Monday, 14 August 2017

Troubled Waters

The storm had raged unabated for days as the Atlantic Ocean tossed the 12,000 tonne ship around effortlessly. It bobbed like a cork as it rose high on the 100 foot swells and seemingly teetered on a precipice, looking for all the world as if about to plummet into an abyss. In a matter of moments the swell became a trough. The wall of water rose so high I had to stoop down and look up out of the wheelhouse windows to see where sea and sky jostled for dominance.

Nerves were jangling, sleep was fitful at best, and the mood was foreboding. We were light ship, on our way to pick up cargo. With little ballast and heavy lifting machinery on deck, the top-heavy ship floundered. This was a new experience for me. I had seen bad weather before but nothing on this scale. The crew were quiet and I could see fear on the faces of most. Someone told me there were no atheists on a sinking ship and I imagined many prayers being said over the past couple of days.

On such a passage automatic steering would normally be used to guide the ship, but it was impossible in this weather. On automatic pilot, if the ship strayed more than ten degrees off course the alarms would sound. Each wave swung the ship's head around by 15 or 20 degrees and it simply couldn't cope. The ship had to be steered by hand.

I took over from the haggard seaman more than willing to hand over the reins. He scuttled off as I tried to balance myself. As the ship rolled I adjusted my legs, stretching one and bending the other to maintain equilibrium. I rocked from side to side rhythmically, as if dancing with Poseidon himself. The Chief Officer gave me some funny looks as I whispered in soothing tones, trying to calm the beast.

Now I'm not suggesting for a moment my urgings had the slightest effect on the ocean but coincidentally the storm began to abate.

In life we will face many difficulties over which we have no control. Although we may not be able to affect the outcome we can still control our reaction and the manner in which we conduct ourselves during such tribulations. Never is sunshine so bright as it is after a storm.

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