Well here I am at home again, and finally I have some time to catch up with this! My lack of posts for the last couple of months has not been due to a lack of anything to say, nor because I felt discouraged by strangers reading my tuppence worth, no, it has simply been due to my lack of time! I kept writing a daily log, but it rather degenerated into a daily list of jobs done, or a detailed description of how one should dismantle, clean and put back together a fire extinguisher, or some other deeply dull job, which is, I felt, not very exciting reading, unless one is the MCA examiner…. and even then..?!
So, allow me to catch you up on the more interesting aspects of life on ship. As I mentioned in my last post, my second month was spent with the deck POs (petty officers). There are 4 of them and, under the Safety Officer, they are responsible for maintaining all the safety equipment on board, which for the most part consists of the fire fighting equipment, tenders and lifeboats. There are, unsurprisingly, a lot of these on the ship and the monthly, quarterly and annual inspections are done on a continuous rotation.
We did get to do other things over the month though, on the 4th, in New York, we did our first void space entry. A void space is, as you might imagine, an empty space, most of them are located in the bowels of the ship and are fairly inaccessible. Getting into one involves quite a lot of preparation, not least the paperwork, but also a lot of kit that has to be lugged to the tank entrance to be there should anything go wrong. This one was particularly fun because it was right underneath the engine room, and within this space, lube oil tanks were suspended. Lube oil has to be heated before it’s allowed near an engine, so not only was being in the tank incredibly noisy, it was like a sauna, only not nearly so nice! After the nice chap from Lloyds had been in to survey the space, the Chief Officer had us gadgets get in there to mop out the inch or so of water that was sitting in the bottom, an inch really doesn’t sound like much, until you work out the area over which it was sitting!
We also started getting much more involved in the drills, that week all three of us made up a cadet fire team for the IPM drill (In Port Manning). The “fire” was in the paint store, right f’wd on deck 5. We had to pretend that the paint store was filled with smoke, and did a right hand search (keeping your right hand on the bulkhead at all time so you don’t get lost). I was no 3, pulling the hose through, which wasn’t to difficult, but bear in mind that the hose was not charged, if it had been things would have been a teensy bit more difficult. We put out the “fire” and recovered 2 casualties, getting the secondary team to come in and take them off our hands each time so we could continue searching. As we started to make our way back to the exit, having searched the whole space, the Chief Officer, who’d been watching and asking questions the whole time started putting obstructions in our way and throwing boiler suits at us, and he’s a good aim! While I held the hose my two team mates tried to clear the way, meanwhile he kept lobbing boiler suits at my head and then told me I had been knocked unconscious by debris falling from the deckhead. He then did the same to S, leaving A who was number 1, calling for help on the radio and feeling a little, er, flustered! It was a very good lesson for us, the BA cylinders only have a very limited amount of air, and when working hard (i.e. when it’s hot and you’re pulling a charged hose and lugging real people around) we’d have used up much more air than we did and could well have run out by then. I did have to giggle though when the second team came in to rescue us and saw us two lying on the floor, their whole body language said “Oh B…….!” Luckily for them, and us, they didn’t have to carry us in our BA suits, we were miraculously classed as walking wounded and helped up.
The next outing for the cadet fire team wasn’t quite so exciting sadly, we got all kitted up in the gear and went to join the Search and Rescue team, whereupon we all stood around and waited, and, er, waited. The deck fire team did such a good job that we weren’t required, but we filled the time up by going over stairway procedures with the third officer, so it wasn’t a total waste of time.
With all this work going on, you might start to think I didn’t get to have much fun on the ship, now let me put your mind at rest. On the 11th, to celebrate several of the deck crew leaving us, including Staff Captain C and SECO, we had a little deck party on sailor square. Just a few huge trays of food, a couple of bins full of ice and beer and much exceedingly silly dancing by senior officers and crew alike. We spent the whole afternoon decorating the place with flags of all nationalities and streamers and tinsel, and of course there was the karaoke machine to get things started. If you have never sailed with a Filipino deck crew you probably won’t understand the significance of karaoke to them, so let me put it like this…. it’s like a national religion. They adore it, whether they can sing like an angel or wail like a banshee, they all have a go, and then insist that you do too. Now let me explain something else; I. Don’t. Do. Karaoke. Never have, never will….. yet, somehow, I suddenly found myself with a microphone in my hand singing “How deep is your love?” by the Beegees at the top of my voice. Luckily for all concerned, Jerry started DJing and the lads started dancing. Alright, the lads and I started dancing, and then I made Staff get up to strut his funky stuff too and the party was well and truly kicked off. I’d love to share the pictures with you, but I would like to keep my job too. Suffice to say that, mops were used as wigs, there was a Marylin Monroe dress in use and Staff dances like an aerobics instructor on speed… and he only had a couple of beers!
Finally that week, I got lumbered with the one thing I’d been dreading above all others. Reading in church on Sunday. Now I’m a fairly confident person, heaven knows I’ve done enough school plays, am-dram, not to mention my more recent exploits as a living statue and other things, but still, when I have to get up in front of people and just speak I turn to jelly. Standing on that stage is utterly terrifying, and I don’t know why. But, despite my hands starting to shake like I was mixing a cocktail and my voice starting to go the same way, I made it through, and I made it back down the steps off the stage with out going arse over tit too! Problem was, I did it too well and realised I’d set myself up to be asked again!
So, that takes me up to the 13th September, the day after that we were in Southampton where my parents came and visited for the afternoon and then we were off on the Mediterranean Cruise, which I shall tell you all about another day. (This is mainly to keep my mother in suspense as she is dying to hear all about Rome and Florence and Pisa)
For now, I shall just say, how lovely it is to be home 🙂