Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Joining again

Recently I was staying at my friends pad in Liguria, up in a medieval village of Montalto Ligure as I was doing rounds to the Riviera for various contacts looking for my next challenge. That aside my month was slowly coming to an end and one afternoon I was at the pad when I received an email out of the blue from China.

The mail was asking if I could send an updated CV and a valid phone number and a time when I could talk. Said and done I sent the info they requested and five minutes later the phone rang. There was a Chinese gentleman asking if I was available and some other data, we talked for a few minutes and then he asked if I have ever heard of Burgess. Yes of course I had heard, one of the top yacht management companies out here. There was not much more and he said they would be in touch and hung up.

Subsequently I called Burgess asking if they knew anything about a yacht in China as I had read of yachts being built but that was ages ago. Slowly the story unfolded that this indeed was the project I had read about years ago in industry publications.

Then a few days went by and Burgess called me up if I was available on a Skype interview the next day. Yes I was, nothing much else going on in this sleepy village. Next day came and I was standing by the window where was the best signal and waited for the Skype session to start. Then I was being informed that the Chinese yard would also pitch in the interview so that was bit of a surprise.

The interview went well in my own opinion except I was so intent in deciphering their accent so I totally forgot my face expressions and to the end I was asked if I ever smile. Thing to take note of in the future.

Some days went by again and I learned that I was runner up among 3 candidates and that I probably had the best chances of being the chose one. Well that was good news but seeing is believing. Again some time passed and finally I was offered the job to a quite mediocre rate, I decided to accept it as "better some job than no job". The mandate seemed short anyway so it looked more like a temp job than fulltime role. I was told to go to China, commission her for traffic and sail her to be displayed in Monaco yacht show for sale.

Then I flew from Italy to Greece to collect some items and subsequently I flew to Finland to apply visa as one can only apply a visa to China in the country of origin or residency. I was not resident in Greece. Spent a good week in Finland before I could collect the visa and managed to say hello to my family. Then again I flew back to Athens to prepare my luggage for the voyage and I was also informed that my Chief Stewardess will join me on the flight from Muenchen to Beijing and then Yantai.

Then came 12th June and I was on the way. Taxis were conveniently on strike in Athens so I had to manage my luggage by car to the metro line in order to get to Eleftherios Venizelos airport. Check-in and security went relatively smoothly despite it being high season and I was waiting to board my 1st leg to Muenchen.

In Muenchen I met with my Chief Stewardess Leanne, who had come from Malta, and we waited for boarding and dreaded the long-haul flight ahead of us. Incidentally I already knew her from before as I had been introduced to her at Palma yacht show earlier in the year.

Fast forward 12hrs we were landing in Beijing, collecting our luggage and going through the Chinese arrival formalities. Our body temperatures were measured as we ambled along towards Immigration and Customs. Then we had to check in our luggage again and were informed we can only check in 20kg when we had arrived with 40kg seafarers tickets. No point in arguing, they ignored us and said I could take the cabin sized luggage (full with DSLR camera lenses) with me and we would be ok. Said and done so we headed for the security and boy was that fun, had to empty basically everything in the bag in order to pass. At least we were on time to get to our last flight, Beijing -Yantai.

Flight left somewhat on time and 2hrs later we landed in Yantai, Shandong province. Our pickup was there and anticipating that after a solid 24hrs being on the road we would be taken to the hotel first to freshen up, but no, straight to the yard we went. In the yard we were faced again with security but luckily we did not have to check any luggage.

Once inside the yard we were driving towards the offices of the yacht division and we saw a yacht in one corner of the port basin that looked to be in the 40-50m bracket. We came a bit closer and saw the name and realised this is the boat but how did it look so small? Then I realized that the humongous crane almost above the yacht as well as the surrounding monstrous oil-rigs just dwarfed her so she looked like a toy-boat. Moreover the color was rust-red and she looked unpainted. Not sure what to make of it so I said nothing.

Yantai 200.000t mega crane and an oil-rig

Once in office we started meeting lot of new faces of the project and started receiving information left and right. In a few hours our brains were fried twice the size as well as we had managed a tour of the yacht with vice GM Roger. The rusty color proved to be a protective coat that would peel off when it was time. Interior was pretty much a-shambles incomplete with dozens of workers milling around.

Yacht alongside

Finally around 6pm we were carted off to Yantai city center some 10km away from the yard. We checked into Asia Hotel downtown. Downstairs in the lobby was an inviting expat bar called Chris bar, I had dinner with Leanne and then we retired to our respective rooms dogtired. My next adventure had begun...