Friday, June 29, 2012

Time is on My Side

Dear Readers:

Having set our clocks forward by three hours now, some might think we aboard the TSES would be feeling the effects similar to those caused by Daylight Savings Time.  Losing sleep is not to be taken lightly especially so quickly, but we are all mustering through with our routines as if we’d just left Norfolk.  Included in this routine is dedication to physical fitness.  Much like the first half of cruise w cadets will come into the common areas such as the cadet lounge and area just outside of the library to exercise.  Between “Insanity” (high-intensity cardio/kickboxing style class), “Zumba,” and the traditional jump rope, physical fitness is almost a 24-hour activity here aboard the EMPIRE STATE.  Yours truly even went to an officers-only Insanity session attended by Chief Mate and three other officers.   It is not an easy program, let me tell you, but it’s darn good for when there are so many free desserts available!

There are many upcoming quizzes and tests on cnav, ship’s safety, and firefighting coming before Gibraltar.  Last night like clockwork at 1930 the library was flooded by about 30 cadets all at once.  Every chair in here was taken! As soon as someone would leave, there would be a line out the door for someone else to take their place.  Excluding the movie, the library saw over 90 cadets last night! 

--Liz the Librarian-- 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rolling Seas

[Editor's Note:  For those readers wishing to see photographs and other media, these will be posted at port. Unfortunately, the email system does not allow for photo attachments due to file size.]

Dear Readers:

Even though we've had some nice, rolling seas over the past few days, students have been doing their best to fight off motion sickness come hill or high water (pun intended).  Between anti-seasickness patches, pills, bands, and good old fashion denial, students are slowly getting their sea legs just in time for more classes, and cleaning stations.  

When cadets aren't on watch, in class, or studying, they can be found from the early hours of the morning scraping, cleaning, painting, mopping, and waxing the ship until it nearly sparkles.  These duties are particularly important at sea to prevent rust – a major cause of deterioration of metal on ship.  The cadets have my personal gratitude for helping to keep our home for the next 42 days spotless!

As for the library, the rolls must have hit a bit harder last night, since I arrived in the library to (luckily!) just one shelf of books displaced during the night.  I've added another bungee as a precaution, but besides that (*knock on wood*)   we’re running a tight ship in the library.  I think one set of exams is over and now they can relax a little bit.   Some professors are still finishing their lesson plans and come into the library for support materials in ship’s business and security. There are about 80 Texas cadets here, and their officers have been coming by looking for academic materials.  Talk about inter-academy collaboration!

Word is we’re making good time towards the Azores, even with the rolling. Everyone else is more or less over their seasickness and getting their sea legs acclimated.  I’m doing well – I've been medicating since the beginning and again, knock on wood, I have had zero days seasick.

During the off-time, we’re all enjoying the delicious treats the Mess Deck has to offer.  At night, just around the time we show a movie for cadets, the Mess Deck opens a “snack bar” full of popcorn, nachos, and desserts, which can serve as a reward for some after a hard day’s work. Tonight there were chocolate chip cookies – an all-around favorite!

One last shout out this evening from engineering 3/C Cadet Thomas Maloney, who’s been reading the “First Responder” newspaper in the library, and says hi to all of his family ashore.  To Mr. and Mrs. Frisina, your cadet is doing a great job at his stations!

Fair Winds and Following Seas,
Liz Berilla

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Atlantic... Part Deux

[Editor's Note: Thank you for sending feedback to previous posts.  Your comments are being forwarded to Liz and are always very appreciated by the librarian.]

From Liz....

Great sailing today aboard the TSES – the students are continuing to explore their new surroundings and get into a routine with classes, drills, etc.  The food is GREAT, especially the desserts, which do wonders to keep everyone happy, including yours truly. :)  The library was VERY busy tonight, with cadets/crew doing research, studying, using the computers, watching the movie, and generally just "seeing what the library's about."

Although many cadets continue to take a moment or two daily to explore a new area of the ship with which they were not previously acquainted (including the library!), most are already acclimating to their work/watch/study schedules.  Engineer students are diligently studying for round two of seminar, and deck students are working on their celestial navigation work as well.  There are only a few kinks left in the email system to work out, but students who visit the library to use the computers are most frequently adding the salutation “Dear Mom and Dad…” to their notes

This time for nostalgia is short-lived, as we were briskly called on deck for our first round of safety drills, this time for fire.  Being the first of such drills (the others being man overboard, abandon ship, and security) to ensure the preparedness of the ship’s crew in case of emergency, cadets and crew mustered at their assigned stations for roll call.  Cadets were then inspected to make sure they were properly equipped for such an emergency.  Long sleeves? Check.  Ball cap? Check. Knife, flashlight, and life jacket?  Check, check, check!  We were lucky today that the weather was favorable to our outdoor drills – a few clouds dotted a bright blue sky as the ship rolled gently along across the Atlantic.

As for the library, I have been getting news (including sport scores) from my shore colleagues and these are being VERY well received!  Lots of Yankees versus Mets rivalries are breaking out in the library in a friendly sort of way, of course.  Some professors (especially those from Texas Maritime) are still working out lesson plans and come down to the library for ancillary materials; others have been perusing the DVD collection.  I’m surprised by the number of students who are diligently studying – focused for HOURS – on their homework or studying for seminar tomorrow.  I would have thought they’d do that a little later in the cruise, but they are finding the materials they need for the most part here which is reassuring!

And one of my first reference questions came up... this one was what the name of the “made up” language is, we think by a German linguist, which combined elements of many languages to make one “universal” language.   I've tried looking through our guides to English language, but nothing seems to ring a bell.   [Editor's Note:  I believe this was Esperanto.  Luckily for us we have a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica aboard for these types of obscrue reference questions!] 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Sea Term Part B Begins

Our first blog post from our librarian for the second leg of the journey, Elizabeth Berilla.  This is Liz's first cruise and she is very excited to be aboard as you shall see.  Comments and questions are more than welcome!


We're off to a lovely start and (nearly) on-time departure from Norfolk at 1800. From my first-time visitor’s perspective, Norfolk was a sailor-friendly city, complete with shops, restaurants, and a naval museum.  Many cadets enjoyed their liberty by exploring the "Bayou Boogaloo," a veritable feast for the eyes and palates of Cajun-enthusiasts.  Complete with authentic delicacies (such as beignets and crawfish), artisans, and blues musicians, spectators could "laissez les bons temps rouler" for a few days before getting underway.

Since Kimmy handed over the reigns earlier this week, I have been busy preparing the ship's library for the second half of our journey by adding new books, magazines, DVD schedules, and materials to the library for the perusal of cadets and crew alike.  As some students looked enthusiastically towards the open ocean and horizons ahead of the EMPIRE STATE, some watched almost longingly as a diehard handful of friends and families stood ashore waving farewell; even more cadets made their last minute phone calls to their loved ones before the modern convenience that is the cell phone falls out of signal range.  Never fear, dear readers!  The most popular question your cadets have asked your ship's librarian this evening was how to set up their email accounts.  I'm sure you will be receiving an email or two shortly!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Change Out at Norfolk

From the Ship’s Librarian
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

We are pulling into Norfolk, VA. We had the rare opportunity to enjoy a parade of US naval forces (in reverse, if you will) as we slowly sail pass the naval base. As the tugs pushes us towards the cheering crowd. It’s hard work! In a few hours, I will be turning over duties to Liz Berilla, who will continue to post here on this blog. Signing off!

Back to the US, Next Stop Norfolk

I woke up this morning and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge was outside my window. No, I was not dreaming! We came to New York to clear customs because officials routinely clear large cruise ships so they could get this done much more quickly here than in Norfolk. At lunch time we were ready for Virginia. While officers prepare for tomorrow’s arrival, first class cadets are taking over supervision of the under class for the second term. Division leaders huddled in the library for an intensive meeting. They assessed the personnel and logistics, and then set up watch and work schedules for the 400 second and third class cadets. In the meantime, the work routine continues today and tomorrow. On a ship, every day is another day. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Glimpse into the Engine Room

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Today an engineering professor took me on a guided tour of the engine rooms. Imagine what it takes to support a building 10 stories high! Mind you, this is without any external supply of electricity, water, or fuel. So besides controlling the propellers and the rudder, the ship’s machinery condition fuel and distill water for the steam engine, generate electricity, produce potable water, treat waste water, and provide refrigeration for food storage and air conditioning. The magnitude of these machines is unreal. Some machines, even some of the pipes, are larger than me, and some systems span several stories. Engineering cadets are constantly monitoring these systems to make sure they are functioning in a state that can continue to function for the long term. (There is no road side assistance in the ocean in case of a breakdown!) They also take commands from the bridge and make adjustments to the engine to match the speed and direction of travel. Is it hot in the engine room? You bet! I was lucky. It was a cool, chilly day of 90 degrees.

Ups and Downs

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Seamanship training continues today. The lifeboats and rafts were probably launched (down) and lifted (up) over 50 times each, because over the three days of training every 1st class cadet will get a chance to operate every piece of equipment. 1st class cadets also conduct the man-over-board exercise, where an orange buoy is thrown overboard, and they maneuver the vessel back to that location and launch the rescue boat to retrieve it. Meanwhile, 2nd and 3rd class cadets practice firefighting, search and rescue, damage control (plugging leaky holes with rags), using blocks and tackles (pulley systems), and mooring and heaving. These will be three intense days — everyone trains from morning into the evening.

Firefighting Training

Friday, June 15, 2012

As I went down to open the library this morning, the rec room outside was very warm and I found myself surrounded by cadets. They were putting on huge boots and suits, checking the gauges and valves on their oxygen tanks, and adjusting the full-face mask. Gear is strewn all about and a hose ran from one end of the rec room to the other, out the door into the cadet lounge. The door opened. Captain Stephens came in from the cadet lounge. He rigged the cadet lounge into an obstacle course and made it completely dark. In teams of two, cadets in full gear would hose down the fire, and the next team would search for human dummies. This went on all day and will continue through tomorrow and the day after until every 2nd and 3rd class cadet gets a go at it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Excitement on the Bridge!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

During lunch time, the cadets on watch spotted buoys the size of a spray bottle several miles ahead. We think they are related fishing activities. Soon after we steered clear, Block Island emerged on the horizon. You may be receiving a phone call from a cadet any moment now!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Game On!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A week ago I posted an announcement headlined “Train your mind, hone your skills, challenge the librarian!” on the Plan of the Day about the board games available in the library. Players gradually came out of the wood work. The Scrabble challenges produced three awesome games so far. On chess and checkers, cadets mostly challenge each other. One afternoon a cadet created his own board with paper and markers so he could get simultaneous matches going.  Spectators cheered on but provided absolutely no help. Without any of my prompting, these games tend to take place during meal time or between classes. Other times, cadets go right back to work and study, especially since exams are now an imminent reality!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Talk like a sailor! Part 2

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Again, read quickly, and everything will fall into place!

liberty = permission to leave the ship
lifeboats = the four orange covered boats
life rafts = the two white open-top boats
rescue boat =  the little orange open-top boat
cover = hat
khakis = the whole suite of clothing for the khaki uniform
portage = wages less expenses on ship
rating = crew; category of crew
swells = rhythmic undulations of the sea surface caused by wind
pitching =  rising and falling motion of the ship’s bow
rolling = ship swaying side to side
to steam = to drive
to drive = to steer
to steer = to keep the ship on course, which is not necessary in the same the direction as the wheel’s

Talk like a sailor! Part 1

Monday, June 11, 2012

Parents, be prepared to hear some saltier language from your children once they get back to the U.S. Others readers out there, you can never be over-prepared for the “National Talk like a Sailor Day.” Today and tomorrow, I will show you new words I learned in the past month and explain them in plain English. They all suddenly make sense if you read it quickly.

mariner = sailor
reveille = wake alarm
rack = bed
berth = bedroom
head = bathroom
bulkhead = wall
deck = floor
floor = flooring
rail = railing
ladder = stairs
ladder well = stairwell
hold = a cargo compartment, numbered 1-hold, 2-hold, etc.
hatch = opening in a deck to a hold below
manhole = opening to a tank below
porthole = round window on the ship’s side
door = door that is not a hatch, or a manhole, or a porthole cover, or an access panel
line = rope or hawser
gear adrift = a mess
mess = canteen
messman = canteeneer
galley = kitchen
sick bay = doctor’s office
corpsman = medic
station = place to be
bill = list of names
cleaning station = place where you (had better) be cleaning
(To be continued...) 

Today the library witnessed the first time we had a game of checkers and chess going on simultaneously. One of the cadets used a marker to draw an extra chess board. Awesome.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Photos from Cruise

Kimmy was able to forward a disc of pictures taken from cruise when he arrived in Iceland!  Here are a few sample images of how Summer Sea Term has fared so far... Enjoy!

On the bridge of the EMPIRE STATE VI.

A view of the ship's library from the Reference Desk.

Students muster for drills on deck.

Students exercising outside of the library.

Students doing shipwork (painting).

Students speak with an officer on deck.

In anticipation of the Blue Nose Ceremony and crossing into the Arctic Circle, the ship's complement have appeared to witness the event!

Neptune's Court, assemble!

The Azores coming into view, and the bow of the EMPIRE STATE VI.

Our intrepid librarian, Kimmy Szeto, and the Azores in the background.

The Azores, coming closer.

Activity on deck increases as the Azores come nearer!

View from deck while in port at the Azores.

Students enjoy snacks and coffee at a local cafe.

The EMPIRE STATE VI at night in port.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Catch Up!

To all our followers:  We apologize for the delay in these posts.  Due to the campus email outage we did not receive Kimmy's posts until 6/11.  So here they are in digest form.


From the Ship’s Librarian
Saturday, June 02, 2012

At 63°50’N, the sun only sets for some. The sunset last night (May 31, but technically slightly after 1 am on June 1) was a great learning opportunity. Cadets engaged in celestial navigation are generally quite finely tuned to the timing of astronomical events such as the sunset, but on this day only the diligent managed to see the sun set and green flash on the main deck and the boat deck. Why? Because had they taken the altitude of the deck into account, the cadets on the bridge deck, eagerly waiting for the sunset, would have discovered that there would be no sunset from their vantage point—the sun rose right back up! Yes, the extra 20 feet of altitude on the ship made all the difference!

From the Ship’s Librarian
Sunday, June 3, 2012

Halló, Ísland! Halló, Reykjavík! We are docked in an area called Sündahofn (New Harbor), two miles east of the Old City. Port side you see an industrial and marine transportation complex, where we see cargo operations up close; starboard side you see a yellow lighthouse, a blue Scandinavian-style house on a small island, and, just another quarter mile beyond, Esja, a peninsula of mountains with the last few narrow strands of ice hanging off the peaks; straight ahead beyond the bow is the Reykjavík skyline: dramatically framing the handful of tall buildings are the futuristic steeple of Hallgrimskirkja atop of a hill to the south and the modernist honeycomb glass casing of the Harpa Music Hall by the harbor to the north. For three days, cadets will be enjoying their liberty all around town, and sometimes far from town. A yellow school bus is waiting at the Harbor’s Visitor Center to shuttle us hourly between the ship and Old City.

Append to the May 23 entry: The mystery engineering professor is Prof. Strez.

From the Ship’s Librarian
Monday, June 4, 2012

A steady traffic of cadets brave the two-mile journey to the city. They are walking, biking, skateboarding, and rollerblading, and they are in for a treat. Just off the docks by the waterfront is an artists’ park that reminds me of Socrates Park in Astoria, Queens. Sculptures of all kinds—metal, wood, and stone—dot the grassy field. In the center is a colorfully decorated hut which is the artists’ workshop. Art does not stop with the finished products: cadets climb these sculptures and pose for photos in creative ways. Further down the seawall path is Hofði (The Promontory House), where the October 1986 summit between Reagan and Gorbachev was held. The Icelandic people like to pride themselves in ushering in the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the breakthrough between the two leaders was actually on reducing nuclear arsenal, which led to the treaty on cutting intermediate-range nuclear weapons signed the following year. Continuing on towards the city center stands the Solfarið (the Sun Boat), an abstract metal sculpture, a morph of fish bones and a Viking ship. These are but a sample of interesting sites all across the city; cadets marvel at the confluence of modern conveniences so familiar and a culture so foreign. Cadets also caught the last day of Iceland’s annual Fishermen’s Festival where games, skills demonstrations, and, most important, free samples of seafood and birds were offered.

From the Ship’s Librarian
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The bus stop by the harbor’s Visitor Center becomes the place to catch up on everyone’s adventures. Some cadets come back in awe from experiencing Iceland’s natural geological wonders on the Golden Circle tour; some come back happily exhausted from white water rafting; some come back completely relaxed after a thorough soak in the mineral water of the Blue Lagoon (so relaxed that they overlooked their hair, which was all sticking up crazy). The more adventurous organize their own tours:
surfing, skiing and snowboarding, horseback riding, and trips to the beach. In the Visitor Center, cadets call and write home using rental phones and computers. Cadets certainly know how to keep themselves active and busy!

 From the Ship’s Librarian
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bless bless (bye-bye), Reykjavík! We untied at 0800 bound for the infinite horizon once again. But before we leave the snow-capped mountains behind, the Icelandic people gave us a special send off. At 1015, we heard a helicopter catching up with us. We slowed down the ship and a line was dropped from the hovering aircraft. Three cadets tied it to the rail, and, zip lining down was an Icelandic coast guard, dressed in a bright red suit, followed by a stretcher-sized bucket. We performed this emergency medical evacuation drill twice in under 10 minutes’ time, which, as I learned from the Chief Mate later, was extremely efficient. The coast guard exchanged a few parting words and shook hands with the cadets before zip lining up back to the rumbling helicopter. As we waved our final goodbyes to the wonderful Icelandic people, the aircraft rounded an extra circle over the ship before taking off, disappearing among the distant specks of seagulls in the open sky.


From the Ship’s Librarian
Thursday, June 7, 2012

Today is all about emergency response. During the extended boat drill, corpsmen brought out their gear to each station and showed us the basics of handling a few types of injuries—fractures, sprains, and dislocations; open and closed wounds. We check for vital signs, consciousness, circulation, and body control, then stabilize, elevate, press, splint! Volunteers play victim, which always add levity to these proceedings, especially when learning to move the victim on to a stretcher and parading around, I mean, transporting the victim. Cadets are very smart, though. In the brief moments when the sun peeked through the clouds, they showed off their skills by taking their sextants out of the box and taking readings with one swift, continuous motion. They don’t waste any time!
From the Ship’s Librarian
Friday, June 8, 2012

Seriousness All Around

Last night the library saw a record gate count of 55. Cadets are preparing for the sprint to the finish line. They are having their last few days of classes and are studying for the final exam; they are completing their celestial fixes and tracings due by arrival at Norfolk; some are still studying for the Morse code exam. It’s time to be serious! We are turning the clock back one hour every two days now and that helps. Speaking of being serious, cadets have been checking out some literary heavy-weights lately—fiction: The Sound and the Fury and The Sun Also Rises; non-fiction:  The Dialogues of Plato and Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. There be seriousness all around.
From the Ship’s Librarian
Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Mellow Sunday. Sunday At Sea was a mellow affair. Unpredictable weather conditions ran the gamut: sun, clouds, fog, rain, and winds. Although the grills stayed indoors, the menu stayed the same and did not disappoint.

Over 30 cadets attended a special lecture today on labor unions given by a mate who also happens to work in the labor sector. We learned about workers’ rights, hiring practices, and benefits. Cadets asked are concerned about employment opportunities and the speaker gave valuable tips on how to make the most of the hiring process, as well as general advice on saving and planning for the future.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Icelandic water is the calmest water I have ever seen. The smooth sea surface strikes a sharp contrast with the rugged terrain on the horizon. If you steam ahead, you would see seagulls sitting in the water bobbing across the crests of a replica of a ship’s wake from a physics textbook; if you shut the engine, your ship would gently come to a stop and stay there to admire the serenity. What is there to do? Boat ride! With instructors’ supervision, three groups of cadets lowered the rescue boat and the two rafts and took them for a ride around the ship. While all the training was going on, my untrained eyes saw them having a great time chasing seagulls, which loved to play along. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Of snow and blue noses

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Even though this would be a first crossing into the Arctic Circle for many aboard (and therefore deserving of a traditional "crossing the line" ceremony), the snow this morning did not keep Neptunus Rex from descending upon our humble vessel. At the sound of the conch, His Royal Consort emerged from the mist. The Chief Deputy and his Royal Guards led the procession, followed by Eirik the Red Beard, Father Time (Sea Santa), Old Man of the Sea, the Sea Hag, the Siren, the Wrecked Kraken, Davey Jones, the Royal Baby, and, finally, Neptunus Rex, king of the Arctic Seas. He deemed us new arrivals to the Arctic all unseaworthy in his realm unless we pass his secret test and ritual. Within an hour, 406 pollywogs were inaugurated into the family of salty Arctic seamen with a blue nose. 

And there was much rejoicing!