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14 Aug - Two kinds of pilot....

Date: Sunday 14 August 2005
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT+1): 61°34' North, 001°21' West -
Next destination: Peterhead, Scotland
ETA: Saturday 20 August, 2005
Distance to go: unknown at this time
Distance sailed from Immingham and Crew change : Not Available due to various courses and manoeuvering.
Total distance sailed: Not known.

Current weather: Cloudy, fine and clear. Patches of blue sky
Wind: 330°, 10 kts
Sea state: Calm with slight swell
Barometric pressure: 1015.9 mmHg
Air temperature: 13.7°C
Sea temperature: 11.5°C


Chart Click to See Chart view of the Shackleton in today’s position.

We went into Sullom Voe on the West of Shetlands Pipeline and have departed to follow the East of Shetland Pipeline to the Magnus Field.


This Week, the Ernest Shackleton took a brief break from the survey of the 22’’ Clair Oil Pipeline and the West Of Shetland Pipeline to go into Sullom Voe and effect a crew change. It wasn’t exactly ‘out of our way’.  The pipeline terminates at the Sullom Voe Shore Terminal and I believe we were some 5 miles away from the shore when we retrieved the ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) to go alongside and let some people go home!  At 0730am on Thursday morning (11th), we saw the pilot boat approach and boarded the Pilot on the port side.

Pilot boat Pilot boat Pilot boat

As you can see, the transfer is achieved when the pilot boat comes alongside and, matching us for course and speed, the Pilot has climbed up the ‘pilot ladder’.

Although the Pilot is aboard to advise and guide us safely alongside, the ultimate responsibility for the safe navigation of the vessel still rests with the Master of the Vessel. It is written in the log book as ‘Courses Various to Master’s Orders and Pilot’s Advise’. (CBTMO + PA)


What is a Pilot ?

I posed this question to the Master on the bridge after my search through the Layton’s Dictionary of Nautical Words and Terms failed to provide any answer to the origin of Pilots and Pilotage ? ‘Actually,’ volunteered Capt.Chapman, ‘I was at college with a chap who’s father was a River Tees pilot and had an answer for that’. According to the story, around the time of the Vikings, circa 844AD, they would pillage and conquer along the coastline of the UK and up the estuaries in search of villages and hamlets to plunder.  In order to navigate their long boats safely into these rivers, they would compel a native with good local knowledge to show them the channels and narrows and dangers. This local fisherman or sailor would have an incentive to bring them safely to shore. If they should fail in their ‘pilotage’, the result was instant death.  (what happened to them when they successfully made land I cannot say ?). And so the practice of using local knowledge for navigation was born ?    (Thanks to Martin Sedgewick for that tale).

I set Wavey Davey, our resident researcher, on the quest to verify this story or find other origins, but due to duties, he has failed to find his way back to the internet in time for this publication. My own feeble attempts were thwarted by constant ‘hits’ on the internet drawing me to Aviation and Aircraft Pilots which is like showing a ‘red flag to a bull’.  I kept getting diverted from the task in hand – which is a great limitation of the internet.  But I, for one, am happy to accept the Captain’s interpretation of the origins of nautical pilots. Should there be anyone out there who can shed any further light on this subject, I am sure I would be happy to hear of it.


But once safely alongside Sullom Voe, we put the Pilot ashore (choosing Not to kill him ?) and then the hoards disembarked and a whole new Stolt crew joined. (or re-joined as we saw the earlier team return). For the BAS crew – having joined in July – will now remain with the vessel until she has refit in Portsmouth and departs to Montevideo in South America.  Not so for our North Sea Colleagues who are still on a 2 (weeks) on / 2 off rota, or the DPO’s (Dynamic Positioning Officers) who are presently doing 4 on / 4 off. This way we get to see the same faces coming and going on the Shackleton.

Sullom Voe Click on Sullom Voe to Enlarge the Terminal.

And this is what welcomed us alongside. A very small place indeed with nowhere for the crew to go ashore shopping.  With only 2 hours alongside I think that was  a moot point anyway, but Sullom Voe only boasts an oil terminal and a small ‘international’ airstrip with flights back to Aberdeen. Although not entirely visible in the picture, the airfield is just in the valley on the left as you view the picture and allowed some great views of the BAE-146 aeroplanes coming and going. I was able to monitor their transmissions to ATC (Air Traffic Control) on the bridge aeronautical radio as they approached for landing.  And although we pulled away within 3 hours, we didn’t move far. Just around the corner (and still on the approach path of the aeroplanes), the ROV was put back in the water and we continued to survey the Sullom Voe pipeline – this time from the shore going outward to sea.  Slowly, very slowly, the vessel edged ever sea-ward as we ‘followed’ the submersible on it’s survey from Sullom Voe all the way out to the Magnus field in the Northern North Sea.  See the map at the top of this page.

While in Sullom voe it was go to see an old Ship Mate of ours, Scott Baker, who’d given up the sea-going port of the job to work at the Port Control Office.  We wish him and his wife Pippa (Ex-BAS Doctor) well, and hope to see them again in Portsmouth.


WAVEY DAVEY’S WEEKLY WIT SPOT.

Davey’s poor offerings this week ?

‘What did the Eskimo Boy say to the Eskimo Girl ?…’ ‘ What’s an Ice Girl like you doing in a place like this ? ‘

‘And how do Dinosaurs pass exams ??? ‘ ‘ … with Extinction ! ‘


The Radio Officer Flies Off On His Broomstick ??

I am often asked by those ashore what it is that the crew do when they finish their shift of work and have free time on their hands. ?  One of the best suggestions I ever had was from a passenger on a cruise liner. ‘ I suppose the crew go home every night ‘ ?  she said. (We wish…) We were cruising in the middle of the South China Sea at the time! Just because the crew are not visible after they leave their work stations, doesn’t mean there isn’t a full program of recreation going on around the vessel, and behind the scenes.  Some are righteous enough to go down to the ‘trimnasium’ to work out, a lot of us head for the ship’s computers to check our emails, research the internet (thank you Davey), or just find a movie in the ship’s library to while away the hours till bedtime.

Not so for our ‘Sparkie’ Steve who is an avid private pilot and heads for his cabin to go flying … on a broomstick !

No.  He does not subscribe to the Black Arts and there is nothing ‘magical’ about his flying machine.  Having spent a few weeks (and lots of money) on leave doing flight training on a flying machine called an ‘Autogyro’, he is anxious not to lose the new skills and procedures that he has just learnt.  Hence, with the use of a computer screen and a broomstick, he has ‘cobbled’ together his own flight simulator to go flying each evening !

Gyro in flight Click to Enlarge the Image of a Gyro in Flight.

The ’computer’ part of the simulator is merely a selection of pictures of the Autogyro dashboard which, when scrolled, gives a sort of ‘animation’ of the flight of the real machine. But what to do with those hands and feet ?  This is where the ingenious use of a broomstick comes in very handy.  The broom handle was cut to the required length and a bicycle handlebar grip was added.  Then to simulate the ‘pre-rotator’ which effectively spins up the blades of an autogyro, a well-placed bicycle handbrake lever was used. The result ?  An instant autogyro !  All that is required to complete the effect is the audio accompaniment. That is why nobody is surprised to pass by the cabin of the Radio Officer to hear the sounds of ‘Wokka, Wokka’ emanating from the would-be-autogyro-pilot within.  The Radio Officer is once again airborne and flying his broomstick across the cabin !

Binky at the controls Click to Enlarge ‘Captain Binky’ at the controls of his Autogyro !


The weather, for the week has been fair. The anticipated summer heatwave that was forecast for Friday 12th never really happened, or at least not out here in the Northern Extremities of the UK. However, we have enjoyed calm seas and dry weather for the best part and that has allowed the ROV work to continue on apace. The forecast for the forthcoming week is pretty much the same so we do not anticipate any problems with a continued program of surveying and recording.


Forthcoming Events: Continue surveying the undersea pipelines and relaying mattresses in the Northern North Sea Oilfields.

Contributors this week: Thanks to Capt Graham Chapman for his hypothesis on Pilots and Wavey Davey for offering to do the research.

North Sea Diary No.9 should be written on Sunday 21st August for publication on Monday 22nd August, operations permitting.


Stevie B
Radio Officer.