Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Grandaddy of all ships: The MV Doulos

Just a word of warning: this post is photo heavy, but if you'd just wait a bit, I'm sure it's worth it. :)

Today was a rather special day. My family and a few other friends had the opportunity to visit the MV Doulos. Now, I know that to some of you this is nothing out of the ordinary, but I'm sure you'd change your mind if I said that all of us managed to get a tour INSIDE the ship. How many of you have done that?

The MV Doulos is here

GBA - Good Books for All

Okay, okay. I'll stop bragging. But, the few times I've been onboard the Doulos, my experience of the ship was merely restricted to the bookshop and nothing else. So, I was pretty excited when I was presented with the opportunity to actually go inside the ship and see for myself the different parts of this sea-going vessel.

My passport in

Did you know that the MV Doulos is the oldest ship still in operation? It was built just two years after the more infamous, more illustrious Titanic (which has long before sunk to its watery grave) in 1914. It went through several incarnations in its long history of service: firstly a cargo ship (Medina), then as a ship in the service of the US Coast Guard, after that a passenger ship (SS Roma), then a luxurious cruise ship (MV Franca C.), and finally, just when it was to be decomissioned and sent to the scrap heap, it was purchased and made into a floating bookfair (MV Doulos, Greek for 'servant').

Hong Youn Sook, an 8-year crew member, giving us the history of the ship

It's for real: This ship is really old! 95 years now!

So, our tour round the ship started with the brief history of the ship in the main lounge, and then we moved along to the VIP room which housed the original key of the SS Medina (when it was till a cargo vessel) as part of the glass table in the centre of the room.

The VIP room - notice the ship's wheel? That's the original from when it was first built!

As we moved from place to place, we noticed on the walls in various parts of the ship some colourful pieces of paper pasted on them, usually proclaiming someone's birthday or just saying what a wonderful friend so and so is. All this lends a cheerful atmosphere to the place.

Colourful notes adorn the walls in several sections of the ship

The next stop was the laundry room, where articles of clothing and others are separated before washing. Just look at those commercial-sized washing machines! The laundry for almost 200 people on board is done in this room.

Commercial-sized washing machines!

You gotta keep 'em separated!

Along the way to another part of the ship, we were introduced to Delilah. Delilah holds a very special position among the crew of the ship. She's the one who makes sure that the safety crew are up-to-speed in their rescuing skills. You see, Delilah is the resident training dummy. All new hands with the safety crew will undergo training with her; she's thrown overboard, and it is their job to 'save' her.

Help wanted: Hero

Delilah seems happy about her role on the ship. Just look at her!

On the way to the bakery, we passed the clinic and this very intersting door. I couldn't help taking a picture of it as it was just so colourful.

International door

The bakery is where all the food is prepared and where crew members go to get ingredients if they wanted to do a little cooking of their own. We were told that all the fruits and vegetables to be used would be sourced locally from whatever city the ship was docked at, but meat was supplied directly from Germany. I don't recall now how they actually transferred the meat to the ship. Sorry!

Need for food

Spick and span kitchen: the place where tummy meets yummy!

Then, we had the opportunity to look inside one of the cabins. Compared to the room I sleep in, this one was like a sliver! The usual arrangement is that you'd be given a room with two bunk beds. So that's four to a room, and each room mate would be from a different country to encourage intermingling and to get to know each other's cultures better.

Next stop was to the heart of the ship - the engine room. It was a dark, noisy and humid place. Manna, the person on duty, showed and explained to us the various places in the engine room and the work that the people stationed here had to do (maintain, troubleshoot and fix - basically, to ensure that the ship keeps running). Apparently, if the ship developed an engine fault while at sea and needed a part to fix it, the engine crew would have to fabricate it then and there. So, these people not only have to keep the engine running, they also have to be blacksmiths!

It's a very noisy place!

Personalised ear-guards

The life of the ship

The workshop cum R & R place

Giant cylinders - all 16 of them

Controls for gohead-gostan

A spot of colour in the otherwise drab-looking surroundings

And then he showed us the CO2 alarm. Manna said that if you heard this alarm, then you'll only have 20 seconds to escape from the engine room before carbon dioxide is released into the room to put out any fires inside. Failing which, he said, then it's off to see your Maker, which is a good thing. How comforting...

The death knell? No, but you'd better escape in a hurry when this sounds!

Our final stop was the dining hall for a rest and a drink. This hall used to be the banquet hall when Doulos was a luxury cruise, the MV Franca C., while the place where the bookshop is, used to be where a swimming pool was. We even spotted the original but tattered menu from the cruise ship - the date reading October 4 1958. Cool, huh?

The original menu from the MV Franca C.

Having rested a bit, we proceeded outside and browsed the bookshop before heading home. It was a very rewarding and informative tour. It almost makes me want to go onboard and serve...


The expansive dining area

p.s. The next port of call for the MV Doulos is Pasir Gudang, Johor before heading for some repairs at the dry dock in Singapore.


chegu carol said...

How did u get the tour pass?
Jeles la. The inside of the ship looks very interesting. Apa lagi with all the interesting colors painted on doors, walls etc.

dan said...

nice post. pictures add to the credit too!

Nick Phillips said...

Wow, that was awesome :) I've always loved ships. My most treasured experience was getting to tour an American aircraft carrier when it docked at Port Klang. It's an experience I can never forget :D

Audrey Wiles said...

wow... that was a superb opportunity and i think you've definitely got the 'eye' for photography! fantastique!

Perry R. Lim said...

Carol: We got to know Hong through a friend and were invited. So we grabbed the chance!

Perry R. Lim said...

dan: Thanks for dropping by and your comments!

Perry R. Lim said...

Audrey: Merci! It was great fun in the engine room!

Perry R. Lim said...

Nick: An aircraft carrier? Man, that must have been incredible! I've never even seen a real-life aircraft carrier, let alone go inside one!

Mama UauaMomoi said...

Wah really good experience. Me & hubby went to the bookstore only. Always wonder what's inside the ship...

maslight said...

Wah, the photos are great. Most of the doulos shots I've seen are from outside and never from the inside, this makes me wanna go to doulos the next time it's here ;)

Perry R. Lim said...

Mama UauaMomoi: Well, if you ever have the calling, you can serve onboard and you'll get to know all the intimated details of the ship!

Perry R. Lim said...

maslight: Not sure if the Doulos is ever coming back though. It's due to be decommissioned...because it's already so old!

Robo said...

Hi, thanks for sharing. May I know what's the opening hour for the ship?
Thanks and appreciate.

Perry R. Lim said...

Robo: Hi! Thanks for visiting.
If it follows the times at KK, then the usual opening times for the Doulos are from 10am to 10 pm (Tuesday to Saturday). But, I think they have different opening times for Sundays: 2pm - 10pm.

Robo said...

Hi Perry,
Thanks for you reply.
Have a nice day.