After a break, I am back again with my story of the life in an offshore rig . So the first day at the rig passed off. I was wondering, what I had got myself into. What my life on the rig would be like? Bone tired, aching body I hit the bed, the creaking sound of the ship rolling was like a lullaby and soon I drifted off to sleep. Some of the guys in the cabin woke up after three hours for the mid day lunch .I slept through We were woken up by five in the evening, by the room boy. He just opened the door cabin and switched on the lights, and said something and guys cursing and swearing tumbled out of their bunks.
Now before I proceed further, I feel I should explain little bit about the division of the work force. Being a drillship, the work force was divided into two sections namely the marine crew, and the drilling crew .The marine crew consisted of the Captain of the ship assisted by Chief mate, Second mate , The Chief Engineer and his crew to ensure that the ship engines worked smoothly. These marine crew were mostly of Dutch nationality. The drilling crew consisted starting from the top, of Drilling Superident (now known as Rig Managers ).They supervised the drilling operations and co -ordinate with the client (in this case ONGC) There were two of them working mostly on day shifts on 28 day shift ,and were Americans .They were assisted by tool pushers of different nationalities. Next came the Driller , Assistant Driller Derrick men , Crane Operators .All these were mostly Australians .Then came the Roughnecks and Roustabouts and Welders. The Roughnecks Roustabouts and then there was another group of workers which were known as maintenance group. This group was responsible for chipping off all the rust and painting the rig .These were of Indian nationality. Out of these only the Roughnecks and Roustabout were four each in a group. The accommodation was in different levels. Our accommodation was right at the bottom of the hull of the ship .I think below us were the ballast tanks .Then the best part of the rig was the movie room ,besides the dining hall
So what was the typical day on the rig like? When I joined the rig, we were working 12 hour shift. The day we land on the rig we would start work at 6 in the evening and continue till 6 in the morning. After landing on the rig which would be normally around 11.00 am we would rush to the dining hall and grab something to eat and utilise next five hours to sleep. Some of us would utilise this time to get rid of hangovers.
Usually one of the room boys would come one hour before the duty time and wake everyone up. He would switch on the lights and after shouting something in Tamil, (which even the Tamilians could not understand) would walk out slamming the door so loudly that we all felt would wake up the dead .After a quick wash and something to eat we would walk out to the deck look towards the rig floor with a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in another hand and try to figure out the activity for the day.
When I gave interview I had no idea what I was getting into. Being a roustabout was like a spare part which could be used anywhere. We would be working o the Rig floor to relive the Roughnecks so that they may go for their meals. Assist the mud man in mixing mud. In rig jargon mud means chemicals which I shall explain later. Help the rig mechanics, rig electricians, offloading the food supplies and carrying it to the mess stores .Help the rig storekeeper in updating his inventory .All this was besides our normal work.
Now let me describe briefly the structure of Sedco 445 .Looking forward there were four anchors. On the deck in front of the anchors there was a hatch going down which led to a store known as “Boson Store.”This store contained stuff like mooring ropes, different sizes of “manila ropes.”Sacks of rags , and anchor shackles .Then came the bridge ,overlooking the anchor winches (These winches were used to pull in or lower the anchors as required .The cable pulling the anchors were about two inches in diameter ,and required to be regularly maintained .)The bridge was the highest enclosed structure of the rig. Behind the bridge, overlooking the rig floor were the clients and the drilling superintendent offices. Below these offices in the open deck was the pipe bays which was used for storing drill pipes ,drill collars ,and casing pipes .In the centre of the bay was what is known as “cat walk ‘’This made of metal and at the end was what is known as V door leading to the rig floor Both these items were used to pull up the drill pipes ,drill collars and casing pipes up to the rig floor The cat walk could be opened to the side and below that was pipe storage bay .All these places were always hot and humid with a musty smell. First Day at the Rig At the mid ship was the moon pool (moon pool is an opening through which drill pipes blow out preventers and other kind of drilling equipment is lowered to the sea bed )above the moon pool was the mezzanine deck and then the rig floor with its huge tower known as derrick which was the centre of all kind of activity 24×7.The rig floor was the place where the rough necks, derrick men , driller ,assistant driller worked and all the drill pipes were connected together and lowered through the moon pool .
Then came the pipe racking system .This rig the pipes were stored horizontally and that was a tedious operation as a roust about. (I shall write about it at some later stage) End of the pipe rack was the two funnels and that is where the wire line unit was placed. (Later on even I joined this company). After the funnels were the aft (rear) anchor winches ,and the welding shop. Above this was the Heli deck and below this were the main engines of the ship and the mechanic work shop and the rig electrician workshop
When I joined the rig ,the Roustabout worked under the supervision of a crane operator, it means that anytime where the crane operation is going on the Roustabout is involved. Of course the priority was the operations on the rig floor .Initially I had no idea about what I was supposed to be doing, so I just tagged along the more experienced guys and often my enthusiasm and lack of knowledge of work got me into trouble with the crane operator. I was shown the ropes by a guy named Deepak who was from Kerala .This person was short and small built guy, even by Asian standards, but was very agile and knew exactly what was required for each kind of operation. All the crane operators loved having him in their crew .One thing he did not like was to go to the rig floor to assist the roughnecks.
My first few days were spent just in cleaning the cranes, removing all the grease stains with rig wash. Hosing down the deck around the moon pool area. Assisting the welder in his operations .I think that my supervisors were trying to keep me out of harm’s way, till the time I became more familiar with the rig operations. There were many moments when I would wonder that if I had made the correct choice. I would wake up, after a meal when I would go out on the deck ,the crane operator would very promptly hand me a bucket and a mop would ask me to clean some god forsaken part of the rig .This carried on for about a week and at that time I often wondered that I would not come back to the rig after my four weeks are up .Initially as I had mentioned that we worked the evening shift .Normally between midnight and 3am somehow the activity became very slow and lot of people had a habit of just disappearing. In lot of places this was known as the “graveyard shift.”This was also the time when one had lot of time to think .For me the thing that I missed most was the night time view of my home town .My home town (Dehradun) was situated in a valley and surrounded by mountains .In the night one could see the twinkling light s of Mussorrie a town barely 35 kilometres away. I had grown up looking at these lights in the night and now I was in a middle of a sea , with no twinkling lights in the horizon, beyond the circle of lights of the rig reflecting on the water .