Captain’s Blog: In the Footsteps of St Paul – Canakkale

Captain Neil Broomhall

Captain Neil Broomhall


Voyager Captain Neil B.
Wednesday 23rd October 2013. Canakkale.

Overnight, Voyager crossed the Sea of Marmara, arriving at the entrance to the Dardanelles, or Canakkale strait as it is also known locally, at 0500. There I embarked a pilot who guided us through the strait as far as Canakkale. We had a berth booked at the new pier, but first there was the task of getting the ship alongside. The strait narrows at Canakkale, increasing the speed of the water as it does so. With over three knots of cross current and a freshening side wind, additional power was needed to ensure a soft landing. Two strong tugs, angry red in colour and billowing smoke from their funnels, manoeuvred alongside Voyager and connected lines to her deck. Despite their obvious strength they seemed to struggle to move Voyager against the might of the water that streams through the Dardanelles. Nevertheless they managed to slowly but surely heave Voyager into position and gently ease her alongside.

We were all fast to the quay with the gangway in place by 0700. Plenty of time for my passengers to enjoy breakfast (smoked salmon with free-range eggs for me!) before boarding their tour coaches. Canakkale waterfront includes a giant wooden horse, and is the gateway to Troy. Some of my passengers would visit the fabled city from Homer’s Iliad, now excavated by archaeologists, and an UNESCO World Heritage site. A chance for them to imagine life as it was over 1000 years BC when maybe, just maybe, Trojan prince Paris claimed Helen, the most beautiful in the world, to be his, and brought about the Trojan war.

‘Some say a host of horsemen, others of infantry and others
of ships, is the most beautiful thing on the dark earth
but I say, it is what you love
Full easy it is to make this understood of one and all: for
she that far surpassed all mortals in beauty, Helen…’

Aboard Voyager I am delighted to host many Australian and New Zealand guests. For them a visit to Gallipoli on the western shore of the Dardanelles was planned. ANZAC Cove was the landing place of the first wave of Australian and New Zealand troops during WW1, and during the Gallipoli Campaign it was home to 30,000 troops. In the southern sector of the ANZAC sector, 120 metres above the sea, a plateau was renamed Lonesome Pine after the single tree that stood there. Now it is the site of a cemetery and the Lone Pine Memorial commemorating the 4934 Australian and New Zealand troops killed in that sector. There are other memorials too, including Hill 60, and the 30 meter high obelisk Commonwealth Battle Memorial known as Helles Memorial.

Departure was at 1900 on a crystal clear evening. As the sun set in a cloudless sky, we witnessed a beautiful view of the starry heavens. Orion stood guard overhead, and Venus was to the south east, shining brightly upon our track, as if guiding us out of the Dardanelles and into the Aegean Sea.

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Captain’s Blog: In the Footsteps of St Paul – Istanbul

Captain Neil Broomhall

Captain Neil Broomhall


Voyager Captain Neil B.
21st and 22nd October 2013. Istanbul.

I had flown out to a warm Istanbul on Sunday, leaving my family at a damp car park at Birmingham airport. I’m due to be aboard for up to three months, so the goodbyes also included Christmas wishes. I’m the first to grumble when I see the festive season commenced too early for commercial reasons, but this time it worked in my favour as I will not be home for the celebration, and my Christmas shopping was completed by mid October!

Once aboard Voyager, I was soon acquainted with my officers and crew. It seemed like yesterday when I had last seen them all back in July as I had headed off for a few months holiday. Captain Tkachuk advised me of any changes since I had last been aboard, and, with a big smile, handed over command to me.

Previously known as Byzantium and later Constantinople, Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey with a population of almost 13 million. Its natural harbour on the Bosporus is known as the Golden Horn and has been a trading centre for thousands of years. The city is a cultural and ethnic melting pot and as a result there are many historical mosques, churches, synagogues, palaces, castles, and towers. Highlights for my passengers to visit were the Maiden’s Tower, Topkapi Palace, the vast Roman Hippodrome, and the Blue Mosque. There’s also a lot of life to see in Istanbul, and there’s plenty going on at the Grand Bazaar with 50 streets crammed with thousands of shops and inns, and also at the Egyptian Bazaar, heady with fragrances of the exotic East as it contains every conceivable spice.

Voyager remained alongside overnight, my newly embarked passengers were able to settle into shipboard life gently. It was a chance for some to dine ashore and to see this lively city after sunset. For those that chose to dine aboard, Executive Chef Sebastian prepared a welcoming first night dinner.

The cruise is entitled ‘In the Footsteps of St. Paul’ and my passengers will have a busy cruise ahead as they enjoy visiting the ancient sites that border the Aegean. The first of such tours began on Tuesday with visits to Istanbul’s fabulous buildings, mosques, museums and bazaars. Some opted for a more leisurely day, cruising the Bosporus. They gently glided between Asia and Europe enjoying great views of the palaces, parks, and pavilions that look out upon this important and busy waterway.

Prior to departure my passengers were assembled at their muster stations. Wearing lifejackets, they were instructed in the emergency procedures of Voyager. It was a chance to glimpse at their fellow travelling companions, to meet old friends amongst the crew, and an opportunity to start making new friends.

Departure was at 2100. It was great to have my hands on the controls once more, to have my bridge team around me, and to feel the throb of Voyager’s engines as I guided her away from the bright lights of the wharf and into the darkness of the Sea of Marmara.

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The Grand Voyager Inaugural Cruise

The 15 passengers who completed the 147 day Grand Voyager Inaugural CruiseAt 1215hrs on 25th April, Captain Alex Tkachuk, Chief Engineer Ciro D’Alessandro, Hotel Director Adam Scott and Cruise Director Andrea Lowde were hosts to a farewell Reception and Luncheon for 15 Passengers who completed a marathon 147 day Voyage covering a massive 30,044 n.m. (further than circum-navigating the globe).

They joined in Portsmouth on the 4th December 2012 and departed Voyager, again in Portsmouth on the 29th April…longer than most Officer and Crew contracts!

The Captain acknowledged their ‘endurance’ during a short ‘Farewell Speech’ before guests were escorted through to the Explorer Restaurant where Executive Chef, Sebastian Gnida had prepared a gourmet standard luncheon. Conversation and wine both flowed freely as guests reminisced on their favourite Ports of Call.

Guests received a commemorative photo, copy of the menu and also a certificate which detailed the distances of the various legs of the cruise as well as all the Ports of Call.

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Passenger Diaries: Austin Atkinson – Azores & Ponta Delgada

Dear Friends,

Legend has it that the Azores are the mountain tops of the legendary lost continent of Atlantis and, I have to say that the volcanic explanation, though magical in itself, palls a little against a lost continent. There is another worldly feel about the Azores with some volcanoes and geysers still active resulting in a moonlike scene.

Ponta Delgada, the capital is self-evidently Portuguese though the islands are 900 miles from anywhere! However, that distance has meant that they have proved a safe haven over the years for treasure ships, whalers in the past and a current safe haven for transatlantic aircraft, yachts and cruise ships.

The day was very misty to begin with but became clearer as we went along. My photos then are mainly volcanic but I couldn’t ignore those glorious buildings!

Next day to Ponta Delgada, Azores, our last port of call before the long, last leg to Portsmouth. “Last” is becoming the in word!

This time the fog, low lying cloud defeated us! The Fire Lake was invisible, as was almost anything else above sea level. But I was in a strange mood anyway as this was my last tour and I have been incredibly lucky with weather throughout this long voyage. The island has 40% geothermic power which gives you an idea of its birth. Small, conical hills – former volcanoes and/or volcanoes that didn’t make it – abound and I’ve tried to give you an idea of how it looks. Walls are everywhere but, unlike the Dales, these are black as they consist of small, medium and large chunks of lava.

I think you’ll see the house I’d love to restore! The buildings throughout the area cannot go above three stories and in many parts of the small towns we visited, there are no pavements. If you want a bus, you open your front door and wait! And, of course, a last photo of Voyager, my home for nearly five months.
This is the “last” circular and the final retrospective is nearly finished. I have English change in my pocket and my wallet in my back pocket for the first time in five months and I dearly hope I can remember the pin numbers for my credit cards! It took me ages to remember that they were called “pin numbers”!

Austin

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Passenger Diaries: Austin Atkinson – Bermuda

Dear Friends,

Bermuda was once known as Devil’s Island because of the offshore coral reefs that wrecked countless ships. Now it is thought to be idyllic because of the healthy climate, pink sandy beaches, clean turquoise seas and the picturesque towns. Though not like British gardens, there is a sense of Britishness in the colourful flowers, shrubs and trees. Typically, some introduced species haven’t worked or have worked all too well.
The houses and the butteries all have lime washed roofs to channel the rainwater into underground tanks as the island has no rivers.

Jean, a former passenger whose birthday we were to attend in the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, took three of us for a morning tour of the island to areas not always seen by tourists. Some of the exotic, expensive houses were perched on cliffs overlooking pink beaches. The names of celebrities – film, pop and political – were legion. Money is of course the mainstay of the island and someone remarked that the laundry facilities were very good!

However, as we travelled around this manicured island, I began to get a feel for it and really warmed to Bermuda. Rules – some sensible, some strange – abound eg there is only one car per household, irrespective of the number of families so lots of scooters, mopeds, motorcycles; eg2 a woman can marry a Bahamian and gain Bahamian status but loses it if he dies; eg3 the speed limit is 34km per hour everywhere due to the narrow, winding roads although I’m not sure how well it’s observed by the motorcyclists!

A sign of Bermuda’s seniority amongst islands is the profusion of churches of all denominations, including the oldest Anglican Church in the western hemisphere.

A beautiful island!

Austin

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Passenger Diaries: Austin Atkinson – Nassau, Bahamas

Dear Friends,

It is such a strange, mixed feeling, of looking towards home now but not wanting to wish this wonderful voyage away. After Nassau, we have Hamilton, Bermuda where a number of us have been invited to the 75th Birthday Party of a previous passenger – to be held at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club! And I haven’t got a thing to wear!!!

For now then, Nassau, Bahamas. Our guide was Carven, surely the largest, jolliest Bahamian. Almost inevitably, Nassau and New Providence Island is a land of contrasts. All the major, expensive stores are here and we went to Paradise Island to see where the rich spent their money. Charles and Diana spent their honeymoon in a modest “cottage” on Paradise Island.

This picture here shows the accommodation between the blocks which costs $25,000 a night! Michael Jackson was the first to spend a night there and the driver reeled off the various stars, personalities who had spent time there. But then I loved the little house with the veranda! How I love verandas! I have discovered that my ideal is a house with balcony and veranda.

Austin

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Passenger Diaries: Austin Atkinson – Montego Bay

Dear Friends,

As I think I have hinted, Montego Bay and Jamaica are not amongst my favourite places and it is unlikely that I will be back. So I needed to give it a chance. A friend found a taxi driver who was willing to take six of us around for the day for 30 dollars each! We went to a “Bird Sanctuary” high up in the hills and after a long hard drive on a rough track, arrived at a private home, once the home of a single lady who fed and attracted birds. I sat for a while with a small bottle of sugar water dripping into my lap whilst holding out my index finger just beneath the bottle. Nothing, then a breath of wind and a humming bird was perched on my finger drinking in the sugar water! It/they came back ten times and I was in heaven. And there were so many little, medium birds around us as we sat in the yard of the house with what seemed like a jungle behind us.

Later we went around the island to a beach at Negril and spent the afternoon there – although it rained intermittently! It was so strange, sitting at a table underneath a large restaurant, beach and sunbathers in front of me, listening to Bob Marley and watching Manchester United and Manchester City on the screens. What would have made it a perfect day would have been to have United and City both losing!!!!!

Austin

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Passenger Diaries: Austin Atkinson – Port of Spain

Dear Friends,

As we approached Port of Spain, I had to be reminded that we had visited Tobago on a previous leg. I was convinced that we hadn’t but, when I checked the itinerary, there it was: 27 December, Scarborough, Tobago!!!! Remember I said that my mind was going and I was becoming institutionalized!!!!!

So this is Port of Spain, Trinidad! Again, very hot; again very humid. I know this doesn’t chime well with the weather in the UK at the moment, but it really is hard dealing with heat and humidity! Honestly!

The tour of the main points of interest was a bit of a whizz-bang affair to end up at Maraca Bay for a swim or a paddle. As the guide said, they haven’t really got to grips with their built history.

It’s now the 2nd of April and seems difficult believe that we are nearing Montego Bay where lots and lots of passengers who have been on from Montego Bay will disembark and we will begin the final leg!!!

Austin

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Passenger Diaries: Austin Atkinson – Pictures from Iles Du Salut

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Passenger Diaries: Austin Atkinson – Iles Du Salut

Dear Friends,

I’d hoped that the weather would have been better in the UK by now! I’ll keep praying!

We returned to Iles Du Salut and Devil’s Island and I decided to take another trip, not really expecting to photograph anything. Then I saw the parrots!!!! I do love Parrots. I spent some time with the little monkey who had picked up a rotten piece of wood and was banging it on the branch to loosen the bugs!

Port Of Spain, Trinidad next and the last big turn-around of passengers at Montego Bay.

Austin

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