Waking up at 0500, your shift begins at 0600. Grab some grub, and get that safety gear on. You will need the warm clothes today. Outside the snow has fallen - now the sky is clear and air is crisp. The salty air smells of diesel and of burnt steel from the welders. Its the kind of smell that strikes you down, penetrates your lungs and promises never to be forgotten. Your footsteps echo on the steel deck, the snow has been shoved overboard - it's just a silly reminder that you could be doing something else entirely. In a totally different life.
The shore is still mostly dark. The dock's lights are on, but only a few people wander about while trying to keep warm. It was difficult to get shore support crew this time of year - most want to be at home with their family. The village houses are still dark, no sane person is up this early. Except on this ship. And with this crew. Most of them smile, a third of them going to bed, another third still warm from the morning coffee. Even the most exhausted ones that still have 6 hours to go give me their best shot, moving steel and welding equipment into place.
All over the ship there is a continuous hum of activity. Generators run, the ship spews black smoke every now and again - grey against the sky. Somebody is using a screaming grinder further aft, and the loud hiss of electricity can be heard from the welding. Every now and again the main crane jumps into life, hauling another container onboard. From its sound one should think it to be the last one - every time.
Over the eastern mountains, the sky has begun showing a rosy glare, on the main deck stars still shine in front of the welders. Arcs of pure sunlight that threatens to kill even the hardened eye spring forth from their torches. One tries to look away, but it's a lure to the eye, requiring a feat of pure will to save ones eyesight.
Its the contrasts that really gets me. Massive spotlights light up the deck; there is no single shadow. A wise person has used a lot of orange paint all over the ship, making sure you will have forgotten the colour green by the time the trip is over. Outside the ship it's dark. To the west one can only glimpse a few breaking waves going south. The rest of the ocean blends seamlessly with the sky - a dark blue on black.
I love arc welding at dawn
This has been a poor attempt at noding an empty husk that greeted me in a friendly way.