Saturday, July 10, 2010

Watch Out for That Tanker! by Bev July 10

Blog from Beverley Ashton

July 10, south of Dunbar

We set off on Thursday evening hoping to get across the Tay and Firth of Forth in one go, we believed we had a 24hr weather window. 12 hrs in the winds began to build again and boat control began to diminish.

Soon all we were doing was being turned by wind and waves as we tried to find our course, it was time to drop the hook again.

We've all been frustrated with how much time we've spent on anchor, but this time spirits were higher as we knew that more good weather was forecast for later in the day.

We were anchored about 5 miles off St Andrews Bay and just about clear of the Tay, it was time to return to our anchor routine.

As the wind built so too did the waves, Belinda and I sat on deck passing the time by discussing what we wanted to eat when we returned home while getting soaked by the occasional big wave crashing over the side.

At one point as I glanced up I saw a ship maybe 3 miles away. It was heading directly for us and moving quickly, you could see the large breaking waves on its hull.

'Um' I said to Belinda, 'I've just spotted a ship and it seems to be heading this way.'

We've encountered the path of other ships but this time was different; this time we were anchored due to our lack of manoeuvrability and so were dependant on the ship changing course.

We both sat still and watched the ship for about 20seconds hoping for a sign that the course wasn't direct at all. However, as we watched it just became more evident that we were in their path.

Realising something needed to change, Belinda grabbed the hand-held VHF radio and I grabbed the flares box.

It's hard to radio a ship when you don't know who they are so Belinda hailed them by location.

Almost immediately, the coastguard responded, 'Hello Go Commando, this is Forth Coastguard the ship you are trying to contact is Whitstar'

Belinda was now able to hail the ship by name. 'Whitstar…Whitstar…Whistar… this is ocean rowing boat Go Commando, Go Commando, Go Commando.'

Thankfully they responded quickly and Belinda explained our predicament and the collision course but all he time they were moving closer.

They confirmed that they couldn't see us but were prepared to change course to avoid a hit.

As Belinda informed them they were a little over half a mile away, I opened the flare box and took out a white hand-held flare. Ready to light the flare, finally we saw Whitstar begin to turn and knew that we'd managed to avoid a hit.

We thanked the coastguard for the quick interception and took a few moments to collect our thoughts. Relief, that in the face of a possible disaster we had stayed calm, taken the best action and everyone was safe.

This reminded us why we sit out in the cold, the wind, the waves, the rain and the swell - the weather is not the only risk to us when we are anchored.

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