In which the Cadets discover what is true and what is not about being a merchant mariner.
The passage from Barber's Point to Cape Hichinbrook is over 2,400 nautical miles. Multiply by 1.152 to account for the extra 800 feet in a nautical mile, and you have the distance it would take your car to get there: 2,700+ miles. Dividing by our average speed (15.3 kn) and you get the hours it takes to get there: a whole bunch. Basically, it takes about 8 days from heaving anchor to all fast at the Alyeska Pipeline berth.
The time at sea is pretty regimented, and for the E/R cadet, the routine goes like this: Up at the crack of 0700, breakfast and down to the E/R at 0750. Day work until 1000, break until 1025, work until 1145, lunch until 1250, work until 1500, break until 1525, work until watch at 1600, dinner relief around 1700, finished with watch at 1950, then sea project work until bed time. All of the times are fixed in stone, more or less, and the work varies according to any failures that may have occured. On the second trip we made to Valdez, we had outages on both boilers over the course of three days to repair the same valve on opposite sides of the the main superheated steam line. (Superheated steam is the steam that goes to the turbines. It is heated to 900° and 920 psi, in which form it is invisible and will cut through a 2x4 like a hot knife through warm margarine.) One day, in Hawaii, my shore time was denied when the hydraulic pump on one of the main winches exploded and had to replaced "stat." Mostly, though, we re-packed valves, fixed grounds in the electrical system, replaced light bulbs, repaired broken fixtures, maintained piping, and kept the general equipment in good running order.
The Deck cadet endured a different scenario - standing the 12x4 watch and doing deck work from 0800 to 1200. This means that you are awake at all the wrong times and meals are mysteriously placed at terrible times. The routine here can be widely varied depending on arrival and departure times, anytime "all hands" are needed for lines or cargo handling. However, I did get to see the ocean a whole bunch more from the Deck Department.
If variety is the spice of life, then think of life aboard ship (especially for cadets) as cafeteria food. After watch, it was a perpetual rush to try and relax, enjoy being at sea, work on my project, and hang out with Tony. We watched about two movies a week initially, but that number grew as the novelty of just standing on the bridge wings wore off. We also became even more adept at multi-tasking, i.e. doing work and watching movies at the same time. The saving grace of the sea project is that it is essentially mind-numbing after the original data has been collected - approximately half of the time I spent was in front of the computer (my school laptop) entering the schematics on CAD, machinery lists on Excel, and desriptions on Word.
If spice is the variety of food, then think of eating aboard ship as a sort of "Tavern on the Greenish Blue." Our food was good. It was VERY good. Breakfast, although simple, consisted of typical fare..hotcakes, sausages, omelettes, etc. Lunches ranged from the mild (cheeseburgers) to fancy (turkey dinner). Dinner, though, was the crowning culinary meal. We had terrific steaks, ribs, and chops regularly. That was often accompanied by a wonderful pasta dish, or a casserole or perhaps something from a different culture. Dessert was always a treat, a full salad and fruit bar accompanied every meal, and there was a chest freezer full of ice cream in the pantry. The quality of food at sea is not a sea story.
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