Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Entry 24 3.30.11

Entry 24, March 30th, 2011, 8:21 (ship time)

Today I finished what I think is my last training, and boy what a finish it was. The crowd management training is about three hours long, and my impressive hangover probably didn't help. I actually did the thing Spiegel did Sophomore year, where he started getting drunk again the day after a party. Waaaaayyyyy too much whiskey last night, Rob (the lead trumpet player here on the G) kept buying me cups of Jameson (at $2 a cup, I am a spectacularly cheap drunk). Anyway.

We did get to watch some impressive footage of the Oceanos, a Greek cruise liner that sank off South Africa. This was used as an example of what NOT to do in a disaster, as the crew and officers abandoned the sinking ship in the middle of a storm at three in the morning without telling any of the passengers that the ship was going down. The passengers, of course, figured it out for themselves, particularly when a few crew members asked for women and children to participate in a lifeboat "drill" . . . in the middle of a storm at 3am with no electrical power. By the time four lifeboats were gone, though, there wasn't an officer left on the ship. The cruise director and entertainers ended up having to organize the rescue, leading to one memorable scene where a South African Coast Guard official asked over the radio for a man's rank and he responded, "Uh . . . guitarist?"

I've done some research into the Oceanos disaster myself, as I heard about it maybe a year ago while looking at youtube videos of sinking ships (doesn't everyone do this? right after looking up failed rocket launches and right before looking up dams collapsing? There's an amazing series of photos out there of a huge earthen dam in the United States (Idaho?) being undercut and then totally collapsing in a massive surge of water. But I digress). It is unclear exactly how the flooding started, but it is known that there was a failure of the cooling water intake for the diesel engines and some sort of small explosion. The water immediately flooded the engine and generator rooms, cutting off all electrical power and propulsion from the ship. At this point the watertight bulkheads should have kept the ship afloat (they can be closed manually from several locations even without electrical power here on the Lady G), but in the generator room there was a hatch cover that had been missing for some time. The water flooded through this opening into the sewage tanks on board, quickly filling them and continuing upwards through the Oceanos's sewage system. Even then the ship should still not have sank, as there is a sewage system cut off valve that can be used to isolate the tanks in this sort of situation, but on the Oceanos it had recently been removed while in port to repair one of her sister ships and never replaced. The ship began to flood via the sewage system, a pretty disgusting prospect no matter how you look at it.

What I had not seen before was much of the video footage that they played for us during the training. Several of the guests (including the guitarist) had video cameras and got some amazing footage of the inside of the ship flooding compartment by compartment. At one point a crewmember can be heard yelling at the camera "Stop! No! No cameras! No cameras!" but the man escapes without getting his gear confiscated. There is also some crazy footage of the rescue; by morning, the ship was listing between 45 and 60 degrees to starboard and the forecastle was totally submerged, making the launching of any remaining lifeboats totally impossible. The 200 remaining guests had to either be airlifted off by helicopter or jump into the (shark-infested) ocean. One man slipped off of the helicopter cable and fell a hundred feet into the ocean, but luckily survived. In fact, there were no fatalities at all, quite lucky considering the cowardice of the officers and crew.

Anyway, enough about training. Summary of today's lesson: don't abandon the passengers to certain death.

I'm watching the lights of Aruba disappear astern right now. Last time we were in Aruba I missed it due to training, and today I only had about an hour ashore. I got out and walked the shoreside strip, and let me tell you -- buying a rolex in Cartagena and buying a rolex in Aruba are two very different experiences. Casinos, expensive botiques, corny restaurants, submarine tours (seriously) . . . the part of Aruba I saw caters to the "priviledged enjoying their priviledges." One of the hotels had a stream flowing through it into the ocean.

Next time I look forward to actually getting some beach time. The water here (even next to the pier, where in Columbia it would be filthy) is crystal clear. I could see fish reflected in the shine of the streetlamps. The weather was gorgeous as well, reminiscent of one of those perfect summer nights in California that I remember from being a kid.

The view as we're leaving, though, is pretty spectacular. The ship docks right downtown, among the hotels and casinos. The pier is protected by a long, narrow spit of sand with one lonely tree on it that serves as a natural breakwater. They must dredge the channel, because the Lady G is sliding right by the strip less than two hundred yards from shore.

Earlier I saw a sailing class in sunfish straggle by between the ship and the spit, close hauled, with someone who was obviously the instructor looping back and forth in a powerboat giving instructions like a protective mother duck. One pair of students had obviously picked it up more quickly than the others and was way out in front, while most of the boats were clustered together, having a merry time of it trying to steal each other's wind (you can do this by sailing close to a boat on their windward side, effectively blocking their sails with your own). There was one poor pair of sailors, though, that was really struggling -- they would do okay for a bit, and then fall either too far into or away from the wind, over-correct, and either end up in irons or slam-jibing so hard they capsized the little boat. Luckily they never got the thing all the way upside down, as I hear that can be a lot harder to right (you can't just climb up on the centerboard). I don't know if they ever made it, or had to get towed back, but I bet they are the best in their class at righting a capsized sunfish.

Tonight is a crew formal on the back deck, a "Black and White" party. Gotta go work out and study some Spanish first, though, so I'm out for now.

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