"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.

I sit here with a glass of rum….

I’m sorry, this is another update that is mostly out of date, but it’s the last one, I promise, and there is some new news too….We were due to be going back to college in January of this year, but as our group is so small, the college decided to amalgamate us with the FD group that had started in May ’09 and bring us back in February. I found out about this in mid December and, as much as I love my parents dearly, the thought of sitting around on my backside at home for that long didn’t appeal. I was struggling with the Work Based Learning (the project work we have to do for college while we’re at sea) so I asked if I could be put back onto the Patricia for a few weeks. My company were very obliging and I joined the ship on the 30th December. I did 6 weeks this time and I am unbelievably grateful for that time, as I was able to get all my loose ends tied up and produce a body of work that made my tutors faces fall as I plonked the huge folder on their desks! This was mainly due to the fact that, on several occasions, when I went to see the Chief Officer in the morning to find out what I’d be doing that day, they asked if I had any project work to be doing, and told me go and crack on with that. This then is the abridged version of the log I kept over those weeks, with as much of the fun stuff as I can remember thrown in. Days that are missing I was either doing work in my cabin. Or greasing. There was a lot of greasing…..

30th Dec 2009

Falmouth
I joined the ship in the afternoon, having once again stayed with my friend who lives down there, and once again feeling slightly jaded from the night before. This time I was not sent below to the cabin I had been in before, but was sent up to the lower bridge deck, where the Captain and Chief Engineer also reside! This was not because I had been promoted though, it was far more practical; the berths below were needed for the maintenance crews who we would soon be taking out to various lighthouses and I was simply being put somewhere out of the way, for the moment anyway. I wasn’t complaining though, I had lots of space, a lovely big desk, two windows, (one on each side, which gives the cabin it’s nickname “The fishbowl”) and oh joy of joys, a bath! I never actually had a bath, but knowing that one has that option is always comforting.31st Dec
Falmouth
The ship didn’t sail that day, so I had the day to re-familiarise myself with the ships layout, and then in the evening I went out to celebrate New Years with some of the crew. As I’d sailed with them before I didn’t feel like the ‘new girl’ and we saw the new year in with the help of quite a lot of drink!

1st Jan 2010
Falmouth – Bridport

We had a lifeboat muster in the morning and then sailed for Eddystone Lighthouse to drop off some maintenance workers before heading to Bridport to anchor overnight.

4th Jan

Penzance.

Am. I  learnt how to drive the stores crane, moving gear around the heli-deck in preparation for heli-ops tomorrow. I knew where to move the crane by following hand signals given by one of the ABs who was watching the heli-deck below. It’s fairly easy, once you have worked out which direction to move the levers on the control unit – it wasn’t as obvious as it sounds!

The work boat was lowered to go ashore but when it came to hoisting it to take off the tricing pendants it was found that there was no power to the winch. The engineers found that several things were without power due to the main breaker malfunctioning, and set to to repair it. Meanwhile we lowered the searider on the stores crane to get people ashore.

Pm. Finished the stores crane checks with Boatswains mate then went to the Heli-deck to help with the last bits of preparation. The engineers had managed to fix the problem with the power, but when we’d lowered the port boat it wouldn’t engage it’s gears, so we lifted it back up and put the starboard one down instead. I was on the davit brake, which controls the lowering of the boat. I found it quite difficult to lower it slowly as you have to lift the brake enough to get going, but once it’s going it goes quite fast, so you have to slow it down by lowering the brake again, this meant the guys in the boat had a bit of a jerky ride unfortunately. Second go I started to get the hang of it, but I still need a lot more practice.

6th Jan

St Peter Port.

Anchor aweigh at 1120, standing by.

The ship was due to meet the helicopter in order to receive back the remaining water bags sent to the lighthouses, but due to the weather we were unable to do so. (Helicopters cannot fly in snow as it restricts the visibility). The crew were on standby for heli-ops and were called up and stood down several times before it was finally decided to call it a day.

9th Jan

Looe – Whitsand Bay – Penzance

Am. The searider was lowered to go ashore for newspapers and I went too, climbing down the buoy jumping ladder to get in, which felt pretty hairy as I had to make a bit of a drop to actually get in the boat. It was nice to get a little leg stretch ashore, and Looe harbour is quite pretty. The icicles on the cliffs we passed on the way in would make me think twice about getting out on the water in a row boat, but the local gig team were out. (All gig rowers I have ever met are mad…) I drove the searider back to the ship, and took it alongside to let one man out before we raised it.  I then attempted to get the boat into position for lifting on the stores crane but struggled with the choppy water and stiff wheel, more practice required!

17th Jan

English and Welsh Grounds

Am. I spent the morning in the engine room as they had opened up the port fuel service tank for survey, it had been ventilating for three days and was ready to be inspected. It was smaller than I had thought it would be, and the hatch access was so tiny they had to do a sort of limbo to get out!

20th Jan

In port, Swansea

Crew change day.

Am. Bomb search drill:  it’s not nearly so exciting as it sounds, the C/O hides a couple of blocks of wood with the word BOMB on them and everyone hunts round a given area, I found one in an electrical locker. I think if it was a real one we would have maybe done a little more than pick it up and take it to the bridge, but I don’t think bomb deactivation is on the OOW syllabus so I’m not going to worry about it! We also did a paint store fire drill, which I ‘discovered’. It was very straightforward: use the talkback system to talk to the bridge and then pretend to put it out with the conveniently placed CO2 extinguisher! It sounds silly really, but if you catch a small fire it’s better to just get on and put it out, rather than waiting for a full fire team to kit up, in which time a small fire might well have got a lot bigger.

Pm. I helped load the new food stores, filling the cage on the quay, and then went and helped on the fore deck stowing the new chains. The chains come in big bundles which have to be untangled (they’re not meant to be tangled but, sh*t happens!). This is done using the crane to lift them up, and then flake them out. The crane driver can’t do it all though and crew are required to heft sections about using long hooks.

23rd Jan

Barry – Swansea Bay

Am. The workboat was put down to inspect a buoy that had been reported as a casualty, which brings wonderful images to my mind of a buoy needing bandages and a drip, but in fact it was just that the light wasn’t working. The crew then lifted and replaced two buoys, I was on deck for this and helped where I could, which admittedly, isn’t much, but I was allowed to drive the capstans a few times, and there’s always the crud that gets washed off the buoy to sweep up!

25th Jan

Milford Haven – Skokholm – The Smalls – Milford Haven

Am. I spent the morning on the bridge helping the 2nd mate and doing a compass error (one small part of the process in celestial navigation), the ship steamed to Skokholm to transfer supplies and personnel to the lighthouse by helicopter and then moved on to The Smalls.

Pm. The heli-ops continued at The Smalls and I had the opportunity to go for a ride in the helicopter over to the lighthouse.This involved putting on a full flight suit, (slightly too big but close enough) and watching the videos, (again) and then, clutching my camera, I was strapped into the back seat, excited as a five year old. It didn’t feel nearly as weird as I thought it would, there was no sudden stomach lurch or anything, just an elegant glide. At the lighthouse I got out to get a couple of shots, it’s a very small platform, and I didn’t feel like taking a stroll to the edge (not that I’d have been allowed to). The lighthouse is literally perched on top of some rocks that the sea constantly washes over, no island or anything, quite how they built it I’d love to know!

At around 1600 the helicopter had just landed on for re-fueling when a warning light came on in the cockpit, there was a problem with the engine and they couldn’t fly any more. The ship returned to Milford Haven and anchored for the night, ready to steam to Swansea at 0630 am. The problem wasn’t as major as it sounds and the pilots reckoned they could have kept flying, and they would have had they not landed, but once on the ground they can’t take off again with a warning light on. Dems de rules.

26th Jan

Milford Haven – Swansea

Am. Did the arrival stability with the Chief Officer. The ship arrived in Swansea at about 1215 and I went forward for mooring stations.

Pm. I watched the helicopter being lifted off by crane.This involved taking off the propellers first and then lifting it onto a flatbed lorry, very, very carefully! I did the departure stability for the Chief Officer and went down to confirm the draughts just before we sailed at 1545, I then went forward for mooring stations.

Anchored overnight in Barafundle Bay (Stackpole Head)

28th Jan

Standing off Bardsea Island and St Tudwells Islands

I spent the day on the heli-deck as an extra member of the fire team, there’s a lot of stand up sit down involved in as the helicopter makes lots of short trips. The team have to be ready with hoses each time it comes in and out, but while it’s off flying and at the lighthouse there’s time to take off the massive Darth Vader helmets and sit down.

31st Jan

Walney Wind Farm – Lancaster Sound

Am. On deck helping with the buoy work, we laid four new Cardinal buoys around Walney Island Wind Farm. The ship then steamed to Lancaster Sound

Pm. This watch do all their maintenance jobs (greasing) as a team so everyone got on with their bit, getting the whole lot done in a day, whereas on the previous watch it had been just me and the Boatswains Mate, which took much longer! I was given the job of exchanging all the fresh water in the lifeboats. Some had developed algae in them so I left them to soak in a with a chlorine tablet in them. At anchor we had a boat muster drill and then a stowaway drill. This was basically a game of hide and seek, something I was very good at as a child! While counting life jackets a few days earlier I had noticed that the small locker on the port aft side was only half full, leaving just enough space for a me sized person. So after the muster drill, I hung about, waiting ’til the coast was clear and then hopped in. It wasn’t as comfortable as I had hoped but I wasn’t expecting to be in there for long…. I waited. People came past. I waited some more. More people past me. By now I was bored and wondering what was for lunch. I heard voices again, and this time the lid was opened. The guy who found me was rather surprised to find me there though, he’d noticed that the catch wasn’t fastened on the locker and had, apparently, been about to just snap it closed without checking inside, assuming of course that the locker was full of life jackets! I was very glad he did check though, although had that happened I would have phoned the bridge (I’d taken my phone, just in case!)

2nd Feb

At Anchor, Llandudno (weatherbound)

Am. Rinsed out and refilled the lifeboat water bottles that had been chlorine soaked. It’s not a dry job, by any means!

Pm. The Chief Officer asked me to write the scenario for the fire drill and then take charge of the incident party under his supervision. The brief was a deep fat fryer fire in the galley..

We began the drill with the Junior Catering Rating raising the alarm using the manual call point in the aft alleyway (using the test key), this set off the Yodalarm. He then closed the shutters to the mess, closed the doors from outside and isolated the electrics using the emergency buttons outside the galley. He then telephoned the bridge to inform them of the situation and the actions he had taken. Meanwhile the fire teams were mustering and the incident party arrived at the scene, we established comms with the bridge via radio and requested the fire fighting team and first aid team to muster in the alleyway.
The no 1 BA team arrived and I briefed them on the situation, suggesting the use of the fire blanket on the fryer and the AFFF extinguisher on any overspill. They went on air and entered the space, the fire was extinguished and they were able to evacuate the casualty, using the EEBA to provide him with immediate oxygen. I informed the bridge when they entered the space and when they came out.
On the stretcher the casualty was given first aid for burns, copious amounts of cold water was put over his burns and they were then wrapped in cling film. The Chief Steward administered  pain relief and asked me to get the bridge to call for a Medivac, ask for radio advice and for permission to administer morphine. I relayed this to the bridge and the medical team prepared to stretcher the casualty to the heli-deck.
 
In the debrief I ran through the scenario and what had happened. Everyone had mustered quickly and correctly and no issues were raised. No boundary cooling had been required because the fire was contained in the fryer and had been extinguished quickly.

8th Feb

St Brides Bay – Swansea

Am. Study while the ship steamed to Swansea.

Pm. Went aft for mooring stations, controlling mooring lines on the towing winch drum and then making them off on the bits once they had been stoppered.

I then went to the foredeck and helped get the new buoy stores on deck. I was also allowed to drive the speed crane (that’s the really big one!) under the Boatswain’s Mate’s supervision. I slung a chain which involves laying it out in fleets on the deck over a loop in the end, the end is then passed over the laid out chain, passed through the loop and pulled tight so the chain can be picked up and moved in one bundle.

Pics from this trip can be seen here .

So, that’s the end of my first sea phase, I’m sorry it’s taken quite so long to get up to date, but, as you may have gathered from earlier entries made over the last 9 months, college has been keeping me busy! Anyway, there’s not much I can blog about while at college, not much happens in Fleetwood and I have no desire to bore you silly with details of lectures, and I can never remember enough of the nights out to make a good story! But it’s over now, and I’m feeling a little bit smug (OK, very smug but I’m trying not to!) ….. I came top of my class, with an overall mark so far of 95%. It’s not over yet though, I have some more of the old WBL to do, and this time it counts for something like 40% of the overall mark, so no pressure then!I am off in the morning, catching the National Express to Gatwick (damn snow’s buggered up the trains) and from there I fly to sunny Bridgetown, Barbados to join the Wind Surf, a cruise ship with sails. (I realise you all hate me now). And, now that I am up to date, I intend to keep up to date, although as we all know, the road to hell is paved with such good intentions… Anyway, if you enjoy this, would you let me know? I sometimes feel a little lonely on here, with post after post bereft of comments… I am also on twitter, @size4riggers should you wish to hear random snippets of ships life and/or my general musings, and I have been proudly cultivating my flickr photos, (I was 2 years behind a few months ago, there has been some serious work going on!). They go back through the whole of my first Caribbean experience on the TS Pelican, and I will be interested to see if some of the places I visited then have changed. It’s all neatly organised, if you have a peek at the collections and sets… The pics from this trip are here.

I’ll stop the shameless self promotion now, and go get another glass of rum. I would have cider, but I’m at my sister’s, and one has to make do!

A daily diary – 1st Trip THV Patricia

Apologies in advance for what is probably a rather more dull blog post than you have become accustomed to from me, but on the other hand, life on ship isn’t always that fun and interesting and there are often long periods when life is fairly dull and monotonous. Plus, there’s really no way of making brass polishing sound interesting!! This blog is my way of catching up quickly on past events, as I only have about a week and a half before I am off to sea again, which I will be telling more about soon! To make it more interesting you might wish to read it while also looking at the photos from this trip, which tell the story just as well really. Click here to go to the photo set!

2nd July 2009

In port, Liverpool

Am. Final polishing of the cannons on the boat deck aft.

Pm. Leave ashore. VC (Visiting Committee) joined the ship in the afternoon and held a big dinner party, which went on a bit later than expected, so it was 2330 before the guests had gone ashore and we let go lines.

Vessel steamed overnight to Workington.

3rd July

Workington – Moelfre, Red Wharfe Bay

Am. On the bridge, I read and signed the Masters standing orders, and got on with finding out the ships particulars and details for record book.

Pm. We were shown around the engine room by the Chief Engineer and gathered more information for our workbooks.

When the ship arrived at the next buoy (a class 1) I went out in the work boat to watch one of the AB’s and the second mate replace a racon beacon.

Anchored overnight.

4th July

Molefre – Pwllheli, Tremadog Bay (North Cardigan Bay)

Am. Polishing brass.

Pm. Study.

Anchored overnight.

5th July

Pwllheli – Bardsey Island – Pwllheli

Am. Study.

Pm. 1200 -1600 watch on bridge

Vessel steamed overnight to Caldey Island.

6th July

Caldey Island – Swansea

Am. 0800- 1200 watch, I spent a good hour and a half holding the ship in position standing off Caldey Island using the bow thruster and props

Pm. Study.

7th July

In port, Swansea.

Day off.

8th July

In port, Swansea.

Am. Polished one of the cannons on the boat deck again, they now need to be shined up before being oiled and wrapped which will, hopefully, prevent them from being in such a state next time they’re brought out.

Fire Drill at 1130, my station is on the bridge.

Pm. We exercised the Starboard lifeboat as part of the vessels planned maintenance routine. Both S and I had a turn at steering her. The lagging on the exhaust had worn through and it started to smoulder as we returned to the ship. The Engineers inspected it immediately and replaced the lagging.

The Chief Mate showed me how to fill out the stability spreadsheet from the daily tank readings and we then checked the resultant trim against the actual draft marks on the ships side.

Vessel steamed to anchorage near SWIGG (South West Inner Green Grounds) lightbuoy, Swansea Bay. Anchored overnight.

9th July

SWIGG  L/b – Caldey Island

Am. On deck observing buoy work.

Pm. On the bridge, 1300 -1700

Anchored overnight.

10th July

At anchor off Caldey Island

Am. Run ashore to Caldey Island.

Pm. Brass cleaning, I got the Elder Brethren’s compass binnacle, bell, vessel’s God Mother’s plaque and clock clean and put away below. Then we were re-shining the taff rail tips before oiling and wrapping them.

Anchored overnight.

11th July

Caldey Island – Lundy Island

Am. 0800- 1200 Watch. The weather is predicted to worsen in the afternoon so after servicing two buoys the ship steamed to Lundy Island for shelter.

Pm. Study.

Anchored overnight.

12th July

Lundy – Minehead

Am. Attended security and health and safety briefings.

Pm. Finished polishing, oiling and wrapping the taff rail tips on the heli-deck.

Anchored overnight.

13th July

Minehead – Coombe Martin Bay

Am. Went out on the motor boat with 2nd mate to check firing range buoys off Minehead and then I was on deck for the last lift and service of the trip.

Pm.1200-1600 watch.

Anchored overnight.

14th July

 Coombe Martin Bay – Swansea

Am. 0800-1200 watch, helmed for an hour, and then helmed under pilotage for an hour as well, bringing the ship up the Swansea channel and into the docks.

Pm. On the bridge for harbour watch. Bunkering commenced at 1456.

15th July

In port, Swansea

Crew change day.

16th July

Swansea – English & Welsh Grounds, Bristol Channel

Am. Went through the steering gear checks on the bridge with the 2nd Officer  and went below to observe the emergency steering gear checks. Went aft for letting go.

Pm. 1200-1600 watch, position plotting and got an hour and 15mins steering. Watched the Breaksea class 1 buoy being replaced.

Anchored overnight.

17th July

E&W Grounds – Barry Roads

Am. Checking all the immersion suits and life jackets on board.

Pm. Started on checking the supplies in the lifeboats.

Anchored overnight.

18th July

Barry Roads – Lundy Island

Am. Watched safety videos on heli-ops then continued checking the contents of the lifeboats. After smoko I was told to get up to the bridge to get some more steering in, and also after lunch.

Pm. Swapped with S and carried on where she’d left off with the life boats. Only thing left to do was change the fresh water in the canteens. The ones for the work boats were fine but the ones in the open lifeboats had gone rather green from sitting in such a warm place under the covers.

Anchored overnight.

19th July

Lundy Island – Milford Haven

Am. Run ashore in the morning to see Lundy.

Pm. Steamed to Milford Haven, I helmed for a couple of hours on the way and then took the helm to take her in.

Anchored overnight.

20th July

Milford Haven – Skokholm – Bishops Rock – St Brides Bay

I helmed us out of Milford Haven. The ship then met a helicopter off Skokholm to supply the lighthouse with water, and then moved on to South Bishop to supply the lighthouse with oil, water and building materials for the roof renovation.

Anchored overnight.

21st July

St Brides Bay – Swansea

Am. Steaming to Swansea, I helmed for an hour, the weather was rough and vis poor.

Pm. Spent the afternoon photographing any parts of the ship I hadn’t already taken pictures of.

22nd July

In port, Swansea.

Signed off.

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
NEW YORK!!!
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!

Off to NYC!!!!!

Aug 14th
Today I sanded a deck chair. It took all day and it’s still not finished. The brass fittings are all covered with verdigris and each screw head has to be sanded back to shiny brightness.
I got to my cabin after work to find the hit squad (yes they’re actually called that) there sanitizing everything, they told me S had been taken ill earlier in the afternoon, which was the first I heard about it. Poor girl had been sick after lunch and got quarantined for 24 hours as a precaution.

August 15th
Stations was after breakfast, which was very civilised for a change. After that I went to the boatswains daily briefing, where he hands out the day’s work to the deck crew, once again I was on the rails, painting this time.
After lunch we had shore leave scheduled, S had only just been let out of the medical centre and therefore had to go to work for the afternoon, so I trundled off into Hamburg on my own. I walked along the riverfront, through seething crowds of tourists all out for Queen Mary 2 Day. Hamburg goes nuts for the QM2, I saw so many postcards and pictures of her for sale and there were countless boats, barges and steamers offering rides up and down the river to see her. I found a bar with it’s own beach to sit in and had a coffee before wandering slowly back. I resisted the german sausages and pickled fish in a bun stalls and got back onboard in time for a lie down before supper and then stations, followed by a fabulous sailaway. Once again the city was out en-mass to see us off, the pontoons and banks of the river all crammed with people taking photos and waving. There were fires one the beaches further along and fireworks going off as we passed, one hotel even had a person in every room window, flapping sheets at us. The party carried on downstairs in the bar when the music on the passenger deck finished, and I was sad to have to go to bed before midnight.

August 16th
Study day, which meant being on the bridge for 0800 in whites to be grilled by N, (Chief Officer) I was doing alright until I made a stupid mistake, saying I’d make one short blast before altering course to port… Doh!
We had safety induction no 3 at 1000, and then had to attend the interdenominational church service at 1100. I had trouble not laughing during the second hymn; an elderly lady had come in late and sat behind us, she managed to get about two beats behind the piano and quavered everything, all at top volume, I couldn’t look at S…
After lunch we went back up to the bridge to get information and signatures for our training books, and Staff came and chatted to us about how to learn the rules, there’s a method, which makes a lot of sense and makes it all seem a little less scary.
After we were done for the day we decided to check out the spa, as officers (albeit trainee ones) we’re allowed to use it between 1800 and 2000 if there’s not too many guests, so we asked very nicely at the reception and were allowed in… to heavan! Started in the whirlpool spa Jacuzzi, then into the bubble pool, which has different areas, including a high pressure jet that looks a bit like a kitchen sink tap- perfect angle for pummelling out those knots in the shoulders and back… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! There’s also a finnish sauna, a steam room, a herbal steam room, reflexology tubs for feet and a monsoon shower… and I get it for free! Will be going there fairly regularly methinks!!

August 17th
We didn’t have to do stations in the morning, or at least it wasn’t on our itinerary so we presumed we didn’t have to go. Back in jolly old Southampton, we had the MCA surveyors coming on for zone surveying- every ship has to be surveyed every year but as this grand lady is so big and only spends one day in port each time, they break it down so each time she comes in they do one zone (there are 9 zones in total). We were doing zone 8 this morning, my job was to follow the inspector and Safety Officer, carrying a smoke detector tester (a long pole with a cup arrangement on the end that encloses the smoke detector and squirts fake smoke at it. A little light then goes on and the bridge calls up saying “We have a smoke detector going off at ….. location” and we reply “ Yes that’s us”) What was much more interesting was watching the inspector and asking him questions about what he was looking for. He was very nice and explained lots to me as we went around.
This afternoon I had a visitor booked in, my boyfriend P, I showed him around the ship, learning a few things about where things were as we went round! His comment on the bridge was “Mmm it’s a bit bigger than ones I’ve been on before!” He was later than expected (due to my shopping requests- how was I to know that white socks would be so hard to find?) but it was wonderful to see him for a couple of hours. After that I went up to the bridge to find out what I was supposed to be doing, they were doing all the pre-departure checks so I stayed up there learning about what goes on and then S and I went down to stations for unmooring. We are now heading for New York, and the best thing is, 4 days with no stations!!

Just cruising…..

11th August
Up at 0630 for stations this morning, but different stations this time, we’d asked if we could observe/help with the gangway side of things, partly for a change and partly to get a better understanding of the whole mooring process. It was rather cool to be standing at the open shell door as the ship came alongside, QM2 has no fenders so relies solely upon the protection shoreside to prevent damage, which in this case was just tyres along the quay, we squashed them to death as we came into position, but they did their job. What was more worrying to SECO (Chief Security Officer) was the barrier arrangements. There is supposed to be 50 meters between the fence and the ship, and the fence is supposed to be difficult to get over at least. What we got was some single wooden rails held up by little wooden cradles, the height of which as about a foot and a half off the ground, oh and they were painted red with retro-reflective yellow strips on, which, of course, makes all the difference…

The gangways were prepared to be lifted out by hand, using a triple purchase block and tackle to lift it, but the port provided a HIAB lorry instead. Once the gangway was down, rails and nets were rigged and the security team already had their ID and luggage checking equipment in place so the passengers were free to go and explore Bergen. As anyone leaves or joins the ship their ID card barcode is scanned, visitors are issued a temporary card and have their photo taken with a webcam. Luggage checks only happen when people return or join the ship, security have a scanner like at airports for bags and a walk through archway too.

After breakfast we went up to deck 5 f’wd to find out what our jobs for the day were, we met the boatswain on the way and he took us up to deck 7 where the deck gang had already begun chipping and sanding the next section of railings. I got going with that and S continued with the boatswain to find out what she was doing for the morning. The guys I was working with finished at 1100, so they could have their lunch before starting a bridge watch at 1200 and I carried on. I was quite happy there but soon the boatswain came and told me to stop and take my tools back down below, I was a little confused as to why, but as a gadget I don’t ask, (plus I find it very difficult to understand the boatswain sometimes!). I waited down there for a bit, thinking he’d be down to give me another job, but when I figured he wasn’t going to I asked the store keeper where S was working and took myself off to help her sand porthole covers in the crew mess until lunch.
After lunch we had a free afternoon, and took great pleasure in climbing on the shuttle bus into Bergen. On our arrival in town we managed to go the wrong way, but after a short while came to a place I recognised from being here a year ago with the Tall Ships, so I was able to navigate us to the fish market without any problem after that. I love the fish market, the smell of the sea and beautifully fresh fish, mixed with all the smoked fish smells makes your mouth water as you look at the huge slabs of salmon, the mountains of prawns and the piles of bright red foot long spider crab legs. There was a live shellfish tank too, in which were lobsters, crabs and the most enormous langoustine I have ever seen, they were the size of lobsters and had to be seen to be believed. After that we wandered down the Bryggen, the oldest part of the city along the harbour front. It’s a charming row of wooden built painted houses and is flanked each end with some rather more ornate stone buildings, most of the houses now are shops and bars, which made us consider the possibility of coffee. We found a place at the top of the street with a wide courtyard to sit out in, S and I share a fondness of sitting with coffee and watching the world go by, which is rather handy! Inside there were all sorts of alcoves and niches, and the walls and shelves were filled with oddments and eccentric antiquities, it reminded me very much of the Black Boy back in Winchester, until I got to the loos, where I discovered, with the assistance of a nice lady, that you had to have a code to get into the cubicle, which was odd.

Refreshed, we wandered up the street to the funicular railway, we had to scrape together our last kroner, but as it was our last shore leave in Norway it made sense to spend it. It was well worth it too, at the top we discovered a view that took in the whole city, and the hill and mountains beyond. The QM2 dominated the scene, even from such a distance amongst everything else. All the other ships around looked tiny compared to her, even the cruise ships, and I finally got an idea of just how big she is. There’s only one quay in the port big enough to fit her, the cruise liner terminals are far too small!

When we got back to ship, we got some extra work trousers as two pairs just isn’t enough, especially when you need one pair to stay smart enough to be allowed in the mess in (we change in and out of uniforms several times a day, especially when doing messy jobs!) and then headed to stations to watch the reverse of the morning’s procedure. We stayed with SECO after that for a briefing on a security operation and the subsequent execution of 6 simultaneous cabin searches – there’s been some thefts and the aim was to firstly try and find the stolen items and second to give a very clear message to all crew that the security team are out to get the perpetrators.
In the bar, after dinner S and I got given the fullest glass of wine in the world, which made us laugh so much we couldn’t drink it.

12th Aug
We were up at 0615 to get breakfast before being on station for tendering at 0700. The tenders had already been lowered to the embarkation point on deck 7 and I climbed aboard where I was greeted by SECO asking me where my camera was, as he was hoping I’d take lots of photos for him for his security dossier. At every port they go to, the SECO for a ship will take photos and write notes on it for subsequent visits so that any problems can be planned for in advance. As mine is quite bulky I didn’t have it with me so he gave me his to take photos with for him instead. The boat was lowered to the water where the pontoons were just being opened out and I helped rig the hand rails before hopping back on the tender and heading ashore with SECO, the boat’s first job is to get the shore team away so that security can set up and the sailors can set the mooring ropes up to the right lengths. Once that was done I returned in the boat to pick up the first load of passengers, getting Sarah, who was on the pontoon, to grab me my jacket (as I was freezing) and my camera (as SECO’s had run out of battery) while we loaded the passengers.

400 passengers went ashore at Hellesylt, I continued to crew in the boat, helping with mooring lines and asking passengers to please sit down for their own safety. When disembarking the passengers at the shore SECO would come into the boat and tell them firmly to remain seated while he disembarked them in an orderly fashion, to prevent a stampede and people getting hurt. Once the tendering was done the boats were lifted to the rail and the ship sailed slowly to Geiranger, accompanied by some classical music on deck. We had about an hour’s break while we sailed and then the ship anchored, sending stern lines to a small island near the shore to keep her in position.it was time to go and stand on a pontoon and say to every passenger “Good morning, watch your step and mind your head.” I also helped with mooring lines, throwing the light rope that controls the painter and passing the stern rope. After a brief lunch I returned for half an hour when one of the 3rd officers asked if I’d had a break, I told him I’d half an hour and he told me to go and have a cup of tea and a sit down as there were plenty of hands around.

I got back to find A had taken over. As he couldn’t leave the station, he asked me to pop up to the bridge to get a new battery for his radio. While I was up there I saw Staff, who was watching the whole operation from the bridge wing, and asked him if it would be alright to go on a boat that was going to the bunkering point. He said that it was fine so I hopped on the next boat that was heading there. I found S onboard already, she’d hopped off her pontoon to have a go crewing for a bit. After bunkering the boat was ordered to go to shore so I asked if I could hop off there and see the shore side of the operation. I started by just standing by the security officer who was checking passes at the gate, each guest has an identity card which shows the dates between which they are on board, so at the gate you have to check that each one has a disembarkation date after the day’s date today. When they get onto the ship they also have to show their card, where it gets barcode scanned. As the afternoon drew to a close it started to get busier so SECO gave me a clicker counter and I was stood by the entrance to the pontoon counting passengers on to the tender, they are built to take 120 people but as that would be very tightly packed and would take quite a long time to embark and disembark them all we were instructed to only put 60 on each. When everyone was back on board I watched the boats being lifted and went onto platform to see how they’re secured with skates and gripes.

We somehow managed to muster enough energy to go and have dinner and then chilled before popping to the bar for a quiet drink in our own clothes at 2100, where there was a quiz being held by the medical team, which meant it wasn’t nearly so quiet as I’d hoped!

August 13th
Another 0630 start for stations coming into Alesund, I went aft, helping flake out the lines and then watching closely how they rig the heaving lines, it’s quite complicated as lines have to be passed around parts of the ship on the outside, all done with accurate throwing of monkeys fists and long poles with hooks.
After an 0830 breakfast we visited the boatswain to see what we had in store, he took us to the laundry where he got the linen keeper to issue us with coats, I’d been wearing my Trinity House coat yesterday as after three days of asking we’d still not been given a Cunard one, the linen keeper is extremely protective of his stock! By then there wasn’t much point in starting any work as we had a fire drill at 1000 so the boatswain told us to wait for that. I caught up with the Chief Officer in the alleyway and asked what we should do for the drill, he told us we’d be with the fire team and to find the Safety Officer for more instructions. We paged the SO, who told us to meet the BA team at the deck fire locker when the alarms sounded.

The BA team comprised of 6 people, in two teams, they all kitted out in fire suits with BA helmets that have comms radios built in. From deck 11 we went down to deck B (two below deck 1). The scenario was that the settling tanks on the double bottom deck had caught fire, so the team we were following were doing boundary cooling on the other side of the bulkhead of that section. The engine room fire locker was too close to the fire and so couldn’t be reached. One team went down with the hose first and when they were running low on air the second team followed the hose down to relieve them. The “fire “ was put out with the high fog system but the drill continued as a full crew muster to lifeboat stations and exercising the starboard lifeboats. We followed the Chief Officer as he strode up and down the ship making checks for the first part of the drill and then he sent us to watch the liferaft inflation demonstration. After that we were involved in lifting the lifeboats and securing bits of equipment. As we were starting to help the boatswains mate secure the FRC there was a call for all officers, and the cadets, to go to the bridge for a debrief. When that was done there was one other matter to deal with- W’s birthday! An extremely decadent cake, covered in strawberries and cream, was brought out, along with smoked salmon sandwiches and we all tucked in.

After all that the afternoon was a bit of a let down, we were back to chipping rails on deck 7! We finished at 4 as the deckie we were working with had a watch at midnight (and so needed some rest) and the boatswain had no other work for us so we had a much needed little snooze before went down for mooring stations at 1730. We were due to sail at 1800, but there was some kind of problem with the steering, so we waited, and waited… eventually we got off at about 1900 and cleared down the deck. I got back to my cabin ready to just chill out and then get some dinner, until W knocked on the door and asked if we were ready to go to the cocktail party. Technically I don’t have to go to these things, but it’s recommended….
Anyone who says women can’t get ready in less than 2 hours is wrong, we showered, dressed, dried hair, did make-up and were out of the door in 20 minutes! I was very proud of myself this time, randomly starting up conversations with people I passed, and managing to keep my footing as we started to feel the ship move for the first time. Never felt the ship move before so it was quite a novelty to experience it for the first time in high heels!

I’m now sitting in the wardroom in my own clothes, having spilled gravy down my mess shirt at a late dinner, am not sure if I’m knackered or not anymore, I think yesterday may have been the worst and now I’m getting used to it all a bit more, still I’m looking forward to my bunk in a minute!