I made it to Luanda, Angola this morning. I was happy to find out that they were not sending me directly to work after all. They put me up in a nice hotel for the day so I could get some much needed rest.
It´s really a very nice hotel, but I can´t say much for the surroundings. Actually, I pretty much just passed out once I got to my room. I was really tired from the trip.I´m just not up to staying awake for 24 hours at a time any more. 😉
I was told by the driver this morning that he would be picking me up at 0530 in the morning, but that was not certain. I have been trying to check the email for a message to see if that will be the time for sure or if things will change.
The problem is, the internet does not seem to work very well here. I tried for a while this morning. It was in and out, but I could get a few things done in between the computer dropping offline.
Tonight (so far) it´s been impossible. I had to go down to the business center and work there. I´m trying to get a little work done before dinner and then will go to bed early since it looks like I´ll have to get up at 0330 to get ready for work.
So, it´s been an interesting week so far. I had a nice time in Scotland. The course was better than I expected. I´ve never been down in one of those freefall lifeboats before and yes, it was definitely different.
I hope to hell I never have to get into one of those things for real!
Yes, as Fraser (our instructor) told us, there are advantages to them. The main one is that you can launch and get away from the danger much faster. But OMG, those things are uncomfortable!
Not that the regular lifeboats are at all comfortable themselves. Imagine 60 people stuffed into an 8 x 20 ft (totally enclosed) space. You´re all strapped down in your seatbelts. The boat is rocking and rolling, pitching and heaving. It´s noisy. It´s wet, or at least damp and humid. There´s not a lot of ventilation. It´s either sweltering or freezing, depending on where in the world you´re sailing. If you´re REALLY lucky no one has started puking.
Imagine that scenario. The freefall lifeboats are WORSE!
We were riding around in a 9 man boat (Verhoef brand) for the week. There were only 6 of us in the class (plus the instructor), so 7 total in a 9 man boat. The one time we all got in the boat and launched, it was horribly cramped and crowded. I can´t imagine what it would be like on a 100 man boat (UGH). 🙁
After we did that one full launch, we launched a few more times with just 3 people in the boat. It made it much better. We all got a chance to be 1st coxswain and then 2nd coxswain.
We practiced driving the boat around the river Dee to get used to its manuevering capabilites (it handles much better than the usual -twinfall- lifeboats).
We spent a couple of days out in the bay. We practiced man overboard drills. We worked with the other (twinfall) lifeboats to practice towing and pacing exercises.
While we were out there, we got to see the dolphins playing all around us. THAT was fantastic! I wish I had better pictures to show you. They were all around us and jumping completley out of the water. I´ve never seen them doing flips on thier own like that. I thought they only did that in the aquariums, but they were having a fine time. It was great to see them every day. 🙂
In the river, we were priviledged to watch a couple of big harbor seals that would come and play right next to our dock. I couldn´t get any pictures of them, they were just too fast. Pretty entertaining to see.
The guys who worked at the facility were happy to see the small salmon hanging around the dock. They said they hadn´t seen so many in a long time. That was nice to hear. The river (Dee) looked pretty clean to me, but they said it was really pretty dirty (compared to historically).
It didn´t get dark til after 10:00 PM, so I was able to get out after class every day and wander around the city. I was really impressed by the history and the beautiful location of the city of Aberdeen.
I wandered around the harbor to the lighthouse at the jetties and spent some time exploring down there and then up along the beach. I went to see the Maritime Museum which was very nice. They had exhibits on the old sailing ships and fishing boats this area was famous for. Then they had some nice stuff on the oil and gas industry which is driving the economy now. I even saw an old DP desk!
I stopped in and talked to people at the Fishermans Mission and the Seafarers Center. I also stopped in at C-Mars office here, just to see if there was anybody there I knew (nope- but they were nice to me anyway). I met a former fisherman who told me the story of Footdie. I learned all about the different kinds of shortbread from a lady in a shop. People were really friendly and helpful.
I wandered around a couple of old churchyards and parks (churches were closed by the time I got there so I couldn´t go inside, but the stained glass looked pretty impressive even from the outside). I went up to Kings College and talked to a nice man who lived accross the street for quite a while. He showed me a great place to take pictures from his garden pond where the steeple from the church reflected in the water.
I wandered up into the biological gardens and then down along the River Don. I was lucky to have some gorgeous weather while I was there. The temperature was perfect, in the 70s all day. It got pretty chilly once the sun went down, so I had to head back since I didn´t have a jacket until my luggage finally showed up. It was time to go to bed by then anyway.
All in all, it was a very nice trip. Now I´ve been re-certified as a lifeboat coxswain and that should be good for another 2 years (depending on who I´m working for). I wouldn´t mind going back to Aberdeen for another course. 😉