A Captains Report of an Incident

Ahaaaaarrr M’hearties, short and sweet today so a quick update and a glorious tale the sort of thinsg Tom Sharpe would have written had he been a seafaring man
Yer Tis
25* 33′ N 1238 45′ E Course 020. Speed 7.3 knots Water depth 1000 meters Wind SW 10 knots temp 26* C


I couldn’t resist posting this.
It is with regret and haste that I write this letter to you, regret that such a small misunderstanding could lead to the following circumstances, and haste in order that you will get this report before you form your own preconceived opinion from reports in the world press. For I am sure that they will over dramatise the affair.

We had just picked up the pilot and the apprentice had returned from changing the “G” flag for the “H” flag and, it being his first trip, was having difficulty rolling the “G” flag up. I therefore proceeded to show him how. Coming to the last part, I told him to “let go”. The lad although willing is not too bright, necessitated my repeating the order in a sharper tone.

At this moment the Chief Officer appeared from the chart room, having been plotting the ship’s progress, and, thinking it was the anchors being referred to, repeated the “let go” to the Third Officer on the forecastle. The port anchor, having been cleared away but not walked out, was promptly let go. The effect of letting the anchor drop from the “pipe” while the vessel was proceeding at full harbour speed proved too much for windless brake, and the entire length of port cable was pulled out “by the roots”. I fear that the damage to the chain locker may be extensive. The braking effect of the port anchor naturally caused the vessel to sheer in that direction, right towards the swing bridge that spans the tributary to the river up which we were proceeding.

The swing bridge operator showed great presence of mind by opening the bridge for my vessel. Unfortunately, he did not think to stop the vehicular traffic, the result being that bridge partly opened and deposited a Volkswagen, two cyclists, and a cattle truck on the foredeck. My ship’s company are at present rounding up the contents of the latter, which from the noise are pigs. In his efforts to stop the progress of the vessel, the Third Officer dropped the starboard anchor, too late to be of practically use, for it fell on the swing bridge operator’s control cabin.

After the port anchor was let go and the vessel started to sheer, I gave a double Full Astern on the engine room telegraph and personally rang the Engine Room to order maximum astern revolutions. I was informed that the sea temperature was 53° and asked if there was a film tonight: my reply would not add constructively to the report.

Up to now I have confirmed my report to the activities at the forward end of the vessel. Down aft they were having their own problems.

At the moment the port anchor was let go, the second Officer was supervising the making fast of the stern tug and was lowering the ship’s towing spring down onto the tug.

The sudden braking effect of the port anchor caused the tug to “run in under” the stern of my vessel, just at the moment when the propeller was answering my double ring Full Astern. The prompt action of the Second Officer in securing the inboard end of the towing spring delayed the sinking of the tug by some minutes thereby allowing the safe abandoning of that vessel.

It is strange, but at the very same moment of letting go the port anchor there was a power failure ashore. The fact that we were passing over a “cable area” at that time might suggest that we may have touched something on the river bed. It is perhaps lucky that the high tension cables brought down by the foremast were not live, possibly being replaced by the underwater cable, but owing to the shore blackout, it is impossibly to say where the pylon fell.

It never fails to amaze me, the action and behaviour of foreigners during moments of minor crisis. The pilot for instance, is at this moment bundled in the corner of my day cabin, alternately crooning to himself and crying after consumed a bottle of gin in a time that is worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records. The tug captain, on the other hand reacted violently and had to forcibly be restrained by the Steward, who has him hand‑cuffed in the ship’s hospital, where he is telling me to do impossible things with my ship and crew.

I enclose the names and addresses of the drivers and insurance companies of the vehicles on my foredeck, which the Third Officer collected after his somewhat hurried evacuation of the forecastle. These particulars will enable you to claim for damages they did to the railings of no. 1 hold.

Here I must conclude this preliminary report, for I am finding it difficult to concentrate with the sound of police sirens and their flashing lights.

It is sad to think that had the apprentice realised that there is no need to fly the pilot flag after dark, none of this would have happened.

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