Around the World in 80 Days
Day 24: 18 October
Our speed has been cut to 4 knots, a pervasive odour of fish hangs over the boat, for most of yesterday's catch is being dried for the return voyage. Fortunata and Jacinta is a terrible translation and I'm going to have to abandon it after 150 pages, which I always feel is a bit of a defeat. As I'm not eating I feel my energy reserves dwindling. Nowhere on the boat is comfortable any more. The clear bright skies are gone and it's cloudier, humid and very still. Even the weather seems to be waiting for something to happen.
The captain is less relaxed the nearer we get to Bombay. An Indian navy vessel passes slowly and he eyes it unhappily. Apparently they occasionally come aboard and ask awkward questions about gold wrist-watches, especially if they know you are from Dubai.
The navy boat disappears over the horizon. The captain has a new stomach-cure for me today, 7-Up and black pepper. Kishoor, the slim, dark engineer with big sensuous eyes, erects a screen in the bows before having a shower. This occasions the only real guffaws of the day. Apparently he is going to shave his entire body. When I ask why I'm told, with much giggling, that his wife prefers him that way. At dusk more oil platforms sprout on the horizon, flaming away like mini-sunsets. Kasim walks on me again, and perhaps because I'm prepared for it, I don't react quite so pathetically.
Our seventh and last night on the dhow should be celebrated but, as the Al Shama turns in aimless circles, wasting time, Passepartout and I are subdued and quite soon get our heads down, taking refuge in the world of personal stereo whilst the crew sit round in groups, talking, for most of the night. There's an end of term feeling aboard, and I feel that our inertia must be something of a disappointment to them.
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