Saturday 23rd July
The last few weeks, I seem to have spent almost all my working time sanding off some of the wooden handrails and putting new varnish on them. There are so many to do and it takes so long. We have proper equipment though, so it is at least Good Work, it feels satisfying. Nice big solid power-tool electic sanders. Real Tools for Real Men (People), and all that kind of rubbish. Fun.
We have to keep a thin line from each tool to ourselves, in case we drop them overboard, as they are quite expensive. It is a very satisfying experience, because the wood looks so bad before, and wonderful afterwards.
We end up spending a lot of time getting stuff wrong though, due to bad planning. We spent about an hour lowering a gangway out of the way, as no-one on our team is in the gangway squad, and none of us knew how to do it quickly, so we could get at an area of wood to work on, and then had to move it back again because it turned out there would be lifeboat drills in an hour, and the lifeboats had to drop right past where we had put the gangway.
We arrived 2 days ago in this port of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, I think. We arrived at 9am or so, which meant that as my normal deckie work, we were doing unloading of the gangways, vans, and so on. I really enjoy this work, it is probably my favorite work of the whole deck dep.
What we do is attach slings to the gangways, then the crane op swings it into position, and we then attach it, attach "messenger lines" (a rope which goes from the object being craned to the deck, so that it can be controlled, for instance, if there is wind, or if we put on 2 messenger lines, we can rotate the object) swing them out, lower them down to the quayside, and viola, done. I just like it. Getting to mess around with ropes, pulling stuff all over, it's like real sailing. Almost.
Yesterday I was on the cleaning team, which means getting up for 6am. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And then scrubbing and washing down the decks, ready for the hoards of people. Then for an hour before lunch, and then the afternoon I was hanging down off the side of the ship on a bosans chair (with a safety strap, don't worry, Mum) chipping off rust by where the anchor is.
A Bosun's Chair is kind of like a wooden swing seat, with the ropes meeting above the swing at less than a metre. You then attach a nice long line from the top of this swing rope to the deck above, with some complicated knot thingy, so that the line is doubled up, and the remainded drops down below you to the sea. You can then lower and raise yourself "easily" by lifting your weight up on one side of this rope, by sheer arm strength, and pulling the other half of the rope though the knot, which allows you to change the length between you and the deck.
Kind of complex to explain in words. Lowering yourself on a bosun's chair is easy enough, but after working for an hour chipping rust off with a heavy hammer, your arms are dead tired, and so it is quite hard to pull yourself up again. Thankfully, they had put a rope ladder down for us, so we could climb up like that. Anyway. Good work, good experience.
The other guy down on a B.C. tried to get his mate with a camera to come and take pics of us looking all manly and clever and such, hanging off the side of the ship on precarious looking complex seaman things, with rope all over the place, lovely hitches, bends, sheepshanks, and whatknot *, holding solid metal hammers and generally looking like some kind of blue collar Tarzan.
But his mate was busy, so I called my sister the Official Photographer and said "hey, feeling bored and want to stop staring at a computer screen and do some field work for a bit?", and she said sure, and so came out with the ships highly posh make-dad-envious-digital-SLR-camera, to take pictures. Hopefully she will send them to me, and I will be able to either keep them and bring them back, or send them to you. I need a few "Make Dad Jealous and Mum totally petrified" photos from this trip... :-)
Today was my off-day, so I have spent a lot of time reading, and not really doing a whole lot, which is nice. Tomorrow is my e-day, and I will be going on a church team, to one of the many local AOG congregations, which should be fun. I have no idea what we will be doing.
3 people on board have malaria, from the previous port. I found out today that 1 of them is my Big Brother! I had not known for a week or so! I knew 3 people did (we all got a "KEEP TAKING YOUR TABLETS YOU SILLY PEOPLE" email from the doctor, but no names), but didn't know it was him. Crazy. Most people on board are on the Lariam weirdo tablet things, and so _everything_ gets blaimed on the tablets. Mood swings, dreams, nightmares, acting strangely, being tired, forgetting someones name, arriving late for dinner, spelling words rong, etc, etc. Odd. I'm still taking mine, and not having any noticable effects, as far as I can tell.
Tuesday and Wednesday are days of prayer and fasting for the STEPPers, optional fasting, particually because NEXT WEEKEND (yeah!) is our overnight, God willing. Apparently it is going to be amazing, very busy, and so on.
Well, goodnight beloved bretheren, sisterin, motherin, and fatherin, felinerin, and anyone-else-rin who listens, reads, or generally comes into contact with this message.
* PS - The spelling of "whatknot" is intentional. It is meant to be a pun.