Entry 44, April 20th, 2011, 11:13am (ship time, GMT -5)
Today's boat drill was less exciting than last week's, although not without its own little thrills. It was the new captain's first boat drill and his style is already becoming apparent. The first notice we had of the drill itself was the sounding of the emergency signal (usually they come on the PA about five minutes beforehand to warn the passengers; this has the added benefit of waking up the musicians in time for them to get dressed). I am proud of myself because I was able to go from a dead sleep to hustling up the stairwell in less than thirty seconds, but I feel like a body has only so many of those cold starts in it, and once you've used them up they're gone.
After milling about for a quarter of an hour (the captain closed some stairwells as well, and pulled some interesting watertight door drills, but again neither of these things affected me – I'm in the group of people with no useful skills, remember?) the call came for volunteers. “Volunteers for what?” was the immediate response. The reply came back that they were filling a lifeboat and needed a hundred and fifty bodies to do so. Everyone at my station stood around looking at their shoes . . . finally I stood forward and starting putting my life jacket on. “For chrissakes . . .”
In our training they emphasize several times that no matter how badly damaged your vessel, it may be a safer place to remain than a lifeboat. This is true. Lifeboats are incredible engineering marvels when it comes to mashing an immense number of bodies into a small space – they make some of the house parties I attended in college look practically vacant (Spiegel, you remember when we had all the people dancing to D'Angelo in the living room and the floorboards were bending down in the basement? A lifeboat makes that look like a deserted Welsh mountaintop). People are seated vertically as well as horizontally – if you get a seat amidships, your knees go under the thwart in front of you and your nose sits in the small of someone's back. Someone else's knees then end up pressed to your ears. It's crowded.
I managed to get a bulkhead seat, but ended up squeezed under the forward ladder with my spine curled up like a pretzel.
A pair of blue boys are welding some sort of metal frame right now on the back deck. This is probably why most of the crew furniture looks like it has seen more action than the quarterdeck of Nelson's Victory.