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This has been a fun week… most of it. Exciting, and all, anyway. We had a damage control drill, in which the fire attack team had a chance to play with our big emergency submersible pump (big blue thing, about the size of a child and the weight of a man) which had to be carried down to the engine room, and dropped into a tank of water, and then they had the fun of emptying a few tons out of the porthole, and then the rest we transferred into another tank. Great fun for them, very good that they finally get a chance to work with that pump (it’s a monster!). And the tanks, of course, mean work for the watermen! 🙂

We had two tanks which were on schedule for being worked in (we emptied out one of them a month or so ago, and had deck teams in there scraping off the old dead cement, and we last week got the new cement on all the walls.

So we had to open up this empty tank again, and open up the other tank, and get everything ready for that. This meant the usual sitting for a few hours in a bilge/tanktop covered in slime and grease and oil with various sizes of wrenches/spanners getting the manhole open.. This one also created a few more problems though, as some of the nuts were really old and totally seized up.

I had to find out how to get them off. I tried everything I knew how to do (various lubricants, hammers, spanners with extensions, and so on). My next and final option was to grind the thing off. As this is in a bilge, with oil and all about, it’s quite dangerous to do grinding, as you have sparks all over the place. So you need “Hot Work permits” which are paperwork to make sure you follow all safety procedures, have another guy on firewatch while you work, have fire extinguishers ready, etc… The chief mate suggested I try using just a oil burner/torch and heating up the nut around the edges, to try and expand it and so free it up. This would also require Hot Work permits, but would be safer, and also a lot easier, if it worked.

As I was getting ready for this (with the deadline being the drill the day after), the chief engineer suggested just using a “Nut splitter”, a really cool tool I’d never seen before. Basically it’s a chisel with a threaded end, a bolt on the end, and a case to drive it through the nut, as you tighten the bolt. Very cool indeed. So I found this device, and amazingly, it worked! Very nice indeed. I was chatting with the Engine Foreman afterwards, and he suggested a few other ideas involving chisels (and hitting the bolt in the right places to expand the right parts). So I have lots of new stuff learned. Cool. I’ll put it all in the “Waterman’s Bible.”

Have I mentioned the “Waterman’s Bible“?

It’s our source of all knowledge and wisdom, concerning the job. When I joined, it was about 4 pages long, very hastily put togeather, and with confusing notes, and about as comprehensive as “Spot the Dog” is as a guide to the English language.

So myself and the former watermen began to add to it, and since I took over as head waterman, I’ve added diagrams of valves, information about the “Free Surface Effect” and other important things we really need to know, but were always handed on (getting more and more incorrect over time) by word of mouth, or just totally ignored, and other interesting information (such as “Where to find people to hang out with on the ship at 2 in the morning when you’re waiting for the final water truck to arrive” and “Where can I get new hose-clips?” and “Where can I find good coffee?” or even “How can I get these wretched rusted nuts off the manhole-cover!?” for instance.

Currently the “Waterman’s Bible: Nearly Accurate Simplified Version (NASV) April 2007 Edition” is around 50 pages long.

So, back to my week. Three days ago we had to move the ship a few hundred meters down the quayside, so a container ship could come in… the next morning we moved her back again. Then we have have 3 containers of food/books/supplies/chemicals arrive in (including 2 new waterhoses I ordered 3 months ago!).


And most recently, yesterday.

Yesterday was International Night (I-night). Our big festival of songs and dances and dramas from around the world! We’re having two this port, for different audiences, and I am on the “I-night Crew” now, doing the multimedia (videos, cameras, projectors, etc). Yesterday was my first time doing that, always before I’ve been on stage performing. It was so much fun! So good to do theatrey work again. I love the energy and excitement of it. I was sitting on my own with a laptop, projector and camera (and camera person for a while) with a headset on listening to the stage director and back stage crew, and most things went pretty well.

At the beginning of this I-night we had a local Christian band playing, and then we went into 2 movies/video clips, and then the show proper. 5 minutes before the local band started their sound check, the singer came up to me with a USB stick and said “Hey, can you show this powerpoint, it’s the lyrics of our 3 songs, while we sing…”

Yeah, no worries… Except, it’s all in Mandarin! And I don’t really speak any Mandarin at all!

He told me. “OK, these are my hand signals I use with the band, ‘this’ means ‘Chorus’ and ‘this’ means ‘from the top’. We have 3 songs in this powerpoint, the first one is slides 1-3, slide 3 is the chorus…”

Woah! Cool! Bring it on! In the end, we did find one of our translators who could run the lyrics with me, which helped, rather.

After the local band, we had those two video clips. The first one for some reason was not on the laptop (someone else had set up the laptop and files on the ship before the day), and it only arrived 10 minutes before the performance! Still, I had them ready. Then, just as I started the clips, the sound came on, but no video on the projector! This was crazy! I’d just been showing lyrics on them! We’d managed to get a flatscreen monitor from the venue to use as a second monitor display by me, so I could set up the videos on the screen before switching the video-switch to display the computer, and the video was playing fine on my monitor.

So I switched off the video and began checking cables, while the whole audience was sitting there… and I found the projector had switched itself off! So I turned it on again, and reset my videos and got it going again. The whole time (probably only 15-20 seconds at the most, from when the sound came on without visuals to when it started working properly) with the stage director and everyone worried in the headset, and me on my first time with multimedia i-night. It was great! I love theatre.

Everything else went pretty smoothly. It was a long day, we started at 6.30am (after getting to bed around midnight the night before because of the container arrivals, that was a 14 hour work day), and then finished de-briefing after the I-night around half past midnight, and then eating dinner til past 1am, (So about 18 work hours…) Then I was up again this morning at 6.30 to get ready for a study group. I don’t think I’ll work too hard today, except I have my normal work to do, after church, then 2 Irish dance performances later in the afternoon, I need to do my work appraisal with the chief mate, and also a sermon review with the study group coordinator about 5pm…

[Ding Dong, Ding Dong…]

OK, just to add to the fun, the fire alarm just went off. Some kind of electrical fault in one of the wires, they guess. I was at the firestation with the others for about 10 minutes, they couldn’t find anything in the whole zone where the alarm went off, so they’ve isolated the alarm, and check again in an hour.

Yeah. Fun week.

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This has been a fun week… most of it. Exciting, and all, anyway. We had a damage control drill, in which the fire attack team had a chance to play with our big emergency submersible pump (big blue thing, about the size of a child and the weight of a man) which had to be carried down to the engine room, and dropped into a tank of water, and then they had the fun of emptying a few tons out of the porthole, and then the rest we transferred into another tank. Great fun for them, very good that they finally get a chance to work with that pump (it’s a monster!). And the tanks, of course, mean work for the watermen! 🙂

We had two tanks which were on schedule for being worked in (we emptied out one of them a month or so ago, and had deck teams in there scraping off the old dead cement, and we last week got the new cement on all the walls.

So we had to open up this empty tank again, and open up the other tank, and get everything ready for that. This meant the usual sitting for a few hours in a bilge/tanktop covered in slime and grease and oil with various sizes of wrenches/spanners getting the manhole open.. This one also created a few more problems though, as some of the nuts were really old and totally seized up.

I had to find out how to get them off. I tried everything I knew how to do (various lubricants, hammers, spanners with extensions, and so on). My next and final option was to grind the thing off. As this is in a bilge, with oil and all about, it’s quite dangerous to do grinding, as you have sparks all over the place. So you need “Hot Work permits” which are paperwork to make sure you follow all safety procedures, have another guy on firewatch while you work, have fire extinguishers ready, etc… The chief mate suggested I try using just a oil burner/torch and heating up the nut around the edges, to try and expand it and so free it up. This would also require Hot Work permits, but would be safer, and also a lot easier, if it worked.

As I was getting ready for this (with the deadline being the drill the day after), the chief engineer suggested just using a “Nut splitter”, a really cool tool I’d never seen before. Basically it’s a chisel with a threaded end, a bolt on the end, and a case to drive it through the nut, as you tighten the bolt. Very cool indeed. So I found this device, and amazingly, it worked! Very nice indeed. I was chatting with the Engine Foreman afterwards, and he suggested a few other ideas involving chisels (and hitting the bolt in the right places to expand the right parts). So I have lots of new stuff learned. Cool. I’ll put it all in the “Waterman’s Bible.”

Have I mentioned the “Waterman’s Bible“?

It’s our source of all knowledge and wisdom, concerning the job. When I joined, it was about 4 pages long, very hastily put togeather, and with confusing notes, and about as comprehensive as “Spot the Dog” is as a guide to the English language.

So myself and the former watermen began to add to it, and since I took over as head waterman, I’ve added diagrams of valves, information about the “Free Surface Effect” and other important things we really need to know, but were always handed on (getting more and more incorrect over time) by word of mouth, or just totally ignored, and other interesting information (such as “Where to find people to hang out with on the ship at 2 in the morning when you’re waiting for the final water truck to arrive” and “Where can I get new hose-clips?” and “Where can I find good coffee?” or even “How can I get these wretched rusted nuts off the manhole-cover!?” for instance.

Currently the “Waterman’s Bible: Nearly Accurate Simplified Version (NASV) April 2007 Edition” is around 50 pages long.

So, back to my week. Three days ago we had to move the ship a few hundred meters down the quayside, so a container ship could come in… the next morning we moved her back again. Then we have have 3 containers of food/books/supplies/chemicals arrive in (including 2 new waterhoses I ordered 3 months ago!).


And most recently, yesterday.

Yesterday was International Night (I-night). Our big festival of songs and dances and dramas from around the world! We’re having two this port, for different audiences, and I am on the “I-night Crew” now, doing the multimedia (videos, cameras, projectors, etc). Yesterday was my first time doing that, always before I’ve been on stage performing. It was so much fun! So good to do theatrey work again. I love the energy and excitement of it. I was sitting on my own with a laptop, projector and camera (and camera person for a while) with a headset on listening to the stage director and back stage crew, and most things went pretty well.

At the beginning of this I-night we had a local Christian band playing, and then we went into 2 movies/video clips, and then the show proper. 5 minutes before the local band started their sound check, the singer came up to me with a USB stick and said “Hey, can you show this powerpoint, it’s the lyrics of our 3 songs, while we sing…”

Yeah, no worries… Except, it’s all in Mandarin! And I don’t really speak any Mandarin at all!

He told me. “OK, these are my hand signals I use with the band, ‘this’ means ‘Chorus’ and ‘this’ means ‘from the top’. We have 3 songs in this powerpoint, the first one is slides 1-3, slide 3 is the chorus…”

Woah! Cool! Bring it on! In the end, we did find one of our translators who could run the lyrics with me, which helped, rather.

After the local band, we had those two video clips. The first one for some reason was not on the laptop (someone else had set up the laptop and files on the ship before the day), and it only arrived 10 minutes before the performance! Still, I had them ready. Then, just as I started the clips, the sound came on, but no video on the projector! This was crazy! I’d just been showing lyrics on them! We’d managed to get a flatscreen monitor from the venue to use as a second monitor display by me, so I could set up the videos on the screen before switching the video-switch to display the computer, and the video was playing fine on my monitor.

So I switched off the video and began checking cables, while the whole audience was sitting there… and I found the projector had switched itself off! So I turned it on again, and reset my videos and got it going again. The whole time (probably only 15-20 seconds at the most, from when the sound came on without visuals to when it started working properly) with the stage director and everyone worried in the headset, and me on my first time with multimedia i-night. It was great! I love theatre.

Everything else went pretty smoothly. It was a long day, we started at 6.30am (after getting to bed around midnight the night before because of the container arrivals, that was a 14 hour work day), and then finished de-briefing after the I-night around half past midnight, and then eating dinner til past 1am, (So about 18 work hours…) Then I was up again this morning at 6.30 to get ready for a study group. I don’t think I’ll work too hard today, except I have my normal work to do, after church, then 2 Irish dance performances later in the afternoon, I need to do my work appraisal with the chief mate, and also a sermon review with the study group coordinator about 5pm…

[Ding Dong, Ding Dong…]

OK, just to add to the fun, the fire alarm just went off. Some kind of electrical fault in one of the wires, they guess. I was at the firestation with the others for about 10 minutes, they couldn’t find anything in the whole zone where the alarm went off, so they’ve isolated the alarm, and check again in an hour.

Yeah. Fun week.

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I’m typing this from the dry food store, miles and miles down in the depthful belly of the ship. I don’t know if depthful is a real word, but if not, I have just coined it. Please pay all royalties to me, chocolate is the preferred currency.

OK, so what am I doing in this previously mentioned food store…? Well, we’ve been having a few problems on the job.

Over the last few months we’ve been emptying out ballast tanks, (the water tanks down at the bottom of the ship which keep her stable) one at a time, and then sending a deck team in there to do routine maintenance (routine, as in, once every 4 years or so per tank).

Anyway. We just got to the last tank in the series, and so needed to fill it up with water. For some reason though, every time we tried to use the pipe to send water to the tank, the pump would get very hot and trip the electrics. We could see a very high pressure build up in the pipe by the pump, so it looked as if there was some kind of blockage in the pipe, which was not allowing water through it. We went into the tank last week or so, and looked around for any obvious problems, feeling inside the pipes as far as fingers would go to make sure they had not got cemeted over in the maintenance. No problems found though…

So we asked the engine room guys to have a look at it, and they sent a very professional welder/plumber. He took a “snake” (high pressure hose with a thing on the end which bounces around and smashes to bits any kind of blockage or rust.
Anyway… it got stuck in the pipe. So he called me, and then he went into the tank to take the pipe off and look for his snake. BUT… forgot to check which pipe. The wrong pipe got taken off…. So he took off the other one. Not his fault, he didn’t know the tank had two pipes leading into it. We couldn’t see any problems, so he put them back.

Presumably the problem was further up the pipe, closer to the engine room.

Presumably so was his ‘snake’.

So, we opened up the other tank, brought a HUGE emergency submersible pump and attached it up to transfer between the two tanks. This pump is a very serious pump. It’s designed to be hooked up, and chucked down a staircase into a flooded hold to pump it out, kind of thing. It took 3 of us to carry down to the food store here where the tank manholes are to put the pump into. We had to use all kinds of ropes and stuff to hoist the thing down. We attached it, and set it going. It was a bit complicated, as we had to have one guy at the suction end of the pump, to make sure it was OK, one guy at the discharge end to make sure it didn’t swing around and kill someone, one guy running between to make sure the hose was OK and didn’t explode, and one guy 3 decks up with a radio to switch the electricity for the pump on and off (there are only 3 connection points on the whole ship for this creature).

So… First when we switched it on, we found a hole in the hose. We found it as it started shooting water the pressure of a fire-hose all over the place in the book-hold where the discharge tank manhole is. So we stopped the pump, pushed more of the hose into the tank so the leak was inside the tank, and tried again. This time, the pressure of the pump pushed the hose into a crack under the flange of two pipes, and then ripped the whole hose open as the pressure was too high for the squashed position. I got totally soaked by this.

So we stopped the pump, got a new hose, and tried again. This time was OK… for about 4 minutes. But the pressure of the pump started pushing the discharge end of the hose back out of the tank! So we stopped the pump, tied the hose down, and started again. 2 hours later, nothing more had gone wrong, and 60 tons of water had been moved. That is, 30 tons an hour. 500 litres a minute, in other words. Quite fast.

So in went our bold intrepid welder/plumber guy to the now empty tank, and he took off the pipes and all, found the ‘snake’ in a “omega” shaped bend in the pipe (the chief mate says this is to allow for expansion and contraction of in the ship’s shape… if he had asked the C/M before sending his ‘snake’ in, it would have saved a lot of problems…) anyway. He got his snake out, closed up the pipes again, and declared the pipes probably useable… at least, no problems found in them. (These are probably original 1914 pipes, brass (I think) and still in amazingly good condition…)

Yesterday was spent with myself and another guy (possibly the next waterman? Who knows…) down here with a smaller more sociable submersible pump moving the last of the water across. (When they had opened up the pipes, about 20 tons of water drained back across to the other tank we had just moved it from.)

So. Now what…

The tank we are moving from (where the snake was stuck) is smaller than the tank we are moving the water into.

By about 10 tons.

So I still have 10 or so tons of water to move across. I tried this morning using the probably OK pipe system, and the engine room pump. I did this very slowly, checking everything, slowly allowing pressure to build up, etc, so as not to overflow anything, or trip the electricity on the pump, or any of that. Strangely, although water was leaving the pump, the water level didn’t go up in the tank. I checked after lunch, and the level was exactly the same…. So I stopped the whole thing, and started checking my tank levels, sounding everything I could think of. About 40 tons of water had left the freshwater tank I was pumping from, and 0 had arrived in the ballast tanks. And it had not arrived anywhere else either.

About this time, I was expecting my name on the paging system any second, to find 40 tons of water had turned up in someone’s cabin…

Luckily it didn’t

Unluckily (or possibly not) It didn’t turn up anywhere else, either.

Anyway. We sail tomorrow, and this tank must be full when we leave. So I decided to ignore the whole missing water problem, and spent the last part of this afternoon moving water from the engine room into the empty small tank, (these pipes still work…) and then am myself down here in the dry food store, miles and miles down in the depthful belly of the ship moving the water from the small tank into the big one with the sociable submersible pump. It’s very slow.

And quite scary too. Last time the other waterman did something like this, he managed to flood the book-hold, and it caused some huge amount of damage, something in the thousands of euros range. So that’s why this entry is so disjointed, I keep running off to check everything. Yesterday I started at 6.30am, and finished at 10pm, and today I started at the more reasonable hour of 9.30am, and hope to be finished before the same numbers reappear with another suffix (or the same. That would be worse…). We shall see.

The reason it is so much work for just me, is that the other senior waterman is leaving, and changing jobs (I may have mentioned this before). And is doing training all this week. It’s all really tiring, anyway.


This is a photo of the inside of one of the tanks, including the “omega” bends. The tank is 1 metre 33 cm high.

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Slightly weird news is that I’m going to be waterman. Means no more work outside really, hardly any physical work either. No more gangway watch either, mind you. I start right after sabbath week. It’s the job I didn’t want as it means being on call in evenings, but for the next lot of ports, as they are quite developed, we should always have water from a main, rather than trucks, which is better. So I won’t be on call all evening.

There are two watermen, the old one is leaving and I know the new one requested me about two months ago already. Then today I was told to work with him for the day, so I did, and then this evening the chief mate told me that as soon as sabbath week is over I will be the new waterman. It’s a job I know I can do, and some of it will be interesting. Like doing all the key-repair/locksmith stuff, but yeah. I dunno.

The chief mate knows I don’t really want to be waterman, and he knows I want to move to another department as well eventually. So he could have given me the job because they need someone, and it actually isn’t that hard, and I’ll be able to fill the second position until they find someone who wants the job. I’ll enjoy the locksmithing part, as long as I can find some good books about it, and can get enough work time to do it in. I’ll learn how to pick locks. And I’ll have a slightly more flexible schedule than now.

Also I have the go-ahead to make the Doulos intranet computer system, which should be a fun diversion. So I will kind of have full internet access sometimes for a while, to do research and get the software I need and stuff.

Oh, and I’m playing tambourine with the gospel choir. Kind of fun, but utterly exhausting in the right arm after playing solidly for six minutes straight.

As waterman, I’ll be able to play clarinet in my office, which is far away from everyone. I don’t like playing in my cabin, as there are always watchkeepers in next door cabins asleep, or in my cabin, and it’s hard to find other places which are free. I’m currently playing a lot in hold 1 which has so-so acoustics.