Day 14 – New Years Eve
We saw dolphins today!
A pod of about 6, racing in front of the ship for a few minutes, leaping about and looking like they were having lots of fun. Lauren was delighted as she doesn’t remember seeing dolphins before, although she did when very small.
We are anchored off Dakar, and signs of land are all around – birds, a lost grasshopper that Lauren tried to feed with lettuce she went to beg for from the galley, and even a lone fisherman in a tiny pirogue.
Everyone is in a good mood today, gearing up for a barbeque on deck this evening. As it’s Sunday, Lauren has the day off, and we spent most of the day up on deck reading and then watching as we passed through the holding area for ships to enter the port. We passed more than 20 ships anchored in the bay outside Dakar. Conditions were very hazy and these enormous ships appeared every now and again out of the haze then slowly disappeared again. I had a chat with the Captain as we were slowly edging our way to the place we had been told to anchor, and he said that there was massive congestion at the port and we may not even enter until the 6th. One Grimaldi ship has been in port since the 24th!!
Before we even came to a complete stop, a small pirogue approached the ship with two men in. They had on fluorescent jackets and we assumed they had something to do with the port but it turns out they were selling prawns and fish. They seem to be doing a fine trade while all the boats are anchored offshore for days on end.
Well, that was quite a party. A combination of Italian wine and fizzy stuff (‘pas le vrai champagne’ said one of the French passengers and I had to agree), Senegalese fish, and Filipino karaoke.
We started with a reception – nibbles, lethal punch etc – and Lauren had a fab time going round with a bucket full of Christmas crackers we’d brought from the UK. No one could resist her and officers, passengers and crew alike ended up wearing paper hats, squinting at the incomprehensible jokes, and swapping the mini ‘gifts’. The captain received a mini water pistol and told us he’d use it for our ‘baptism’ as we pass the equator. It was a great ice breaker. No one knew what to do with the party poppers, so she ended up going round the tables and ‘popping’ them all too.
I broke protocol and sat with the crew, and had an excellent evening. Food kept coming, as did wine. The menu was mainly fish and shellfish, but the chef kindly made lauren and myself steaks, as he knows we don’t like a lot of shellfish.
The crew’s English is often way better than that of the officers, and it was great to finally be able to interact more than a simple ‘good morning’ in the corridors. One of them told me that he had missed the last 15 Christmases with his family due to being at sea. Some spend a couple of months between contracts, others just 2-3 weeks. Almost all had kids and they all passed down mobile phones to show me a line-up of photos of small kids growing up with a monthly pay packet instead of a father. The money is considered good by Filipino standards, but its quite a sacrifice. Many voted for the president and fully support him and are frustrated by his portrayal in the international media.
One of the crew told me that they can get Senegalese sim cards from passing fishermen, so I put my order in – goodness knows whether it will work well enough to get internet, we are a good 20km off shore, but its worth a go and will be useful if we get to venture into town when we are eventually allowed into port.
The karaoke was as excruciating as might be imagined. I was dragged up by Lauren to do ‘waka waka’ (one of our favourite songs but fast). She loved the karaoke and did duets with many of the crew to Justin Bieber, Shakira and Abba. Some of the sailors’ song choices were hilarious – mainly old (like, Engelbert Humperdink old) ballads with some 80’s pop thrown in. By the end of the evening the microphone had been ditched and all the crew and ourselves plus the Germans were gathered round dancing and singing along to a slightly more contemporary playlist.
At 11pm the officers sounded the ships horn, which made us all jump, and started breaking out the (pas vrai) champagne, in a slightly bewildering move as they decided to celebrate Italian new year and not new year in the time zone we currently found ourselves in. I think the captain just wanted to go to bed! But hey, it gave us an opportunity to have two midnights so we weren’t complaining. I’d just got myself a mint tea to wash down the dinner, and it’s certainly the only new year I’ve rung in with a mug of mint tea in one hand and a glass of fizz in the other. Given the Philippines is something like 8 hours’ time difference, the crew ignored the fuss and carried on singing.
After Italian new year the party moved to the lounge, where we played music and table football until Senegalese midnight, after which I took a hyper but happy child to bed. It took her about 2 minutes to fall fast asleep, and I haven’t set the alarm so I suspect we may miss breakfast. But with lunch at 11am, that’s no great hardship.