Travel with Manu Nui

Sleeping onboard is a complicated business. Itīs warm. Itīs noisy. The engine is huffing and puffing. The generator generates large quantities of heat, and that is a blessing in the northern parts of the Atlantic but here, on the way to the equator, the extra warmth feels quite redundant. 
The fans were a help to begin with. Everybody installed their newly bought fans when the mercury slipped over twentytwo degrees Celsius. Frosen vikings were thawing in the warm night. They didnīt realise that this was just the beginning. Temperature rose steadily. Twentyfive, twentysix, twentyseven. Today itīs a degree or two above thirty. Hot, a slight wind, everything but cool. It was pretty much the same yesterday, and the day before that. Now the fans are useless. They only wisp around hot air and makes the cabin feel like a bakery. 
The photographer got desperate on night and hauled out his matress on deck, trying to find sleep. Only to discover humidity. 85%. 
Second engineer has solved the problem by sleeping everywhere all the time. You find him draped across whatever there is of sofas, benches, relatively soft corners. Itīs a bit annoying to stumble over him all the time but Iīm sure itīs a working strategy. At least heīs very seldom awake. 
But nothing helps against the noise. An extra pillow to cover the other ear, hamburgerstyle, softens the roaring and after a while you get used to it. Or deaf. 
Weīre compensated with extra time. Every now and then the clock is put back one hour. It gives us an extra hour to savour the next morning. Itīs much appreciated. And comforting. What I loose in nocturnal quality is returned in quantity. 


We have left the island of Margarita on the coast of Venezuela and are staying on a small, uninhabited, group of islets - Isla des Aves. It is one in a stretch of atolls. Divers come here for the clear waters and beautiful coral reefs. 
Many of the islets are just barely a patch of pure white sand on the surface. Others are larger with lagoons and large quantities of birds nesting in the peace and quiet. 
We crept in there with our little dinghy, manouvering in the mangrove and shallow water. The birds looked surprised. Turning to each other I could imagine they were making an irritated comment. 
-And this used to be a decent neighbourhood.
The white, downy chicks flapped their wings and wondered where on earth the food was. The running of our engine mixed with the sounds of birds and insects and water lapping gently against the roots of the mangrove. Finally one bird mustered the energy to attack us and the photographer got a spotted t-shirt. But it didnīt go much further. The lazy, peaceful atmosphere took over. 
But now our lazy days are coming to an end. Weīre leaving for Panama. Four days to go. The wind is in our back and the old boat is rolling in the sea. Lifeīs back to normal, catching cutlery and china on their way through the galley. Not making to much sauce to the fish since it will only run out the door anyway. Tying the fish tight in the pan too. Being a galley slave on this old wreck is surely not something for weak souls.

Panama - hereīs the complete and totally false story of how we managed to go through the Panama channel.

Gatun lock blues

it started on a friday
a friday, the thirteenth
all hell broke loose 
when we got loose 
in the Panama canal

cook quarrelled with the captain
and the mate was shouting too
and engineer got fired
a couple of times or so

then on there came a pilot
a gruesome sight to see
he havenīt changed the gear heīs in
since christmas ninetythree

he said
ho ho ho ho
gonna get you right thruī
hey hey hey hey
Gatun lock blues right for you

engine gave up working 
in the midst of Gatun lake
the jungle coming closer
with lepards on the make

cockroaches came on flying
sizzling through the air
and mosquitos started nibbling
our skin so bright and fair

we used some spray weīd stolen
and some got pretty pale
and several got malaria
but pills were on the sale

the whole crew started fighting
when the swede did something crude
she occupied the norse chair
and started talking rude

she said:
ho ho ho ho
gonna sit here right thruī
hey hey hey hey
not even the devil cares about you

itīs just a filthy armchair
outworn and much to sat in
itīs not the Norway embassy
besides itīs made in Sweden

they fished her up
in the Gaillard cut
the locals were complaining
she scared the fish away

red and green to go by
what good was that to us
the captain was asleeping
mate couldnīt see that much

he didnīt have good eyesight
he lost it on the way
he had a nasty girlfriend
who beat him night and day

the pilot said:
ho ho ho ho
gonna get you right thruī
hey hey hey hey
not even the devil cares about you

we almost missed the next lock
itīs called the Pedro Miguel
but had to wait till pilot
was out of San Miguel

we were so sick and tired
and fed up with this game
that when he finally woke up
we bashed him blue and lame

Miraflores was our savior
and Balboa the best sight
weīll never go back at any time
it gave us a terrible fright

and the pilot said
ho ho ho ho
see I couldnīt make you stay
hey hey hey hey
no one wants you here anyway


This was much better than New Years Eve. Some of  us even stated it was better than the Millennium. And maybe theyīre right. I mean, how many passes the Equator every day on a journey from Egersund to Avatiu? Not many that I know of. And suddenly we didnīt feel like that motley crew any longer but like seafaring adventurers on an exclusive trip around the world. The cameras were clicking and running. Mate were pulling the horn. The GPS and the radar slowly ticked over from 00N00 to 00S00. We were over. 
But it was actually a special moment in more ways than that. It was a grey and cloudy day. The temperature was down to 18 degrees Celsius. Water temperature barely 19. After the hot and humid bandage the Caribiens wrapped us in this was really cool. How could this be?
We pondered about it for a long time when suddenly the answer popped up. Global cooling.
Weīve all been reading a book written by a norvegian, Erlend Loe. Disappointed in not being born to discover anything new like America, or building anything of importance like the Eiffel-tower, he decided to discover a new theory. And one winter afternoon, skating on a small inland lake, he suddenly saw it clearly. Thor Heyerdahl was wrong. This was how the indian people got to Polynesia from Chile and Equador. They skated over the frozen sea. Possibly on golden skates.
And here we were, able to confirm he was right. There is actually an ice age coming on so there must have been one before. And with this rapid cooling itīs just a question of time before the whole sea freezes over. But before that weīre going to be baptized by Neptune so put your warm pullovers on boys. This is going to be a cold shower. 


Three weeks from Panama we started to run out of fresh water. It pleased the captain no end and he said:
-Well, well, maybe we have to stop at Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas after all. Itīs against all regulations because we really have to go through Tahiti first, but itīs starting to look like a real emergency, doesnīt it?
-Oh yes, we agreed. Full-blown catastrophy almost. 
Captain has been telling us so much about the Marquesas, about the people - proud and generous, putting up resistance against french bureacracy and idiotic ideas from the central authorities in Papetee. We felt strongly for them. 
And he was right. They were really that kind. They drove us around Taiohae, the capital with 1200 inhabitants, helping out in every way they could. When they turned on the fresh water on the dock to fill up our tanks the rain came. The dry period had lasted for seven months, and they didnīt have much water themselves. It felt like a true blessing when the rain poured down on us all. 
They didnīt want money for the water so we gave them mahi-mahi. That almost touched them to tears.
-We donīt catch mahi-mahi any longer, they said. The japanese come here with floating factories and big nets. Theyīre emptying the sea. 
Fortunately the marquesians have something that the japanese canīt catch with nets - noni. Itīs an extract from a wild apple tree and it has an curing effect on cancer. Now itīs just a question of getting the production started and hopefully keep the bureaucrats in Paris and Papetee at bay too. 


Since we left Egersund at the end of august Iīve learnt a lot about my norvegian brothers. I didnīt know they were so skilled in every way. The stewardess Grete - who prefers to think of herself as a Cook Islander and not an Oslo girl - have had a lot to say about her fellow men. 
-They think theyīre the salt of the earth, she spat out one day. 
Swedes are known to be the bad conscience of the world, but it seems like the Norvegians are doing all the rest of the good work. 
-I had no idea, I said flabbergasted. 
-Well, thatīs the way it is, Grete said furiously. They hold the world record in being the best. 
And thatīs why we have an original innovation onboard this cargo wessel. A sail. One hundred square metres of green tarpaulin on a boom made from two telephone poles. The best sail in the world of course, but maybe not the worlds most durable boom. It gave away for the pressure in the first twentyfour hours of use. Next morning mate put an bandage on and raised it back up again. 
Then one windy night one of the tackles broke. The photographer were almost swept overboard running around on the hatch trying to haul one hundred squaremetres of sail in the gale all by himself. 
But apart from these misadventures the sail is really appreciated. This old wreck only does eight knots on its own. With the sail we can go a little faster. 
-Weīve been going fast for a while, the first engineer John said this morning. Nine knots for a long time, but then it went down to seven all of a sudden. 
We looked enquiringly at him. 
-We didnīt notice that the wind turned tonight, he said a bit embarrased. We sailed backwards for a while. 
-Oh, norvegian art of sailing, I said with awe. You always learn a trick or two from these guys. 

Astas arkiv

copyright  hamnqvist