In my last post I said it was another successful rig move, and it was. But it wasn’t all plain sailing.
After the removal of all seabed fastenings and having one AHV connected to the tow bridle, the Loke Viking and Brage Viking departed for Aberdeen, we were left with the tow vessel to do the, ah towing, and the Odin Viking, it was our ‘just in case boat’. Odin would stay with us all the way to Norway, we were pleased about this as we were heading into some pretty bad weather. Sam and I are not really needed while we are under tow but its nice to keep an eye on things and we are doing just that when at 2000 on the dot there was this very loud twang and the rig shudders, we both look at each other just as the radio comes to life, it’s the tow vessel with the news you don’t want to hear. “the tow wire has just snapped”.
We immediately take a fix of our position and then our position is plotted onto a chart, ok we are about 10 miles from the coast and we are drifting at 3 to 4 knots an hour toward land, not good. We have about three and a half hours to get under control. Onboard there are things called rocket lines, we had six of them, the Odin Viking was called in as close as possible, now its a force 9 to 10 outside,(thats 54 mile an hour winds and 7-10m waves) pitch black and raining and these guys have to fire a rocket line at what looks like a very small target bobbing up and down and rocking side to side, out of the six lines two failed to go off and the other four missed there target, so now the Odin has a go, after all he is aiming at a bigger target, most miss. The last one, the one i’m looking at out the window makes contact, Sam and I and another bloke rush outside and grab the line, we coil it up and pass it on to the deck crew, they attach a buoy and stronger line to it and the Odin pulls it over, well thats how it should of worked, unfortunately the line breaks and we are no closer to safety, but closer to land. While all this was going on the Norwegian Coast Guard has been called and a rescue helicopter is scrabbled and on route, but that is still an hour out.
The next option was to drop an anchor on the seabed to slow our drift, now this isn’t as easy as it sounds, the seabed of the North Sea is criss crossed with pipelines and cables and other assets and we were only 3 miles from a major gas pipeline, but the decision was taken and it was given the go ahead, in this sort of weather and as the rig was at transit draft (high in the water) we could not use the cranes, so out with the gas axe, (a pennant is connected to the anchor and rig and this is what had to be cut) once cut the anchor winch was released and the anchor fell to the seabed, everybody was watching the screen for the telltale sign the anchor was making a difference, slowly the heading started to change and the speed drop, we slowed to 1.5 knots, that gave us 2 hours before we reached the pipeline.
By now 15 lucky or unlucky people had been picked for the first rescue chopper, one of us had to go and after some discussion Sam opted for the first chopper, I was going with the ‘better the devil you know’ option. I don’t like getting on a helicopter in nice sunny weather, never mine in a storm. After a manly shake of the hand and pat on the back off Sam went to get suited up in his survival gear, 30 mins later the chopper arrived on location, it had a go at landing but that wasn’t going to happen, so a guy comes down on a winch, he informs the 15 that they will be going up two by two on the winch into the Sea king, we watched all this on the TV monitor and thats when I knew I had made the right decision.
Once the coast guard rescue operation had finished a plan was hatched to let out around a 1000 meters of wire from the winch to the anchor we were dragging along the seabed and the Odin Viking would use a J hook connected to his work wire and try and grab the anchor wire, sounds impossible? No, on the third attempt the Odin Viking successfully hooked the wire and carefully winched it and eventually the anchor onto its deck, there was another 30 minutes or so of holding our breath until all was made secure, the look on everyones faces when that radio call came was priceless. We were back under control with a couple of hours to spare, just another day in the office.
Have to say well done to all involved, all the people on the rig were very professional, worked well together and stayed calm, The Norwegian Coast Guard were as professional as would be expected, and the crew of the Odin Viking, what can I say, the best.
Remember theses guys were working on deck like this, on that night, in that storm. Hats off to them.