Back to the ship update blog
23/12/12 - Tenacious
From THE LOVELY WATCH
It’s 0200 in the Alboran Sea at the Western end of the Mediterranean. The sky is brilliant with stars and a vivid moon. When we came on watch at midnight we were surprised by dolphins playing all round the ship; they should have been asleep – on the sea bed, of course. A doubloon has been offered by our watch leader for every shooting star sighted. Not that there have been any tonight, but then we don’t think he has any doubloons anyway.
We left Gibraltar at midday yesterday, heading out through the ship anchorage, which was full of tankers loaded, unloaded, apparently anchored wherever they felt like it, though the port control is rather fierce on the radio so there must have been some kind of plan.
Gibraltar is a small town packed around the base of the Rock, which rises abruptly from the sea to a jagged knife edge. Its history as a bastion of empire and a bunkering station for the imperial Navy is still quite obvious. The tensions with Spain over sovereignty were equally evident as we came into the port, with a rather firm radio message to the Guardia Civil launch that crossed the invisible boundary (not accidentally, one assumes) and was escorted back into Spanish waters by a rib full of burly Marines.
The roll of cloud lit by the moon that was lying along the southern horizon turned abruptly into fog a few minutes ago, so we now have lookouts posted at the bow, wrapped up in oilskins to keep out the clammy weather. The moonlight is still vivid overhead, but we can only see the reflection of our own navigation lights ahead.
The forward lookouts radioed to say there are dolphins under the bowsprit; those on the bridge were a bit blasé, having been watching dolphins and pilot whales most of the afternoon. But the lookouts insisted and the sight is indeed spectacular.
A small pod of dolphins, silver in the moonlight, staying a metre or so ahead of the ship’s stem, diving and cavorting. The reason became apparent when they sheared off for a few minutes. We’re passing through vast shoals of small fish, also silver in the moonlight, which in turn are feeding off a huge bloom of phosphorescent plankton, ploughed into vivid violet furrows by our bow and side waves.
Meanwhile condensation is dripping from every yard and rope so oilskins are essential glamour-wear for everyone. The ship’s foghorn is on automatic, and sounds as if it’s bellowing swearwords into the night. There is a lot of traffic on the radar, so the watertight doors are being closed with festive ringing of bells at the 0400 change of watch.
So, this is the Lovely Watch signing off to go to sleep until breakfast. Hope you’re having a peaceful night.