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March 25th 2020
Published: March 25th 2020
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Today is Wednesday 25th March

We have been outside Durban in South Africa since Sunday morning. The port authorities are keeping us hanging about. But posting this so you can see what we have been doing with all our sea days. Will go into more detail with the next blog. The captain is furious I am sure, reading what he didn’t say in his last update. We have been cleared for entry to the actual port, but are still waiting. We need fuel, medical supplies and stores.

We are all fine, in our little bubble, with glorious weather, entertainment etc. So making the most of our situation.

Hearing the news from home on the BBC news channel is very sombre and hoping all our loved ones are safe.

Day 32

Saturday 14th March, 2020

At Sea

Last night before I went to bed I had noticed that on the ships channel where we get a view of the ship’s path across the ocean we appeared to have changed direction! I pointed this out to Roger this morning and the only land in the new direction we could think of was South Africa! This was pondered all day by the passengers until eventually the captain informed us of our new destinations, later in the day. We were heading for Durban and Cape Town! We were not surprised, but he told us not to worry as he had his atlas! We would be due to arrive there next Sunday. He would keep us updated as he received further information in this changing situation.

It was another sunny day and so I spent some time in the sun on the aft deck while Roger found some shade. The mornings talk was Geoff Peters again, with The Mutiny on the Batavia in 1682, which made the Mutiny on the Bounty look like a picnic! The Batavia was the great flagship of the Dutch East India company which set sail on her maiden voyage to theSpice Islands of the Far East. There was mutiny, murder, sexual slavery, outstanding seamanship, revenge and historical firsts in this amazing true story. Do look it up if you are interested, I’m sure you’ll be as fascinated as we all were.

Roger wanted to go to the cinema to see today’s classic film, My Fair Lady and so we went immediately after lunch. Unfortunately that meant I would miss Wayne Sleep but I hoped I’d catch up with his talk on the ship’s ‘Talk Repeat’ channel.

This evenings entertainment was Jeff Stevenson, a fairly decent comedian who didn’t swear or make sexist jokes. Very corny, of course, but observational about the goings on of a cruise ship.

Sunday 15th March, 2020 - Day 33

Roger went to the Interdenominational Church Service held in the theatre and then we again went out o the back deck by the Aquarius pool in the sunshine.

Another lovely day at sea! It was perfect, with the sound system playing oldies, waiters bringing reduces price cocktails, a book, what more could one want?

Well, the entertainment team seemed to think we needed entertaining because then there was a ‘ Party by the Pool!’ (See photos eventually) Roger retired somewhere quieter, but I stayed for a while. They had a singing competition between passengers on starboard and port, the team finding objects, aided and abetted by the passengers, and agin more was very rousing! But you can have too much of a good thing so I too departed after a while.

Later in the afternoon there was ‘ An audience with Jeff Stevenson’ ( the comedian) in the theatre.

The evening’s entertainment was an ‘International Virtuoso Pianist Adam Johnson’ who could indeed play the piano, from classics to the theatre and beyond. Very, very good.

Monday March 16th, 2020 - Day 34

This morning John Hocknall was speaking again about his time as a Patrol Officer in Papua New Guinea. He continued to entertain us with his tales from the 70s and a few more facts....did I say already that PNG has a population of about 70,000? That sugarcane originated here. That red fruit is a native also? That the first Europeans came in 1462?

That the first Bird of Paradise skin was taken from here and to begin with people thought it was a bird without wings or legs as these had been removed before the skin with its gorgeous tall plumage it to Europe.

PNG gained its independence in 1975.

The patrol officers were called Kiaps , shortened from the original Kiapitan used by the Germans who had claimed part of the island initially, along with the British and French, when it had been divided into 3 parts.

At noon we had our usual update of our progress across the oceans... we had travelled 2072 nautical miles from Freemantle and it was another 2900 miles to S Africa, and our average speed was 20 knots.

Wayne Sleep was speaking against during the afternoon and was extremely entertaining. It was basically a lot of clips of his performances from his TV shows and appearances and chat about them. Fascinating nonetheless less and he was very good. I look forward to his next one.

The film today was called The Bookshop, which neither of us had seen, but which we enjoyed.

Georgina Jackson, the singing trumpeter, also performed again, later in the day.

Tuesday March 17th, 2020 - Day 35

And another sunny day at sea!

Geoff Peters was back today with a lecture about The World’s Greatest Adventurer. Any guesses? Didn’t have a clue who it might be. The audience came up with a few Europeans - Ranolf Fiennes, David Attenborough to name a couple, but have you heard of a Russian Orthodox priest called Fedor Konyukhov?

No, me neither.

Look him up. I’ll tell you a few facts but couldn’t write fast enough to get all the details, he’s an amazing person.

Geoff first came across him in May 2014 when he was working on the Sunshine Coat Council, N of Brisbane. Their aim was to grow the economy through tourism and sport.

He was contacted by someone who was involved with a project that was happening where this Russian Orthodox Priest was rowing a 9m boat across the Pacific Ocean which would make it the longest manpowered voyage in history. He talked to a journalist and to Oscar Konyukhov, Fedor’s son, who was land support for his father. They were looking for someone who could help with the logistics of arriving on the Sunshine Coast.

Why here? Well, the currents were right and the 9m carbon fibre boat, with state of the art navigational equipment’s boat builder happened to have a brother on the Sunshine Coast who would help him get the boat back to Uk for publicity!

Geoff ended up heavily involved in the project. Fedor set out from Callao In Chile in December 2013 and was due to arrive around 31st May 2014. He needed permits to land, passport, and money to pay for Customs and Immigration. They thought they had things organised for the correct day, Oscar had been out in a small boat to talk to his father, planned the route into the coast so they would come into the yacht club after the beach, have the media coverage ready, but the winds changed and he was delayed through the day.

Then the Federal Government decided they needed $1100 to inspect the boat instead of the $400 dollars they had originally prepared for. No money, you can’t land! Then Customs and Immigration said couldn’t land til they checked the boat for import of fruit and vegetables......really? After 6 months at sea? Eventually the Geoff agreed to pay this on behalf of the council as no one of any note were in offices to agree to this payment.( eventually the state waived the payment)

Eventually Fedor came up to the beach, after 17,408 kms, and 1.31 million strokes as calculated by the stroke counter. He was met by 1000s on the beach, media , and Russians who had brought traditional gifts of cakes and bread for a priest. He was due to take the boast round into the yacht harbour but didn’t want to get back into it, so his sone took it round. He himself found the yacht club and came in by a side door and ordered a coffee. He sat at the bar as he didn’t have any money to pa for it. They couldn’t find him for the media as he was so unassuming but eventually tracked him down!

12 months later he returned with his son and family to unveil a plaque to commemorate his epic voyage.

Who was he?

He was born on 12th December, 1961 by the Sea of Azov (The Black Sea). At the age of 15 he rowed across the Black Sea. He joined the Soviet Navy (Special Forces) when he was conscripted. When he had finished he decided he wanted to become an artist.

From May to August in 1977, 1978 and 1979 he completed the 12000 mile voyage retracing the steps of Vitus Bering.

In 1983 he went rafting down the Lena River in Siberia for 3 months studying the Siberian Tiger. In 1985 he went on an expedition to the Far East of Russia to study the Siberian Tiger population on foot, on horseback and by raft.

In 1986 he went on a skiing expedition to the Pole of Inaccessibility which is located on the pack ice at a distance farthest from any land mass.

In 1988 he was part of the Russian team who skied to the N. pole in 52 days, 1830km.

In 1989 he trekked to the N Pole in 63 days, 630km

Also in 1989he was the leader of a Russian/ American bike team that crossed the pole.

1991 he was part of an Australian Russian 4 x 4 team that did an Eas West crossing of the Soviet Union, started in the Soviet Union and finishing in the Russian Federation.

1992 he reached the summit of Everest.

1993/94 he captained a round the world yacht expedition that lasted 508 days over 40,000 nautical miles.

1995/96 he did a solo unsupported trek to the South Pole in 64 days.

1997 He completed the 7 summits challenge

1998/99 he completed the international solo round the world yacht race in 9 months, 27,000 miles.

May 2005 he completed 4th circumnavigation of the world.

2010 he became a Russian Orthodox Priest

2012 he climbed Everest a second time

He has become the 3 rd explorer to complete the Grand Slam -

North Pole, South Pole, Pole of Inaccessibility, Top of Everest, Circumnavigate Cape Horn

That’s not all! In the last few years he has taken on more challenges, including the Pole of inaccessibility for the Pacific Ocean when he was closer to the Space Station than he was to any land on earth, and now he has taken to the air with hot air balloons and gliders, planning more world circumnavigations.

He has been included in the United Nations Global 500 in 1998 that. Includes Edmund Hilary and David Attenborough.

I’ll leave you to look up the details of his latest exploits.

Later in the afternoon we went to see the film, Colette, which I just about managed to stay awake through, having sampled the cocktails at lunchtime!

In the evening the entertainment was someone called David Copperfield. The name was vaguely familiar but the performer wasn’t who I thought. He was a rather silly ( in my opinion) occasionally amusing variety artist who could actually sing quite well.

Wednesday 18th March, 2020 - Day 37

Today looked quite entertaining again, with Morag Hocknall, on a Wife’s perspective of Papua New Guinea, Wayne Sleep again and a Karen Carpenter celebrant in the theatre in the evening.

After we had listened to Morag we went up to the Neptune pool deck and found somewhere to sit. Roger enjoying cocktails so much he had 2 before 1pm and had to make a retreat to the cabin for an early siesta to recover! Wayne Sleep continued to delight us, this time including describing his friendship with Diana.

Suzi Mason proved her voice was indeed a good replica of Karen Carpenter’s and we enjoyed her performance.

Thursday 19th March, 2020 - Day 38

Today we had booked a Wine and Chocolate tasting session late morning. I was curious as to what wines we would be given. There was nothing else on during the day except Geoff Peters with Unknown Heroes early on before the wine tasting.

Unknown Heroes - 1 Lord Sir Thomas Cochrane RN, 10th Earl Dundonald.

He was born in Scotland in 1775. He joined the Royal Navy in 1793 aged 17 as a midshipman. In 1806 he was promoted to lieutenant and in 1798 joinedHMS Barfleur with 98 guns. Over the next few years he gained a reputation as a very clever seaman and strategist capturing several ships by stealth and cunning, Spanish and American ships, destroying others and generally causing havoc on the high seas. His exploits continued for another 10 years or so.

In 1818 he joined the Chilean Navy as the Commander in the War of Independence. He captured Valdivia with 300 men and 2 ships, although it was surrounded by 7 forts, the most fortified city in S America. Chile won its independence.

In 1820 he joined the Peruvian Navy with the Esmalda, with 44 guns she was the most powerful Spanish ship in S America. He helped them gain independence at the Battle of Callao Bay. Then there was the Brazilian War of Independence versus Portugal where he was in command in March 1823 and gained the title Marques de Maranhao. And of course he helped the Greek Navy gain independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832.

He needed up having been given 8 promotions with the title of Admiral. Horatian Hornblower by CSForster is said to be based on him.

Geoff’s next hero was called ‘ The man who stole the Red Sea!’

This was about the opening of the Suez Canal. The French had been involved in its construction and it had been promised that a French ship, The L’Aigle, would be given the honour of being first to traverse along the canal. The Brits had been opposed to the canal, but none the less were there for the opening.

Captain George Nares with HMS Newport was the person involved. During the night before he managed to sneak past the whole fleet that were waiting to traverse the canal, weaving in and out without anyone noticing so that in the morning there he was, at the front!

Who was he? He joined the navy at the age of 14 as a midshipman. He served as second mate on HMS Resolute. He became a training officer on HMS Britannia and wrote the Naval Cadets Training Guide, Nares Guide to Seamanship still used today and a prerequisite for cadets going on the Tall Ships Training vessels. He was surveying the Gulf of Suez when it was due to open. He did go through first, to great uproar and complaint from the organisers and French, and was reprimanded publicly back in uk, but then promoted!

He went on to captain HMS Challenger on a voyage 1873-75, an expedition with 243 men in 225ft ship over 68,000 nautical miles, surveying and mapping the deepest oceans. The Nares Deep is named for him in the Puerto Rico Trench. The Admiralty said there wasn’t a more arduous expedition to the opposite ends of the earth.

He became Sir George Strong Nares.

Such adventurers!

And now for the wine tasting.

At the appointed time we went down to the dining area to find a seat, lots of people already assembled. The tables were laid with glasses and a tray of chocolate truffles plus for each person. We were welcomed with several glasses of sparking wine to get us in the mood. The wine manager introduced the proceedings and some of her wine waiters took it in turns to describe the wine and region it came from. Then the manager took us though the tasting, some of us novices needing a bit of instruction on the correct way to go about this.

The wines were from the Galician region of Spain., Albariño,- taste with white truffles...a Prosecco Ice, also suggested with white/ milk choc.... a pink champagne with chocolate strawberries/ white truffle.... a red wine with dark chocolate truffle and a sweet Madeira with some chocolate truffle cake.

I have never particularly enjoyed pink champagne if I’m honest although if it’s dry enough and cold enough I can manage to make an exception! However I look at the sweeter wines in a different way now and when we can entertain again I’ll be making sure I have lots of truffles in too. We learned a lot and had a splendid time.

We made a bit of an unsteady way(Roger) downstairs to the main dining room and had a bit of lunch to counteract the alcohol before retreating to our cabin for a siesta. We were rather surprised to find it after 5 pm when we resurfaced and so changed for supper and headed up to the self service for a change. We then spent a relaxing evening listening to the live music in the piano bar and Crow’s Nest.

May publish this and begin next blog depending on WiFi. It’s very intermittent.


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