Over the last few days I am glad to announce that I have renewed the close professional relationship I seem to have always had with bilges large and small.
As an apprentice at sea I had to work hard physically and for most of this learning period I remember, I hardly ever saw the sea even though I was on long ocean voyages to the other side of the World. The reason for this was that for most of my time, except for brief periods of deep sleep (when I never saw the sea either!) I was swinging about like a berserk pendulum at the bottom of the ship with a baler, paint brush or scraper in my hand endeavouring to make some bilge or double bottom tank spanking new.
The fact that I was crouched and/or twisted in a very enclosed space at the bottom of the ship with just a narrow thickness of shell plating between me and thousands of fathoms of ocean below and though I was very conscious of the swishing noise through the steel plate just a few inches away, I wasn’t deterred for one moment.
I was always as happy as a pig in the muck that I was in!
I loved it because nobody bothered me there. My workplace was too inaccessible for the bosun or the mate to keep looking over my shoulder to check what I was doing. They left me very much to it and therefore I could dwell happily in my adolescent daydreams, whilst swinging and dipping the paintbrush, of meeting pretty girls in all the foreign ports of the world, who would be totally overcome with delight when faced with my irresistible charm. The toxic smell of the paint in the tank would help here, since it soon made me light headed and feel quite drunk on occasions.
So you can imagine how my old life all came flooding back to me as I wielded my black greasy swab in ‘Futurest’s oily Engine Room Bilge last week and also again today as I contorted my frame under the cupboards of the Boatman’s Cabin through the bilge, whilst transferring solid ballast from the starboard side to the other, to take out the slight starboard list. The Russell Newbury Engine must be lighter than the old ‘JP2’ as I have found it necessary for comfort to correct the resultant very slight tilt of the ship to the right.
But what a beautiful day It has been today and difficult to remember that this time last year we had just been immersed in our first big freeze up.