These are Captain K's last posts from GO Canopus as she ends her charter for the salvage of Rena. Back "on the beach", he is looking at new horizons in the offshore oil and gas sector. 900MB of data and photos are coming AM's way and with the non-disclosure now behind us there will be an opportunity to post the 'best of the best' unpublished shots when the salvage was in full swing.
I was up soon after 05:00 this morning and cleaned my bathroom, in preparation for handing over to my relief tomorrow. I have still not heard who he is, as we have not yet received a crew list of those who are replacing us.
I made a half arsed attempt to pack, but will have to complete that tomorrow morning.
I had my day planned out with everything that I had to complete, prior to arrival in Benoa tomorrow, but as I have long ago learned, the best laid plans often have to be put aside, due to the unexpected.
Late last night I had received an email from the operations manager in Perth, asking me to phone him at 08:30, which I duly did. We discussed the ships security plan in some depth, before he asked me to undertake a desk top security exercise with him and to activate the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) alarm at 10:00.
After that I was to update the security log with all of the details of the drill and results of the alarm test.
Bugger. I really need this on my last day at sea, like John Kennedy needed to go to Dallas.
The first thing I had to do was locate the 2nd secret activation point, which I eventually did after some extensive searching. These discreet 2nd activation points were required to be installed on each ship, as part of the ISPS code. I wonder how often ships have changed owners and crews since then and with those changes lost the knowledge of just where the hell did they install that 2nd button.
The entire episode took me most of the day, by the time I had completed writing it up and sending it to the office. So much for everything that I needed to do with relation to signing of the crew and updating discharge books, which still needs to be undertaken. Such is the life of a ship’s Captain.
I have taken time out of my evening to update this diary entry though, as it is time that I need to make to record the penultimate day of my voyage.
As I sweated my way through the day of security trials and tribulations, we continued sailing West through the Flores sea on the 8th parallel, passing North of the dormant volcanic island Pulau Sangean and the magnificent peak of Gunung Tambora on Pulau Sumbawa. Again the haze impeded our viewing somewhat, but they were still impressive to observe.
Of all of the voyages in my 35 years at sea, this stretch of water is still holds for me the attraction of being the most scenically impressive. It is such a shame that the peak of Gunung Rinjani on the island of Lombok will pass by us in darkness tonight, as at 3,726 metres high, it is the most majestic of them all.
The departure details of all of the off signing crew arrived today, but I have still received no crew list of those who will replace us.
I have been advised that the vessel will be in port for less than 15 hours and will now proceed directly to Singapore from Benoa, the proposed tow job having fallen through. The 2nd mates have hastily prepared a passage plan for the voyage to Singapore, as the on signing crew will barely have time to get their feet under the table before they are required to sail.
We had no further luck with our solitary lure today, so it was wound up on board for the last time soon after sunset this evening. At least we have the photos to prove that we did catch something. We will leave the lines and lure on board for the oncoming crew to use as they see fit.
My duties call me.
Signing off from due North of Lombok Island, in the Bali sea, for the last night of this sea passage and the penultimate day of my voyage.
I didn't sleep very well, this last night on board. Too much going on in my mind to be relaxed I guess. That combined with no air conditioning of course.
I was up soon after 04:00 and finished off my hand over notes before tidying my cabin and completing packing my bag.
We had a light rolling motion, so I could tell that the Indian Ocean swell was being funneled up through the Lombok Strait. I have sailed through Lombok Strait a few times in my career, so I had been passed Bali, without actually ever visiting the place. I knew to expect a South Westerly swell from the Indian Ocean, along with a significant southery set through the strait, as the Bali sea flows South through to the Indian Ocean.
I had left night orders to slow down overnight to suit the arrival time of 07:00 at the pilot. We had increased speed soon after clearing Torres Strait, so now had three hours up our sleeve.
I was on the bridge soon after 06:00 and checked that everything was going to plan. It was, other than the fact that the mate had been unable to raise the harbour radio on VHF. That is hardly unusual in this part of the world, so I wasn't too worried.
I completed and sent off my last daily report then relieved the mate on the bridge so he could go down for an early breakfast.
Due to us having slowed down to 7 knots, the current was pushing us southward as expected and we were having to steer 255° to make 240°. In nautical terms that is referred to as having to apply 15° of counter set to maintain our desired course over the ground.
The wreck of a supply boat high and dry on the reef, passed down our starboard side. It was not much smaller than the GO Canopus and like the bow of the Rena on Astrolabe reef, it made both a superb radar reflector and a perfect reef marker buoy. Fair warning all mariners.
The pilot finally answered the VHF and called us in to the pilot boarding station at the fairway buoy.
The Fairway buoy is the outer marker buoy of the harbour entrance channel. This one marking the entrance to Benoa harbour, is charted very close to the shore, rathe than the conventional mile out. It was painted red and white and was very difficult to see, even with binoculars, due to it being so close to all of the multi coloured yachts, boats and waterfront buildings.
We soon spotted a high speed craft making its way out to us and assumed that to be the pilot boat. Not so, as it whizzed us by, rather a rich mans high performance toy. Further peering through the binoculars ahead, revealed the true pilot boat to be a rather sorry looking, beaten up, rusty orange hulled old tug boat, similar in size to the Edward G in Tauranga, but very much worse for wear, barely capable of five knots.
The pilot boarded at 07:22. He was a very amicable young man who had received his pilots training in Singapore. He recognised the GO Canopus as "HAKO JILLION" a vessel that he had pilotted earlier in his career in Singapore. That was her previous name, prior to being chartered by GO Offshore.
It was a short uneventful pilotage, but fairly narrow. I spun the ship around 180° as we approached the wharf and we berthed port side to, so to use our crane to place the gangway.
The pilot disembarked soon afterwards, to be replaced by the agent and customs boarding officer. All of the documentation was in place and in good order, so it was a smooth clearance, until the agent asked for some graft for the customs officer.
We don't carry a bond of booze or cigarettes, so I figured I was immune from the age old tradition of baksheesh. We settled on a case of coke zero and a box of chilled chocolate bars. Probably a lot cheaper graft than many before me might have paid; Johnny Walker Black label and multiple cartons of cigarettes, being the standard currency for this type of transaction.
Several of the crew had declared prescription drugs, which the customs officer wanted to see, but other than that, there were no issues.
Once the customs clearance was granted, the immigration official boarded with the agent. Again everything was in order, this time with no gratuity required.
The new Captain boarded soon thereafter. It was Vadim Finnigan, the same Russian Captain who had sailed the GO Canopus down from Tahiti in October last year. That would make my handover so much easier, him having had previous experience on board here.
I asked him about his most peculiar surname for a Russian; which is a story within itself
His great grandfather was an Irish immigrant to Ukraine in pre-revolutionary Russia, working in the early oil industry. Unlike most, he survived the ravages of the revolution and married a local girl. Hence Finnigan is now a Russian name - albeit a very rare one. Ces't la vie.
The agent had brought a great wad of cash down, so I signed the crew off the articles next and paid them out their expenses and cash advances. They were all millionaires in the local currency. NZ$100 converting to 720,000 Rupiah.
I explained to them that the agent still had their passports which had to be taken to the immigration office for clearance. The plan being that she would deliver them back to me at 14:00 and I would return them to the crew when I checked into the hotel. Some objected about leaving the ship withoutt their passports, however the more experienced ones knew that this was the norm.
As in most countries, seamen paying off a ship are treated differently to tourists (Captains not exempted), due to historical misdemeanours and general poor standing in societies social structure, emanating I am sure from the press gang era of naval history. Seafarers certainly do not have the finest historical reputation. The agent is required to take them direct to the airport for immediate repatriation. No country wants drunken scaley backs causing mayhem on their turf.
So a couple of days of R&R (rest & recreation) requires additional paperwork of both the agent and the immigration department. Possibly also a financial "bond", but I can not confirm that for sure.
They were soon all packed and left the ship by 10:30, leaving just the chief engineer and myself to continue the handover to the replacement crew.
In addition, a GO Offshore superintendent and surveyor boarded, to check over the vessel and undertake an off hire survey. Again, everything had been prepared for them, so there were no major issues, other than for some notable hull indentations and minor structural damage on the port quarter, for which I could find no incident report or record.
We had obviously received a fairly good hit from something, somewhere, sometime, but there was nothing recorded anywhere. A black mark on someones record keeping.
At 15:00, I formally handed over command of the GO Canopus to Vadim, recording an entry in the official log book as such. The chief and I having completed going through the documentation, starting and stopping the engines, changing over to the aft bridge console and going in to DP.
As I knew he would be, Vadim was immensley pleased that I had completed the end of month report and had sent it off for him. No one should have to walk on board a ship and have to complete a monthly report two days later.
It had taken me over an hour to write off the articles, those personnel who were on leave and had not signed off. This was then followed up with entries to that effect in the official log book. All a ritual of a bygone era, long since outdated, irrelivant and superceded, yet still a time consuming legal obligation, required of the modern ship master.
As promisd, the agent had returned with the crews passports and at 15:30 the chief engineer and I walked down the gangway for the final time; thus ending both this chapter in my life on board the anchor handling tug GO Canopus and my literary career.
I will not lose any sleep if my diaries are never published, however I know that in the trusted hands of MP, they will stealthily find their way into the record of New Zealands maritime history.
Hindsight, revelations and retrospection may render some of my recorded observations and opinions incorrect, however I believed them to be accurate with the knowledge that I had, at the time of writing them.
To my friend IM and the fellow members of the Conrad Club, JJ, MP, SS (Antipodean Mariner), HS & JM who have all given me their unswerving support over the past nine months, I owe a big thank you, for the inspiration to continue with this log.
To Husky Hudson, the chief mate on the salvage tug "Bulldog", who inspired a young man to go to sea, a big thank you also.
Now, in the centuries old tradition of jolly Jack Tar paying off and going up the road, I intend to find the nearest bar and relive salty tales with my ship mates, over many a shared ale, amid lots of laughter, so putting the trials and tribulations behind us.
Here ends the tale of the Rena blogger.
Signing off in Bali, for the very last time.
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