A Day in the Life of a First Mate

Life Aboard a Ship

The day of a First Mate or the Chief Mate as he is commonly known, begins at 0400 at sea. I arrange to be woken up at twenty minutes to four. After taking over watch from the second mate, who keeps the midnight to four watch, I head for a cup of tea. The cadet, who gets his training under my supervision, usually makes it unless he is too busy with something.
The planning starts the moment I am woken up and continues till I go back to bed. It is an integral part of a Mate’s life, for no work however small, can be accomplished, without a fair amount of planning and anticipating the difficulties one may encounter. I think I get paid for thinking on board. It is in ways similar to a job of a housewife who is expected to do everything and manage within the resources available to her. My notebook comes in very handy in all this and I often wonder how I managed things during pre notebook days.
The incharge of the crew, the Boatswain or Bosun in short, comes up on the bridge at about seven and I tell him what is on my mind for the day. Together we do a little discussion and agree on a final plan.
After breakfast, at eight, I change into my coveralls and go for a general round of the vessel, to check everything is, as it should be. Once planning is done, it is time to execute and monitor the plan.
After lunch, I take a short nap and get up for tea at 1500. Take another round on deck to see that the work is going as expected and resolve difficulties, if any. I go back on my navitgational watch on bridge at 1600 until 2000. The bousun and the fitter (if on board), report at 1800 about the jobs done during the day and I note it down in my works diary.
Dinner on board is at 1800 and after finishing watch if there is not much of a backlog , I go down to the lounge to be together with other ship mates. I usually end the day by 2200 so that I can start the next day afresh at 0400.
This is the typical day when things have gone more or less as expected which is not very often, especially in older vessels. I remember a time when we had arrived at Richard’s bay in South Africa and the moment we docked we noticed a hole in her forepeak tank. The hole was very small and it took us a while to locate it. I was there the whole night and most of the following day. My wife who was sailing with me, got worried. She asked the radio officer, “Have you seen my husband? I haven’t seen him for over a day.”
Life is tough but it has got its own rewards. A hard day’s of work gives you a sense of satisfaction. You feel great after a job well done.
I love the sea. I have spent most part of my adult life there. I would continue to sail till I can and enjoy heading towards where the ocean meets the sky.

Tweet Me from First Life 360 - A blog of humor, nature and spirituality

Bookmark and Share

AddThis Feed Button

Today I bring you this picture of love.

A calf showing some affection

Humor 360

Life is full of humor. A funny incident here and a one liner there. It is medicine for the stress we encounter each day. So let me start right away with some serious humor, part experienced myself and part forwarded.
Years ago, as a second mate aboard a tanker, I had my wife join me on board. She came in Livorno, Italy. As it happened to be hours away from Pisa with it’s famous tower, we decided to go for a visit. As expected we took some photographs. Some were taken by me and some by her. As she took my pictures with the cathedral in the background her hand shook and we had a picture with a leaning cathedral.
The British Cadet who saw the photograph said to my wife, “Either you were drunk while you took this or is it the Leaning Cathedral of Pisa”.
We could not help but smile at his remark.
A few years ago I was trying to learn Flash with Matthew Pizzi and others’, Flash MX unleashed. It is a book which has some great humor besides some great content. One of the observations made was, Thermos flask is a great invention. It helps to keep the hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold. But how does it figure out which one to keep hot and which one cold.
A commercial I saw on television a month ago. A young girl leaves her newly bought ripped jeans on the bed and goes for a shower. While she is in the bathroom her mother comes to her room, to keep something and looks at the jeans which are ripped. She shakes her head at their condition. Thinking the jeans are torn, sews them and puts them back before the daughter is out.
A rip signifies different things to different generations, I guess.
On my last ship, the Captain had just taken over for the first time and it was his second day as incharge. We were in Corpus Christi, US of A and had to offload some garbage to shore facilities. The garbage was collected by the garbage van and the driver came up to the captain’s cabin for collecting cash for the services.
While the captain was counting money, the garbage man initiated some small talk. “How long you have been Captain?”, he asked.
I being there at the door, the Captain gave me an embarrassed look and then to him and said two days and laughed.
The garbage man thought he was kidding and joined us in our laugh.

Bookmark and Share

AddThis Feed Button

I leave you with the picture of lily at our home in full bloom.

My Valley View

The kitchen, as I make the morning tea, in our first floor house, is my first contact with Mother Nature. The early morning darkness just giving way to the first rays of light. The park, across the road is alive with birds chirping in their own characteristic sounds. Its music to the ears. As if God has unleashed a musical extravaganza.
As the day grows, the outline of a Bottle Brush tree starts appearing as also that of a tree called Dhaak in Hindi. Could some one, please tell me what is it called in English.
As I move to our front verandah, the beautiful Shivalik mountains, far away with just a hint of their existence, appear. Their mere presence seems to be telling tales of no limits of the time metric. Do you ever get lost in this seemingly infinite expanse of nothingness? I do.
The nights are even better. The lights on the relatively nearer Mussourie hills are breathtaking. It seems as if the stars are on a visit to our planet. I can’t think of a more romantic setting than this. Me and my mother, my son and his mother finish their dinner under the sky to say good night to each other. A perfect ending for a not so perfect day.
Even as I write this, I have the huge Chakrata hills beckoning over the top of my notebook screen. No wonder this valley, popularly known as the Doon valley, famous for its Basmati rice and schools, is such a major attraction for people seeking a serene life after they have done what is required of them.
I still go to sea to earn a livelihood. I love what I do but it’s so tempting to stretch my vacations here. I have lived all my life here and would love to spend the rest of it here too without complaints.

Starry Nights

The view of the sky on a clear night is one of my favorites. The zillion stars embedded in the firmament. Oh! Could anything be more romantic than that? I take a peek each day after dusk to check on them as if some of them might go missing. I can never forget to check on Sirius, the brightest of them all or the famous groups like The Orion and The Great Bear. Some days it is the Cassiopeia and on others it is the Taurus ( I am a Taurean myself.).
As a navigator in the high seas, I view them as navigational aids and use them to calculate the error on the compasses each watch. During earlier times we used to use them for fixing the vessel’s position by taking sights. Now with GPS becoming more popular on board, the practice is nearly extinct. I look forward to twilight each day and slowly the sky starts filling up with the little diamonds of that nursery jingle.
I especially like the view on the near freezing temperatures when everything seems to be so still. As if the clock has suddenly developed a malfunction. On my last time aboard, I was captivated with the night sky as viewed from Aardalstangen in Norway.
What about just glancing up while waiting for the traffic light to turn green when every one else is busy brooding about some worldly matter. It gives a sense of tranquility that has no comparison.
Next time when you are out and everyone is busy doing their thing take a sneak peek. I bet you would like it.
Star gazers tips
Extend the line of the stars at the end of rectangle (shorter of the two sides) of The Great Bear seven times and you will arrive at Polaris, popularly known as the Pole star.
Its the begining of summer here in Doon. The mercury is heading north. The mango trees are in full bloom and I'll leave you with this picture from our sideyard.