I had kind of a frustrating day today. I expected and wanted to spend the day happily in the engine room with cleaning and putting back togeather a really rusty horrible old valve. But ended up spending most of the day helping a deck team with trying to set up pumps and running around the engine room with them, trying to pump the last few centimetres of water out of parts of a tank so they can work in it.
The chief mate and bosun went briefly into the tank this morning, looked around and said it should be a quick job to do the whole thing. At lunch time, the bosun asked the team leader how it was going, and said, “oh well, at least if you get the tank empty of water by this evening it’ll be good.”
This evening, there’s no noticeable progress made at all.
I went and crawled though the whole length of the tank, found two old rust scrapers from last time the tank was opened (2 and a half years ago). It’s going to be a really big job. Loads of the bits of the tank in the forward end have all the cement fallen off, and rust and all kinds, so it’s not just a one day job. Once it’s dried (which may take 2 or 3 or more days) it may then take another week or so of work chipping all the cement and stuff and putting in new cement. It’s down in the bottom of the engine room, below generator 2, so the deckies feel really uneasy and keep coming to me for help all the time.
Luckily once it’s dried, all the rest should be done by deckies, not us. But still it’s kind of annoying.
For the first time in ages… a post from fingers directly, rather than via Cyprus! I’m right now in Singapore, on break for 3 days or so with my parents and brother who are out to visit. Very very good. Singapore is beautiful, clean, and friendly. We’re staying in “Little India”, which is (apparently) the least clean and organised part. Which is fine by me! Amazing lovely Indian food really quite cheap here, and of course, being with my family is even more amazing. Apparently I should be making more frequent and shorter posts… with more photos. Well, no photos today, no camera link available. But as to the shorter and more frequent posts, this is the first of (who knows!) many. I hope to post more, but I’m not very good at this whole sticking with good ideas thing, lah.
I’m typing this from the dry food store, miles and miles down in the depthful belly of the ship. I don’t know if depthful is a real word, but if not, I have just coined it. Please pay all royalties to me, chocolate is the preferred currency.
OK, so what am I doing in this previously mentioned food store…? Well, we’ve been having a few problems on the job.
Over the last few months we’ve been emptying out ballast tanks, (the water tanks down at the bottom of the ship which keep her stable) one at a time, and then sending a deck team in there to do routine maintenance (routine, as in, once every 4 years or so per tank).
Anyway. We just got to the last tank in the series, and so needed to fill it up with water. For some reason though, every time we tried to use the pipe to send water to the tank, the pump would get very hot and trip the electrics. We could see a very high pressure build up in the pipe by the pump, so it looked as if there was some kind of blockage in the pipe, which was not allowing water through it. We went into the tank last week or so, and looked around for any obvious problems, feeling inside the pipes as far as fingers would go to make sure they had not got cemeted over in the maintenance. No problems found though…
So we asked the engine room guys to have a look at it, and they sent a very professional welder/plumber. He took a “snake” (high pressure hose with a thing on the end which bounces around and smashes to bits any kind of blockage or rust.
Anyway… it got stuck in the pipe. So he called me, and then he went into the tank to take the pipe off and look for his snake. BUT… forgot to check which pipe. The wrong pipe got taken off…. So he took off the other one. Not his fault, he didn’t know the tank had two pipes leading into it. We couldn’t see any problems, so he put them back.
Presumably the problem was further up the pipe, closer to the engine room.
Presumably so was his ‘snake’.
So, we opened up the other tank, brought a HUGE emergency submersible pump and attached it up to transfer between the two tanks. This pump is a very serious pump. It’s designed to be hooked up, and chucked down a staircase into a flooded hold to pump it out, kind of thing. It took 3 of us to carry down to the food store here where the tank manholes are to put the pump into. We had to use all kinds of ropes and stuff to hoist the thing down. We attached it, and set it going. It was a bit complicated, as we had to have one guy at the suction end of the pump, to make sure it was OK, one guy at the discharge end to make sure it didn’t swing around and kill someone, one guy running between to make sure the hose was OK and didn’t explode, and one guy 3 decks up with a radio to switch the electricity for the pump on and off (there are only 3 connection points on the whole ship for this creature).
So… First when we switched it on, we found a hole in the hose. We found it as it started shooting water the pressure of a fire-hose all over the place in the book-hold where the discharge tank manhole is. So we stopped the pump, pushed more of the hose into the tank so the leak was inside the tank, and tried again. This time, the pressure of the pump pushed the hose into a crack under the flange of two pipes, and then ripped the whole hose open as the pressure was too high for the squashed position. I got totally soaked by this.
So we stopped the pump, got a new hose, and tried again. This time was OK… for about 4 minutes. But the pressure of the pump started pushing the discharge end of the hose back out of the tank! So we stopped the pump, tied the hose down, and started again. 2 hours later, nothing more had gone wrong, and 60 tons of water had been moved. That is, 30 tons an hour. 500 litres a minute, in other words. Quite fast.
So in went our bold intrepid welder/plumber guy to the now empty tank, and he took off the pipes and all, found the ‘snake’ in a “omega” shaped bend in the pipe (the chief mate says this is to allow for expansion and contraction of in the ship’s shape… if he had asked the C/M before sending his ‘snake’ in, it would have saved a lot of problems…) anyway. He got his snake out, closed up the pipes again, and declared the pipes probably useable… at least, no problems found in them. (These are probably original 1914 pipes, brass (I think) and still in amazingly good condition…)
Yesterday was spent with myself and another guy (possibly the next waterman? Who knows…) down here with a smaller more sociable submersible pump moving the last of the water across. (When they had opened up the pipes, about 20 tons of water drained back across to the other tank we had just moved it from.)
So. Now what…
The tank we are moving from (where the snake was stuck) is smaller than the tank we are moving the water into.
By about 10 tons.
So I still have 10 or so tons of water to move across. I tried this morning using the probably OK pipe system, and the engine room pump. I did this very slowly, checking everything, slowly allowing pressure to build up, etc, so as not to overflow anything, or trip the electricity on the pump, or any of that. Strangely, although water was leaving the pump, the water level didn’t go up in the tank. I checked after lunch, and the level was exactly the same…. So I stopped the whole thing, and started checking my tank levels, sounding everything I could think of. About 40 tons of water had left the freshwater tank I was pumping from, and 0 had arrived in the ballast tanks. And it had not arrived anywhere else either.
About this time, I was expecting my name on the paging system any second, to find 40 tons of water had turned up in someone’s cabin…
Luckily it didn’t
Unluckily (or possibly not) It didn’t turn up anywhere else, either.
Anyway. We sail tomorrow, and this tank must be full when we leave. So I decided to ignore the whole missing water problem, and spent the last part of this afternoon moving water from the engine room into the empty small tank, (these pipes still work…) and then am myself down here in the dry food store, miles and miles down in the depthful belly of the ship moving the water from the small tank into the big one with the sociable submersible pump. It’s very slow.
And quite scary too. Last time the other waterman did something like this, he managed to flood the book-hold, and it caused some huge amount of damage, something in the thousands of euros range. So that’s why this entry is so disjointed, I keep running off to check everything. Yesterday I started at 6.30am, and finished at 10pm, and today I started at the more reasonable hour of 9.30am, and hope to be finished before the same numbers reappear with another suffix (or the same. That would be worse…). We shall see.
The reason it is so much work for just me, is that the other senior waterman is leaving, and changing jobs (I may have mentioned this before). And is doing training all this week. It’s all really tiring, anyway.
This is a photo of the inside of one of the tanks, including the “omega” bends. The tank is 1 metre 33 cm high.
Yesterday was quite a long day, I worked normal 9 till 5, and then left the Engine Room watchkeeper with the normal instructions for the night, as we wanted to load water (very slow connection) overnight. Anyway, the watchkeeper wanted to make a 1 degree starboard list (tilt of the ship) so they could pump out a bilge tank. They got it a bit wrong and ended up with 3 degrees. 3 degrees sounds like very little, but at 3 degrees it is actually hard to walk down the hallway. I phoned them to see what was up, they said they would correct it.
I was preparing for teaching Sunday school this morning, in my cabin, and so thought nothing more of it until the Duty Plumber phoned me, incredibly worried because the ship was now at 4 degrees, and he was getting leaks from random pipes. I pulled on my coverall and ran (almost while leaning against the walls!) for the Engine room, shut the valves all off and started correcting it (by this time we were at 5 degrees), then ran out again to sound the tanks and find out what was happening. The Engine room watchkeepers had left a few rather important valves open that they should have shut, and about 20 tons of water had siphoned across from one tank to another.
I ended up working until 11pm in the Engine room, keeping the pump going, replacing the water in the correct tanks. So I’m pretty tired today…
Today was the captains dinner, like a special programme for high up local port officers, VIPs and so on, and I was asked to play background music while they were eating for 20 mins or so. There is someone I have played with before a few times, doing guitar/voice/ clarinet French songs, which seems to work really well. So we were going to play, but then today at about 4.30 I found a note in my workshop saying “Sorry, I can’t play tonight, but this STEPper will…” I’d never heard the guy play before, except once when he came around playing Christmas Carols with a few others (who couldn’t sing…). So I was moderately terrified. I’d rather not play at all than play badly. Not everyone else feels that way, alas.
To continue, I went for the sound-check at 5.15, and he said he could play classical guitar, and went and found one, and played a few classical pieces (I’m sure he could be good, but I think is very out of practice…), stopping and starting all the time, and I improvised around him. Also a few old hymns and stuff (Greensleeves…). Then tonight we went and performed, and it in fact was not so bad at all. Nothing too amazing, but they were all eating anyway, and so it doesn’t matter too much the few mistakes there were… we kept going and it sounded kind of OK though our monitor, anyway.
Tomorrow I will be MC for a programme in the morning, for 200 or so 12 to 20 year olds. Then in the afternoon/evening it’s I-night again, and I’ll be playing a small part in a drama. It’s possible that I may be in the Irish cultural dance as well. I went to the practice today, just to watch them prepare for tomorrow, but one of the guys didn’t show up, and they muttered a bit about if he didn’t turn up tomorrow… I’ve only been to 3 practices now for that! And it’s really quite complicated! Anyway. I don’t think so tomorrow.
My official and rather boring report of the A-team:
Our A-team was sent to Melacca to work with the Calvary (AOG) Church there.
We were involved in teaching 2 drama and 2 dance workshops, running a mini i-night / cultural evening with the other Melacca A-team, a school visit, children’s home visit, a programme about unity at a pastors’ fellowship breakfast, a bunch of church services, 2 Sunday school meetings, practical chores in the church building, one epic adventure across the city in search of pizza, and lots of eating.
The church looked after us very well, providing a beautiful “condo” for us to stay in (with a swimming pool downstairs!), plenteous food, bottled water, transport, and schedule.
They briefed us well when we arrived, giving us times we would be picked up and dropped every day, information about each programme, and so on. We then followed the schedule almost exactly for the whole week (I believe this is a first in Doulos history.)
One of the main highlights of the week was the cultural evening on Wednesday. We joined with the other Melacca a-team to provide a whole range of cultural items including dances, drama, videos, songs (in 3 or 4 languages), and much more. The students from the dance and drama workshops were able to perform two dramas, which was amazing after the short time we could spend with them, and we hope and pray that they will be able to continue to work and use their many gifts in the future. All in all the cultural evening was a great success with many compliments and expressions of thanks afterwards.
We were able to spend quite a bit of time just talking with the people of the church at meals, before and after programmes, and at our condo after hours. One girl sent in the first application to join the ship while we were there! Another guy was very interested and spent a few hours one evening with us, asking questions and telling us about his life, with all of us sharing with him our own testimonies, and of how we were able to join the ship.
Preparing to go on the A-team (see [this post] for explanation):
The waterman job continues quite busy. The last two days we have been moving an awful lot of water from one ballast tank to another, as the deck team have finished cleaning/maintaining the one, and need to work on the other. The only way to do this directly is by opening up the manholes of those tanks (both in inconvenient places down in the food store), and sticking a pump into the full one, and a long waterhose (firehose thickness) between the two tanks.
So the first problem is getting the manhole covers off. These are large heavy metal plates with a rubber seal and 18 nut/bolt s on each one. We have a nice electric wrench thingy which gets them off quite quickly. We started opening the starboard tank manhole, but water came gushing out around the edges, meaning the tank is very full. There is a bilge entrance right next to the manhole, so we figured we could just drain the water into there, and then have the Engine Room pump out the bilge into the main bilge and then into the sea next time we sail.
But they told us that their main bilge that they would pump into is already pretty full and they didn’t need another ton or two of water in it from us. so we got a small emergency pump and used that to pump from the small bilge into another spare bilge. This was taking forever though, as it’s
quite a small pump.
Then we checked the plans, and saw that the other manhole for this tank is further forward in the ship, and the bow of the ship is really quite high at the moment, and so that manhole would probably not be overflowing if we opened it. But… that manhole is at the bottom of the lift shaft in Hold Two… So we went though to there, and got it open. Indeed it is fine! So we had to get the watertight door between the food store and hold two open, put a safety chain from the lift to the crane deck and then get the electricians to isolate the lift so no one else tried to use it and drop the lift on us. Then we rigged up the hose between the two tanks and started the pump. It went quite well but SO slowly.
The book-exhibition teams needed the lift to take the day’s books up (it was about 3.30pm by then). We had moved enough water that the other manhole was free from overflowing, so we opened that one again, moved the pump across, and started pumping again. Then we had to close up the manhole in the lift shaft again, and get the electricians to restart it, and remove the safety chain from the crane deck. All this time we were moving the ballast water, it made the ship list to Starboard, so we were having to use the freshwater transfer pump to move fresh water about and correct the list with freshwater. Most of the day I had to spend down in the food store to keep watch on the pumps and all while the other waterman was doing other stuff about the ship. While | was down there I extended a watch strap by a few notches for someone as well, and started work on updating the “Waterman’s Bible”, our handbook for all things watery (last updated 3 years ago). So quite busy.
Yesterday again we were doing more pumping all day, and also had to close up the manholes at the end. Because of the shape of the tanks, and where the water is, we actually have to list the ship a bit in order to get the last of the water in the tank we are emptying to run down to where the pump is (as we can only lower the pump to directly below the manhole, and cannot move the pump without ourselves going into the tank, and that requires a “Enclosed Space Entry Permit” and mountains of safety checks and paperwork.
Another problem yesterday we went through was that the nice big fast pump we have requires itself to be actually submerged in the water to keep itself cool while pumping. So when the water level fell below the height of the pump, we would have to switch to a slower smaller pump. But I managed to rig up the smaller pump without a hose so it would be hanging at an angle constantly splashing water all over the big pump, and keeping it cool. So all quite complex and fun. We were finished at about 10.30 pm. Very long day.
Today is my off-day, but I am taking a few hours of watch for my former deck-team leader, as she is going out today, or something like that. The schedule today is even more complex than the water situation! One of the watchmen is going out to play football, and so she is taking some hours for him, and so on. I was also invited out for lunch with some of the Indians on the ship, to a local family. Apparently Indian food!! Very exciting. I miss the food from India so much. It was SO lovely there. If anyone feels like opening an inexpensive vegetarian Indian restaurant in Larnaka in a few years whenever I go back you will have one regular customer for sure!
I’m going on A-team next port!! Yes! Another Doulish word with an unintelligible prefixial letter. In this case “A” stands for “Action”. Which gives absolutely no help in understanding what an “A-team” actually is. What is an A-team?
*Open “Unauthorised Revised Doulos Dictionary.” *
A-team – Noun. Abr. “Action Team”. C 1980-1990AD (Origin unknown). A short (1 to 3 weeks) land based team, leaving from the ship for however long to be involved in any number of different projects. Some do building work for a local charity or children’s home, some travel a lot, visiting a different village every night putting on a short programme, possibly taking a video projector along. Some run a youthgroup’s summer camp, and so on. Most Douloi guys go on 2 or 3 “A- teams” during their 2 years on board. Most Douloi girls go on 2 “A- teams”, and during the two dry-docks go on “Land Teams” which are basically the same as an “A-team”, but only girls, and during dry- dock. Some people go on up to 5 “A-teams” during 2 years.
So. Cool, eh? My a-team is comprised of all drama-ish creative people, and we are going to be mostly doing drama/dance/creative workshops for a local church/youthgroup. I will probably be speaking at one or two church services. So all in all quite interesting.
OK. “Quite interesting” is a bit of an understatement.
So if you want to pray for me (us!) until about the 15th or so of August it would be really nice. One or two very strong willed (lovely!) people on the team. And a LOT of time together, so pray that we will be able to work together, and help the people we meet.
So yeah. By the way, my “boss” the senior waterman just told me yesterday while we were chatting about books how he hates “chatty” books that are written in spoken English style (many modern books), rather than written English (like C.S. Lewis). It’s probably a good thing he doesn’t read this blog. I think he may find it too much spoken English.
We did our crane training yesterday. Which pretty much completes the basic deck training. Now only advanced lifeboat/firefighting/etc training to go (I think). We do training so sporadically though for these sorts of things. Drills every week though. I think I must be OK with the crane, as the teacher (my ex-teamleader) told me I was pretty good and she may even change my mooring station to the “standby” team (who start the unloading first), presumably as they need a crane driver. Pretty cool! Then again, standby team is quite boring most of the time. I’m currently in the forward mooring party, which is the nicest, I think so far. It’s a big open deck, with lots of space, and you get to watch the port and everything really easily.
That’s about it so far! Watermanning is going well. I haven’t flooded anything else yet. I greased the crane though. Tomorrow probably I’ll grease the main windlass. Huge, ugly, with about 100 points to find and squirt grease. And the grease gun is about empty, so I’ll have to fill it again, which is quite complicated and very very messy.
I ought to go now though; It’s dinner time.
I’ve been on e-day/overnight for the last three or four days. When I got back, people told me that the entire section 6 (girls) had been truly flooded! Like a foot of water in some cabins. But that wasn’t me, it was the other (senior) waterman. He was filling up one of the ballast tanks (from empty) which has no pumpconnection, so we have to fill it up byusing a couple of hoses and the ventilation pipe, and a tiny little domestic pump. Takes about three days.
Anyway, he set it going, checked it the next day and it was fine. Next day he was out, then came back and heard himself being paged… there was water all down the steps! It was Monday, so most people were off the ship and no one had noticed it all day.
We think the water must have got to the top, and while slowly filling up the ventilation pipe found a crack in the pipe which happens to fun through section 6. We don’t really know, though.
It’s been a cool weekend. On Saturday I worked until 1pm, and then went and showered, and went to do a ‘mini inight’ programme all afternoon, and got back at about 1am. One of the benefits of the waterman’s job: I can take time off like that.
On Sunday we left at 6.45am for my kgroup brother’s church, with our whole kgroup. We did a simple programme, and then went to a shopping mall in KL [Kuala Lumpur], then stayed overnight in an apartment rented for us by his dad. We spent the day chilling out in KL. Then today was another e-day, painting panels/walls for a Sunday School in a new church.
KL is about an hour’s drive from where our port is. Even the city to which our port is attached is about 30 minutes’ drive, so it’s really hard to get out at all here. You have to hitchhike to the train station (about 10 minutes’ drive) and then get a 30+ minute train to Klang (this town), and then from there it’s another half hour or 45 minutes to KL. And we’re at this port for 5 weeks! It’s so long.
For the weekend, the brother from Klang has his own car and we borrowed a Doulos van. Then as some people had to go back to work, the rest of us just piled into his car or took the trains about KL.
People visiting the Doulos here come in cars. We get about 18,000 at weekends. It’s amazing.