Chapter II - S/T Overseas New York

Chapter II - Getting to Work

In which the Cadets begin working aboard and endure Y2K at sea.

Before I begin, it is important to note that Tony and I are students. Neither of us has ever been employed as a sailor before, and our combined blue collar work equals well under a year on the job. So, not really knowing what to expect, we split up into two groups of one person each; I went below to join the Engineers and Anthony went up to the bridge to step into the ranks of the Deckies.

The jobs found on a ship are basically described in three (3) categories:

  • Boring Work - Standing watch
  • Fun Work - Doing random maintenance work, light repairs, and general upkeep of a 23-year old vessel
  • Work Which Takes Decades Off of Your Life (more if you aren't careful) - Climbing up the kingposts to replace lights, using a torch to cut metal in a machine shop that won't keep still, or adding packing to a steam valve that is leaking 900-degree steam all over the place.

    It is important to note that the Engineering Cadet (me for the first half of the trip and Tony for the latter) gets to do day work, which consists mostly of items 2 and 3, while the Deck Cadet (vice versa) gets mostly 1 and 2 style jobs.

    I got to work immediately, cleaning the burners that power the boilers. With the help of the second engineer (2 A/E), I wiped, steamed, wire-brushed, and lubricated all of the sea-speed burners. And before I could look up, it was break time and then lunch and pretty soon I was done for the day.

    After two days, it was time to head offshore. It seems that ATC wanted all of us tankers about 50 miles offshore at the dreaded 01-01-00 moment. So, we steamed out 50 miles and drove in huge donuts. For 13 hours. At very VERY low speeds. In circles. When it was all over, we celebrated the millenium by heading back to Hawaii to take on bunkers.

    Essentially, think of bunkering as filling up your car with petrol. Here, though, we have about 10,000 bbls (42,000 gallons) of a black, stinky sludge that has to be heated to 120 degrees before it will even flow through the pumps from the barge. And, as you may have guessed, it takes a bit more than 10 minutes at the filling station. The 2 A/E (Dave Sanborn) and I spent all night - about 9 hours - sounding tanks with long measuring tapes each half hour and calculating how much longer it would take. Between soundings we discussed Dave's hobby (car racing) and the merits of shipping. We also were entertained by a school of dolphins swimming around just off the sides of the ship. Basically I got the whole Disneyworld show for free without the tourists and videocameras...chasing fish, jumping, etc. Not bad, for a weeknight.

    In the morning...5 AM...I got to go back to sleep. When I woke up at 1100, I looked out the window and saw blue ocean ahead and the island of Oahu fading fast.

    Read on.....

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