I apologise for the lack of recent blog activity, which is down to illness and Christmas. The previous post described events in Oxelösund in June 1974 when the third mate of the Irish Wasa managed to get his nose badly broken by one of the junior engineers. This meant leaving the third mate behind in a Swedish hospital when we sailed for Amsterdam. I was assigned to the third mate’s watch with the captain. I did not expect this to be a good experience, but it was excellent as the captain took me under his wing. I learned a lot in the few days at sea between Oxelösund and Amsterdam, where the third mate returned to the ship with a much straighter nose than when I had last seen him.

m.v. Irish Wasa – approaching the locks for the Kiel Canal in June 1974 during the voyage from Oxelösund to Amsterdam

Unfortunately, there were further incidents with the junior engineer culminating in an assault on the second engineer (his direct boss). It was then that the captain decided that the junior needed to go home from the next port (Port Cartier in Canada). The shipping company initially disagreed, unwilling to pay the junior’s fare home from Canada when the Irish Wasa was due to return to the UK six weeks later. The captain insisted that the cost of repatriating one junior engineer would be less than the cost of further hospitalisations should the junior engineer continue to use his fists to such devastating effect. Six weeks was just too long to wait.

The big event for me on the voyage from Amsterdam to Port Cartier was my seventeenth birthday. The second engineer’s wife made me a birthday card and the second cook made me a birthday cake. Most of my other gifts were cans of beer. A photograph of the event shows that I could also have done with a haircut for my birthday, but long hair wasn’t generally a problem in the British Merchant Navy in the 1970s. Attempts at haircuts ashore in foreign parts were generally unsuccessful in my experience and waiting until home on leave was usually a better option.

17th Birthday – Mid Atlantic

We did a lot of waiting on the Irish Wasa. She wasn’t the fastest or newest of vessels meaning that engine breakdowns were part of life. When we sailed from Port Cartier with a cargo of iron ore for discharge in Finland (again) the time of year meant that there was a risk to the ship from icebergs. Not wanting to end up the same way as the Titanic meant stopping engines and drifting during the hours of darkness, with additional lookouts posted by day and by night while in the danger zone. The wait for daylight seemed to take forever, but no-one fancied taking to the lifeboats in the cold waters of iceberg alley, where fog was also a hazard.

There are many times in life when waiting is necessary. Waiting is very Biblical. Noah is a good example – first waiting for the promised flood to come, then waiting for it to recede. Abraham and his wife Sara had to wait until old age for a promised son. The descendants of that son spent 400 years waiting for God to deliver them from slavery in Egypt, and then a further forty years stuck in the desert waiting to enter the ‘promised land.’ Then there was the wait for a Messiah who wasn’t recognised as such by most of the population when He arrived. He also had a habit of making people wait. His disciples probably didn’t think that waiting was a good idea at 03:00 when they were desperately trying to cope with stormy weather in a very small boat. But when Jesus turned up all was well. 2,000 years later a good proportion of Earth’s population are waiting for Jesus to show up in person again. Are you one of them?

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5: 7-8 NLT)