George the Pilot Boat arrives in the yard

Sat 9 May 2020 21:51

George the Pilot Boat

Arrives in the Yard

The big blue hoist moved slowly around the yard on most days lifting and laying vessels from the water into the yard, just as it did Zoonie and every time we hear its strong, low engine tone I am up and looking to see who is the latest delivery or which vessel is on its way back to where it belongs, after its beauty treatment or medical operation. We chat to the people as we pass if they are not too engrossed or busy.

Colin and his son run a number of retired pilot boats with plenty of years of life left and the George Vancouver is their smallest. They do various interesting jobs that are outside the range of their past roles, deliveries, transport, you phone up about it and they’ll probably be able to help. Colin was out in one early in the morning on ANZAC Day in Princess Royal Harbour and as the Reveille finished on shore he sent off some flares in salute to the fallen service men and women.

Well our grandson George’s fourth birthday was looming and I thought a story about George the little pilot boat would be a fitting present for George the little Rutland lad. So I had a chat with Colin, ‘Pugwash’ who gave me an idea. I like stories that have an element of truth; so here it is.


‘The Story of George the Pilot Boat 105

And his boss, Captain Pugwash

Are you sitting comfortably?

Once upon a time there was a pilot boat called George, in fact there still is but this story comes from his past. George lived in a safe little harbour at a place called Albany with his three friends, also pilot boats, called Max, Penelope and Beatty. Max was a big, shiny and very new pilot boat and as a consequence could be a little bit too full of himself at times. Penelope had elegant, sweeping lines and provided the comfort of plush red upholstery and colourful cushions inside for her visitors, while Beatty had the most powerful engines and felt he could take on the toughest task.

One night a most terrible storm was passing across the Southern Ocean just outside the big natural harbour called King George Sound, where the ships would anchor to await the high tide and their journey on to the long ship wharf where they tied up.

The waves were like mountains covered in white snow, that was really frothing sea water and the swell lifted them up towards the black sky and then dropped them unkindly and without warning, thump! A big red ship from far across the sea was caught up in this maelstrom and needed to get into the shelter of the Sound but it could not see the way, nor did it know where it could anchor, so the captain radioed Captain Pugwash who then addressed his little fleet.

“Now my friends, I need a volunteer to take me out to the Clementine so we can transfer the pilot and he can guide her in.” Needless to say this would be a very dangerous task and three of the four pilot boats shook in the water at the prospect.

“Max, what do you think? Is this something you could do?” Max suddenly lost his usual self-confidence, “I would but in those seas I might get my approach all wrong and risk damaging my hull, then what use would I be to you.”

Captain Pugwash turned to Penelope who was pressed hard against the quay and looking a little squeamish, “How about you Penelope, are you prepared for this challenge?”

“Well to be honest Captain I am concerned the seawater might get inside my cabin and spoil my upholstery, I need to maintain standards for everyone you see.”

Beatty was humming and haa’ing as his engines rumbled within his hull, “Your powerful engines would come in very useful today Beatty, What do you think?”

Thinking for a moment Beatty then replied, “Those wicked seas could easily send water into my big exhaust tubes and blow up my engines, Captain, wouldn’t that be terrible!”

“So that leaves just you George, I know you are the oldest and your engines are smaller than Beatty’s but would you be willing to take the pilot and me out to sea?” Captain Pugwash was running out of options so he was thrilled when George replied,

“Ready when you are Cap’n!”

The knuckles on Captain Pugwash’s hands were white he was clenching George’s wheel so tightly and the pilot was hanging on to George’s wooden handrails for dear life. George was buffeted and pushed, lifted and dropped and even spun around as they made their lively way into the raging storm.

For nearly an hour they could see nothing ahead of them in the cruel darkness and then “Look! “George yelled, pointing his bow beyond the next breaking wave charging towards them. The wave pushed his bow high into the air as George pushed through the wave in a cloud of white water, then as he settled downwards for a brief second there were the lights of the bulk carrier directly ahead of them. “Well done Captain, your navigation was spot on.”

George knew he had to go around the stern of the ship and come alongside it on the downwind side, but this was not going to be easy. The ship’s captain spoke over the radio, “I cannot go slower than seven knots or I lose steerage way.” Both George and his Captain knew this was a problem because George’s maximum speed was six and a half knots, “I’ll just have to do my very best,” George said bravely.

Captain Pugwash very carefully moved George forward and closer to the big ship that was providing a smoother sea for them out of the wind, but he couldn’t make up the distance he needed to go to reach the doorway in the side of the ship where the pilot could clamber aboard. He tried harder and harder but it was no use, and he was trying his absolute hardest when suddenly, from beneath him, a long wave arose, tipped him forward and pushed him in exactly the right direction. George was surfing and he loved it! For the essential moments he was beside the open door and the pilot stepped smartly over just before the helpful wave settled back down again and George fell back away from the ship, his task completed.

Captain Pugwash and George followed Clementine into the Sound where she dropped two massive anchors from the bow and settled down to wait out the storm.

Safely tied up back in Albany George’s friends, Max, Penelope and Beatty all congratulated him by sounding their horns and telling him what a brave little pilot boat he was and Captain Pugwash had a nice surprise in store.

“I am so proud of you George I am going to treat you to a haul out at Darren’s boatyard where we will clean and anti-foul your hull.” George was overwhelmed and very grateful, “and that’s not all,” the Captain continued, “as a very special treat I have ordered two brand new propellers which are a little bigger than your present ones and will let you go at eight knots, fast enough for any big ship!”

And it was in Darren’s boatyard that we met the brave George, his kind Captain Pugwash and the Captain’s son, Jason. See the shiny new propellers?’

I hope you enjoyed it, I certainly had fun writing it. George is back in service now and Colin answers his mobile every day to people wanting his services.


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