‘I don’t want to come back from my leave and find you’ve taken on more work,’ said the outgoing Second Mate as he handed his ship over to me. ‘I’ve got this job down to the barest minimum and I don’t want you spoiling it by working harder than I do.’
‘No, no, I’ll be good,’ I vowed and waved him off in his taxi. Then I went in and did all the jobs he’d promised to do before he left …
The ship isn’t going anywhere just yet and there’s only fourteen of us aboard. No surveyors, or client reps, just us sailors which is good because the First Mate and I can get to know the ship without too much pressure. Both of us are first-timers on this vessel and there’s an awful lot to get your head around. Not least of which is learning to drive the ship’s crane. I’m looking forward to that. I haven’t done much crane driving since I left Greenpeace.
Shame we couldn’t use one of the cranes or davits yesterday when the food stores arrived. No. It all had to be carried aboard by hand. Three bloody pallets full. I wondered if the deckhands would baulk at passing boxes, crates and potato sacks to me but no, they chucked it all my way without a second thought. The sods. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad, but halfway through the second pallet I thought ‘I’m knackered. I’m too old for this.’ But never say die. I enjoy the physical aspect of my job and I’ve spent years crafting a seamless, non-threatening method of getting my way when it comes to manual labour. I say non-threatening – if you take a rope or box or some other weight out of my hand without being asked, I’ll smile sweetly and speak to you privately about it. I know you’re doing the ‘gentlemanly’ thing. You’re a well brought up chap and I’m not going to embarrass you for it. Do it twice, however …
No one’s done it once yet on here. Guess I don’t look as old as I feel.
Speaking of old, the spring chicken of the title isn’t me. It’s the ship. Once upon a time a lighthouse tender was built for Irish Light with wood panelling, separate messing for officers and crew, a Commissioner’s lounge etc, etc. That was forty-two years ago and she’s had a lot of use since then. She’s a bit rough around the edges but she’s still a classy lady and some of her finery is intact.
How beautiful is that?
I don’t yet know what she’ll be like when she’s rattlin’ and battlin’ through the northern sector of the North Sea and I’ve got to follow survey lines or stop her in a certain spot and hold position while the surveyors take seabed samples but I reckon we’ll do OK. Besides look where I can go to get away from it all.
Life’s not all bad is it?