Fixing photo machines at sea in the 90’s

In these next couple of posts I wanted to follow up on what really was my origin story if it is the word, to use like one of the superhero things, I’m not quite sure I deserve the title, but lets go down the rabbit hole a little!

Since the last post I have been asked quite a few questions about my background so I want to use this time in my blog and also my video on Facebook to say a little bit more about my background as it is it’s not quite conventional! One of the questions I got asked a lot about was about working on cruise ships ship.  I was actually on cruise ships in 1987 at thereunder age of 18.  I worked prior to this as an industrial photographer, photographing the steel plants, oil rigs that sort of thing and then on the weekend clean up and assist on weddings. My skill was doing the color printing, any image any size. This was back when you used film and all the photo paper was in long rolls that snaked  through all the machines before being cut into 4×6 photos and the like.  

I was offered a position on cruise ship, I really just put in for it on a lark, but six weeks later I was in Miami, my mum thought I had died. You have to remember where I come from used to be the steel center and the petrochemical capital of the north east of England it is a stones throw from the Yorkshire moors, but there is some serious industry down there when you get away from the moors and head to the coast.  coast line else so it’s it’s it’s it’s a working town you know it’s such a contrast and such that,  I wouldn’t say it’s grim, but it’s a working town I love where grew up it’s such a contrast and such a really diverse interesting and honest set of people that come from there I’m really proud of where I came from but moving to Miami but that was like going into outer space. 

One of the things I was good at from an early age was taking things apart, then I learned how to put it together later.  When I worked on the cruise ships I was obviously in the dark room under the stairs, as it were, I never so much sunlight for all the years I was there.  One of the things I was able to do was start to learn about the machines now bear in mind that in the 80s and the 90s computers weren’t prolific, there was no Internet around and when the ship sailed, you were on your own. So if anything broke, you had to fix it with what was lying around and this is how I built my rapport with the engineers. I wasn’t able to modify modify the circuit boards in the machines electronically but it’s just like a washing machine it’s pumps and motors and a dryer and that’s basically what the photographic process was like.  You have to stop all the chemicals sloshing around and contaminating one and other. If they broke, you stripped the machines down, and figured out what could have caused it, often related to the motion of the ship.

I remember one instance where this did not work and we were dead in the water unable to work.  Now I worked for a concession on board and the HR manager who we referred to as Auntie Trisha flew out on Concord with a couple of spare circuit boards to fix the machines and save the cruise. I remember the circuit boards did not work in the machines and we were still dead in the water. I stayed up all night trying possibilities of what was wrong. I’m good with sensing what a machine is doing, vibration and what ever the machine is doing and I was able over the period of several hours to figure out what was wrong. I had to program an EPROM chip, basic by todays standards but it worked. In the morning I had them fixed we were printing photographs and saved the cruise. We were actually close to losing the concession on the ship and this really helped so it was those kind of skills that really pointed me yes I did go down the engine room and I did hang out with the engineers and I did bake potatoes in the manifolds at least we used to work late nights in formal lights and the engineers are always up taking care of the engines so we became good pals

I think the last message I got from this was being able to stand on my own 2 feet and fix problems as they come up and this was the motivation although it was to go back to see when I go to university and put the skills what got me through my PhD because a PhD doesn’t really get you anything it teaches your way a tiny tiny piece about one topic but will it really does is teach you how to think theoretically scientifically and that’s really what’s been the backbone the driving force for my business so I did get sidetracked and I’ll talk about another episode but it’s a really good time . 

For me though, these experiences help no end when I have sailers on the phone with some problem, caught in seas, miles from anywhere asking for help.  I’ve been there and that counts for a lot.  I know I’m doing the right thing in the right job and that makes me smile!

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