Saturday, February 16, 2013

Black Ship

Black Ship. That's what we call it when suddenly and unexpectedly, the white noise of a operational ship, goes silent.

Unless you have been living in a cave you were probably following, at least from a distance, the trials and tribulations of the "Carnival Triumph", the cruise ship that took over 3000 passengers on a trip to hell.
As I watched way too much coverage of this stricken ship on CNN, I couldn't help but think of the time I was on a ship without power, drifting for 3 days.

There are two big differences I noticed between the "Carnival Triumph" and the "America Sun", which was the ship I was on.
#1- I was getting paid to be on the ship, the "Triumph" passengers paid a lot of money to be there.
#2- We did not have raw sewage running down the walls and into the hallways.

I think it's safe to say, they had it a little tougher than I did.

The oil tanker I was on was 800 ft long and we were in the process of heading to Valdez Alaska from Baltimore MD when all of a sudden.....darkness. Then silence. We were about 300 miles off the coast of Uraguay heading south. Our generator malfunctioned causing the main engines to stop roaring, plunging the ship into darkness. This was in the mid 70's.

After a period of time, our emergency generator kicked on and the ship had minimal lighting and the galley had one hot plate that worked. The engine room which is normally very loud was as silent as a public library.  That was the strangest thing.
We had no air conditioning or water for showering. A distinct memory I have is the sound the ship made as it rocked in the swell. Like a squeak, normally not heard because of the constant hum in the back ground of the ships engines.

I was just a young kid, sailing in the position of oiler in the engine room. The problem was attended to by people on the ship with a much higher pay grade than me, so I just spent 3 days....waiting, as the Chief Engineer performed his magic in the generator room.
Suddenly, the lights came back on, the tug boats that were ordered 2 days before to tow us in were not needed and cancelled.

Before we continued on around the Southern tip of South America, our ship hobbled into Motavideo Uraguay for some extensive repairs that took 2 days to complete. I was about 20 years old and had the run of a beautiful South American city for a couple of days. That was not too hard to take.

When repairs were complete we continued on, through the Straights of Magelland  and North to Valdez, Alaska.

My Black Ship pictured below, happened almost 40 years ago and I remember almost every detail of those 3 days.

I'm sure the 4 days the passengers of the "Triumph" spent with no power will be 4 days they never forget.


beth said...

i have never been on a cruise and i can safely say that i will never be on one now. ever.

those poor people. i can't even imagine the hell they went through. i think what everyone is smelling now are lawsuits which is why i think maybe some people have been so quiet as to what they went through.

i think your "black ship" and then time on land to play while repairs were being made sound like almost 20 heaven like things are easy to find even in the darkest of places.

this post was SO well written mark. thanks for sharing some of your younger self with us :)

Denise at Autumn Sky said...

I have never been on a cruise and never intended to go on one. I'd much rather vacation with my feet on the ground somewhere. I'm sure we will be seeing TV movies and more interviews than we can stand, now that the ordeal is over. "How did you feel?" will be asked thousands of times by reporters. I've no doubt it was horrible, but fortunately they all came back alive. And many will be richer after the lawsuits.

SueAnn Lommler said...

You are so right...they won't forget is true...never! But at least, one day, they can possibly laugh about it! Maybe...poop on the walls and running down the hallway may be a bit much to smile about! Ha

Karen said...

Well, I have finally decided for sure, I will never ever take a cruise. Ever.

I love your "young self" stories.. you are such a gifted writer, and this post was one of your better pieces.

Joey said...

Count me out! Never HAVE taken a cruise, never WANTED to take a cruise and never WILL take a cruise. ESPECIALLY after this nightmare. I would have flipped out. I am POSITIVE. LOL! (not really LOL!)

I DO love hearing your stories. It is SO much a different life than I can ever imagine. Maybe that's why it's so fascinating. Sailing around the the bottom of South America to get to almost the top of the world? Crazy! Is that a sail around Cape Horn?

Wayne (Woody), whatever said...

I can't imagine nearing the 'normal' sounds of the ship engine, then nothing. Sounds pretty spooky to me.

Marilyn said...

What an experience for a 20 year old.

We went on the cruise ship a few years ago on Carnival. That same ship had a similar problem just a couple years after we were on it. Now Carnival has this second same problem. Makes you wonder about Carnival. Thinking of a cruise later this year, but it won't be Carnival.

Jerral Miles said...

Wonderful story... I'm sure it's a good memory for you of a time that bothered the hell out of a lot of people. Why am I not surprised that you made the best of it...