Kaiwo Maru：Day two July 26, 2017
After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, I woke up before my alarm went off at 6, at the much earlier than usual time of 5:30. Then it was time for morning exercises and breakfast. It was difficult to keep balance while doing the morning exercises, some of us (me included) were wobbling because of the rocking of the ship.
And then, it was time for “Turn To.” This is when someone sprays sea water all over the deck and a row of crew members kneel down and start scrubbing, using half of a coconut shell. The deck is made of teakwood and the best way to preserve it at sea is by washing it with seawater and scrubbing it with half a coconut shell. The rough edge of the coconut shell acts like a sort of brush. It was a lot more difficult than I had expected. It was difficult for me to keep my balance. Plus we all shouted out “Washoi”, a kind of “heave ho.” Shouting and scrubbing tired me very quickly.
After cleaning and breakfast, it was time for us to start learning the ropes. I explained to my shipmate that Westerners use this expression to convey the idea of learning something new. But, as this was a ship, the word literally means learning how to tie and arrange the ropes. The ropes of a sailing ship are one of the most important parts. We learned how to tie the ropes in a figure of eight around a pin that keeps the rope that controls the yard arm (the cross section of a mast).
After doing some rope work, it was time for that thing that I was dreading a little (only a little), yet was determined to do in order to push me out of my comfort zone: climbing the mast!
We were only allowed to climb to the “Top Platform”, which sounds like the very top part of the mast (Bird’s Nest) but in actual fact it is the lowest part. Having said that, it was about 15-20 meters high, which is pretty high when looking down. We took off our shoes and socks, attached safety harnesses and wore hard hats. Our instructor gave us a demonstration and assured us that the harness (an automatic slip action type, like a car seatbelt, would stop us from falling to the deck below. Climbing the web known as a Shroud was not so difficult, but the platform at the top overhung and we had to extend our arms in order to climb over it: this was the hardest and probably most terrifying part. I did the opposite and clung to it gradually using my knees and stomach to edge me over. My team of three made it safely up onto the platform and waved with relief as someone one of our instructors down below took photos of our relieved faces. Of course, it was time to climb back down after that. The descent was more painful than frightening, especially the soles of our feet, the insteps that never normally get used. It was such a relief and feeling of achievement once we got back down to the deck. Thanks to the instructors who were there to support us around the tricky bits we made it back in one piece.
It was time for lunch, and there was a certain sense of quiet among us while we ate.
After lunch, it was time for us to learn about the engine room. We first had a lecture on the workings of the propellers and the massive 6 cylinder Diesel engines that power them. Then, we put in ear plugs and got shown around the engine rooms. The first was the control room, which was full of dials and display. The instructor was telling us how they get the instructions from the bridge (via a signal) and then carry out the request. It occurred to me how involved the whole process is.
Then we were taken to the rooms where the actual engines were working. To my surprise, they even have a workshop of engineers who actually make replacement parts from scratch using lathes and clamps etc. I assumed that all of the repair work was done at dock. I was amazed that they had an onboard workshop.
To pretty much finish the day, we took turns going up the bridge where we actually got a chance to drive the ship and study the radars. It was wonderful to see everything in action.
Looking forward to tomorrow!
Geoff, aboard Kaiwo Maru