monkey at the wheel

Mon 26 May 2014 15:51
Today’s short, windless trip to Portland would have been truly uneventful if it had not been for two happenings, one planned and the other a heart thumping event. Safely over the St Albans Race, where the sea can be mountainous over the shallow ledge that runs offshore under the water, a big power boat, driven by a monkey and travelling at 40 knots (40mph ish) plus, was heading directly for us while we were doing a modest 7 knots at the time.
I turned to the right (starboard) as the regulations demand, good and early, to show him our broadside guns (!) so what does this gibbon do, turns to the left (port) so we are still on a collision course. By this time my ticker is working overtime and thoughts of a long retirement start to fade. His terrifying speed does not change, but suddenly he twigs what needs to be done and passes us close on our port side looking straight ahead as if we were an insignificant piece of flotsam. The ape!
Fully recovered and just outside Portland Harbour we take advantage of the lack of wind to check the hand-bearing compass for errors, before swinging the ships main compass to find any errors on different headings. Errors happen when the magnetism in the compass is attracted to ferrous objects, eg drinks cups and cans, cameras etc. It would have been too embarrassing to  turn up for our inspection in Plymouth and be asked where it is. When the lady compass adjuster came aboard two years ago she got the errors down to nil, but with a new engine that could have changed.
So a deviation card is made to show the errors of the compass to East and West and these can then be applied in navigation to make position fixing that bit more accurate. They usually look like a pretty curve swinging from one side, sensually through to the other. Ours looks more like the front profile of Adena, the Turkish belly dancer we marvelled at on a long weekend in Istanbul, and are so slight as to be no problem.
Have a happy Bank Holiday evening.