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  • Writer's pictureJoe Etheridge

The World through the Weather Window

What’s in a name?

I grew up writing short stories on my parents’ dusty old desktop computer. For as long as I

can remember, I have gone through phases of wanting to be an author. Usually, I’d set up in the computer room with a dictionary and thesaurus (to make it look like I knew what I was doing) and type out a few pages of absolute drivel, use words I didn’t understand and get bored, finish the story and move onto the next one. I didn’t realise the scale of this problem until my parents’ dusty old desktop computer started to slow down, and I took it upon myself to clear out the collection of garbage I’d amassed and came upon my folder full of these short, unfinished story introductions. In fact, 999mb of pre-adolescent ramblings about cowboys, spacemen and World War 2 Veterans in all kinds of adventures.

Soon, I discovered other past times more befitting a teenage boy living between a small town and an even smaller village. But writing was always in the back of my mind, I just had nothing interesting to write about. That still may be the case, however we most soldier on.

But why have I spent the last 200 words talking about how boring I was as a child? My favourite part of writing stores was choosing the title; hugely overdramatic phrases that mean nothing to anybody. But I truly enjoyed making up titles more than I enjoyed writing the story, which is only interesting because so far the worst part about writing has been working out what to call it.

I’m a seafarer, not an English scholar, not a journalist, not a teacher, not any of those sensible jobs that sensible people tend to have, bettering the lives of the next generation and preserving the knowledge of mankind forever. No, I choose to sit on a lump of steel 72 meters long and 16 meters wide, in all weathers, and during all times of social and economic turmoil. For example, right now the entire world (other than North Korea) has been put into lockdown thanks to COVID-19, a particularly rampant form of the CoronaVirus which suffers similarities to the common flu. COVID-19 has meant that 32 people, including myself, from 6 different countries are now stuck in Limbo.

But more about that later, I still haven’t explained the title of this little project, which inevitably will change over time as I grow more and more indecisive.

My particular choice of career has led me to work in the North Sea, originally of Platform Supply Vessels (PSVs). Relatively small, very powerful and full of high-tech equipment, PSVs carry cargo from ports such as Aberdeen out to the remote isolated oil & gas platforms of the North Sea. These platforms and owned and operated by multinational oil companies, who all require us on PSVs to supply them which whatever they might need, exactly when they need it.

I’m sure that anyone reading this has some idea of what the North Sea during the winter looks like, but if not here is a little something to give you some idea;

The weather in out here is, at times, diabolical. 50 knot winds and 8 meter seas with nowhere to hide. We are just left outside to sit out the storms, with varying levels of success. However, the weather in the North Sea is forecasted by any number of companies who claim to be able to offer the best service on the planet, and it is these forecasting companies which we can thank for the term ‘Weather Window’.

A weather window exists when the meteorological conditions subside enough to let us actually do our job without ploughing straight into an oil rig, causing untold amounts of damage to our ship, their oil platform and the specially protected environment of the North Sea. These opportunities are what logistics planners on board the platforms use to plan their opportunities and therefore are partly responsible for our work offshore being planned so vaguely. Weather Forecasting still is not at the point where we can say for definite that the wind will blow at a particular speed at a particular time. In essence, it is all guess work, But what makes it fun is that the guesswork decides when you get to come home after 5+ weeks working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Perhaps then, my most valuable reader, you might understand that the term weather window is hated by every decent, hard working Deck Officer, Engineer, Seaman, Cook, Electrician, Travel Agent, Human Resources manager and all of their families; but still I count myself lucky that I have one of the best jobs in the world.

There. I hope I’ve explained why this is going to be ‘The world as seen through the weather window’, but I should try to explain what this actually is. Ideally it will be an insight in the life of a newly qualified 2nd Officer in the United Kingdom’s Merchant Navy, but I can already tell that perhaps this is not going to float as freely as I thought. So, my best guess is that this small collection of words and photos of things that interests me, will also interest someone else.

One of the greatest parts of my job is the fact that I can spend 5 weeks at work, and then come home and I’m free to do whatever I feel like! How many jobs on shore can offer that? 5 weeks of uninterrupted leave? 5 weeks when I can do whatever takes my fancy; whether its go to the Lake district and walk along Striding Edge or sit inside and plough hours and hours into some horrendously nerdy game while my beard gets longer and my sleeping pattern implodes.

That’s what I want this blog to turn into, a way of me to talk to whoever will listen about things I get up to as a 22 23 year old maritime professional with too much time on his hands.

Until the next time



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