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A Dog Bites My Ship's Captain - A True Life Story

This is a true story which happened sometime in 2001 and it was hard to believe for me even today. I was posted to a new Frigate class of ship you see in the picture above. We were supposed to embark the ship with my Seaking Helicopter. The ship was supposed to sail out from the harbour in about an hour. Being a pilot my job is to fly the helicopter after the ship is well out of the harbour and sails past the fairway buoy normally at about 10 miles from the harbour, into the sea.

This ship is restricted between a few pairs of buoys to ensure that the ship is in deep and safe waters as she sails in or out of the harbour. It is like a road over the sea surface. To make the helicopter land safely on the helicopter deck, the ship has to be turned in such a way that the relative wind with respect to the ship, is always coming from somewhere ahead of the ship.

So, after the ship leaves the harbour, we often have to wait for up to one hour, for the ship to be in free waters, beyond the fair way buoy, where there is enough depth of water for the ship to maneuver in any direction.

Once we get an intimation that the ship has left the harbour, we wait for about 30 minutes, after which we start the helicopter and fly towards the fair way buoy or to whichever GPS longitude and latitude the ship tells us, as she will be there at a designated time for landing. We establish radio contact with the ship. Before we arrive the ship would already be sailing into the wind. Then, we go and land on the deck of the ship and switch off the engines. Depending on the exercise program of the ship, we may fly again the same day or the next day onwards.

It was already passed lunch time. We were waiting inside the helicopter cockpit, had started up the engines and were getting ready to take off. That is when I got a call from the Air traffic controller on radio, to switch off the helicopter and contact on telephone. I switched off the helicopter, went out and rang up the ATC on phone.

The True Life Story Starts

The Air traffic controller told me that our ship has already sailed out, but the ship has sent a message that we must go and buy an emergency medicine from the civil medical shop which is not available onboard the ship and take off as soon as possible with the medicine. Since I had already boarded all my luggage and valuables on the ship the previous day itself, I had not much money with me.

I asked the other crew members also if they have some money, but nobody had much. But everyone spared a little each and had a little above Indian Rupees one thousand. I went to the medical shop outside the air station on my bike. I asked for the medicine by the name which the ship had transmitted on radio, to the Air traffic controller. The chemist said its cost is a close to Rupees 1000 (equivalent of 25 USD those days) for single vial.

I asked the chemist what is that medicine used for. The chemist told me it is anti-rabies injection. A total of fourteen are required when anyone is bitten by a dog to ensure that the person does not get rabies. The chemist said that I need to buy all 14 of them in one packet. But I said I have just enough money for buying just one. I told him when I come back after a week or so I will return the money if he gives me all 14 now.

The chemist refused to give just one injection. But I told him that it a sailor on a ship which has already sailed out to sea who has been bitten by a dog and he is sailing for the sake of the country. I had to give a short lecture on patriotism and even say that the sailor will die of rabies if we don't take the medicine to the ship. Finally, the Chemist agreed to hand over one injection vial of anti-rabies medicine. I took that one vial, came to the air station, started the helicopter and flew off to our ship. By now the ship was about 30 miles away and we needed to fly about 20 minutes to reach the ship.

The True Life Story Continues

After getting airborne I asked my crew members as to why will a ship need anti-rabies. There are no dogs onboard. My copilot said, "Sir, probably there is some sailor who does not want to sail on the ship for some personal reason. He might have come onboard and made an excuse that he has been bitten by a dog, so that his Officer allows him to disembark and stay at home when the ship is sailing”.

My copilot continued, “Many a times, some sailors are known to come up with such bright ideas to skip sailing. Probably, this time his Officer might have had even brighter ideas than the sailor. The Officer must have told the sailor, don't worry, you stay on board and sail with us. We will ensure that you get the anti-rabies injection onboard using the helicopter."

Frigate Ship - A True Life Story

We all had a good laugh at this and continued flying the Seaking helicopter towards our ship. We landed on the ship's helicopter deck and switched off the engines. The medical officer was waiting on the deck to take the medicine from us. I handed over the single anti rabies injection vial which I had bought and brought with me, to the doctor onboard. The doctor literally ran away with the injection vial. I asked my ground crew who were on board before the ship sailed out as to who has been bitten by a dog. No one seemed to know.

A True Life Story - Dog Bit the Captain of Our Ship

I went to the ship's bridge to brief the Captain of the ship, regarding the air crew, the ground crew and the aircraft state etc. Only navigating officer was standing in the Ship's bridge with the Fleet Commander who is of an Admiral’s rank, sitting in the chair. I asked the Navigating Officer about the name of the sailor whose been bitten by dog. I was surprised to hear his answer. He said, “It was not a sailor who has been bitten by a dog, but the Captain of the ship himself. And the best part is that he has been bitten by the dog of the Chief of Staff, another Admiral”. The Navigating Officer continued, “The poor Captain was in a dilemma.

No ship can sail out of the harbour without its Captain onboard. And with the Admiral embarking the ship, there was no way the Captain of the ship could have skipped the sailing. It was a ‘To Be or Not To Be’ situation. Finally the poor Captain decided to embark his ship for the sailing and not to tell the Fleet Commander about being bitten by a huge dog of the Chief of Staff.

Dog Bite Cuts One Month Sailing to One Week - A True Life Story

So the Captain embarked the ship and then told the Ship’s doctor about it who got alarmed and send the message to the embarking Seaking helicopter to buy anti-rabies injection vials and bring it to ship.I met the doctor in the Officer's Ward Room Mess sometime later. He told me that he has already given the first anti-rabies injection to the Captain which I had bought and brought on my helicopter. My next question to the doctor was, “How are you going to give him the remaining 13 injections, because our ceiling was supposed to be for about 4 weeks?”

That is when the doctor got up and went to the Admiral and appraised him of the situation. On hearing this dog bite event, the Admiral reduced the one month sailing to one week so that the ship's Captain can get proper treatment and rest. This is a true story of dedication to duty of a Ship’s Captain.

A True Life Story

  

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