Sunday, 27 November 2011

For all those in peril on the sea

I was awake at 5.30am.
The gales that started yesterday had increased in their intensity and with great difficulty I dragged myself from under the duvet and checked on the Ukrainian Village through the window.
Caught in the faint light of the lane light, I saw the  roof of the goose house lift up briefly, then sail heavily over the duck house beyond the enclosure. The other coops, all hunched against the wind looked intact, except the smallest turkey house which also had lost it's roof, so donning my thermals I faced the torrential rain and wind to make hasty repairs, as the birds sat silently inside their houses like fish in a barrel
In the night, the cargo ship, the Swanland went down in heavy seas off the North Wales Coast, with it's cargo of limestone and six crew. It is a ship that I am sure we have seen many times docking at the quarry quay over at Llanddulas , a few miles away to the West. ....and in these times of aseptic lifestyles, where the only danger we witness is from tv Zombies and the credit crunch, we can be still be reminded that peoples' lives can lie in a very delicate balance sometimes.
The Swanland

Mind you, I think  it is easier to just ignore the potential for catastrophe in this world.
Perhaps the geese had the right idea...faced with disaster, all they did was huddle together, put their heads down across their wings and close their eyes.


  1. Thinking of you, John, as you work to restore order and batten down the hatches again. Big Hugs. xx

  2. Hoping that you and the Villagers are warm, dry and safe.
    I don't need zombies for excitement - I just have to read here.

  3. While we all slept safe and warm those six men were fighting for their lives. Imagine the thoughts going through their minds as they struggled. They will be in my thoughts all day.

  4. My late Father was a radio-operator on deep-sea trawlers out of Grimsby for eighteen years and survived a number of near-misses.

    I really dislike the look of the "modern" cargo vessels - they always look unhappy and unbalanced to me, designed to be all profit-margin and seaworthy only by virtue of their size, not by any grace.

    Poor guys.

  5. Thoughts and prayers for the six men of the sea who perished...and for their families and friends.

    I hope there were no serious injuries amongst your menagerie and that no one comes down with a cold, especially you!

  6. Hubby was a sailor, I tried not to think of him out at sea in stormy weather, I would have been a nervous wreck.
    Jane x

  7. That's terrible. I hadn't heard about The Swanland, nor of your bad weather. Keep your heads down!

  8. We had wind and rain last night, I could barely get the dogs out. They though someone was coming, as the screen door kept banging - put me on edge. I'll bet the poor geese thought the jig was up!

    I feel bad for the crew on that ship, some jobs are just dangerous.

  9. I just heard about this ship on the radio, I gather price William was the co-pilot in the helicopter rescue.

    Glad none of the animals were hurt.

  10. What awful new, the poor men. I sometimes wonder how much we need all the stuff that is brought to us by sea and if it's worth it. Definitley not in this case.
    I do the same thing as your geese much more these days .... sometimes the news of all the world's troubles is too much to bear and I'd selfishly rather not know. I gave up thinking I could save the world all by myself just by worrying about it years ago.

  11. Condolences and prayers to the families of the lost crew.
    Hope today is calmer for you, John.

  12. I think you have to live near to the sea John to really appreciate its dangers. I have always found it quite terrifying and awe inspiring. Also I have great admiration for those lifeboatmen. There was a huge gale here but now it has completely died down and little or no damage. I am sure your girls/boys knew that you would be along shortly (in your thermals) to rescue them.

  13. My Dad (RIP) was a naval man in his younger years and up till his death last year continued to support the RNLI - they risk their lives selflessly x

  14. John, as I read your blog, I could picture each and every sentence of your story. You have such a gift and talent as a writer.

    So sad about the Swanland. Being at sea is still one of the most hazardous of professions.

  15. That's really tragic John. Puts minor inconveniences like coop roofs flying away into sharp perspective when people die due to bad weather.

    I'm considering getting some guy ropes rigged up to keep my coops from 'doing a Dorothy'...

  16. When I read about the gale and the ship going down I thought of your village in the storm. But I didn't think of the roofs flying off and you out in the storm nailing them back on... hope the weather has eased up. And I hope the missing men are rescued.

  17. ...huddle together, put their heads down across their wings and close their eyes...

    Or, in the case of those poor sailors, struggle in an unforgiving sea, their strength sapped by the cold with only God witness to their last terrified thoughts and choking gasps.

    I am glad that so many of those posting comments recognise the dangers that so many ordinary people face in order to make our lives better. I shan't list them all but would give special mention to the 4,500 volounteers around our coast who have saved 139,000 lives, their members accumulating 2509 gallantry awards and losing 176 colleagues during the relatively brief lifetime of an organisation that receives no government funding and depends solely on donations or legacies to raise the £147.7 million it needs per year (that's over £400,000 per day).

    I am, of course, referring to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

    And our Government wants to cut the Coastguard, about the only bit of our maritime rescue service they pay for.


    I dug out my old Army Prayer book, turned to the hymns, and read William Whiting's 'Eternal Father, Strong to Save' which most of us know as one of the most emotive communal prayers, not just for those in peril on the sea, but for all those who through selfless acts of courage, place their own lives in peril.

    I could think of no finer eulogy for the poor souls recently lost off the otherwise benign Welsh coast.

    Although I pray for a miracle, these souls may already be at rest. May God grant peace and protection to their families.

    Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
    Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

  18. I am truly terrified of water and would never travel anywhere in the very mildest of weather let alone a force 9 gale off the welsh coast....

    makes all our lttle lives rather safe does it not?

  19. By the way, John, there is an adapted verse of this hymn especially for health carers.

    So this one is for you and all your profession:

    Creator, Father, who first breathed
    In us the life that we received,
    By power of Thy breath restore
    The ill, and men with wounds of war.
    Bless those who give their healing care,
    That life and laughter all may share.

    I did say I wasn't going to do an exhaustive list of those who give selflessly for others but your profession would be on such a list.

  20. The Sailor's Prayer
    (Rod MacDonald)

    Though my sails be torn and ragged and my mast be turned about
    Though the night wind chill me to my very soul
    Though the salt spray sting my eye and the stars no sight provide
    Give me just enough morning light to hold

    (Chorus) I will not lie me down, this rain a-raging
    I will not lie me down in such a storm
    And if this night be unblessed, I shall not take my rest
    Until we reach another shore

    If the only water's salt and I cannot quench my thirst
    I will drink the rain that falls so steady down
    If night's blindness be my gift, if there be thieves upon my drift
    I will praise the dark that shelters me from them

    If my friends be drained and weary and it seems their hopes are
    There's no need for their bones on this blackened bottom
    And if death wait just off the bow, we need not answer to him now
    We'll stand on and face the morning light without him

    (Repeat chorus)

  21. Good one, John D

    and a moral to all. If life is treating you like shit, don't give up. Just kick it in the teeth and soldier on (or sail on).

    I am sure that Rod MacDonald would not like my Précis of the fruit of his poetic skill but I am sure you know what I mean.

  22. Golly, this post really puts my little dramas into perspective. I've thought of you John and your sagas this last week as my own misadventures accumulate towards take-off... broken lawn mowers, and last night the toilet cistern giving up in a great flood. Having to deal with that late at night is chicken feed compared to you seeing to your flock's comfort on a stormy night or indeed sailors fighting for their lives. That seems the stuff of folklore but how tragically real. How moving to have the hymns and prayers from Hippo and JohnD.

  23. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families who are waiting for news and the men who are hopefully still alive. I understand they've found one body and five are still missing? What an uneasy time.
    Are you by the North Sea over there?
    We once met an old sailor walking along a beach over on the Oregon Coast. He was collecting petrified wood and we stopped to talk with him for a while. When he said he'd been a sailor for 25 years I said he must have a lot of great stories to tell. He looked sad and tired, said almost everyone he knew back then wound up dying in maritime accidents...that all the stories he'd have to tell would be about being scared shitless. Cal looked at him and answered "No story worth listening to is about anything else." He finally smiled and relaxed a little at that.
    The sea is an extraordinary force whether in calm or storm. I love her but she scares me, too.
    I've huddled in storms before. I'm totally with the birds on this one.

  24. The sea never ceases to remind us of who is in charge...

    Glad the geese knew what to do!

  25. John,
    I'm glad you're all right and were able to put things to right in your 'Ukranian Village'.

    I live on the coast and was sailing in one storm that made me glad we were very near home. Went 10 knots with just one small sail up, and zipped home before the worst of the weather came. I was grateful to be on board with such a knowledgable captain (i was crew), and a sweet old boat.

    I added my prayers to the countless others that were no doubt uttered when i heard about those still missing.



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