Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dry dock preparations, and leaving Singapore

On Friday the Doulos sailed to the dry dock berth, around the West of Singapore. It was a three-hour sail, so Dan was involved in 'mooring stations' and also carefully checking the water tank levels, as they have to be the same when they finish the dry dock. I hadn't much idea what dry dock involved, so it was interesting to see: they sailed to the top of a kind of floating platform, which had blocks prepared to hold the Doulos. Then air was pumped into the platform, raising it all above water level. The really scary thing, from my perspective, was that the only way out of the ship was along a precarious looking bridge that looked down a LONG way to the bottom of the ship. There's a safety net below but that didn't really encourage me...

Meanwhile teams had been preparing the ship for the internal work (and grubby footprints of those working outside), covering all the carpets with lining paper and parcel tape, and then with boards.

It was pretty confusing for someone locationally challenged like myself, since pictures were taken from walls and all my landmarks for finding my way around vanished. The book exhibition on the top deck was completely packed away, and turned into an eating area since the generators aren't used in dry dock, so there's no air conditioning inside the ship.

About 150 of the Doulos crew (mostly girls) have gone onto the island or other nearby countries to do various work with local groups - some teaching, some aid - and the mothers with small children have gone to a holiday resort for a break. That means there are only about 150 people left on the ship, and they're working 12-hour days, from 7am to 7pm, which of course is daylight hours all round so near the Equator.

Daniel managed to find some dark blue coveralls that have been in the store for a while, since his light blue ones were soaking wet (it rained during sailing...) and hopes they can become the Watermen uniform:

All good things come to an end, and we had to leave that evening. Our flight wasn't till 5am Saturday morning, but we knew Daniel would stay up until we left, and we didn't him up half the night even though there were many things we would still like to have done together. Moreover, we weren't sure how long it would take to get to the airport, and we had various tax rebates to claim on the technology items we had bought. Oh, and taxi fares have an extra 50% surcharge after midnight.. and just to add to our worries, we were told that officially the port gates closed at 10pm, although nobody really believed that.

So we actually left the ship shortly before 11pm. It was as frightening as I had expected walking across that bridge, but I gritted my teeth and did not look down. I didn't even try to carry one of the suitcases! Nor did I do so on the rest of the journey to the port gate, which was almost as terrifying: along a wet, greasy platform with hose pipes in the way, then down some steep metal stairs where again it would have been disastrous to look down. I just held on to every railing I could see, and went one step at a time... not an experience I would like to repeat!

The Doulos looked pretty amazing, lit up in the dry dock:

Dan came with us as far as the gate, then we watched him back on the ship as Richard went to fetch the fourth of our heavy cases and repeated the journey down. Thankfully he doesn't mind heights nearly as much as I do. After that it was all fairly straightforward: there were guards on the port gate, so we signed out, and they booked us a taxi which arrived within a few minutes. It was a 45 minute journey and we had to pay the extra booking fee, so the fare was fairly steep... but still far less than it would have been in Europe. It was midnight by the time we got to Singapore airport which, of course, is very efficient and sparklingly clean.

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