The boat is slowly starting to come together properly: The generator that runs the twin electric engines is almost in good shape, needing only slight wiring modifications and a commutator swap; the standing rigging has all been inspected and the turn buckles refurbished; and the outboard engine, which we will need in order to maintain the proper speed through the Suez Canal, is being awoken from its days of storage. The food has also been excellent. Sasi is an excellent cook, preparing traditional Indian fare with whatever we can get. Today for lunch we had curried fish and mackerel, which was caught fresh in front of our boat. At first this change of palate was unsettling, but I am growing accustomed to this food. I don’t foresee enjoying pickled mangos anytime in the near future, but the rest of the stuff is pretty good.
We have had some problems with crew for the ship, which we have all but resolved. Two Indians were supposed to join us for the Red Sea transit, but both have backed out. One reneged because he had to take care of his ailing father, and the other was scared of pirates and did not think that it would be responsible. Wimp. The EU and US have both put ships in the area, and an Indian warship will be in the area as well. Besides, holding the lowly crew of Eldemer hostage could only potentially net a guffaw and some wampum. On the plus side, we have received word that the Indian Navy will be sending a Lieutenant Commander to do some sea training on board for a number of months, and we have also convinced another to join us. Now dear readers, please take to your seats, because with some of you the much despised by me phrase “Oh, it’s such a smaaaall world!!” may pop into your head. Please, spare me the shit.
The mystery member of the crew goes by the moniker “Paul” and is a Canadian sailor who has been circumnavigating with his wife for some time. They currently reside in Colburn on Great Lake Erie, and Paul teaches basic keelboat courses in the summertime, as I myself have been known to do. He also sits on the board of the Toronto Sailtraining Association (or something like that), which operates two Tall Ships on Lakes Ontario and Erie, one of which is called the Pathfinder. STV Pathfinder stopped in Erie this summer, and I had the pleasure of helping the Captain forge a number of belaying pins by skillfully combining shovel handles with dowel rods. Such seaworthy, skillful workmanship has not been seen since, I would assume, the invention of the wood lathe some several thousand years ago. Anyways, my improvisational skills aside, Paul will be a great temporary addition to the crew, as all Lake Erie sailors are predestined to be. He will depart us somewhere in the Med, which he had planned on transiting in his boat before his engine tragically decided to disassemble itself from the inside out, resulting in the need for a large scale rebuild. In the mean time, his wife decided that she has had enough of the cruising life, so Paul is leaving his boat here, to return later and sail his boat to Thailand. (The soon to be NE monsoon would be highly prohibitive of such a voyage at this time.)
On a more somber note, I have recently been exposed as a diesel fuel smuggler and threatened with imprisonment, heft fines, and having to listen to Arabic music all day. Not that the music is tragically horrible, some of it is quite nice. For about five minutes, ten max. Then the foreign keys start to get to you, and the unceasing singing makes the situation no better. Returning to the story, I was helping a South African fellow fill up some jerry cans for his boat, because the man at the port (There are no women here. At all. Period.) quoted us at something around three times the price that you can get at the gas stations. Having read that it is acceptable to transport small (400 liters) of fuel in this manner, I proceeded to take ten of his cans and return through the main gate with 200 L of diesel. As we were loading the fuel into the dinghy and John, the South African, was motoring off, a tall man in the traditional white robes and cap (think Laurence of Arabia) started taking pictures of both of us and proclaiming that “This is Shit! I am going to the police and they will come and arrest you and you will be in trouble, he (John) will be in trouble, the boat you are on (Rad’s) will be in trouble, and whoever rented you the car (Mohammed the Prophet...I mean port agent, who has helped us tremendously with all of our problems) will be in trouble!!” He was pissed, and no amount of explanation and pleading of my ignorance would console him. Turns out, that this is the guy that was supposed to supply the fuel for his wonderfully low prices, and by bypassing him we had stripped him of his commission and such. Figures, he was just some greedy asshole trying to make a quick buck by conning the white guys. We eventually talked him down by promising that he could supply the remaining 200 L of needed fuel, and he left after explaining the hurt that he as an Omani citizen could not bring diesel through the main gate, but we just did, and by explaining the reasoning behind this law. Apparently, some boats were found to be supplying a group of Somali pirates with fuel…
Anywho, we asked around the next morning, contacted the Port Captain, Customs & Immigration, the Police and the gate guards, all of whom assured us that we could bring the fuel in. So we did. Oh, and I almost hit a camel driving to the gas station the previous night. The buggers blend in well with a desert backdrop, and their ergonomical shape hides their profile at night. But, come to think of it, most things are difficult if not impossible to see at night until they suddenly appear in your headlights.
Till next time. Pictures will be forthcoming, as soon as I start taking them.