Those Scary Steam Things

As a third engineer in the outfit that I work for, the boilers that we use for steam heat in the colder months are my responsibility.

Throughout my two seaphases and several trips after graduation I had never once worked on a boiler. The ships I had been on for seaphase either didn’t use a boiler (rare) or had just shut it down for the season. After I graduated it was the summer months so there was no need to have the boiler running.

Yes, I had learned the ins and outs of a boiler during my time at school, but like most things this was not the same as doing the work hands on. And I’ll be honest, the thought of working on a boiler was terrifying to me. I had read and heard stories of boiler explosions and how things can go really badly if the boiler is not used properly. I was terrified I would destroy the boiler, get blown up, or have a catastrophic failure and ruin everything.

While the above video shows a boiler located in a land based plant, it gives you an idea about how dangerous this machinery can be if not used properly.

In hindsight, there was no need to be quite as nervous as I was, but it also caused me to be overly cautious, which isn’t a bad thing when working with a new, dangerous piece of equipment. After a month of being a supernumerary and learning from the fantastic 3rd engineer, I was a lot less nervous. They gave me a better understanding of what I had to do and how to go about it in a safe manner. Their confidence gave me confidence and that goes a long way.


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