Rescuing two people, one small dinghy and the blue dark sea

We´re all in this together

It´s exactly 4:50 in the afternoon when a girl from watch 2 notices something little, orange and black in the wide sea. She reports this immediately a head of watch standing closely, who grabs a binocular to get a closer look at it. “It” turns out to be two middle aged men in a 2,20m long and 1,30m wide inflatable dinghy with only one orange small paddle. We figured out that these two men were refugees, probably without proper equipment, on their way to England in hope for a better life.

As we learned in the POB (person over board) training the day before, people must start pointing at the little boat to not lose them. By now (4:53) the whole watch 2 and other heads of watch had noticed this incident, including me. A few minutes earlier I was laughing and taking pictures of my shipmates, but now I also was trying to get a closer look at the two men. With my camera I zoomed in and took one photo, which showed that they weren´t wearing life jacket or proper warm clothes. Our chief mate sent the information and circumstances to the English coastguards and explained to them the circumstances. They told us to stay close to the dinghy and that they will send a helicopter, which would bring them to safety. While waiting, we all together set out our rescue dinghy and four people of the crew jumped on it while a few of us tried to secure the dinghy, which was quite difficult, because we had never set out the inflatable dinghy in heavy seas before. In this tough situation these “three musketeers” brought them water, rusk and two life jackets. After a while we finally saw the helicopter, but it seemed like they hadn´t seen us, because it flew past us over and over again. After about 15 minutes, that felt like ages, the coastguard said that the helicopter couldn´t take the men in, without naming a reason, and that they would send a rescue boat. Disappointingly this boat would take another hour and slowly it was getting dark. Because of these conditions we decided to take them in and give them further treatment on board. Every watch got a task and people, who didn´t get one, were supposed to meet up in the messroom. I also went to the messroom and all together we ate crisps and sang “slipping through my fingers” from Abba (I still have an earwig two days after). It was very calming compared to what was happening above us: Everyone was running around and trying to do their best helping the refugees by giving them medical treatment, a hot soup and tea. The time is now about 7 pm and the men are supposed to come down into the messroom, so we have to scoot out. One crewmember, that helped bring them downstairs told me, that they could hardly walk and that they had been in this little boat for three days and nights. Next a part of our crew stood on the port side of the deckhouse all cuddled up together comforting each other. Many of us were stunned of the day and the general situation of refugees and their stories. 

Because fact is, that while we laugh around and complain about little things, like having to tidy up our room or the “huge” waves, 82,4 million of people, woman, children and men, have to leave their homes with only a few belongings. At the end of 2020, 82.4 million people had to leave their homes because of terrible surrounding circumstances. They have to go on an extremely dangerous journey, which many don’t survive. So often these people see their loved ones die in front of their eyes or lose them somewhere and can´t even say goodbye. So please, please help people that need help, and don´t look away! Everyone can help by for example donating to organisations, being open minded towards people from other countries or by even just being informed and spreading this knowledge.

In the end these men were safely picked up at 7:40 pm by the announced rescue boat and not swallowed by the waves. We all here are very happy that someone of us saw this tiny dinghy and that we could help. Some of us let the day end by sitting on the main deck, talking about what had happened, what we can do in our future to keep on helping and looking at the star filled night sky. Then all of us fell exhausted into our beds and fell asleep.