In englishEesti keeles

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Steel cabin with rounded window

When I saw a ship on the horizon, I immediately took out my hand-held radio and similarly to previous days, I made a pan-pan call. Unlike before, I got a response right away. I was told that the MV HARU was coming in my direction and asked to give my coordinates. I wanted to send them through DSC but they told me to read the coordinates out loud which I did. I repeated them once more and saw how the ship was approaching when it suddenly changed its course. I didn’t understand what was happening and to my question about the situation they wanted me to repeat my exact location again. I explained that they should continue the same course as before. And so I did several times alternately on the left and right of the ship’s side. They finally noticed my vessel about a mile away from their ship and asked if I was able to lead my vehicle next to their ship’s side. I thought I could try it with one of the half attached gears. I pulled out the sea anchor, shifted into gear and started to drive. The hydraulic engine was making strange noises because more oil than necessary had probably leaked from the broken hose. It was very difficult to control the vehicle. I didn’t dare to add gas since I was afraid it would rip it off completely and the car didn’t turn right when using an idle gear. Yet, despite all the problems, I still managed to get the vehicle next to the ship.

They had prepared a lift basket. By radio, with hand gestures and speaking loudly, I tried to explain to the crew members on the main deck that they also needed to lift up the vehicle! They asked how heavy it was and I guessed it weighed around four tons, including the water that had leaked into it. Unfortunately, their cranes could not lift things that were more than three tons and my vessel seemed to be heavier. While the sailors were talking to me and to each other about what to do, in a language I didn’t understand, one of them had already thrown a rope around the Amphibear’s frame and was pulling it closer. Before I managed to react, it was too late. Although I jumped out the door, ran to the other side and tried to push the vehicle further away from the ship, there was nothing I could do anymore. HARU and AMPHIBEAR collided sideways. After the collision, I pushed my vehicle away and released the rope. They invited me to board the ship and leave my vessel behind. I had to think quickly. It was the only ship I had seen since leaving the harbour. Even if I could have repaired the gear, it probably wouldn’t have taken me to Praia, the tilt was gradually increasing, I hadn’t found the cause of leakage and there was no chance to get the water out of the feedthroughs. In addition, the air pump broke. And importantly was the fact that the HARU had changed its course to come to help me and stood there waiting for me, which was very expensive for them. I decided to go, and leave the Amphibear behind.




A mouse next to an elephant. Although HARU was not a very big ship, the Amphibear still appeared tiny next to it. If those two collide with each other, it is not hard to guess which one would be the victim here. The fuel canisters were all over the left pontoon, which continued to float even with all that extra weight on it.

I grabbed a hold of their rope. We temporarily tied up the Amphibear and then I climbed into the lift basket, taking only two bags with me. A crane lifted me quickly onto the deck. Standing up there I realised that even if the crane could lift the vehicle, there would be no place on the deck where to put the Amphibear. The Boatswain spoke English and looking at my two bags asked if that was all. He saw all the other things that I had left behind. I replied that I wasn’t sure how much I was allowed to bring on board. It came out that I could take much more and hence, I descended back to the Amphibear. I started to cut the lashing belts so that the crew could pull up my equipment: all boxes, a lifeboat and other things of value, even stuff from the glove compartment. The vehicle was rather empty in the end. At one point, I lost my balance and fell into the water while holding a big box. Luckily, I had fastened the safety ropes on the rear of the vehicle properly (perpendicularly between the pontoons) and so they caught me in time. I didn’t get everything wet nor have to let go of the box.

When I left the car, I noticed that one of the side windows had remained open and I had forgotten to switch on the anchor light. The Estonian flag was also still flying. I didn’t know if I had to lower it or not when abandoning a ship. I had an empty feeling but I wasn’t sad. Somewhere deep inside me I felt relieved that it was all over and I could see my family again. I took a couple of pictures with my mobile phone, then the mooring rope was cut and there my vessel went. The HARU let the Amphibear drift away and then we headed for Mindelo. They gave me a spare cabin, brought my things there and told me to see the captain. I asked permission to first take off my wet clothes and only sent my passport to the captain. I changed clothes and wrote a message that I had abandoned the Amphibear and was on my way to Mindelo.

The captain was an old Japanese man. He didn’t speak English and communicated with me through a third mate who was a young Filipino. I found out later that all but the captain and the first mate came from the Philippines. To show my gratitude, I gave my saltwater fishing rod to the captain as a gift. After a few questions, the report was done. I also wanted to know how much their help was going to cost me and they promised to find it out by contacting the office. It turned out that I owed them nothing and so I only had to cover the costs of travelling back home. Thank you HARU!


During all the paperwork I had a chance to take a look at the navigation bridge. Already the switch panel was bigger than one side of the Amphibear. All devices were mounted on the separate control consoles and to my surprise, most of them were numeric and not graphic. Even the AIS, name of the ship, its course and distance were numeric. A big table played also an important role in the management of the ship because on the table was laying a nautical chart where the course and all the events were written. Next to it were the paper logbooks. Everything was so clear, in order, well-functioning, grand and traditional.

And the entire ship looked like that table – clear signs, clean and nice. Someone knocked at my door and announced that it was time for lunch. I ate at the same table with the officers. Oh, what delicious dishes! A warm meatloaf made of pure meat and served with rice and salad. I surprisingly didn’t have any appetite on the Amphibear, but on board of the Haru I ate everything that was served. Of course, I was also rather exhausted. The first time I climbed up the stairs to the fourth floor to the navigation bridge it got me panting. To express my appreciation to the cook, I gave him most of the food I had. It wasn’t anything very valuable but still offered some new combinations of flavours.


The Haru is a proper ship – clean with a friendly crew and a spare cabin for a castaway. This is the way home for someone who had abandoned his own ship: safe, kind and surrounded by walls.


Back in my cabin, I looked through a tiny porthole of that iron ship and I felt how my old life was slowly returning. Everything seemed simple and clear – you buy tickets, you go back home and then to work and live happily till the end. I started with a heavy heart to clean my things that were damaged by seawater, organise and repack them. It took me several hours and when I finished it was already evening. My motivation to do something, and good mood, returned after learning that my home support team was working hard to help me. Erki sent me a message, saying that our only chance was the Norwegian ship, the Geoholm, that was soon going to pass near the Amphibear (they didn’t manage to organise a towboat). On the navigation bridge, I got no connection with the Geoholm. Their office number didn’t reply (it was Sunday) and I couldn’t find the satellite telephone number. In the end, the support team calculated that the two ships, moving in opposite directions, were going to have the closest range of 23-24. The VHF radiotelephone signals don’t reach very far, when the distance is around 10 miles, then two ships going in opposite directions cover it often in half an hour, meaning that altogether there is an hour for communication.

At 10:30 pm I had become anxious because there was still no connection even after the second trial. But before midnight the ship appeared on AIS and we could see its location. Luckily, the person on call was a friendly third mate who helped me to get in touch with the Norwegian ship and finally we succeeded. After receiving the coordinates, they went to wake up the captain of the Geoholm. While we were waiting, the third mate suddenly began to talk to the Norwegian crew in his mother tongue. He later told me that Filipinos work on every ship. I guess it helped a lot because the Geoholm’s captain was well-informed. A little sleepy, very calm and thoughtful, he promised to see what they could do and also talk to the people in the office. I sent a message to my support team with all the information I had and went to bed after midnight. I had to get up at 5:00 am the following morning in order to be in the harbour at 6:00 am.

Unloading the equipment’s boxes to go to the harbour – this time sadly without the Amphibear.


The Haru anchored in Mindelo. There are a lot of cranes but none of these can lift the Amphibear. Haru is a well-managed ship. It carried frozen tuna fish from Cape Town to Mindelo. Thank you for all the help and hospitality!

Translated by Luisa Translation Agency

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