The start of my journey
On the 17th June 2020, I joined the Scenic Eclipse in Croatia, and it was the second ship I had joined and was very different from the 60m Tall Ship I had previously sailed on.
Scenic Eclipse is a 168m passenger ship and is advertised as a 6* luxury cruise yacht and specialises in trips to Antarctica, it can carry 228 passengers and at full capacity has 172 crew. At the time of me joining however, it only had 21 crew members on board. As the ship was built in 2019, I was very excited to join this brand-new vessel.
The challenge and the quarantine
Due to COVID 19 breaking out globally, I knew this ship was not going to be sailing while I was on board and instead would be in lay-up in the port of Rijeka. Therefore, upon arrival, the doctor took me to one of the passenger cabins where I was to spend a few days in quarantine before joining the rest of the crew.
The cabin was beautiful, much nicer than most hotel rooms I have stayed in and I had a balcony to enjoy the sun on after coming from a cloudier UK. During my time in quarantine, some of the crew members shouted down from the deck above me and introduced themselves which instantly made me feel a lot more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment.
The breakthrough and settling in
After a few days in quarantine, I managed to convince the doctor to let me out of my cabin, and after a few final temperature checks, I was given a brief tour of all the important places (my cabin, and the crew mess) before being allowed to unpack my belongings into what would be my home for the next few months.
Firstly, I was constantly surprised by the luxury on the Scenic Eclipse, even the crew cabins were more modern than I have experienced, with a larger bed, desk, and my own bathroom.
Because we were in lay-up, I would not be taking part in any watches, and my workday would be 8am-6pm every day with Sunday afternoons off.
The next day I was introduced to the bridge team and was given a tour of the vessel. As the Scenic Eclipse was in lay-up, most of the passenger areas were in darkness but it was easy to imagine how amazing it would look full of people and brightly lit. I was also shown the areas that passengers would not have access to, including the engine rooms and the garages for the zodiacs as well as the helideck and the helicopter in the hanger.
My first duties
Once I had settled in a little more, I was given my first task of counting the life jackets and personal survival kits in each cabin. As the Scenic Eclipse voyages to Antarctica, each passenger and members of the crew had access to their own survival kit including a thermal layer, hat, gloves, sunglasses, and a few other things that may be needed in an emergency.
Therefore, it was my job to make sure that the correct number of life jackets and personal survival kits were in the correct cabins. This was beneficial to me as my first job as it meant that I really got to know my way around the ship, and the first officer made it very clear that she didn’t expect me to rush the job, but rather use it to learn the ship’s layout.
So, armed with my master-key, checklist, and printed ships layout I set off in search of the cabins from deck 9, to deck 2. I was hugely grateful to all of the crew who saw a lost, wide-eyed, new cadet wandering around in the hope of finding the right cabin as they were all more than happy to point me in the right direction, and I learnt my way around the ship a lot quicker than I thought.
Putting theory into practice
My next task was checking the equipment in the rescue boats and lifeboats to clean them. I found this interesting as this is something I had learnt in college and was familiar with, however it was the first time seeing it in practice which helped my learning process considerably.
The crew were great at leaving me to my own devices as they knew I was comfortable with the job and they were also quick in explaining anything I did not understand when I needed.
A few days into my time onboard, I was told that some of the helicopter pilots would be arriving to take the helicopter for its service and would be flying from Scenic Eclipse to Italy.
I was able to be a part of the operation as I had never seen any kind of helicopter operation onboard a ship. I had previously worked for an aviation charity before becoming a cadet and therefore I really enjoyed talking to the pilot about how the operation differed from flying off an airstrip to flying off the back of a ship. It was great to see what crew was needed and what checks and fire precautions were in place before the helicopter could fly.
Exploring the whereabouts and its culture
After work, we were able to go into the town of Rijeka to experience the local culture. As some of our crew were Croatian, I learnt a lot about the town and its history as well as the architecture. I found it very interesting learning out about the industrial tow, and why there was a train that would come through the middle of the town every evening on its way to the newer industrial port.
Becoming more efficient and enhancing my skills
As time went on, I was given more responsibility to do daily tasks, such as the freshwater consumption, where I took note of the water in the tanks and calculated how much we had used in a day. I also helped the Staff Captain when he was testing the Azipods, which the ship uses as its propulsion system. I would also send off the daily weather report at lunchtime each day.
Every Monday a van would arrive to take away the rubbish that we had separated which needed to be weighed, so I would make sure this was done and recorded in the rubbish logbook.
Other tasks I was given included checking all the onboard eyewash stations, and fire blankets. Also checked the fire lockers and making an inventory of what was on board, as well as the fire extinguishers.
We had some shore-side contractors come round to service the fire extinguishers, and when I was assisting them with the servicing, it became apparent that they were all numbered, however, the number system did not make much sense, it was difficult to find some and the plan was very confusing. Therefore, after discussing with the bridge team, I re-numbered them all according to the deck that they were on, as well as the fire zone that they were in.
All the fire equipment needed to be checked before we carried out a fire drill onboard. A drill this big onboard a ship was not something I had experienced before, and it was a new and exciting experience for me.
The purpose of this drill was primarily for the local fire brigade, port authorities and police to ensure that they were prepared for an emergency in port as they had more ships than usual due to COVID 19. They communicated that they wanted to run a few major drills to see response times for all of the services, therefore the drill consisted of a helicopter crashing onto our heli-deck on deck 8, causing a fire to spread to deck 7 and 10, a casualty on deck seven and a missing person on deck 3. We all had a meeting beforehand so we were aware, and all the crew would be involved, including acting as the casualty and missing person.
When the announcement was made, it was my job to go to the gangway to ensure that all the crew were off the ship, and the fire brigade had a plan of the ship and where the fire was. I was continuously updated with how things were progressing on the radio by our own fire teams. I could see the rescue from deck 7 from the gangway which was exciting.
What future holds
Throughout the rest of my time onboard, I will be continuing with my daily tasks, as well as carrying out planned maintenance on Life Saving Appliances and Fire Fighting Equipment before finishing my contract on Scenic Eclipse to go back to college.
The experience onboard has been excellent so far and it is really beneficial to see everything that I have learnt in college be put into practice on a vessel like this.