Pirates, pigs, and parties

October 11th, 2008 by scott and becky

Have you ever seen a movie that involves container ships and pirates? Often the pirates are shown with cloth tied over their head and over their faces, only exposing their eyes. This is what the deck crew often look like when they are working (painting or cleaning). The head protection (usually an old T-shirt) keeps the soot and dirt off of their heads and the cloth over their mouths prevents them from breathing in particles and fumes. It is a little disconcerting when you go for a walk around the ship and everyone you see is looks like a pirate!

Today is Saturday and we will be on the open ocean all day.  There is a naval tradition that involves the open ocean and a pig roast. Because Saturday is the day most of the crew relax and often party, today is pig roast day!

Party preparations began after lunch. Under the direction of the cook, the large barbeque was rigged on the starboard side D deck. Crewman took turns manually rotating the pig while it cooked. On the port side D deck a large table was setup and the area was decorated with flags spelling DAQZ (the ship’s call sign) and PARTY. In addition to the suckling pig, pork ribs, steak, chicken wings, and fish were also barbequed. It was quite the feast.

Amusingly enough, while the party preparations were being made, a few rain squalls threatened. The second mate, who was on bridge duty at the time, dutifully navigated the ship slightly north, to ensure that the rain squalls passed below us, keeping the decks and crew dry for the party! A few miles off course now and then makes such a small difference to our overall passage that moving the ship off course for a few hours to benefit a party is completely reasonable.

The ship will take seven full days to cross the Atlantic. In that time, we cross six time zones. Prior to boarding the ship, we wondered how they handled time zones. What they do is pick which days are best (that is, if they are going east, they will not advance clocks on a Saturday, as that would mean one less hour of sleep on party night), and they advance the clocks one hour each night. On most vessels, this means each of the three night watches is 20-minutes shorter, but here the deck officers arrange a one hour change to involve a different officer each night, so that the short watch going east and the long watch going west is shared among each of them.

The ship’s crew always likes going east, because the days are shorter. When at sea they are usually counting the days until their rotation is over and they can go home to be with their loved ones. Of course, some do find the successive short days a challenge. It is difficult to get enough sleep when you work two four-hour shifts plus a few hours doing other duties and you only have 23 hours in the day.

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