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So then.

I have started my new job with my new company.

I’ll be honest it was a bit of a leap of faith for me, It’s been 7 nearly 8 years since I last worked on anything similar to these sort of ships, & even then it was as a cadet. These ships run differently from what I’ve really ever been used to in the past.

I don’t get nervous anymore joining a new ship like I used to, I used to though, I wasn’t good with meeting a bunch of strangers who had already been in their own little clique for quite sometime.

Now though, after cruiseships & being a transient within my last company I have got over this.

So joining this new ship wasn’t a “social nightmare” that it used to be.

The first impression of the ship was….well the actual physical size of ships doesn’t amaze me much these days, but it’s the individual things on the ship, the size of those things that amaze me.

Within 6 hours of being on the ship I had crawled round the Main Engine crankcase, which I was able to stand upright in the sump my head not even level with the centre of the main shaft & changed a fuel injector that was the size of my lower leg, but weighed twice as much.

Everything about the main engine on here is BIG. & I mean BIG. 8 Cylinder 96 cm Bore Monstrosity of an internal combustion 2 stroke engine.

The engineroom it self is massive as well, there are 4 generators spread over three rooms, these are my main responsibility & we have quite a bit of work coming up on these, some 1500, 3000 & 24000 hr overhauls on them, luckily the 24k one is such big enough that a team from shoreside is coming inboard to assist.

The heat is intense – its been a while since I experienced the working blast furnace of an engineroom in the the tropics, & also I’m now very aware of how unfit I am. Running round a large multi deck engineroom, in humid hot conditions sure makes me appreciate just how unhealthy I’ve been for the last 7/8 years.

So you never know besides being a good thing career wise, this should be good for me physically as well.

I have really enjoyed the 1st couple of days, & feel that I am being a proper engineer again. I am a “little” nervous about the upcoming overhauls but I do have an experienced Engineer Cadet with me who seems to be quite good to assist who has done some of the work before, so that should help me along the way!

The 2nd engineer is keen to help me learn the system well & the computer program’s that will help me in becoming a 2nd Engineer with the New Company. So that’s jolly useful. No one yet has also said “Why the hell did you join this company?” which is usually one of the first things people say when I join a new company. So this already has made life a bit easier.

Now the next challenge is to not break anything. But unless you’ve broken it how can you fix it?

But overall I am enjoying the new job & all the challenges it’s present to date, I am really excited about being the Chief Crankcase diver when we pull a piston out of the main engine in a week or so time. This will be the 1st time that I will have been responsible for doing this.

The weathers been great, the anti-piracy measures are in place, & we are heading to India! We shall be there tomorrow. I hope to find a half an hour at some point for a bronze every now & then. However my cabin is a nice cooling break from the pit so we shall see!


Cheers & Ta



After watching 3 films this afternoon/evening, I have to wonder occasionally if I have “socially” wasted my life to date. I mean it’s only now really, where I would say I am making proper friends.

The 3 films I watched were Human Traffic, The Inbetweeners & Kevin And Perry Go Large.

I’ve never been on a “Lads on Tour” holiday, I’ve never really had a group of friends that close where I would consider going on holiday with them. (I do have a few now but not loads), I’m aware that Human Traffic isn’t exactly a holiday film, but it’s the message it carries.

I mean yes working on cruise ships was basically a lads on tour for 5-6 years, but it’s different when you are working, I mean yes I drank and fornicated by way round the world on the ship, and you had a group of lads all the same rough age who main interest and social past time when off watch was drinking and fornicating. But it was all done to schedule and between set times. No matter what I did the night before, I always had to be up for work the next day, or more often or not the same day, in a few hours. It wasn’t like a holiday. Even now when I’m on leave I generally wake up for the 1st time at 0715-0730 for the first 2-3 weeks. Even after a night out.

I’ve now also reached the age (at least my body feels like it) where a few pints of real ale having a laugh in the pub because you can hear everyone more or less is more appealing than going and spending over a fiver for a piss poor measure of rum and coke, listening to someone drunkenly yell and spittle into my ear, then feel socially uncomfortable as everyone else boxes off and I scramble for a taxi trying to avoid the drunken tosser looking for a fight with the large quiet person getting into a taxi relatively sober compared to the rest. I’m beyond that.

Its been a good while since I went “clubbing” (a good 24 months I would think). I’m beyond it. Totally. I think. I dunno, it’s a hard one to call at times. Penzance doesn’t exactly blossom with excellent nights out.

But I wondered whilst I was watching these films, why, why have I ended up like this? I mean yes quite obviously I put work 1st, anyone whose met me would say I unequivocally put work first, but this is because I’ve nothing else to put before it. But why didn’t I when I was younger make an effort to go on holidays and stuff?

I first went to sea when I was 17, I had my 18th, (Off South America) 19th, (In Pacific Somewhere) 20th, (Mediterranean) 21st, (Mediterranean) 22nd, (Caribbean) 23rd, (Transatlantic) 24th, (Caribbean) 25th , (Caribbean) and 27th (Aberdeen Docks) Birthdays all on board a ship at work. My 28th will probably be on-board as well.

So I’ve never really had an excuse to organise a big blow out holiday as I’ve always been at work. My 26th was at home, I presume, it wasn’t on a ship.

So occasionally when I watch films like this I feel this void, I feel this emptiness that I don’t have these stories of Ibiza or Malaga or one of those places ending in “a” which seem to be the places to be and say you’ve been.

Don’t get me wrong I have had more nights out and parties and heavy sessions than most people have in a life time, but they were all to a set schedule and routine. On cruise ships, if you not getting drunk in the Wardroom, then you get dunk in the crew bar (considered a night out) or a crew party (BIG night out) but it was always the same people, drinks, routines, nothing special, nothing that films are made of, well unless you count “Behind closed doors” Documentary a film. Hell if C4 decided to do a documentary on my times on cruise ships it would only be do able late at night, with a warning before hand. But I digress.

Yes I suppose I have sacrificed a social life for my job, my career. I replaced my social life, for a way of life. Yes I do regret it slightly, but then I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I’ve always, maybe selfishly, put the job first, I’ve had to, haven’t I? If you haven’t anything outside of work really, why not launch yourself fully and passionately into work? It doesn’t hurt anyone.

I wish I’d had the chance to do lads on tour. I wish I’d had the close knit bunch of lads.

But these days I’m getting those friendships, OK so they aren’t “lads on tours” relationships, (mainly because I am friends with girls as well), but they are friendship I hope that make me see the benefits of coming home. Friends I get to spend good times with, not necessarily just hard drinking nights with, because, if I’m honest, that’s what my old friends are really. But I’m making new friendships, making friendships with people who I actually don’t feel like I need to prove myself to them. People I feel genuinely close to, and always pleased to see, and I have a sneaky feeling may miss me occasionally.

So, lads on tour, maybe it’s not be all it’s cracked up to after all, but friends for the journey mean so much more.



It’s Not Easy Being Green

Let me tell you about sea-sickness.

Not everyone gets it.

I used to, I used to get it bad. The first 4-5 days of a trip I’d be useless. But I grew out of it, then moved to ships where sea-sickness isn’t so much of a problem – cruise ships. Especially ocean Liners such as the QM2 – which I’ve gone through a force 11 on & it was hardly moving.

Then after cruising for 5 – 6 years I moved company again & got into the Offshore oil & gas supply/support industry. This is where the weather is. Oil & gas doesn’t generally like being found in nice calm mill pools, it generally gets found in rough shitty horrible waters.

My first ship in this company, I joined in Sunderland wet dock, we sailed for Denmark. Straight into a storm. 20 foot swells, 60-70 knot winds, waves breaking on deck the works. I was biblically ill. Never ever felt so bad in my life. Honestly. For 4 days. It should have only taken us 1.5 days. Never has anyone been as ill as I was.

But as with most things you get used to it. Now these days I can go into a force 10 straight in the face, no need for the sturgeon 15. No need to sleep in the cement tunnel as its quiet and
Calmest there. I’ve grown accustomed to the seas ways.

But like anyone else, you do take the piss out of guys new to the industry, when they hit their first swell & the clammy greyness comes over them. When they stop mid sentence to sprint to the nearest suitable hole to deposit their lunch. But it’s all good fun.

The sea was always rougher than it is at present. No one has experienced seas as rough as you had them. But that’s all part of the game.

This however is work weather & is a typical example of weather for November/December time between Aberdeen & the Cormorant/Brent oil Fields off the Shetlands.

Come join us sometime. It’s fun really



My mother found this and sent it to me


Sometimes when the bands are playing
And the uniforms march by,
You will see a seaman watching
With a wistful looking eye.
And you know just what he’s thinking
As he hears the cheering crowd
As the soldiers and the sailors
Swing along, erect and proud.
He is thinking that his country
Saves its honours once again,
For the uniforms, forgetting
All the seas forgotten men
He is thinking of the armies
And the food, and fighting tanks,
That for every safe arrival,
To seamen owe their thanks.
He is thinking of his buddies
Who have paid the final score,
Not in khaki or in navy,
But the working clothes they wore;
And we’d like to tell him something
That we think he may not know,
A reminder he can stow away
Wherever he may go.
All your countrymen are proud of you
And though there’s no brass band,
Not a bugle or a banner
When Merchant Seamen land,
We know the job you are doing,
In your worn out working clothes
On the seas where death is lurking,
And a fellow’s courage shows.
So be sure to keep your chin up
When the uniforms parade.
What a man wears doesn’t matter,
It’s the stuff of which he’s made.
Author Unknown


I was not born ‘till 41-I wasn’t at the fore, but later on I sailed with men-they told me what they saw.
There never was a ‘phoney war’ for the merchant-men at sea. Especially in the early years-with two men lost from three.
Sitting ducks for E-boats and explosives in ‘bomb alley’. An easy moving target, from engine room to galley.
They were blown from burning ships-torpedoed by the Hun. Or victims of atrocity-shot by a Nippon gun.
Plenty perished in lifeboats, many gave the sharks a feast. Still pretty much defenceless, the ships rolled West and East.
They sailed North in Russian convoys-braved the ice and foe. Lived in hell conditions-and pitching, blind in snow.
Some sailed independent-they steamed South on their own. Perchance to meet the U-boat-lurking ‘neath the foam.
Many thousand seamen died-risking life at sea. It was the brave survivor who told me their history.
The lethal mines would sink them, or the tinfish named by some. Or possibly a Junkers on a mortal bombing run.
Crews foundered in the ocean-black or freezing cold. With mangled steel beneath them and pig-iron in the hold.
But if they shunned the enemy, and escaped the heaving slaughter, well they just signed on again, and went back to the water.
To the lads that never made it home-to all the men that died, wouldn’t it be apt to say “They never made the tide”?
Over forty years I’ve toiled at sea- aboard all types of craft. But I doff my cap to those young souls that went and joined a raft.
I’m mighty proud to march for them, on the 11th of November. For this very special breed of men that I for one remember.
I haven’t any medals-but I wear my badge with pride.
As the bugle sounds the ‘last post’ for the men who missed the tide.

Joe Earl

It’s approaching that time of year again. I’ve been thinking of something that I generally haven’t shared that much. I’ve told maybe 7 or 8 people the following story, and even then it was only the edited highlights. Not entirely sure if I’ve told my parents this amount of detail to be honest.
But anyway.

14th Of September 2006

5 years

5 years since probably the most traumatic incident I’ve been involved in has occurred.
Some of you (very few) I’ve told about it.

Sharing it to the general public I guess is the final part of it and will hopefully put it to rest a bit. It affects pretty much every minute of my working life, and when alone in the engine room or alone in general my mind generally goes to thinking about it.
This particular event has pretty much changed my life, I think about it pretty much every day. It’s one of those things that will never leave me. I partly blame myself for it. Partly don’t blame anyone for it. It’s taken all this time to get that far.
It happened on a ship (surprisingly enough), in an engine room.

The event was one of the reasons why I eventually left cruise ships, it did temperamentally make me consider quitting sea all together but I didn’t, I just changed company/ship type. It also made me a bit weird for a while but these things happen.
Without going into a full technical report (for your sanity as much as mine), there was an issue with an economiser circulation pump. I was on Midnight to 0400 watch, we had a zero flow alarm activated on the pump. Usually this was just cleared by blasting though the pressure gauge line. 20 bar of steam and water will clear most things. I tried it a couple of times, it wouldn’t clear, I couldn’t be bothered with arsing about with it, I had other things to get on with in the engine room. I called the 1st engineer and he isolated the pump and economiser and that was it. The pump was isolated (as far as we could tell), economiser deemed Out Of Action for the night and it was put on the top of the job list.

I finished at 0400, handed the information over and me and the rest of the watch naffed off sharpish as we had drills in the morning at 1000.
I awoke at 0930 and sauntered down to the engine firelocker for the drill. I could sense as soon as I got down to the main working alleyway something was wrong. Barely any engineering staff were about. Generally you’ll see a few of us rushing about constantly trying to hold the world together with a shoestring but there was no one about. I got to the fire lock and a few of us were there and then I heard. There’s been an accident downstairs, Francisco had been hurt, all the Medics were on scene. Me and my mate rushed downstairs, my mate on watch had his ear defenders on, I was in my boilersuit but just trainers and no hearing protection. (it’s strange what details you remember)
I ran down the 2 decks to the bottom plates where the economiser pumps were. And there he was.

Francisco was lying on the plates, surrounded by medics and crew. He had been covered/drenched by boiling/scalding hot water from the neck down. You could see this because like most of us he wore his front open because it gets so hot down there. His skin had peeled off from the neck down . His hands looked like someone had poured wallpaper paste over them. His boiler suit I remember vividly. Was bone dry. I remember thinking to myself that that was odd. I only realised later that it was probably because of the latent heat he was giving off that the water had probably evaporated anyway.
The reason why water was still in the pipe is a matter of physics and fluid mechanics under a vacuum. I’m not getting into it now.

I remember getting angry at the stretcher carriers who were just standing staring at him, getting in the way. Me, my mate, and some of the other Philippino crew realised what was needed to be done, we started getting one of the engineroom cranes ready. We shifted lumps of metal that it took 6 of us to move usually, that 2 of us were able to shove out the way.
I don’t remember what happened after this in the engineroom but he got taken out.
Next thing I remember was the drill still going ahead, something I found disgusting. I was out on the boat deck, we were in Palma, and we heard Francisco was being taken ashore. Apparently Palma has a very good burns centre nearby.
Francisco never survived. He died a week later. He was kept in an artificial coma for his own benefit. The company managed to fast track his wife a Visa for her to get to his side, which to be honest was pretty damn amazing in my opinion. The Drs in the hospital had said he was finally starting to improve as well. They had had to cut his tendons in his arms as they were retracting but it honestly looked like he might survive.

He didn’t.

We were told onboard. I was in the main workshop. I remember running off to the mineraliser room. And crying. I don’t cry often. But that day I cried. There was a service onboard the ship when he died. I was on the 2000-0000 watch during the service so I couldn’t make it. I was devastated that I couldn’t go. I never got my chance to say goodbye to him.

Francisco was one of the hardest working guys I’ve met. All “The Lads” on this ship were and still are amazing. I have always had a good relationship with them. We work alongside them, we work our bodies to breaking point at times to ensure the passengers had everything they wanted. The Lads were superstars. I had been play fighting with Francisco in the workshop a couple of days before the accident. He looked like Manny Pacquio.(sort of)

Everything that happened that day in September, would it have been different if I had been arsed to try a bit harder? I don’t know. Impossible to tell now.

A few things happened to me after that event.

I drank heavily for a few years (this has stopped)

Thought of it constantly for 2 years (And yes I do mean constantly, it consumed me)

I became the life and soul of the party (mainly because I didn’t want to be alone in my cabin)

I got diagnosed with minor PTSD by the ships Doc (it was all off the record and nothing on my medical record)

I cleaned myself up a bit, sorted my life out, left the company.

I left the ship and the accident behind me.

I still can’t escape the underlying sense of guilt I have and the broken video I have of seeing Francisco there, that plays in my mind.

The ship it happened on is still my favourite ship in the world. I don’t lie when I say I experienced every emotion possible on that ship. Pure elation to minding numbing depression.

I carried round the accident with me in my head like a sack of wet porridge, it weighed and fugged everything I did. It made me want to spend more time at sea and else time at home. As if somehow spending time at the scene of it would solve matters, Or at least being there would mean that I wouldn’t have to answer any questions about it. It didn’t help. But you live and learn I guess by these things.

I never walked over the spot where it happened in the engine room.

Francisco Ramirez. I still think of you every day mate. Don’t think I won’t stop any time soon either.

Love you pal, still miss you, still hurts, still thinking as ever of it and you. Keep smiling mate, I know you are.

So, 3 weeks into a 7 week stint, 4 to go.

I have had an epiphany over the last few weeks about contact and correspondence I have with the real world. Now bare with me as this blog is a bit higgledy piggledy

It was a strange old couple of weeks before I came away this time, I’m not going into detail over them, but I had prepped some stuff to take away with me to do some correspondence when I went away with someone. With one thing and other that didn’t happen but I still had the writing materials with me.

I had also been reading a few blogs and that (mainly this excellent blog )

Now I’m not going to put myself into quite the same bracket as the Guys and girls of HM Armed forces, but I do spend a considerable time away from home still (just over 50% of the year in my current company) at sea for at least a month at a time. I used to spend 8-10 months a year away up to 5 months at a time. And even though I spend this amount of time away from home, I’ve never in all honesty been a big one for keeping major contact at home, I’ve sent 4 postcards in the last 10 years, 3 of which were on holiday this March. B

When I first went to sea, I was 17 (18th Birthday during my first trip away from home, 3 months on a banana boat working the Pacific Circle then to Europe across the Atlantic), and I had to pay 50 US cents an email sent from the Captains email account – he was the only one with outside email access. The ships sat phone varied in price depending on what Time/day/month/religious celebration was going on, and it varied form £1.50 a minute up to £5 a minute, so as a cadet I certainly didn’t use that. I would phone in port if I could get hold of a phone card from the Seaman’s mission came on-board. And would use maybe a 1/4 of it on a phone call home. I never really got home sick on board the ship, I did when I was at college a bit but never really on the ship. I have a great time when I’m on ships and do genuinely enjoy it.

But I never really wrote home, not postcards and certainly not letters. I’d send the occasional email home but that was it.

I should point out that I come from a happy, unbroken home. My parents are together, we all love each other, there’s no real problems at home that I’m running away from. It’s just one of those things, when I go to sea I am able to disassociate my mind from family, I mean I still love and care about them, but I turn the “missing them” part of my brain off. I have no idea how I do it, and it probably sounds cold and callous to an outsider, but if it was an easy thing to do I wouldn’t need to try to explain myself.

When I qualified and became a full blown Qualified “Competent” officer and got a job on cruise ships I would go weeks and weeks without emailing home, maybe a quick phone call in which ever port I felt like it or suddenly realised I hadn’t spoken to home in a while in but that was it.

I’ve worked worldwide and it would have been a great record for me to have kept with sending letters home in every port and country. I wish I had now. I wish I had that tangible connection with my worldwide workings. But this can’t be helped, what’s gone is gone, there is not a lot I can change about this.

I tell everyone I become involved with on one level or another that contact is great at sea, we have free internet access on our ships and the Sat C-band phone is cheap (which it is now, its cheaper than a pay as you go phone). I can in an emergency phone home on the old style satellite phone, which is expensive but is pretty much 100% coverage. Yet still even with all this, I find it hard to keep an ongoing stream of conversation and contact going. I don’t use the Sat phone, In 10 years I’ve spent about 1/2 hour on the sat phone in total I think. I email regularly enough sure, but it’s just not the same, and with the amount of emails that go bouncing around back and forth, I have one line conversations with my father via email, he types in red, I in purple, its like a really low tech chat room.

So this trip to my surprise I actually sat down and did something I’ve never really done before, I sat down and hand wrote on 4 separate pieces of paper, 4 different things to 4 different people. 2 were cards, 2 were letters (the mystical blueys as they are called in the MOD)

I wish I had done it earlier. I actually did enjoy it, if that makes sense. It wasn’t the drag on my mind I thought it would be. It wasn’t the pain in the arse I usually get with having to handwrite technical reports.

It is definitely something I could do more often, and I believe I’m correct in saying this, they mean a bit more than an email.

I wish I’d had the motivation to write home, or to write to various important people in my life I’ve had come and go over the last few years. I didn’t back then. I do now.

Maybe my minds not as fuzzed up as it used to be, or this is one of those things that they call maturing, but one way or another its something I’m going to try to embrace.

So if one of you could send me a good quality address book it would be appreciated



The Call

I just got the call

From tomorrow I will be on 24 hour notice call out to join the ship.

The bags that have been up in the loft for the last 2 months are down and packed.

I’ve already got a job list in my head about what needs to be done on board, I have mentally left already.

I know for a fact I am several shades of annoying right now, I’m am remarkably more cheerful than I have been for the last week. But I couldn’t care less, because besides the fact I don’t really have anything keeping me home, I love going to sea.

I am going back to sea, going back to do the one thing I know that I can do and have some form of control over.

I can feel my pulse has increased, and I’ve a bounce in my step, I’m going back to the slightly dirtier world where I belong.

I can’t adequately explain how much getting back out there means to me at the moment. I’ve been laid up sick for over 2 months, and this is the day I’ve been looking forward to for the last 8 weeks 5 days.

I’ve a 7 week trip this time (my choosing) but it’s to get me on a different shift. I will be thoroughly fed up and tired by the end of it, and still have secretly enjoyed it. Though I’d never tell any of the crew.

I’m going back to work, and I bloody love the feeling!

The Sea and Me

I’ve been off sick now for over 2 months. This is the longest I’ve had off a ship or away from the marine environment for a decade.

I need to go back. I’m getting bored with not working.
I’m getting bored with watching the same TV programmes,
I’m missing the banter,
I’m missing the offensive terminology we have for everything and everywhere and everyone.

I miss aching to get into port,
I miss racing to get back to the ship to leave
I miss the dirty beers as soon as you get in
I miss slagging the job off, but loving it at the same time.

I miss prating about in the engine room, cursing who ever designed it.
I miss making things and solving the problems.

My shins have heeled,
My knees aren’t hurting,
My shoulders don’t ache,
My body is pretty much mended.

I’ve not got a single callous, and my feet aren’t 2 balls of hard skin from badly fitting work boots.
I’m not swaying to keep in time with the ships movements,
I’m not eating at set times anymore,

I’m not having steak every Saturday,
Chicken Pie every Sunday,
Spag Bol every Monday,
Beef Stew every Tuesday,
Haggis Every Wednesday,
Curry every Thursday,
Pizza every Friday.

I havent had to say good-bye in ages to anyone,
I’ve not been stuck in the same room as someone I detest for weeks on end, in ages.
I havent had to crawl into a dark oily space just to prove something everyone knew already.
I havent had to simulate my house burning down on a weekly basis. Or a helicopter crashing into it.
I’ve not worn a day-glo baby-grow in months

I’ve not done the majority of my communication via email,
I’ve spoken to people I want to speak to when I feel like it.
I’ve not had to speak majority of my words in pidgin English.

I no longer read a newspaper that is 2 weeks out of date,
I can sleep when I want, regardless of the weather,
I can control the temperature in my room as to how I like it, not to how 14 other people want it.
I get to sleep in a bed that’s not 4 inches to short and 6 inches to narrow.

I’ve not been woken up by a loose cable on an alarm board
I’ve not been woken up to see my entire room contents sliding around the floor
I’ve not had to hold on for dear life in the shower
I’ve not had experienced zero G whilst going up stairs in weeks.

Despite everything I’ve written here, I miss it all. Deeply, and as much as I love leaving it all behind to come home, and the break has done me good – its been commented on – I can’t wait to get back and start slagging it off, complaining about it, being offensive and injuring myself for a month solid, and do it all again.

And again

And again

And again


Life as a cadet

I was a cadet for 3 years, and I’ve sailed with enough of them in the near 7 years since I’ve been qualified to think I know what I’m talking about.

If you want to get by as a cadet, at sea, especially as a 1st tripper, you could do a sight worse than read these words.

Bring a sense of humour and a bit of humility.

Accept the fact you are the lowest ranking most junior thing on the ship.Your experiance regardless of what it is, unless it’s actually on a ship, wont count for much if anything, I’ll be honest. You’re degree in aeronautical science doesn’t mean shit if you don’t know port from starboard, and left loosey, righty tighty. You are coming into our world, respect that.

I don’t like it but in the 30 or 40 cadets I’ve sailed with since qualified, the easiest to teach and most eager to learn were not the degree cadets, they were the 16/17 year old children who came away and were shocked into learning. Degree cadets I’ve found on the whole, when they come to sea, are arrogant and won’t listen to anything a fully trained officer who is younger than them, has to say. I’ve had degree cadets say to me, “I know that I know it, what do you know? You’ve only a HND”. I’ve had it said twice to me before, and twice I’ve had the cadets in question confused with work within 10 minutes and had them re-write the technical reports they had to do for their NVQ as they were hopelessly shit. Respect the fact we are more experienced than you. Despite our age.

You’ll be referred to as “The Cadet” in conversation, you probably won’t be praised an amazing amount if you are in earshot as well. No one likes an arrogant cadet, and no one certainly likes a cadet who is cocky. To engineers, like myself, there’s nothing in the world worse than a cocksure, arrogant smug deck cadet. I’ve never ever praised a deck cadet for the work they have done. I rarely praise engineer cadets to be honest either. But I’ll explain later.

You will be given jobs that seem pointless, but remember we all were given these jobs. You will be expected to make cups of tea, organise the flag shelves, help with the mundane painting/chipping, cut gaskets, wipe down tanks. You will be expected to get stuck in, especially the shit jobs. You’ll garner more respect off us if you offer up to do the shitty jobs, I myself even though I’m now a senior engineer still enjoy washing down sewage tanks and inspecting sludge tanks. nothing makes me happier on a ship if after a job my boiler suit is so minty I have to bin it straight away rather than wash it. if you off to do the shitty jobs you are more likely to be offered the nicer jobs. If you only try hard at the plum jobs we will make sure you end up cleaning the grease trap, or find a pointless repetitive task that needs doing for no reason. We are experts at finding these things.

You will be given crappy jobs that we don’t want to do, but remember if you weren’t there we would have had to do them, and it’s not like we don’t know how to do any of the jobs we give you. Yes we will give you the smelly, vomit inducing, jobs. But think, in 2.5 years time, when you are final trip cadet, or qualified you probably won’t have to do them again!

remember it’s not all G&T’s at high noon on the bridge wings. In fact it rarely is ever these days. You are joining as a cadet, you will not be expected to have mastered the ins and outs of spherical trigonometry or how to change the cross head bearings. You will be expected to have a certain amount of common sense and if someone tells you to learn something, learn it. We don’t tell you these things for our own good, we tell them because YOU WILL be asked them at college, and YOU WILL be required to know them. Some of us may not come across as the smartest cookies in the jar, but we have had to pass the same exams you guys have had to, in some cases we’ve had the same teachers as you have.

If you are lucky enough to be able to drink onboard or ashore, do so, I did, and I had a fucking brilliant time, but I always turned up on time. Theres nothing worse than a pissed up cadet. Especially when you’ve just got them trained up enough for them to have a smidggen of responsibility. I like to get cadets to do the morning readings and stuff in the engine room. If you are pissed out your skull, 2 hours late, and turn up whingeing that you are hung over, you and I will fall out quickly. It will involve you opening up a grease trap, or tracing an untraceable system, or bilge cleaning. Something that will only help me, not your learning.

Now the reason I rarely heap praise on cadets is because unless they are doing an extra-ordinary, off their own back, job on the ship they are just doing what they are being told to do. For example if I told a cadet – “have a look at number 2 purifier” and they came back and said, “Its fucked, its shitting oil into the tank and the sealing waters arse” he wouldn’t get thanks for telling me whats wrong. If they came back and said they’d shut it down and started the standby one, and got the kit ready to strip the other one down and cleaned up then they would get thanks, as it proves they are starting to think alone.

The reason why I never praise deck cadets is that they get enough back slapping and well dones for the tiniest of things they do. Its nothing personal against them, it’s the fact that everything that gets done on time and good, on a ship is apparently due to the deck department and everything wrong is the engineers fault. Engine blows up due to the Captain going to fast for too long against our advice its out fault. Ships gets to port on time thanks to the engineers blood sweat and swearing, the captains a bally bloody hero. But that’s oil and water for you, we never truly mix well.

Sea is a great place to work, I love it, I wouldn’t have devoted the last decade of my life to it otherwise & I do genuinely believe that if you are willing to learn and can have a laugh and show just a bit of respect, you will go far. Those are the 3 basic principles of working at sea. In importance I’d say,

1) Have a laugh,
2) Respect,
3) Willing to learn,

You’ll be walking into an environment of an entirely new language and atmosphere. You’ll learn to find that table salt is in fact “fucking salt” and the Engineroom is “That fucking shit hole”, and deck “The fucking deck”

You’ll love it really….. promise*

*promise nul and void after reading this blog

cheers and ta

2nd engineer

Things they never tell you but you WILL NEED and how to pack properly for sea

Sturgeron 15 – LOADS – Not only the best seasickness tablets I’ve ever known but they will knock you out as well – good if you have a bit of insomnia or you can’t sleep due to the weather.

European Adaptor plugs – nearly every ship I’ve been on regardless of where its built has only European sockets in the bulkhead

Multi gang strip – You will probably only have 2 -3 sockets in your cabin also get one with a surge protector you won’t regret it. So this is ESSENTIAL – do not use the blocks though, they are dangerous and SHIT.

Your own mug – little things like that are nice to have, and usually better than the standard issue company mug

Torch – Deckies – a 2AA Maglite will suffice, be flash and have one with a red filter for night-watch on the bridge as well as a plain one.Quality Sweet wrapper will do.

Engineers – a 2AA Maglite for the cabin, and 2C or 2D cell for the engine room – LED if possible

The torch thing I find very important. No company I’ve EVER worked for supplies good engine room torches. Maglites I’ve found over the years represent good value for money. even better now if you get the LED versions. They will put up with being dropped a few deck, immersed in fuel, used as rudimentary hammers and so on.

Bed sheets – I’ve started taking my own bed sheets to sea now, not every company provides nice bed sheets. Most cargo companies supply “cotton rich” sheets Which I find as comfortable as a smack in the face. Especially if you are working in the tropics on an old ship, a set of cotton sheets goes A LONG way.

Clothes – On-board the ship no-one cares really what you wear outside of uniform times as long as it is clean and you smell clean. There’s no need to take 3 suitcases of crap.I suggest 5 t shirts of which for dirty work. At least a weeks worth of jocks and socks, 2 pairs of jeans, a couple of up the road outfits TOPS.Shoes wise, one pair for off ship one SUPER comfy pair for slobbing on board. I know a lot of people who just wear slippers round the ship unless working.

Plus all your uniform stuff. make sure your black shoes are comfy.

Also recommend taking wooly hat that can cover your ears. Try and get a thin one. If you are working on deck in Alaska and there’s a wind, your hard hat wont protect much against it.

Soft leather work gloves – not every ship carry these (in fact only 1 I’ve been on), take 2 or 3 pairs if you are afraid for getting workers hands.

Take a laptop, speakers and hard drives full of movies – you will be everyone’s friend with lots of movies. 2 weeks into a 5 weeks at sea jaunt – you’ll suddenly realise that those 3 DVD’s you bought in Heathrow aren’t going to hold your attention for much longer.

Take an alarm clock or 3. If you are on watches you’ll be getting up twice a day in 12 hour intervals at least. Fully recommend 2 alarm clocks to help with this. Not mains powered either. Ship frequency is 60hz – your clocks will magically gain 40 minutes every 2 or 3 hours if you use mains powered clocks.

Stationary – Take lots of your own stationary, ships are not floating stationers, we have certain stuff on-board, but we don’t have hundreds of colouring pencils, fountain pen cartridges, gel pen inserts and so on. Also a notebook, most ships carry them, and I encourage you to carry one at all times. You WILL NOT be able to remember everything you are supposed to have in the first week. Especially on your first trip. I recommend getting “RED & BLACK” Wirebound polypropylene or any of the Red & Black wirebound range. Also use biro not Gel – biro doesn’t run when wet, and it will get wet, even better use pencil, but I don’t like to – my writing is worse when in pencil.

Try your best to fit everything into one bag, I’d also recommend getting a bag on wheels not a suitcase. The best I’ve had are The Northface Longhaul 30, or the Victorinox Explorer Wheeled Duffle. They are pricey but they are worth it. These are good sturdy strong but soft bags and wheeled, and easier to get up a gangway at 55 degrees than a suitcase is. If you are going to use a padlock make sure it has the US Airport security key lock on it, otherwise every time you go through America you’ll have to buy new padlocks.

I recommend getting the largest hand baggage bag you can as well. In here carry the usual, passport, discharge book, certificates, laptop etc. Clothes and that can be replaced easily. Your discharge book CAN NOT.

Penknife – regardless of scaremongering knives are essential for work on ships. I myself have 2 leathermans onboard and a lockknife. You’d be surprised when you dont have one on you how much you need it. Invest in a good quality lock knife – Gerber do an excellent seaman’s multi tool., or a Leatherman – but keep it oiled.

Fan – Take a USB powered air fan, it’s now something I don’t travel without – they are small but keep you cool. Just enough air movement to be useful!

1st Aid kit – Theres no need to take the prop box from Holby City but a few plasters, vaseline, sudocrem, cold and flu tablets, and PAINKILLERS, take loads of strongest painkillers you can find. You don’t want to be bothering the Chief mate every time you have a boo boo or a headache for basic supplies, also its more paper work for him. But be sensible, if you’ve half severed a finger off, no amount of elasto-plast will help you.