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.....