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I have known the sea too long …

15 Mar

To have any respect for its decency. Joseph Conrad.

13th March

0600 And we’re off. A 360º azimuth bow thruster peeled us off the quay quietly and quickly. There was no wind to speak of so there were no dramas and now we’re in open water and I can feel the ship rolling ever so slightly. That’s good. You can’t get to know a ship when she’s alongside; you have to feel her moving under your feet.

There’s not much wildlife about out here, just the odd passing gannet but, then, I’ve long thought of the North Sea as barren.

00 -0400 watch.

Outside the bridge windows all is dark. No moon, no stars and, although the weather is blowy, there aren’t even any white caps to alleviate the blackness. Inside the bridge, all is light. Insulated from the outside world by banks of computer screens, it’s too easy to forget to look out of the windows – never good on a ship at sea.

We are running lines. That is, we are towing something on a cable that reads the sea bed. I have to watch a screen constantly to check our speed as we must stay between 4 and 4.5 knots. Going one way the speed has stayed constant. Going the other, I’ve had to make regular adjustments to the engine revs. Either side of me, giant radar screens show there’s absolutely nothing out there but I remember to look out of the windows – just in case. There’s nothing to beat the Mark 1 Eyeball – except, I swear the visibility is reduced. There’s a haze round the deck lights. I am better off looking at the radar then.

12 – 1600 watch.

We ran one line in my watch. Just the one, then we had to pack up and run for Lerwick because there’s an imminent gale warning and the wind is already increasing.

On the steam back, the wind got up towards a force 7. The swell, already moderately high, piled up into steel-grey hills with snowy peaks. And did this ship pitch and roll uncomfortably? No. She did not. I like this ship. She’s comfortable and she’s got soul. Her sister ship, however, (or more accurately her stable-mate because they are not actually sisters) is at great risk of losing her soul because she is crewed by the damned. How is it that she left a nearby survey site after we left ours and still bagged the plum berth, right in the town centre? I think the Devil may have had a hand in this.

At 0130 today (15th March) we slid quietly sideways to our berth between the ferry terminal and a fishing boat. All quiet, businesslike and unfussy. Ropes went ashore onto bollards, the gangway was rigged, our engines shut down – and still a certain berth closer to town remains empty. Oh well, in Lerwick, you’re not a long walk from anywhere really.

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