Muscat, Oman

We arrived off Muscat, Oman around 7.00 am on the 29th April – Maureen’s birthday.

I’d not seen Muscat for about fifty years, and my memory of the city was of ‘yesterday’, so when we arrived the only piece of Muscat I remembered was the cliffs, the old fort and a few houses along the shore line.

DSC06127rThe old fort overlooking the town of Muscat.


  The old town, with a piece of yesterday floating in the harbour.


Harbour side road, and the one thing that jumped out at me was the lack of rubbish.

DSC06136rThe road leading from the harbour area, which was spotless.


The dhow in the harbour is similar to the dhows that were used fifty years to carry cargo from the ship, in which I sailed, to the shore.
The vessel behind is the Sultan’s yacht – thanks to oil.

DSC06145rFind the rubbish . . .


Even under the freeways the pace was litter free – very impressive.


Opera House


Center of a roundabout – water flowed past the bows of the dhow.


Part of the parliament area. . . . more like advisers to the Sultan, than a parliament as we know in the UK, Australia etc. I had a feeling of a benevolent dictator.


Location, location – the Sultan’s home.


A weekender. . . .


Muscat Souq.


We were told that if you are asked to buy anything and you refused the approach they would not keep pestering you.
They were correct – each time we refused to buy, the seller backed off, unlike the sellers in Bombay and Cochin.


As a rough guide AUD $4 = one rial, many items were not as cheap as they first appeared, but we did buy a few items.
We did buy a stuffed camel for our grandson – it was made in China of course!

DSC06229rWe sailed for Dubai in the evening.


A few hours in Bombay.

I know it is now called Mumbai, but for me it will always be Bombay, and our guide spoke of the city using both names. We were told that many people living in Bombay still referred to their home city as Bombay.

As we sailed closer to the harbour we overtook an Indian naval vessel.

DSC05933rThe skyline that I remember from fifty years ago.
Gateway to India and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel on the left of the Gateway.

DSC05938rWe saw many war ships alongside, including an aircraft carrier and these torpedo boats.

DSC05943rA touch of the old days with a double decker bus.

A street full of second hand books – they are never packed away just covered with sheets at night.
There must have been thousands of books. The blue tint is due to the windows of our bus.

DSC05958r  Victoria terminus built by the British.

DSC05959rHousing being refurbished.

Health and safety – scaffolding held together with string and rope.
We also saw men on the roof, and of course they didn’t have safety harnesses or hard hats.
Basically they worked as the older members of my readers worked in the late 50’s & 60’s.

DSC05969rGateway to India, it hasn’t changed since the 1920’s.
It was the gate that the last British troops symbolically marched through as they left India in 1947.DSC05971rThis is the hotel that suffered a terrorist attack some years ago, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The hotel is located across the road from the Gateway to India.DSC05975rAn interesting day out on a boat ride for the locals – all full of colour.


                             Next stop was the ‘Lunch Box’, near Church Gate railway station.
The lunch box delivery system is unique – a business man’s wife produces a hot mid-day meal, which is collected by dedicated people and then ‘trained’ to the city centre. Outside the railway station others co-ordinate the final delivery to the office of the business man.
Late in the afternoon the meal ‘box’ is returned via the same system to the lady of the house, and the whole thing is repeated the following work day.
There is a very good commercial film called ‘The Lunch Box’, which is part in English and part in Hindi (with sub titles) that explains the whole process much better than me and is quite funny in parts.
The above picture shows the ‘lunch boxes’ being coordinated for various delivery people.

DSC05994rSome are delivered via trolly.

Most are delivered via bicycle.

Packing ones bike and maneuvering with so many tourists can be a pain,

and it can be hard work.

Next stop is the laundry, also called Dohbi ghats, where the laundry of Bombay is cleaned.
But first we have to catch a train.DSC06009rThe Indian lady is our guide and we were warned to disembark the train quickly at our destination, because the train only stopped for about 30 seconds.

DSC06010rOur window – without glass.

Air conditioning

Dohbi Ghat from the road.


Each of the stone areas, within Dohbi Ghat, is passed down through the family generation after generation.

Drying clothes – they do say that less than 0.1% of the laundry is lost, because each Dhobi walla has his own mark, which is placed in an unseen area of the clothing.

DSC06025rI wonder what happens to a person’s feet when they are in water all their working life.

DSC06029rOf course we have the crowds and the hawkers.

We did see the occasional horse and cart.

and the cows in the street are common.

Never short of traffic.

Our last visit was to Gandhi’s house – the above is the room where he worked and slept.

DSC06037rDSC06039rThe outside of his house.

Back to the ship and two days at sea before Muscat in Oman.

Cochin, now Kochi, is Cochin to me.


As we entered the harbour we passed the Chinese fishing nets, and some of the old buildings that I first saw in 1963.





‘Babu’ was our driver – his tuk tuk on the left.


sometimes another tuk tuk wanted our little bit of the road, but Babu always managed to miss them . . .

Near the port we passed Cochin Harbour Terminus. I could just see the platform in the undergrowth, but had my doubts when we were told that the railway brought goods from Bombay.

DSC05688rAzamara Quest on the right and the Sea Voyager behind us. (Regent ship)


Crossed the river using a bridge built by the British before they left in 1948. It no longer opens to allow ships to pass.  As you see both lanes were full of traffic coming towards us.
At first I though it was a one way bridge and we were going the wrong way, until Babu started zig zagging through the on coming traffic.


  Chinese fishing net area, but I didn’t see any Chinese. . .


Tuk tuks and people where ever you looked . .

Traffic jams was the norm . .



Bright colours filled the eye. . . .



The traffic wouldn’t allow a Ferrari to get up much speed.


The weather was hot (35 c), but the wind, as we hung on to our tuk tuk, helped cool us.

It was very pleasant to return to the Azamara Quest for a cold drink and lunch, and a quiet rest before the evening’s cultural entertainment at the Le Meridien Hotel around 8.15 pm.


DSC05617rArrived in Colombo to be greeted, just below our cabin balcony, by an elephant.

Not sure that I was happy with the use of the elephant as a photo prop.
The elephant, in my opinion, seemed to be stressed as he or she shook its head to make a large bell that was tied around its neck to ring as it shuffled its feet.
The animal’s left rear leg was chained to a bollard – the same one being used by our cruise ship – see the blue rope.


Small stalls along the wharf.




Our neighbour above, who is just aft of us, and the Sri Lanka navy across from us.


We walked part of the way in to town – very quiet, because it was a public religious holiday – full moon day (12 times a year) when it is forbidden to sell alcohol. . . . .



A private ‘boat’- Vava, across from us, I wonder if it will be in Cochin (now called Kochi).
It was flying a defaced British red ensign. I couldn’t quite make out the defaced symbol, so I don’t know where it was registered.
Later we were told that it belonged to an Italian pharmaceutical billionaire, who lived in Switzerland.
What his vessel was doing in Colombo I have no idea . . but it looked deserted.
Swimming pool covered, heliport locked, and the water toys for rich boys, stowed away.

Maureen and I had a quiet lime juice at the Galle face Hotel – very oldie worldie – it was  refurbished last year, but sadly the old and distinguished doorman died last year who was well in to his 90’s.






Sunrises at sea


Sun coming up behind us as we cross the Great Australia Bight.



Above sunrise as we approach Fremantle.



Above a day out of Fremantle in the Indian Ocean heading for Bali.
As the sun came up it seemed to produce an outline image of Australia.


Another sunrise as we approached Bali – as the sun came up it reminded me of a lighthouse as the sunbeams flashed across the water.
I only wish I was a better photographer because the sun scenes and the movement of the ocean is fascinating.

Sea Fever

I was fortunate to attend HMS Conway, which was a training ship (see picture below) to supply officers for the merchant and Royal Navy – most us went in to the merchant service.

The college began in 1859, and I attended ‘Conway’ between 1960 and 1962. During my time we lived in barracks because the old ship had run aground and broken her back in 1953 while being towed through the Swillies, which is a very dangerous stretch of water  between the North Wales coast and the Isle on Anglesey. She was on her way to dry dock in Birkenhead, but never made it.  . . .

Conway-01After leaving Conway in 1962, I went to sea, and my first ship was a tanker, the Ellenga, with a gross tonnage of 24,246 gt. At that time she was quite a large vessel.


Tomorrow we sail from Sydney harbour aboard the Diamond Princess, which is just under 116,000 dwt and nearly five times the size of my first ship.


The above was taken last September, (2015), and the small yellow / green ship is a Sydney harbour ferry. The black vessel is a tanker bunkering the Diamond Princess moored alongside the Sydney Cruise Terminal, where she will be tomorrow when we join her.

For many of us who went to sea as young men (I was eighteen on my first trip) never lose the love of the ocean. One old Conway, John Masefield, captured the feeling of the sea when he wrote Sea Fever.

Sea Fever

By John Masefield.  HMS Conway 1891-94.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

South China Sea in 1967 at the start of a typhoon.
Cargo ship ‘Pundua’, built 1945, 7,295 gt
I think I prefer
Diamond Princess, built 2004, 116,000 gt
Tomorrow, thanks to our daughter & son-in-law, a hire limo will transport us for the expected hour’s run to the cruise terminal. Our check-in is 11.30 am, so all being well we will have lunch on board.

The sea was so blue it was unbelievable . .


Island Princess

Although we joined the ship at 1.00 pm on Thursday we didn’t sail until lunchtime on Friday.
What a departure as we sailed along the Grand Canal past St Marks’ Square. The weather was perfect, the passengers on the ship were friendly; we all shared good spots for the taking of just one more photograph of Venice.

Approaching St Mark’s Square (top picture) and passing St Mark’s Square



Our first port of call would be Istanbul in Turkey. My last visit to this city was in 1965, and it would be my wife’s first visit.



As we watched the sunset during our pre-dinner drink the Captain spoke to the passengers and ship’s crew over the loud speaker.
The Greek coast guard had requested the Island Princess to divert, because a small vessel was in distress.
Because the law of the sea demands that all ships will go to the aide of those in distress that Captain didn’t have a choice.
We watched some of the crew make ready a fast tender, while donning life jackets and preparing the tender for launch.
As the evening light turned to darkness we waited, but couldn’t see anything as full night arrived so made our way to the dining room.
After dinner we checked again and little had changed re the crew and the fast tender, so we went to bed.
During the night (which we slept through) the ship had stopped in the Ionian Sea to pick up 117 Syrian refugees from a small sailing boat. I did hear later that the small boat sank shortly after the refugees were rescued due to the increase in the wind and the waves. Our new passengers were confined in the aft area and  were given food and hot drinks after their ordeal.They were kept under guard by the ship’s security.
We then sailed to Katakolon, which is a sea port near Olympia, where we were met by  military and coast guard vessels.



The Island Princess lowered two tender boats (each able to carry 150 people) and waited for instructions from the port authorities. We remained at anchor in the bay for most of the morning.

The picture of the tender boats was taken from our balcony.


Later I found out that the delay was due to the refugees refusing to leave the Island Princess and it was a mixture of persuasion and force that resulted in them all being sent ashore.

Our diversion to rescue the refugees meant that we would not be able to visit Istanbul because we had run out of time, and we had to maintain our schedule. While at anchor off the Greek coast we waited for information of our replacement destination. In the afternoon we were told that we would be visiting Santorini instead of Istanbul. This would allow us to return to our normal schedule of destinations. It was unfortunate that we would miss Istanbul, but the safety of those in distress had to take precedence over everything else. We can try again next year, the refugees, if their boat had sunk with them still on board, would not have had a next year.

The following morning we steamed slowly to an anchorage off Santorini, we had company.


Local tender crafts came out to the Island Princess just after 9.00 am and disembarkation took place of those passengers who wished to go ashore. The whole operation was very efficient, yet friendly.


Once ashore we bought tickets for the cable car to the top of the cliffs. We could have used the zig zag trail and walked up via 500 steps, but even though it was only 10.00 am it was already getting quite hot. The alternative to walking up the 500 steps was riding on the back of a donkey, which we didn’t fancy. We’d also been warned of the donkey ‘eggs’ (droppings)  making the wide steps slippery.


View from our cable car

The cable car cost  Euro 5.00 each way and it didn’t take long before we were at the top and walking around the various shops. Some of the restaurants, with spectacular views, ripped off the tourists when charging for drinks. A small glass of local beer in a bar with a limited view was Eu 3.00, (AUD $4.30), but in the bar with the view it was Eu 7.50 (AUD $10.70). There were plenty of viewing spots where we able to take photos of the views, so our custom with the rip off merchants was limited.

DSC03975r  DSC03976r


Shopping streets in Santorini

The sea around Santorini seemed destined to be filled with various types of sailing vessels. The chance to sail around the islands, under sail, is obviously very popular. I only wished that we were there longer so that I could have experienced one of the short sailing cruises.




The colour of the sea was such that one never tired of looking and photographing – it was as blue as any picture post card in a travel agents window.