© Clan Munro (Association) Australia v03012021kjb


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Then began a very long night. Both the tug and the ship were rising and falling at least 20 feet. Sometimes I found myself looking down on the tanker and sometimes I was looking up at her. I had to get a line to the ship’s bow. The ship had no power to their windlass so this meant they had to pull in the line by hand. Time and again I manoeuvred close to the ship’s bow for my crew, working up to their waists in water, to pass a light line to the ship only to find myself flung away from the bow by heavy seas. The hours passed without success. Attempt after attempt failed. Somewhere in the middle of the night a great rogue wave roared up over the tug and filled the wheelhouse. The water poured out through the open doors and then SILENCE! The main switchboard had shorted out and the engine had stopped. Thank God for ships' engineers – they surely are a special breed! It seemed like my heart had stopped with the engine and I am sure I aged several years in those few moments. The tug was crashing back quickly to the bow of the ship when suddenly there was a roar as our engine came back to life and lights re-appeared. The quick action of the Chief Engineer in restarting the engine prevented a disaster and proved once again the great value of teamwork.

Many hours later we had a line to the ship. I would normally have used a 5 inch circumference wire to connect to the bow of the tanker but the crew just could not raise it so I passed a 7 inch polypropylene rope. During the operation of passing the big rope the line drifted back towards the stern of the tanker and when I took up the slack I found that the stern of the ship was swinging round towards me. With horror I realised that my towline had been caught round the propeller of the tanker. I had to get it free before I could start the tow, but how was I to do this?

The only way to clear it was to steam around the stern. If I steamed the wrong way around I would have two turns of rope around the prop. I decided to go from starboard to port around the tanker’s stern and to my great relief as I took the weight on the port bow I saw the rope come free and lead out from the ship’s bow, someone up there was watching over us.

The voyage home proved to be uncomfortable but uneventful. However, when we recovered our towline at the entrance to Gladstone harbour, I found that the polypropylene line, which was caught around the tanker’s propeller, had been cut almost halfway through by the sharp edges of the prop. Hard to believe but we had towed the ship home on this damaged line without even knowing about it.

At least that was one less worry on the way back to port!

© Jim Hyslop Queensland Australia

The rescue of MV Island Gas