21 November 2017

A Voyage of Two Seas – a tale by Captain Seagull aka James Teo

A Voyage of Two Seas – a tale by Captain Seagull aka James Teo

To my friends

Prologue

It was the 24th Oct 2017 when I arrived in Geoje. Typhoon Saola had already made its name known within the SHI shipyard. The sailing was delayed to the 31st and I signed on the lead tug Terasea Eagle just one night before. My name is Captain Seagull aka James Teo and this is my log.

"If you ask him he says Sinbad the sailor, but I doubt if it be his real name."
- The Count of Monte Cristo

 

Day 1 – (FPSO Sailaway)

It was 0600hrs when my alarm went off. It has been one night since I signed on board the Terasea Eagle. I rushed down to the galley and downed two glasses of orange juice faster than you can say the word juice and headed straight for the bridge and surprised the Chief Mate. I found myself disappointed as it was still pitch dark and nothing was happening. I waited for an hour before Eric came on board together with Dmitry and the SHI PMT. We shared some cigarettes, coffee and jokes amongst ourselves. Of course, they disembarked before we castoff, I bid them farewell even though I had secretly wished that they had accidentally remained on board. Departure ROB is two novels, seven packets of cigarettes, two packets of potato chips and one packet of strawberry tart biscuits.

If there is anything that could work as timely as a precision mechanical timepiece, it would be the events that led up to the sailaway. In this case, critical planning is key and within one hour both our tugs were connected to the FPSO and tugging along the Masan VTS.

It was 0900hrs and the weather could not get any better, the sea was a flat blue mirror with the sun gently glistening over the surface, and the sky was as clear as the glint in the Captain’s eye. I spotted a lone seagull on the deck and it was then when I decided if I were Captain, this would be my name.

 

The Egina FPSO departs Geoje

The Egina FPSO departs Geoje

 

 

At 1045hrs the pilot was annoyed that we did not have any electronic charts on board. He grumbled something in Korean which nobody could decipher. So we all just ignored him.

Once we cleared the channel, we were making sea passage at 4.2 knots and my heart sank as this meant our ETA Singapore would be 27th Nov. I will surely miss my friends’ wedding if this was going to be the case. We were going slower than a snail on horse tranquilizers. 

I found it remarkable that there was still some internet at 1800hrs and it took me 3 good hours to download the 2 videos my wife sent me of the baby, it was worth it and also it made the Captain laugh.

 

Day 2 (Smooth sailing)

I had a good sleep. I woke up to a sea of calm and vast blue emptiness save for the towing tugs and the Egina FPSO. I had totally forgotten about watching the sunrise but I was too tired from yesterday’s events to get out of bed at 0500hrs, there are at least 19 more days till I get off in Singapore? Today we would reconfigure the towing tugs. And I was informed that there would be an abandon ship drill later in the day. 

Just another day towing the largest FPSO in the world

Just another day towing the largest FPSO in the world

This morning Sarah and I learnt how to engage the bridge coffee machine. We are now one step closer to operating the vessel.

It was close to 0800hrs when we commenced the reconfiguration operation. We were in the middle of heaving in the wire when the rep on the FPSO radioed in. He was upset that he was not informed in advance of such operation and ranted on for about 20 mins over the radio, I think he talks too much. The Captain entertained him but the Chief Mate probably shared the same thoughts as me.

The operation went well, within 2 hours we were back on full power. There is still much to learn, it is definitely a different perspective from the bridge than reading it in some manual.

But still, we have advanced no further than an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping and all that is on my mind right now is the liquidated damages if we do not get to Nigeria on time.

 

Day 4 (A call from office)

Today Captain Bales calls me on the ship and talks to me for 7 mins about something which I totally cannot remember about now. But it was good to hear his voice.

The crew are always busy as there are things to be done every day. Today, they had finished painting the bridge. 

Looking aft, at the Egina FPSO in the distance

Looking aft, at the Egina FPSO in the distance

 

Day 5 (Kuro Shio)

Today we entered the Kuro Shio currents. Almost 5m waves and 30knots wind. Tug was rolling and pitching, all the stuff in my cabin was upside down when I came back in the evening, and it was fantastic! It felt like a ride in the Universal Studios.  I took some amazing videos. Chief mate said it was some small waves….. 

 

 

   

  

 

Day 6 (Tapetop)

I can only describe the sleep as sleeping on a waterbed at the back of a lorry being driven up and down a rocky hill by a blind bangalah drunk on black cat whiskey. The Captain was very impressed with me though, he thinks I’ve been at sea before.

So because of all the rolling and pitching I came up with a new invention. Basically it’s just adding tape to my laptop, but I named it the Tapetop anyway, predominantly due to the tape. I chose the inconspicuous grey cloth tape for 2 good reasons as firstly it camouflaged nicely with the computer and it was extremely durable.

Tapetop, Patent pending

Tapetop, Patent pending

 

Day 7 (The Electrician)

 

The Electrician went by the name of Phone, he is extremely friendly and I suspect he is Burmese and because it also says so on the crew list. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying most of the time as he was speaking so fast as if punctuations and the space bar never actually existed. Well that saved us a lot of time especially when he was explaining to us how to start the emergency generator. I was just learning from his actions. He was quite animated when he started the generator manually, it looked like a scene from an Archie comic where Archie Andrews was desperately trying to crank up his jalopy before his date with Veronica. The weather was good and the crew continued to paint the ship for the remainder of the day.

 

 

Day 8 (Magnificent view)

 

It’s been 8 days since I last shaved. When I saw myself in the mirror this morning, I thought I was starting to look like Peter Lee from nose down to the lip. 

 

This evening I witnessed a terrific sunset, not the best I’ve seen but good enough to make the list. It was around 1730hrs when the skies slowly dimmed as if someone had a rheostat to the ethers. Then it was pitch dark and I decided to take a walk outside the bridge, it took a while before my eyes could adjust, and there it was, a cloudless sky full of stars. They were like tiny sparkling diamonds randomly scattered across a black velvet drape. It was truly a magnificent sight. I wish I had brought along my SLR, but I then I remembered that I didn’t own one.

Magnificent View

Magnificent View

 

Day 9 (Things to see at sea)

I realised that at sea, there are new and different things to see each day, new birds, vessels, sunsets and stars. Today while transiting the Bashi Channel, we spotted an aircraft carrier fleet. There must have been at least 30 aircraft on top and five escorting warships. What a sight it was, I say so as I’ve never seen a fleet like that except for in the movies. They came quite close as if they were more interested in us than we were with them. I couldn’t spot any periscopes though. We hit 7.2knots today.

 

Day 10 (Captain Seagull on watch)

I was mostly on the bridge throughout the entire voyage. Most of the times I pretended to be the Captain whenever he was not on watch, looking through the binoculars in search for newfound land looming beyond the vast horizon.

This morning Sarah put on her PPE and went to the engine room. So later I also went to put on my PPE but I went to the laundry room instead. While I had my PPE on, I decided to take some pictures.

Capt Seagull collage

Capt Seagull collage

Day 13 (ROB Zero)

The potato chips didn’t last very long, two days to be exact, but today I finally ran out of cigarettes. As I didn’t want to purchase an entire carton, I wondered if I could barter some unused boxes of cigarettes with my unused bars of Lux soap. But then I came around and decided to stop smoking for the remainder of the voyage.

Two hours later my alter ego decided otherwise. Captain Seagull needed to smoke. Just as well, as the real Captain had planned something outdoor for dinner.
My outdoor dinner

My outdoor dinner

Day 15 (Departure from the convoy and back to Singapore)

Today I transferred from the Terasea Eagle to the POSH Conquest by FRC, thus prematurely ending my voyage. The weather was good of course with some small swells, but still it was a most exhilarating experience riding on a tiny boat out in the deep ocean for close to 20 minutes with no land in sight. The Chief Mate handled the FRC extremely well, earlier on he had put some idea into my head about a shark attack and then I thought about asking the cook to throw a bloody chicken over the other side during the transfer.

 

Epilogue

I had a marvellous time sailing together with the crew of the Terasea Eagle. They were all professional sailors and at the same time knew how to enjoy working on board, thus keeping spirits high throughout the voyage. They take great pride in their roles and in up-keeping the vessel in a tip top condition. The hospitality provided by them was second to none.

"Man feels at home neither at sea nor on land, but with his family."
- Captain Seagull

My special thanks to Captain Edmund, Chief Mate Andriy, and the entire Terasea Eagle family who have made this journey a fantastic experience.