Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Has it really only been 5 days?!

Well things haven't slowed down yet!

On Saturday it was turnaround day in Colon, this is always the busiest day of the week as all the passengers get off, and then a couple of hours later a hwole new lot come on board. We also get crew signing off and new crew joining. My job is to sign them on and then give them safety and familiarisation training. This time I only had one new new guy, as the musician has sailed on the Star several times and didn't need a tour. So it was easier giving training to one person, rather than a whole bunch. I'm sure I'll get the tour into a better order once I'm more familiar with the layout, but I knew where to find everything I needed to show him. The other side to this part of my job is mainaning the records of what certification everyone has on the computer system, it's a pretty boring job but if it's kept on top of I shouldn't have to spend too much time on it. I also am responsible for updating and printing out the muster lists, which have to then be posted in various locations around the ship, this has to be done twice on turnaround day, once before the passenger muster drill and then again after. I went to the passenger muster drill, but I have no active role in it specifically, and the 2/O has said he's happy to do it as it cuts right into my rest period, we'll take it in turns perhaps.

Then in the evening, it was my first full watch on my own. I was less scared than I thought I would be, probably because I'd been chucked in at the deep end the night before. I did call the Captain once, because I got confused about which track we were taking - there's a long and a short both on the chart, and the waypoint we were headed to next had a very similar name as the one on the chart that we weren't headed to... I felt like a muppet when he explained but he was still pleased that I called him rather then trog on and do the wrong course. We would have got to the same place, but at the wrong time, but still, better to call him and it be nothing, then not call him and screw up!
On Sunday we were back at the islands of San Blas and I spent my anchor watch doing admin and keeping a close eye on the tender service. From there we went back to Colon, as we needed to pick up a container's worth of stores that had gotten a little bit lost. This meant that I did an arrival and a departure, in quick succession, which made me extremely glad that I had spent so long on the 4-8 watch last year on the Surf (which is pretty much always the watch that does arrivals and departures), the checklists are exactly the same as they were on there and things all went very smoothly. As we left the Captain concentrated on getting through the channel and the very narrow harbour entrance so my role was to keep watch for any traffic that might cause a problem. There was one ship making her way to the harbour entrance so we ended up having to wiggle through some ships at anchor to avoid her (not a technical term). If I'd been conning I think I would have had some serious fear going on at that point, but the Captain took it all easily in his stride and made it look like a very simple thing. That's why he's Captain really!

Monday started early, with a wake up call at 0540 for an 0600 start down aft, I was doing locks comms- as ships go through the locks they don't tie up in a conventional manner, there are mules on each side that the vessel ties up to on both sides via wires, and they then move along with the vessel as she enters the lock, and hold her in position. They are called mules because it really did use to be a team of mules, but now they are large heavy engines on a track. All the work is done by a team of foremen that come on board, so all that needs to be done is telling the bridge when the mules are connected and what number mule it is, port or stbd, when the lock gates are closing or opening and when they are disconnected. I got half an hour for breakfast at 0730, and then did my watch (Pilot conning, I just did radio, log book and speed control) and then I was straight back down aft for the last two locks. I finally knocked off at 1420, absolutely knackered! 

After some sleep I got up to the bridge at 1955 for watch and was told to bugger off for another half hour by the C/O, bless her. Watch this eve was fun- I finally got to play with traffic! I called the Captain once as I had an overtaking vessel had a CPA of 1.4, and he wants me to stay 2 miles from everything but he was happy that I was doing fine on my own and didn't bother coming up. I'd waited until this guy was 4.5 miles behind me and then, as I had hin on AIS, I called him up and asked what his intentions were (his origional CPA was 0.1) from what he said to me I got the feeling that he'd only just noticed me. I get the impression that there are some muppets out there...
It was made more interesting by another vessel on a nearly reciprocal course to mine that I had expected to take some action, which they didn't, (again with the muppetry) so by the time the overtaking vessel had cleared enough for me to be able to turn to starboard I did have to make a fairly big alteration (50 degrees) but I had enough time to do so without getting too close and by the time the 2/O came up on watch at 0000 I had us back on a course that would take us well clear of the other bits of traffic that could have become a problem.

Today was a sea day, but this morning's watch was mostly taken up by training (Security, Environmental and Crowd management) so the C/O covered me while I did that (being trained, not training others). We were under sail only for most of it but by 1200 the wind had died completely and we had to put the engines on, first time I've properly seen her with sails out at 100% though, and Oh My does she look gorgeous! This evening's watch was quieter, didn't have to call the Captain, but he came up at 2200 anyway to see how we were doing - we were bimbling south, basically to kill some time and he decided that we would be best off turning 180 degrees and heading north again. I'd boomed out the sails to make best use of the wind (what little there was at that time) and so got to play with them again, and then as the watch went on the wind increased slightly so I took sail in, first to 50% then 30%. I love having sails, it makes life so much more interesting on watch :) The nicest thing though is what the C/O said to me this evening - it's only been 5 days, but I've settled in really well, and it feels like a long time since I joined. And it's true, while on one hand I'm still very aware of my noobie status and I am super-keen to get things right, I already feel like this is home-from-home and that I have a place here that fits perfectly :)

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