Aye Aye Landlubbers
You will all be relieved as I am to know that the wind has moderated and the movement of the vessel is less bouncy and mildly irritating.
It is now smooth with the occasional slosh of a wave and we really are out there now in the “deep” blue with the water at 4600 meters. That’s 3 miles in old money, and as is usually the case in proper deep water, it seems cleaner. It is blue.
Not as quiet as I like it, mainly because we are on what would be considered to be a busy traffic route and on my daily power walk round the helideck I saw about 6 ships.
It is times like this that the ship spotting anorak in me comes out whereby I like to know what type of vessels are near. Always on the look-out for something a bit unusual to add to my mental notebook of “good looking ships” or probably more accurate “proper ships” which to me means the old school general cargo with derricks.
After the advent of containerization, the general cargo vessel became a rare sight and these days you hardly see them except in out of the way spots where they will be well into their 30s and 40s now but still plying their trade.
The sheer ingenuity (and yet simplicity) of the yard and stay derricks, where one derrick is stayed in place over the center of the hold, and the other is stayed in place over the quay. The driver would then operate two winches lifting palleted or netted cargo up out of the hold and then across, over, and down to the quay.
I used to love driving that gear, as we knew for a fact that in mid 70’s it was being phased out and replaced by cranes and containers all of which required less crew.
It was a tangible feeling that we were the last of an era.
Occasionally for heavier lifts we would use what they called a Yo Yo rig where you would have two derricks (one for and one aft) of the hatch, stayed over the hatch, and the opposite two over the yard. (quay) That took two men to drive (as it is 4 winches) in a co-ordinated dance to lift the gear out and then together control the winches such that the cargo would arrive unscathed.
For much heavier lifts we would use a “jumbo derrick” which as its name suggests was bigger than the others and was in effect the bare skeleton of a crane, which we would rig up with steaming guys (wires attached to winches) to slew the derrick from side to side.
These were later replaced by the Stalken Derrick which was pre-rigged with the dedicated winches in place as opposed to us having to rig it separately and could be driven by one man like a crane.
I learned how to operate and understand how the gear worked and how to rig it before I even set foot on a proper cargo ship courtesy of the old dogs (who would be about my age now) on the first three ships I sailed on (tankers) who took the time to show and obviously keen and able young seafarer the ropes. To pass their skills on to one young enough, keen enough, and adventurous (reckless) enough of spirit to want to work those older vessel and the routes they ran.
Even though it was hard and often dangerous work there was always an immense amount of satisfaction in “topping the derricks” or as we sometimes called it “getting the sticks up”.
Anyway enough of me swinging the lantern on a nostalgia trip, let’s get down to today’s events which have taken a turn to the unexpected, which has in turn made us take a turn and alter our course to 013 degrees, which to those of you taking note is a much more northerly course.
The reason being is that we are dangerously low on main engine filters (we have 6 main engines) after finding out that the ones we had are not really up to the job, so we are making a detour into the heavily congested waters of the Taiwan strait to rendezvous with a supply vessel abreast of the Chinese port of Xiamen.
Once we have finished in Ulsan we are going back to Xiamen to get the new larger crane fitted but that’s a different story.
Although the overall distance to Ulsan is about the same, we had originally planned our route around the outside (to the east) of Taiwan because there is much less traffic out there and, more importantly for a slow old clunker like us, the current is much stronger there so would give us about a knot and half extra speed for the same amount of fuel burned. When you burn 25 “tons” of diesel a day you will take any savings you can get.
Well with the image of 25 tons of fuel being burned a day let me play you a tune that celebrates a much maligned bird when it is nicking chips from toddlers, or shitting on your new blazer by the seaside, but is a magnificent creature when out in its natural element far away from land. The guitar riff on this always reminds me of a seagull’s flight when they just follow the waves with the wing tips brushing them as they follow the contours of a rough sea.
So the new route is on today’s chart and our new position after we changed course at 2000 this evening.
11* 50′.6 N 112* 27′.2 E
The wind is still NE at about 15 knots the sea is slight (less than 1 meter) the midnight temp is 28c
I still haven’t finished the story so here is another poem “wot I rote” when I was about 19, and all patchwork flared wranglers, big dangly silver sailing ship earring, long hair in a blue ribboned ponytail, beardy, free the weed T shirt. I am sure you can conjure up the image although I was thin.
Being a single young man who had wholeheartedly grasped the concept of hedonism and was being paid to travel the world in order to have laugh, I was at sea for at least 10 months a year in those days, and it has to be admitted I was having an absolute ball.
When I was ashore I always had few quid on me and would be up for whatever crack that was on.
One Monday lunchtime I was tucking into a few beers in a pub with couple of mates, when I overheard this bloke in his 40’s (a near fixture in the pub and certainly not working) bemoaning the likes of me as layabout druggies and national service would sort them out etc (I am sure you know the type) yet he had no idea of what I or my mates did.
When I was laying about having a spliff and cider up in the woods later that afternoon, waiting for the pub to open in the evening, I wrote this for him.
You say you dont like the clothes that I wear,
the shape of my beard or the length of my hair.
You dont like my clothes, my music, or my voice,
and you hate the idea I have freedom of choice.
You cant bear to see me happy and seem jealous of my life
and think only of the old days
or of your best mate fucking your wife.
And your screaming snotty kids, and your mortgage and your tax,
and your clapped out Ford Cortina, and next doors fucking cats.
And the garden that needs digging and the lawn you need to mow,
and the darts match down the local, but the wife wont let you go,
cos the kitchen door needs mending, and the TVs on the blink,
and kids need new school uniforms and tea leaves block the sink.
But you say your happy with your 9-5 and you say your sound of mind
but if your so happy with your life why don’t you keep your nose out of mine?
What’s it to you if I am out on the town 7 nights week,
getting stoned and dancing, chest to breast and cheek to cheek.
I live my life quite openly, open mind and open doors,
is it through envying my life, you can see what you’ve missed during yours?
(reading back now it might come over as a bit presumptuous or stroppy (arrogant almost) but I was 19 for fucks sake and it came with the territory. Strangely enough there are still people I know today who the poem is relevant to, and some of them are younger than me?? Go figure)
Love and peace