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Friday, December 5, 2008

Back from Boston

Excuse my language, but holy crap! I just got back from a trip to Boston to spend the night on a 277 meter (yes, that is approximately 909 feet!) cargo tanker. How many people can say that? It was absolutely amazing. This ship is massively gigantic. The tour of the engine room was the best part. There were four different engines running different things on the boat, such as the electricity, the rudder and the propeller. The engine that turns the propeller (which pushes the ship) is 38,000 horse power. A standard sedan is 120. Can you imagine? When I walked into the engine room, we were on the top floor looking down. Just image being inside on the eighth story of a building looking down straight through to the bottom floor. This was definitely not a place for anyone who is afraid of heights. The walls and floor were vibrating from the rumble of the engines and there were only two small engines running at the time. I say small, but the engine was larger than the size of my bathroom.

It was pretty amazing because the ship converts the sea water into steam to keep the pressure off the cargo (to keep it at a chilly -163 degrees Celsius), and that steam is used to power the engines. Talk about being self- efficient! Oh my gosh, and the anchor chain! I think one link was the size of two of my heads put together. The security on and around the ship is extreme as well. We passed three police checkpoints by car before you even make it to the docks. At the last vehicle check point you have to show your passport (and visa if you have one); they even have a mirror so they can look under your car to make sure you are not hiding anything. If you are cleared, you then go into the office, show your ID again, get wanded with a metal detector (like on the movies when you have to stand wide legged with your arms up, front and back), have all of your bags searched, sign a form, put on your badge and bright yellow hardhat, then you can finally be escorted to the ship deck. But I forgot to mention that on the way to the ship's deck you have to stop two more times to sign forms and pick up more badges. It sounds like a lot of work, but everyone was very nice and it was worth it to be on the ship. The ship has multiple coast guard boats guarding it at all times as long as it is in the United States water too. You can see the blue light coming from the coast guard boat in the photo.

They have rooms for everything from a gym, two lounges ,a kitchen with four standard restaurant sized walk-in freezers/coolers, a welding shop, a carpentry station, a spare parts room, a laundry room (with the best ironing press ever), a hospital equip with everything they would need in an emergency, a goodie room (stashed with chips and chocolate galore! Yes, that one had a padlock), tons of regular storage rooms, plus the standard living spaces, offices, and work rooms for controlling operations on t he boat. They only dock for a 24 hour period, so it was a short trip indeed. The boat was parked next to a scrap metal yard and I have never seen a pile of shredded metal like that in my life! The pile was as large as the ship itself. Unfortunately the scrap yard wreaked of gasoline. So much so that you could taste it on your tongue even if you had your mouth closed and were breathing through your nose. Disgusting, but what are you going to do? The unloading of the cargo is pretty amazing too, especially since they keep the cargo so cold. When they unload, everything is coated with snow because the moisture collects on the outside and freezes. It was three degrees Celsius outside when I was there at night, and there was steam coming off the cargo even at that temperature. They also have to continually pour water over the sides of the boat to keep it from cracking in half! The cargo is so cold that the metal on the boat would snap like a twig. You are probably wondering what I was thinking going on this boat. It is all a jaw dropping miracle of modern technology.
Sorry I didn't get to take more photos. These photos were taken from the windows of the boat with my phone because you cannot have a cell phone on outside of the boat and electrical equipment can be dangerous. I was playing it safe on this one.
(Anyone notice the "Dead Man Alarm" on that last photo?)

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