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There is a six-hour pilotage through an archipelago of many islands of varying sizes to reach the Finnish port of Turku. The Irish Wasa entered the archipelago in the semi-darkness (it doesn’t get that dark in the Baltic in the summer) with me on the wheel from 01:00-02:00 on Sunday 26 May 1974. When not acting as helmsman I was making entries in the bridge movement book and operating the engine room telegraph signalling required changes in speed from the bridge to the engine room. There was no bridge control on those old ships. We anchored at 02:30. I came off watch at 04:00 but was called back to the bridge an hour later. The anchor was aweigh at 05:15 and I was back on the helm, steering until the Irish Wasa was alongside at 07:00.

After a long night I probably should have gone directly to my bed, but this was a new country, it was Sunday, no cargo was being worked, and I wanted to explore. But first things first. By 07:30 I had received a large amount of mail from the ship’s agent and was sorting it out for delivery to my various colleagues. According to my journal fourteen items of mail were addressed to me! The agent also delivered a quantity of Finnish currency to the ship for issuing as subs for anyone wishing to go ashore (no credit cards back then). Unfortunately, this was partly in high-denomination notes and the chief steward asked the chief officer if the cadets could walk over to the nearby ferry terminal to change the larger notes into lower denominations. Having fulfilled this task Martin, my fellow deck cadet, and I hopped on a bus and headed into the centre of Turku.

We did the tourist stuff like seeing the sights and taking photographs, eventually returning to the Irish Wasa for our lunch. I then caught up with some sleep so that I was ready for another trip up the road in the evening. Several of us did venture ashore, but very little appeared to be open, presumably because it was Sunday. We were unable to find the local seamen’s mission and I eventually walked back to the ship with Jimmy, the junior engineer I had joined the Irish Wasa with. Jimmy was a good lad and we got on well. He did have a darker side that was to emerge a couple of weeks later. Watch this space!

More sightseeing took place on the Monday when the newly joined chief officer very kindly gave his cadets the day off. Knowing that such offers could be quickly withdrawn we immediately ventured into town visiting shops and tourist spots such as the local outdoor museum, the cathedral, and the castle. I remember them all, but the cathedral was a special place. It is where I discovered Psalm 84, when I picked up a small pamphlet about the cathedral. Parts of the pamphlet are shown below. I remember being blessed by reading the pamphlet, which is why I still have a copy. Psalm 84 remains my favourite Psalm.

 

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD.
With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar,
O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises.

What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.
O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies, hear my prayer. Listen, O God of Jacob.

O God, look with favour upon the king, our shield!
Show favour to the one you have anointed.
A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
For the LORD God is our sun and our shield.
He gives us grace and glory.
The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.
O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, what joy for those who trust in you. (Psalm 84 NLT)