Thursday, 15 April 2010

A Mediterranean Odyssey Part 2

It sounded wonderful- two days off.... Unfortunately, they weren't lazy days spent chilling out in the sun and sightseeing lovely places at my own pace, no, they were spent herding passengers (around some of the most beautiful cities in Italy admitedly) which was not, I assure you, restful!

Florence and Pisa were as stunning as you would expect, incredibly detailed decoration on some of the bulidings, and doors which were works of art on their own. Thankfully it wsn't as hot as the day before had been, although I would have liked some sunshine for photos. The day did brighten up in the afternoon at Pisa and I happily wandered about on my own for an hour or so. The leaning tower is in a large courtyard with a couple of other, equally impressive, buildings so the tour group had been unleashed and allowed to roam free :)

Back on board that night I was on the bridge again for more steering training. My family are still gobsmacked that I was actually given the helm, which I find mildly insulting, seeing as I've steered a Tall Ship often enough and got my steering certificate on the Patricia on my first trip. To be fair, QM2 is a wee bit bigger, and we did start off with a quartermaster standing beside us to instruct and take over if necessary, but the wheel itself is the size of a go-cart steering wheel, and the ship is delightfully responsive (hurray for azi-pods!). We were treated to another lightning show that night, this time with intermittent rain showers, much to the entertainment staff's pleasure as it meant they didn't have to do the stargazing evening! If we'd not had such a tight schedule we could have steered around the rain, but as it was we had to go at pretty much full pelt to make it on time.

The next day we were at Monte Carlo, which as the harbour is way too small to berth in, was a tender port. We were going to go to anchor but when I got to anchor stations, the duty 3/0 arrived and informed me we weren’t anchoring after all, but just hovering on the thrusters and pods as there were too many yachts around, so I went for breakfast instead. I spent the morning on the pontoons, giving the passengers the old "Good morning! Watch your step and mind your head!" in the same singsong way that the Filipinos do, it just comes naturally after a few minutes! After lunch I was back on the pontons for a bit and then was allowed to go with a tender & start learning to drive it on runs with no passengers. So I got to see a glimpse of Monte Carlo, it all looked terribly posh and expensive, the boats in the marina were fantasticly expensive looking and there was a mister by the quay for people to cool off in. What I really liked were some of the bigger boats that were anchored out off shore, some really sexy looking old 1930s style things, with funnels and lots of shiny! And there was some kind of tall ship too, which always sets me off drooling! The tender I was on was the last one to be lifted home, so while waiting to be called in we took a little detour to take some pictures of the ship, the light was just perfect and I got myself a stunner :)

When we arrived in Barcelonca, our last stop of the Med tour, I got to operate the mooring line winches, not a major thing really, but enough to give me a small frisson of excitement and feel pleased that they didn't think I was a complete muppet who shouldn't be allowed to do anything that might go wrong.
The rest of the day was taken up with tender repairs, the poor little things always seem to take quite a bashing from the pontoons, the slightest swell creates a lot of bobbing!! Because we had to work on the outer side of one of them we had to lower it, drive it round and come in to pick it up the wrong way round, and the same in reverse when the repairs had been done. This gave us a chance to do some more driving practice, which, frankly, I could still do with a lot more of!

The next few days at sea on-route back to the UK were spent emptying small gear and provisions out of a couple of the tenders, which were due to go ashore in Southamton for maintenance. It's not such an easy job as it sounds as things like the drinking water are stored in lockers under the floor, so you have to lie flat out on the floor between two benches to reach in and grab the bags of sachets out. We actually removed a bench to make getting at them easier, but it made me wonder how on earth you'd get at them when the tender was full of 150 people. I also got to indulge my artistic side when re-painting the 'fire' that's used for the basic fire fighting demonstrations, test about a million fire screen doors before they got tested by the MCA in Southampton and lay out yet more lifeboat gear for the MCA inspectors to inspect.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but the ship gets an MCA inspection almost every time she goes into Southampton because she's so big and has such a tight turnaround schedule. Instead of inspecting the whole ship in one go anually, the MCA come aboard and inspect a zone each time. When all the zones have been done they then come and stay on the ship for a few days to watch drills and things and then, and only then, does the ship get issued with their certificate. Of course, a month or two later the whole process has to start all over again!

No comments:

Post a Comment