Life is full of Surprises. A delivery job has popped up, delivering a ship from Bahrain to Trieste in Italy.
As I am in the area, its an easy hop from Dammam in Saudi to Bahrain, I have accepted the job and have changed my plans for return to New Zealand.
The drive across the causeway from Saudi Arabia was a first for me. Some years back I drove from Bahrain to Saudi across the causeway, but I have never done the reverse trip.
The border crossing is an artificial island in the centre of the causeway. Entry formalities into Bahrain are simple, the friendly immigration official issued me a visa for two weeks and welcomed me into Bahrain.
I first stopped in Bahrain as a cadet when flying out to Singapore to join a ship. The airport was not much more than a hut at that time. But one thing I remember is that there was a fish tank (couldn’t call it an aquarium) in the waiting area. It was the first time I had seen tropical fish in a tank – a goldfish was exotic in England at the time.
In 1974 I visited Bahrain again and lived there occasionally when working offshore Saudi Arabia. At that time Bahrain was the jewel in the Gulf, an informal place you could relax with friendly people. We used to have a wonderful time, eating, drinking, swimming and parties, a great social life among the expat community.
Now I am struggling to find old landmarks and recognise the place. The pace of development, building and roading has masked the Bahrain of old. But, from what I have seen so far, the relaxed and informal atmosphere remains, all the people I have met seem happy and friendly.
I am now perched up fifteen floors in a new hotel overlooking the American naval Base and Harbour. Although I can’t see much detail as there is a lot of sand in the air making it hazy.
Soon I will be preparing for a new voyage ahead. Once again through pirate waters, then up the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal. The weather for the trip should be good and the Mediterranean warm and calm at this time of year. The rest of the crew should arrive in a day or two – I wonder who they are?
I am in Saudi Arabia for a short job, inspecting a couple of ships. Its quite warm and everything is covered in sand, not really my type of place but I should be able to top up the boat fund and carry on preparing for next summer.
Anyway, I went offshore yesterday and got marooned on a ship overnight. With not much to do I started flicking back on the laptop through old photos. I was surprised to see that I was in Pelican, Alaska on this date – TWO years ago!
Pelican was an interesting place, the sort of place not many people get to as it’s off the beaten track. I remember interesting and friendly people, a library with good WiFi, fresh salmon and good beer. Very enjoyable.
Flicking forward in time to one year ago I found a photo of the underside of the mast where it exits the coach roof, with bits of wood smashed up to make makeshift mast wedges. At the time I was on my way from San Francisco to Hawaii, it was a bit disconcerting when some mast wedges dropped out and creaks started emanating from the mast. I think the change of climate may have caused the wooden wedges to shrink a bit as we headed south. I was happy to have fixed the problem and arrived in Hawaii where I made a more permanent fix once in port.
This year I find myself offshore Saudi Arabia. I haven’t been in these waters since I was a young man working on a pioneering SBM project to service the super-tankers of the day. We managed to achieve amazing things with very little equipment – maybe because we didn’t understand we could fail. There are far more platforms, barges, rigs and workboats around than the old days – it’s a very busy place now.
By this evening I should be back onshore and writing up my reports. Then its back on the plane in a couple of days, back to New Zealand and the winter weather.