You have the whole of the North Sea to manoeuvre in yet you choose to pass 0.6 nautical miles from my port side. In a gale of wind. A force 8 gale. ‘Go away you moron. Go on **** off,’ I growl, turning the dial of the auto-pilot to starboard to buy us a little more sea room.
‘I’m sorry?’ the oceanographic boffin bloke turns to me.
‘Oh, sorry, not you. I’m talking to the radar. Well actually I’m talking to that ship,’ I wave at the cargo vessel scraping past our port bow. ‘But he’s also … on the radar … Never mind … I didn’t mean you.’ Mr Boffin raises an eyebrow, lifts the corners of his mouth in a thin little smile and goes back to gazing out of the bridge windows.
Down on the deck, his charge, a wave rider buoy, flashes his yellow light five times every 20 seconds like a silent plea. ‘Please – put – me – in – water,’ it seems to say. ‘Please – put – me – in – water.’ Mr Boffin and his colleague Baby Boffin want to set the buoy free on the Dogger Bank but there’s the small matter of non-stop gale warnings, high winds and massive seas to contend with. We can get the ship there but it will be a very unpleasant journey and once there, no one’s going out on deck to lift the buoy up with the crane and drop him and his anchor weight over the side. Too risky. Better to stay here and steam up and down past Whitby until the weather moderates.
Hah! Did I say moderate? Who am I kidding? The warnings are going from severe gale 9 to storm force 10. We were looking forward to a violent storm 11 but, mercifully, the forecast is only for a 10 now…
Meanwhile there’s Whitby Abbey, four miles away on our starboard side. Now, there’s Whitby Abbey four miles away on our port side. Jim, colleague of the Oceanographic boffins, stares sadly at the latest weather forecast. Jim is really good at hangdog. You see when I said that we were releasing the wave rider into the wild, I was exaggerating slightly. The buoy will go over the side and sit out on the Dogger Bank for all to see (and hopefully not run over) but he will be anchored down. He will stay in one place – unlike his predecessor who has made a grand escape right across the North Sea to Denmark. According to reports we’re getting, the absconding buoy is sailing up the Danish Coast and round the top into the Baltic. Part of me wants to shout ‘Yayyy! Go wave rider!’ but as we’re supposed to go and get him after we’ve deployed his mate, I don’t think he should get too far away, should he? Especially since we’re not going to get to him for at least another four days. Now you know why Jim looks so hang dog.