Saturday 16 February, 2002
Saturday 16 February 2002
At 1200, EST the Training Ship Empire State was made fast to pier #22 Port Everglades passenger terminal, taking various services from the shore. The weather was less than excellent; skies were overcast, winds from the west southwest at 5 knots, air temperature was 72 degrees Fahrenheit, barometric pressure was 1018 millibars, sea injection temperature was 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
"I have a large seashell collection, which I keep scattered on beaches around the world. Maybe you've seen it."
Before I talk about today, I want to talk about yesterday. We were scheduled to arrive at 0800, but due to the unbelievably busy port operations in this south Florida mega port, we got the word: be here and hour early or wait for a few hours until we can get to you. Now taking the early arrival seems to make the best kind of sense, especially when surrounded by 500 young people anxious to get ashore for fun in the sun, but trust me getting all of the men and women on team Empire State to back everything up, hurry pre-arrival preparations and be ready to safely maneuver and tie up 18,000 tons of steel and steam isn't easy.
Imagine a young person, with learner's permit in hand, driving the Southeast Expressway in morning rush hour traffic, chauffeuring you to your downtown Boston office. Sound relaxing? No? Well, that scary depiction is somewhat analogous to bringing a training ship up the channel and into a busy port. (We have more drivers, more learners' permits, and way more tonnage). "Prior, proper, planning" to enter the offshore traffic separation schemes begins very early, (0400) and the licensed staff officers (and Captain) stand close... but only to build confidence you understand. All of the pre-arrival checks were thankfully done the day before, so the call to "hurry up" only caused our collective blood pressure to only jump 100 psi or so.
As we approached the entrance to the harbor, however, the young driver's BP went off the charts. The entrance to Port Everglades is incredibly narrow- one can see that on the chart the cadets studied yesterday. But to look at a chart and then to see the tiny entrance from the deck of a huge ship underway, not known for its ability to turn or stop on a dime, are two VERY different things. It almost looks as if we need to call the galley to put grease on the sides of the hull to get us through the skinny slot of water running between the high rise hotels. The closer we come to the eye of this needle, the quieter it becomes on the bridge. When we finally enter the channel, the lookouts on the bridge can have an eye to eye conversation with early rising residents on the 15th floor of the building to starboard: "So I see you like your english muffins with peanut butter..."
Once through, we entered the wider area of the port itself and the simultaneous exhalation of breath from those on the bridge must have been recorded as a strange wind gust at Ft. Lauderdale airport. We entered Port Everglades at 0700-yesterday morning, right on time, all lines went out quickly and were finished with engines at 0800. Given the normal workday convention, that is an appropriate time to start the day. But yesterday's arrival was indicative of the days aboard a training ship. To paraphrase the famous Naval hero John Paul Jones: We had only just begun to work. Once we were secure alongside, we began getting the ship all shined up for the activities.
First off was a brunch hosted by our Placement Department, and CAPT Al Wilson. He had about 20 company recruiters on board and after lunch, they went right into our "Maritime Career Day". The recruiters had the opportunity to speak with over 80 senior cadets, and a small group of Second and Third Classmen. It is a real benefit to the companies, since most have operations in Florida, or the South, and cannot recruit at MMA too often. I heard via the grapevine that over twenty cadets were given offers for employment immediately upon graduation. Not too bad for a senior to be able to finish his or her last semester with the confidence that a job awaits them. At the same time our Int'l Maritime Business and Marine Safety/Environmental Protection Third Class cohort were loaded aboard a bus to go to the Port Authority Building. There the students were hosted to a "Maritime Business Seminar". Although Capt Wilson set it up, we were fortunate that Mr. Art Campell of the Gulfstream Insurance became involved. Long a supporter of MMA activities in South Florida, Mr. Campell put together a panel of six leaders of maritime business in the area. The students were treated to mini-lectures over a broad spectrum that included Admiralty Law, Port Authority Operations, Insuring and Brokering ships, Natural Gas and Petroleum distribution, Environmental Activism (Save the Manatee), and Maritime Union Operations and Training. Two presenter were MMA grads; Captains Karl Bernard and Bob Groom, both from the Class of '86. The cadets seized the moment by asking intelligent questions. Our host and lecturers were as impressed with the cadets as the cadets were of them.
Once all the business was completed, we all gathered on the boat deck aft for a reception. We had about twenty First Class cadets, about twenty officers, and fifty alumni and business folks from the area. The ship was presented a beautiful photograph of Port Everglades by Mr. Carlos Buqueras of the Port Authority.
All in all, it was a great (LONG) day.
When Empire State enters port it is an event if only because of the generous outpourings by maritime professionals (we know most of them) who so anxiously help our cadets. They arrange parties, tours, and meaningful training that consumes every waking moment and begins even before the ship is fast to the pier.
The "party" atmosphere surrounding these events often masks the underlying serious business that takes place, particularly for the seniors. Here are some photos from an event we were treated to in Ponce. Notice all the smiles.
But, Sea Term 2002 is rapidly drawing to close and sending lines over in the last port before home is poignant, especially for them. The seniors have prepared for nearly four years but few are truly ready for the day when it comes. The last port of their last Sea Term is here and it signals with certainty the end of carefree college days and the beginning of a new life. This event triggers the final pre-launch countdown and unlike a computer game, there is no pause button on life.
We have many other things going today. Cadets have taken to the beach in droves and for good reason. Fort Lauderdale is another wonderful, wintertime, vacation paradise and they are gong to the beach even if the snow flies. Many are planning to attend the Miami Boat Show. It is the preeminent event of its kind in the country but "boat show" does it no justice. The yacht show for the rich and famous would do better. Regardless the name, the affair represents major International Maritime Business and we now have vested interest. And judging by the numbers of people on the dock yesterday morning, I would say that large numbers of family and friends have taken our arrival and the Presidents' Day holiday, as excuses to fly south for the weekend.
Division 1 cadets are the unfortunates today, they have the dreaded duty and we will spend the whole afternoon working. We are going to shift berths. The pace of operations here doesn't often allow for a ship to hog a prime berth for four days in a row, so this afternoon we move over to pier #30. It is another major learning opportunity for the cadets as we un-dock, get underway, and then dock again in only an hour, but on top of the educational factor, there will be the humor factor. Tonight, cadets in the watch division will get to look over to pier #22 as the cadets in the other divisions return from liberty, perhaps slightly under the weather, only to find their ship GONE!
I must prepare for the arduous journey. Have a wonderful All-American afternoon.
See you tomorrow from our new berth at pier #30, Port Everglades, Florida.