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.