Wednesday, 8 December 2010

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 :)


  1. Hi, Gadget. Thanks for this fun post. I've just told the folks on Cunard Critic about it. Stock up on sun screen now.

  2. P.S.
    I just did a for QM2 and the second hit was:

    From Snow to Surf
    54 minutes ago by size4riggerboots
    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 ...
    Salt and cider - life of a gadget. -

  3. That's an eventful few days, I'm just getting over the fact that I survived my PST! I'll wave at you from my hotel on Boxing Day - you're in Barbados the day before I join my nice white ship!