Oceans and Seas

the work of author Michael Krieger

On Patrol: Pt. 8 – The Alarm

Posted on Aug 16, 2019

On Patrol: Pt. 8 – The Alarm

Engine Room

We are barely moving through the water and suddenly an alarm goes off on the bridge. Major Wong speaks with Sergeant Koh, the chief engineer, explains that enough bypass gas and some from hot, oily surfaces have collected to set off an engine room alarm. According to Koh, when we are idling and the wind is blowing a certain direction, or maybe not blowing at all, the engine room ventilation system doesn’t totally rid the space of smoke. After an auxiliary blower is turned on, the alarm stops.


Having found nothing suspicious in the sampans, we head off, leaving the little boats rocking in our wake. It seems incredible that fishing is allowed in the shipping lanes, but it is. Even more incredible to me is that anyone would want to fish in the shipping lanes while dodging supertankers.


The three women of the Unity’s crew take a break for a cup of tea.

Passing the crew’s multipurpose room, I come across the ship’s three female crew members. This is too good an opportunity to pass up. They are sitting and drinking tea while they chat about a girl they know. Of course they stop when I come in, but I urge them—plead with them, actually—to continue. Knowing that I don’t know and will never meet the subject of their conversation, they do.

Spring Dai, a sprightly twenty-two year old radar tech, tells me, “I’ve a friend of mine, her name is Gina. She has a boyfriend. Recently we met her outside. And the boy was really treating her badly. I take her out to make her feel better, and she’s crying to me every day.”

Sergent Kenis Tan seems somewhat older and more experienced. “How come, ah?” she asks.

Sprig; “Don’t know, lah.* Also don’t know how [to help her].

Kenis: “You mean she want to be with him but he don’t want?”

Spring: “You know, lah. It’s just love, lah. Sometimes love…you know…cannot see.”

Kenis: “How long has that? How long have they been together?”

Spring: “They’ve been together for one year plus already.”

Sergeant Suganthi, a bright engineer, now enters the conversation. “Does she confide everything, you know?”

Spring: “She told me what they went through. Actually because they’re…”

Kenis, sipping her tea: “It’s not courtship already, what? Timing shouldn’t be a problem, not an issue anymore.”

Spring: “I’m also not sure. Maybe the guy, you know, find someone new, someone different to love, that’s why he wants to get rid of her, whatever. Also don’t know why.”

Su: “They’re planning to ROM** this year?”

Kenis: “Is it? They wanted to ROM?”

Spring, a little bitterly: “They went to ROM already.”

Kenis: “Oh my god.”

Spring: “Imagine so hurting, you know. If me, I will cry.”

Kenis: “No wonder she didn’t look very happy that day, at the chalet.”

Spring: “Yeah, that’s why.”

Su: “She didn’t play with us long.”

Spring: “She always never look happy, also.”

Su: “Yeah. I cannot understand her at all. She…. Maybe that’s why.” They laugh with a bit of guilt.

Spring: “Maybe the guy want to find a new one.”

Kenis: “Okay, lah, she’s overall a quite nice girl, lah.”

The three women simultaneously: “Yeah, yeah.”

Mike: “And you know what guys are like.”

All of us laugh.


*The expression “lah” is peppered throughout Singaporean’s conversation to emphasize whatever they are saying.

**ROM is the abbreviation for Registry of Marriage. It also means the act of registering to marry, which is essentially a proposal of marriage.


More from “On Patrol”

On Patrol: Pt. 9 – Machine Guns

On Patrol: Pt. 9 – Machine Guns

Hodgepodge Kenis and Sprig leave to go back to work. Kenis appears to be mature and very responsible. Later, I see her manning one of the machine guns on the bridge wing. Spring’s duty station is at the radar repeater on the bridge, where she continually examines and...