Monday, June 24, 2013

In Dublin Fair City

Dear Readers,

So instead of having a nice, quiet Sunday at Sea before reaching Dublin, we had a little bit of excitement yesterday: a helicopter drill!  Members of the Irish Coast Guard were training one of their own in an exercise in concert with our officers’ approvals.  First, the helicopter circled the ship a half a dozen times or so, looking for the opportune location to drop their guy.  Then, after deciding the aftmost deck suited their operation, the helicopter hovered about 50 feet off the deck for several minutes until – pop! – out came an extended line followed by – pop, pop! – two legs dangling from the side of the hilo.  Attached to the line, the trainee was lowered to the deck of the TSES, released the line, and walked from port to starboard and back a few times.  The line lowered again for him to reconnect, and – zip! – up he went back into the helicopter.  The whole lowering/raising exercise lasted no more than 15 minutes, but in that time the decks became full of cadets with their cameras out to record the event.  I’ve never been that close to a helicopter before, but boy can those props put off some power!

 As if that wasn’t exciting enough, today we’re making port in Ireland.  Soon, I’ll be joining a few hundred of my fellow first-halfers in Dublin, followed by a plane ride back to New York.  I hope you’ll stay tuned for shipboard happenings with my successor, Oleg Kushelev, who will be the librarian on the second half of cruise.  I hope this blog has offered an insider eye at the life aboard a training ship: the good times, bad times, and all challenges in between.  Thank you for the opportunity to work with your cadets, fellow crew, and officers; it has truly been a pleasure!

Fair winds and following seas,


June 21/22: Cead mile failte!

Dear Readers:

Well, since the Porcupines, we’ve been dead set on heading to the Celtic Sea, and after a quick stop outside of Dublin, we’re heading north for a few more days at sea.  We’re preparing as best as we can for Ireland culturally, linguistically, and gastronomically.  We had a lovely dinner of shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, carrots and potatoes the other night (topped off with Boston cream pie… which is kind of related!).   Tonight’s movie is “Boondock Saints.”  The port guides are out and I’ve overheard cadets practicing its useful words and phrases section in Irish (Gaelic).  Here’s some translations to

play along at home:

Dia duit! – Hello!
Conas tá tú? – How are you?
Slán agat. – Good bye.
Slaínte! – Cheers!

I took a semester of Irish (Gaelic) in college, and some of these are coming back to me… such as cabaste – cabbage.  (As a class we were assigned Irish words to research, and I’ll never forget my classmate’s presentation of cabaste.) Not very sure how much of this will stick with cadets, or how useful  cabaste could be in conversation.  Good thing Dublin is still predominantly English-speaking.

Until next time,


Friday, June 21, 2013

Porcu(pining) for Dublin

Dear Readers,

Well, we’re cruising right along through the Atlantic, and Summer Sea Term for that matter.  I can hardly believe we’re just four days off from Dublin!  And here’s a fun fact: tomorrow we’ll be heading over the Porcupine Abyssal Plain.  I had no idea there was such a Plain named after a Porcupine, but there it is on our chart!  I’d love to find out how it got its name…

There’s just one round of finals left for Engineers and first class Deckies (cargo safety, marlinspike seamanship, knot tying, and ground tackle)  tomorrow, many of whom have been camped out in the library all day.  Most other cadets are now on the final stretch to port and taking advantage of some long-missed down time, including a very heated foosball tournament going on outside the library in the “rec room.” Whether it’s just for 15 minutes between classes or for hours after dinner, crowds of students gather around the three tables to outpace the others in an epic battle of spinning very small soccer players rapidly around on a post, keeping the foosball out of their respective goals.  So far, there appears to be a three-way tie for the lead between Cadets Adam Gray, Atley Sanders, and Mate Owen Palmiotti.

Others have taken a preference to a less fast-paced activity; like, you know, reading, playing Scrabble, or chess.  (I had to gently suggest today that “iorny" was not a Scrabble-approved word, and perhaps they were thinking of “irony” instead.)

Wishing everyone good luck over the next few days, and hoping for successful exams and final assignments!

Until next time,


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Memoirs of a Messman

Dear Readers:

Things around here are quiet… a little too quiet… which means only one thing: tomorrow starts final exams!  The sleep deprived eyes and nervous shuffling of papers are accompanying late nights in the library and a few extended hours here and there have made cadets all the more confident they’ll be alright.  At least, until tomorrow. 

Apart from rampant studying and chronic tiredness, a new strain of “the plague” is apparently circulating amongst the cadets (and some officers).  Between these three factors, it’s basically turning into an episode of “The Walking Dead” around here.

On a brighter note, I sat down last night with Engineering Cadet Sean Olsen, who was our intrepid “Messman” on Sunday.  (Messman is one of the extra duties assigned to cadets throughout cruise who normally assist in the galley [kitchen]; this Sunday they got to be out and about for the BBQ.)  A very good-humored Sean shared that on Sunday his day began at 0500 and didn’t end until 2030, with a few hours’ break in between.  During his time as Messman, Sean’s day started off on a bit of the wrong foot when he arrived late to his duty; in return, he had to wash the “huge!” pots and pans in preparation for the day – “They’re like equipment from Willy Wonka’s factory!” he described. 

The best part of the day to Sean was the opportunity to work with the kind folks of the galley crew.  “They’re fun to be around, and have lots of laughs,” Sean shared, brining a welcomed change to his usual shifts in the engine room.  On top of that, he got to be outside for most of the day assisting the crew as a go-for, and awaiting the unabashed call of “Where’s my Messman??”  He said our BBQ by the Azores was like having two worlds collide: the “American Dream” of a BBQ amidst the international setting of a volcanic island.  One day he hopes to sail across the Atlantic, and hopes he has as much fun as he’s been having as Messman on his own. 

Sean would like to say “Hi mom!”

Until next time (I hope!),


Monday, June 17, 2013

Greetings from the Azores!

For the last few days we’ve been heading for the Azores, where deckies have been painstakingly working to box the compass and allow the rest of us just a few days of a beautiful backdrop to our otherwise blue world.  The coast of the Azores which are speckled with white houses and lush foliage pale in comparison to the sheer height of its peaks and ridges.  Today we celebrated a bit with a BBQ at sea, and it was the perfect setting for a little R&R!

Teasingly though, anchoring off the coast is as far as we will be getting to play tourist to these beautiful Portuguese islands; nay, not even a swim call if you can believe it!  With only a week to go before Dublin, Q’s are picking up more than before and more and more engineering cadets have found their way to the Library to study for license.  Others are just starting to enjoy the guide books available for Ireland and Dublin in preparation for a few days in port soon.  I think a few are realizing that they have to pack soon, and perhaps that original plan of working out every day to Insanity didn’t quite see it through to the end.  Better luck next year.

Tonight Mates Turner, Parr, and Wyche gave an informational presentation in the cadet lounge on the shipping union, MM&P (Masters, Mates, and Pilots). Sharing their experiences with deck cadets who will be graduating soon, they spoke on their personal accounts of working in and with MM&P over the years and hopefully inspired those who attended to look forward to life after graduation.

I just would like to give my own personal shout out tonight to my dad, and wish him a very Happy Father’s Day!  I hope you had a few “bottleduckens” and polkas for me!  I’d also like to wish all the dads out there a very special day, and know that you were thought of today – especially at the BBQ!

Until next time,


Friday, June 14, 2013

Crossing the pond

Another exciting day here at sea on the good ship EMPIRE STATE VI!  A backlog of laundry from St. John’s has kept the laundry rooms busy non-stop, even into the wee hours of the morning.  For some, “laundry parties” occur when several cadets (or officers) spend the time between washer and dryer watching a movie together, studying, or finishing their celestial navigation homework as a group. 

The library was full of deckies finishing their celestial navigation homework; since the beginning of cruise, they’ll have to shoot (or take readings on) the stars on eight different nights before Dublin.  Of course, this means many have waited until now to complete that portion of the class.  Best of luck to our engineers as well who are studying for seminar!

Today’s lunch of some tasty Chinese food (egg rolls, lo mien, spare ribs, and shrimp fried rice) was sadly interrupted by – you guessed it – another boat drill.  Fire and Abandon Ship drills took an hour out of our afternoon, which I like to think of as a welcomed opportunity to get some sun and fresh air on this lovely Thursday at sea.

For family and friends who might be interested in sending a letter (no packages, please!) to meet the ship in Dublin, the address will be:



c/o Burke Shipping Group

Berth 32

Ocean Pier

Alexandra Road

Dublin 1


Otherwise, we’ll see you in New York!

Until next time,


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Enroute To Dublin

Well, we’re back underway now to Dublin!  We left a little late from St. John’s in order to avoid some of the weather of passing “Tropical Storm Andrea,” but still found ourselves in some rolling seas all of yesterday.  After a smattering of green-looking cadets rolled in, I made sure the library books were secured in the most obvious way – with bungee cords! 

St. John’s was a lovely port, and a very low key one at that.  We docked centrally with Water, Duckworth, and the infamous George Streets all within walking distance, which was of great advantage to us all.  The hills of St. John’s are steep, similar to those of San Francisco.  Some of the more adventurous cadets, crew, or officers made the trek up Signal Hill – the highest point on St. John’s.  Some of the even more adventurous took advantage of local tours to Cape Spear (the most eastern point on North America) and sea kayaking.  My informants tell me most of the sea kayakers ended up in the 47°F water – thanks, but no thanks!  This librarian was happy to visit Cape Spear; alas, there were no puffin, whale, or iceberg sightings.  I didn’t even see one Newfoundland retriever the whole time.  Greatly disappointed.

Cape Spear is also home to a lighthouse, visitor’s center, and WWII battery.  Where we were docked was within walking distance of various war memorials as well, so I’m sure the local culture, history, and language was not lost on anyone.  (For example, it’s pronounced Newfound-LAND, not
NEW-foundland we quickly learned!)

Almost everything was more laid back in St. John’s, and it will be interesting to see how Dublin compares.  Unfortunately, I think we may have indulged in our last helping of poutine – a dish of French fries covered with cheese curds and gravy, a local staple served for breakfast, dinner, and supper (yes, those were the meals) – for quite some time.  The Fish and Chips at the Duke of Duckworth restaurant were to die for, I was told, but I’m sure Ireland will put up a good fight.

Now that we’re getting back into the routine of things, a time change will advance us another 1.5 hours ahead owing to the extra half hour of the Newfoundland time zone.  Q’s are back underway, and the library has been hopping with studiers, readers, and very apologetic cadets who forgot to return their books by the due dates.

This evening’s shoutout comes from Cadet Vincent Damiani who would like to say “Hi, Mom and Dad!  I haven’t fallen overboard yet!” 

Until next time,


Monday, June 10, 2013

New Orleans Photos

Horse Trolleys in Jackson Square

St. Louis Cathedral

Ship's Librarian: Elizabeth Berilla

Jackson Square

Café Du Monde

Gilded Statue of the Maid of Orleans: Joan of Arc

Huey P. Long Bridge

Bourbon Street