About Me

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

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Monday, July 13, 2009
12:25 PM

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Ship sailing delayed 7 hours. Initially, the cause was due to cargo not
being finished. When I went to bed last night, I fully expected to be
called out for undocking around 5:30. When I woke at 7:00, I was surprised
to see light sneaking in past my window curtains. That was my first
indication that there was a delay. Over breakfast, Bosun Norm informed me
that we were looking at sometime around 10:30. By coffee time, it became
11:30 and an early lunch. By 11:00, departure became: "The port is
supposed to call the Captain at 11:30, to let him know when we're really
getting out of here." Noon was the call for all hands at 12:30. By around
13:00, we were underway.

Things about Colombo: Ports of the World, The Estrangement of Sailors, and
The Raging Hornys
First of all, I have to admit that I haven't seen that much of Colombo.
Since it is the capital of Sri Lanka, I can only imagine there being parts
far nicer than the sections around the port. As a matter of fact, it is a
rare thing for ports around the world to be even remotely called a good
section of a city. Seattle, my home, can be said to be a notable exception,
where Pioneer Square, Delridge, and West Seattle border the port. In
Colombo, all I've seen are dirt sidewalks, roll-down metal doors sealing
business fronts after hours, military check points, cab drivers offering you
rides while doing their best to bilk you, pariah dogs fucking in the
streets, and everyone trying to score a handout from you.

Of course, that's a rather coarse and simplistic description, but it's also
not that far from the truth--but only within the area immediately
surrounding the port. From the bridge of my ship, I could see what seemed
like nice apartments stacked on lush hillocks, and distant high-rise hotels
near beaches. Through binoculars, these places seemed clean, well kept, and
inviting. Over one hill, I could see what looked like a set of playfield
lights, perhaps for a soccer stadium.

By now I suspect some might be able to detect that the modern sailor
experiences a degree of estrangement with the places he visits: There is
often so little time available for shore leave that only the seedier sides
of town are all that is seen. Additionally, many cab drivers receive
kick-backs for delivering you to preferred places of business that often are
not to your own advantage. Then again, it can be argued that the seedy
district exists because of the immediate demands of those who frequent the
port. So here one sees the essence of estrangement: The object of desire
resides at a distance, while the interstitial zone is filled with a
dysfunction that inhibits or prevents the passage through.

Speaking of the seedier side of life, one of the crew confessed to me of
having, what I now call, a "Jack Tar" moment. In a fit of "the raging
hornys," he visited a Sri Lankan whorehouse. It was so dark and dank, he
hit the shower the moment he returned to the ship. Ah, well... I suppose,
the next time around, he will either visit Rosie Palm and Her Five Sisters
or demand a better referral from the cab driver. All I can say is, "But for
the grace of God, there go I." Yes, yes, I know there are some of you
waving the flag of STD's, but one should never underestimate the biological
desperation that comes from being stuck on a ship for months at a time while
in the absence of the mediating factor of everyday home society. True
transcendence is a formidable attainment. Certainly Abraham Maslow would
agree. Like I said: "But for the grace of God, there go I."

Thursday, July 16, 2009
5:51 PM
What a rough ride! For the past two days, it has been rough outside. Wind
is up into the 40 knot range, and the seas has the ship laboring for what
speed it can manage. Many times we had to slow down because engine
cylinders were overheating. This is a tricky business: Too high the rpm's
in these conditions, the cylinder liners get too hot; too low the rpm's, the
turbochargers aren't turning and pushing enough air to keep the engine cool.
Additionally, the ship's rolling in the seas cause the pistons to lean too
hard to one side, and friction-induced heat accumulates. Should the
temperature get out of hand, the automatic controls will kick in and the
propulsion plant will power down. Tricky, indeed! At this point, we are at
least a day behind schedule for arriving at Staten Island, NY.

Back in Singapore, we took on material for welders to fabricate some
anti-piracy devices. In the time we were dockside, they built cage-doorways
to seal-off external stairways from the house and the stern from the rest of
the main deck. They also installed some barring devices to all the weather
deck doors. This afternoon, we locked down the ship in preparation of
entering the Gulf of Aden pirate waters. Sadly, it wouldn't take too much
imagination to get around most of these barriers. At best, these measures
would only slow down an ambitious pirate. It's amazing what the people in
the office can come up with. Nonetheless, with the weather being what it
is, I really doubt there will be any attacks in the near-future. Still, if
the ship cannot keep up speed well over 17 knots, Captain Diederiks might
seek out a military escorted convoy to join. Should that happen, we will
end up steaming around 10 knots or less. So much for making schedule.

11:48 PM
End of the watch. Seas have moderated, the ship's speed is back up, and
we're less than a day from the way point that points the ship into the Gulf
of Aden. It will be interesting to see what the day holds for work on deck
when everything is locked down.

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