OSC’s multipurpose survey vessel, MV Thor of Valhalla, has started its journey to have a full refit in Tarragona, Spain. For the past couple of years, Thor was berthed in Liverpool, ready to be chartered across the UK; however, OSC is moving her to the Mediterranean where she will undergo a full refit over the course of a year.

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OSC’s two managing directors and field manager headed to Liverpool mid-December 2021 to prepare Thor for the ca. 600-mile journey; engines were checked and maintained, fuel tanks filled, and every space made ship-shape. Thor needed to complete the first section of its voyage (Liverpool to Southampton) before 29th December where it was planned to be lifted onto the transport vessel, Arneborg. The trouble with transporting vessels at this time of year is the weather, the UK experiences the most severe and unpredictable weather during the winter months as well as some of the country’s largest tidal races; however, OSC crew found their weather window and set sail, or motor in this case.

When the vessel cast off, there was a southerly wind blowing a force 4–5 on the Beaufort scale. Thor and its crew were relatively sheltered by the Welsh coastline as the wind built to a force 6-7, near gale force; however, as the vessel neared Anglesey, the swell started to show how hairy it can be on the sea. The service rib secured behind the observation dome on the top deck was jostled out of position by the severity of the waves. Two crew climbed onto the top deck, soaked with sea spray, and balancing on what could have been a rollercoaster, they secured the RIB for the remainder of the voyage.

With the change in sea conditions, some crew became incredibly seasick, including one who unfortunately turned green at the helm. You can see how his predicament affected steerage in the picture below.

As we neared the English Channel, we were updated that weather was due to worsen; therefore, it was decided to shelter at Newlyn until the weather improved and allow the crew to fix and maintain the vessel.

Nearly a week later, a weather window appeared, and after a crew change Thor of Valhalla set off again. Unfortunately, due to the level of suspended sediment in the harbour, we lost use of our variable-pitch mechanism on the port (left) prop and we couldn’t turn to starboard (right). We were so thankful and lucky the crew of a fisheries patrol vessel, Saint Piran, were quick to act and launched their rescue RIB. From there, they nudged our bow in the right direction and helped us out the harbour mouth. Once Thor left the harbour, the sediment cleared, and we regained power of our engines and the variable pitch-propellers. We were lucky with the weather but unfortunately our engine luck was short lived. With constant maintenance we limped along at 8 knots, cautious as we still had to pass the Lizard and Portland Bill tide races before we headed for Southampton. Eighteen hours later, the Needles were visible, as were breaking waves over the Shingles Bank.

We entered the Solent with the Isle of Wight to our starboard. Although eventful, the British leg was almost complete. We tied up on Christmas Eve and the managing directors remained on the vessel until Thor was lifted onto Arneborg on 29 December, ready to be transported to Spain.

Two weeks later, the crew joined the vessel in Palma, the final leg. Winds were calm, and sun was shining, although once out of the Balearic Island, the long night crossing was subject to a two-meter swell, occasionally on the beam, there we were over the deep Valencia Trough. The crew felt excited to cross the Mediterranean to the final destination, Tarragona. Another day and night passage and we made it.

We arrived in port and waited for the swingbridge to be lifted before entering the boat lift at PTW shipyard where the vessel was hoisted again and placed on stilts ready to start the refit. Thor of Valhalla will remain in this shipyard for the next year where it will be completely stripped back to the bare hull and have a complete renovation. We will continue to follow its progress and videos will be posted on both OSC’s and PTW’s social media channels. Check out the video below for a snapshot of the voyage from Liverpool to Tarragona.

We are pleased to announce that during MV Thor of Valhalla’s voyage from Liverpool, UK to Tarragona, Spain, OSC’s field manager, Tierney Carter, has been awarded the Duncan Mercer prize based on exceptional performance during challenging conditions and circumstances. This prize is awarded to individuals showing outstanding achievement to any affiliate of OSC (e.g. employee, intern, contractor, client representative, collaborating scientist, or part-time volunteer) for a contribution of the company’s mission statement, “From sound science come wise decisions”. The Duncan Mercer prize was last awarded in 2019.

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