Sunday, 16 October 2016

Life in Aboa Mare

For now, I thought I'd write a bit about what's been routine since last September, when I started my maritime studies in Aboa Mare. Some may recall how I wrote about my aim to continue in Estonian Maritime Academy multiple times a few years ago, but eventually the prospect of getting my education in English with a broad and international approach made me change my mind about that, as well as my lifelong dream to move abroad, even if not so far.

I'm now in my 2nd year and I can say that the decision has had its pros and cons, but I certainly haven't had to regret it. The system fits me very well, as we usually do only one or two subjects per week, and those subjects change every week. The main downside is that one can't really afford getting sick or being away at sea during some mandatory attendance courses, but in my eyes, the variety such a system allows for is great and definitely makes up for everything.

An "old style simulator"; A fully functioning frigate model "Ascension", built in 1842 and used for training back in the day.
And it has most certainly been quite a ride. While there has been a lot of the boring maths and physics that one simply can't escape, there have been plenty of very fun and interesting courses throughout the entire time, making sure to keep our spirits high (in case the wonderful events organized  by our student union ENÅ aren't already enough). Many of those courses have been just the usual lectures about topics I've found interesting and fun to learn; a fine example of that would be the Colregs course, partially because I already learned quite a lot of it at the pleasure boat license course I took three years ago.  In many courses, a lot of focus was put on teaching us safe ways and risk assessment, to the extent where I felt like we were being fed safety for lunch and for dinner, too. However, safety isn't really something to save time, money or effort from, so the more the better. And I can now proudly name about a million different ways to die or otherwise screw up big time on a ship!

Terrestrial Navigation
In the online ISPS I learned that I myself and most of my friends are very suspicious people.
Colregs notes regarding ships under sail.
Fog signal notes
A few other courses I truly enjoyed were Elementary First Aid last year, followed up by Medical First Aid this year, and Tanker Familiarization, that will soon be followed up with Advanced Tanker Safety (which I'm quite looking forward to). Over a long period of time, we had some weeks with Swedish lessons, that I was very excited about, taking it as a good excuse to finally start learning the language on my own as well, especially since the total scope and duration of the course was minimal. During the final week we visited various interesting places in Turku, among others the Swedish Theatre, a YLE studio and Forum Marinum; and at that point I slightly pitied the native Finns who chose to have their high school Swedish studies accredited to skip the course. On the other hand, it kept our group nice and small.

Fun behind the scenes
Nice to meet you!

Video killed the radio star. Except that we're all still alive and well! Maybe that's because we were just having fun, not actually broadcasting?
Later on, in spring, I was very happy to see that a basic Radar use course mostly took place in the simulators.
Speaking of simulators, my school has quite an impressive collection, and each and every one of them is a copy of the bridge of some real ship. And I can tell you, I was very excited when I found out on my first day of school that one of the simulators matches my favourite Viking Grace.
It was also during the radar course where quite many of us made our first more and less serious navigating mistakes, such as running over the same buoy numerous times or managing to stay off the rocks in a situation where such a feat was as unlikely as winning the jackpot. But the best thing about a simulator is that such incidents usually end with a good laugh in the classroom after the exercise.

In the simulator, filming a commercial clip for the school.
Simulator control room - the half of it that fit in the picture, that is.
And then there were those wonderful courses that were fully practical and thus enormously fun. First of all, the metalwork course we had in November, which involved showing up in a workshop in Ruissalo for three days (a cherry on the cake was the location next to a great shipspotting place, and our days there started just as the outbound Amorella sailed past) and using the various tools and methods to make small anchors from scratch. It was there that I first noticed my liking for heavy metal (this time literally, not the music genre), which I'll mention more in my next posts. I almost ended up feeling that if I should ever get fed up with ships, I'd become either a welder or a blacksmith. That feeling was added to when I got praise for my welding, which was mostly because I applied some tips I got from some Youtube welding tutorials I had watched before the course.

Components cut out
First day's work
2nd day's work
Polished and ready! Now, to build a boat to go with it...
In spring, we got plenty of action in the Basic Safety, Lifeboats & Liferafts and Basic Firefighting courses, which were taught to us by Meriturva in their premises in Lohja and Upinniemi.
The first two involved a lot of swimming, survival and evacuation exercises, climbing up a pilot ladder and jumping back down from 4 and a half meters, trying to survive in a freezing pool, using various survival equipment, turning over an upside down liferaft, getting winched up from the "sea" into a "helicopter", and even a ride in a freefall lifeboat, where I really hoped we would do a flip, but it was a rather nice and smooth fall, resembling a very short rollercoaster ride. And the firefighting course speaks for itself, I guess; we were taught to put out various fires with various equipment; the weather was quite hot and our firefighter suits dark and heavy, which meant that the general feeling during the two days resembled hell, quite literally. Towards the end of the course we had to navigate in a dark, smoky and burning "ship", as well as put out an engine room fire and pull out a victim dummy.

Meriturva premises in Lohja
Christ is rising
Swimwear, spring 2016
Swimwear, spring 2016 vol 2
Using the equipment provided by Meriturva (as well as in a few other occasions when I've had to use provided gear), I've been positively surprised by the availability of smaller sizes. But not always...
In Autumn and in Spring I spent a total of 5 days doing maintenance, as well as a trip to Kasnäs on the school ship Amazone, which counted for the 360 days of total on-board training I have to do during my studies.
Amazone (right) in Kasnäs, in October 2015
Attaching the jib sails in April 2016
Quite early on we were told that we're expected to do 60 days during the first summer. And so it happened that during the final Meriturva Lifeboat & Liferaft course I was notified that I've been placed on a ship. I had to leave home for approximately 60 days with a 4 days' notice; those days I will write about in my next posts. 

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