Five questions for Olli Taipale, Chief Pilot at Finnpilot

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Five questions for Olli Taipale, Chief Pilot at Finnpilot
In our new new section “Five questions for ..." Marine-Pilots.com introduces pilots and other market players to our readers in short interviews.

Today we have talked to Olli Taipale, Chief Pilot at Finnpilot.
How long have you been working as a pilot and why did you choose this special job?
I started as pilot in April 2006 – so it’s over 14 years now. My friend’s father – who later became my colleague – was pilot. Once I was with him onboard and at that moment, I decided to become one too!

What is the best thing about your job and why?
Absolutely to meet people from different countries and cultures and learn how to work in those atmospheres. Pilotage is nowadays a lot of psychology – understanding and to be understood. And yes, I never say no thanks to cuisines of various countries of the world.

What do you take with you onboard for each pilotage?
Our area is large, and you never know where you end up. That’s why I always have spare underwear and gear of personal hygiene, something to eat - like fruit and peanuts. The iPad is nowadays a must because we do billing with it and also share vital information with the crew onboard - route plan, port info, traffic info, weather… Then of course my TRENZ pilot plug device, a lot of charging cables, a handheld VHF, face masks, hand sanitizer, rubber gloves and sunglasses. As personal safety gear I wear life jacket, helmet, safety shoes, climbing gloves and reflective clothing.

Do you have wishes for future improvements for pilots, especially in safety?
It’s time to start look after our personal safety. Still we see many pilots around the world boarding without helmet and not paying attention to proper footwear, for instance. I really don’t know, why it’s that way -it is our own lives and safety on the table. It’s easy to pick low hanging fruits at least – let’s do it!

What makes your pilotage area special? Which special skills are required from pilots?
Our area is the largest archipelago in the world by the number of the islands. We have totally 40000 islands here! It’s essential to be able to remember and read the radar picture, control the rate of turn and use fairway area properly due to small margins which leave no room for error. The Archipelago Sea is also one of the 40 national parks in Finland and home of thousands of birds. In that point of view the safety of navigation becomes even more important.

One more question - what is your opinion about Marine-Pilots.com?
It’s great to have a common pilot platform! I hope it becomes even more popular and there would be pilots sharing their experiences and thoughts of this marvelous profession.

 

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Opinion pieces reflect the personal opinion of individual authors. They do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about a prevailing opinion in the respective editorial department. Opinion pieces might be deliberately formulated in a pronounced or even explicit tone and may contain biased arguments. They might be intended to polarise and stimulate discussion. In this, they deliberately differ from the factual articles you typically find on this platform, written to present facts and opinions in as balanced a manner as possible.

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Christian Fredman Finnpilot Pilotage Ltd, Finland
on 5 December 2020, 18:04 UTC

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The Corryvreckan whirlpool, or ‘Maelstrom’, as would be a more appropriate description, is formed as the tide enters the narrow stretch of water between the Islands of Jura and Scarba that is the Gulf of Corryvreckan. Here the tidal flow speeds up to 8.5kts as it is squeezed between the islands, and there it encounters a variety of underwater seabed features. On the western entrance a basalt pinnacle rises up from depths of 70m to 29m, and lying to East, directly in front of the pinnacle is a deep hole in the seabed, with a depth of 219m.

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During a storm on spring tides it is said that the angry roar from the seething waters of the maelstrom, with its standing waves and whirlpools can be heard up to 10 miles away, and local mythology refers to this as the voice of ‘Cailleach’ (The Hag) of the Whirlpool.

In a well found boat the gulf can be safely navigated in fair conditions, or at slack water, but I can imagine that in a Westerly gale on a flood tide, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the place, as it would truly be described as ‘Unnavigable’. Indeed it was once classified as such by the Royal Navy. On the day we visited with Thunder Child we had Westerly winds of Force 5 gusting 6, and a 3.9m tide which enabled us to experience the standing waves on the flood and the whirlpools on the ebb.

The word Corryvreckan translates to ‘Cauldron’ and that perfectly describes the seething sea state around the whirlpools, and it was quite an experience to have the throttles set for 6kts, holding station just ahead of the standing waves that were breaking behind the boat, and not be moving at all!

There is an Old Irish text known as Cormac’s Glossary written by the King and Bishop of Cashel, Cormac mac Cuilennáin who died in the year 908: “There is a great whirlpool which is between Ireland and Scotland to the north, in the meeting of various seas, its thunderous eructation and its bursting and its roaring are heard among the clouds, like the steam boiling of a cauldron of fire.” I felt that was a pretty cool description of the place as how the place might have appeared of old during a storm.

Coryvreckan is reputed to produce the third largest whirlpools after the Saltstraumen and Moskstraumen Maelstroms in Norway, however the unique submarine topography of the gulf of Corryvreckan and its capability to produce dangerous standing waves means that in storm conditions, it is potentially one of the most violent stretches of water in the world.

The Voyage: Casting off at Cobh in the afternoon on Saturday 18th July 2020 Thunder Child II arrived at Bangor marina at 9.30pm for refuelling after averaging 32kts over the 275nm run. Overnighting on aboard we set sail early Sunday morning heading up the Northern Ireland coast to Rathlin Island, itself a place notorious for producing challenging seas with its tidal strong race and overfalls, before a lumpy crossing to Scotland to enjoying two days taking Thunder Child II through the standing waves and whirlpools in the Gulf of Corryvreckan, and capturing some cool Ariel drone video. Whilst we were there It was also nice to see one of our old Interceptor 42 passenger boats ‘Venturer’ for the first time since we built her 15 years ago, and still looking good. Operated by Craignish Cruises running boat tours in the Gulf, they guided us on a tour around the islands visiting the notorious ‘Grey Dogs’ tidal race and seeing the Sea Eagles nesting nearby.

Spending Sunday night isolated on the breakwater at Ardfern marina we headed to Belfast late afternoon on Monday. Next day we were onwards to Dun Laoghaire for lunch and down the East coast of Ireland where we we’re buzzed overhead by Rescue 116 of the Irish Coastguard, which was great to experience and gave us the excuse to give Thunder Child the beans, and although heavy with fuel we still managed to hit over 50kts.

We arrived home to East Ferry Marina, Cobh late Tuesday evening after an enjoyable voyage for her crew comprising: Skipper Frank Kowalski and crew: Carl Randalls (Drone pilot) Ciaran Monks, Mary Power and Kenny Carrol. During the voyage Thunder Child II ran faultlessly and proved her capabilities of averaging high speeds for long distances.

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