I was shamed into taking a tour of the engine room by being told that I would hurt the chief engineer’s feelings if I refused his kind invitation to do so. I didn’t have to like it, though. In fact, I hated it. Climbing down metal steps into the bowels of a ship among mountains of depressing olive green steel stuff did nothing for me. In the past I had seen all the engine rooms I will ever have the need to see. Being told that I was then seven metres underwater didn’t help with my claustrophobic memories of the Poseidon Adventure. But the two male passengers with me thought it was riveting. Oh well, to each his own. I’ll bet they wouldn’t get as excited about Tiffany’s as I would.
I did, however, absorb the fact that the drive shaft was 90 centimetres wide and that there were ten pistons, whatever that indicates. The chief engineer was a friendly soul and he seemed most proud of his engines, so I assumed a look of interest. He had provided me with gloves and earmuffs for which I was grateful. His engine room was, as such horrible things go, neat and clean, but appallingly hot, noisy and oily.
Burma Guide for Tourist Photo Gallery
The agenda for the next day was clocks back one hour and lifeboat drill. I watched the crew launch the lifeboat not the small man overboard raft but the thirty person fully enclosed boat used for the Abandon Ship lark I kept hearing about. The lifeboat was swung out over the side of the ship with a winch and taken for a run to test its engine. I wanted to get in it for the test drive but was told that swinging out and over and high above the ship is dangerous and is only done with passengers in it in an emergency. Apparently the crew who were used for the test did not warrant such concern! Judging by the time it took to get the boat in the water, we would all have been on the bottom of the ocean by the time it got away from the ship’s side. On the third attempt, after swinging alarmingly back and forth on the way down, the boat finally made it onto the sea.
Then it was Emergency Lifeboat drill that the rest of us, crew and passengers alike, had to go through. It was performed on the deck with the lifeboat, having now returned from its little cruise. The alarm sounded and I reported to my allocated muster station as ordered in long pants, sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, helmet and lifejacket. I spent an hour climbing in and out of the lifeboat in this horrible get-up, and, much to the amusement of the crew, managed to sit in some wet paint. Next time I will ask if I have the option to go down with the ship. The lifeboat is like Doctor Who’s tardis much bigger inside than it appears outside. I had been sceptical about all of us fitting in there until I tried it and discovered it was indeed big enough, at a squeeze, to take all twenty-two of us. It had all manner of accoutrements like food, water, first aid and instruments I’m sure I could have learned to use if I really had to. But sitting there I had a sudden nasty thought. Where was the toilet? And in particular the ladies toilet! I decided to definitely take the going down with the ship option.
The next day was a lovely quiet day at sea. Towards evening I watched seagulls flying around the mast in front of the ship, swooping and diving as they fished. They looked a long way from shore and I was glad to see them taking turns to sit on the mast rigging for a rest.
Then it was a Birthday Beer Night in the crew mess. Loud karaoke featured heavily in this soiree, compounded by a full drum kit that a junior officer who looked like Ahn Do played rather well. The captain had a good voice and loved to hog the microphone. Everyone sang, even the shy young steward. Lots of beer was handed out. I drank half a bottle of white wine but could not be induced to sing. I actually stayed for three hours, a record for me. I am not a karaoke fan.