When life is sailing over the bounding sea
Updated: 2013-09-09 07:53
By Peng Yining (China Daily)
Another sailor was busily chopping potatoes and tossing them into a pot as big as a bathtub. The other cooks bustled around the stoves and sinks, scrambling and washing.
The noise from the ship's screw, situated next to the kitchen, was tremendous, the meat was sizzling in the pans and everyone was yelling.
"We don't have time to talk nicely, we have 400 mouths to feed," said Zhang Hong, one of the cooks, grabbing a handrail fitted to the stove to keep his balance. The floor was covered by a thin film of oily water, and simply standing up was an ordeal in itself. "It's like cooking on an ice rink, especially when the ship is rolling hard in a storm," he said. "At first it's difficult to stand up, but once you get used to it you just slide around."
After the food, which included rice, fried cabbage, stewed pork and fish, has been ladled into numerous stainless steel pots, hundreds of hungry crewmembers lined up with their trays, ready to scoop up their rations.
Li Penghui, one of the 15 sailors who work in the kitchen, was standing at the end of the counter, waiting to recycle and wash the trays. "We have 400 trays per meal, so that's 1,200 every day," said the 23-year-old. Although he was wearing gloves, his hands were raw from a combination of long periods immersed in hot water and the effects of the detergent.
"Actually I volunteered to do the dish washing," he said. "If I hadn't, someone else would have volunteered instead."
During the cruise, the navy gave Li the title "model sailor", in recognition of his hard work.
Li Penghui, one of 15 galley assistants, at work aboard the Peace Ark. Zhang Hao / for China Daily
Keeping up appearances
For the sailors, cleaning is part an essential of the daily routine. "If you haven't swabbed a toilet, you haven't really been in the navy," said navigator Zhi Dongliang. In addition to his three-hour work shift, Zhi is also required to clean the deck around the pilothouse and take his turn swabbing the toilet in the cabin he shares with 17 other sailors.
"The cleaning detail isn't too bad, really. You can watch the waves and get some fresh air on deck, as long as the weather isn't too bad," he said, kneeling down to scrub a tough stain.
Everything on the ship has to be clean. The hull is constantly painted to ensure it keeps its pristine, white appearance, and every copper faucet is polished and shines like gold, especially when the ship arrives at host countries, he said.
"Our ship represents China," said Cui Xiaojun, one of 12 female soldiers on board, who was brushing a fire hose with a paint brush. "Everything has to be perfect," she said.
According to Guo Hongxia, the lead officer of Peace Ark's 12 female sailors, although this is the ship's first deployment with female crewmembers, the women, whose ages range from 19 to 26, are just as capable as the men.
"They are very well trained," she said. "They are able to do all kinds of work, including operating the navigation systems and the radar."
However, Guo said she was concerned about the women occasionally, because some of them had acute seasickness at the beginning of the cruise.
"I felt so sick that I vomited every day. Sometimes I couldn't even wait to get to the bath room and was sick in the gangway," said a female sailor, Wang Huizi. "My family might ask why I am working in such a tough place and suffering so much, but I know what I'm doing. I'm fulfilling my dream of joining the navy and living a life of adventure."
Ju Zhenhua contributed to this story