Tag Archive: life


A Pact With ME


I made a small deal with myself (which I imagine most people do) at New Years that I would actually start doing something with my life (time off the ship). I lead a pretty dull life when off the ship.

This deal was part of the reason why I quit my last job & started this new one. I wanted more time off to do stuff, more time off to meet people. In my last job, I was constantly watching the days go past, watching the time get closer & closer to going back to work. I never had a chance to relax properly.

Stuff I want to get done this year to improve my life is…

Stop moping about – I have excellent form in moping about past events. Not the major ones, but the little inter-relationship hiccups and faux pas. These are the ones that I generally Mope about and keep me up at night.

Meet more people/spend more time out of Cornwall – Look Cornwall is all well & good, but honestly – it’s an abandoned ignored corner of the country, nothing happens past Plymouth, & the further down the county you get the quieter & more isolated from the rest of the country you feel. Great for some, crap for me.

Go on a date – This is a little complex for me, I’ve never exactly been what you could call a dater. In fact dates wise officially – I’ve had 2 in my entire life. Possibly 3 (there’s a clerical error that might change the total) Now look I’m not complaining here I’m just stating facts. But it’s something I have a slight issue with, a) actually asking b) actually asking. But this year is all about grabbing the bull by the horns & trying to steer it to the end. So this is what I plan to do – after a fashion.

Save money – I’ve been qualified for 7 years now, & if I’m honest & a bit crass I don’t do that badly. Especially since courtesy of the nature of the job I am exempt from paying tax/can claim it back as long as I can prove some criteria. To be frank I’ve, literally, pissed majority of it up the wall. So this year I’ve made a concerted effort to save money & have been quite successful at it, as well as buying some luxury products, instead of just frittering it away. I have also been able to make some regular trips to London as well, where I hope to move to next year some time. (possibly just 2 more trips!)

Luxury products – Sort of follow on from the previous point, I have a tendency to buy lots of little things, then curse myself for not having money to buy something big I feel I need in my life, so I have been turning this around. Have stopped buying everything I have ever seen on eBay ever mainly. I have also given myself things to aim for to buy, yet still been saving. Oh the wonders of planning finances! It appears I can do it!

So this leave (I should be getting approx 2 months off) I am doing stuff. Fun stuff. Buying stuff, having a life stuff & most importantly to me, meeting people.

Weird how one small decision is enough to trigger all this.

I’ve a job I actually enjoy again now, & feel I am making progress, I’m happy again, & 2012 appears to be turning out all peachy & creamy.

But enough about me – how are you?

Cheers & Ta

AJ/SW

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Whenever I hear The Waterboys – This Is The Sea, after the 1st minute of just basking in its glory my mind goes into a mental sideshow of the fun times of my seagoing career.

I wish I’d taken more photos of it all,had more physical reminders but I didn’t so I don’t have them, but I still have the memories of it.

They are memories of pratting about ashore in far flung corners of the world
They are memories of pratting about in far flung corners of a ships bar
They are memories of laughing & joking with others & strangers
They are memories of fixing & mending for others
They are memories of smiling & laughing about the pratting about
They are memories of nearly falling off a tender after a particularly fun fact finding mission in Pussers Rum Factory
They are memories of making people laugh
They are memories of things that can never be taken off me
They are memories of working at sea
They are memories of things that have changed me
They are memories of things that have made me
They are memories of all that is me, & things yet to come.


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.


Making a playlist for someone carries the same rules as making a mix tape for someone (you remember mix tapes don’t you? If not I pity you).

For those un initiated in the wonder that is a mix tape, I shall attempt to describe to you what one is/means. A collection of songs recorded one by one for someone else.

A mix tape is a wonderful thing because someone (if they have done it properly and not just recorded the top 40 without the in-between bits) is a true reflection of how someone thinks of you. Someone has sat down and over the course of an evening or 2, (I’ve been known to take a couple of weeks perfecting some) and gone through their record collection and picked out songs that mean something about you to them. They have sat down and devoted a few hours thinking not only about you but about what you will like, not like. Trying to gauge your reaction about a song. Working out the best way to present the songs they want you to hear and so on.

Plus they have sat down and recorded each one individually in a certain order. A lot more work goes into making a mix tape than ever could go into making a Spotify list or iTunes. With these you can fine tune them up to the final second you present them to someone, whilst a tape has a certain finality about it.

But there are rules about doing these things, remember you are using someone elses words and feelings to say what you want to say. Theres no point in putting a song in about heavy drug use and death in a mix tape you’ve made for a 1st date or similar (Johnny Cash – Hurt no matter how brilliant a song is NOT a 1st date song).

You also are taking someone on a musical journey, so the songs have to blend together slightly, no point going from Jason Mraz to Goldie, to No Doubt in 3 steps. It just doesn’t work.

So here are some rules (that I use) to make a semi decent mix tape/playlist.

No Duplicates of Artists – Unless the whole thing is going to be done in Pairs.

No Duplicates of songs – This includes remixes, covers and so ons.

The recipients favourite song can’t be at the beginning of the tap/list – otherwise all they will do is listen to that track and miss out on the other 14 or 15 songs you’ve specially chosen, and that would be a waste of work wouldn’t it?

The 1st song has to be one of the better songs of the tape/list – You want an attention grabber, something that’s gonna grab them and make them want more, but the next track can’t be better otherwise you’ll be running out of great music so bring it back a gear. Then slowly build up again to a great song then BANgdrop in the best “favourite” song.

Use good quality music – No one wants to hear a song you’ve recorded off of LW radio, it ruins the whole feel of the thing. Same goes with when recording, don’t use a worn out cassette if you are doing it on tape.

Avoid songs over 8 minutes 57 seconds long – Anything over this and they will start skipping the tracks and when they start doing that the temptation to skip lots will be to great to over come. That time is chosen as it’s the length of Guns and Roses – November Rain. One of the few songs over 8 Minutes I can listen to repeatedly.

Include a track listing if it’s on CD/Tape – Especially if you are putting in songs that are off an album and not singles. you’re suing your music “collection” to produce this tape/list. You want them to know every song you have chosen, and also if they refer back to it they can quote songs, and not resort to humming it to you.

Dont be obvious with your choices – If the recipient has mentioned she likes Kings of Leon don’t make a tape with the main song choice being Sex on Fire, see if you can find a really good B side, something they may not have heard before, and don’t be afraid to go back in time with your choices either. Dylan and Springsteen are still good choices, if you find the right track that says what you want to.

Dont use old playlists – every time you make a list/tape for someone make sure its a brand new one, not a rehash of one you made for someone else. It’s just not fair if you are going to make an emotional statement of a mix tape for someone to give it to someone else, you wouldn’t photocopy a love letter to send to 2 or more people would you?

Anyway these are what I consider all the time when making playlists up.

If you think that you have any rules that should be added please leave a comment below.

Ta

S

Drilling Support Tern Alpha


OK so we are now working Tern Alpha drilling.

The rig has been shut down for a month or thereabouts for maintenance. So we are there to standby it providing it with cargo and pipe and whatever has been loaded onto us in Aberdeen.

We are carrying 1170 tonnes of Fuel, approximately 1100 of it in cargo form, a couple hundred tonnes of Base oil.

We are carrying about 60-70 boxes on the deck. These contain amongst other mundane items, things such as, racks of nitrogen bottles, large tanks of methanol, deck generators, deck air compressors, PPE, food, specialist drilling equipment, drill heads. The more mundane items are items such as decorating equipment, general spare odds and sods, PPE, wheelie bins, office goods and so on.

We are also carrying drill pipe, which are approximately 10-15 metre length pipes, slightly large in diameter than scaffold pipe. These interlock (on the rig) when they are drilling and drive the drill bit which is many many many metres below the seabed. From surface to seabed is 167 -175 meters, and the actual oil is much deeper than that.

The Tern oil field has a approximate oil capacity of 27.8 million cubic metres of oil or 175 million barrels, or 5640000000000000 tea spoons (that’s 13 zeros).

The weather at the moment has made working a bit hard as if there is too much of a swell, the boat moves up and down to much when along side to the rig, which is stationary. This makes it difficult and bloody dangerous to lift cargo off, so anything over 4 metres is really a no go for us. 2 nights ago when we were coming back into port it was 10 -12 metre swell with a 40 -50 knot cross wind. This is typical weather for this time of year up here, so around this time of year it is critical we get back to port and back top the rigs with the cargo as soon as possible.

I hope this little insight has been informative!

Cheers and ta

S

Red skys and all that


OK then you all know the expression

Red Sky at night, sailors delight, red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.

I guess you can replace the word sailor for any other job, Shepard.Street cleaner/Sandwhich maker/Senior assistant to the Crown

But where did this expression come from – experience mainly but I shall now try to explain the science behind it.

As the sun sets and moves lower in the sky,the colours observed are those in the longer wavelengths of the visible light spectrum (orange and red). At night the sun is in the western sky. A red sky indicates clear weather in west. Since weather generally moves from west to east, a red sky indicates that the west is clear and there are no approaching weather making systems

So red Sky at night Sailors delight – calm seas ahead.

Then…

In the morning, the sun rises above the eastern horizon, And the red colours observed are those in the longer wavelengths of the spectrum. A red sky in the morning therefore indicates clear weather in the east. However, since weather generally moves from west to east, a red sky indicates that the east is clear and therefore deteriorating weather is approaching from the west.

Red sky in the morning sailor take your Sturgeron 15.

This picture was taken on the morning of the 28th of november – rather ominous after my meagre amount of research.

The Channels


So it’s the closing week of this month of work, we’ve had brilliant weather up until 3 days ago when we hit force 9 severe, and rising we were tossed about like the proverbial cheese down a hill, and didn’t we know about it, pretty much the whole ships crew except the ex fishermen had no sleep for nigh on 36 hours or more. And the 24 hours we had in port were well liked and taken advantage by most of us in some hardcore snoozage.

But as this is the last run out this trip to the oil rigs i thought Id explain what “The Channels” are.

It’s a feeling you get when you are near the end of the trip and you get all excited about going home, and you get fidgety and days seem to go on for ever. I still get them occasionally, cadets always get them.

The expression comes from when ships would leave the UK and might not return for a year or more. And they would come up the channels and see the White cliffs of Dover and know that they were nearly home! Seeing the White Cliffs was the first indication that they were nearly home and the excitement would begin.

So thats the Channels.

Only 5 days hopefully and home!!!!!!

Ta Ra

S

Weather


Hello from an extremely rocky and rolly North Sea

We hit the weather at about 0200 this morning and I got thrown (literally) out of my bunk at 0415 after managing to get to sleep at about 0100. Since then I have been thrown into 7 door frames,, thrown off a sofa 3 times, seen the Cook chase roast chicken around the galley after they escaped from the galley stove in a cooked bid for freedom, and hand a banging headache.

We have a couple of greenies on deck. This is when a very large wave crashes on deck and dumps pure water as opposed to just foam and white stuff. It is actually quite exciting for a while when weather gets like this. You get to see the sea in all its glory and doing what it does best.

I also feel that when the weather is like this our job holds greater significance as we still work through this weather, we still carry cargo out to those that need it and still get from point Alpha to Echo, Via Beta, Charlie and Delta.

Our job is to get the cargo to its point of requirement, in some of the roughest seas.

It makes me feel alive and worthwhile doing my job in rough weather, its makes me feel more unique. Its makes me feel that this is a job not everyone can do and that I have the correct mindset and the correct minerals to do it.

Not until you’ve been able to walk on the bulkheads (walls) because the ships been listing (leaning) over so much due to weather can you say you’ve seen bad weather.

The sea at the moment is dark dark blue, and between the mountains of waves bearing down on us the wind is blowing the water into mini ripples. There are waves breaking all around us, and as we plough through the water we are leaving a bright brilliant blue mixture of foam and water in our wake.

The spray from the ship’s bow as we punch our way through another wall of water is pretty impressive and in the short time I was on the bridge, the spray came up to the windows many times.

I love weather like this, i just wish it would let me sleep that’s all.

But as the old saying goes “Weather is a great metaphor for life – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it ”

So next time you are complaining about the wind or rain, remember some of us out enjoy it, some of us work with it, some of us fight it and some of us live with it. To me it’s another day at work, but one that makes me feel that more important, because I’m out here doing it.

Inky Black


At the moment we are standing off a rig waiting to start backloading containers of used gear, garbage, and anything else they don’t need on them from Tern Alpha.

I was out on deck getting some fresh air and just looking around and my view was one of something that always reminds me of Christmas.

It reminds me of driving along the front in Penzance towards Newlyn and Mousehole to see the Xmas lights. Looking out to sea and seeing the pinprick of lights on the horizon of passing ships. Night time ships spotting always makes me feel melancholy yet happy.

Tonight is no exception, looking out and being surrounded by the oil rigs in the Cormorant field and surrounding oil fields. Everywhere I look across the inky black still seas is a pin prick of light, evidence of life, human activity and work. Tonight is quite eerie out there. The sea looks more like Black oil it’s so calm, the reflections of the oil rig lights are clear.

I love nights like this. Where you can see the North Sea oil drilling process in its prettiest form. Seeing dozens of Christmas trees balanced on the edge of the ocean.

It might be because I’m still new to the offshore shipping world though I like seeing this. When you are deep-sea you only see ships in approaches to port. Very rarely do you see another ship when you are out in the open ocean. So seeing this amount of activity in one spot that isnt next to land to me is weird. Whether it be Drill ships, supply ships, standby ships, Anchor handlers, survey vessels or the odd fishing boat, I still get fascinated at watching ships in the open water, as its something Ive rarely seen. Despite working at sea Ive seen very few ships at sea.

Now I know I havnt been a very good blogger of recent but I have been busy and Im not always able to get internet signal or sit down long enoug to write something that I feel happy with.

Tonight was one of those nights where I felt compelled to write some words down for you guys who read me blog.

Hope its been good for you

Ta

S

Work 2


Ok then the aft engine rooms

On Normal ships there would be 2 long propellor shafts running through these spaces but as we are a diesel electric ship we don’t have propellor shafts, we do have a lot of cabling though running through this space connecting the propulsion motors.

The first room of the aft compartments is the switchboard room, this is where most of the main circuit breakers for the main equipment is, where the frequency converters for the propulsion and thruster motors are (you get variable speed of the motors with the frequency converters)

The technology is pretty cutting edge for the frequency converters and complicated and I’m not going to attempt to describe how it works.

On the Main switchboards are the generators, this switchboard is able to automatically connect and disconnect generators and load and deload them.The process of putting a generator on the board is called synchronising. The oncoming generator has to be going at exactly the same speed and producing exactly the same wave form of AC electricity to go on the switchboard. This does it automatically.

Anyway here it is

The next section on this ships engine room is dedicated to the carrying and discharging of bulk cargoes for the oil rigs. These bulks are

Base Oil – A drilling face lubricant

Mud – Used to lubricate and flush out the drill bit on the oil rig, it is a compound made to order and is damn expensive heavy messy and horrible

Brine/Drill Water – Water used for
Flushing and cleaning on the rig

Fresh Water – Used keep people alive on the rig

Diesel Fuel – Used in the rigs engines

Cement/Barite for sealing and capping wells and drill pipes

Methanol – Used for cleaning the drill pipes

All of these have dedicated tanks and pumping equipment.

They are just regular pumps so no needs to describe them, except the Cement and Methanol.

The Cement is pumped to the rig by using air as a carrying medium. To shift the tonnes and tonnes of cement we use tonnes and tonnes of air so we have very large compressors to supply them.

These are the cement tanks (well the upper half) there are 8 in total

And these are the compressors

To give you an Idea of size the motor for these (which is laying on it’s side) is approximately 60cm wide and 1.5ish metres long.

The next compartment (The aft most) contains the propulsion motors – these motors through a 90 degree bevel gear, shaft, then another 90 degree bevel to drive the propellor.

We also do not have a rudder as the azipods (the technical the drive setup we have) rotate to push the ship in which ever direction, they can rotate 360 degrees and so we do not need Stern thrusters, as the pods the job of a thruster, propellor and rudder all in one easy job.

The propellors are CPP variable speed.CPP stands for Controllable Pitch Propellors. This means the actual blades change angle, More angle = more power = more propulsion, combine this with the variable speed and you have an infinite amount of options for power and speed!

We are leaving port today after nearly a week alongside broken, one of the Frequency Converters blew something inside it, we had to wait for it to be made and delivered from Norway and an engineer to fit it. But after all that it’s been tested and works fine! We will shortly be loading Cement (about 120 Tonnes) and our deck cargo is fully loaded!

Then after that off to the big blue wobbly wet thing!

If you’d like me to explain anything else in detail or ask any questions please let me know and I’ll be happy to reply as soon as I can.

I’ll continue soon!

Ta Ra

S