Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Orange Haze

This evening the sun fell behind a range of jagged mountains far off to the west just as the full moon rose and small white seeds suspended from feathery stems surely blown off those slopes drifted past the ship. As the sand induced orange haze faded to a moon lit glow I thought about how easy it is to forget how much work you can do in one day at sea.

This morning began in a relatively quiet patch of the Arabian Gulf with Iran close on the port side and Oman to starboard. The Strait of Hormuz was also quiet, only a few passing ships before we entered the Indian Ocean. By four in the afternoon I had walked the length of the ship and the nine cargo decks several times looking at all the machinery, fan and winch breakers and major safety equipment with the Chief Mate I'll be relieving.

As the temperature climbed into the high eighties and the winds calmed the Captain and Second Mate made the approach to the outer anchorage of Kawhr Fakkan to rendezvous with 3000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil which would last us a little over a month at full steaming speed. The water off the desolate coast of Oman and the United Arab Emirates is crystalline clear and deep. We had to walk the anchor 300 feet down to the bottom before paying out an additional 500 feet of anchor chain for fear that the momentum would exceed the braking strength of the windlass.

Once the anchor was safely fetched up, that is with two flukes dug into the bottom, we received a supply boat worth of provisions using the port deck crane. Once the stores had been passed into the reefers and dry store room the deck gang broke into two to make up the tanker that was carrying the bunkers or fuel order. All of this transpired in between lunch and dinner and thanks to the most miserable ship handling skills any one had ever seen the bunker vessel wasn't made up alongside until half past eight.

A day like this is simply routine when it comes to running a seventy thousand gross ton cargo vessel but after whiling away my days at home it feels good, really good to work and sweat and swear alongside sailors in the heat of the Indian Ocean. My first week back at work has been exciting to say the least. I'll spare the details of my youthful exuberance but it centers on the fact that I'm employed on a very big, very fast, very good looking and the most functional vessel I've ever worked on.

This run isn't new to me though. I spent a little more than two years on the same Middle East liner service and it appears that as long as I want to remain on this ship than the sea lanes around the Arabian Peninsula will be my home. I think I'll be all right with that now that I've traveled more of the world and feel strongly about taking on new responsibilities, especially on a good ship. Besides I'm used to it over here, the heat, the desolate mountain ranges, and the fine sandy grit that permeates the air.

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