9th January 2002
The weather has been bad again all day, so yet again a day of ‘leisure’. It came as no surprise at all that we will not be servicing with the Christina tomorrow as planned because of yet another low pressure moving in from the north. I was seriously beginning to wonder if I will ever get my parcel when the captain said he will definitely meet with the ship at some point as we are to take home two of her crew. Not only that but the wine has ran out and there will be a riot if the crew don’t get more – seriously, the crew are each entitled to four beers or a litre of wine per day, and if they don’t get it it’s like not paying their wages. So it looks as if I will someday get my parcels even if it is the day before we sail back. The captain tells me he hopes to do the transfer on the 12th but I hold up as much hope of that as finding a lifeboat of survivors from the Titanic; they’d be a trifle thin, smelly and unshaven but stranger things have happened for instance we once made a transfer with the Santa Isabel.
At university I was known as the fresh air freak. This name comes from my un-natural (as some see it) affinity for air of a clean and fresh nature. My bedroom was often like a chiller cabinet and at every opportunity I’d open all the windows and doors to let the air blow through the flat, often to the dismay of my flatmates. I suppose the name also stems from my habit of disappearing somewhere remote on long walks to get fresh air.
Things haven’t changed now that I’m here, people still think I’m odd for standing on the bow for sometimes an hour just getting air, but here is my problem; it is impossible to get fresh air into my cabin during rough weather. When it’s rough the waves breaking over the bow send sheets of spray right over my cabin and to open the porthole would mean an instant flood. My cabin door opens out onto the entrance to the bridge so there are always people hanging around and staring in, which is okay by day but not when you want a nap. The other problem with this is that often the air outside my door is so foul with engine fumes and cigarette smoke blowing in through the bridge that it is worse than my stuffy room. There is a vent that I can open, but the air is dusty and absolutely stinks of rotting fish, so much so that I’m sure there is a dead fish in the duct, and to make matters worse sometimes it smells strongly of engine fumes too.
The problem is worse when I have to do washing. The only place to dry my clothes is strung up in my cabin. The air gets so humid the portholes pour with condensation and it takes three days for the clothes to dry, which can’t be a very healthy environment to live in. So what’s the answer? Open the porthole and get flooded, open the door to smoke, or open the vent and die peacefully from carbon monoxide poisoning?
In calm weather I can safely open my portholes, but it’s winter in the North Atlantic, and the air temperature is often fifteen degrees below freezing! There is no heating in my cabin, so do I suffocate or freeze? I nearly always choose the latter as it’s so cold even with the porthole shut that it makes little difference with it open. I sit here in the evenings wearing thermals, two jumpers, gloves if I’m not typing, a blanket and a hat with flaps that cover my chin and ears. I use empty mineral water bottles as hot water bottles by filling them up with hot tap water and stuffing them under my jumper, I take them to bed too. Another trick is to go outside ‘to get fresh air’ and on returning my cabin feels almost warm, the temperature may not be much higher but at least there is no wind chill in my cabin (unless the porthole is open).