Monday, July 31, 2006

The waterman job continues quite busy. The last two days we have been moving an awful lot of water from one ballast tank to another, as the deck team have finished cleaning/maintaining the one, and need to work on the other. The only way to do this directly is by opening up the manholes of those tanks (both in inconvenient places down in the food store), and sticking a pump into the full one, and a long waterhose (firehose thickness) between the two tanks.

So the first problem is getting the manhole covers off. These are large heavy metal plates with a rubber seal and 18 nut/bolt s on each one. We have a nice electric wrench thingy which gets them off quite quickly. We started opening the starboard tank manhole, but water came gushing out around the edges, meaning the tank is very full. There is a bilge entrance right next to the manhole, so we figured we could just drain the water into there, and then have the Engine Room pump out the bilge into the main bilge and then into the sea next time we sail.

But they told us that their main bilge that they would pump into is already pretty full and they didn't need another ton or two of water in it from us. so we got a small emergency pump and used that to pump from the small bilge into another spare bilge. This was taking forever though, as it's
quite a small pump.

Then we checked the plans, and saw that the other manhole for this tank is further forward in the ship, and the bow of the ship is really quite high at the moment, and so that manhole would probably not be overflowing if we opened it. But... that manhole is at the bottom of the lift shaft in Hold Two... So we went though to there, and got it open. Indeed it is fine! So we had to get the watertight door between the food store and hold two open, put a safety chain from the lift to the crane deck and then get the electricians to isolate the lift so no one else tried to use it and drop the lift on us. Then we rigged up the hose between the two tanks and started the pump. It went quite well but SO slowly.

The book-exhibition teams needed the lift to take the day's books up (it was about 3.30pm by then). We had moved enough water that the other manhole was free from overflowing, so we opened that one again, moved the pump across, and started pumping again. Then we had to close up the manhole in the lift shaft again, and get the electricians to restart it, and remove the safety chain from the crane deck. All this time we were moving the ballast water, it made the ship list to Starboard, so we were having to use the freshwater transfer pump to move fresh water about and correct the list with freshwater. Most of the day I had to spend down in the food store to keep watch on the pumps and all while the other waterman was doing other stuff about the ship. While | was down there I extended a watch strap by a few notches for someone as well, and started work on updating the "Waterman's Bible", our handbook for all things watery (last updated 3 years ago). So quite busy.

Yesterday again we were doing more pumping all day, and also had to close up the manholes at the end. Because of the shape of the tanks, and where the water is, we actually have to list the ship a bit in order to get the last of the water in the tank we are emptying to run down to where the pump is (as we can only lower the pump to directly below the manhole, and cannot move the pump without ourselves going into the tank, and that requires a "Enclosed Space Entry Permit" and mountains of safety checks and paperwork.

Another problem yesterday we went through was that the nice big fast pump we have requires itself to be actually submerged in the water to keep itself cool while pumping. So when the water level fell below the height of the pump, we would have to switch to a slower smaller pump. But I managed to rig up the smaller pump without a hose so it would be hanging at an angle constantly splashing water all over the big pump, and keeping it cool. So all quite complex and fun. We were finished at about 10.30 pm. Very long day.

Today is my off-day, but I am taking a few hours of watch for my former deck-team leader, as she is going out today, or something like that. The schedule today is even more complex than the water situation! One of the watchmen is going out to play football, and so she is taking some hours for him, and so on. I was also invited out for lunch with some of the Indians on the ship, to a local family. Apparently Indian food!! Very exciting. I miss the food from India so much. It was SO lovely there. If anyone feels like opening an inexpensive vegetarian Indian restaurant in Larnaka in a few years whenever I go back you will have one regular customer for sure!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I'm going on A-team next port!! Yes! Another Doulish word with an unintelligible prefixial letter. In this case "A" stands for "Action". Which gives absolutely no help in understanding what an "A-team" actually is. What is an A-team?

*Open "Unauthorised Revised Doulos Dictionary." *

A-team - Noun. Abr. "Action Team". C 1980-1990AD (Origin unknown). A short (1 to 3 weeks) land based team, leaving from the ship for however long to be involved in any number of different projects. Some do building work for a local charity or children's home, some travel a lot, visiting a different village every night putting on a short programme, possibly taking a video projector along. Some run a youthgroup's summer camp, and so on. Most Douloi guys go on 2 or 3 "A- teams" during their 2 years on board. Most Douloi girls go on 2 "A- teams", and during the two dry-docks go on "Land Teams" which are basically the same as an "A-team", but only girls, and during dry- dock. Some people go on up to 5 "A-teams" during 2 years.

So. Cool, eh? My a-team is comprised of all drama-ish creative people, and we are going to be mostly doing drama/dance/creative workshops for a local church/youthgroup. I will probably be speaking at one or two church services. So all in all quite interesting.

OK. "Quite interesting" is a bit of an understatement.


Very exciting!!

So if you want to pray for me (us!) until about the 15th or so of August it would be really nice. One or two very strong willed (lovely!) people on the team. And a LOT of time together, so pray that we will be able to work together, and help the people we meet.

So yeah. By the way, my "boss" the senior waterman just told me yesterday while we were chatting about books how he hates "chatty" books that are written in spoken English style (many modern books), rather than written English (like C.S. Lewis). It's probably a good thing he doesn't read this blog. I think he may find it too much spoken English.

We did our crane training yesterday. Which pretty much completes the basic deck training. Now only advanced lifeboat/firefighting/etc training to go (I think). We do training so sporadically though for these sorts of things. Drills every week though. I think I must be OK with the crane, as the teacher (my ex-teamleader) told me I was pretty good and she may even change my mooring station to the "standby" team (who start the unloading first), presumably as they need a crane driver. Pretty cool! Then again, standby team is quite boring most of the time. I'm currently in the forward mooring party, which is the nicest, I think so far. It's a big open deck, with lots of space, and you get to watch the port and everything really easily.

That's about it so far! Watermanning is going well. I haven't flooded anything else yet. I greased the crane though. Tomorrow probably I'll grease the main windlass. Huge, ugly, with about 100 points to find and squirt grease. And the grease gun is about empty, so I'll have to fill it again, which is quite complicated and very very messy.

I ought to go now though; It's dinner time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I've been on e-day/overnight for the last three or four days. When I got back, people told me that the entire section 6 (girls) had been truly flooded! Like a foot of water in some cabins. But that wasn't me, it was the other (senior) waterman. He was filling up one of the ballast tanks (from empty) which has no pumpconnection, so we have to fill it up byusing a couple of hoses and the ventilation pipe, and a tiny little domestic pump. Takes about three days.

Anyway, he set it going, checked it the next day and it was fine. Next day he was out, then came back and heard himself being paged... there was water all down the steps! It was Monday, so most people were off the ship and no one had noticed it all day.

We think the water must have got to the top, and while slowly filling up the ventilation pipe found a crack in the pipe which happens to fun through section 6. We don't really know, though.

It's been a cool weekend. On Saturday I worked until 1pm, and then went and showered, and went to do a 'mini inight' programme all afternoon, and got back at about 1am. One of the benefits of the waterman's job: I can take time off like that.

On Sunday we left at 6.45am for my kgroup brother's church, with our whole kgroup. We did a simple programme, and then went to a shopping mall in KL [Kuala Lumpur], then stayed overnight in an apartment rented for us by his dad. We spent the day chilling out in KL. Then today was another e-day, painting panels/walls for a Sunday School in a new church.

KL is about an hour's drive from where our port is. Even the city to which our port is attached is about 30 minutes' drive, so it's really hard to get out at all here. You have to hitchhike to the train station (about 10 minutes' drive) and then get a 30+ minute train to Klang (this town), and then from there it's another half hour or 45 minutes to KL. And we're at this port for 5 weeks! It's so long.

For the weekend, the brother from Klang has his own car and we borrowed a Doulos van. Then as some people had to go back to work, the rest of us just piled into his car or took the trains about KL.

People visiting the Doulos here come in cars. We get about 18,000 at weekends. It's amazing.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The glued part I mentioned yesterday didn't quite work. The glue seems to be strong enough, but unfortunately I didn't quite check how it all fits and works before gluing it. I glued it as it is when you insert it into the lock... but once it's in the lock part of it gets pushed into another position by a spring. So tomorrow or something I'll try with another broken part and see if I can glue that into the already sprung position instead.

Yesterday I was in a programme as well in the evening, it was a programme for the local churches, to thank them for all their help this port, and show them what kinds of things the ship does. So
stories from one of the nurses, about her work with the ship in India at a leprosy home, and so on. I was asked to be part of the "parade of departments".

Basically go up the front with my work clothes on, with people from the other departments, and they had to guess where we worked on board, and what we did. I don't think the programme organiser thought about which people she asked though too much... or maybe she did. I was the last person in the line, and when we introduced ourselves, it sounded something like this:

"Hi, my name is Daniel, and I'm from Ireland."
"Hi, my name is Danielle, and I come from Malaysia."
"Hi, my name is Daniel, and I'm from Cyprus."

So all I had to do was say my name, pause slightly and look ironic, and the whole audience burst into laughter. Nice. I dressed up for the occasion. I wore my normal work clothes, but raided the workshop, so had about 3 screwdrivers in a pocket, a tape measure on my belt, pliers, a sounding rope and weight on a nice harness thingy, and perhaps 80+ keys on various jangly rings.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Waterman's job... So far, I quite like it. It seems like a good job, many things to keep busy with, but not too much stress, and quite a flexible schedule (will be more so, once I've got everything mastered). Sort of quite senior. Quite "elite" and all that (being only 2 of us, and no-one else actually knows what we do, how to do it, or anything. Apparently people get "chosen" for it rather than choosing it. Bit weird... one of the other ex-deckies came to me and told me "yeah, all the watermen just get chosen, no one actually ever wants the job. It's totally unromantic, unlike "fireman" or "team leader" or something. But everyone who becomes waterman seems to really enjoy it." And loads of other people keep saying stuff like "you're the new waterman? oh good! It's JUST the right job for you!!". I feel like I'm missing something...)).

Strange thing is, a lot of knowledge about the job seems to be passed on by word of mouth, apprentice style, but then it looks like a lot of it has kind of disappeared in the last year or so. So like the lock situation, for instance. As far as I can tell, about 2 years ago they replaced the entire lock set on the whole ship, then about a year ago bought a whole load of new / replacement locks & padlocks. But they have *never* ordered any spare parts for them. Which means that about now, we are very short.

There is this stupid little brass bit right in the middle of *every* lock on the ship, which has the entire weight of the lock on it when it gets opened, and these snap quite frequently. So far, what the watermen have done is to swap the part for one in one of the unused locks, or swap out a lock from elsewhere, or something similar. We're kind of short of spare locks now. So I'm trying to find solutions to this. They have been talking about ordering or even trying to order new parts for ages, but have never done it. So I keep reminding the other guy, and it looks like this week we should order them. But until they arrive (could be months away!!) we still need solutions.

So I first went to the engine room machinists, and asked if they could make replacement parts, with their lathes, etc. They said yes, but it could take a whole day just to make one! So that's not really a solution. Then I thought about maybe glueing/ soldering a fix, (it's far too small and delicate to weld). So I asked the electricians, and they gave me some very strong epoxy mixing glue stuff, which I tried out today on a part. (Today is my first day working alone...) So far it seems like it may work! Monday is our off-day, and then on Tuesday I will hopefully get some time to sand/buff off the excess epoxy cement stuff, and build a new lock to try it out with. I really hope it does work.

I really enjoy the working with locks, but SO much of it is trial and error. We only have maybe 3 booklets on basic lock picking, but no real books on lock maintainance, theory, or whatever. Some things I am just curious about. The way they "grease" the locks to keep them working smoothly is by adding graphite dust. Why? I don't know! They don't know either. It's just the way they were taught. Sometimes the graphite dust gets too much and blocks up the lock, and it all needs taking apart. Why not use liquid wrench or something like that? Or some kind of oil?

Hopefully I will get a chance to go on the net sometime this week, and then I can look up this stuff. Also try and find spare parts. Part of the problem with the spare parts is we don't even know what the correct technical term for the parts are! So some jobs I want to do is to (once I've got it all worked out), make proper drawings / blender diagrams of how all the locks work, how to build/ rebuild them, etc, and then to make a small manual. Like as far as the locks go, I know about as much as the other waterman now, because it was the OTHER waterman before him who always did the locks before, and he never really got a chance to learn it all (he only started the job himself about 4 months ago). Anyway, it's all quite interesting.

The other waterman is a really nice guy, friendly, etc. It will be very fun working with him.

Fixing shoes is not particually interesting, but it's a good way to make everyone love you. :-)

We get our own "workshop"/office. Which is cool. And also access to the deck officers/workers computer, to which is quite nice. We have to fill in spreadsheets of all the water readings and so on every day.

About the Doulos intranet thing, apparently the other IT bloke who is coming back from furlough in a week or so wants to make it all with the microsoft groupware thingy so it all links in with our exchange system. So that means I don't have to do any of it. Oh well.

So thats about all really.