Saturday, March 15, 2008


I write to you red eyed from the Bay of Cannes. We have been here on charter for the last few days for the MIPIM conference, 'the world's largest property and hotel development' conference in the world. It's been a long month and this week's straw is weighing heavy on this camels back. We have been busy, very busy. The owner has a flat in a hotel overlooking Port de Monaco so since we moved into that port he has been around everyday. I'm afraid that like a kid who gets his favorite toy on Christmas day he is going to play with it too much and too hard to the point where he breaks it! It's not that he only comes around everyday, but he wants to take the boat for a cruise everyday also!

Now you may be saying, 'what's wrong with that, his boat, he should use it.' Fair enough, but it ain't like taking a car for a spin. The real problem though is that when he is around we can't get any of the business done that really needs to be done. And of course he doesn't have a clue of what goes on behind the scenes. He probably thinks we sit around all day sipping coffee and watching soap operas. He doesn't understand weather either. Last Wednesday I put my foot down and told him we couldn't go out because there was a forecast for high winds which was true and it was also a perfect excuse to get a little break. But, of course, the weather men made a liar out of me. The next day I get the call, "I'm looking out my window and it looks like a flat lake. Let's go out.". Even though the forecast was again bad I couldn't really stuff him two days in a row so I warned him that things could turn bad quickly and that we might need to high tail it back to port. So away we went and no sooner did we drop anchor when the winds kicked up. Perfect for flying a kite, not so good for boating.

So we were anchored in the lee so the swell was relatively calm, but still very heavy swirling winds due to the land mass and we did drag the anchor a bit and had to reset it. So he went ashore with the dog, oh the dog. Lovely Retriever pup of 1 year, "Max". He's great, but having a dog on a yacht is a pain in the ass. Luckily he is really well trained in the deficating area and hasn't had any accidents, yet! But he did get sea sick on deck the other day. And so we often need to walk him which is fine except he really only goes on grass and finding a patch of grass around here can be like finding a needle in a hay stack. The other night we were in the commercial port of Nice and Glenn and I took him out. It was hilarious. No grass around and two grown men trying to coax Max into relieving himself. I even resorted to lifting him into a large tree pot, but he just hopped back down. Now he's getting brave in the tender and wants to leap out and back onto the yacht perhaps a little too early. He will definately be learning to swim this summer.

Anyway, finally I said to him that the forecast was coming true and that we should return to port or we might get stuck at anchor for a couple of days which would jeopardize our being prepared for the MIPIM conference. He was oblivious. Partly because we were in the lee, partly because he was within the vinyl enclosure on the deck which blocks the wind and partly because we had the zero speed stabilizers smoothing things out. He didn't argue though and said he gather his things and get off there in Cap Ferrat. That was a disappointment because I really wanted to teach him a lesson. If he came back with us he would have seen how shitty it got and perhaps gained some much needed understanding with regard to boating and weather. That the sea looks like a pancake from your window doesn't mean squat!! Even as I was depositing him into the tender to go ashore he asked me if I was sure, "it doesn't look so bad." I assured him that outside it wouldn't be pretty and that it would only be getting worse. He left and we had a washing machine ride home, surfing some large swells. Always a strange sensation and humbling when a fifty eight ton yacht's engines are rendered null and a swell that's moving faster than you picks you up and pushes you forward. Great for gas mileage, not so good for the nerves. The boat isn't supposed to be taken out in anything above Force 4 winds, coming in we had Force 8 winds. Luckily the port is well protected so once we got past the seawall it wasn't too tricky to get back into our berth.So that was last week.

Oh, Glenn, my engineer, his contract is up and he's now enjoying himself in Turkey. Lucky bastard. My new engineer is Scott and he seems to be working out well. I've got a stewardess flying in on Saturday. Hopefully she will work out. For the moment I have Jean Claire as stewardess for the conference. So they have a lot of important meetings set up for this conference and wanted to use the boat as a base. For the sake of maintaining my confidentiality agreement I'll say Mr. X asked me last week to try and get a berth for the conference. I had to bite my tongue to keep from asking if 'Hell just froze over', 'Do you see pigs flying', or 'for next year or the following'??? I made the calls of course and all the ports were kind enough not to laugh in my face. Most of the boats booked for this conference last year, it's full, full, full. I even made a round of calls again this weekend. I heard that there was one cancellation and that was taken in five minutes. No suprise since there were about 20 boats already at anchor in the area ready to pounce on any openings.

So all week the forecasts weren't looking good so we weren't sure if we would be able to go at all. In the end it looked like the storm front was going to clear out earlier than expected and we might get to the conference after all if maybe a little late. On Monday I gave them the update: Tuesday-bad. Wednesday-improving, but still bad. Thur/Fri-Good. Did Mr. X listen, of course not. Tuesday evening we pulled out of port headed for Cannes which is about 2 hours at normal cruising speed. Got just to the seawall and realized that we would not be running at normal cruising speed. Two meter swells on the nose. Big smile on my face. See the light, see the light. Actually I think what Mr. X saw was the inside of the toilet bowl. Pray to the porcelin god! I think a guest or two were also green and I heard later that Jean the stew also lost it. It was clear that we couldn't do this for another 3 hours so we pulled into the lee of Cap Ferrat and anchored there for the night.

In the morning we set sail bright and early still into decent sized swells on the nose. We arrived at the Antibes point and rounded the corner which afforded us relief from the swell. I dropped the anchor and off loaded the guests to go to their meetings for the day. I was on anchor watch in the afternoon when I got a call from Neil. As I was speaking to him I noticed a boat getting very close to us. Or were we getting really close to the other boat. Sorry Neil, gotta go, Click! It was us who were dragging our anchor. The wind had switched 180 degrees and strengthened all of which I was very aware of and I monitored the anchors bite during the switch. It had appeared ok. But apparently the spin loosened it just enough to slowly drag and then it got to a hole where the depth doubles and that was it, away we went. That's why someone is always on anchor watch!

So I hustle over the the ignitions and crank over the engines. Only one starts due to a battery problem which I won't get into except to say that I'm ready to cut off someone's balls at Benetti. So I hit the general ships alarm (the first time doing it for anything other than a drill). We can parallel the batteries from the engine room so I sent the engineer down to get the other engine started. But we were moving too fast and too close so it was too late by then to wait for the second engine. So I worked with what I had and using the bow thruster and one engine slid past the other boat. Once we got to the other side of the hole the anchor dug in again, we let out more chain and breathed a sigh of relief. Neil wasn't on board, but after I told him about the incident he really grasped the seriousness of this battery problem which I have been bitching about for about 2 months now. So now it will get resolved quickly. Unfortunately it's not like going out and buying another car battery nor is it cheap. Probably 10,000 euros to replace them, but Benetti should pick up the bill because they didn't set up the battery chargers correctly and thus they haven't been getting charged up for, oh, about 8 months!!

Today we moved to another spot heavily populated. What a pain in the ass anchoring is here. We set it and half an hour later the wind switched and we had to move again due to the proximity of another boat. It's crowded, space limited and all these different boats swing on their chains differently so all you can do is keep a sharp lookout and wait for things to develop. And hope your engines start if you need them!!
So needless to say, I'm knackered. Sharing the anchor watches with Scott and neither of us getting too much sleep.

Oh well, the wind has died down, it's all over tomorrow and did I mention I got another raise. I won't say what I'm making, but I will say that I definately think higher tax brackets suck!! Never could of or would of said that before!

Bon Soir