Saturday 02 February, 2002
Saturday February 02, 2002
At 1200, EST the Training Ship Empire State was located just a Tom Brady rifle pass west of Georgetown, Grand Cayman in the harbor. She was anchored, port anchor and five shots out. The weather was excellent; skies were clear, winds from the northeast at 3 to 5 knots, air temperature was 81 degrees Fahrenheit, barometric pressure was 1021 millibars, sea injection temperature was 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Depth of water beneath the keel was 300 feet.
"If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again." Punxsutawney Phil
364 days until next Groundhog Day - 46 days until Spring! - March 20, 2002 at 2:16pm EST
Punxsutawney Phil, Pennsylvania's weasly, whistle pig of winter, can leave his mangy fur coat stowed... winter never visits here. I also have it on good authority that Hell never freezes over; the weather in Hell today is partly cloudy, hot, and humid. How do I know? Here on the island of Grand Cayman there is actually a town called "Hell". I know because I've been to Hell and back.
I'm sure many of my former students wished me there for good, but Hell really does exist here. It even has its own post office where tourists can get their letters and cards postmarked: Hell-Grand Cayman, Wish YOU were here! . The actual town got its name from the unusual black, jagged coral formations that cover the ground for acres. On an island of lush tropical beauty, the stark, barren landscape covered with strange sharp rock resembling an old lava flow must have reminded early founders of the netherworld.
Let's see.. Six more weeks of winter, minus Sea Term days remaining..., Sorry Punxsey!.. You're wrong!...Winter is just about over for the cadets and crew of the Good Ship Empire State and we are as close to Heaven as you can be on this earth!
Enough talk of leisure and weather, Saturday is a training/work day aboard ship and we are hard at it. The ship was alive with activity this morning. While the deck watch was busy on the bridge, taking us close to shore, engineers deep in the pit were adjusting the controls on the two massive boilers- 19,250 shaft horsepower in their hands. The anchor detail was on the bow, while the maintencence division was opening cargo hatches in advance of launching boats. The Third Class were standing by with lifejackets in order to begin lifeboat training. And last of all, the stages were being rigged to sling cadets over the side to work on painting the hull. When everyone has a job, when they are busy with a purpose, the ship sings.
Early this morning, the Chief Mates, Jim Taddia (MMA) and Chris Zola (SUNY), assembled their gang of first and second class cadets and prepared the anchor for swimcall. While we are underway, the 12,910 pound port anchor is tightly stowed. As we approach the desired anchorage, however, the anchor is slowly lowered to a position just above the waterline. Once the cadet conning the ship gets to the target and gives the word, the brake is released. With a long, loud roar, accompanied by a billowing cloud of dust and paint chips, the anchor and its chain stream from the opening in the foredeck and rush over the side, hitting the water with a mighty splash. Do the procedure correctly, and you get it signed off by the officer in charge; one more task accomplished on the way to the title of "Third Mate, All Oceans".
Meanwhile, similar procedures, with both the high drama and danger of letting go the anchor, are occuring along both sides of the ship. The lifeboats are moving up and down like exposed outside elevators on a highrise building. Tons of moving steel are in the hands of cadets but one year out of high school as they order classmates to "Release the gripes" and "Lower away".
Whether it is the knowledge that this is important, dangerous work that might be needed in an emergency... or the fear of screwing up in front of your peers, everyone takes this work very seriously and the drills move along quickly. One by one, the sophomore cadets take their turn at each of the stations responsible for lowering, raising, or operating the lifeboats. By the end of the day, each cadet is confident that, even if the ship is rolling with the wind howling and their heart pounding in their throat, they can DO this.
Tomorrow we plan another well deserved fun day to break up the week of hard work. Fun on the Fantail followed by the Battle of the Bayou. It doesn't get much better than this.
I'll close today with some pictures of the ops around me, courtesy of the Ladden/Arnold photo team. Enjoy.