I have been through many Storms and in many types of Vessels and experienced two Hurricanes and four Typhoons.
In all but one case I was always fully in control of the situation, in fact this was one of my abilities
that led me to be requested as a Quatermaster. The case when I met my 'limit' face to face was in
the Barge as written in the 'Gibraltar Incident' page, the 'Spurn Beach'.
To describe what it is like navigating a Hurricane is not easy, they are never the same experience
due to the confused nature of Everything. The sea, the wind, the air, the stress on the ship and
more, all of which are confused and never rythmical, except the seventh wave. At times the air is
like white smoke, at times the sea will smack you from an impossible angle, at times you and your
vessel seem to fly with no water under the keel.
It is at these moments that you become one with the ship.
We had left Malta bound for Alexandria, the Royal Air force there gave us a clear weather forcast
for the next 3 days. After only 8 hours I could see something was wrong with the forcast as I
watched the sky change. Fifteen hours later all hell let loose and the sea became very angry. During
the fifteenth hour we lost the anchor, the forward mast, the top half of the radio mast and then
the wheelhouse roof. Then the tarps on the hatches started ripping open and it was at that point I
was left with no choice but to put out a May Day, it cannot be imagined how bad it feels and how
dificult it is to say the simple words 'Mayday, mayday, mayday' over the radio, I was secretly hoping
the radio mast was too damaged to transmit.
Almost immediately I got a reply, it was the Italian Super Tanker the 'Caspian Sea' out of Genova
and bound for Libya.
It took the 'Caspian Sea' about 40 minutes to find us, she positioned herself so we were protected
in her Lee.
The Radio Officer onboard was English and as destiny plays tricks he was from Hull, in fact from
Spurn and knew our vessel well.
Both the radio Officer and the Captain of the 'Caspian Sea' recommended that we abandon our
vessel, rockets for ropes were readied and we spoke of how best to scuttle our vessel so as to not
be a hazard to shipping.
I asked the Captain if he thought the weather would get even worse? it was then that he informed
me we were near the eye of a Hurricane at Force 12+.
At that point knowing it could get no worse I asked the Captain to give us his Lee for an hour so we
could batten down and repair enough to make a run of the storm, he did so.
Knowing that laterit would be impossible to get forward to our accomodation we brought all
immediate supplies of food drink and tobacco to the wheelhouse where we had repaired the roof
with ropes and 8 inch nails.
We were in the first Hurricane in 22 years in that area of the Med exactly as shown in the satelite
foto, it was impossible to plot a course of any kind, all that could be done was to 'Run' with the
storm. We left the shelter of the Capsian Sea staying in radio contact for some hours with the radio
Officer from Hull, then we were on our own.
To 'Run' a storm differs with each different type of vessel, in a Barge it had never been done before
so there were new rules to learn and obey.
With a Barge this means getting up to the speed of the running sea and to hold that speed + or
minus half a knot and a swing port to starboard and visa versa to a maximum of 7-8 degrees. In this
manner the stern of the vessel disturbs the 'always there' 30 foot wave behind you. In that very
position it is the wave itself that protects the vessel from the wind, sometimes when you get this
just right it is possoble to light a cigarette whist looking a 30 foot wave with its breaking top trying
always to run down itself at you, at these times one enters into another dimension where you and
the wave become one and you understand each other so very well.
Roped together, Colin Wilson my engineer and I ate through a crate of oranges given to us in
Mellila. We ran on like this for 33 hours before making the Island of Kithira in Greece.
As we turned around the Island into the sheltered east bay we encountered 34 ships, all types of
ships, sea going tugs, tankers, US Warships, Russians all of whom were anchored and hiding from
the Hurricane behind Kithira Island.
It was just after dawn, I called on my half radio, 'All ships Kithira bay' I was saluted by sirens and
horns and radio calls. I called for assistance to berth at the small dock as I had no anchor nor a chart
for Kithira. What I got was much more, several Brethren were aboard some of the ships at anchor
and after berthing at the small dock, boats arrived from the assortment of ships in the bay, I was
asked what I needed, I was given wood, glass, tarps, paint and nails and a sack of potatoes which
were never asked for. We spent the next 3 days drying our tobacco and repairing our wonderfull
ship the 'Spurn Beach'.
Satelite shot of exact position
between Southern Italy and North
Copyright Â© 2009 Captaintonz.com
The caress of the Sea.