Tuesday, April 20, 2004

(Dominica, Docking and Such)


This morning I got up early to watch us dock. I have watched it a few times now, and it is quite a process . . . particularly in this port (Dominica). You can see the pier that we pull up to in the picture. To give you an idea of scale, the building on the left has what looks like small white boxes in front of it. These are semis. The building itself is two stories tall, and has a flea market inside half of it. We set around 16 lines from the ship. As we are slowly coming up to the pier, we drop small lines to people below. They pull these 'till the big lines come out, and they put them on gigantic steel posts. The problem is that in Dominica, the pier isn't nearly big enough for this boat. So, when you are looking at the picture above, the back of our ship sticks just beyond the part of the pier closest to you, and the back lines go to that. The front of the ship sticks so far past the front of the pier that it actually sticks just past the dock beyond the pier (you can see it in the picture, but because of the angle you can't see the distance). At that end, we tie the boat back to the far end of the pier, more lines to the shore where the pier attaches, and then we drop more lines to a pilot boat which takes them to another building on shore where they have made another attach point just for us. This boat here is beside the pier, about to take the lines over to the shore point (between the pier and the dock). It takes around 16 lines to tie up the ship. It is funny, they look so small in relation to the ship, but they are gigantic. I think, proportionately, that the lines on my boat would be about the size of sewing thread if I were going by the same proportions. On the flip side, it would take something pretty amazing to move the ship, even if it weren't tied up, whereas you merely have to blow on mine to move it. I think that the thrusters are running all of the time too. I am not sure, but it looks like there is constant disturbance in the water between the ship and the dock.

For fun we had an emergency drill after breakfast. This is actually where I took the lifeboat pictures from the entry on the eighteenth, I just added them in later. Since I am not part of the medical emergency team, my part was pretty easy. They first sounded the medical emergency code, which meant that I was to do nothing. Then, they sounded the emergency alarm, which meant that I had to go to my muster station with my lifejacket. I went ahead and took my camera just in case there was a good shot somewhere. We then stood there in the heat (but at least in the shade) in uniform, wearing lifejackets, while they checked to make sure we were all there. We then stood for about 30 minutes while the stewards checked all of the rooms and then joined us. Then the captain told us to abandon ship, and we all filed out to stand in the direct sun. The group there were the first off, obviously another 800 or so joined them while I was headed down (my muster station is the highest and farthest away, so we were last off). We got to stand in the heat for a half hour or so, then it took a half hour to get back onto the ship. The drill took two hours total. On deck 7 or 8 (quite above the lifeboats) there was a woman who obviously was a bit of an attention seeker. For the entire time we were out there, she was on her deck performing a pretty vigorous dance without any music. People kept cheering for her, which just increased her tempo. It was entertaining, but it is a shame that she didn't go ashore because . . .

It looks really beautiful there. I may go ashore there next week, it depends on what Mihai wants to do. There are a bunch of small, colorful boats right in front of the ship. If we didn't stop where we did, we would mow them down like matchsticks. I presume that it gets shallow pretty quickly though, so it may be that we'd only go forward another 50 feet or so. There is an interesting erosion control area right at the place that is sheltered by the pier. They have a bunch of concrete pieces that look like you took an "H" and twisted one of the sides 90. Here is a close-up picture for those who are interested, or can tell me more about them. They look like they would be nearly impossible to transport, their shape and size would mean you couldn't put many on a truck. Each side of the "H" looks to be about twice my height and size. They have to be really heavy, and they look as if they were placed by a crane (there isn't a pattern, but they are very exactly concentrated, and I am fairly certain that they would crack if you just tumbled them down the side of the wall).

Yes, here is another sunset that is nice, but not quite what I am looking for. I am going to try to get some sunrises also. I haven't been up in time for most of them (breakfast is only served between 7 and 8:30, so if I get up for the sunrise, I would have an hour to kill just to wait for breakfast), and the one that I watched the other morning was obscured by clouds. I wish that I had an old fully-manual camera to take star pictures at night. I think that if I sandbagged the camera and left it open for a while, I could get some interesting streaked star pictures. This camera can be open for 30 seconds, but I don't think that it is nearly enough. I may give it a shot one night, though.