A Nautical Nomad

Tuesday 21 September 2021

I append below a posting I did in 2017 as a result of sheer boredom as I waited to see just how the captain would avoid the Hurricane we had been heading into and trying to avoid for several days. Then like now was very near to the anniversary of the attacks on the twin towers in 9/11. The incident I related, happened only a few weeks after 9.11.

12 September 2017

Day 13 of my trip and another sea day as we head on an ever-changing course towards New York. The hurricane has been downgraded to a tropical storm and we are about to enter its actual area of effect. The Captain eventually went back to the original plan of sailing in a southerly direction, thereby skirting the lower edge and we are now on a North-West heading. We should reach New York around 8 Am on Friday and I will be glad to get ashore as it feels as though we have been at sea for ever.

Ok, so as there has been not a lot happening on the ship, I will recount an interesting travel incident going back to 2001 which has relevance to an anniversary just passed, 9/11.Now as you will no doubt remember, September 11, 2001 was when the terrorist attack took place on the twin towers in New York when two planes flew into two of the three buildings which collapsed.

A few weeks after this event I travelled to new York to see a friend, and I remember going to the check in desk at Edinburgh Airport and the young lady asking if I had a seating preference as there was plenty of room on the flight (not surprising after recent events), I said to her “well, if there are any Arabs on the flight I want to sit right behind them,” She gave me one of these reapproving looks and a wry smile.

From that day on I have always taken an aisle seat. So, after a pleasant few days in New York I found myself in Newark Airport waiting for my flight to return to Scotland via Amsterdam, as I had booked through KLM. There was a delay in boarding, which is not that unusual, but once boarded there was further delay and a lack of information as to the cause of the delay.

After about an hour the Captain announced that there would be a further delay and the cause was that during the previous flight a turbine fin had become detached from one of the jet engines and they would have it replaced and we would get on our way.

Now I am anything but an engineer but I do now the basics of how a jet engine works, to the extent that one of the functions of the turbine fins is to cool the engine, and this happens by drawing cold air through the engine. Therefore, if a fin had become detached then it had probably went straight through the engine cavity, quite possibly causing other damage, making the repair something other than a quick fix and certainly not a repair that should be completed and then tested in the air with over three hundred people on board.

I called over, a flight attendant and asked to speak to her superior as I was not happy with what I had just heard. She of course tried to reassure me but under pressure agreed to get the chief steward. Eventually, he arrived and in a very squeaky voice, enquired as to what the problem was. I told him that I was off the opinion that we should be allowed to disembark whilst this repair was carried out and the plane properly tested before allowing passengers to re-board. He was of course insistent that there was no problem. I insisted on speaking to someone in a managerial position as I was not happy with the situation.

Eventually after much debate he went off to consult someone else from Northwest airlines which was the partner airline to KLM, whose plane we were on. By this time, we had been on the plane for over two hours and people were becoming very annoyed and many of them were making their dissatisfaction known to the staff. After some time, the Stewart returned to say that someone from Northwest would speak to me but it would take some time for him to get there. So, we waited and waited.

After about another hour they decided to serve a meal. I could not believe my eyes when I saw that they provided us with stainless steel cutlery. Yes, only a few weeks after 9/11 here was an airline handing out knifes on an airplane, a few miles from where it had all happened. They were in effect handing out “do it yourself hi-jacker kits” The attackers at 9/11 had used craft knifes to kill the crew.

I again called for the chief Stewart and enquired as to whether this was part of some weird reality television show and insisted that he expedite the appearance of the airline representative. Meanwhile I took photos of the staff handing out the “do it yourself hi-jacker kits” being careful to remove the photo card in the camera and replace it with another one.

Eventually, and after we had been on the plane for about 4 hours the Stewart came along and told me to come to the front of the plane where someone would talk to me. I had of course appraised some of the people near where I was sitting of the situation and there was a lot of concern at how things were being handed.

My concern was that there was the possibility that I might have ended up spending more time in New York than I had planned. So I was taken to the front of the plane along the gangway where there was a guy who introduced himself as the New York manager of Northwest Airlines who looked rather annoyed.

Quite brusquely he said “I believe you have a problem” “ I believe it is you who have the problem , in fact you seem to have two problem’s” I said “ firstly you are carrying out fairly major repairs on a plane filled with passengers with the intention of testing it in mid-air with the passengers on it and secondly you have just issued everyone on the plane with do it yourself hi-jacker kits, so who has the problem”?

There followed a rather ill-tempered exchange with both of us using some pretty straight forward language and him demanding that I hand over the photos I took of the staff handing out the offending articles. I refused.

I explained that he should allow the people to disembark and wait in comfort while the repair was carried out and then test run the engines before allowing the people back on again, meanwhile taking the opportunity to get rid of the planes stock of weapons which they had been freely handing out.

At one point he said “ well ,if you are not happy, you can leave the flight but you will be responsible for making your own arrangements to get back to the UK “ my response was, “I have a better idea , why don’t you go and F**k yourself because the only way I am leaving this plane is with everyone else while you get it properly repaired and tested”

At that point I was pretty sure that he would have me arrested to get rid of the problem but just at that point there was a commotion behind us at the doorway to the plane and the chief Stewart whose squeaky voice has gone up a few octaves seemed to be trying to stave off a lynching, which he seemed to be object of.

A number of people had come down to the front of the plane to find out what was happening and I discovered later that what had precipitated it was an answer to a query by one of them as to where I was, the attendant commenting that she thought I wouldn’t be coming back.

So, a look of complete panic came over the managers face when he saw that things were not quite going to plan and in fact the good old American Cavalry had arrived. It did not help when I looked at him and with as straight a face as I could, said, “ok your move”

He asked if I would get them to go back to their seats whilst he considered the situation and would make an announcement very soon. I went back in to the plane got them to settle down and after about 10 minutes the pilot announced that they would disembark whilst they completed the repair on the engine whereupon they would take the plane away for testing and only when they were absolutely sure everything was ok would they re-board the plane.

We disembarked and went into the departure lounge. We could look out on the plane where it became apparent why they did not want us to see what was happening because they had a scaffold up to and surrounding the engine and there was a squad of men busily working inside the engine.

After the repair was completed they took the plane away and presumably ran up the engines to test them before allowing us to re-board. On the flight, we had plastic cutlery with our meal. As you can see, a rather bored Captain Pugwash, heading for the Big Apple.

And a rather bored Captain Pugwash bobbing up and down near the entrance to the harbor at Victoria on Gozo Malta. Packing mostly done and looking forward to a 4 o’clock rise tomorrow to be transported to the Airport on mainland Malta and a long day ahead.

It has been a good trip although restricted somewhat by necessary precautions. Viking cruises, would I do another one ? Yes I think I would, and tomorrow I am heading back to the best wee country on the planet



A Nautical Nomad

Friday 17 September 2021


After leaving Malta we sailed in a north easterly direction through the Mediterranean, into the Ionian Sea, turning north and into the Adriatic sea, heading for Dubrovnik in Croatia. We had two nights and a day at sea, docking in Dubrovnik in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

One of the pools and a great refuge from the heat

There is an interesting selection of things to do on the ship on sea days, from deck games to table top computerized games such as chess, drafts and of course a excellent program of lectures. On the larger cruise ships lecture programs are generally confined to longer trips such as transatlantic crossings. These voyages are generally very good value for money as the cruise lines have to reposition according to seasonality, such as Summer in the Med and winter in the Caribbean. Mind you, crossing the Atlantic in say November or March does have its challenges as the weather can be changeable.

Coincidently, a memory came up on my Facebook today from 2017 concerning a transatlantic I did with Princess . We were to dock in Boston and then Newport, before finally landing in New York. Unfortunately a hurricane by the name of Jose had other ideas and the captain announced that we would have to divert south to attempt to skirt the edge of the hurricane . Jose of course had a mind of its own and decided to, itself change course, so over the next few days we changed course several times in an effort to miss the worst of the storm. This meant that we had to miss out Boston and Newport and we had a pretty rough few days into the bargain. We actually arrived in New York a day early at the end of an exciting trip.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

So, after a very calm sail through the Med, Ionian Sea and the Adriatic we arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia , Now Croatia in general is a very beautiful country and in particular the cities on the Dalmatian coast are spectacular. However within recent history Croatia was involved in a viscous war in what is still called the Homeland wars or in particular, and as far as it affected Croatia, the war of Serbian aggression or more commonly the war of Croatian independence, because that is exactly what it was.

The Croatian Navy’s first “battleship”

I wont bore you by trying to go into detail of this and the other wars in the area at that time, but suffice it to say that as far as Croatia was concerned the war lasted ( all be it sometimes sporadically ) from 1991 to 1995 and basically it concerned the countries within the Yugoslavian federation and as far as it concerned Croatia it was between them and Serbia. There was if course a large Serbian population in Croatia who did not abide by the referendum which was held to ascertain the will of the people, in fact the Serbs in the main, boycotted the referendum.

However, the referendum was held and it returned a 95% majority for indepoendence. The war started as a civil war between the two factions Croats and Serbs with Serbia heavily supporting the Croatian Serbs. Croatia had no actual Army at this point and the early fighting fell to the police. The photo above is of their first “battle ship,” so you can imagine what sort of navy they had.

Eventually, they did managed to get an army together and they prevailed over Serbia, but it was a long and bloody war with around 15,000 Croatian armed forces losses and 6,000 civilians. Serb forces withdrew from Croatia in 1992 but the war spilled over into Bosnia with the Croats supporting the Bosnians against the Serbs. Eventually the war ended in 1995.

Coming into the old town of Dubrovnik

Just a thought here . The Croatian situation in 1991 just before the war has parallels here in Scotland. They had a large independence movement who wanted independence from a union, Yugoslavia. They had a large Serb population. The Serbs had a disproportionate hand in the governance of the country and the Serbs had more or less control of the armed forces. Croatia had more or less all of the coastal areas of the Yugoslav federation therefore controlling a main source of income through the ports.
Could it happen in Scotland?

One of the many churches in Dubrovnik

The old town of Dubrovnik takes your breath away . History exudes from the sandstone ramparts to the beautiful churches. Most of the fortifications date from the 16th century and it was here in Dubrovnik that much of the series Game of Thrones was filmed.
It was hot as I wandered through the smooth polished sandstone streets , thankfully traffic free. I found a café to sit and watch the world go by. Prices in Croatia are in the region of half that in the UK.
Dubrovnik was one of the towns laid siege to during the homeland wars and the old town was hit by over 600 artillery rounds, now all carefully repaired.

16th century ramparts looking out to the Adriatic sea

After a peaceful and interesting walk around the old city of Dubrovnik I headed back to the shuttle bus and back to the ship and a rather quieter evening on the Viking Venus than I perhaps would have had on some of the larger ships.

Viking caters more to the quieter more sophisticated cruiser with all activities and bars closing by midnight, whereas on most of the other ships I have been on, midnight would have been about the time to visit the disco. Unfortunately because of Covid restrictions there is no dancing on the ship, which I miss.

As the sun started to set we slipped out of the harbour into the Adriatic sea and headed north up the Dalmatian coast towards Split.

A Nautical Nomad

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Well here I am on my second cruise since the Covid restrictions were eased . The first one which was in July was a pretty restricted one along the coast of the UK with no way to get off the ship unless you were on a ships excursion and even then the guests were pretty much herded together . I decided not to go on any of the excursions, therefore the cruise was pretty much like being incarcerated on a luxury prison ship.

So , here I am bobbing up and down in the Mediterranean heading for Croatia where the bulk of the shore visits are to take place, on the good ship Venus of the Viking line.

My latest trip started on Sunday with an extremely early rise of 2 am to catch the airport bus outside Mal Maison Hôtel in Union Street Dundee.

Pickup spot on 03.00 and a one hour 10 minute journey to Edinburgh Airport. Now I had already checked in on line with British Airways for the first leg of the flights to Malta where the cruise was to leave from, but couldn’t check in on line for the next leg, so assumed I would be able to do this in Edinburgh Airport, Unfortunately, this was not to be, as the check in for the next flight was not open yet in Heathrow. This created a potential problem as I had to change terminals in Heathrow and there was not a huge amount of time between flights.

Ok. so arrived in Heathrow a little early, so far so good, and changed terminals without a great deal of fuss meanwhile the clock was ticking to my next flight. Once in terminal 2, I found a desk with ( among others ) Air Malta, problem was that there was quite a queue , so I fell in line and after half an hour eventually got to the desk, only to be told that I was at the wrong desk. I politely pointed out that the sign above the guys head was stating quite clearly that this was the desk for Air Malta. He was very dismissive and said that I would have to check in at the gate.
Problem was that he didn’t know what gate it was to be and the gate number had not came up on the screen and it was stating that the gate number would be announced just 35 minutes before the flight time. Now with Covid regulations meaning that there was a plethora of forms to be carried and the possibility of one if these forms being filled out wrongly, this did not give ne a good feeling and once I told this guy what I really thought of his attitude I set of finding the routs to all the gates, some if which could take 15 minutes to get to.

In the event the gate was announced early and I managed to get there in time and boarded the plane in good time.

At last, a seat on the plane and on my way

An uneventful flight and an on-time landing in Malta. I then took one and a half hours to get through the airport’s procedure including customs and passport control together with Covid checks on paperwork. At this time I would like to thank the mindless Brexiteers for the unnecessary time wasted in the non EU line of people.

From exiting the airport the procedure was flawless in the hands of Viking staff and transport to the ship and again, boarding was smooth and efficient.

Beautiful cabin

Now, at this point I should explain that Viking is not a cruise line I would normally choose and indeed this is the first time I have cruised with them, However Moira ( my travel agent) was able to obtain an exceptionably good rate for this cruise and an excellent veranda cabin for around about a third of the normal price for a single occupancy cabin.

A view of Valletta Harbor from the ship

Once settled in, I headed into the beautiful town of Valletta with its impressive fortified structures built directly off the cliff faces surrounding the harbor. The colonial past of Malta very prevalent in the grand buildings that are generally built by colonials powers, in this case Britain, in an attempt to overawe the local populace and convince them of the benefice of their colonial masters. The benefice of course generating in the opposite direction in reality, as all of these grand buildings together with the administration that went with them was financed through the rape of the countries’ assets by the colonial power.

Another of the “gifts” to Malta from Britain

Malta has long been a crossroads of Mediterranean trade and culture, shaped by countess civilizations . The Harbor at Valletta was built by the Knights of St John who defended the island against the ottoman empire in the 16th century.

In more recent history the island was laid siege to by the Axis powers in the second world war, and I had a longish visit to the underground headquarters of the joint services group from where they planned the response to the forces laying siege to the island .

A beer to counter the heat

So after a longish walk a stop for a beer before heading back to the ship and a nice meal in the World Cafe which is ,under normal circumstances the buffet but because if Covid restrictions it is served up to your choice . An excellent band ended the night but unfortunately and again because of Covid precautions, no dancing.

A nice capachino and watching the world go by

Sunday, and again a walk into Valletta to explore the harbor area and the narrow but in the main, straight streets of the town itself and a chance to indulge in what I have been missing the most ,during the pandemic, sitting at a street cafe, enjoying a capachino and watching the world go by, bliss. Then back to the ship for dinner which was exceptional.

Excellent menu

I had the Oriental style Scallops with Lobster, delicious. Then watched as the ship slipped out of the harbor and set a course for Dubrovnik.

Valletta by night

The evening ended with some good music from the band in the Torshavn lounge , thinking of a small independent island at peace with itself, Goodnight Malta, I will be back

The World This Week From Mennies

Saturday 4 September 2021

Holyrood or Reichstag
Brexit and independence

Another week almost in and once again a busy week, but always nice to get some free time at the weekends which invariably finds me at some point visiting my favorite hostelry, Mennies.
I was in there last night and in between debating independence with a new found friend Ian ( a farmer) I got to thinking about where we are with Nicola Sturgeons governess of Scotland and it was not a pretty sight.

Holyrood or Reichstag

It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish, what is happening in Holyrood in 2021 from what happened in the Reichstag in 1938., Both, it would seem were and are, inhabited by Fascists’.
The definition of Facism, is extremely authoritarian, intolerant, or oppressive ideas or behavior, and that my friends adequately sums up the behavior of the present ruling cabal surrounding Nicola Sturgeon.
This manifests itself in the intolerant and extreme behavior on issues such as Gender recognition legislation and what would appear, a blatant conspiracy to remove political and journalistic threats to the ruling cabal at the top of the SNP .

The other day there was a perfectly lawful and peaceful protest outside Holyrood by concerned supporters of women’s rights. Now this demonstration was not in any way meant to suggest the imposition of new or unusual rights , but to protect existing rights based on a scientific and accepted definition of what a woman is and what she should expect by way of protection from preditory men.

Now this democratic expression concern for woman and girls rights was attacked by, in my opinion, a particularly offensive and objectional person by the name of Fiona Robertson. Who called and implied that these people were dangerous fascists. This is the same woman who cannot even define anti-Semitism in its accepted definition.

It has become apparent that decisions emanating from the ruling cabal in Holyrood are themselves fascist by nature and deed. We have a journalist ,Craig Murry in jail, for simply telling the truth. We had a man, Alex Salmond set up by close friends of Nicola Sturgeon on contrived charges of sexual impropriety, because he was seen as a threat to the union. We are seeing independence minded bloggers vilified for the crimes of supporting independence and attempting to show Nicola Sturgeon in her true colors.

One of the main areas of contention as I mentioned earlier is the Gender recognition legislation which is being forced through parliament. Now there was a consultation process embarked upon by the Scottish government, but unfortunately the results have been cloaked in secrecy and only partially and selectively made available to the public.

Basically the results have been broken down into two sections . One section is the input from organisations, the results of this are five out of ten of the participating organisations were for the legislation and 4 out of ten against, with one out if ten neither for nor against. Now to get a true picture of this one has to look at the organisations who supported this legislation and almost without exception they were all organisations who were associated with Stonewall in one form or another.

As for the general public’s opinion, it would seem that this is either unimportant to the ruling cabal or more likely it showed significant opposition to the proposals, as it has been kept secret.

So there you have it Holyrood or the Reichstag of 1938, you choose

Brexit and independence

So back to Ian my new found farmer friend.

The conversation went from Brexit to independence. Brexit it seems did not endear itself to Ian, him being a farmer and dependent on short term workers mainly from the EU. He tells me that a significant amount of his crops are left in the ground and plowed in. This being part if the problem you see when you go to supermarkets and see bare shelves.

The conversation moved to independence and we had quite an involved discussion which revolved around Scotland’s right to choose its own destiny and indeed whether we could indeed afford be independent.

Ian like many other unionists seemed to think that Scotland benefited from the money we “received” from the rest of the UK ( meaning England) He was quite surprised when I told him that this money was first, made in Scotland and sent south by way of taxes collected. Not only that but the money we received back from the treasury was only a percentage of what we sent down and the rest was spent on our behalf by the Westminster treasury, That spending in our behalf includes a share of interest on borrowings, generally, incompetently made by the UK government therfore incorrectly showing a deficit in the GERS figures.

I explained that independence could be gained through a plebiscite election fought on the basis of attaining the will of the Scottish people and not necessarily requiring a cumbersome referendum. He was most surprised at that statement and also when I told him that England had a negative balance of payments whereas Scotland had a very positive balance if payments situation.

Ian was most surprised when I told him that on independence, Scotland would not be due any part of the UK debt and when he very vehemently disputed this I asked him to name a single one of the 64 countries who have gained independence from the UK who have contributed to the national debt of the UK. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t name any because there are none.

I asked Ian to cast his mind back to the time he left home to make his very successful way in the world . Could he recall whether he agreed to pay part of His parents mortgage?

He had to concede that was a fair point.

And so to this evening when I again plan to visit Menneis, no doubt to engage with friends and some, other than friends on social media and Twitter on my views on politics in general and indeed independence.
Remember , life may not be the party you thought it would be but seeing as we are here we might as well dance.