Sunday, August 28, 2011

Into the Ship Yard

Remaining anchored for an extended period of time is tedious at best. Bridge watches must still be maintained as the ship swings in concert with a hundred others to face the current. As long as no one drops their hook too close or, on account of a light draft and stiff wind, swings the opposite direction of your own ship, there is little to do. And if something does come up it's a challenge raising another ship on the VHF radio, especially the little bunker barges that scurry about passing under stems and sterns with uncomfortable intimacy.

For three weeks we waited for an open berth in the shipyard. When the Captain finally sent me forward to weigh the anchor the only available space in the shipyard was outboard of an FPSO or "double banked." In order to arrive at our congested berth we had to pass south of the island on which Singapore sprawls. Looping around Raffles Light I was witness to hundreds of hulking ships spread throughout the anchorages. Container ships, crude oil tankers, liquefied natural gas carriers and every manner of support vessel for the offshore oil and gas industry abounded. As the ship turned the corner towards Keppel shipyard the Boatswain relieved me on the bow and I went to the bridge for docking.

At the last minute the yard informed us that we'd be docking port side to when all our lines, messengers and gangway had been readied for a starboard side docking. We had our trusty shipping agent to thank for yet another inconveniencing miscommunication. I took one of the AB's down to the weather deck where we quickly raised the now inboard gangway and lowered the outboard so that the harbor pilot could disembark. The docking pilot, three radios strung around his neck, ambled up the ladder and brought us along side with a single bell and lots of tugging. Passing lines to a Floating Production, Storage and Offloading unit was a drawn out event but because the yard was so full we were lucky to even have a spot.

In the three weeks that followed I realized that ending my hitch with a shipyard was not a good move. I had a plan though and getting an extra months pay was part of it. This was my first bona fide dry docking of a large commercial ship and it was a very impressive endeavor. The only part I played in it was to give the go ahead for removing the docking plugs and ranging the anchor chains but most of that work I left for the third mate anyway. I had my hands full just showing each shop where the broken things were so they could fix them.

I sincerely hope I can find the time to relate my time in the shipyard and all that has transpired between then and now. Suffice to say I'm back on terra firma with a new set of hurdles in front of me and a future more hazy than ever before. But that's something I'm learning to be comfortable with and will try to include in this blog.

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