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Sea Stories


Singapore to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, Africa


June of 2009 we delivered the Gubert Tide, a Platform Supply Vessel of 73.2 meters (240 ft.) by 16.5 meters (54 ft.) from Singapore to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, Africa. She is a GPA 670 Mk III, built in China. She displaces 5,000 tons and has a DWT of 3,000 tons. She is a DP2 vessel with two Z-drives and two bow thrusters. She uses a Kongsberg control system with fore and aft consoles for thrust, DP and process control flow. She is an all electric boat generating 5 MW of power and is also classified as a Fire Fighting Vessel.

The voyage was 8,800 nautical miles, lasting 36 days. We made no fuel stops. We left Singapore via the Malacca Straits (pirate country) but had no encounters with pirates. We crossed the Indian Ocean passing south of Madagascar and the Cape of Good Hope. We did a photo shoot offshore Cape Town using a helicopter. We then proceeded up the west coast of Africa to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. It was quite an experience.

The pictures on this page are cropped from a full size picture which gives a better perspective to what is being shown. To see a picture full size, simply click on the picture and it will appear full size in a new browser.




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The flight to Singapore via Japan was 24 hours long, but the time passed quickly. The United Flight was the worst, very snooty folks. Singapore airport was spotless.

The ambiance was pleasant, tastefully decorated with greenery yet highly polished. There was a medical station at the end of the escalator. They took your temperature with a laser without you even knowing it somehow. They are serious about minimizing swine flu here.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

I arrived at midnight and spent the night in a hotel. From my room, you can see how modern the city is and what a key role the harbor plays for this island country. The population of Singapore as of 2008 was 4.84 million

There are boats and ships of all shapes and sizes. There is plenty of oilfield activity here. There has been some pirate activity in the harbor, but not as much as Somalia, Nigeria or the Malacca Straits.



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

The roads in Singapore are manicured. They have trucks that water the flowers on a frequent basis. Everything is kept so trim and neat; it is almost like a fairy-tail land. You can smell the flowers driving down the road.

In 1819, the British East India Company, led by Sir Stamford Raffles, established a trading post on the island, which was used as a port along the spice route. Singapore became one of the most important commercial and military centers of the British Empire, and the hub of British power in Southeast Asia.



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

The city is very modern. There is new construction going on everywhere. You would hardly know the world is in an economic depression. Singapore has been rated as the most business-friendly economy in the world with thousands of foreign expatriates working in multi-national corporations.

This is the largest ferris wheel I have ever seen. It takes about one hour to make the full circuit all the way around. I imagine you have a fantastic view of the city and harbor and a lot of privacy as well. Next time, I have to ride it!



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Finally, out to my new boat, well small ship really, the Gubert Tide. No, not the one on the left, the one on the right. These oriental boats were common and appeared to be party boats for rent.

The Gubert Tide is a beauty! Built in China less than a month before this picture, she has never been on contract. She has a displacement of 5,000 tons and carries 3,000 tons of cargo. She is controlled by two Azimuth Drives (Z-Drives) and two bow thrusters. She is an all-electric DP vessel. She generates 5 MW of power. She is also rated as a Fire Fighting Vessel.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

I had to go back to shore a few days later for a cholera vaccination. This is the boarding area for the shore boats out to the vessels. It is all controlled at two points on the island and there is full immigrations and customs inspection at both of these. Once again we were laser beamed to take our temperature.

A beautiful sunset over Singapore. The building is a casino under construction. It is worth your time to enlarge this one to see it better. It is a very unique photograph.



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

We left our anchorage on the south side of the island and made way to Loyang Harbor on the north side. This is the main oil and gas dock and as you can see, it was (and always is) very crowded. There were 13 vessels side tied to each other, with only one tied off to the dock.

I'm not really sure why we relocated, other than to have a large safety meeting by visitors from the office. It was a great indoctrination on handling Z-Drive boats for me - very little clearance into a narrow passageway and side tie alongside another vessel. All went well.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

We had a crew from eight different countries, very cosmopolitan. Jason Ingram was our ETO - Electrician, a very handy person to have on an all electric boat. Jason was born in Wales and now resides in Capetown, South Africa.

Serhiy Sychov was the Chief Mate. He was very good with all the paperwork. Serhiy was from the Ukraine.



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

As we departed Loyang for the south side of the island once again we left Malaysia on the port side. These floating docks were abundant. They appeared to be fish farms or maybe shrimp farms. I'm not sure.

They were very complex and interesting. I wish we could have gone over and inspected them closer.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Returning to the Southern anchorage we located next to the Desoto Tide, a sister ship launched two months prior to the Gubert Tide. The two ships made the passage together from Singapore to Abidjan.

There were over 100 vessels in the anchorages on the south side of Singapore. That's a lot of boats to play dodge ball with. We departed in the dark, early one morning to make a day passage through the Malacca Straits.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

This is the famous Raffles lighthouse at the Southwest entrance of Singapore harbor. It is named after the famous first British governor of the island, Sir Stamford Raffles, same as the well known Raffles hotel.

The lighthouse also marks the south entrance of the Malacca Strait. We were on extra alert vigilance to spot and avoid pirates before they attacked us.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

The constant theme was friend or foe. Are these boats out here innocently fishing or are they lying in wait to attack some large inbound cargo ship or two oilfield Platform Supply Vessels?

We had very good luck and did not have any encounters of a bad kind. The Office of Naval Intelligence reported several attacks in this area during the time we made our passage. I guess we were very lucky!



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

This was one of our 36 nights we spent at sea on our voyage. The aft controls are more reminiscent of an airplane cockpit than the bridge of a boat. As many new officers say - This looks like the space shuttle!

These extra large monitors are for Radar, Process Control, Dynamic Positioning, Auto-pilot and more. Plenty of information available for accomplishing the task at hand.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Check out the sun shades on the bridge. It makes the boat look Sci-Fi. They are crystal clear looking out but mirrored looking in. They are incredibly effective at knocking out all the radiation heat. Lowering them drops the temperature on the bridge a good 10 degrees.

Plenty of space for deck cargo 50 x 13 meters or 165 x 45 ft. The deck can hold up to 1600 metric tons of deck cargo.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Maneuvering the vessel is a bit tricky and takes much concentration for even the most experienced operators. When you turn the controls to the right, the stern engines turn to the right, pushing the stern to the right and the bow to the left.

In other words, you turn the controls to the right to make a left turn! And the throttles are on the same control. It is very easy to change throttle settings unintentionally! You get used to them after a while, but it demands your full attention.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

In the engine control room you can see the banks of electrical equipment controlling the operation of the boat. At the end of the alley are two large back up batteries UPS - Uninterrupted Power Supplies) in case the generators black out.

This is the engine control room K-Chief system for controlling all of the ship's process flows. We do all the pumping and receiving of liquid and dry bulk cargo from these units, one here, and two on the bridge.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Here is one of the three main generator engines. They serve to turn the generator rotor to make electricity. Together the three of them make 5.5 MW of electrical power to run the ship, including providing power to the two Z-drive motors and the two bow thrusters.

At the forward end of the engine is the generator. You can see by the size of the power cables that there is some serious power being generated and distributed.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

There are two types and sizes of fire pumps providing water to fight fires. The blue one on the left provides for the ship's internal fire fighting system and runs off of an electric motor.

The grey one on the right provides water for fighting fires on other vessels or facilities. The pump is turned directly by one of the generator engines. There are two pumps this size providing water to the fire monitors above the wheel house.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

The apparatus on the left is a Z-Drive. A propeller is mounted under this unit on a shaft which can be turned in any direction like an outboard motor.

This is the electric motor that spins the propeller and turns the unit. It is capable of turning through 360 degrees, which makes the boat very maneuverable.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

In the photo on the left, dry bulk cargo tanks are on the left for storing cement and barite. Liquid cargo tanks are on the right for storing mud and base oil.

This is the bow thruster. Well, it is the motor turning the bow thruster which is located under the unit. Look at the size of the power cables coming into the motor!



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Our fire fighting suits are quite unique. It is the first time I have seen this type. I don't know if they are unique to China, where the vessel was built, or if they are the latest and greatest in fire fighting apparel.

They are very light weight and fit over everything, including the air bottle, hard hat and air mask.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Here they are - all decked out. Looks like a scene out of an oriental science fiction movie.

Safety meetings are a great opportunity for group photos. The reflective tape on their work outfits is high grade reflective tape. It really reflected the flash well.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

The ship's inclinometer measures the roll of the ship. The black needle is the current roll and the red needles are the maximum roll since last reset. Twenty degrees is enough to knock things off the shelf and make walking very difficult.

Now here is something very clever. The chairs slide into slots under the table lifting them a foot off the floor. It makes it easier to clean the floor and when the ship is rolling, the chairs aren't sliding around. Very clever.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

In the middle of the Indian Ocean we rendezvoused with our sister ship, the Desoto Tide. This is exactly what we looked like on our voyage.

It is interesting to see how the color of the water changes with the clouds or lack of clouds in the sky. The water is so blue on a cloudless day!

Imagine that entire ocean and there is a ship passing nearby going in the opposite direction from Capetown to Singapore.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

We only had four days of really bad weather. It was difficult to film. Once the bow is covered in water and spray there is nothing to see but water and spray which is not a very interesting picture.

The photo at the left was at night. You can see the orange suit of the boatswain making some emergency tie downs for the anchor. The photo on the right was during the day.



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

You may be very disapointed to learn that the Cape of Good Hope is not the Southernmost tip of Africa as you learned in school. Cape Agulhas is the southernmost tip, which is considerably south of the Cape of Good Hope. As you can see, we passed close by this cape. It was very flat and not very photogenic.

The Cape of Good Hope is due south of Capetown. Even Cape Hangklip on the other side of Valsbaai (False Bay) is further south than the Cape of Good Hope. The 1 knot ocean current running from east to west at the southern tip of Africa is called the Agulhas Current.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

I was glad I was not on this ship. It was taking huge rolls in very calm weather. You can see how high the deck cargo is loaded and how high she is riding in the water.

My guess is that she is right at the max vertical CG limit if not exceeding it. Her movement through the water was more like a cartoon! I wonder if she would capsize in heavier seas!



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Here it is - the famous Cape of Good Hope. Not quite what I expected for a winter passage. (July is mid-winter in the southern hemisphere.) I thought we would have seen huge waves and high winds. I have a feeling that this is probably a very rare winter day for the cape.

It surprised me how green it was for winter time at 34 degrees South.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

The Cape is very dramatic, much more so than Cape Agulhas. I wish we could have entered the bay and snoop around a little.

When following the coastline from the equator, the Cape of Good Hope marks the psychologically important point where one begins to travel more eastward than southward. Thus the rounding of the cape in 1488 was a major milestone in the attempts by the Portuguese to establish direct trade relations with the Far East. The sea stories this piece of land could tell!!



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Whatever you do, you must double click these two photos on the right.

This is the most dramatic sunrise I have ever seen. We spent the night in a bay on DP to wait for a photo shoot the next day off of Capetown. The next morning this is what we woke up to.



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

The upper right photo has a texture of melting hot gold in pot.

The bottom right photo has more of the texture of melting chocolate mixing together. I was surprised how well these photos came out.



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

The plan was to make an aerial photo shoot of the two sister ships off the coast of Capetown with Table Rock and the Twelve Apostles in the background.

The two photographers had a blast zipping in and out between the boats and taking shots from all levels. However, the shoot was not coordinated. There was no communication between the chopper and the ships. We could only guess as to where they wanted us.



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

The photos I took of the chopper doing the photo shoot were clearer than the professional photographers. They didn't account for the vibration of the helicopter.

But, they had a great time!



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Testing the fire monitors - We only used one of the pumps which was connected the diesel generator engines and continued on our 10 knot passage.

It is very dramatic how far we can reach with water in case of a vessel or facility fire. The spray turns into a fine mist. Almost everything on our deck gets wet.





Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

I had the deck painted with green and red numbers. These serve a variety of purposes. They help with explaining to the crane operator where we want cargo place on deck.

Facing aft, it is easy to confuse port with starboard. Red for port and green for starboard helps.

I wrote a trim and stability analysis for the ship using these markers to indicate where cargo is placed on the ship.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

One of our many missions is to carry liquid and dry bulk cargo to and from the client's facilities.

Here are an assortment of valves that are connected to the tanks in our ship allowing us to load, offload and backload fuel, potable water, drill water, barite, cement, oil based mud and base oil. There are twenty or more of these valves on deck.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

After 8,800 nautical miles and 36 days, our destination, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, Africa approaches. The first indication was the outline of the shore on our radar.

How appropriate that we are first greeted to the waters of Côte d'Ivoire by an offshore platform.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Here you can see the coast line of Africa behind the Desoto Tide.

This canal, the Vridi Canal, was built in 1951 enabling the city to become an important sea port. You would not believe the size of the ships that pass through this small canal. With currents and rocks, it is not an easy entrance or exit.



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

The Vridi Canal leads into the Ébrié Lagoon. Abidjan, a city over 3,000,000 people and a municipality of over 5,000,000 people is an island in the Lagoon.

Z-drive boats were designed to be controlled by computers. However, in tight quarters, it is safer to steer them by hand. It takes extreme concentration. I compare it to balancing a needle by the tip on your finger.



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Abidjan is inhabited by people from a wide array of different ethnicities. The French language is used as the language of communication in the metropolitan area, which is the third-largest French speaking metropolitan area in the world after Paris and Kinshasa

After all that time in the wide open spaces we have to fit our ships into very small moorings stern to the wharf of Carena Shipyard. We drop anchor and back down into the slot in a classic Mediterranean mooring.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Not much room for a vessel our size but I put her in without scraping the paint.

On our port side is a small harbor tug in dry dock. The beams sticking out from the dock holding her in place presented a special challenge while backing into the slip.



Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Click on picture to see an enlargement.

There are ferries that run back and forth to the island. Here you can see one running with a minimum load of people.

Here is a rush hour load of people. It is easy to see why we read about these capsizing so often. If everyone were to go to one side of the boat she would flip right over. I can't believe the number of people that ride these ferries and how little freeboard there is when loaded.



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Click on picture to see an enlargement.

Two Tidewater Captains, James White and Luis Pineda Chou. James was in special forces. It is hard to tell when the reality turns to fiction in his stories. He has some pretty wild stories. James is from Lafayette, Louisiana. Luis is a Nicaraguan of Chinese descent married to a Costa Rican. His hobby is boxing, though I don't believe he would be a good match for James. It would be interesting!

My delivery crew leaves the boat to return to Singapore. It was a good crew. It is always sad to see a good crew leave the vessel.



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