Monday, January 19, 2009

Ambushed in Singapore

Well, let me start this off by saying that I am back at the house. Yeah, a few months early. I was discharged when our ship pulled into S’pore.

All seemed well. It was a total and complete ambush.

Our day started at 7am with an oil spill on deck. Every body was called out on deck to try to contain and clean this mess up as we were pulling into port.

Mid way through the clean up, I was told to eat breakfast and bring the ship in (that means to steer the ship into port). It seemed a bit odd. It wasn’t time for my watch. One of the other guys should have been up there. But I shrugged and went on up to the bridge and brought the ship in.

Usually, once the ship is alongside the dock, the helmsman is released to go down to the deck and help to finish tying up the ship. This time, they kept me up on the wheel. Again, it seemed a bit strange, but this is (was) a strange ship.

Once everything was secure, the Captain asked me to follow him to his office. I (dumbly, blindly?) thought that there was some paperwork to bring to the Chief Mate or gangway. Hehe, I was wrong.

He had paperwork allright; for me! I was told that it was obvious that I wasn’t happy and they were letting me go.

“Here is your discharge and travel itinerary.”

It isn’t too often that I am caught completely unawares, but they got me there.

On a ship, there is a bit of paperwork to be completed before you are discharged and sent on your way; payroll, USCG and various other forms.

I was a bit numb and surprised by what was going and they used that whirlwind of disorientation to whisk me out the door and off of the ship. I asked about my discharge being “for cause” and was told that it was from “arguing with the mates and the bosun.”

That was such a laughable matter and so ridiculous that I didn’t even say anything else. This kook wanted me off the ship and was just basically using his imagination (after all else failed) to get rid of me. I disagreed with the bosun, but we never had any arguments. And I only had one real argument with a mate. That one was well known and supposedly taken care of after our earlier meetings.

The second mate was great and the Chief mate was pretty damn easy to get along with also.

But his mind was made up I knew that I wasn’t going to change it. So, I signed off and came on home.

These people are about as shady as it gets. As I looked at my itinerary, I saw that the arrangements had been made a week before. And I had a relief waiting at the dock! That doesn’t happen with out a bit of forethought and planning. Yet, these A**holes were smiling and joking all the way from Diego to S’pore.

There were two engineers that were also let go. They were given all of twelve hours notice. So, again, I felt somewhat vindicated that I wasn’t the only one that was treated like this. They crap on everyone!

That’s about it for now. I am sitting here getting over my jet lag and starting the search function all over again.

I have rather enjoyed blogging this whole ordeal. I hope you have found some sort of amusement/amazement at this world that we have to deal with out there. I have.

Lets see where the journey takes us…

Watch the Panic

The panic is full blown now. We have entered the Malacca Strait. We are less than two days from Singapore. And we still have lots of rust to paint over. And….its raining! LOL

What for me is so depressing, is that we had other jobs, which were being done correctly, that are now on hold. There were brand new hand rails that I was allowed to properly prep and prime. Now mid way through that job, it has been shut down so we can do this smoke and mirrors paint job.

In this environment, even good primer starts to rust through in a few days. So, now basically, that job will be done half assed. As is every other job here.

It has taken me a few days to notice, and I will wait until after this (hopefully) final inspection, but no notice of thanks has come from up above. The crew on this ship has been busting their asses to get this POS ship to pass its inspections and not one word of “thanks”, “Good Job”, or anything similar to that.

The only comment I heard about the inspection were when the Capt. congratulated himself for having us put all of the fire hoses together for one big pressure test. HE was so glad that HE thought of that…..

This is the same guy that made me take a breathalyzer before I went to the doctor. It was “just company policy”???? Right!! Sorry dude, only thing on my breath was Crest!

Hmm, getting hard to type at the moment. The intoxicating effects of our scrumptious lunch are catching up to me. OK, with the written word, it is sometimes difficult to catch sarcasm. That was an example of it. Our lunch consisted of boiled spinach and some kind of stroganoff.

We did finally get some kind of bread with a meal. I haven’t had a biscuit or roll since I was in New Orleans. It was something along the lines of French bread. I was so shocked that I promptly cut my finger while trying to open it and get a little butter on it.

So, now I sit here with part of a Qtip and scotch tape as a bandage. I did have some hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin, at least. LOL

Here is a pic of me, hard at work on this little lifeline of mine. Jamming out to some Staind. Grrr, 20 minutes till more painting over rust and through water and on top of dirt. LOL

Later allllll

Rest Day

I have made it to Sunday now! Every day is a day closer to the house. So, a small celebration is always in order. 34 days down now. 86~ to go.

The weather has picked up since my last update. The ship is riding into 6’ to 8’ seas right now. Just enough to rock you gently to sleep.

I did hear that Florida won the National Championship! 3 in a row for the SEC! Kind of weird out here. No one seems to be into football or from the south. So, consequently, no one really gives a damn but me. Grrrrr

The 2nd mate, the one guy that I could always talk to on here, is going home when we get to Singapore. It is actually three weeks earlier than he was expecting and a bit disappointing to me. But I don’t blame him, I would jump at an early exit too.

There really isn’t too much to report on at the moment. Which I would take to be a good thing. No drama.

Oh, I did ask about getting soy milk when we get groceries in S’pore. I can’t drink milk and that is a reasonable substitute.

The Captain didn‘t seem to think so. He exclaimed that “Soy costs $5/ltr and is a personal item”. So, guess who gets to pick up the tab if they want any. Not this cheap ass company.

But, if that is the worst that I can come up with the at the moment, I guess things have improved. Actually, I don’t know if life has improved or if I have finally reconciled myself to my fate.

I have been busy taking a few pics of the deplorable conditions around here. I will post those with the updates when we return to D’Gar. I really wish that I had Photoshop Elements or something similar on this laptop. I tried to download it, but it is 456 mb! My connection was showing a d/l time of several days. LOL Oh, well.

Until next time, mi compradres….

Nothing Changes But the Calendar (and the Weather)

It is now Friday afternoon. We are two days out of Diego Garcia. The weather has taken a remarkable change. Almost as soon as we left the islands, it all started clearing up.

The seas are like glass with just a gentle ocean swell passing through. Of course, the seas being so calm means that there is no wind. So it has been hotter than Hades out there.

They are still on this painting kick. It is rather amusing. The ship is due for some other type of inspection upon arrival in Singapore. So, the Captain is still running around in circles. The proverbial headless chicken.

Yesterday, I was sent up to paint over some “holidays” (holiday=spots of bare metal or rust not painted the first time). Not generally such a big deal, but it so amusing to see how worked up these guys were getting over this when these so-called holidays were on rust at least ½” thick. LOL

“Hey! Make sure you paint over all the rust!”


There seems to be some sort of civil truce between myself and the 3rd mate . I still don’t trust the guy as far as I can throw him. But I will enjoy the tranquility while it lasts. There are enough problems on here with out creating or rehashing old ones.

Our newest problem child is one of the Engine room guys. Seems to be a hot head that becomes even hotter after a few drinks. He already owes a few people money and pretty much has everyone (on deck especially) ignoring him. You reap what you sow.

Tonight is another clock change. So, I have lost forty minutes of sleep. Gotta cut this short again.


Life Aboard the SS Stinky

A few more of our wonderful living conditions. I lost the pics of our holding cell(uh, room). But this is our wonderful bath room facility. Four of us were sharing this well equipped area.

My roomie, Joe. Yeah, he usually looked that confused. LOL. Good guy though. As you can see, he is quite busy painting over a little rust. Although, actually, there was a little prep work there. What a rarity!

The incredible dining facilities! If you are patient, eighteen people can eat there. It looked much worse in person. That was also our crew's lounge.

And, last but not least, a flying fish that flew the wrong way...

Seas from Day to Day

A small example of the fickleness of the
seas. Calm as can be and then bam!
The pics don't do it justice. But it was getting pretty bumpy out there.

A few more of the good days on the beach

I thought I would throw these pics in there. If you are ever planning a super vacation. The Maldives Islands are just like this and aren't too far away from Diego. Tourist heaven....

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Story Continues

Once again, I took a little break on this project of mine. I wanted to wait and see what was actually going to happen before I offered any updates. It is now Tuesday morning (0200) and it looks like I will be here a while longer.

I went to the Dr yesterday. Ulcers and acid reflux had been attempting a comeback. I was actually hoping that the problem might be bad enough to make me “unfit for duty”. That would have been a free ticket home. But, as it is now, I was given a bag full of pills and will soldier on.

I was also given something to help with my moods. I gave a brief description of the atmosphere here to the Doc and she gave me some feel good meds. : )) Lord, I hope these work. Don’t know what they are, they are up in my room and I am outside on Watch right now.

I guess I will put that “carrot” back in front of me and concentrate on paying a few credit cards off. So, not all is lost.

The ship underwent a Coast Guard inspection today and by hook or crook, they seem to have passed it. Maybe things will relax a little around here now.

This stupid stuff of painting over dirt and rust so that it will look good for a few days. Aye, carumba!

Today is our last full day here. We have had tons of rain, hopefully, it will slack off a bit. It’s just horrible when you are trying to have fun on a tropical island and all it wants to do is rain. :p

And on that note, I will close today’s edition. Thanks for reading my therapy sessions.


The End is Near?

I had hoped to make this a long term journal. Sadly, it isn’t looking like that is likely to happen. I have skipped the last few days entries to try to get a feel for what was going on aboard here. The atmosphere has vacillated here. One day, it is pure harassment from the turd mate, and the next, I am left alone and allowed to work.

Last night on watch, I allowed my self to get a bit optimistic. I was keeping the “carrot” (of making enough money to eliminate some bills) in front of me. Trying to focus on the good with the New Year upon us. That feeling lasted until just before our coffee break at 1000.

Approximately 20 minutes before break, the Bosun (my immediate supervisor, kind of like a SGT) came to me with the news that there was some equipment that needed to be picked up by the bridge.

“Ok, no problem.”

“Wait, there’s a catch, you can’t start until your coffee break.”

I know, it doesn’t sound like much. But that is something that is unheard of if there isn’t some kind of emergency going on. What other job (what other ship?) would they give you an assignment, then tell you not to start until your break starts?

I asked, and was told that this order came straight from the Captain. I was being “punished” for not picking up my gear yesterday afternoon. LOL. Sorry, dude, I am a bit old for that. Childish games like this indicate that the end is indeed near. BTW, I left the gear out because someone was supposed to come out behind me and finish the job.

I should have put my heart rate monitor on (I just did, it is hovering around the mid 90’s, it is usually 72).

It has taken me almost an hour to calm down enough to try and put a few words down here. I had been planning an update today anyway. It was supposed to be about looking forward to hitting the beach and going for runs and bike rides. Sorry.

This journal is what it is. However it turns out, I refuse to go back and change it. How true is an edited diary? I will be most interested in your responses to this side of my life which many of you have heard stories about, but never been able to appreciate. You psych majors have to let me know of your analysis. LOL. A sociologist would have sensory overload trying to observe this (or any) group of mariners.

Our crew consists of a large number of Northeasterner’s. Maine and Mass. Natives make up the majority of the slots here.

AB1: My roomie, Joe, is a 62 yr old W. Virginia man who has retired in Thailand. He is quite the character but will do anything he can for you. Good guy.

AB2: Is a guy from Brooklyn. 49 yr old and fits all the Brooklyn/NY stereotypes. Loud and always with the first and last word. But again, not such a bad fellow.

AB3: Younger black ex-Navy guy from Miss. First time out here and not sure what he wants to do. Work on ships, oilfield or what? Pretty quiet, keeps mostly to himself.

AB4: Older guy from Maine. Typical N’easter. But has a great outlook and does a much better job of letting the BS roll off of his back. Wants to save his money and retire to a cabin in Montana?

Bosun: Not much to say, could do with out him. He is supposed to not only supervise, but represent us also…….Don’t know where he is from. Don’t really care

Capt: From somewhere in the NE. Just came on board. Kind of a neutral to negative feeling about him. H is definitely more about the company than us.

Chief Mate: Decent guy from Houston. Relatively young. Great outlook. Hope we can work together again on a better ship.

2nd mate: He is the officer that I stand watch with. Luckily for me, he is also one the most level headed of the group. The poor guy has to be my therapist every night up on the bridge while we are underway. LOL

3rd mate: Never mind. From same somewhere in NE as Captain. See the problem there.

There are four engineers. Chief, 1st assistant, 2nd and 3rd. And there are 3 mechanics that work down there also. They are a mixed bag also. Two Filipinos, a couple of NE’s, Ohio and an Indian/Mexican guy.

And our cook is from the NW and isn’t very good at his job.

Third on the loose!

12/26/08- Leaving Singapore - Diego Bound

It has certainly been an interesting 48 hrs since my last vent/diary entry. We pulled into S'pore on Christmas afternoon.

I had the joy of doing most of the steering on the way in to port. The one redeeming quality of this ship is the fact that it handles fairly well. So, bringing her in wasn't much of a problem.

Buuutttt, speaking of problems. Yesterday morning, I was finally able to switch out a couple of the extinguishers that were in the worst shape. I did this with the Chief Mate's blessings. He is second in command under the captain. Well all Hell broke loose after that little task was completed.

It is the 3rd mate's job on board to take care of all safety gear. He run's a navigation watch and does safety, that's supposed to be all. This little wannabe captain got nine kinds of upset with me for moving those extinguishers. I am not sure to laugh at or worry about this dude. He is pretty pitiful. I had intruded on his territory.

He came up with all kinds of orders to do this and that without the understanding that though he is an officer on board the ship, I don't work for him. Some of you might recall that at times, I might be just a little teeny tiny bit stubborn. Hehe. Welllll, come at me yelling and screaming and wrong and see what happens.

This idiot with a license first told me I was fired (he can't do that), then I had to put the old faulty extinguishers back, and then that I couldn't leave the ship until I did. And on and on..... It was quite an impressive tirade. I just sat there smiling at him, telling him I don't work for him. He should talk to my boss if he needs me to do something. Somehow that didn't have the calming effect so desired.

That is a very brief synopsis of about 12 hrs of this toon going crazy over two moved fire extinguishers. If he had just asked in a nice way "Hey, could you put those back? We can go over them later." Or something like that, it would have been so easy. Nahh, he didn't. So I sat there like a mule on his haunches. : ))

Luckily, through all of this, my supervisors, the 2nd and Chief Mates are seeing that this guy needs to relax a little (understatement).

After docking, we had a few hours work bringing on new supplies. And finally, I was released and able to get into S'pore. I got into town around 2000 and was back by 2230. I had to get back on watch by 2345. So, not exactly a big night on the town.

But it was nice to get out, if only for two hours. I went out, found a nice cafe in China town ordered a meal, had a beer and relaxed. Just sat there people watching, enjoying not being around anyone from the MV Rust Bucket!

I worked till 0400, slept 20 minutes, got up and we undocked. I finally got back into bed around 0630 and they treated us with basically a day off. I got the best sleep that I have had in 22 God forsaken days on here. Now, it is back through the Strait and on to the Indian Ocean.
It's Christmas Eve now! They did manage to get us a decent meal today. Nothing spectacular, just the usual turkey, etc....We pull into port tomorrow, hence the early Christmas meal.

The writings have slowed down a bit. I guess that I have vented a large portion of the pressure that needed to be let out. Plus, shipping is like the movie Ground Hog Day. Once a week, reread the text and that will probably encompass what happened the next week.

Last night was kind of funny though. We are in the Malacca Strait right now. So, we have the ship's weapon's out and night vision gear. We kept seeing (on radar) small contacts coming close by, but couldn't visually see them. No lights, nada!

Finally, we spotted one of these sneaky pirates! Huge logs/trees that the radar was picking up. LOL

We are supposed to pull into S'pore tomorrow around 1430. That could work out nicely, I get off of work at 1545. So, maybe, I can get ashore for a few hours. If so, I will try to get some pics from the main business/shopping area in town. The Singaporeans decorate the heck out of downtown.

Sleep has been real hard to come by here. There have been very few moments of sleep that have lasted more than an hour or so. Oh, the time has been there, but the sleep hasn't. Weird even laying in the woods, I have often slept better than I am here.

I was supposed to put out some properly conditioned fire extinguishers today. You know, maybe replace the ones that are corroded and rusty. Nahh, wasn't to be. It became more important to paint a 4 ft section of hand rail on the lifeboat. A lifeboat whose fire extinguisher's aren't even in a bracket, just kind of sitting there.

For those of you that don't understand, fire is the Mariner's worst fear. When you are out at sea and a fire hits, there is no fire dept to call. You put it out, swim, or die. That is my reasoning for my alarm at their nonchalant attitude towards the safety gear on board here. And the fact that they have already had two fuel lines burst down in the engine room doesn't do much for your peace of mind either.

The attitude is prevalent in almost everything that is done here. Our powertools have a locking on/off switch. That is a big safety no no. It should have a pressure switch, so that if something happens and you release it, it turns off. Our safety harnesses are spotty at best. There are rusted out hand rails. The access to the forward stores/paint locker areas would be laughable if it weren't so dangerous: rusty ladder, no hand holds.

Yeah folks, your government dollars are chartering this ship to supply its base. Really scary to see just how poorly some $$'s get spent. Isn't it?

And on that joyful note, I bid adieu for the evening.

12/23/08 Malacca Strait

We are still trudging our way to Singapore. I finally got to see a little land today. We should pull into port around 1500 Christmas day.

There seems to be a little light at the end of the tunnel here. I am not sure if it is an exit or a train, but there is light there. Our hours have improved. I only work my mid - 4am and then again from 0800 - 1200. So, now I have a little work out time in the afternoons. If we only had a gym....

There is also the story that we will be reducing our manning in February. That will mean a slightly increased work load, but it will also lead to us having our own rooms! It might not sound like much, but those little things go a long way to improving quality of life issues.

Back tracking to my wanderings in Diego Garcia; There is quite a bit to do if you look around. It was very nice to get off the ship in the mornings and go for a run. A real run, not a few flights of stairs and and walk up and down the deck. And there is a world class gym there. The saying goes that you return from Diego either drunk or in shape. There are ample opportunities for both.

I went down to the Marina and checked out the boats. A kayak rental was first on the priority list. $2 for all day! LOL. I paddled up wind and then drifted back over the coral reefs. A very nice way to see the marine life. Hopefully, my pics came out. I will pick those up when we return.

The 2nd Officer that I work with, rented a Hobie Cat sail boat. We took a run out into the lagoon on it but kept that pretty short. That day was used mostly as a familiarization day. Plus, lunch time was rapidly approaching. We sailed for an hour and returned. Our tab came to $6.25! $2.25 for a beer, $2 for a coke and $2 for the sail boat! Beer more than boat. LOL Gotta love it.

They also have bikes that you can rent for $2/day or $8/week. We will hit that next time and do a little more exploring next time.

There are still many safety issues here. Today I had to go down a ladder that had approx. 35% of its steel missing! I took a couple of pics before I climbed down, just in case. ; )) Tomorrow, I am supposed to finally be able to replace some of the condemned fire extinguishers. That will help ease my mind somewhat.

Well, it's almost 1600 (4pm). Getting close to my bed time. Ciao

Come Sail Away

It Sunday here. Still Saturday night for you lowly Norte Americanos. For the most part, this is a day of rest for us while out at sea. I still had to work mid to 0400 but I was able to sleep in. Of course, I didn't : (( , my body is used to getting up after a few hours and why screw up my sleep pattern for one day.

Excuse me if some of these messages are in different formats. I wasn't able to get my mil copy of Office before I departed and didn't pay the upgrade from the trial offer. I just realized that I can only open "Word" six more times. Ooops. It will be straightend up some time in the future.

We have finished our weekly cleanup of our humble abode here. It smells clean and fresh for the moment.

The equator is behind us now. We are making our way up towards the NW point of Indonesia and into the Strait of Malacca (one of the original pirate enclaves).

The fishing boat traffic is starting to pick up. Seriously, if I were out in a small wooden boat and near shipping lanes, I would light up my boat with more than a flash light. I can't count the number of close calls on boats that seem to appear out of nowhere. Suddenly, you see a guy waving a flash light at you. And they don't move. They are expecting/hoping you will veer off. They don't seem to understand that steel beats wood every time!

We have made our pirate preparedness a top priority. Fire hoses and spotlights. Oooh, they're scared now! Well, it has worked so far (once again (this happens often here), Richard knocks on wood vigorously).

We pull into Singapore Christmas morning. We won't be there long (12-20 hrs). Hopefully, I can get ashore to take care of my email and pick up a few things. Hmmm, maybe a Hooters Singapore shirt! LOL.

More flashbacks here. My trip over here wasn't anything special, except for its length. New Orleans 33F to Chicago 22F to Tokyo 55F to Singapore 85F. All in about 30 hrs of travel. I got lucky, no really lengthy layovers.

I just barely had some time to grab some sushi to go in Tokyo. You have to grab something at the airport. I don't think it is physically possible to survive 30 hrs on airline food alone. How many bags of pretzels or peanuts can a man eat?

We arrived at our hotel aroun 0130, met the ship the next morning at 0900 and the nightmare began. I will try to get some pictures from the outside of the ship. Then you will have a slight idea of our sense of foreboding and as we got closer and the huge amounts of rust became more and more apparent.

Seeing that much neglect so easily is a sure sign of lots of stuff that you haven't seen yet. And this ship has proven that theory in spades.

Wow, I bought the Trapt Cd the other day. I was looking for some new music. My advice, look elsewhere! I am deleting these songs as quickly as I can listen to them. I want my money back!

It almost time for a little work out here. We haven't much of a gym. The few pieces we do have are outside on a dirty rusty deck. A couple of plates, worn out bench and a pullup bar. The hardest part is having nothing for cardio besides walking up and down the stairs here. It was sooo nice to get out on the island and go for a run.

The gym situation is one of the hardest parts here. That has always been my refuge when on a ship. A good place to work out the stresses of confinement.

Sometimes, shipping isn't much different than jail. I come up for parole in a few months! Actually, prisoners have more rights; cable, gyms, and I think their rooms are bigger than ours.

I need to go do something before bed time. Maybe grab a book, that seems like the best option.

And it is only 1400 (2pm folks!) I hope I can sleep more than a few hours at a time once I get home....

An Ongoing Saga

12/20/08 12:20 (military time, no more AM PM!)

I only have twenty or so minutes here, but time for a quick update. Every day here is like a new adventure.

Our Captain is going home when we get to Singapore. So, now, the most important mission in our life is sprucing up the ship for the incoming Captain. “Paint over rust! Paint over bare metal! Paint! Paint! Oh, and sweep too!”

A little more background here: Our ship was made in China. Most of these Asian built vessels have one thing in common; very poor construction and equipment. This one is no different. As with my experience on the barge that I brought over from Africa, the tools are cheap and bend or just out right break very easily. The ship’s steel itself is thin and rusts out at a surprising rate.
The poor equipment stretches to our safety gear. I am really glad that I brought my own safety glasses. As for our safety harnesses, they are below Western Standards also. The straps are thin, which would cut into your legs more than a wider strap if you should fall and have to hang from it. The safety lanyard is basically just a rope with a hook. US standards now include a lanyard that rips apart for a slower deceleration. Thus, incurring a less injurious stop (hopefully).
All of this is mentioned because I was once again tasked with the paint job on the foremast. “OK, no problem. I need a safety observer, a better lanyard and harness.” Surprisingly to me, I was told “Sure, just wait a few minutes.”

Well, ‘twas not to be. I waited that few minutes and then was given a hammer and told to go chip away on rust. LOL!! I was chipping away like a Pakistani shipyard worker (we don’t have compressed air, so no air tools for this little 3rd world ship), when the Captain passed by. A few minutes later is when sweeping became the most important job of the day. I can’t wait to see what this afternoon brings (it brought more sweepingLOL).

I haven’t even gotten started on the sanitation on this ship. Wow, you know it’s bad, if I am complaining. Where to start…..?

On most ships, everyone will have their own room, shower, toilet, etc. etc….Not here. We are two to a room (not the officers!) and having to share toilets and showers with anywhere from 3-4 guys. Not exactly an all together pleasant experience.

But my roommate and I try to be considerate of each other and that has worked out OK so far. The same with the toilet/shower situation. Everyone is stuck in the same boat (literally). So, we might as well work together to make the best of it.

Our galley (kitchen) is a non air conditioned not so clean looking area. A lot of it comes down to things beyond our cook’s control. The design of this ship fights us at every turn. And he has all galley duties to himself. He should have help. But he took the job, has been here before and knew what to expect. So, knowing that, he should put out more effort on cleaning and stocking snacks and such for us. That’s his only job.

If that weren’t bad enough, he reported on board with a horrible sickness that left him hacking and coughing to no end for the first two weeks. Seeing your cook hacking like that doesn’t make you feel much better either. Luckily it seems that he and we have survived that.

Our mess decks aren’t much better. That is where we sit down to eat. There are two little tables that we move around depending on who is sitting where. Usually the decks are sticky with something. Don’t ask me how long some of the stuff has been in the fridge there. I do know that the ham I threw out last week had expired in July!
Our coffee pot is ancient and slow. The poor machine is leaking and groaning. It sounds like it is just begging to be taken outside and shot. But it’s all that we have.
Lunch break is over. Until later….

Life and times at sea on a US Merchant Ship

Life Aboard the Baffin (Baffling?) (Buffoon?) Strait
Starting 12/19/08: Enroute from Diego Garcia, BIOT to Singapore

This is a weak attempt to chronicle the weird, odd and just plain strange goings ons aboard this ship. Excuse my ramblings, especially if I wander about a bit. There is so much that goes on here. And I will be in and out adding to this magical mystery tour as the days, weeks and months go by.

The MV Baffin Strait (BF) is a supply ship for the Navy base out in the Indian Ocean. Diego Garcia is the exact location. You join the ship in Singapore. Which is good for the company, for once you start to figure out what a bad situation you have put yourself into, the ship is out to sea and on the way south of the equator. Kind of a modern Shanghaiing…..

Ships that are halfway around the world and stay there are usually the worst examples of shipping. By the time your comprehension of your situation starts to become clear, you are a several thousand dollar plane ticket from home. There aren’t a lot of sailors that can immediately afford to eat that kind of expense.

Plus once you get home, you would have to start looking for a new job quickly. The need to make up for the air travel back home might lead you right back into another bad choice. By the time you have enough money to easily pay your way home, you are half way (or more) through your hitch. So you suck it up and say, “I have found another place to which I won’t be coming back.”

I am now on my lunch break out here. It is hot and humid with scattered showers. That is pretty much my weather forecast until I get home. I work from midnight to 4am on the bridge as a lookout/helmsman. After getting relieved, I jump in the rack (bed) and nap until 7:20am.
Then, it is up for breakfast and turning to (showing up at work) at 8am. We do a little interior cleaning of the ship, then hit the deck for the day’s project. We have a coffee break at 10, then lunch from 11:30 till 1pm. Since I stand a night watch, I only work from 1pm to 3pm in the afternoon. That gives me 9 hrs to exercise (where?!!), read, eat, clean up and sleep. I wake up at 11:20pm to get ready for the midnight watch and do it all again.

All of this morning has been spent in a place called the Bosun’s locker. The Bosun’s locker is where most deck equipment/tools are stored. Most of the time, it is a decent sized room. Here, it is the size of a small closet; a small closet with no ventilation in the tropics. I have been attempting to organize this little space. It’s hot but there are worse jobs that I could be doing out here.

Like yesterday, for instance. We had just completed five days in port. It was relatively calm there. It seems like that would be a good place to do vertical work: i.e. climbing aloft and chipping/painting the masts. The other alternative is to do it at sea while the wind is blowing, the ship is moving and sea gulls are looking for target practice. Well, guess which one was chosen. Now, guess who the lucky one was!

2:30pm: I am off the deck for the day! Finished the sweatbox operations and was able to knock off a little early. But a fat lot of good it does me now. We are advancing clocks one hour tonight. So I lose 40 minutes of rest time now and 20 minutes of my watch gets cut short. (A brief explanation for the uninitiated: On ships, as we cross time zones, we retard or advance our clocks. We have two advances and two retards (Ha! I said retard!) each roundtrip. This is accomplished by taking/adding 20 minutes to each watch until you have an hour.)
4-8pm watch retards/advances 20 minutes
8-12pm watch retards/advances 20 minutes
12-4am watch retards/advances 20 minutes
Voila’! Clocks have changed an hour. So, anyway, clocks will be advanced 40 minutes tonight taking away some of my off time. But I get it back on the return trip.

Somehow, the vertical job on the fore mast got transferred to another AB out here. I spent all morning yesterday getting the tools together, running extension cords and all that fun. After lunch, I shimmied on up (didn’t like it) and tried to get started. All the way at the top and the damn thing doesn’t work! @$%#*$^&. A co worker is using the same extension cord, so I know we have power. We do a bit of trouble shooting and it is the grinder. Grrrrrr. Didn’t think that I had to check every piece of equipment before I used it. My bad, guess I do.

Another hour passed trying to find an operating grinder that wasn’t being used. That wasn’t happening, so they tell the other guy working there to give me his grinder. LOL. He doesn’t like it. (Hell, I will give mine up in a heartbeat.) So, they give him the whole job and send me back to do something else. So, no climbing for me…for the moment.

This ship is really something else. As most of you will know, I spent the last year doing fire and safety inspections on offshore and onshore facilities; fire extinguishers, life boats and all that is included. So, coming on here, I naturally look around. Alarmingly, quickly, I found several extinguishers that should be condemned! I informed the chain of command and received the “oh yeah, we will get right on it” speech. Well two weeks later….. I will let the reader guess.

Lord, help this ship if there is a true emergency. The fire mains to the forward part of the ship (bow) have just recently been repaired. The crew is small and under equipped. The fast rescue boat would probably be anything but that.

For the moment, (Richard knocks vigorously on wood), our gyro compass and autopilot work. Our magnetic compass doesn’t! And that is our main backup.

We have repeaters on each side of the ship that also have our gyro heading on them. You use them to keep an eye on the heading while outside the bridge itself. They don’t work. So, I can’t use them to take a fix from the sun or moon to get our gyro error. Plus, the fact that we don’t have the tools (azimuth circle) to shoot a proper azimuth.

That’s enough for now. Wow four pages to start off…..Hmm, could be interesting. It is time to get cleaned up and get ready for bed. Midnight minus 40 minutes comes early.