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Brian Probetts (Site Admin)
21st May 2012, 03:07 PM
LETTER TO OWNER

Sir, it is with regret that I hasten to write to you concerning a misunderstanding leading to the following events. I trust that you will receive this report before forming any misconceived opinions from reports in the World Press.

We had picked up the Pilot and the Apprentice had just returned from changing the G flag to the H flag. This being his first trip, he was having difficulty rolling up the G flag. I therefore proceeded to show him.Coming to the last part I told him to let go. The lad, though willing was not very bright, necessitating my having to repeat the order in a sharper tone. At that moment, the Chief Officer appeared from the Chart Room, having plotted the vessel’s progress, and, thinking it was the anchors to which I had referred,repeated the ‘Let go ‘to the officer on the focstle. The port anchor having been cleared away but not walked out was promptly let go.
The effect of this whilst proceeding at full harbour speed proved too much for the windlass brake and the entire length of the port cable was pulled out to the bitter end and I fear that the damage to the chain locker may be extensive.
The braking effect of the port anchor naturally caused the vessel to sheer in the direction of the swing bridge that spans the tributaryof the river up which we 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 Volkswagen, two cyclists and a cattle truck on the foredeck. The ship’s company are presently rounding up the contents of the latter, which, from the noise, I would say are pigs. In his attempt 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 onto the swing-bridge operator’s control cabin. After the port anchor had been let go and the vessel started to sheer I gave a double ring ‘full astern’ on the engine telegraph and personally rang the engine room to order maximum revs astern. I was informed that the temperature was 53 degrees and was asked whether there was a film show tonight.My reply would not add constructively to this report.
Up to now I have confined myself to the activities at the fore end of the vessel. Down aft they were having their own problems. At the moment the port anchor was let go, the Second Officer was supervising the process of making the vessel fast to the ‘after tug’ and was lowering the ship’s towing spring down onto the tug. The sudden braking effect of the port anchor caused the tug to ‘run under’ the stern of the 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 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 might have touched something on the river bed. It is perhaps lucky that the high tension cables brought down by the foremast, were not live, possibly due to their being replaced by the under-water cable. Owing to the blackout it is impossible to say where the pylon fell.
Actions of foreigners during moments of minor crises neverfail to amaze me. The pilot, for instance is at this moment huddled in the corner of my day cabin, alternately crooning to himself and crying, having consumed a bottle of gin in a time worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records. The tug skipper on the other hand reacted violently and had to be forcibly restrained by the Steward who has handcuffed him in the ship’shospital.
I enclose names and addresses of the drivers and Insurance Companies of the vehicles on the foredeck. These particulars will assist you in a claim for damage to the railings of No 1 Hold. I am now closing this preliminary report as I am finding it difficult to concentrate with the sound of police sirens and flashing lights.
It is sad to think that had the Apprentice realised that there was no need to fly the Pilot flags after dark, none of this would have happened.
Yours truly

Master