Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Have Moved

I am no longer posting to this blog, instead I have found that Word Press is able to meet my needs slightly better than Blogger as I mentioned in a previous post.

Please follow the link below to my new blog and twitter feed:

Navigar Oso

Thanks for reading so far and thanks to Blogger which is still a great blog platform.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I'll keep this short and sweet because there's not a heck of a lot to say. It's been absolutely ages since I posted anything and the reason being I tend to do most of my writing on the fly and during "between moments" so I have been looking around for various widgets which will allow me to do. I get most of my ideas on the launch to and from ships, in the car waiting for a vessel to come alongside and in the quiet moments when I'm not pre-occupied with fault finding something. This means I need to use my Backberry but not always for a Tweet as my thoughts tend to involve more than just 140 characters.

Whilst I have been looking about I noticed that Wordpress have lots and lots of goodies that bolt on easily and will meet my needs. Not that there is anything wrong with Blogger but it seems to me that Wordpress just has more goodies.

With that in mind, I'll spend the next while sorting out wordpress and update the blog once I have migrated posts accross. In the mean time I'll keep "Tweeting".

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cool Cats

Whilst hanging about at Cammell Lairds ship yard in Gibraltar for one of the Normand twins to come in from a Dynamic Positioning test so I could install a PBX, the guy’s on the quay side were getting ready to receive a fast ferry into the dry dock for maintenance.

I grabbed the Blackberry and snapped off a few shots so sorry about the quality of the photos.

These vessels operated by Acciona are a regular feature in the Bay and Straits and everyone knows full well to keep an eye out for them because of their speed. Most small yachts cruise at 10 knots and ships cruise at 18 knots but these behemoths carve up the ocean at 40+ knots which means from the time you spot them on watch or AIS/Radar until they pass by can be on top of you in less than a few minutes leaving a huge wake in, well, their wake!

300 feet long and travelling 40 miles per hour is an object not to be taken lightly. Look at the stats.

Total length: 97,20 m.
Breadth: 26,60 m.
Depth: 7,70 m.
Standard displacement: 1.050 tm.
Maximum displacement: 1.650 a 1.792 tm.
Engine power: 39.200 C.V.
Speed: from 38 to 47 knots
Capacity: 880 Passengers
260 Vehicles

What was so amazing was the absolute control the Captain had over the vessel as he negotiated the vessel into the dry dock without any rope handlers or linesmen with just a foot or two of clearance on both sides.

The vessels are manufactured in Australia by Incat and their all aluminum wave piercing design is what gives them such speed and the water jet propulsion system does not require rudders nor reverse gear, just a fully articulated propulsion unit coupled to a reversing bucket that directs water in the right direction.

The wake left behind as they enter the Bay is spectacular. On one occasion I was transferring from a ship to a 45 foot long 4 ton launch and was very nearly thrown into the water when the launch was tossed about like a twig as the wake slammed into the ship’s hull and bounced back at the launch.

As Mr. Bond would say, "shaken but not stirred", but it was close.

Journey times are less than half of normal ships and during the summer months, millions of passengers travel between Algeciras in Spain to Tangiers in Morocco or Ceuta which is a small territory in North Africa belonging to Spain.

Each time I spot one whilst onboard another ship, I always fire up the AIS and clock their speed, it never fails to impress me. If you get the chance, buy yourself a ticket and take a ride, it’s well worth it if for no other reason than to marvel at how smooth the ride is and how quickly you get to your destination.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Black Box

Friday saw us aboard a large mixed bulk carrier updating software on an AIS, annual survey on a SVDR as well as piping in two video feeds for said SVDR to show the X and S band radar screens.

So what prey tell is a VDR or SVDR? Glad you asked that question cause I’m about to tell you. This subject is huge and I won’t bore you to death with minute details but I’ll give you enough information and photos just to make it bearable! Sitting comfortably? Good we’ll begin.

VDR = Voyage Data Recorder
SVDR = Simplified Voyage Data Recorder

Under the terms of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a vessel over a certain tonnage and usage is to be equipped with one of these devices. Like commercial aircraft, a ship also has a black box recorder that that can be retrieved in the event of an accident or sinking that will help determine the cause of the accident or who was a fault which is the bit the layers just love.

It’s pretty comprehensive stuff in that the system records radar or radar images, AIS data, speed, heading, rate of turn, course over ground, rudder position, door and/or cargo door alarms, VHF radio traffic and even the crews voices at various positions on the bridge and bridge wings.

Once a year, this equipment needs to be inspected to ensure that it all works as advertised and a certificate issued, depending on the classification society and flag the vessel operates under. It’s what’s called an Annual Survey or APT and is usually an all day affair to check connections, recordings, batteries etc. At the same time an APT is (usually) also carried out on the radio equipment but that is another subject for another day.

The IMO has decreed that stricter controls are necessary on this SDVR molarky because there are more and more instances of incomplete data present following an incident so tighter checks are on the way from classification societies I’m sure.

These survey’s are a great opportunity to get under the skin of ships communications and procedures and you get to see how well or, ahem unwell a vessel is managed and maintained.

This one was in great shape and a credit to her Captain, crew and owners and a pleasure to be involved with. Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Blue Banana

Last week, Gumer (pronounced Goomer, don’t ask I’ll tell you another day) and I popped out to the Bay of Gibraltar to undertake a DNV annual performance survey for radio gear on behalf of the vessel owners. Being a low budget refrigeration ship built in Poland, we weren’t expecting much except rust and a lot of communication issues.

The crew were a mixture of Russian, Ukrainian and Polish of varying degrees of seniority from Captain all the way down to Bilge Rat. Now, this vessel was about twenty years old but she was in pretty good shape all round considering the invariably hard life she had led. There were a few issues atop of the superstructure such as the MF/HF radio antennae wasn’t connected to the transceiver which made contacting anything further away than several feet nigh on impossible, and the receiver DSC receiver antennae was a bit worse for wear but I digress.

The crew were a happy lot going about their duties with care and pride, always eager to help and their English was pretty good, certainly better than anything remotely Slavikesque or Balkanlike that I could let roll off my tongue even with a few good vodkas.

I got talking to a few of the guy’s and asked them if they wished to be on a more modern vessel with a bespoke computer room, better SatComms or even a gym as some of the snazzier ships have been festooned with. Their answer was surprising. Yes, they would prefer all the creature comforts to a degree but then they couldn’t have had their beloved bar which they would miss immensely.

You see, Next door to the Captains office and crew mess was a small space devised for drinking and socializing between shifts etc. There was no alcohol (that I could spot!....ha ha) but the whole home built arrangement had been well and truly stamped with the personality o f the Captain and crew throughout the life this vessel had led since its launch in 1990 and indeed made the ship feel at once a home for these lads. Look at the photos, it’s not much but you will see a plethora of bank notes from countries such as Turkey, Malta, Greece, America, Ecuador, Panama, Italy to name a few, uch the same way you would find photos of wives, girlfriends and family in the crew cabins.

No, despite the age of the ship, the cheesy Formica and Vinyl coverings, this bar is a microcosm of life at sea for this vessel and anyone tasked with sailing under her flag of convenience. It’s not much but it’s their home resplendent with the Blue Banana and they love it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mercedes Madness

The Mercedes that arrived to much excitement has very quickly lost it’s shine.

We’d had it all of 6 days when I inserted the key into the ignition and nothing happened, not even das wimperus autøfårten.

I Checked all the fuses located in the 3 different locations, the battery under the seat and even the made sure all the bulbs were working as well as all the relays but to no avail.

So being of the slightly geeky variety I set about pleading for help on the various Mercedes user groups and came across a couple of lads in the UK whom, it would seem, have forgotten more about Mercs than most mechanics will learn in a lifetime. They suggested I try cleaning the lens on the key because the infrared bit becomes dirty over time as well as the ignition unit. Still nothing, so they then told me to check yet another fuse in the air-conditioning unit that uses a fan to cool the processors in the engine management unit (ECU) but still nothing happening.

The eventual prognosis was that he Electronic Ignition System (EIS) was faulty. I had to call the Grua (tow truck) to take it the garage where it eventually ended up at a Mercedes main dealer. Now, I’m not a wealthy guy and I cringed when I enquired about their hourly rate. It was pretty healthy but the up side was the guy’s I had been online with said that the EIS is a well known problem on that model and the dealer should fix it pretty quickly without too much hassle.

What they didn’t know was that Spanish Mercedes dealers have not gone through the same revolutionary training that UK dealers experience and instead of being say, 500 Euros to fix the problem it ended up being 1200…..Ouch.

It wasn’t just a new ignition. Oh no, it was also a new steering lock and a key because all the components “communicate” with each other and our version can’t be reprogrammed, all new components are required. The key alone was 168 Euros and that didn’t include the little metal emergency key which slots into the back. The one we already have doesn’t fit because Mercedes have redesigned the key so we are expected to fork out another 28 euros for the little metal emergency key. That makes the total cost of a key 196 Euros.

Now, I get to see some pretty advanced electronics on a daily basis but I have never, repeat never seen anything quite so ridiculous as the ignition on our car. Look at the pictures and you have to think to yourself all that is simply to switch on the car. Whatever happened to good old fashioned lock tumblers and a couple of wires?

Serves us right for owning a Merc I guess and it has been shall we say an interesting experience. I don’t think I’ll ever be in a hurry to own one again let’s put it that way.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cool, I got a new Laptop!

There I was complaining about not having a laptop and getting withdrawal symptoms the other day when along comes the boss man who quietly presented me with his personal IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad to use for the time being. What a nice chap, he could see I needed one to effectively do my job.

What’s more I was given a copy of Office Enterprise 2007 and told in no uncertain terms that I was to install whatever I needed on the machine, including Itunes, antivirus, Photoshop, Blackberry software etc. Wow, this guy’s liberal or what?

The cherry on the cake is that I get to learn a whole new language in the process. Uh huh that’s right, you see, my boss is Norwegian and the machine in question is, you guessed it, Windows XP Norske complete with Norske keyboard. So with one deft swipe of the keyboard I can make character’s like Ø, ¤, Å, æ and Æ.

And the usual windows commands like Cut and Copy become, or translate to, Klipp Ut and Kopier as well as Properties becomes Egenskaper. It’s pretty easy really; let’s have a go shall we.

English – I don’t have a clue how to operate this computer.
Norwegian - Jeg har ikke en anelse om hvordan du skal betjene denne datamaskinen.

There you have it, your first Norwegian lesson. To show my appreciation, I’ve installed all my programs in English except for the Spanish anti virus, Chinese character map and the USA keyboard short cuts. If I could just add a South African plug to the mains adapter the whole schizophrenic ensemble would be complete.