About Me

A slightly over-educated sailor sharing the wet and dry sides of his life.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Catching Up: From Charleston, S.C. to Savannah, Georgia

Tuesday, June 09, 2009
7:17 PM

Savannah, Georgia:
Ship all fast at Savannah, Georgia. Bunker barge secured to the side of ship. Time for some fuel! We departed the dock at Charleston around 0700, so the transit from dock to dock was about eleven hours: About two hours down the Charleston River, six hours south against the Gulf Stream, and three hours up the Savannah River, with time for handling lines on either end.

Over Sea, Versus Over Land:
I've always wondered why the freight companies don't just freight the cargo at Savannah up to Charleston. Then again, one has to consider how many trucks and/or trains to would take to move the same number of containers the over-ground distance. Take that fuel and personnel cost and weigh it against the same cost for the ship traveling for eleven hours. This ship employs only 20 people, versus the number of truck drivers it would take to haul the 1100 containers we will load here (Actually, that number is the number of containers that will get moved. That may not be the number we will take aboard. It could as easily be the combined number of containers off and on loaded). That's 1100 driver hours having to cover the 60 mile distance from Savannah to Charleston, versus the 220 mariner hours for the same.

Actually, I have to confess I'm no wizard of freight logistics and would like if someone would step up and offer a realistic breakdown of the comparative costs between over-land and over-water transportation. For instance, I have no idea what the typical fuel mileage is for a semi-truck or a freight train pulling 100 containers (three engines pulling 50 double-deckers?), compared to the hourly fuel cost for a C-10 container ship. Nonetheless, I've heard many times that a ship can move more containers far more economically than either truck or train. But for the distance of only 60 statute miles, versus the 98 nautical miles, it's kind of hard for me to speak definitively.

Well, I have to go to bed. At some point in the morning, the 4 to 8 watch AB, Greg Schauf, and I will be called out to let the bunker barge go. On call 24/7...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
1:44 AM
The Two-Hour "Call-Out" and Back to Bed:
Just finished casting off the bunker barge. Sailing around 0600. Go back to bed! Sorry no pictures of the bunker barge and the tow boat. Too much hustle to make time for the camera. This will be a regular problem.

9:34 AM
Premature Call-Out and Steering "In Hand":
The gang was called out at 0545 for 0615. That was an oops. The night mate was new to the procedures of the ship and misinformed Greg on the call-out time for the deck gang. We finally got under way around 0645. I had to eat a quick breakfast and then take the helm by 0745. No rest for the wicked.

BTW, a night mate is a deck officer brought in through the local Master, Mates, and Pilots union hall to either assist or fill in for the mate on watch overseeing the cargo operations. The idea in procuring this individual is to insure the cargo is properly overseen and to allow the other mates time off for rest, relaxation, or shopping in town. Not in that order. Usually it's a quick shopping trip first and then a quick return to the ship for some shut-eye before the ship leaves the dock.

When steering "in hand," the two AB's (short for "Able Bodied Seaman") on a watch rotate an hour on and an hour off. This is to insure that the helmsman doesn't get mentally fatigued from taking rudder and compass heading orders from the pilot, while dancing his eyes from the steering compass, to the rudder angle indicator, and to the rate-of-turn indicator. If you were unable to get much sleep, it can feel like a life-or-death ordeal to maintain ones focus. Fortunately, everyone on the bridge keeps an eye on each other. If the pilot's order seems strange, the helmsman should raise the question. The helmsman also has to repeat the pilot's orders and confirm when they have been carried out. Meanwhile, the pilot, the captain, and the mate-on-watch keep an eye on the helmsman, to see if he is correctly executing the given orders.

When this system of overlapping checks fails, collisions and groundings occur. There is this infamous story of a ship that went aground somewhere on the Mississippi River or somewhere else in the southern coastal states. Anyway, the Coast Guard investigation revealed that both the pilot and captain were on the bridge wing and the mate-on-watch was busy recording the ship's position on the nautical chart when the grounding occurred. The Captain and Pilot were asked why there were outside on the wings, instead of being inside where they could watch the helmsman. They confessed that the helmsman was passing very foul wind and they sought refuge outside. Since the mate was back in the chartroom, he wasn't able to see if the helmsman had correctly followed through on the course change.

More soon!


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