Monday, 22 October 2012



It’s the one thing that I don’t like when I’m at work. When I’m not at work I don’t mind it, in fact I think that it’s quite beautiful, how it distorts colour and softens the shape of otherwise ugly things. To see the sun as a ghostly butter yellow orb through a veil of fog or trees appearing like shy skeletons through a wall of grey. And the effect the water droplets have on spider’s webs or leaves is mesmerising.

But, when I’m driving a ship fog is a different thing altogether. I know you will think “You have radar” but it doesn’t quite work like that. Some manoeuvres are straightforward, such as leaving a jetty and going up and down the river, but arriving at a place you can’t see is not so easy. And of course there is the time element. Do you set off not knowing if it will be clear when you get there, but hoping because it’s an hour away and it may clear, or do you stay and find that you could have gone?

I’ve had some fun in the fog, I once took a ship from Tilbury Lock to the pilot station off Harwich (about 55 miles) and the only time I saw the front of the ship was when I walked past it in Tilbury Lock. Or the passenger ship I joined at Gravesend, intending to go to Tower Bridge. Again I couldn’t see the front of the ship from the wheelhouse, but was assured that the fog would lift before I got to the Thames Barrier. It did, but only just, yet by the time I got to the Bridge it was a bright sunny day.

In general, the tugs on the Thames won’t work if they can’t see the ship they are attached to, and that’s fair enough, but if that means that if you can’t get where you are going then you have to turn the ship and take it back out to anchor at Southend. Bearing in mind that the reason for the tugs is to turn the ship, you now have to do it without, essentially the manoeuvre without the last bit.

The reason I’m writing this now is that I’m at work and it’s foggy. I knew it was when the fog warnings woke me up at 3 this morning. Consequently all the work last night was put back 12 hours and if the fog lifts we will be doing it this afternoon. If it doesn’t we will do it 12 hours later. Trouble is, all the traffic booked for today and tonight is stacking up as well. Looks like I may be busy. The best thing is, I can only do one at a time, and I’m finished at 8 in the morning whatever happens.


  1. I like the way you describe the fog. here in Somerset we get a lot of mist that rises up from the damp ground and sits like layers of cotton wool with tree tops peeping through.

    1. Nice Description. I was coming through the estuary a few years ago and could see ahead for about 20 miles. Looking down I couldn't see my legs below the Knee! Very low lying fog. It felt like flying but slightly scary.