"It was hot. Really hot. At sea the sun is relentless. In the height of August, this is no trifling matter. I’d run through two deodorants that week; I remember because we were not due to land for provisioning for another four days. The vegetables were wilting in my galley and I along with them. I’d have given my left elbow for air conditioning that day.
We didn’t turn on the generator, however. The crew were under strict instructions to monitor our fuel consumption to trace precisely what was pulling the persistent 77 mA, too high to be the combination of bridge equipment and fridges alone. In the absence of any electrical hum, we listened to the slap of sea against the hull, sitting still over the anchor under the sticky sun.
These are things you come to take for granted: moving a few ports down at a comfortable 20 kts can burn as much energy as some motorists use in a year. That’s usually diesel and bunkering is a dangerous operation. Taking on thousands of litres over the course of hours, all the while straining and rising against the walls of a fuel dock inevitably too low (and only to have to repeat the process a few days later), really begs the question of where the maritime sector will get its energy come 2050.
Even under the wear of repeated experience that day’s first surprise feels fresh. Suddenly, the anchor’s clunking home, the radio crackles, and we’re off. There’s a cool breeze whistling through the crew mess as we glide forward.
But the generator’s off. I can’t hear the vents. Two metres below my feet, all is quiet: the typical cacophony of combustion is noticeably absent.
We’re crossing on battery power and the engines churn away, discharging our vast energy stores as electrical current silently transforms into propulsive force. Each exacting measurement has been balanced, routes plotted, and with that errant 14 mA accounted for, we will reach our berth by nightfall."