Weather ........  good and bad !
                                                   FOGGY MEMORIES   
The Motor Ship Magazine was published every month, and was a very well produced glossy source of information on" New buildings" and I had read about the "Schottle Rudder" that the new Hansa (German) heavy lift ship "Falkenstien" had fitted  which allowed her to be much more manoeuverable than other vessels.

We had run into dense fog off Cape St.Vincent as we headed North and at reduced speed we had been blowing our fog signal every 2 minutes day and night "for ever", or so it seemd, by the time we passed Lisboa.The fog was very thick when we heard another vessel's fog signal.  We reduced our speed even further,
so that we only had steerage way, when suddenly the lookout rang 2 bells which meant " Vessel close on the port side"

Then we saw the Falkenstien very close, almost end on, fine on the port bow.
We ordered hard starboard wheel , and she must have done the same and as we started to pass, but our sterns were coming together, so we each ordered port wheel, and we missed each other but had been so close that we could have thrown a heaving line to the other ship.The whole incident took only two minutes at the most, and we were lost  to each other again in the fog.



FORRESTAL     ( Aircraft carrier of the U.S. navy )

We were leaving the Thames in dense dark grey fog, when I noticed what looked like a rectangular patch of paler fog ahead and at about our bridge height  "What on earth could that be ?"    Then the area ahead seemed to be the same, but darker grey  fog.     " What causes that ?"          "OH ! HECK !       Hard port wheel"

It was an American aircraft carrier "beam on" anchored in mid- channel dead ahead blocking our intended course.  O.K. so we missed her ( she should not have been anchored there anyway ) and the paler rectangular area of fog which had alerted us to there being something unusual ? As we passed we realised that we had been looking right through the hanger deck at the fog on the far side o the aircraft carrier
                        NOW   THAT   IS   WHAT   I   CALL  " CLOSE" 

  We were starting our passage inward near Ushant and had received  a weather forecast advising that fog patches were expected. It was midnight when I went on watch and the atmosphere was crystal clear and we had unlimited visibility and could see ships lights from horizon to horizon, then I noticed a small patch of grey mist          4 points on the port bow, isolated fog patch ? ? ?
Then we were on to our alteration point  and we altered our course to starboard for the next leg, but the whisp of fog kept its bearing even afrer we had settled on the new course, "Strange" and it was getting a little larger.

The same thing happened when we next altered our course    "Very Strange"
The next instant I noticed  the mist patch was larger, and closer, It was then that I saw it for what it was...................


What would a large expensive yacht be doing at sea with no lights and getting into close a quarter situation with a loaded tanker. Were the crew all asleep, or maybe they were smugglers ?


We were outward bound off the Kent coast and on the starboard side of the channel at reduced speed and blowing our fog signal every 2 minutes with extra lookout on station on the fo'csle head. The radar was on, and we had mulitple echoes all over the place, but no clutter on the screen, so we felt comfortable in the knowledge  that there was nothing closing on us that needed action at that moment.

Then the lookout rang 3 bells = ship dead ahead and we could see the mast head light of a ship close on the port bow. We rang "stop engines"  but knew that we could not alter course to starboard at the moment  as there was a multip'le wreck  on that side
( a few days previously a coaster had grounded on top of a previous wreck that itself was on top of a war time wreck)

The approaching vessel's masthead light vanished from view under our focsle head.
I noted the time, and hung on to the bridge dodger, bracing myself for the collision. BUT IT NEVER CAME !

The Captain came up on to the bridge at this time  having heard the telegraph and I explained what had happened. We sent a lookout to the fo'csle head so he could speak to the duty lookout to get his report, but he could add nothing to our report, other than   "A little ship had got very close under our bow, before shooting off at almost right angles  to us, and went off to our port side "all very quickly."

Not being able to believe our good luck -at daylight I went forward on some pretext and looked over the side to see if our paintwork had any marks or scratches 
and none could be found. We believe that the vessel must have been under 150 feet in length hence only one masthead light and she must have been so close under the bow
that our bow wave must have helped whatever action she had taken and pushed  her clear of our ship.

We monitored the radio to check that no vessel / boat had been reported missing or damaged  or even radioed in complaints.

                                         WE  AND  THEY  HAD  BEEN  VERY  LUCKY.

A very similar incident to the above happened when we had a pilot on board as we left Brunsbuttle Koog in the River Elbe  in thick fog.A small coaster came towards us on the wrong side of the channel and her masthead light vanished from view  under our bow.
The bridge was fully manned for manoeuvering in port having the Captain, Pilot, Apprentice, Helmsman  Lookout  and myself having just returned from the fo'csle head.

The incident was a study in how people react diferently depending on:-
........What they saw
........What their experience allowed them to appreciate
........What was their responsibility in running the ship

     AGAIN  WE  WERE  LUCKY   in that the vessels did not make contact with each other  but I reckon that the pilot's laundry bill was up that week
Navigating in fog is required to be done at a safe (reduced )speed , and that a fog signal must be made of "one prolonged blast" (of not less than 6 seconds ) at a period of not more than 2 minutes on the ships whistle, or siren. also employ extra lookouts.

This can be very wearing when it can take 36 to 48 hours at reduced speed, making the transit from Ushant to Rotterdam in fog when, as it was in those days, there was no "vessel routing separation system in the English Channel.

If  we were using our Mk II  Cossor Radar ( Lease lend type complete with its 12" high , purple light flashing, Trigatron valve in a nylon string net),in the English channel, then the sight was one to behold , along the header marker, there would be a cluster of echoes that looked like a bunch of grapes. Each one was a ship and you wondered how you could get through them all.
I prefered the visibility to be about 2 miles, then if you saw another ship you took bearings, monitored the condition and made a decision to " stand on "   or to "alter course / speed " as appropriate, without the use of ship to ship communications, just execute, making your manoeuvre early and obvious.

The power of the Sea
On another occasion this time  on the South Atlantic the swell was very heavy as we were on passage from Capetown to the Argentine. The ship developed a crack in the deck above an oil filled  cargo tank, and the Chief Engineer had to drill a hole ( with an air powered drill to avoid sparks ) at the end of the crack to dissipate the stresses and to stop the crack running further he filled the drill hole with a wooden bung.


We were in heavy weather and the carpenter reported that the soundings ( which he took twice a day in very bad weather ) showed that we were taking water into the empty dry cargo hold.
On inspection I found that a scupper pipe overside discharge had developed a fracture, but was not a problem because it was where I could make a cement box encased in a 5 gallon paint drum shell
after I had lifted the protecting heavy metal grating out of the way.     This I did with no problem but
when later I went back to see how the cement box had hardened, the ship gave a sudden lurch.
the heavy grating slipped down and trapped my hand against the 5 gallon drum shell.

The result was a loss of skin and blood, also a bruised hand with a permanent thickening of a tendon.But that was a cheap price to pay, as if I had been wearing a wedding ring I would have lost a lot more.

The power of the sea can be awesome when in the Southern Ocean, say in the Australian Bight the swell is circumnavigating the world without being stopped by land, and all the time being driven by strong Westerly winds -- known as the Roaring Forties to crews of the sailing ships.
Even when not showing white horses, the sheer movement of such a massive body of water into a large swell, is mind numbing.

In the clear cold atmosphere the beautiful and effortless perfection of the Albatross in flight leaves one speachless.The sudden arrival of a pod of killer whales which seemed to jump out of a swell to a height almost as high as the bridge wing showed how powerful these large whales could be.
The power of the sea can be felt anywhere, for example...... We were in the North Atlantic on our way home from the West Indies in a heavy following sea when the quartermaster let his attention wonder and we broached.
At that time my wife Valerie and I were asleep in a high- sided double bunk. When the mattress levitated, with Valerie and myself on it, meanwhile the ship rolled and as we came down  unfortunately only half of the mattress was still over the bunk,
and my half was not, so the mattress bent and I landed from
a " great height " on the deck 
Examples of a "following sea"
                                      Beaufort scale

Average windspeed in knots.           State of the sea.     

02 knots  Light airs.                             Scales formed no foam crests
05 knots  Light breeze.                       Small wavelets which do not break
09 knots  Gentle breeze.                    Large wavelets, some white horses
13 knots  Moderate breeze.              Small waves with frequent white horses
19 knots  Fresh breeze.                     Moderate waves with many white horses, some spray
24 knots  Strong breeze.                    Large waves white foam crests some spray
30 knots  Near gale.                             White foam in streaks, waves breaking
37 knots  Gale.                                      Moderate high waves, spindrift, and foam in streaks
44 knots  Strong gale.                         High waves, crests topple and spray
52 knots Storm.                                   Very high waves, visibility affected

Note:  Inshore waves are smaller and steeper due to the shorter fetch.

The TANKER MAN'S Beaufort Scale

Force 0 Wind: CalmSea like a mirror. Beer bottles shimmer

Force 1 Wind: Light airs Beer bottles begin to bob about on rippled water

Force 2 Wind: Light breeze Beer bottled swamped by slight seas

Force 3 Wind: Gentle breeze. Cigarette ash blown away.  Wind moves froth in beerglass to one side

Force 4 Wind: Moderate breeze. Cigarettes difficult to light.  Wind whips froth out of beerglass

Force 5 Wind: Fresh breeze.Thirst increases with salt in the air.  Beer flipped out of glass. Bridge  party retires to wheelhouse

Force 6 Wind: Strong breeze. Binnacle cover flies off.  Mate suffers windburn on bronzy deck. 

Force 7 Wind: Near gale. Uncomfortable motion in nether regions.  Occasional red rocket from other ships.

Force 8 Wind: Gale. Master issues tot of rum and prayer books

Force 9 Wind: Strong gale. Bar book dumped.  Share out contents of ships safe.

Force 10 Wind: Storm .Bonded store broached.  Vessel does somersaults.
                                           Decide to take up safer occupation -like steeplejack


Weather terminology

Gale                   Wind force 8 or gusts 43-51 knots
Severe gale     implies force 9 or gusts 52-60 knots
Storm               implies force 10 or gusts 61-68 knots
Hurricane          implies a mean wind force of 12

Imminent implies within six hours of warning being issued
Soon implies between 6-12 hours
Later implies more than 12 hours


No                      Description                       Distance of Vision.
0                         Dense Fog                         Objects not visible at       50 yards
1                         Thick Fog                                  "     "        "      "       "      300     "
2                         Fog                                             "   "        "      "       "        600     "
3                         Moderate Fog                         "        "      "       "             1/2 Mile
4                         Mist or Thin Fog                     "        "      "        "             1      "
5                         Poor Visibility                         "        "      "       "               2      "
6                         Moderate Visibility                   "       "       "       "            5      "
7                         Good Visibility                         "       "       "      "              10      "
8                         Very Good Visibility                 "       "       "      "             30      "
9                         Exceptional Visibility     Objects visible at more than 30 miles

Wind terminology

Veering    means a Clockwise change of direction by the wind
Backing     means an Anticlockwise change of direction by the wind

                 Norwich Weather Centre prefix PS = plus

Weather Lore

Buys Ballot's Law    States that in the Northern Hemisphere if you face the wind the region of lowest barometric pressure will lie towards your right side and highest towards your left.  The reverse is true in the Southern Hemisphere.

Predicting  weather by clouds

A low dawn day breaking on or near the horizon - fair

A high dawn breaking above a cloud banks   - wind

A purple dawn sky - bad weather with much wind, rain, storm

A red sunrise with clouds towering - rain later

..... by Corona

Around the sun or moon and growing larger - fair

Around the sun or moon and growing smaller - rain

Sunset and moon lore

Sunset which is:-      A rosy sunset with cloudy or clear sky -        fair      
                                      A green, grey or pale yellow sky at sunset - rain
                                      A dark red or purple sky -                                  rain
                                      A bright yellow or copper orange sky -           wind
                                      A sickly grey, greenish, orange copper sky - wind and rain

Condition of the moon
:-          A full moon rising clear, foretells -                      fair weather
                                                      A full moon rising pale yellow -                            rain
                                                      A large ring around the moon and high cloud - rain in days
                                                      A red moon means -                                               wind

Seamen's rhymes                        Barometer long foretold - long last
                                                          Barometer short notice -   soon past
                                                          Barometer quick rise after low - sure sign of a strong blow
                                                          When the glass falls prepare for a blow
                                                          When it slowly rises, high lofty canvas you may fly
                                                          When the wind shifts against the sun, trust it not for back it will run
                                                          Mackerel sky and mares tails, make lofty ships carry low sails
                                                          Rain before seven finished by eleven