The first of May

Sunday 1st of May: One month gone since setting off on the Banana voyage starting at the Marine Training Center, the STC, in Rotterdam.  I could say there has been a lot of water gone under several bridges since then.

During my driving around I noticed a tiny inlet from a dock, about one km from the marina.  I worked out where it was with the aid of a harbour map.  It turns out it is an ancient quay almost disused today.  There one pontoon floating near its entrance with an old small shipyard above on some very steep banks.  It is a sort of appendix to the next dock which is just around the headland from the marina.  I had the idea earlier to move the Banana from the marina to a ship museum in the same dock, so that I could stay in the dock and move the Banana quickly to any available ship.

I spent most of the morning looking for ways to do this and how to comply with all the rules.  The museum staff were unsure if I could tie up the Banana on their pontoon and did not want to take responsibility for any decision, this would have to be made by an uncooperative harbour master.

When I went to speak to him, he simply said he was a stand in for the real harbour master and I would have to wait till Monday.  The Banana would not be in the way of shipping under the walk way of the museum but I would not be able to move it there without permission.  But then, if no one has said no, what then? I told the staff of the museum I had spoken to the harbour master and I would now go and look for a way to get the Banana around the headland.

I spoke to several people and eventually met the crew of the tourist ship that sails around all the harbours every few hours.  The captain said he was getting a new propeller for his boat tomorrow and could come and pick me up an four in the afternoon as there would be no other time for him to do it.  I went back to look at the inlet and decided that it would be a better and more secure place to leave the Banana than on full view in a harbour where security was clearly needed.

The inlet was off the main harbour and would not be seen by the Harbour master.  I went to the water police patrol office and told them what I was up to.  They asked if I had spoken to the harbour master and I said ‘oh yes’, and left it at that.  Maybe I misunderstood the implication of his question.

I went back to the marina to find Daniel and Maria on board their boat.  They offered coffee and said that this would be a good time to film the interview I had spoken about.  I made the interview and packed the camera away.  Running back and forth from the motorhome to quay took quite a lot of time and the arranged pick up at four came around very quickly.  I put the tiny outboard on the Banana and cast off from the pontoon to wait for the tourist boat to arrive.  It did not come.

After an hour of drifting about in the marina I decided to try my luck at a chance tow around the point from one of the pleasure boats on the other quay side opersite from the quay I originally came to in Duisburg.  I made little progress against the wind and eventually made it across the marina.  As I approached the jetties I saw some people on one of the craft getting ready for a trip.  Excellent timing I thought.  Tried to head directly towards their boat but the wind had other plans.  Zig zaging back and forth I got to within 50m of them when I saw a police boat pull up to a halt in the current at the mouth of the marina; they seemed to be looking at my situation.  I steered away from the boat I was heading to and turned into a jetty to show I had no intention to head out onto the Rhine.

The owner of the little pleasure boat came across the jetty to give me a hand to moor the Banana.  He had noticed the attentions of the police and was genuinely concerned I was about to get into trouble with them.  He saw the police boat steer directly toward me and said something along the lines that I was about to be treated as floating material.  He was shocked and amazed when the police boat drew alongside and the officers came on deck smiling.

He was speechless when I called hi, how are you today Christian?  The police boat was being pushed by the wind and current.  Christina pulled the Banana alongside the boat as quickly as he could so the boat could set off and gain steerage.  The Banana was facing in the wrong direction alongside the boat but there was no time to explain as the other officers tied the banana with a long rope which is threaded through the loops on the Banana to keep it from being washed overboard.  The pilot set off immediately to get control of the boat and before I had time to explain the Banana was not meant to go backwards the boat picked up speed and turned into the Rhine.

The swirling powerful current grabbed the temporary hydrofoil board that Max had fixed on the banana to lift it up when towed at speed.   Working backwards it caused a huge drag and the Banana was pulled away from the boat; which picked up speed to make progress in the current and head around the point into the river into the port achat viagra 50.  With the combined forces of the river flow, speed of the boat and the drag of the reversed hydrofoil the first loop the rope was attached to gave out and ripped off. This put the Banana at 45° to the boat putting more force the Banana from weight of water in a split second from the first loop failing nine loops gave way in a sickening rip rap explosion of sound.

The officers all shouted at the same time and the pilot also heard the ripping sound and slowed the craft.  There a was a real risk of losing the Banana to the current if more loops gave way.  We all pulled the Banana around, up close to the boat and secured it with various ropes haphazardly fixed in place as best we could.  We then found a strong rope and passed it through the loops made for towing.  This done we set off to find the little inlet.

Christina was upset about what had happened and said he was sorry for the damage.  He had not understood what I was trying to tell him and had not realised the hydrofoil would cause such drag in reverse.  I looked back at where we had sailed around the point.  The swirling water there actually dropped about 30 cm in about 1m, showing the speed and force of the flow at that point was very dangerous.

We arrived at the little inlet having sailed through the huge port; massive container ships gliding by as people on the quay waved at the bemused police officers who are not accustomed to getting cheery smiles as they go about their business.  We all shook hands, I jumped on the Banana and they passed the little outboard motor, oars and batteries etc. to me as I tried to sort out the mess of ropes and torn handles.  They set off back to more serious duties and left me to chug around the inlet.

I tied up and arranged to meet the motorhome which had been taken to the wrong spot.  When that was sorted out I went across the lagoon like inlet to tie up at the pontoon where there were some grimy work boats.  The Banana secured I went to find the boat yard owners.  Being Sunday the 1st of May; no one was around and I was inside a locked private shipyard.  I hide the outboard and oars, kept the battery to be recharged and made my way back to the pontoon.  The only way back to the motorhome (which had finally arrived in a petrol station overlooking the inlet) was to climb across the steeply sloping embankment which was covered in brambles and nettles.

Carrying the battery, I forced my way through the deadly thorns to try to get around the security fence which ended at the top of the slope.  The builders had not taken it down to the water because it clearly was not possible for anyone to climb along the embankment because of its steep slope, slippyness and thorns.  They reasoned only a nutter would try.  Enter the battery carrying Banana man.  When I finally made it up on to a foot path I encountered a very worried young woman walking her dog who had seen my attempt to get killed by falling into the dock and had called to me to see if I needed help.  She had even untied her dog so she could throw me the lead if I fell.  I thought this was a nice gesture (she would have had no chance to get near me if I had fallen) so I told her what I was up to.  I invited her to the garage to see some of the photos of the journey and assured her that crawling through brambles on a 60° slippy slope was in a day’s work for a Banana captain.  As I walked back along the path pulling bramble thorns out of my wounds (to steady myself I was force to hold on to the thicker bramble to stop me falling) the staff of the petrol station called to me from the balcony terrace overlooking the inlet to tell me there was a journalist waiting for me.

Back at the petrol station, which was an open all hours’ shop and café, I chatted to the journalist who was really a photographer who published his photos on the internet and had contacts with the local television.  We arranged to meet the next day, and if permission is granted by the harbour master, we will go around the harbour to various locations to have a photo shoot for his website, the publicity will be very useful, and will be a good way of showing the ship owners what this trip is about and that it is a lot of fun.

I set off to find an internet café and failed.  No one wanted me to use their Wi-Fi in the cafes and bars; so I headed towards a large hotel I had seen on the other bank of the Rhine, called the Rhinegarden hotel.  A four-star grey tower on the banks of the river by the suspension bridge.  They agreed for me to use their internet, with a code for one night. It took ages to get logged on and when I finally got it to work I settled down with a glass of red wine (7.20 euros a glass, but very nice) and set too answering all my emails and loading up photos onto Facebook; typing and biting thorns from my hands and arms which didn’t look to elegant.

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