My Ship – Chapter Sixteen

Next day my Wife was speaking on the phone for a long time. Eventually she shouted, Gaffer. Captain wants to speak to you. What about? Gaffer asked. She wants you to spend a couple of weeks on the ship with her. Here speak to her yourself. She switched the call to big screen. 

Hello Dad. Captain said. She was obviously in her cabin making this call. Hi Captain, is all well with you, and when will you be visiting us?

Not for a few weeks, She said, I’m contracted for three months to take this ship to far off and far flung places. Boring really. She loved it, but wasn’t going to say so. Instead she said. I thought a while of Gaffer’s company would help relieve the boredom. This was something she did as often as she could. Gaffer loved the life on board, because she not only learned how the ship worked, because Captain allowed her access to all departments, under threat of severe and dire consequences if she was naughty. A threat she swore she’d never had to apply. Yet. 

This was a cruise ship, and that made it even more inviting for Gaffer. Can I bring my friends? Gaffer asked. Three of us. Oh God I thought. Her pals were already paying close attention suddenly. Eyes wide, and mouths agape kind of attention. I answered. They are due to return to their parents day after tomorrow, I said, and if they insist I’m afraid they must go home. 

One was saying. My parents won’t mind, because they’re always busy. The other said the same. I could almost have said the same myself, but I didn’t. I can ask, if Captain can handle having all three of you. Captain said. No problem here, and there is plenty for them to do. They’ll need their ID cards for going ashore, but I’m sure that is no problem is it? 

Shouldn’t be, but I’ll have to speak to their parents. 

I called them right away on the understanding that it was all or nothing. One could not go without the other. However it was just as I thought. Both sets of parents sounded even delighted that they were to have more time to themselves being busy being busy. I hoped these girls did really well at university, and did better for their children than was done for them. To them it was normal. They did not really want to go home, any more than their parents wanted them to. Their parents didn’t even think to speak to them, and I’m sure they’d have hung up without doing so, if my Wife and I hadn’t worked the talk around to them. We had them all on line at the same time, which helped swing it for the girls. 

My Wife called Captain again, and arranged to bring them. Not difficult using the ship. What was more difficult was getting them kitted out with suitable clothes, and money each. All three the same. My Wife would leave more with Captain if she’d take it, just in case. Not that Captain was stingy, and she had plenty, so she’d probably turn down the offer. ID was all in order, and we set them aboard as soon as they were ready. My Wife, myself and the Old Woman stayed a few hours with them, and saw them settled into their cabin. Next to the Captain’s cabin no less. Captain said she wanted to keep them near, because she wanted to get the latest gossip, but I knew it was easier for her to watch over them, for which I, and my Wife were grateful. 

I asked my Wife later if she had helped with the sleeping arrangements, but she said although it was mentioned, she had not had to suggest it. 

Now there was only Myself, my Wife, Chef, The Old Woman, Dog and Cat. We were desperately short of crew, if we had another big emergency. 

Next day Chef was going over his order, which we had picked up from the stores, click and collect. We’d have used delivery, but they don’t deliver to some places. Space for example. Or a few miles under the sea. Not yet anyway. He and I stored them away with him telling me where to put things. Robots were not used to handle our food stores. 
I was returning the last of the trolleys. We only had them a few minutes, but it was always amusing to watch the faces of the trolley men as the trolleys reappeared as if by magic in places they had only just searched for them.
I got a call. It wasn’t an emergency, but as I was back on board, and we were at a loose end I took it instead of promising to call back as I usually did.
It was a company boss, who claimed his company was disposing of old oil rigs, and they had a problem, could I help? They had heard of us, and our ship, and could we take a look for them?
They had been asked to remove the concrete legs from the ocean floor as well, but they had nothing that could lift them. They were not allowed to break them up where they stood, and that meant they either left them, or someone else lifted them out. Could we help?
I said I’d come and visit him at his office if he wished. I’d need a lot more information before I could even consider his request. However there was no harm in looking into it, because restoring the ocean floor was always worth doing, when the machines were done with using it. He gave me directions, and I said I’d be there later in the day, if he could spare the time to discuss his requirements with me.

I sat in his office with a cup of tea in one hand, and a biscuit in the other. No plate or saucer.
The office was a working office in a giant scrap yard, and as was to be expected, it was close to filthy, but I’d been in worse. The kind of office where the men come and go in their oily coveralls, and work gets done. I liked it. The woman who supplied the tea and biscuit had disappeared into her own office, off his, to one side.
You do a lot of work here. I said. I’d driven through much of it on my way here. Mostly oil companies and government work. He said. There are a lot of old rigs that need dismantling now. It’s good work for a great many people.
We float the rigs here under tow, and we can handle that, but the concrete legs we can do nothing with. Can you help?
I can take a look. I said. I’ll need GPS or marine maps with their locations.
How do you think you will handle it if you decide you can? He looked hopeful. We can supply chains which if properly attatched might collectively take the weight. Is it true you can lift huge weights? He looked me right in the eyes searching for doubt in my expression. I showed no emotion. Instead I asked. If we can lift them here, can you ensure a space will be available to leave them? And can you ensure the area is entirely empty of personnel for us when we drop them off? Laying them down is one thing, but placing them safely is another. You don’t want one of those toppling on people.
He wanted to know how long the area would need to be cleared? Hopefully only a few minutes, but I won’t bring them in if it’s not.
Do you really think you can maneuver them into place in a few minutes?
We’ll know better when we bring them. I said, but remember we’ll be bringing them over your existing works, and I’m not doing that with people underneath. Not that we expect slips, but there is always a possibility.
He had called me, or I’m certain he’d of told me thanks but no thanks, at that point.
Instead he had his secretary bring in copies of the map locations. I looked at them, and said they’d be fine.
I wanted to see the site where he wanted the legs placed, and he duly showed me. That should be okay, I said, but just remember to clear the area while they are overhead, and until they settle. It was earth, and I thought that would be best. It meant they’d be safe, and should not topple when we took the ropes off. If I can lay them on their sides flat it will make them safer for you, I said. How many are there in all?
Four small rigs were on those sites. He told me. With three concrete covered legs each. One dozen.
We looked around his yard, and I impressed upon the workmen as I walked the need to clear the area as required. They had a hooter, and agreed to respond to four hoots, but I thought the smiles on their faces showed much doubt that I could achieve this miracle.
As I climbed into the Land Rover I said, we might bring in the first load tomorrow, please respond to my call when it comes. Also; My Ship is a rescue vessel, and we must respond to emergencies. If a call comes we will have to go, so time dropping the legs off must be kept short, just in case. Please don’t waste it by getting in the way. I drove off.
Back on The Ship that night we made a remarkable discovery. A discovery that was to change our entire outlook on life on board.
We had been looking at the map he gave me. We were parked under water, but not yet looking for the legs.
I said, the legs are heavy. Chef and my Wife thought maybe too heavy. I decided to ask the computer what the weight limits for lifting were?
Just a normal computer query. Pages of very detailed instructions came on the screen. When we had read them I decided to bring up a video supplied to us by our sister Ship. It concerned a repair they had carried out on a large container ship at sea.
Phone him. My Wife said. Yes phone him, Chef was studying the pictures on the screen.
I did not like phoning the boss of our sister ship during his time off, and the first thing I did was apologise profusely, though I never minded them calling me.
He was great. Yes he remembered the incident, and yes he had kept the weight off the bow of the container ship using a winch rope from his own ship, while his satellite ship carried out the repair.
It was taking in water fast, and we feared, it would sink otherwise. He said.
How much weight did you have to support? I asked him.
Well, it was fully laden with containers, and the captain said it weighed well over a hundred thousand tonnes. We took the weight of the entire bow without a problem.
In fact I got the impression we could have picked up the entire ship and moved with it easily.
Are you in your ship just now? I asked. He said it was overhead, and he spent the nights on it. He explained that he was taking part in research near the north pole. It’s just over one thousand kilometres away. A few of his crew were there as well. I gave him the computer instruction page on heavy lifting. He would only need a search.
Does it give the limits? He asked.
On the contrary. I told him. There is no limit. You could have lifted two or three container ships, and taken them all to dry dock. Not that it was necessary of course.
I thanked him, and we exchanged pleasantries. My Wife and his Wife spoke for a while, and then he closed off, after promising to check the computer instructions later.
A couple of hours later he rang back from on board his Ship. For the love of God, and I never even knew. Me neither. I assured him. I tell you though, I get more fond of this ship all the time, just as well My Wife loves it as well, or she’d be jealous. He laughed.
I told him about the legs we had to remove from the sea bed, and we agreed it should be an easy task. I told him I’d leave him in peace now, but we did have the need to know how he felt during the container job, and about the weight he’d supported. He said he was delighted I’d asked, and this would give us more options to think about.

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