Saturday, 16 June 2012


With 'GO Canopus' off-charter from the salvage of Rena, Captain K penned the following final message before departing Tauranga for de-mobilisation of the boat in Bali. Like a gift that keeps on giving, my heartfelt thanks to Captain K, Captain MP and everyone who has contributed to the Antipodean Mariner blog over the last 9 months.

I was up at 03:30 this morning, after having quite a good sleep. The walk around the mountain last night had had the desired effect. The mates were due to change from 12 hour watches to traditional 4 on 8 off sea watches this morning.
There was a stiff Westerly blowing all morning, gusting to 40 knots at times. At least it was blowing us directly on to the berth, so there was no danger of mooring lines breaking or the ship ranging along the wharf at all. Hopefully it would ease prior to sailing. I don’t fancy going out in the dark while it is blowing forty knots.
Other than for a couple of phone calls about loading enough fuel for the ship to get to Bali, I have not received any formal notification that the project is over and our charter terminated. Most odd.  On Saturday I had ordered some additional charts to get us through Torres strait and to Bali. They are due at noon today, which is cutting it a bit fine. We can’t sail without them.
I have opted to go through the northern passage of Torres strait, which is but an 18 hour transit, rather than the 5 day inner reef passage. The pilot book indicated that the south east trades were the predominant wind pattern through the Coral sea at this time of year, so this route would give us following weather once clear of the northern Tasman sea.
The weather map was not looking good further north. A deep low has formed off the Queensland coast, which will impact us in a couple of days time. All going well, the weather should be on the starboard quarter, which although uncomfortable, should not adversely affect our speed.. In fact, once on the northern side of it, we should benefit from following seas.
It was still dark when the first fuel trucks rolled on to the wharf soon after 06:00. They were very well organised and commenced bunkering us at 06:15.
About the same time, a minivan showed up at the gangway of the Smit Borneo, obviously ordered to take demobilized personnel to the airport. Like any other project, once notice of termination has been given, personnel are demobed very quickly, as there is no economic sense in paying people when they are not needed.
By mid morning, I had confirmed the sailing time for 20:00 hours tonight, to allow time to complete the loaded bunker survey and get things secure for sea. It would also give personnel (including myself) enough time to catch a nap, prior to sailing. Bad form if an incident occurred while departing the port and I had been up without a break since 03:30.
There were lots of little jobs to complete today, but nothing too difficult. We topped up our fresh water this morning, even though our tanks were almost full. No one knows when we will next have the opportunity to fill them.
The chief mate went up the road for some last minute shopping, so I had him post my entire memoirs to Captain MP in Wellington, just as an insurance policy, should something befall me or my hard drives, between now and  when I am due to return home.
 Once the office opened in Perth, I phoned the ops manager and asked him to send me some official notification of termination of charter. He promised to do that, along with issuing voyage orders for Bali. It never hurts to get these things in writing.
The food and dry stores arrived at 13:00 as scheduled and were quickly loaded aboard.
I went with the Agent to rent some DVD’s for the voyage and buy some heavy duty fishing gear. I bought some heavy long line monofilament with a breaking strain of probably in excess of 400 kgs, swivels and large double hooks,– nothing sporting here.
Reminiscent of my days with Dilmun tankers. When travelling at 11 knots, one needs heavy gear to absorb the strike impact of a 40 kg Wahu, Mahi-mahi or Yellow fin Tuna. We can’t slow down or stop to play it or reel it in sportingly.  The crew were quite astounded at the size of the gear I bought, even the experience fisherman 2nd mate. I recall on the delivery voyage of the Searanger, we pulled in several Mahi-mahi jaws, without the rest of the fish, such is the force of water rushing into a fishes open mouth. Not very nice to think about.
The customs clearance officer arrived at 14:15 and granted us outward clearance 20 minutes later. The advantage of having all of the paperwork prepared in order for him.
All throughout this time, the fuel trucks kept rolling in and out of the wharf, delivering us the planned 550 cubic metres (550,000 litres) of gas oil. The discharge to us was completed soon after 1600. I went on the wharf and took a few photos of us refueling, along with shots of the Smit Borneo demobing her gear. There was nothing special about the photos though, nowhere as impressive or dramatic as many of those I have shot out at Astrolabe reef in the preceding 8 months.
I turned in soon after that, as planned. Didn’t sleep at all, but a two hour lie down is certainly better than nothing.
When I arose, things were well in hand for sailing. The wind was still a brisk WSW’ly, but had eased under thirty knots during the afternoon. An hour before sailing then technician returned our repaired Converteam DP computer screen. I had been chasing it up for a few days, as I needed the external frame from it, should GO decide to replace the wide screen with an original size one. Nothing like leaving it to the last minute is there.
We departed the wharf at 20:01, using a lot more horse power than I have had to use in the past, due to the strong wind. The departure went without a hitch and we were clear of the port half an hour later, passed “A” beacon, heading due North. I thanked the port radio operator for all of their assistance over the months and asked him to pass on my thanks to the pilots and the rest of marine team. It was sad to say my final farewells to Tauranga.
In spite of the obvious tragedy of the grounding, pollution and sinking, this project has afforded me an incredible experience and a once in a life time opportunity. The emotional journey, memories, friendships and photographs will last me a life time. That I had the foresight to record my observations from day one and the courage to continue doing so throughout, is something that I am eternally thankful for.
Hopefully the select few, who I have trusted to share these with, along with my sometimes most intimate thoughts, will feel the same way.
Details fade from the memory with the passage of time, whereas my written word and photographs will remain as an accurate account of events as they occurred. One day perhaps, when the Orwellian nature of the agreement between MNZ and Svitzer has been exposed for the Stalinesque abomination that it is, they will be in the public domain.
Until then though, they remain the Rena blogger's secret diaries.
Signing off from the Bay of Plenty for the very last time.
Captain K.



  1. What a great read!

    Thank you, AM.

    Regards.. Tad in Alabama

  2. Fair winds and following seas, Captain K.
    And many thanks AM for sharing this.

  3. Bon voyage ....thanks for puting your balls on the line for us in Tauranga. Our Bay will for ever be in your debt. Haere rā!