Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Family Gathering

I can already imagine watching the trailer for the film. A black blank screen, the following words fading in and out (read slowly pausing between each): 14 People, 5 Nationalities, 4 Languages, Age – 2 Months... to 78 Years. One House, One Family. Guerrero.

That’s right, 14 people, 5 nationalities and 4 languages and yes all in one house in the middle of Zurich Switzerland. Fede’s family’s annual get together is truly a re-union. One brother plus family (French) flies in from Gabon, one brother plus girl friend hails from Congo (Argentine + French-Congolese), One actually does live in Zurich with his wife and 2 daughters (Swiss), then there are Fede and myself (Argentine + American) in Argentina, but bounce all over on our respective vessels. And then the parents of the Guerrero Family, who are still residing in Argentina. phew. That’s four continents covered and lots of traditions, customs, habits, all in one house

There are bits and pieces from each country that enter the family meeting ruckus. What to do when greeting someone? In Argentina its one kiss, In France its 2 and in Switzerland its 3. Being an American, kissing has no place in a casual greeting. What to do? I usually just kept kissing cheeks until the other person stopped. Being that no one really knew when to stop, the Swiss 3 seemed to be the overwhelming option of the week.

Eating times. Here the argentine custom held sway. Lunch at 1pm that segwayed into an hour siesta lasting from about 2:15 until 3:15. At 3:30 afternoon activities would begin culminating with a 9pm dinner.

National holidays. I woke up on July 4th and walked into the living / dining room. Both of Fede’s parents greeted me good morning and then started to stand up from reading their online newspapers. I said “good morning, its ok, its ok, sit sit”. Then from the kitchen I heard coming from what had the sound quality of a YouTube clip “O-ohh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light….” I entered the kitchen to find indeed a You Tube clip playing and donuts. What else represents America better than donuts? Topped off by an Argentinean Asado (BBQ) the evening (with the addition of corn on the cob specifically for the Americans present - me).

The eating times, the languages, the kissing of too many cheeks never got in the way of the main activity which was to catch up, spend time together and build relationships across all the newer parts of the family - new kids, new girlfriends, etc) and strengthen old ones. The week included lots of swimming – in the river and in the lake. Geocaching, a visit to the city of Berne, a wedding, a baptism, a hike up to a view point over Zurich, and so as not to forget their roots, a visit to the Argentina Embassy in Switzerland. My contributions to the week included the Smith favorite honey chicken and a custom made geocaching hunt / race within a 1km radius from our house.

The most important times though were the meals had together, outside, under the tarp / awning, in the little backyard surrounded by jealous apartment owners. The house seems to have come from Kansas and landed in Oz. It is an old house from the early 1700’s that is surrounded by modern apartment buildings. We have a small yard, while everyone around us has balconies. And use that yard we did - We laughed, BBQ-ed, got confused at translations, talked of future plans, of the past year, and of the events of the day.

Next year will be different. The Swiss family is moving to Granada. So Zurich is out. Granada is a bit too far for the whole family to get to. The current potential location is a house in the Pyrenees that the family in Gabon have. The adventures will be different, each of us will have become better in the other languages, we will have all grown a year, and had new adventures. But one thing I know won’t change – there will still be a siesta!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

It Takes a Neighborhood

It takes a village to raise a child, or so the saying goes. And now I’ve concluded that it takes a neighborhood to build a boat. I tell people that my boyfriend is building a boat. They always reply with, “He’s building it?” They are wondering whether the statement means that he is paying someone to build a boat or he is actually building the boat himself. I reassure the questioner with yes he’s building it, noting that he started with plates of steel. But of course he did not build the whole boat only by himself.

A walk through a small dirt road, stray dog-filled neighborhood in Benavidez will reveal those who helped to build this boat. The boat itself sat in the front yard of a family that wanted to earn a few extra dollars. For three years they watched welding, sawing, and painting as well as their grass turn to a brown mud pit. Jesus, lives next door to the yard that turned to mud. He had already built five steel hulled sailboats, prior to Quijote, so his knowledge in just about everything was essential. He is a perfectionist when it comes to the steel hull. Just before the boat was launched I saw a guy at the marina come up and knock the hull to see if it was steel or fiberglass – a HUGE compliment to anyone who has built a steel hulled boat. Jesus lives with his tools. His workshop is an extension of his home, or possibly the other way around. Jars of washers sit between the fridge and stove and next to the bread. Boat plans are pinned up over his bed and sailing magazines rest next to the toilet. Jesus knows what he is doing, but also needs some nudging now and then to actually start the work. Often times the flat screen TV, bought with a bonus for finishing the keel of Quijote can often become an easy distraction.

Let’s continue through the neighborhood. Ricardo, another neighbor, does car upholstery for a living. While sailors are supposed to be good at sewing, we left the upholstery on Quijote to the expert. The couches in the main saloon (eating area) have a beautiful leather set of cushions on them. Ricardo also made the mattresses, which had to fit the beds that have no right angles (this tends to happen on a boat where every bit of free space is used). All of the pieces got delivered in his old (very old – see picture) Ford pick-up.

Continuing down the street, there is a little old woman who lives in a small house with a shop window (I wanted to end that sentence with the word shoe – to the little old woman lived in a shoe). In the front room of her house she keeps a small shop of essentials – bread, pastries, cans of tomatoes, beers, plastic toys, thermoses, tea, and hamburger patties. Her shop filled our bellies many days. I’m sure Q4 revenue will drop now that the boat is finished.

Alberto, Claudio, and Sergio live a short drive away. For one and a half years they built the inside of Quijote. Two years ago she was an empty hull of steel. Alberto led the transformation with the initial framing up to the final touches of each closet door. Alberto used to work for a shipyard, but after an injury works for himself. Claudio, his son-in-law joined him, where together they worked on another boat, Antarcticos. And now after the economic downturn, Alberto's son is back from working in Spain and is the helper around the boat – sanding painting, doing whatever odd jobs need to be done.

Gaston also lives a short drive away. He is the electrician and he is a talker. He has proved his Italian ancestry, doing just as much hand waving as lip moving. He ran all of the wires for everything from the steering system to the sonar to the toilets. A miracle, after kilometers of wires were run, nearly everything works.

A friend from the sailing club does refrigeration work. He installed the refrigeration, which is built into the galley cabinets and runs down into the keel for effective cooling.

Hugo doesn’t live in the neighborhood, but swings by to join the “club” whenever he can. He is also building his own boat and brings encouragement and support. Also in the “Club de Jesus” is Nestor. He is building his own boat in the backyard of the family on the other side of Jesus. Nestor graciously ran many errands often claiming a store was close to his home, when he would often drive halfway across town.

And then there are the family contributions. Fede’s dad helped fund the engine, wanting his son to start his boat right with a good new engine. Fede’s Aunt provided the Aft cabin bath towels. My mom donated $500 from her winnings at Bingo that went to purchase the battery charger. Fede’s mom will be purchasing a small dingy. I donated my safety award points to buy the sonar . WesternGeco unknowingly has donated many used ropes and shackles (not to worry – all were expired as per their certifications, meaning they would have been thrown in the trash by westerngeco – RECYCLING!!).

Also a note should go out to our worldwide logistics hubs. We have one based in Oakland, MD (ie mom and dad) and one based in Zurich Switzerland (Fede’s brother Tomas). As items have popped up on ebay or super special sales on UK sailing websites, Fede has purchased and shipped items around the world.

Fede, of course, spent nearly every waking hour of his five weeks off for the past three years working on the boat. He planned the whole construction, the position on each cabin, each pipe, each screw. He worked side by side with Jesus each day welding and building the hull. He installed the entire engine system and all of the plumbing. He drove around the entire greater Buenos Aires picking up LED's for all the lights, oil for this, oil for that, flooring for this, pipes for this, connectors for that, hinges for this, and dropping off lights at the mast man.

Yes. He built his boat.

After three years of building his sailboat, Fede successfully started the engine and motored away from the marina on September 11 2010.

For even more information about Quijote, check out her website:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Meet the Smith Family

“Meet the Parents” came out, then “Meet the Fockers”, now sit back, relax and get ready for “Meet the Smith Family”.

Fede came to the Lake for Christmas – his first time in the US, and more importantly his first time to meet my family. However, I must stop here and note that it was NOT his first time to interact with my family. He and my mom had been emailing almost daily for the past few months – which will come into play very soon in this “feature film”.

I had warned Fede that in the States its less common for boyfriends-girlfriends to share rooms in the parents house. So having heard this, he emailed my mom asking if there were any house rules. She responded with the usual Lake rules:

  • No shoes in the house
  • No boogers on the wall
  • No Italian Hair in the bathroom
  • No eating on the couch

He responded “great, Glad to hear you are so liberal and sharing a room is not a problem for you”. And thus started the beginning of the great series of “tests” that Fede would encounter. Also note at this point that my mom has always had a theoretical test up her sleeve for potential boyfriends. Her plan was - once they were at the Lake, she would go loosen a washer on the toilet or sink. Then a bit later complain of a leaking faucet. If the potential boyfriend said “Mrs. Smith let me go take a look” and then came back saying “oh, I tightened everything up, all should be ok”, then….thumbs up. If he said “you should call a plumber” then…thumbs down.

Back to the bed sharing. So after the series of emails my mom started to plan. The first of the plans involved a pillow case. She bought a pack of those iron on-print-off sheets that you can use to iron on a picture to a t-shirt. She found a picture of me sleeping, hair crazy, and drool dripping, and printed it. Then she ironed it onto a Pillow case, so that when Fede arrived, he would pull back the covers and find Laura seemingly with him in the bed. (note she found this so amusing that she carried the pillow case in her purse with her for weeks showing everyone)

Fede finally arrived the 18th of December and there in the Bedroom was the pillow case, but also a warning. My mom had placed SPEARS on the ceiling fan above his bed. She informed him that should she need to, a quick door slam would easily bring them all down… luckily he laughed and noted that he would removed them before going to sleep.

And that was just the beginning. There was no leaky faucet, but the snow blower did break and luckily Fede fixed it (or knew what needed replacing) within minutes. He also got coerced into putting the (live) tree into the Christmas tree stand. After the third attempt at a straight fall-free tree, Fede exasperated, proclaimed with his head poking out from the tree “this is harder than sailing across the Atlantic alone (which he did a few years back)”.

On Christmas Eve, Eve my mother had a "Meet the Fede Party". I thought the name was just a joke and it was really just a chance for some family friends to come over before Christmas. However, I asked my mom about her planning and she said the whole get together started when my former piano teacher made a comment about wanting to meet Fede. Solution: throw a party and invite 10-14 guests!

Other tests around the house included playing the family card game “oh Hell” with the same consequences of losing as the rest of the family – cleaning the dishes. He not only did well, but WON 2 of the games. He also easily and happily played the whole gamut of Smith games, and did so with a smile.

And yes. He passed all of the tests. Two thumbs up from Mom. He fit in wonderfully with the Smith family. All those at the "Meet the Fede Party" also gave a thumbs up. The door never had to slam to drop the spears and he took the pillow case home to show his family. And he was even invited back.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

High's and Low's

It’s a common tradition on Outdoor Action trips to reflect on the day or a trip with “highs and Lows”. Its’ been a while since I’ve blogged, so I’ll do a “highs and lows” of my past few months.

Going home for Christmas. I had been out of the US for 13 months. Everyone came home for the snow that dumped on the East Coast this year: Tesia flying from Japan, I flying from India, and Federico, my Argentinian boyfriend also flying from India. All forms of winter were enjoyed – skating, sledding, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, a sleigh ride on Christmas eve. Fantastic. However Christmas deserves more of a description, so I promise to write more in a later post. It was Fede’s first time to meet the Family and I swear a movie could have been made about the 8 days he was there – I promise to expand…

My whole Fall. Well not the whole fall, but much of October and the beginning of November. I was somewhat forced to go early into the office and push going to Japan to the second half of my break. Somehow I’ve managed to become the ONLY person who can test our acquisition software. After a week of isolated testing, I had to help move our lab & equipment to our new building. This involved working 12 hour days in the basement of a building where no one else was working yet. So needless to say, I saw none of my friends. This may sound petty, but since I’m not around that much, people don’t know I’m in Oslo unless they see me, so this means, no one invites me on hiking trips, or picnics, or dinners. Its rough sometimes. The night before I left Oslo, I broke down crying and weeping that “I have no friends”. I even had to work one weekend. The Japan trip that was supposed to be 2-2.5 weeks was reduced to 5 days since I had been PROACTIVE and had actually gotten my Indian visa. So I had to return to the boat 9 days early.

Last trip I officially became certified as a coxswain on the boats. For some reason this seems to mean a lot to me. I’m pretty proud of being a coxswain. Why I’m not sure – perhaps because not too many girls are? Perhaps because when I first joined I decided this was something that I wanted to do / achieve? However, I was certified at the end of the trip so it was only 5 days ago that I went out on my own for the first time. Trial by fire. Our first job of the day was to go back to a cable to investigate fishing gear. We had the cable in the arms of our work boat and I was dropping back along the cable. The crew was cutting off ropes and fishing gear. The next thing I hear is “we have a dolphin, we have a dolphin in the fishing gear”. Aye aye aye. I shout back “is it dead or alive?”. The respond “dead, very dead”. After 30 seconds or a minute, they managed to cut the ropes and it dropped off into the blue of the ocean. (note having a dead dolphin was NOT a high)

I also took out the Fast Rescue boat (FRB) for my first personnel transfer. Its usually the damsel in distress that gets rescued, but ha, here it’s the other way around!. Fede had had to go over to our supply boat to advise their captain when he came alongside our boat for bunkering of fuel and provisioning. Once the supply boat had been cast off, Fede needed to be brought back to our boat. So I was sent off on my first personnel transfer and I went to Pick up Fede!!! I just keep reminding him that I rescued him…

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Small Boats

I just wanted to share this video of me driving our various small boats on board. Its also good if you have ever wondered how we pick the boats up out of the water. If you are patient enough, that comes towards the end of the video.

We have two types of small boats - the workboat and the FRB - fast rescue boat. The workboat is the workhorse of the small boats; it is what we use to go out on the cables and do work like changing sections or fixing other equipment attached the cable. The workboat actually has arms that can pick up the cable so that the crew of the boat can stand up and have the cable at hip level. The workboat is even capable of towing the whole cable itself if necessary.

The FRB meanwhile is the fun loving fast jet boat whose primary purpose is for Man overboard scenarios where you need a fast and safe response. We also use the FRB for personnel transfers between the chase boat and our boat. And once and a while for a few various cable work tasks.

Hopefully soon, once we get to warmer, calmer locations, and I get a few more trips under my belt - then I can get sign off as a coxswain!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Shift Leader

The seismic world is 24 / 7. All time is money, so full time production is a must. Therefore our work is shift work. I passed the test to become a shift leader last October, but given the current economic climate, on our boat, by December we had 4 people qualified to be shift leaders, so I never got to take on that role. This trip, one of those 4 was laid off and I became a shift leader.

I learned this fact the day before joining and suddenly all the worries of incompetency for this role cycled through my thoughts. Luckily - its been a perfect trip to ease into the shift leader role. For one, I'm on the same boat I was before (it can be a pain to have to learn the role and a new boat on the same trip). Secondly, its been a quite calm trip - no major equipment failures, no major software failures. nice and quiet - production, production production. And I have had a fantastic set of people working with me in my department.

It was all perfect until I caused my first downtime 3 nights ago. We were about to do the near impossible - finish a job in the morning for one client and start another job for another client that same afternoon. Not impossible - it just would require alot of work - a new gun configuration from the gunners, reconfiguring all of our onboard software systems for a new client, new job, new job specifications... and finishing up everything from the last job - shipments, data QC, missed data...

Mid afternoon the gunners deployed the reconfigured guns and I started to enable them one by one (there are 24), so that once all were firing I could calibrate them and run some tests. Once about 75% of the guns were firing, it became clear that the air pressure was not holding on one array. After some confused investigating we discovered the cause to be a twisted hose. The solution meant one gun array must come back onboard, so my gun test had to be delayed.

Once the guns were back in the water, we were heading towards the first line of the new job. As usual, I had to start the guns one at a time - a process which takes between 20-30 minutes. By the time that had finished we were about 20 minutes away from the start of line. I had no time to do the test I needed to do, but I did have time to calibrate the guns. By this point we were in the "dummy shots". I went to calibrate the guns - it checks the signal that they are creating versus a known value of what they "should" be creating. I went to check and the known value was telling me "no reference". I tried to figure out why I had no reference - did I not put in gun volumes into the configuration? fine- okay? did I not put in gun types? no - so I put those in and still no luck. I went to check the directory where the files were. On a previous boat we did not have the files for each gun volume, but no those were there for each gun volume. Checking checking. Almost the start of line. I called my chief down (or rather woke him up, it was about 11pm). He came down - no ideas. Finally I looked at the files again and noticed that we did not have the files for the specified gun depth of 8m. The solution was to copy files from close depths and rename the file for the 8m depth we had, then the system could find them. Now everyone was there - the 2 clients, the party chief. Unfortunately we had already started the line - we had missed data and that data had uncalibrated guns and was therefore no good. We aborted the line and circled.

Unfortunately, I think about things too much, I run things through my head. Run the situation over and over and over again. What if this, what if that, next time this, next time that.

- I should have slowed the boat down. That is the normal procedure. Why I didn't do this I'm still not sure - some sort of pressure of this being the first line? Me thinking I could solve it in the time allowed? I still do not know. Usually I slow the boat down if there is a problem.

- I can blame myself and say I should have checked the files, but these files are set for most standard configurations. This is only the second time in 3 years that I have had to interact with these files, so perhaps checking them should be on some checklist, but its not 100% standard procedure to check them. Trust me, I will ALWAYS check these files before a start of job from now on.

- Afterward the client said, that really a test of the guns should have been done before the real line and someone higher up should have delayed the first line so we could have done the test. Had we done the test we would have noticed the missing files immediately and fixed the problem miles from the start of line.

I will admit - I did cry that night when I got back to my room. Its still not fun to cause downtime. I'm sure there will be much more downtime in the future. Its inevitable I guess.

Welcome to being a Shift Leader.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Return to Normalcy

A return to normalcy. We returned to the back deck. Ports were behind us, south of us. We sailed into the open Barents Sea. For 6 months my vessel has been idle and without work. Our last production shot point was on December 26th 2008. But now we sailed north – away from West Africa, towards a job north of Norway. There was a bit of dread – back to the back deck, a bit of excitement – long days out working north of the arctic circle, and the comfort of returning to the normal routine. But, I guess this begs the question of what is normal. I thought about this for awhile as I was on the back deck deploying and reconfiguring 10 streamers. So I decided to document one day. On June 7th, I photographed what I did and recorded a pretty thorough record of how I spent my day. This is not the same every day, but it’s a good snap shot of what I do.

23:30 (6 June) - alarm goes off

23:40 - I actually got out of my bunk

23:50 – I went to the laudry to get my cold weather coveralls, only to find that no one had moved them from the washer to the dryer, so I put them into the dryer and put on my normal coveralls with long underwear and a fleece underneath.

23:55 – Onto the backdeck for the acquisition handover. The noon-midnight shift passed along what they had done and what we needed to do

0:15 (now 7 June) – we started moving sections around. We had to rebuild the front 600m of our streamers with new sections.

3:00 – we finished adding sections and
were able to deploy those 600m into the sea

4:00 – we had to move the streamer from the starboard side of the vessel to the port side, in order to change the leadin (the heavy duty cable that connects the streamer to the boat)

4:20 – we removed the adapter that goes from the cable to a large metal wing (this
is used to pull the cable out wide)

4:40 – I went to the bridge for my daily “lessons” each day, the chief officer and I teach exchange a lesson - seismic for maritime. Today I taught him about the effect of the sounds from the guns bouncing off the water surface and coming back down, which cancels out certain frequencies. He taught me what to do if you are in shallow water and suddenly you skim the bottom and get stuck.

5:00 – I went back to the back deck to help the gunners put a large piece of rubber on the lead-in so that when we attached floats to the leadin it does not bend too much

5:20 – I went to change for breakfast and then went to the mess room for breakfast

6:00 - I was back on the back deck preparing to change a leadin

6:45 – we started the operation of removing the old leadin.

8:00 – we finished spooling off the leadin and then we had to disconnect it from the reel

8:45 – we fed the new lead in down off an upper deck down to the reel and started spooling on all 900m of the new leadin

11:30 – we finished transferring the new leadin from the reel it was transported on, onto the actual winch it will tow from

11:55 – hand over.

12:15 lunch!

12:45 - a fire drill, so we all had to muster at the muster station just aft of the bridge and move our cards over to indicate we were present

13:00 – watch humpback whales about 100m off our port bow

13:30 – go out in the fast rescue boat (FRB) in order to run some tests for the engineers (going max speed to find max RPMs, checking temp) and for me and another guy to practice coming alongside the boat.

14:40 – we returned to the back to Western Pride

15:15 – I chatted with the medic for a bit

15:30 – a shower, especially to get the salt off my face – the rest of me had been covered in a waterproof work suit.

16:05 – go to the bridge to chat and end up learning some breakdancing

17:30 – go to bed

23:30 - alarm goes off…

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The English Channel

Last night was rough. Things were crashing in my room. The feeling of the bed falling out from under me, only to run up and meet me again. The boat vibrating with a loud thud. The English channel has its moments. I also discovered that at some point someone put a paper hole punch on one of my shelves. That fell off around 1:30am and I woke up to a floor covered in snow-like round white paper dots. My Chief looked shell shocked in the morning. It was quite bad yesterday afternoon as well. I made everyone in the instrument room watch the documentary "Around Cape Horn", a movie about a 1929 journey of a clipper ship around Cape Horn. It helps put the current weather into perspective.

Now we are in Den Helder. Flat. but windy. Typical Holland I guess.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

An Evening Stroll

I just want to write about my walk tonight. Just a walk, after dinner, up on the Helideck around 9:30 as our boat enters the Bay of Biscay. The changes from west Africa to Europe are quite apparent. Yesterday I went for my nighttime star gazing walk at 8:30, only to find broad daylight – of course. Tonight, my walk at 9:30 was merely in dusk at best, and it stayed dusk for the entire walk. In West Africa (or any equatorial location), dark comes in an instant.

I joined the boat four days ago in Las Palmas in the Grand Canary islands, to continue Pride’s journey north from Namibia. A skeleton crew of us joined to take her north to Den Helder (and then onto Norway) – usually there is a full crew of 53 on board. Now only 36 and 6 of those are outside guys doing work around the boat. Everywhere is quiet and empty.

The transit north feels like we are going at light speed. When shooting seismic we usually trod along at a crawl of 4 knots. Now we are going 3-4 times faster. While walking tonight the helideck rocked – a lot. I got more of a hill walking experience, full of short ups and downs, than a flat, sea level plain.

Not only is this trip quiet, but its also uncertain. We’ve been told we have a job in the Barrents Sea, but no one knows for sure. And we may have a job before that. Or maybe not. The configuration may be our maximum number of streamers or it may not. So much uncertainty. But since today is Saturday, we won’t know anything at least until Monday. Life keeps going here, but the office stops. In some ways its nice.

On board, the few of us that are here, are doing jobs that need doing – removing old computers from the racks, installing new ones, preparing for the engineers who will join us in Den Helder. Yesterday we had a mid-day helideck-Hockey game. A few crew have gotten sea sick – the feel of the sea going this fast is much different. Its only the beginning as we head north through the north sea and then further north still. And thus we go further and further north…

(I’ve included some pictures from this past break of me in Scotland and Skiing over easter in Norway, in case I don’t write more about it later)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The End of a Quarter Century

I came back to the boat from Oslo and Western Pride was still in Dry dock. Our dry dock was a floating dry dock, so when our boat was out of the water it was still on the water and the dry dock could move. What happens is the sides of the dry dock fill up with water and the whole thing sinks. The boat then moves into the dock and slowly the water is let out of the sides and the whole dry dock rises up. Sadly I didn’t get to see Pride go into or out of dry dock, but the whole idea is pretty cool. Other dry docks work differently – some are carved into the land and work like a lock and get filled up with water.

Meanwhile – we came out of dry dock, and then had to start loading lots and lots and lots of gear back on board (and hopefully cleared out the mess while we were at it). This included loading everything that we had to take off so that the dock workers could safely access places they had to access (and so there would not be a fire hazard while they were doing hot work). I also worked on a lot of projects – I spent a lot of time trouble shooting the wiring of our new gun pressure monitoring display and alarm, I redid the day room complete with a new cabinet that we designed, new DVD cupboards, new carpeting on the riser, hanging instruments and a complete clean up. The change in the room is dramatic. Plus starting and stopping our computer systems a few times, due to switching between shore and ship power a few times.

Its also been a bit frustrating – things kept going a bit wrong. We were supposed to go to sea trials 3 times, with each time something breaking or going wrong. The pilot actually stopped coming on time, knowing that we probably wouldn’t actually go out.

At the moment we are still short one generator – due to the dock yard breaking one of ours. But thus is life. And I guess luckily or unluckily there has not been a job for us to go to, so we have been in no rush.

Some FAQ’s about being alongside (courtesy of questions from my dad and a few others)

1. When we are in Dry dock I do not work 9-5, but still a 12 hours shift. However, almost all of us are working together on a 7am -7pm shift

2. I do not get weekends off while in port – we still work the whole 5 weeks that we are onboard

3. Since we share cabins, I actually see my room mate, as opposed to usually we share, but are on opposite shifts. Its fun – its like being back at college.

Now we are at anchorage outside of Walvis Bay – waiting for a job. And there are seals everywhere. In fact we’ve had a few visitors coming up our gun slipway!

And finally to finish the quarter century – back when I was very young, the night before my birthday my parents would video tape me and ask me some questions about the previous year. About 5 years ago I resurrected this tradition for myself. And below are a few of this year’s favorites:

Favorite TV show: Seeing as though I have no recollection really of watching TV, I’ll have to go with the Nobel prize ceremony, that I watched. And watching The Office onboard.

Favorite mountain: Innerdalstårnet

Favorite food: passion fruit juice

Favorite song: Swedish drinking songs, seriously, I just think they are really fun

Favorite country: Norway

Favorite Animal: reindeer – they run ridiculously, whoever thought they might be able to fly? Or at least the reindeers in Finmark are uncoordinated.

Favorite word: abrigado – the only word I learned in Portuguese