Hospital ER waiting room
The ships finished interior was dappled heavily with panels allowing access to electrical chases, switches, valves, plumbing, and storage beneath the floors, behind the walls, and above the ceilings.
The air conditioning was one of these systems that was accessible and adjustable behind ceiling panels in the cabins. With the incentive of the hot and humid tropical days and nights I had gotten quite familiar with these controls and therefore my cabin was generally a bit cooler than the rest.
Another system that was located in these ceiling chases was the alarm and detection system. Communications and power cables ran in chases that could be accessed above the ceiling. One fine day I was performing maintenance on the smoke detectors. This required removing individual 3’x4’ ceiling panels and also the pulling of a new wire in one instance, obliging me to remove the panels one after the other as I fed and secured the wire in the overhead chase. I was using a short step ladder to access and remove the ceiling panels, which were composed of nicely textured and finished sheet metal. I had been working my way down the hall and had reached a point in the hallway outside the galley, I had just pulled a panel loose when I fumbled, and it slipped from my grasp. We had been groomed to treat the ship with the utmost care. This instance was no different and as the panel tumbled towards the finely finished wood floor, my thoughts were focused on what a gouge this panel could effect. Without hesitation, and using all the skill of a college student well experienced in keeping a hacky-sack aloft, I stuck my foot out to catch the panel. The panel fell edgewise into my shin, it’s sharp steel edge cutting deeply into my flesh, impacting the shin bone beneath, creating a three inch gash. Thankfully the muscle and tendon were spared. I knew immediately this injury was going to require a bit of suturing.
We were in port in Jacksonville, in the dry dock which was in an industrial part of town, the shipyards typically not being the most upscale of areas. A crew-mate was nearby and assisted me with bandaging my wound as we made arrangements for my transport to a nearby inner city hospital. I was embarrassed. “Please call Carrie, but just tell her I’m fine” I requested.
As she tells it: “when I received the page and called back the first words I heard was ‘Mike’s OK!’”. In recounting this tale she makes the point to indicate this was not the best greeting she could have received as she immediately doubted the speakers sincerity. He reassured her that I was indeed going to survive and was being well cared for.
Meanwhile I was shuttled to the emergency room where I introduced myself and explained my incident and injury to the triage nurse. The wound had been bandaged prior to leaving the ship and the triage nurse didn’t bother to look at my injury, asking me to have a seat. Against my better judgment, I didn’t push to have her view my wound even though I felt my injury was probably serious enough for immediate attention, but I chose to wait my turn. Seating myself in one of the fiberglass formed chairs sitting in long lines in the waiting room, I observed the dirty blood stained bandages lying about the floor, the general depressing state, and the down affect of the people around me. In spite of many hours spent in emergency rooms, due to the condition of this one, I felt out of place. It was the most third-world American Hospital I have ever personally observed. I surrendered to my situation as I watched many people, some obviously injured more severely than I, pass me by. Six hours later, I was invited into the emergency room. By now it was late evening, and the place was hopping. My injury was finally inspected by a local medical professional, whose eyes went wide indicating he had expected something a little less. I received a quick job of cleaning and 16 sutures, and before the final bandage was even applied I was pulled off the table as a cardiac patient was rapidly wheeled up to take my place. Sixteen years later I wear a significant scar on my shin from that one false move.
An old cannonball with a cool trident on it
The engine room of our yacht was huge, and was lined and crossed with a mass of white pipes of all sizes, some carrying oil, some fuel, some fresh water, some waste water. The waste water came in two forms, black and grey water. Grey water comes from the drains of showers, kitchens and bathroom sinks, also laundry facilities and the like. Grey water could generally be pumped overboard unless we were in a protected harbor with restrictions. Black water on the other hand was from toilets and those pipes carried only human waste. Black water sewage on board was stored in a large tank to be offloaded upon reaching port or to be pumped overboard when far enough out at sea and while underway.
I recall being anchored out at night, the perimeter of the yacht brightly lit at the waterline with lights positioned just beneath the waters surface. This was a beautiful and serene image that created the illusion of the yacht floating on light. Aside from the aesthetic and safety aspects of it, it also allowed easy viewing of any fish that might come within reach of their beams. The galley sink had a garbage disposal that would handle great quantities of food which was washed directly overboard. During meal preparation or cleanup significant schools of fish would gather near the discharge, all positioning for the next serving. A fish’s dinner from a yachts chef.
Down in the engine room, large electric fire pumps sat gleaming white in a row ready for action at the push of a button. Many large round-handled valves in long shiny white rows were readily accessible, plumbed to direct water through a maze of supply lines at a twist. All engineers aboard were made aware of the function and operation of these valves and pumps should a need arise.
A macerator pump sat on the floor near these valves, it was a large grinder designed to obliterate and masticate the larger elements of the black water into a fine slurry which could then be pumped and stored below in great tanks until it was to be jettisoned. Crew members were instructed to avoid putting any personal hygiene products or recreational items down the toilet. This did not always translate well from land-side habits, and as a result, the macerator pump occasionally had to be disassembled and cleaned out and the offending clog creating material removed. This job generally fell to the lowest qualified person on the chain, myself, and the assistant mechanical engineer. I of course would handle the electrical side of the operation and being careful not to impose too much on his mechanical efforts, we would disassemble, clean, and rebuild the pump together.
On this particular instance the macerator pump was working fine, but one of the long white 4 inch diameter black-water pipes had gotten clogged, solidly. After attempting to push the plug through under pressure we determined we would have to remove the pipe to gain access to the offending material. We disconnected the pipe from its station spanning nearly 8 feet in length. A messy procedure to be sure. We carried the heavy pipe together, very carefully, with its ends stopped with rags, out on to the dock where we connected a fire hose to one end and laid the pipe like a cannon against a fender rail of the pier we were docked against. We aimed it out into the harbor.
At the Chief Engineers command, a fire pump was charged, then a valve was turned pressurizing the clogged line. The pressure in the pipe built as we stood transfixed, waiting to see if this would dislodge the plug. We didn’t have to wait very long. With a thwump and a rush of brownish water, the plug went sailing out over the ocean splashing down like the most foul cannonball ever. We cheered! Not exactly pirates, but capable cannoneers all the same.
The assembly was then reduced to its components and the pipe was returned to its original position in the engine room and was welded back into place.