07 March 2007

Afraid of heights?

Gonna plead "lack of writeables" today. So let's jump in the way-back machine, for yet another stroll through water-logged memories...

Ever looked at a modern Naval warship, and noticed WAAAAY up the mast, WAAAAY out on the yardarm, there's lil' propeller-lookin' dealies?

Those're called "wind speed and direction indicators", or "windbirds" in Navy parlance. And maintaining them is the job of the intrepid ICman.

Anyone remember what MY job was on the ship?

So... We're in port, and we have to pull the windbirds down for routine maintenance. It's a REALLY simple procedure:

1) follow tag-out procedure for all the RADAR type stuff up on the mast (unless you like glowing in the dark)

2) put on bungee-jump harness

3) obtain a "ball-breaker" (this is supposed to be a safety device: my testes say otherwise)

4) climb up the mast, and inch your way out the yardarm (hoping the bungee part of the harness works if you fall)

5) tie a rope onto the tail of the windbird in question

6) undo 4 bolts, and lift 'bird off it's post (btw: these things are neither small nor light)

7) lower 'bird down to the deck via rope (ummm... It IS long enough, right?)

8) tape plastic bag over now exposed electrical leads

9) climb down (no,you can't use the bungee function of the harness: I asked)

No big deal, right?

Did I mention that I'm afraid of heights?

Still got to go up though: wasn't just that I was the lowest man on the pole, but I was the least afraid of the aforementioned distance from windbird to deck.

Bloody wimps

Things NOT mentioned in the instructions:

- What to do when your EW buddies think it's funny to rotate the dish just a touch while you're aloft

- The incredible feeling of overbalancing a bit when you break the tape to secure the bag (IC1 thought for sure I was gonna take the express route down)

- Have a one-handed knife for cutting whatever might need it while you're up there (I went street shopping for a switch blade for this exact reason: it's probably STILL wired to that harness)

Things you Do Not Do while aloft:

- Lean out as far as you can, hold out random tool, and shout "Hey Andy, catch this for me!"

- Lean back, wobble a bit, and say " I'm feeling dizzy"

- Start asking your spotters about high-dive records

I went up and down that mast often enough that the height eventually didn't bother me as much (helps to not look down unless giving your spotters a hard time). Even bought a cup to deal with the ball-breaker. And got to see some BEAUTIFUL things (from that high up, the panorama of Singapore is breathtaking).

STILL afraid of heights though...

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