Day 246: The Blue Desert

03.09.09: So then your humble narrator found himself back on the high seas. The Reol was tiny – the smallest vessel I’ve been on so far, just about 7 meters in length. She performed admirably, although I could have done with some shade – my pasty white complexion does not stand up too well against the glare of the midday equatorial sun. Did I mention we were skirting that great imaginary line that divides the civilised nations of the north (Brits, Americans) from the uncouth savages from the south (Aussies, Kiwis)? It being September, the Sun is almost (but not quite) halfway on its journey from the Tropic of Cancer (June) to the Tropic of Capricorn (December), so it was no surprise that I shrivelled up like a shrimp on the barbie. But isn’t there supposed to be no wind at the equator? That’s what I…

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Days 198 to 201: The Odyssey Reloaded

Day 198: The Approach 17.07.09: Wawaweewa. Friday! Are we still at sea? It would appear so. No sign of Dakar yet, but the GPS was insisting it was less than 100 miles away. I was particularly worried that Mandy and her over-active imagination would be concerned that I had been attacked by a giant squid, swallowed by a whale, consumed by the ghastly Kraken or frantically lopping the heads off the great Hydra only for more to grow in their place. No such excitement, I’m sorry to report. The day sluggishly went by as we yakked and played cards. That night, there was a CRACKIN’ thunderstorm over yonder, flashes in the distant clouds every couple of seconds. I hoped Senegal hadn’t descended into war, but with no radio and absolutely no human contact for a week, who’s to say what was going on in the real…

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Days 194 to 197: Dolphins and Doldrums

Day 194: Ray The Ray 13.07.09: Wow! I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like this before. There was not one iota of a smidgin of a skerrick of a sub-atomic particle of a whisper of a wind. The sea was as flat as it could be – more like a lake than the second biggest ocean in the world. There were no waves at all – just a swell bobbing us up and down, but that was little more than moving sand-dunes. In fact, it occurred to me that the sea is not that different from the desert. Nothing to drink, the sun bearing down on you, no shade, no trees, no escape. Just a vast undulating landscape. Food can be found, but you need specialised equipment to catch it. We had no specialised equipment. Just a plastic line in the water…

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Days 190 to 193: The Great Escape

Day 190: On The Beach 09.07.09: Perhaps I should have mentioned this before – Val, the guy who was ‘helping’ me last week is now demanding that I pay him €600 for his ‘services’. These ‘services’ included not getting me my passport back, not getting the pirogue to the dock and not finding me a yacht to come and pick me up. He just flapped around for a few days, spent a lot of my money on phone calls, took a lot of taxis (which muggings here paid for) to godknowswhere and generally swanned about doing nothing constructive or even mildly helpful. Which could be a metaphor for this entire island, I don’t know. Anyway, he wants his money and has spent the last week basically stalking me trying to get it. Of course, I have no intention of giving him such a vast amount of…

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Day 153: Ninjas and Heroes

02.06.09: As I kid, I was always HACKED off that the BBC in their infinite wisdom altered the name of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (nothing new there, they re-branded Top Cat as Boss Cat, which meant it MADE NO SENSE AT ALL - especially as Benny called him ‘TC' all the time) as if the word ‘Ninja' would provoke us young impressionables to dress up in black and prance around the rooftops of Japan in the middle ages, silently assassinating any of those damn Samurai pigdogs who got in our way. Anyway, the highlight of today was seeing a small bale of real-life giant turtles swimming by. We circled round to get a better look, and then I was gripped by a reasonable terror that the fishermen would, for the entertainment and delight of their charterer here, pick one…

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Day 152: Famous Last Words

01.06.09: I got to the fisherman's beach just after midnight - there she was, the Mustapha Sy - a wooden long boat just two metres wide that the Vikings may have once used. It was out in the water, and before I knew it I was being scooped up on the shoulders of one of the fisherman and waded out to sea. Plonked on board, I took a seasickness pill and tried to count how many fishermen it takes to drive a 50ft long hunk of wood over the ocean - ten, apparently, but this is Africa and I've become accustomed to these things. The ‘pirogue' had no steering wheel (just a rudder) no radio and nowhere to sleep that didn't involve you being squished between several other people in the style of a tent in Tawd Vale Scout Camp circa 1988. There was no chance…

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Day 105: Chivas Regal vs. The Pirates

15.04.09: Had a good chat with Chivas Regal, the cook, today - remarkable chap, last year the boat he was on from Kenya to Romania was captured by Somalian Pirates and held (at gunpoint) for one month. He was forced to cook not only for the terrified crew, but also for the pirates themselves as they sailed from port to port apparently to prevent other rival pirates taking the vessel. I asked him if he would sail that route again; he shrugged and said "yeah - the weather is better than here". What a legend. Almost as soon as we had finished chatting, the Captain popped down and informed us that he had heard on the radio that another three ships have just been captured by Somalian Pirates. The Captain reckons that the shipping companies are just going to have to run convoys like in the…

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Day 104: Sea Sick

14.04.09: This isn't even funny anymore. The sea isn't even that rough - the Gulf Stream in a little yacht was much, much worse. And yet I've been sick three times today, with varying degrees of BLURGH. I've polished off those herbal remedy ginger pill NONSENSE (it's not like I can overdose on the stuff). I would have been better off with a pack of McVities Ginger Nuts. Even before I started reading Dr Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column in the Guardian, I had a sneaking suspicion that ‘herbal remedies' were a bullshit marketing term for ‘non-functioning wannabe medicine for middle aged women with too many cats' and now I have - albeit very subjective and anecdotal - proof. Well that's as much proof as they use to sell this crap, which is ‘hey it worked for me'. ‘Me' obviously was not on a week-long slog…

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Day 103: Another Monday Comes

13.04.09: Oh my word, I feel ROTTEN! Spent a good part of today in bed, did a little editing, but it's hard to concentrate when you feel two seconds away from barfing all the time. This evening I sat with the Icelandics again (Albert's cabin being conveniently situated next to mine) and we chatted about the collapse of Icesave, catching puffins and where best to get a thermal bath. However, I'm more concerned that apart from brief respites in Reykjavik and the Faroe Islands, I'm going to be at sea for another WHOLE WEEK. Hopefully I'll find some kick-ass seasickness pills in Iceland and be able to whether it. A jolly sailor I is not.

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Day 102: Heading East for Easter

12.04.09: The least Easterly Easter of my life - no chocolate eggs, in fact no chocolate at all! To be honest with you, I spent most of the day in my cabin nursing my hangover and wishing that I had seasickness pills that actually WORKED!! That night, I went up on the bridge for a couple of hours and had a good chat with the captain about football (he's a Tottenham fan, believe it or not), the economic collapse and how the USA seems to be conspiring to make the whole world look incredibly dull.

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