TWO FRYING PANS save Polish sailors in the Arctic seas, or in other words, my tales from the far North. Part I.
You must experience it yourself that everyday objects suddenly become heroes of some unusual situations. But has it ever happened to you that they’ve decided about your life, like two yacht frying pans could decide about mine? How was it – just read.
The Ocean B yacht, having repeatedly hit the rocks, stood at anchor in a dangerous place. At a distance of 2-3 cables, the tips of rocks protruded out of the water, but the underwater ones that could not be seen were more dangerous. How did we get there? It’s a long story for another tale. Nevertheless, it was necessary to sail away from there as soon as possible, the conditions were getting more and more difficult, and it was not possible to do that the same way we’d got there because of the rocks that had damaged the yacht. It was necessary to explore the bottom as accurately as possible and try to find an escape route. For that purpose, a dinghy and a weight attached to the line were to be used.
Everything might have seemed like a simple operation, were it not for the fact that the sea was wavy and using a dinghy was very dangerous. There was also a strong wind and it was cold. At sea, there is no rule that the one who broke something must fix it – that’s why I carried out that difficult operation to try to get us out of that situation. I prepared the measuring equipment: a rope with knots every meter and a weight. I also took my GPS receiver to record my route. Together with Jacek, we put on our warmest clothes and got into the dinghy. To my great surprise, the owner of the yacht did not provide any oars needed in case of failure, the lack of fuel or engine problems. I was aware that if something happened, e.g. a wave flooded the engine, we were in a situation of no rescue. The yacht would be immobilized, there would be nothing to save us from an emergency, we would not be able to cope with difficult conditions. I was consoled then that it was really necessary to take the measurements and that I was risking my life, which is some kind of reassurance for the captain. Instead of oars, we got two large pans for possible paddling.
We set off. I was trying to keep the dinghy safe on the waves, while Jacek was making measurements with the greatest dedication, lowering the weight into the icy and turbulent water. It wasn’t easy: he dipped his hands in the water again and again. I steered with the greatest care and reported the depths via radio to the observer on the yacht. Several times the waves rocked the dinghy dangerously, several times I had to run away from the larger waves trying not to stand perpendicularly to them. We sailed radially from the yacht every 10 meters taking measurements. When we were on the windward side of the yacht, a sense of security increased in me that, in case of emergency, we would drift towards Ocean B. But when we were on the leeward side of the yacht: there was only the endless Arctic Ocean.
In this way, after more than an hour of sailing, a map of the bottom was created on which we marked a few shallows close to the yacht. We also managed to find a relatively safe route to the exit from the rocky area. As a land surveyor, I have made many maps and measurements, but never before in such dangerous conditions that were so important for the safety of people.
Fortunately we returned to the yacht, this time Providence watched over us, and a cup of hot tea quickly filled us with warmth. The hands thawed longer.
What about those two frying pans?
While taking measurements, we were attacked by birds that dived towards our heads, probably hoping for easy prey. Then I had to defend Jacek and myself by waving the frying pan. It might have looked funny from the deck of the yacht, but I wasn’t laughing then.