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The Offshore Diaries (Entry 11)

It’s amazing how an activity can be done severally, often producing the same result, and still be looked upon with great anticipation and joy. When I eat ewa-agoyin with cold coke and Agege bread that’s soft like Aisha’s breasts, I know what to expect as regards taste, yet a river of living water flows through my being, drowning me in happiness every time I set my eyes on a plate of the food of the gods sold by Iya Samuel, the greatness monger.

We encounter this same anticipation and joy from an oft-repeated activity offshore – when it is time to go home. Crew change days are a huge lesson in contradictions. The people coming onboard look so gloomy and every inch like “Why do bad things happen to good people”, while the people leaving have picked up paint brushes ready to color the town ROYGBIV, even when they know that in two weeks or a month, they’ll be on the other side of the coin.

But to go home, you need to face fear. And nothing tests your fear like going home via a boat ride. It may be hard to believe, but it is easy to forget you’re on water while on a drilling ship. New generation vessels have been so engineered that the undulations of the sea are only felt slightly. But on a boat ride, you feel every crest and trough of the sea. You’re within touching distance of the sea, its saltiness sharp and tangy on your tongue, its fingers caressing your face as mild breeze.

But before you get to face the fear of tearing through the sea and fighting to retain the contents of your stomach, there is the fear of height to conquer. To get on to the boat that takes you home, you have to get transferred onto it from the rig (read as drillship). The difference in size between the two vessels is humongous. We have to sit in a TORO, strap in, and then get lifted by a crane from the rig to the boat. I have attached a video to provide perspective.

So there we are, up in the air, probably about 50 feet above water, the crane swinging, and when it is sure the TORO is positioned over the boat, starts to drop us into it. Precision timing is essential and during the transfer, each of us is tasked differently. The crane operator has to ensure to drop us into the boat at the right time to avoid smashing into it, and the captain of the boat has to try his best to keep the boat holding station and prevent it from drifting, while those of us in the TORO are tasked with reviewing our lives. Yes! Because if we die now, is it heaven or hell? Have we lived a good life? Is there a babe in town we have told to HOLLUP because we are coming through with our inner Mr. Eazy, to zagadis zagadat their lives?

Then the journey starts and there’s sea sickness to battle with. Some people are blessed. No matter how rough the sea, they are as cool as ice. While some others, even after taking Avomine (the drug to combat sea sickness), they still struggle. Sea sickness, like any other sickness, feels like shit. Like your intestines and stomach are being squeezed while their contents are unsure of whether they are to come out or stay in. Your food gets so close to your mouth, and then when the boat is in the downward part of the wave cycle, it heads back down into your stomach. Of course, after a while, some people can’t take it anymore and a throwing-up competition starts.

The handlers on the boat reckon that remaining outside where the wind is rushing against your face or maintaining a view of the horizon, the only thing that seems constant in a world where everything is bobbing up and down helps ameliorate the hold of the sea.

A boat ride, depending on how far away shore is, can last any period of time from thirty minutes to three hours. (Mine lasts this long. Trust village people to keep me on the one that lasts longer. Which isn’t a bad thing – lasting longer, that is. Yes, perverts, that one was for you.)

Before a boat or ship docks in the port, they have to first stay in a waiting area till they receive a green light from the National Ports Authority or Navy. When you go to Elegushi Beach, you can see some ships out at sea, anchored. Now that place where they are is the waiting area. So when a boat receives a green light, it is then clear to come to the dock and anchor. This is done so as to prevent piracy and to coordinate traffic on Nigerian waters and docks. If not, any ship can come from wherever they are and dock, causing problems.

I won’t tell you how I spent 10 hours at the waiting area, waiting for green light on my journey back, this time after spending three hours from the rig. Lord knows if I start detailing the mumu reason we were kept there for 10 hours, my babalawo spirit will want to now want to be coming out and I will now be wanting to be swearing for people’s fathers. I am a new man in Christ. Old mumu things have passed away.

In my honest opinion, boat rides are fun if they are short and not in rough seas. This is why serious kudos should be given to professional sailors who spend months at sea, from place to place, away from family. They deserve a plate of Nkwobi and their favorite brand of lager whenever they return. Even me that does it for just a short time, whenever I land, I reward myself with better fish peppersoup and a sinfully cold bottle of Beer. Because I’m happy I survived the ordeal and also in reverence to the fact that in heaven, there is no beer. So while I’m here – Bar man! Please pass the agbara!

My name is Uncle Stephen. This is my Diary.


About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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2 comments

  1. That shit is really scary, thanks Steve for making us understand this rig thing better and why you guys act the way you do onshore.
    By the way that ten hours wait we won’t mind knowing the reason.

  2. Hi uncle Steve, your diary reads like fiction. Thanks for the pictures you paint. I wonder if a tour of the rig is possible. Would love to experience this firsthand someday.

    PS: I love boat rides, the longer the better, so no fear of sea sickness for me.

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