A brief intro is required here, this is an excerpt from the 1970’s portion of my Autobiography.  It tells of a British Engineer we worked for briefly, named Colin.  Roy was a fellow technician and we were assigned to work on a barge complete with sort of sleeping quarters.  The following is the snippet of that adventure, enjoy.

I have one memorable experience with Colin’s loss of touch with reality which actually spawned two of Roy and mine “classic” idiotic things that we have been instructed to do.  Roy and I were assigned to do some geotechnical drilling off of a spudded barge in the shipping channel of Lake St. Clair.  We were to work at the north end of the lake where the St. Clair river deposits into the lake.  We had a CME 55 Bombardier mounted rig driven on to the barge, two sets of drillers and helpers and Roy and I as the technicians.  The plan was to work two twelve hour shifts and get the job done in about 4 days.  We loaded the barge up near Amherstburg and it took about 14 hours sailing time to get to the site.

Being the “senior” technician I of course elected to work the day shift, after all it was March and not exactly the warmest of weather. Roy, as always, did not complain and just brought extra clothes to endure the nights.  Before we even left we were given a detailed memo from Colin, which Roy still has, outlining our job assignment and sampling depths.  However, Colin couldn’t  leave it at that, he wrote something to the effect “whilst on the barge there should be no skylarking (idiotic statement #1).  If you fall in the water this time of year you will only have 13 seconds to live (idiotic statement #2)”.  Well Roy had to come to me for the translation of a couple of those words and we at first were quite insulted by the memo, but eventually it became common banter over the years.  What are you doing Roy, oh nothing Peter, just skylarking today.  I still don’t know what Colin’s source was for the thirteen seconds to live comment, I assume he must have watched National Geographic one night.

Off we went, we sailed up the Detroit River and through Lake St. Clair to our destination.  I will digress her and give another Roy/Peter classic moment.  The trip up the river and across the lake took about 14 hours.  With nothing to do, Roy and I decided to pester the Captain of the tug about navigation.  We would see all the flashing lights on the buoys and ask him what they were.  Finally, fed up I would imagine, he handed us some charts, an instrument used by mariners to sight themselves and a quick tutorial on which lights were which on the drawing.  “Now, using that information, tell me where we are”.  The challenge was on.  Roy and I took multiple sightings on at least 20 buoys.  We scaled the drawing, we triangulated, and we did everything we thought that Columbus must have done to discover America.  After about an hour we were appalled to learn that our current location was somewhere just west of Flint,Michigan, or about 100 miles inland.  Of course being good navigators we alerted the Captain that he was aground.  He didn’t find it as funny as Roy and I did. 

After some difficulty in locating ourselves (not our fault this time) we started drilling.  After a day or so, the weather started getting quite rough. Lake St. Clair outside of the channel is quite shallow, only about 20 feet in some places.  At the direction of the tug captain we towed the barge around to shelter near a small island.  Even though I was the Senior technician, I wasn’t a tug boat captain and knew that there was no way I could force him to put his vessel in harms way.  I told him that it was entirely up to him when we went back to work.  We lounged in the sheltered area for most of a day when the tug captain told Roy and I to hop in, we were going out to the drill area to see if it had calmed down any.  After about 10 minutes it became very apparent that things had not calmed down, the water was extremely rough, and in fact you could see the lake bottom at the low point of each wave.  The tug was bounced around severely and we started heading back.  The captain let me use the ship to shore radio (no cell phones in those days) and I called Colin.  The radio had a hand held microphone and a speaker, the conversation was out there for all on the tug boat to hear.  I apprised Colin of the situation and how we would be delayed for at least another 12 hours, or until the weather let up.  With the tug captain and crew listening in Colin made probably the most asinine statement I have ever heard from anyone in my life “Well Peter, I am looking out my window and the weather appears very nice here”.  Now I had been on a crummy barge for a few days, no showers, warm at best food, not much sleep and was currently getting my internal organs shuffled around by the pounding of the waves, I use that as defense for my reply to Colin. “OK we will tow this freaking (not my exact word) thing down to Windsor, put it in the parking lot and drill there”.  That was the end of the conversation and was actually the last conversation with Colin until we did return to land.  I gained a couple of new friends that day in a tug boat captain and his crew.  Roy and I spent the next several hours telling them who the moron was on the other end of the radio and why what he said did not really surprise either of us.

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