Saturday, 19 April 2008

What yacht is good for you?

Wally yachts

Many times you see or hear of a yacht and you just wish you could work there, but sometimes the picture behind the scenes is not as rosy as it looks like from the outside. The question here is how to sort out on what kind of yacht one is suitable to work on?

Schopfer yachts

First one needs to figure out what personal strengths and ambitions you have:

1) Leadership;

2) Willingness to do various jobs;

3) Special skills (fishing, diving, etc.);

4) Salary requirement;

5) Contract length;

6) Age and "face-factor";

7) Your certification.

These factors determine what you are ready to do and where you might not fit into.


Some yacht Owners do have very specific requirements for the crew, I have come across following requirements:

- Gender;

- Sexual orientation;

- Age;

- Nationality.

One have to remember that this industry has no unions so there is no equal opportunity policies applying.

Why not?

Lazzara yachts

Few questions you can put to yourself when reading about or being offered a position

- Do you want to work on a yacht with Owner's onboard all the time?

- Do you want to do a year long contract?

- Do you want to work on a 40yr old yacht?

- Do you want to work for all nationalities?

- Do you like the traffic area?

- Do you like the size of the yacht?

- Do you want to share a cabin?

- Do you like motor or sail yachts?

- Do you like a private or charter yacht?

These questions are very important and I can elaborate on every answer.

Sail yachts

Lastly, when we are talking about positions where the crew is likely to be in close contact with the Owner (e.g. Captain and Ch. Stew) we come to the last hurdle - the "face factor". It is the compatibility test, if the chemistry is not there you won't get the job. It is the first meeting with the Owner himself. There is nothing one can really do about it, we show our sunny side and hope for the best and fear the worst.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Ring finger incident, severed tendon

Cheers gals and guys, been away for some time now but I'm back again, not with a vengeance but just back for a short while.

As some of you may know I had a boating accident recently involving my right hand and a rescue boat. We were at anchor in Male atoll in Maldives and we were tendering crew to a nearby Island called Bandos (should actually be renamed Bandits as they charged exorbitant prices and silly fees with no benefits).

After operation

Anyway, as it happened I was coming back onboard and the waves were kinda high (1m/3'), I went full throttle and planed the boat so I was jumping from wave crest to wave crest at the same time holding down on the bench with my right hand. As I was passing our ships stern I jumped another wave again and landed askew with the bow facing a few points starboard from my original course, this was enough to make my own dynamic energy to protest and try to maintain original course, as a result I tried to hold on but the boats seat were of glassfibre and the edge was very sharp so I could feel my fingers being cut.

I let go with the result that the boat went starboard, I went overboard. In the water I inspected my hand and saw 4 of my fingers bleeding, I flexed the hand and it seemed to work alright so I tried to swim onboard, the current was very strong and I could not make headway. Luckily my Able seamen, Ossi and Oskar, onboard saw what happened so they took another boat tied to our stern and came to fish me up as well as catch the strayed rescueboat that was now going in circles. I was by that time bleeding like a pig. Mental note: Next time wear the stop cord.

As we came onboard I went to take a shower in order to get the salt water off and then opened up ships medical chest and took out a suture set and some desinfectant. Went out in the sunshine and showed Oskar how to stitch by doing the 1st stitch myself, then he stitched my middle finger, after that I taped my three middle fingers together and thought that was that.

I had no more time to think abt my hand as we received guests onboard for the next 10 days and then I was due to some off time in Sri Lanka where I was at the same time to renew my Medical certificate that had expired. On the same day I was flying I removed the stitches & tape and thought that something might be wrong with my ringfinger as I could not flex the outermost joint. Did not worry too much and I spent 7days in Sri Lanka (which is another story) and returned onboard to go and see a local Doc in Male.

The Doctor confirmed my suspicions that the tendon in my ringfinger was severed and said that it should be operated asap because the end of the tendon is receding as the time goes by. I reported to Captain Nicolas and we decided to postpone any operations as recovery time is 6weeks plus and we were due to receive guests in a day or so. After having guests onboard and again had a week downtime (no guests) I flew to Goa, India as hospitals in Maldives were not recommended. Our Laundryman Nandush was from Goa, he had organized a meeting with a local surgeon on the day of my arrival the 1st of April. No joke.

I arrived India good and well and Nandush was to pick me up from the a/p in Goa and we drove to the capital of Goa, Panjim. We visited Nandush apt and his family and we started with some local beers for breakfast as we thought I would only have a meeting with the Doc today and operate tomorrow. At abt 10am we got our stuff together and piled into the car and drove off to see Doctor Oswald. He had his own clinic in a colonial era Portuguese house that is beautiful. I showed the finger and the case became very clear for Doctor Oswald and he told Nandush to take me immediately to hospital as I had only time until the 4th of April.

Once in the hospital it became apparent I was going to be operated immediately, I was whisked into a room after my body temp and weight was taken and then I had to wear the hospital gown and nurses came and went all the time, one giving me pills, the other inserting trip line another putting medicine in the trip and so on. At the same time I was running to the toilet pissing out the breakfast beer. Finally at abt 3pm I was trolleyed into the operating theatre.

In the theatre were 2 Doctors and they started with local anesthesia, long needles with big syringes were pushed into my armpit and under my collarbone, all very uncomfortable. One of the Doctors were asking if I can feel anything I replied "yes, yes, don't cut yet" (more drugs) and finally they relented and said they would put me to sleep, drugs were put into my trip and I was breathing into a oxygen mask, last thing I can recall is that my brain is saying I can't breathe and I'm trying breathing but I can't feel anything and I'm feeling distressed.

Next thing I know I'm being patted awake and my bed is moving out of the theatre into the ICU. My hand is or rather my finger is hurting from the operation, I'm all dizzy from all drugs and the anesthesia so I sleep again and again. Mika the 3rd Engineer who is also on vacation in Goa visits me for awhile but I'm not that coherent so he leaves after a few minutes. During the night my finger is hurting even more, I guess all the painkiller are wearing off so I ask for something, the nurse injects Tramadol that is a replacement for Morphine. When it courses into my veins I start to feel nauseous and feel like throwing up for a minute, then the drug kicks in and I can relax, the pain is reduced to a numbing sensation in the background. I think I would make a bad junkie, all that stuff with needles and nausea does not appeal at all. Anyway, a few days go by I am put into an ordinary room, I start eating solid food, I am fed pills etc. on the 3rd I am discharged from the hospital to stay the last night in a hotel to fly off to Male via Bombay. Quite a boring trip actually.

Once back onboard I am wearing the whole hand in a cast, on the 8th I visit the local clinic to remove the stitches, wound is not healed enough so I have to wait another 5-7days. Luckily I got the cast off so I'm more comfortable moving around and boy were the other fingers hurting from the one weeks immobility, not a thing I can recommend. Anyway, we received guests onboard again, I am but a one armed bandit helping out here and there as I can't use my right hand. On the 15th I take the stitches off myself, feels good to heal, I finished off all the meds the Doctor sent with me. On the 31st we finally disembark all guests and I also pack my things to fly home for some physical therapy as the finger is frozen in nearly 90deg angle and is not moving at all, except inwards.

Once in Thailand I visit the best hospital in the vicinity, Sanamjan in Nakhon Pathom abt 20 clicks from my house. I go to the P.T. ward and am started to be treated with ultrasound, a very painful sensation to experience, like being hit on the finger with a hammer somewhat like that. The after that paraffin bathing, I have to immerse my finger in a tub full of hot paraffin 10x for 5 rounds. Not so bad, quite hot. After this I am getting finger massage and stretching, the stretching part was so painful on the first day that I wanted to cry. It still hurts now after 2 weeks of treatment but is not that painful. My finger is now nearly straight, it still is slow I need constant exercise and stretching and I think it will never be the same but only time will tell...

Conventions regulating ships

All might have heard of different Conventions and Standards etc. stipulating different rules of how a ship has to be built and managed.

The top of the pyramid is actually United Nations (UN), and in there is an Organization called International Maritime Organization (IMO) and from there most of the regulations are churned out for our safety etc.

The 1st regulatory item came out shortly after the Titanic disaster and it was called Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), this book has now been edited numerous times and is a big tome today. In this book you'll find standards set for hull, machinery, electric installations, safety equipment, safety of navigation & other misc items. This is the corner stone when you start to build or alter a vessel.

After SOLAS it was followed by the launch of Maritime Pollution prevention convention (MARPOL) due to all oil pollution in the world and if I remember correctly after the foundering of Amoco Cadiz in France. Today it is an equally impressive book as SOLAS and it covers all aspects of pollution including exhaust emissions. This resulted for the 1st manual to be placed onboard, namely the Shipboard oil pollution prevention plan (SOPEP).

Then when the disasters came one after the other the eyes turned into the education of seamen onboard and the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) was launched in 1978 and in 1995 was revided extensively. This book as it says covers what your training should be if you want to study for a STCW standard certificate.

After these books it was quiet for awhile but when the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized outside Zeebrugge and the Scandinavian Star burned down on the North Sea then in 1990's the International Safety Management (ISM) was brought forward. A seemingly draconian system to find the weak link in accidents which increased paperwork onboard ships dramatically. It is now mandatory for all ships over 300GT to have this Code implemented and when used right it becomes an effective tool for the Ships Officers.

Eventually Osama bin Laden shocked the world with his twin tower bombing and it resulted that the International Ship and Port facility Security Code (ISPS) was launched onto us. This code is similar as the ISM code but relates to the security aspect of the boat. As an interesting tidbit for everybody to know is that this Code is divided into two parts and those boats who pays visits to US ports have to implement both parts. Additionally there is no size restriction for ships entering US, all must have a Ship Security Plan onboard.

In addition to these publications there are instances like the Chamber of Shipping and MCA publishing manuals and books that refers and translates these regulations, also IMO publish numerous smaller rags that relates to Load lines, Code of safe working practices etc.

Anyways, the publications mentioned above are mandatory for SOLAS ships, i.e. >300GT and carries more than 12 passengers so you may wonder what is in this for yachts?

Well, if they are not SOLAS yachts then there not so much that applies but if you are a Commercial yacht you need to comply wiith the MCA Large Yacht code (LY2), now launched as a M-notice by MCA and can be downloaded for free on the net. As a Large Yacht you need to have most of these pulications onbaord as well as the ISM implemented etc.

Some useful links:
IMO home
MCA home
MCA M-notices
MCA MAIB reports
C.I. regs

Monday, 14 April 2008

Quit smoking 10yr anniversary

This is my story how I started smoking and quit smoking.

I must’ve seen first as a 7-8yrs young kid my dad smoking cigars after dinner, this was a very rare occasion and for me and my kid sister it was something special and exciting, the smell and the smoke. Sometimes we would ask a puff on the cigar and then we would cough ourselves silly.

When I got into the last classes of elementary school I think from being 14yrs or something me and my best friend Jere would steal ciggies from her mother and we’d escape up to the attic to smoke them there. At intermission from class at school I’d follow other kids who also started smoking and smoke ciggies. It was all about the novelty, looking tough and having the forbidden fruit. As my friends parents were heavy smokers I’d always smell of cigarettes so I always blamed it on them when I came home.

At 16 I went to sea and started earning my own salary so I was free to buy tax free cigarettes and tobacco. I was smoking full time as any other adult. I was smoking Camel regulars with no filter tips. I was smoking a pack a day. If I was getting drunk, I’d smoke more.

At 19 I was drafted into the Navy for my compulsory military service and I prepared for it by hoarding several kilos of rolling tobacco, paper and Camel cigarettes. It lasted throughout my 11mths of service. Funny enough my condition became better even though I was smoking. When you are young you seem invincible, nothing affects you.

After the Navy I moved in with my future wife who was also a smoker, we happily puffed away. She on her Marlboro’s, me on my Camel’s.

At some stage I turned into smoking pipes, it became my hobby. I quit cigarettes altogether and there I was – 2 wooden heads connected by a stem. I was smoking the American brand Half&Half then.  I swear at times it tasted like chocolate. Wonder where that notion came from as when I had relapses after a few short attempts to quit it always tasted like sh*t. Living together with another smoker is tough to not smoke or try to kick the habit. Those times it would have started during an occasional smoke in a party and then smoking secretly and after getting caught or tired of the stupid hiding around, smoking as usual.

My pipe hobby lasted for a long time until I went to work on a cruise liner as a 2nd Officer. There they banned me from smoking my beloved pipe as it “smelled” bad!? What about cigarettes then? Yes, I could smoke them, so being addicted to nicotine I took up smoking Indonesian kreteks, Gudang Garam’s. They are spiced cigarettes with cloves and who knows what and very strong too. Your lips are tasting sweet after you’ve smoked one. In my opinion the kreteks smelled far more worse than my pipe or ordinary ciggies but nobody complained as they were cigarettes.

In my next cruise liner I was also forbidden to smoke my pipe or kreteks so now I was puffing on Marlboro’s which really tasted bad compared to my pipe. About the same time I moved to Thailand and even on vacation I was smoking Marlboro’s as I could not find my pipe tobacco and I was also travelling light, furthermore my pipes would not dry up in the tropical climate.

Then one morning in 1998 or 1999, when I was abt 30yrs old and divorced, I was waking up as usual in Bangkok and went out on the balcony to have a smoke, did not want my apartment to smell bad. There I was, sitting in the searing heat of the glaring sun, starting to slightly sweat, I was puffing on my ciggie that tasted like dung and I started wondering “what on earth am I doing? Sitting out in the sunshine, sweating, not even enjoying my smoke. Why am I doing this? “To hell with it” I thought and threw my ciggie, my cigarettes and my lighter. I was not going to smoke anymore.

I did not smoke for the next 5 years. The agony of quitting was as usual, the first 2 weeks was spent getting rid of the physical craving and then to deal with the mental craving. I was also suffering at what to do with my hands as usually I’d tinker with my pipe, cleaning them and drilling them open. Like I said pipe smoking is a hobby, I had some 30pcs of them. I was constantly dreaming of smoking and in the mornings I was waking up having the same ashtray taste as I’d had when I was smoking. Not to talk about all the black and brown phlegm I was coughing up. As the time went by I was having less frequent smoking dreams and I thought I had lost my addiction until the next thing happened.

After 5 years I was working on a small cruise liner that got sold and I followed the ship working for the new Owner. There was a lot of work to be done as she was to be converted and so, I got stressed or at least that is my excuse. During the transit from China to Mediterranean we had some barbecues during the voyage and while having a few drinks I took to “borrowing” a ciggie from anybody that was smoking. I thought there is nothing to it, one can’t hurt.

About a month later we arrived Greece and the pressure was growing. By then I was buying ciggies from ashore and smoking them like there was no tomorrow, taking back the damage from 5yrs abstinence. The Greeks made it very easy as smoking is for them like a national pastime. When I’d smoked a month I started thinking of myself and my stupidity of falling into the same old nicotine trap again, after 5 clean years, what a waste.

It took me another month and I was still puffing away and I was reading the local English newspaper services section and my eyes fell on an ad saying “quit smoking”. I read the ad and it was saying that it was hypnotherapy and guaranteed results. I thought what nonsense but anyway I picked up the phone and called the number. It was a Scottish lady, Ms Carolyn Clarke, that answered and she told me after all my questions it is 50€ for one time and guaranteed results if I really want to stop smoking. So I thought to myself again 50€ is a week’s worth of smokes but if it is for life, then 50€ is peanuts. I decided to go ahead with the therapy. I was driving up to her clinic and when I found a parking spot I lit up my last cigarette from the pack and smoked it while walking to the reception.

Once in the clinic I had to fill up some background info for my profile so she could evaluate how to motivate my mind or something like that (I presume). After all that we chatted about me awhile, obviously she was picking my brains for info that she could use. Then she put on some chill-out music and she started to take me under hypnosis, it was like being asleep but all the time awake too. There were questions and recommendations, I can’t recall the words anymore and suddenly it was over and she counted to 10 and I was awake again. During the whole time she had made a self hypnosis tape by recording the essential parts of our session. She gave me the tape and told me to listen to it for minimum next 2 weeks as many times as possible.

Well, said and done, I was listening to the tape morning, noon and evening. It was kind of relaxing too getting hypnotized and after 2 weeks or so I started mostly falling asleep when I listened to the tape. But one thing was for sure, I have never touched a cigarette again. I consider myself lucky that I got the extra push from my hypnotherapy that enabled me to quit again when I was feeling not strong enough of mind to quit by myself as I did the first time. After seeing my relapse after 5 yrs pause I can realize that “once an addict, always an addict” there is no middle way.

Somehow I am jealous for those fellows who can once in awhile indulge in a cigar after dinner on a whim but not being addicted to the nicotine. That all is off limits for me unless, of course, I want to get into the same circle of self deception again.

Quitting smoking has at least given me better physical condition, better taste, no morning cough, no smelly clothes, no extra expenditure and no bad looks from the non-smokers. Let’s face it, smoking is bad for health, it most likely causes cancer and one also exposes the surroundings to 2nd hand smoke. It is one of the most dangerous legal drugs in the world and the health bill it causes is immense but no government is ready to ban it because of the huge tax income.

I always knew smoking was bad but I always found excuses why to do it, maybe out of spite, rebellion, because other were doing it etc. The excuses are numerous. 

Today, if I don’t count those 2 months in Greece before the hypnotherapy I have been without smoking for 10 years and I feel good about myself that I have been able to maintain my resolve. I hope people reading this story and also possibly trying to cut the habit can get some ideas out of it.