The Kitchen is Now Open
Apparently even in the middle of the ocean and thousands of miles away from the nearest port there isn’t much job security. Today I had a passenger to transfer from our boat to another boat, the ships cook. Well, former cook.
Last week I could hear the Captain going on in his stateroom, yelling about something, and I couldn’t understand a word of it. Later when I was chatting with the Yansa and Sumansa they told me that he had been yelling at the Cook. I couldn’t believe it, the cook is a nice older guy about 56 years old, polite, friendly, even taught me some Korean. As for the food – I’ve been happy, we get a little bit of everything, Japanese style, Indonesian style, American style, and of course Korean style.
Well apparently this was the problem, the Captain didn’t want anything other than Korean style food and wasn’t happy with what he was eating. Over the next week I guess, behind the scenes, things just never got better (despite a markedly more Korean menu being served) and today the Captain put him off the ship.
Thank god we have a helicopter, in the old days being put off the ship at sea meant walking the plank and that isn’t a proposition that is particularly appealing. They loaded his roller bag and backpack into the back of the helicopter, and a somber looking cook climbed up into the passenger seat for his first helicopter ride in 56 years – I hated that it was on such awful conditions, helicopter flying is joy and peace and excitement and fun and exhilaration – he rode mostly silent the entire flight to the Shilla Harvester, with a blank emotionless expression on his face. Thinking.
Now getting to the Harvester was something of a fun and daunting challenge. Once I was run up and ready to go I radioed the bridge and asked for a heading.
“Nicholas-ee, bridge-ee, course two-two-zero.”
“Two-two-zero, helicopter copies” I replied.
“Ok thank you” Yansa called back. I’ve noticed that on the radio, anytime I reply to a heading change or something when we are flying together, it is like he needs to have the last word, he never lets me end the radio calls.
As I picked up with the cook and set off on my course of 220 I scanned the nearby water looking for my next landing platform, the Shilla Harvester. I didn’t see a damn thing. There was no boat out there as far as I could tell – so I pushed my scan out further, still nothing. I hadn’t thought to ask for a distance to the Harvester, and I wasn’t confidant in an unanticipated broken English radio request to get a clear answer. So I pushed on, making a mental note of the time and setting a limit for how far I’d fly before asking for my directions.
5 miles, 10 miles, 15 miles, we were really getting out there to meet this boat but were still close to the Jupiter in aeronautical terms, it would take the ship an hour to get this far out, it took me 10 minutes. Then, finally, I could see the Harvester. Or what I thought was the Harvester. Way out in the distance there was a thin slip of white on the water that distinctly stood out from the blue ocean it was sitting on and the grey cloudy sky behind it. There was no way that wasn’t something on the ocean, and it was directly on the 220º bearing I’d been given.
Almost as if the Yansa had a camera in the helicopter the radio crackled to life.
“Nicholas-ee, Harvester see?”
“I have the Harvester in sight Jupiter.” I called back in my most official radio voice.
It had become a bit of a game for me when I had the chance to do any radio calls out here, the English is so broken when it is even used that it is almost unreadable, and otherwise the airwaves are crammed with gibberish Korean in rapid fire streams. So imagine if you will all of that suddenly being broken up with a deep, intentional, pilot radio voice. I’m the only one laughing when I do it because I’m the only one in on the joke.
When I finally got to the Harvester their pilot picked up and entered into an orbit in the bright yellow D model 500 that I had had for a very brief stint when the Harvester was my boat. My former mechanic came up and fastened my helicopter to the deck, I had to wait a few minutes while they prepared transfer paperwork for me to take back to the Jupiter, and the strap made it so that I could roll down to idle and relax a bit while I waited.
Imagine my surprise when he told me that they were a scant 100 tons away from being full (1200 tons) and were preparing to head back to port with or without the 100 tons. I left Suva on this trip with the Harvester, empty, on the 5th before being transferred to the Jupiter which had already been at sea for a week. Now here we are, 4 weeks at sea for the Jupiter, and the Harvester is full in 3 weeks. UGH! We’re going to easily be out here for almost 2 months I think.
Of course with the cook gone now and nobody to ration the stores, we may have to go back because we run out of food.
Finally the ships second officer came up and handed me a brown envelope with papers in it making me the most expensive courier service in the pacific. The flight back was uneventful but other pilots know what I am talking about when I say that there is a certain pleasure in flying alone. I love it every chance I get, and out here it happens a lot with this Captain. The other day I did two “deadheads” (a deadhead is an empty flight no passengers), one after I dropped him on another boat for some drinking with a buddy, and then again when I went to pick him up.
I had a good long way to go to get back to the Jupiter but plenty of gas in the bag so I decided to take the long way back, at about ten knots slower than usual. My 500 is pretty well balanced and flies smooth at 80kts, but at 70kts it is like silk in the air. I skirted around a rain fall that had formed up between the two ships and then did a bit a small cloud bursting before the Jupiter came into view. They must have been watching the radar and watching me come back to the ship.
“Nicholas-ee, you see Jupiter?” The asked
“I have the Jupiter in sight, starting approach for landing.”
That night the crew ate a meal prepared by the Chief Engineer, which wasn’t too bad actually. He went around checking on everyone, making sure they liked the food. Anyone without a bowl of his soup he would go a fetch one for, even if they tried to tell them that they didn’t want any soup. Starting tomorrow however the crew is on their own for meals, make what you want when you want. Yansa has the keys to the meat and non-meat freezers.
This should make for an interesting remainder of the trip – I’m really hoping we get an actual cook to the boat sooner than next port of call.