SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
October 18, 2018
Countdown to Suva
18°26.25’S x 179°32.6’E
Ship’s Heading & Speed
Hove to, under staysails
Wind out of ESE, Force 6
Field Day! Today was long and productive. I work as assistant engineer, and on Thursday our regular preventative maintenance routine is to exercise fifty or so valves, and lubricate ventilation dampers. It is not generally the favorite chore. This morning it was made easier with the excellent help of Olivia, one of the sailing interns. Valve day ended up only taking all morning, which is pretty good, considering.
Meanwhile, The Chief (engineer) has been troubleshooting a sticky problem with the starboard navigation light. It's the kind of problem that makes you question what you think you know, and wonder what ever made you want to work on ships in the first place, and what jerk convinced you that working in the engine room was a good idea. I'm steering clear. If I dream up an idea in the middle of the night, I'll mention it, but I don't want to interrupt the wheels spinning in his head as he works through the problem. The nice thing about an electrical problem though is at least it isn't filthy and covered in oil.
After lunch today we celebrated the longstanding SEA tradition of field day. Field day is when the whole ship's company gives the ship a deep clean. It is also the only time when recorded music is allowed to be played on board. My projects for field day were to make the control room (part of the engine spaces) presentable again, then to continue with my ongoing project of sorting, inventorying, and stowing all of our spare parts. The inventory project gets tedious, and it tends to be a quiet, stationary project that puts me in an almost trance state. It's necessary though, I see that every time I am digging through bins looking for a spare part that may or may not actually exist.
I was well into my groove, my trance, my Zen meditation, whatever it is, when someone asked me to come on deck and enable the air compressor for a chore they were working on. As I stepped out of the engine room I saw the rest of the ship was in total chaos. I stepped up into the charthouse and all of the giant drawers were removed and the contents emptied. In the charthouse they were listening to Rush, at a pretty respectable volume. Ten feet later I walked by the galley, all of the contents of the galley were removed and the crew were on their hands and knees and folded up under the counters getting every last corner. They were listening to some modern music I didn't recognize, but at an even more respectable volume.
I continued forward to the forepeak, under which the air compressor lives. As I left the galley area I could feel the transition between the music in the galley and the extremely respectable Rock and Roll up forward. I hung back for a minute, thinking about this point of transition. It was a much narrower space than I would have expected. In the forepeak they were cleaning every surface and it shined with all the elbow grease spread around. I snuck by, accomplished my task, then sped back to the relative quiet of the engine room. When I got back, I told the Chief, "They've gone crazy up there."
This whole experience is fresh in my mind, that's why I've talked about it a fair amount, but the real deal today is we are one day away from our next port call. We are planning on arriving in Suva, Fiji, tomorrow morning. It's been about a week since we sailed from Tonga, and it has been a rolly week. I'm ready to have a run ashore. I've never been to Fiji before, and a new place is always especially exciting.
It's frequently said on board, with a tone that expresses warning, that Suva is very urban and the big city of the South Pacific. I can understand wanting to meet people and see places that are maybe a little more traditional or authentic to ways of living and attitudes from the past. I can also see the viewpoint that it's actually easier to meet and relate to local people that don't have their guard up from living in the city, but, I'm a city kid and am excited to see this city that has ten times the number of people than were on the last island we went to. I am excited to see the industry, the bustle, and the interplay between cultures. I wonder what it is like to be part of a metropolis, while still having this relationship with the ocean environment that overwhelms everything here in the South Pacific.
Wish us luck with the navigation light, I'm sure when we discover the solution it will seem obvious in retrospect. The students are workers. They worked very hard today making the boat spic-and-span for our arrival in Fiji and I love the feeling that comes after everyone works hard together. Tomorrow we will all be in Suva, and we are lucky to get the chance to spend our time there with our shipmates.
- Merlin Clark-Mahoney, Assistant Engineer, Seattle, WA