July 11 - Drydock
Update (11th July 2004)
Noon Position : Just South of the Isle of Wight on the south coast of the UK.
The JCR this Week/Month.
As one of your regular diarists I must first apologise to our regular readers for the break in service over the last five weeks since the ship arrived back in the UK. So, as we are back at sea once more I thought it was about time that I put fingers to the keyboard again.
This Sunday evening you find us anchored just off Weymouth on the Dorset coast as we undergo our post refit trials and testing.
Captain Elliott and his crew took over from Captain Burgan's team on the 2nd June. Though there would be no easy transition into the summer work period as the following Monday morning saw us tied up at Fleet Support Limited's jetty in Portsmouth to begin our annual refit and dry-docking. This being a very busy period for all onboard, I'm afraid, is my excuse for the lack of diaries. Though I hope now that normal service will be resumed for our voyage to the icy north.
Having arrived in the dockyard we spent a couple of days alongside the jetty while some testing of equipment was caried out to ensure that all the necessary work would be completed once we docked down and dried out. The pictures below show the initial stages of the work. After entering the dock the water is pumped out (top left) and the ship is left high and dry. The centre picture shows some of the blocks that support the ship and allow access to the underside of the hull. There is a centre concrete plinth in the dock on which the metal supports stand. The height to the ships hull is then adjusted by means of wooden blocks and metal wedges. It all has to be done very accurately to ensure that they ship is safe, none of the transducers are damaged and the required access is possible.
Every two years it is necessary to range and inspect the anchors and their cables. This involves lowering the anchors to the dock floor and then cranes are used to lay all the cable out along the dock bottom for inspection. The picture above left shows the anchor being lowered, whilst the right one gives an impression of the anchors size as the yard workers guide it to the floor.
We know that the ship is due to travel to the Arctic this summer. However the sight of the deck crew building an igloo did cause a few questions to be asked, as in what do they know that we don't? It all turned out to be very innocent as the dome is all part of the new satellite communications system being fitted to the ship to improve the facilities for the scientists that use the ship. The picture below left shows George Stewart (Bosun) assisting in the construction phase of the top section of the 4.2 metre dome. Shortly afterwards I returned to find most of the deck crew propping the dome up, but strangely no sign of the Bosun. It all became clear when the dome was lifted to release George having helped fix the last section in place. Full marks to the lads as they didn't even go for a cuppa tea before letting him out.
Once it was built it was just a matter of lifting the new "golf ball" into place. As for the final look we'll make you wait until next week when we can get a picture now all the scaffolding had come down. Though you might get a sneak preview a little later on in this weeks diary...
In addition to the dome being fitted and its other associated works the usual usual refit jobs have been taking place. These tasks include; the overhaul of two engines, the cleaning, inspecting and repairing the coatings on various tanks which contain everything from fresh water to fuel, inspecting and overhauling various pieces of deck machinery such as cranes and winches after being exposed to the elements in one of the worlds harshest environments. One of my favorite items is the cleaning of the propeller as it comes in with it's tarnishing (below left) and it then cleaned and polished until it looks just like new. This isn't just to make it look pretty, but allows the surface to be minutely inspected to look for possible damage and cracks, so there is a good reason for it.
The end is near!
However, no matter how important refit is for the ship and her up keep, the day the whole crew look forward to is flooding day. It means that we'll soon be leaving the yard and the ship will be once more become ours to operate and take to sea without an army of people chasing you for answers to questions.
Then the day finally comes, the 9th July in our case, and the gangway is lifted allowing us to take our leave of Portsmouth and Fleet Support Limited. The pictures below show our departure; left we see Douglas Leask our new 3rd Officer this trip surveying the scene now the lines have gone. In the centre you can make out HMS Victory undergoing a refit of her own behind the warships and then its good-bye Portsmouth for another year.
A brief outline of the ships coming itinerary is to load the equipment for our coming Arctic cruises in Portland on Tuesday before departing for the snowy north on Wednesday. We have three cruises to take part in allowing us to work from the southern tip of Greenland along it's eastern coast up into the high Arctic, just how high will depend on the conditions we encounter.
So this time next week should see us well on our way to Greenland.