Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.
What’s the most unusual experience you’ve ever had? Have you included it in one of your books?
Having spent a considerable part of my life at sea, I suppose I have had quite a few unique experiences.
Strangely enough, the ones that stick in my mind are not the things you might think. I was on a ship where the engine room flooded. I once had to go into an engine-room that was on fire to rescue someone. I’ve been around Cape Horn, up the Amazon. I was on a Jumbo jet that had to make an emergency landing. All these things were memorable.
I’ve been in some awful weather as well, the experience of a big ship at the mercy of nature gives you a unique awareness of its power. I always had confidence in the seaworthiness of my ship. My training had given me the ability to do the right thing at the right time to stay afloat and reach the next port.
The most unusual event I ever experienced happened one ordinary evening when I was third navigation officer. I was on bridge watch, in the Aegean Sea, during a thunderstorm. The sea wasn’t rough, we weren’t rolling or pitching. it wasn’t foggy, just rain squalls and a lot of thunder and lightning.
And then the ship, all 40,000+ tonnes of it, was hit by a bolt of lightning.
At first, I didn’t realise what had happened. I actually thought we had collided with something solid, even though I knew there was nothing in the vicinity. We were moving at about 15 knots, there was a flash, which seemed closer than the others had been, followed almost instantly by a tremendous blast of noise. The ship stopped, dead. Just for a split second, we were still. Then we carried on as before.
That sounds impossible but I don’t care. I know what I felt. I staggered forward into the radar. Dust, fluff, bits of paper and every loose item in the wheelhouse shot to the front and made a pile on the deck.
At the same time, all the lights went out and every alarm on the ship started buzzing, ringing, beeping or warbling. The lookout was sprawled on the deck and I helped him back up.
The Captain appeared as I was trying to reset everything and get the steering working. The engine hadn’t stopped but the rudder was stuck, we were swinging around. I cancelled alarms and changed to manual steering (we had been in autopilot), which did the trick.
“What happened?” he asked as we settled back on course. I had to tell him that I didn’t know but that we definitely hadn’t hit another ship or even a Greek island.
“I think we must have been hit by lightning,” he said.
We took the battery-powered Aldis signalling lamp outside and shone it on the mast, above the wheelhouse.
The once white mast was now black, with a large scorch mark running down it. The deck was littered with broken glass.
I could smell burning plastic and ozone.
So far, that hasn’t featured in any of my work. Maybe one day.
Let me know what you think about this week’s subject.
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