May 23 – Engine #1 down

After an amazing night sleep – surprisingly the best of the trip so far, I wake up early and just in time to get out on the deck and watch the sunrise. It’s not everyday one gets to see the sunrise from the middle of the Caspian. I spend a couple of hours taking it all in and decide to head back to my cabin to catch up on the gripping tale of Muhammad (peace be upon him). After a good solid 3 minutes of reading this riveting story, I’m falling back asleep on my 80’s like natural waterbed. I wake up sometime around 8:00 as I subconsciously notice that we’ve stopped moving. I look out back and see that one of the stacks isn’t blowing black smoke anymore. Shortly thereafter I feel the low rumble of the second engine go out. We’re adrift. It doesn’t take long for the captain’s bell to start ringing and several Russians to start yelling – something.

I lay there taking mental note of what the situation may look like and pondering how long it takes to get a rescue ship out to the middle of the sea and start towing our heap of iron back to shore. I check my GPS to see if we were more than halfway, hoping at the very least we’d be towed to Turkmenistan so I can continue my journey. After an hour or so of lying there clearly adrift, I hear one of the steam engines fire up and then the second. I’m not sure what was going on down there; maybe an oil change, maybe the engineer fell asleep – doesn’t matter, we’re steaming again and I check my GPS to make sure we’re still headed to Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan has been described as the North Korea of Central Asia – a very comforting piece of literature I read somewhere.   So the Turkmen’s wont let Americans, or any foreigners, as I understand into their country without a government-approved escort.   So…I am supposed to be met at the Turkmenbashi docks by someone who will meet me on the “other side” of customs and whom I’ll follow through the country for the next few days. Only within the city walls of Ashgabat will I be left to wander around on my own – should be interesting.

Sometime around 8 pm, someone walks into my cabin and says “why no eat?” To no avail, I try to explain I’ve been living on Nutella and honey sandwiches for the last 2 days. He motions to follow him and we head down to the galley – didn’t know they had one, I guess they forgot to tell me when I boarded. The Russian cook burned me up some pasta noodles, 1 chicken leg (with a few feathers still on it) and topped with catsup. It doesn’t sound that appetizing, but it sure hit the spot. While eating, ten or so crewmembers huddled around me (all smoking) and started asking questions in some dialect of Russian. Of course I couldn’t understand them, so they got much closer and talking slower and louder as if it would help – it didn’t. They backed off at some point and we worked on some basic communication, like names and common words (countries) where I’d be going. It became clear as a minor argument broke out, that I was headed in the completely wrong direction if I wanted to end in Kazakhstan; stupid American. The logistics guy I met at Baku port, Mike, told me before I left port these guys don’t travel for fun and couldn’t understand what I was doing and that my motorcycle looked “stupid” with the spare tires, navigation equipment, bags, etc. This became clear when I pulled out the iPad to show them my route. Everyone got all fired up about how I was getting to Kazakhstan. There was a lot of loud talking and hard finger pointing on my iPad showing their “approved” route. Before someone broke my navigation, I decided to give up and showed them I would take their suggested route and approved with a smile, thank you, and thumbs up.

I guess we’re not going to port today.

Half the Russian cargo fleet on port side….

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The other half off starboard…

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and a couple that weren’t so lucky.  The ocean cancer got em

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