The hot tub on the stern deck was a work of engineering. It took all day to fill, even with the water makers chugged away constantly on board making fresh water from the brine beneath using the shipboard reverse osmosis generators. RO generators used extremely high pressure to force the many-times-filtered seawater through extremely fine membranes that allowed only water molecules through, and very little else. The water was then treated with ultraviolet light to kill any remaining threats to our health and digestion. Fresh water was always plentiful, thanks to the ‘behind the scenes’ efforts of engineering. We all took it for granted. When it came time to fill the hot tub, fresh water use and creation was monitored closely. Filling was timed around peak usage. Once full, the tub had to be heated. Large pumps and heaters were employed to bring the now pure water up to a pleasant swimmable temperature. Over-sized jets fed the tub and could be directed and adjusted to create a steady current to swim against, creating an endless swimming exercise, or could be aimed and increased to create a tremendous whirlpool. Air could also be introduced into the jets with underwater lights to create a perfect spa-like atmosphere. During my seven months on board this particular ship, the crew enjoyed this luxury once, and I could have done without it. My time at the pool was the site of an unpleasant incident, the event sticks with me as a stumble.
We had been enjoying some down time on deck. Much of the crew and the captain’s wife, who is also the head stewardess, were all on deck enjoying some sun, cocktails, a little swimming, and lounging. I had just joined the crew on deck, happy for some downtime and camaraderie.
The captain’s wife was always very sweet. She was a caring lady who ran and managed the stewardesses and interior work efficiently and without incident as far as I could tell.
As I approached the hot tub with the crew lounging about, the captain’s wife rushed me to shove me in.
“Wait! Wait!” I cried. Holding my pager aloft, indicating that I did not wish for it to get wet. She paused in her assault and I handed her my pager and steadied myself for her shove. She took a couple steps back and then a couple rapid steps towards me with her hands extended. The only defense I can claim is that habitual action had taken over. ( It seems I may have picked up a thing or two in aikido class after all.) I sidestepped, bringing one foot behind me and twisting away slightly, I grabbed her by the wrist and upper arm, and using her momentum, assisted her past me and on into the tub, effortlessly.
She still had the pager in her hand as she went under, and as she came up with a surprised look in her eyes, I was chagrined. The pager was of course ruined, and worse than that, I had pushed the captain’s wife into the hot tub. Also, not my proudest moment. I don’t recall the remainder of that afternoon as being very relaxing.
The ship was magnificent in every way, the water toys were top notch, and the owners tenders were two Serenella-style Venetian luxury limousines tucked neatly into the sides of the aft portion of the ship. Extremely elegant watercraft and a storage and launch procedure that would make a space-station jealous. Large sections of the aft sides of the ship would swing up and outward revealing storage for these 30 foot watercraft, which were then lifted and carried out over the ocean on dedicated cranes. One was a limousine, the other a convertible. Both extremely fine wooden boats and powered by beautifully kept duel Volvo engines.
I was given the choice duty one day of replacing an impeller in one of these Volvo marine engines. Not a big job, but a tasty one.
I was ecstatic to get my hands on such a fine piece of hardware. I gathered the appropriate tools, climbed up and into the engine compartment and settled myself in for the effort. I placed clean rags strategically about to catch both debris and parts. This project has stuck with me, not for any mishap or tragedy, but for the perfection and cleanliness and joy of working on such a piece of floating art. I was honored to be trusted with such a duty, and I performed the task without error, enjoying every moment of it.
It is difficult to explain the joy of working on something so fine. I savored every effort. Relishing in the feel of tools, the hospital cleanliness of the engine, enjoying even the cleanup and polishing of the finely finished wood. I felt pleasure in every second of this operation.
Most of my operations on-board contained a similar level of fulfillment. The engine work, the rebuilding of compressor systems, the maintenance and cleaning of the water makers. I enjoyed every moment of these tasks. Tools fit my hands well, and I enjoyed employing them greatly. I still do. It is where I find my greatest pleasure, in identifying problems and repairing them. The troubleshooting, the challenge, the fitting of the parts, and the satisfaction of a job well done have always filled me with satisfaction. The duties of an on-board ships engineer were greatly fulfilling to me. All that was lacking was my wife-my life-my love… I wished her to be near me, and it had been made clear that it could not be so on this particular ship. So I would eventually go.