We Are Here....
... but first things first...
... apple crumble and custard and a cup of tea (just out of shot). We're blessed with an excellent galley crew and much to Janecki z Krakowa's delight, they are Polish and "are knowing how to prepare meat - this is how it is". The Sunday fillet steak certainly bore this out.
For the cable lay, the Spirit was tethered by four anchors (the water was too shallow to use the ship's Dynamic Positioning system (DP) and a messenger line was run out from the beach to hook up to the cable in our carousel.
The buoyancy devices described in my previous post were firstly attached to the cable, followed by the 'Sea Serpent' (which we irreverently but more accurately dubbed the 'Sea Sausage') and a fire hose - both secured with tie-wraps. To disengage the sausage from the cable, the fire hose is pressurised; expands and pings off the tie-wraps. The cable then sinks to the seabed and is later let into a trench 3 metres deep. Our man onshore with the survey equipment checks this part of the op when we've departed the fix.
Once the sausage was disengaged, the Spirit worked its way gently towards the gas platform, paying out the rest of the cable as she went. So far, this part of the operation (including our transit from Amsterdam to Ameland) had taken approximately 6 days. There was some waiting on the weather and the odd technical glitch, but nothing happens quickly at sea - except disaster, which we were happy to avoid.
The two support ships which carried our anchors from Amsterdam and subsequently picked up and repositioned them as we winched ourselves closer to the platform, disappeared into the night once we were able to employ our DP system in the slightly deeper waters.
We had a visitor the following day. I understand that there's been some opposition to the installation of the power cable on environmental grounds and it was quite possible that the Cub carried a local reporter and camera to check that we were keeping our noses clean. As a veteran Cub pilot, I waved in a friendly way, but they probably won't use that picture for the front page.
It was the middle of the next night by the time everything was ready at the gas platform. The platform has what's called a 'J' tube - it looks like a 'J' - and a sturdy rope is dropped down the tube for the ROV to catch and then hook up to the cable which pulls the 2nd end in from the ship. The 2nd end is pulled up into the 'J' tube and the rest is for the electricians to sort out. This sounds a simple operation but in fact it's the most difficult and critical phase. The scope for all sorts of problems is legion and in poor underwater visibility the ROV's umbilical became snagged on a sharp object resulting in a 12-hour delay. As I write, this is where we are.