Saturday, August 9

Things you do when you're in Den Helder for a week

A visit to the KNRM museum and making insane panorama pictures. It is somewhat impressive how much obsolete equipment has been preserved. By the way the KNRM is the Dutch voluntary Rescue Organisation. 



Friday, August 8

Thursday, August 7

Den Helder Naval Base


Royal Dutch Navy. There was a time when Den Helder was almost too small for the twenty frigates in the KortenaerTromp and van Speijk class. With the added submarines, supply and support vessels, you wonder how there was room for a yacht club.
Well... there wasn't. But even if the Dutch navy tried to ban commercial and recreational traffic in the port of Den Helder, especially the latter were difficult to get rid off. Most likely because the majority of their own personnel liked fooling around with boats.
Almost half of the Naval officers in the Royal Dutch Navy is a member of the Royal Dutch Naval Yacht Club. Founded in 1899, it was granted the Royal status as early as 1901. Teamwork, leadership quality, seamanship and other lofty principles always ensured support from the Navy leadership. Fortunately they admit visitors when they have room. So we can do what would get you arrested back in those good old cold war days: Making panorama pictures.

Note:
Today The Netherlands has only 6 frigates left, two of which close to obsolescence. The once capable anti submarine outfit probably might have a hard time sinking the Foxtrot sub from the previous post....

Wednesday, August 6

Unlikely neighbours

Two unlikely neighbours, a submarine and the former radio 'pirate' Veronica.
That submarine is an 1956 built Foxtrot class submarine. A type of diesel-electric Russian boat, that was completely obsolete by the time it was launched. Not an uncommon disease in Soviet Russia. During the big scrap (1995 - 2000) this particular boat was sold to a Dutch architect who moored it at the former NDSM shipyard. What happened next is legal acrobatics, but the boat ended in the hands of a Turkish company. Last news around Easter 2013, is that the ship would be towed to a scrapyard in Cyprus that same weekend.....
The Veronica story is only a little different. The ship's name is not Veronica. It's Nordeney, a 1949 built trawler but much more famous for its service between 1964 and 1974 as transmitter platform for radio station Veronica, than its adventures in the waters around Greenland as a fishing vessel. The rest is history.... This ship too became part of a legal ownership carousel. Since the end of 2013 it's here at the former NDSM shipyard.

Monday, August 4

A collection of incoherent pictures

A black cat before going on leave... Always a good sign. 
Usual attire when living on 'Easy'. As long as it lasts in a Dutch summer. 
Favourite boat in the marina... (finally with a mast on it). 


Friday, July 25

Anja returned home safely

At exactly 18:03 EST Anja touched down on Shiphol Airport's Kaagbaan. The Boeing 777 -200 Extended Range in KLM Asia livery was easily recognisable from the motorway A4.
I pulled into Terminal 3 at exactly the same time as Mount Kilimanjaro (PH-BQK). On the busiest holiday of the year, the terminal should've been a beehive of 'shiny happy people' leaving for the corners of the world. Or may be just a good beach.

But this week everybody, even cockpit and cabin crew, board their aircraft with mixed feelings. Nobody leaves Schiphol without visiting the memorial for flight MH17 just outside Terminal 3. All know how many flights have taken the exact same route that MH17 took. All know they've taken an KLM, SAL or MAS to Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and back. Flights that would still be flying over Ukraine if MH17 had arrived safely. Many know, it could've been them and they imagine what it must be like to be in an airliner hit by buckshot...

It's a bit sobering, but I guess we should be extra happy that Anja's back. Made it safely on January 10th and took a detour on July 25th. So we can embrace, visit the memorial and return home...
Flowers at the MH17 memorial in Schiphol's Terminal 3. 

Monday, July 14

Easy week...

Work in Amsterdam to S/Y Easy, a 15 minute ride on the motorcycle. The boat is a great place to live in the summer. Holiday every evening. Steer well clear from other people doing the same; they might invite you for the kind of drinks that cause terrible "next-mornings-in-the-office"....
Another thing to give a wide berth are spider webs. With the unusally warm and humid weather, their exploding numbers have the sadistic habit to catch you in the face with a web just outside the cabin exit.  They only respect revenge spray...
There is another side to that sweaty weather. Frequent but difficulty to predict thunderstorms. Even seen one water spout. Damn! No picture! If you want to keep your butt dry, it's much better to close the hatches during those storms; which I clearly forgot when going for a shower (how ironic!) in the picture below.
Sometimes there's even time to do something else than fooling around with boats. Places like Broek in Waterland are real picturesque to visit. Only 2400 inhabitants, the town is extremely old and tidy.  It's church dates back before 1400 but unfortunately was largely destroyed by Spaniards in 1573. The Dutch retributed in 2014 by kicking the Spaniards out of the World Cup with 5-1... 

Saturday, July 5

Zwarte Pieten

Tekenaar jammer genoeg onbekend; wie het weet mag het zeggen.
Het grote racistische "zwarte pieten" is weer afgetrapt door een verwaarloosbaar klein groepje discriminatie verslaafden. Zwarte pieten is een kaartspelletje en werkt ongeveer hetzelfde als het spelletje dat deze gevaarlijke maatschappelijke frusten spelen. Je begint met één kaart en je gaat net zo lang door met kaarten trekken bij je tegenstanders, tot ze maar één kaart overhouden: "de zwarte piet."

In de perceptie van de normale Nederlander, heeft dat hele Sinterklaasfeest, met z'n Zwarte Pieten helemaal niets, maar dan ook niets met Negers, Slavernijverleden of discriminatie te maken.
Alléén in de ogen van een zekere Quincy Gario, die zich heeft opgeworpen als aanvoerder van het Pieten protest. Dezelfde Quincy die er géén probleem mee heeft om het programma "Roet in het Eten" te presenteren op het Amsterdamse radiostation Mart radio. Een verwijzing naar huidskleur, die een blanke of andersgekleurde waarschijnlijk niet eens mag maken, zonder alle anti-discriminatie clubjes van Nederland achter zich aan te krijgen.

Quincy Gario is overigens óók dezelfde die op het komende Kwakoe Festival (als het doorgaat), een Talk Show heeft. Het festival waarvan organisatoren in 2013 meldden te "...eisen dat het Kwakoe Festival een Surinaamse aangelegenheid blijft." En "...het ontoelaatbaar dat het festival als cultureel erfgoed van de Afro-Surinaamse gemeenschap in handen komt van de nazaten van slavenhouders [sic]." Om de verklaring te eindigen met: "Kwakoe is een zwart belang."

Het blijft een boeiende vraag of het Parool - die dit zonder enige verontwaardiging publiceerde - ook zou wegkomen met: "Het Sinterklaasfeest moet voor autochtone Nederlanders blijven en het is ontoelaatbaar dat de Afro-Surinaamse gemeenschap - notabene ex slaven - dat in handen krijgen. Sinterklaas is een blank belang."

Héél toevalligerwijs vindt Quincy ook nog een obscure VN commissie aan z'n zijde, waarvan de voorzitter een zekere Verene Shepherd - wij noemen haar thuis Vilaine - wel drie keer moet roepen dat ze wel 16 boeken heeft geschreven, om haar geloofwaardigheid te onderstrepen.

Racisme? Slavenverleden? De beste onderkenning dat het slavernij verleden in Nederland heeft afgedaan, zijn de Nederlandse wetten. De vrijheid van meningsuiting voor iedereen - óók voor koekwousen als Quincy - en stemrecht voor alle burgers. Plus, dat er géén enkele Nederlander is, die bij het zien van een gekleurde medemens denkt: "Hé! Een slaaf."
Integendeel, de meeste Nederlanders werken in een omgeving waar ook andere nationaliteiten werken; mensen met een ander uiterlijk. Mensen die hetzelfde werk doen, hetzelfde betaald krijgen en door hun collega's met evenveel - of weinig - respect behandeld worden als ieder ander.

De dikke van Dale definiëert 'racisme' als "...de opvatting dat mensen ondergebracht kunnen worden in verschillende rassen en dat daarbij rassen gerangschikt kunnen worden als superieur en inferieur ten aanzien van elkaar." Anno 2014 veel aangehangen, door met name die-genen, die graag de racisme kaart trekken, om hun achterstand niet uit eigen maatschappelijk falen te hoeven verklaren; maar dat ter zijde.

De actie groep "Zwarte Piet is Racisme" zegt daarmee eigenlijk dat het Sinterklaasfeest beoogt een stelselmatig onderscheid te maken naar ras, om het blanke ras superieur te laten zijn. Sinterklaas is - met z'n eeuwige hulpeloosheid, gouden boekje en schimmel (waar ie minstens éénmaal per jaar vanaf dondert) - een nogal treurige karikatuur van de blanke man. Minimaal zo denigrerend als Zwarte Piet; dat laat dit clubje liefst onvermeld. Als ook het feit, dat Sint met z'n claim Bisschop en bijbehorend uiterlijk vertoon, een belediging is voor de Rooms Katholieke kerk. Was dit een persiflage van een Imam, kwam je gegarandeerd thuis met doodsbedreigingen; enventueel uitgevoerde...

Quincy's actie groepje is een eng clubje. Niet omdat ze hypocriet en vervelend zijn, dat is een grondrecht in Nederland. Maar ze maken ons bewust van ras.  Nog erger, ze benadrukken de verschillen en lijken zelfs een verschil in rechten na te streven.

Saturday, June 28

Return from Doha (at least trying...)

Entrance to the W-Hotel

I love it when a hotel returns your laundry as if your shirts are brand new.....
Returning from Doha on the last day before Ramaḍān, wasn't so straightforward as the boarding pass for KL442 suggested. Soon after arrival on Doha's brand-new Hamad International Airport, the KL442 was cancelled, due to technical problems.
Indeed, the aircraft was still on the ground, while it should've departed for the return flight Muscat-Doha, an hour ago.
For KLM the impossible task to divert passengers onto other flights, on the evening that half the Arab world seemed to be on the move.
Two hours and many phone calls later, I found myself boarding a Qatar Airways flight to Schwechat Vienna for a delightful 4 hour layover.

As big as the Austrians have built their airport, it's nowhere close to an international airport. At six in the morning, every transferdesk is closed, there are no check-in machines in the passenger area and you have to go to the ticket office (closed too!) to retreive your boarding pass.
Boarding a flight in Austria without a valid boarding card is not exactly easy. The Viennese selected for "Airport Duty" do exactly that; their duty and nothing more. And duty DOES NOT come with a smile or flexibility. Even lounge staff - usually the most forthcoming species on any airport - is forged from cast iron. Seemingly forgotten, they owe their income to their employer's services to passengers - not the other way around - getting to the KL1840 gate required a dangerous amount of verbal violence [sic] and bluff. *)

Back to Doha. Even if it means "big tree", there's not a tree to be found, except maybe the newly planted around the luxury hotels and homes. Which is certainly true for Ras Laffan Industrial City - eighty kilometers away - where we  commuted every day.
Ras Laffan is the biggest concentration of industrial complexes I have ever seen. On a barren wasteland - Mad Max movies are scenic in comparison - one gascomplex after another proofs Qatar means business, when they claim to be 'the number one exporter' of liquified natural gas. After all, something needs to pay for the 2022 World Cup.....

*) From all appearances, the amount of austerity, authoritarianism and 'verbal abuse' requires careful dosage; especially security personnel seems eager for any excuse to  have you arrested.

Wednesday, May 7

Dubai

Selfie from the Burj Kahlifa observation deck.
There I am, at the Customs Office of the Jebel Ali Free Zone gate 7. If there is any place you experience that class determines privilege in Dubai, it's here. Strictly regulated by the UAE Customs Authority, officially nothing is permitted. No smoking, no stopping, you're just allowed to queue up for registration. The moment the hotel driver stops his Lexus at a "no stop" sign, an official approaches, only to discover there's somebody in the back seat and turn a blind eye. I wouldn't even be surprised if my skin colour played a role in this decision...
Outside the Custom's office are guys who are less fortunate. They usually come from Bangladesh, India or Pakistan to do the manual labour in the many heavy-industry workshops located here. They're the ones that wait in line for 'day passes', they're the ones that have to go in on foot and work in open air on steel structures, process equipment or one of the many building sites. Judging from the transport they arrive in, at a very meagre salary. Today it's a mild 34°C, so everybody is seems happy...
As a privileged customer, I'm transferred from my Lexus into the suppliers private car and transported into Jebel Ali without hassle at all. To do the required inspections and return to my ridiculously oversized hotel suite; thanks to my employer's travel policies, I have a bathroom for every night I stay in this city.

The good thing about the Middle East flights to Europe is, that they depart around midnight. Which leaves time to visit Dubai's newest landmark, the Burj Khalifa. Today, the largest and highest man-made structure in the world; a staggering 830 meters high. Just before the official opening in 2010 it was named after the Abu Dhabi ruler Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, having everything to do with a $10 billion loan from Abu Dhabi to Dubai after the 2009 economic crisis hit the latter hard.

It's cheap to go to the Burj Khalifa observation deck, unless you arrive last moment, in which case you have to buy a "Fast Track" ticket costing 400 Dirhams. For those roughly eighty Euro's you can finally look down on everyone...
Even if they hide in other high-rise buildings, from Burj Khalifa, you look donw on them.