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The Voyage of the Black Lion: (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
Winter seems to have won the battle with summer, with low grey clouds scurrying across the sky, and damp cold winds that creep into you no matter what you wear, winter is here to stay. With the fire place offering the only cheer and warmth my thoughts roam off to warmer memories.

One of those occurred during my years working in Indonesia:


Our oil production operations in Indonesia were in the Natuna Sea, east of Singapore. Workers were transported offshore using an airplane, to fly them from Jakarta to Natuna Island, and then helicopters to the offshore fields platforms and ships.

The airfield we were using was to be taken over by the Indonesian Navy, no reason given, and we had to move. A new airstrip was being built on Matak Island, in the Anabas Islands, located several hundred kilometers to the West. As our company aviation advisor I was sent to evaluate moving our flight operations to Matak and set up a joint operation with the other oil companies.

Since we had no operations there I was able to hop a ride to Matak on the other company’s airplane to evaluate the airstrip. While near our field I was also to review our offshore helidecks and flight operations.

And here begins the story.

We had two supply vessels supporting the field, the Pacific Maple, a spotless ship crewed by two Canadians and a Malaysian crew, and the Black Lion, a somewhat aged rusting ship in need of a great deal of work and crewed by an Indonesian crew. It had been arranged to have the Black Lion (lucky me) stop by Matak and deliver me to the field.

On a beautiful tropical morning, with sparking seas and palm trees swaying along the waters edge, the Black Lion, rumbling noisily and belching diesel smoke slid along the quay and I was directed to jump aboard quickly…they weren’t stopping, and they didn’t!!

With aquamarine waters sparkling around the islands rocky shore line, palm trees rustling in the breeze, and tiny brilliantly white sandy beaches framing the way, we headed for open waters. Once underway and carefully navigating around the multiple rock outcropping we cleared the islands and pointed our bow toward the field.

Soon the course was set and the autopilot engaged. The crew, all Indonesians and speaking little English, began to depart the bridge, one by one, until I was the “only one” there!!! Not to be deterred and having owned several boats I began to survey the bridge and its equipment seeing an adventure in the making.

Alone on the bridge, plowing through the oily looking glass smooth seas, I first found that the autopilot wasn’t really an autopilot…more like a “heading hold” devise to held “that” heading.

Ok…no problem, surely someone will come back and check periodically.

Next I checked what heading we were on…only to find that the compass wasn’t working and the only heading information was from a compass on the upper deck and viewed via a periscope like device…”really”!!

Ok…no problem, surely someone will come back and check.

Loving maps and the sea I found the map table and looked at the maps. Plotting a course from the island to the field I noticed that we would pass one of the major shipping lanes of the world…Singapore to Hong Kong. With none of the instruments working and assuming about a ten knot speed I calculated we would cross the shipping lanes in about four hours.

Ok…no problem someone will surely be back before we cross (are you beginning to see my faulty assumptions?)

Around noon and under the baking Equatorial sun we approached the shipping lane and using a massive set of binoculars (the only good thing on the boat) I confirmed that there were in deed a large number of very large ships plying the route. By now I had confirmed that I could turn off the heading hold and manually steer the boat…and was prepared to do so if necessary.

To my surprise a young hand showed up about a half hour before entering the shipping lane. Ok…someone “did” show up. Wrong!!…seem the young fellow pulled up a bench (on the shaded side of the bridge) and continued his nap.

Miraculously, and somewhat disappointed, we passed unscathed through the shipping lane without me saving the day…and I had been ready.

Late that day, as the sun’s burnt orange globe began slipping below the horizon, we approached the field and the crew, one by one, reassembled on the bridge.

Being as polite as I could and battling the language barrier, I mentioned all that “wasn’t working”, only to be told…”Yes we know, owners wont repair”. Ok…how do you navigate then?…”No problem”, they said, “we line up off the islands, set our course and ten hours later the field is always a little bit left or right”.

Sure enough, about thirty minutes later, a flickering oil platform flare was seen on the darkening horizon and the ship adjusted its course a few degrees to the right and we were home.

Ok…ten hours and a few degrees later…just like the Captain said!! What can I say?



Senior Member
With 20 views I am suprised that no one had or has commented...was it that bad? I would appreciate any comments...I am new and learning.


Senior Member
sorry... i did rread this earlier and didn't bother commenting, since it didn't really need any major help... and that's the only reason why i monitor writing sites... just to help out where it's needed...

this just needs a good proofread, to put commas where you missed 'em, fix a few minor goofs/typos here and there... it's a well-written, amusing little story that could be of interest to industry-related and in-house magazines... my only advice is to take care of the little flaws and start sending it out!...

love and hugs, maia


Senior Member
One or two tips

What you're about to read is my opinion only and if you disagree I'd go with your gut instinct and not mine but if it's any consolation, after reading the following, it's worth some advice...
I’m not keen on the opening: Is this an old man sitting by the fire? The title that follows after it gives me the impression it is one of a series of small pirate-like adventures about to follow or else the title would have been above your opening paragraph. Also, you need to start a new paragraph before “One of those occurred…” and not a new section- you are already doing this with the title. You must get into the habit of starting new paragraphs the way they are in books and not in letters. Do you really need this first paragraph? The warmth and cheer at the fireside feels a little clichéd ( and flowery for first person speech) as does the description of winter. It would be fine itself in the body of a larger paragraph but, as a banner-waving ‘Here I am’ opening, I feel it will confuse rather than intrigue a publisher at the moment.
It is known sometimes not to confuse a reader by introducing too many new characters to him/her too early on. I felt this happened to me in the form of alien sounding names and words; Natuna, Jakarta, Matak, Anabas- all in seven lines while, at the same time I’m trying to work out a few things. Why you keep starting new sections rather than paragraphs, who is flying where and for what and why. I couldn’t keep track of all this. You need to dumb this down or have a better intro by the fireside. Don’t be too mechanical in your para/section openings with the descriptives of weather/land/seascapes or the reader will remember that this is just how you open a para/section- try mixing it up a bit. This needs mega-dumbing-down for me to read more than the first page. You can obviously write prose but there’s more to it than that: You have to empathise with your reader (I’m only human). A reader needs a sense of place, either in a character, setting or format. Nothing wrong with breaking a rule or two but I feel you’re breaking too many here.
I hope this hasn’t been too tough for you to read but I would not have written this if I thought you couldn’t write. And I couldn’t expect you to write well at my (or anyone elses) prescription. Anyway, all the best.
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