Do you know what a drydock is? Well I am betting many of you that have worked on ships do but the rest have no idea at all. Our ship, Discovery is currently in drydock in Barcelona. We arrived on the 13th of this month, disembarked our passengers on the 14th and made the short trip across the port to our new home for two weeks. For those of you that have no concept of how a ship drydocks, I will embellish you with a brief description. Imagine if you will, a large canal lock. A bloody large canal lock. The ship sails into the lock, the gates shut behind and then instead of raising or lowering the water, it is drained completely, all 21,000 tons of it for those of you up on their Archimedes principal. Obviously the water doesn’t exactly gush out, it is let out slowly over a period of several hours. As the water drains, the ship begins to settle on huge concrete blocks strategically placed to support the weight. The engines are switched off, water, power, sewage and other services and switched from the ship to shoreside, air conditioning goes off and an army of contractor embark. Over the next few hours the ship moves from its once docile tranquility to a hive of seemingly chaotic activity. Within 24 hours, carpets have been covered or stripped completely, wallpaper taken off walls, the swimming pools removed of their tiles, the huge propellors weighing many many tons are lifted of to be refurbished. Underneath the ship holes are cut to remove and replace equipment that will not fit through shell doors. The hull itself is scrapped clean of two years of oceanic grime and within two days been repainted, apart from the aforementioned holes of course. Huge bearings are loaded into the engine rooms, a dent in the bridge wing caused by a Russian bunker getting a little to personal in Antarctica is straightened out. A new pontoon for tendering is delivered in the morning and fitted by the afternoon.
With the aircon off, the ship rapidly becomes warm and stuffy. Water is intermittent. If you need a big dump pull the chain first or you might be adding significantly to your cabin’s unpleasant odours. Food is now on plastic plates and plastic knives and forks. No water in the galley, no electricity for the ice machine you begin to get the picture. Tania and I are among the lucky few onboard. Although we have a small amount of work to do in the two weeks we have time to enjoy the delights of Barcelona, a beautiful and inspiring city but thats a blog for another day.
When Discovery emerges from the drydock with her bum painted, interiors refurbished and engines all spruced up, she will set sail on her winter adventure. This time we head east, for an incredible season that heads out to Asia around India to Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok. In February she will start to head west again, across the Indian ocean, to South Africa before heading up the East African coast to Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya. Hopefully I will find the energy to write blogs on these places but again thats for another day. So from the stuffy confines of a ship in Barcelona, I bid you farewell.