3am phone calls are not my favourite form of wake-up call. When I picked up the phone it somehow integrated it into my dream so much that I assumed it to be part of my dream and therefore completely acceptable to ignore. The next call five minutes later was not so easy to dismiss.. It was Abdi-Chakour telling me the ship was leaving early and I had to be on it within the hour or else I’d be swimming to Egypt.
Biggidybiggidybong and whoosh, before I had shook the sleep out of my eyes I whisked away from the rathole that was the Sheraton Djibouti and plonked aboard the good ship Turquoise, shown my cabin and promptly dived into the bed and fell asleep faster than you can say Coco-Pops.
I simply can’t thank those guys from Djibouti’s CMA-CGM office enough. They made my year. But it was the mad skills of a certain Dino Deasha that made this all possible. He set all this up for me to knock it out of the stadium. We had done it. I had to leave Matt the cameraman behind in Djibouti, he would be flying up to meet me in Egypt. It was hard enough getting me on the ship, we weren’t going to bust a gut (and possibly jeopardize my passage) by asking if I could bring a mate along.
In the event, it wasn’t until 11am that the Turquoise left port, but ah, I wasn’t complainin’. I made friends with the Abdul Naser the cook (always the best guy to know on a ship) met Captain Elbishbishi (who looked and sounded like a Egyptian Tim Curry – how cool is that?) and chief officer Lomongo. Once again, the crew was largely Filipino, but in a departure from the norm, they were outnumbered by the good few Burmese guys on board. The officers (with the exception of Chief Lomongo) were all Egyptian and once again the guys on board made me feel more welcome than a stripper at a bachelor party. Travel by container ship is just several shades of awesome. With a stack of brand new DVDs to watch and more yummy food available than even I could cram into my piehole, I settled down for a relaxing, and entertaining, few days on the ocean wave.
Yesterday’s little incident was soon forgotten and we were now making our way pell-mell towards the Suez canal – possibly the most famous canal in the world. You know the Statue of Liberty? It was originally intended to stand at the Mediterranean entrance to the Suez canal – TRUE!
I mooched around the ship, making mischief and chatting with the Cook, the Chief and the Boson. I was summoned up to see the captain at one point, and I thought oo-eck, am I in trouble for yesterday’s little misunderstanding? But all was groovy – he just wanted to let me know there would be an emergency drill later today and what to do when the alarm sounds.
The drill was really cool – my job was to head up to the bridge (and not take the lift). Oh yes – I may have failed to mention that the MV Turquoise (being brand spanking new – only one year old) had a lift inside, just like the Starship Enterprise. But the best thing, the BEST thing about this lift is that, unlike your boring old Otis/Schindler contraption, it actually had an emergency escape hatch on the ceiling JUST LIKE IN DIE HARD! I always thought emergency escape hatches were urban legends and, like phone numbers that begin 555 or cars without rear-view mirrors, was just Hollywood pulling our legs. But I guess there are no lift engineers available in the middle of the ocean, so you just have to make your own way out of the trapped lift scenario.
But I digress.
After dutiful reporting to the bridge, Captain Elbishbishi (looking more like Tim Curry than ever) suggested I head down to the muster point and check out what the guys were doing. So down I went (using the outside staircase) and found the men having a lesson in what to do in a medical emergency. If I had known what they were up to, I would have offered to play the injured sailor, but I was content to just stand and watch as we raced down to the engine room and the guys had to work out how to stretcher up a unconscious engineer out of the din of below-decks.
That part was fun – what wasn’t fun was when it was explained how the emergency fire suppression system worked – by flooding the engine room with toxic levels of nitrogen, which would kill any fire, but also had the nasty side-effect of making the air unbreathable within about 30 seconds. Not much time to get the hell out of there!
That night I sat with the Chief and we watched Filipino Big Brother followed by The Philippines Have Talent on DVD. I’ve never laughed so much in my life, although I have to say, the girls in the Big Brother house were hotter than anything our British version have ever coughed up – and that included the ladyboy.