Saturday, July 20, 2013


...with 2 D's, for a "Double Dose" of his pimping. But that's not what I'm talking about today.

Fisheye view of a simplified steamship bridge. Electronics were out of the frame here.

Engine Order Telegraph. A repeater on the Operating Platform told the engineers how many RPM's the capt. wanted.
30+ feet above the water, a ship can still get pooped- a giant wave pushed the stern of the ship underwater, allowing this hawser to float free and break its' lashings.

In 2001, God help us, I was finishing the sea-time requirements to upgrade my mariner credentials to work on merchant ships. I had over 2,000 days at sea already documented, but only 120 of those were on an unlimited (read: very big) tonnage ship. I needed 180 days to sit for the exam to become an Able Bodied Seaman. At the time this picture was taken, I was finishing my last week on board a ship that was working the west coast of the US, and it was heavy seas on a crank ship as a rule- an overly-stiff oil tanker that rolled deeply and at lightning speed in the trough of a swell.
    As I was yet to be rated Able on this ship, I was doing the usual chores of an Ordinary Seaman. I was the dumb laborer on board for 10 hours a day. Until I had an Able Seaman's rating and the 24-page Rating Forming Part of a Navigation Watch checkoffs signed by an officer, I couldn't stand watches.  I used my off time to learn how to stand cargo watches (turning valves on deck while oil and ballast were moving in and out) and steer the ship. My most proud moment as a sailor, from the day I first got paid for working on deck (age 7 or 8), was not the day I got my captain's license. It was the first time I stood a watch as quartermaster, the helmsman who steers the ship when a pilot is on board to bring the ship into port. Nothing made me more proud than the casual 'thank you, good job' the pilot threw over his shoulder as he went down the gangway. That was in Savannah GA, and over the next 8 years, I'd work with that pilot 30 or so more times, and we were on a friendly basis. I made it a point never to work one day over the minimum sea time I needed to upgrade my credentials, and thus in the next 8 years I'd work 4 months and take 2-3 months off at home, but in that time I'd be in classes for at least 4 weeks to upgrade my skills and licenses.
        Among the first major projects for that was to upgrade from Ordinary Seaman to Able Seaman. This is among the oldest and largely most traditional exams in a sailor's career, and the only practicum for Americans. Along with a standardized multiple-guess exam, the prospective AB must show his proficiency in marlinespike seamanship, tying any combination of knots on request and being able to splice a line and whip the ends while under a time constraint.
      Anyways, I passed and returned to a ship with the same company. By the end of my first voyage I was asked to become a permanent crewman, and had already made some lifelong friends. I would spend 7 more years on that ship.

1 comment:

Tower Todd said...

Thanks for the reflection. I looking to follow a similar route.