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Beer trumps satellite comms on the Ionian Sea

Well, the Cook has a black belt

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Blog Make your choice! What's more important - a cold beer, or a satellite communications system?

Here we are, four of us on a Sunsail flotilla boat in the South Ionian Sea. Yes, yes, I know, it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it, and all that... but the thing is, the whole point of the trip is to gain some sailing expertise. And, to fund that, I'm testing this Inmarsat BGAN satellite terminal.

Well, the good news is I've tested it, and it works. I stuck the dish on the deck of the boat at our last stop, on the island of Meganisi, connected my Ethernet cable to it, and dealt with a few "error message" problems, and then: bingo - broadband for a mobile planet.

An hour later, the satellite system popped up a notice saying: "Battery low" and so I disconnected everything, closed down, and got on with the serious business of sailing. And at this point, a conversation began with The Cook.

Talk turned to the boat's power supplying abilities and we discovered a slight conflict of interest. Now, The Cook is actually a painter and teacher by trade and also, unfortunately, an Akido black belt. [His name wasn't Steven, was it? Ed] The conversation was, therefore, somewhat short because no one wants to pick a fight with the person who will be making dinner, doubly so if that person is artistically martial.

It turns out that the Oceanis 393 boat is really good at generating electricity - as long as the boat is running the engine. But we're here for the sailing. Who wants to listen to a big diesel engine chugging along in the peaceful seas around the islands of Kephalonia, Ithaca, Meganisi, and so on?

You can, of course, run your equipment from the ship's battery. To do that, you need a special device called a "cigar-lighter connector" - exactly the same thing as you'd find for connecting you PC to the battery on your car. Inmarsat staff gave me one, and I've left it in London. Well, what do you expect?

So the alternative is to turn on the mains power in the boat. And yes, of course you can do that! first, you turn on the big 50 bhp diesel engine, and second, you turn off the fridge.

"You turn off what?"

On a boat, morale is important. I judged it best for morale among the crew that dissent between the Skipper (me, apparently) and The Cook be avoided. Feeling that such a feud would also upset the Owner and the Irish Rugby Player, I decided to avoid one. So I let him keep the fridge running, and returned to my GPRS data card.

He paid for this. In the end, it turns out that the seas around here have a problem with normal ship to ship VHF wireless. You can chat over quite long distances, as long as there aren't mountains in between. It so happens that all these Greek islands are, in fact, mountains. So the only way of getting in touch with the fleet leader is a mobile phone.

Guess what else ran out of power?

Yup: the Cook's mobile. Serve him right. Mind you, the food was excellent. We arrived in Vathi to discover that the town charges roughly the same sort of prices for food as Greek restaurants in London do. We found a nearby restaurant which offered us Red Snapper - fresh caught that day - and a huge 1.2 kilo fish. It looked delicious. It costs 80 Euros per kilo. We told him it wasn't Gold Snapper, and made scrambled eggs and other delicacies on the boat.

And all that thanks to the Cook being in a good mood, because of the cold beer.

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