0130 am UPDATE: Things I know. Of all the announcements that wake you and are GUARANTEED to ensure you do not fall back asleep any time soon, this may be #1: Assessment Party Deck 9 Forward Zone 5. I have no idea what Zone 5 is but Assessment Party means FIRE. FOR REAL. Less than 300 yards from where you are sitting in your fluffiest pyjamas listening to your heart pound in your ears. And Deck 9 Forward is the spa and salon. Where things like saunas and hair dryers and all manner of flammable goodies are located. The fact that a First Aid Team was also mustered does not ease my mind in the slightest. That just makes it sound like an electrical fire. SO not dozing back off again any time soon, it’s not even funny.
Second announcement while I was typing this: both teams have been stood down, so problem solved, presumably with a fire extinguisher or local sprinklers, or a false alarm entirely, but that was far too exciting for my liking. Sleep will evade me for a while, I think.
Immediate follow-up announcement by the Captain: He is explaining what happened. There was a report of smoke by the Neptune Pool (next to the salon), but all teams that were mustered (as we heard) have now been stood down. Sorry for disturbing you, thank you and good night. That was a long fourteen minutes for me, so I can’t imagine what it was like for them.
Fire is the most worrying thing on a ship. Not water. Fire is insatiably hungry and has no respect for watertight bulkheads. It only needs air, and we have plenty of that. And something to eat. And we ARE plenty of that. The trouble with fire is, where do you run away to? If you’re in an office block, you go out the building down the fire escapes and stand outside for an hour in the freezing cold wishing you had picked up your coat, not your phone, when the alarm blasted through the ceiling and rang with deafening insistence until you hit save and left. If you’re at home, you go out the front door or the back, or jump from a window if you must. Where do you ‘pop outside’ to on a ship? There is nowhere to run. Watertight doors can close around a hole, and trap the water in a confined area. Even Titanic had those and that was the tech a hundred years ago – we’ve improved on it a bit since then. Hell, we now deliberately take IN water, as I have explained already, for ballast, so we have two-way valves for that. But fire is the frightening one. Which is why I am still typing like I have neat caffeine flowing through my veins and it is SO unlikely that I will be asleep by 2am, or any time soon for that matter. Ever heard your nerves jangle? Trust me, it’s an actual sound and sensation. Like an internal fire alarm or alarm clock that vibrates throughout your entire system. And it takes a while to calm down again, believe you me.
Thinking about it, it is, essentially, adrenaline – fight or flight – flooding your system. Every announcement starts with a ‘bing bong’ sound to get your attention. If you’re asleep, you aren’t by bong. Your system is tuned in to that sound. Ever read the phrase “Sat bolt upright in bed” and wondered if people really do it? They do if the bing bong goes off. You discover tummy muscles you never knew you had. Then the phrase ‘assessment party’ percolates through your consciousness, and suddenly you are looking around for where your clothes are, how quickly you can dress, and what coats, medicines, etc you would need to grab if this becomes a full muster, and how fast you can grab them all in the dark if the lights go out (and where your torch is). The sea is about 80 degrees here, allegedly, so layers would not be an issue – remember you can’t wear too much if you’re going to get the lifejacket over the top. All this rushes through your head in the split seconds after the bing bong. So by the time they stand down fourteen minutes later, my nerves are wound so tight, you could play a tune on them. Oh well. Might as well give sleep a try. Although I’m not fancying my odds much.
Please note all timings are now approximate. We have gone back forward an hour, probably, and I no longer have the slightest idea what time it is, or day, for that matter. Like my body clock wasn’t messed up enough already. This has not been helpful from my personal perspective. Mind you, it has probably put the fear of God into the crew. They don’t often get mustered FOR REAL at one in the morning. Thank goodness.