June 6th (…Again)

I decided to do Groundhog Day today, it just makes sense to get back on the same day. I actually should have done it Sunday but the novelty of having the same day twice was more important at the time.

For dinner, either the menu was a mess up, or Filet Mignon in French means Pork Tenderloin because that is what is was. Not sure. However, the appetizer has been photographed for my use, I will learn this recipe. Basically, a pastry dough, topped with mozzarella and thin ham with onion, baked to a toasty crust. I think I can easily make this as a dish at home. It was the highlight.

I woke up at 0530 to see the sunrise. Again, we are overcast but the sea is very calm today and the wind is light at 15 knots. We will make good speed today I think. There are more birds each day as we approach the islands but still no life to speak of. The birds are small groups and they are not working or feeding. I will spend some time today at my picnic table and do some laundry. Good Morning.

I am having trouble getting to sleep, the hour changes and the light sky make it tough. I tossed and tried to force myself to sleep but still could not nod off until close to midnight. I will end up taking a nap today but I want to resist that so I do not repeat last night. 0530 comes early when you don’t get to sleep until the small hours. I am not the only one, breakfast was empty except for one other. When you are working, and have to go through this time movement sleep becomes very valuable. Generally, when you work on a boat with watch time and work time, sleep is the one thing you don’t get enough of and it is caught in short periods. Now the crew is always either working or sleeping, there is no lounge time.

I am very dizzy again this morning, I think I have a fever from the tooth thing. I am still taking antibiotics but they don’t seem to be doing much any longer. I am lightheaded and queasy. I am going to go a day or two without coffee, it will be difficult for me to wake up but I find a correlation to the coffee and the dizziness. I am drinking a lot of water trying to flush whatever is in me out of me.

Out on deck it is still very cold, 50’s I would guess but it is clear and sunny, the clouds have burned off and the sea is just beautiful to look at. Vacant and rather desolate but delivering on the “big blue” experience I imagined. Would like the temperature to warm so I can be outside for longer periods though, outside chills you because the wind does not allow finding a warm sunny spot. I have a nice window sun spot in my cabin which if I were home, a cat would find attractive. I miss my cats too. I wonder how our big cat is adjusting to the leg amputation after a couple weeks, the vet said they are amazing and get right with the program but I would like to see him. Our little cat is wary of the change I have been told, they have been the best of pals for five years and need one another, I hope they come to terms.

It is 1100 and I am feeling a bit more normal, still lightheaded but not dizzy like this morning. I had a rough morning. I stayed out of the bunk because I really don’t like waking up twice in the same day and waking up this morning was rough. I will probably crash after lunch; not sure I want to eat much. I have been through 2 liters of water and it seems to help. If I was at home I would be on the bed complaining, Dianna always takes care of me when I feel lousy, she always has. I did good.

I did not eat much for lunch, I had an apple and some wok cooked vegetables along with an egg custard with a huge amount of sugar in the bottom. It was sweet but went down easily. I am still not 100% ad will probably end up falling asleep even though I don’t want to. My eyes tell me I will end up with them closed.

Up on the bridge this afternoon, I went to take a look, the weather is wonderful. Flat, blue seas and sunny skies. I did not take my camera, dang it. I saw a nice pod of Orca, about a dozen. Crashing and moving along the surface. This was a treat. I did not know what they were at first in the distance but I could see breakers and they were unusual for porpoise like we have back home, as we approached they swam just off the port side and gave me a nice look. Very cool. They were on the hunt. Next time I take the camera.

Like I thought, we will pass the strait at about midnight, dang. I will get up anyway to take a look. We will be close enough to see some harbors and some activity and it may still be light enough to see some life.

They are going to open the ship store again tonight at 1815 before dinner. I don’t think I will buy anything. There are guys who want scotch and whiskey, it is really cheap and there is some drinking going on. I am not a drinker. I still have 14 Cokes so buying more doesn’t make any sense. The only other thing they have that interests me would be chocolate but with my mouth the way it is I think it best to avoid chocolate. Although it they had Oreos I would go there, I do miss my dunking of the Oreos after dinner. Can you tell I am bit homesick?

June 7th

The dinner question was answered as I sat down to eat. The entrée was a ground fish (ground fish is a term used for fish that are bottom dwellers), cod I would guess with an onion butter sauce, steamed broccoli and rice with Italian parsley and herb. It was very good, I think because we eat fish often I lean toward the seafood rather than the meats. We just don’t eat much beef at all. I will do the infrequent pot roast and we do burgers but beef is the least of our meats. Chicken, Fish and Pork are all ahead of beef in our consumption and perhaps, our tastes.

Last night I was able to catch just a glimpse of an island before the dark, the silhouette just visible and then only because of the snow that lit up the profile. Now this morning was another story. We passed an island of magnificence, complete with Volcano and snowy covering. I was able to take some really nice photos that will look great in my barn when enlarged. It was a National Geographic moment and even though you see these things on TV, seeing them in person is amazing. I am not sure we will see too many more islands as we are on a direct line to Seattle and that takes us South of the island chain. I do see faint outlines of smaller islands on the horizon but they are distant and not worthy of a photo only because it would require explanation as to why that photo was taken.

I have also taken some great could shots for Carson, he likes the clouds and I have some images that are pretty spectacular, maybe we can enlarge a few of those also. Last evening I had the sunset to the west and the shining moon to the east, at the same time. It was odd to look in the sky and see a blazing sun and a shining moon at the same time. I wish I had a fisheye lens so you could capture them both in the same image. It was a strange thing to see, as I am sure those who live in Northern places see all the time.

Today I will have the opportunity to visit the engine room. They are always hot, noisy and smelly but in a good way. I am sure this engine room is huge. I went down to the engine room of the Queen Mary in Long Beach and even though the technology was 50 years old, it was still impressive and massive. I think this will be a similar take away. The amount of iron and steel is remarkable.

I have not yet made it to the engine room. Maybe it will be rescheduled. However, I did go for an hour walk around the deck. Up to the bow and the maneuvering station, back down to the stern and took a great shot of the prop wash and how much water this beast pushes as if moves through the water. The deck is actually smoother than my cabin, which is about 100 feet above the main deck. I would have stayed longer but my big ears got cold and my camera batteries gave out. Tomorrow or the next day I will go again when there is something to take pictures of.

It is approaching dinner now, about 1900 and no call to visit the engine room. I still have three more days to get that done. The walk around the ship was neat and I will do it again. 1100 feet is a long walk and it feels good to just walk instead of small paces in small places.

I had a good day so far and I am really feeling like we are getting close to home. I am starting to get excited for the countdown, no matter what you do or where you go, there comes the time you want to go home. I get excited to go and I get excited to come home……..like a kid, still. I am glad that I have done something that I wanted to do for many years and I am lucky to have a family that supported the fulfillment of that even though they did not really get it.

June 8th

I started the day with coffee and croissants with Nutella. The sea is flat and we are cruising about 16 knots, making good time. We are in a two-day space of open and empty water, between the inlands and the mainland.

We should hit the 200 mile NOAA zone sometime late tomorrow; this is where we need to transition from low grade, high sulfur bunker fuel to low sulfur diesel. This is to comply with USA regulations on pollution control. We have the highest standards in the world and I wish everyone did, the sulfur and CO output from the bunker fuel is almost twice what the diesel is. Of course, the cost is half as much on the low-grade bunker fuel. I did have a chance to see the purge tanks for the bunker fuel today and it is not pretty, this is where the sludge is burned off or captured before the fuel can be burned in the engines. This is a dirty business and the world lets it slip through the cracks, one of those by products of changing the world. Like I said before, this industry changed the entire world much like autos did in the 50’s. They were horrible for the environment too but the world pushed on while the economic benefits outweighed the ecological realities. Too much of the world is in need of economic enlightenment to call out this industry just yet.

As indicated above, I did get my engine room visit today. I spent about 2 hours down there, it was very interesting to a geek like me. There are 5 decks of equipment and the main engine room. The amount of energy to support all the systems is incredible, the five generators and transformers could power a city. There are several key elements to the systems, water systems for equipment/engine cooling, fresh water conversion and pressurization to operate the ship needs and deck maintenance, electrical generation and transformers for various voltage requirements, the engine and output systems and the HVAC system for the ship. There are more and many complex systems that support the major ones I listed and the ship below the deck is my kind of place. There are 8 crew members on duty there at any moment of operation.

There is a nice tool crib, spare parts inventory and a small but capable machine shop. They get by with an engine lathe, a drill press, a gas welder and a wire feed welder. Then there are lots of grinders and tap/die sets. When you are thousands of miles from nowhere and you need to fix something, you need to do it yourself. I was surprised at how sparse the spares were and how simple the machine shop is. Of course, they carry spare cylinder liners, spare piston sets, spare output bearings and things that are necessary to keep the engines operating at all times. These are huge pieces of machinery; the pistons are about 4 feet in diameter and the output shafts are 5 feet in diameter with bearings to match. In fact, the output shaft is over 100 feet long to the props.

The electrical systems are intense, not only the generation and conversion but the panels to manage all of it and then the alarm systems and operating systems. I would say at least 30% of the engine room is electrical and all that electrical equipment needs to be cooled with HVAC and contained rooms. The engine systems run on 660V, condensers and HVAC run on 440V and all the panels and the ship electrical systems run on 220V. At home in the USA, almost all our home current is 110V, save the dryer or the welder or heavier generators. The systems here use some serious energy. There are step down transformers that take the generated 660V down to 440V and then down to 220V, each time being distributed to the correct systems required. There are 2 electrical engineers to manage all this, amazing. You just hope something big never goes wrong, at least I would.

The entire engine system is made by Hyundai, the same company that built the boat. This is almost beyond belief, since everything requires incredible amounts of forged and cast parts that are designed just for these machines. The amount of tooling, development, testing and manufacturing cost just is beyond comprehension. The number of dollars is staggering. The fact that only a handful of companies in the world can do this is proof the massive scale. This is the same Hyundai that now sells pretty good cars around the world, they are a huge conglomerate company that makes ships, elevators, escalators, automobiles, farm equipment, and on and on. Kind of like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan but I think on a modern scale. This ship is 11 years old and is in remarkable condition, cleaner in the engine room than in most of the ship. I mean if the boat stops, everything stops so this is where the attention is at peak alert.

What impressed me the most was how smooth she runs for as big as the engines are. The axial runout (amount of movement from center) on the main shaft was 1.4mm! That is incredibly small movement for such a big machine. The engine covers about 300 feet of space and the main shaft and crankshaft have less than .05 runout. That is 5 hundredths of an inch. Incredible. Not without a lot of lubrication and temperature control. They use a LOT of lubricant. They use a LOT of fuel. There are 8 fuel cells and they hold enough fuel to sail around the globe without re-fueling. The fuel needs to be pre-heated, purified so all the solids are removed and then put through an exchanger to become fuel for the engines. It is nasty stuff. Really nasty stuff. The sludge tanks need to be cleaned and purged every two weeks. If they ran straight high grade fuel, that would be every four weeks or more.

Unfortunately, they discouraged photos, I get it, so I was only able to sneak one of the cylinder bays. I wish I could have taken more. There were windows in the crankcase that allows visual of the crank and screws that run the engine, all being bathed in fabulous gear oil. I am such a geek. There seems to always be an alarm going off, this is normal for a ship. Alarm codes simply tell the crew to check, they don’t always mean an issue but rather to confirm that all is being watched carefully. Most of the alarms are for temperature or oil levels, some are coolant and electrical also. The alarm station is in the control room inside the engine room so if no one is in the control room, the alarm will sound until someone makes it in there and shuts if off. This is a control procedure so a crew member cannot override the alarm.

If I worked on a ship, this is where I would work. I love it in there, it is like the most fabulous garage in the world. It is noisy but only when you are in the engine room proper or the stern where the output shafts exit the hull. I would not call it loud but without ear protection you would probably end up like and old rock and roll musician.

I could go on and on but I am the only one who was curious and that has been satisfied.

Lunch; an interesting Salmon “tart” which is kind of like a quiche I guess, Thai beef with veggies over rice and pineapple under a crème Chantilly. Jenna; can we learn how to make Chantilly? I think I love it.

Dinner will be; Salade de betterave, Cuisse de poulet, Lasagnes aux aubergines.

We gained another hour today, we are now only 2 hours behind Cali!

I finished a Patterson novel, Along Came a Spider, an early 90’s piece. Typical who dunnit. My mom will want to know.

June 9th

I had a difficult time falling asleep last night, the time changes have put me in a bad rhythm. I did not fall asleep until well after midnight, closer to one I guess. This morning I awoke at 0730 and decided to skip breakfast and just have coffee out on the deck.

The weather is cool, Pacific Northwest cool. Gloomy and cloudy but the sea is quiet. There is rain in front of us, I can tell by the front of clouds that reach high and are dark. Squalls lie ahead, not sure when but they will come.

We are approaching the inner waters soon and I am spending the last two days on the water just sitting on the deck watching and then taking an occasional walk around the ship. I am ready for the voyage to end but am still enjoying the experience. I started another novel yesterday and will finish it today.

Had a nice lunch today of a beet salad with dill pickles, beef bourgiugnon and roasted potatoes with a watermelon slice for dessert. Dinner will be a cheese pizza appetizer, steak with butter/caper sauce and mixed vegetables. Funny now after 18 days that the journey to the mess hall the and the meals there have been a constant. Everyone comes together in the mess hall at the appointed time and it is a very familiar and now planned part of the day. When at home the only meal that is planned is dinner. We kind of eat lunch on the run. I have been pretty lazy here the last 18 days and a big lunch will not be missed but the regularity of it might.

The weather remains cool but the clouds and rain have passed and the water is a rich, deep blue. There are no wind waves or disturbance, the blue goes on to the horizon for 360 degrees, not another thing in sight. The sight is worth savoring.

This will be what I recall the most of the voyage; the long open stretches and the deep colored water; sometimes green and murky, sometimes brown and cloudy but mostly blue. The horizon seeming endless in the distance and the amount of dimension out here. On land, you have landmarks and elevation, rise and fall of the landscape, out here it is a big, big sky and water. I have always loved being out on the water and this just delivers on a grand scale. I am not sure I will ever need to do such a voyage again but if I do, I am prepared and understanding of what to expect and how to take the most from it.

This type of voyage is probably better suited to a couple or a pair of couples. I think the time here is very special and playing cards or watching movies, drinking out on the deck, sharing meals and just letting the day’s pass would be a wonderful getaway. I could see me trying to talk Dianna into one of these trips with someone we know, however I think a week would be enough, this 20-day thing is a bit much, even for someone like me who loves the ocean.

I am looking forward to the last day and the opportunity to take some photos of Puget Sound and the Seattle port entry. I am very much anticipating the shore once again. The longest I ever spent on a boat without landfall was 10 days and we did drive past islands on that one. To see the coastline will be nice and the coastline at Seattle is a good one.

I finished the novel, another Michael Connelly, this one titled Blood Work, my Mom will want to know.

June 10th

I spent the morning packing and just thinking about this voyage coming to an end. I will find a time for reflection in the coming weeks. For now, I feel a sense of accomplishment and that feels good enough for a while.

I will have lunch and sit out on the deck for the last day, enjoy the sight and begin the lookout for landfall. Our heading is due East, straight into the Sound.

I passed on the lunch, I just ate the avocado. The lunch was an enormous slab of liver. Not to my sensory appeal, the smell, the taste, the overall presentation just made my stomach roll. The organ meat thing I was talking about. The rest of the crew loves the stuff. Then again, the Ukrainian guys eat absolutely everything that is served to them and then complain it was not enough. I passed and will have the spaghetti Bolognese tonight as my last real meal on the ship.

We are scheduled to have the pilot come aboard around 0100 in the morning, that will mean a 0300 docking or thereabouts. There are a few guys who want to go ashore tomorrow so maybe I can catch a ride into the city with them and figure out how to get to the airport. My flight is not scheduled until 1900 but I am going to go and do the stand by thing. I was upgraded to first class on the scheduled flight but that would never keep me from coming home sooner. I will be antsy to get back to San Diego as soon as I can.

I am packed and ready, just a shower, shave and clean change of clothes in the morning and I am set. I have to settle my ship store purchase and my internet fees today. It is a sort of amazing thing that I can cross the ocean and have internet, isn’t it? On that topic, let me say that cell phones are the most robust business on the planet. I know living in America it seems everyone has a “personal device” (aka cell phone). Now to an old guy who remembers when the technology did not even exist, or the internet for that matter, a cell phone is a rather rudimentary tool. I use it as a phone, send texts and check email. I don’t really do much else with it but they are capable of so many crazy things. I just never wanted to be too attached to it like I see most of the younger generation is. They are wiz kids and have so much information instantly accessible it is astounding.

I have been traveling around the world for a long time and have been many places, some distant. I was not prepared for the complete and total dominance of cell phones in the world. Everywhere I went on this trip, people had their phone in their hands. In public, on the train, on the subway, everywhere. Business people talking, kids texting, housewives playing games, they were glued to their phones. The subway is a joke, almost all the faces are staring at a phone, the amount of human interaction is almost zero. This was a shock to me, especially in China. I think cell service is expensive in the USA, it must most certainly be less in China but everyone has it, so the cell phone expense is pretty high on the “must have” list of all those people. I think the cell phone business is the largest business on the planet simply in that it touches everyone no matter their age, position in life or any other restriction. It amazes me in many ways but also makes me sad that people will spend time on a device rather than talk to one another. XTC once had a song titled “Don’t need another satellite”. I most certainly agree.

We are cruising in choppy blue water, wind is up and the sky is riddled with puffy white clouds. It is a fair day on the water.

I am going to take a nap, the sleep has been difficult the last couple of days. My body clock is messed up and the anticipation of coming home has me amped and thinking about a million things. Dianna has always called this the “re-entry”, when I come back to the day to day realities of home after a trip. We have been through many and she knows my somewhat surly mood swings when I return. I have many projects that need to be done and business that has been neglected so I have thoughts running through my head as we approach.

Not many people have the time or the opportunity to do what I have just done. I am thankful for that and thankful that I can dream of something and then actually make it happen. That is a gift.