Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kristin joins Kika

Astrid from Antares convinced Ian and me that we needed to invest some quality time cleaning prior to the arrival of Kristin, with her unambiguous verdict on the standard of hygiene below decks: "make sure you boys clean-up before she arrives, otherwise she'll take the first plane back to Norway". A harsh judgment which might have been more fairly levelled against the post galley improvement dusty interior that greeted Ian, but I felt that a week's worth of dusting had returned the cabin to almost pristine condition. Still we worked conscientiously, transforming the fore-peak from storage area into a livable cabin, the heads from ship's toilet into an area of surgical sterility and the randomly filled food lockers into clean logically ordered food storage areas. Surprisingly this took the whole morning, leaving just enough time for me to make my second back-of-a-scooter dash to the airport and for Ian to relax with a Thai foot massage.

It had been over five years since I'd last seen Kristin, however I didn't think there'd be a problem identifying the tall blond Norwegian from the other disembarking passengers until it turned out that the majority of the arrivals on her flight were also Scandinavians. Still it was fun searching the faces of other fair-haired tourists for a flicker of recognition. I need not have worried, instantly spotting Kristin as she burst out of Arrivals in a whirlwind of energy, projecting her trolley into the alarmed crowd of patient greeters before her. Months ago, when I was in Darwin, we began to discuss Christmas/New Year plans. Back then it seemed improbable that flights would be booked, I'd arrive in Thailand in time, the boat would be functional, and we'd all manage to meet-up, but against the odds our plans had come together and the scene was set for a couple of enjoyable weeks exploring the waters off Thailand's west coast.

Once Kristin was on board we headed across the bay for the calmer waters of the neighbouring anchorage and food at the beach restaurant. As with all new arrivals Kristin was promptly handed the wheel and given the rough direction of our intended destination. Kristin made full use of her elevated status at the helm to check her crew's preparation - was there sufficient depth across the bay?, were there any dangers to be aware of? rocks?. Ian and I reassured her; we'd made the same trip a week before - there were no hazards to avoid. Inevitably, a minute later, we ran aground. Not the most auspicious start, but with deft use of reverse, we rapidly extracted ourselves from the muddy bottom and continued cautiously on a subtly altered course. Once the anchor was down, Kristin introduced us to a Norwegian custom - "anchor dram" - celebrate the new anchorage with a shot of potent Norwegian spirit. A custom we enthusiastically embraced over the following weeks until we finished the bottle.

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