Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sarcasm goes on a fieldtrip! ~ Episode 2

When we ended last time, I was preparing to embark on a boat ride to the docks at Swinoujscie Poland. If you have ever been to Europe in March, you know that it's cold and miserable. The Baltic Sea, especially during this time, is choppy. Add a tropical storm south of that, and you have rough, cold ocean water that doesn't give you a lot of time to recover should something unfortunate happen.

Knowing this, four British sailors and myself climbed into a small boat, and made the hour and a half long trip to the pier where the French minesweeper was waiting for me to arrive. Or, at least they *should have been waiting for me. However, what they were not expecting was a small boat with five unarmed men in black approaching with no notice. They greeted us with the traditional reaction to such an approach: automatic rifles and french profanities. With all the other mine sweepers parked on the pier, we kept our distance, and I was dropped off a mile away from the French ship.


This was post 9-11. We should have used some common sense, but the water was really, really rough and even the saltiest sailor would have been feeling ill. I walked down the pier looking like an aquatic hobo. The Brits decided my Sea bag (notice the name says SEA) was not water tight enough for the trip, so they threw it in a trash bag. So, there I was, in a Dry suit, with a trash bag in one hand, and a rucksack in the other. I approached the French ship and showed them my credentials. They asked me to wait. Forty five minutes later several sailors approached. This turned out to be the Captain and his command officers, and the mine sweeper fleet departed. It was late on the first day when I received a technical manual and a rack. Both of which I dove into. I was a little tired. Small boats and rough water take a lot out of you.

This is a conventional rack. When a sailor says they are hitting the rack, this is what they mean. Looks all warm and cozy!
The next day, it begins: the problem on the french ship was a simple fix and required a little training on window/day/night frequencies. In a few minutes, their system was up and messaging the only other ship in the fleet with a working system. I had breakfast (they offered goat curd and... something, but I passed in favor of bananas and biscuits for my stomach), then, it was back on a different helicopter over to what **should have been the base location for hopping back and forth from ship to ship. The Estonian mine sweeper gave me my own room. I quickly put my trash bag enclosed sea bag in my berthing, brushed my teeth, and went to go troubleshoot the Estonian system.

[In post soviet USSR, **should is defined as: We're going to fuck you over, but you don't know it yet.]

 Moments later, the Estonian ship is communicating with no issue. They shuttle me to another ship, where the system was installed in the engine room, where the Windows antiquity-based system promptly over-heated and died. I pulled the equipment, moved the cable, and jumped from that ship to the supply ship (a converted car ferry from Iceland commanded by the Swedish). I obtained replacement parts, and hopped back to the broken ship, then off to another ship, and another. At this point, half the fleet is up and running. It's getting close to dinner time, and the multiple helicopters that have been bouncing me all over were going to call it for the night to do some real mine operations, (I had found out from a group from Germany they were all using me to complete some of their qualifications for the pick up and delivery of personnel), so they promptly dropped me off back at the Estonian ship. At my berthing, I went to get a shower and change. My sea bag was gone.

And here ends Episode 2. I know, I know, I am not dead yet. 

It's coming. As I said in Episode 1, it is a long story.

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