Kaiwo Maru：Day three July 27, 2017
This morning we took the usual role call. There are two role calls, one early in the morning and another after lunch. We are expected to be present five minutes before the role call announcement. In fact by the time we heard the announcement for role call, we had already finished role call. This five minute rule applies to all other activities.After role call, they got the hoses out and started spraying sea water all over the deck: it was time for Turn To. The water was warm. Turn To is well noted as being a tough chore. This was probably from when a ship like Kaiwo Maru sailed to Hawaii. The ship would sail North towards Alaska, in order to catch the low air pressure to take the ship to its destination. Of course the temperature would have been unbelievably cold. For me, crouching down while scrubbing the deck was hard enough. By the third day, we had pretty much reached our destination, so the ship anchored in the nearby stretch of sea of Omaezaki, Shizuoka. We went up to the bridge to observe the lowering of the anchor. An anchor weighs around four tons, and the chain that it is attached to is huge. So the whole process is carried out under very close scrutiny. To lower the anchor there are two gaping holes in the front deck part of the ship that are opened up. Between these, the huge chain is hauled via a large cog, that is stared off by hand. I asked how the chains are stored below and was told that they are too heavy to lift so the chain drops into the the hull in a pile, naturally.
Later, they opened up the stern sail known as the Spanker. To do this required three crew to climb up the web and then balance on the parallel ropes while reaching across between two vertical ropes to get to the mast where the Spanker was attached.
This looked pretty dangerous to the untrained, and as we were asked to bring our harnesses, I felt my palms get sweaty again at the thought of the prospect of doing the same. But, fortunately, we only had to pull the ropes to open it up and pull other ropes to close it again. Three experienced crew members again climbed up and tied the sails back to their original position in no time. One of the members was a slightly mysterious slim gentleman with a grey goatee beard and sunglasses. I would often see him doing pull-ups under the bridge above the deck. As it turns out, he was in charge of all of the rings, nuts and bolts. Later, we went to look at the rooms where these and the sails were stored – incredible.
Our instructor told us that the college trainees would take twice as long to do the same to unpack and pack away the Spanker sail. I think it would have taken me a lot longer.
The afternoon activities comprised of four 45 minute sessions back-to-back. For this we divided up into pairs and were then assigned a group of college trainees to work and solve tasks with. The four sessions were:
- Planning a sea rout
- Emergency contingency related to the rudder
- Risk management
- Heaving line (throwing a line with a weight on the end over the side of the ship in practice for docking)
Working with and solving problems with the college trainees really got us involved on a hands-on level. I could tell that some of them had really done their homework.
At the end of the day, our chief instructor invited us to comment on the program. Most of my colleagues were repeaters. It was interesting to hear their thoughts. Overall, in comparison to other years, the curriculum was much more in-depth. Other years, they felt treated more like guests, but this time they felt as though they went through pretty much the same training as the college students. I have to admit the lectures were very in-depth. For example we learned how to make a safe passage schedule to our destination using maps, compasses and triangles. I can honestly say that it has been a very educational experience.
Finally, I would like to mention the college students. Most of the students will go on to work in the shipping industry. I was impressed at their level of skill and their overall good manners. It’s good to know that the future of Japan’s shipping industry will be in such capable hands.
It’s the last night for us, and while it has been a truly worthwhile experience, it has also been a tough one. So we enjoyed a nice last evening with a small party and each other’s company.
Geoff, aboard Kaiwo Maru