Finally! After 18 days at anchor in the Mississippi, we set sail on Thursday for Houston, where we are loading up for a voyage to the northeast. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be 1) getting underway again, and 2) heading out of the hot Gulf of Mexico. Good times.
So, as some of you know from before I pulled the plug on my last 3 years of blog entries, this will also be our first real outing after Hurricane Ike beat our balls in last month. We made our hay while we were at anchor, for certain. The ship looks better than she has in a few years, It’s hard keeping up the exterior without resorting to blasting in a shipyard, but we’re busting rust like madmen, and I anticipate a couple more days of the same.
Yesterday marked the 30-day point for me. I’ve been here for a month. In New York, our next port, I will be switching watches to pair up with Thaddeus Maximus, 3rd mate and practitioner of the dark art of Celestial Navigation.
Celestial Navigation, or navigating by the sun and stars, is a big glaring hole in my resume. I am as yet ignorant of it, to be blunt. I can take an azimuth, or work out the amplitude formula to find gyrocompass error, which is the most common form of celestial mathematics that we do on ship, but the old school skill of taking star fixes is as yet beyond me. Hopefully this will change. I have been beefing up my astronomy knowledge in preparation. Luckily, I am a geek, and therefore, I’ve already got a journeyman’s working knowledge of the constellations in our hemisphere, which should help a little.
To make the step from Able Seaman to 3rd mate, there is a shit ton (1 shit ton=6 months of lost vacation, thousands of dollars and weeks of study time) of classes to be taken, plus exam prep and assorted paperwork. The details are excruciating. I am about 60% done already with classes, although I have yet to take the Celestial Nav, Search and Rescue/Emergency Procedures, Watchkeeping, Cargo Handling&Stowage and Weather sections. This will be happening starting next February. In the meanwhile, I have 70 competency exercises to do this voyage. These range from mundane (adjust a sextant) to extensive (plan a voyage of at least 1200 miles). This is, of course, in between working 8, 12 or 16 hours a day. Not so easy. Working with the Captain or chief mate, I have to perform these evaluations under scrutiny, and, along with the classes and the evaluations, there is still an incredibly stressful and intensive exam series to get out of the way. Long row to hoe.
Anyhow, I’m excited about getting to sea. This marked the first time EVER I was glad to go to Texas. Usually that’s a bad thing! Now, however, it’s almost time to button up the ship and head to sea, and hopefully be reminded of why I do this job in the first place.