At sea, literally…

Manchester Airport at any time isn’t pretty and two salty sea dogs (okay, one salty sea dog and me a dachshund tasting a bit briny) were sat waiting for the gate to be called. I am as yet unable to comprehend the sheep mentality of people who form an orderly but lengthy queue to board the plane and then cant wait to be off when it lands. Thankfully Shaun felt the same way and we sat until every other person had boarded then calmly handed over our boarding passes. The flight gave us chance to digest the breakfast that we had purchased and instantly regretted at the airport and after a couple of hours the Mediterranean drifted into view and we touched down in Malaga.

Its not a bad spot despite being the arrival point for the Costa del Whatever and we had a good tour of the harbour, excitedly pointing out channel markers and ships that had failed to appropriately communicate their status and intentions. This after checking into the hotel of course. We headed back to our lodgings for an early night due to the long bus ride to Gibraltar the next morning but not before taking in the delights of the roof-top spa and sauna. The chance to self-flagellate with birch branches was sadly lacking.

I’m not a fan of buses but the trip to Gibraltar was one of the better ones. A coastal route took us past the places famous from guide book including the dreaded Torremolinos and we arrived at La Linea bang on time. We took morning coffee in a cafe where a backpacker was doing likewise and eyeing us up suspiciously. As we crossed the border and once more gazed upon all things British he sidled up and queried as to whether we were also headed to the good ship Stavros S. Niarchos. We confirmed we were and Rob introduced himself to us. Although Shaun and I were split into separate watches, I had the good fortune to have Rob on my watch. Check out his pictures of the voyage here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/rob.fuller1/Stavros/

Gibraltar was very different from the one I visited a few years ago. Much building work down by the port made the place ring non-stop with hammer drills and heavy plant machinery. We spent the afternoon on board the ship undergoing instruction on climbing the rigging, how to set the sails, where to go, what to do and generally being ordered around. I was glad when we slipped out moorings in the dark dawn and headed out to sea. I woke to find The Rock receding from the stern as I helped make breakfast for the 40-odd crew.

Everything was going great until we found out the ship had a hole in it and was letting in water. We diverted to Cadiz where we had divers down to plug the hole in the prop shaft with a giant rubber band. As you do. We spent the night in Cadiz and left once the work was completed.

At this point I could give a blow by blow account of life on board a brig. Except it isn’t really all that interesting so here is a typical day instead.

0000hrs Wake for watch, gaze at stars, say wow a few times as shooting stars streak overhead
0400hrs Finish watch, go to bed
0415hrs Wake as someone starts snoring, scrabble round for earplugs, end up putting wet toilet roll in ears instead
0730hrs Wake tired and fed up as chef on tannoy announces breakfast and blasts through wierd dream about having rock band for dinner
0800hrs Happy hour – It isn’t happy and lasts over an hour. Basically cleaning things that don’t need cleaning. Mutterings about mutiny start.
1030hrs Hide in bunk, fall asleep, beautiful sleep
1200hrs Lunch, get told off about wearing hat at table, complain about being treated like a child
1230hrs Go on watch. Look for ships. See none. No hang on there’s one! No, its a coke bottle.

Taking bearings from the starboard bridge wing…

1600hrs Go to bunk exhausted from looking at big blue things like sky and sea. Realise bunk is blue. Dream of magenta
1625hrs Woken by bosun (boatswain) on tannoy explaining there will be a talk on sails in the mess in 5 minutes.
1630hrs Attend talk. Bosun awes everyone with complete knowledge of pretty much everything that has ever touched the ocean ever.
1730hrs Dinner. Late. Get told off for being late. Ask jokingly if I may use the toilet. No response.
1800hrs Read book. ‘Fatherland’ by Robert Harris. Very good.
2000hrs Go on watch. Discover radar on bridge. Play about with buttons and probably make some dolphins deaf in the process.
0000hrs. Go to bed, exhausted. Dream of standing still and not swaying about all the time like a drunk tramp in a bouncy castle.

Repeat until Gran Canaria, which will be written about later this week. Oh yes.

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