Saturday, February 20, 2010

2009 Sea Voyage Part 4E: The End

DAY 86: Arrival in Long Beach

Today's weather was a nice break after the past few days. Here's a winning snapshot taken off the starboard bridge wing as we passed through the Channel Islands:

Channel Islands

Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how nice the weather is once you get within range of the rusty brown miasma that makes up the local Los Angeles atmosphere:
LA Miasma

As we made our approach I headed up to the bow where I joined the Ordinary Seaman already standing by as lookout:Dave the Ordinary Seaman

We crossed through the breakwater and entered LA Harbor right around sunset:
San Pedro Lighthouse
Once we were moored, everything suddenly got crazy. I got pulled every which way and had all sorts of things distracting me along the way. I was hoping to be off of the ship sometime around 1800, but with all of the extra noise it ended up being closer to 2030. Damn.

Still, Ana was waiting for me by the gates to the container terminal. After a somewhat brief bout of complaining about my being late, we headed back to the apartment and I won't be discussing the rest of the day's proceedings.

Day 87: Easy Day sitting in Port

Today I was supposed to start my day by taking new crew members around and showing them the safety and lifesaving systems on the ship. It all sounded so simple.

I was supposed to have the new crew meet me in the cargo office at 0800. By 0840, I'd seen three of the nine folks I was expecting and figured nobody else was coming. The 3rd Mate was the same guy that was here when I'd started this job, so we were getting caught up on all of the things that had changed since he'd left. That's when the 1st Assistant Engineer popped up on the UHF radio:

"Anybody on the air," says he, "I've got a medical emergency in the main control room. We need the AED down here right away."

The AED is the Automated Electronic Defibrillator. It's the thing you plug into someone in order to zap their heart back into working properly. On this ship it lives up in the officer's mess.

I ran from the cargo office up to the mess to grab it. What I didn't realize was that they were shampooing the carpet in the mess. This wasn't a problem on the way in, but when I ran out into the tiled passageway I lost my footing and slid through three other guys as I tried to turn the corner.

"What the fuck!" one of them yelled, "why don't you watch where you're going?"

"Sorry," says I, "I don't have time to deal with you guys."

From there I scrambled down the four decks worth of stairs toward the main control room. On the way, folks started pointing me to the upper level of the main engine room. When I got there I found a small crowd standing around a man lying prone on the deck gratings.

What I found was a 65-year old male who was being treated for shock. The 1st Assistant was there and said that the man in question had been feeling dizzy and lightheaded and had to steady himself on the railing. Then he started to lose consciousness, folded up, and collapsed.

By the time I got there he was awake and aware. He had a strong pulse and steady respiration, so it was unlikely that I was dealing with a cardiac event of some kind. The paramedics were on the way, but I still had plenty of time to sort out as much as I could. I was able to learn that the patient takes medication for high blood pressure, hadn't had anything to eat all day, and regularly suffers from low blood sugar.

When the paramedics did show up (along with a whole platoon of firefighters) things got interesting. They rigged a stair chair to haul the man up to the main deck. At the same time, the Chief Mate had contacted the terminal and had them bring their "rescue basket" over to the ship.

Once the paramedics were confident that they'd stabilized the patient, they strapped him into a stair chair for extrication from the engine room. Somewhere in there I had a bit of conversation with one of the firefighters:

"I thought we were supposed to be going to the engine room," says he.

"You're in the engine room," says I.

"Where's the engines?" asks he.

"You see those things over there? Those are the cylinder heads. You're standing on the upper level and the engine is over four stories tall."

"Oh. Damn."

I guess it's easy to miss the forest for the trees in a place like this:

Engine Room

Anyway, I grabbed the patient's personal effects and headed up the ladder to make sure things were prepped to get everything off the ship. When I got up to the main deck I found complete pandemonium. The Chief Engineer was yelling at the top of his lungs telling the 3rd Mate to bring the terminal's basket inside the passageway on the main deck so the firemen could load the patient into it.

What he didn't seem to realize was that the rescue basket was essentially a skeletonized 20-foot container. There was absolutely no way to fit it inside any of the doors into the main deck passageway.

Moments later, the firemen had hauled the patient up to the main deck. At this point they'd been turned around six or eight times since they'd come aboard and had no idea where they were. Unfortunately, when they started looking for directions to figure out where they were headed, the loudest, most in-charge-seeming guy was the Chief Engineer.

With all of the yelling that was going on, I can understand why they would make that assumption. Still, all he was doing was creating distress and confusion. It took a bit of effort, but I managed to get everyone's attention, steer them toward the rescue basket, and get them safely off of the ship.

I really can't wait to be done dealing with the Chief.

Once that minor little emergency was taken care of it was all downhill. In fact, for most of the afternoon all I had to do was sit around and wait for one of our suppliers to deliver our charts and publications. They never showed.

A few minutes before 1600, I stopped by the cargo office to see if there was anything else for me to do. That's when the Chief Mate asked me to help him unbolt the manhole covers on some of the voids in the forepeak. If nothing else it was an opportunity to earn some overtime pay.

DAY 88: Delayed Delays

We were supposed to be leaving today at 1800. Instead, the terminal fell way behind on loading our cargo and it's going to be more like 0300 tomorrow before we actually get underway.

Sometime just before lunch, the navigation supplier finally showed up. I'd say he brought all of the charts and publications I was expecting, but he didn't. It was all stuff we needed, but not the stuff I ordered. Supposedly those are in the ship's warehouse somewhere, so I don't have to worry about it.

Once I was told not to worry about it, I went ahead and called Ana to come and pick me up. I met her at the pier just after 1600 with all kinds of plans for the afternoon and evening. Then, as we were driving away, her phone rang.

It turns out there was a minor problem at the Coast Guard Sector Command Center that she had to come in and fix. Oh well.

After a bit more running around, we ended up back at the apartment. Not long after that, Ana started nodding off. Then she offered to take me to the ship so I could get some rest. Nothing transparent about that I suppose.

I'd like to say I actually got some rest, but by the time I got back to the ship it was only a couple of hours until...

DAY 89: Enroute Oakland

We were underway at 0330. Casting off went quick and smooth. Then it was time to try to get sleep again. I didn't. Instead I did some laundry and some packing.

Oh well.

My afternoon watch went pretty smoothly as well. The sky was overcast, but there was very little shipping traffic to contend with and the sea was fairly calm.

Once again the plan after watch was to get some rest. Once again I failed.

DAY 90: Arrival Oakland

I was supposed to be paid off of the ship upon arrival in Oakland. As luck would have it, there was a VIP tour group scheduled to come down and visit the ship this afternoon. As a result, the Captain asked me to stay aboard for an extra day to help out because, "when you answer questions it sounds like you know what you're talking about."

I'll take that for a day's pay.

When the tour group finally got up to the pilothouse, I was asked to give a quick overview of the electronics and whatnot. Two minutes into my totally unprepared speech, the guy in charge of the group cut in and told me I had two minutes to finish up before they had to head out. Two minutes isn't much time, so I just opened the floor up to questions.

"Do you worry about icebergs?" one of them asked.

"I do not," says I, "Today's my last day."

That brought a bit of a chuckle from the crowd. The rest of the questions were pretty predictable, but I had fun with it all the same. Then it was time for them to leave. On the way out, one of the visitors stopped me and said that he works in "corporate communications," developing training material and presentations for executives, and he thought that my presentation style and material was very well thought out and effectively delivered.

Not bad for making it up on the spot. I guess I do sound like I know what I'm talking about.

For the next couple of hours I was tasked with following a group of engineers around while they poked around some of the modifications that were installed in the shipyard. They were a lot less entertaining, but I did get to trade sea stories with one of them who happened to be a retired US Coast Guard Warrant Officer. Cool.

With all of the tour guide work done, I stopped by the Captain's office and got paid off. So once again I am briefly flush with cash and overwhelmed with free time. This will all change very rapidly.

Now back to our regularly scheduled unemployment.


  1. Echem, nice interpretation of your time here. Echem.

    1. You forget to mention that before the brief bout of complaining about you being late...that my issue wasnt that you were late but that you didn't show me the courtesy of telling me you were going to be over an hour late so I wasn't sitting out at a cargo terminal...alone. at night.

    2. I will point out that when we talked about taking you back to the ship I OPENLY said that that I did need to get some rest because I had my first qualified watch the next day and needed to rest, along with saying that you should try to get some rest.


  2. btw no fun words for verification this time. You should work on that. :)