My week on board ILV Granuaile
Adele Hawkes was one of the winners of the Royal Institute of Navigation's Annual Competition for Young Navigators. She wrote an essay entitled 'The Story of Longitude and how it has affected navigation'. Her prize was a week on board ilv Granuaile. Adele is 14 years old and is a Sea Cadet. She studied GCSE Nautical Studies in her own time and since her week on board has passed her exam with an A grade. She now tells us of her adventures.
My week on board Granuaile got off to a nerve racking start because I nearly lost my way in Dublin Airport, as well as the fact that I hate flying. Captain Kieran O'Higgins, Deputy Inspector of Lights and Marine Superintendent, met me at the airport and took me to the office in Dublin where he introduced me to the shore based staff that keep the organisation together.
After lunch I was driven to Granuaile in Dublin Port. I was amazed by the sheer size and scale of the ship, and of the buoys she was carrying. I had always thought that buoys were small things but it is not until you get close up to one that you realise their real size.
I was introduced to Captain Dermot Gray, Master, and then taken on a tour of the ship from bow to stern, and from the lowest deck to the monkey island. After eating a hearty meal I unpacked my gear and attempted to make sense of magnetic variation and deviation which was part of the Teach Yourself Coastal Navigation course I was doing.
Taking the Helm
The next morning I was woken up early by the sound of another ship's horn as she left the harbour. After breakfast I was told that a member of crew was going ashore by motor boat and asked if I would like to go along for the ride. Naturally I jumped at the chance. I was offered the opportunity to take the helm and after struggling to control the boat at first, I managed to get to the steps at the quayside and then return us safely back to Granuaile.
We left Dublin Port later that afternoon bound for the Arklow Bank. We arrived quite late and the light was too bad to start lifting buoys, so we anchored about two nautical miles off shore for the night. I was given lessons until quite late in the evening in how to work the vhf radio and how to take bearings from the radar screen. I finally went to my cabin to watch television but the signal wasn't very clear and my course work began to look very appealing.
The following day, Friday, we got underway quite early and headed for the Glassgorman buoys to carry out their biennial maintenance checks. We managed to lift the Glassgorman No. 2 but the tide, swells, and wind prevented us from lifting Glassgorman No. 1. I was rather surprised when one of the cooks appeared on deck with a bucket, but I soon realised why. It was going to be fresh Glassgorman No. 2 mussels for dinner that evening. After failing to lift the Glassgorman No. 1, or reaching the Black Rock buoy which needed to be returned to the Depot, we entered Rosslare Harbour and were kept company by two ferries and a RNLI lifeboat for the night. I joined some of the crew who went ashore to the local hotel for the evening. I lost count of how many glasses of coke I drank but when I got back to my cabin I fell asleep almost immediately and missed breakfast the next morning.
Saturday was awful. I was as sick as a parrot. Because the winds had been blowing in a south-easterly direction it caused huge swells to form. The waves were up to three or four metres high but there was very little wind. I was praying that the wind would change direction and flatten the swell but that did not happen. There was a knack to remaining upright as the ship ploughed through the waves, which I managed to master about two hours after leaving my cabin and falling headlong into the bulkheads. I think that the two hardest things to do in a swell are trying to climb the stairs between the decks and to eat your soup without spilling it.
Other than for the swell, the conditions would have been perfect to lift the Glassgorman No. 1 buoy. A number of attempts were made but eventually the mission was aborted. We anchored due south of the buoy for the night hoping that the swell would die down over night. After the ship had anchored I started work on my passage plan for my GCSE Nautical Studies. I also received a crash course in passage planning and chartwork plotting symbols. I did not get to my bunk until 1 a.m. because I was determined to do as much of my work as possible, and I had too much energy to sleep.
Sunday was a big difference. One advantage of being at sea on a Sunday is that you don't have to go to church, and on Granuaile it is often party night in the rating's mess. Attempts were made again to lift the Glassgorman No. 1 buoy but again failed so it was decided to anchor near the Black Rock buoy so that it could be lifted in the morning. On the way we went in to Rosslare Harbour to collect the ship's post. I went in on the motor boat so that I could take some photographs of Granuaile. When we returned to the ship we went full steam ahead for the Black Rock buoy. I cannot remember how far from the buoy we dropped anchor. All I knew was that it was showing up on the radar, but I was feeling particularly lazy and did not work out the bearing.
Later on, after dinner, there was an informal party in the rating's mess room. I was told that it is an old ship's tradition that new man-overboard recovery equipment is tested by putting the youngest crew member in the immersion suit, but I was lucky that these tests had already been conducted before I joined. I left the party early because I started to fall asleep.
When I woke on Monday morning the first thing I noticed was that the swell had died down quite a lot. It looked as if we would be able to lift the Black Rock buoy after all. After breakfast-a cooked breakfast, cereal, or both-we set course for the Black Rock buoy hoping to catch the tides right.
The Captain had made it quite clear that the Black Rock buoy would be lifted even if it took all day to do it. The buoy weighs 12 tonnes and has one eight tonne sinker to keep it in place. It took a long time to close with the buoy and to secure the lines from the crane, hoist it on board, and lower it into a buoy pod. It is a tube buoy which means that there is as much of it below the waterline as above the waterline. It took a long time to disconnect the Racon, which is a device which will show the buoy and an electromagnetic wave coming from it on a radar screen, and to cover all sixteen of its solar panels.
Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion
After the job was done we headed for Dun Laoghaire where we arrived late in the afternoon. I spent most of the afternoon watching television whilst regular maintenance duties were carried out. The crew was due to change on Wednesday so everything had to be 'ship-shape and Bristol fashion'. It was a very hectic 'clean ship' that afternoon, which means exactly what it says, as the Inspector and his Deputy were due to come on board on Tuesday. However, a phone call was received to say that they would not be arriving until Wednesday.
The rest of the day was rather quiet so I made an effort at tidying my cabin before turning in for the night, but I could not get to sleep easily due to the trains whistling and the noise of the ferry as it came in and out of the harbour.
On Tuesday, it was retail therapy day. I went ashore to explore Dun Laoghaire and spent most of my time in the shopping centre looking for presents for my friends and family back home. I also invested in a small sketch pad and pencils to do drawings of the harbour and other ships but the weather was too nice just to sit around all day so I did more exploring and shopping. The one thing that I could not resist was the hand made Irish fudge-well who could resist such temptation.
Wednesday was my last day on board Granuaile. I spent most of the day taking the last few photographs and buying provisions for the journey home. I must say that, although it was the last day of my visit, it was one of the best days of my visit. Some of the funniest things happened because it was the last time all of the crew would be together for the next four weeks. Tom ended up head first in one of the large wheelie bins on deck, then a water fight broke out on the lower deck-well it looked like a water fight from the bridge-among the older members of the crew. I watched the Black Rock buoy being laid on its side so that it could be taken into the Depot.
I was presented with a Granuaile baseball cap by Captain Dermot Gray, and one of the crew members gave me his Granuaile woolly pully. Steve, who is an engineer, took me to the airport as he was taking a flight back to his home town of Glasgow.
It was a long wait for the flight but I spent the time reflecting on the uniqueness of my trip, how much fun I had had, and how much I had learned from it.