Thursday, October 16, 2008

Party time

Its an occasion for celebration and joy. I have signed off from my ship and its back to home for me. Years back, when contracts were longer and booze available, it would have been a pretty good excuse for a party like the above. Typically the mate would raise the topic of a farewell get-together with the old man over breakfast and instructions would be given to the catering department to get things ready. The crew would then meet in orderly groups at the pre-assigned time and talk urbanely about wide ranging pertinent topics such as the changing cup sizes of Pamela Anderson. The "get-together", would then steadily go downhill till the old man left for his cabin, after which people would be often be spotted in poses like the above, gyrating to lyrics of some pubescent girl , claiming to be a "Barbie Girl". This would go on till enough people were escorted to their cabins drunk, or the scene looked too gay for even seamen like us!

I'm not sure if I'm actually sad that these parties don't happen any longer. Now that I'm the old man, I realize that the poor sod might have been going off to his cabin, probably to offer a long prayer and prop himself at the porthole to keep a lookout for the rest of the night.

What I feet sad about is that I no longer have a twinge of sadness leaving behind friends with whom I have shared my life with so intensely for such long months. Instead there is only a sense of relief that the contract went off safely and without incidents / detentions / observations / accidents. What I feel sad is that the chap seeing me off at the Gangway isn't really thinking of me as he says his byes, but is probably offering a prayer that his contract goes off the same way.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Two balls and a diamond in between

We mariners have a nasty reputation of being perverts. Now we of coures have worked hard at deserving it so its not be be thrown away lightly. Which is why we keep hanging our balls out for all to see. Hanging from the halyards we see something called very imaginatively as  "shapes".

These shapes are used as required by the collision regulations to indicate that the vessel is "Restricted in her ability to Manouver" or "RAM". As I have been spending most of my evenings in the US gulf doing lightering operations. As a master, it feels inherently bad to wear these shapes on my halyards, because it means that I can't take my ships anyway I want to. Adn when your 200 meters plus vessel is manouvering at distances of 20 meters from a 300 meters long ship, the last this you want to do is go any closer. I find the manouvering for this fascinating because the dynamics of working such large vessels is amazing to watch unfold. Maybe we'll have beer one day and I'll explain the hydrodynamics on paper napkins.

In the meanwhile, observe the balls.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sunset on the ship

 Now that its time to go back home, US Gulf seems to be saying goodbyes, by offering me stunning views. As I was doing my last lightering operation, we had a stunning display of colors on the horizon spread over the vista of smouldering oil rigs and installations.

 And a great good bye surprise - I shall be going up the beautiful Mississippi forone last time and signing off at New orleans. I haven't been to that city in a few years, so it'll be good to walk those streets.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Last of the bad guys - Marco

Tropical depression 13, has been thought worthy of a name and has been upgraded to Tropical storm  "Marco ".  Its been a tough year for the people of this part of the world, and even caused a few ulcers and sleepless nights to me and my pretty ship.
After being banged around by both Gustav and Ike, I am glad that the season is drawing to a close and hopefully Marco will be the last of the bad guys we see this year.

I should anyway be out of this area and back home, but I hope you all stay safe here.

Birds on a wire

A short post today. The picture above was taken at Pascagoula. Sights like these are quite common, but they always remind me of home where you'd see birds sitting on an electirc wire.

Included in the picuture from the bottom to top, is our ships crane, with the Markings SWL 15T, which refers to the safe works load, a smaller fendering davit, light post air pipes and bollards.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Dredger - Glenn Edwards

The type of support vessels that come next in line to the Tugs in my "List if favotrite vessels" are the Dredgers. Pictured above is the Dredger Glenn Edwards, pictured above at the mouth of the Pascagouls Ship Channel in the Mississippi state. The Glenn Edwards was waiting for us to pass so that they could continue with their dredging works.

Glenn Edwards is a relatively new ship, floated in 2006 near here in Mobile Alabama. You can see a very informative article about it here at the website. In it we are told of the extremely high standards of specifications that the vessel is built to.

The method of operation of dredgers like the Glenn Edwards are simple in principle. The boom that you see on the sides lower to the sea bed and act like a gaint Vaccume Cleaner, sucking in all manners of mud, small rocks and debries. These are deposited in the middle of the ship in their hold, from where the water is simply drained out. The dredger then makes its way to the dumping ground, where the bottom of the hold simply opens out, letting the whole of the load simply drop down.

Because the US coast is blessed with deep rivers and waterways, it is hard to spot too many of these vessels around here, but at the mouth of the Mississippi and in the channels of the US Gulf coast, these chaps keep digging away to allow people like us transit without too much heartburn.

Leaving the Mississippi

I'm leaving the Mississippi river today. Though I spent quite some time on this river during this voyage, thanks to some very slow loading, I do feel bad about getting out of here. In contrast to the whole of the US gulf, the Mississippi river is a beautiful place to be in. And in this time of the year, the dawns and dusks are serene. The river gently flows by and all manners of crafts make their way on it with grim determination.

Its immpossible to concieve that any type of music other then Jazz could have been born on the banks of this river.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ship art on the Stena Poseidon

Its rare to see art or anything resembling it on the sides of Merchant ships.  So it was a treat to see what Stena Ice have done with their ships. I saw the Stena Poseidon in the Mississippi river where I assume she was loading cargo. From news reports on the net, the Poseidon, along with her sister ship, the Stena Palva, have been chartered for a period of 10 years to Neste oil, on a route from Finland to US carrying Low sulphur fuel oils. She is a new double hulled tanker (2007 Croatian built), that is actually registered in Finland currently.
 The Stena Poseidon seems to be of a fleet of ships of the Stenabulk that is certified for ice class. ABS has given the Poseidon the A1 class. You can check here on Wiki to get the basic outlay on Ice class ships. Also if you need to know some more about Ice Class ships and shipping in the cold, you really must have a look at this excellent paper written by Capt Duggal for the Nautical Institute .

This is how the the whole of the ship looks like, and you will admit that the whole effect looks rather pleasing. The picture of the polar bear looks neat and who knows - it might even have been designed as a deterrent to the Pirates! 
Links : Ship-Technology , bnet

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Mississippi River

The Mississippi is a fabulous river. There is absolutely no question about that. It has been a few years since I came this way, and I really relish the opportunity to sail on it again. These are the same waters over which distinguished people like Mark Twain actually piloted ships.

It is common Knowledge that Mark Twain actually selected that pen name because in his days of piloting the Mississippi, two fathoms was the established safe depth of water. So seamen would mark two fathoms ( mark Twain) with their lead to establish safe navigation.

In the picture above, you can see a tug pushing a few barges of coal down river. In the picture is the Cantilever bridge for New Orleans. and to the right of the picture, you can actually see a bit of the New Orleans city.

Along with the Mississippi, Bhramaputra, Ganga and the Nile, I have sailed, boated, immersed myself or atleast seen almost all the major rivers in the world. The only one I have yet to go up is the Amazon. Maybe later.

The evenings are spent looking at the gentle flow of the river as is passes us by and the easy flow of traffic along its waters. Its hard not to wonder how lucky America is to be blessed with such wide and bountiful lands and waters.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sunset off Mississippi Delta

The days are fully packed these days. The fact is that I am preparing th get off the ship and this means not only extra work to get things in shape for next guy, but also a lethargic attitude in getting to posting long blogs. 
So  till the time I get off, I think I'll focus on smaller posts for the time being. This above picture was taken during a stunning sunset off the Mississippi Delta. Its rare to see ships of this vintage and with derricks such as these.