Sunday, 26 March 2017

Road trip pre-pack

Les than a week to go now, and the bikes (Triumph Trophy and BMW F800ST) are fully prepared for a month of riding. Serviced, fresh oil, new tyres and accessories fitted, there is just the pack and test ride fully loaded next weekend before we head west. Bruce, my co-rider, arrives in Melbourne on Friday evening.

Today has been an opportunity to pre-pack the camping gear which will ride behind me in a roll back. The camping kit will be the first off and last on the bike each day. Over-packing (too much kit) needs to be avoided at this stage of planning.

Camping kit: tent, stretcher, chair, gas cooker and pots, gas canister, trenching tool, collapsible fire stand, sleeping bag, pillow, micro-fibre towel, 5 litre fuel bladder and sleeping bag.

The top box and panniers will carry clothing, tools, electronics and basic rations. I have hired an EPIRB/Personal Locator Beacon which will relay a distress message and our GPS co-ordinates to RCC Canberra if we have an emergency in the Outback.

Seven more sleeps...

Antipodean Mariner
26th March 2017

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Road Trip - the bikes

I can’t think of anything that excites a great sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. - Bill Bryson

The planning for the road trip began conceptually in January when my end date, the 31st of March 2017, first appeared in my Redundancy Letter. The original plan was to do the ride solo, as I couldn't think of any one of my friends who could take a loosely-defined, month off work (and away from families) to indulge in this folly.

Road Trip Route Plan
But two weeks ago, friend did - a call out of the blue asking if I wanted a riding mate. Solo is good, but to be able to share the experience doubles the fun.

Australia's Wet Season (also the cyclone season) ends in April, so there is a slight chance that we'll get the tail of a tropical cyclone. However, the end of the wet season is likely to give us some of the best of Australia's Red Centre, as desert is transformed by the tropical rains to millions of square kilometres of bushland.

My riding buddy has entrusted me to buy him a bike for the trip, and 'we' have bought a 2011 BMW F800ST. The bike has the F800 panniers and will be fitted with a Givi V46 Top Box for extra carrying capacity.

The bikes - Triumph Trophy and BMW F800ST

The Trophy, as Mothership, has the Garmin Zumo GPS, Personal Locator Beacon and CB UHF radio. The next installment will be the Packing List.

Antipodean Mariner
8th March 2017

Monday, 6 March 2017

End of Passage

End of  Passage, the traditional end of the voyage, has arrived for me at Farstad. After two years in the Offshore Industry, I am preparing for a change of career and role. The brutal downturn in Offshore Oil and Gas has seen Farstad Shipping survive, but in a merged persona with Solstad Offshore and Deep Sea Supply. The voyage continue after I have signed off at the end of March.

In April 2017, I'll be heading west with another mariner for a one month motorcycle road trip - ''Around Australia Lite'. Our route will take us to the Red Centre of Australia to Uluru (Ayers Rock), Alice Springs, Mt Isa, Cairns in tropical Queensland and then home via whatever route is available in the time remaining.

I'll be riding my Triumph Trophy and my riding mate Bruce will be on a BMW F800ST. With tents, camping gear, tools and extra fuel we'll be tackling a planned 12,000 km trip through the extremes of Australia's diverse climate and topography. Our longest day between populated centres will be the 387 km Tablelands Highway between Cape Crawford and Barkly Homestead in the Northern Territory.

Preparations now are the purchase of the BMW, servicing and outfitting the bike for a month's reliable service, adding luggage capacity and assembling gear.

Internet coverage willing, I'll blog the trip and best of the scenery. The road trip will draw a line between what was not to be and the next leg of my personal voyage.

Stay tuned.

The Antipodean Mariner
March 2017

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

120 Days at Astrolabe

For long-term Followers of this Blog, the heady days of the Rena salvage in 2011 was the making of the 'Antipodean Mariner' as the unvarnished story from Astrolabe Reef, penned by Captain Kevin Judkins as Master of the AHTS 'Go Canopus', was fed to the Web as a daily serial.

With the blessing of Daina Shipping (Rena's Owners), Captain Kevin Judkins has published a book of his personal story and photographic record during the salvage operation.

The book '120 Days at Astrolabe' contains Kevin's personal diary and hundreds of unpublished photographs taken by him and others at the wreck site.

It's a fabulous record of the operation, from the perspective of a professional mariner experiencing a once in a lifetime event up close and very personal.

The book is self-published and can be purchased direct by contacting the author at 

Drop Kevin an email and get your copy mailed to you from New Zealand.

Stuart Scott
The Antipodean Mariner
November 2016

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Farstad's 731's Down Under

I'm still getting my head around the Offshore Industry's use of design types to describe ship. In bluewater shipping, ships may be of a class or series or named after the first ship built, but offshore vessels are described with the mathematical precision of a Mercedes Benz or BMW model.

Farstad's largest and most modern anchor handlers are known as the 731's, or their full title of UT731CD. The Norwegian-built 230 tonne bollard pull, multi-engine direct and diesel-electric drive anchor handlers capable of working in water up to 3,00 metres. We currently have four 731's under our management in Asia-Pacific, 'Far Senator' being the latest addition after conversion in Singapore to provide fire-fighting duties.

Good fortune had three Farstad 731's lined up at Dampier, West Australia yesterday - and no, this picture has not been PhotoShopped. Left to right: Far Saracen (Chevron), Far Senator (Woodside) and Far Sirius (Woodside) courtesy of the Dampier Port Authority's Pilot Boat crew to whom I thank and acknowledge permission to use the photo. Far Shogun was out at the rig earning her keep.

Times are tough in the offshore industry but shots like this are a testament to the investment in technology by their Owners and the professionalism of their Crews operating large, complex and sophisticated vessels just metres away from rigs.

The Antipodean Mariner

Saturday, 7 May 2016

El Faro

In October 2015, the 1975-built US-flag container ro/ro vessel 'El Faro' was lost in the Caribbean with all hands  - 28 American crew and 5 Polish riding engineers performing maintenance on the vessel's boilers and steam propulsion system.

A short summary of the casualty are as follows; the vessel departed on her scheduled voyage from Jacksonville, Florida to Puerto Rico sailing ahead of a slow-moving hurricane. Losing her propulsion system and adrift, the storm overtook the vessel and she appears to have violently capsized. The vessel's wreck was found largely intact in 15,000 feet of water following a sonar survey.
El Faro's transom
An inquiry by the US NTSB has commenced, and with the discovery of the Voyage Data Recorder in a second ROV survey of the wreck the inquiry may be able to fill in crucial audio testimony of what happened on the bridge in the moments leading up to the vessels loss.
El Faro's VDR awaiting recovery
While the vessel was found largely intact on the seabed, the inquiry is focusing on the vessel's age (40 years at the time of her loss), her propulsion system (steam turbine) and life saving equipment (davit-launched open lifeboats).

Plenty has been written, blogged and opined on the relationship between the US Jones Act, the age of the US-flagged merchant fleet and the loss of 'El Faro'. The Antipodean Mariner has an opinion but will refrain from mounting his high horse until the final inquiry is concluded and published.

Tradewinds, a Norwegian maritime publication (probably the best news source in the shipping industry) has commissioned a Podcast series by Eric Martin, their US Bureau Chief. If you can't afford the US$2,035 annual subscription, the podcast 'The Sunken Lighthouse' is available on Soundcloud. At the time of posting, the first two episodes are available.

The podcasts provide a factual and balanced summary from maritime professionals, and are an excellent analysis.

I'll be following the inquiry and will repost anything that interests me.

The Antipodean Mariner

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Heading Offshore

This last week I have the privilege of spending 24 hours on 'Noble Clyde Boudreaux' in the Timor Sea, drilling the production wells for Shell's Prelude Floating LNG project.

Noble Clyde Boudreaux: Noble Corp
The trip was organised by Shell for the major contractors supporting the project, primarily to show how safety is actively managed aboard the rig between the 148 crew and their specialist roles.

To be able to fly out to the rig from Broome, I had to complete a two day basic safety and survival course which included HUET - Helicopter Underwater Escape Training. To be able to fly offshore, trainees need to successfully complete eight evacuations from a submerged, inverted helicopter. No-one particularly enjoys this component of the training, which thankfully is valid for four years.

The helicopter ride out to the rig was uneventful until we descended over the patch and a whole tableaux unfolded. Within visual distance of the helicopter were the rigs Jack Bates (INPEX), ENSCO 5006, Noble Clyde Boudreaux and construction vessel Aegir along with their support fleet of supply vessels  - no photographs permitted unfortunately, all cameras had to stowed in our luggage.

Once aboard the Noble Clyde Boudreaux, the size and complexity of the rig was astounding. Crew and contractors undertaking the physical drilling, mud analysis, locating where the drill bit was located in relation to the gas reservoir, ballasting the rig, loading and unloading stores...

As dawn broke on Tuesday, our PSV 'Far Skimmer' was close alongside under the port crane discharging drill string and back-loading empty equipment containers. As a Farstad employee, I was proud to be able to point out the vessel's features and describe how she maintained station in Dynamic Positioning mode only 20 metres of the rig's submerged pontoon hulls.

Far Skimmer close alongside NCB: BigFella
My thanks to Safety Coach BigFella - a fellow Kiwi - for hosting us aboard NCB and for the photos of Far Skimmer.

Back from the rig in Broome, I had two days visiting 'Far Skimmer's sister 'Far Sitella', also supporting Noble Clyde Boudreaux and our Anchor Handler 'Far Strait' supporting the INPEX rigs in the same patch. A good week, back to reality on Friday.

The Antipodean Mariner