Adventures in the Caribbean

We are now on route to Curacao as I write this, the last week or so has been busy to say the least!

We arrived into Soufriere, St Lucia on the morning of the 10th; after 18 days at sea crossing the Atlantic some of the students had mixed feelings about this as they had settled into the routine of life at sea so well that they wanted to carry on going! One thing they were very happy about though was the opportunity to go swimming off the ship. Anchored in the shadow of Gros Piton, looking up at the jungle covered slopes of the island and out across the Caribbean seas makes for quite a deluxe swimming pool!

We had a full day at anchor the next day and the students spent the day exploring ashore, however we pulled some of Blue watch back to the ship in the afternoon as they needed to do some planning: The first set of watch handovers started the next day; for a short leg we put the students into our shoes and let them have a taste of what is involved in being the Permanent Crew! All three watches got a go, choosing amongst themselves who would be Captain, Mate, 2nd Mate, 3rd Mate, Engineer, Bosun, BM, Cook etc. Of course, we’re standing right beside them to nudge, guide and help but the aim is to get them running the ship. They all did really well and I think they now have learned that our jobs aren’t just all about drinking tea and asking the helmsperson “How’s your head?”.

Blue Watch took over for the first leg from Soufriere to Bequia, the overnight passage went smoothly and we arrived into Bequia bright and early on the morning of Friday 13th, only to make our approach to the anchorage in the in the absolute drenching, deluging rain. We put down both anchors just to be safe, getting absolutely soaked to the skin in the process, and then it was hands aloft to harbour stow the squares. Of course, in accordance with Murphy’s Law, as soon as we had finished all of that the rain stopped.Soon the sun was out and we started to get the students ashore by boat, as we were nearing the last load we got confirmation that we could shift to the berth for a night alongside. Those who were left onboard leapt into action to help us get mooring lines out ready before we dropped them ashore as well and shifted the ship with just the Permanent Crew. We were very grateful for the opportunity to do this as the locals put themselves out by moving some of the ferries to give us room for the night – thank you guys!

Bequia is an absolutely gorgeous island, and I will never tire of visiting it, and I’m certain the students enjoyed it as well, of course it rained buckets again that evening, but it’s warm rain and really rather pleasant after all the hot sweaty days of baking sunshine! Next day we had to shift off the berth again and go back to anchor, but it’s not exactly an arduous RIB run, and the view is pretty spectacular as you zoom across the bay.Sunday 15th was our next handover, this time White Watch were in charge. An 0500 start meant a long days sailing, taking us this time from Bequia back to St Lucia again, but a different anchorage – Vieux Fort this time, where we stayed for a couple of nights to allow for planning before Red Watch took over and we headed for Carriacou on the 17th.

Mizzen watch took the bridge at 0400 the next morning, (the watches got mixed up for the handover and so also got renamed to prevent confusion!). The wind overnight had been a fairly steady F5-6, with occasional small squalls, so we were running under the Topsail, Fore Gaff and Inner Jib, motorsailing to keep on track for Carriacou. As 0500 approached, yet another squally blob showed up on the radar and I watched the anemometer carefully as it came over us; as with all the other squalls we’d had, the wind picked up by a couple of knots and all appeared to be normal, when suddenly, BAM, 40 knots of wind, followed immediately by my least favourite sound – that of a sail tearing. “Starboard 20 to bear away, Call the Bosun, Call the Captain, standby to hand the Topsail! Midships and steer 255” The team leapt to action, the Bosuns and Captain were on deck in minutes and we handed the now rather sorry looking Topsail. It was the older one, which we knew was nearing the end of it’s useful life, and these things happen, but the sound of a sail tearing is like nails down a blackboard to me!

As we then then handed the inner jib to turn into the wind and make directly for Carriacou under engines alone, we noticed a bright light in the sky to the West, below the moon and definitely not a reflection, too bright and steady to be a plane and with a huge plume coming off it in one direction, almost like a comet. It lasted about 15 minutes, and unfortunately we were all too busy handing and stowing sails to be able to really drink it in. We think it must have been a rocket launch but it will always be a beautiful mystery moment, the morning as a whole is one I will never forget! On arrival in Carriacou the Bosunry department immediately started pulling out the spare topsail and derigging the damaged sail while I ran the students to Sandy Island for a day on the beach, by the time we had got them all ashore the sail was ready to be lowered to deck and the replacement ready to go up. By 1700 when the boat went to pick them up the sail was fully rigged and ready to go for the next day. Bosun Elie, BM Sam and 2/O Simon deserve medals for their stirling efforts that day, and probably a massage for their sore backs after leaning over a yard for several hours! Next morning we bid farewell to Carriacou, and having sailed off the anchor, once again set the squares with the wind on our backs, heading west for Curacao and Christmas.

"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 fiancée, 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!

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!

Work hard, play hard.

I last posted from St Barts on the 16th, before I went on the 4-8 watch in the afternoon.  And blimey time has flown, in 8 days my first month will be done! I’m afraid the first few days of this entry are a bit repetitive – day work and watches don’t provide much in the way of excitement, but life at sea isn’t always exciting, despite the best efforts of a 4 strong team of gadgets!

So, once again I went forward on my own for weighing anchor, there was quite a strong wind and the first two shackles up lead under the bow. As I told the bridge how it was leading they moved the ship so that the cable was clear. 2/O Sails gave me the responsibility for keeping the rough and official log book, and plotting positions. I also got some more of the familiarisation priority tasks signed off in my workbook. There was not much traffic, just one vessel that we did not need to alter course for.

17th Dec – Iles des Saintes

Day work in the morning, consulting ships plans and such fun, I am really looking forward to getting these projects boxed off!

4-8 watch in the evening, I did the CPP tests by myself and kept the logbook and chart. We had two anchors out as it had been quite windy in the morning when we arrived, so 2/O Sails and I both went down to the mooring deck to radio information to the bridge. I was on the starboard anchor and he was on the port anchor, we heaved on the stbd anchor while paying out on the port and then once the stbd anchor was home we heaved in on the port anchor. Once we were clear of the islands we put the sails up. I learnt how to set them, using three controls to furl out the sail, sheet in and move the traveller aft all at the same time. The traveller moves the sheet line forward and aft so that it is at the optimum angle to the sail, this prevents undue stress being put on the sail. We turned off the PMs (propulsion motors) and DGs (diesel generators) and sailed for a while, once the sun had set and all the passengers had gone we then put the DGs and PMs back on and motor-sailed for the rest of the watch.

18th Dec – St Lucia

Day work in the morning, I chipped and primed the two vents on the aft mooring deck. After lunch us 4 cadets went to the beach bbq, Al had made a pinky promise that he’d get in the water this time and I held him to it. He did me proud and even dunked his head, next time I’ll get him to take his feet off the bottom 🙂

4-8 watch in the afternoon. The ship was sailing at 4 so all the checks had been done and the cable was being heaved in as I arrived on the bridge and we were full away on passage (FAOP) at 1600. We put the sails out and cruised south along the coastline, down to the Pitons. We were about a mile off so I was using the radar to get range and bearings to fix our position every 6 minutes. We went back to Stand By Below, slowed down and engaged hand steering to go in to the bay between the Pitons, spent about half an hour manoeuvring in the bay and then went back to FAOP once out of the bay. From there we motorsailed toward Barbados. The wind picked up as we left the lee of the land and the sails were brought in to 50%, 40 minutes before the watch ended the wind was gusting 35 kts apparent and we furled the sails fully.

19th Dec – Bridgetown

Day work in the morning. I put a second coat of primer on the vents on the aft mooring deck. After smoko we helped with the weekly test of remote watertight door closing. Each of us took a different section and radioed into the bridge to tell them that they were working correctly. S and I then went with the carpenter as he took soundings of the ballast tanks and void spaces.

4-8 watch. Harbour watch. I have had my safety number changed to 505, which is passenger muster assistant for muster station 2. When the announcement for crew to go to their passenger muster drill stations was made I went down with my lifejacket. G is the muster leader and demonstrated how to don a lifejacket and step off the side of the ship. I helped a couple of people with their lifejackets and ticked off late arrivals. In an emergency my duty is to keep passengers and crew informed and calm. It’s not a very demanding role, although in a real emergency I can imagine it would be, but it’s also really useful to see how things work from the other end.

20th Dec – St Lucia

Day work in the morning, put a third coat of primer on the vent fittings and a first layer of top coat on the vents themselves, which had been put up on the aft mooring deck by the bosun the night before. I then went and got on with the PPE locker project, putting the updated lists in the lockers, shortly after I started that S found me after her breakfast and we got called to the bridge. The C/O wanted us to go and sound all the tanks again, so that they could do a lightship calculation for the vessel. We sounded the tanks and I then showed her how to work out the volumes in the tanks, using the ship’s hydrostatic tables.

After 12 I went ashore to the bbq, the food was lovely but the weather wasn’t very good so instead of sunbathing I took one of the kayaks out for a spin, I think I might try and do that quite often as I could feel the burn in my arm muscles after a while. As it wasn’t a Saturday the boys weren’t with us, so I pootled back to the ship early.

4-8 watch. Did all the pre-departure checks, including extra steering gear tests via the talkback system with the surveyor, went forward for weighing anchor on my own again, kept the log book and charts and discussed the bridge equipment with 2/O Sails.

21st Dec – Iles Des Saintes

Day work in the morning, the Bosun had finished painting the vents for me the afternoon before so we put them back together and fitted them. The C/O has asked us to sort out some lines to make a pathway on the fwd mooring deck as the passengers are going to be allowed to go up to the bowsprit on sea days, under the supervision of the Sports dept. We are using halyard lines, which are multiplat so we seized an eye into the end of each one and then took the reels up to the mooring deck to measure them out. I started splicing a small 3 strand rope to make points to attach the guide ropes to and we then went for lunch. I believe the bosun finished the job after lunch, probably taking a lot less time over it than I could have!

I went ashore for a few hours, had lunch in the café I ate in nearly three years ago and sat there happily reminiscing. I also had a chance to practice my GCSE French, as the waiter didn’t speak English, and I wanted to know why all the shops were shut. Continental siesta time of course, and they didn’t open until 1500 and as I was on watch at 1600 I failed to buy anything for my secret santa present. I say secret, but we all know who’s getting who’s present, when we picked names, someone always got their own name until we got bored and just swapped them over!

4-8 watch. Did CPP and steering checks, went forward for weighing anchor with 2/O Sails, as both cables were out. As we went FAOP I set the sails and throughout the watch I kept the log and chart.

22nd Dec – St Barts

Day work in the morning, started distributing PPE to PPE Lockers. Fire drill at 1015. When the two tone alarm sounded, as I am Pax Muster Assist I went to Reception and collected the muster list for boat 2, I also passed G, who is the muster leader, he told me he was on tour and was exempt from the drill. So, I went to the muster point and checked off everyone by their safety number. Two other crewmembers had already collected the GMDSS emergency radio and reported in that our station was all present save two who were exempt. (G, who was on tour, and a sailor who was on tender duty).

At the General Emergency alarm the embarkation assistants go to their stairwell points to guide passengers to the muster points and search cabins, so when the boats signal is given (a continuous tone), the crew are re-checked in on the muster list. I reported in that they were all present, save the two exemptions. The boats were lowered and meanwhile I quizzed the crewmembers mustered on what actions to take on discovery of a fire, what extinguishers are to be used on what types of fire, where the fire was for this drill (incinerator room) and how many people can go in each boat.

Watch 4-8 pm. We were due to leave at 1900, so for the first couple of hours I worked on getting my nav workbook up to date. We gave the engine room 1 hrs notice at 1800 and I was then busy with pre-departure checks, completing the whole list on my own. Went forward for weighing anchor with 2/O Sails as it was dark by then, (two torches are better than one!). Once we were FAOP, I set the sails and then caught up with the log book.

23rd Dec – St Maartin

Day work until smoko and then I went and got cleaned up to go on tour, the C/O told me the day before that I was going on the Americas Cup excursion. I was bouncing with excitement when he told me, S will have the same chance in a couple of weeks time, but when she was told she pulled a face and said she didn’t want to do it. (She’s not a sailor like I am, so fair play to her, but I think she’d enjoy it if she tried it). I met up with the Guest Services Manager just before 1100 and she gave me the list of people going on the tour and we checked off people as they arrived, handing out packed lunches at the same time. Getting into the tender was quite interesting as there was a big swell (we had been due to go to Marigot Bay, which is on the north west of the island but due to the swell the Captain had decided to go to Phillipsburgh instead). On the Quay we were met by a guy from the Americas Cup crew who told us some of the history of the race. He split the group into two teams and we then got onto one of their tenders (basically a barge with patio chairs nailed down on it), which took us out to the boats. The other team (Canada 2) got off first and then we went over to True North. While we headed for the boat everyone was asked whether they’d like to do a low activity, medium activity or high activity job, and was assigned a role accordingly (bar tender = low activity, primary grinder = high activity). The tender ties up alongside the boat and then they call out for people by job so that the boat is filled up from the back. Once on board the crew put our bags below so that our stuff wouldn’t get wet, went through some basic safety things and taught us how to do our jobs. I was a reserve primary grinder, which meant that, along with 3 others, I was driving the winch that controlled the jib sheet, but on each leg we swapped around so everyone got a rest. After a little bit of practice we headed for the start line, and then had to mill around a bit because Canada 2 was taking it’s time. There were three boats racing that afternoon, Stars and Stripes being the third, which I think was being crewed by folks from the QM2, who was also in port that day. The crews encourage rivalry between the boats, so shouting and international sign language was the order of the day when they finally rolled up, and then the 6 minute start was called. You can’t cross the start line before the 6 minutes is up, or if you do there’s a penalty, so it takes skill and timing to be there just at the right time to cross as soon as the race begins. The first leg is tacking up against the wind, and then on the downwind leg the bartender is called into action, as the leg is also known as the first beer leg. On the upwind legs it’s also important for everyone to keep an eye out for the marker that you’re heading for, and where the other boats are. Sailing rules dictate that a boat on the starboard tack (wind on the starboard side) has right of way over a boat on the port tack, and there were some dirty tricks being played by the other teams, but despite that, at the end of the third leg and for the whole of the second beer leg, we were in first place. However, things can change in a heartbeat in a sailing race and I’m sorry to say we were pipped to the post by the other two. It was great fun nevertheless, with the boats passing ahead of each other a hair’s breadth apart as they tacked and beat up-wind. We were taken to the yacht club after for a celebratory rum punch and the obligatory opportunity to buy t-shirts and photos. I had a nice surprise there, as crew members get a free t-shirt as a promo, so I have another crew shirt to add to my growing collection!

I had asked to C/O if he wanted me back for watch that afternoon, to which the answer was a swift No, so I took the chance to go shopping for my secret santa. I hadn’t a clue what to get Al, until I had the genius idea of going to the music shop! I got him a harmonica and some guitar strings and then a little rattly drum thing from a stall. I’m sure T won’t thank me if he decides to play them at 3 in the morning, but it’d be an impressive feat of multitasking if he managed to play all three at the same time! I found a bunch of crew at a bar on Front St, including my fellow cadets and joined them for a drink. I ordered a rum punch, and the bartender assured me that his was the best in the Caribbean… most potent certainly. I watched in horror as he poured in about half a glass of white rum, followed by some gold rum, followed by a smidge of fruit juice and then grenadine and then, topped it off with some dark rum! I didn’t finish it, I gave about half to someone else, it would have killed me, especially considering the swell was still up, making getting in and out of the tenders a fairly hairy experience! Despite not drinking all of it I felt fuzzy headed enough to crash out for a few hours when we got back to the ship at 1900. I got back up at 2300 to go down to the crew bar for the final of “Wind Surf’s got Talent”, taking with me a bottle of water, for which several people gave me funny looks, but I had just woken up and didn’t feel like drinking any more. Al performed first and did really well, despite some technical difficulties with sound, but the competition was stiff, everyone had taken the judges previous comments on board and had come out fighting. In the end the judges decided that they needed more time to confer about who should win so they announced that the winner would be announced at the Christmas party the next day.

24th Dec – St Kitts

Day work in the morning, we are reaching the end of the PPE saga, just a few more spares to put out and then make a list of stuff that needs ordering again. Then we can hand it back to Security and hope they keep it going.

4-8 watch in the afternoon. 2/O Sails has gone now but his relief hasn’t been able to get out here because of the weather back in the UK so the C/O is doing the 4-8 for a few days. As we departed from St Kitts the Captain decided that he wanted us to do some scenic cruising along St Kitts and Nevis. This wasn’t what the passage plan said, so I had to quickly draw up the chart with new courses and PIs (Parallel Indexes), meanwhile the C/O told me that I was driving and I should  take the handover from the Captain. Talk about a chucked in at the deep end poo your pants moment! He didn’t leave me to it alone though, and there wasn’t much traffic about, so once I’d got myself sorted out I did alright. We skirted around the 12 mile limit so that we could discharge food waste and I felt semi confident by the end of the watch. It’s the best way to learn really, and I knew at the end of the day if I had made a blunder he would have been right there asking me if I reeeeally wanted to do that!

After watch I chilled out for a while and then we got our glad rags on to go up for the crew show, and when I say glad rags, for once I don’t mean our formal uniform, I got to wear a frock! The crew show is usually a bit of a variety show but for Christmas a choir had been put together. We had made it to a total of two rehearsals, so had the general idea of what we were doing. I sang with a big smile on my face, having had a couple of glasses of wine for dutch courage beforehand in the cabin, and the passengers all loved it. I’m sure I even saw one cry. We left to a standing ovation and I went back to my cabin to grab my smokes and then it suddenly hit me that it was Christmas and how much I miss my family. Most of the time I’m so blasé about being away from home and my family because I’ve done it for so long now, but I’ve always made it home for Christmas. I pulled myself together and went down to the crew bar, but had a little moment later as well (for which I have subsequently received a bollocking for, crying in front of the crew cos I miss my family makes the deck department look bad). For the most part though I had a ball, dancing in my 50’s frock always makes me feel good, and the bar was free, which also helps! I was one of the last to leave, at about 4 am there were 4 or 5 of us having a sing song with Al and his guitar.

25th Dec – Sea Day

Oh the joy of a lie in! I didn’t feel brilliant after the night before, but at least I’d made it back to my own cabin, and remembered getting there, unlike someone else.  We surfaced at about 11 and lazed, S disappeared for ages so we waited for her to get back to exchange our ‘secret’ santa presents. I got a teddy bear that plays jingle bells when you press it’s paw, which only got annoying by the 4th time of playing. His mouth is supposed to move, but he only manages one movement each time, If he stays silent though he’s rather cute, and brings a little festive cheer to our otherwise undecorated cabin. Al liked his presents, though whether he’ll actually learn how to play the harmonica remains to be seen, for the time being he’s a one man noise making machine!! We snoozed some more in the afternoon, and then got ready for dinner, I’d presumed that it was in the mess, but in fact we ate in the Veranda, which is where the passengers eat their breakfast. The Captain had said that crew could wear either uniform, or smart casual, so we took the chance to dress up nice again. Dinner was nice, a really good side of beef and some (slightly dry) turkey, along with mash, roasties and cranberry sauce. I couldn’t bring myself to try the sprouts, but had some very nice courgette salad instead. After that we all crashed out, a combination of the last vestiges of hangovers and being rather full from dinner.

26th Dec – Barbados

We had been given Boxing day off, but were then told that we were needed for the arrival in Barbados at 4am, so there was no lie in for us! We were needed because the ship was berthing alongside the sugar loading towers, which stick out a bit too far and there is a danger of damaging the lifeboats if we didn’t moor in the right place. I was sent aft with a radio to give distances and clearances for the boats and make sure we were far enough forward of the towers. We hung around while everything was made fast then had some breakfast in the Compass Rose before heading back to bed. 3/O then called us at 1000, telling us we were wanted at the Bridge Resource Meeting at 1100.  It was turning out to be not much of a day off at all, especially as I had to be there for the passenger drill at 1730.

The 4 of us decided to get off and go to the Boatyard for a couple of drinks and some pizza, but when we got there at about half 7, the kitchen had already closed, so we had one drink and then went to Chefette, which is a fast food joint near the port. My pizza was delicious, not because it was actually that good, though by no means was it bad, but it was much needed comfort food; having had our day off messed up by the arrival and the bridge meeting and the bollocking I got for crying on Xmas eve, I needed it!

27th Dec – Sea Day

I got an early surprise at 0420, when S woke me up, telling me that I was wanted on the bridge as well as her. She had tried calling me but I hadn’t heard the phone over the engine noise, so she had come down to the cabin. During the night there had been a medical emergency and the ship was heading back toward Bridgetown to get the patient and their family off the ship and to a hospital. I wasn’t actually needed per se, but the Captain and C/O thought it would be good for me to be there as they don’t do a medical evac very often and it’s good experience. The ship anchored off the port, as there were a lot of cruise ships getting in that morning, and berthing takes quite a while anyway. The patient, who had been in the medical centre, was brought up to the bridge deck on a stretcher and carefully put in tender 5, the doctor, nurse, C/O and a family member went too, and the boat was lowered to the water. The boat took them to the quay where an ambulance was waiting and the boat returned to collect luggage and the other family members. They tried lifting the boat on the falls but it was swinging too much because of the swell so the decision was made to put it down again and rig the tender platform and gangway. The rest of the family and their luggage was disembarked from the platform and once the tender had been recovered the anchor was weighed and we set off from Bridgetown again. The decision to turn back had been made in the early hours of the morning, so 2/0 Navs had had time on his watch to work out a new passage plan. Instead of going to Mayreau, it had been decided that we would spend the day at sea and the go to Mayreau on the day that had originally been scheduled to be a sea day, otherwise the schedule is unaltered. The Captain made an announcement to the ship at about 0900, when most people would be awake by then.

Day work for the rest of the morning, boxing off the PPE locker project. It felt so good to be able to hand it to 3/O and tell him we were done! Slept most of the afternoon.

28th Dec – Grenada

C/O told us to go see the tours manager first thing this morning, which was really nice of him, so I’m off on a sightseeing tour of Bequia tomorrow, and S is doing the Rainforest Canopy tour on St Lucia on Sat. My job this morning was making an inventory of the Pest Control locker, while S sorted out the new Pest Control manual. All thrilling stuff!

4-8 watch in the afternoon. We were due to leave at 1800, so I took my laptop and workbook up in case there was nothing else to do in the first hour of watch and I could do some catching up on my log. I got as much of the departure checklist done as I could do before 1 hrs notice to the ECR and then did a little work on my laptop. After 1hrs notice I did the rest of the checks and tests and then on departure I stood on the port bridge wing giving the Captain and C/O, who were on the Stbd bridge wing, information on any vessels behind us. After FAOP I went down for some dinner, when I came back up the sails had been set and 2/O Sails (Who had finally arrived in Barbados) handed the con over to me. It wasn’t nearly as scary as the last time I’d been given the con, as there was no traffic and nothing happened.

I get a wee lie in tomorrow, I asked the C/O if he wanted me to work for half an hour before I went off on tour at 0900 and he said no, so I’m a happy little bunny tonight! Might just visit the bar… 😉

One minute you’re eating lobster on a beach, next you’re scrubbing decks..

I wrote last as we sailed from Mayreau (and yes Mum, I sent your love to Mayreau!) The next day was a sea day, 2/O sails took us round the ship showing us the various workshops, lockers and stores that the ship has. It’s not a very big ship compared to my last one so it didn’t take too long. In the afternoon we cracked on with identifying mystery vents with the aid of the engineers down in the ECR and were going to get the stencils and box the job off that afternoon. As I walked along the bridge deck I passed a couple of deck guys painting the scuppers, a little further along we passed a vent and I thought, “Ah yes, that’s cofferdam 3… No, hang on, that’s further back… didn’t I already do this one!?” The deck mafia had painted over our lovely stencils! I nearly cried, but at least they’d only done two before we noticed, and they’ve promised not to do it again. We couldn’t paint on wet paint so left it for the next day, and the C/O had another fun little job for us – sorting out certificate files. The job is proving to be more of a pain than it sounds, we’re having to hunt things down and it seems to get more complicated every time we look at it! It does mean that we’re getting to poke around on the ships maintenance computer system, which is huge and complicated, but not as scary as I thought it would be.

 

From now on I’m going to break this down into days, it’s easier for me as I use my daily log as a basis for this, which will be going into my workbook, so isn’t very exciting as it is, but I’ll add in the fun stuff for you!

 

10th Dec- Dominica

We were anchored off Portsmouth already when I got up to the bridge, but the Captain decided to move the ship closer to the tender berth. I went fwd to the anchor station with the 3/O. There was a strong wind and when re-anchoring after moving the anchor dragged. We put an extra cable out and it held. Our new anchorage was right next to the berth I was on on Pelican 3 years ago. Seeing it brought back so many memories and I can’t wait to go ashore there again. We do the same two cruises again and again so there’ll be chances for me to see all of the islands at some point over the next 4 months, but for the time being, all I could do was look longingly over at the island as I worked. We had a fire drill and boat muster in the morning and the afternoon was taken up by the jobs the C/O has given us. The Captain invited all 4 of us cadets to dinner in the restaurant that evening which was really cool, we were joined by the Hotel Trainee and the Windstar Publicity Director, who was on the ship for the week. I had caviar for starter and then mahi-mahi, followed by a chocolate terrine. Needless to say it was all extremely good! Straight after that we went to watch the crew show, which is put on by crew members for the guests; dancing, magic tricks; bands and at the end, line dancing, which S and I had been rehearing for earlier. I stayed at the back, cos I’m still not very good at it, but it was good fun. We stuck around for a drink upstairs and then went down to the crew bar for the first round of “Windsurf’s got Talent”. Al had entered, playing his guitar, he’s really good, so I wasn’t surprised when he was one of the 4 (out of 6) that got through to the final. I couldn’t really hear what the judges were saying to the contestants, but 2/O Sails, who was playing it like Simon Cowell certainly got some boos! After the contest various crew bands played and we danced like crazy fools for the rest of the night. (I had a stiff neck the next day from when I was moshing!!)

 

Dec 11th – St Lucia.

We carried on with the projects from the C/O in the morning, S went ashore to try and find some safety boots (still no luck) so I carried on with the wires project and we checked some more PPE lockers when she got back  (another of the fun little jobs we’re doing for the C/O). At lunch time the C/O told us to take the afternoon off, so we went to the beach bbq on Pigeon Island. Oh it’s a tough life I tell you, crew are allowed to use the loungers as long as they keep away from passengers and don’t prevent them from using them, and after 1330, when all the passengers have eaten, the crew get to eat too. There’s a huge selection of salads and meats, at the end of the meat options there was one dish with it’s lid down, further investigation showed it contained lobster tails, and next to it was a steak station, with lovely juicy steaks being carved off a hunk of meat. So steak and lobster for lunch it was, and very delicious it was too. All 4 of us cadets swam and enjoyed the sun and generally pondered on our extreme good fortune to be on this ship!

 

Dec 12th – Barbados

We watched 2/O Sails go up the mast first thing, he inspects one mast a month and is hoisted aloft on the capstan next to the mast, which is specifically for that purpose. He has two lines, one hoist and a safety line which is kept just a little bit slack. We didn’t watch him do the whole inspection though as we were needed by J2/O (LSA) and 3/O to help with the manual remote watertight door testing. Initially I went to the doors that were closing to visually check that they were closing properly and S stayed up in the safety room to help with the pumping. She found it very hard though and was sent to join me and we checked each section as it was closed together. Once each section had been closed we had to go down to the engine room and manually open the doors down there. It was hot work running about the ship and pumping doors and I was dripping like a tap! In the afternoon we carried on with the C/O’s projects, and then, as the ship wasn’t sailing until 2200 we went to the Boatyard. When 2/O Navs asked if we wanted to go, I wondered why the hell I’d want to go to a boatyard, until he explained that it was a beach bar in Bridgetown. After checking with the C/O if it was ok to chip off a bit early we raced down to our cabin and got ready in minutes. It was a short taxi ride to get there, and worth every cent. The beach is perfect, fine white sand and crystal clear water, the bar serves a mean rum punch and happy hour runs from 11-12 and 3-10!! A few hours later we returned, some more worse for wear than others, I just felt extremely chilled out and sleepy and decided to curl up in my bunk instead of going to the crew bar with everyone else.

 

Dec 13th – Sea day

First thing we were tasked with scrubbing oily footprints off the deck which had appeared outside the safety room, the shoe prints weren’t actually ours (different sole), but that’s a cadets life, you get blamed for most things that go wrong and you gotta roll with the punches. We scrubbed all the places where there were mucky footprints, which was outside most of the technical spaces so it took us all morning. It’s not all beaches and cocktails you know!! The afternoon was a fairly dull affair, the projects that the C/O has given us keep getting more and more complex and I can see exactly why he’s delegated them to us- they’re a complete pain!

 

Dec 14th – St Martin

We were both up at 4 for the 4-8 watch, we were coming alongside, so S went fwd with 2/O Sails for mooring stations and I stayed up on the bridge keeping the rough log and plotting positions. We did day work til 12 working on the PPE locker project, visiting security to find out what spares they have and then updating the list on the computer. So by 12, we’d done our days work and had the rest of the day free. I had a little snooze as I’ve found it hard to sleep for a couple of nights due to the noise of the engine. It’s alright when they’re only using the port propulsion motor or sailing, but when the stbd propulsion motor is going it’s so noisy in our cabin and I can’t sleep properly. My snooze plan didn’t really work very well and I only dozed, but it was better that nothing. S had run ashore as soon as possible, the lure of shopping had her all excited! I bimbled ashore at about 3, and got a water taxi across the bay, I went to the supermarket first and got some dhobi dust (that’s washing power to you landlubbers) and hunted for filter tips, to no avail. As I was walking along Front St I spotted Al and one of the 2/E’s sitting in a bar, and figured it would be rude not to join them. The 2/E had to go back for watch but I hung out with Al for the rest of the day, we went on another shopping mission and then went back to the bar for some food. I had Caribbean conch and dumplings, delicious, but extremely filling! (Al, being Scottish, had a pizza). More crew turned up a bit later as the ship was sailing at midnight, so we had a great night out, with much silliness and then when we returned to the ship we went to the crew bar and played pool and danced some more.

 

Dec 15th – St Kitts

S did the 4-8 watch and we both did day work until 12. The vent signs we painted are going to need a more permanent solution than painting signs in the scuppers as they get painted every month. We were going to cut paper stencils out and paint the labels on the gooseneck, but then one of the AB’s suggested to us that we use the sign router instead.  He showed us how to use it and we cracked on, although didn’t get very far as we got called to go and see housekeeping about formal uniform; they’re going to order some female jackets for us, which will be nice! I did the 4-8 watch this evening. I went forward on my own for weighing the anchor, the carpenter does the heaving and I gave the bridge information on the lead and weight on the cable. When I came back up the Captain complimented me on my radio procedure and clarity of information, a very nice little confidence boost! Once we were out and moving along the coast of St Kitts there was a bit of traffic and I started to get to grips with the radar equipment. I tried getting the sextant out to practice taking sights with it, but it was too dark and I gave up quite quickly, will try again next watch.

 

16th Dec- St Barts

Well I doubt I’ll have much luck with a sextant tonight as it’s been cloudy and raining on and off all day. We had another fire drill this morning, and S and I have just been cracking on with our little jobs, hopefully we’ll manage to finally box some of them off soon! I’m on the 4-8 watch again this eve so am just going to post this up and then get some kip for a couple of hours.

From Snow to Surf

It feels weird to think that 5 days ago I was in the snow and wearing as many layers as possible. Now I’m wearing as few as possible! I know everyone in England reading this will think I’m being a cow and rubbing it in, but it’s quite a major theme I’m afraid! I have heat rash, as per usual, which is a pain, but I’m being good and trying not to scratch it. My face is bright red, not from sunburn, but because I’m a true brit and am also sweating like a pig, it’s running off me in rivers during the day at the moment, but I’m hoping that I will soon acclimatise and start to look a bit more human!

So, what’s been happening? A hell of a lot actually! The last few days have been surprisingly action packed, but I’ll start at the beginning….

I met S in the airport, who I sailed with on my first trip on the Patricia, and we got through all the usual airport gubbins without any fuss, although we were fairly late in checking in so didn’t get seats next to each other. Then in the baggage drop off que I saw a face I sort of recognised and he asked if we were joining the Wind Surf, it turned out he was a guy from college who had qualified in August and was joining the ship for his first contract as 3/O. On the plane I found my seat and once sitting down, the guy on my left asked if I was joining the Wind Surf. Out of all the people I could have ended up next to I was next to an ETO cadet who was also joining the ship! The flight was long and uneventful, although we were about an hour late for take off, not because of the weather I think, but because of luggage loading issues. It was very warm as I stepped off the plane, but it was cloudy so I didn’t get that smack in the face feeling of a really hot day! We were all being put up in the same hotel in Barbados for a night, so once we had dumped our bags in our rooms and freshened up we all went out for some food and a drink. It wasn’t a late one by any means though, we were all shattered, the taxis were coming to get us at 0800 the next morning and although the clocks said 2130, our bodies said 0130!

Arriving at the ship, I lugged my cases along the quay wondering why they felt so much heavier when I actually had to carry them somewhere. I thought I’d packed fairly light, albeit in two bags! On the ship we signed on the articles, handed in certificates, saw the doctor (who stuck two needles in me, one for flu, and one to see if I have TB) and then went up to the bridge to meet the Captain and officers. Nothing very exciting happened that day, it was all the usual inductions and getting uniform and wandering about the place trying to work out where we were. There is another cadet on board, A, he’s an engineering cadet so we won’t see him that much during the day. He showed me where the crew bar was that evening, and it was quite late when I hit my bunk. Speaking of my cabin, I’d better tell you a little about it, as I will probably be mentioning certain aspects of it quite often. Sizewise, it’s fine, with two wardrobes and plenty of storage space although the bathroom is a little small,(While the shower is a good size, I run serious risk of bashing my nose on the door every time I go to the loo!) I have a fore and aft bunk which has 4 tiny little steps up to it and I have a porthole too, which is wonderful. There’s only one problem really: we are right down in the bottom of the ship, right next to the steering gear and next to the propellers too. It’s not a quiet cabin!!

The ship sailed to Bequia overnight and I was up on the bridge in time for anchoring, we then tagged along to a safety meeting with the C/O and then went in search of formal uniform for the Introductions cocktail party. To be fair, the C/O actually described it to us as ritual humiliation. He and all the other senior staff and officers have to line up and get introduced by the Captain. But it’s only once a week, and there’s free drinks, so it can’t be all that bad. Life got even better after that too, as the C/O told us to go and have a swim in the afternoon. The ship has a platform aft that lowers down whenever the ship is at anchor, from there you can swim, sunbathe on the rafts, go waterskiing, kayaking or windsurfing. I couldn’t believe my luck, second day at work and I get this!

The only negative so far is that the storekeeper doesn’t have any ladies formal uniform so S and I have the mens uniform instead. I feel a bit of an idiot in it, but having it does mean we can go upstairs in the evenings. Having sailed on the QM I figured that the drinks would be limited to the cheaper stuff for us, and that we would have to be accompanied by a senior officer if drinking in the public bars at any other time. This is not so… At the cocktail party I’m allowed any drink I like for free, and as long as I’m in uniform I can go to the public bars at any time, where, as a cadet, I get $15 a week for free (higher ranks get more), and then all other drinks are 50% off!!  This ship is extremely good to it’s crew, and I am already of the opinion that I had better work damn hard and make a good impression, because I want a job here when I’m qualified!

The ship was already alongside the quay at Greneda when we got to the bridge at 0800, and the last lines were being made fast. The berth isn’t sheltered by a harbour and although there was only a small swell the wind was pushing the ship off the berth and she was surging quite a lot. As they have to use the anchor windlass for all mooring lines it is difficult to make them all even so some lines were taking more strain than others. While the sailors were still on the deck one of the lines parted, and actually hit the 2/O, grazing his elbow and scraping his arm as well as hitting him in the chest. He was incredibly lucky though, and aside from the graze he was unharmed. The C/O sent him to the doctor anyway and meanwhile photos were taken of the rope and the area for the report.

After another set of inductions we got our boiler suits on and started on a task the C/O has set us, as we walked down the bridge deck 2/O Navs called us back and gave us a master key, asking us to go down to the pool machinery room right aft on deck three as a flood alarm had gone off in there. Alarms often fault, and while you always go and check it out, you never actually expect to find something, however…. We got down there at the same time as A (Engine cadet) and opened the door to find that there was indeed a flood, with water spraying out of some part of the equipment. We called the Bridge immediately and told them that the flood was very real. A tried to find the valve to shut off the water but is unfamiliar with that machinery and couldn’t find the right bit. We went down to deck two and found that water was coming through the deckhead, as we were next to the marina (which was closed) we grabbed the dirty towel bins and used them to catch the majority of the water coming through, as well as getting towels and laying them over the wet carpet to minimise the damage as much as possible. The 2/E arrived soon after and was able to shut off the water. There wasn’t anything else we could do so we went back to the bridge to give them an update on the situation and then went back to the original task we had started on.

The ship has a loadline survey coming up so we’ve been asked to check that all vents are correctly labelled. This isn’t quite as easy as it sounds as the plans we are working from are from when the ship was built in France, and none of us can speak French to a level where technical terms can be translated. Online translators it turns out, are almost as useless!

While S was using the computer to try and translate, I heard a bang from outside. I went out and looked down from the bridge wing, and saw a line had parted. I told the bridge immediately and then went down with 2/O LSA and the new 3/O to the mooring deck. The line that had parted had been stopped off on the windlass so we removed the broken rope first and then looked for a spare line, the only one left was the extra large one (known as the Anaconda) so, with the sailors who had by then arrived, we pulled it out and led it to the windlass, it weighs a ton and took all of us. The 2/O threw a heaving line to shore, and we fed the huge rope down to the sailors on the quay. Once it was over the bollard he tried to start the windlass to heave it in, but nothing happened. Because the line was on the windlass when it snapped, it must have tripped something. He called an electrician, who was unable to fix the problem immediately, so we heaved in the slack by hand, not an easy task! We weren’t able to get it very tight at all, so once it was made off, the line on the other side of the windlass (which still worked) was stoppered off and put on the bits and we then put the large line on the windlass to heave it in. I hope we don’t get many days with problems like that, but on the other hand, it’s good to be around when the bad stuff happens as one day I may well have to deal with stuff like that on my own.

Today was much quieter, we spent the morning stencilling labels, and were going to go see an engineer this afternoon to see if he could help us identify the ones we couldn’t translate. But the C/O decided instead that we would be much more useful on the sports platform. I kid you not, our job this afternoon was to go and drive a boat around. It’s had a new engine put in and apparently needs to be driven for 50 hours before it can be used. I went down a little early so I could have a swim first, (well, who wouldn’t?) We got some practice berthing it and generally pootled about in it until the platform started getting busier and the sports guys were needed.

I can’t believe my luck really, this ship is brilliant. I may feel a bit less enthusiastic after 4 months, but I think this is going to be the best trip so far out of my cadetship. It’s bigger than the Pat and smaller than the QM2, so there’s lots of people to hang out with, but not so many that you stand no chance of getting to know everyone. She has sails, and they use them! Last night was wonderful as the engines were turned off and we sailed to Mayrau, meaning I got a lovely quiet night’s sleep 🙂

Blue yonder and a bird

28th April 2008

Theres not much internet to be found in the middle of the Atlantic!!

TA 2 Days 20-23
Anguilla to the blue yonder

We ended up staying most of the day in St Martin, when we got back to the ship the night before we were informed by Mike that there was a freezer issue that needed to be sorted before we could go anywhere. But thanks to the help and vital piece of kit from the engineer on the Ocean Village liner that was parked behind us in the morning, we were able to solve the problem and finally got off at about 4.30. As it was only about 15 miles we motored over to Anguilla, arriving at 7 in the evening. We anchored just outside the bay and made our way further in in the morning. We were thankful that we did so when we saw the amount of yachts that were anchored there, not all of which had had anchor lights on the night before!

The first part of the day was dedicated to the ship, rust busting is a constant feature of living on an iron hulled ship and we spent the morning chipping and sanding while looking wistfully at the white sandy shore and swatting the flies that had infested the ship suddenly. After lunch though, it was tools down and we hit the beach. There were three, maybe four, bars along it, and we pretty much had it to ourselves. We picked a bar almost hidden by palms, dumped our stuff and headed for the sea. A short swim later and we were ready for the first round of drinks, and the second….. the day passed in a pleasant mix of swimming, lazing, laughing and a few more drinks. Polly, Jessie and I went for a walk to the end of the beach and back, Anthony ended up getting buried in sand, and a few chairs were fallen off, or missed entirely.

Feeling surprisingly chipper in the morning, we had a good old cleaning session to try to remove some of the beach that we had brought back with us the previous night, and kill a few more flies (it’s a seasonal thing apparently), before pulling up the anchor and motoring over to Prickly Pear Cays. If Sint Maartin was my idea of hell, the Cays are my idea of heaven; a gorgeous white sandy beach entirely to ourselves, reefs for snorkelling, a barbeque going all afternoon, shells and corals for beachcombers to pick through and a supply of beer, or in my case, wine. We even found an in-shore lake that looked stunning but on closer inspection was surrounded by gunge because it was so low. The only dampener on the day was that the weather wasn’t playing the game, most of the afternoon was cloudy, with brief interludes of sunshine as it poked through at opportune moments. Oli sailed one of the dinghies over from the ship which looked great fun, I need a bit more instruction before I try that though! He and Jessie sailed it back when it was time to go at sundown, she’s a qualifed instructor in fact, so I’m going to try and get her to teach me a bit when we get to Bermuda (She doesn’t know this yet!) Back on the ship we motored back over to Anguilla, Prickly Pear is a marine park and overnight anchoring isn’t allowed, mainly I think because the anchorage point is very small and it can be tricky to get out of. We had a quiet evening, each of us contemplating the long voyage ahead.

Up bright and early today, we tidied all loose gear away and were off by 9, we’ve been making good way so far, with most of the squares up straight away. The royal went up a little later, and then Francis threw me in at the deep end just before lunch, making me give the orders for putting up the gaff foresail, then the outer jib and spanker after lunch! It was a bit of a slow process, but we got there in the end, and I learnt a lot in a short space of time, not least that people wander off if you don’t give them something to do immediately! Polly and I had our much promised date on the bowsprit after that, we’ve been meaning to get out there for ages but never quite got round to it until now, it’s my favourite place on the entire ship to hang out, if they’d let me I’d probably sleep up there! On dog watch this afternoon we saw some whales in the distance, blowing and then breaching, and even a couple of tail smacks, a fantastic sight on our first day out here. We have now crossed the Sombrero Passage (a major shipping route that we needed to cross at 90 degrees) and have set course for Bermuda, only 800 odd miles to go.

The boys have just been taking the temperature of their nuts with the laser thermometer, Ben is well behind at 24 degrees, LJohn is in the lead at 38, with Oli, Tom and James in the middle at 32.4, 32.6 and 34 respectively. My forehead is currently 27 degrees, I am told, and Pollys right breast is 28.2, while her left breast is 27.2. If this is the effect that less than one day at sea has had on the crew, I fear for our sanity in the following days.

TA 2 Days 24-25
Blue Yonder

Mizzen watch had a hard day of it yesterday, three 4 hour watches left us pretty knackered, and we had the pleasure of cleaning the heads! We passed over the Puerto Rico Trench early in the morning, sailing over 7383 meters of water, that’s not the deepest part of the trench though, that’s further west and 8240 meters down. The ship is now sailing over Nares Abyssal Plain, and will be until we reach Bermuda. We saw a tanker on the horizon on our 8-12 watch, a cause for some excitement as none of the other watches have seen anything since we left Anguilla!

Polly and Jess borrowed my epilator in the afternoon and had a ripping time on the deck removing leg hair… There’s really nothing much else to report, everyone is settling down into the daily routine, daily lectures stave off some of the boredom and are increasing our seamanship knowledge in preparation for doing the watch leader/ day skipper ticket exams on the long stretch across the Atlantic.

Today has been a rather grey day, the wind has slowly moved round from the east to the south and we have two opposing swells, one from the south east Atlantic, and one coming in from the north west, caused by some stormy weather. I was having a lovely kip this afternoon until they braced squares and the motion of the ship changed from a fairly stable heel to port, to a rocking roll from port to starboard. It’s not a very comfortable motion, especially in a thwart bunk, I’m considering going into Pippa’s old cabin to get some kip tonight.

TA2 Days 26 – 28
More Blue Yonder

The swell caused by the opposing weather systems has continued, making life a little lumpy still, but it’s become less uncomfortable daily, or we’ve just become used to it. The wind however, has not played the game and seems to have gone on holiday, Doug admitted defeat on Friday morning and we stuck the motor on, it’s a shame, but we would have sat in the water doing nothing otherwise.

On dead watch yesterday morning we dodged a series of squalls, we could see them approaching in lines on the radar but our course took us neatly between them every time but the last, when we caught the end of one. We got a little damp and then, as the moonlight shone from behind us, a rainbow arched across the sky, pale and silvery against the dark rain clouds, a full arc with the faintest hint of colours at the ends. If you get gold at the end of a normal rainbow, what do you find at the end of a moonbow?

The wind yesterday was minimal, and what there was of it had backed up to coming at us right on the nose, so no chance of sailing still. We passed a plastic deck chair in the water, a bit too far off to be able to pull it on board, and we’ve been seeing quite a bit of an orangey sea-weed floating past in clumps. The excitement of the day was another whale sighting in the afternoon, I missed it by seconds I think, I had been having a kip when Francis put the tannoy announcement out and though I pegged it up the companionway, it had gone 😦

Today the wind has come a little further round to the west, there’s not much of it but just enough to fill the sails. As we were on watch during happy hour I got sent up the mizzen mast to take the gaskets off the spanker, then they decided they wanted the fisherman up, so I was sent up the foremast, it was the first time I’ve been up there, in fact, and Oh Blimey do those shrouds get narrow! James came up and helped me, climbing up and down in about a quarter of the time I took! I thought I’d get a rest after that but it was decided that we wanted the t’gallant and royal up as well, so, as the only person on deck wearing a harness, I got sent aloft once more, Anthony joined me and once we’d taken the gaskets off, we enjoyed the view as we waited for them to set the sails so we could overhaul.

We made a speed of about 1.5 kt all morning, not exciting sailing but she did look fantastic, I never realised how big the fisherman is until now, it’s huge! As we were going so slow and the water was so calm, Doug decided we could launch the RIB to go out on a photo taking trip, unfortunately the steering on the RIB suddenly died while we were out there, thankfully LJohn was able to steer us back to the ship manually though, and we launched Virginia instead, using it as an opportunity to see how quickly we could do it as a man over board drill too.

The fun didn’t stop with the photo trips though, the next part of the plan was the bit we’d all been hoping for all day. We braced the main so that the sails were backed with wind – with the fore and afters pushing forward and the mains pushing back we stop in the water… swimming time! Not that many people can say they’ve swum in 5000 meters of water, it’s quite scary, knowing that there could be all sorts of things underneath you, but also really exhilarating. The water is an incredible clear blue, a bit cooler than the Caribbean waters, (we’ve noted a 2 degree drop in the water temperature since we left the tropics) and very refreshing. It was great to be able to let loose a little and have some fun, the watch routine gets a little gruelling when there’s so few on a ship like this. After our swim we got Virginia back on board and then all sat down to a fantastic roast, followed by a coffee and walnut cake created from scratch by Jessie and Polly (aka. Peaches and Pork Sword). We’re back to the normal routine now, the sails have been taken in and we’re motoring once more, the wind has dropped completely now and it’s set to remain like this until we get to Bermuda. The moonrise this evening was lovely, a golden globe rising out of the clouds majestically, it’s light reflecting in the glassy surface of the sea, it’s a full moon tonight, I may have to go and howl at it.

TA 2 Days 29 – 35
Blue yonder to Bermuda

Monday dawned peacefully, no wind, the water around us glassy. One of the duties of the dawn watch is to scrub the decks at 6.30, as the RIB appeared to be dribbling a bit of sand we decided to stick the fire hose into the bow holes and see what came out. Sand and water poured out of the stern hole for ages, creating our own little beach on the poop deck and filling the scuppers. We’d got rid of it by breakfast though, leaving the decks clean and lovely.

It was a surreal experience seeing the ocean so flat all day, there was still a swell gently undulating the body of the sea but with no wind the water looked like mercury. I could see exactly why sailors thought they would fall of the edge of the world. Polly and I climbed the mast to see if there was anything more to seen from up high, but there was nothing but reflections of clouds in the smooth water for miles in any direction. We had tea up there to celebrate her birthday, a thermos of earl grey and a couple of mugs are easy to sling on a bit of string and take up the rigging, and it’s exactly what you need after a good climb!

There had been a swallow flitting around the boat for a day or so, he’d landed on bits of rigging and the deck a few times but when anyone had gone close he’d flown off. We’d put out some water and crumbs but so far he’d shown no interest, as the day drew on he became less nervy of us, probably through sheer fatigue, the poor little thing must have been blown off course on his migration. He looked shattered as he clung on to the back edge of the poop deck, Polly put the crumbs and water right next to him and even proffered some on a spoon, he had a little nibble and a drink, but really swallows eat insects, which, luckily for him, we still had quite a few of from our time in Anguilla! Polly turned into a fly killing ninja, swatting them down below and bringing them up to our little friend on the poop, he ate them from her hand and as she brought more up we could see him start to re-energise a little. He became friendlier and friendlier, first landing on Jules’ leg as she lay on the deck looking at him, then he sat on Jessie’s chest, then my shoulder and LJohn’s head! We spent most of the afternoon cooing over the tiny bird, he was very fair in his affections, sitting on everyone around at some point or other, but as soon as Polly came back up on deck he’d be right over to get his flies! She named him Raphael, after one of the ninjas. He roosted for the night in the focs’le and was gone in the morning, as we were in sight of land by then we hope he made it to a garden full of insects.

As it was Polly’s birthday and our last night at sea with all the current crew, the permanent crew got plotting and organised a crossing the tropic line ceremony. We’d crossed the line days before, but that’s a minor detail that wasn’t going to stop anyone! Crossing the line is usually done on the equator, sailors who haven’t crossed it before traditionally ask permission from Neptune to enter his realm, and make a penance, which generally involves being covered in gunk of some kind. On this occasion Keith played the role of Neptune, with LJohn in one of Jessie’s dresses as his wife Persephone, Ben was master of ceremonies and Tom and James and Francis were policemen, keen and ready to drag us before King Neptune and cover us in the foul mix of custard, tomatoes, beans and god knows what else! Polly was first, cowering before Neptune while the charges against her were read out before getting a good dousing with goo. She was followed by David, Anthony, Jules and Tom, they made a sufficient sacrifice and Neptune allowed us to continue our journey. I was relived to have escaped, though no doubt I shall be gunged some other time, Ben had actually written the charges for everyone, but the sun had gone down and it was getting dark and cold so it got cut short. I didn’t escape entirely though, Polly came and gave me a big slimy hug! After a good sluice with a hose for both the deck and the participants, and then a quick shower for the latter, we had a birthday cake in the shape of a canon created by James and presents for Polly, which ranged from an ashtray hand-made from a coconut shell, to a pair of used socks! We stood on the poop deck later, watching the phosphorescence sparkling in the wake, occasionally something large and glowing bright blue, deeper than the rest, would shoot out from under our feet, magical and weird.

The next morning we could see land, a most welcome sight by then! The passages into Bermuda’s harbours are narrow and surrounded by reefs so we had to pick up a pilot to guide us through. The gap in the rocks we went through to get into St Georges was pretty tight, amazingly there was a cruise liner in the harbour too, getting that thing through the gap must be a very exact science! Once we had anchored we spent some time cleaning the ship and then relaxed, after 7 days at sea on a three watch rota we were all pretty knackered and keen to get some rest. A party of us went ashore in the evening to celebrate Polly’s birthday with beer, the prices here are high compared to the Caribbean, but they have cider! (I’m not a beer drinker, so I’ve been dreaming of a cold pint of fizzy appley goodness for the whole trip.)

We spent the next three days in St Georges, doing bits of maintenance and pottering about. Francis got me to help him with some bits and pieces on the rig that he wanted to tweak; moving a rope, adding a shackle or a block to make things run better, it did involve getting to some of the less accessible bits of the ship though, such as the end of the spanker boom, which was fun until Francis started leaning on the sheets as he chatted to Mike and got distracted! While I was up there we were visited by the crew of Spirit of Bermuda, a training sloop which was anchored close to us, about 40 girls invaded the ship, all about 13 or 14 and hungering for our Oreos and sugar! They were shown around the decks and rig and were really interested by it all, I think we’ll see some of them back in a few years. After they’d gone we made a trip over to another ship, the Atlantic Explorer, which is an oceanography ship who we’d started talking to on the radio a couple of nights before as we drew close to the island. They have some serious bits of kit on that boat, Anthony was nearly drooling over the computer systems, not surprising as he’s off to do cybernetics at Reading Uni. He told me he now wants to work on unmanned submersibles – combining the sea and his degree nicely! As there wasn’t much going on in St Georges the cabin 10 girls decided to go on a little shopping trip to Hamilton on Friday, we took the ferry around the island and spent a few hours wandering about the town, buying some much needed new clothes and trying on the rest of the shop for the fun of it.

On Saturday we had a nice little day sail planned, taking Pelican from St Georges to Hamilton. The weather forecast had said about 15 knots of wind, which would have been great, however, when we got out there the wind was blowing a hoolie, gusting to 48! We quickly decided not to put up any sail as just with the wind blowing across the rigging she was heeling 10-15 degrees to port! It was fun anyway, the sun was shinning and the well deck got a good soaking from the waves, we even got spray on the poop deck which we’ve not seen before. Once in Hamilton’s harbour we were protected from the wind and were able to moor up on the quay without any trouble. During the afternoon we opened the upper decks to the public, we’re known locally as ‘The Pirate Ship’ and have had a steady stream of people wanting to take a look around. After supper we went out, the nearest bar is directly across the road from us so we didn’t have far to go, and there was no chance of getting lost on the way home!

Sunday has been a day of rest, not much is open in town, and some of us aren’t up to going to the bar quite yet anyway. We’ve been showing people around the ship again and will be going out for dinner tonight to wish farewell to Tom and Doug who leave us tomorrow. We’ve had a few new joiners; Rachel and Mick have joined the ranks of the voyage crew, we have another Keith who’s taking over from Francis as the First Mate and Becky who’s relieving Tom, more will be arriving over the next couple of days.

Day 36
Bermuda!
Been oiling harnesses all day, people arrived, three mins left on this internet session!!

Slutty nuns and melted ice-cream

11th April 2008

TA2 Days 14 – 17
Nevis to St Kitts

As it was Sunday morning we had a competition – Best Dressed for Breakfast, Ben and Jules turned up in each others clothes, quite how Ben fitted into Jules’ size 8 skirt I don’t know, Anthony came as Pip, in her bikini, which he filled quite nicely, we also had Princess Jasmine, a mummy and a slutty nun, as well as various miscellaneous entries. I’ll leave you to guess (or at least wait for the photos) to decide which one I was. We all had to do a catwalk for Graham and he picked Anthony as his winner and Jessie as his wife. After Captains rounds we were given shore leave, I went on a tour of the island with Polly, Doug and Graham with his camera. Our first stop was an old sugar mill; it was a photographers dream with old bits of machinery placed about amongst the ruins, rusting gently and all sorts of plants growing in crevices and cracks. Higher up the mountain another old sugar mill had been turned into holiday homes and a restaurant set in some stunning gardens. We found lots of seed pods and some coconuts which our guide opened for us with the aid of a massive rock, I have two hairy little coconuts now, called Herbert and Brian, which are going to get drilled open and filled with rum at some point. We went on around the island to Montpelier Inn, the site where Nelson married Fanny Nesbitt and where Princess Diana used to go with her sons, I’m determined to have my honeymoon there, it’s absolutely lovely!

While we were sitting on the dock enjoying the early evening light and waiting for the RIB to take us back to the ship, a local chap, who was in his 60’s at least, came and sat beside me, within 5 minutes he’d told me we were getting married, he would make me a very happy lady and he had a lovely house for us, but I was going to have to buy it. He also insisted on sticking plasters on my scraped knee, which wouldn’t have been so bad had he not put the adhesive bit right across the middle of the scab. I was very relieved to see the RIB coming in! After supper a few of the crew decided to go over to Pinney’s Beach for a beer, we could hear booming music and see bonfires on the beach, unfortunately when we got there the swell was too big to be able to anchor the RIB so we had to change plans and go back to town, we ended up getting a drink in the local equivalent of a chippy, not quite the evening we’d had in mind, but we did see a very sweet kitten which Jules was all for bringing back as ships cat.

The next morning brought us perfect weather for filming sailing evolutions between Nevis and St Kitts, Graham was out in the RIB with Pip driving. We tacked and wore several times for the camera, which was fantastic practise for us and by the end of the day we had it really neat and sharp. Polly and I got the chance to go out in the RIB with about 7 or 8 cameras and take photos of the last tack and wear for everyone, Pelican really is an impressive sight when she’s going. By then everyone was flagging a bit and we headed in to Port Zante. Berthing on the cruise liner jetty was a bit of a nightmare, the wind that had been our friend all day was blowing straight across the jetty, we got blown off of the lee side twice before we made it eventually on the windward side. When all had been sorted and we’d calmed down there was time to go ashore and explore before supper. Before you find the town you have to go through the nasty tourist trap they have around the actual port, it’s very Americanized, with huge quantities of tat shops, diamond and jewellery shops and duty free outlets. The actual town however is much more Caribbean thankfully, Polly, Jess and I had a wander, found a cool little bar for a rum punch, then headed home for supper. A gang of us went out later, the bar we’d found before was closed and we ended up getting directed to the local casino, who, we were told, had a bar with pool tables upstairs. The bar was closed when we arrived, but because there were so many of us they opened it up especially and we had a great time, the joys of going out in a big group!

Yesterday I had a lazy day; caught up on some sleep and had a lesson on driving Virginia, our dive boat, which was fun. I had a chance to drive the RIB back on Montserrat, the two are very different in their handling, the RIB is rather like a car on ice and Virginia’s a bit like a tea tray with a tiller! I hope to get a lot more practice in and take my power boat exams when we get back to Weymouth. Most of the other voyage crew went ashore again that afternoon, exploring the black sand beach and the town some more and meeting some friendly locals.

Today was our last day on St Kitts, we had an early happy hour and then several of the crew went ashore, some went for some chill time and some of us went on a tour of the island. We visited Romany Manor where we explored some beautiful gardens and were tempted by the batik paintings on sale in their craft shop. Brimstone Hill Fort was our next stop, what a view! They had some scarily life-like figures in one of their display rooms, showing what it would have been like when the fort was occupied, I was tempted to chuck some money on the floor to see if they’d move. Further round the island we paused at the Black rocks where Jessie went for a scramble, giving the rest of us kittens as she disappeared down and then popped up onto a huge volcanic spike above the crashing waves, she returned safely and we spent several minutes cooing over a baby donkey that tried to eat the flowers on my flip-flops. When we got back to the point where we had started (Jessie- “Wow, How did we get here? I thought we’d gone left?” “Er, It’s an island, Jess”) we had time for a beer and a wander, the girls and I had lunch in the bar we’d found before, a proper Caribbean meal of fried chicken, rice and peas and coleslaw, delicious! Waiting for the boat to take us back to the ship we saw some very cool fish in the marina, they appeared to be swimming side up to the water’s surface, which made it easy to get a couple of great shots of them. Back on the ship we scrubbed the decks and got ready to sail, weighing anchor at 5. I helmed her out and along the coast, watching the evening light catching on the hills and troughs of the volcanic landscape. We are currently running before the wind with a very easy motion, I can hardly feel it, should sleep well tonight!

Day 18 – 19
Sint Maartin

I’m in hell. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration; I’m in a Disneyesque Cruise Liner port. The sea is a stunning azure blue, the beach is white and sandy, the sun is shinning, and everywhere I look there are thousands of tourists and hundreds of tat vendors. The beach is entirely overrun with deckchairs which you can hire for an exorbitant price, behind the beach there are a variety of bars, all slap bang next to each other and pumping out various offensive levels of noise. Behind the seafront there are streets full of more tat and bars….. If you hadn’t guessed by now, I’m none too keen on this stop! We’re only here to get stores for the long leg to Bermuda and make a few repairs and will be leaving this evening for Anguilla. St Maartin looked quite pretty from a distance, but as we anchored yesterday morning in the bay, there were two massive cruise liners on the jetty, we could see the closest one’s huge TV screen as it pumped out MTV on the top deck, way above our masts. Those of us who went ashore in the afternoon soon found ourselves longing to get back onto the ship and escape the garish nightmare that they have turned this beautiful bay into. We came alongside the jetty after the cruise ships left yesterday evening, our little ship takes up only a fraction of the space they did, a point made exceedingly well this morning as we discovered a new one had arrived in the night. We’ve been quite an attraction today, though I’ve seen several of the inhabitants of the cruise liner looking back to take pictures of their ship and ignoring us… Ah well, I suppose everyone has different tastes!

We are losing Pip today sadly, she’s off to Antigua for Classics Week and then home for a bit, no doubt she’ll be back before long though. We took her out to Simpson Bay last night, as the cruise ships were gone the town had pretty much closed up, Simpson Bay some gorgeous specimens along the jetty behind the bar we went to, they can literally walk off the boat and into the bar in two paces. We had a good night there, meeting old friends and new, Ben’s extremely gregarious and Polly’s dredlocks give her rasta status, plus she’s such a genuine loving person, so we always get chatting with the local crowd within minutes.

Pip leaving also meant my watch lost it’s watch leader, taking us down to a party if three (myself, Anthony and Rob). While I was doing the washing up this morning, Doug popped his head round the door and asked me to come see him… I was sure I hadn’t done anything wrong so wasn’t too worried about this, and when he asked me to take over from Pip I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s not a very taxing role, just sorting out watch bills etc really, but it’s nice they think so well of me 🙂

It’s now late afternoon, stores have been mostly taken in and we’re just waiting for the frozen stuff now, it’s gotten a bit too able to be able to clear out through customs tonight so we’ll slip berth and anchor in the bay again before heading off to Anguilla tomorrow.

A short while later… Frozen stuff is now in, sadly the ice-cream didn’t quite make it so we have just been stuffing ourselves on it- no point in letting it all go to waste! We gave a tub to the linesmen on the jetty, who’d been doing the ropes for the cruise ship opposite us when she left, which bought us permission to stay alongside tonight!

Pink bits and pizza

25th March 2008

Day 5

Been on mess duty all day, which mainly involves a heck of a lot of washing up after each meal, so no wheel oiling today; there wouldn’t have been any wheel oiling anyway in fact, as they’ve now decided to cover the wheel with a tarp or something until we can get the special varnish they want. (Rolls eyes)

I actually really enjoy being on mess duty, the downside is you have to be up a little earlier than normal, but you get the night off before, and with the music cranked up high while you’re chopping and slicing or washing pots you can have a good old warble and a boogie. Tom’s a wicked guy too so it’s just like hanging out with a mate for the day. We were going to make pizza for lunch but that got scuppered as we hadn’t the time to make the dough from scratch and we couldn’t find the dough mix in the stores, so it was salad buffet instead.

After lunch was washed up the voyage crew were granted some shore leave, I’d already peeled the spuds for later so the was nothing to do in the galley thankfully, so we pootled across to Pigeon Island, it’s not actually separate from the mainland but is St Lucia National Trust land, so we got stung for a few dollars, just for going to the beach, pah! It was a lovely beach though, small and perfectly formed, with a bar 500 yards away, we lazed under a palm tree, swam and had a few drinks. There was an old lime kiln, right by the beach and the toilet block had been converted from the old stores house, I wanted to climb the hill behind the beach and explore more but we didn’t have the time sadly.

Back on the ship we found that the last few crew members had joined us, Jessica, who’s on her gap year, and Rob and Jon, two old mates, Jon’s got the dirtiest laugh I ever heard, I reckon those two will liven things up no end! After a lovely roast for dinner the washing up got ploughed through as I had so many helpers drying up, which left plenty of time for a run ashore, Mike the engineer, Anthony, Polly and I went over to the bar I was at with the crew on the first night, the owner has got the idea that we’re a cruise ship and so gives us 10% off on drinks, we’re not complaining! I felt fine when we came back, but waking up for watch at 3 was horrible, rum punch is tasty, but vicious!

Day 6/TA2 day 1

Today was mostly spent doing introductions, briefings and talks. We signed on with the captain (even though some of us have already been on for a week!) and were told all about the ships routine- watch rotas, mess duties, happy hour (cleaning after breakfast- a perfect time to put some tunes on!) Then it was time for some basics of seamanship- helming, climbing the rigging, and sail setting. As I’ve been up the rigging many a time I wanted to do a little more than the basic up and over to the first platform that trainees generally do on their first time up, and as I’ve not been up yet this week I wanted to check out the view. So with the captain’s permission, I went right up to the top crosstrees and sat on the royal yard. Nick and Anthony came up as well and enjoyed the scenery with me for a bit. After the much promised pizza for lunch we had a talk about sails and the ropes that work them from Francis and the rest of the afternoon was spent getting to grips with and practicing setting and stowing sails.

It was around this point that I realised that I’d gone a bit pink so I ducked out of the sail stowing and went below to stand under a cold shower and then slather myself in various creams. The heat rash has gotten worse too, it seems to be slowly spreading across my body, my feet are feeling better, but my hands look like bright pink toad skin. Jon has some Fullers Earth cream which I’ve heard of before now and is supposed to be really good for skin complaints, so I’m trying that tonight, hopefully something will have an effect soon! I borrowed a shirt from Pip for the rest of the afternoon while we set the spanker and practiced bracing the yards over and over again, I’ve landed myself with the port mainbrace as my station. Rob, who’s a big fella, offered to swap it for the t’gallant and royal, but I’m quite happy with it really, all part of the fitness regime!

I just had time for a quick dip before supper and have just been watching Hercules in New York on deck; LJohn has a projector so we just have to hang up a white board and we have an in house cinema! It rained on us briefly a couple of times – nearly, but not quite enough, to send us running inside. The lads are all back from shore leave now and it’s time for me to hit my bunk as I’ve got anchor watch at 5 in the morning.

On watch. Typical, I pop down to my cabin to grab my torch and memory stick and a bloomin’ alarm goes off! Bizarrely enough, it was a distress alarm, apparently coming from us, but was in fact an emergency weather warning for the North Atlantic. Useful.

To oil or not to oil?

22nd March 2008

Kind of a boring one today, we finished cleaning the wheel with Nitrol and I spent a good while obsessively scraping off the last tiny little bits of varnish that had been missed. We started washing it off with white spirit but then the great debate about whether to sand down the dents at the ends of the spokes and what finish to put on it started. Finally, a special varnish was decided upon and people went ashore to get it, but it’s Good Friday and all the shops are shut until Tuesday. As we’re possibly supposed to be going out for a day sail on Monday I’m starting to get rather frustrated as we only have one day to get it done, we’ll probably oil it now, but we need to get on with it pronto!

My heat rash has got worse, now it’s on my feet as well, it’s driving me nuts, but they have found a lotion in the medical cabinet that helps a little. The best thing for it though was my swim this evening. I did 4 laps of the ship this evening, to make up for not doing any last night. As I finished my second lap the Unicorn came past on a sunset jolly, crammed full of tourists and pretending to sail, but with smoke bellowing from the engine. She’s the local Tall Ship, pandering to the tourists who want to get pissed and pretend to be a pirate for a day. We saw her going out this morning as well, looks pretty but I wouldn’t think she sails well.
The new captain Doug Lindsay arrived today, along with another chap called David, and we lost Bruce this morning. There’s only a couple more people to join now I think. I’m really looking forward to getting underway now, Rodney Bay is pleasant enough but isn’t the most exciting place to be, and I haven’t even been up the mast yet either.

I’m on mess duty tomorrow, which means I have to be up at 6.30, so I’m going to hit my bunk now, but to make up for the dullnes of the blog I’ll put some pics up 🙂