Lat: N 53º 05.4
Long: W 005° 24.6
Ireland was fantastic and has made its way up the list to my favorite port! Let’s start where we left off. Last we checked in, we were rounding the southernmost tip of England and heading north toward Belfast, Ireland. We saw Wolfs Head off our starboard and came into some rougher seas as we traveled up the coast. I did a fuel transfer for maintenance, but when I finished, I went on deck to see our maneuver into the industrial port. We had discharged a great deal of ballast to make draft with just a couple of feet of room off the bottom. We were spun a hundred and eighty degrees to then pulled astern by tugs into our berth. The whole operation was fascinating to watch.
Our berth was adjoining a lumber yard, and across from our berth were piles of coal. This, combined with the smell of grain from a nearby feed elevator, gave our tie-up an old-age industrial feeling. From the 04, I could see the Harland & Wolff shipbuilding company, which built the Titanic as well as over a hundred and seventy warships during World War II. I was allowed off on the first day, and my group wandered the historic town looking for fun pubs and shops. I had fish and chips at this beautiful restaurant and was happy to stretch my legs. The next day we loaded stores and then were granted liberty. I stopped by the city hall and learned about Belfast’s extensive accomplishments and contributions to history. We stopped at some thrift stores, bookstores, and a coffee shop before hopping on a Ferris wheel. We walked through the botanical gardens and ran through a field, happy to sit on grass rather than hard steel. We walked through a rose garden enjoying the calm and quiet; then, we headed to dinner. I met some wonderful people from all over Ireland and had some delicious food. At the next opportunity, I will do my best to return to Ireland.
On the third day, I had a watch in the engine room. My watch group did some painting, and I pulled a lube oil pump apart and put it back together (twice). In-port watches are generally very low-key, as there is not as much equipment running.
This morning, student leadership said, “It’s going to be nautical leaving Europe.” Which means the ship is gearing up for some rougher weather on our way out, and students should stow their belongings in anticipation of the ship moving more. I am very excited to be on our way back to the States and share all the fun experiences with friends and family.
Just a few hours ago, the Captain spoke over the PA system, “Clear the 04 for helicopter operations, clear the 04 for helicopter operations in twenty minutes.” Like clockwork, the dark, sleepy berthings came to life. Lockers slammed, and sheets rustled as everyone dressed and put on their boots to watch whatever was about to happen. The Irish Coast Guard had asked if they could do some training as we made our way south. A helicopter came into our view from the west and did some winch operations sending down a guy in an orange suit onto the fantail. The whole operation was terrific as they practiced lowering a dummy and flying the helicopter extremely close to the aft house. It was an incredible farewell from Europe.
Now we are making way out to sea and onto the faraway port of Boston, where we will go through customs. We are not making port, but we will anchor to go through that process.