Where Is Home?

As I heave myself on to the local ferry, camera slung over my shoulder, a group of kids lean over and shout ‘Which country? Which country?’.

‘England’, I reply, ‘but I live here now. I’ve been in Cochin for two years’. The children look puzzled until I add ‘I’m now Indian, India is my home. Look!’. I hold up my wrist next to theirs and joke ‘Same colour!’. The children burst into fits of giggles and I half smile, hoping I can convince them that India is indeed my home, at least for the moment.

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Danish Released, Chandlers Talk & Piracy Poll

Only four days in and already the week has been a busy one on the piracy front. We have three important news items for your perusal: the release of the Danish sailors from Somalia, the Chandlers talking on BBC and the Piracy Update Facebook page and poll.

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A Dash Of Curry In Your Tea, Sir?

If you had told me a year ago that I would be in India drinking curried tea, I’d have laughed you off the boat. I’d heard of curry for breakfast and I’d even heard rumours of curried ice cream, but curried tea? As a tea-drinking Brit I spluttered and guffawed at this ridiculous notion.

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WHAT??? Piracy Is Costing $12 Billion!

As if you non-seafaring people out there needed convincing, the latest figures via The Times has piracy costing the global economy $12 billion a year. In the same week that Dutch marines kill two Somalia pirates, a London law firm which specialises in the field, was quoted as saying “matters are deteriorating at every level”.

Whilst our sailing friends are well aware of the dangers of piracy, it’s not until one reads the numbers that the problem of piracy is put into perspective for the rest of us. It is truly a global concern that affects everyone. In a future post we’ll be putting together a couple of ideas on how you can help support anti-piracy causes. Meanwhile, read about the latest figures here. We’d like to hear your views on the subject too.

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Indian Navy Demonstrates How To ‘Do’ Pirates Properly!

This morning the marina manager brought us the fantastic news that the Indian navy has caught yet another boat load of pirates! It was a huge catch with 61 seized in all. Yep, 61 of the b******s. Good.

The Hindu has a good report on the capture, which we precis in our blog post. What’s most encouraging, however, is the photograph that has been issued along with the report. It’s a photo of all 61 pirates sitting like lame ducks on board the navy vessel.

Whilst I do not condone the death penalty I do hope these pirates are proverbially strung up alive by the Indian justice system. Good riddance to them.

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A Sad End: Quest Killed By Somali Hostages

Today all four crew of sailing yacht ‘Quest’ were killed. Apparently the US Navy ‘responded to gunfire’ aboard Quest off the coast of Oman, which it had been shadowing since the boat was taken on Friday. Our thoughts go out to Scott and Jean’s family and friends. They were here just a few weeks ago in Cochin Marina, India.

There is already much debate on the sailing forums as to what actually happened and what will happen next. Only time will tell. One wonders if we will ever get to the bottom of what really occured aboard that ill-fated yacht. In the meantime I have removed my previous scrutiny of passage planning into the Indian Ocean out of respect.

The fact remains that this is a sad day for liveaboard sailors around the world, a sad day for our freedom and a sad day for the worsening situation both on the waters of the Indian Ocean and in Somalia.

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The Chandlers Are Free – So Where Does This Leave Us?

What fantastic news that the Chandlers have been freed after 388 days of captivity by pirates in Somalia. Our thoughts go out to their family and friends. The last year must have been very difficult so now it is time to celebrate their freedom and give them time to recuperate from what must have been a harrowing ordeal. But what now? Where does this leave the rest of us? Has paying the ransom actually made the situation worse?

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A Virgin Flight From India

Now that I’ve secured a cat-sitter for Millie, I can start thinking about my return home. I have to renew my visa, you see, so today begins my search for a flight. At the same time Liz has clocked up a bank of air miles with her old business airline, Virgin, so if push comes to shove I could always use these to get back from Mumbai to the UK.

If, however, my experience will be anything like the famous Virgin Customer Complaints letter I think I’ll be looking for alternatives. Some of you may remember this one doing the rounds last year; it is now heralded as the greatest customer complaints letter ever written. It’s quite apt that it’s Virgin and that the flight concerned was from Mumbai to Heathrow, exactly the same flight I’ll be looking for. For those who missed it or have forgotten just how amusing the letter was we reproduce it here in all its glory, complete with photographic evidence:

Dear Mr Branson
REF: Mumbai to Heathrow 7th December 2008

I love the Virgin brand, I really do which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit.

Ironically, by the end of the flight I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at the hands of your corporation.

Look at this Richard. Just look at it…

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Don’t Talk. Eat!

“…that and a threesome with two lesbians”, smiled my friend Cillian as we sat in Hotel Ceylon, tidying up a delicious mushroom masala.

“Hmmm, I don’t know”, I replied. “I still think food comes out on tops”.

We were discussing the merits of food, eating and dining out. We were pretty much in agreement that the greatest pleasure in life was food.

“Did I mention that they were Swedish?”, Cillian added. OK, second greatest pleasure.

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The Dharavi ‘Slums’ Of Mumbai In Photographs

To me photography is often about engaging with people. Despite being told to do so by our taxi driver I point-blank refused to stick my camera out the window of the car as we drove down one really poor street. Yet on my second visit, this time walking down the same street, we bothered to talk to the people I was snapping and everyone we met appeared so happy. Except one family. You’ll notice in amongst all the photographs of smiling faces are two brothers who look very sad. Why were they like this? It doesn’t bear thinking about but their eyes tell a different story and their portraits stick out like sore thumbs. It’s a stark reminder that behind all the laughter life is still damn bloody tough.

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The Drink Of Brave Men

On Sunday I’ll be publishing my shots of the Dharavi slums of Mumbai. That’s on Sunday but today is Friday, so let’s keep it light-hearted. Let’s discuss beer! Beer. The love of my life, the bain of my waist-line. A refreshment to be enjoyed at the end of the day after a hard day’s sail, a hard day’s work or a hard day’s drinking. Whatever the occassion, beer is there to help you celebrate. Here in Catholic Kerala, however, beer isn’t so understood. The booze shop is a shuttered, over-the-counter, slip-the-beverage-into-a-plain-paper-bag-before-my-wife-spots-me affair. The pubs are dirty, dark cockroach-infested holes. The imbibement of this fine libation is not encouraged like it is elsewhere in India and the mantra “alcohol consumption is injurious to health” is seen on both the labels of bottles and across the tinted windows of aforementioned grimey bars. Is ‘injurious’ actually a word? Whatever, whether you like beer or not you’ll be impressed by the sales pitch of one such beer called Zingaro. The masculine gold and red Zingaro label has an Indian, of the Native American persuasion, taming a wild horse with ‘Super Strong Premium Lager’ emblazoned across the bottom. But it’s the blurb on the back that had me in stiches…

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Now It’s OUR Turn To Answer The Questions!

What with our Through The Porthole podcasts and previous efforts at amateur journalism we’re quite used to asking questions of other people. It was a pleasant surprise, therefore, to receive an invitation to answer some questions directed at ourselves.

Livia is a sailor who has recently embarked on a project entitled ‘Interview with a Cruiser’, where she asks 10 questions to cruisers from around the world. The interviews are published weekly. Livia’s idea is to build a database of different questions and answers to help future or would-be cruisers make informed decisions on switching to this lifestyle.It was quite a treat being able to respond to some questions that we would normally be putting to others to answer.

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Arabian Pirates Been Around Forever

Finally we leave Salalah! Long haul ahead of us so time to grab a book and get reading.

My brother, Tim, bought me ‘Unknown Seas, How Vasco Da Gama Opened The East’, by Ronald Watkins. I couldn’t think of a more suitable book to be reading on this journey, since we were taking part in the Vasco Da Gama Rally. Right now we are in the middle of the Arabian Sea, very much aware of the recent pirate activity.

It seems, however, that we were not alone in keeping a keen eye open for the odd marauder in these waters. According to the book, which opens with the early spice trade scenario, Watkins notes thus:

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Oman: Additional

Sadly it is nigh on impossible to undertake the paperwork required to enter Oman without the use of an agent. We know of one yacht who attempted this and was so distraught at the heartache involved they eventually succumbed and employed an agent too. More frustratingly, however, is that there is only one agent we are aware of and much of the rally fell out with him for over-charging for his services.

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Pirate Alley: Putting It In Perspective

Pirate Alley. Two words that strike fear into the armchair sailor, apprehension into those who actually sail it, and have the effect of filling my pants out of shear fear when that phrase is uttered. In this preamble I attempt to put some of these thoughts into context.

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Letting The Qat Out The Bag

I found Yemen a difficult place to love when I first stepped ashore. With the beauty of the desolate marsas of Sudan and Eritrea behind us I found Aden an industrial mess. After spending some time there and traveling around, especially to Arab Town, I began to understand it a bit better. Some of the people we met were wonderful. But the problem I had with Yemen was qat.

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Ellen and Hilary: 21st Century Heroines

Until I was 33 I never had any heroes. I’ll admit I did idolise The Six Million Dollar Man when I was seven, but that was because he looked like my dad, or so I thought. Apart from The Bionic Man I was never one for hero-worship.

In 2003 I set sail across The Bay of Biscay. I began the journey armed with horror stories of this treacherous sea and so to ease my way across this 300 mile stretch of water I began reading Ellen MacArthur’s autobiography, “Taking On The World”. Reading about the fastest woman ever to circumnavigate the globe, on her own, whilst I motored across what turned out to be a flat calm mill-pond made for very inspirational reading…

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Downtown Cairo

So, you’ve just paid a small fortune to enter the the Royal Mummy room at the Egyptian Museum, where you are asked to be quiet and not take photos. Your camera has been left outside the museum in a secure place because you are not allowed to bring it in. What do you do? You take out your phone and flash away at these ancient mummified people, who are kept at carefully regulated moisture, temperature and lighting levels to stop them decomposing. You are an idiot.

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Giza’s Good, Giza’s Good

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: the Pyramids do not disappoint. Far from it. Even through jaded eyes and lifelong over-worked symbolism they are magnificent, other-worldly, splendidly breath-taking. Jamie photographed them from every angle, while I tried to imagine what the area would have looked like during its prime, with the white limestone glistening interiors of the Pyramids intact.

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Who Said Port Said Is Rubbish?

Liz and I then wandered around town taking snaps and racing the ATM machines to get money. Having failed to withdraw cash from these machines in the last couple of days we were told that we had not been using the machines correctly. The trick is to be as quick as possible in pressing the buttons. Procrastinate for a split second and the machine will display a random message like “main server offline”, “unable to process your request” or “no spare cash left in Egypt”. Weird.

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