Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Voyage: Sunday November 22

Position: 26°23'43.02"N 39°25'20.73"W

The clocks went back another hour. We are now at GMT-3. One more hour and we are on Guadeloupe time. I might have forgotten to mention that due to the delay we are not going to Martinique. If we did, we'd miss our flight home. Our ETA for Guadeloupe is Tuesday 5am, and our flight home is Wednesday 5pm.

Today is barbecue day. Everyone on board has mentioned this barbecue ever since we boarded. They always have a barbecue on a Sunday at sea, and it feels like it is very important. We've mainly been excited about it because it gives us an opportunity to meet everyone on board. That hasn't happened so far because we have our own dining room which is connected to the officer's mess. The crew eats in their own mess at the other side of the kitchen. Each three of these groups also all have their own Recreation Room.
So even though we've bumped into most of the crew on our journeys to the bow or to the mess, we haven't actually met them properly. There are 25 people on board, plus 10 passengers.
The other two passengers are Marie-Louise, an archeologist from Paris, and Marthe, a civil servant from Martinique.

When I woke up I went outside to check the weather (warmer again) and found the pool was filled. The water was sloshing around quite a lot - along with the rolling of the boat. They fill the pool with sea water, which worried Kieran a bit at first.

Since today was barbecue day, we declared it official Sunday. A day off.
So we lounged around in the deck chairs and had apéritif at 11.30. This is a French ship, which means we are on French 'soil'. So we should adjust to the French way of living.

While we drink our apéritif, Speedy and Mario are getting things ready for the barbecue. Table cloths, disposable tableware, bin bags and alcohol.

Speedy: the silver headband is not part of his usual outfit


At noon the fire is lit and people are gradually appearing on what has been our deck for the past week. It feels as if we have guests and this is our party.

Alex, Adrian (bridge officer) and Kjell

Over the past week a few of the men (and women) on board have asked us if we'd be playing music at the barbecue. Of course we would. We started with the song Tom brought, Santiano. Tom sings it in Czech, so we only sing 'Yo-ho-ho' and 'Santiano'. But one verse in, we saw Xavier (the chef) was singing along in French, and soon after the rest of the French joined in.

Xavier - the chef

Guilhem (second captain/first officer) and Adrian (officer)

As we are playing, the captain sends one of the cadets for more rum. I guess that means he wants the music to carry on.

The captain (Yannick)

Liz - sailor (?)

Dumitru - engineer (he sang us a Rumanian song)

Doru - second helmsman (he told us about the Panama canal)

François - second engineer

David and Margit - sailors (?)

After a while the grilling starts: it's a DIY barbecue, everyone grills their own meat, so we're all gathered around the fire.

As I'm keeping an eye on a skewer full of beef, I see Tom on the ladder into the pool. I also see a can of beer floating in the water. The captain is standing on the side encouraging Tom. Tom jumps in, rescues the beer, and hands it over to the captain, splashing water everywhere as he does it.

In the middle of all of this, Virginie (one of the officers), came to ask me if it was ok if the officers came to visit us in our living room in the evening, after dinner. I said of course it is, and then she went on to explain that that was our space, and they had to ask permission to come in there.

Kjell and Alex told me they'd been asked as well. And as I was having lunch sitting next to the captain, I heard Delphine (the chief engineer) tell him it was all arranged and they could come and visit us at 8pm.

Virginie told me how much she enjoyed the atmosphere we brought to the barbecue, that normally people disappear to their cabins immediately after lunch, but now they lingered and stayed and everyone had a great time. She said it was the first time they had a group like us on board, and that they really enjoyed it.

After lunch we played some more music and gradually people went back to their jobs or their cabins (the guys who work shifts need to sleep in the afternoon).

Adrian is on the 8-12 shift (am and pm), Guilhem mans the bridge from 4-8 (am and pm)

Kjell, Margit and I went to the bow to wait for the sunset and watch the flying fish. We were hoping for dolphins, but no such luck. Lots of flying fish though. We tried to work out why they fly. As we couldn't get online to find out, all of our fantastical theories were possible, especially as none of us knew the right answer. Sometimes not knowing is a lot more fun.

The trip to the bow

This particular flying fish is actually a bird, but finding a bird so far away from land makes it as big a freak as the flying fish are.

These ones are really flying fishes, but they're quite fast, so the pictures are slightly blurry.

The bow of the ship is an amazing place. It's far enough from the engine not to hear it, so all you hear is the wind, and if you turn your head the right way so the wind doesn't get into your ears, it's very very quiet. Almost like flying over the water.

After dinner we waited in our living room for the officers to come up. None of us knew what to expect. We'd noticed that they'd all changed into their uniforms for dinner, so we wondered if we should/could dress up. We also wondered if or what we should/could serve them.
At 8.30pm Virginie and the two cadets came up to ask us when they could come. I was a bit confused and said now. They said they'd be there in 15 minutes.
The ship is a very small community, but apparently it comes with a lot of protocol.
At 9pm they all arrived, carrying a lot of beer. At first it was slightly awkward, but as soon as we moved outside and played more music, everyone relaxed.

We all had separate conversations with different officers, and heard a lot of stories.
By now the rolling had eased off, and Tom was very keen on stopping the boat and jumping into the sea. He tried to convince the captain to stop the boat. Relentlessly. The captain played along, but refused every time. He finished by saying there were too many sharks to swim in the sea. He also said that in his 20 year long career, he'd only stopped the boat in order to swim twice.

François told us how on one of his previous journeys, he'd found an empty sailboat in the middle of the Atlantic. They stopped and two men when on board to have a closer look and take the paperwork. They reported it to the authorities and then continued the journey, leaving the empty ship behind in the middle of the ocean.
It was very similar to one of the stories we'd shared a few days earlier.

After the officers had left, our guys went for a late night swim. Tom jumped into the pool fully dressed, something he'd always wanted to do.


Alex said...

Elke - I love your blog

New International Encounter said...

thank you. i will try to finish it today. there are too many stories to tell...