Karma

Well I failed abysmally at keeping up to date on this blog didn’t I?! Well there’s a good reason for that; I was utterly miserable, and no one wants to hear someone droning on about how shit their life is. Even though I got to go and see all these beautiful Caribbean islands that I took lots of photos of, I was miserable.

Now before I continue, I want to make it very clear that my take on this has changed, but, if you had asked me two months ago whether I would go back to that ship, I would have told you emphatically NO, I hated it. I continued to write a daily log up to the 26th of Feb, but for the most part it had ceased to be about what I had done, and had instead turned into a diatribe of anger and resentment against certain people on board, which would have been deeply unprofessional to post up, despite being deeply cathartic. Since those dark days though, things improved greatly, people joined and people left and by the end of my trip I was being given responsibilities that, while technically shouldn’t have been mine, made me confident that I had proved myself to be a competent and useful person to have on board and would be welcomed back, whereas the people who had managed to make my life such a misery had been deemed lazy and useless, with less than a snowballs chance in hell of ever getting back. Karma, you gotta love it.

My problem boiled down to this: I am not a girly girl, I tend to be sarcastic and blunt, I swear more than my mother would like and I like a good dirty joke, I work hard and expect others around me to do the same, and while I am always willing to help a shipmate out, I will not do someone else’s work for them. I like a few drinks, (generally this was curbed to Friday nights, with the glory of a study day on the Saturday). In other words, I am a sailor through and through. My fellow cadet was pretty much the opposite, she detested sarcasm, didn’t drink much (unless she got so drunk she had to be escorted to a bunk with someone to watch over her in case she was sick), was lazy, and flirted with all the men she could find. They, of course, loved her. She was cute, gazed up at them with big eyes and played the helpless maiden to their worldly wise manliness. We tried to get on, but eventually it became difficult to disguise the mutual contempt in which we held each other. She however had gotten herself a boyfriend on the bridge, so guess who got portrayed as the big mean bossy cow, and who was the poor little flower who could do no wrong. I could go on and list specifics but that would be unfair, we had different priorities and attitudes and it was not un-noticed.

What I have leant on this trip is that while popularity makes you happy in the short term, working hard, keeping your head down and smiling even when you want to cry will bring you much greater rewards in the end. I would love to return the ship, as a cadet and then as an officer, and will drink a toast to those who made me miserable, as without them, I couldn’t have done it!

"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.

From Snow to Surf

It feels weird to think that 5 days ago I was in the snow and wearing as many layers as possible. Now I’m wearing as few as possible! I know everyone in England reading this will think I’m being a cow and rubbing it in, but it’s quite a major theme I’m afraid! I have heat rash, as per usual, which is a pain, but I’m being good and trying not to scratch it. My face is bright red, not from sunburn, but because I’m a true brit and am also sweating like a pig, it’s running off me in rivers during the day at the moment, but I’m hoping that I will soon acclimatise and start to look a bit more human!

So, what’s been happening? A hell of a lot actually! The last few days have been surprisingly action packed, but I’ll start at the beginning….

I met S in the airport, who I sailed with on my first trip on the Patricia, and we got through all the usual airport gubbins without any fuss, although we were fairly late in checking in so didn’t get seats next to each other. Then in the baggage drop off que I saw a face I sort of recognised and he asked if we were joining the Wind Surf, it turned out he was a guy from college who had qualified in August and was joining the ship for his first contract as 3/O. On the plane I found my seat and once sitting down, the guy on my left asked if I was joining the Wind Surf. Out of all the people I could have ended up next to I was next to an ETO cadet who was also joining the ship! The flight was long and uneventful, although we were about an hour late for take off, not because of the weather I think, but because of luggage loading issues. It was very warm as I stepped off the plane, but it was cloudy so I didn’t get that smack in the face feeling of a really hot day! We were all being put up in the same hotel in Barbados for a night, so once we had dumped our bags in our rooms and freshened up we all went out for some food and a drink. It wasn’t a late one by any means though, we were all shattered, the taxis were coming to get us at 0800 the next morning and although the clocks said 2130, our bodies said 0130!

Arriving at the ship, I lugged my cases along the quay wondering why they felt so much heavier when I actually had to carry them somewhere. I thought I’d packed fairly light, albeit in two bags! On the ship we signed on the articles, handed in certificates, saw the doctor (who stuck two needles in me, one for flu, and one to see if I have TB) and then went up to the bridge to meet the Captain and officers. Nothing very exciting happened that day, it was all the usual inductions and getting uniform and wandering about the place trying to work out where we were. There is another cadet on board, A, he’s an engineering cadet so we won’t see him that much during the day. He showed me where the crew bar was that evening, and it was quite late when I hit my bunk. Speaking of my cabin, I’d better tell you a little about it, as I will probably be mentioning certain aspects of it quite often. Sizewise, it’s fine, with two wardrobes and plenty of storage space although the bathroom is a little small,(While the shower is a good size, I run serious risk of bashing my nose on the door every time I go to the loo!) I have a fore and aft bunk which has 4 tiny little steps up to it and I have a porthole too, which is wonderful. There’s only one problem really: we are right down in the bottom of the ship, right next to the steering gear and next to the propellers too. It’s not a quiet cabin!!

The ship sailed to Bequia overnight and I was up on the bridge in time for anchoring, we then tagged along to a safety meeting with the C/O and then went in search of formal uniform for the Introductions cocktail party. To be fair, the C/O actually described it to us as ritual humiliation. He and all the other senior staff and officers have to line up and get introduced by the Captain. But it’s only once a week, and there’s free drinks, so it can’t be all that bad. Life got even better after that too, as the C/O told us to go and have a swim in the afternoon. The ship has a platform aft that lowers down whenever the ship is at anchor, from there you can swim, sunbathe on the rafts, go waterskiing, kayaking or windsurfing. I couldn’t believe my luck, second day at work and I get this!

The only negative so far is that the storekeeper doesn’t have any ladies formal uniform so S and I have the mens uniform instead. I feel a bit of an idiot in it, but having it does mean we can go upstairs in the evenings. Having sailed on the QM I figured that the drinks would be limited to the cheaper stuff for us, and that we would have to be accompanied by a senior officer if drinking in the public bars at any other time. This is not so… At the cocktail party I’m allowed any drink I like for free, and as long as I’m in uniform I can go to the public bars at any time, where, as a cadet, I get $15 a week for free (higher ranks get more), and then all other drinks are 50% off!!  This ship is extremely good to it’s crew, and I am already of the opinion that I had better work damn hard and make a good impression, because I want a job here when I’m qualified!

The ship was already alongside the quay at Greneda when we got to the bridge at 0800, and the last lines were being made fast. The berth isn’t sheltered by a harbour and although there was only a small swell the wind was pushing the ship off the berth and she was surging quite a lot. As they have to use the anchor windlass for all mooring lines it is difficult to make them all even so some lines were taking more strain than others. While the sailors were still on the deck one of the lines parted, and actually hit the 2/O, grazing his elbow and scraping his arm as well as hitting him in the chest. He was incredibly lucky though, and aside from the graze he was unharmed. The C/O sent him to the doctor anyway and meanwhile photos were taken of the rope and the area for the report.

After another set of inductions we got our boiler suits on and started on a task the C/O has set us, as we walked down the bridge deck 2/O Navs called us back and gave us a master key, asking us to go down to the pool machinery room right aft on deck three as a flood alarm had gone off in there. Alarms often fault, and while you always go and check it out, you never actually expect to find something, however…. We got down there at the same time as A (Engine cadet) and opened the door to find that there was indeed a flood, with water spraying out of some part of the equipment. We called the Bridge immediately and told them that the flood was very real. A tried to find the valve to shut off the water but is unfamiliar with that machinery and couldn’t find the right bit. We went down to deck two and found that water was coming through the deckhead, as we were next to the marina (which was closed) we grabbed the dirty towel bins and used them to catch the majority of the water coming through, as well as getting towels and laying them over the wet carpet to minimise the damage as much as possible. The 2/E arrived soon after and was able to shut off the water. There wasn’t anything else we could do so we went back to the bridge to give them an update on the situation and then went back to the original task we had started on.

The ship has a loadline survey coming up so we’ve been asked to check that all vents are correctly labelled. This isn’t quite as easy as it sounds as the plans we are working from are from when the ship was built in France, and none of us can speak French to a level where technical terms can be translated. Online translators it turns out, are almost as useless!

While S was using the computer to try and translate, I heard a bang from outside. I went out and looked down from the bridge wing, and saw a line had parted. I told the bridge immediately and then went down with 2/O LSA and the new 3/O to the mooring deck. The line that had parted had been stopped off on the windlass so we removed the broken rope first and then looked for a spare line, the only one left was the extra large one (known as the Anaconda) so, with the sailors who had by then arrived, we pulled it out and led it to the windlass, it weighs a ton and took all of us. The 2/O threw a heaving line to shore, and we fed the huge rope down to the sailors on the quay. Once it was over the bollard he tried to start the windlass to heave it in, but nothing happened. Because the line was on the windlass when it snapped, it must have tripped something. He called an electrician, who was unable to fix the problem immediately, so we heaved in the slack by hand, not an easy task! We weren’t able to get it very tight at all, so once it was made off, the line on the other side of the windlass (which still worked) was stoppered off and put on the bits and we then put the large line on the windlass to heave it in. I hope we don’t get many days with problems like that, but on the other hand, it’s good to be around when the bad stuff happens as one day I may well have to deal with stuff like that on my own.

Today was much quieter, we spent the morning stencilling labels, and were going to go see an engineer this afternoon to see if he could help us identify the ones we couldn’t translate. But the C/O decided instead that we would be much more useful on the sports platform. I kid you not, our job this afternoon was to go and drive a boat around. It’s had a new engine put in and apparently needs to be driven for 50 hours before it can be used. I went down a little early so I could have a swim first, (well, who wouldn’t?) We got some practice berthing it and generally pootled about in it until the platform started getting busier and the sports guys were needed.

I can’t believe my luck really, this ship is brilliant. I may feel a bit less enthusiastic after 4 months, but I think this is going to be the best trip so far out of my cadetship. It’s bigger than the Pat and smaller than the QM2, so there’s lots of people to hang out with, but not so many that you stand no chance of getting to know everyone. She has sails, and they use them! Last night was wonderful as the engines were turned off and we sailed to Mayrau, meaning I got a lovely quiet night’s sleep 🙂