It’s been over six months since I last jotted some tripe down, and posted it on here. So, what’s been happening since I last projected my feelings onto the digital domain? Got my boat yet? No. Got a permanent, secure job? No. I finally began my career proper, as an Officer of the Watch, something I had been working tirelessly towards since September 2012. As usual, with anything I do, it’s not been plane sailing.
If you’d asked me at the start of my cadetship, if I could potentially see myself working on cruise ships, I probably would have dismissed the notion completely. Yet, here we are.
My first contract was somewhat of a baptism of fire. The master on board at the time, decided that it would be appropriate for me, a newly qualified Officer, to be on the 4 to 8 watch, which in cruise ship terms means the busy watch! Arrivals, and departures, every single day. Whilst I was getting accustomed to the life of a Cruise ship officer, we had three “incidents” – during my watches. Entering Durres, in Albania, we ended up in a rather perilous situation- We were at our minimum speed, to reduce the effects of squat (When the ship sinks into the water-usually more pronounced when there is a little amount of water under the keel) and because we were going so slow, the wind took over, resulting in our stern going out of the channel, and us needed to summon a tug. We had a complete blackout coming out of Valletta, which was terrifying, considering how close we were to the breakwater, thankfully we got the anchors out, and avoided serious incident, and finally- a moron on board was emptying cigarette containers, and didn’t have the nous to check they were all extinguished fully- resulting in me, on my first port watch alone having to deal with a flame detector going off. By the time I’d sent my quartermaster to investigate, the fire was out, and reported out by a deck steward. Smoke detectors go off all the time, and I am forever sending safety patrol to investigate, but a flame detector going off means one thing! As I was a fire team leader, I was not looking forward to donning my breathing apparatus and fire suit, and going into fireman mode.
On completion of my first contract, my Ukrainian staff captain gave me a very average appraisal. I couldn’t really get my head around it at the time. I was going above and beyond my duties, and I felt that I’d settled in nicely.
On my second contract, I went back all guns blazing. Now..my main duty as a 4th Officer aside from navigational watches, is to look after all the Fire fighting equipment on board-some 300+ portable extinguishers, fixed equipment, breathing apparatus, fire fighting equipment in lockers; they basically all need monthly checks, and have little cards on them, to show any inspectors that they’d been checked for that particular month. I went around all the fire extinguishers and found 40, yes 40, which had not been checked by the off signing 3rd officer since I’d last been on the vessel. 5 of them needed recharging. This is the same 3rd officer who, when I’d take over watches from him, would be playing games on his mobile phone; 2000 people sleeping below, and he’s on his phone playing games. The same 3rd Officer who, would go to his cabin and play on his playstation, rather than do his work. I was becoming frustrated that promotion wasn’t coming to me, yet people around me were showing gross incompetence, and seeming to do fine. My second contract was prematurely cut short. When I had a discussion with my staff captain, regarding promotion, he told me that I was not ready yet, as he’d been advised by the chief officer that I wasn’t “up to standard” – and that my “navigational skills needed more work” – I thought it was funny, because, I was the only person on the ship using the sextant for sights, and using the radar properly when in close proximity to land (regular range taking, and cross referencing with the Computer chart)- I took over a port watch from a Romanian officer, who told me it was low water, when in actual fact it was high- he actually couldn’t read a basic tidal chart. I told him the tide was ebbing, to which he replied “What is ebbing meaning” – I then had to explain to him that the height of tide shown on the chart, wasn’t the actual height of the available water, and that you needed to add that to the charted depth. You’ll be alarmed to know that this guy was responsible for our passage plans. The captain, staff captain, and chief officer used to mock and laugh at this guy during our passage briefs, which although the guy deserved it- these three laughing at him regularly showed what kind of people they were.
I wasn’t aware at the time, but this Chief officer, prior to me joining was harassing a girl on the ship who I’d become quite close friends with during my first contract, and she thwarted his advances by telling him she was interested in me when I came back (God knows why) – anyway- when I joined, this Chief Officer took it upon him self to have me transferred to the 12-4 watch, which isn’t the greatest watch if you’re looking to progress in rank; you are essentially on the bridge at night, when no one is there, and there’s usually little traffic, and doing work during the day. He also had me moved to a cabin with a single bed, in the alleyway with the shop workers (constant noise), as well as pretty much taking apart anything I said, or done. Aggressive, condescending, a typical bully. Using his familiarity with the top two, to try and make my life difficult. I wasn’t really bothered by him, as I’ve dealt with much worse, his attitude was pretty terrible though, despite being a very knowledgeable chap. When he started to impact on my career progression, that’s when I decided I’d had enough. He was new to the company, as was the staff captain, and captain; all three of them came from the same company and same ship, so were well acquainted with each other, which is why I didn’t feel that I could bring the issue I had to the next levels of management on board, so I hastily complained shore side, and resigned. When I handed my resignation in, the captain, and the staff captain did not even bother to ask me why, or have any kind of discussion. If I was the master of a ship, and someone resigned out of the blue, I would certainly sit them down and ask if there was any issues, but, alas, eastern European officers don’t have the best reputation, and these two were terrible- the staff captain’s nickname was “springline” – because he was always first ashore, and spent a lot of time off the ship.
Upon returning home, licking my wounds if you like, I made a call to the crewing manager, who basically told me that three other officers had made similar complaints, which gave credence to some of what I’d reported. He told me he would send me on another ship and to contact him at the beginning of March. Here we are, I’m still not on a ship. I got a half arsed email saying “sorry nothing at the moment” – when I asked him if he was still sending me back on ship, he simply ignored me.
I’ve been frantically applying for jobs since, checking the internet, and speaking to people I know- I’ve contacted British Antarctic Survey, about a potential job- who have nothing at present, but said they would get back to me. I also contacted a small bulk carrier outfit, who told me the same thing. I’ve applied for jobs on the Isle of Wight ferries, and also an Able Seaman job, on the Penzance/Scilly ferry. I’ve been offered a contract on a Tanker as an Able Seaman- the tanker is basically alongside all the time in Plymouth, and rarely goes to sea; taking this job would mean better pay than on the cruise ships, and would mean I could get a Dangerous Chemical Endorsement on my Ticket- meaning I can work on tankers. I think, perhaps moving to the tanker sector would be the best option for me.
It’s never easy.
Anyway, here I am butchering some music.