Two Nautical Adventures: A Launch

When we arrived at Trogir the berthing master told us that a large bulk carrier on the slipway at the entrance to the harbour was to be launched at midday on Friday.  It was very much at the last minute, (owing to some welding work being done on Verity) that Mike, Nick and I set off in their 5 ft dingy to witness this event at close quarters.

Mike, a retired shipbroker with a lifetime’s nautical experience, had seen a launch from the shore but never before from the sea but he knew enough to take us in very close to the slip.  As we bobbed about in the rib trying to hold station there was a loud bang as the chocks were cleared and the ship was released.

She slid slowly and gracefully down the slip and into the sea.  We were all expecting something of a splash.  Instead there was a large but gentle rolling swash that swept towards us and lifted us gently over its crest.   The enormous propeller which was half clear of the water was forced into revolution by the launch and continued to turn as the ship drifted away from the slip for perhaps ¼ mile.  Three tugs then approached to take her lines and tow her back to a fitting-out berth.

To see such a large ship move so effortlessly without any propulsion other than gravity, momentum and the help of a lot of greasy planks was quite a moving experience.  I was amazed that so few other boats were in the vicinity and even more that we had been permitted to get so close.  There were hundreds of onlookers in the yard and on the quay. Without Mike’s experience and knowledge Nick and I would never have dared to venture so close!

A Rude Awakening:

Nick was woken by the sound of Verity hitting something fairly substantial and immediately popped his head though the hatch of our cabin.  As he looked around and saw that everything appeared to be in order I heard Mike shout from the stern, “Get Nick here quickly.”  Pulling on some trousers he escaped through the hatch and went to the stern where he was amazed to see the large party boat/ferry, ‘Maranca’, bumping Verity’s stern.

Somebody had cast Maranca loose, no easy feat given the weight of the vessel, about 200 tons, and the thick mooring ropes.  Mike was doing his best to fend off as the vessel swung out into the tide.  As he moved forward to clear the dinghy, Nick handed the mooring ropes which were dragging along the quay to Carolyn and me to try and ensure they did not drag across or under Verity and rip us from our berth.

Nick ran forward to bang on the sides of a large Italian motor yacht to wake the owners but despite this and a lot of shouting no one stirred.  However with all the noise the four of us were making the two crew on the ferry came out to see what was wrong and realised they were adrift in the very crowded port powered only by the tide and wind.  We quickly heard an engine start as the skipper got to the bridge whilst the crew pulled in the mooring lines that would otherwise have fouled their own propeller.

Mike had called the berthing master who quickly arrived, wearing his trademark Tilley hat (at 4.30 in the morning?!) and the boat was rapidly returned to her mooring.  It is quite amazing no one was hurt in this incident and apart from a minor scratch on the stern of Verity neither boat was damaged.

The crew of the ferry and the berthing master voiced the opinion that right wing supporters had released the moorings in an act of dangerous vandalism because the ferry had been used for an event rallying support for the Communist candidate in the local elections currently taking place in Croatia.  When one thinks of the one year old infant on the small boat ahead, sandwiched between Verity and the Italian motor yacht, the outcome, if the ferry had not been swept out into the main tidal stream, could have been very tragic indeed.

By the time we had gathered our scattered wits and sat in the cockpit recapitulating the event it was well past 5 and as I had set my alarm for 6.15 there seemed little point in returning to my bunk.  No-one else felt like trying to retrieve sleep mode either.  Once Nick and I had used our washing facilities I cleaned the head out and completed packing.  Nick made some more of his fabulous omelettes for breakfast and after a cup of coffee it was time to look for our taxi.

As we drove to the airport I watched the semi-rural roadside scenery roll by.  There were orchards of dwarf fruit trees, small plantations of vines and occasional fallow fields startlingly beautiful in their mantle of exuberant wild red corn poppies.  I suddenly feel a surge of love for terrestrial countryside and wonder if I am a landlubber at heart.  I have flourished at sea, swimming in Bombay Sapphire water, going ashore to stroll or seek out somewhere to eat, the stark beauty of relatively barren low lying islands which create the network of waterways to sail or motor through, but I find I am really looking forward to returning to my English plot to see how the garden has come through our absence and what may be good and what may be disappointing.

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