in question is relatively small considering major container ports like e.g. Shanghai so the question is that will the eventual return even cover the investment?

VD sheds at the tidal gate

Anyway, today I am departing Mumbai for Cochin and from there I will sail to Langkawi, Malaysia to receive some stores and cheap bunkers. I will also check out he new drydocking facility in Lumut. Tell you more about our trip when I've reached Phuket. Until then ta-ta.

Sunil making last call before departure outside of Gate Master's office
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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Captain's blog - March 2009

March was spent alongside in Mumbai only. We had a MCA commercial yacht status survey and inclination test that was concluded on the 4th. Then after this the rest of the month was spent rectifying observations done by our surveyor, Mr. Alf Cashmore. Suddenly our “to-do” list was completely full.

Alf Cashmore, our MCA surveyor

I was lucky and had Avnish here in the beginning to source out all the contractors and get the work started. Without his help I would have struggled with the bigger jobs, his contacts in Mumbai gave us a headstart.

Load testing our wooden boom

We had plenty of electrical work for additional emergency lighting, moving of navigation lights, laying new cables for various lights, additional bilge alarms and so on. In the engine room we had nothing special but some additional insulating jobs and fitting engines with local sensors and gauges so the Engineers would know how fast I am sailing. We also got new exhaust silencers made to our auxiliary engines as the old ones were the one causing problems during our trip to India, now we got brand spanking new exhausts made out of CuNiFer steel.

Further to our survey we needed deadlights for saloon windows and aft door. Finally we got a loadline assigned as well.

Our CO2 system needed some modification as well as we needed additional callpoints and sensors and a remote alarm panel to the bridge.

Another contractor was assigned to make stainless steel railings to comply with the 1000mm height requirement. Furthermore, we needed air tight flaps to our engine room ventilation outlets.

One of Mumbai's pan stalls - Pagal Pan (Crazy Pan)

On the 10th it was the time for Holi, the festival of colours. We got all crew on the pier and we pasted all red while having glasses of bhang at the end of the day, after that only the standby crew remained onboard while other crew went home to their families. On the 11th I went out with Richard and Martula to Juhu beach to see the action. We did not even get 100meters off the ship when we met a marauding group of Indians with bags of colors. At Juhu beach we encountered people by the busload, all in different colors. At places the seawater was having color, some estates was throwing parties with music blaring and colored water running off from the gutters. After having seen enough we headed off to Colaba and had a lunch at Leopold’s.

On 14th I went out with Xerxes, Martula and Sunil, they took me to Gokul restaurant where we enjoyed some snacks and Old Monk rum.

On the 18th I had to shift berth from #16 to Victoria Dock #15, Port Captain took one bottle of whisky for the effort. The next day a sail yacht came to our old berth, s/y Georgia. Beautiful boat. Later on during the day I went for a lunch with Aashim Mongia, our agent here in Mumbai. The venue was at Khyber restaurant and was specializing in north Indian food. We had a delicious curry with garlic nan bread and dhal. I was so full that I did not eat anything until the next day.

Then we got sailing orders for Thailand so I had my hands full of arranging visas to Malaysia and Thailand. Our departure from India is now set to 16th April for Langkawi, Malaysia. I also got a stewardess appointed to us, her name is Kalpana Brahma. Now we are a full crew.

From the 19th onwards we lost A/C as the heatexchanger contractor failed to box them back up, so it was leaking. Needless to say we were hot. All crew slept out on decks for days. Every morning I woke up to crow’s that live in the area. The 20th I visited Thomas with Richard and stayed overnight (no A/C onboard, remember?). The next day we visited Rodney up in Virar so in effect I traveled through whole of Mumbai by train.

Chor Bazaar

On 20th I went to Chor Bazaar with Jyothi and Richard and got us a clinometer and some brass knick-knacks for the ship. For myself I got a few brass statues of Buddha and Kali, the God of Destruction and an Aladdin lamp (the genie was missing though).

On the 21st was Richard’s birthday and we celebrated onboard with a cake and flowers, still sweating of course.

Crawford Market, textile section

On 23rd we got some action as we went for a compass adjustment and engine performance test. Pilot hopped off as soon as we got to Middle Ground and told me “Captain, you know the place, anchor where you see fit after you’ve adjusted your compass”. Oh well, no objections on that point. So we swung in front of the Colaba workshop and got our compass adjusted and then we drove the crap out of our main engines and took readings of their performance. All results were satisfactory. Then we anchored again in front of Gateway and stayed there until the 26th when I moved back to Victoria Dock #15.

Darukhana beach

On the 28th I visited Darukhana ship wrecking yard. It was huge, it was dirty, it was indescribable. I saw 5-6 ships in different stages of scrapping. One ship being demolished I suspect might have been an ex-Finnish or Swedish ship as I could see the old name “Hamnö” embossed on the bow. Cutting was going on all ships and the shore was littered with gas bottles, cut out metal plates, ship furniture and equipment, people was milling around everywhere, the activity was like in an ant-nest. The immediate beach front was full of stores built from old steel plates and odd parts and inside was steel pipes, old propeller shafts and whatnot for sale. There must be tons of steel lying around. Business was going on briskly. All around was small hutments of slum dwellers, one could see old women around, food hawkers and kids running around. The pollution in this area was extensive, the beaches were soiled black after years of yard works.

Darukhana beach
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