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November 17, 2002

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The largest lake in the world isn't called a lake, it's the Caspian Sea and we sail across today. Our ferry has enough lifeboats for crew; the passengers will swim for shore if something happens. This isn't likely because the water is smooth. We keep a low profile in our cabin because our host has told us we're stowaways as far as the government knows. When the captain sleeps, our host leads us on a ship's tour; it's a big boat, the bridge stands five storeys over the water and we're carrying 27 loaded train cars in the ship's hold. We return to the cabin, a comfortable room about the size of a large walk-in closet, with a cramped salt water toilet. At dusk the ferry docks in Baku's harbor (a twenty hour journey across the Caspian) and we walk thru customs with a small hitch; the officials see our Armenian visa and question us about it; Azerbaijan has a running conflict with Armenia and the Azeri don't like to know that tourists are going there too.
These other passengers have legitimate ferry tickets. The tall one is an American backpacker, Clayton, whom we met and wondered, what are the odds of meeting another American tourist on this boat?
Our ship has a political name, the Nakhichevan, capital city of a disputed region with Armenia.
We dock in Baku's harbor at dusk, the biggest port on the Caspian.