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I’m sorry, this is another update that is mostly out of date, but it’s the last one, I promise, and there is some new news too….We were due to be going back to college in January of this year, but as our group is so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

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
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


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!