Posted by: Craig | April 27, 2008

First watch 4am

My first watch on bridge:

 

After a sound sleep, for four hours, my alarm woke me at 03.30 this morning. After the slow realisation of where I was, I shower and head up onto the bridge.

 

In the darkness of the bridge, the watch keeper says good morning. It takes a few minutes for me to register where people are as my eyes adjust.

 

As the watches are handed over there is the quiet chatter of Tagalog as the crew talk to each other, and Swedish as Pär hands over to Ellinor.

 

56˚ 42′ N, 007˚ 41’E, heading 205 degrees, speed 18 kts and occasional showers and reasonable visibility. A few ships around us, nothing threatening, and it was a quiet watch during the 12-4 apparently.

 

A vessel passing ahead of the Fidelio, heading south is, according to the AIS data, managing to be dredging while sailing at 12 kts.

 

As the morning wears on, I begin to realise where my coffee addiction may have originated from 20 years ago.

As darkness turns to dusk and gives way to day, I’m told by Ellinor that the integrated bridge system has a problem with all the alarms going off. Apparently as many as 90 alarms in 12 hours, not all of which are alarms, more like warnings.

 

So the system is kept on port mode, to stop them constantly ringing around the bridge. They hope for a more permanent solution before too long as the officers realise the risks of missing a real alarm.

 

However the integrated system, as I get the hang of it, begins to make sense, and I am soon able to use the in-built AIS data in the ARPA radar to get information on the ships in the vicinity.

 

The Northern Echo is heading up to Ensco 70 platform, ETA at 1330 today, speed13.7kts, course 305˚

and passing 1.3nm ahead of us.

 

Ellinor says this information helps with calling ships up if she gets worried about their intentions. All the information is of course stored, and she points out the microphones directly above where we are sat, recording our conversation.

 

 

We talk about how the Fidelio handles in weather. The huge side profile of the ship can act as a sail, so she heels over in strong winds, hence the ballast water heeling tanks.

 

I get to see how the vessel handles on manual steering. With a Becker rudder, the response is quite remarkable, with the rate of turn dropping off as soon as I decrease the rudder angle, although the vessel heels over quite quickly as we turn.

 

Apparently when put to the test, this huge box shaped ship can turn 90˚ in a little over a minute and with man-overboard exercises, the crew can quite easily keep visual sight of the target as the vessel spins round.

 

Four hours and three coffees later, I am ready for breakfast. But as this is Sunday, I will have to wait until 1000. Only two meals on a Sunday, this gives the galley staff at least half a day off once a week. I would snooze, if I wasn’t on such a caffeine rush. 

 

I should mention the food here. The company told me before I headed off to join the ship that the cooks on its ships have had special training on healthy eating. Well, yesterday I saw salads galore, and a pretty good bolognese for lunch, and last night’s beef would do well in many a restaurant.

 

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