Today we really started our voyage heading north; by following the East coast of England. We are not going that fast as explained yesterday, and with very calm weather in the North Sea it was perfect cruising. Not much sunshine but that was good, at least for me, as it keeps that hazy stuff away. We had good visibility and thus the oil and gas platforms were clearly visible as our route went straight through the area. The platforms are grouped in clusters and you have to stay away from those but there are open shipping lanes in between for ships to criss cross the North Sea. I assume that the oil company’s would like to put a few platforms there was well but the chance of collisions would become too great, as commercial traffic also needs to use the sea. When ships do come too close to platforms, there is normally a Guard ship on duty that comes racing out to tell the perpetrator to change course. That sometimes results in loud arguments over the VHF, as not all ships agree with that policy.
For us that means that we keep a close eye on these platform clusters as you cannot always see what ships are in the vicinity of them, as their radar echo’s often merge with the big one of the platform, Also visually it is not that easy as their navigation lights often disappear in the bright background light of the platforms. The standard procedure is then to just plot every echo on the radar screen and keep observing to see if a new echo sudden appears as an extra. That is a bit the other way around than normal. Normally you plot the echo’s that are significant for anti collision watch keeping. Stationary objects are then of no concern. Now you plot the stationary objects as a means to find an unknown echo that might be of concern. It works very well though and thus it is a standard operation procedure (SOP) for us onboard.
By 4 am. we had passed the county of Norfolk and there the English land falls sharply back and we changed course to a North Westerly heading, aiming straight for the Firth of Forth. This is the estuary of the river Forth along which the south bank of Edinburgh is located. It is a pity that we cannot go sightseeing that much closer to the coast but along the English east coast there are many banks and shallow patches that would make a regular course line impossible. I spent some time looking at that, to see if I could sail past my home town, Cromer in Norfolk, sail past Skegness, and well-known places such as Scarborough, New Castle upon Tyne etc etc. Most places you can get to but sometimes you have to double back on the approach course as it is the only way in and out. That costs too much time, even when you only have to go slow speed. A pity, but then life is never perfect. Tomorrow there will be enough Scottish scenery to enjoy anyway.
Although we are in the North Sea, we are under the normal influence of the North Atlantic tides. Near Dover Channel it is most pronounced as all the water has to go through that narrow opening but even here off the coast of the English Midlands there is still a knot current with or against us on average. However it is not consistent as the flow curls around or bounces off the land. Hence we regulate our speed by engaging a second engine at times to keep the average speed the same when needed. This will bring us tomorrow morning at 0500 at the pilot station, about halfway up the estuary.
After that the speed will be up to the pilot as we have to go under the Forth Bridges during the ebbing tide when the clearance for the ship will be enough. We fit under at all times but due to the turn that we have to make to get into the dock at Rosyth, the pilot cannot always stay in the middle of the bridge span.
Weather for tomorrow looks good, certainly for Scottish standards, very little wind, with maybe a little drizzle in the late morning