Monday, July 28, 2014

Expedition blues and a hitchhiker

Its the 2nd month now here in Tonga onboard the boat ICE. We were suppose to be doing magnotometer work but it turns out the mag isn't working. Its unclear whether it EVER worked. It was a 2nd hand model - the previous user claimed he bought it but never used it.

So we are now back in port - we are going to freight it from Tonga, South Pacific to Canada. There is a FedEx office here so hopefully the repair/re-delivery will take about 2 weeks.

There is of course a chance that it is not the mag that is at fault. Maybe there is a kink in the 200m cable. Well, fuck.... fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck m,othterhgfucketingeveryshitthingis going fucking wrong. OK.... rant over.

Small shitty things- I don't know why some of the crew are so fucking adverse to taking a shower when we are at port. We have practically an unlimited supply of fresh water here which is also free if the watchman doesn't swing by and ask for a US$8 bribe fee. Don't they want to wash and be fucking clean?

I understand if we are a fucking a million miles out at sea and unable to replenish or resupply - but we are at port for frack sake.

Sure. We gotta save water - oh for fuck sake - it just rained like a fuck load of water the last month into the sea. Spare the whales - use the fucking water and take a fucking wash for fuck sake...

One of the crew members also had the fucking audacity to complain about me drinking the coffee - HELLO? I bought the fucking imported coffee beans which you are fucking using. I don't expect a fucking thank you but I do fucking object to being rudely interrupted when I'm reading Murakami and scolded for drinking coffee which I fucking bought!!!!!!

Get this  -The coffee pot only has the capacity for two cups. And the stupid greedy bitch wanted to drink two cups - ie the whole motherfucking pot.


I mean, seriously WTF is wrong with some people?????

Rant2 over....

I made some scones - everyone seemed to like them. Its easy to make - Three cups of flour, 100g of butter, 2 - 3 teaspoons of baking powder, a pinch of salt, a shake or two of cinnamon, a few strips of Tongan (bitter) mandarin peel, a dash of vanilla...

We picked up a hitchhiker - a PRC Chinese girl - 27 years of age, pretty. She worked as an auditor in China - she claims her parents work for the Nuclear program in China. She got bored of her job and decided to hitchhike around the world.

As we were about to sail off a couple of days ago - she bicycled by the wharf and chatted with us. The captain liked her and asked her to join us a few days. She seems pretty smart and capable but a little naive and foolhardy. She has been hitchhiking all the way from China. Traveling by boat, container ships even, car, bus, avoiding plane travel - through HK, Indonesia, Malaysia, NZ, Australia, Korea, Japan etc.. She was abducted in Indonesia when she was hitchhiking (she escaped by jumping out of the car and luckily finding a white knight) and robbed in Malaysia when she wandered around the streets at night looking for a place to stay (her motorcyclist robber pulled her backpack a distance but gave up cos it was too heavy).

She seems unfazed by it all - and wants to wander and hitchhike in South Africa, Middle East, and India - Our ship's electrician, also another PRC girl, warned her of the dangers for a young female traveler in those regions.

But PRC hitchhiker's attitude was that there were more good people than bad people in the world.

Well, that's true... but... you have to have precautions. Its asking my trouble jumping off a boat in a fucked up place like Johannesburg with no idea of where you are going to stay that night and chat up total strangers.

(OK. I dive with sharks. But I'm not going to cover myself in blood and wrap Tuna bits all over my body and swim with them, C'mon show some common sense)

Her eyes just rolled when we gently cautioned her about the dangers. She seemed more horrified when I told her about my 400 scuba dive trips - she was mortified because of the expense.

She seems cost adverse - she had just recently arrived from Niue - she hitchhiked on a boat - I asked how she enjoyed the amazing dive conditions there - she replied she didn't want to spend the NZ$100 for the dive - and thought I was stupid for spending a week there for that purpose.

Amicable conversations between us ended about there.

When we got back to port - I tried to help her get onto the dingy to go back to shore - she refused my help. It was pitchblack and there she was stumbling into a rubber boat and trying to struggle up slippery algae slimy steps. I asked again. "Do you need help?"

"NO!", she replied.

OK, good luck. Goodbye.

Let's get out of this emo mood by listening to the gorgeous voice of Priscilla Ahn...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Commune - Norwegian Wood

Its 2am. I woke up with a massive hardon which due to the communal setting I'm in makes it impossible to satisfy. I can't sleep - the crustacians or whatever is living on the harbor floor are making an irritating crackling sound that sounds like a dozen bubblewrap sheets being popped.

Anyway here's an idea... I'm reading Murakami's Norwegian Wood and in it he describes a commune in the mountains relatively self sufficient. The people who lived there were mental health patients who lived there with the staff. They grew their own fruits, vegetables, raised poultry, etc.. In the spare time the people contributed to the social fabric by teaching what they knew. People with language skills taught language etc..

The people lived in their own homes, well made, beautiful homes. The estate used to be owned by a rich family.

It struck me as a very romantic notion that might appeal to city people who want a break from the city. Wouldn't it be nice to go somewhere in the country side to live in a communal setting for a week or a month or a season? Everyone would have their own home for their own privacy but they have communal halls for their main meals. Everyday they would eat healthy food, exercise during the day, do gardening, read, play sports, do yoga, learn musical instruments, cooking, languages, motor mechanics, tend free range chickens, farming, growing herbs, etc.. or just chill out and listen to records in their rooms and just disconnect from all the shit that's going thru their lives?

First Impression of Tonga

This is just a rolling observation report - so bear with me. Tonga seems to be a fairly sedate place. It reminds me very much of a rural town in the 1950s.

By right it should attract the same number of tourist as Fiji - but it scarcely brings in 1/5 of Fiji's revenue.h

There seems to be a lack of direction in Tonga. I think people here ... Singaporeans would say "sleepwalking". Maybe the inertia is due to the laidback island culture fostered by a strong hold of the Christian religion which does foster a tendency towards fatalism. ie. "whatever will be will be" and the end result nothing happens.

There are not many businesses operating here in Tongatapu. There are no spas, therapeutic massage centres catering for tourists etc.. just about a few generic cafes and the better restaurants are run by hotels. There should at least be one traditional massage centre - in the past Tonga had a tradition of remedial massage therapiesto aid in sleep. But nothing. Even the local hotel employs a Chinese national to be a masseur.

The "its ok" mentality extends to cleanliness as well. What I don't understand is why there is so much trash lying everywhere. Not just alcohol bottles, confectionary packaging, plastic containers, aluminium soft drink cans... the drains are over filled with natural waste, mud, plant debris... there are also sunken ships in the harbor, rusting hulks that haven't sailed for years are laid up by the wharf rusting away, a massive long barge weighing thousands of tons lies sunk at its mooring. Can't they see that it just clutters the harbor for visiting ships?

Meanwhile the domestic Tongan airline is using non-approved FAA planes - which are also non insurable. Apparently its a gift from a foreign government but no one seems to have thought about the astronomical cost in servicing the planes.

But the ice-cream here is great - imported from NZ and cheap.

Fish is also very cheap. Tuna, Mahi-mahi, billfish, sailfish abound in these waters. However there are signs of overfishing - the fish stock is getting sorely depleted and the markets here are selling smaller fishes each year.

Surprisingly the main telecom office has high speed fibreoptic internet rated at 2mb a second. I managed to clock 1mb/second download. And it cost US$2 an hour - unlimited data. However the office has a plague of mosquitoes... they are everywhere!!!

But the people are friendly, pleasant - they remind me of the Malays. They have an affable quality about themselves. A lot of the buildings resemble old Malaya too - wooden built houses, wide verandas.

One other thing I found disappointing.The quality of the crops here are limited - they have coconut, sour mandarins, taro, tapioca, giant sweet potato, passion fruit, pumpkin, pawpaw (an inferior papaya)... I was a bit sad to not see more variety - like mangosteens, dokoo/longkong, Malaysian papaya. rumbutans, more varieties of sweet potatoes... For this you can't blame the local populace who have not traveled. However, the govt officials - esp the leaders and their huge entourages - who have traveled far and wide should be aware of the outside world and should do more.

I don't see why more (tropical) crops aren't being planted here - its something the govt should be doing more to help improve the lives of its citizens.

That's all for now.


We're heading out to a distant island in Tonga - called Nomuka, part of the Ha'apai chain. No internet connection there or phone reception it seems.

I hope I can handle this trip. Its going to be one month plus no contact with the outside world. No internet. No phone.

Life on boat is getting a bit testy. I'm not getting on so well with the other two crewmates. Personal differences I guess.

Sometimes self-inflicted as well it seems. Yesterday we had to fetch some water from land. There were two big water tanks for us to collect the water from but the guy in charge "Guy" decided to rely solely on a water hose - which being gravity fed - was taking a really long time.

The sun was up and scorching and he decided to sit in the boat with the hose and get fried in the sun. I'm not keen on suntanning. Sure, I like the sun on my back in the morning. But to bake in the sun... meh. It fries your brain as well I think...

Anyway to cut a long story short as I was getting back on the boat I wanted to use a small  pail of the drinking water to wash the crud off my feet. It seems obvious to me that if you want to transport water you should also make sure the boat is clean to avoid contamination. But the guy wouldn't have it and scolded me for wanting to waste water. Well, considering he hasn't taken a shower for over a week - I guess he didn't see the point. But his argument distracted me and I accidentally put my foot into one of the larger drinking containers - a tub of about 100 litres.

Oh fuck - its ruined.

Well, that set "Mr Save Water Don't Shower" dude. He went absolutely livid. I've never experienced being cursed out like that since my army days. Considering it took over 30 minutes to fill it - I guess I can see where he's coming from. But dude - chill man.

Then when he attempted to start the engine he lost the "kill switch" - something like a engine key.

Another potential disaster. Losing a key to your only means of transportation in the middle of nowhere is a major problem. But this time its his responsibility, his fault.

I didn't complain. I accept that accidents do happen. The severity of the accident should always be weighed upon the ability to rectify the damage swiftly. In his case however - it was serious. I thought maybe he would have gained some empathy. But no.

Thankfully the "kill switch" was found - it was dangling off the engine propeller and hadn't sunk to the bottom of the sea.

But "Mr SWDS" still wouldn't let my mishap go off - and kept on cursing at me on the way back to our main boat.

I'm not too good on confrontation. I'd rather avoid it as it leads to escalation.

But I really don't know what his problem was. All we had to do was to use buckets and we would have filled our water containers in no time.

And sure enough once we got back to the water storage area and started using buckets - our containers were refilled extremely quickly in a quarter of the time. It sure beats sitting in the boat getting fried by the sun. I didn't receive any appreciation from Mr SWDS for thinking about the buckets.

I'm not a strong man. I'm also rather lazy. I also like comfort. And I think I have better things to do with my time and sitting in the sun and baking my brain. So I always try and seek a more efficient risk free solution. Going head on was never my style.


I'm also a big believer in helping out wherever I can. Supplying the ground coffee for the boat. Sharing a good location to get a good internet connection, downloading the movies for movie night,  etc.. but no one seems to pay attention to that.

Small matters on a boat - I'm finding myself retreating into my inner world - reading my books - and just avoiding contact with the other two two members = who I'm pretty sure will start bonking each other pretty soon. I think they have the hots for each other and I'm just a spare wheel.

I don't give a shit. I just want to go diving on the wrecks and into bluer waters.

But I do need to buck up on my navigation skills and do more reading on the archaeological diving aspect. Obviously I need to motivate myself more. But out here on boat in the middle of nowhere with crew mates I'm rather indifferent - its getting a bit hard.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Nothing much really to report. We have not commenced operations yet. Still waiting for more supplies or paperwork to be done.

Meanwhile I've been doing a lot of reading.

I frequently will have 2 - 4 books in front of me so that I can cycle through them if I get bored, confused, stunned or just want to think stuff through.

Usually it will be books on archaeology, ship navigation, philosophical books.

Two books I like very much are Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance, and Murakami's Norwegian Wood. Re:ZenMotorcycle - I like the author's appreciation of people - what makes them tick and how to get around them. I have a vintage 50 year old VW Beetle - and I wish I could undertake a lot of the repairs myself. But it is hard for me to understand mechanics. I work better for somethings if I was doing it more hands on. But I still try - only to tax my lazy brain muscles.

Norwegian Wood - I really love the author's sensitive writing style. The way he crafts his words - mind you it was originally written in Japanese not a language to easily translate.

Interjection - I've just been informed that I've got to prepare for a dive soon. Gotta go.

But I leave you with a quote from Murakami - from another novelette - Pinball.

"Dreamily she closed her eyes and pressed against him. From his shoulder on down, he felt
the supple weight of her body. An odd sensation, that weight. This being that could love a man, bear
children, grow old, and die; to think one whole existence was in this weight."

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Being rich

Recently Lee Ka Shing - one of the richest men in the world - reputed to be worth over $30 billion dollars - remarked that he was fearful over the wealth divide. That's a bit like a wolf complaining that there are too many sheep these days. I find that rather "rich" coming from him. If he is so concerned - why doesn't he pay his workers more? Or increase the number of scholarships? Or advocate an increase in property taxes or a cap on rental rates?

On a side note - the problems of Hong Kong people are compressed by their closeness to China. China with its vast pool of workers will always make it hard for HK workers, even white collar workers, to make a decent wage. In the past HK had its inherent advantages - access to the open market - but now its just one of the many Chinese cities now. Its uniqueness is greatly eroded.

My grandfather was an incredibly wealthy man. He was a millionaire when $10k could buy you an apartment. He was also a Christian - and a miser. I think my mum or one of my aunts described him as a "miser". He was also described as being a Scrooge. He lived in a mansion filled with newspapers. There were stacks and stacks of them piled over hardwood furniture, piano, sofas. Outside in his garden were rusting equipment to process rubber. It was like Miss Havisham's house. When I read Charles Dickens' books - I felt I was reading a work of non-fiction.

Despite being a Christian- in reality he worshiped money. He loathed spending it. He hated giving it away. During Chinese New Year, when it was customary to visit senior relatives, he would lock his gate and not allow any visitors in. My father once scaled the rusty barbed wire fence to go knock on his door. He was turned away.

My granddad locked his gate because he did not wish to give us the red-packets to his grandchildren. Inside each red-packet it was customary to put in some money $2 upwards - and in return we would give him a mandarin fruit. But he so loved his money that he'd rather sit barricaded in his house than part with his cash.

How pathetic. But most rich people are like that. Most rich and powerful people I think are psychopaths really. Most of them obtained their wealth and power by backstabbing their friends, underpaying their staff, bribing officials, swindling their investors, and being very ruthless.

Everyone lauds Steve Jobs. But no one seems to care that his iphone factories in China has one of the highest suicide rates. For that matter people also tend to deify warlords like Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan - forgetting that they slaughtered millions of people and caused untold misery and suffering to millions of people - even genocide. Why do we remember them so fondly and not cast them with the same brush as we do Hitler, Pol Pot etc..

If I could meet with my grandad I would ask him just one question. What is the point in being rich? And maybe he would reply "Having the freedom to do what you want." And I would then ask, "Are you doing what you want?" And he may have replied, "Yes. I'm being rich. Now go away."

This sort of loopy logic is like some scene out of the cartoon South Park.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Don't you have better things to do on a Sunday?

I'm a Christian. My family - through my father's line - have been Christian for over five generations stretching back to the 19th century.

But I've been disillusioned with organized religion. Going to church these days seem more like a social event. And the sermons are merely paper covering many of my doubts about Christianity.

The one thing I dislike about Christianity as I know it - is that we are frowned upon to question what is written in the Bible. Who wrote the stuff up? Who chose what to include in the final text book?

Isn't it peculiar that Jesus - the Word of God made flesh - never wrote anything down - apart from some writings on the sand (in the case of the woman caught in adultery? I think that is saying something.

Why is that Jesus said the two most important rules we were to follow were :
1. Love God
2. Love your neighbor as yourself and treat them as you yourself want to be treated.

Then for some reason other people wrote other stuff in which contradict what Jesus said to Nicodemus.

Personally I am forming the opinion that a lot of what is written in the Bible was more heavily influenced by the male writers than by God.

When we sing in Jesus - "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet" we are also referring to Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy which has some horrible stuff to say about rape, the power of the husband over the wife etc..

For Christians who chose to believe that the Bible is the Word of God that puts them in a bind because they are forced to defend all the fubar rules and regulations in the Bible - ie. you cannot marry even after divorce. They might as well expose the virtues of slavery while they are at it too. (Slavery was never sanctioned in the bible).

I've come to the stage in my Christian walk where I've decided I don't want to worship a book, ie the Bible. I want to experience the God who created the universe, created the woman I love, the world as I know it - and I want to strive to let my love for humanity flow over and help this world I am living in. I don't want to be fettered by rules that don't make sense anymore.

I also don't want to attend church anymore. I've got better things to do on a Sunday.

**Meanwhile we are currently berthed at Queen Salote's wharf, Nuku'alofa, Tonga. I've just learned we will be here for another two weeks to sort out more paperwork and admin stuff. Hopefully we can sail out and do some local diving and mind detecting work for day trips.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014


This was an excerpt from an email to a friend.

We are now moored back at Salote's wharf (sounds exactly like Charlotte). Woke up at 3am when one of the crew took a dump in the toilet and the farty fragrance wafted back inside the cabin. I've got a sensitive nose for a guy and a low tolerance for shitty smells.

Went to the bridge then walked outside to the cockpit of the ship to breath some fresh air. Nothing more invigorating than cold 3am air. I laid down for awhile thinking about an email a friend had sent. Looked up at the stars - wished she was here. I'm not allowed to sleep anymore in those areas. So I headed back to the lounge where I'm currently sleeping. 

The lounge is three times the size of my cabin and it also has two large skylight windows that fully open letting in a lot of lovely fresh ion-negatively charged sea air. The lounge sofa is half the width of my bed but I'd rather trade this over a stuffy room with a smell sweaty fat aussie who doesn't like to wash.

I couldn't sleep for a long while - there were all these curious crunching and rustling sounds coming from somewhere. Turns out its the sound of crabs, crustations, shrimps, prawns feasting on the algae growth on the hull of our boat. lol.

When I finally woke at 7am I spent the morning sitting back and chilling by the bow of the boat listening to Velvet Underground. I don't smoke or drink - so listening to music and meditating or thinking about past events helps me chill.

By midday, everyone on the boat took a siesta. I felt like I was in an old folks home so I swam back to the island hoping to play a game of darts with the locals and meet new friends.

I brought along my long fins - it helps as a conversational piece. Talked to a few people including a strange Japanese man who is running a dive operation. Strange in the sense that he comes too close to talk. He migrated from Japan to Perth 25 years ago - back when it was a sleepy backwater. He loved the under - developed areas. So he moved to Tonga - and China where he resides half the year. Eventually he told me he was lonely and wanted people to talk too. I guess I'm like that too in a way.

The person I was playing darts with wasn't there - and the girl whom I was talking with had more interesting angmo to talk to. So I put on my fins and swam back to the boat.

I'm still reading Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things. Some of the stuff he writes - I think I myself dreamed about but never bothered to write it down.