Wednesday, April 30, 2014


When we moor alongside an anchored ship, we lower two dense fenders to hang between the two vessels. These act as shock absorbers to prevent metal-to-metal contact and the damage such things cause. They absorb a lot of energy and allow us to heave in our hawsers supertight to keep the vessels from losing contact so they don't smash off each other.

Mooring alongside to an anchored ship. This was a nice day. Today was not. 
 So, today that just didn't work. It was blowing a hard gale, and even in this protected harbor we were bouncing and rolling with a small load of oil to give to a waiting tanker. We are about half the size of this ship, and only about 10% of the weight. I've got 7 heavy hawsers on long leads. How much a rope stretches is determined by the elasticity of the line- if a polydacron rope can stretch 15%, for example, a 10-foot lead would stretch 13 feet, so a 30-foot lead will stretch 39- something to remember if you're working in a sea where you're rolling. You want the lines tight to keep alongside, but not so tight as to want to stretch beyond their elastic modulus.  And then we've got an ancient, round-hulled tug lashed to our other side.

 So, it went like this- tug was rolling and pitching, periodically bashing into our starboard side. This caused us to roll and pitch a little more, and created a motion where the tug would bounce off our side, rattling the whole barge, then we would pull a foot or so off of the ship as we rolled, and then come back to the ship with a crash.

 Picture the last coffee bean in the can when you shake the can. That's what was going on in my bunk when I was trying to sleep. When a particularly bad hit caused something to break in the galley, I got out of bed just as a lee-lurch (a rapid sideways thrust) threw the whole deck 3 feet sideways, and my ass shot across the room like a pinball and I rolled ass-end-over until I fetched up against a locker about 10 feet away.

 So, in the galley, the tankerman on watch hears everything on board rattle, then a thump, then, apparently a sound like a bowling ball going down the alley, then another thump, perfectly clearly through the usually-adequate soundproofing, a muted "Ow! Fuuuuuck me."   I come out of the bunkroom with a scowl, and he's waiting for me, giggling, with one arm propped against the bulkhead (wall) and the other against the dinner table.

 Rule #9 at sea:  in a storm, other people's stumbles and bruises are hilarious, until they're not.

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