Life at the end of the road

May 1, 2013

Into the North Sea

Filed under: boats, daily doings — Tags: , , , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:18 pm

Well, it was more of a case of ‘onto’ than ‘into’ but that’s where we were today in our little orange sausages, I was going to say turds but thought that a little unkind Smile The last time I was on, in or under the North Sea was some eleven or twelve years ago as a diver and I can assure that at this time of year it’s boodly freezing.

Much of the early part of the day was spent on survival theory, hypothermia and lessons learned from the likes of the MV Lovat tragedy of 1975. The Lovat was a coaster loaded with coal dust from Swansea destined for the power stations of England when she foundered some thirty miles off Lands End in severe January weather. It was a tragedy caused by ‘cargo shift’ lack of training, lack of sufficient life saving gear and quite simple things like the crew being unable to open the packets of flares, sea anchor and stuff that could have saved them. Their cold hands being unable to undo the wrappings of the survival pack, all things that have since been rectified by legislation and experience, like the number of LSA carried and type of packaging on survival packs. Sadly however the morphine had to be deleted due to the amount of junkies breaking open life rafts to steal it Sad smile When I was younger it was still in the first aid kit, now you have to make do with aspirin Sad smile Of the thirteen crew from the Lovat only two survived despite possible salvation being on the scene within minutes. Being a diver and having spent many hours in cold water, albeit well protected I was not surprised that so few survived, hearing that the Penlee lifeboat   had responded to the tragedy made it quite poignant for me. For it was the very same lifeboat that picked up the bodies from the sea after Lovat foundered that responded to the Union Star five years later.

I remember well the running aground of the Union Star in December of 1981 and the lifeboat ‘Solomon Browne’s’ valiant attempt to rescue the crew and captains family.   On 19 December 1981 it was launched to go to the aid of the MV Union Star after its engines failed 8 miles (13 km) east of the Wolf Rock.[8] Winds were gusting at up to 90 knots (100 mph; 170 km/h) – hurricane force 12 on the Beaufort scale – and whipping up waves 60 feet (18 m) high.[9] On board was a crew of five and three members of the captain’s family. A helicopter had been unable to rescue them and so the lifeboat with its crew of eight men went alongside. After several attempts four people managed to jump across;[10] the captain’s family and one of the men were apparently safe. The lifeboat radioed that ‘we’ve got four off’; that was the last ever heard from anyone on either vessel.[7] 

A week later I was walking the cliffs above the wreckage of the Union Star and her agonising screams will be etched in my memory until I die. By the time I arrived on the scene she’d broken in two and her stern section was being dragged up and down the forward half by the surge of the sea. As each wave carried the hull of the rear over the keel of the bow she let let out an eerie screech that could be heard for miles above the pounding waves.


Union Star

I lifted this picture of the internet (half way down the page and well worth a read)   but I took one almost identical in January 1982 and it’s an image that I’ll take to my grave, along with the tiny pieces of wooden wreckage that were strewn along the beach at Lamorna cove from the Solomon Browne. Little bits of teak and mahogany dotted along the sand all painted in the RNLI colours and none larger than a shoe, very very sad and just 5 days before Christmas.

Anyway it’s tragedies like this that have improved training enforced legislation and hopefully made the sea a safer place, which is why I’m here now.






Typically enough, the day we were going out to sea was the worst day of the week, still mainly fine but not half as nice as yesterday on the river.




Yup, it was much more interesting practicing ‘man overboard’, towing and emergency steering drills out here than on the Dee.




A few hours passed by very quickly and once we’d let the ‘anchor handlers’



Mearsk Lifter and Havila Neptune pass by



we headed in.




Though not before one of our crew had dumped the contents of his stomach all over the bow of the boat Smile



There’s a lot going on in Aberdeen but five days is more than enough for me.



Here’s the tugs Cultra and Carrickfergus  sandwiching a smaller one who’s name I can’t see, the larger ones being of 1970’s vintage and looking very similar to the old Vanguard that came to a sticky end off Rona.

Tug 'Vangaurd'

OK, perhaps not that similar Smile

Anyway, I’m ‘flagging’ now it’s almost 22:00 and I’m halfway through a flagon of Weston’s cloudy scrumpy so I think I should quit whilst I’m ahead and go to bed.


Leaving you with what can only be described as something between a ‘religious experience’, minimal techno and superbly choreographed drumming from  the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers who just happen to be playing in the Aberdeen Music Hall tomorrow night.


Now I saw these dudes in Kyle village hall some fifteen years ago and they were awesome Smile All I have to do now is persuade wifey to take me tomorrow Smile

April 30, 2013

Probably not a good idea :-(

Filed under: boats, daily doings — Tags: , , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 8:15 pm

A pure peach of a day its been here in Aberdeen, right from the first moment the suns rays spilled through my window sometime after 6:00am. It seems a million miles away from Arnish on Raasay, just a couple of hundred miles away, the grass is six inches longer and the sun has real heat in it. OK, the towels are black with city dirt every time I take a wash and my ears are assaulted by the constant sound of traffic but at least its warm and I’m having a good time. Well perhaps ‘good time’ is a little over enthusiastic but the course is interesting and the company great Smile not only that but I’m hammering the broadband connection here to death Smile Tonight’s choice being techno legend Dave Clarke who’s streaming away merrily in the background as I type.


A ‘banging’ set from 12 years ago in Holland, which, along with a bottle of red wine gave me the enthusiasm to do my VAT return on time.

069  074

Probably not a good idea, my maths is rubbish when sober, let alone after two glasses of red on an empty stomach but ‘The Baron’ has just been announced to headline the EM-it tent at alongside Justin Robertson and Meat Katie so it’s got me in the mood. My festival days are over until the house is finished but Dave Clarke, I could be tempted, again, ‘not a good idea’ Smile

Free fall

Anyways, after the sun awoke me and a nice healthy breakfast of muesli, dried fruit and yoghurt was downed I set off on the 20 minute walk to Petrofac with the rest of the ‘Hybrids’ Smile 



Class got a little delayed as the ‘free fall’ lifeboat was getting launched at 8:30



so we watched that prior to a lesson on ‘boat handling’ prior to the 10:00am break.


After which it was ‘out on the river’ for a spot of training in the open lifeboat, both with ‘Mr Lister’ and the oars, a long session of ‘man overboard’ exercises and rowing.


and a very interesting place the river Dee is indeed, full as it is of oil rig supply vessels from all over the globe.






A shortened lunch break that had me sunbathing and was followed by pretty similar exercises in the TEMPSC, that will be Totally Enclosed Mechanically Propelled Survival Craft Smile



One of those three orange submarine like objects on the left.



A kind of fibreglass sausage with doors on and an engine which allegedly can accommodate some 42 people Smile


Though, most of us preferred the sunshine outside to the noisy interior Smile 



For there really was much to see out there in this busy port.



By the time we came in, around 16:00, the ‘free fall’ lifeboat was due for another launch, designed mainly for use from oil platforms, tankers and cargo ships that may need evacuating quickly these are very expensive and extremely spectacular.










Sadly it’s not on our course Sad smile

That was it really, I wandered back to the hotel past the multitude of ‘supply boats’ and a couple of ‘anchor handlers’ berthed alongside the various quays and docks.



Kind of hard to see in this picture but that’s an ‘anchor handler’ on the left and a ‘supply boat’ on the right, the left hand one having a clear rounded stern for shooting anchors and some frigging great winches for tensioning and recovering them.

Blog at