RFA Wave Goodbye
It is with much regret and haste that I write this letter to you, regret that such a small misunderstanding could lead to the following circumstances, and haste in order that you will get this report before you form your own preconceived opinions from the reports in the world press, for I am sure that they will tend to over dramatise the affair.
We had just picked up the pilot and the cadet had just returned from changing the “G” flag for the “H” flag. Being the cadets first trip he was having difficulty in rolling up the “G” flag up. I therefore proceeded to show him. Coming to the last part I told him to “let go”. The lad although willing is not to bright, necessitating me having to repeat my instruction in a sharper tone.
At this moment the Chief Officer appeared from the chart room having been plotting the vessels progress, and thinking that I was referring to the anchor, he instructed the Third Officer on the forecastle to “Let Go”. 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 to much for the windlass brake, and the entire length of the port anchor cable was pulled out “by the roots”. I fear that the damage to the chain locker will require extensive repairs. The braking effect of the port anchor naturally caused the vessel to shear in that direction, right towards the swing bridge that spans the tributary to the river up which were proceeding.
The swing bridge operator showed great presence of mind by opening the bridge for my vessel. Unfortunately he did not think to stop the vehicular traffic, the result being that the bridge partly opened and deposited a volkswagon, two cyclists and a cattle truck on the foredeck. My ships company are at present rounding up the contents of the latter, which from the noise I would say were pigs.
In his efforts to stop the progress of the vessel. The Third Officer dropped the starboard anchor, too late to be of any practical use, for it fell on the swing bridge operators cabin. We believe him to be in fairly good health as would could just see him by the light of the numerous small fires as he waved vigourously to the ship as he was taken away in the ambulance.
I digress, just after the port anchor was let go and the vessel started to shear, I gave a double ring full astern on the engine room telegraph and personally rang the engine room to order maximum astern revolutions. I was informed that the sea water temperature was 53 degrees and asked what tonight’s video was, my reply would not add anything constructive to this report.
Up until now my report has been limited to the forward end of the vessel. Down aft the Second Mate was having his own problems. At the moment that the port anchor was let go, the Second Mate was supervising the making fast of the after tug and was lowering the ships towing spring down to the tug.
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 Mate in securing the inboard end of the towing spring delayed the sinking of the tug by some two minutes, thereby allowing the safe abandoning of the tug.
It was strange, but at the very same time as letting go the port anchor there was a power cut ashore. The fact we were passing over a cable area at the time might suggest that we may have touched something on the river bottom. 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 the shore blackout it is not possible to determine where the power pylon has fallen at this time.
It has never failed to amaze me, the actions and behaviour of foreigners during moments on minor crisis. The pilot for instance is at this moment huddled in the corner of my day cabin, alternately crooning to himself and crying after having consumed a bottle of my best gin in a time that would have been worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records. The tug captain on the other hand has proved difficult, he reacted violently and had to be restrained by the steward, who has him safely handcuffed in the ships hospital, where he is reportedly 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, which the Third Officer collected after the somewhat hurried evacuation of the forecastle. These particulars will enable you to claim for the damage they did to the railings of No1 hold.
I shall now close this preliminary report, for I am finding it difficult to concentrate with the sound of the police sirens and their flashing blue lights, and the noise from the pigs.
P.S. It is sad to think that none of this would have happened, had the cadet realised that there is no need to fly pilot flags after dark.