Thursday, December 27, 2007

One Love & El Nino

Location - Peru Coast, Pacific - 11 21 S, 079 38 W

The last time I was in this area, in September end, I had written a post about the El Nino current . To refresh the info, the El Nino current is a current that has started flowing only over the last few years and is a southward warm current that overpowers the cold northward current that stays here the rest of the year.

Its called El Nino, because it occurs around the last week of December and when it does flow, it brings in huge amount of fish for the fishermen. El Nino translates as "Baby Jesus".

By some cosmic coincidence I find myself in the same location at Christmas. I am happy to say that the El Nino is not flowing this year. I can report that the current is still northerly, but at a much lower rate. For my part in the fight against global warming, I have switched off the Air con of the vessel for the last two days.

The picture above is of the fishing vessel "One Love" in the small city of Lome in the small country of Togo in the huge and fascinating continent of Africa. Its a beautiful name and I hope they catch a lot of fish.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Equator crossing

Location - Coasting Ecuador, Pacific - 00 08 S, 081 10 W

We crossed the Equator a little before noon today. At the Equator, one minute of Latitute equals one nautical mile. So as you can see from the position, I an currently eight miles south of the big line already.

For those who have read the novel by Roald Dahl, The BFG (big friendly Gaint) tells Sophie that he always likes to go south because its feels like going down hill. I feel much the same way! :)

The picture above is of a cruise ship taken from the Mambo beach of Curacao in the evening. As this is the peak tourist season there, Cruise ships come practically everyday, spending the day at port and nights at sea, hopping from one Island to the
other like sunbirds.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Old Lome Port

Location - West Coast Africa

This is all that remains of the Old Lome Port these days. Lome still isn't that big a port. It would probably be as big as Ballard Pier in Mumbai. The only real traffic in Lome is of the container ships, which come here in surprisingly large numbers.
As the chap driving me along explained, the main export here is timber that is stuffed in containers.

As he explained, these people cut trees & mint gold. He looked accusingly at me and said " And you know what, all these people, they are Indians?"

Hey if I'm to take collective responsibility, let me have some money too!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lome & the whales

Location - West Coast Africa

This is a picture of whale splashing away just 30 meters from my ship. We were anchored off Lome when a pair of whales came out way and started jumping (atleast they tried) and generally splashed around.

Till my final days I shall regret not having my usual camera and having to shoot with this one.

It was an amazing moment & I gave up trying to shoot it through this camera and simply enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Panama - The dartboard

Location - West Coast Africa

The last few days were busy in port and am just getting past all that paperwork, so let me show you a sight we see in the Panama at the locks. For passing lines to the ships, you have thin lines (8mm Polyproplene) with a weighed end that needs to be thrown to the shore or the ship by which you can pass the remaining lines. The line throwers in Panama actually have tournaments and this is the board on which it is held. You throw the line through the bulls eye, and also over the top pole.

I have thrown lines across many railings towards many ports and Let me assure you that its an art that I doubt I'll ever acquire!

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Pictures above is the sort of fishing boat that is common in these parts. The masts are based on hinges and the sails are fixed to the mast. As a result, unlike the sailing boats that you might be familiar with, here the sails don't go up & down, the
whole mast is put up or collapsed when wind has to be utilised.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Finland Ships

Location - West Coast Africa

Have been at the anchorage for the last few days and with things a bit hectic haven't shown up here. Since the fish series has had a break due to cartoons and cartoons got interrupted by Ship work, it seems only fair to put up some posts about Ships.

This is a stamp form Finland on the older ships. The stamp itself is a beautiful one and the sketch in Sepia tones does give it a very nice look. I will need to do a bit of googling to find out any history about the featured ship, but I can try to give
you a few basics.

The ship is Named SS Express. The Prefix SS in front of the name indicates "Steam Ship". Other prefixes might be "SV - Sailing Vessel", "MV- Motor Vessel", etc. I am myself sailing in a "MT - Motor Tanker".

The SS Express is thus a steam powered vessel most likely sailing around the 1915's by the look of it and is the type of vessel that used to carry everything from coal to livestock to Passengers.

Another thing noteworthy about this picture is that the Express is breaking ice in front of her. This is typically the sort of ice that only a Ice breaker usually breaks. The Artist seems to have taken some liberties and shown Express ploughing through
the thick ice in what looks like speeds in excess of 10 knots.

But these were obviously times when we were pushing the envelopes in everything so it might very well have been the case. These days for a vessel to be anywhere near Ice of this thickness, the vessel should have an "Ice Notation" from a classification
society. Among other things, this means that your forward shell plating is made much thicker then it would otherwise be. And with that think plating and stronger engines, you are still required to slowly follow the broken ice behind the speed breaker
at a speed fast enough that the Ice doesn't freeze back, and slow enough that you don't walk into the Ice Breakers Stern!

Monday, November 19, 2007


Location : At Anchor, African west Coast

We are at anchor waiting for our berth & there is nothing to see. The capital of the country looks from this place like a desolate township near the bus stop on a highway. Well we are anchored about 10 miles from the coast, so hopefull that might
explain it.

Seeing nothing brings me to this snap of a Submarine that passed us by in the Panama Canal. The submarine is of the Columbian navy and as the pilot described it, is "engaged in the war on drugs".

Interesting fact - Under the UNCLOS treaty, a distance of 12 miles from the coast baseline is considered as territorial waters of the country. A forign naval vessel can enter the territorial waters of another country under something called "Right of
innocent passage". A submarine going submerged or a ship operating an aircraft is not innocent under law.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Location - Anchorage , West Coast Africa

Yesterday, I had put up a post on my philatelic blog about Whales from Estonia. Today, by some strange coincidence we spotted dozens of Whales all around the ship. It was an awesome sight, and I truly missed my old camera with 10X zoom.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tribal Beauty

This is Puja's latest painting. Its inspired by one of M F Husains painting & we call it "Tribal beauty".

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Location - The Atlantic - 05 36 N, 020 30 W

We have been in the Atlantic for some time now and so I think it's apt to put a post about a chap who did it much before me. Columbus sailed out of Spain and crossed the whole of the Atlantic a long time back. The picture above is of the built to scale models of the ships that Columbus used to cross the Ocean with. I'm not sure if I told you about these before, but these ships are at the Corpus Christi Museum on the south end of the Corpus Christi inner harbor Bridge, opposite the State Aquarium.

My knowledge, is limited at the best of time, but If I remember, Columbus left Italy with a convoy of three ships & at least one of them was named "Santa Maria". I could spot only two ships put up for display there.

Whatever the case might be, to travel halfway across the globe, when everyone else thought you to be crazy, I guess you had to be a bit crazy. Here's to the craziness in all of us!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Curacao Waterfront

Location : The Atlantic - 07 34 N, 033 50 W

A few days back I had shown you a night snap of the curacao waterfront as seen from the floating bridge. This is a picture of the same area as taken in the day. Thought I'd put this up because I was posting a stamp on my philately blog which has an illustration with the same style of the buildings as can be seen in the background.

BTW, as Willemstad is a commercial harbour, under the local laws, even small vessels such as this in the picture have to enter with a pilot on board. If a sailing boat skipper does not wish to pay pilotage simply to complete immigration formalities at
the Custom house (about half a mile up the channel), then s/he has the option to drop anchor in the Spanish Bay about 10 miles up the coast and then catch a taxi to the custom house.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kavo Topaz

Location - The Atlantic - 08 13 N, 038 25 W

Today was Diwali back home & we had a small meeting down below. Just wanted to drop by and let you see this picture of the Kavo Topaz shot at Gatun Lake in Panama. She is a beautiful ship & this always is one of the best profiles to take a picture of a ship from.

The Kavo Topaz is a Panamax gearless bulk carrier & by the looks of it has not been out of the yard for more than a couple of years. Ships such as these are a pleasure to sail on.

Happy Diwali to all you good people out there.

Friday, November 09, 2007

USNS Pililaau

Location - The Atlantic - 09 21 N, 045 57 W

I like pictures like this one taken in Corpus Christi, because they show so much of what happens in that area. In this picture, we can see a tug tied up with the ship as it goes along the narrow parts of the channel. Up ahead is a lift bridge below which we can see a barge coming down and another tug going up the channel. On the north side of the channel, moored alongside is the USNS Pililaau.

As I came to know recently, "USNS" vessels, like any vessel prefixed by the "USS" are also controlled by the US Navy, but are manned by civilians from the merchant Navy. These ships though painted in the naval colors are cargo ships and carry vehicle and supply for the naval force.

BTW, its Diwali in India today, so Happy Diwali to all you folks out there.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Location : Atlantic - 10 00 N, 050 36 W

Puja has come out with another reproduction that we call "the flowers". Currently she is working on an painting of M F Hussain.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Curacao - waterfront

Location : Off Tobago : 11 27 N, 060 14 W

Am off the Island of Tobago right now. Now we leave the confined waters of the caribbean and step out into the huge Atlantic Ocean. Before we step out of the Carrib, let me part with a snap of probably the most popular place in Curacao, the waterfront.
The Waterfront in Curacao is not really the sea front, but the narrow channel leading from the sea to the Willemstad harbor. across the narrow channel, they have built a bridge that floats on pontoons and is imaginatively called the "Floating bridge".
The above picture is taken from the bridge at night and shows the building in all their splendid colors & dutch design. during the day, the Restaurants set up tables along the water and you get to enjoy the best that the Caribbean has to offer for 3.99
a glass of Baccardi cocktails.

BTW, a point of interest, the route from Curacao to the present position off Tobago, brought me off the Island of Tortuga yesterday evening. The kind reader may remember it as a pirate stronghold in the motion picture "Pirates of the Caribbeans" where
everyone keeps fighting with each other & women strangely keep slapping all men in sight.

Avast Me hearties! Arrr!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Isla Refinery , Willemstad - Curacao

Location : 2 Miles off Curacao - 12 03 N, 068 54 W

Before I begin, a disclaimer. The following has been told to me by the people attending the vessel such as the pilots and the agents so it might actually be the truth. I will need to verify the facts once I get down, but till then, here's the story as I heard it:-

I am right now a couple of miles from the Island of Curacao, fueling up for the long voyage up to the West coast of Africa & the place looks as beautiful as I remember it. The sun is out & the Island looks every bit as inciting as it is made out to be
by the tourist broucher.

But the last time I was in Curacao, I saw the most distressing sight to be seen in a tourist hot spot. Right in the middle of the Willemstad Bay, at any time of the day, you can see a huge oil slick floating around for all to see. This was explained to
me by a story that does not seem so shocking these days.

The Island of Curacao really gained any prominence only in the second world war, when the allies installed big storage tanks in the Bay Of Willemstad and used it as a fueling depot. For people who haven't been to Willemstad, its a natural deep water
cove, that can be approached only from a narrow entrance & surrounded on all sides by cliffs. It must have been a great safe haven in the war. So once the tanks have been set up in the war, The Shell oil & Gas company stepped in and set up a refinery
in the place and operated the place from the forties to the mid eighties. Now here's the shocker - The oil tanks in the refinery did not have any oil retaining bottom. What that meant was that as you pumped in oil in those tanks, the oil would simply
seep into the ground. They weren't bothered about that, firstly, because the oil quantity seeping in was considered too less to actually install bottoms to be cost effective & secondly, oil had after all come out from the ground so there couldn't be
much wrong if a bit of it went back.

As this went on for about fifty years, Shell found out in the seventies that the whole refinery was sitting on so much oily mud that it had actually started seeping out of the mud of the Island.

In the picture above, you can see the oil in the water, and on the shore you can see a trench. The Islanders have now dug trenches right around the refinery's premises & what happens is that a lot of oil gets accumulated in these trenches throughout the
night and is then sucked out by tankers that take rounds in the mornings. I think in the next hundred years the oil should have pretty much seeped out totally to not be considered a hazard.

In the meanwhile, to avoid any action, Shell sold the Isla refinery to the Netherland Antilles government for one dollar.

The finger insect at Curacao

Location - The Caribbean - 12 43 N, 070 49 W

I agree that on the face of it, close up images of an insect do seem strange on a blog focused on sea life, but we are reaching Curacao tomorrow for supplies & the last time I was there, this very strange fellow dropped by the ship. I am very surprised that this species have not become extinct till now, simply because it spent almost nine minutes out of ten on its back wriggling its legs. I infact had to flip it over so that it could give me a couple of profile shots. After obliging me, he promptly flipped over & began the leg wriggling. It might be that this is some arcane insectile mating ritual, but I doubt it.

The curious thing about it though is that when yo look at it, it looks astonishingly like a thumb or a finger. Sort of like doing a cut-thumb trick and then the thumb sprouts legs and starts crawling around. Creepy!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

USS Lexington

Location - The Caribbean - 15 50 N, 077 37 W

As you come out under the Corpus Christi inner harbour bridge, you'll find the USS Lexington on your port side, moored to a jetty next to the Texas State Aquarium. The Lady Lex (as she is popularly known) has been decommissioned for some time now & has been converted to a Museum. I had gone on it the last time I had come to Corpus & it has a great flight simulator where you get to see an actual flight mission in Iraq & then get close to planes lined up on the main deck.

This time we saw the aquarium, but gave a pass to the Lex.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Copus Christi Inner Harbor bridge

Location - Yucatan Channel - 22 07 N,085 54 W

This is the Corpus Christi inner harbour bridge & if you look a few post back to the bridge of the Americas, you'll realise that it bears a striking resemblance to the bridge of the Americas in Panama. I'm not sure which bridge was inspired by whom , but surely it's more then a plain coincidence.

As we had come to the port at night, this is the snap of us going out. On the left of the bridge is the Texas State Aquarium, where we went and saw a nice dolphin show. On the right of the bridge is a Museum (I think of fine arts. Which we did not go to. I think our priorities are very clear. :)

Though the bridge might look like the Bridge of the Americas it is no where near in size. The bridge has a horizontal span of 300 Feet and a vertical span of 138 feet. When we came in, we had an air draft of 132 feet and as we passed under the bridge,I was convinced that I had come out on the other side minus a radar antennae.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Corpus Christi - Texas

Location : Gulf Of Mexico - 24 06 N, 089 26 W,

I have been off the blog for the last few days and the reason for that was that we were in the port of Corpus Christi, Texas. Though its not a port you hear of often, it did rank as the sixth busiest port in USA. As the outbound pilot explained to me,
the ranking is done on the basis of the deadweight handled by the port. Corpus christi, with more then 42 feet of water is one of the deepest ports in the US and thus handles bigger ships and so manages to climb up on the charts.

But regardless of the number of ships that the port might handle, my berth could not have handled too many ships. It took us almost five days to load a cargo of about 37,000 MT. The picture above shows the jettey where we were tied up for the duration of the stay.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Arrived Texas

Location : At Anchor off Galveston

We came in and dropped anchor off the coast and I must offer my condolences to all Texans. This coastline is some of the most unexciting coastline in the whole of the US. I have been up and down the coast of this magnificent country many times, and the
Texas coastline always seems to me, the most boring part of the country.

And coming from a place like Panama, it really looks fore lone and barren. The only thing visible are some smoke stacks of a few refineries & a few people out fishing in small dinghies on a weekend.

More in an effort to cheer myself, I'll show you what I was seeing four days back. As the moisture laden wind rises just a hundred feet, you could literally see the clouds being formed out in Panama.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Location : Gulf of Mexico - 24 50 N , 090 46 W

People do ask me if I don't get bored looking out the at sea for months & months. Its hard to explain that the sea never looks the same even during the same day. The other day, I woke up & opened the curtains of my porthole to look at this.

Even after so many years, some of the sights that the sea throws my way are still breathtaking.

Friday, October 19, 2007

twenty one hotel

Location: Gulf of Mexico : 22 25 N, 086 19 W

I think I mentioned that each ship transiting the canal is given a number for that day. All ships going south bound (from the Atlantic to the pacific) are given even numbers. When we were going to Chile, we were "Eight". If for some reason you get
stuck in the middle of the canal, the next day, to avoid any confusion, you are called "Eight Alpha". The last time we crossed, we had to anchor in the Gatun lake for two days. That got us the exalted title of "Eight Alpha Alpha".

The day before we were "Twenty one".

The flags in the picture are the numeral pendants "Two" & "One". The bottom most flag is the Hotel flag I had spoken about earlier that signifies that the Pilot is on board the vessel.

Northbound vessels that are delayed are called "Bravo"'s.

By the sea

Location : Carribian - 20 19 N, 083 59 W

This is the latest work by Puja & its called by the sea. This was the biggest canvas that she had attempted. She has now picked up a pretty challanging painting & I think it'll keep her busy for the better part of a week & half.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Panama City

Location : The Carribians - 18 19 N, 081 49 W

We crossed the Canal yesterday & are now on the way to Texas.

Pictured above is the Panama City outline as seen from the Pacific anchorage. It seems to be huge city, but I'm informed that it is pretty much the only city in the whole nation.

This is pretty much the way we see you from our ships. :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Clouds of Panama

Panama - Pacific Anchorage

The clouds were out in full force yesterday. There is hardly any wind out here & the clouds lazily sweep the countryside & the sea, with heavy rain. The Mountains themselves look a little small infront of the clouds. Comparing the ships to the clouds
seems a far stretch indeed.


Location : Pacific Anchorage, Panama

Today finds me again at Panama. We came into the Pacific anchorage & have dropped anchor about two miles from the sea Buoy. The place remains beautiful as ever with clouds hugging the hills & the rain coming & going.

Pictured above is not the anchorage, but a picture from the Gatun Lake. The red tanker is a product tanker from the Aurora lines. to the right of the tanker, you can see the Gatun Dam in the background. That is the dam holding all the water of the
Panama Canal. & to the very right of the picture is one of the Maersk line ships.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Peru Coast - 07 20 S, 080 50 W

The spring is starting in Chile right now & the flowers are blossoming everywhere on the countryside.

As I was going along the sea coast, the person kind enough to give me a ride to the town was explaining that the cold current along the chile coast caused a fog in the mornings. In the north of Chile, where it was desert & absolutely barren, this fog
was enough for the flowers. As per him, if you went to the northern deserts in the month of Oct, you would find a blanket of flowers over the sand dunes as far as you could see.

An amazing sight that must be. :)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tectonic plates & Geostacy

Location: Peru Coast - 13 07 S, 078 53 W

Today lets leave the mundane topics of the Sea & talk about interesting things such as Tectonic plate movements. The "Tectonic plate theory" is a generally well accepted theory these days. What that means, is that enough people oppose the theory so
that no one dares to call it the "Tectonic plate fact". :)

In basic terms what it implies is that the Earths core is made of molten magma & the continents are in effect floating pieces of solids. Much like wood floating on water. The Theory of Geostacy proposes that like the wood or ship floating on the water,
the continents float with respect to their weight. If you add more weight to them, they will sink & if you remove weight from them, they will rise. A great example of this are the poles. It is estimated that due to the melting of the Ice caps, so much
weight will be released from the landmass that the whole continent will life up by many centimeters. This is known as Geostacy. So if you thought that the rivers would eventually level the continents to the sea, you're mistaken. The continents will
simply rise up every time the river cuts it down.

Much like the floating pieces of wood in a pond, the tectonic plates are also in motion. And as these plates meet, some of the most exciting things in geology take place. The fact that these "most interesting things" take a million years to show any
effect at all, should not dissuade young readers from the inclination to take up geology.

There are two things that happen when the plates meet. Either they both buckle & go up & form mountains such as the Himalayas, or they go down. This is where we come to Chile & Peru. Out here, on the west coast of America, you have the two plates
moving towards each other and they actually go down. This is the reason why just about 30 miles of the coast of South america, you can find depths as much as 8000 meters. Practically speaking, its as close to a straight drop as can be found anywhere on
Earth. It also means that if you come to chile & drop your key on a fishing trip, you better break your hotel door.

But something interesting happens when these two plates go down. Subjected to the immense pressures as the they go down, they actually turn into magma (liquid rock) & then finding fissures in the South American continental crust, come up in huge
gushing volcanoes. This is the reason why just fifty miles inland on the west coast of South America you find great many mountains & active volcanoes.

I had taken the picture above standing on a sea side road close to a town called Vina Del Mar. You can see the mountains in the background which must be hardly 30 miles away. And thirty miles on the other side, you have some of the deepest parts of the

These are great areas to be around if you like these sorts of things. And if you keep dropping stuff all the time, then you're better off at home.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Still life

Location :- Peru Coast 18 24 S, 077 02 W

This is the latest of Puja's paintings and I think its simply great.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Far far away

Location : Chile coast - 27 26 S / 073 43 W

Puja , being the prodigious painter that she is, has now completed three paintings. The first one that I showed you, was actually her second painting. This is actually her first painting. It's titled "far far away".

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Location : Valparaiso, Chile

This is a beautiful Country. Everyone on the streets is kissing one another & gorping one another. Apart from that the country side is nice too. This is the view from the jetty on which our ship is tied up. It is a beautiful beach and once the sun is
up, you can see people soaking in the sun. The temperatures here are pretty low & once the sun comes up, everyone is out on the beach. People drive beach bikes & horses on the sand & you even see people surf boarding on the waves once they pick up a
bit in the afternoons.

There are of course women in bikini as well & I'm afraid that my duty officers might actually have their binoculars trained somewhere other then on the ships deck. I wish people would be more disciplined these days & simply go and take pictures of the
beach to blow up & see on their computers.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Panama Birds

Location - Chile

Well we arrived at Chile and things are a bit hectic. Just wanted to leave you with a picture of a bird from Panama. In the docks, an extensive grid of Cameras is used to monitor all happenings. These cameras also provide a useful perch for the local
birds to sit & spot out their next meal. In my transit, I often saw different birds use this camera for sitting purposes when they could have sat anywhere nearby.

Something to do with an birds eyeview I guess. :)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Shadows by Puja

Location - Chile Coast 29 00 S, 073 05 W

Puja has brought along her painting kit with her & was busy the last few days with the Oil paints. Presented above is her first effort at a nude.

We call it Shadows. :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Leading lights & channel Navigation

Location :Chile Coast - 27 48 S, 073 34 W

I wanted to talk about the navigation in confined waters today. Navigation by itself is a very tricky thing. The basic purpose of Navigation to find out "where you are" & as a derivative second step, "where you are going". In the open sea, the beauty of Navigation as an art worked upon over the thousands of years becomes highlighted. To me, there are few things more beautiful then the act of setting down in paper, your position within a mile on the chart, using a star many many light years away.

But lets discuss ocean navigation some other time. Today as the topic suggests, we shall deal with Inland navigation. One might reason that with a sign board every 50 meters, it would be easy to figure out where you are. And I would have to agree. Inland navigation is not really about "Where you are going", but about "How you are getting there safely". Due to the restricted waters of Canals & channels, it becomes critical to keep ships in very predefined routes & ensure that they don't go off the axis by more then a few meters. When you are dealing with ships around 200 meters in length displacing more then 50,000 MT of water, this calls for some expert handling & all the help that you can get.

Navigation in inland waters is usually done in Rivers and channels. The easiest way to mark these is by the placing of Buoys. I think I had spoken about the IALA buoyage system some posts back. In the Panama canal, if you are on the southbound transit , you keep the Green buoys to your Port.In the picture above you can see the canal marked by Buoys. This is a fairly typical layout of the canal & there are an amazing number of bouys per mile in the Panama Canal. At night, a straight stretch of the Canal actually reminds you of a runway lit up at night with the landing lights.

Apart from the Buoys, another Navigational aid of much importance, especially when the channel is not very well marked, is the use of the Leading lights. These lights are shown in the second picture as I'm not sure you can see them well in the first.
Simply said, if these lights are in a straight line when you see them from the bridge, it would mean that you are in the middle of the Channel. If they are not aligned, you simply apply set in the appropriate direction till you come back to the middle of the channel. In the picture above, you can see that I am a little to the starboard of the centreline, but that was because we were making way for the other vessel in the picture to pass by.

unlike Aeroplanes, only one ship at a time can remain in the middle of the channel. :)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Comment on the comments

Location : Chile Coast -20 34 S, 076 14 W

Just wanted to come by & say that even though I can't comment on the comments page because I'm not connected, I do read them & appreciate them. Thanks for the comment Mieke on the seagulls. I might just take a picture of the port fwd deck that these
little buggers have decorated with their poop. I fail to understand how these chaps can eat so much. I am afraid I belong to those few who have not read J Seagull. It is on my "to do" list and I promise that I will get around to it.

And thanks to Anon who pointed out that the white buildings in the pictures of the Panama locks are actually the control towers from which they operate the lock gates & the valves. The beauty of the Panama canal locks is that there are no pumps
involved. The lake (and the full Panama Canal) is above sea level. So what happens when the ship comes in the lower lock is that the valves between the two locks are opened & the water simply flows down with the force of Gravity. It is a beautiful
system & apparently the valves & the lock gates are the same as were in operation way back in 1913.

The down side of this method of operation is that everytime a ship comes up & then goes down from the Panama Canal, freshwater is lost out into the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean. The water is regained by rainfall. In the ongoing expansion of the Canal,
they are planning on building bigger locks that will actually use less water. They plan on doing this by using some reserve pools. Plus they will be increasing the height of the Gatun lake by a few feet. But not everyone is happy about it & I'll have
to do a bit of reading up on the modalities of it when I get back.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Miraflores Locks - Panama

Location : Chile Coast - 18 45 S, 076 54 W

The picture above is one of the classic shot of the Panama canal. A gem of a shot if I might be allowed a little modesty.

Let me explain. Of the three lock gates of Gatun, Perdo Miguel & Miraflores, it is the Miraflores that is the most famous. This is simply because it is the closest to Panama city, & so has a big tourist centre. Hence, if a chap staggers over to you in
a pub on Grant road at noon (Lets skip what you were doing there for the time being) and claims to have visited the Panama Canal, he is in most probability, talking of the Miraflores.

Of the Miraflores, the White Building featured above is the most famous landmark. It stands, as it stood way back in 1913 when the canal opened up & no one is quite sure what it is used for these days. If you zoom into this low resolution picture, you
might just make out the writing on the wall "Miraflores Locks 1913"

So the picture has the following going for it:
01. The Miraflores locks
02. The Building of the locks
03. A great profile of the Locomotive - The work horses of Panama
04. A container ship inside the adjacent lock.
05. A view of the entire lock & the lock gate on the right.

Yes.An absolute classic. Now if only that funnel of mine has stayed out of the way...

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Location : Peru Coast

Yeasterday morning as I opened the blinds to the portholes, saw a huge school of Dolphins racing with the ship. Watching dolphins is one of the rare pleasures on the ship & I have rarely heard of anyone disagreeing with that. These particular dolphins
were in a particularly palyful mood & they would jump along the vessel or ahead of the bow & then criss cross underneath the ship to come jumping out on the other side.

The fifteen or so dolphins must have been playing around the ship for atleast half an hour before they gave us up as poor sport and went jumping & dancing on their merry way.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

El Nino & The Peru Current

Location : Ecuador Pacific Coast - 04 54 S, 081 32 W

Today we are passing the area of the world that actually is giving cause for much concern to the world.

The Peru current flows nothward along the west coast of South America. It is a cold water current & brings water from the Atlantic ocean into the warmer climates of the Equatorial Region. The Area around which I am right now - Ecuador coast is the far
reach of the current. After this the the current turns to the west & goes into the Pacific ocean. You can see the current with the broken line. The Current against this is the Panama Current that is a south bound current flowing from the gulf of Panama
to the south along the coast. This is the current marked by the thicker line.

In 1982 it was observed by the scientist Camilo Carillo the Peruvian fishermen used the term "Corriente del Nino" or "Current of the Christ Child" for a sudden southward current near Christmas. This current brought in a huge cache of fishes from the
Equator & everyone was happy till the X-mas got over. After X-mas it was discovered that there was a steep decrease in fishes in the ocean as the spawning circle was shattered.

Since the 80's for some reason, especially during the late Dec to early April, this current, now coined the El Nino Current occurs southward in this part of the world, displacing the Peru current. It is never really of same intensity & has been
recorded to be up to 2 Kts & the duration of the current may also vary.

This is the current that many indicate is actually changing the balance of the Weather systems in the Southern Hemisphere & thus the world. The other branch of the scientific arena contend that the El Nino current is itself a result of the changing
weather systems.

Whatever the reason, Everyone recognizes El Nino as a symbol of the Global Climate change today. I am pleased to report that this year at least till the end of Sept, El Nino is not to be seen & the Peru current impedes my southward progress with a
steady one knot resistance.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bridge of the Americas

Location : Equador Pacific coast - 00 17 N / 080 55 W

Featured above is the Bridge of the Americas in Panama. It is called so because for a long long time, this was the only bridge connecting the North & south America. It is really astonising to consider two huge continents to be connected with such a
thin link.

We had started feom Gatun lake at 0900 hrs & by the time we passed through the Miraflores locks, it was evening. The Bridge of the Americas is at the southern end of the canal & actually in the background you can see the first glimpse of the Pacific.

South of this bridge is territory that I have never been to before in my life. & the Pacific is the one ocean that I have not crossed. That will have to remain so for the near future, but I will go down the western coast of the South America. The route
will take me past Columbia, Equador (where I am presently) , Peru & Finally to Chile.

I have never been to Chile as well & to be honest had never really seen it much on the chart. As I did so, I was astonished that it really is a big country. It stretches right from the upper half of the continent & continues way down south to the very
tip of South America. It will be great to go & do those things & visit those places.

We will also be crossing the Equator today. Lets see if Neptune comes over & blesses the ship. :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Panama Departure

Location : Pacific Coast Panama - 08 30 N, 079 31 W

We crossed the remaining locks of Pedro Miguel & the Miraflores today. As we left the channel waters it was dusk & the pacific coast was just as beautiful. For some reason, the clouds in Panama, stick to the tree tops of the forests even though they
are not really high hills.

The view was spectacular & I look forward to coming back to this part of the world around the middle of October.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Panama - Gatun Locks

Location : Panama

Yesterday I showed you the snap of us approaching the Gatun locks from the Atlantic side. These are the pictures of the vessel as it climbs into the second set of locks. It really is a very tight fit for the vessel & the shocker is that the walls of
the docks aren't even lined with some rubber fenders or tyres. It is very tense times for people low in the food chain like me, but these pilots do seem to have things well in control & take out the vessel with hardly a foots clearance on either side!
Pretty neat sight.

This amazing control is primararily due the the locomotives attached to the vessel on all four corners. You can see two locomotives on each bow of the ship. These send out wire ropes to be fixed on the ships bollards & then the vessel is positioned in
the locks by the tightening or slacking of these wires. There are two sets of these also on the stern & these eight locomotives move along with the ship on rails provided for that purpose.

You can see the Sanko Line ship on the other dock, & these guys seem to be as snugly fitting into the locks as we were.

The second snap shows us coming out of the Gatun locks. The whole of the Panama Canal is basically a mountain pass that has been dammed at either ends & filled in with rain water.

The dam used for this purpose in the Gatun Dam. All that you see in front of the vessel in the second picture is the Gatun Lake. On the Stbd as you come out of the Gatun lock is the Gatun Dam.

Believe me, this is a very neat place!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gatun Locks

Loacation : Panama

Crossed the Gatun locks today. Pictured above is the entrance the docks. On the Starboard you can see the Sunlight Venture going through the East Docks. There are three dock gates at Gatun and right in front of us, you can probably see the aft & Funnel of a ship at the top most lock. We passed through all those locks & went up there an hour after this picture was taken.

Between the Derrick post & the fore mast, you can probably see the tower on the shore. That is the tower on which the webcam is fitted. You can checkout the ships passing through on : & also on

It was fun. Will send some more snaps over the next few days.


Location : Panama

I never did get around to telling you all about Curacao. I think we did go over the basics of the Netherlands Antilles & the ABC Islands. Before coming to Panama we had gone to Curacao. Pictured above is the Bridge of Curacao. It is probably the most
famous landmark of Curacao. This Bridge has a span of 55 meters on high water & is a beautiful & rather unususal design.

This picture was taken after we had come in the bay. In the background is the channel & then the sea. As you enter the channel, you are greeted by a row of beautiful buildings & the downtown area on either side. The next day, we were actually having a
coffee on the waterfront and saw a ship passing by. It was a beautiful sight & sadly denied to me because we entered & exited in the middle of the night.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Location : Panama Anchorage

Reached the Panama anchorage today. We were coming in to Panama from Curacao and this gave me the opportunity to coast along the Venezuelan & Columbian coastline. By the morning the Panama coastline came on the horizon & it was great. I have put up a
snap of a ship on my port quarter at Sunset with the coastline in the background. The whole country just seems to be one big expanse of forests & in the evening the clouds had settled in the mountains & the view was just spectacular.

The thing about this area is that the weather is pretty much equatorial. If I had shown you the picture on the front of the vessel, you would have seen pouring rains & lightning all over the place. Puja tells me that its harmful for the eyes to look at
lightnings & the risk is not mitigated by even looking at it from the view screen of a digital camera. So sadly I can't show you any lightning snaps.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Seagull Massacre

A couple of days after I had written about the seagulls out in the carribian, we recieved this peice of news today:

Worker Fined For Seagull Massacre
A Longshoreman was fined nearly USD 20,000 after being found guilty of mowing down 189 seagulls at Packer Marine terminal in Philadelphia port. Municipal Court Judge Deborah Shelton imposed the minimum fine of USD 75 per bird against Daniel Gallagher,
the President of an International Longshoremen's Union local. The incident occurred in February 2006 when Gallagher was driving across the terminal. According to local media reports, he was talking on a two-way radio and trying to grab spilling coffee
when he looked up and saw the flock of birds. But rather than stopping, Gallagher said he panicked, hit the gas and ran down the 189 seagulls before crashing into a parked container chassis.

Must have been one heck of a sight!

Monday, September 17, 2007


Seagulls are not really my favourite. I think my dislike stems right from my cadetship, when I would spotlessly clean or paint the deck & a seagull would come swooping down from the heavens, crap on the deck & nonchalantly fly away to another part of
the deck to repeat its handiwork.

As I progressed along the ranks, I grew slowly possessive of the ships under me & the behaviour of the Seagulls was simply unacceptable. In most parts of the world, these chaps are excellent fliers & often glide in place for up to fifteen minutes
without moving a wing. Actually that would be neat in itself, but what happens is that they keep pace with the moving ship & maintain their position without flapping a wing. As the ships bows break through the waves, they glide around the bow, waiting
for the fishes to break through the frothing sea before they would dive & in my fervent imagination, be run over by my bows to be gruesomely killed in the churning propeller.

But that was not to be. A few seconds later the seagulls would come bobbing up the water, often with fish in their beaks & then go back to floating above my foxel & ejecting the same fish from their hind parts.

I met these seagulls in the caribbeans & these guys I like. They are really horrible at gliding in place & keep swooping in their sleek bodies all over the place. And they don't crap much.