Tag Archive: sea



So….

The other day I organised a “Crossing The Line” ceremony for the cadets onboard. A celebration for crossing the equator, the transition from Pollywog to Shellback.

From my experience in recent years it has dropped off in it’s usage. Nobody really makes an effort or cares anymore. It’s a shame, because as proved this week, it’s a great crew morale builder. Especially when usually if you are on a run between ports that includes an Equator crossing it will generally involve a considerable amount of time in open water – this time for us it has been 26 days between ports.

Obviously it’s not quite the same without beer now that dry ships are becoming more & more prevalent, but you can still have a good time with it. Mine was a beer fuelled, fish stinking, paint & foodwaste extravaganza.

You can still cover the Pollywogs in food, a bit of sludge, make the hair sacrifice, throw them in the swimming pool, feed them their suspect food & drink, let them kiss the fish then kneel before Neptune & kiss his ring. Before joining the fraternity that is the Shellbacks.

It sounds bad I know, but there is no malice, & we’ve all done it & been there, I was covered in paint & food waste (A whole liver was produced from somewhere!). It probably Could be counted as hazing, but as with all things, there’s hazing and there’s hazing. Know boundaries, respect people & always use the threat of doing things much worse than you actually do. I used flour, eggs, water, bit of sludge on the face, swimming pool, the drink was mainly fish sauce with vinegar & Tabasco (about 2 thimbles of the mix to drink) & food, prawn paste onions & ginger. All smells worse than it tastes.

Afterwards all the cadets came & told me how much fun they had & how it was great & now they felt like they were part of the club.

No malice is the key ingredient. As soon as one person stops having fun, it stops being fun for all. Creative controlled carnage.

Also in this day & age where less & less Bris are deep sea & more & more are just in the Offshore Industry or Ferries, crossing the line for a young British seafarer is a rare thing. I plan to keep it going as long as I can for cadets I sail with.

It helps crew morale
It helps break the trip up
It gives this childish 2nd engineer an excuse to do silly stuff & dress up.

So please don’t stop us having fun at sea, the Crossing of The Line is an important ritual of the Deep Sea, sea passage. Just let us be, just let us have our fun. For once.

Ta

Antijanner
2nd Engineer
Sheriff of the High Seas

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Homesick


Someone recently Googled “Merchant Navy Cadet First Trip Homesick”.

Not sure my blog was really much help on that subject so I shall try to adjust this balance now.

Feeling homesick is perfectly normal – especially on a 1st trip. Even more so if you are only young. It’s perfectly possible to be a cadet, on your own, on a ship with no one else who speaks English, aged 16.

You won’t be alone in feeling homesick, most people have at some point been homesick, especially at the start, where you are out of your depth, you are in a (usually quite literally) foreign environment.

To be honest if you are only 16/17/18 & this is the first time you’ve been away from home, & you didn’t at least miss it a little bit I’d be concerned.

The best advise I can give you is this though. Don’t disappear into yourself when you are feeling homesick, not when you are a cadet anyway. You still don’t really know how to deal with it. Most of us old sea dogs have ways with dealing with it if we still suffer from it, but we’ve built up our techniques. Go out on the ship, be social, the last thing that will get you out of feeling shitty is locking yourself in your cabin staring at 4 bulkheads of mottled beige.

Have a quick scoot round the accommodation – see whose doors are open, see if the 3rd or 4th engineer fancies a chat, or if you feel like lowering your IQ a few points try & spark up a conversation with one of the mates (joke, I’ve been told there are some intelligent ones out there), but I’d try to speak to the Junior officers, we don’t bite…hard, & generally are willing to chat shit, it’s not like we have an important date to go on.

On cruise ships get yourself down the bar, you don’t have to get blasted, but theres always someone willing to get a few rounds in with you I’m sure. Ships are social places on the whole, despite more & more of them becoming dry, we do all generally like a good banter session. Even if it takes your mind off it for a bit, it’s better than nothing.

But believe me, you won’t be the first person to feel homesick on a ship, & you won’t be the last. Certainly don’t quit because you are homesick, homesickness passes, once you have your ticket and if you are still getting homesick, you can find a job that is shorter trips, or closer to home. There’s options, but don’t give up because you miss home. I mean after all – you were planning of moving away from home at one point I presume?

Also one last thing, when you are at college, don’t go home every weekend, or every opportunity, the faster you get used to not being home the easier it is at sea, & also with a lot of ships these days you will have free access to email, or at least cheap access, also phone calls are a lot cheaper as well (When I was 1st at sea it was £5/minute), so you won’t be out of contact for long & it won’t cost the earth.

Hope it helps

Stay Safe

AJ


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!

Anyway

Cheers & Ta

AJ/SW


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.

Ta

Antijanner/SW

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

AJ

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!

Stuff to Take to Sea


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.


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.