Day 38

24th November 2001

I woke up and looked out of the porthole to see the tanker ‘Emma’ off the starboard bow with an arrangement of hoses and ropes connecting us. I went up to the bridge and watched what was going on. There was a towing rope to take the strain if the ships moved apart, a fuel hose and another smaller rope to transfer documents and a parcel. The parcel turned out to be a box of promotional t-shirts and a copy of the invoice.

Bunkering with ‘Emma’. View from my cabin porthole.

We took on 200,000 litres of fuel, which took considerably longer than the 2 minutes you might stand at a petrol pump. I was very happy that I didn’t have to pay for it! That said, can you imagine how many loyalty points you’d get on your Tesco Clubcard? Probably enough to buy a 12 volt tyre inflater and an insulated cup. I’d grab a bar of chocolate while I was there too.

The fishing here in the north is still poor and so after we’d taken on bunkers we steamed back down south to 3N, giving up on the hopes of Greenland halibut and settling for redfish again. So after the initial excitement of watching the bunkering with the Emma, a pretty boring day with no fishing going on and nothing to do. I was so bored I cut out pictures from some old magazines I found, and stuck them to the rusty bulkhead around the portholes. I feel like I’ve made my mark on the cabin now and it feels almost homely.

24th November 2017

In the news at the moment is the tragic story of the 44 crew on board the missing Argentine submarine the ARA San Juan. It was reported yesterday that an explosion had been detected in the last known position of the submarine, and so it is thought that some catastrophic accident on board has dashed any hope of finding them alive. It is the worst news and such a sad outcome of a week of international search efforts. Sitting here in the Falklands, all of that is going on just a few hundred miles to the north. At least two ships have departed from the Falklands tasked with searching for the San Juan.

Reading my diary I am reminded of the sense of claustrophobia I experienced at times during that trip on the Santa Maria; it was almost as if the ship was a prison at times, but of course I wasn’t really trapped there in any meaningful or physical way, not like the crew of the San Juan. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the crew on the San Juan and their families waiting for them to return.

Sailors either sink into deep mystery
and never return to tell a tale,
or they may ride through stormy seas
and land on shining beaches.
They who tell their tale at docks at sunrise,
whom we’ve all foolishly
turned away.

Seth Cruz, Nov 2012

In one of the press releases about the San Juan I found the poem ‘Sailors’, it struck a chord with my thoughts on Day 33 when we were stuck in a storm, and it crossed my mind that sometimes people don’t come out of these situations. Today I am grateful to be able to tell you this tale at the docks at sunrise, I wish the San Juan crew were too.

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