Friday, 3 February 2012

A Tanker At Anchor

We aren't a tanker, nor can I see any from here. I just like the wordplay.

So we're at anchor! Just outside Durban and there's been a strike of port authorities - it's pretty hard to get any information, so whether we're waiting for non-union pilots or whether they've sorted it out and are slowly trying to catch up, I have no idea, but what it all boils down to is the fact that we need to wait. And wait.

It isn't the worst place to wait, let's be honest. There's bright sunshine and little breezes and big blue sea. Watching the anchor go down was pretty amazing - it was night time so we were lit only by a yellowish lamp and flashlights on the fo'c's'le. First you slowly drop the anchor until it's a metre above sea level, then you let it freefall until the length of the anchor chain is right. There's a monitor next to the handle that lets you see how much you've dropped it, which is cool. So the bosun would drop a little bit, report to the captain on the bridge what the reading was, and then change it as the captain thought necessary. When it's in freefall, the noise it makes is like something from hell - clanking and groaning and massive rattling and it's so fast!! And the dust and rust it brings up is like your own little tornado on deck. I had to look away every time it started to make sure I didn't get anything in my eyes, despite being the other side of the fo'c's'le!

Until further notice, due to some info we got before arriving, we're on double deck watch. We walk around the ship, slowly, in a boiler suit, in hot weather, for four hours at a time, because we're mental. I mean because there's a risk of hijacking in this area - we're basically just looking out for any suspicious looking little vessels which approach us and making sure nobody gets on board! It isn't the most exciting job I've done, I'll be honest, and it's a bit intimidating thinking that I'm responsible for making sure this massive ship with millions of pounds' worth of stuff in containers doesn't get hijacked... not solely responsible, obviously, but still!

All the wandering around has made me tired and thirsty so I'm off to have a nap and a drink. Hopefully more exciting things tomorrow...


  1. Just discovered your blog, it's great. I'm looking for a bit of advice...I have a 15 year old son who wants to do a deck officer cadetship at 16. As you have already done other things before and so can judge do you think it is too young to start? Are there many of his age on the scheme? Would really appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Hi Diane, thanks! As you might see from my most recent blog post, I won't be continuing my blog in this vein for much longer... but as for advice, I think it really does depend on the personality. The average age in my intake is probably 18/19, but we have sixteen year olds who are more mature than the ones in their twenties! Then again, with some people they really do seem a bit young. It will also depend on the companies - some don't take people over 18. The best advice I suppose is to apply to the companies he likes best, and then see what they think of him at interview - they should be able to tell right away whether he's ready. If you still want a cadet to follow, try - he works on a cruise ship so it will be an entirely different experience to mine but should still give a flavour of the job.