Saturday, 3 October 2009

Day trip to Canada,Part III

So as you may have been able to tell from the previous post I was not enamoured of a life at sea!
Day to day it was just plain boring, trying to find things to occupy my mind and time. It was also a place filled with misogynists, especially the Chief engineer and one of the ways to entertain myself and all those around us was to argue with him about his attitudes to women. But always bearing in mind that although he wasn't Howard's boss, as he was a deck officer the Chief was the equivalent of the Captain only on the engine side of things and whether I liked it or not there was a hierarchy on the ship, where officers wives ranked lower than the ships rats!!!

However despite all this there were a few highlights, well three actually, so in order of them happening.

The first was being allowed to be on the Bridge of the ship as we went through the Straits of Gibraltar. Standing on the Bridge wing watching the dolphins swim in the bow wave was lovely.

The second was even more spectacular and one of the highlights of my life. The ship is slow steaming through the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic. We are travelling really slowly as there is currently an oil glut and we are waiting to deliver the oil to whomever wants it. So as the ship is dead slow I'm yet again up on the bridge wing. I was only allowed up here with the first Captain, after they changed I was no longer allowed to go and see my husband when he was on watch.
It was getting towards sunset, all the time I'd been up there I'd being seeing whales in the distance. When suddenly right next to the ship a Great Blue Whale appeared out of the sea. Relatively as close to someone sitting the other end of my sofa, given that it was enormous and the ship was enormous and they were next to each other. It was an amazing sight. It spotted up water, which stank badly, but a small inconvenience in relation to seeing this magnificent creature.

I didn't realise at the time being so high up on the bridge actually how big the Great Blue is. And it was only years later when I was in the Natural History Museum in the room where they have life size models of creatures and the Great Blue stretched from one corner to the other that I realised what an amazing sight I had seen.

Finally, an order came thorough to go to St.John's New Brunswick to deliver the oil.
This procedure would take all day, so officers not on watch and any wives could go ashore. My husband was on watch, but I didn't care about being alone I was just so glad to get ashore.

Now St John's back then (and possibly still) was a very small sleepy little town but it had enough for me. First stop was the hairdressers to book an appointment for a couple of hours time. Then the book shop, the wool shop, to replenish supplies, and all other shops for a mooch. I even went and got a burger, this was before McDonalds was everywhere in the known universe. I'd only ever heard of them before. So when they asked me in quick fire succession what bread, what pickles, etc etc I was completely befuddled. And they then asked me very slowly what my choices were.

Every shop I went in I talked, of course they didn't have many British visitors and particularly not ones that were only there for the day!! So the shop staff all enjoyed talking to me, almost as much as I enjoyed being with them.

All too soon it was time to go back on the smelly oil tanker. Trouble was it was now empty of oil, and hadn't as yet had it's ballast water added. So the bloody thing was another couple of hundred feet out of the water. The small tender going alongside was dwarfed by the side of the ship. There was a metal stair up the height of the ship. Firstly I was terrified of jumping from the tender to the platform, but somehow I did it.

Then I started the long climb up, the man behind me saying constantly don't look down, of course I did. I don't have a problem with heights per se, but I have always had a problem with being half way up,or down something. And this was no exception, and I lost my nerve. I was terrified I couldn't move, I was crying and clinging on the stair rail where I was not able to move. They had to radio for Howard to come to the companion ladder to help me. In the end the guy that had been behind me managed to get in front and another person moved behind me and they got me step by long step. Talking all the while encouraging me and Howard was above yelling down encouragement till I finally got to the deck of the home from hell.

So then I was back and the order was back to Sicily.

I continued with my battle with the Chief, and one of the things I had brought on my day trip was a copy of Playgirl, a magazine with centrefolds of naked men. In the wardroom (bar) the only picture on the wall was a 1960s pin up of a topless woman.
I thought we women on board should have a beautiful man to look at. But to preserve the delicate feelings of the officers I carefully cut out a heart from a pack of cards to hide the centrefolds appendage!! I put it on the wall underneath the naked woman we had to put up with.

My picture lasted about thirty minutes till the chief spotted it and removed it in a fit of outrage at having to look at something so offensive!!!!

We got our orders, Howard was to disembark in Sicily and go on leave, and when it came to going back down the companion way, funnily enough I had no problem as there was a plane waiting somewhere to get me back to England, and I didn't look back once.


Paula said...

Haha, for a former ship rat or even lower you have developed an incredible way of writing.... just pulling your leg, of course the healthy one ;-))) I love that u pinned that pic on the wall. I simply love it.

Merry ME said...

Wow! What a trip. Did you take photos? The centerfold picture was a perfect way to make a point! Too bad both pictures didn't get ripped down.

SylphSong said...

I'm loving this story... and your purple cast is BEAUTIFUL! :)

Pam said...

How lucky are you seeing a whale that close!...and you have my sympathy being stuck half-way climbing up that ship and being immobilized with fear - horrible feeling! These are such interesting travels you've described.Continue to look after that leg - hope your'e feeling stronger Mandy.

karen said...

Fascinating reading! I've been catching up on part 2 and now part 3. I am totally impressed by you having seen a Great Blue Whale!! Yes,have also marvelled at the one in the Natural History Museum. Playgirl centrefold - good for you!!

Hope you're coping OK with the purpleness x