While we were at the dock in Mersin, Turkey we had some rough weather blow through. We had been expecting it but were really, really hoping that we'd have finished cargo and would able to get underway before the high winds hit us. We weren't that lucky. Just as we were calling for a pilot the port was being shut down. The wind picked up incredibly quickly - it soon became necessary for the ships force to put additional lines on the dock to prevent us from being blown off. Of course, because the port was closed there were no line handlers and so some crew members went to work on the dock (this is frowned upon by most terminals - in most countries you'd have to request line handlers from the terminal - this terminal was deserted after cargo shut down - there was no one around - highly, highly unusual - but it seems like in Turkey anything goes!) and the rest of us worked on the ship.
We ended up putting out 5 stern lines (usually there are three), 3 after breast lines (normally there are 2), 3 after spring lines (normally there are 2) and 3 forward spring lines (normally there are 2).
We continued to monitor the conditions and ensured that all of our lines remained TIGHT. We were able to maintain our position alongside the dock for about 2 hours - and then one of our lines parted. As soon as the one line parted we moved off the dock about 4 feet. It was truly amazing, I've never seen anything like it. Of course, I've seen the ship move off the dock but, I've never seen a ship come off the dock so quickly! I've seen lines part too but, I've never seen one line parting alter the position of the vessel. Once we were so far off the dock it became very clear that if we didn't get more lines out, or tug assistance we were going to start parting the rest of the lines (most likely in very quick sequential order).
We put the main engine online to be ready for immediate maneuvering and we called port control to let them know our situation. They were able to dispatch a tug immediately. The tug then pushed us alongside the pier which enabled us to adjust our lines without too much tension on them. It also allowed us the time necessary to deploy more lines - instead of reacting we were able to act. I was honestly surprised that port control responded so quickly and that a tug was ready for immediate use.
Once we had re-secured the vessel we were able to dismiss the tug and ride out the weather.
I know that I'm making it sound quite dramatic - so, for the record....it wasn't exactly a life or death situation. Truly it was more of a 'major hustle' situation. For me what it boiled down to was an excellent experience! It seems as if most times we learn the most when things start to go awry. In fact, it seems like we learn most when things go awry and we make mistakes! It was great to debrief after the evolution was complete to say, 'what would I do differently next time?'.
What this evolution really made me remember was the importance of a plan. When I was in school I learned a phrase - it's called: The 7 P's. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I can't tell you how often I refer back to this! In this particular situation The 7 P's were particularly important - and I should have paid more attention to them. I was the officer on deck coordinating the line handling effort. Because of the immediacy of the situation we proceeded to the stern and began sending lines out as quickly as possible. I didn't take the time to stage the scene which meant that little things weren't readily available as they were needed. I had 8 ABs on the stern - in a way it was too much help. There were a lot of fingers in the pie if you know what I mean. One of my primary responsibilities during mooring evolutions (and this rivaled a mooring evolution although we were already actually moored) is to ensure that my crew is working safely. Because there were so many lines, moving in so many directions, and so many people working on so many different lines it became very difficult to track everyones progress. If things had been set up before hand it might have been a little easier to keep track of everyone - and prevent it looking like a total clusterf*#k!
On a side note, wanna know what really caught my attention? The storm surge! Have you ever seen a storm surge? I had previously seen one in Hilo - we get large storms and occasionally the water levels will rise dramatically at our beaches.....but it is a little hard to see. Because Mersin had a breakwater (that we were directly adjacent to) you could clearly see the difference in water levels between the harbor and the sea. It's a crystal clear picture of a storm surge.
As we're now in the Black Sea - and as I'm now trying to wrap my head around navigating to three new ports (that I don't have charts for) - this day in Mersin feels like an incredibly long time ago! It wasn't....it precisely one week ago! This day also doesn't feel like a big deal anymore - where as one week ago - when I was in the thick of things - adrenaline was high and it felt like a deal. Isn't amazing how a little time can change our perspective?