I really do have the best job. First of all, we didn't even start until 2 in the afternoon, so I slept in and watched TV all morning. When we did get called we pulled out a little aluminum rowboat, lowered it into the water, and then rowed onto shore. We waved at some recreational canoeists along the Detroit river, then made landfall on a rocky shore. I scrambled out first and climbed up to tie off the boat, then we tied off the ship. The coal dock had seen a lot of rain recently, so we were playing in mud, sinking in some steps up to the shins.
After all this fun it was nearly dinner time, so we we rowed back to ship for a plateful of chicken fried steak and rice, both smothered in gravy. After that, I quickly undid the hatch clamps and we began unloading coal. Unloading coal is not too different from any other cargo, except it is much stickier. In addition to spraying firehoses down into the holds, the engineers activated a huge and complex device down in the bilges whose whole purpose is to make an ungodly amount of noise. This noise reverberates along the bulkheads and through the hold to shake off coal dust, but it also shakes the deck like the sounding board of a guitar and expels noise out of the open hatches. It felt, more than anything, like one of those foot massage toys they sell at sharper image, and my feet continued to tingle pleasently even in bed after work. Hearing protection is mandatory (and necessary) when the Vibrator is active, which meant that everyone who tried to talk was extra loud and overenunciated, so communication was easier and better than it was under normal conditions.
My job through all this was to tend the fire hoses of the men spraying down into the cargo hatches. The nozzlemen have to wear safety harnesses and strap themselves to the ship in order to lean way down into the hold without falling in, and they don't want the apprentice doing that. The thing about tending hoses for people strapped to one place is that since the people don't move around much, the hoses don't need a whole lot of tending, so I had another few hours to peacefully watch the sun set over an industrial park south of Detroit. The lights came on, the burn-off chimneys were lit, and the whole scene was like stars upon the river.
Another fantastic day. Now back to Silver Bay at the far end of Lake Superior, and then probably a return to Cleveland.