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Published: February 17th 2016
Arabian sea behind us.
En route to India. Arabian Sea. February 1-3, 2016
Now into the increasing heat and humidity of the eastern Arabian Sea. Security was enhanced again as we entered the Straits of Hornuz, and the NY Times reports a merchant ship has been taken hostage off Nigeria.
Once past Karachi (Indian immigration asked lots of visa questions about any potential Pakistani relatives), it's pretty much a deep-ocean straight line to Mangalore, India, so the risks from aggressive small boats exist but are infinitesimal this far from shore. Closer to shore, piracy still exists in Indonesia and near Thailand, and Burma and Sri Lanka to a much lesser extent.
So the fire hoses remain mounted on railings and wicked-looking gaffs are in brackets on the walls of the Promenade deck at strategic intervals, quickly available to repel boarders. The binoculars-and-Oakleys set will not be standing down any time soon.
I would really like to see them test the sound cannon. Again, our two biggest defenses are our height (difficult to access open decks) and capacity for high bursts of speed. If they did approach, binoculars, radar and searchlights would find them. If they got close, the sound cannons, gaffs
Gala night with Willem and Ellie.
and fire hoses would make climbing the five stories to the railing a courageous undertaking. Pirates, of course, are much less about courage and daring than they are all about easy pickings.
Our understanding is that ships under the Dutch flag are by law unarmed. Nevertheless, many people gossip confidently about the arsenal locker on B deck. We remain skeptical, as we figure they would have gun brackets mounted if that were the case, rather than bother with sound cannons, fire hoses and billion-candlepower searchlights. One mounted .50 would be a much greater deterrent than a fire hose and could easily hole a Zodiac or speedboat, not to mention what even a graze from a .50 does to people.
Entertainment is not Vegas-level by any means, but every once in a while we get something stellar. Paul Fredericks was a member of the New Vaudevillians (remember Winchester Cathedral? That guy!), and treated a full house to four shows. The man can sing - almost any range, any style. He looks rather like Pavarotti, so it's quite a surprise to hear Frankie Vallee coming out of his, um, mature, stocky form.
A grand exception to the otherwise tepid shows has been the Dubai cultural show, a local group of entertainers who perfomed on board before our late evening departure. Desert tribal drum dancing with skirling pipes and strings, belly dancing, and an honest-to-goodness whirling dervish. His elaborate costumes and blacklit fluorescent colours were worth seeing on their own, let alone the visual effects he created with the shapes and patterns of his robes and skirts. Amazingly, he performed not just one 6-minute set, never stopping his twirling, but managed another set for the finale! Jane suggested he needed the break in between just to unwind (pun fully intended). His costume for the second set was a suit of lights to shame a bullfighter - actually lit up from the inside for an amazing light, show.
The poker crowd has matured and relaxed. We had some jumpy, irritable people at first who don't like the house rules meant to keep the game friendly, and those of the opinion that they don't need to be polite, because it's poker, dammit. At least a couple of them bowed to repeated, quiet suggestions that if they don't like it, they should feel free to piss off, and others have modified their behaviour. I am always reminded of Veneta, a casino dealer on the Statendam, fixing an annoying client with her steely gaze, pointing at me and saying, "Vhy can't you be like the nice Canadian?"
A section of the casino allows cigarette smoking for people playing the slots. There are so few smokers that it is rarely anything more than annoying to get up the next morning and realize that after sitting at a poker table for two hours, your clothes smell somewhat like an ashtray, but certainly not nearly as bad as the old days. However, there are always the privileged snots who know the rules are just for the hoi-polloi, certainly not for them, and they can always bully their way around the rules in any case.
So it got annoying when a crowd of eight decided to move from the bar, where they could not smoke, to the casino, where they could. They took over a corner or seats, and treated it as their personal lounge. A manager informed them that the privilege was reserved for players only, so one of them slid his card into a machine and said, "There. We're playing." Of course, they did not. Several of us mentioned this to the manager, being clear that we understood the rules, and resented that they were clearly not being respected. This went on for some time, back and forth between management, poker players and smokers until shouting came from one of the smokers, "Who gives a shit? Who's complaining?" I stood from the poker table, raised my hand and yelled back, "Me! I'm complaining."
This got a shocked reaction from everyone but the smokers - holy crap, the Canadian's mad. This has to be serious! A couple of others at the poker table then raised their hands in support.
Afterwards, management was back every time the slot machine sat idle for more than a minute and the entitled ones slowly slipped away. They did not return last night, for whatever reason, and that was welcome. I have since discovered that they have relocated their group to the aft deck, where smoking and drinking and loud conversation are perfectly acceptable.
We quite miss Willem and Ellie, the lovely couple from the Netherlands with whom we dined and chatted on several occasions, and with whom we shared a couple of tours. We were sad to lose them in Dubai as that was the extent of their tour from Rotterdam.
Albert and Kendra are professors of architecture, currently teaching at Ryerson in Toronto. They are Americans, and have lived all over North America and have visited just about everywhere else. Fantastic people with whom to discuss the modern construction styles and methods of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We will lose them in Singapore.
Lots of other folks local to us: Collette and Bernie from Napanee. Ian and May from Kanata. More every time we turn around. We will have a Canadian night in the Crow's Nest the night before we land at Rangoon (now Yangon).
We have had a raucous time with Brainard (yes, odd name, odd spelling) and Leslie, raucous mostly because they are both very hard of hearing, but also because they both have wicked senses of humour. They are currently residents of Arizona after retiring from what seemed to be lucrative careers as civilian employees of the US Defense Dept. Very friendly and open, and have already invited us to visit them in Tucson.
Also Howard and Pat, from England. He is former SAS, stationed in every trouble spot the UK went to between the '60s and the '90s. After retirement from Her Majesty's service, he found his unique talents in demand by oil and gas exploration companies. He spent his remaining working years traveling to obscure and dangerous corners of the world and has a truckload of alternating terrifying, hilarious and sobering stories.
It seems that many of the best people we have met so far are leaving in Singapore. Here's hoping for a simpatico group of newbies.
On to India!
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