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Friday, 13 May 2011

The Death of Enza (and my part in her demise) Part 11

I believe that it is not only a legal obligation to respond to an SOS, but also a moral obligation. To the vessels which altered course and stood by to assist in our rescue, I shall always be indebted. These were: the naval vessel HMS Ocean, on training operations nearby. HMS Ocean would take on the role as the On Scene Coordinator to; M/V Ijsselborg, a Dutch merchant ship carrying a cargo of wind generator blades and the passenger ferry Haemar. The Haemar had readied it's tenders to launch a rescue. It was told to stand by, however, as a French Navy rescue helicopter "Rescue Bravo Charlie" had already been scrambled from Lanveoc.

Unfortunately, as much thought, if not more, is given to those boats that passed by knowingly. Boats close by that would have known about our situation that chose to steam on to make good time for their ports. Boats which chose not to alter position or speed in order to save lives.

It was seeing these ships stern lights in the night that turns the mindset from what next? To what if?

What if no one is actually looking for us? What if one of the hundreds of boats using the route Ile d' Ouessant to Cabo Finisterre, just 5 Nm west of us that we've not yet seen sail by, were in fact to be heading a course straight for us?
A large ship travelling at its economical speed can take up to 8 nautical miles to simply stop. Even with the RADAR on, our RADAR image would be minimal. We are smaller than waves now. If a boat were to collide with our unlit and 'invisible' hull it would be beyond the horizon before it had stopped.
These are the thoughts that occupied my mind whilst waiting.

Waiting for what?
A boat to rescue us? A home to go to? A loved one to embrace? To die?
Waiting for anything. Anything to take your mind away from the consistently changing pressure within the cabin battering your ears, of the fine salt spray stinging your eyes as it is forced through the gaps in the boat. Anything to distract from the constant roaring of the above taking place, of the strobes of the EPIRBs flashing inharmoniously. Anything to ignore the itching of the diesel, oil and battery acid through the tears in your survival suit. Anything but this crap.

I had tried to go in to the hull earlier but preferred the ocean to the disorientating scene of strobes, of nothing where it should be and of no horizon that the inside offered. It made me feel sick. The most disconcerting thing however was the upside down toilet. It's just not how a toilet should be!

I much prefer the stars to gaze upon, the phosphorescence to ponder. With Sacha and Slava out here too, I felt safe. We three of us stand with our backs to the hull with our feet lifting from the netting with the waves. I turn my head to the East and look at the clouds; a heavy, dominating mass enveloping the dark sky that illuminates their very outline. I suck in a lung full of air. So fresh! I think of home. So far! I look away from the other two and uncontrollably cry for about 3 seconds. Where did that come from? Whoa, that I was not expecting! Unashamed I turn back to stare at the stars and I smile.

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