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It is raining when we arrive in Haydarpaça. The city is all water: the Bosphorus, the precipitation and the Golden Horn. To me, Istanbul has never looked so beautiful. We board a ferry which will leave us below the Galata Tower. While we wait for the boat to fill up with passengers I see a line of cormorants. They are on a seawall that looks like the work of the sultans. The birds disappear every time that the beam from the Kumkapi lighthouse turns and […]

“You can go through abandonment once, but not twice” (32 of 32)

It is raining when we arrive in Haydarpaça. The city is all water: the Bosphorus, the precipitation and the Golden Horn. To me, Istanbul has never looked so beautiful. We board a ferry which will leave us below the Galata Tower. While we wait for the boat to fill up with passengers I see a line of cormorants. They are on a seawall that looks like the work of the sultans. The birds disappear every time that the beam from the Kumkapi lighthouse turns and […]

Muzaffer Civelek, the ITF inspector in Istanbul, takes us by car to the hotel where the crew of the Salta are staying. One Russian and nine Ukrainian crew members, including a woman, are smoking in their rooms when we arrive. They are hoping that something will happen. I recognise the silence because it is exactly the same as on board the ships. However, here it is on shore. Seeing the sailors waiting here, on land, is almost more anti-natural than observing them in the aquatic […]

Waiting for a shore based solution (31 of 32)

Muzaffer Civelek, the ITF inspector in Istanbul, takes us by car to the hotel where the crew of the Salta are staying. One Russian and nine Ukrainian crew members, including a woman, are smoking in their rooms when we arrive. They are hoping that something will happen. I recognise the silence because it is exactly the same as on board the ships. However, here it is on shore. Seeing the sailors waiting here, on land, is almost more anti-natural than observing them in the aquatic […]

When this journey began in June 2009 I knew very little about the sea and even less about sailors. My ideas about the sea were purely literary. I understand now that it is one thing to have been born on an island and to believe that you are part sea creature. The reality of the sea is something else. It is tough and only allows you to be part of its ecosystem through demonstrating strength and courage. If you do not step up to the […]

Closing the circle: once again in Istambul (30 of 32)

When this journey began in June 2009 I knew very little about the sea and even less about sailors. My ideas about the sea were purely literary. I understand now that it is one thing to have been born on an island and to believe that you are part sea creature. The reality of the sea is something else. It is tough and only allows you to be part of its ecosystem through demonstrating strength and courage. If you do not step up to the […]

In Civitavecchia the old sailor dressed strictly in black gave me a small postcard featuring the image of the Stella Maris and he spoke to me about Mount Carmel, in Haifa, Israel. Since then I have had it in my purse and I have looked at it now and again. A woman with a serene expression is levitating above a choppy sea. Behind her there is a brigantine that is heading towards her. It impresses me that there are waves that come and there are […]

Crossing the Sinai Peninsular (29 of 32)

In Civitavecchia the old sailor dressed strictly in black gave me a small postcard featuring the image of the Stella Maris and he spoke to me about Mount Carmel, in Haifa, Israel. Since then I have had it in my purse and I have looked at it now and again. A woman with a serene expression is levitating above a choppy sea. Behind her there is a brigantine that is heading towards her. It impresses me that there are waves that come and there are […]

I board the launch and, to my surprise, we do not head for shore. There are two ships anchored in this area and it appears that they have suffered some type of abandonment. One is a chemical tanker and the other is a passenger ferry that they will take me to in a while. Once in front of the chemical tanker the boatman sounds his horn over and over again as if he were sounding an alarm. I am left half deaf and I shout […]

Thrown off a ferry (28 of 32)

I board the launch and, to my surprise, we do not head for shore. There are two ships anchored in this area and it appears that they have suffered some type of abandonment. One is a chemical tanker and the other is a passenger ferry that they will take me to in a while. Once in front of the chemical tanker the boatman sounds his horn over and over again as if he were sounding an alarm. I am left half deaf and I shout […]

It is cloudy at sunrise and a thick mist envelops trees and individuals. Divining what is more than two metres away is nigh on impossible. It is now that I realise that the pavements of Suez are too high and they are full of potholes. In Latin America it is the tree roots that cause concrete to crack. Here the holes seem to have been caused by mortar rounds, bullets and shells. The agent that is taking me to the canal is waiting for me […]

Ghost ships in the Suez Canal (27 of 32)

It is cloudy at sunrise and a thick mist envelops trees and individuals. Divining what is more than two metres away is nigh on impossible. It is now that I realise that the pavements of Suez are too high and they are full of potholes. In Latin America it is the tree roots that cause concrete to crack. Here the holes seem to have been caused by mortar rounds, bullets and shells. The agent that is taking me to the canal is waiting for me […]

After obtaining the pass I head to the Suez embarkation agencies that operate in a building on the outskirts of the city. They will know if there are abandoned crews in this enclosed bit of sea. I manage to get an embarkation agent to speak to me about the abandonment of a ship that he operates. “Three young men live on the cargo ship. They are a second crew”, says the agent. The Greek owner disappeared seven months ago and left the cargo of steel […]

The militarised port of Tawfig (26 of 32)

After obtaining the pass I head to the Suez embarkation agencies that operate in a building on the outskirts of the city. They will know if there are abandoned crews in this enclosed bit of sea. I manage to get an embarkation agent to speak to me about the abandonment of a ship that he operates. “Three young men live on the cargo ship. They are a second crew”, says the agent. The Greek owner disappeared seven months ago and left the cargo of steel […]

There are three men. The youngest one speaks English. It is he who is speaking all the time. He is translating what the other two are asking as well as adding his own questions. It is obvious when it is his own question because he craftily constructs it hoping that I will take the bait and contradict myself. Then he smiles revealing a set of perfect white teeth. We have spent an hour trying to understand who I am. Each time that I stammer something […]

Egypt: a blood-stained notebook (25 of 32)

There are three men. The youngest one speaks English. It is he who is speaking all the time. He is translating what the other two are asking as well as adding his own questions. It is obvious when it is his own question because he craftily constructs it hoping that I will take the bait and contradict myself. Then he smiles revealing a set of perfect white teeth. We have spent an hour trying to understand who I am. Each time that I stammer something […]

[I’m sorry for the delay. I have been celebrating my first wedding anniversary and I made a programming error] Fighting against the windmills (24 of 32) When I arrive at the ship they are already waiting for me. I have arrived fifteen minutes late because the white bus that I took (I pretended that I was a cruise ship passenger) left me about two kilometres away. The captain has gathered them all together in the control room. I was not expecting them to be together […]

Fighting against the windmills (24 of 32)

[I’m sorry for the delay. I have been celebrating my first wedding anniversary and I made a programming error] Fighting against the windmills (24 of 32) When I arrive at the ship they are already waiting for me. I have arrived fifteen minutes late because the white bus that I took (I pretended that I was a cruise ship passenger) left me about two kilometres away. The captain has gathered them all together in the control room. I was not expecting them to be together […]

The Portuguese appears in the office. He is young and is now the cook aboard. However, he came aboard as first mate. “I have just had a son. I don’t know him. I am a prisoner here and I don’t know when we will leave. I became a sailor because I was following a dream. I was working in a supermarket but I always wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps”, he says. Once again, everyone falls silent because everyone knows he should be the […]

Pasta, pasta and pasta (23 of 32)

The Portuguese appears in the office. He is young and is now the cook aboard. However, he came aboard as first mate. “I have just had a son. I don’t know him. I am a prisoner here and I don’t know when we will leave. I became a sailor because I was following a dream. I was working in a supermarket but I always wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps”, he says. Once again, everyone falls silent because everyone knows he should be the […]