Turku, or Abo to give it its Swedish name, lies in the southwest comer of Finland and is Finland's gateway to the west and to the rest of Europe. It is a busy port through which a substantial part of the country's exports and imports pass, it also has daily passenger ferry links with the Swedish capital of Stockholm. The population of the city is approximately 160, 000 which makes it the fourth largest city in Finland.
I had come away to sea with visions of being on the bridge in my smart uniform when the ship was at sea; learning to navigate, scanning the horizon with binoculars; steering the ship, using a sextant and doing a host of similar important roles. No such luck.
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I could look forward to the luxury of being on the bridge on Sunday mornings after the ship inspection. Otherwise I would mostly need to wait until my third year at sea. Right now I had a different set of tasks.
My first job at sea was to scrape all the greasy oil residue off the deck by the manifolds, using a long-handled scraper, before kneeling down on the swaying steel deck and finish off with a hand scraper. When that was done, I had to scrub the whole area with a stiff-bristled hand-brush using hot kerosene, and finally scrub it again with detergent. When I finished, my skin, nails, hair, ears, every part of me was engrained and encrusted with oil.
The bosun ambled by as I was clearing up and told me that anyone who used hot kerosene without rubber gloves was a fool because they were going to get raging dermatitis. At that moment I couldn’t have cared less if I was set to catch raging syphilis.