Monday, 3 January 2011

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!