From the Ievoli Black
By Ardent Salvage Master- Lars Tesmar
Thursday, 19th January. It was grey, and we were facing relatively calm winds at 20-30 knots. From working around the Northwestern area of Scotland, west of the Shetland Islands some 10 years ago, I remember to have experienced winds speeds in gusts up to 90 knots. The North Sea received a bulk of the low pressure systems from Greenland where cold air from the North Pole met warm air from the Gulf of Mexico.
A week earlier, the sea was rough as well, and I was with Capt. Giovanni Pitrola of the IEVOLI BLACK. We’ve been contracted under the U.K. Maritime&Coastguard Agency (MCA) for Emergency Towage.
It’s been a month since the IEVOLI BLACK relieved the MCA tug, HERACLES out of Kirkwall, and we have been patrolling the waters all around the sector. Our crew had been familiarizing themselves with the waters around the Scottish coast, and navigating the islands.
The crew of the IEVOLI BLACK are proficient mariners, and had serviced the offshore sector on AHTS (Anchor Handling and Supply Vessels) before.
My task onboard was to train the crew for the MCA’s ETV (Emergency Towing Vessel) requirements. This includes emergency towing connections with the special equipment provided by the MCA but also installing and running salvage pumps and other special equipment to be used in emergencies.
My objective was also to assess our crew’s readiness, and identify further training to optimize our service for the MCA.
All of the sudden, silence broke in the bridge, “IEVOLI BLACK, IEVOLI BLACK THIS IS HMS COASTGUARD - INVERNESS… WHAT IS YOUR HEADING AND SPEED…”
It was a Bristow-operated Sikorsky S-92 Helibus from the HMS Coastguard Inverness Station and the bird was asking to sling a paramedic on deck, as an SAR drill.
I watched the aircraft lowered the tiny, orange figure into the sea.
Steady, as we kept our speed. Steady, Capt. Pitrola, with the waves smashing into our hull.
It was smooth. The winchman paramedic was lowered onto the deck. The heavy orange jumpsuit started to come closer to the bridge, and we realized that was not small at all.
Clop, clop, clop… I heard heavy boots step up towards the bridge. With a clank on the bulkhead, a tall figure in a blaze-orange flight suit appeared in front of me.
Capt. Pitrola and I shared a cup of coffee with Winchman Paramedic, Scott Sharman and talked about maritime operations. He told us about his days in the sea… and to my surprise, the mountains. We learned that the SAR helicopters also looked after anyone who was stranded on land and at sea.
Scott finished his warm treat and stepped back out into the wet mist to hook-up and go home.
Life as a salvage master is like that. There are days where you hardly sleep to fight ship fires, then there are months where you train a tug crew to work with some of the best SAR elements in the world.
Sure, there are plenty of emergencies ahead of us that leave us no time for little thoughts, but then there are month-long sea voyages where I will recall meeting the helicopter medic who dropped out of the sky.