Friday, 4 February 2011

"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 fiancĂ©e, 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!