Sunday, 29 January 2012

Tug

We've just left Mauritius. We were so quick that I was greeted this morning at the start of my cargo watch by a sign by the gangway saying that nobody was allowed shore leave! Operations finished at lunchtime ish, we had a stowaway search, the pilot came on board and from then it was the reverse procedure for getting into port. Instead of Ian and I swapping roles so that I was down on the deck with the winches and ropes and he was on the bridge, I was told to put on my uniform and go up to the bridge - so I guess we'll swap around for getting both in and out of port next time.

I've never seen a tug boat in action in the daylight before! When we came in it was dark so all I could make out from the bridge were the lights. Watching them in all their detail was really fascinating - definitely a job to consider if I wanted to stay in one place! They approach the ship and attach themselves using heavy lines (I have yet to see this from the deck point of view but the third officer explained how it all worked so now I want to get down there to see for myself!) then, as the name suggests, tug the ship gently out of its berth and towards the right course. On the starboard side, where we'd been tied alongside, two more tugs came and  nudged us out using the fenders on their bows. They looked, to use a completely unprofessional analogy, like tiny mice from a Disney movie - am I thinking of Cinderella or something? - pushing and pulling a big lumbering person around. Maybe Gulliver is a more appropriate comparison. As before, I thought the tugs looked tiny, then saw someone aboard one come to rescue a fender that was hanging off and realised it was actually the size of my house.

Something else I've done today is more cargo watch, including checking all the lashings for the containers that were loaded. This involves climbing up to and walking along lashing bridges, which are tiny little walkways between each row of containers. The bridges themselves are stable enough but sometimes the stevedores (guys employed by the port to do the container manoeuvring) leave metal lashing bars along them so it feels like playing hopscotch in midair! I walked all the way along the second level towards port, which faced out to sea, and it seemed like I was walking the plank. Then up in the bridge later I realised how comparitively low down that second level is - our containers are 8'6" tall and wide (20', 40' or 45' long) and above deck they're stacked pretty high, with max sixteen across. There are thirty something rows of them from fore to aft. Yes, I am indeed on an enormous ship.

Sundays are supposed to be a day off watch for us cadets so we can study, but obviously that can't be applicable in port (real officers do cargo watch for 6 hours on and 6 off, instead of bridge watch which is 4 on and 8 off. Exhausting especially in this heat!). Instead we have tomorrow off deck work, so we still do our four hours watch but Ian gets the morning for a lie in - I mean, to study - and I have the afternoon free.

Dinner soon so I'm going to get changed and relax after a knackering day in port. Hope you've all had a lovely weekend!

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