We had an emergency recently. A very serious emergency. The hot tub stopped working. Alaska July 2011

In my time at sea I have developed a great respect for the risks and dangers of shipboard life. I have come to a thorough understanding of the various levels and degrees of emergency. We run drills on a regular basis to practice for life threatening situations. We maintain detailed logs and checklists to thwart the threat of equipment failure. Crew training, certification and selection are all geared towards ensuring that the most qualified individuals for each job are on board. We have sophisticated and reliable communications and a plethora of ways in which we can transmit distress messages. Navigation systems, propulsion systems, emergency back up systems, life saving equipment – every single thing on board the vessel is meticulously combed over on a regular basis to ensure it’s smooth operation.

Despite all of this, we had an emergency recently.  A very serious emergency.  One that immediately affected all of our guests.   The hot tub stopped working.

Okay, so nobody’s life was in danger. And the ship continued to operate safely and efficiently. But it was a real bummer. And the worst part of it was that as the ship’s engineer – it was my fault. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. I pride myself in being able to devise ingenious solutions for simple problems and successfully make seemingly impossible impromptu repairs. But I just made it worse. Now, instead of a broken pump impeller, we had a broken pump impeller AND a broken pump head. Cr*p. I tucked my tail between my legs and sheepishly contacted Captain Mike and the shore office. My purchase request was clear and to the point. No sense in explaining how I had made the situation worse. We needed these parts. End of story.

At this point I should admit that this isn’t really an emergency at all. More of an inconvenience. If it had been a real emergency I know Captain Mike would have dropped  everything, stay up all night if need be, scramble like mad to find the required parts and have them immediately flown out to whichever remote location we happened to be in.

But that’s exactly what they did! A commercial flight or two later – the parts landed in Sitka, Alaska. We, unfortunately, were in Port Alexander – a tiny little settlement that redefines remote. Somehow, amongst the 35 people or so that live here, the shore office managed to find the one guy that has a float plane. I still don’t know exactly how it all happened but yesterday a small vessel approached us at our anchorage and presented us with a package that contained one pump impeller and one pump head. Today we have a working hot tub.

I took this job largely because of the company’s commitment to safety. I can sleep well knowing that if this is how they respond to an inconvenience, we will be just fine if we ever have to deal with a real emergency.

Alex Ruurs
M.V. Nautilus Swell

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