Day 667: Captain Bob


So last night I arrived onboard the ferry from Pontianak on Borneo to Jakarta on Java.  As I entered the passenger area, what could adequately be described as a floating refugee camp, I started to worry – I really didn’t want to sleep on the dirty metal floor – I mean, I didn’t even have a flattened cardboard box to lie on.

Er… can I get out of here?

I was kindly shepherded into the crew’s quarters by one of the guys and offered a bunk in a grotty (but eminently serviceable) cabin for about $25. All or nothin’, I haggled it down to $12 and we shook on it.  But when push came to shove, I ended up spending the first night not in that bunk but in the crew’s recreation room sleeping on the incredibly uncomfortable couch.  This morning I was asked if I wanted to move into a cabin of my own, since the crew didn’t want to use the room with a whopping great ranga sprawled out all over the couch.  Hell yeah!

I dumped my things in ‘my’ room and crossed over the corridor onto the bridge.

Mind if I have a look around?

No probs, welcome onboard said the captain.  Captain Natalie.  Yup, for the first time in 22 months and over ninety boat trips*, the captain was a chick; and so was her first officer, Christina.  You know, we think we’re so lightyears ahead when it comes to sexual equality of opportunity in Europe, male-dominated professions like commercial sailing (and taxi driving for that matter) remind me just how far we still have to go.

Sadly, Natalie wasn’t up for doing a filmed interview, but I did get to chat with her about her life on the ocean wave – she was never in the navy and didn’t even come from a sea-faring background – it was just something she wanted to do.  Before taking this job on the ferry from Borneo to Java, she was working on a survey ship for many years up in the waters around Taiwan and Japan.

I spent the day pottering about on and off the bridge, we wouldn’t be arriving in Jakarta until tomorrow.  Really nothing out of the ordinary to report, other than I had a nosebleed.  Mandy’s going to be shocked at that one – in the whole eight years we’ve been together, I’ve never once had a nosebleed.  In fact, I can’t remember when I last had one, but it can’t have been in the last twenty years.

When I mentioned yesterday that most unpleasant journeys end when I get off the bus, I was eluding to the fact the fridge freezer adventure from Brunei to Pontianak may be over, but its effects were most certainly not.  My throat is still killing me (feels like somebody went at it with a cheese grater), my nose is running like a dripping tap – and now to top it all I had a nosebleed, all from that bloody aircon being set to zero degrees Kelvin.  Urgh – hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow.

*my 93rd (if you’re keeping count!)

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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