Wednesday, November 14, 2018
According to Wellington's Dominion Post it might not be the life you expect
It sounds really great, and with the boom in luxury yacht-building, there are more opportunities than you might imagine. But, if you are female, you should be size 10, 12, 14 or whatever is svelte in your country. And there are other hitches, too.
For a start, it is a Boys' Club. Marusha Issen, who has worked on 50 super yachts over two years (boy, she must have built up some air points!) relates that she saw a lot of bullying, including sexual assaults on female workers. And a big hint is that when applying for a job, a girl is encouraged to submit a picture of herself, preferably in a bikini.
Marusha, formerly a hairdresser, quit her job to fly to France to enlist on a super yacht as a cleaner. But, according to the agency, she had to go on a diet before applying. When she expressed disbelief, she was simply advised to go to a uniform shop and see if the clothes fitted her. And none of them did.
Persistent by nature, Marusha kept on trying, landing job after job in her hunt for her dream, only to come across the same depressing comments. One captain informed her that she "should quit the industry because captains liked women with a shape that they could enjoy looking at."
Another Kiwi dreamer was Helen O'Connor, who was ticked off by the chief steward of the ship. "Oh, don't let those hips get any wider," he said; "...we know what happens with girls who get stuck in the pantry and get fat, we're not having fat girls on this boat."
She was also told to go out and buy a tan, as she didn't look "summery" enough
There are men who agree. Auckland-born Jack Greene confirms that if female crew "put on weight or anything, they were fired on the spot."
On all ships the captain is god, in complete control at sea, and throughout history there have been skippers who have abused this power -- and it might even be more so on luxury yachts. Greene confirmed this, saying that the super yacht industry is a game with no rules, despite the International Maritime Labour Convention, which stipulates that there should be a complaints process in workers' contracts. Dodging this is yet another advantage of offshore flagging.
A third Kiwi woman, Emma Burtt, has a few positive comments about working on luxury yachts, though she admits the life is a mixed bag, and a girl has to keep her wits about her.
"People who work in the yachting industry, you always see photos of them in cool places all around the world but you don't see them scrubbing toilets and working long hours.
"You don't really understand that side until you do it."
Emma worked as a stewardess first, and graduated to deck hand, a much more highly regarded role -- a yacht can sail without stewards, but not without a deck crew. And she was lucky with the owner of her first super yacht, a Saudi prince. A liberated fellow, he allowed the women crew members to eat with him at dinner ... and would take them on weekend trips to London, with three thousand pounds in pocket money, to go shopping as they liked.
He was also eccentric. Emma remembers him paying one of the crew members five thousand euro to dive off the boat dressed as a salmon.
And the tips were good for those who were not invisibly cleaning toilets -- up to three thousand euro.
And unusual and interesting way of paying off one's student loan.
Sunday, November 11, 2018
Now billed as the second-most famous (or notorious) ship in the world (after the Titanic), Equanimity is finally to be sold.
Or so they say.
According to Miranda Blazeby, writing in Boat International, the Malaysian court is ready to get quit of the ship by the end of the year.
According to reports, judicial commissioner Khadijah Idris made the order on October 5 after lawyers representing the government's state investment fund 1DMB made submissions to the court.
Sitpah Selvaratnam, a lawyer representing the fund, told Malaysia's The Star Online, "The appraiser will evaluate the fair value of the vessel, while a central broker will be tidying up the advertisements and so on. The buyers will be interested to know the features and condition of the vessel."
She revealed the fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, who is believed to have bought the yacht using funds embezzled from 1DMB, has not protested the auction of the superyacht. Selvaratnam also estimated that the yacht will be put up for sale by the second week of November, with bids received in early December.
It comes after the Cayman Islands-registered yacht was transferred to Malaysia in August after being seized by Indonesian authorities at the request of the US Department of Justice. It arrived at Port Klang on August 7 where it was immediately boarded by Malaysian officials. The department is investigating the alleged misappropriation of $4.5 billion from Malaysia’s state investment fund 1MDB by high level officials and their associates.
The US authorities believe that the funds used to purchase Equanimity were siphoned off from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB between 2009 and 2015. As well as the Oceanco-built yacht, it is understood that the money was used to buy the rights to several Hollywood movies, including The Wolf of Wall Street and Dumb and Dumber To. Equanimity’s alleged owner Low Taek Jho has been previously identified as a central figure in the scandal.
Malaysia’s finance minister Lim Guan Eng previously said the government will to take a full inventory of items on the yacht and open it for public viewing before auctioning it for “the highest price”. The Malaysian government intends to use the sale of the yacht, which is valued at $250 million, to recover some of the funds lost in the scandal.
As well as the US, there are currently six other countries investigating irregularities related to the 1MDB fund, including Switzerland, Luxembourg and Singapore.
Launched in the Netherlands in 2014, Equanimity was the first superyacht to be built to the new PYC standard. As a result, she can accommodate up to 26 guests, as well as 28 crew members. Her twin 4,828hp MTU 20V4000 M73 diesel engines propel her to a top speed of 19.5 knots. When trimmed back to her cruising speed of 16 knots, Equanimity boasts a globetrotting range, thanks to her total fuel capacity of 271,000 litres
Friday, November 9, 2018
In the middle of Wellington harbor, in plain sight of the city, there is a tiny but very important island. For ages it has been known by its European name - Somes -- but now it has its proper Maori name, Matiu, which was endowed by its first human discoverer, the great Polynesian explorer, Kupe, who named the island after one of his daughters.
Nowadays, Matiu is a tranquil plant and animal sanctuary, where visitors can wander through rejuvenating native bush, watch cavorting, colorful kakariki parrots, and enjoy amazing views. But during two world wars, it was an internment centre for "enemy aliens." And today, in our local paper, there is a well-researched essay by Samantha Owens, describing an equally colorful set of prisoners -- no less than a Bavarian band.
This was Mersy's Bavarian Band, pictured above, circa 1905. Rudolf Mersy, the owner, composer, and conductor, is the small man seated in the centre of the front row.
Groups of itinerant German musicians had been coming to New Zealand regularly from the 1850s onwards, so it's not surprising one such group happened to be in the country when the First World War started. And such was the fervor of popular opinion, it is not amazing, either, that Mersy and his 12-man band should be interned, even though they had been back and forth to this country for ages, and were known for playing patriotic British airs, such as "Rule Britannia."
Arrested in Auckland, they were shipped by train to Wellington, and from there by boat to the island. Not only were the accommodations Spartan (Somes/Matiu had been a quarantine station for imported animals) but they must have contemplated the city scene wistfully. Though so near, it was so far away, and yet they knew it well, having visited Wellington often in the past. Popular entertainers at private functions (including, perhaps, even Katherine Mansfield's Garden Party), they made extra cash by busking in the street, and by adding martial music to school sports days.
But, being musicians, they didn't let time hang on their hands. Instead, they entertained their fellow prisoners. And so the slow years dragged by, until in May 1919, Mersy and his band were included in a batch of 410 prisoners of war who were repatriated to a Europe that they probably had a great deal of trouble recognizing. Their conveyance was the steamship Willochra, and the man in charge was Major G.R. Blackett.
Willochra was an interesting ship (as well as what seems to have been a major polluter). Built in Dalmuir, Scotland, in 1913, she was chartered to Union SS Co. of New Zealand for their trans-Pacific run -- a career that did not last very long, for in November 1914 she was requisitioned by the New Zealand Government for the war effort. Then, in 1918, she was requisitioned by the British Government, and a year or so after repatriating Mersy and his fellow ex-internees, she was sold to the British transport firm Furness Withy, renamed Fort Victoria, and put into the North American trade.
Her end was somewhat dramatic -- on December 19, 1929, while she was laying at anchor in New York harbor, with 200 passengers for Hamilton, Bermuda, the incoming steamship Algonquin ran into and sunk her. Luckily, the US coastguard had raced to the rescue, and no lives were lost. The wreck was later blown up to clear the channel.
And what makes her even more interesting is that she is one of the few ships in history to have a musical composition created for her -- the "Willochra Waltz," composed by Mersy, and presented to Major Blackett.
Wednesday, November 7, 2018
No, it is not the Gutenburg Bible
Erica Eisen's blog in the London Review of Books tells an amazing story
Erica Eisen's blog in the London Review of Books tells an amazing story
When the wind blows through the dunes around the Western Chinese city of Dunhuang – long a garrison town between the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts – it is said to produce sounds similar to song. In 366, the itinerant monk Yuezun was wandering through the arid landscape when a fantastical sight appeared before him: a thousand buddhas, bathed in golden light. (Whether heat, exhaustion or the strange voice of the sands worked themselves on his imagination is anyone’s guess.) Awed by his vision, Yuezun took up hammer and chisel and carved a devotional space into a nearby cliff-face. It soon became a centre for religion and art: Dunhuang was situated at the confluence of two major Silk Road routes, and both departing and returning merchants made offerings. By the time the site fell into disuse in the 14th century, almost 500 temples had been carved from the cliff.
Among the hundreds of caves was a chamber that served as a storeroom for books. The Library Cave held more than 50,000 texts: religious tracts, business reports, calendars, dictionaries, government documents, shopping lists, and the oldest dated printed book in the world. A colophon at the end of the Dunhuang Diamond Sūtra scroll dates it to 868, nearly six centuries before the first Gutenberg Bible.
The Library Cave was bricked up some time in the 11th century, for unknown reasons: perhaps to keep the books safe from invaders; or perhaps, given the large number of worn and partial texts, the chamber was less a library than a tomb for books. Locals continued to worship at the shrines, but several of the the exterior walkways connecting the ancient cave entrances collapsed, and the sand that slowly filled many of the caves severely abraded their delicate murals.
At the end of the 19th century, Wang Yuanlu, a Taoist monk, took it on himself to restore the caves. He found the cache of texts in the course of his repairwork, and in 1907 sold the Dunhuang Diamond Sūtra, along with more than 9000 other objects, to the Hungarian-British archaeologist Aurel Stein, who smuggled them out of the country. Earlier plans by Chinese officials to take the library’s collection out of the caves for storage and scholarly analysis had been put on hold for lack of funds; in China, Stein is widely regarded as a thief. The sūtra remains in England, housed in the British Library.
The Dunhuang Diamond Sūtra is a testament to Chinese mastery in paper production – which by 868 had been refined over a number of centuries – and block-printing of both text and images. The frontispiece, which shows the Buddha flanked by heavenly beings and devotees, is intricately rendered in fine lines. Creating copies of a sūtra on the scale permitted by printing, and so spreading the Buddha’s teachings, was believed to increase the chances of a happy rebirth for oneself or one’s loved ones. The Dunhuang Diamond Sūtra’s colophon explains that it was ‘reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his parents’.
In 2010, the British Library completed more than 1000 hours of painstaking conservation work, much of which was spent undoing the well-meaning but ill-advised interventions of earlier conservators. The subsequent digitisation of the scroll seems to have augmented its commissioner’s wish for ‘universal free distribution’, ensuring his mother and father a blissful afterlife, 1150 years after the book was created.
Thursday, November 1, 2018
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
From the Guardian
Archaeologists have found what they believe to be the world’s oldest intact shipwreck at the bottom of the Black Sea where it appears to have lain undisturbed for more than 2,400 years.
The 23-metre (75ft) vessel, thought to be ancient Greek, was discovered with its mast, rudders and rowing benches all present and correct just over a mile below the surface. A lack of oxygen at that depth preserved it, the researchers said.
“A ship surviving intact from the classical world, lying in over 2km of water, is something I would never have believed possible,” said Professor Jon Adams, the principal investigator with the Black Sea Maritime ArchaeologyProject (MAP), the team that made the find. “This will change our understanding of shipbuilding and seafaring in the ancient world.”
The ship is believed to have been a trading vessel of a type that researchers say has only previously been seen “on the side of ancient Greek pottery such as the ‘Siren Vase’ in the British Museum”.
That work, which dates from about the same period, depicts a similar vessel bearing Odysseus past the sirens, with the Homeric hero lashed to the mast to resist their songs.
The team reportedly said they intended to leave the vessel where it was found, but added that a small piece had been carbon dated by the University of Southampton and claimed the results “confirmed [it] as the oldest intact shipwreck known to mankind”. The team said the data would be published at the Black Sea MAP conference at the Wellcome Collection in London later this week.
It was among more than 60 shipwrecks found by the international team of maritime archaeologists, scientists and marine surveyors, which has been on a three-year mission to explore the depths of the Black Sea to gain a greater understanding of the impact of prehistoric sea-level changes.
They said the finds varied in age from a “17th-century Cossack raiding fleet, through Roman trading vessels, complete with amphorae, to a complete ship from the classical period”.
The documentary team made a two-hour film that is due to be shown at the British Museum on Tuesday.
I wonder if they will try to explore the lives of the poor mortals who sat on the benches and wielded the oars....
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Thursday, October 11, 2018
SHIVER ME TIMBERS! I NEVER SAW ANYTHING LIKE IT!!
But though it may look weird it will help save the planet.
From the Economist
AN OIL tanker that ferries nearly 110,000 tonnes of the black stuff between the Middle East and Europe does not sound like a green ship. But Maersk Pelican is unique among the world’s biggest cargo ships in that it does not rely on fossil fuels alone for propulsion. On September 29th it arrived in Saudi Arabia on its first voyage since the installation of two 30-metre rotor sails.
Coal- and oil-powered cargo ships wiped out wind power in the 19th century. But interest in wind propulsion, and in rotor sails in particular, is growing as shipping lines seek ways to slash fuel bills. Placed on a ship’s decks, these giant rotating cylinders propel it using the “Magnus effect”, the force that causes a spinning ball to curve through the air.
The concept was demonstrated by Anton Flettner, a German engineer, in the 1920s, but rotor sails failed to catch on, partly because coal was a cheap alternative. The first ones he made were metal and so heavy that they slowed ships.
The rotor sails that Norsepower, a Finnish firm, has developed are made of carbon fibre and are far lighter, says Tuomas Riski, its chief executive. They are also automated, so no extra sailors are needed to operate them, unlike Flettner’s version. As well as Maersk Pelican, Norsepower has already fitted them to several other ships, including Estraden, a ferry which operates between the Netherlands and Britain, and Viking Grace, which sails between Sweden and Finland.
The interest in the sails comes because they can slash fuel bills and emissions, says Tommy Thomassen, chief technical officer of Maersk Tankers. The Maersk Pelican’s two rotor sails will cut its fuel bills by 7-10%, he forecasts; if it added two more that could rise to 15-20%. Such savings help with another priority for the shipping industry; complying with new climate-change targets. In April the International Maritime Organisation, a UN agency, agreed to cut by half the global shipping sector’s carbon emissions from 2008 levels by 2050.
Sails can make serious contributions to that target. Most other technologies (such as adding bulbous bows) shave only a few percent off fuel bills. Electric batteries cannot store enough energy for long sea voyages.
Upfront costs remain a problem. Norsepower’s rotor sails cost €1m-2m ($1.15m-2.3m) to install; it takes five years on average to earn that back in lower fuel bills. Mr Riski hopes to slash that figure to three years by making the sails more cheaply in China. It would then become worthwhile for charterers, which only tend to lease ships for under three years, to install them.
Rotor sails are not the only ones about. Modern versions of the sort of sails fitted to conventional ships, as well as kites attached to the front of the vessel, have also been mooted as energy-saving solutions. But these are a health-and-safety risk to sailors in bad weather. Wind power may be back in fashion but no one needs to mount the rigging.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
|Super yacht Queen K|
A small item in today's paper caught my eye, because the theme seemed eerily familiar.
OLIGARCH'S US ASSETS SEIZED IN FBI SANCTIONS CRACKDOWN, it was headlined, going on to say that the FBI has reportedly frozen the US assets of Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch, in a continued crackdown on Vladimir Putin's allies.
The industrialist, worth an estimated US$3.3 billion, was placed on a list of individuals sanctioned by the US treasury in April -- April 2018, that is. Deripaska's US assets, which include a Central Park town house bought for $42.5 million in 2008 -- are now frozen. And what was really interesting about that town house, is that it is the address of Dasha Abramovich, the ex-wife of Roman Abramovich, who reportedly was found lurking inside there, along with her children.
I have already written about Abramovich, who sold super-yacht Luna to a fellow oligarch, Akhmedov, who was also involved in a bizarre divorce case. And, guess what, according to the New York Post, Roman Abramovich is now dating Polina Deripaska, the estranged wife of Oleg. And this very strange wife-swap could be part of a convoluted tax- and sanction-avoiding deal.
So, who is Oleg Deripaska?
Radio Free Europe sums up his story in a few succinct words: he is a billionaire tycoon who throws lavish parties, has been barred from the United States, and did business with Paul Manaforte, Trump's one-time campaign chair. He also -- though under the radar, as it were -- has very close ties with the Putin administration. And much of this has been conducted on his yacht, Queen K, pictured above.
Queen K is a 72.60m (238.19ft) motor yacht, custom built in 2004 by the German company, Lurssen Yachts. She was designed by Espen Oeino with Lurssen Yachts developing the naval architecture, and the interior design was created by Donald Starkey. Her current flag is that of the Cayman Islands. Nine suites accommodate up to 18 guests, on cruises of up to 5000 nautical miles without refueling, while all the time 21 crew members look after the privileged passengers. And, just in case she runs into trouble, she has a support craft, named Sputnik.
Interestingly, too, the name of her owner is generally given as "unknown." Super Yacht Fan. however, is convinced it is Oleg Deripaska, along with other intriguing details. So, if the Department of Justice gets involved, as it did with the case of the super-yacht Equanimity, the Queen K is within its grasp -- according to Vessel Finder (which has many technical details of the craft), she is currently in the eastern Mediterranean, a bit south of Cyprus.
Deripaska has another yacht, named Selenga, which was launched in 2016, after a number of unusual difficulties.
According to Yacht Harbour, her construction began in 2007, at a Ulan-Ude-based shipyard. But then the GFC (Great Financial Crisis) intervened. Deripaska lost a huge amount of money, and the yacht had to be put on hold while he recouped his fortunes. In 2014 the outer build was finally complete, but then it was found that the local water was too shallow to carry the yacht to her intended marina in lake Baikal.
So a custom-built dock had to be built, to carry her there, in rather undignified fashion.
But at least it meant it was easy to finish off her interior, designed by Igor Lobanov.
Selenga can accommodate 12 guests in one master, 2 VIP, 1 twin and 2 guest cabins. Rather bizarrely, the owner's cabin is divided into two, one being a master bedroom, and the other a yoga room.
Unlike Queen K, Selenga is not vulnerable to seizure, if the DoJ should take an interest an appropriating her. Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake (by volume) in the world, is located in Southern Siberia.
Thursday, October 4, 2018
Gorgeous ship, isn't she? L'Austral, one of a fleet of small luxury vessels specializing in taking small groups to the sub-Antarctic. The trouble is, much of the southern ocean is protected territory, hedged around with rules and regulations. And the captain of this lovely vessel has been fined for hitting a rock in one of those protected zones.