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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Bird Of Prey

Something fascinating happened to me on Tuesday…

I went outside in coffee break to get some daily vitamin d, when a huge bird swooped just by me. I thought to myself 'I could have sworn that was an owl'.

It turns out, it was. It flew majestically round the ship for about half an hour, and at one point landed on the rail in front of me. We were staring at each others’ eyes less than ten feet away. 

I was keeping still (as I seem to remember that they see by movement?) and we looked at each other for about ten to fifteen seconds before I moved a tiny bit and he/she flew off again. I was a bit cautious while it was flying around as didn't know if it might swoop down to take a swipe at me, especially as it was very close to me quite a few times. 

It totally made my day, although that is one moment that I felt neutered by not having the DSlr in my hands.  After about ten minutes of watching it gliding around I ran and got the point and shoot camera to see what results I could get. The photos aren’t great quality (have cropped them), but you can identify it as an owl.  Maybe somebody reading this can shed some light on why it was so far from land (about 14 nautical miles) and what it was doing in daylight, as I thought owls were nocturnal.  That's the first time I've seen an owl in the wild - and so close!

Here's a puzzle one: Where's the bird? Send your answers in...

Generally, this week has been busy as usual.  We did some interesting tasks though. 

On Thursday, the Chief and I used “Doctor Diesel” – a kit to determine the indicated power of the main engine.  I say ‘indicated power’, as this is different to the power produced at the flywheel/shaft, which is named ‘shaft power’ (or that’s how I recall from memory).  If you were to measure the power at the shaft then you would do this using some form of brake (thus brake horsepower…I think that’s where it originates from).  Indicated power doesn’t account for the losses in the system such as friction etc.  So, the shaft power would be less than the indicated power. 

The mention of brake horsepower reminds me to inform you of this useless fact:  one average (Joe) horse working all day will produce about three quarters of a horse power.  This probably sounds nuts to you, but I think if you look this up online, you will find it to be true.  In a short burst it can get up to about fourteen or fifteen horsepower, but over sustained periods (like a day) it is likely to be less than one.  A human can produce about one horsepower, but not for long!

Indicated power is calculated by reading the gas pressure in each cylinder, plotting it against the position of the piston during the stroke, working out the area underneath each curve, and adding them all together.  To do this, you attach a sensor to the indicator cock on each cylinder one by one, and open the cock for about ten or fifteen seconds.  This allows Dr Diesel to take pressure readings.  He is, all the while, receiving input from the crankshaft position sensor and recording the positions.  He will take hundreds or thousands of readings, within seconds, of gas pressure and crankshaft position (this number is guessed - I don’t know how many readings are taken per second or in total).  As a result, every gas pressure taken has a position of the piston on its stroke to plot against it.  It then plots a total set of these readings as a graph and can deduce the total power of the engine (produced in the cylinders), by working out the area underneath the graph.  Individual cylinder powers can be compared against each other, to establish whether the power is equally distributed among them, and thus adjustment can be made to the amount of fuel inputted to even them up.

For anybody who is still awake after reading that, you can either look at the photos below of me attaching the pressure sensor and the chief working Dr Diesel (gloves for this one, as the sensor gets very hot receiving engine exhaust gases), or you can read about the opening of the scavenge spaces (choices are limited).

Chief, with the doctor

On Friday, the engine had gone another one thousand hours since the scavenge spaces had last been inspected and cleaned.  So, they were opened up first thing in the morning.  These have to be kept clean to reduce the risk of a fire occurring within the scavenge spaces.  They get dirty quickly on this ship as we are do so much manoeuvring (as in and out of port so frequently), and whenever the engine is on low load, the cylinder lubrication is too much.  See the photos of before and after.  I’ve gone closer in some photos to show the stuffing box sealing rings arrangement.  You can also see the scavenge ports on the cylinder liner which direct the air into the cylinder.  Our MAN B&W main engine uses uniflow scavenging (as opposed to cross-flow or loop scavenging).  Incidentally, ‘scavenging’, is the process of removing exhaust gases from the cylinder by blowing in fresh air.  This is a process that four stroke engines don’t do of course, as they have the exhaust stroke, during which the piston physically pushes out the exhaust gases.

I’m going to stop there, as I seem to have gone into explaining these things, when a photo with a few hastily scribbled words would probably do it justice.

Before cleaning 

After Cleaning

Scavenge Ports

Stuffing Box Sealing Arrangement (only the top is visible, where you can see the small springs)


Since writing those last parts, we have travelled to La Coruna and arrived early this morning.  It looked like we’d hit very bad weather (and it’s still forecast), but we seem to have been ok.  I took a photo showing the nicer weather further away, while a big black cloud was hovering over us.  I do remember waking up in the middle of the night with the ship rolling a lot, but seemed to be able to get back to sleep ok, so it can’t have been too bad.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Whale Of A Time

Terrible title, but I couldn’t resist.


Last Sunday (yes, it’s been a long time since I managed to update blog last) I happened to be on the Bridge, just as four whales were swimming in couples just off the starboard bow.  After spending so much time surrounded by cold steel it was a welcome sighting, and very much made my day.  I was looking straight at them through the binoculars – any closer and I would have had to put them down.  They swam with us for about five minutes, before rounding the bow and heading off south (we were heading almost due West).


Latest development has been getting skype sorted on the laptop, and I’ve managed to speak with Ally and Dad so far.  My plans to speak to Emily got scuppered by an earlier exit from Spain than predicted though, which was frustrating.   


This has been a tiring week, as I’ve done all the manoeuvring with the Chief.  One involved waking up at 3:30am for getting into the port of Bayonne, France, and then leaving it late night the same day.  I didn’t get to bed until after midnight that day, but luckily when we finished the first manoeuvring at about 5:15am I could sleep up until 10am to top up. 


Then, on Friday morning it was get up at 5:40am for manoeuvring.  Once we’d arrived in La Coruna, we bunkered twenty five tonnes of MGO straight away, so no rest for the wicked as we had to prepare the bunker station etc.  I ate breakfast finally at 9am, then worked the whole day and we left again at 5:30pm.  So, my day finally ended at about 7pm. 


The weekend hasn’t been too bad, as we dropped anchor yesterday at about 5pm (Saturday 23rd).  However, the original plan was to go into Bayonne port for the weekend and get loaded up with steel on Monday, but I think there was no berth for us.  So, we’ve been rolling around at anchor for the weekend. 


Winds today (with rain) of Force 8 – which is classified as “Gale”.  When I was up on the bridge we had about 33-34 knots gusting to over 40 knots, on the port bow.  The most I saw was 44 knots.  So, as a result of this lovely weather, we’ve been rolling around constantly.  The rolling is felt most on the Bridge due to the height.  My cabin’s a floor below, so reasonably wild.  This force 8 though isn’t that extreme though, and I’m sure we’ll  experience something larger before I leave in December.


I’ve attached a few recent photos.  I’ve been using silhouettes a bit with these ones.  We had a spectacular sunset when we were in Bayonne on Wednesday.  I took quite a few photos incorporating the ship and/or the cranes and steel works equipment.  I think the mix of machinery and the natural sunset are photographically very interesting.  Ray, prepared to be bored.  Light sensitivity isn’t great as I don’t have the Nikon with me, so forgive the quality.  I’ve had to reduce them in size a lot.  I have high res versions if anyone wants. 


One more thing.  The 20th October marked the half way point for my sea phase.



Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Grey weather, photo stream, and good weather

Today (Saturday 9th) it has been a very grey day, with the wind and rain driving at us while we took bunkers.

I have borrowed Raj's internet usb stick so while I still have signal I thought I'd upload a few photos.

 Another nice one of the rescue man from the helicopter drill

 I've managed to find coke (sin cafeina) here.  UK?

Just like the average day at home - stopping to fill up with diesel...


This is just the leg part of crane in Bayonne - you can only just see me as it's so huge.

Raj and I in Bayonne, just going to Seamen's Club

Seamen's Club

Rough weather in Bayonne - the river was fairly wild.  Unfortunately photo doesn't really show much except the white horses.

Rocker covers off on disel generator for resetting tappets

Tightening up exhaust valve main nuts.  Last time I did this with Cristi, and they have to be torqued to 650Nm!

The only climbing I get to do here...

I've managed to get photos of some of the crew too.

This is Rocha - He's from Cape Verde, used to be in the army and can do a lot of martial arts.  He's very quick!  We speak in a mixture of pigeon English and Spanish.  He's been on six months already, and leaves the ship at beginning of December.

Marius on the left and Rocha on the right.  Marius is the Second Mate and is from Romania.  He is tired and overworked today!

Jose on the left, Kumar in the middle, and Rocha on the right.
Jose is from Cape Verde too, and speaks very good English.  He's worked for Carisbrooke for ten years now and does nine or ten months on ship at a time. Kumar is from India, he's one of the two Kumars we have on board!  The photo shows lunch on Carbonara day.  It's the best meal on ship.

Preetam on the left and Raj on the right.  Preetam is the second Kumar on the ship.  He's working as a deck cadet at the moment, but he has a ticket.  He did it a while ago, then didn't use it so he's refreshing before getting a job as Second or Third Mate.

As I lost internet shortly after I started writing this it has now been a few days and we're just about to leave La Coruna again bound for Bayonne.  The weather is sunny and hot, not like the UK I expect.  We had bunkers this morning and had a delivery of oil for the diesel generators too, so we've been able to enjoy a few minutes in the sun today.  Hopefully it won't get that cold in winter here. 

A few more photos below then I've got to post - signal is dying on the internet - again!

Dinner last night.  You're probably thinking, 'where is the veg'?  So am I...

Suez Canal Search Light that I restored to action - second one I've done now.  Needed stripping completely and rewiring, new sealing to stop it leaking etc etc

This morning in Port when we took bunkers.

 My cabin, post clean of course.  I'm not sure if Emily has emailed these to some of you already or not.

Using crane to get our diesel generator engine oil on board this afternoon.

Oh, and regarding the internet usb key I mentioned at the start.  The Chief Engineer and I now own 50% shares each in this.  As Raj is leaving soon he sold it to us, and so Chief and I have internet for each month for 17.50 euros each, with a 2gb limit.  Not too bad considering we’re on ship. 

Friday, 8 October 2010

Bayonne Bayonne Bayonne

Due to some bank holiday, or some kind of strike (not sure which), we stayed in Bayonne all last weekend, and due to the gale force nine on Monday, we stayed then too.  This is how I posted the brief message on Monday. 

Last Saturday, I had a classic French role play experience (like the ones we used to do for French GCSE).  Raj and I were trying to navigate the walk to Carrefour (big supermarket), as we’d missed the car ride we were supposed to get from the Seamen’s Club at 6pm (due to Raj spending too long showering and applying his ‘perfume’, insisting the car wouldn’t leave until 7pm).  I didn’t really mind, as we could walk there pretty easily in about thirty or forty minutes.  So, I spoke French to some strangers sitting in their garden and received directions (a pied) to get to the Carrefour.  I actually understood the directions, so decided at that moment that I could speak enough French to get by as a tourist. 

Then, I realised when we were at Carrefour that my previous thought was complete crap and my French had suddenly all been forgotten in a moment of panic.  I was speaking in French to a couple of ladies at the reception stand (at the shopping centre), trying to ask if it was possible to get a taxi from where we were.  They understood that and tried to call some numbers, but to no avail.  I was trying to explain that I wanted to do my shopping, then go to McDonalds (for Raj and the chief, not me), then get a taxi back to the port to get back on the boat.  It was a mess, and two more people came over who were equally unable to sort it all out.  At one point they were saying there was a taxi outside, but I was obviously trying to get across that I didn’t want it now.  They still seemed unable to understand despite me saying that I wanted the taxi at about 8:30pm. So eventually I just had to tell them not to worry and thanks for their help.  Incidentally, I just remembered that “later” in French is “plus tard”.

After Raj had ordered a huge bag of McDonalds for himself and the chief (it came to over 40 Euros), we rang someone on our ship who gave us a taxi number, so I then had to call them and speak in French to ask for a taxi.  It was funny as I rang, and asked in French if they spoke English.  They said a little, but then I spoke French anyway.  They must have thought I was a bit nuts.  Anyway, they said they weren’t doing taxis at that late hour (it was only about 8:30pm or 9 by then) and gave me another number.  I swear I got all the French numbers correct, but then when we rang it the number didn’t work.  I think I didn’t put the correct dialling code into my phone though (as had used Raj’s phone for the previous call before the battery ran flat which is not a UK phone – don’t know if it makes a difference or not).  Due to the amount of confusing French conversations I’d had already, I didn’t want to have a further conversation with the other taxi people, so we decided to walk all the way back from Carrefour carrying the rather stupid amount of heavy things that Raj had bought.  He was least keen on this idea so I offered to carry the heaviest bits.  So, on one shoulder I had 12 kg of coke (for the Chief), and on the other arm, another 8kg of other drinks.  After about one of the four or so kilometres we had to walk, it had got very tiring.  We pushed on though, until eventually I realised (after about 2km) that I couldn’t see Raj behind me anymore.  So, I dumped all the stuff on the pavement, and waited for him.  He turned up eventually, and then he spoke to a man in the street who just so happened to speak English (nobody in Bayonne seems to speak English).  In fact, his mother was American and he spent quite a bit of time in the UK every year, so he spoke exceptional English, but was born in France so was bilingual – however there was a slightly detectable American accent to his English.  He spoke to a couple of taxi companies in French and they said the same as before, that they could not help at that time. 

So, he very kindly offered us a lift back to the ship in his car.  His girlfriend, who was from Lithuania, came along for the ride too.  We were so thankful, and asked them if they wanted to come on board the ship to see what it was like.  They seemed excited about that as they’d never seen what life is like on a working ship, so they agreed and they came aboard and saw all the ship (except the bridge as we didn’t want to disturb the captain on his watch).  Then we had a beer with them on ship and the Chief joined us too.  It turned out that the guy was the lead singer of some Heavy Metal band named “Gojira” (who are on YouTube and have records released) who have toured England and other countries in Europe.  The Chief had heard of them as he is Polish, and they had done a few gigs in the city next to his in Poland. 

It was great to talk to new people and we were so thankful that they saved us by giving us the lift. 

On Tuesday, the ship was loaded and we left Bayonne.

Today (Friday), we were in Carino again.  I managed to fit in a run after finishing work.  It was fantastic to run somewhere with such a breathtaking shore line.  It’s a bit like Tuscany crossed with a seafront, with a little bit of a small island shore feel too.  Difficult to put into words, but beautiful to look at.  I ran across the beach (eyeing the yachts moored a bit further out and wishing I was there on one) and up a bit of one of the very steep hills, before returning to have dinner on the ship.  It was brief, but relaxing and satisfying.

I’ve attached a photo of a great morning sun when from when we were in La Coruna last week.  I went to check the fuel tank level on the Emergency generator (which requires going outside – a luxury for an Engineer), and noticed how cool the background was, so took the opportunity to capture it.  Do forgive the point and shoot, it’s doing its best, but can’t really match up to the Nikon for quality and colour etc.

I’ll attached all the photos intended when I get a chance to use the internet next.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Whistle For The Wind

If you try to whistle on board, people tell you to stop, and I have found out why now.  It's not because the joyful tune of a whistle is not appreciated.  It is due to a superstition that whistling will bring the wind!

Firstly, I must be very brief as I am on the internet at the Seaman's Club in Bayonne, and I will get turfed out at 10pm (we have already been to Carrefour to buy some things for ourselves so that's why it's so late already).

Well, we certainly had wind today.  The Second Mate Marius told me it was blowing a force 9 - the river we're on was evident of this, with the rain pounding everything with mist, and white horses all the way down the river. The photo below doesn't really show much, but couldn't really step much further outside for fear of wrecking the camera.  So, due to the weather they couldn't load up the ship, thus we are still here!

Unfortunately for me, one of the tasks I had to do today was to go up to the starboard side Bridge Wing and dismantle one of the large spotlights so I could fix it up in the workshop.  It took a while as the bolts had all been painted over, and it wasn't a very fun time leaning over the side of the ship while I was pounded with wind and rain.  Couldn't wear my hat as it would have blown off.  Anyway, after about 15 minutes I had the lamp off, and descended to go back inside again.

Anyway, for some reason the photos here are so slow to upload that I won't have time to put any on.

Once I get the phone topped up I'll write another entry!