Mike Fincken is aboard the Rainbow Warrior as part of the Middle East Peace tour. Here's his personal blog of a week in his life:
Wednesday 07 March
On the last of the four flights connecting Cape Town to Aden I awoke to the shaking of the airplane moving rapidly down the runway. I awoke confused. I could not tell if we had just landed or were about take off, until the front of the Yemeni airplane lifted up and my stomach sank. I drifted off again. The trolley ran down the aisle and stopped against my foot, a piece of sweet bread was placed in my hand. The trolley passed me by, heading down toward the back of the plane, my headed nodded forward and the sweet bread hit the cabin floor.
Following my day-and-half commute to work, it was a welcome sight -the Rainbow Warrior. Lit up at night, lying quietly alongside in Aden harbor. The crew were mostly tucked away in their bunks, but a few familiar faces were there to greet me. Canadian Phil, (the coxswain who had made the dramatic rescue of the three Sirens off Corsica during the first week of my last voyage on the Rainbow), drew my big black suitcase over the gunwale and onto the steel deck. He carried it through to my cabin - I had arrived home from home.
Thursday 08 March
Crew turned onto the deck at eight in the morning and busied themselves preparing the ship for sea - taking down awnings and presentation material. A barge banged itself heavily alongside, then threw ropes up to make fast. Hoses where connected and freshwater pumped on board.
The pilot arrived, a young man with a distorted grin, his left cheek bulging like a hamster's with quat (a local leaf loaded with amphetamines). He was a jolly soul, and entertaining - kept recommending the wrong direction for the engines. He laughed heartily at his own mistakes. I was too tired to give him much attention as he bounced around on deck. I just wanted to get the ship to sea; the wind was good to fill the sails. Kiwi Phil, the boatswain, set the sails and soon we were making ten knots motor-sailing.
Pirate watches were set up and fire hoses prepared to repel borders. A week ago the Rainbow Warrior was under the threat of attack. Four skiffs were sighted racing up towards the sluggish sail boat off the coast of Oman. The pirates had their faces masked by balaclavas, each one brandishing a weapon - alarms sounded on the Rainbow Warrior and the Greenpeace crew turned out to line the ship side railing -creating the presence of witness. Captain Daniel transmitted a Mayday call - "The vessel is under attack". A French navy war ship acknowledged and diverted course to offer assistance, giving a two hour estimated time of arrival. Either the 16 witnesses or the imminent arrival of the French Navy turned the cards and the pirates backed off.
Leading on from the pirate attack, just a few days later (last Friday), Captain Daniel was diagnosed by Bahadir, the Turkish doctor, to have appendicitis. The ship's course was diverted to Salalah and the captain ferried ashore for surgery. A few hours later my cell phone started ringing; I was standing in front of the check-in desk at Durban airport, flying home to Cape Town after having spent a week with my parents in Pietermaritzburg. I put the phone to one ear and my finger to the other, it was Deepak from Greenpeace.
'Mike. Could you fly out to Aden on Sunday?'
Friday 09 March
More surface water flows into the Straits of Bab el Mandeb than flows out. This is due to evaporation over the Red Sea, which is very high and is not offset by the inflow of any rivers. The resulting change in density accounts for a sub-surface outflow of highly saline water throughout the year. Rainbow Warrior flew in to the Red Sea with the wind at her stern, carried by the ever incoming current; she topped 11 knots.
The Hanish Islands are situated at the South of the Red Sea, close to the Straits of Bab el Mandeb. I was advised to steer well clear of them by an old mate of mine, Dave from Darby; he's on board right now as ships electrician. I sailed with Dave eleven years ago on the Moby Dick; my first Greenpeace voyage.
Dave comes up to me at the chart table and points out the Hanish islands. 'On the Siscom we were attacked by pirates just there' he says, 'under the command of Peter Wilcox'.
The ship's crew remain on edge as we navigate off the Yemeni coastline in the southern waters of the Red sea.
Saturday 10 March
We made good with the favorable weather by having a barbeque in the evening. An old oil drum that has been sliced down the middle and welded with brackets is attached to the side railings on the bridge deck, just outside of the bridge wing door. Kiwi Phil, the boatswain, did the red-neck thing with coals and tongs whilst the crew relaxed into the sun set. The day had an extra hour in it as we retarded time to meet UTC + 2. Music from all around the world played and a little wine was passed around.
Sunday 11 March A school of dolphins swimming at the bow, so many, in such a tight pack they remind me of a forest of kelp, or the tentacles of some ancient sea creature reaching out ahead. We continue through the Red Sea.
At night the waters are dark, but they flash with bio-luminescence -like stars in the deep.
Mike's first week ends at midnight with the Rainbow Warrior sixty miles due west of Mecca.
It ends facing East, with a prayer for love and peace,