Danish Butter Cookies...

by Marine Pilot Luis Vale, Portugal - published on 17 July 2019

photo and article by Luis Vale, Portugal

It is a known fact that next to the most important equipment on a ship’s bridge (the coffee machine) there will always be a tin of cookies to help the watchkeepers go through the 4 hours watch with their stomachs comforted. Not always known is that these tins of delicious “Danish Butter Cookies” can also give a help navigating the ship…

Back in 1996 we were approaching Hormuz Strait, outbound from the Arabian Gulf, having loaded a full cargo of crude oil at the Iranian Kharg Island terminal. The traffic separation scheme north of Musandam Peninsula demands a large alteration of course, which can be tricky for a 22 meter draft, 342 meters long vessel with heavy traffic nearby. For this reason, the Captain was also on the bridge with the 2nd Officer (at that time, me).

At some distance on our starboard bow, there was a salvage tug approximately with the same heading and speed. She was delaying the course change and soon we would need to start going to starboard and had no acceptable room. Before deciding to slow our speed to increase the distance we tried to call her on the VHF asking if she would alter course before us or proceed with that course. After calling the tugboat a couple of times by her name, with no answer whatsoever and approaching the defined position to alter course, I headed for the phone to call the engineers in order to let them know that I would soon be decreasing the engine revolutions so as to alter course.

Before I could pick up the handset, the Captain impassively told me to wait a moment. He approached the “Danish Butter Cookies” tin, removed the lid and went outside on the bridge wing. Using the sun and the polished interior of the lid as a mirror, he began to flash the bridge of the tug. Almost immediately a voice sounded on the VHF, with the tugboat watchkeeper apologizing after realizing that there was this huge, huge vessel approaching on her port quarter. She instantly altered course to starboard and allowed us also to alter without decreasing the speed...

So, next time you join a ship, check if the “Danish Butter Cookies” are a part of the standard navigational equipment…
Original article on LinkedIn