Saturday, 3 December 2011

The exam

This is what I can remember of the exam, I may have missed bits out, most of what I can remember is the parts when I thought it was going badly! The examiner was very fair, and threw me a lifeline on more than one occasion, it wasn't the quickest exam ever but considering he is the examiner who's got the reputation for being the most stringent, I'm very proud!

I stayed in the nunnery (Park House Guest House) the night before, everyone who stays there passes apparently, they're very sweet and there's one nun in particular who's tiny and promised to light a candle and pray for us, which was lovely of her. We went down the road for food,  there's lots of restaurants to choose from and we ended up having a really good Mexican meal, along with a couple of beers. I fell asleep easily enough but woke up at 0430 and then at 0630, and had some super-weird dreams that I really want to forget!!

I spent the entire morning waiting while my two coursemates went in and came out after 30 minutes with Leggit, they said it was easy, more like a chat and half the time they weren’t sure they were being examined. I felt better hearing this from them and then my heart sank when Hiliard came out, I’d brought my books in a crate and he asked me to bring them in. He explained the fire exits, fire alarm and the muster point outside and offered me a glass of water, which I jumped at. He then had a flip through my nav work books, he had a look at my first sea phase ops workbook and didn’t bother looking at the second one (I did have half a rainforest!) then the exam began, he gave me a small model ship and told me that was my ship.

Started out with Rule of the Road, I was so nervous, first he gave me a fishing vessel other than trawling on my port side, I took a series of compass bearings (did this in every case) and then I said I’d sound two short blasts (made the sound signal every time as well) and go to port.
Then gave me a fishing vessel over 50 m trawling on my port side, again, said I’d go to port.
Then I got a towing vessel less than 50m length of tow less than 200m, and I had a total brain fart and said I’d go to port. I realised almost immediately that I’d screwed up and he let me have another go at it and I said I’d stand on with caution. At this point I thought I’d failed and spent the rest of the exam wondering how I was going to tell everyone I’d failed.
He carried on asking me questions though, he put me in a TSS and put a red can buoy in the middle of it and asked me what the light was (red, flashing any rhythm other than composite two plus one), then asked what I would do when I saw it, I said that if I saw it right ahead I’d alter to starboard and leave it on my port side.
Still in the TSS he told me that it had a course alteration coming up, with an 18m vessel on my starboard side outside the TSS heading toward it that wasn’t impeding me at the time, but was going to start impeding, I said I’d stand on, then he said it was impeding now, and I said I’d stand on, then it got closer again and so I said I’d alter to stbd. I then wanted to beat my head on the desk as I realised I should have given 5 or more short and rapid blasts before altering. I told him I knew what I’d done wrong there and told him I would have done the 5 or more before altering, he didn’t say anything but carried on. This only served to convince me further that I had failed. He did ask me who was the give way and who was the stand on vessel in that situation, I took ages to answer but said I was the give way vessel but would expect the small vessel not to impede my passage.
He then put an arrow on the table and told me that that was North, put a red dot to symbolise a danger in the middle of the table and an arrow to show which way the danger extended. He then gave me a west cardinal buoy and told me to put it in the right place. I put it on the west side of the danger, he asked me what the light was on it (9 quick in 15 secs, 9 very quick in 10 secs) and that was it for buoyage!
I then got a ship one point abaft the beam on my starboard side, and I said I’d make a broad alteration of course and pass around her stern, he asked me which light I’d show the other ship, and I told him I’d show them my port light.
He gave me the lights for a vessel aground and asked what I’d do, so I gave him the stop, take all way off, call the master, turn the echo sounder on, plot my position, plot the other vessels position and assess where the deep water was, he stopped me there and said “You’re on a paperless ship, how would you do that on ECDIS?” I told him I’d use the radar overlay, and select the ship with ARPA on the radar. He asked how I’d assess the chart, so I told him I’d increase the amount of soundings the chart was showing.

We then went onto Restricted Vis, he asked me to tell him about going into RV, so I said reduce speed, call the Captain, turn on nav lights, start sounding the appropriate signal, get a man on the wheel, extra look outs. Then he gave me a sheet of paper with a radar plot on it showing several vessels, he told me it was in true vectors and relative trails, that there would only be one vessel that had a risk of collision and to take my time in deciding which was which and what action I would take. I started to answer but he told me to take my time so I stared at it for a couple of minutes! He also gave me a straight edge and a pair of dividers to help me work out what was going on. He said that in RV situations I wouldn’t have to worry about things too much because I’d have the Captain on the bridge but he just had to make sure I had an understanding of the rules.
The first one had a vessel ahead of me that was causing a risk and I said I’d go to starboard (not sounding any signal), after the vessel on my starboard side that was overtaking me had gone ahead and was out of the way. He asked me what else I could do and I told him I could go to port as I was overtaking it.
The second one had two vessels with relative trails that pointed directly at my ship, and I used the dividers and edge to try and figure out which was more of an immediate problem, there was another vessel on the stbd side which would pass astern of me. He said that there was only one option open to me and I agreed because I couldn’t alter toward a vessel abeam or abaft my beam so went to starboard. He said “Ok, but you wouldn’t make a very broad alteration and cross the other vessel  would you?” I told him I’d make a trial manoeuvre first which made him immediately move on.

Mooring fwd, what preparations I would make? I told him I’d have a briefing on the bridge first with the Captain and find out how many lines we would be using, then brief my team ensuring they had the right PPE and PPC and ensure there was power on deck by calling the engine room. On the deck I’d ensure there was adequate lighting, that the deck was clear of obstructions and debris, get the lines flaked out, grease round and warm through the winches (if necessary but I’d expect that the winches were greased as part of regular maintenance), get the heaving lines rigged so that the lines would run without catching on anything, and then position myself where I could see the quay and the deck so I could give distances off via radio.
He asked what would I do if I couldn’t see the man on the winches from where I was so I said I’d position another competent person who could relay my hand signals to the winch man.
What kind of stopper would I use on a polyprop mooring rope? I told him for a polyprop rope, I’d use a polyprop stopper.

Fire in the galley, what would be the best way of fighting a deep fat fryer fire?  I told him about the wet chemical extinguishers that I had on the cruise ships, he asked how it worked and I told him that it solidified over the oil and smothered it, I think he was looking for me to say “fixed system” but he left it and we carried on.

Steering failure, I said I’d call the Captain and try switching to non-follow up, he asked me to explain how non-follow up worked so I told him about that and then he told me that the steering had failed again and the rudder had locked over to port so I said, eventually after some pushing on his part, that I’d use the emergency steering gear in the steering flats.

He possibly asked me what I’d do in a MOB situation, but I can only remember the pain of the next question, it was like pulling teeth!-It’s a nice calm flat day in port, the Chief Officer tells you to launch the rescue boat, How would you prepare the rescue boat? I started off ok, telling him I’d muster, call in to the bridge, check everyone had the right PPE and PPC, check the condition of the boat and the gear in it. I knew I needed to check the limit switch so I said with the boat in the cradle I’d lower the wire and then heave it back up to test the limit switch, he wasn’t keen on this and I tried to re-explain what I meant, and he asked if I’d lift the boat, so I changed my answer and said I’d disconnect the wire, test the limit switch and then reconnect the boat, he seemed happier with this and told me to carry on. I then said I’d launch the boat with people in it. He gave me a funny look and said “There was an M-notice about that recently wasn’t there?” I jumped on the lifeline he had just given me and said Yes I would lower the boat to the water line without anyone in it first. He left it at that, but I think he was looking for FPDs.

Passage planning on ECDIS I started with Appraisal, and he stopped me and said “You’ve done all that, what would you do before you start putting stuff into the ECDIS? I said I’d make sure the charts were all fully updated, and then I was stumped, he started talking about alarms and parameters, and I was still lost, I told him I’d check all the feeds going into the EDCIS were right- GPS, Gyro, Radar, speed log, AIS and then he asked what else do you need to do? I said make sure there’s power? I was utterly lost and told him I was sorry but my mind had gone blank and at that time I didn’t know. I realise now he was looking for me to clear all alarms and reset all the layers on the chart.

Port state controller coming on what instructions will you give your crew? I told him I’d tell them to answer his questions and give him any information he asked for.
What’s the difference between port state control and flag state control? Told him the only difference was that flag state inspected ships that were flagged by their state and port state inspected any ship that came into their port.
He asked how I would know what they were looking for so I told him about the Paris MOU website, that I’d look on that to see what ships had been detained and for what, he asked if I’d looked at the website and I told him I had (Thank god I did just a week before!)

He then said “Well you’ve passed” I nearly cried! He took my NoE to photo copy it and then gave some feedback, I need to look at Passage planning on ECDIS and to take my time when assessing situations- he had obviously realised how nervous I was and that my mistakes had been down to trying to answer too quickly, overall though, he said it was a good exam. He gave me my books back which I had to put down again to shake his hand and then left, thanking him profusely and in shock!

Friday, 2 December 2011

I passed!!!!

I'm still in shock, and am currently recovering from drinking large quantities of whisky last night. Will update this with a blow by blow account of the exam soon!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Middle of the End

Two weeks to go, and I have finally got my game head on properly, which seems to have co-incided with me figuring out my optimal working set up (Radio 2 on the TV, sitting on the sofa, using a coffee table to rest note book on, laptop on second coffee table with ready for immediate use, reference books on the sofa next to me). It also helps that my housemate is away, he has a tendancy to come and talk about his computer game at un-useful moments, and try and make me watch zombie shows. I have also posted the following notice on our front door "Please, Do Not Disturb, I have the most important exam of my life in 2 weeks and am revising, See you after, S4" Needless to say the neighbours came knocking twice this evening, but I had to forgive them, as they were without power or heating. I gave them another candle and a torch.

Revising everything you have learnt in the last three years is no easy task, none of it is new, but I need to remember which Code I can find such-and-such information in, what annex to what legislation applies to which situation, etc. It's a drag I can tell you, but I'm getting there, and I'm also looking forward to having my own comprehensive set of notes that I will take with me to my first ship, all neatly index tabbed so I can find everything quickly and look like I know my shit really well!!

That's all for now folks, see you on the other side. S4 xx

Friday, 23 September 2011

The beginning of the end

I finished my last trip yesterday, it was only a 4 day trip, but my last as a cadet, and I suddenly find myself facing the prospect of returning to college for the last time.Where did the last three years go? I wonder, have I learnt enough? Will I crumble into a small heap of nerves as I step into that exam room? I am I good enough?

If you read my appraisals, you would probably say yes, phrases such as "Will make a fine officer" "Is welcome back any time" "Has demonstrated a solid understanding of the rules in busy traffic" are but a few of the kind things my training officers and Captains have written, but I can't help but think... Are they just being nice?? My father says of course not, they wouldn't say it if they didn't mean it, but he's my Dad, and a proud father, and therefore unlikely to say anything otherwise. I know he's probably right, but I still have this deep down gnawing fear...

The last month or two has been interesting, for a variety of reasons. My last trip on the Balmoral was supposed to be my last trip, but as I had only gained 6 hrs watchkeeping hours per day on the Adventurer I needed 32 hours more bridge watchkeeping time, I had asked my sponsors about this a while ago and they'd said "Ohhh it's fine" and then phoned up a few days ago and said, "Oh, um, it's probably not fine". They did find me ship though, and a great little ship it was too; Huelin Dispatch sails out of Southampton three times a week, taking general cargo to the Channel Islands, the crew totals nine and there's no uniform, no calling people Sir, no EDCIS, no ARPA.... it was wonderful, and totally, utterly opposite in every respect to the Balmoral. In the space of 4 days I felt first welcomed, then accepted and valued, and without any wish to sound nauseatingly gushy, it felt like I was part of the family. I wish I'd had the chance to sail on her for longer, navigating without the course laid out on the Radar or AIS cluttering up the screen made watches interesting cos I had to actually think about things, the cargo stayed where it was put, it didn't ask me anything and it didn't complain when the weather made life a little lumpy. And when I say lumpy I mean, in a force 7 the ship was moving so much that I started to get a headache and feel that tea rather than coffee was necessary (which is about as close to being seasick as I get), and I couldn't sleep, which means it's seriously lumpy. But how devine to actually feel like I was on a ship, rather than having stabilizers take all the fun out of it.

You may have gathered from this that I liked the Dispatch, almost as much as I disliked the Balmoral. I would like to point out that the officers were all perfectly nice to me on there, but I always felt like a spare part, and as for other things.... I'm not going to go into detail about them here, as I think they've gotten themselves into a big enough hole as it is, but as I said to the MCA inspector on the day I left, most of what I learnt on there was what not to do. As I said, it's been interesting....

So with all these experiences under my belt, and the lessons therein tucked firmly into my brain, am I ready? I guess I'll never feel 100% ready, 100% confident, and will always wish I could have just a bit more time. But on the other hand, I'm looking forward to having my own watch, looking forward to the leave periods, looking forward to the pay,  looking forward to the opportunity to choose the ship I work on, especially as that ship might be a Tall Ship.

Monday, 6 June 2011

The Rules

I used to take part in a lot of plays; school plays, youth theatre in the holidays, amdram, university plays... so I thought that learning a few rules would be easy, just like learning lines.

It's not.

I've got the meaning of them, that's not the problem, the problem is the placement of seemingly insignificant words. For example, in the normal world, it wouldn't be a problem to exchange a "will" for a "shall" or even a "may", in the rules however, it matters. In the language of the Rules, these words are not insignificant and using the wrong one or putting them in the wrong place is tantamount to heresy. I was flippant about learning the Rules when I started this course, thought I could easily box them off in a few weeks and so didn't get around to learning them properly until Officers on ships started getting on my case about them. And thank gods they did! I'm getting there, slowly, I've gotten all the lights and shapes stuff done, and distress signals, and out of the really important ones: 4-9 and 11-13, and 19. (I'm putting off 10 because it has so many little parts). Rules 14, 15, 16 and 17 are all fairly simple, so is 18 actually, so I reckon, if I put my mind to it I could have them signed off soon, hopefully by the end of this trip (three weeks time).

What I'm trying to say really is this: If I could give anyone starting out on this career one piece of advice, it would be this learn your COLREGS! Learn the structure first, it goes a little something like this....

Part A - General - This is Rules 1, 2 and 3.
  • Rule1 - Application. This basically says that the Rules apply to everyone on the high seas and waters connected to the high seas that are navigable by seagoing vessels. There's a lot more to it in reality though.
  • Rule 2 - Responsibility. In a nutshell, this says that if you fail to follow the rules and crash, it's your fault, but it also says that if by following the rules you end up crashing, it's also your fault. Dammed if you do, dammed if you don't!
  • Rule 3 - Definitions. Does what it says on the tin really, it's a lovely long list of exactly what a 'vessel' is, what a 'power driven vessel' is, what a 'sailing vessel' is... all the way from a) to m) "The term Wing-In-Ground (WIG) craft means a multimodal craft which, in it's main operational mode, flies in close proximity to the surface by utilizing surface-effect action" You'll probably never see one, but you still have to know what it is!!
Part B - Steering and Sailing Rules. These are the really important ones, that you have to know like the palm of your hand.
This part is broken up into three sections;
Section 1 covers the Conduct of Vessels in ANY condition of Visibility.
Section 2 covers the Conduct of Vessels IN SIGHT of One Another.
Section 3 covers the Conduct of Vessels In RESTRICTED VISIBILITY. Remember that.

So in Section 1 we have:
  • Rule 4 - Application. The rules in this section apply to.... (hint, see above!)
  • Rule 5 - Look out. i.e. keep a good look out, at all times, using ALL available means.
  • Rule 6 - Safe Speed. Go at a speed appropriate to the circumstances and conditions you are in, when determining what this should be, all vessels should consider: Visibility, Density of traffic, Manoeuvrability of your vessel, Lights around you, Weather and your Draught (in relation to the depth of water) I remember these points with the mnemonic VD Makes Little Willies Drip. In addition, vessels with radar should also consider: Characteristics and limitations of the radar, any Constraints imposed by the radar range in use, the Effect of sea, weather and other interference, the Possibility that small objects may not be detected by radar, the Number of other vessels detected by radar and the More exact assessment of visibility that can be made using radar. Another handy little mnemonic for these ones is Chinese Charlie Eats Pussy No More. Both mnemonics are gross, but highly memorable!
  • Rule 7 - Risk of collision. This rule defines how you will determine if there is a risk of collision.
  • Rule 8 - Action to avoid collision. This says that any action to avoid collision will be taken in good time, and be obvious to the other vessel that you are doing it. 
  • Rule 9 - Narrow channels. Basically, keep on the starboard side of a channel, small vessels keep out of the way, and use sound signals if overtaking or nearing a bend.
  • Rule 10 - Traffic Separation Schemes. Another one of those rules with a load of little parts, (a to l!). To sum it up- keep to your lane, if you're crossing it, do so on a heading that is 90 degrees to the lane, small vessels keep out of the way.
 In section 2: Conduct of vessels in sight of one another. These rules tell you what action to take when risk of collision exists.
  • Rule 11 - Application. (as above)
  • Rule 12 - Sailing Vessels.
  • Rule 13 - Overtaking
  • Rule 14 - Head on Situations
  • Rule 15 - Crossing Situations
  • Rule 16 - Action by the Give-Way vessel
  • Rule 17 - Action by the Stand On vessel
  • Rule 18 - Responsibilities between vessels. This tells you who has to give way to who when both vessels are not the same type. i.e Sailing vessels keep out of the way of vessels engaged in fishing, etc.
In section 3 there is only one rule:
  • Rule 19 - Conduct of Vessels in Restricted Visibility. This is almost guaranteed to come up in your Orals, so know it, and know it well.
 After that little lot you have three more parts, these you don't need to have off by heart and back to front, but you do need to know what they mean!

Part C - Lights and shapes
Rules 20 - 31. These rules are best learnt visually, you don't have to know which rule is which, but you do need to know what vessels will display what shapes during the day, and what lights they will show at night, and be able to define what they are from a variety of viewpoints. Get a set of flash cards!

Part D - Sound and Light Signals
Rules 32 - 37. The title explains it all really. It's all about learning when to go ding ding ding, dongalongalong...

Part E - Exemptions
Rule 38. Some older ships, depending on when they were built, are exempt from having to comply with some bits and pieces regarding the installation of certain lights and sound signalling appliances.

Annex 1- Positioning and technical details of lights and shapes. Best learnt as diagrams mostly.
Annex 2 - Additional signals for fishing vessels fishing in close proximity. Learn these with your lights and shapes.
Annex 3 - Technical details of sound signal appliances. Very technical, the important part to remember is the distance over which you must be able to hear the signals, depending on the size of the vessel.
Annex 4 - Distress Signals. Learn these off by heart. And make sure you're learning the most up to date version, see MSN 1781 (M+F) (Amendment).

So now I guess I should take some of my own medicine, and go and nail rule 14!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Some deep breathing, cathartic deleting and a little introspection later....

And I'm back, apologies for the rant, and thanks for the support too, it's good to know that my humble offerings on t'interweb are of use and interesting to people.

When I started writing this, I was doing different things most days, everything was new and, while not exactly exciting, it was interesting, and I wanted to share that. However, life on ship is not always interesting, and with 10 months sea time under my belt now, I feel I can safely say that for the most part, life on ship is actually incredibly repetitive and dull. Whether you're doing the same routes around the Caribbean week in week out, or to-ing and fro-ing across the Atlantic, or the Irish Sea, you're still trogging round the ship inspecting fire extinguishers and hoses, checking lifeboat gear, doing drills, correcting charts, testing radio equipment, writing logs, filling out checklists and staring out of the window for hours on end. And that is something that I feel is important to realise when you're considering embarking on a career at sea. The people who promote the MN as a career will tell you about the money, the opportunity to travel and the long periods of leave, but one thing you have to remember is that these perks come because your job matters. When you live on a ship, your life and the lives of your fellow crewmembers and passengers are reliant on the fact that the people who do inspections and checks do them properly, and do maintenance thoroughly, that they keep a sharp look out and make sure the equipment that will save your ass if the shit ever did hit the fan works properly. And that is why I continued with the daily log entries, yes it's repetitive, but believe you me, you got the edited highlights! I think now though, that that point has been made, and I'm at the stage now where I really am doing the same thing every day, which does not make for interesting posts. For example, one of the things we have to do for our nav work book is keep a radio log, of all the communications made from the ship to other ships and shore stations, plus the daily and weekly tests. Every ship keeps a GMDSS log, but only actually logs that the tests have been completed and (according to theory anyway) any distress communications received. After keeping my log for 4 days, I could now give you a run down of every call we make going from Dublin to Holyhead and back, and what frequency it was made on. Do I now really know how to keep a GMDSS log book properly and do the daily and weekly tests on the equipment? Yes. Is it interesting? No. So I'm not going to write about what I do every day any more, but will hopefully get some more interesting days to tell you about from time to time. I still keep a daily log for myself, but it's basically brief notes on what I did to help jog my memory when writing reports.

So what will I write about now? Well, the met post was just as much for my own benefit as anyone else's. I'm starting to think about Orals now, which I'm due to take in December this year and I find that for me, the best way to revise something is try and explain it to someone else. I'm not going to be doing all my revision on here, and what I do post will not be utterly comprehensive, so please don't view my writing as a 100% reliable source, go to the books yourself and read up too! (And if I have made a glaring error, feel free to correct me.)

Thursday, 26 May 2011

We interrupt broadcasting for a short service message

I would just like to make something very clear, this is my blog, and I will post what I dam well like, not what some antipodean old fart who has to resort to posting anonymously because he has made himself so unpopular on forums that he has turned one into a wasteland and been banned from another thinks I should write. I am no longer accepting anonymous comments and will post again if and when I have calmed down a bit.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Bouncy bouncy... a small lesson on met.

Bouncy Bouncy
Oh what a good time!
Bouncy bouncy....  Hmm, enough with the Boosh references, but you should have got the idea, it's been rough out there today! If you watch the UK weather forecast you will have gathered that there's been a big old low pressure going over us today, and this one was particularly vile. For those of you who've done met at college or just know this stuff, please feel free to skip this one, I don't want to teach grandmother to suck eggs, but for those of you who've not yet had that pleasure:

Here's the surface pressure analysis for midnight this morning:

And then the forecast for 1200 midday:

 The thin black lines are called isobars, they are basically contours, like you get on an OS map, only these show pressure. A low pressure system moves in an anti-clockwise direction and as it moves, so the wind goes too. Wind generally moves along the isobars, and on a low pressure system the wind circles inwards. The closer the lines of equal pressure, the faster the wind will be. (Think of it as a funnel, the closer the isobars, the steeper the slope of the funnel and the faster a ball will roll down the inside). The red lines with semi-circles on are warm fronts, and the blue lines with triangles on are cold fronts. Our part of the world is a mixing bowl of sorts; to the north we have cold air around the pole, and to the south we have warm air around the equator. If the earth didn't spin and butterflies didn't flap their wings (bit of chaos theory there for you) then these two masses of air would sit side by side quite happily, but if anything stirs things up a bit then things get interesting. When warm air and cold air meet and mix, they don't want to mix, so one body of air will actually slide under the other. This makes air rise, and when air rises it cools, and the water vapour in it condenses, condensed water vapour is generally know as clouds, and you know what they bring! So that cold front is a big ass wedge of cold air, pushing up warm wet air (warm air can hold more water than cold air) from the south into the atmosphere, which is why a cold front brings with it rain in buckets. 

So there you go, that's not the whole met syllabus, there are further complications and possible permutations of the scenario, but those are the basics. High pressure systems of course go clockwise (think of the two types of system as cogs) and are gentler beasts. Then when you head to the other side of the equator things flip and low pressure systems rotate clockwise and high pressure systems rotate anti-clockwise. The direction in which they move depends on what latitude you are at, this is is due to something called the Coriolis Effect, caused by the spin of the earth. Google it, if you're bored!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

This way, that way, forwards and backwards.....

...over the Irish Sea. But there's no rum, nor is there cider. This makes me a little bit sad.

I'm on a ferry now, twice a day we go Dublin to Holyhead and back, it's not the most exciting run I must admit, but it's something different, and it's only for 6 weeks so I've a lot to learn in a short time. Technically, this is a ro-pax, i.e. we take cars, vans, lorries and anything else on wheels, and passengers back and forth to Ireland. What this means for me is a chance to get some of the cargo work stuff in my record book signed off and short watches :) I'm on day shifts at the moment, so I'm waking up at 0630, crawling out of my pit at 0645 and having breakfast at 0700. Loading starts at 0720 and we're letting go by 0820, after that there's time for a quick cuppa and then I head to the bridge for watch. By 1200 we're all tied up in Dublin and it's time for lunch, after that it all starts again, going in the opposite direction.

It will get a bit more interesting, in a few weeks we're going into dry dock, so I'll have a lot of chances to go crawling around in spaces that you wouldn't normally see, (and do lots of reports on everything too... deep, deep joy...). There are other benefits too, all British crew, satellite TV that works, my own cabin with TV, and.... free internet!!!! If only I had more to write about.....

Thursday, 28 April 2011


Well I failed abysmally at keeping up to date on this blog didn't I?! Well there's a good reason for that; I was utterly miserable, and no one wants to hear someone droning on about how shit their life is.

Now before I continue, I want to make it very clear that my take on this has changed, but, if you had asked me two months ago whether I would go back to that ship, I would have told you emphatically NO, I hated it. I continued to write a daily log up to the 26th of Feb, but for the most part it had ceased to be about what I had done, and had instead turned into a diatribe of anger and resentment against certain people on board, which would have been deeply unprofessional to post up, despite being deeply cathartic. Since those dark days though, things improved greatly, people joined and people left and by the end of my trip I was being given responsibilities that, while technically shouldn't have been mine, made me confident that I had proved myself to be a competent and useful person to have on board and would be welcomed back, whereas the people who had managed to make my life such a misery had been deemed lazy and useless, with less than a snowballs chance in hell of ever getting back. Karma, you gotta love it.

My problem boiled down to this: I am not a girly girl, I tend to be sarcastic and blunt, I swear more than my mother would like and I like a good dirty joke, I work hard and expect others around me to do the same, and while I am always willing to help a shipmate out, I will not do someone else's work for them. I like a few drinks, (generally this was curbed to Friday nights, with the glory of a study day on the Saturday). In other words, I am a sailor through and through. My fellow cadet was pretty much the opposite, she detested sarcasm, didn't drink much (unless she got so drunk she had to be escorted to a bunk with someone to watch over her in case she was sick), was lazy, and flirted with all the men she could find. They, of course, loved her. She was cute, gazed up at them with big eyes and played the helpless maiden to their worldly wise manliness. We tried to get on, but eventually it became difficult to disguise the mutual contempt in which we held each other. She however had gotten herself a boyfriend on the bridge, so guess who got portrayed as the big mean bossy cow, and who was the poor little flower who could do no wrong. I could go on and list specifics but that would be unfair, and I have every confidence that when it comes to the Orals, she will come unstuck.

What I have leant on this trip is that while popularity makes you happy in the short term, working hard, keeping your head down and smiling even when you want to cry will bring you much greater rewards in the end. I would love to return the ship, as a cadet and then as an officer, and will drink a toast to those who made me miserable, as without them, I couldn't have done it!

Friday, 4 February 2011

"When you're good, you're good. When you're bad, you're better!"

Oh dear me, it’s been a month, and yes, there is a months worth of blog for you to read! I’ll try to edit it so it’s not too dull, but, don’t forget, that while I may be in the Caribbean, there’s plenty of boring jobs to keep a cadet out of trouble!

Jan 4th – St Kitts
Am. Boxing off odd jobs for C/O. Looked at creating new bomb search plans, which promises to be a fun little task (like pulling teeth!).
Pm 4 – 8 watch, spent a fair bit of time hunting down info on Fire Fighting systems. Made some progress and have written a report on it now, though I still need additional info though.

Jan 5th – Marigot Bay, St Maartin
Am. I started on the Bomb search plan using the safety plan ( which is on a table under perspex) as a tool to block off areas. In the afternoon I got ashore for a couple of hours, Marigot is so much nicer than Phillipsburg; lovely French colonial architecture, a variety of shops (as opposed to a choice of duty free shops, jewellery shops or electronics shops) and no blaring music. Gets my vote over P’burgh any time. There was an awesome market, lots of tat in there of course, but in between, there’s some good quality and good value stuff. We also found an wonderful shop in the mall, where I bought an ashtray that clips onto a table, perfect of on a ship!
Pm. 4 – 8. Anchor watch.

Jan 6th – St Barts
Am. Day work working on Bomb search plans. Fire Drill at 1015. I joined fire team Alpha. 2/E DS is the team leader and he put me in his fire kit, and told me he would talk me through everything. The mask fitted well this time, which was a relief. We got the kit on in the fire locker and then went down to the ER. The fire was in the PM room so Team Alpha met the On Scene Commander in the auxiliary room. The WTDs on each side of the PM room had already been closed and Fire team Bravo was attacking the fire from the other end. Fire Team Charlie also mustered in the auxiliary room with us. We were briefed by the OSC that the fire was thought to be on the switchboard and that there was a suspected casualty. To simulate going into a low vis space the team all had hoods put over our heads (Really, really disorientating!). I was #2 on the hose, we approached the door from low down and the WTD was opened a little by the OSC, the team leader sprayed inside and the WTD was closed again. This was done three times to cool the space and then the WTD was opened to let us in. We kept low, one hand on the hose and one hand on the team member in front, and sweeping with our feet, I had the hose so that the team leader could have one hand on the bulkhead and sweep the area ahead with their arm. The area is not easy to search as it is near the welding bench and there are several obstacles to get around. The switchboard is not far from the WTD, and has two large (9Kg) CO2 extinguishers located next to it, the team leader reached these and used one to extinguish the fire on the switchboard. Behind him I used the hose to protect him from heat. Once the fire was out we continued forward through the space and encountered the casualty. #3 and #4 came forward to pick up the casualty and they then followed the hose back to the entrance. I stayed with #1 and we continued to cool the area and search. We were then instructed to come out of the space and change bottles, which isn’t easy when it’s still on your back!
Pm 4- 7 watch. I actually got to play with traffic, we had a cargo ship on a steady bearing which I altered for!! (Sounds naff to be so excited, but it was the first time any traffic had really posed a threat). I knocked off early to do tables with the C/O (that’s eating with the guests to you landlubbers) Food was excellent and the C/O was on fine form, I need a few decades more experience before I can regale a table full of people with so many stories! Afterwards I went down to find S wasn’t in the cabin, detective work told me she’d gone to the Compass Rose, (lack of epaulettes and formal uniform in her wardrobe) so I went up and found the 2/E, 2/E DS, 2/O Sails and S there. Had a couple of glasses of wine and then was the first to go to bed (see me, I is responsible cadet!!)

Jan 7th – Iles Des Saintes
Day work, working on the BSP, this thing is turning into a personal vendetta/my baby!
PM 4 - 8 watch, The Captain took an azimuth bearing of the sun at sunset, so I need to do the calculations for it now! (Kinda forgot to note position and exact time so it’s going to be a wee bit dodgy!).

Jan 8th – Pigeon Island, St Lucia
Day work, BSP. Got the basic sorted now, so am now making lists of lockers etc for each specific person to search. Which is involving a lot of walking around the ship with a clipboard; Looks very important, but it’s an utter drag, if only I had a cadet to do my jobs for me…..
Chilled out with Al for a bit (and talked about the BSP!) Then went ashore for lunch at the BBQ, chilled on the beach for about an hour and a half then back to the ship.
4 - 8 watch. Anchor was aweigh by the time watch started, so it was a pleasant evening doing some scenic cruising along St Lucia, and into the Pitons Bay (plotting 6 minute fixes all the way…) before setting course for Barbados.

Jan 9th – Barbados
Up at 0300 for 0330 on the bridge, I was on sugar loading tower watch again. We then went with 2/O Navs to see how they do the emergency steering gear test aft once we were all fast. I had a snooze after that and then we got a call at half 8 saying the C/O wanted us on the Marina. 2 sided job – a) put non slip tape on marina steps, b) firewatch for the welding that was going on. Also could be read as. a) Sit in sunshine, b) sit in sunshine ;-)
Chilled out for a couple of hour this afternoon in front of the TV, finally managed to watch a film on the ship’s system (albeit that I watched the second half first and then watched the first half on the next run). Then dragged myself out of my bunk and went up to the bridge for a coffee to wake myself up before carrying on with the stupid task I have given myself of listing EVERY locker in the pax alleyways for the BSP. I could have left it as C/O had said take the afternoon off, but we’re going to be doing fire extinguisher maintenance on daywork for the next few days, and I won’t have time to do it and C/O is already telling me to hurry up on it. Got those done in time to have a fag before the pax drill (I’m still doing that too) And then got changed, bullied Al into shifting his ass, had dinner on the ship and then went to the Boatyard for a couple of drinks ashore, much needed R&R.

10th Jan – Bequia
Day work, we have a new special project! The annual fire extinguisher inspections are due, so S and I have been taken off watch keeping and are doing them for as long as it takes. 2/O Navs showed us how to do them in the morning (there’s lots of different types), and we spent the afternoon inspecting the rest of the spares in Charlie and made a start on the ones in the Engine Room, we got as far as the PM room before the engineers started closing the WTDs so we decided to go back to the ECR with them and see what they do at departure.

11th Jan - Grenada
Finished off the ER fire extinguishers and started on the next deck up… this is going to be a loooong week!

12th Jan – Mayreau
Continued with the fire extinguishers all day, with a couple of brief respites from it when we went to help 2/O Navs with the high fog system in the food stores.

13th Jan  - Sea day
Continued with the extinguishers all day.
Fire Drill at 1015. The Cadet Team had it’s first outing, we did alright, but could probably do with a bit more practice before we get sent in to a real fire!!

14th Jan – Rossau, Dominica
Continued with the fire extinguishers. The ship dragged anchor at lunch time, S and I had strolled up to the bridge to tell the 3/O about a PPE locker we’d found, and got caught up in that instead. The main problem was that the shelf of shallow water around the island is very narrow, so by dragging a little, the depth of water drops suddenly and there is a lot less cable on the sea bed. The Captain decided to move around to another anchorage where there was a bit more ground and a bit more shelter, I would have loved to have seen the faces of the passengers who were ashore at that time, seeing the ship disappear off around the corner!!

15th Jan – Pigeon Island, St Lucia
Got the last few extinguishers we could do finished off, it was so nice to hand the the list back to 2/O Navs, I’m wholeheartedly sick of fire extinguishers!

16th Jan – Bridgetown
Up again for arrival, I was back on sugar loader duty. I did rule 19 for the Captain, getting two words wrong, so he told me I could try again later. I did it for the C/O when we started again at 8, and he signed it off, and rule 35 too! S got both signed of as well. I’m sure I did some daywork in the morning, but as I’m writing this a week late, I can’t for the life of me remember!
PM. An actual proper afternoon off, went to the beach, S went jet skiing and I phoned my man, it was lovely to hear his voice, I do miss him so.

17th Jan – Sea day
Didn’t have to be up until 12 cos 2/O Sail’s given us a weird schedule whereby I do day work for 3 hours in the afternoon and then the 4- 8 watch. S is doing daywork in the morning after her watch. Seems weird to me, as it means we only do 7 hrs a day. For daywork I got started on the fire attack plans, we’d been told ages ago to write a fire attack plan for the switchboard room, but when I compared the digital file to the paper one I found lots were missing and/or out of date, so I have taken it upon myself to type all the missing ones up and get the digital copy in good order so that when new ones are put in or current ones are updated, it won’t be a total ball ache, which it is at the moment.
4- 8 watch in the evening.

18th Jan – St Kitts
I was up, but not dressed when a MOB drill got called so I shoved on my boiler suit and rushed up, found 2/O Sails and followed him about. When I got to the bridge I got asked by the 3/O where my MOB muster station was… OOPS!! (Had totally forgotten in my hurry!) Day work consisted of picking up where S had left off in the morning in the deck store, we have had a delivery of lifejacket lights (they expire after 5 years). Far be it for it to be an easy job though, the brackets that the lights fit to are too small to comfortably fit around the webbing strap, so it has to be pinched in (and therefore crumpled) to fit the bracket, which means that attaching the light involves a lot of pushing, wiggling and very often swearing, as well as very sore fingers. 4-8 watch in the evening.

19th Jan – Marigot, St Martin
Daywork was, once again, the lifejacket lights. S told me she’d done three of the deck boxes containing spares, this impressed me mightily, as the day before we’d each done about 35, and the boxes contain 36 or 34. I found it easier and rather than taking 3 and a bit hours to do 36, got the remaining box of 36 done in 2 hours, but still couldn’t work out how she’d still managed to double my output. Until that was, I went to the bridge and told the 3/O I thought she was Supergirl or something, “Or she had the Bosun with her!” was his reply. Sneaky wench!! After that the 3/O came with me and we did the deck 1 crew cabin life jackets. To go into crew cabins you have to have two people so that you can’t be accused of nicking stuff. When we’d done them, as we were at anchor until late and they needed doing it was decided that I wouldn’t do the watch but just carry on with the life jacket lights. The 3/O told me to put aside the number of lights we need for the pax cabins and then start on the spares in FL Alpha. However, when I looked I found we had no-where near enough to do all the pax cabins, let alone the rest of the crew cabins as well as the spares. I did some maths and gave him a full breakdown of how short we were. On 2/O Sail’s suggestion I then went to reception and found out how many pax cabins were empty and went round and replaced the lights on those ones. As we sail at 2359 from St Martin, I went ashore with a bunch of crew, we had a dam good evening, and were all on the last tender back, probably being a little more noisy than we should have been! Went to the crew bar after as well as it was the Restaurant Manager’s birthday, I didn’t get anywhere near drunk though, I seem to have become very responsible these days!

20th Jan – Gustavia, St Barts
Daywork in the morning, because we had the drill at 1015, I got on with the fire attack plans, which is turning out to be another of those never ending jobs, I keep making the mistake or actually reading what is written and then going and checking if it’s right, and then writing a better option instead. Goddam perfectionism.
Fire drill- all four cadets were put in charge of one of the fire Teams, I was I/C Bravo, S was I/C Alpha, Al was I/C Charlie and T was I/C support team. The fire was in the port bunker station, with additional fires and hot spots in the garbage rooms.
We changed Captains today, Captain J has been specifically requested to do the charter cruise next week and as the Wind Star was in the same port as us for once, today was a perfect time for them to swap over. Having done my daywork in the morning, I had a snooze before watch at 4. Weirdly enough, I had a dream, in which a new senior officer joined the ship (although it wasn’t this ship, and there was a weird fire drill going on involving an Olympic size swimming pool and tiny boats) But what freaked me out when I went up to the bridge for the 4-8 watch, was that the guy from my dream was standing there!! , Captain J seems really cool though, he got the sails out as we lifted the anchor and sailed past the Wind Spirit, really really close!! At one point I was next to the QM, whispering “HARD A STARBOARD!!” It really looked like we were going to T-Bone her stern, but the Captain took us at least 10m off her stern, everyone on both ships was waving and calling out to each other and taking pics. Someone on another ship took a picture that looks like we had hit her, but he had full control, and everyone loved it!

21st Jan – Iles des Saintes
Came up for daywork in the morning cos I was doing SOLAS training on Pyros, SARTs and EPIRBS for the 3/O. While I was waiting for that I got on with the fire attack plans. 4-8 in the afternoon.

22nd Jan – Pigeon Island, St Lucia
Did my daywork in the morning again, I prefer to have my day broken up, and I do a full 4 hours this way. It also meant S and I could get on with deck 3 crew cabin lifejacket lights.
4-8 watch in the evening, Captain J took us so close in to the Pitons that you could see the sail’s shadow on the rock wall!

23rd Jan – Bridgetown
Up for arrival, I kept the movement book while S went forward on her own. Went and crashed after we were alongside, then back up at 8 for a marathon of lifejacket light replacement in the pax cabins, we got deck 3 done and over half of deck two, because the Bosun and some of the sailors came and helped, because S is so small I was getting them out and putting them back, and when the sailors came and helped I went round and pulled the rest of the ones on deck 3 out and then followed round again putting them back. Wasn’t so bad at first, but after the BRM at 11 I had loads to put back up, and by the end my back was killing me.

24th Jan – Sea day
Spent the majority of the morning carefully measuring the ski boats and hurricanes, only to come back later to find my carefully drawn diagrams back in the cadet pigeon hole. We’d measured the boats very carefully and I’d then drawn a couple of lovely sketches showing all the dimensions, only to find that all the C/O wanted was length, breadth and depth so he could put in an order for people to come out and measure up and put in quotes. Doh!
Having downed three strong cups of coffee on the 4-8 am watch, I was too wired to sleep in the afternoon, so after faffing about on the internet for an hour I decided to go back up to the bridge and carry on with the fire attack plans. While I was up there the C/O and ChEng were talking about how they were going to measure something and trying to figure out how to do it. The C/O said “What we need is someone intelligent, that either means the Cadets or the Carpenter”. I don’t think he realised I was there until I piped up asking “Was that a compliment Chief?” It was, and when he asked why I was up there working and I answered “I was bored” he had the perfect antidote; helping the ChEng! What needed measuring was a lift wire, while in situ. We ended up using wire cable with a weight on the end, and while the height of the shaft was easy enough to do, the machinery at the top, where it goes around several gears, was not so easy. I got covered in grease doing this, and made a classic blunder; I put the coil on a girder so I could use both hands to guide the end to the ChEng who was below, then knocked the coil off, all the way down the shaft. It took quite while to pull it all back up, and then I was left with a big old mess of a coil, so once we’d finished I sat up on the Top deck, back against the funnel, untangling and coiling the wire onto the second reel. I actually felt extremely content and happy doing so as well, which no doubt sounds weird, but, well, anyone who knows me will know that that’s pretty normal!

25th Jan – Virgin Gorda
I cracked on with my fire attack plans this morning after watch, the C/O asked what I was doing the other day, so I told him, and told him I’d been told not to type up the ones that were in the folder (which I had started on cos the folder was in a shit state and most of them weren’t on the electronic copy) but he has overridden that and said “Yes, get the whole thing up to date” So I feel vindicated in my decision to use my initiative.
Went ashore in the afternoon, just went and lay on the first beach I found. Tried out the underwater camera, but there wasn’t anything to see. I noticed a fly on my legs a few times and brushed it away, but it was only when I was getting back on the tender that I noticed I’d been bitten. The guest entertainer was on the same tender and gave me some bite relief stuff and I thought it would be fine…

26th Jan – Sopers Hole, Tortola
4-8 anchor watch in the morning as the ship had left VG, popped outside 4’ for a poo and a wee (Discharging treated grey water and black water) and then come back in and anchored off Roadtown for the night, so I got to do another departure prep instead of arrival. Then daywork until 12 doing fire attack plans. The C/O wants them finished/set aside as of tomorrow so I can another big admin job for him before he goes.
The bites had got really bad by lunchtime, and I was going nuts, one of the girls from the spa gave me some Hydroquaterzone (sp??!), but it didn’t seem to help much. They had swollen up to the size of a beer bottle bottom and itchy as hell. Went ashore anyway, hoping to find a beach but it’s a marina. Luckily, there was a Pusser’s. This one was Pusser’s Landing, and I found a bunch of crew there already. I got myself a Painkiller, the cocktail they are famous for, in one of the tin mugs that gets included in the price of the drink. They serve them in two sizes, regular or large, and three strengths: 2, 3 or 4 (number of shots). They claim that ladies will only be served a 4 when accompanied by a man or a Captain, or if they really insist. I had a 3. They are utterly delicious, and potent, so I stuck to one and then went for a long wander around the Pusser’s store. Tried on a few bits of clothing but nothing really suited me, but I did get some presents (Mother would KILL me if I didn’t bring anything back from Pussers!) as well as a mug for my coffee on the bridge (the tin mug wasn’t going to be very practical I decided) and a poster expounding the medicinal qualities of the Painkiller. I had pretty much recovered from the first one by then, so I decided to waste the rest of the afternoon on a second Painkiller, 2/O Navs had just arrived when I came out of the store, he was ordering the large mug, strength 4, so I figured another one couldn’t hurt as I was back on watch 4 hours after him :-)

27th Jan – Gustavia, St Barts
4-8 in the morning. The bites were so itchy that I couldn’t bear to have the legs of my shorts brushing against them, so I rolled the legs up a couple of turns. I didn’t think it looked too odd, but was aware that someone would probably say something… when the Captain and C/O came up, though nothing was said. Then I went down for anchoring. On my return, I stood in the doorway and nearly wet myself with laughter, as the Captain, C/O, 2/O Sails and the 3/O had all rolled their shorts up as high as possible in tribute. I wish I’d got a picture! They knew why I’d done it, and sympathised, but it wasn’t going to stop them from taking the piss! I went to the doctor after breakfast, she and the nurse made the kind of face you don’t want to see on a medical professional and promptly gave me 5 days worth of steroid pills. The rest of my morning was taken up by some hardcore auditing. The C/O has told me he wants a manual going over with a fine toothcomb, checking for spelling errors, typos etc, so that’s what he’s getting. I’m also checking all the references to the relevant codes and SOLAS (mainly cos lots of them have typos..)
Went ashore with S in the afternoon. Gustavia is swanky as anything, designer shops on the main street and lovely French colonial Caribbean architecture (I love all the French Caribbean islands, they make them so pretty). We had a mosey round several shops (not the high-end designer ones mind) and went to a pretty well stocked supermarket. We were shopping for things like sanitary products and stain remover, so it was not the time to be chatted up by two French boys, one of whom had seen the bites on my legs and started asking me (in French) about them. After escaping them we left, gleefully clutching 85% cocoa chocolate, wine and new razor blades (me) crisps, toothpaste, BN BN’s, shower gel and a new razor (S). In a shop further down I found the cutest skirt for a little girl, which I couldn’t resist getting for someone back home, it’s for age 8 so she’ll have to grow into it I think, but better that than too small. We then went on to Shell Beach, which is very aptly named. The tide line is all shells. It’s lovely, not too crowded, not too empty. S stayed until 3 and then went back, taking my wine and chocolate for me in return for me taking her snorkel gear back.

28th Jan – Sea day
4-8 watch, 8-12 auditing. Went back up to the bridge for about 3 hours in the afternoon to (ab)use the internet and trawl through old cadet folders for stuff I can use (research).
Watched a film in Als room in the evening, it was his leaving do down in the bar and I wish I could have gone but I felt like a zombie and wouldn’t have been any kind of good company, and I was on watch at 4 in the morning.

29th Jan – Mayreu
4-8 am, felt like death as I’d only had 3 hours sleep, silly me. 8-12 auditing, getting really bored of it now. Went ashore with Al to the beach for an hour or so. I went for a snorkel, and I saw a ray!! Huge great gliding spotty beast with a long tail. He was very cool, but I didn’t want to get to close, so when he started rising up from the bottom I backed off, I did get some pics though with my little waterproof camera.

30th Jan – Bridgetown
4-8 watch, tried to work on the audit, but was muting fire alarms for 2/O Navs every minute or two ( he was going round the ship testing them with smoke spray). Al left today, and the C/O left too, I’m really going to miss Al he’s been my best buddy on the ship, although I’ll probably do more work from now on. I’m going to miss the C/O too, for all his bullshit and bluster he’s actually really sound. The best thing was his parting shot, just before the taxi door was shut he said to us “When you’re good, you’re good. When you’re bad, you’re better!” After they left I went round to the shallow draft marina and found Sue and Andy, who are friends of my sister and her fiancĂ©e, they crossed the Atlantic in December and got de-masted, poor things. Being stuck in Barbados probably doesn’t sound too bad, but their boat is tiny and they have none of the luxuries I get on here, like unlimited running water, cold drinks and AC! I spent a lovely afternoon chilling out with them on their boat, and we then went into town for some food with them, Sue got very merry on 2 rum punches at the Boatyard! It was SO nice to see friendly faces and get away from the ship and everyone for a few hours.

31st Jan – Sea Day
4-8 watch
Auditing for daywork, it feels like a neverending slog!!
12-4 watch. The shore-ex manager rocked up to the bridge and asked if I would go on tour tomorrow, I jumped at the chance but told him he’d have to clear it with the C/O as it meant I’d miss about an hour of watch in the afternoon. The C/O (we have a new one to replace the one who’s just gone home!) cleared it, which means I’m going to have a very long day tomorrow, but ooh it’s going to be fun!
Went to Intros and ended up chatting to several guests after in the Compass Rose, I even got bought a drink by one couple too, which was very kind of them, and I didn’t even mention cadet wages!

1st Feb – St Kitts
4-8 watch.
Dashed off watch, grabbed some brekkie and went on the snorkle excursion. There was a slight balls up at the start- the guys running the tour hadn’t fuelled their boat yet so we had to wait for a short while, but they soon decided to get us onto the boat and go through the briefing while we waited, and the fuel turned up while that was still going on, so it wasn’t too much of an issue. The ride to the snorkel sites was about 20 minutes, and because we were running a little late, they decided to take us to the site they usually go to second, first. Which we all decided was the better way around, as, while we enjoyed the first site, we liked the second place better and all felt that we would have been disappointed if we had gone there first. Neither place was quite what I expected, I guess Finding Nemo has a lot to answer for in building peoples expectations of what they’ll see under the water! I did play a private game of Spot-all-the characters-from-Finding-Nemo, and saw quite a few, although Nemo himself remained unspotted. There were some fantastically bright and beautiful fish though and at the first site I saw a turtle (and couldn’t help saying to myself “Duuuuuuuuuuuuuude”) AND, at the second site I saw 4 squid, all swimming together. They really are funny looking creatures, they remind me of elephants. (OK, I know how odd that’s going to sound if you’ve never seen a squid swimming, but trust me…)
1300-4 watch with 2/O Navs. I was shattered by the end of the day, but it was worth it.

2nd Feb – Marigot, St Martin
4-8 watch
Daywork, trying to do auditing but was muting fire alarms for 2/O Navs so got nothing done really
12-4 watch, mostly doing chart corrections
Went shore with T in the evening, S had lucked out and had gotten off watch an hour early to go Go-karting (a possible crew tour that Shore-ex wanted to check out). To be fair, the Captain had been asked if he wanted to go and he’d declined and she and 2/O Sails were in the right place at the right time, and I did get an hour off watch the day before, so fair’s fair. T and I had expected to find other people ashore but after walking up and down the whole strip (me in bare feet cos my flip-flop had broken as I got into the tender) we found no-one, so decided to have a drink in the lobster bar, guessing that people would turn up when they’d finished the Go-karting, we were right, and ended up having a second dinner of lobster pizza, calamari and snails with the Go-karters. (Om nom nom!!)

3rd Feb – Gustavia, St Barts
4-8 watch, we departed and arrived this morning, as Gustavia is only 30 miles from St Martin the Captain had decided to stay late, which also meant a very peaceful night’s sleep for me :-)
Finished off the audit this morning, thank god!! Fire drill took up most of the morning though and then I had a fairly relaxed watch with 2/O Navs doing publication corrections and passage plans.
The previous Captain is back, only for 4 days though, we get a new one next Barbados. I was sad to see Captain J go, he was particularly fun and liked doing things that are a little unusual, like the sail past the Wind Spirit and putting the shadow of the ship on the Pitons, I think I made a good impression on him too. (Fingers crossed!)

4th Feb – Iles des Saintes
4-8 watch, 9-11 daywork, updated editions of COSWOP (a fun bit of light reading if you ever want to get to sleep) around the ship and then 12-4 watch this afternoon.

So there we go; a whole month. Sorry it’s taken so long, and I promise to try and get another episode up sooner than next month!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Happy New Year!

29th Dec – Bequia
My day started off well as I got a wee lie in; the tour was due to leave at 0900, and I needed to be there 15 mins before to check passengers in. I’d asked the C/O if he wanted me to work half an hour in the morning (allowing 15 minutes to get ready for the tour) and he said no, so I allowed myself a leisurely breakfast and was in the lounge in plenty of time. It turned out that my tour wasn’t going until 0930 but I was put to use counting passenger numbers for tenders as they left the lounge. Once my tour was assembled we tendered across to the shore and met our guides, they put us in open backed jeeps and we set off across the island to Mount Pleasant. Driving through Bequia’s landscape was pleasant enough in itself, the island is delightfully unspoilt and relaxed, none of the aggressive spice sellers from Grenada or the pounding music in St Kitts here, just brightly painted Caribbean timber plank houses and a myriad of plantlife. An amazing range of different acacia trees, with brightly coloured sprays of flowers and seed pods developing; coconut palms, traveller palms, fan palms, banana palms and other palms I can’t yet name, all in different shapes, colours and sizes. There were mango trees with small green mangoes hanging temptingly from them, almond trees spreading their branches languorously wide, creepers and vines hanging and twining from tree to tree, and a host of brightly coloured and patterned plants, the sort you can buy in supermarkets back in England that never get very big, but here they are used as hedging!
Mount Pleasant is one of the highest points on the island and we had a great view of St Vincent and Mustique, which is one of the other Grenadine Islands, Mustique is a private island though, apparently Mick Jagger has a house there, the lucky git! From Mount Pleasant we wound our way down the interminably steep and twisting roads, pausing to admire the view across Admiralty Bay, with it’s bright turquoise waters framed by the lush greenery of the island. We then went to the other side of the bay, to Fort Hamilton, a tiny outpost, barely bigger than a car garage but with four formidable cannon pointing out to sea. There’s not much of it left, but again, the views were wonderful. From admiring the view we went to admiring the wildlife, a drive across the island to the windward side took us to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. Run by one man, Orton ‘Brother’ King, it is a testament to his love of the Hawksbill Turtle and the environment on which they depend. He carefully collects eggs and re-buries them in places that won’t be disturbed, and then when they are ready to hatch he gathers the baby turtles and keeps them safe in the sanctuary’s pools and tubs until they are grown enough to be released back to the sea. He has a few old guys too, that are kept as pets, though I was warned that they would still be liable to take a snap at a finger! It was truly a privilege to get so close to these wonderful creatures and see them at so many stages of life too. The patterns on their shells are works of art, each is different, each is beautiful, and all are very difficult to photograph through the water!!
Our last stop on the tour was at The Whaleboner, a bar and silkscreen print shop, I found a lovely green top and was so caught up with the contents of the shop that I nearly missed the free rum punch! The bar is small but lovely, the main attraction being the front of the bar which is made from a huge whale bone (Bequia has a long history of whaling).
From there we were taken back to Port Elizabeth where we were free to do as we wished for the rest of the day. I had a meander along Front St, which has so many bushes and trees you can barely tell it’s a street, and had a lovely lunch in one of the restaurants before heading back to the ship for a wee snooze before watch.
4 – 8 watch in the afternoon.

30th Dec – Mayreau
Day work in the morning, the C/O gave me a list of things that had been noted by the BV surveyor and asked me to go and investigate them for him, I took photos and made notes on their locations and status. I then started on a project which will probably take me quite a few days - I am helping the C/O with his review of the ISPS manual, which involves cross checking references with the ISPS code, SOLAS and the SMS.
The ship had to move at around midday, as the swell was causing problems for the tenders and it was becoming dangerous, so the ship weighed anchor and moved round to the northern anchorage.
4 – 8 watch in the afternoon, the wind was playing up, and we took the sails in twice, first to 50% and then to 30%, I was out on the bridge wing while they were being taken in for the second time when I heard a tearing sound. I told the 2/O immediately and then went back out to see what the damage was. Sail 2 had torn on a seam unfortunately, so it was furled and noted as out of action. The Captain was, of course, informed and it will be repaired as soon as possible, probably in Barbados.

31st Dec – Portsmouth, Dominica
Day work in the morning, I carried on with the ISPS manual review for the C/O. The vessel arrived into Portsmouth in poor vis so as I was up on the bridge I helped out as an extra pair of eyes and when the 3/O went down to let go the anchor I kept the rough log book for him and plotted the ships position when we let go.
In the afternoon we attended a Fire Team training session with the 3/O and fire teams Bravo and Charlie. Once the teams had practised correctly donning the gear S and I tried on the kit as we are hoping to become involved in the fire teams soon and wanted to be familiar with the kit before we are in a drill situation. I need to remember to tie my hair back in a low bun as I found I had a problem with the mask face seal because my hair got in the way.
In the evening Al and I went to the Compass Rose for a couple of drinks, got talking to a passenger who insisted on buying us more drinks and then went to the lounge for the big moment. After that we went down to the crew bar, I went to bed at about 2, the first of the cadets to crash!

1st January 2011 – Pigeon Island, St Lucia
Day off. Slept and read, bliss.

2nd Jan – Barbados
Day work in the morning, the C/O called us at 0630 to be at work for 0730 so we could see the sail being taken down, but the sailors had already got it down by then. We were going to be working on the marina, but the swell conditions were too bad to open it, so instead we went with the Bosun and learned how to repair the lifeboats with fibreglass. I had some time to study in the afternoon, with the Passenger muster drill at 1730.

3rd Jan – Sea Day
This morning was spent doing more odd jobs for the C/O and watching the Bosun do a good impression of Spiderman as he went aloft to repair a sheet line.  It was impressive how quickly the crew got it back in working order; these things happen sometimes, no matter how well you look after rigging, as I well know from the Pelican, but they were well organised and got the sail back out in a very short time. We also had a Bomb search drill just after smoko. S and I got sent to search the lifeboats, but found nothing there. 4 – 8 watch this afternoon. I’m not going to bore you with the details of every watch, as it’s going to get rather repetitive, but should anything exciting happen I will of course let you know!