I've often said this before - I like to start off a story by getting the blame correctly apportioned: This time it was all Delta Charlie's fault.
A couple of weeks back I spotted a piece in the local news about a couple of lads who were photographed driving around nearby lakes in a floating Land Rover Defender so I linked the photos onto here for the laugh. I thought no more of it. On Wednesday last I got a phone call from Delta Charlie. I can't say who he is (or I'd have to kill you ) but suffice to say, he generally gets what he wants. In this case, he wanted a hand with the Land Ribbers.
He didn't want much - just that I would be available in under 48 hours to load men and equipment in Donegal and deliver them by sea to Portpatrick, Scotland "without hanging about" where they would RV with the rest of the Land Ribbers and the Vessicle. The Weather Gods had been appeased with the usual sacrifices and the following day had been chosen to drive the Vessicle the 18Nm to Donaghadee, Northern Ireland. I asked why anyone would want to risk all to DRIVE across the Irish Sea. He explained that it was a Need to Know matter and I didn't need to know...
...and that I was to be Safety Vessel for the return leg and that there wasn't going to be any dockside fuel available
At the end of Day 1, my charges were safely landed as per and after a slight delay (during which we fretted and worried in The Crown pub ) Team Vessicle arrived under their own steam. Much interest was expressed. Her previous owners were there - one is an ex-RIBnetter. They immediately fell to assembling the Vessicle in all her glory. The evening sky promised great things for the morrow.
Reveille was 0500. I was burning and turning at 0600. At 0730, there was a rasp of Landy engine and the Vessicle deployed to the Irish Sea. I held my breath - It floated! It moved! It steered!
We were in business. With me on Helm and Delta Charlie running Nav and Comms we advanced at a steady 3.5kts. 18Nm of open sea, fast tides, heavy shipping, possible fog, mechanical gremlins, rookie crew - what could possibly go wrong?
Still - she was looking good, if perhaps a little incongruous!
By midmorning things were going well so we broke out the provisions. As we munched and slurped, someone said "What's that thing away off to the north?"
That would be a Tanker, son. After a quick gleek at the AIS data it was decided that we were all going to meet in an ugly mess in around 40 minutes, so Delta Charlie dialled in and once a brief confusion surrounding the nature of our charge had been resolved () the Colorado Star agreed to give us a bit more searoom. To repay them for their kindness, our resident Photographer/Director decided to Release the Drone and buzzed them. Quiet words were had
After five hours we found ourselves approaching the Copeland Islands. By now our charges had relaxed and were doing phone-in interviews with a radio station. The craic was good until we hit the tides and countercurrents that the Copelands are infamous for. Suddenly, we dropped from a heady 3.5kts to 2kts and a bout of teeth sucking commenced. Courses were altered. Revs were revved. We began to make way again and with a final spurt of speed, we raced into Donaghadee at 3.7kts. After some last second panic, the Vessicle touched down on the slipway at the sailing club and disengaged her propshaft, raised her sponsons and drove up onto the prom...
Team Vessicle had done really well, making the passage in exactly six hours at an average of 3 kts. That said, I think the RIBnet collective will have to assist them with their prop selection. Support Crew were treated like kings and after a good feed and photo-op, we were tasked to return to Donegal with surplus PAX and kit. Our homeport was 110Nm away. It was 1600hrs. Darkness was to fall at 2000hrs. I hate helming at night. What to do? I was bricking it...
...then, out of the ether, like the words of Yoda from the mists of Dagobah, came the wisdom of the Boss...
And so it came to pass that the luck of Team Vessicle was transferred to us for the duration. The seas were calm, the airs were warm and we were Sent Dolphins. We gave it the beans. 110Nm later we were tied up on the Swilly. Timecheck 1920hrs. We make that an average speed of 33kts - good going over the course in question, if I say so myself