Wendy’s Sea Log
Moku Pahu, 4/1/12 to 5/15/12
surrounded by fishing boats. Too busy avoiding collisions to write.
A few hundred miles south of the
of Hokkaido, Japan, and no traffic for the last two
days. Saw what looked like the tops of container ships but they were actually
volcanic tops of a bunch of islands, which got clearer as we approached. The
Mate’s been top notch, working with me on adjusting the radar, radios and other
instrument displays. Some officers have an AB-is-strictly-hands-off approach,
but l like getting the bridge stuff down. Plan to get my mate's license when
I've got the three years' sea time for it. Got a little over a year that counts
toward it now.
Got more crane ops time when we were tied up too, which is great; it’s one of those jobs that requires a steady hand, not upper body strength. Yesterday I couldn’t get a big water valve on deck open, and asked one of the guys for help. Felt better when he couldn’t get it open either, even with the big wrench; turned out the thing was frozen tight with rust and paint. Today I will be using my advantage in small size to scrunch under the anchor windlasses and clean out all the gooey crap underneath. Romance! Adventure!
I got the Chief Steward to boil up some eggs yesterday, Easter Sunday, and hid six of them for an Easter egg hunt. Didn’t think I hid them that well, but the avid hunters Cyn and David only found four. Fun to be kids again. I hid one they didn't find under the stack of paper cups on the mess table, right under their noses. The prize is a little bag of my Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures, which I seldom share, being naturally stingy and a chocoholic.
Passed Sofu Gan again, 600 feet of rock sticking straight up but had to take that on credit this time. After a first glimpse in the distance, the fog closed in and we could see the stars light years away but not a rock four miles off.
Wed., April 11
Paint the deck! No, not that part, this one! Wrong color! Use a brush! Use a roller! Three weeks to finish? No, three days! Faster! Faster! But make it neat and pretty. What do you want, pretty or fast? Never mind. Paint! Paint your boots! Paint your coveralls! Paint your face! Black, yellow, red, green, blue, white. Whee!
With squares of newly painted gray covering various spots, the deck is starting to look like a checkerboard by Picasso.
Second Mate Liam has graduated from paper airplanes to a remote controlled helicopter. He took it down into an empty hold and it flew well—lots of space in a hold on a 750 foot ship—but it hit the hatch overhead and crashed. He thinks he might be able to fix it. I said to him while painting on deck, "Someday I too will be a mate! Isn't that frightening?" and he said something nice. "No."
Tossed a message in a bottle overboard tonight. It held a note, and a dollar bill with George prominently displayed. The note gave our position, 28°13.2' N, 151°24.9' E, and the date, said whoever found it could keep the money, and requested the finder to contact me at my email address. So we'll see if it ever shows up again, and where. Who knows?
The Chief Engineer's birthday is today, so we had a barbeque and cake. Liam fixed up a picture of Captain Cook with the Chief's face, and grubby engine grease pasted in. The Chief himself is actually better looking then Cook. We warned him to be careful in
Hawaii, as the natives there killed Cook.
Coleridge used Capt. Cook's best selling accounts of his round the world voyage for descriptive details in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
About, about, in reel and rout,
The death fires dances at night.
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue, and white
The colors are the Northern lights, reflected in the sea. "About, about" is from the witch's chant in Shakespeare's Macbeth.
Sat. April 14
Titanic hits the iceberg just before midnight tonight. Wonder what sort of commemorations are going on.
I finally took a day off doing overtime today, after two weeks of 16 hour days and round the clock watches. The other two AB's have already taken time off. I outlasted them.
Ta-da! Now I'm going back to bed.
Mon. April 16
The 14th was my niece Michelle's birthday. Sunday the 15th I sent her a Happy Birthday email, thinking it was late, then realized that across the Date Line, it was still the 14th in the
it got there on the right day. One of the nice things about yesterday being
AB Cody's room sink fell off the bulkhead today. Don't know if he hit it or was leaning against it. Weird. Those things are epoxied pretty securely. At least it didn't hit his foot. AB Ben and I would have had to do all his work.
Tue. April 17
Message verbatim off the internet from EGC, Electronic Global Communications, which usually sends weather alerts; this one was marked "Urgent":
NAVAREA XI WARNING
NAVAREA XI 0233/12
PIRATES INFORMATION. 151600ZAPR.
SEVEN PIRATES ARMED WITH GUNS AND KNIVES
BOARDED A TANKER UNDERWAY.
THEY THREATENED THE CREWMEMBERS, DAMAGED
THE COMMUNICATION EQUIPMENTS AND STOLE
SHIP'S CASH AND PROPERTIES AND ESCAPED.
NO INJURIES TO CREW MEMBERS.
VESSELS REQUESTED TO BE CAUTION ADVISED.
NAVAREA XI is the Singapore/Straits of Malacca Navigational Area. Haven't had pirate activity there in quite a while. 0233 would be 2:33 am
time, when GBC received the piracy report. 151300Z is 3:15 pm, Greenwich time,
when they sent the alert out. We received it on the ship via satellite at 3:48
am, nearly halfway around the world.
Wed. April 18
Normal people do not go to sea. Our QMED (Qualified Member of the Engine Dept., equivalent to an AB rating in the Deck Dept.) Cin used to roll up Hershey's Kisses foil into little balls and stick them in her ear as a kid. She has ear trouble from it to this day. Our Chief Mate ate spaghetti through his nose as a teenager. As kids, my little brother and I would make paper airplanes, tie a string to them so we could fly them around our heads in a circle, then sail them in and out of the fireplace until they caught fire and burned. Don't know where our parents were. Sailors are not normal people, and this aberrancy usually shows up in childhood.
Wed April 18
This is not a duplicate entry. There really is a second Wednesday on this voyage, courtesy the International Date Line. Like Groundhog Day, we get a chance to do everything over again to get it right. Don't know if we'll make it.
Sent April 20
Sat. April 21
We're painting the living daylights out of the ship; in places no one ever goes, all must be spic and span, and look like new. The shipowners, the business suits, are coming aboard in
Suits. Wish they'd OK another Ordinary Seaman day worker in the Deck Dept. That
Mon. April 23
This is not the most politically correct business.
Wed. April 25, 2012
Drifting on purpose off of Oahu, till our sugar on
Maui is ready to be loaded on the 30th. Then
we head in, fill the holds, and go to Crockett in the Bay Area to deliver the
goods. Drifting saves fuel, and wear on the anchor windlass and chain. Plenty
of sea room out here, southwest of Oahu,
mostly in the lee of the Northeast trade winds. Gentle rolling and a nice sleep
at night. Beats the Suez
run. No nasty natives. Wish I could get ashore to a drug store and get some
shampoo, conditioner, and hand cream. Running low, and an air drop is not
likely. Now if we were running low on toilet paper . . .
Getting enough sleep is always a challenge out here. The work is continuous; there are innumerable jobs to be done, and usually someone who wants them done yesterday. Yet you can't work too fast or with too little rest, because then accidents happen. So far this voyage we've had no injuries or damage. But everybody is tired. Had three cups of coffee this morning and still couldn't get my eyes open.
Steered in hand while we were maneuvering into drifting position yesterday. From casual watch banter, the Mate's voice went to crisp authority and mine responded in kind. Got her where we wanted her, and I was glad to steer. Doesn't happen enough anymore. Autopilot does most of the steering when we're at sea. We only put her in hand coming in and out of port, with the pilot aboard.
Sat. April 28
Wish we could put in to port. Feel more like taking a Hawaiian vacation than working.
Sun. April 29
It's getting like Groundhog Day out here, continuously drifting. Makes me think of the ship that drifted in the Pacific for years till she washed up on the West Coast, with only skeletons aboard. They hadn't been able to make landfall or meet another ship to resupply food and water, so they all starved to death. Forget what her name was, or which century it was.
We've started up and are heading out further from the islands so we can dump trash. Matson observes a fifty mile boundary instead of the usual twenty-five for trash dumping. Only things we can never dump are oil and plastic. Everything else can go over the side. Good thing too, as all our trash barrels are full.
Finally dumped trash.
Mon. April 30
Made official contact with the US of A this morning, and we've cleared customs via our agent, who came out in a water taxi off of
and took our entrance documents in to port. Easiest Customs clearance I've ever
seen. Pilot also came aboard, and guess what? I came in second in the pilot
pool and won $50, for guessing the second closest time the pilot was officially
logged aboard. Oh, goody. Now I can pay for cat food for my poor starving
kitties. And the really good part was when the Matson ship Mahi Mahi hailed us as she was passing by, and told us, "Welcome
home." Nice. No more Chinese food. Hooray for the US Dept of Agriculture,
the Food and Drug Administration of America, and all the other good people and
rules that give us decent food here, with no cat bones in the ground beef!
Got thoroughly doused on the bow doing port prep, which is hauling out the mooring lines and laying them out for tie up. Lots of spray. I told Hawaiian sea god Kanaloa he can baptize us all he wants, but he's still a pagan god and I don't worship him so there. Was thinking of Japanese Zeros and the
Arizona while passing the entrance to Pearl Harbor,
and of Father Damian as we passed Molokai
during port prep. And Capt. Cook too. Can't get away from the history here. I
should keep my mind on my work more.
Tied up in Kahalui. Midnight. Had to wait for my old cruise ship Pride of America to leave the dock. A little blowy with some whitecaps, about 25 knots; they waited till dark so the passengers couldn't see the waves and get upset at the terrible sailing weather, oh horrors. You're on a boat, folks, with bilge keels to keep it from rocking. Sailor up.
Note re Chinese American relations: the Chinese girls claim they can't pronounce our 1st Engineer's name. So instead of Seth Warner, he's Sack Warmer.
Wed. May 2
Went ashore last night and got a pedicure. Ta-da! My first treat this trip. And we loaded up with stores of American grown food, including
apples and potatoes. Ah, bliss! Nobody better criticize the US of A in my
presence. I'll pack them off to Shanghai
and have them eat Chinese garbage with God knows what in it.
Fri. May 4
Left Maui yesterday. Up at 12:30 am; secure the holds, lowering the hatch covers with the big cranes, 24 thousand tons of sugar piled high in all six holds. We smell like a Southern bakery because of the molasses in raw cane sugar. As usual some has spilled on deck and we'll have to hose the slippery stuff off. Then cast off at 3 am, secure the lines, and head out. Up to the bridge for watch straight from the deck at 3:45; steered out mostly in hand through the watch.
At 7:20 we played chicken with a little whale watching launch, between Maui and
He was approaching from off our starboard side, which in an equal situation
gives him the right of way. But when one boat is much bigger then the other,
and therefore far less maneuverable, it has the right of way, and that was us.
We were changing course, turning to starboard in a big circle, and at first it
looked like he was going to cut astern of us, but then he changed his mind and
decided to continue across our bow. I held her through the turn as the Capt.
jumped up and down yelling, "I'm bigger than you are!"
Nobody flinched, and she crossed our bow with about half a mile of sea room, which is a few inches when your ship is 760 feet long and takes two miles to stop. I guarantee all the passengers on that boat were freaked at seeing a huge ship bearing down on them when we were dead ahead of them, with our bow toward them, during our slow turn. "She is going to miss us? She is, right?" Right.
Off watch at 7:45 and back to the deck right after to stow lines below. Taking lots of spray on the bow; they put me below to stow the line in the huge baskets there because little me fits best there. The first basket we stowed properly, with the line fed in through the scuttle hatch, from the winch at a regular speed, so I could stow it in concentric circles, winding it around and around in a growing coil. I got wet from the line and spray falling in anyway. The second basket they were tired of getting soaked above and I played dodgeball with cascading heaps of four inch in diameter braided line, piling it up the best I could in the basket. But it will pay out without getting tangled.
More work on deck, then afternoon watch, 4 to 8 pm, then to bed. Lots of overtime, but where did I stow my brain?
Trip across a little bumpy. Last night the Captain came up and polished the
4"x6" brass plaque on the wooden statue of Kanaloa on the bridge. I
said, "I'll do that, Cap," but he said he'd do it himself. Only brass
we have on the ship. We've cleaned and polished and painted her up like a real
ship, and she looks and acts almost brand new. Now we'll proceed to get her
dirty again. San Francisco Bay
2nd Mate Liam is getting off soon, so I drew a cartoon of the Moku Pahu sailing under the
and him getting off onto a Jacob's ladder tied to the span. Lots of people jump
off, but I never heard of one climbing up. Golden Gate Bridge
Had one injury; AB Ben hurt his hand on the way from Hawaii and got replaced here by Cory, a new kid, good attitude, knows stuff and picks up stuff quickly. Ben was on his second stint of overtime the afternoon he slipped and hurt his hand. Our most experienced AB.
I steered her under the
Golden Gate, and we had two traffic advisories. Both were
for small groups of swimmers. The water here is not very warm, and it was 7 am,
but some people do weird things. They couldn't have stayed home and helped with
Mother's Day breakfast in bed? One group was swimming beneath the bridge span from
south to north, and another was going from Alcatraz
south to somewhere. Both paths went across our course, but we didn't run over
anybody. Or maybe they just didn't scream loud enough to hear. Nobody jumped
from the bridge this time, and a kayaker wisely stayed put on our starboard
side so he could cross astern of us. On a sunny day the windsurfers like to do
suicide runs across our bow. So many windsurfers. So little time.
Lost Track of Time
We tied up a few days later in Crockett at the C&H plant to unload the sugar. Crockett’s at the delta of the Sacramento River, at the north end of San Francisco Bay, We have to open the holds with our big cranes, and from fifty feet up the sugar in the hold looks like Arizona, pale brownish, and falls away in scooped out areas like the Grand Canyon. Other places it looks like sand dunes and you expect the Sheik of Araby to materialize. There is a temptation to dive out the crane cab window into a seeming soft cloud of sand below, but I yielded not to temptation. The dockside unloaders look like something out of Star Wars, big contraptions that scoop/vacuum the stuff up and send it onto a conveyer belt to be processed in the plant.
The C&H plant here was built before and survived the 1906 earthquake, and looks it. Great for a night shoot at a creepy old factory.
Sun. May 20
Surprised to learn there was an annular eclipse today, conveniently scheduled to start right after we got off at 5 pm. Very bright on the water, and a weird bright gray light at its max. The engineers let us use their welder’s masks to look at it directly without frying our retinas. Very cool view. First annular I’ve ever seen, the sun a nearly complete bright ring around the moon.
Tues. May 22
Finally got her unloaded and tied up at her layup berth in
I tarred the cogs on the anchor winch the last time we pulled up the hook, and
it took half an hour to get the stuff out of the unprotected parts of my
epidermis. Oh joy. We gave our leftover stores to the Delancey Street
Restaurant, which trains people just out of prison in the restaurant business.
A couple of nice felons came to pick it up. Then onto the plane and back to LA
and I am going to bed now. Good night, all. This voyage is ended; finished with
Sent May 25, 2012