Working on the Red Sea
After nearly 4 months of a truly fantastic adventure on KIBBUTZ GIVAT CHAIM...
I knew that it was time to move on to another adventure. So myself and all 7foot1 of Stretch (real name Ian) and myself decided we needed a new adventure.
SIDE NOTE : Stretch was about 8 or 9 year older than me and became something of my big brother (literally and figuratively) throughout my time with him on the kibbutz and working in Eilat.
I had always planned to get myself to the U.K but by now I had started to settle into the lifestyle in Israel - I was able to converse with the Israelis, having taught myself to speak Hebrew, and I really enjoyed the people around me....I realised then and there that what lay in front of me was a golden opportunity to explore and experience the Middle East....at the time, I thought I would always have opportunities to get to London, Paris, Milan etc but I would probably never be able to get to and enjoy places like Cairo, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat, Petra, Santorini, Limasol and many others that I eventually made it to....25 years later - I realised that I was spot on with my thinking.....other that a few trips to Dubai and a solitary trip to Istanbul , I have not come close to the magnificent cities visited in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Greece and Cyprus.
We arrived in Eilat with absolutely no idea what was going to happen, so stretch and I booked into a backpackers in Eilat and after chatting to a few other backpackers, we decided to make our way to the marina (on the RED SEA) and look for a job on the cruise boats that we there. Now, these boats were neither large, nor small - and they were only really commissioned to do 3 hour breakfast, lunch and dinner cruises on the Red Sea at any given time.
So, needless to say that the ships captain, SHIMON (actually a Spanish guy called Simon but the Israels refused to call him Simon, so he opted instead for Shimon) hired both of us as he said that he had enjoyed South Africans. He felt they did their jobs as asked more than any other nation. For this reason, most of the GALLI (as the boat was called) was made up of South African crewmen. There were a few Israelis and South Americans as well but the Saffers were certainly in the majority.
I have to say that these 3 months were actually great BUT the work was very taxing...there was a two week period where the boat was booked for 3 cruises per day EVERY DAY....which meant we actually had very little time to relax. Shimon was a complete nutter as well and we had to scrub the decks and clean the boat top to bottom after EVERY CRUISE ! The turnover of crew/staff was very frequent.
Let me share with you the 3 most memorable moments on the GALLI
During my first month on the GALLI I really saw how ruthless Shimon was as a captain. He was known as man who could get rid of staff for the most ridiculous of reasons. I witnessed this when a South African girl had just started on this boat and while we were preparing lunch, the new girl was FIRED 4 hours after arriving BECAUSE SHE WAS NOT CUTTING THE TOMOTOES PROPERLY !!!!!
TRUE STORY....but later on, I found out the real reason...and I will reveal the reason shortly...
As the youngest member of the crew, I was given a horrible 'initiation' task but some of the older crew. Simply put, one day was chosen for me to smuglled all bottles of wine that were not finished by guests on a cruise off the premises in order for us to decanter them all into full bottles.
It must b said at this point that with over 100 guests every cruise and 25 full bottles of wine allocated per cruise, it was quite possible to save around 10 bottles of wine at the end of a cruise. Factor in the fact that we earned the equivalent of around R 1000 per month working on the boat (obviously boarding and food was free) we did not really have money to save for future travels while also wanting to also enjoy our free time at night with a few beers.
So there we all were clearing tables at the end of a cruise and all bottles that were still full were given to me to put in a black bag and I had to hide them in my cabin. Once we had finished our night shift, we could get the bottles off the boat and enjoy them all together.
The problem was that I had really never done something like this before and I was very nervous. That said, I was about to finish a successful mission BUT as I was about to enter my cabin with the 10 bottles, I was met by a very angry SHIMON.
( Remember that this is the same guy that fired someone for (ostensibly) cutting a tomato incorrectly ! )
So, expecting to be asked to pack my bags and considering that we were still on an afternoon cruise, he told me to go help the guests off the boat and he will chat to me later. This was the most horrifying 30 minutes of my life - having to smile and thank the guests as they left, while knowing full well that I may have received my first 'FIRING' at work for smuggling booze - at 18 years old, the shame that I kept thinking I would have brought to my family was unbearable....
After the guests had gone, it was time for my to 'face the music' and Shimon asked me to see him on the main deck. Long story short, I got a mouthful about how I had let him personally down as he thought I had potential...how disappointed he was in me BLAH BLAH....(I remember thinking - you are not my father....so get it over and done with)
He did not fire me as he said he knew who had put me up to this and considered me a unwilling participant (which I was) When I realised that my job was safe, I dared ask him why (2 weeks earlier) he had fired the South African girl for cutting the tomato incorrectly. His reply did shock me a bit - but here goes : ' South African woman were an enigma to me. They, like the men, worked hard, but I feel that they always feel entitled to things because of their sheltered upbringing. I hired her, but was very weary of her. When I saw the way she was communicating with the other crew in the galley (kitchen - on the Galli boat) I sensed she would be a problem - upsetting our moral. I had no idea how to rectify my mistake, so when she cut the tomato the way she did, I thought I had the opportunity to rectify my mistake !'
2. CLEANING FROM TOP TO BOTTOM
Do we actually know what it means : to clean from top to bottom ? Well, quite honestly, I thought it simply a phrase used to make sure that you did a good job cleaning in order for it to look like everything is very clean afterwards - in other words, it simply meant that you have done a thorough/comprehensive job !
But noooo.....my dear friend, Stretch, pictured here had a real go at me - his 'younger brother' of 18 years of age. It all started when the boat had a REST day - which meant nothing other than we had a day to do maintenance on the boat.
Stretch was mandated to use his height to paint the side of the boat when the rest of us (usually we were around 12 in total at any given time) were tasked with a DEEP clean of the main deck. This meant getting on our hands and knees and scrubbing the decks as well as the walls of the boat.
Now, Stretch and his helper finished the painting in around 5 to 6 hours - first layer only - and Shimon advised him that once we had done the proper clean of the boat, we could all have the rest of the day off. Now that was an awesome incentive as it go Stretch back on the boat and helping us finish.
The problem was when he, as a big brother does, decided to assist and INSTRUCT me on how I should become more efficient in the work I had been doing for the past 5 hours ! We were at the end of our clean and he desperately wanted to put his exceptionally long legs up and drink a beer or two that Shimon had purchased. This thought got him pushing me to finish faster....although we were both aware that Shimon was quite capable of rejecting our work if he saw the smallest of dirt where it should not be found !
I continued my work but really oddly I cleaned the bottom half and when I was tired after 30 minutes, I ask Stretch to use his gift of altitude and complete the wash of the top section of the wall.
OH MY WORD...
This is when he really let rip at me letting me know what CLEAN FROM TOP TO BOTTOM meant - indicating that the past 30 minutes that I had been cleaning was, quite rightly, a waste of his 30 minutes of freedom :-)
Needless to say, after his visual explanation of how gravity impacts the lower half of a clean (and undoes all my work done) - explaining what it meant to clean from top to bottom...we had to start again and finished 30 minutes later. GRUMPY STRETCH....but thanks - lesson learnt and it is a lesson I WILL NEVER FORGET.
THE RONYA - 1 TRIP IN 3 MONTHS
The RONYA was always a topic of discussion for all us on the GALLI. The story was that it was owned by an elderly Israeli couple and while it was the cruise boat of choice for a number of years, once the Galli arrived and literally took the top berth spot in the marina as it (figuratively) became the only cruise boat on the Red Sea. The couple were then not very interested in marketing the Ronya and hence decided to let it simply sit there as a reminder of Eilat and Israel from a bygone era.
There was an Australian, Rick, that managed the boat and only 2 or 3 crew at any given time....what for we had no idea as it never left the marina. This was at the same time as we were doing up to 3 cruises a day....and in my 3months on the Galli, I think that I was a crew member for around 120 cruises.
Staring daily at the GHOST SHIP next to us while we were slaving away preparing/fixing/cleaning the Galli for the cruises, got to two Capetonians - Dave and Carl. They enjoyed the work on the Galli but after about 2 months wanted to take a breather....put their feet up a bit. So they went to Rick and asked if they could join the crew. Rick obliged, admitting that the 3 crew onboard were only temporary school kids for their summer vacation and now he did need more reliable crew to help him out. GREAT they said...waved goodbye to us and 20 seconds later waved hello to us onboard our neighbouring boat.
This is where it does get a bit funny. Rick got them to work immediately - repainting the boat and replacing many old parts of the ship. We saw this all unfolding in front of our eyes and Carl admitted that him and Dave may have made a mistake ! The boat had just been sold to a travel company that wanted to start earning an income from it...LOL....talk about bad timing Carl and Dave !
The picture above was taken 2 weeks later after the two Capetonians has converted the cruise boat into something almost recognisable and this was a historical picture of the RONYA going out on its first cruise in who knows how many years !
While I am not sure how long Dave and Carl stayed on the Ronya, this actually marked the time that I realised it was time to travel before I found another job. The Ronya leaving port was a sign that I needed to continue onto my next adventure.