Monday, November 26, 2007

Today we went a bit mad with a jigsaw. We cut a huge ugly hole in the main lounge desk, and found we'd cut into a structural support, and that the muppet who installed the whole desk made it all to NOT line up with the bottom desk supports.

So we had to screw all kinds of things together (literally. We borrowed two electric drills).

At this point, we realised that the AV manager would be coming back to the ship after three weeks away during dry dock.

We also realised that she would NOT be happy with a dirty great ugly hole in the middle of the AV desk. Also that we were kind of stuck, as the jigsaw wouldn't fit under another part of the desk to finish re-cutting the hole...

So we pulled even more of the desk apart, cut more holes, screwed things back together, drilled dholes, and generally had lots of very stressful fun.

The other AV guy was sweating like crazy. I was laughing and loving it, in a stressed kind of way. Kind of like the waterman thing, leaving port with transferring water all around, ballast tanks, and overflowing, flooding places, and so on.

Fun, fun, fun.

Anyway, we eventually got it all back to a fairly good state. It all looks pretty good now:

I won't post a hi-res photo.

Anyway, the lights are working well too. We need a few sockets for the ceiling - we'll buy them in Manilla. Otherwise things seem sane and happy.

Those lights can be put anywhere in the ceiling - we can position them in any place! It's great.

We also pulled the AV computer monitor out of the rack mount, managed to get a small LCD display from IT, and replace it with this. Now no more evil flickering and madness from engine/ship magnetic interference.

That was horribly complex too, with the other AV guy lifting the monitor from the back of the rack, and me trying to fit it through the hole on the other side with a screwdriver.

Anyway. All seems well.

We've also taken all the video tapes out of the wall, and put them in boxes. The carpenters will take out all the shelves and make us some wall mounts for the lights and cables, so we can keep them there. We never use the video library anyway (well, hardly ever). Hopefully we can make it all more efficient and sensible (and fun!) around here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

We're now sitting at anchor just outside the dry dock, as there is a typhoon around, and heading our way, and the dock master doesn't want our big heavy solid-as-a-rock ship smashing up his quayside. Also the ship next to us just started sand-blasting their hull, and we don't want all that sand all over our nice clean ship.

As well as making rope-ladders, I'm also working at the new lights installation in our Main Lounge. As the ladders team is quite small, I feel kind of guilty and silly trying to get time off that to make the lights, and we have 3 ladders to make and everything, so I'm kind of doing lights and video stuff in my deck dept "off time".

This is one of the finished products, this amazing bar will attach into our ceiling (or false deck-head, or whatever you want to call it) at any place in the Main Lounge.

This is the clever fitment idea from our ex-electrical officer. The blue rubber is actually from a stethoscope that we attacked, and then a wing-nut underneath tightens the bolt which squeezes the rubber and makes it hold into the ceiling. Amazing...

We then have 6 places in the ceiling which will have 4 power sockets for them, which are linked to our dimmer pack. We also have made a patch box which allows us to run DMX (lighting control signals) down our "comms" system (a complex head-set communication system built into our Main Lounge, something far too complicated and big for such a small venue...), and so to plug in a bunch of coloured LED bars lamps on the floor. Fun stuff.

My parents actually bought these lights just before LAST dry-dock, that is, about a year ago. Then, due to ship-politics, mis-communication, and lack of real push, they never got installed until this dry-dock. Rather sad.

So as not to end on that unhappy note, the lights are being installed.

And now for something totally different...

I went to get some coffee. it appears that the Programme Room coffee maker hasn't been used in a while:

Monday, November 19, 2007

This blog post is dedicated to my wonderful Dad who read the Horatio Hornblower series of books to my brother and I when we were younger.

Thank you.

Dear readers, I feel it is time for your nautical education to be expanded. I'm going to teach you about making rope ladders.

We're currently in dry-dock, Doulos is out of the water, and so we can do an awful lot of big jobs that we can't do at other times during the year.

I'm on the lifeboats team this time, and so we're making a few new ladders for the life rafts, as the old ones are really nasty. I've spent 12 hours a day for the last 2 days making this one, and I'll be at it for another week or so, and I think you might enjoy.

First you will need some 2 mm tarred hemp (a lot), about 45 metres of 22 mm manila rope, about 30 wooden steps with two holes at each end, a hard metal eye/thimble, some plastic spacers, and some tools (heavy duty needle, sail-makers palm, knife, marlin spike, Swedish fid is very nice, and a threading spool. Although you could probably get by with a bit less. You will also need a wooden block with slats cut out for at the right distance for the steps to rest in while you make the ladder.

First soak and stretch the manila rope. We stretched it overnight with a chain block over the top of the book exhibition roof.

Next, once it's dried, cut it in half, so you get two (roughly) 23 metre lengths.

Next divide both in half, and put the thimble in place, and seize it into a hard eye, then add a few extra security whippings.

After you have got these in place on both, you will need to thread the rope into all the steps. They should be quite tight, and it may be horribly difficult.

Once they are all on, you can start getting them ready on the ladder block. This block lets the steps sit at the right distance from each other while you seize/whip them into place.

It's very important to make sure the first step is the right distance from the hard eye, on both.

If you get it a bit wrong, all the rest of the steps will be wrong too. Don't.

A small aside... you should use tarred hemp for this kind of thing, as the thread. tarred hemp lasts much longer, and holds together well. We don't have any right now, and the Chandlers are very late in supplying it, so we have to use regular un-tarred hemp, and wax it ourselves. We're doing this by running all of it by hand through blocks of wax.

I also am using one of these threading spools to hold the hemp once I've waxed it. Saves a bit of time, and makes handling it all a bit easier.

So this is how you attach every step. First, place a (plastic) spacer between the ropes next to the step on both sides.

Then sew a small (40cm) length of hemp through the two ropes, so that it pulls the spacer back towards to the step. Don't make it too tight yet, leave it for later.

You can use a sailmakers palm to sew the hemp through the rope, as you need a lot of force when the rope is tight, and you will be doing this a lot. Sailmaker's palms are wonderful, but even with them you may get a few stabs and minor cuts.

I've got blood on the ladder twice so far...

Then sew a 2 metre length of hemp into the top rope, about 5-8cm from the end of the spacer,

and make it fast with a constrictor knot, or another knot of your choice.

After it's on start binding the two ropes together with this hemp working towards the spacer. This photo shows me using a marlinespike (& marlin spike hitch) to pull the hemp tight. Marline spikes and their hitches are your best friend. Bind over the top of the free end of the constrictor knot you just made, so it is trapped underneath and cannot come loose.

Once it's at the spacer, make a couple of hitches/clove hitch (or another constrictor knot, if you feel so inclined) around one of the ropes, and then loop around the entirety of it twice or three times, going between the two ropes, pulling the previously made binding together more, and adding strength.

These turns are called "frapping turns". Once you've done a few, make it fast again with a constrictor knot, or clove hitch or something, and then sew it once through the rope, and tie a small overhand knot. Then sew it once more through the rope, and cut it off flush with the rope.

After that's all done, you can then tie off the first bit of hemp you put in around the spacer. Once it's tightly bound and made fast, sew the ends through the main rope, make a small overhand knot, and sew through once again.

The way I'm trying to get the team to do it is to leave no free ends of hemp hanging around at all, everything should be ended by sewing through the main rope, preferably twice. Once, then an overhand knot to secure it, and then again to bury the end. It looks so much nicer, and can catch on less and is much less likely to come apart.

Use the valleys in the lay of the manila main ropes to bury the overhand knots too, and then they can less likely to come out either.

Anyway, that's about it. You go through all of this 4 times for every step, as you put a space in on both sides of the step, and facing topside and bottom. It takes between 10-30 minutes for each one. So about an hour per step, working full speed. And this ladder has 20 odd steps, plus extra time, and teaching the new people how to do it all, and so on.

You never realise how complex rope ladders are until you make one.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Doulos. Drydock. Batangas. 2007.

Here's a few random pictures.

I moved into a new cabin a few months ago, when I changed jobs to AV, I could no longer sleep in my beloved Waterman's Cabin any more. My new cabin is alright. Not anything really special... Actually, it is quite special. The bathroom and main doors are in exactly the same place, in a tiny corner of the room, making it a health hazard if you happen to try to open one while someone else is opening the other. Speaking of the bathroom, here's a rather nice photo of the flush valve on the toilet.

There. Isn't that special. It leaks a lot, which is why it's encrusted with green salt-crystal thingies. Doulos toilets are flushed with salt water, by the way. Thus we have a slightly strange feeling (for europeans) system, that you can have only 3 minutes of shower per day (which is fresh water, and expensive), but are expected to flush toilets for a minumum of about 20 seconds, to keep the system well cleaned out. Our toilet blocks a lot, probably partly due to the flush valve, which you've just seen. It has this helpful sign above it, which never ceases to amuse me:

The actual meaning of the author is probably lost in all antiquity, as is his identity, which is probably a good thing. They also left this charming inscription on another note stuck up by the sink:

Ahh... the joys of living on a multicultural almost-english speaking ship.