Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Ah but don't, no don't sink the boat...

...that you built, you built to keep afloat...

This is a post I just made to a forum I frequent, concerning today's adventures. I'll come back and clean it up when I have a real computer to play with.

"I bet you have seen some crazy things at sea."

Oh, pretty crazy. :) I seem to have some time on my hands, so let me tell you about today.

So, we're having a Coast Guard inspection today. This is a routine thing; the vessel is coming out of the shipyard after a pretty long overhaul, there's a lot of new crew aboard, the Coasties wanna know that we're up to par. Fire and boat drill, all hands. I'm on the gangway watch, so this is just a break from my regular workday - I get to mill around smartly instead of standing on the quarterdeck all day. What the hey, they're paying me my daily wage - as opposed to the poor schmucks on the other two watch sections, who get to do their 8 and get up on their off-time for this. (One watch section should get OT for it, one might not. Not my issue.)

Fire drill went smooth, simulated fire in the paint locker. Wasn't even my DC locker involved, so again - mill around smartly. Shot the breeze about e-book readers for a bit. Secure from drill, stand by for abandon ship drill.

(Someone pull up a pint of home-brew, something robust and flavorful. I desperately want one right now, and for reasons that are about to become clear can't have it. Besides the fact that I'm two states away from my homebrews, that is...)

Abandon ship drill. I wrap my sweatshirt around my waist to satisfy the long sleeves requirement, don my lifejacket and floppy hat, wait around my rack long enough to make sure they're not going to require us to bring our Gumby (immersion) suits with us, then I haul ass to the bridge to get the emergency radio and SART (search and rescue transponder - JFGI if you're curious) for my lifeboat. The bridge is five decks up from my rack, I'm swaddled up in my emergency gear, and the boat is four decks back down once I've got the electronics. I'm pretty winded when I get there just in time to say "yo" to the roll call.

Now the fun begins.

The boat commander orders the necessary people to man the boat - I hop in for the ride. There's the commander - my watch officer - and two other ABs whose responsibility it is to handle the lines to release us from the ship, and me. We begin to lower the boat - I say "we", I really mean "they", 'cause I'm strapping myself into the prow - the boat swings as it descends, kind of a herky-jerky motion. I'm starting to feel seasick.

Look, you would, too. These things aren't meant for comfort, and in a real abandon ship situation, the first thing we'd do is pop sea-sickness pills. Doesn't matter how old a salt you are, these things roll in any sea, and the ride down sucks.

There's a loud noise - hard to describe, kind of a crunch mixed with a crack - and the ride down sucks worse. The boat is hanging by one gripe, so instead of being parallel to the water, we're perpendicular. And swinging on it. That takes maybe a second.

Then the other line lets go.

We slam into the water. The side hatches are open, water in the boat. The hatch and windows in the rear of the boat give way, water in the boat. I'm hanging upside down - there's water in the boat. Fuckme, I'm drowning. The boat is upside down, resting on its top in the water, water's rushing in, I'm strapped in with my head in the water-

I get loose from my straps and breathe. The other guys are moving around, and after laughing like a loon for a sec, I try to see if people are alright. Water's rushing in through the side hatches, and I watch one of the other ABs launch himself out before the boat sinks. "Good idea! I need to get the hell out of this boat!"

These lifeboats are self-righting. The boat, upside down... rights itself.

With the three of us inside unsecured.

I see the bench on the other side coming at my noggin as I'm scrambling for something, anything, to hang onto. No dice, I'm hitting it. Best I can do is roll myself in the air - and lemme just point out that I am Large, I Contain Multitudes, so the fact that I pull this off is nothing short of miraculous - and take it on my shoulder. More deltoid, but that's beside the fact 'cause fuckingow I just broke my arm.

Didn't, but that's besides the fact.

Boat's upright and no longer pouring in water. I'm... alive? I'm alive. Buddha on a pogo stick I thought I was a goner. Like, there were three separate occasions in the last twenty seconds, I thought I was dead. Look around - one AB gone out the door, one AB in the hatch swearing and holding his arm (not me), one 3rd officer swearing and holding his face. The mate's bleeding from the head and seems shocky. The other AB's in pain. Me, I'm just swearing The people on the ship are yelling down at us, and - poking my head out the hatch - the other-other AB is treading water and hollering. Thank God for life jackets.

He doggypaddles back to the boat and I get M - the AB with the wounded wing - to help me pull him aboard. He seems unhurt - got out while the getting was good. My left wing's sore, but I can move it, so no break. The ship throws a couple of lines down and we make the boat fast so that it doesn't drift off down the river - a work boat comes along and picks us up and transports us to the dock. EMS shows up a few minutes later.

The mate's gotta nice gash on the head and issues walking - possibly damaged something in his hip. M, the AB with the busted wing, is complaining about back pain, and of course his wing is busted - possibly strained, possibly broken, I haven't heard. He had some really pretty bruises shaping up around his elbow. I've got a bruised shoulder and I'm a little shaky as the adrenaline wears off, but feeling no pain once I got a Motrin. C, the AB what bailed out before the boat went rightside up, is totally fine. All of us are alive and, hopefully, sustained no permanent injuries.

I'm writing this on my cell phone at the hospital (gogo Sidekick 2008!) as I'm waiting to be discharged. Hour and a half left in my workday.

I love my job.

PS: I blame this on you, Wheeledgoat.


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