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Excerpt from a maritime legal document...
It is with regret and haste that I write this letter to you, regret
that such a small misunderstanding could lead to the
following circumstances, and haste in order that you will get
this report before you form your own pre-conceived opinions
from reports in the world press, for I am sure that they will
tend to overdramatise the affair.
We had just picked up the pilot and the apprentice had
returned from changing the 'G' flag for the 'H' and, it being his
first trip, was having difficulty rolling the 'G' flag up, I
therefore proceeded to show him how. Coming to the last
part, I told him to 'let go', the lad although willing is not too
bright, necessitating my having to repeat the order in a
At this moment the chief officer appeared from the chart
room, having been plotting the vessel's progress and, thinking
that it was the anchors that were being referred to, repeated
the 'let go' to the third officer on the fo'cstle. The port anchor
having been cleared away but not walked out, was promptly
let go. The effect of letting the anchor drop from the 'pipe'
while the vessel was proceeding at full harbour speed proved
too much for the windlass brake, and the entire length of the
port cable was pulled out 'by the roots'. I fear that the damage
to the chain locker may be extensive. The braking effect of
the port anchor naturally caused the vessel to sheer in that
direction, right towards the swing bridge that spans the
tributary to the river up which we were proceeding.
The swing bridge operator showed great presence of mind by
opening the bridge for my vessel. Unfortunately, he did not
think to stop vehicular traffic, the result being that the bridge
partly opened and deposited a volkswagen, two cyclists, and a
cattle truck on the foredeck. My ship's company are at present
rounding up the contents of the latter, which from the noise I
would say were pigs. In his efforts to stop the progress of the
vessel, the third officer dropped the starboard anchor, too late
to be of prcatical use, for it fell on the swing bridge operator's
After the port anchor was let go and the vessel started to
sheer, I gave a double ring full astern on the engine room
telegraph and personally rang the engine room to order
maximum astern revolutions. I was informed that the sea
temperature was 53 degs and asked if there was a film
tonight. My reply would not add constructively to this report.
Up to now I have confined my report to the activities at the
forward end of the vessel. Down aft they were having their
At the moment the port anchor was let go, the second officer
was supervising the making fast of the after tug and was lowering
the ship's towing spring down onto the tug.
The sudden braking effect on the port anchor caused the tug to
run in under the stern of my vessel just at the moment when the
propellers was answering my double ring full astern. The prompt
action of the second officer in securing the inboard end of the
towing spring delayed the sinking of the tug by some minutes,
and thereby the safe abandoning of that vessel.
It is strange but at the very same moment of letting go the port
anchor there was a power cut ashore. The fact that we were
passing over a cable area at that time might suggest we may have
touched something on the river bed. It is perhaps lucky that the
high tension cables brought down be the foremast were not live,
possibly being replaced by the underwater cable, but owing to
the shore blackout, it is impossible to say where the pylon fell.
It never fails to amaze me the actions and behaviour of
foreigners during moments of minor crisis. The pilot for instance
is at this moment huddled in the corner of my day cabin
alternately crooning to himself and crying after having consumed
a bottle of gin in a time that is worthy of inclusion in the
Guinness Book of Records.
The tug captain on the other hand reacted violently and had to be
forcibly restrained by the steward, who has him handcuffed in
the ship's hospital, where he is telling me to do impossible things
with my ship and my crew.
I enclose the names and addresses of the drivers and insurance
companies of the vehicles on my foredeck, which the third
officer collected after his somewhat hurried evacuation of the
fo'cstle. These particulars will enable us to claim for the damage
that they did to the railing of the no. one hold.
I am enclosing this preliminary report for I am finding it difficult
to concentrate with the sound of police sirens and their flashing
It is sad to think that had the apprentice realised that there is no
need to fly pilot flags after dark, none of this would have
For weekly accountability report I will assign the following
casualty numbers T/750101 to T750119 inclusive.