Saturday, 28 January 2012

Meet Me In Port Louis

Today's been the weirdest-feeling one so far - seeing land! Not only seeing it, but aiming for it... we were due to get to the island of Mauritius at around 6.30am. We were slightly later than that, but no matter - there was a ship still in our berth, and it's only a little port so they needed to come out before we could get in. So we drifted, waiting. For hours. And hours. And hours.

Finally, at 8pm, I got a call to go up to the bridge - the captain had asked if I wanted to go and watch us coming into the port at night time, as all of our watches have been during the day so far. It's a completely different experience seeing only navigational lights, and it really needs to be done in order to understand what on earth they're trying to examine us on in college! Despite a bit of confusion about what exactly I was to be doing, which involved me running up and down five flights of stairs three or four times to change in and out and in and out of my boilersuit and proper uniform (all good exercise. I don't like to use the lift as it feels lazy), eventually there we were. The pilot was on board - this is a person, usually an ex-captain, who has indepth knowledge of the port and surrounding waters and so offers the captain advice on how to steer the ship into its berth - and I was dispatched to get him a Coke, which I did with grace and aplomb much like that stretcher the other day. It was odd seeing all of the equipment in the dark. They have particular settings to make them easier on the eye, for example the text on the radar turns red, but it still takes a bit of getting used to. For the short distance up until we touch the fenders in our berth, the steering is switched to a panel on the bridge wing so that the pilot and captain can step outside and look right down the side of the vessel to ensure proper manoeuvring. It's fascinating to watch the number of constant adjustments that need to be made - and the sheer scale of the whole operation. It all looks quite big, until you see the little post or bollard on the ground move and you realise that actually, that thing you thought was two feet tall is a fully grown man. Then it all starts to look a bit overwhelming...

I've just done my first cargo watch shift (making sure the right containers are being discharged and loaded) and now have to hurry up and finish my blog so I can get some kip before my next watch in 8 hours! Not sure if I'll get any time ashore - it depends how quickly all of the cargo ops get done, but after South Africa we're heading back up past here anyway so I'm sure I'll see it at some point.

Now. Knackered. Must sleep. Goodnight!

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