Dry dock

Dry dock: it’s all a bit of a blur really!  Trying to recall what I did every day is nigh on impossible I fear, there was a lot of running around doing “things” and “stuff”. A lot of which involved the removal or the application of paint. Anyway, I should begin at the beginning…

We had already made good progress on chipping and painting the 20T crane down in SG, which was definitely an advantage, it looked a bit patchy, but the worst bits had been done. In Stanley we had a few days to prepare before we headed off to Punta, during which we (well, the engineers and the Chief Officer) did the rocking test on the 20T crane (checking it moves side to side properly and adjusting as necessary), and we loaded a generator, 4 extra cables of anchor chain (Cadet Q: How long is an anchor cable? Answers in fathoms and meters please!) a lot of paint and various other useful bits and bobs. Our departure time was, in all probability, the worst kept secret in Stanley, people we saw in the pub seemed to know more about it than us, but we tried to keep it on the quiet. It took us about two days to make the trip, during which time cardboard was laid down in every alleyway and stairwell by the deck crew.

As we approached the Strait of Magellan on my watch I was hailed on the radio by someone (presumably the Argie VTS), however, their message was too broken to understand (we were still a good 50 miles from land as I recall) and all I could do was reply with “Station calling Pharos SG, your message is broken, please repeat” they never got back to me, so I handed this over to the 2nd officer an hour later at 0000, along with all the usual gubbins and went to my bunk. He was hailed by them again as we got closer and after telling them who we were, where we were going etc, we were left to carry on over the border to Chilean waters. The only odd thing they ask for is the Captains passport number, but once they’ve been given it they seem perfectly happy.

I came back up to the bridge for my next watch just before the pilot came on board and we then continued down towards Punta, making excellent speed as the tide pushed us along, we didn’t quite make 20kts, but seeing as our max speed is usually about 12kts it was still a novelty. The narrowest part of the strait is about 2 miles wide (I’ve been through narrower without a pilot in bigger ships!) but the tidal current is not to be underestimated, (if we tried to go against the tide, we’d have spent a good 10 hours going no-where at full speed!) so I was glad to let the pilot drive while I kept busy with position monitoring on the chart. We have a ECS, not an ECDIS so still do it the old school way: radar ranges and bearings, paper and pencil, plus the Mark #1 eyeball of course (Cadet Q: What’s the difference between ECS and ECDIS?). Technically of course, I had the con, but I let the pilot sit in the big chair and give the helm commands, he was quite chatty and we discussed the appalling condition of some of the (chinese?) fishing boats that were going the same way as us for quite some time, they really did look like floating rust buckets, and according to the pilot are no better inside.

We arrived safely alongside, on the other side of the quay was a Chilean navy vessel, so for the rest of the week we were treated to all sorts of bells and whistles going off as they put flags up and down and people went up or down the gangway. Meanwhile, we shambled along at approximately sunset and sunrise and took the flags up or down with no fuss whatsoever!

Over that week alongside things felt like they were going quite slowly, although a lot did actually happen: we had a Port State inspection the day we arrived, the windlass was taken apart so that the dockyard could clean up, weld extra thickness to the gypsies points and then put them back the other way round, my rescue boat davit got taken apart, and eventually put back together and load tested (it was only supposed to take a day, but… a veil shall be drawn over that one as it’ll send my blood pressure rocketing) some of the fresh water tanks were opened and inspected (I spent a lot of time standing outside tanks, it, became a theme over the dry dock for me!) we had the initial rounds of the 5 yr inspection with our Lloyds/MCA surveyor, who was a lovely man, but he did pick the one day that week I was really hungover to decide he wanted to look at all the LSA and FFA, which included me running round the ship testing fire detectors :-/ When I wasn’t busy with those things, I continued with a wee project of mine: one of the bulkheads on the main deck was particularly rusty, while we were down in SG I attacked the section around one of the panama leads, but now had to face dealing with the section forward of it, this was a nightmare to do because it has 4 Winel heads (vent covers that allow air/water out, but stop water going in) in front of it. So I took them off (a task that proved to be a nightmare enough on it’s own!) and went at the area with needle gun and wire brush, and the Winel heads themselves as well. It’s one thing chipping and brushing a flat surface, but when you’re dealing with angles, tight corners and curves etc, behind pipes as well, it becomes somewhat more of an arse. I regretted starting it almost immediately, but once you start, there’s no going back!

Eventually though we moved over to the dry dock itself. I had by then purchased a small videocamera thing and had worked out how to do time lapse pics with it. Unfortunately I didn’t get it working right at the start of the whole procedure, and I had it mounted on the bridge which meant it was too low to see a lot of the things going on on deck, and finally, while I have worked out how to edit it in movie maker, with music and titles and everything, my computer refuses to save it, telling me that I don’t have enough space, when I have 30GB free on the hard drive I’m trying to save it to… *sigh*. Thankfully though, one of our wonderful AB’s also had a (superior) videocamera which he sensibly mounted onto the monkey island and produced this:

If you look at the right hand side of the picture at the beginning you can see the cradle moving out in readiness for us. We had to take a pilot to take us off the berth and up to the cradle, after that the dock staff take over and are in charge of positioning the ship precisely over the blocks. Once the ship was about halfway into the cradle we had to stop all propulsion and turn off all the engines, (switching over to the generator on deck for lighting etc) and leave the rest to them, the main reason for this being that they send divers down to make sure everything’s in place. It looks like quite a quick process on the video, but in fact it took several hours. It was a long day; once we were actually on the blocks and out of the water the ship was suddenly swarmed by dockyard crew, taking out valves, pipe sections, gratings and gods-know what else from the engine room. The deck officers job at this point is to open tanks, and quickly, because they need to ventilate for 24hrs before anyone can go into them. With the 5 yr survey due it meant that pretty much all the tanks needed inspections. Fresh water and void space tanks are the deck department’s responsibility, even though a lot of the tank lids are in the engine room, underneath the deck plates. (The engine room floor is actually a series of plates suspended over the actual deck/tank top, and between the two is a mind boggling array of pipes, this makes getting to the tank lids even more fun). So we had quite a long day, and by the time we finally got finished at 7, we were very much in need of a beer!

The next few days all blur into one. I spent most of my time sitting outside one or another tank while it was either inspected or worked on, at some points I was outside a tank in an area that I could continue with chipping and scraping or eventually painting those bloody Winel heads (They come apart into several pieces too… Never again!!) I also spent a lot of time running around collecting immersion suits, BA bottles, lifejackets and stuff that needed to be sent ashore for servicing, making lists of these things and trying to keep tabs on what was going when, and where and when it was coming back so that I could make sure they all came back, with the right certificates. Meanwhile sheaves on the end of the 20T crane and the top pins holding the hydraulic arms in place were taken out (with a LOT of effort and some very big hydraulic jacks) so that the seals etc could be replaced (this was the first time we believe this particular job had been done since the ship was built) this involved a lot of chain blocks, welding of extra bits to hold things, and a lot of heat treatment of the pins themselves, all a bit scary looking! Then there was the memorable night when we had the dockyard crew grinding patches on the hull at one point, having already been driven nuts by the guy moving down the hull from fwd to aft, another grinder joined the first guy from the other direction so I ended up being serenaded in stereo, the first guy going for the jiggy beat, the second the long whine. I was close to comitting murder.

After 14 days in Punta, we finally got a half day. Some people went shopping (again) honestly some of the guys seemed to be tootling off to the nearby mall every other evening! Some people went for a walk, (crazy people, it was freezing cold and blowing a hoolie!) I was on day duty though and was very grateful for the opportunity to only have option of staying on board and vegetating! The next day it started snowing. Nothing heavy thank goodness, but it made chipping and painting less of an option! It continued to snow on and off while we had the dockyard guys painting the hull, which meant that they had to stop and start a few times. I stayed warm though, as my job, along with the 2nd officer, was to keep up with the cherry picker with large sections of chipboard to protect the rails and superstructure from the spray paint. We were mostly successful, although we ended up with red toes on our boots and a fine mist of red on our faces and safety goggles! That was also the day the 2nd officer tried to kill me with his piece of chipboard. It wasn’t on purpose by any means, he’d managed to get it up the steps from the main deck to the poop deck and was trying to get it over the rail when a gust of wind took it and it landed on me. Thankfully it only hit my arm not my neck but I had a cracking bruise the size of a grapefruit for the rest of drydock!

That wasn’t the only damage I managed to sustain that month, a few days later I managed to get a shard of metal in my eye, right on the cornea, while wire brushing a particularly awkward bit of my bulkhead (I was wearing goggles, but they weren’t as effective as I had believed they would be, and we’ve ordered better ones now). I thought it would come out with some washing, but no, it was stuck well in there, I could actually see it in the mirror! I went to the Old Man, who is de-facto doctor on board who took one look and called the ships agent. An hour or so later I found myself at a Chilean eye specialist’s who spoke no English and noted my middle name as London, he was however, very good at his job. I got the ships agent to translate for me and once the eye doc had put some anaesthetic drops in my eye (OH the relief!) he inspected it and then produced what looked like a big pen. Then he took the lid off. That was no pen, that was a dirty great big needle and he was coming straight at my eyeball with it!! Somehow, I didn’t flinch (the anaesthetic did it’s job well) and after a couple of pokes he seemed happy that it was gone and I was given eyedrops and an eyepatch to wear for 24 hours. Sadly it was more like a big plaster than a pirate patch and I found it really disorientating to only have one working eye (depth perception really does work better with two!). It was fine after that, a bit blurry for a few weeks after, but I am happy to report that no lasting damage was done. It certainly taught me a lesson about thoroughly checking PPE before using it though!  (Cadet Q: Where can you find information on what PPE you should wear for each type of job, including chapter number!?)

Not long after that the painting had all been completed, valves etc were replaced and we were ready to go back in the water. Once again, my attempt at video footage was a bit of a fail, but Dave the AB did a cracking job with his 🙂

You may notice that that the cradle pauses for a while with the ship in the water but not floating, this is the critical period where everyone runs around doing a check on all the things that got taken out to make sure that they are indeed watertight! Also, once we’re alongside you can see the cradle come back up with another (very small) ship on it.

After that, there were a few things that needed to be put back together on deck, like the 20T crane, which then of course had to be load tested, once again, my gratitude to Dave for his fab footage.

And then of course, when you live in the Falklands and everything has to be shipped in, there’s no point in not loading as much stores as possible before you leave!

That was just some of it going into the aft hold, you should have seen how much we fitted into the fwd hold!

So there we go, that was drydock. As I said, for me it was mostly about chipping and painting, and standing outside tanks. I think there’s a lot more going on in the engine room than on deck at times like this, but I certainly didn’t have enough time to go and watch! Of course, what I have failed to mention at all was the fun we had, there were several nights ashore, (including the one where I was just so knackered that by the time we reached the 3rd bar all I wanted was a cup of tea, I’ve not been allowed to live that one down!) and I even went out in a frock once! Tales of drunken nights out are only funny to the people that were there though, so I won’t bore you with details, but wish you fair winds and calm seas until the next time 🙂

Pictures from drydock and the rest of this trip are on Flickr


Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…

Oh how glorious to be in summer, proper summer, I’ve not had this for a while! I returned from deepest darkest winter in the Falklands just over a week month ago, just in time to catch the start of this amazing weather, I couldn’t face wearing jeans so went hunting for my summer clothes: I had one pair of shorts, that I could no longer fit over my backside, and that was, apparently, it. I resorted to borrowing my mums shorts for the day and then went and raided the two clothing shops in Sherborne that don’t cater to middle aged ladies who lunch. £380 later and I have a summer wardrobe, which includes dresses!! (I am a habitual jeans wearer, in fact I have worn nothing but jeans unless forced into a pair of shorts by excessive heat for the last gods know how many years. In the Caribbean when I was on the cruise ships, I had shorts as uniform, so was ok, and was so used to the heat that I was fine in jeans when I went ashore, or had that one pair of shorts for the beach!) Anyway, this is not a fashion blog so I’ll stop talking about clothes!

First of all, I feel I owe an apology, I went off making wild promises about blogging by email from the ship, and yes, I have failed utterly to do so. The problem is,  I’m not allowed to tell you where we are, what we are doing or where we’re off to next. It’s all very secret squirrel, and makes trying to write something without giving stuff away a tad difficult, especially this trip as we were off to dry dock. We go to Punta Arenas in Chile for dry dock, and to get there we have to go through Argentine waters. (I’m not going to give you a history lesson here, if you have to ask why that’s a problem, use google). So we don’t advertise the fact we’re coming, we report in as required by maritime protocols etc, but it’s always a bit of a tense time until we’re through. Nothings ever happened and I doubt it ever would now, but the events of 1982 are still pretty fresh in the memories of many.

We didn’t go to dry dock immediately mind you, we had a few other things to do first; primarily a patrol, but before that we went north of the Falklands to do some buoy work. These buoys are the ones we deployed at the start of my first trip, they are acoustic listening devices that are placed at various levels under the sea to monitor the sea life in the area. The job this time was to recover them so the technicians could service them, and then re-deploy them in the same place. We had  a few days to achieve this is as we weren’t sure whether the weather would be favourable. As it turned out, we had some lumpy seas on the way up to the site and then glorious sunshine and clam seas for the work, enabling us to get all 5 buoys recovered and re-deployed in one day. (Team B wins again!)

It was a quick turnaround after that and straight down to South Georgia for patrol. The weather down in SG was still very pleasant at that time (April) and I got to see what the island looks like in late summer (only the big mountains are covered in snow!). After patrolling the 1000m contour line around the island we went back to King Edward Point and picked up some of the BAS team for the albatross survey on Prion island. Prion Island is one of the major wandering albatross breeding sites and every year they (the scientists) go and check how each nest is doing as they (the birds) return to the same nest site each year. Having not ever been to Prion Island I was extremely keen to do the drop off on the zodiac and have a chance to look around. There was a party going on on the beach: the penguins kept to themselves, but as usual, the fur seals were more, er, well, plain unfriendly. I took one of the paddles from the boat with me, for two reasons: a) there’s a lot of kelp on the beach, thick slimy rotting kelp, and you can’t help but walk on it, it’s that or get a bit too close to a fur seal for comfort! So I needed it for balance. And reason b) fur seals. I’ve probably mentioned before what evil savage little bastards they are, but if it’s not yet been made clear, these animals scare the bejezus out of me! For good reason. If you get bitten by one (and it happens) you have to scrub the wound out with a toothbrush, they have a selection of bacteria living in their mouth that would, in all likelihood, kill you if untreated, or at very least you’d lose the limb. They are vicious, aggressive, territorial buggers and ugly brutes to boot. Ok, the small ones are actually quite cute and would probably only gum you, but a full size male charging at you is when you really, really want a big stick with you!

There is a board-walk path which leads up to the top of the island and I left the Bosun with the other paddle at the zodaic while I took a stroll, accompanied by a few South Georgia Pipits, herding baby fur seals and being hissed at by the older ones who popped out from behind every bit of tussock grass along the path. At the top I was treated to some stunning vistas of the main island, and several wandering albatross sitting on their nests, mostly with their backs to me of course, but one was eventually kind enough to turn their head, allowing me to get a photo of more than just a white shape! Photographic desires fulfilled, I returned to the zodiac and drove back to the ship, a task made much more difficult than it should be by swathes of kelp.

We popped in and out of KEP quite a few times that trip, taking people to various parts of the island to count birds, or make repairs to some of the buildings at the other old whaling stations. The good weather kindly remained with us, and when we weren’t at sea, we had time alongside during which we made a good start on chipping and painting the 20 tonne crane, which is no small job! On Sundays however we get a half day, and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful sunshine and go for a long walk. I went with one of the girls from the base, partly because I didn’t really know where I was going, but also because as Winnie-the-Pooh says; It’s so much friendlier with two! We walked around the cove, past Grytviken and along the stony shore, scrambled over the rocks of the headland and along the beach before cutting through the tussock grass to reach Penguin River. Unsurprisingly we met some penguins there, not many, but more than I’d seen together up close before. Most of the penguins who venture ashore at KEP are Gentu penguins, and I’ve only seen a couple of solitary King penguins, so this was quite special for me and I snapped away like an excited paparazzi.  We left the river and scrambled up a very steep slope, during which I had to keep stopping to take more pictures as the full vista of Penguin River and the glaciers behind emerged. We strode over the flats of Mt Brown, bouncing almost on the soft spongy ground and admiring the variety of plants, mosses and lichens growing in the more boggy areas. We also came across the remains of an Argy helicopter that crashed there during the war (Falklands, not World War!), riddled with bullet holes and missing all the major components, but not looking like it’s going to disappear any time soon.  From there we walked over to the dam, where I was mesmerized by the mirror perfect reflections of the hills for a while before realizing it was going to get dark soon and making our way down the steep “track” back to Grytviken and home. It took us about 4 hours, and I’ve even taken the time to make a picture of where we went.

A wee map of my walk

Incidently, Google maps have updated their satellite images of SG, and the detail is fantastic, they’ve even marked all the tracks (Even on Bird Island, where 4 BAS scientists live studying birds), and have labelled the small islands, so you can now go and have a look at the places I’m talking about in detail (Sadly they’ve not taken their camera car there yet!) Look up South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, otherwise you get the Georgia next to Azerbaijan!

Well that pretty much covers the first month at work, and in the interests of a) publishing this before I go back to work, and b) not making a post that’s so long you get bored and give up, I’ll put this up now and talk about dry dock in another post at a later date. (Next week, maybe??) Meanwhile, I have also been busy putting more pics up on flickr, I’ve got as far St Petersburgh on the Balmoral (5th cadetship trip, less than 2 years ago!) And am going to make a concerted effort to get on with a load more in the next few days.

Edit: All pictures fro this trip are now up on Flickr!

Shock news… we’ve been painting!!!

August 27th
I began the morning chipping paint on deck 11, just the undersides of the stanchions (rail posts) where they joined the wooden rail. By 0900 we had painted all the chipped bits with sealant and were vacuuming up the chips of paint from the deck so the guys told me to chip off as we has an engine room tour booked for 0930. G took us round, showing us everything, he managed to level it at two complete novices who have no idea what all the whirring, bleeping and clunking lumps of metal do, he did get rather excited showing us his area of expertise- the sewage works! We went painting on the aft mooring deck for half an hour after lunch as the engine guys get back at 1330, and then we went back to finish off with looking at the incinerator and electrical side. That took us up to smoko and then we returned to the aft mooring deck to carry on painting the yellow parts of the black and yellow danger area stripes around the winches.
The guys were having a party tonight on the f’wd deck, and insisted we come- about ten of them asked each of us over the afternoon, so we really couldn’t let them down. On top of that the Chief Electrical Engineer was having his leaving party- which we had also been invited to, so we went to both, the engineers party first and then the deck party, which was a bit more lively- karaoke is the Phillipines national pastime, and while it had been going on at the engineers party it was only background there, at the deck party it was the main event. For the first time in my life I sang karaoke, even though I swore I never would, after that there was dancing, someone made me drink tequila, more dancing and then S and I ran away as it was getting late, we went to the wardroom to check emails and have a glass of water and then chipped off to bed, just before the C/O came in apparently!

August 28th
This morning looked like it was going to be painting again but then we heard a call on the boatswains radio about cadets. We were being roped into helping empty the two tenders that are being put ashore in Southampton for maintenance. This involved getting all the supplies and equipment out of the lockers that are hidden under seats and in corners, it was a grimey job and took us all morning to empty both of them. We did get a break in the middle, smoko, followed by a lecture in the Royal Court Theatre about pest control, which nearly sent us all to sleep!
After an extra long lunch break (because we’d overrun in the morning into lunch) S and I were back on the aft mooring deck, painting black stripes on the floor this time!

August 29th
Back in Southampton and it was an early start for us as stations was at 0520, we were due to come alongside at 0700, but two tenders needed to be lowered before that as they are going ashore for maintenance. As it worked out things ran really smoothly and we were alongside and secure by 0610, which meant we had time for a leisurely breakfast and some catching up on writing up notes before reporting to the bridge at 0800. Our job for the morning was to go around the ship opening every fire screen door. It sounds simple enough, and considering that emails had been sent to every department to make everyone aware of this, and there were several announcements made by the C/O over the morning as well, you might think that all the crew would be aware of the test that we were doing this for… nuh uh! Thankfully we weren’t the only people doing this task as, by the time we had done decks 12 to 8, we started getting sent back to doors we’d already done because crewmembers had closed them again. We had to go back to some doors 4 or 5 times, which became a little, er, frustrating… The C/O actually told me to start finding the people who were closing them and hand out bollockings!! Finally though we were told to report back to the bridge, where we had a brief rest before being sent down to deck 1 where I was told to aft and stop anyone going through any fire door while the test was being conducted. When the announcement for the test was made I told the guys working in the area and anyone passing though that they had to stop and wait, and made sure no-one tried to pass through. Once the doors had been closed it took about 10-15 minutes while the bridge checked each deck on the computer system and noted any defects showing, many of which were due to crewmembers opening doors unfortunately, but still had to be checked individually later.
After that I had 3 hours with P, who I’d booked in as a visitor again, we had lunch in La Piazza upstairs on deck 7 and I showed him a bit more of the ship as I’d found a lot of places I didn’t know about before during the fire screen door closing!
Once he’d gone I went back up to the bridge where everyone was very busy making departure checks and getting ready to get underway. We stayed on the bridge for the sailaway, which was very interesting as we got to watch and listen in on all the briefings and checks that happen, as well as watching Staff drive us off the berth.
After that we decided to go to the spa, we felt we deserved it after the miles we’d trekked closing fire doors in the morning!

August 30th
Study day once more, we spent the morning writing up reports on things we’ve done until S handed the C/O her draft report on MOB, at which point he took us around the bridge going through the whole procedure, including any variations that might occur… S re-wrote her report!
We carried on writing things up in the afternoon and thought for a brief moment that we’d escaped our grilling- no such luck! N told us to come to the bridge at 2030 instead, straight after the cocktail party. We did alright actually, we’ve not got rule 3 verbatim yet, but we were close enough for him to be reasonably happy. We then talked about stability for a while before he told us he was sick of looking at us!

August 31st
Back to the aft mooring deck today, painting the black and yellow stripes around the winches. The morning was broken up by a technical drill at 1000 on damage control. S and I went with the 3rd officers into the control room where we were talked through the process of closing valves and what the options were for pumping water out of a space that was flooding. The damage control plan is a very important document if a space floods as it lists all the valves and doors that need to be closed if a compartment starts to flood. Back on the baggage handling area the deck and engine fire teams were going over the equipment for plugging holes, shoring up and pollution prevention. If an emergency occurs the first priority is safety of life and saving the ship, and then pollution prevention after that.
In the afternoon I joined the deck guys in their task of scraping 5 years worth of varnish off the deck, we’re going to paint an area of the aft mooring deck black, with anti skid paint and that is going to be the only area on which varnishing can take place.

September 1st
A new month brings new work, we are now working under the Safety Officer with the deck POs, (Petty Officers). Our first task was to go around all the fire screen doors that had shown faults on the full ship test in Southampton and re-test them individually. Most of the faults that had shown up were due to crewmembers walking through them while the test was being done, so there were only a few doors with actual faults. That took us most of the day but by afternoon smoko we were done and went to the SO for a new job. We pent the rest of the afternoon inspecting the low-location photo-luminescent strips around the crew areas (those strips we got put to work cleaning on out first day) This time we’re just going round noting any defects, thankfully, but we may well have to set to with the acetone again at some point.

Painting, NYC and heli-ops!

Blimey,what a week, sorry it’s taken so long to get this installment up, I keep getting behind on it as things have been so busy, but here it is…

18th August
We had an extra hour in bed this morning as the clocks went back an hour, wonderful! The only downside is when we come back we’ll be loosing an hour’s sleep each night.
So, feeling pretty fresh and awake, we went to find out what the boatswain had in store for us. The first job was helping pass down the new mooring lines from deck 4 to the mooring deck (3) through the hatch. The hatch lid is lifted by a wire on a crank handle and posts and chains are put up around the non-working sides. The lines had been put on board using the derricks on the foredeck, coiled around a cardboard drum and wrapped with paper and high strength sheeting. We cut the wrapping off and then it took 4 of us to push the huge coil nearer to the hatch, the line was then unwound from the drum and passed below where it was either coiled into one of the baskets or threaded around a set of bits and through a shackle to go directly onto a drum. The lines are all 12 strand multiplait and are extremely heavy. Once all 4 lines had been put in place we eye spliced a length of three strand rope around the eye of each line, which is used by the linesmen to pick them up. After that we cleared up the rubbish and went for smoko. When we got back we had a lesson on multiplait splicing, it’s not nearly as difficult as I’d thought it would be, once the rope is unlaid you take 6 strands on each side and work with two at a time, weaving them up in a straight line along the original lay. It gets very tight by the end and you need to use a setting fid to open it up each time.
After lunch I was on the f’wd mooring deck again, this time cleaning. First of all two guys went around with a bucket of metalbright and a paintbrush on a long stick, finding all the rust spots, then another deckhand started jetting the deck down, meanwhile we also started scrubbing down with soogie and brooms.
After an hour I had to chip off to meet the Safety Officer- we’d arranged to meet him to go over fire fighting equipment for our training books. When we’d done that I got back to the deck to find they were currently vaccuming up water from the floor. I got hold of a vaccum and cracked on. Once the floor was no longer puddley, we set to with mops to get it dry.
After a very active day, where both of us had sweated a fair bit, S and I decided to visit the spa again before cocktails, I had a Finnish Sauna to start with, before relaxing in the pool and then trying out the reflexology basin. Once cocktails was done with we had some dinner and then went to the bar where we had fun playing with flash cards- J, one of the 3rd Officers, was spelling out rude words for S with the code flags and then he set up some buoy channels for us to navigate through. Geeky, but fun!

August 19th
We started the morning off on the aft mooring deck, S was scraping old varnish off handrails and I was and oiling handrails that had been scraped and sanded.
At 1000 there was a Helicopter Fire drill, the ship uses the sundeck on deck 13 as a winching area. We mustered with the deck fire party on deck 11 and went up the stairs to deck 13 when instructed. It was blowing about 25kts out on deck, which made running out hoses slightly difficult as they kept flapping about. S and I ran around fetching extra hoses and connected them up with a nozzle, we were then instructed to help hold the hose as number 2 and number 3. The engine room fire team were also up on deck and went aft to the sundeck where there was a dummy casualty. Each fire party consists of two three man teams, in this case 4 people were holding 2 hoses, and two people were sheltered between them, ready to retrieve the casualty. The whole team edged forward, using the hoses to create water walls until they had reached the casualty and then edged back in the same manner. The second time they did this the hose I was on was used as another water wall, we edged forward to the wind screens that separate the deck areas with the water wall and number 1 turned it off briefly to put the nozzle through one of the gaps in the screen and then turned it back on, this gave the fire team additional protection as they moved forward, it was turned off to let them through and then put back on. Likewise when they came back with the casualty, the water wall was turned off to let them through.
Once the drill had been completed we all went below for a high expansion foam demonstration on the aft mooring deck. The fire teams took their kit off first to Sarah and I were there to see the first quick test, which produced a huge amount of foan in about 60 seconds. So when everyone else got down, we were at the ready with squeegees, to try and keep the foam from getting too far. Easier said than done as the squeegee blade just passed under the bubbles and only moved the water underneath. Once the demonstration was over we got the hoses onto it and eventually got the deck clean again.
In the afternoon we carried on with scraping varnish off hand rails, the rails are first painted with some blue gunk that corrodes the varnish, the first scrape down still leaves a fair amount of varnish on the wood and so the process is repeated. The blue gunk is evil and really hurts if you accidentally get even a tiny bit on your skin, I was wearing the right PPE (gloves and boiler suit) but still managed to get a little blob on my wrist. I washed it off immediately though and it was fine. Once all the varnish has been removed the rails have to be sanded with two grades of sandpaper until they are immaculate and ready for oiling with D1.
We went to the Queens Grill cocktail party in the evening where I met Commodore William …… who is the current maritime lecturer on board and a Trinity House Younger Brethren.

August 20th
Started off this morning painting the bits and roller fairleads on the aft mooring deck, we then had an early smoko to enable us to maximise on the time available to paint balconies. Passengers tend to spend the mornings out of their cabins, which is when the deck crew teams scuttle in and paint. In order to get the job done in time about 5 of us crammed onto the one (single size) balcony, so with two stepladders, the balcony furniture and the paint buckets, space was at a premium! Naturally I got paint in my hair as I was kneeling down to paint under a ledge at which point I was given a plastic shoe cover, which doubles nicely as a hat. Wearing that, plus the mask to protect me from the paint fumes, I looked delightful!
After lunch is was back down to the aft mooring deck, where S carried on with the painting and I got stuck in to some varnish scraping. I discovered the disposable boiler suits they have too, which are a bright red/pink colour and have a hood too, so I looked like a slightly deranged Teletubby wielding a paint scraper! Photo evidence of this exists, but it’s on my phone, which I don’t have the wire to my laptop for.
This evening I have been productive, taking advantage of the lack of cocktail party to do laundry, tidy the cabin and write up notes about anchoring procedures for when N grills us on Saturday. Once all that was done I went to the wardroom for a drink, to find most of the men wearing bibs with a large set of boobs in a corset printed on them, in honour of the German Tapas night. I always thought tapas was Spanish, but what would I know?

August 21st
The morning started off again scraping varnish on aft mooring deck until 0900, then it was early smoko and balcony painting. This time I was with S, working on the outside rails of the deck 8 balconies, which are easily accessed from the lifeboat platforms. All was going well until we got showered on from above, where one of the stewards decided to start washing down the outside of the glass balconies on one of the upper decks!
After lunch it was back to scraping varnish, broken up by smoko and a refresher talk on lifeboat hooks and engines. The statistics on lifeboats in general are a little bit worrying, so Cunard put all lifeboat crew through a refresher every 3 months.
After the World Cruise club cocktail party S and I joined SECO and ENVO to go and see the show, Viva Italia. The costumes were fabulous and I lost count of how many changes there’d been in the first 20 minutes! I had been expecting to maybe hear some songs I knew but they’d all been written for the show, the lack of plot also had me rather bemused for a while, and to be honest, it wasn’t really my cup of tea, but the performers put so much energy into it and it had some very funny moments.
We’d missed dinner in the mess by the time it finished so we all went up to the Lotus restaurant for some Chinese food, which was delicious. A quick change into casuals led to a couple of drinks in the wardroom and then a foray into the White Star party, which is held monthly for all crew in the luggage handling area. When we got there no one was dancing and I was reminded of school discos where everyone stood around the edge looking awkward. That didn’t stop us lot though and we hit the dance floor straight away. It didn’t take long for others to get the same idea and by the time I left an hour later the place was bouncing!

August 22nd
Study day, which has been lovely. Not having to get changed for meals, sitting down and getting all the bits of paper I’m accumulating organised. We had our grilling from N, which went really well in fact- seeing as we’d actually done the work he was very nice to usJ
The big excitement of the day has been hurricane Bill, which is perfect for my WBL, so I’ve been busy gathering as much info on the situation as possible and have even asked the Commodore if I could interview him about it all later.

August 23rd
Need I say more?
Oh, I suppose people will require a little more detail than that…
It was an early start, we were breakfasted and at immigration by 0630, immigration began at 0640 but we wanted to be first in line, had to be in fact as we were escorting a tour into Manhattan. We had been instructed on our itinerary “Day off- Book tour- Buy shoes and handbags” and so we decided to follow instructions to the letter. Conveniently for us the tour we were escorting was the shopping drop off tour, which meant we had the whole day to ourselves to, er, well, go shopping!
We were dropped on 7th Avenue, opposite the back entrance to Macy’s, which wasn’t yet open, it being about 0830. So we wandered toward Times Square, picking up a coffee in Starbucks and then hopping into tourist shops for the essentials, which as far as I was concerned was a giant pencil, which I didn’t find, and an umbrella, which were in plentiful supply. It was hot and muggy at that time of day, which had quickly become gentle, but annoying, rain. Over the day the rain ceased but the oppressive humidity remained, even when blue skies appeared in the afternoon, we were gasping in relief when we walked into a store and it’s air con hit us.
From Times Square we meandered on to Central Park and then to 5th Avenue where I felt glad that none of the shops were yet open as I would have felt disgustingly underdressed wandering around any of Tiffany’s, Gucci, Prada, Armarni etc. By the time we got as far down as the Rockerfella building though, the shops had opened and we went into Banana Republic, where I casually picked up a hat and tried it on.
It was love at first sight, I tried to say I shouldn’t really buy it, but S told me I had to… Ok, so I’m weak when it comes to hats. It is beautiful though, a 20’s style blue felt cloche (apologies to any men who are reading this, if I were you, I wouldn’t worry too much about this entry, it’s all about shops, shoes and handbags from here…)
We admired the Rockerfella’s architecture for a while, and then headed back toward 7th Avenue and Broadway where we stopped for an early lunch at Ruby Tuesdays, I had a crab burger which was very good, but I was most intrigued by the bun, which I think was brioche….Anyway, I digress. From lunch we stopped off at Mid Town Comics, which T has been sent to by G (G being one of the 3rd engineers and T his girlfriend) I got hugely tempted by several things but decided that buying all three volumes of Sandman (at $99 each) was a little excessive, especially as I’d have to carry them for the rest of the day. Likewise 6 volumes of SIP pocketbooks…
From there we embarked on my major mission of the day, which was camera shopping, my darling dad had found two stores which did cameras at sensible prices, one of which wasn’t too far from where we were so we cut across to 9th Avenue, through some slightly less classy streets, complete with guys yelling it each other about “Doin’ it the Nu Yoike way” or some such classic street banter. On the way we saw a shoe shop, and as I was after something cheap to wear with my whites uniform we popped in, where eventually I found a pair that would do, S also found some shoes, which made sense really as it was buy one get a second ½ price. From there it wasn’t too much further to the camera shop, and oh by gum what a camera shop, Dad would have been in heaven! There were different departments for film photography, digital, point and shoot, lighting, movies… You had to queue to see an advisor in the department you were shopping in (99% chance he’d be Jewish) They then looked up what kind of thing you wanted and got various models to show you, when you’d decided they give you a receipt for it and sent it to the collection point in a box on a roller conveyor system. You then had to go to the payment point, pay and then go to collect it further on, bit of a palaver! However I now have myself a neat little Fugi A150, which does everything I need and more, and only cost me $124.01 after tax.
We had less than two hours left by then so we headed back to Macy’s, where we perused the shoes and handbags at length. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful green leather handbag which has pockets galore and it’s own umbrella and purse! Happy then that we had fulfilled the C/O’s orders (“Book tour, buy shoes and handbags”) we went to the pick up point where a bus was conveniently waiting.
The ship wasn’t due to sail for an hour and a half when we got back so I decided to wander up to deck 13 for a spot of sunbathing on the phone. After half an hour of swearing at said phone and nearly throwing it overboard I gave up, it wouldn’t change to USA roaming, nor would it find any kind of network, turned out that the whole ship’s satellite system was down, so that might have had something to do with it. The sailaway was fantastic to be on deck for though, got some wonderful views of the city from there, especially when we went under the bridge only clearing it by about 4 meters!

August 24th
Today balanced yesterday rather nicely… I spent the day first following two of the guys, who were sanding, with grey primer and then re-tracing my steps (or to be more honest, bottom shuffles) with yellow paint. We were on Burma road, which is a crew area, but also the main thoroughfare for the working ship. Apparently, painting is a spectator sport!
Another cocktail party this evening, after which we caught the first bit of the Music of Sting show and then went for Chinese with Seco and Envo.

August 25th
Another day that started with painting, but not for too long, I phoned the C/O at 0930 to ask where we should be for the fire drill at 1000. Once again we joined the deck fire team at the muster station and were then directed to the fw’d mooring deck. The scenario was that two crew members had been last seen painting on stairway 1 which had filled with smoke, probably due to painting materials catching alight. From the mooring deck (deck 3) the fire teams had to search and rescue below first and then move up the stairway, which with a charged hose is pretty difficult, but when you have the added bonus of the stairway actually being filled with smoke and the weather being so hot and humid that you break a sweat without doing anything, then the scenario starts to feel pretty real! The C/O put us in the stair way to observe what was going on, the fake smoke made me choke so I used my hat as a mask as I didn’t want to start people worrying about me collapsing, but it was great to be able to see first hand what was going on as they found the two dummies and got them back down the companionways.
There was a full crew muster, which meant I had to get back up to deck 11 by the stairs to grab my lifejacket and then get back to my raft station, this job really is getting me fit!! After that we had touch drills on the bridge, where the officers have to talk though the procedures for different emergencies, ie steering gear failure, MOB, collision, grounding etc.
After lunch I was back on painting until after smoko when we went to the deck fire team’s debrief on the mooring deck. The guys had found it much more difficult with smoke taking vis down to 1/2mtr, and they learnt that their comms need to be better, gauge checks got missed, as did ladder and handrail cooling, also that casualties should be lowered down ladders/steep companionways not carried.
While we were getting ready for cocktails A gave us a heads up that there was a medevac happening later and there was a briefing at 1930. We showed our faces at the party for half an hour and then scooted back to our cabin to change and get some dinner before things started to happen. The ship had already started heading north in order to get closer to Canada where the helicopter was coming from, as we were pretty far out and they only have a range of 300 miles maximum. After the briefing we went to collect the high expansion foam kit with th SO and get it all up to deck 13 before we had a bit of time to relax. The fire team had been instructed to start getting ready at 2045, so they got there 10 minutes before and were all dressed and ready by the time I arrived! Up on deck we helped run out hoses, both deck and engine fire teams were there, with water hoses, foam hoses and high expansion foam so there was a lot to get ready for the rendezvous at 1045. The passengers had been removed from the cabins directly below the deck, and all had been instructed that the open decks were all closed and they must keep off the balconies too, so I felt rather privileged to be allowed to stand on the deck and watch (from as far back as possible). I videoed the whole operation with my new camera and we all breathed a sigh of relief when the helicopter left, the last thing anyone wants is to have to use any of the fire kit that’s standing by. People started clearing up and S and I helped put hoses away, which gained us brownie points for not just disappearing and we got told to turn to at 1000 next day as we’d not run off like most people. Bonus!

August 26th
Lie in- Oh what bliss it was to wake up at 0700 and turn over and snuggle back down for another two hours! And when we got to the paint store at 1000, all ready to go, the boatswain said, “Coffee time now!” Ah well…
The main part of my day was taken up by painting, although after afternoon smoko we joined the SO and the deck fire team for a walkthrough of one of the galley areas on deck 7. They’re going over a different part of the ship each day at the moment, and as S and I will be put into the fire team at some point it makes a lot of sense to learn as much as we can!