Tag Archive: engineer

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

Crew facilities

Ok then in this blog I’ll attempt to do justice to the facilities that we have for our rest and relaxation periods onboard.

Certain things we have by law and one is the amount of crew mess space, there has to be a certain amount of square meterage of space per crew member, I can’t remember the amount but there we go, another thing by UK law which we have exemption from is the officers and crew eating together, when the ship is built permission from the unions is sought for the 2 messes to be combined, otherwise we would have a separate crew mess and officer eating areas!

Anyway this is the eating area

Then we have the galley – pretty much all stainless steel and has facilities to cook for well over 14 men, we’ve carried 20 before and the cook managed admirably. As with all places that have cooks you get good and bad ones in this company we have some brilliant ones and our last one learnt his trade on the QE2 but this current one is excellent and we have had so far homemade breads home made burgers, chicken wrapped in bacon and so on, he really has excelled and is all ready being openly praised, a ships moral is heavily dependant on the cook, so a good cook = a happy ship!

Then we have the TV/dayrooms, this is split into 2, one being the smokers room the other being a non smoking room, the smokers room is the only place on the entire ship where you are allowed to smoke, this is so ships are in line with British law (we are flagged under the British Red Ensign)

We have Sky TV in each of the rooms and couch seating, SKY tv and Internet is available all the time except when doing sue north plus or minus 5 degrees due to the position of the dish on the ship or if an oil rig or crane gets in the way of the signal. We also have a couple of telephones on board that ring out but we have to pay to use those, only 10P a minute which is better than it used to be – anything upto 5 pound a minute!

This is the ships gym – standard equipment really , treadmills weights etc not alot to say to be honest

Anyway that’s the ships facilities – we might be sailing tonight so if we do I won’t be blogging for 3 days or so, if we are still in I’ll try and do another, so until next time

Ta ra


College time intially

Right then peoples

I’m gonna briefly explain maritime college to you – it’s changed since I did my cadetship but the principles still the same.

Not a lot to say about actual college life – except to say it was a bit of a drunken haze – I wish I hadn’t drunk as much as it very nearly made me fail, and that it was also a long hard struggle for me. You basically do what they do in university in 3 years in 16 months and suffice to say I had major problems.

As an engineering cadet after you have passed all your exams you end up with a HND in Marine engineering, and a NVQ level 3 in Engineering Watchkeeping plus the sacred STCW 95 OOW Engineering (officer of Watch) Class 4. This allows you to sail as an engineer on any ship over 3000KW shaft power (4000 Horse power to you people) up to the rank of 3rd engineer.

The only limitation I have on my “ticket” (as they are referred to) is that I can only work on motor ships (ships with a diesel engine) as opposed to steam-powered ships (which there are loads about and are still being built – oil tanker/gas carriers are still being built that use steam turbines for propulsion and power generation).

The academic side of my qualification gives me full “exemptions” from my future tickets (2nd engineers and Chief engineers). So I don’t have to do physics maths again in any sort of hurry.

The subjects are

Electrotechnology AC/DC switchboards, impedance, resistivity, capacitance, transformers,electromagnetism, power generation basically all the maths behind electrics

Mechanics How stuff bends, turns and breaks (maths again)

Thermodynamics How fuel burns and energy transferred and steam energy transfer (maths maths maths)

Ship stability How to make a ship float and keep upright (ridiculous maths)

technical drawingThankfully little maths but a hinderance for me as I struggle to draw a straight line with a ruler

Applied mathematics Hard Maths

and then you also do some engineering stuff as well – components of engines and so on, the metals used, properties of lubrication, the difference between 2 stroke and 4 stroke oil, the actual interesting stuff. Alongside some workshop time, how to work a lathe and machining bench, hand make very flat pieces of metal, all very accurately, and learn to weld. All these have come in useful at some point along the way in life aswell. Not many people know how to change plugs using only the zip on your trouser fly!!

Anyway all this college stuff is interspersed with seatime

You do a 6 month induction Phase at college (this is called Phase 1 and the academic ramp – to take you from GCSE level maths to above A level maths) then a 6 months sea phase (Phase 2, do you see the pattern yet?) then a year at college (Phase 3) another 6 months at sea (Phase 4) then finish with 6 months at college where you finish your academics off and do your oral examinations (NVQ and tickets)

Many people hate the oral exams, but personally I find them ok, I prefer to explain myself orally then write it all down my hand.

Anyway after 3 years of blood sweat and beers in October 2004 I attained my STCW 95 OOW motor Class 4 CoC (certificate of competency)

And was let loose into the big bad world to find a job.

With my qualifications I was allowed to be responsible for the running and maintenance of many millions of pounds of equipment – not bad for a 20 year old Cornish boy!!!

I shall go into my 1st Ship St Lucia (originally called “Geest St Lucia”, then “St Lucia” and is now “Autumn Wave” I think) next blog and probably all the ships I went on as a cadet.

For now I shall leave you with a poem

A Merchant Seaman

I’ve read about soldiers and sailors
Of infantry, airmen and tanks,
Of battleships, corvettes and cruisers,
Of Anzacs, Froggies and Yanks;
But there’s one other man to remember
Who was present at many affray,
He wears neither medals or ribbons
And derides any show of display.

I’m talking of AB’s and fireman,
Of stewards, greasers and cooks,
Who manned the great steamers in convoy,
(You won’t read about them in books).
No uniform gay were they dressed in,
Nor marched with colours unfurled,
They steamed out across the wide oceans,
And travelled all over the world.
Their history goes back through the ages,
A record of which to be proud.
And the bones of their forefathers moulder,
With nought but the deep for a shroud.
For armies have swept onto victory
For country, freedom and pride.

In Thousands they sailed from their homeland,
From Liverpool, Hull and the Clyde.
To London and Bristol and Cardiff,
They came back again on the tide.
An old four-point seven their safeguard –
What nice easy prey for the Huns
Who trailed them in bombers and U-boats
And sank them with “tin fish” and guns.

The epic of gallant “Otaki”,
That grim forlorn hope “Jervis Bay”,
Who fought to the last and were beaten,
But they joined the illustrious array,
Whoses skeletons lie ‘neath the waters
Whose deeds are remembered today,
And their glory will shine undiminished,
Long after our flesh turns to clay.

They landed the Anzacs at Suvia,
And stranded the old “River Clyde”,
Off Dunkirk they gathered the remnants,
(and still they weren’t satisfied),
They battled their way through to Malta,
And rescued the troops from Malay.
They brought the Eighth Army munitions,
And took all the prisoners away.

And others signed on in tankers,
And loaded crude oil and octane –
The lifeblood of warships and engines,
Of mechanised transport and plane
These men were engulfed in infernos
In ships that were sunk without trace.

They were classed as non-combatant services,
Civilians who fought without guns –
And many the time they’d have welcomed
A chance of a crack at the Huns.
But somehow in spite of this drawback.
The steamers still sailed and arrived,
And they fed fifty million people
And right to the end they survived.

And now the turmoil has ended
Our enemies vanquished and fled –
We’ll pray that living will foster
The spirit of those who are dead.
When the next generation takes over.
This country we now hold in dear,
Will be theirs – may they cherish it’s freedom,
And walk down the pathways of peace.

When the Master of Masters holds judgement
And the Devil’s dark angels have flown,
When the Clerk of the Heavenly Council
Decrees that the names shall be shown –
They will stand out in glittering letters,
Inscribed with the blood they have shed,
Names of ships and Merchant Seamen who manned them,
The oceans will give up the dead.

Nuff said

Until next time

ta ta

Hello world!

Right then hello and welcome to my 1st ever proper over 140 character blog.

My english wont be great, my punctuation shocking and language occasionally far from sweet and innocent

Hope you enjoy!

My name is “S” and I’ve worked at sea since I was 17. Well not 100% true as I did a weeks work experience in the engine room on my local ferry – Scillonian III – when I was 15. But my full-time sea-going career started in 2001 when I went to Maritime College to start my cadetship to become a fully fledged Marine engineering officer in the Merchant Navy.

The Merchant Navy to those of you that may or may not know is the collective name given to all Commercial shipping. They are on the whole manned by civilians who have had specialist training to work at sea. We are the people to bring the UK 83 – 90% of its imports. You name it and it is probably carried by ship at some point of it life.

I personally have worked on a few different type of ships.

Refrigerated cargo ships (sometimes called reefer or banana boats)

Passenger Ferries

Cruise ships/liners

Drill Ships

Oil Rig Supply Ships

Over the next few blogs I shall embellish on these and provide some details on the ships I have worked on some you may have heard of and some you will not have I imagine.

But I digress

I went to sea mainly because my father works at sea – he is a Chief Engineer with the same company I work for now. My mother was a WRN photographer and I have had various memebrs of my ancestory at sea as well, My grandmothers father was a CPO Stoker in the Atlantic Convoys of WW2 which in my eyes must have been one of the scariest times of the war. For example more Merchant seamen civilians died in WW2 than Soldiers did.

Ill admit I was pushed into it. When i was 15/16 I was set on being a DJ. I had a small selection of records and thought I could mix (listening to them i realise I couldnt mix batter let alone music) but I was gonna do that and ignored school for this. As a result i didnt acquire the full GCSE’s required. So after this slight wakeup call I went to college resat my science GCSE amongst a couple of other A/S levels to attain free exmas and got it, and after the Summer holidays went to maritime college to start my career as a 17 year old snotty nosed cadet.
I shall continue my start out in my next blog

For now I shall post a poem that kind of shows the difference between us engineers and those other creatures on the ship – those that work on the bridge. I do respect (sort of) deck officers but not always. Engineers are kind of the unsung heros of the seafaringw orld in my opinion. Every engineer went down ont he titanic including the chief engineers clerk. They allw ent down trying to keep the lights on, Doing their best to keep everything going regardless of circumstances. And they have never got the appreciaten they should have.

So this is a short poem about this difernece

Tribute to the Forgotten Man

The siren shrieks its farewell note and proudly on her way
The brand new giant liner moves in grandeur down the bay.
A marvellous creation, her builders’ joy and pride,
The great hope of her owners as she floats upon the tide.
The passengers in festive mood, mid laughter, jest and quip,
With keen delight enjoy the great ship’s maiden trip.
She’s sure to break the record, she’ll do 20 knots or more,
Is the hope of all on board her as she leaves her native shore

Upon the bridge the Captain, a skipper proud and bold,
Bedecked in gorgeous raiments, navy blue and gold.
All eyes are fixed upon him and its going to his head,
He stops to drop the pilot, then rings “Full Ahead”.
And down below the battle starts for the trophy of the seas,
By ENGINEERS, not clad in gold but greasy dungarees.

On deck the scene is blythe and gay, fair ladies, song and wine,
But hell is popping down below, beneath the Plimsoll Line.
The Chief raps out his orders to the men on watch below.
His men obey his mandates, about their tasks they go.
Fuel pressures must not fluctuate and bearings not run hot,
Revs must not be allowed to drop to make the 20 knots.
At dinner on the first night out, the Captain proudly boasts:
“We’ll surely break the record”, as the gallant ship he toasts.
But breaking records puts no grey hair on his head,
His contribution ended when he rung “Full Ahead”.

Through weary days and sleepless nights to cosummate his dream,
The engineers slave ceaselessly till Ambrose Lights abeam.
The record has been broken with twenty-one point four-
The Captain wears another stripe, he’s now a Commodore,
And thus he gets the credit for what others have done;
He boasts to press and radio the victory he has won.
Neglecting e’en to mention as he swings his ballyhoo,
The men of brain and brawn and guts who shoved the great ship through.

The moral of this poem then is quite conclusively,
“The glory seldom goes to those who win the victory”.
So keep this simple thought in mind about a record trip: