THE CAPTAIN'S LETTER
There follows a well known spoof letter purporting to be from a Master
after a particularly unusual set of co-incidences. At least it was well
known twenty or thirty years ago. It was sent by Pete Wright. We all
used to be able to recall actual incidents which were not too far removed
from this wonderfully imaginative whimsy, typically ships running into
cranes, dropping anchors through railway trucks and the like, but anyway
for those of you not familiar with this - enjoy!
It is with regret
and haste that I write this report to you. Regret that such a small
misunderstanding could lead to the following circumstances, but haste in
order that you will receive this report before you form your own
preconceived opinions from reports in the world press, for I am sure that
they will tend to over-dramatise the affair.
Having just picked
up the pilot, the apprentice had returned to the bridge after changing the
”G” flag for the “H” flag and this being his first trip, was having
difficulty in rolling up the “G” flag. I therefore proceeded to show him
the correct procedure for this operation. Coming to the last part, I told
him to “let go” and the lad, though willing, is not too bright
necessitating my having to repeat the order in a sharper tone.
At this moment, the
Chief Officer appeared from the chart room, having been plotting the
vessels progress and, thinking that it was the anchors that were being
referred to, he repeated the “let go” to the Third Officer on the fo’csle.
The port anchor, having been cleared away, but not walked out, was
promptly “let go”. The effect of letting the anchor drop from the pipe
while the vessel was proceeding at full harbour
speed proved too much for the windlass brake and the entire length of the
port chain and stopper was pulled out by the roots. I expect that the
damage to the chain locker may be extensive. The braking effect of the
port anchor naturally caused the vessel to sheer in that direction - right
towards the swing bridge that spans a tributary to the river up which we
The swing bridge
operator showed great presence of mind by opening the bridge for my
vessel, but unfortunately, he did not think to stop the vehicular traffic,
the result being that the bridge partly opened and deposited a Volkswagen,
two cyclists and a cattle truck on my fo’csle.
The ships’ company
are at present rounding up the contents of the latter, which from the
noise I would say are pigs. In his effort to stop the progress of the
vessel, the Third Officer also dropped the starboard anchor, too late to
be of any practical use for it fell on the swing bridge operator’s control
cabin. After the port anchor was let go and the vessel started to sheer,
I gave at double ring of “full astern” on the engine room telegraph and
personally rang the engine room to order maximum astern revolutions. I
was informed that the sea temperature was 53° and asked if there was a
film on tonight; my reply would not add constructively to this report.
Up to now I have
confined my report to the activities at the forward end of my vessel.
Down aft they were having their own problems. At the moment the port
anchor was let go, the second officer was supervising the making fast of
the after tug down to which he was lowering the ships’ towing spring.
The sudden braking
effect of the port anchor caused the tug to run in under the stern of my
vessel, just at the moment when the propeller was answering my double ring
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
minutes, thereby allowing the safe abandoning of that vessel.
It is strange, but
at the very same moment of letting go the port anchor there was a power
cut ashore. The fact that we were passing over a cable area at the time
suggests that we may have touched something on the riverbed. It is
perhaps lucky that the high-tension cables brought down by the foremast
were not live, possibly being replaced by the underwater cable, but owing
to shore blackout, it is impossible to say where the pylons fell.
It never fails to
amaze me the actions and behaviour of foreigners
during moments of minor crisis. The pilot, for instance, is at this
moment huddled in the corner of my day cabin, alternatively crooning to
himself and crying after having consumed a bottle of gin in a time that is
worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records. The tug captain on
the other hand, reacted violently, and had to be forcibly restrained by
the Steward, who has him handcuffed in the ships hospital where he is
telling me to do impossible things with my ship and my person.
I enclose the names
and addresses of the drivers and insurance companies of the vehicles on my
foredeck collected by the Third Officer after his somewhat hurried
evacuation of the fo’csle. These particulars will enable you to claim for
the damage that they did to the railings on the number one hold.
I am closing this
preliminary report because I am finding it difficult to concentrate with
the sounds of police sirens and the flashing lights.
It is sad to think
that had the apprentice realised that there was
no need to fly pilot flags after dark, none of this would have happened.
For the weekly
accountability report, I will assign the following casualty numbers.
T/750101 to T/750200 inclusive.
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