« Christian | Main | Children’s Fiction »

Open Features: MTS Nacella - Part 9

...Life had turned into an unforgettable adventure since I had left for Hamburg. My time on board the vessel was exiting and enriching...

Alfred Mielacher continues his tale concerning a young man who went to sea in search of adventure - and found it!

As the days went by I realised the full extent of what I had landed myself into - gosh, what an exciting adventure! I had no regrets about my decision to experience working on a tanker. People like Hackfleisch didn’t give me unnecessary grief; luckily we mostly met when he was at his best behaviour, meaning sleeping off litres of beer and whisky! Nor did I suffer from continuous sea sickness; thanks to a lot of white bread that had socked up the fluid in my stomach! Nor was the food a culinary problem; for my second breakfast aboard the ship I had consumed 13 (thirteen) chocolate pancakes! Nor was work in the noisy engine room becoming unbearable; I mainly entertained myself with writing poems in the quietest corner furthest away from Hackfleisch! Nor was a strong feeling of homesickness robbing me of my senses; according to my grandfather home is where you are! Nor did I start missing my family and friends; I was proud to be adventurous by proving my point doing what I had said I would do!

On the contrary: Life had turned into an unforgettable adventure since I had left for Hamburg. My time on board the vessel was exiting and enriching – in more than one way. Sure, there was a routine to follow, but such was working life. As a whole it wasn’t a bad every day operational existence. Every 4 hour shift was followed by 8 hours off-duty. The basic programme lay in collecting North Sea oil in the Orkney’s and transporting it to various countries around Europe. The main collection point of ‘Deutsche Shell Petroleum’ is in the Orkney Island archipelago north of Scotland, across the Pentland Firth. I had boarded the ship in Shell Haven at the Thames Estuary and my first trip headed north to the Orkney’s. Standing on deck of such a metal colossus, some 16 m above sea level, was extraordinary. In calm seas the sail was smooth and hardly any vibrations could be felt, in stormy weather huge waves colliding with the metal frame made it shudder and quiver – as I was to find out as the weeks went by. However my first trip north turned out to be a smooth one.

I was off-duty and sleeping as we neared our destination. My morning shift as utter greenhorn to steer the monster went by effortlessly; not that I had anything to do with it as such! The view from the bridge was simply breath taking. Nothing to talk about for a seasoned sailor however for me it was simply amazing! We docked at the end of a long pier, a few hundred metres from shore, and workers busied themselves connecting huge steel pipes to the ship. That’s when I had the pleasure to meet the skipper for the first time. It wasn’t too pleasant an experience because I wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. I had stumbled onto the bridge by pure accident; the urge to get the best view did get the better of my actions. I hadn’t met any of the officers on duty and once they had become aware of my presence, I said “My apology, Sirs! I know I have no business being here but...”

“Sure you don’t! Get the hell out of here!” replied one of them harshly.

“I’m sorry!” I said, turning on my heels.

“Aren’t you the new one?” I heard one of them say.

Turning around I looked at grim faces all round staring back at me – except for one who wore a different uniform. For a middle aged man with greying short hair and beard, he looked young and un-sailor-like.

He waved me over and said “Welcome on board, sailor!”

“Thank you, Sir! I apologise for intruding!”

“No problem. Feel free to look around, just don’t touch anything. I believe you are the new assistant to Mr. Hacke? And Austrian like Frank? How has your engineer been treating you so far? If he should give you unnecessary grief, you come to me, okay?”

“Yes, Captain, I shall!” I said. “I know it is rather unusual for an Austrian to become a sailor but...”

“No explanation necessary. My son was born in Hamburg and wished to become a skiing instructor. Not my idea of spending his life however he has fun and is good at it. What you should be doing right now is go on land and enjoy a beer at the one and only pub. When we’re back on open sea you are welcome to visit any time but now we are kind of busy.”

“Sure! Sir! Again my apology. Bye now!” I said appreciatively and left.

And I did what the captain had advised. As was custom at every port of call, a small dinghy motored ashore shortly after docking – this time with me on board. The sky was over cast and the temperature seriously autumn-like. Bobbing speedily over rough seas towards the capital ‘Kirkwall’ I felt exuberated, although my stomach wasn’t too happy. But as soon as I set foot on solid ground again the nausea subsided.

Kirkwall is situated on Orkney’s main island which is the largest of numerous islands in the archipelago – and sparsely populated. If there were no oil, only seals and sea gulls would be its inhabitants. The small town wasn’t a town either, more like a Norseman village. The few houses were built out of stones and rough rocks and the streets resembled medieval walk ways. In the tiny harbour a few fishing boats were anchored. Strolling down what appeared to be the main road I received friendly greetings from passersby. I walked into a small grocery store to buy something to quench my thirst. A young, dark haired girl, around 20 or so, dressed in colourful local garb, welcomed me enthusiastically as if she hardly ever laid eyes on a visitor, saying “Welcome Stranger! Are you from the ship?”

“Yes Ma’am. I am Jona. How are you this morning?” I said putting out a hand in greeting.

“Very well indeed.” she replied pleasantly, returning my greeting with a firm hand shake. “You are very lucky, you know!”

“Why would that be?” I said wondering about the meaning behind such a phrase.

“Because in a few hours you’re leaving this island again, whilst I remain stuck here!”

“Do you want to come with me?” I joked, smiling, looking into sad sort of eyes.

“Sure, if only I could.”

“Sure you can. You can do anything you want!”

“That’s easy for you to say. You’re a guy. My brother was supposed to take over the store however he buggered off last year – the shit head! Now I’m stuck here for good. Unless you come to my rescue. Please?”

“Do you say that to every foreigner that enters your shop?” I asked.

“No! Only guys that are my type – and you certainly fall into that category!”

“I’m honoured. Really I am. I would rescue you with pleasure but I’ve got to return to my ship duties.”

“I know! Very unfortunate for me. When your trip is over will you come back and set me free? Please?” she pleaded. And in her voice I noticed some urgency that somehow frightened me. So I said “You know I can’t do that! I can’t just arrive and take you away from your folks.”

“Of course you can. You can do anything you want, you told me just now.”

“It’s not that I wouldn’t want to, but I can’t, just like that.”
“And why not? Do you have a lover back home?”

I started to get a tiny bit concerned regarding her approach. She was a very attractive young lady. I tried to think of something plausible to say so not to hurt her feelings however nothing came to mind.

She must have read my mind because she said “Don’t worry Jona; I’m not going to hook you in. I’m just playing with you. That’s the only fun there is in this place. Don’t look so worried. What can I help you with?”

Relieved I said “Do you have any coke?”

“Coke, hey! Naughty boy!”

“Not that Coke. I mean Coke Cola.”

“Got you there, didn’t I? Sure I have coke for you.”

After I had paid and about to exit the shop, she called out “Jona? Will you come back here for a sec? And please lock the door!”

I turned, looked at her in surprise regarding her question, walked back to the counter without having fulfilled her request and stood waiting in anticipation of what would happen next. Her light blue eyes sparkled excitedly. She said “Do you like me?”

Not thinking of any consequences, I answered “Yes, I do. You are pretty.”

“Well then, what are you waiting for? Lock the door and do me hard right here on the counter.”

“What?” I stammered perplexed. A young man my age should never let an offer like that go to waste however the present situation didn’t lend itself for a quickie. I asked “And what about your folks?”

“They aren’t around. Nobody is in the house. Only the two of us are here.”

“What if...”

“Don’t worry about that! Come on now, don’t be shy!”

What ensued I would never have imagined possible, not even in my wildest dreams! One hour later, sitting in the local pub enjoying a beer, I marvelled over what had just transpired...

The following stop-over in Kirkwall fell on a Sunday. Although I was hoping her shop would be open, I was disappointed when I stood in front of the door seeing a small sign that read ‘closed’. I only then realised the sad fact that I didn’t even know her name. I contemplated leaving her a note. But to whom should I address it to? Dear Sweetie? Dear Sexy Lady? Dear Sailor Lover? Dear Nymphomaniac? I decided against names and simply wrote on a small piece of paper Hi there, Jona was hoping to meet you again, although it is Sunday? Wishing that next time around falls on a week day! Until then! xxx

Unfortunately next time around, two weeks later, it again was Sunday! Damn! But at this occasion I stopped over at the same pub and after ordering a beer, I asked the bar man about her name.

“Why do you wanna know her name?” he asked grimly.

Ooops! Could he be the jealous boy friend? If so and she isn’t the most loyal kind of girl, and she does every guy she takes a fancy to, then, does he know about her little escapades? Ooops!

“For no specific reason” I said nonchalantly. “I met her a few weeks back and wanted to say hi, that’s all.”

“Tell me, how was she? Did she do you on the counter? The slut!” he sneered, turning crimson with rage. Hopefully his tone of voice was not loud enough to be heard by other patrons in the pub.

“Hey, cool it. What do you mean! Nothing of that sort took place” I lied with conviction in my voice. “She had asked me to bring her this when I come here next time around.” And I pulled a postcard of the Tower of London out of my jacket pocket.

“Bullshit! I don’t believe any of you guys. Go on! Get out of here before I rearrange your face!”

I leaned forward, close enough to be in range of his fist, looked him straight in the eye and said “Sure, but not before I finish my drink and you tell me her name, right?”

Wondering if I had made a sufficient enough impression on him, I waited for an answer. However, he silently went about his business. I glanced around the pub, not expecting to see a familiar face. To me this pub was reminiscent of a grotto with very small windows. The furniture was simple and sturdy, fabricated from dark wood. The lighting was efficient enough to render it cosy. The only colour in this semi-dark hole was emanating from the few curtains. Suddenly I heard myself being spoken to “How are you doing this morning?”

I turned towards the source of the voice and faced an elderly man sitting two chairs down from me at the bar. He resembled a weathered sailor, drawing on a stylishly shaped pipe. I said: “I am good! How are you?”

“So far so good! I overheard Greg’s insinuations earlier. Are you a friend of Bonnie?”

“Who is Bonnie?”

“My granddaughter from the store!”

“Oh! So her name is Bonnie! How is she?”

“She is okay. She had a little misfortune a few days ago!”

“Oh no! What happened?” I asked with great concern.

“Nothing too serious, don’t worry! We were out fishing when she slipped on the deck and sprained her ankle. A bit of rest and she will be as new. How did you meet Bonnie?”

Now there was a question that wasn’t easy to answer. I surely could only tell the old man the first part of how I had met his grandchild. The better part I should rather keep to myself, so I said “I work on the tanker and visited Kirkwall two weeks back for the first time. I had popped into her shop to buy some coke.”

“Was she her friendly self?”

“Sure! You can be proud having a granddaughter like her!” I said, offering a hand in greeting which he squeezed so hard that I heard my knuckles scream. I wondered what he meant by saying was she her friendly self? After a moment of intense eye contact, I said “Bonnie comes across as a very lively lady. She moves incredibly graceful about the shop and seems to know what she wants. She had told me that her brother who was supposed to take over the store had gone away. Is that true?”

“Regrettably! Angus certainly had inherited the free-spirit-gene from his grandmother. She too didn’t hang around to live out her life here in Kirkwall. I do know where Angus went but am not allowed to let anybody know. It’s our secret!”

“And Bonnie? Is she similar to her grandma?”

“Bonnie? Well, I’m very fond of the girl. She opens her heart to me regarding anything. But she probably would leave too if she would get half a chance. It is not easy for young people around here, you know! She likes to go fishing with me but that’s not a life style for a gorgeous girl like her. I trust she asked you to take her away from here, right?”

“In fact yes, she did. But I took it with a pinch of salt. How do you feel about her aspiration to go away?” I asked the old man who reminded me of my own granddad; although mine didn’t look like a weathered sailor, rather like a weathered farmer.

“It will be a sad day, when one day one of you guys takes her from me!”

“What do you mean by one of you guys? Has she approached others too?”

“A few, yes. As I said, she tells me everything. And I have met most of them because you all come in here for a drink. And I have to say, she has good taste in men. Not that I necessarily agree with her methods but being a young good looking girl with no suitable candidates around, I guess it’s the only way!”

“What about him?” nodding in direction of the bartender.

“Not an option! The poor guy has been in love with her since Kindergarten.”

“Shame!” I remarked.

For the next hour we chatted about his career as fisherman, about the weather in general, Orkney’s in particular and of course about his granddaughter. I was to hear every important step in her life and it seemed the old man had taken a liking to me. Unfortunately time for me to leave drew ever closer and before I left I said “Please give Bonnie a kiss from me, will you?”

“Sure thing! You’re welcome back in my town any time. You’ll find me here and if not ask for Smokey. Everyone knows my boat.”

A bone-crunching hand shake sealed our deal and I left. Walking down the cobble street towards the harbour I felt really good about having met Smokey, although I was a tiny bit disappointed of not having had the opportunity to please Bonnie again!

The very unfortunate fact is that that was the last time I had the chance of going on land in the Orkney’s. We took on crude once more however the stormy weather conditions didn’t allow the dinghy to go ashore. What major disaster!


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.