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Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Crossing The Line

So, we're in Onsan, Korea now, and the seaman's club is a short walk from the ship - internet and phone signal again are a luxury.

It took about twelve days to get here from Townsville, and the journey was pretty uneventful generally speaking.  There were some nice sunsets over the sea, but not any amazing wildlife reports or anything.  Of course, the main event (which was eventful) was the 'crossing the line'.

What we did have, courtesy of the main engine, is heat, heat, heat.  As you'll see from one of the photos of Allan below, it really is sweaty work.  I had forgotten how hot it gets, but was reminded when myself and 2nd engineer were renewing the gear oil on all purifiers (5 in total).  Nobody has put an air thermometer in the purifier room, but when I used the infrared thermometer (excellent fun) it measured 55 degrees centigrade on the floor and about 65 degrees centigrade on the ceiling!  So, it's unbearably hot in there, particularly as it's not dry heat.  At lunch I felt near to passing out.  We completed the work though without  any problems, and after went to work on the reefer system in the steering gear room - forty degree heat seemed like a relief in comparison.

Anyway, back to the 'crossing the line'...We crossed the equator at about 8am on the 3rd October, and in keeping with the tradition we had a crossing the line ceremony.  I was the target of this ceremony; having only been in Biscay last year, of course I'd never actually crossed - and they knew this.  I probably should have done something scientific around the crossing time like checking the point at which the plughole water started circling the other way, or something like that. But, instead my hands were tied behind my back and I was led up from the engine room to this cabin we have on the weather deck for crew to stay in that would help us through places like suez canal (if we were to go there of course).  I was blindfolded and then had to wait a while - they told me they were just preparing the rescue boat etc and slowing down so that when I went into the water they could fish me out...

After the wait, I was led (still blindfolded with hands cuffed behind back) to the poop deck (at+near the back of the ship, one deck above the weather deck - for anybody who hasn't the foggiest what I'm talking about) and then things began.  My face was decorated with stuff that smelled strange and also stuff that felt like grease, there was lots of giggling, something was hung around my neck, and at one point I was holding an apple in my mouth.  I won't go into any more detail (as of course, if anybody is reading this that has not yet crossed - well, I don't want to ruin the surprise of what may unfold for them) than to say I got very very wet, I had a strange taste experience, and I did have a good time.  It was all very light hearted and not over the top, so an enjoyable experience.  The captain presented me with a certificate and I was given the sea name "White Shark" - nothing to do with my olive skin of course.  Apparently it was given to me as since I've been on board I've tried anything and everything going food wise (of filipino and other cultures) with no hesitations.  It doesn't sound like a very good explanation now, but when I was told the reasons why it seemed to make so much sense at the time - probably as Chris, who gave me the name, was the one who explained.

Weather wise for the trip it was all fairly mild luckily.  The sea temperature peaked at 32 degrees centigrade, and is now down to about 26 degrees.  There was two nights on the passage where I didn't get much proper sleep due to the ship rolling (and the massively loud and creaking pontoon/tween decks that are stacked in front of the accommodation block), but it was nothing to write home about.  Luckily we avoided the low pressures around the typhoons of the Philippines - of course the guys on boards families weren't all so lucky.  Allan told me as we were leaving that water was already up to the front door of his house.  

Now, we are staying in Korea another night as the crane unloading the zinc from the ship was broken for a few hours.  Good news for us as we get internet and dry land again, but not so good news for the company, where time is money.  Tomorrow we head for China (not sure where) and it will only be a thirty hour voyage.  Once we are there we are loading Ammonium Nitrate (not great!) and heading to Indonesia.  We will distribute the cargo between four different ports in Indonesia.  Then, well, who knows.  Things change all the time from minute to minute and I try to pay just enough attention to care, but not so much that I get frustrated with the constant changes.  I think that's just the nature of cargo.  

Almost forgot, yesterday we bunkered 700 tonnes of HFO - with what we had remaining on board we're now at about 90% capacity.  The max we can carry is 851 tonnes.  What was amusing was when the bunker barge turned up.  For starters it was a complete old nail, secondly it didn't even look big enough to carry 700 tonnes.  What was even more surprising was the workforce.  There were nine of them on board. So, with the five of us and their nine (most of which seemed to be over our bunker station, doing everything), it all got rather crowded.  I noticed a couple of them were just wearing normal black slip on shoes, and trousers that looked like they'd just been doing the average diy on sunday at home.  At the end they stopped pumping and started to disconnect, but when we did manual soundings on the tanks they had stopped short by six tonnes, so they had to reconnect and pump the last tonnes.  I don't think they expected our chief to do manual soundings and apply temperature correction etc!  One of the photos below shows one moment of the bunkering with some of the people...

Some of the photos are of crew and some at the end are of Onsan port.


Allan (the other engineer cadet)

The question to you is: what's around my neck?

An embarrassing photo...

Attaching the bunker line

Large pipelines dominate the port here, snaking down the whole road for a long way.

The road from our ship to the seaman's club.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Photos from Townsville Port

I will post tomorrow hopefully with a written update, but just wanted to put up a couple of photos from Townsville port.  They're not exactly your normal type holiday snaps, but hopefully somebody out there will like them...