DIVERSION TO BAHRAIN

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.

Heading onto the Causeway. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Heading onto the Causeway. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

 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.

Approaching the Saudi Boarder Crossing. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Approaching the Saudi Boarder Crossing. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

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.

View from Hotel Bahrain.Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
View from Hotel Bahrain.Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

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?

IN SAUDI ARABIA

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!

Main Street Pelican. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Main Street Pelican. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

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.

Fresh Salmon. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Fresh Salmon. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

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.

Makeshift Mast Wedge. Sailing Yacht Truce.
Makeshift Mast Wedge. Sailing Yacht Truce.

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.

Work Barge Offshore Saudi Arabia. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce.
Work Barge Offshore Saudi Arabia. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce.

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.

WINTER SOLSTICE NEW ZEALAND

 21st June and the shortest day of the year.  Its wet and cold in Auckland and work on Truce has declined to a snail’s pace.  My casual job at Burnsco, travel for Marine Consultancy work and the short daylight hours all conspire to keep me off the boat for days at a time.

From now on the days will get longer and hopefully more productive.  I have a long list of maintenance jobs I want to complete this winter before my next summer of adventure.  The boat needs painting inside and out, the mast needs refurbishing, the rigging needs replacing and there are a thousand and one small jobs on the radar.  One of my major tasks is to skim off the top layer of the deck and apply new epoxy and glass fibre cover.

To keep the decks dry and protected I have put a plastic shrink wrap over the boat.  It cost a few hard-earned dollars but is a lower cost option than hauling out into a shed and allows me to work on the boat at the dock.

Inside Shrink Wrap. Photo, Ray Penson
Inside Shrink Wrap. Photo, Ray Penson

Boat Cover and Access Door. Truce.nz
Boat Cover and Access Door. Truce.nz

So far this winter I have refurbished the toilet area or head to give the correct nautical description.  Everything looks nice and clean with crispy new white paint and sanitation pump.  I am also in the process of painting the inside of various lockers and cupboards, a very time consuming, messy and convoluted process.  A small leak in the filler hose for the Dickenson cabin heater had caused the outside of the ply tank to become saturated with diesel.  I will replace the old tank with a new aluminium one and the previous lingering diesel odour in the wardrobe will be no more.

Refurbished Head. Truce.nz
Refurbished Head. Truce.nz

 Next week I will be travelling to Saudi Arabia for a short job, it should be quite warm and put some heat into my old bones.

 After that I am looking forward to getting stuck into the refurbishment and planning for the next seasons trip to the South of New Zealand.  At the moment my idea is to sail up the East Coast and around North Cape before heading down the West Coast to Golden Bay.  From there to Fiordland and Stewart Island before returning up the East Coast to Auckland.  My plans are pretty sketchy at this stage but one thing I don’t want to happen is to have any deadlines or schedules – just go with the flow.