Red Sea Rendevous
Trip Start Aug 01, 2008
150Trip End Dec 20, 2008
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Where I stayed
MV Aenne Rickmers
Red Sea N 17° 30.4' E 40° 34.0'
A fine calm day. We're cruising along at about 17kt between the islands and reefs of Saudi Arabia to starboard and Eritrea to port. The temperature wasn't too bad early on, but is rising steadily. Although the sea is very calm, I didn't see any life during my walk nor when sitting out later; may spend an hour at the bows this afternoon despite that.
[Later:] An extraordinary afternoon. I did spend forty minutes on the "forecastle" after lunch, and saw a few dolphins but they didn't make it to the bows. Then someone arrived to start removing rust with a compressed-air driven wire brush and the peace was shattered, so I headed back
"No, what message?"
"The captain of a warship called on the VHF and asked for you. I don't know the name."
"Just might be HMS Cumberland . . . the captain's a friend of mine."
"They will call again in half an hour."
So, half an hour later, I was talking to Cdr Sparkes. Although in theory I am proficient with marine VHF, I didn't get quite right the mixture of informal chat, radio protocol and not saying the wrong thing on air, but Peter managed all that with his usual competence.
The conclusion was a promised photo opportunity, as "helicopter operations" were in progress. Sure enough, twenty minutes later we were visited by a Lynx helicopter, which approached from ahead, flew down the starboard side, round our stern and then kept pace with us for several minutes, about 50m off the port bridge wing. I was on the monkey island, taking photos and occasionally waving for the photos that they were taking of us.
All this took place in the middle of the Red Sea at about the latitude of Port Sudan. Cumberland remained in sight a few miles off to port for several hours altogether, so I have at least a dozen photographs of her in distant silhouette, with and without helicopter.
The one disappointing thing was that the crew of Aenne Rickmers didn't make more of it. The Second Officer didn't tell them what was happening and I don't think the couple of officers I told got the point until too late. I called Nadja but she wasn't around, which is a double pity as both ships would have had better photographs if she'd been there.
I attempted to send Peter a thank you text but I doubt it worked, so I also asked Elizabeth to email on my behalf. Just calling on the ship's VHF to say thank you didn't seem right, although I don't know why I think so. I'm looking forward to seeing the photos, and I'm sure one or two of my ex-colleagues will appreciate them.
Later, we spent another half an hour at the bows but only saw dolphins behind us. There was a pretty good sunset, though, and the moon later provided a silver path on the waters.