The following short story has nothing at all to do with refrigeration. However our leader and mentor keeps a copy near his desk to refer to in times of great stress. Apparently it helps. Its inclusion here though perhaps tells you more about us than we had intended! Anyway, we’ve reproduced it here in the hope it has a similar calming effect should you ever find yourself in similar need.
It is with regret and haste that I write to you. Regret that such a small misunderstanding should lead to the following circumstances and haste in order to avoid you forming your own preconceived opinions when accounts appear in the world’s press, for they will certainly tend to over dramatise the affair.
We had just picked up the pilot and the apprentice had returned from changing the ‘G’ flag to the ‘H’ and, it being his first experience, he had difficulty in rolling the ‘G’ flag up. I therefore proceeded to show him how. Coming to this part, I told him to let go. The lad, though willing, is not too bright and this necessitated my having to repeat the order in a sharper tone.
At this moment the First Officer, who had been plotting our progress in the chartroom, appeared on the bridge and, thinking that it was the anchors that were being referred to, repeated my ‘let go’ to the Third Officer in the fo’c’sle. The port anchor, having been cleared aweigh, was promptly let go. The effect of letting the anchor drop from the pipe at full harbour speed proved too much for the windlass brake and the entire length of the port cable was pulled out by the roots. I fear the damage to the chain locker may be extensive.
The drag of the port anchor caused the vessel to sheer in that direction, right up to a swing bridge which spans the tributary to the river up which we were proceeding. The swing bridge operator showed great presence of mind by opening up the bridge in our favour. Unfortunately, he did not think to stop the vehicular traffic, the result being that as the bridge opened, a saloon car, two cyclists and a truck were deposited on the foredeck (my crew are presently trying to round up the contents of the truck which, judging by the noise, I would say were cows). In his efforts to stop the vessel’s progress, the Third Officer dropped the starboard anchor - too late to be of any practical use, for it fell onto the swing bridge operator’s control cabin.
After the port anchor was let go and the vessel started to sheer, I gave a double ring full astern on the engine room telegraph and personally rang down to order maximum astern revolutions. With background strains of ‘Annie Laurie’ I was asked if there was a film showing tonight and informed that the sea temperature was 53º. My reply would not add constructively to this report.
Up to now I have confined my report to the events at the forward end of the vessel; down aft there were other problems. At the moment the port anchor was let go, the Second Officer was supervising the making fast of the after tug. Our sudden deceleration caused the tug to run in under our stern just as the propellers were responding to my double ring to go 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 two minutes and thereby the safe abandoning of that vessel was achieved.
It is strange, but at the very moment the port anchor was let go, there was a power cut ashore. The fact that we were passing over a cable area at that time might suggest we touched something on the river bed. It is perhaps fortunate that the high tension cables brought down by the foremast were not live, possibly because they had been replaced by the underwater cable. Owing to the shore blackout it is impossible to say where the pylon fell.
The actions and behaviour of foreigners during moments of mild crisis never fails to amaze me. The pilot, for instance, is at this moment huddled in a corner of my day cabin alternately crooning to himself and weeping, after consuming a bottle of gin in a time that is worthy of inclusion in a book of records. The tug captain, on the other hand, reacted violently on being hauled out of the water and had to be forcibly restrained; he is now handcuffed in the ship’s hospital and telling me to do impossible things with my ship and my crew.
I enclose the insurance details of the vehicles on the foredeck and the names and addresses of their drivers. These details were thoughtfully collected by the Third Officer after his somewhat hurried evacuation from the fo’c’sle, and will be required to expedite our claim for the damage that the falling vehicles did to the railing of the No. 1 hold.
I must now close this preliminary report as concentration is difficult with all the shouting, mooing, sound of police whistles and bells. It is sad to reflect that had the apprentice known there was no need to fly pilot flags after dark, none of this would have happened.
Master, M V Golden Fortune