Early September, the highlights……

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 🙂

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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.