Sunday, April 27, 2014

Where I work

I think I've mentioned that working in the galley involves several different areas, when we're feeling a bit silly we refer to all these areas as our Culinary Empire! 

This is the galley proper where we do food prep and cooking. See the stand mixer mid-left? With all the bread and baking I do this piece of equipment is like my best friend. 

The sinks, food processor on the left, cupboards for spices and equipment. 

These are the ovens. They are pretty high tech and sometimes they seem smarter then we are. There are 6 racks inside each that keep cookie sheets and hotel pans in place. Based on 18 cookies per sheet each oven can bake 108 cookies at once! When I bake bread I use both ovens and get 12 loaves baked at the same time. 

The control panel for the oven looks like this. You can steam or bake and set the temperature down to the degree. There are also various food setting like "roast chicken" which should be simpler but I find more confusing. There's also a self clean feature which works brilliantly (except when we're rocking too much) and the oven will let you know when it needs to be cleaned if you haven't been noticing. 

The other main cooking equipment we use is tilt skillets. I would describe them like an element and pot in one. You put the food right in and you can boil, fry or deep fry. As the name suggests they tilt up so you can drain them.  There's also a hose attached to the unit for spraying them down when you're cleaning. 

Like the ovens they have a very detailed control panel although no self cleaning feature. 

The large tilt skillet can easily cook 20 pancakes at a time!

Or pad thai for 60.

Food is served in two locations. The salon where the maritime and academic crew eat:

And the banjer where the student crew eats and where we all eat family dinners:

And food is served from a line, cafeteria style. 

Occassionally we do a barbecque on deck. This was from New Year's Eve so it's extra fancy.

The aft pantry is where we do dishes from the  salon and make up meat, cheese and bread plates. There's a fridge for condiments and leftovers and the ever important coffee maker. 

Food storage is located on the lowest level of the ship and has dry stores,

A walk-in fridge,

And walk-in freezer.

Sometimes we have to deep clean the ship and then you gets scenes like this: 

A lot of my day is spent going around between all these places so I get my walking in for sure!

Sailing Along - France to the Netherlands

This sail felt pretty short after our Atlantic crossing! We were able to sail some of the way through the English Channel and North Sea but eventually the sails got taken in (I finally got to help furl!) and the engine turned on. These waters were surprisingly calm but busy of course with lots of vessels. The look-out bell got lots of use. We crossed the prime meridian and are now in the Eastern hemisphere. 

As we left on Sunday evening we postponed our Sunday "family dinner" till Monday. Could be the last one of the year as the next two Sunday's we're in port. Speaking of lasts, slapps may have opened for the last time. I bought a couple of chocolate bars (and doubled my bill!) just because I could. 

We had a no power hour on Earth Day. It's light out so late now that although we didn't start till 8:30, it was light the whole time the generator was off. 

The last night before coming into Amsterdam we spent at anchor and the students held a "coffee house" (in the banjer due to rain/thunder/lightning). This is a time they share their talents with each other, mostly musical but a few poetry readings and skits as well. I had planned to do some Irish dancing but there isn't room down in the banjer. Maybe we'll be able to have another one on deck before the end of the year. 

We came in through a lock and canal system and happily the gangway sits almost horizontally, very different to what it was at in France!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rhythms on Board

I think I’ve mentioned before the rhythm of being at sea. It’s something you slip out of in port and at the beginning of each sail I find it takes a day or so to get back into the rhythm of life at sea. It’s a lot of information to digest so feel free to skip this post if schedules and nitty gritty details aren’t your thing!

Let’s start with the rotating schedules that we cycle through. 

Classes run on a five day schedule with an additional “arrival day” schedule for, of course, arrival days.  The days cycle through in turn so if we end a sail with Day 2 (followed by arrival day) the next sail will start with Day 3. 

Day Watch runs from 0600-2200 and follows the same cycle 5 day cycle as classes. Each hour there will be a student assigned to each of the four physical watch positions (helm, standby, lookout and safety) as well as a few more students to be “on deck” – available for whatever needs doing: sail manoeuvers etc.

Galleys are teams of 4 to 5 students who work together in galley for the day.  There are 8 galleys that rotate in order. On galley days the students don’t stand their day or night watches and have what they call a “galley sleep” (an uninterrupted night as they don’t stand watch).

Watches are how the student body is broken down into smaller groups.  The watch groups rotate through the 4 night watches (2 hours each from 2200-0600) spending about 3 weeks on each night watch.  They also stand with their watch at morning colours and do cleaning stations in their watch group, these rotate along with their night watch times. 

Then of course there are the days of the week although this matters the least I think.  On Sundays at sea we will have family dinner in the banjer which means the maritime crew will eat in the banjer with the students instead of in the salon.  There’s also dessert!  That’s the most noticeable difference between the days although there are some other weekly happenings like Muffin Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Wolf Shirt Wednesdays, Fun Fact Friday etc.

The maritime crew have a different rhythm then the students.  Officers and ABs stand 8 hours of watch each day (broken into two four hour shifts) and have an additional 2 hours of maintenance or overlap time when they aren’t on watch but are getting other work done.  On Sundays they only stand their 8 hours of watch and take a bit of a rest day.  Sundays are also (supposed to be) cabin cleaning day.  There are a few maritime crew like the bosun and engineer who are daymen and work their 10 hours in one go, basically from breakfast to dinner.

The galley rhythm is a lot the same whether we are at sea or in port, the biggest difference being in port we usually cook for less as the students are generally off the ship for shore leave which means we get some time off too!  We start breakfast prep between 0600 and 0630 each day and start serving at 0720.  Most people have eaten by 0800 when we all come together for flag raising and colours (like morning assembly).  After colours there are still a few people to eat from the off going watch and those who are on galley duty.  We aim to have breakfast cleaned up by 0900, in time for the students to make it to their first class.  At 1000 we have the first coffee time break of the day.  This one is for maritime crew only and we serve a small snack as well as coffee outside on the aft deck.  Lunch is served at 1130 so if we haven’t started prep before/during coffee we will definitely be starting right after!  As with breakfast most people eat in the first half hour and the second half hour is usually a smaller seating.  Once lunch clean up is done we have a bit of a break until 1500 when the second coffee time happens. This one is for students as well as maritime crew although we don’t make coffee for the students, just a snack.  Sometimes it’s fruit, sometimes a baked good, or cheese and crackers, usually nothing too fancy.  I start dinner prep at 1700 though Jess has usually started before me.  Dinner is served at 1830-1930 and hopefully we’ll be cleaned up by 2030.  Of course each day has its variations, sometimes I bake bread in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon.  Occasionally there are extra jobs we need to tackle during our usual downtime.  We also try to give each other breaks, sleep in mornings when we don’t start till after breakfast or early nights when one of us is done right after dinner (ie. No clean up).

So you can see there’s a lot going on during the day/week and although it sounds like a lot to keep track of it’s all pretty organized and you get used to it quickly; you can also see no two days are the same!

When we get to port most of these cycles get thrown out the window!  There are no classes, watch becomes gangway watch and only 2 students at a time are needed, maritime crew are mainly daymen and everyone gets time off.  Then it’s back to sea where we will pick up where we left off.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Where I Live - Part Two

Last time I showed you my cabin, this time I’ll show you some of the other areas that make up my home here on Sorlandet.

I live in the aft ship which the home for maritime and academic crew.  The students’ home is down in the banjer and while they do go through the aft ship for various things like safety checks, laundry, galley duty, to speak to the Shipboard Director, etc. it’s not somewhere they can hang out.  This is the hall leading down from the door of the aft ship to my cabin.  Generally speaking the higher ranked you are the closer to the door your cabin will be.  (If you remember from my cabin tour post I’m at the back of the ship!)

Leading off the hall we have the hospital/medical officer’s cabin on one side and the salon on the other.  The salon is where the maritime crew eat and is also used for meetings and often for immigration when we enter a new country.  The captain’s cabin is off the salon so it’s pretty much as fancy as we get here.

Down the hall we have more cabins and the stairs down to the laundry room.  We have two washers and dryers on board which are used for ship’s laundry (cleaning cloths, hand towels, galley rags, etc.) as well as personal laundry for all crew.  Also in the laundry room there are heads and showers for maritime and academic crew.  Most of the showers on board work on a pump system, press the button and you get water for a short (20-30 seconds?) amount of time; however, one shower back here has been changed so it’s continuous water – as you would guess it seems to be the most popular!

The aft pantry is like a kitchenette with fridge, microwave, dishwasher, kettle and the coffee maker which is in pretty constant use!  The dishes we use in the salon are kept here and there is always food available for those who get hungry outside of meal times.  (Night watch is a very popular snacking time.)  During meal service I’m usually back here making sure the crew is taken care of.

The crew mess is general living and work space. There’s a computer here where I log my hours and check the galley email.  There are printer/scanners and other office supplies like staplers, white board markers and books like our safety manual and staff reference book.  The crew mess is used for teachers prepping course work, study hall (1930-2030 daily), meetings, etc.  In the evening (study hall excluded) it’s usually a bit more casual, general social time or game playing or movies.

And after so many weeks on board, yes, this really does feel like home.

Shore Leave - Brest, France

This port has had the biggest tide change of any we've been in so far - 7 metres the first night we were here! That made for an interesting gangway situation, sometimes it angled steeply down to the ship, sometimes steeply down to the quay and occasionally it was flatish. 

I was warned that Brest is a hilly city and that certainly is true. To get into the main part of the city you had to go up these flights of stairs. 

It's definitely spring here, it was lovely to see spring flowers, grass growing and trees coming into leaf. We also had spring weather. Some days it got up over 20 degrees, other days it barely made it to 10. 

I spent most of my shore leave time walking around the city and exploring different parts. I also visited the Maritime Museum which is housed in a centuries old castle so it was fun to poke around in even though most of the exhibits were in French. 

Of course the food here is great! Restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, it was hard to go wrong!

And now we're ready to set sail (or motor) again. All the sails are quite short now and we will be to our next port (Amsterdam) in no time!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sailing Along - Atlantic Crossing

I made it! 22 days without touching land… and then when I did it felt pretty much the same and rather anticlimactic. Anyways, that’s the short story, keep reading for more details.

Pre-Crossing Thoughts That I Meant to Post Before Leaving
We’re about to start crossing the Atlantic, the first (and only) crossing of the semester but the third this year.  I’m one of the few on board who hasn’t yet experienced an ocean crossing.  Am I nervous? Yep, a little. Or maybe we’ll call it healthy respect!  So far I’ve been pretty fortunate in the seasickness department, hopefully that continues.  And if it doesn’t I figure the worst that happens is I throw up a few times. Or feel like crap for three weeks.  I’m most worried about feeling exhausted for three weeks straight, rolling seas do not make for the best sleeps.  There’s also something about being on this ship and knowing you won’t be able to get off, or get away for such a long period of time.  The sail from Costa Rica to the Dominican Republic, at 11 days, was a taster of how a 24 day crossing might feel.  But on the other hand it was fairly different as we motored the whole way through fairly calm waters and I expect the Atlantic will be quite different!

What makes me feel confident headed into this crossing?  Well all my sea time so far I’ve survived and for the most part enjoyed!  Yes, there will be rocking and rolling and I’m sure I’ll come out with a few more bruises then I have going in but in the end I’ll be able to say I’ve crossed the Atlantic on a tall ship!  The maritime crew are also all experienced sailors and I will, literally, be trusting them with my life.  Whatever gets thrown at us I feel absolutely confident in their abilities to handle it and get us to our destination safely.

***End of Pre-Crossing Thoughts***

Any special preparations before crossing? Well, I stocked up on snacks although with Slapps and the General Store you know you can get that sugar fix if you need it. I also made a “Countdown Calendar” which I stuck up on our cabin door.  Kinda like an advent calendar, there were 25 days and each day had a piece of paper with the number of days left on it.  Each night Anna-Marie and I took one down and wrote what went on that day and stuck it on our closet door.  It was very satisfying to see the numbers move from one door to the next!  

The crossing was pretty varied as you would expect from so many days at sea.  We had good sailing the first two weeks and then had to turn the engine on as the winds were not favourable to the direction we needed to go.  Unfortunately we had to motor the rest of the way but on the other hand thank goodness we have an engine for those times the wind doesn’t cooperate.

The most excitement we had was a few days in when we had hurricane force winds (over 60 knots an hour) that caused the main deck to be awash in water most of the time which meant it was closed which meant we couldn’t get to galley for one and a half days.  That was interesting times! Luckily I’d just baked a bunch of bread and we also had a lot of hard boiled eggs in the fridge (for those who don’t know all the food storage is not in the actual galley which makes it a bit of a pain most days, running around getting food from the walk-in and dry stores but in this storm situation it was handy) and had cheese, cereal, milk etc. The morning of the storm when I got my wake up call I was asked to go up to the bridge before heading to galley.  That’s when I was told the weather conditions, also that two of the sails had blown off (!) and that we’d be serving a cold breakfast as best we could, where we could.  Honestly I wasn’t at all worried when I heard the news, a big part of that was that the maritime crew always appeared calm and in control no matter what they may have been thinking inside. 

The weather varied a lot, there was a day or two where people were out in shorts and T-shirts, then more stereotypical North Atlantic weather when people were in sweaters and foulies permanently.  Most days had a variety of weather, you might wake up to rain and by lunch it would be beautiful and sunny! 

We had a planned storm/snow day on April 6 where there were no classes and students got a sleep in day.  From 0600-0800 the teachers stood watch and set out breakfast for the maritime crew as well so Jess & I also got a sleep in day!  Everyone had to be up for 1030 colours and then cleaning (there are some things on the ship that you can’t skip!) and at 1130 we had brunch.  It was a very relaxed morning, I didn’t get up till 0800 and then didn’t have to start work till 0945!  I opened some mail (I rationed my mail from Bermuda and got to open one about every other day) and did some knitting. 

Thanks again to everyone who sent mail! By careful rationing I opened my last piece the day before we arrived in France and a lot of the crew were quite amazed to find me opening mail mid-Atlantic.

Other business as usual that continued during the sail included: 5 time zone changes (all the type where you loose an hour of sleep), Slapps and the General Store a few times each, Sunday family dinners in the Banjer (the galley teams really stepped it up with table side service, conversation starters, etc.), baking, birthdays (Class Afloat tradition dictates the birthday person gets buckets of water thrown on them at 0800 colours), drills, laundry (one good thing about calmer waters is laundry facilities stay open)

Our sailing schedule has some cushion time built in so we arrived a bit early in France.  We were due to arrive April 16 but ended up dropping anchor in a bay near Brest on April 13 and then came into Brest on April 15.  The kids still had classes on the 16th but had an evening of shore leave on the 15th which everyone was excited for.

So how did the crossing compare to what I thought it would be?  Well, except for that one day we got off pretty easy in the weather department.  I did come out with more bruises then I went in with and thankfully the seasickness stayed away.  There was some rocking and some less than ideal sleeps but I never felt completely exhausted (although mid-day naps are always appreciated).  The length of the trip didn’t bother me at all, I was much more ready to reach land on the 11 day sail to the Dominican then the 24 day sail to Europe.  Interesting. Maybe I just had it set in my mind as such a long sail that I was mentally prepared?  At any rate when we first spotted France I have to say it felt very anti-climactic.  And yes, my faith in the maritime crew was well placed.  Couldn’t have made it here without them.

Thoughts from a sailing ship

There are some unique challenges presented when living in an environment that is constantly in motion. Should you find yourself in such an environment here are some things I've learned that may help you. 

Always have a hand free to grab a wall or railing or anything stable and nearby. 

If you can't have a hand free (ie when carrying a large pan of food) try to lean on something with another body part (ie your hip against the railing of the stairs).

When standing in one spot it is a good idea to brace yourself with your feet or hips against a solid object. 

If you are brave enough to sit on a chair in the salon (vs the bench) the hand free rule still applies and you will want to sit with one leg braced off to the side. 

If there is a big roll stay still till it passes. This may involve moving down the deck in three short trips instead of one continuous one. 

Waiting for the roll applies doubly on stairs and extra on stairs that have a 90 degree turn part way up. 

Doors must always be latched or in your hand or they will inevitably fly open and crash into the wall. This applies to cupboard doors as well. 

Be prepared to switch the "head" of your bed often. Perhaps nightly, perhaps during the night. The key is to have your head on the windward side of your bunk if you are sleeping thwartships. If your bunk is fore and aft wedge yourself in with pillows as best you can, the less space you have to roll in the better. 

Get used to sleeping through rattling, creaks and groans, footsteps above your head, banging and the roar of the generator. 

That said make sure all your things are sea stowed as that pen rolling back and forth in your cabin will be enough to keep you awake. Also note trying to sea-stow said pen at 2 am is not likely to be successful.