Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Heading for country N° 4

The good memories of Bordeaux linger on, so nobody is actually keen on more action this morning. Lectures are well attended, as the weather decided not to compete too much today. However, in the afternoon everyone gets the chance to learn how FRAM is actually controlled. Many sign up for the bridge tour, guided by the Master and Commander himself, Captain Arnvid Hansen.
Nobody had expected an old wooden steering wheel and the navigation officer jumping around with a sextant, trying to get a good shot of the sun. But the top-of-the-line equipment on our vessel baffles even the experienced.
FRAM has got three independent radar systems and a permanently updated electronic navigational chart computer, the layers of which can be directly added to the radar image. By doing so, the bridge has maximum control over the current position of FRAM and the whereabouts of all possible obstacles, other ships included.
Once entered in the navigation computer, the intended itinerary will be followed automatically, while the main information screen provides the navigator with all necessary data, like windspeed and -direction, distance to the next waypoint, speed over ground, active engines, course, drift, estimated time of arrival. So it is nearly impossible to get off course. Of course not...
All safety systems are also routed via the bridge controls: All splash doors, watertight doors, fire and smoke sensors – everything can be monitored and controlled from up there. This is truly the center of power.
And if you happen to look for the steering – well, you will come across the most impressive, sophisticated and awe-inspiring instrument you can imagine – a little joystick, pinkie-sized and solitarily sticking out of the huge instrument panels. So the times of helmsmen with forearms like Popeye are apparently over.
But of course, every system has ist backup and a backup’s backup. And if nothing helps anymore, the cunning navigator can still resort to the most reliable means of navigation: Paper chart and compass, logbook, sextant, and steering wheel. They are there, they are still in use and everybody on the bridge is capable to apply them. That’s seafarers for you – never loose the precious tradition!
Another tradition is held high in the evening: The MV FRAM crewshow, performed since the vessel was put into service, a constant source of fun. Hard to tell who enjoys it more, guests or crew, probably the latter. And that’s a good thing.
As it gets dark, more and more lights of other vessels are to be seen, unmistakable sign that we are approaching „La Manche“, the British Channel. So, England it is!