Bells and Whistles

January 29, 2015

Sailing the Magellan Straits

We were jolted out of bed by the ship’s horn and alarm bells.  I turned over in bed and said to Suzi “This can’t be good.”  We had just gotten to bed a few minutes earlier.  We had been up watching our passage through the Straits of Magellan until local sunset at 10 PM. (story continues after the pictures.)

The PA system came on.  It was the Captain.  He apologized for blaring as us in our staterooms but he told us that the alarm was a first stage warning.  Something had happened, he wasn’t sure what, and they were mobilizing the staff.  “Nothing is required of passengers at this time.”

I turned to Suzi, “Do you small smoke?”  Yes she did.  The Captain came on almost immediately to tell us that there was report of a fire in the incinerator room and that control measures were being implemented.  “This is a first stage alert.  Nothing is required of passengers at this time.”

By now I was fully awake with a shot of adrenaline.  I inventoried the situation and immediately decided to top off my computer backup to a drive I could slip into my pocket.  I put on warm jeans, a long sleeved T shirt, and heavier socks and identified the shirt and jacket I would wear.

The Captain came back to tell us that fire had been confirmed in the incinerator room and that there was smoke in some of the passenger areas but still “Nothing is required of passengers at this time.”

By now Suzi and I were checking our meds.  I was making sure a waterproof zip lock bag was handy.

This time the Cruise Director came on “I’m on the bridge.  We have a fire in the incinerator room.  It is under control but we are having trouble completely assessing the situation because of smoke.  Nothing is required of passengers at this time.”

The Captain and Cruise Director took turns telling us about the situation “We know the fire is under control and we think it is out.  We are sending in a team through the smoke now.”

The Captain came on and told us the fire was definitely out even though there was still smoke in some of the passenger areas and that everything was under control.  I stopped gathering things and went on line to send an email to family to tell them we were ok in case they saw anything on line.

The Captain came on in the middle of my typing.  “The fire is out, we are standing down.  I hope you now try to get some rest if you can.”

I was fully awake and, while Suzi undressed and got back into bed I decided to do a walkabout to try to work off some of the adrenaline.  I went out and found the emergency lights along the floor still on, green lights lead to red lights, red lights lead to life boats.  On the deck below no one was in the Showroom, the Explorer’s Bar or the Library.  In the theater the movie was still showing but only one passenger was watching.

This had been a “formal” night, put off one day because of the rough seas yesterday.  In the deck below the library, in the Ocean Bar about 8 people in formal attire were enjoying a drink.  They were joined by one of the Ship’s officers in his dress whites, who was not drinking and seemed unconcerned.

I started back up the stairs.  The fire crew was just entering the atrium, taking off their fireproof suits and respirators.  They had had a drill just this morning in the use of that equipment.  I spoke with one of the fire control officers.  He said they were going to bed.  The Fire was out but there was still a lot of steam from the water used to put the fire out and some smoke lingering, but their job was over.

If their job was finished I could go to sleep.  The next day I spoke with the Cruise Director (and complimented him and the crew on the way they kept us informed) who said it his policy to issue updates at least every 5 minutes until the stand down.  In reading of the fire on board the first Prinsendam off the coast of Alaska 35 years ago one of the main criticisms was that passengers didn’t know what was happening.  Sometimes an hour passed between announcements.  This incident didn’t last an hour but it’s nice to see a policy of regular updates.  The incident, if anything, enhanced the cruise, it created a camaraderie among the passengers the next day, “Where were you when the alarm went off?” one had been in the shower, one still in tux after the late show, one opened the safe because if the power went off he wanted to be able to get his money and credit cards (good idea) one rolled over and when back to sleep.  Pretty soon everyone tried to roll over and get to sleep.  I wonder how many grams of Xanax were consumed last night.

Take Care,


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