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!!


First few days on the QM2

Installment one, I didn’t mean to write quite so much, but there’s been a lot to take in!

5th August
Getting up at 0545 is never fun, and while I’m sure I’m supposed to say I was excited, I wasn’t. Nervous maybe, but mostly just tired and feeling a little fraught. Thankfully the drive down was uneventful and after a (potentially last) smoke outside I presented myself at the crew pass office at 0845am. I got my knife and spike taken away at the x-ray machine; they saw the spike on the scanner and asked what the heck it was, when I explained it was a marlin spike for opening shackles they looked at me blankly and when they found I had a knife too, well, being a sailor counts for nothing! At this moment I met one of the 3rd officers, W, who was checking in too, he told me not to worry and I’d get it back as soon as the security officer had picked it up.
On the ship we were shown to a holding room where we handed in certificates, passports and discharge books and waited to be shown where to go next. The captain’s secretary showed me where my cabin was and then took me up to the bridge where I met the captain and staff captain and was given my name badge. I was then taken back down below by a cadet, A, who’s been on the ship for a while He took me and my cabin mate, S, who’s also a phase 2 cadet, to the laundry to get uniform. I’ll have to visit them again to get more, mainly whites and formal mess uniform, but have managed to get enough to get by at the moment, borrowing some bits from S meanwhile. We had some lunch in the officer’s mess and then A showed us around the boat deck (deck 7).
We then attended a safety briefing for new joiners, a video on how to put on a life jacket, what the emergency signals are etc, we were also shown the fire screen doors and water tight doors. Also issued with “Blue cards” which tell you what your responsibilities, muster stations and life boats/rafts are in an emergency. The Safety officer showed us our muster points and then we had a little free time to get safety shoes from the laundry and hastily hem our work trousers before meeting on the bridge at 1600 for a brief chat with the chief officer and then heading down to mooring stations to observe. I went aft, the mooring deck is quite far down, and it was rather odd to me to have a deck head over us. There’s 5 huge winches aft and the AB’s made it all look very slick, Time then for a quick throw about with the basketball down there before I was shown deck 13 by W, A and one of the 2nd officers. Deck 13 is the crew area on deck, looking down aft on the stern and all the passengers, lovely view as we went down the Solent. Dinner (in whites) after that, followed by a couple of beers in the Wardroom.

6th August
Met the Chief Officer on the bridge first thing, he threw some questions at us to find out, we’ve been given a few days to find these things out, and managed most of it that day.
After that we had a talk from both the Staff Chief and the C/O about the rules and standards on Cunard ships, as the QM2 is the flagship of the fleet it’s especially important not to say anything or behave in a way that would reflect badly on the company.
We then went down to the Safety Officers office to be briefed on our first task- each accommodation section of the ship has in it’s fire locker a number of “CLEAR” door handle hangers which are used in the event of an emergency. When a muster is called, rather than ticking everyone off on a list, designated crewmembers check each section and once they have made sure each room is empty they put a hanger on the door. Therefore each fire locker is supposed to have the correct number of door hangers for each section, and we were counting them and amending numbers as necessary. Boring, but a good way of starting to find our way around the ship.
After lunch we started a task can only be described as “Let’s chuck this at them and see how they react”- cleaning all the glow in the dark strips along the bottom of the walls in the crew areas. The almost everyone who came past and laughed their heads off, one person even asked if they’d really given us that job… No, we just decided it would be fun. Really.

7th August
Woken at 0430 by a call from the bridge for mooring stations (and oh that feels like such a long time ago) I went forward this time, and helped flake out the lines from the 4 winches. I then stood on the officers platform admiring the view as we came into Hamburg. The sun was still below the horizon, and the cranes and spires of Hamburg were silhouetted against a glow of beautiful dusky pink, all framed on one side by the elegant flare of the bow as it rose high above me. One of those beautiful moments when you are reminded of exactly why you went to sea.
After breakfast we reported to the boatswain, S got chipping and painting duty on the port side rails and I started off deck scrubbing on deck 6 aft and then moved on to scupper wiping… mmm fun! After smoko I went with one of the deck crew to hoover up some water that wasn’t draining through the scupper on one of the outside stairways aft. Sounds so simple, but so much time seems to be taken up by the act of getting the equipment to the place you’re working, as the boatswain’s store is right f’wd on deck 5, it was a bit of a trek to get the hoover there and back!
After lunch I was with the deck crew on deck 7 starboard side, sanding and painting the bulkheads white. They were white already, but now the f’wd section is even whiter! Painting the ship is a non-stop job, and while it looks immaculate, it wouldn’t stay like that for long if the chipping, sanding and painting stopped.
We stopped at 1615 to be ready for mooring stations, I went f’wd again, this time with my camera. Once we’d let go I stood on the officers platform again to watch the spectacle of us leaving. There were a lot of small boats full of passengers who accompanied us down the river which means a careful watch needs to be kept in case any of them decide to cross in front where the bridge can’t see. As well as that there were crowds of people lining the riverbank, waving, whistling and taking pictures. After we were stood down I went up to deck 13 to see the view from the other end, which was just as impressive. It takes several hours to navigate the river, so after dinner S and I joined A and W for a couple for a couple of drinks up there to admire the German countryside and relax. As the sun set the sky turned an amazing hue of delicate sea green, dark clouds were heading towards us and the sky became a sinister mass of witches potion fumes, with the orange funnel, lit from below in a yellow hue which also illuminated the smoke rising from it in front, I was once again reminded of why I’m here, sore feet and all.

8th August
Another day of painting bulkheads for me, S got to sand a deck chair and fit a balcony rail so I’m slightly jealous at the moment! Although I did luck out as we were painting on the Queens Grill aft deck and while it was grey and not very warm, by late afternoon there were a few guests out, giving us slightly dirty looks for making the place look untidy and smell of paint, so we scuttled off. I asked the boatswain what he wanted me to do next and he said “Go and have a little rest?” I nearly hugged the man! This evening we attended a cocktail party, I managed to get the appropriate uniform this afternoon at smoko so we tottered up and tried to look interesting. We eventually managed to get talking to a guest, which is what one is supposed to do, and the Staff Captain saw us looking smart, which gets us brownie points when it comes to reports later! I realise there will be a general baying and demanding of pictures of me in my various uniforms, and I will try to oblige at some point, but right now I need to go to the wardroom, (in my own clothes for the first time!) and have a nice cold pint!