Oceans and Seas

the work of author Michael Krieger

On Patrol: Pt. 13 – Comm Checks and Storm Prep

Posted on Sep 20, 2019

On Patrol: Pt. 13 – Comm Checks and Storm Prep

In the background are snatches of radio transmissions, some from  central control, others from different ships. Everything seems garbled.

“…to Hong Kong, to Hong Kong…upstairs engine…” A female voice saying, “Three hundred and eighty…” This interspersed with Malay and Chinese transmissions.

Then, “…vessels of the east… radar, coming to ______. Okay? …beach ___, is picking up a pilot from Langkawi… All right, okay, thank you.”

Then over our speaker: “Roger, calling the RSS Unity … Ah, you’re heading toward the west and where are you? Over.”

Part of our response. “This is RSS Unity. My intention is to conduct a comm check. This is Tango Tango. My intention is to conduct a comm check with you. Over.” Then I catch only a snatch of the response from base: “Can I know from you…”

As we continue Southwest, a mood of relaxed watchfulness prevails. Besides Maor Wong, two crewmembers keep watch. The officer of the watch and a sergeant each have responsibility for 180 degrees, from fore to aft, one to the north and the other to the south. A tech reports constantly on radar sightings. Finally there is also the master head’s remotely controlled camera, called an electrical optical device. It appears to be set on infrared, because ships and even small boats stand out on the monitor almost as they would in daylight. This camera is directed not only on the bridge but also by CIC.

“What’s the range of that thing?” I ask Tony Wong, referring to the camera.

“Oh, it can go to the horizon, you know, to eight or nine miles, and of course it can zoom in and out,” he tells me.

Carefully we pass an area south of the Eastern Boarding Ground, where six months earlier a Korean auto carrier filled with Hyundai’s collided with another ship and sank. Some of the crewmembers on the bridge look longingly at the spot, thinking of all those hundreds of Hyundai’s sitting uselessly at the bottom of the Singapore Strait.

Running lights of ferries cross in front and behind us, going between Indonesian islands and Singapore’s Sentosa Ferry Terminal. Someone comes up on the bridge offering green bean soup. There seem to be few takers. Raffles Light flashes brightly off our starboard bow. It marks not only shoals and islands, but also the abrupt course change necessary to enter Main Strait, which in turn, seventeen miles ahead, meets Malacca Strait.

I join my minder, Dave Wong, and another officer for a check topside. On the bow, just forward of the 76mm gun mount, they check other winches and ground tackle. A warm wind blows steadily into our faces. Off to the northwest lighting flashes frequently near the horizon but I hear no thunder. The ship seems to be coasting, gliding through the water, at only six or seven knots. We move toward the stern. The two officers check equipment, mounts, ventilators and engine exhaust blowers, life preservers, antennas, and small-boat lashings. Finally we wind up at the surface-to-air missile battery on the fantail. All seems secure. Lightning flashes more frequently now.

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