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Dateline: Walvis Bay, Namibia  Feb 1, 2012

For those of you who may have wondered about this, I am pleased to report that onion bags—100#weight—are suitable for use in the building of boats.  Please note: I’m talking about empty onion bags here; I seriously doubt they would be as effective if still filled with onions.  Also note, as they are entirely porous they will only work when wrapped around something that floats, such as empty soft drink bottles.

In case there are people out there who are not—or have never been—actively engaged in the building of a boat, I should explain why I mention this.  On the Silver Whisper we have just had the annual boat-building contest.  For reasons for which I have no explanation at all, I found myself on one of the teams.

Let me just pause here for a brief, but perhaps relevant digression.  I am a bit “delicate” today.  Not delicate enough to be described as sick, but unwell.  This actually has a couple advantages:  first, I sound like Barry White, which is pretty cool.  Second, it gives me an excuse to hole up in my cabin (or “suite” as they are called on the Whisper) and write.  Also, it may go some way toward explaining the whole boat-building affair of the last few days.

Despite my protestations that I didn’t have time—or interest—for boat-building, my pathetic skills were co-opted by three friends.  My mistake, I think, was suggesting names for both the Team and the boat.  More about that later.  Suffice to say, I was given the job of Creative Director on the spot.

The team confers

Work gets underway quickly

I won’t bore you with the minutiae of what went into the boat, or how it was accomplished, but will summarize a few of the Lessons Learned and Things That Worked

  • It helps to have a design—or at least vague notion of what kind of boat it is to be at a fairly early stage
  • Every Team needs a Procurement Officer who is willing and able to browbeat any and all personnel on the ship to acquire whatever is needed
  • You can never have too many Onion Bags
  • You can have too many pop bottles
  • The Procurement Officer’s suite cannot be cleaned for the duration of the project
  • Do Not volunteer to be the Procurement Officer
  • It is important to suck up to at least one of the Judges
  • Enlist as many non-boat-building entertainers as possible to ensure that a good time will be had by all, even if the boat sinks when it hits the water
  • Never pass up an opportunity to be gracious in defeat

Our boat became a Lifeboat, which was perfect, given that the onion bags were Bright Orange.  The Cruise Director on the Whisper is a well-known and well-liked fellow named Fernando, so naturally the Lifeboat was named Fernando’s Hideaway.  Our next port-of-call is Walvis Bay, Namibia  (ETA two hours from now, as I write), so our Team was called The Walvis Bay Babes.  Our Procurement Officer managed to finagle crew shirts for us, so we could be in uniform—complete with epaulets.  We looked very smart.  But the very best part of it all was that we had the participation of a number of very (!) talented performers onboard.  One of the ship’s entertainers, Vicky, (there’s a great group of six singers) introduced the boat wearing a mermaid costume and singing Fernando’s Hideaway  (words adapted appropriately).  AND—we were privileged to have as our God Mother and God Father two outstanding, internationally acclaimed jazz musicians!  Judy Carmichael, jazz pianist and vocalist, and Pete Neighbour, jazz clarinetist.  Judy tried to christen our little boat with a bottle of champagne, but Pete managed to stop her just in the nick of time.

Fernando inspecting his namesake "Fernando's Hideaway"

The Competition

"Our Songstress of the Sea, our Musical Mermaid, Vicky, introducing "Fernando's Hideaway"

She Floats!

Our Lifeboat floated perfectly, and held more cargo than the Competition, but I guess it wasn’t as…beautiful.  Nevermind.  Our aim was always to have fun and be entertaining, which we were.  So it will come as no surprise, I’m sure, when I report that even though we won the popularity contest hands down, the—dare I say pedantic?—Judges determined that the Other Team had built the better boat.

But we happily embraced the opportunity to be gracious in defeat.      MM

Our Glorious Team

Sean, singer and Musical Director of the Project, Dianne, Procurement Officer, Judy, Jazz pianist and singer and Project GodMother, Vicky, singer and musical mermaid,  Meyer, singer and technical advisor for the Project, Julia, Team Captain (top), Janet, (in front)Project Engineer, Moi, Creative Director, and Pete, God Father and clarinettist.

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