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Monday, 27 September 2010

Helicopter Rescue

We had an exciting evening on Thursday, as a rescue helicopter radioed us while we were ploughing through the ocean and asked to perform an emergency evacuation drill with us.  The captain agreed so then the fun began.  The Chief Engineer rang us when we were in the mess and said “get up to the bridge for a helicopter rescue drill”.  We groaned and went up thinking it was a bit late for a practice drill.  Then we got up on the bridge and realised that we were just watching and it was something exciting to see, so we thanked the Chief for calling us up there. 


The noise was pretty loud, and after the helicopter had been present for about twenty minutes or so, my ears were a bit muffled.  They initially hovered over us and opened their side door, releasing a rope line with  a weight on the end (so it didn’t get blown about).  Jose (one of our deck crew) always gets roped into doing these drills when they happen so he was on deck waiting to receive the line while we all watched.  The line came down to him and they kept releasing more to him while he pulled in the slack.  This would serve as linking line that he could coil in or let out, so as they drifted closer then away again we still had connection to them without the line going tight and pulling Jose overboard.  Then, one of the crew attached himself to the steel wire fed around the winch on the helicopter (the weighted rope line is attached to the end of this).  He lowered himself down and out the helicopter and towards us until he was eventually on board.  Jose had to keep the line tight to make sure the rescue man wasn’t blown around all over the place, and to make sure he made it on board. 


Eventually he made it down to us, and then he detached himself from the line.  They then sent down a weighted dummy which would serve as the casualty, and a stretcher after that.  This all took quite a bit of time, and all the while the helicopter was hovering perfectly off and up from the back of the ship, matching the 11 knots speed that we were making.  The rescue man got the casualty onto the stretcher and they then winched this back to the helicopter.  I could see from this, that it would be terrifying to be winched up on the stretcher, but in a situation bad enough to require you needing an evac, I expect you wouldn’t be worrying as much about that!  Once the stretcher was in the helicopter, the steel line had to come back down to us again so the rescue man could attach himself and be winched back up to safety.  Then Jose had to just feed them the remaining rope line until eventually they had it all back again.  Then they waved at us and flew off right into the sunset.


The whole thing took between twenty minutes and half an hour I think, so excellent skills on the team, as not only does the guy have to work alone once winched down onto the ship, but the pilot has to spend all that time within about 50 feet of the ship hovering very stably - this while the ship is underway!  It was an incredible experience to watch, and no doubt helpful to know how it all happens – useful knowledge for yacht sailing too.


I’ve attached some photos (I have many more but expensive to send to the blog!).  One of the attached is a ‘red sky at night’ sunset.  Unfortunately, the sunset got better and better, and the camera ran out of battery at that moment, stopping the best shots where it got more and more red.  If only I had the Nikon here with me!  I’ve also attached a photo of the Chief Engineer and Raj, taken while we were watching the helicopter team do their work.



Anyway, it’s Sunday evening now and I’m pretty tired.  I went to bed quite late last night as I couldn’t sleep, then when I did the ship was all over the place, as we had waves on the port quarter rocking us around all night.  I was woken at 6am as we were approaching Gijon and I was required for manoeuvring and to shut down the main engine.  There were duties to attend to after this (I seem to be acting as the only Second Engineer right now rather than assisting, as Cristi has gone home to see his family for a month or so, and the new second is not familiar with the ship at all – not complaining as it’s a great experience) so I didn’t finish until 9am.  I had breakfast then rested in my cabin for a couple of hours (even managing a short sleep) until I was called upon again at 11:30am as we had already finished unloading and were leaving Gijon.  So, I leapt into action again and started the main engine plus related systems, then waited for them to finish manoeuvring.  Then, I was finally free at 1pm.  So, it’s not been much of a day off, as I worked from 1:30 until 4:30pm on one of my reports that I have to write, but I’m going to go to bed soon to catch up on some sleep. 


Word is that we’re going to arrive in Bayonne at about 4:30am so I’ll have to get up for manoeuvring and to shut down the main engine etc again.  Then I’ll have the normal day’s work from 8 until 5 as well.  As we’re loading steel in Bayonne and it takes time, I may get a chance to have a run ashore before we leave…hopefully.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Worst Day Yet!

A dramatic title, and I’m not sure whether it was worse than the first day or not.  In some ways it was a lot worse, but in others it wasn’t nearly as bad.  Like the tabloids though, it’s all in the headline…


Why was it a bad day?  Well, it started off fairly well.  I was working with the Chief and the Second Engineer and we were changing over the fuel pump on Main Engine cylinder 1.  Alongside this, the fuel rack shock absorber needed to be replaced too (as we were having more fuel leaking than we should have).  The chief asked me to take this off – and said to cut a container to put underneath to contain any spillage.  I cut a container that would fit underneath (as very limited space) and the chief seemed happy.  I loosened all the bolts and pulled the shock absorber away slightly – a little fuel oil came out but only a tiny amount.  So, I took the bolts off and drew away the shock absorber a little further.  Then fuel oil came gushing out, and a lot of it; far too much for the container to hold.  So I shouted to the second to get his attention (as all I could do was to try to hold the shock absorber against the pipe to limit flow, while  holding the overflowing container in place, and grabbing many rags to try and contain the spillage) and he looked fairly panicked at the prospect of so much fuel spilling out – he ran and got buckets etc but really it was not going to help as fuel was running down the side of the engine and below the lower floor of the engine room.  The Chief was ok about it and said “Shit happens”.


As a result we had to have a lot of the floor boards up on the bottom floor of the engine room to clean under there.  Of course, with the maze of piping underneath it’s not easy to clean up, especially as at room temperature this heavy fuel oil is like thick black treacle.  After the floor was eventually clear, the side of the engine had to have the same treatment.  Basically, it took about half a day to clean it all up.  Although, one positive is that you wouldn’t know it ever happened as it’s been cleaned up so well.


The  high point of the day was after lunch, when we had another drill. The emergency alarm sounded (very loud) and we all went to the muster station, donning lifejackets and checking we were all present.  Then we were told that this one was the rescue boat drill.  One of the main reasons we would have to launch the rescue boat is if one of us went overboard, or if there was a man overboard from another ship and we were assisting. 


For this drill we actually had three men in the boat (one of the deck crew, the Chief Officer, and the Chief Engineer) while it was lowered by our crane down from the deck of the ship into the water.  (While the rescue boat was being lowered we were lowering the emergency boarding ladder down the side of the ship – very heavy as rope and wooden rung construction plus about 50ft long).  Once the rescue boat was in the water they started up the outboard motor and checked it was all ok, then sped around Carina port for a few minutes to practice manoeuvring the boat.  I think the Chief enjoyed being in control of the outboard.  Then they came back and we used the crane again to hoist them back out the water.  It was useful to practice this, rather than just thinking you’ll be able to do it smoothly on the night, so to speak. 


I’ve attached photos of the rescue boat off the ship.  Incidentally, Cariña is a beautiful port; really picturesque.  It has cliffs with woodland and one very steep farmers field on one side.  In the centre you have the beach and population of buildings behind the beach (with hills rolling upwards behind).  On the right it has the port.  There’s also a wind farm you can see in the distance on the hill tops (centre left). You can see a glimpse of the hills in one of the photos below.


At 4:30 Raj and I had to go ashore to get a few things we needed for the ship.  It was great to be able to see this small but beautiful place.  Again, good practice for some tourist Spanish as the locals spoke almost no English.  There were quite a few fishing boats on the port with men checking over the nets and sorting them out on the boats, while some women were sitting at the side hand stitching repairs into the nets. 


Straight after dinner I went down to the Engine Room again for manoeuvring.  Then, once I’d finally finished for the day I took a few photos of the back off the ship as we departed this beautiful port.  I’ve put one of the photos below. 





Today, we took bunkers again.  This time we took on 75 tonnes of Heavy fuel oil.  It was quite quick.  There are quite a few preparations that have to be gone through in case of spillage or fire etc (like having a whole fire hose rigged up and ready to go), so it is quite a painfully boring process, but all necessary.  I’m getting better at coiling large fire hoses alone by the week!


In the afternoon, Raj and I had to go into cargo hold 1 (at the front of the ship) to fix the non return valve in the starboard side aft bilge well.  This drains water out of the bottom of the cargo hold, but was blocked so we were called in to fix the problem.  The strainer wasn’t on the elbow pipe, so various rocks had worked their way into the non return valve, putting it out of action.  It took a while to get it unbolted, and very much reminded me of working on the car, as all the bolts were well rusted, making removing the nuts very hard work.  Once we had the valve and elbow off we hoisted them up to the top of the ladder using a rope (my sailing knot skills were very useful) then climbed up and out to take them  to the workshop.  We cleared the valve and gave it a good clean, cut new gaskets, cleaned up the bolts, replaced the nuts with new ones, and greased nuts and bolts.  The strainers for both the bilge wells in the cargo holds were broken, however, the chief said main priority was to get the valve fixed and put back – the strainers could wait until another day (as they would need a new hinge welding on and they were not top priority).  I was keen to get them fixed though as not having the strainer on there had caused this problem, and I wouldn’t be too chuffed if I were to be taking if off again next week.


So, I had a MacGyver moment and told the chief I had an idea for a quick fix on the strainers that would enable us to get them back on this afternoon, and that the fix should last a while  – not just some botched job.  He allowed me to go ahead.  I used soft thin metal wire and weaved it along the broken hinged side part of the strainer (as strainer is two halves of a circle that hinge together) to hold them together.  It worked, and they are still strong plus hinge as normal.  Then, the chief found a pin that would slide into the locking part on the opposite side and made it fit.  I finished it off by using the grinder to take a bit off the edge so the sides married up evenly.  So, job’s a good ‘un.  We fitted the valve and strainer back on after that – with new nuts, new gaskets and everything greased this was far easier than removal.  I’ve put a photo below of the cargo hold (boring I know)


Tomorrow we need to do the same to cargo hold number two I hear.  I don’t think they’re blocked, but need servicing.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A View From The Bridge

I only use this title, as one of the photos below was taken while standing on the roof of the bridge.  I have to test the emergency batteries every  Saturday, and so took this quick snap while up aloft this very morning.  Some of you may notice that it’s also the name of a play by Arthur Miller (if memory serves correctly).


Yesterday (Friday 17th) was the best day I’ve had yet, due to the work we did in the engine room. 


We began by replacing an exhaust valve on the main engine (for cylinder 3).  This is a fairly major job as it involves using the engine room crane to life the whole assembly away once everything is disconnected, and also takes a few hours to complete, with the main engine out of action – I’ve included a photo of it being lifted away from the engine.  This only has to be done once every 5000 hours so I might not see another one done while I’m here.  I got stuck in with the second engineer and we dismantled everything.  The Chief handled the crane and sorting out all the new gaskets (plus preparing the overhauled valve to replace the one we removed).  To torque the main nuts tight that hold it in place, there is a special torque wrench supplied by the engine manufacturer, that is over a metre long.  It took both myself and the second pulling it to get it tight enough. When we took them off the old valve we had to use a huge breaker bar to get enough purchase.  In all, it took a few hours to complete, but was very enjoyable and I appreciated being able to work on it with them. 


For the afternoon we replaced the gaskets and o rings on one of the two stage air compressors we have – these provide air at 28 bar (about 400 psi in old money) that is used for starting the main engine.  We were replacing these parts on the first stage of air compression which reaches about 4 bar.  Again, it was great to be involved (we actually did the same to compressor 1 the other day, so it was really a repeat, but enjoyable still to be using my hands. 


After we finished at five we were still in Bayonne so I managed to fit in half an hour running before dinner.  It was great to run again (I’ve only been able to twice since joining the ship) and Bayonne is a quiet, quaint place; well the parts I saw were.  It was beautiful, but still hot and muggy.  When I got back we were still loading steel into the ship, and they had a huge load of fresh steel that had just been produced sitting outside one of the buildings.  I could feel the heat standing a couple of metres away, and there were about two metres of heat waves above it obscuring anything in view behind. 


In the evening, after dinner, we were leaving Bayonne to head back to La Coruna with a shipment of steel.  The second taught me, by way of men actually doing it, how to start the main engine.  This was really exciting, and after a few more goes they will be getting me to get it ready for sea without the second assisting me, so quite a big responsibility.  The chief also told me today that he’ll get me setup on the computer planned maintenance system they have so we can start dividing out the tasks between us all.  So, it seems like I’m being given more and more responsibility, which I’m happy about.  The only downside to learning how to prepare and put to bed the main engine is having to do extra ‘unusual’ working hours, as we come into port at funny hours of the night a lot of the time.  It’s well worth it I’m sure.


Not much else to report.  I’m trying to fit in doing these extra projects now, so time is short. Hopefully come December I will have worked enough to get everything I need signed off.  The new chief is good, so hopefully that will all happen. 


We had a half day today so I’ve just been mooching around feeling quite tired for the afternoon.  Spent a bit of time on deck to get some much needed sun, however it wasn’t long as there are no seats or anything, and sitting on the floor can only remain comfortable for a limited time.


Tomorrow I will work rest and play, and do some more laundry.


Photos should be below - one of them is me standing under one of the pieces of equipment they use on the cranes – not for loading our shipment of steel though.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Come On Bayonne

I'm just waiting for us to arrive in Bayonne so I can assist putting the main engine to bed. I was told 10pm earlier, but now that has changed to a bit after midnight, maybe later! So i think I will get some sleep if possible before the call comes.

Today i assisted the 2nd Engineer Cristi in replacing the gaskets on one of our two, two stage air compressors. We were just replacing gaskets on the first stage of compression so it was fairly simple to dismantle and more of a cleaning and replacing operations than anything else. After we had put it back together I had to give it a thorough clean to get it back to the required standard.

Oh yes, we have a new Chief Engineer now as he is back from his holiday. He is a very tall and built man named Greg, from Poland. He seems very cheerful and friendly, but he has very high standards and wants everything in the engine room to shine in case of port state inspections! He has already looked at what I need to achieve and seems to have the right attitude towards my learning so hopefully it will be plain sailing.

Tomorrow I begin my first report of five that I have to complete for the academy. The first I'm doing is on the ship's steering gear.

Hopefully soon we will be in port at a time when I'll be able to get off and go for a run!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Heat Is On

It’s difficult to remember to update this blog now, as I have a diary I have to keep for the Merchant Navy Training Board Training Record Book (MNTB TRB) – The TRB is the book with lots of work activities in which all have to be signed off to get my 3rd Engineering Officer ticket come 2012.  Once I’ve written in that every day it feels like I’ve done the blog entry. 


So what’s happened since Thursday of note?...

Well I guess you could call the weekend a fairly major event.  Saturday I had a half day only, so the morning was spent going round the ship testing the emergency equipment batteries such as Emergency Generator, GMDSS, Rescue Boat, Life Boat etc.  I also had to sit in my seat in the free fall life boat and adjust the seat belts to fit me – then if there’s an emergency my seat is already ready for me to buckle up.  This lifeboat has a scary setup, as it is about three decks up, and it is on rails held on by a big chain.  In an emergency everybody would get in and strap into their pre allotted seats, shut the door, then release the arm linking us to the chain.  We would slide off the rails and plummet about fifty feet then hitting the water.  You are strapped in facing backwards and have a Velcro strap attached to the seat that attaches your head to the seat – I think otherwise you would break your neck because of the whiplash when you hit the water.  I’ve put a photo below of me sitting in the raft all strapped in.  Hopefully we’ll never have to use the life boat.  For the remainder of the morning I just had to attend to normal duties like assisting the second engineer in what he does.


For Saturday afternoon I went ashore with Raj and Preetam (Raj is the motorman and works with me every day, and Preetam is the deck cadet on board).  It was good just to do regular activities like walking along a street and crossing at traffic lights.  I had forgotten about cars and traffic, and other people!  It was bizarre to see women as well as men.  I’m exaggerating somewhat, but it was strange and great to be on dry land for a change; to sit down without swaying from side to side.  At one point, we stopped in a café, and I watched the world go by for a bit while Raj and Preetam ordered some food.  A bought a few luxuries in town too:  1) Manchego – even better here than in the UK (it is Spanish, so not really surprising). 2) An apple – great to have extra fruit. 3) An avocado – unfortunately I cut this open yesterday and it was way over ripe – had to cut out the small amount that was edible and throw the rest away.  Must buff up skills on judging avocado ripeness.  If you have any tips, do email.  Having just a few things I’d eat at home was a good feeling. 


Sunday was not exactly inspirational.  There isn’t anything to do really on board the ship if you have a day off and we’re en route to somewhere.  I mostly slept (to catch up from some bad nights sleeping), ate and watched a few things on DVD and Spanish TV.  We watched “How To Lose Friends And Alienate People” starring Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst. It was a good film, although not amazing  at the beginning.  Apart from these basic activities I did a bit of work, reading through activities I have to do on board and updating the never ending diary for the TRB. 



Monday – Today I got to assist the Second Engineer service our Generator number 1 (for anybody who doesn’t know what they are - generators just provide power for everything on board).  After this the Chief set me a task – the fire extinguisher in the galley was falling off the wall as the bracket was not holding properly.  I had to fix this.  The problem is that the wall is very thin metal with a kind of foam behind it.  Therefore it wasn’t surprising that it was falling off.  I fixed it and he was happy.  The only other excitement of the day was dismantling the spare fuel pump with the Second Engineer and cleaning it.  Dismantling was slightly exciting – I can’t say the same for the cleaning. 


In the evening I spent about an hour and a half talking through activities I will have to do for my TRB with the Chief Engineer.  This was really helpful, and something he didn’t have to do, so I really appreciated that.  I’ve already got a few things signed off completely and others at the progressing stage.  He also offered to do a couple of the activities with me on Tuesday so I could get them progressing – one of which was routine maintenance and testing to an electric motor.  I also noticed a thermometer on the top floor of the engine room.  We were in port at the time so we only had one generator going and the main engine shut down – It was 34 degrees centigrade.  Add the humidity to that and it feels pretty hot in a thick boiler suit and boots. 



Tuesday – Today we are on route from Bayonne to La Coruna so we have the main engine running.  It reads 40 degrees centigrade on the engine room thermometer!  We will arrive at about 1am on September 15th (Happy birthday Ally!).  I will be up with the Chief and Second Engineers learning how to put the main engine to bed.  Then I’ll get some sleep ready for the normal 8am start.  Today I did the routine testing of the electric motor used for the sludge pump – for this you use a special kind of multimeter which simulates the high voltage the motor will run on in this ship ( ours is 440V @ 65Hz), and you test the resistance.  You have to make sure the system is tagged out – i.e. nobody can kill you by turning it on while you are working on it.  Tomorrow we will be pumping some sludge ashore, so a relevant pump to be testing I guess.   I also performed the boiler, hot well and main engine jacket water cooling water tests today.  As the Nitrite levels was a bit more than last time I checked thoroughly by doing the test three times.  When the Second Engineer looked at the results he explained that I was quite correct – he’d topped up the amount in there, but didn’t want to tell me so it didn’t influence how I judged the tests.  Doing these tests reminds me of testing the levels in the aquarium!


What will the rest of the week hold?  I have no idea really.  All I know is that our current Chief Engineer is leaving tomorrow as the usual man Greg (from Poland) is back from holiday.  Hopefully he’ll be as friendly and helpful as the current Chief has been to me.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Day Of Sludge - Thursday 9th September

Apart from taking the morning’s soundings (measuring how much substance is in various tanks) and performing boiler, hot tank and main engine water jacket water tests, today was spent cleaning up a huge mess.  When the second engineer opened up the purifier (this separates dirt in particle and liquid form from the fuel) it was completely caked up with sludge which basically looks like a cross between coal and black oil.  It was a seriously messy job getting it all back to how it should be (as it dismantles into many pieces), and took a lot of the afternoon. 


This was caused by poor quality fuel and it sounds like this is the third time we’ve had the problem, apparently from the same people.  I wonder if we’ll be using them again, and if we even have a choice? 


Doing all the water tests this morning was good, as doing the Main Engine jacket water cooling tests is one of the tasks I have to be proficient in and get signed off in my training record book. 


I’ve attached a photo of the purifier in full glory.  I’ve also attached a photo of the ship with steel being loaded on today.


I forgot to mention, but yesterday afternoon I spent ages locating all the safety and emergency equipment on the ship – one part of this involved going to the front of the ship and climbing down ladders to get right to the bottom.  You could see the bow thruster motor and tunnel, and this is also where the emergency fire pump is found on board.  It was weird to be in such an unused and deep part of the ship.





Thursday, 9 September 2010

A Turn For The Better

I’ve just realised it’s difficult to remember where we are or where we were the day before now.  We tend to load/unload cargo during the day (while we are working our shift), then at night we travel on to the next location.  So every time I wake up, we are in a different place.  Until yesterday evening when I took a short but exhilarating run, I hadn’t stepped on dry land for a few days.  I ran in the evening, coming up to 10pm (as the ship wasn’t leaving until after midnight), and it was a great feeling to be running down the deserted roads of the port.  Apart from the people unloading the cargo and port security by the ship, I only saw a cat the entire time – even that was weird as there seemed to be no housing even nearby, just a lot of industrial buildings. 


Yesterday we were in Bilbao and it was time to fix the fuel cam that was nine degrees out.  It was fantastic to be there and help out, as this is not the sort of thing you see done regularly at all – a fairly major adjustment to make.  Raj and I took off the engine covers while the Chief took apart the necessary parts on the fuel pump and adjusted it so it wasn’t going to get in contact with the cam.  We brought down the hydraulic gear and then the second engineer (Cristi) and the Chief screwed an adaptor into the cam which would allow hydraulic fluid to fluid to be pumped between the cam shaft and the cam, thus separating them enough to move the cam round to a different angle.  This needs a huge amount of pressure (it took 900 Bar, or roughly 13000psi in old money) to actually force oil in between the two surfaces so they can be adjusted.  This took a while to achieve as the nozzle seal kept giving up before we got to enough pressure to force the oil in.  But after a few different nozzles and efforts, it finally began to seep out from the middle of the cam, meaning we could move it.  The chief then turned it with a special tool made to fit into notches on the cam.  After three or four small adjustments, it was back where it needed to be.  The engine was then turned using the turning gear (an electric motor turns the flywheel) and the position of all fuel cams was checked.  They were measured to be correct, so we disconnected the hydraulic gear, checked no tools were inside, then put the engine covers back on.


After lunch the main engine was started, to check it had worked – after the Chief adjusted the amount of fuel being delivered by the fuel pump, the exhaust temperature of cylinder 4 was similar to the others, so the problem was fixed.  I took a few photos which the Chief is using to send to the superintendant to show what we did.  I’ve attached three to this. 


One photo shows overview of the cams (one on the left is the fuel cam, the one on the right is the exhaust cam).

One photo shows hydraulic oil pipe attached to pump in the oil.

One  photo shows the chief turning the cam with the special tool.



Tuesday, 7 September 2010

First Days At Sea

I am safe and well, currently on passage to Bilbao from Gijon.  There is only about five ports we will rotate between – at least for September as that’s all the schedule I have.  There is only one French port - Bayonne.  The others are all Spanish. 


Yesterday was a tough day mentally, as within ten minutes of joining the ship I was dressed for work and helping clean heavy fuel oil (HFO) off the main engine – something had gone awry with one of the fuel pumps and the HFO had everywhere.  So it was difficult to adjust after staying in the nice hotel for two nights.  Especially as while I was there I couldn’t leave in case the agent called.  This meant I just mooched around trying to speak Spanish to the hotel staff, reading and watching films.  All this made joining the ship more of a culture shock.  So, my first day was testing for many reasons, but today was a better day.


This problem with the fuel pump also caused one of the fuel cams to get shifted – it’s now nine degrees out, which is too much!  This means fuel is being injected to that cylinder too early, which I think causes cooler temperatures but higher pressures.  I’m not entirely sure which problem came first, the cam or the fuel pump, as I joined in the midst of the problem.  The superintendant was supposed to come and have a look today, but another ship’s problem was suddenly higher priority.  We are still using the engine anyway.  Tomorrow we are going to open up the engine again and see what can be done – this will be the main priority for the Chief and 2nd Engineer tomorrow. 


Yesterday we left Coruna and arrived in Gijon this morning.  Today we left Gijon and arrive in Bilbao tomorrow morning.  This morning we took bunkers (marine speak for filling up with fuel).  We took on 75 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, and 25 tonnes of marine gas oil (MGO).  Raj (the motorman, although he is an ex Engineer Cadet from New Zealand and has his officers ticket) prepared the ship to take on the bunkers, and then the fuel barge came alongside and pumped it in.  This took a couple or more hours in all, with faffing included.


While this was going on, a crane was loading this type of sand on board as the cargo – the dust was raining down on us a bit, but no problem.  However, the crane driver kept banging the jaws of the dropper (holding the sand loads in) against the hold, as he was trying the load the sand as close to the edge of the hold as possible.  It got to the point where he suddenly went wrong and smacked them into the cargo hold doors.  This caused a commotion, and a flurry of our deck people went to have a look.  The doors have sustained damage, but still close I hear.  The crane stopped for some time after that!  He probably had to go and have a siesta to calm down.


Today I’ve also got involved with soundings (measuring how much substance is present) for various tanks around the ship, oil sample testing from the emergency generator and water testing for the boiler, hot tank and cooling water system for the main engine.  At the end of the day I was with the Chief and Second engineer and observed what happens in the engine control room when the ship is manoeuvring out of port.  It was very interesting.


I’ve almost got my room sorted to how I want now – it has taken quite a lot of work as previous cadets haven’t really looked after it like their own.  They also left a surprising amount of stuff behind which I’ve had to go through.  I’ll finish that off tomorrow. 


It is bizarre sleeping while the room rocks from one side to the other – this combined with the constant noise from engine and turbocharger!  Although, I didn’t sleep too badly last night considering it was my first night.  It almost feels like things are the wrong way round, as in the day we only have generators running, and the ship is stable as we are docked. Then in the night we are rocking through the seas with the main engine and generators going.  As we have UMS (unmanned system) on this ship, we just have to work 8am until 5pm, and then the engine room looks after itself – an alarm system is routed to the engineer’s cabin who is on call.  If any readings fall out of certain set parameters it will wake him up and he can go down and fix the problem.  If he can’t do it alone, then he’ll call anyone else in the engine department that he needs for help. 


Tomorrow we have a look at the fuel cam again, and hopefully I’ll learn exciting things too. 

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Arrival In La Coruna

Last night was interesting.

I arrived at the airport in La Coruna.  It's a very small airport from what I could see, and it looked all closed and ready to go to bed, bar our flight.  We all gathered in a small luggage area with a tiny carousel, which eventually screeched into life.  All was well, my bag came out - undamaged too.

I exited the baggage hall and, sure enough, a man was waiting with a sign with "Andrea Anon" written on it.  I signalled to him then walked up and told him my name was Tom (in Spanish of course).  It very quickly became clear that he spoke almost no English, and that my Spanish was going to have to do.  No problema - buenas practicas.  We walked out into the evening and he muttered something which I thought meant wait here (while we were walking through a sort of coned off layby).  I waited while he wandered out of view into the dark.  I did then question myself on whether he meant wait or not, but he turned up with vehicle a few minutes later.

So, once in the car, here's how our conversation first progressed:  I would ask something in English first to see if he understood..."No le entiendo" he would say.  Ok, so I would either have to say it in Spanish, rephrase it, or not say it at all.  After a couple of tries, I decided to omit the English beginning; Spanish only.  One of my first questions was omitted, as it was "Did you spend a long time waiting due to my flight being delayed?" - Without constant page flicking of the phrase book and many lingual mistakes, we weren't going to manage to discuss that one.  

When I asked questions in Spanish his replies were rapid and fairly in depth so I then would reply "No le entiendo".  He would rephrase/simplify and I would then understand.  I said to him in Spanish that I speak a little, but do not understand much.  However, I didn't do too badly, and I even managed to understand when he asked me if it was my first time joining the Andrea Anon.  If only my reply could have been a bit more impressive than "Si". I did also manage to ascertain from him that I would be joining the ship the next day, but he wasn't sure when - it could be morning or afternoon - currently Marine Traffic gives the ship an eta of 8pm this evening, however looking at it's speed and last position on the map it may well reach here sooner.

After a short drive we arrived at the hotel.  My new favourite person was discovered to be the receptionist, as she speaks Spanish and English.  When my agent departed we tried to have a Spanish conversation arranging what would happen tomorrow.  I understood that he would pick me up morning or afternoon to take me to the ship, but the receptionist had to translate for me to say that he would contact the hotel and they would phone my room.  So, I'm staying put in the hotel until I'm called upon.  I've got an arrangement with the receptionist now whereby I speak Spanish to her and then she speaks English back (if I know I won't be able to follow the reply)

My breakfast Spanish was again tested this morning - luckily from sailing in Tenerife I'd remembered the crucial des-cafeinado for my coffee.  Mr Wainde from Tonbridge (my GCSE Spanish teacher) would have been proud of me, as I ordered Churros - a kind of Spanish donut, only shaped differently.  He always used to talk of them and I've never had the chance to order them until now.


Saturday, 4 September 2010

I'm in La Coruna

I have arrived safely at the hotel. I'm too tired for anecdotes now, but will fill you in tomorrow!

Delays and confusion.

I'm sitting in Madrid airport when I should already be sitting on the plane...except for the fact that it is delayed. Looks like the delay is about forty minutes at the moment, although I'm not exactly sure as I can't tell whether the most up to date time shown on the gate screen means boarding time or proposed take off. As a result I'm chained to the gate seating until it happens. It's no bother though and certainly makes a change from the rush at Heathrow.

By the time I had got to the gate at Heathrow it was already saying closing even though boarding had only begun shortly before. So I showed them my boarding card and marched right onto the plane. I'd only sat in my seat for about five minutes when it started to taxi!

All the staff on the plane were Spanish which made a change, although ever since boarding the plane, right through to my time in Madrid airport, people keep thinking I'm Spanish, until I point out in pigeon Spanish that I can't understand them (partly due to the speed and partly due to my little Spanish). It must be the olive skin or something.

It was also very confusing when I got to Madrid (thanks for the warning Dad) as certain people had to stay on the plane and other people had to get off - this depended on your boarding gate for the next flight. Wonderful system of course, however a bit nerve racking when they're saying this and you're confined to your seat by the seat belt sign because the plane is landing and your next flight details are in your bag in the overhead locker! So I felt like a bit of a div getting off the plane until someone confirmed to me that I was indeed taking the correct path. Then I had no idea whether I had to get my baggage or not. After a nail biting long queue I was told all was being handled and I only had to turn up at the gate at the correct time.

I've got to go now. Incomprehensible English is being spoken very fast over the tannoy and all I can understand is 15-25 so it looks like I'm boarding now...

I'm a novice traveller!

Thursday, 2 September 2010


[Lady speaking over public address system]
“Ladies and gentlemen please fasten your seat belts, put your seats upright and turn off any personal electronic equipment...we’re coming in to land”

Yes, I have a flight booked to get me to Spain. 

I fly out from London Heathrow on Saturday 4th September at 1625 arriving in Madrid(!) at 1945.  Then I fly out of Madeira at 2120 arriving in La Coruna airport at 2230.

Who knows what then as I don’t have the rest of the details.  I think there will be somebody waiting at the airport holding a sign with my name on it, and they will take me to the ship.

Wish me luck