Model Boat Mayhem

Mess Deck: General Section => Chit-Chat => Topic started by: Bryan Young on February 21, 2008, 05:15:15 pm

Title: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 21, 2008, 05:15:15 pm
This topic is intended for posts of a nautical "Strange but True!" variety. Please keep them nautically relevant otherwise we will be overwhelmed! - Colin

"As the ship would be moving at the time of casting, or if stopped an undeThis topic is intended for "Strange but True" posts of a nautical nature. Please keep them relevant to a nautical theme otherwise we will be overwhelmed! - Colinrwater current could carry the lead away; the length of wire paid out would or could be inaccurate. " - So how accurate could these things be?
As a rider to your query, When I was a junior officer on "Norseman" I gained experience with a steam powered sounding machine. A little twin cylinder jobby. This was used (now and again) when working in very deep waters (5 miles plus). The sinkers for this machine were genuine 56lb cannon balls with a hoop fastened into them. As far as I recall the machine was used (in my experience) when leaving the River Plate following a cable to somewhere on the other side of the S.Atlantic. The Continental shelf in those parts dives almost vertically from 100 fathoms to over 4 miles. The outflow of the 'Plate would catch this very heavy weight and carry it in an almost horizontal direction for quite a distance. An alarming sight when viewed for the first time!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on February 21, 2008, 05:33:07 pm
That's an interesting tale Bryan. I've also heard that in the Dardanelles fishing boats can lower a weight deep enough to catch the counter current and thus apparently go against the flow on the surface. Same sort of effect apparently.

You have been posting some very interesting illustrations, I think I shall have to print some of them off for future reference.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 21, 2008, 07:10:25 pm
That's an interesting tale Bryan. I've also heard that in the Dardanelles fishing boats can lower a weight deep enough to catch the counter current and thus apparently go against the flow on the surface. Same sort of effect apparently.

You have been posting some very interesting illustrations, I think I shall have to print some of them off for future reference.
Counterflow is (as far as I know) only found in the straits of Gibraltar where the trawlers (except they aren't trawlers) can let the boat float out on the warm water and the cold water coming in keeps the nets out. BTW did you know that there is a huge ( 8 mile wide and 500ft tall cold waterfall at the Med. end of the Gib straits?....underwater of course, otherwise shipping would have a problem.
Whilst I am on this subject (?), I really should have given an example of "speed through the water" as opposed to "speed over the ground".
A lovely example is the St. Lawrence River in Canada. There is a section of the river where ships that do 11 knots or so have to be going "full ahead" to stay still against the outflowing river and tide. When the tide reverses these slow ships (over the ground) go like McLarens F1.
There is also an area up there where a waterfall flows both ways. I used to know how that was ....but dotage creeps in. Another anomaly re. the St Lawrence is that of the mirages. This sounds creepy but it is quite true...seen it myself. Trundling up towards Montreal (Benledi, 1959) 20 miles offshore the Pilot grabs me (cadet)(in the nicest possible way) and says " Watch this"....all of a sudden the shore 20 miles away comes into view, but upside down. In one of the houses a lady is waving. It is the pilots wife. She can also see him (upside down). True. Something called "ducting" I think. Same reason you can see the lighthouse on the Horn of Africa from nearly 1000 miles away if the conditions are right...and the lighthouse keeper hadn't been eaten by the locals. Also true. Many similar tales, but you are bored now.
However, the Dardonelles and (particularly) the Bosphorus are unique in that they are the largest donor of water to the Med. Water does not flow into the Black Sea..it flows out. Quickly. Another example (of us) doing revs for 20 knots on our way to Odessa but only doing 7 knots over the ground. Coming back home was a somewhat different story! I was the "driver" and believe me it was hairy, scooting past large mansions with maybe 50' to spare on a 660' long ship doing in excess of 30 knots. Loved it!! BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on February 21, 2008, 07:31:18 pm
Bryan, the deep counter current, South to North, in the Dardanelles is well documented and has been known for centuries. There are a number of reports and observations if you do a bit of Googling. I became aware of it from the history of the WW1 naval operations and from archaeological reports.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 21, 2008, 07:48:46 pm
Bryan, the deep counter current, South to North, in the Dardanelles is well documented and has been known for centuries. There are a number of reports and observations if you do a bit of Googling. I became aware of it from the history of the WW1 naval operations and from archaeological reports.
OK. I am sure you are correct to a degree, but water does generally "outflow" from the Black Sea. Perhaps that is why the Black Sea takes 1000 years plus to regenerate. Keep googling (I'm not) and see if there is any life near the bottom of the Black Sea.(In the deeper bits). Even on the surface it is quite an "oppressive" sort of place. There are not all that many rivers of size flowing into the Med, and the evaporation is phenomenal.
Needs a lot of topping up. And it's no good saying that the Atlantic will keep the Med full. Over the millenia the Gib Straits have been closed many times leading to a total drying up of a sea that is in places 3 miles deep. The waterfall I mentioned earlier took over 500 years to fill the Med up again when the 2 continents eventually drifted apart. Love the arguement! BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bunkerbarge on February 24, 2008, 09:57:29 am
As regards speed across the ground, I came out of Livorno one day in a small coastal container vessel, we turned North to return to the UK and the Old Man put her up to max.

After a while he phoned down to say we were changing course and speed for a while.  Apparently a strong tidal current flows along the coast at that point and is concentrated by a land spit just North of Livorno.  We were sat in this current doing full ahead and moving at about half a knot!!  We had to go further out to sea before we could turn North outside this current.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: farrow on February 25, 2008, 10:32:34 pm
Another strong tidal race closer to home is the Pentland Firth, I went through it I remember on a neap tide going with me and registered 22 knots over the ground, the shaft revs were set for 12.5 knots. The pilot book recommends vessels with less than 12 knots speed to wait and go through with the tidal race. Also that is were you get walking walls of water with the right wind and tidal conditions and they are very frightening, I have seen one and I nearly had to change my underpants.
Another phenomenon is in the Baltic, where you can experience mirages like the desert. I remember coming out of the Helsingfor straits and seeing the port of Gdansk in Poland several hundred of mile away, it was freaky.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on February 25, 2008, 10:49:10 pm
I think a lot of people don't appreciate the effects of tide. If you are in a small yacht in the Solent never try to fight it. If you time it right you can take the ebb from Chichester Harbour entrance all the way down to Yarmouth. Several times I have been off Cowes with 4 knots on the boat's log and 8.5 knots on the GPS over the ground. It's like being on a magic carpet!

The downside was one time when we had to fight the tide from Newtown Creek to Yarmouth - less than 4 miles but it took over two hours with the outboard flat out!

Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 26, 2008, 11:43:05 am
Not reall a "strange", more of a silly, but true.
Just before the Falklands thing came up RFA "Fort Austin" hosted a visit by HM the Queen. Naturally the ship was made nice. One of the jobs that was done was the fitting of "modesty boards" to all the exterior ladders that the Queen was going to use. They are still there as far as I know. But the "odd-ball" thing was to remove the paint and polish the spare propeller. You'll see from the pic how big this thing is!
Anyway, off to war in a hurry. All "warlike" tasks done and further training carried out. But "someone" forgot to repaint the spare prop. The net result of this was that when chugging along in a fully darkened condition with radars off all ships were invisible to the naked eye. When the moon came out there was this great gleaming mirror just where Austin was. She also had another trick to play. No moon this time and she was over the horizon. A bit startling to see a regular display of Roman Candles coming from here position....loads of lovely sparks spouting out of the funnel.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 26, 2008, 11:48:05 am
try the pic again
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 28, 2008, 07:00:06 pm
NO PICTURES THIS TIME!
Just a nice little story.
As 3/0 on c/s "Lady Dennison Pender" in 1963 we were doing a job in pretty deep water about 100 miles NW of Malta. The strain rose on the grappling rope and was constant, so the grapnel was brought up. On sighting it was obvious we hadn't hooked a cable, but had an aircraft. A German one. We had hooked it just behind the cockpit so it came up more or less level. Remember that this was less than 20 years after the end of WW2, so a lot of the "fabric" and ident marks were still visible. I well remember that the wheels were down. The remains of the pilot were visible. We took note of all the details we could and our Captain made the wise and humane decision to return the pilot and his aircraft to the bottom of the Med. All this info was passed to C&W. After about a couple of months we (or the Captain) had a letter from the dead pilots parents thanking us for what we did, and now knew just where their son was. B.Y.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 03, 2008, 07:10:59 pm
Following on from my posting re. "weathering" on the other topic, the subject reminded me of a rather bizarre occurence in Rio de Janeiro bay. The Brazilian aircraft carrier "Minas Gerais" (ex "Victorious" or somesuch) didn't have enough money to go to sea and therefore couldn't exercise the "air-wing". To exercise the flight-deck crews they used an earth-mover (Caterpiller type) to go up and down on the lifts. At the time the aircraft were (if my memory is correct) were ex-USN Navy "Mustangs". Some bright spark decided that given the right wind conditions and with the use of the steam catapult an aircraft could be launched whilst the carrier was still attached to its buoy. A joy to watch. Zoom! and splash. Not so good for the (now dead) pilot. A couple of days later I watched a Varig "Caravelle" screaming over the bay doing barrel rolls. I hope there were no passengers aboard. But after just another couple of days ( a funny week) we got another story. The Brazzi navy had just taken delivery of a bunch of ex USN "Sabre" jets. As the carrier was unable to go to sea the aircraft were "parked" at an air base. The air force then refused to give them to the navy. Whereupon a couple of Admirals and assorted others took off in a helicopter to remonstrate with the Air Force...wanting their aircraft back. One of the Sabres took off and without further ado shot the helo out of the sky. End of complaints from the Navy.
All done in full view of the people around the bay.
The Brazilian Navy also had 2 large ex US cruisers...big things with a crane hanging over the back. These 2 ships were supposed to patrol the coast, except that they couldn't. The boilers in one of them were so completely shot that half of of the boilers in one were removed and put in the other. So they were left with 2 cruisers with a top speed not much in excess of 15 knots each.
I can see the RN going the same way! Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 04, 2008, 07:22:30 pm
THE TALE OF THE BEER CAN
In 1966 I was a 3/O on c/s "Mercury". The task at hand was the laying of the first telephone (as opposed to telegraph) cable across the Pacific. This bit went from Guam to Wellington if I recall correctly. This entailed laying a cable down the deepest part of the Mariana Trench. Over 6 miles deep. It may surprise some of you to know that a "deep-sea" cable is only just over 1 inch in diameter.
(A subject I shall tell you about at another time).
Anyway, at various times it was required to take a temperature reading at the sea bed. At this time the properties of the Marianna Trench were basically unknown. After a couple of these readings were taken one of our Clankies had a brainwave. These were the days of the "top-end-spanner" to open a can. He attached a pristine can of Tennants Lager to the thermometer wire and away it went...down 6 miles. When the can came back up it still looked immaculate, but of course it had gawd knows how many tons of pressure still within it. The can was (carefully) put back in the 'fridge awaiting its first customer. At the first touch of the top-end-spanner ....well the resultant release of pressure was a sight to behold. Not much lager left to drink, and a very wet customer. We were quitely discouraged to do this again.
As I said earlier, very little was known about the sea bed (in the Trench) at this time. We had another 3/O aboard who was a real genius as an inventor. He devised a contraption that would enable photos to be taken at this depth. I won't go into that now, but the results showed "footprints" and tail squiggles of fish/animals living at this great depth. This was the first time a pic at these depths had been taken. The pics were sent off to C&W and from there to other interested parties. The USA took a lot of credit, but it was c/s "Mercury" that did the job.
I guess that the most interesting (fascinating is a better word) times of my life at sea were the years I spent with C&W. So much new and now and again unseen by earlier eyes. Bryan Y.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 04, 2008, 07:44:41 pm
Want another one ....about Russian fishing boats?
During the "cold war" we were all aware of the Russian trawlers being really "spy ships" in disguise. True to a point. There were a lot of these trawlers that were actually just trawlers. But. Most of you model makers understand the construction and use of "Otter Boards" on a trawler....can you imagine otter-boards being constructed with saw edge leading edges going to a point?  Thats what the Russians used. Primary purpose? Cut cables. One of the more "urgent" jobs I was involved in was a cable cutting incident just off the NW coast of Wales. 1962 (?) just before President Kennedy came to the UK. Absolutely a coincidence that the main telephone cable was cut just before his arrival.. We got one end up and it had been cut. Job was done but how low can you go? Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Canalpilot on March 05, 2008, 08:46:10 am
Reference the reversing waterfall.  I think that there is one in St. John, New Brunswick where at low water there is a outward flowing waterfall until the tide rises and then, because is in a very narrow neck of the river the waterfall reverses and the water falls into a wider part of the river.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 05, 2008, 10:57:21 am
In the late 70's I was working in the Marine Operations Department of a North Sea oil operator. All vessels on contract sent daily progress reports to their employing departments and these were copied to Marine Ops.

These reports were routine until the day a certain Diving Support Vessel carrying out a video survey of a subsea pipeline submitted its report. Along with info on spans and debris was the information that caterpillar track markings were seen on the sea bottom, commencing close to one platform and progressing for about 100m and then stopping. It was as though something had touched down, trundled along and then lifted off again.

Now some years after, tracked vehicles were used in connection with pipelay ops but these needed an umbilical connection to a mother ship. At that time - and to this day as far as I am aware - there are no autonomous, underwater, tracked vehicles in use in the industry. The SBS were quietly operating around the fields then as they do today but even they, as far as I know, would find this activity beyond them.

Thus, what made those tracks? Russkis? Little Green Men? It was all quietly forgotten at the time but the memory still stays in my mind.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 05, 2008, 08:04:01 pm
A Tooth.
This is becoming like one of Scherherazades tales.
Another one from C&W days.
Around the S.Coast of the Carribbean Sea there are numerous reefs, and the sea around them can be quite deep. So cables have to be laid with enough slack to allow for this. One of the more pernicious (or just plain stupid) is a worm with big teeth. Can't recall its name. Anyhow, this particular animal seems to be attracted to submarine cables. Perhaps it can sense some sort of emanation, even through a thick layer of encrustation. So it bites into the cable and gets a shock big enough to kill it. Other fish come along and eat the body leaving nothing but the guilty tooth. There is now a "short" in the cable and at vast expense a ship is deployed from Rio to a point over 1000 miles to the north to look for a "break" in a line. The fault area can be reasonably easily localised, and a new length of cable spliced in. Main job done. Now it is of interest to find out what caused the fault in the first place. This 1.1" dia. cable is now about 1 foot in diameter with coral growth. And it is full of live and weird animals that flop onto the deck as the cable is stripped. Our ships doctor has always been the "curator" of these things, and he had to "pickle" these things and send them off for evaluation and classification. (Bell Laboritories comes to mind). Very often we would get a reply basically saying "we haven't a clue, but thank you". My favourite was observing what I thought was a bit of loose seaweed like a bit of scraggy knitting wool. I was rather surprised to see this "thing" sort of rolling up the sheer of the deck to get to a wet patch. Another "haven't a clue" answer. (The tooth was found incidentally, and the cause of the "short" established).
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 05, 2008, 08:33:40 pm
Whales.
Having not a lot to be getting on with until my new lathe motor arrives and I can work out how to resize PSP10 pictures I thought I may as well give you another one.And there's nowt on telly anyway).
On the older cable ships the bow baulks (the wheels at the front) were only about 10 ft above the water. A little open grating on each side was where the OOW did his watch when on cable-work. Engine room telegraphs and wheel orders were transmitted from here. In "roughish" weather the OOW would strap himself to the rails, and if the bows went under or a heavy dollop came over then he would just get wet. You just didn't expect it on a lovely calm tropical day. Sea creatures are full of curiousity. A bit of wire coming up from the sea bed will draw them like a magnet. In deep water the amount of cable in suspension can be up to 30 miles on each side of the ship. On this occasion it intrigued a 50 foot monster which surfaced directly under me and about 15 ft below.
Ever looked directly down into a whales blow-hole? Damn thing is about a foot across. Whales live on sea food. Whales do not -ever- clean their teeth or use Listerine. It is also a fallacy that the "spout" is pure water. The first few feet are pure and unadulterated green whale snot. And I was right above it. The deck crew were kind enough to hose me down.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 05, 2008, 09:48:06 pm
In the late 70's I was working in the Marine Operations Department of a North Sea oil operator. All vessels on contract sent daily progress reports to their employing departments and these were copied to Marine Ops.

These reports were routine until the day a certain Diving Support Vessel carrying out a video survey of a subsea pipeline submitted its report. Along with info on spans and debris was the information that caterpillar track markings were seen on the sea bottom, commencing close to one platform and progressing for about 100m and then stopping. It was as though something had touched down, trundled along and then lifted off again.

Now some years after, tracked vehicles were used in connection with pipelay ops but these needed an umbilical connection to a mother ship. At that time - and to this day as far as I am aware - there are no autonomous, underwater, tracked vehicles in use in the industry. The SBS were quietly operating around the fields then as they do today but even they, as far as I know, would find this activity beyond them.

Thus, what made those tracks? Russkis? Little Green Men? It was all quietly forgotten at the time but the memory still stays in my mind.
I was always led to believe that the Russians did have a bottom crawler, but no-one either saw it or could verify it. I think Tom Clancy was not just using his imagination on this one. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 06, 2008, 06:10:23 pm
Early Cables
Still filling in time, although I did spend 5 hours today making a brass rudder for Havelock...posts later (much later) on the relevant site.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.
I would think that the majority of you have grown up accepting that telephoning another country is perfectly normal. But the early days of trascontinental and worldwide relied on another system. The Morse code. I'm unsure which came first as far as transmitting code over a wire....the railway system or the undersea cable network. We have all watched a cowboy movie that has a telegraphist tappylapping away to some far flung outpost of the wild west. Deep-sea cables operated in a similar manner. Normally we associate the morse code to be in the form of dots and dashes ( as in > ... - - - ...<) (keeping it clean, although I was tempted!). But the messages sent along wires as opposed to via radio were different as the message had to be transcribed on to a paper strip. The paper strip had a line running along its centre. The "dots" appeared as an inverted "v" above the centre line and the dashes came out as invered "v" below the line. So the message was preserved.
That was a preamble.
When the early cables were laid across the Atlantic all sorts of odd things were discovered. Not least being the mid-Atlantic Ridge where we now know the "plates" are being pushed apart. The Captains of the early cable laying ships were paid "by the mile payed out". What an invitation to make more money! All cables have to be laid with a certain amount of "slack" to allow for future repairs and to allow the cable to conform more easily to the sea bed. But these early clever old sods sometimes increased the percentage of "slack" to ridiculous proportions, so much so that the cable sort of snaked its way across. Result. A rich Captain. Downside:- these cables although laid in the mid to late 1800s were nowhere near where they were plotted as being! And there are literally hundreds of these things criss-crossing the oceans. Quite normal to pick up a cable, cut it and be annoyed,bemused and embarrassed to be greeted with an irate "foreigner" wanting to know why his "comms" were disrupted. Oops. Although we are now in the digital age and use satellites the Optical Fibre cables still play a massive part in Global comms. I am fairly accurately informed that a lot of the stuff you see "live" on the telly from far away places have the pictures coming via satellite and the sound is via cable....or maybe vice-verca. I would not be at all surprised to learn that the very earliest telegraph cables could be resurrected if required. Tough and simple. The modern telephone cables have to have "amplifiers" fitted every few miles.(in my day they were every 7 miles, which means an awful lot of amplifiers (repeaters) across the Paciic. Each repeater was about the size of a modern air launched torpedo. Quite a performance.....and they all had to be built with a guaranteed life of at least 100 years.
If you want to know how cables (in "my day") were found and picked up, then ask! Bye for now.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 06, 2008, 06:32:46 pm
A little word of wisdom to those of you who ply your trade carrying cargoes and such.
A group of us RFA types were sitting around in a Singapore bar (Raffles, incidentally) and got into a great conversation with a bunch of guys off a UK cargo-liner. A good afternoon. But "they" were left to ponder at the end of the day. One of "them" announced that we RFA types were sort of pittied because our days at sea were so full of "everything", whereas they had a nice peaceful time cruising the ocean. Gales of merriment from the RFA. It was politely (I think) pointed out to this person that whilst he may have enjoyed his weeks enjoying an awful lot of water, his real job came when it came to unloading and loading his cargo in the shortest possible time. Our job was done (basically) at sea and so we could all have enough time off to have a weekend off in a hotel or just chill out somewhere. A luxury our "commercial" brethren never experienced. The old adage "method in madness" comes to mind.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: chingdevil on March 06, 2008, 07:04:43 pm
As no one else has asked, how did you find and pick up cables Bryan?

Brian
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Welsh_Druid on March 06, 2008, 07:06:54 pm
Reading Bryan's posting referring to Morse Code, reminded me that I heard yesterday that my Grandson, who is in the Royal Navy,  is on a training course at the moment. One of the things he has had to learn is Morse Code .

Is Morse Code still used ?  I would have thought that all communication nowadays would be speech on radio or electronic.

Anybody know ?

Don B.

Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 06, 2008, 07:29:25 pm
Very difficult to transmit a message via an Aldis Lamp with anything other than Morse Code. That was not meant to sound sarcastic.
In times of electronic "shut-down" the lamp is indespensible  at night it is usual to fit a red filter.  The Americans use Semaphore a lot at close range (i.e. during a RAS) so the RN/RFA Yeoman/Signalmen keep in practice. Again, useful when EMR silence is reqiured.
The American Yeomen are expert at semaphore.
As far as morse on the lamp is concerned, I could always read morse, but not when sent by a Naval signaller. The speed and reception of these messages has to be seen to be believed. Almost as fast as you can talk (OK, thats an exaggeration, but you get the idea). The American usage of Semaphore is really neat. We have all seen the drawings of little sailors with their arms at full stretch with a wavy flag in each hand. Forget it. The American way is elbows together and let the index fingers do the talking. This is an art, and is really lovely to watch. The RN/RFA guys have caught up with it and it was always a joy to watch 2 experts "doing their thing". Old ways still work. 
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 06, 2008, 08:00:27 pm
Running aground
Not quite what the title suggests.
A "quickie" before dinner is ready.
During the period of the 1962 World Cup (soccer) in Mexico, we had to go down to Santa Catarina Island and stay there for the duration. It all got a bit boring so our Capt. decided to "beach" the ship....lightly.....to do this we approached a nicely shelving sandy beach and when the engineers reported sand coming into the intakes all was stopped and the front end ballasted down. And there we sat for 3 weeks. Great. We all got a run ashore into unknown territory....we actually found a "fort" complete with cannon balls that were useful as sounding weights, and a herd of large wild black pigs that took exception to our presence.
All this was quite normal. Until I came to sit my "orals" for my Masters cert. The examiner went on and on about getting a beached ship off "the putty". I kept on saying that I would de-ballast and put a line ashore around a tree and heave myself off. He went on and on about this, gradually increasing "my" distance offshore. My answer was always the same. He wanted 2 lifeboats and an anchor slung between them as was then the classical answer. When he eventually got me aground at 20 miles offshore he ran out of patience and yelled at me "What Bloody Company Do You Work For?"  Cable and Wireless I replied. "Oh. F... it " he said, and signed my "pass". And that is all true. That is exactly how we dragged ourselves over a sandbar that had been home for a few weeks.
Forget the aspertions said earlier about the RFA and C&W having to take refresher courses. I learned my (navigational) skills in C&W and would pit (not now) that knowledge against anything the colleges would teach. Specialised. And it worked. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 07, 2008, 04:09:43 pm
Job was done but how low can you go?

I guess about 6 miles from your previous post.  ::) ;)
Used to tell nervous first-trippers that the ship was seldom more than 3 miles from land....sometimes took a while to percolate.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 07, 2008, 05:05:53 pm
More on the River Plate.
The cable repair ship based in Rio quite often had to visit Montevideo. Always interesting...but bloody cold in winter. My first visit was again to act as a stand-by ship for an international summit conference...as Kennedy was there it was probably early '63.
Entering the 'Plate was odd as it is so wide the shoreline on either side is invisible, but, like the Thames, it is heavily silted and so shipping channels are used. Not that cables followed these channels of course. My first view was that of a real "Dreadnaught" type battleship that was used as both a lightship and a pilot station. (Recolada?). A lovely sight. Montevideo harbour is pretty big, and is (was) divided by a central detached breakwater to protect the inner harbour. (Gets pretty windy down there). At this time the air service between Monte and Buenos Aires used Sunderland flying boats. These things used to have to go flat out from the word go to generate just enough lift to get over the middle breakwater, land again and continue their take-off run. Nerve jangling to watch, Lord above knows what it was like for the pilots...never mind the passengers!.
At ths time the very top of the "Graf Spee" was still visible at low tide. As Sods law would have it she was sat on a major international cable-link, and as she subsided into the mud (yellow horrible stuff, claggy and very smelly and very deep). But sods law came into it again with the scuttling of an ex-Royal Mail liner. (Highland Brigade or somesuch). She had been sold and was used to transport whale oil/meat from S.Georgia to Monte and Argentina.The tale we were told by the local authorities was that a disgruntled engineer had sabotaged the ship. True or not, he was given a hefty jail sentence. At this time she was not consumed by the mud but was just about "decks awash". Naturally, her cargo began to rot. If the wind was from the SSE living in Monte was almost unbearable. The stench was just unbelievable! However, as luck would have it she also settled on the same cable as the "Graf". Something "had to be done". Like cutting the endangered part out and laying a by-pass section. The mud was so deep and claggy that our normal methods of lifting were useless and we had to revert to using an old fashioned "Admiralty" type anchor to dig a trench. Days of trawling this thig up and down until we found the cable. Yeuch. At the end of this marathon C&W decided that we needed a short dry-docking period to repair minor damage and clean the hull etc. (Known to one and all as a "D&C"). We first went into a floating dock in Monte, but it refused to float. An outfit in BA was hired. At the time, their dock was an ex USN Dock Landing Ship of WW2 vintage. She was moored very close to the city centre which pleased us all immensely. Except...when we were safely ensconced within her...off she sailed to a point about 5 miles offshore. Rats..or words to that effect. Naturally, all our ship systems (sanitation, heating etc.) were turned off and the "host ship provided electrical power...but not sanitation.
In those days the USN used communal showers and toilets. So on one side of a broad alleyway we had about 20 open toilets separated by half bulkheads but no front door or curtain. On the other side were the open communal showers. So in the early mornings we had the hilarious sight of senior officers having the "morning george" and trying to maintain a little dignity whilst a bunch of "all ranks" were trying to do the same in the showers. Purgatory. I'm still sure it was done on purpose!

The next one will be for "Chingdevil". Tonight if I get bored with telly. By the way...fixed my lathe. Now to get to grips with posting pics again. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 07, 2008, 07:04:03 pm
A reply to Tiger...I think a lot of seamen get asked to write a book. Very few do. Partly to protect the "innocent" and partly to avoid incriminating oneself. I have no desire to write a "warts and all" story of so many years at sea. It could hurt too many people....me included. I am gratified that these "odd bits" are being reasonably well received, thats enough gratification for me.
As most of these tales have been about cable ships I thought I would remind you what the actual ship looked like. c/s "Norseman" pictured here loading cable at Greenwich. The cartoon I think I may have posted at an earlier time, but so what. The cartoon is closer to real life than you may think.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 07, 2008, 07:53:39 pm
A special for "Chingdevil"!
Lets start with the cable itself. A old deep sea telegraph cable was somewhere around 1.25" in diameter. The copper core was not much more than 1/4" in dia. This was enclosed in an insulator of Gutta-Percha, which was in turn wrapped with a sort of canvas. The cable strength came from high tensile steel wire (about 1/8" dia) pre-formed into long spirals that wrapped around the canvas. Very strong and when "pulled" would obviously tighten up. When a cable had to go across shallow water rocks, reefs or any other area that may damage it the armouring was doubled or even trebled.The core remained the same. When a cable came ashore it was usually clad in a drainpipe sort of thing. Porthcurno in Cornwall was the centre of the universe as far as underwater cables were concerned. Nothing big or fancy. Just the opposite. A liitle shed just off the beach (probably still there) with a load of connecting boxes in it. And that connected tis country to the rest of the world.
The reason why deep sea cables are so small is at least twofold. One is that not much is going to damage a cable a few miles down. Early pioneers did'nt reall appreciate that "sea-quakes" could be just as destructive as "earthquakes" and so a lot of cables got buried.But most kept working. Another reason is the sheer weight. Although when a deep cable is brought to the surface it looks vertical, in reality you could be looking at maybe 30 miles in suspension on both sides of the ship. Thats a lot of weight. Sometimes it got too much and a method was used to relieve this (later). The machinery used to lift this was 2 pretty big steam engines under the deck. About the size you would find in a harbour tug of the time,each driving a drum of perhaps 10' in dia. In "shallow water it was not unusual to see the lifted cable looking bar tight for a few hundred yards out on either side. I only once observed a tight shallow cable snap with any injury to anyone. When the cable is brought to the surface it is obvious that a "bight" cannot be brought inboard...so it has to be cut. Big manually handled bolt cutters. Before cutting the 2 sides are wrapped in strong "seamans stoppers" (criss-crossed wires and such) and the wieght gradually transferred to the stoppers...then the loose bit in the middle is cut and the 2 ends brought inboard. The cable techs then test the cable. At least one end will reply. Buoy that end off and hunt out the "dead end". If it is a fault then easy. If a "loose end" is found then the hunt starts for the other live end. Once that is found and lifted a new bit is spliced in and paid out to the buoyed end. Both ends tested and if OK joined up and chucked back into the sea. (actually, it is lowered carefully with the ship just going slowly backwards...but the principle is the same).
End of part one. Next is the navigation.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 08, 2008, 04:41:49 pm
A reply to Tiger...I think a lot of seamen get asked to write a book. Very few do. Partly to protect the "innocent" and partly to avoid incriminating oneself.

Hi Bryan
I think it was Roger in France who mentioned the book.
Yes, But it was Chingdevil who rose to the bait about finding cables!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on March 08, 2008, 06:51:56 pm
Are seabed cables becoming obsolete in this era of satelite communication. Funny, but as I typed that my mind conjured up a picture of Bryan in a ship sailing through the heavens trying to catch a sat. which needs repairing!

Roger in France.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on March 08, 2008, 07:06:56 pm
I think they are more important than ever. The latest optical fibre versions have huge data throughputs are are essential to the operation of the Internet among other things.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: chingdevil on March 08, 2008, 07:34:07 pm
Roger
There was a program on UK tv a few weeks back showing how they repair the fibre optic cables very high tec the repairs very low tec how they get them up. Apparently there is a ship on stand by for just this job, I think it is berthed in Boston USA not sure, it is crewed mainly by brits which is good news.

I believe there is a French ship, not sure of the company that lays these cables.

A couple of weeks ago a lot of the call centres on the Indian sub continent went down after a ship dragged its anchor and broke a couple of these cables. Virgin Media, Abbey, and BT were just a couple of the companies that had their call centres go down. Virgin Media actually lost 80% of its call centre capacity, they had to re-rout the calls through satellites, very expensive.

So yes the cables are important even in this day and age.

Brian
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 08, 2008, 07:59:52 pm
Not so strange, more of how cable-ships used to work.
Mariners of the deck persuation are well aware that the little purple squiggly lines on their charts represent a cable of one sort or another. But these are only charted within port limits or areas where a ship may be tempted to anchor. Out of these areas the cables are marked on more specialised charts..usually as an overlay on the standard nav.charts. Other countries have their own systems but generally speaking it is in everyones interest to pool information. Ocean nav. charts are far too small a scale to be of any use except for general navigation. A typical ocean chart may well be at a scale of 1/8th" to a mile or less, but a cable chart would be at 1" to the mile or more. In some tricky areas such as the Bay of Biscay we would draw our own charts at double that scale to try and avoid hooking other folks cables.(This was only possible after the introduction of the "Decca Navigator"). As I have said, its like a bunch of loose knitting down there.
Jocular comments on this forum aside re. the lack of "sea-time" C&W were assiduous in keeping a full world-wide portfolio of charts up to date...one never knew where the next call would come from. Once we sailed the standard nav. charts would be used  until we were somewhere within the area of interest. As A hypothetical example, let us assume we are going to a point mid-way between Rio and Ascension Island. Mid ocean tropics are not all blue skies and calm waters. I guess that that there as many overcast days as anywhere else. Any stray celestial object would be "shot" and plotted. Most "sights" were "doubled-up" to provide both corroboration and training for the juniors (me). No matter what watch he was on or how many meals he may miss the navigation came first. As the 8-12 watchkeeper I would be regularly called for "stars" just as the evening meal was to be served. We always used to try and get between 6 & 8 good stars. The senior guys could do that, work them out and still eat. I would still be working them out by the end of my watch. Tired and hungry. Not all beer and skittles. But one lives and learns. The "good" guys wouls normally put a box of 8 stars into a half mile box. I was lucky to be within a mile.
Getting close to the area we wanted to be in the cable charts were brought out. Every detail of the cable history was here. In this example I am looking a at a depth of 4,000 fathoms. 4 miles. Think of somewhere 4 miles from your home and put it vertical.
Its a long way! So about 20 miles from where we think the cable is we slow down to about 5 knots and begin paying out the rope.
Next one soon.BY
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: chingdevil on March 08, 2008, 10:09:34 pm
Bryan
How would you capture the cable, in the program I saw the used a certain type of grapple until they had the cable close to the surface, they then changed to a grapple/clamp with a soft jaw. Is that how you would have done it?

Bryan this is an excellent thread please keep it up!!


Brian
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: malcolmfrary on March 09, 2008, 01:53:26 pm
Cables are still vital, not so much for the sheer volume of traffic they can carry, but because sending a telephone call via satellite brings in the problem that radio waves only (!) travel at the speed of light, and the trip due upwards to a geostationary satellite, possibly across to another sat, and back down again is a minimum of 50000 miles, or a third of a second.  This is a very noticeable delay on a phone call.  Cables do not suffer from this. 
Thanks for the stories and insights, Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Shipmate60 on March 10, 2008, 11:57:37 pm
Young Mr Brian is right,
Most seamen have lots of tales to tell, but in a career at sea which can span over 30 yrs times change and attitudes with them.
We have all got up to some "capers" which at the time fuelled with copious amounts of alcohol did seem very amusing AT THE TIME.
And before the Health and Safety Culture some (not myself of course) operated in a quite hair-raising way.
We had 1800 in our organisation and had several fatalaties annually, this has now dropped to a rarity now because of the culture. Think of hard Hats on Building Sites in the 70's no one would wear them now everyone does and doesn't give it a second thought.
I consider myself very lucky in having my career on ships, no not deep sea, mostly coastal and in harbour, but used to really enjoy going to "work".
I was chatting to an ex master the other night and we got chatting about the "Old Days", and the subject of a book came up, as it usually does in the pub!!
BUT
We think it would be catalogued under Fiction as times have changed so much.
And Bryan, my present ship is an ex MOD Cable Layer, RMAS Newton, but she has had almost all her cabling gear including the Cable Engines removed now.
Just my thoughts on the subject.

Bob
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: dreadnought72 on March 11, 2008, 01:28:39 pm
Not sure I can make the thread more informative - but here's a tale for you!

As a "round the buoys" lake, loch and reservoir sailor, I took my Enterprise dinghy down to Cornwall a few years ago, and had a couple of weeks of belting sailing in and around the Camel estuary. One day, with a fine westerly blowing, I launched the boat at Rock and took 'er out for a solo spin, leaving my (fatter) crew on the beach eating ice cream.

I was about 11 stone at the time and the Enterprise, with no reefing, is a handful with so little weight in it. But after a few minutes it struck me that she wanted to plane without any effort, and - like the big show-off that I am - I brought her in to no more than 5m from the beach (which runs north-south and shelves quite quickly) to wow the crowds and my crew with a blisteringly-fast "sail by".

So there I am, literally going faster than I've ever sailed before (8-10 knots?), leaning out as far as I can, sheets are straining, and there's spray everywhere, the sun is shining, all is right with the world, the boat's singing and it's perfect. Then, peeking under the mainsail, I noticed a toddler on the beach not more than eight metres away, walking faster than me!

The Camel estuary is renowned for its currents. They are fast and close inshore.

After about two minutes of grannies, people in wheelchairs, and dogs with three legs passing me, wondering why anyone would have such a grin on his face and only be going about half-a-knot, I tacked 180 degrees and showed them!

...Nearly got left behind by the boat as it rocketed off, though.

Andy
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 11, 2008, 06:57:25 pm
So where did we get to. Paying out the "rope" I think.
The basics of it all is a length of rope with a hook on the end. Except. The "rope" is not exactly a rope as you would imagine a rope to be. This stuff is pretty specialised. At 3" in dia. and having 6 strands. Each strand has a high tensile steel core, this gives the rope a massive breaking strain...there is an 8 stranded one, but that isn't used too often. A cable "repair" ship used to be a lot smaller than a "layer" mainly due to the amount of cable a layer had to carry. The repair ships had a limited amount, but of various types. If a repair ship ran out of the sort of cable it needed there was generally a simple solution at hand. Go and find another bit of the right sort. The "odd lengths" of unwanted cable were often re-laid  in a sort of cable bank. Just unfastened lengths sat on the sea bed ready for further use. Where better to keep them? So these odd caches of cable were all over the world. The repair ship would only carry perhaps 120 miles of cables..perhaps we can talk about "layers" later. But it's time to look at the "hooks". The various grapples evolved over a lot of years to cope with differing sea-bed conditions. The most commonly used is (was) called a "Gifford" (all grapples appear to be named after the genius who first came up with the idea). A single element of a Gifford is a cast steel unit about a foot long and shaped like a half open fist. A bunch of these are latched together on a "chain" with the hooky bits at 90 degrees to each other so that there are always some of the hooks scraping the sea bed. Put about 8 of these things on the end of the "rope" and you have nearly half a ton. Use these for a sea bed of silt, sand or gravel where the cable is likely to be on or near to the surface (of the sea bed). Then we have the "Rennie"..similar to the Gifford in that the elements are "chained" These are much heavier than a Gifford. The basic construction is a heavy steel plate about 3/4" thick and 18" long with a 1' long "prong" sticking out of each side. When these are chained up they look pretty primeval. These things can tear through a rocky bottom. The 3rd commonest was the "Lucas". This is a real heavyweight and is used by itself. Only really used when the expected strain on the cable could cause the cable to snap. This could be because of age or one part being buried under a seaquake or whatever. The Lucas has this ingenious gizmo that will cut away one side of the cable when a predetemined strain is reached. The ships bow can actually swing when this happens far below the surface.
So here we are, miles and miles of rope out and doing about 2 knots. Grapples on the sea bed. The Ch.Officer then mounts his saddle. And there he will stay come rain,hail, or anything else the elements can throw at him. The saddle? Just a short wooden plank that fits over the "rope". He sits on this and using his experience can feel the vibrations coming up the rope from the sea bed through his bum. There was a "back-up" (if you will excuse the connotation in this context) called a Dynamometer. Pretty basic but effective. A bit like a McPherson strut on a car with a wheel on the side. The wheel went up and down and an attached pointer indicated the strain on a painted wooden board. If the strain and the C/Os bum agreed then the consensus was was that we had snagged. The ship would now be quite a few miles ahead of the "hook point", so as the rope was being wound in the ship would match it by going astern until it was thought that we were more or less over the hook point. And that is it................................
..........."He had bought a large map representing the sea...
........... Without the least vestige of land...
........... And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be.....................................................................................
........... A map they could all understand...
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 12, 2008, 06:23:11 pm
Continuing this thread ...but off on a tangent.  First of all is a query about the "Newton"...sorry she had her gear removed, but wasn't she involved with more, shall we say, "quiet" operations? Or have all these systems now fallen into disuse?
The pic. shows the 2 repair ships "Recorder" and "Edward Wilshaw" exchanging crews in the Cape Verde Islands in 1964. The background is really as bleak as it appears...looks like a transplanted Aden. I think the sailing ship was a Chilean training ship (but it was a long time ago that I took the pic). The wharf we were alongside had some beautiful paintings on them...perhaps if you increase the pixel count you will see 2 of them. I hope they are still there. "Recorder" was being transferred to the Rio station and "Wilshaw" to the Singapore station. "Recorder" had a Malay crew (Muslim) and "Wilshaw" had a Portuguese crew (Catholic). Much grumbling from both sides! Didn't stop them all going ashore to get rat-arsed together though. But that's going to be another un-told tale. Cape Verde was pretty primitive in 1964. Very odd, but of the 2 main islands only 1 had water and was arable. The other was bleak, barren and dusty. But the population lived on the arid one and used the other as a supply depot. Maybe they were not all that daft....but now the whole place is a tourist resort.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 12, 2008, 06:27:34 pm
When I get my thoughts together perhaps I may post a couple on laying cables as opposed to repairing them.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 15, 2008, 06:24:12 pm
I am now coming towards the end of the saga of the "old" repair ships, but a few illustrations first. The pic of the "Lady Dennison Pender" is crap, it was taken as a slide on an old Voightlander camera...but I use the pic here to show her size compared to the pic of Mercury at the same berth (the old destroyer pens at Gibraltar). The week that the pic of the LDP was taken a large yacht moored up opposite so a few of us went over to have a look at it. This very large American gent came over to talk to us wondereing if the little white ship (ours) was a prison ship as we had protective bars over the lower ports. After a wee while we all realised that this guy with the big gut was John Wayne. All memories of hero-worship vanished in an instant. But to the pics:
Cable 2 is of the deck of "Recorder" whilst tidying up some scrap cable after a job. Gives a reasonable idea of an ocean cable size.
Cable 3 ..Removing the insulated core from the pre-formed steel covering...this one is especially for Bunkerbarge.
Cable 1..Stripping the cable. The bit with the "flat" on it is the gutta-percha insulation in the process of being knifed off to expose the copper core.
Can I go on to Cable Layers next? BY
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 15, 2008, 06:25:57 pm
Forgot 2 of them:
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 15, 2008, 09:49:26 pm
I realise and appreciate that this is a Model Boat Forum and also I am taking up a lot of space on it. But to my way of thinking a touch of how life at sea is led and a few pics of what a ship is like can only help modellers who would love to experience the kind of life at sea (warts and all) that I had get a bit of a "feel" for it. I'm afraid I am tad too young to have sailed with the "Onedin Line", but although I was unaware of the meaning of RTR doesn't mean I am in my dotage.
A bit of another generation gap here as I move on to cable laying as opposed to repairing. During the early 1960s C&W embarked on a new build programme with ships designed for the telephone age instead of the telegraph age. 3 ships were built ( each winning the "ship of the year" Oscar. (Cammell Laird in Liverpool take a bow). So the repair ships "Retriever" and "Cable Enterprise" began the updating of the fleet. The new "layer" was mixed up somewhere in that period. The really old ones like "Mirror", Norseman" and "Lady Dennison Pender" had all had long and illustrious lives, but their time had gone and they were all totally outdated. "Norseman" (I think) was sold to a consortium in Antwerp to become a teahouse or resteraunt or somesuch but I don't think it came to much. The "LDP" (of 1918 vintage) was still chuffing along in 1963 when I was her 3/O. Based in Gibraltar the work in the Med was OK but winter time between Gib and the UK was really tough for the old girl. With a top speed of only 9 knots it once took us 31 days to get from Falmouth to Gib. But it was during one of these slow marathons that (really and truly) the ship stopped "squeaking". She'd had enough. Ooops. Slowly (even slower than before) we made it back to Plymouth and there she was laid to rest. Sad, but welcome.
Apart from the new "Mercury" the UK had only 2 other cable-laying ships. Both really intended for telegraph work. One was the "Monarch" (GPO) later sold to C&W and re-named "Sentinel" and the "John W McKay.  Monarch was built in 1947 in a bit of a hurry, and the McKay dated back to 1923...I think it was owned by an Irish outfit called "Commercial Cables" or something. Anyway, together with the new U.S."Long Lines" (inspired name?) "Mercury" was a "state of the art" ship and an absolute delight to sail in.
She was the only C&W ship I was in that didn't have Steam Recip.engines. She was diesel-electric with 4 bug diesels and 2 alternators...which meant the clankies could shut down an engine and play with it without the ship losing power. (Sorry, BB).
However, the big layers were just as capable of repairs as the specialised repair ships....but much more expensive to operate.
Continue tomorrow after the Aussie GP. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Shipmate60 on March 15, 2008, 10:21:34 pm
Bryan,
1 Cable Layer you forgot.
RMAS Newton.
She still has the 3 huge Bow Sheaves.

Bob
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Shipmate60 on March 15, 2008, 10:28:11 pm
Bryan
RMAS Newton was built in Scots in Greenock in 1986.
Diesel electric propulsion. Due for replacement 2010 but not by a cable ship.
She hasn't done any cabling for a long time and about 5 yrs ago had all her Cable Engines removed.
I am due to join her on 1st April.

Bob
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 16, 2008, 06:28:36 pm
Bryan,
1 Cable Layer you forgot.
RMAS Newton.
She still has the 3 huge Bow Sheaves.

Bob
I never forgot "Newton"! I mentioned her a couple of times in previous posts. I would however re-iterate that as far as I am aware she was involved in the more,shall we say, covert side of things as opposed to the wonderful global comms network that is either a blessing or a blight depending on your point of view! Another "silent service" that could be talked about perhaps....I for one would be interested to learn more about those huge underwater listening structures you lot carted around a lot. Cheers. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 16, 2008, 08:12:03 pm
Cable laying again. An interesting thought that it could well have been due to people like me (although in a very minor role) that you were all able to watch the Aussie GP live. Although times have moved on since "we" laid the first modern cable to the Antipodes the system still works. And so it should considering it probably cost as much as Concorde did.
Naturally, the biggest difference between a "layer" and a "repairer" is the quantity of cable carried. Also none of the "old-style" repair ships could pay out a cable from aft..all done from the front...not very efficient really, but good for repair work. Nor could the older ships easily handle the large "repeaters" laid within the telephone cables. Some attempt was made as a stop-gap by fitting lifting gantries overhanging the bows of some of the older ships, but a stop-gap was really all it was. Forgive me if I repeat myself, but I may have mentioned that the "repeaters" (amplifiers) were about the same size and weight as a modern air-launched torpedo and were laid every 7 miles. Thats a lot of repeaters across the Pacific. The new repair ship "Retriever" was based in Fiji to be the nursemaid for that section of the Pacific. "Cable Enterprise" based in Singapore was to llok after the SE Asia sections (Seacom). As far as I recall there wasn't much in the way of a cabele network in (or under) the Indian Ocean...but I guess land lines could be used more effectively in that region.
One of the design features of "Mercury" was the large cable-deck (think "hangar deck" on "Illustrious" etc.) that would make the loading, testing and laying of this new type of cable efficient.  This "new" sort of cable looked entirely different to the steel armoured stuff I have talked about on earlier posts. No metal visible. To look at it is a sort of semi-transluscent white-ish  plasticky-polythene kind of thing. And still only just over 1" in diameter. Cost a fortune, and meant to last until judgement day.
For the "leg" I was involved in "Mercury" loaded about 1200 miles. That also meant around 170 "repeaters" each costing around £100,000 each at 1960s prices, and with the cable itself at around £10 per foot made a fully loaded "Mercury" a very valuable ship. The repeaters were attached to the cable at the STC works prior to loading on board. Obviously the sections with the repeaters could not be coiled into the "tanks" with the cable so they were strung on "loops"around the cable deck. It all looked very complicated to a youngster like me. But I just assumed they knew what they were doing. At sea, every now and again "for testing purposes" the cable engineers had to "power up" the whole 1200 miles plus repeaters. Any deck guys reading this will imagine what happened next. Three 400 mile coils with loads of amps being pushed along does NOT make for an accurate magnetic compass! The thing went beserk. Quite funny really. (Yes, of course we had gyros).
For such a big international project we also carried a team of GPO cable engineers to supplement the C&W team. Many of the GPO lads had never been to sea before, and those that had were really only used to coastal waters. "Deep Sea" was a new thing for them. It must also have bemused GPO management as they tried to tell the GPO staff that the voyage between the UK and Fiji would be counted as a cruise and so would be counted as vacation time when the leave entitlements were totted up. Much annoyance. Does the GPO Management never learn?
After leaving Panama everything was looking cosy. Until I hit a whale. Not me personally, but sometime during my 12-4 night watch we did. It must have been asleep on the surface or something, but we were doing 17 knots and the ship nearly stopped dead. Slow down and check for damage. None. Carry on. Hitting semi-submerged things is not that unusual....just unlucky. Loads of junk just hiding under the surface waitiing to be hit. But in the middle of a squillion square miles of ocean a 50' whale and a 10,000 ton ship decided to occupy the same few square feet. The design of "Mercury" was such that the bow at water level was invisible from any point on board. It was only when we got to Fiji that we could see that the whole bow area was covered in dried blood and gore. The enclosed pic does not show this, but may explain why the waterline was unseeable.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 16, 2008, 09:04:38 pm
Laying a cable is not just a matter of matching the winch paying out speed to the speed of the ship. First, the watcheshad to be doubled. One Officer on the bridge and another at the back end. Very tiring. The guy on the bridge really just did the normal things,with one exception. In those days accurate echo-sounders for deep water (we are talking about up to 6 miles deep here) were not available. To get over this the C&W engineers cobbled up another system. I am neither an electrics whiz or a sound engineer, but as best I can (looking at 1967) what they did was to get hold of a "Mufax" machine. A "Mufax" was really meant to print out weather forecasts (another subject entirely) on a wet paper scroll. This was connected to a radio that received pulses and passed the message to the Mufax. So the ship got wet weather maps (the paper, not the weather) about 18" wide in soggy black and grey. Good for its time though. Our Boffins decided to increase the power of the usual piezzo-electric transmitter in the bottom of the hull and re-direct its return echo to their modified Mufax machine. When in operation it all sounded a bit like an old movie with "ping" going out and another"ping" coming in. As we would only be doing about 7 knots the picture of the sea bed was remarkable. Another first for "Mercury". I imagine these scrolls are held somewhere...at least, I hope so.
Thats the bridge, the guy at the back end had other things to do. The cable itself had a black stripe embedded in it that had to be kept as straight as possible (not straight meant the cable had a twist in it...not good). A twist would normally be caused by the cable running up one side of a sheave and curling back to the centre where it should be. The guy at the back would tell the bridge and he up there would swing the ship a little to bring things back into line. The 2nd mind concentrator for the guy at the back was the perio just before, during and just after a repeater was payed out through the 5 sheave paying out machine. A pic will show this.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 16, 2008, 09:18:46 pm
It is pretty obvious that a "torpedo" thingy would not go easily around all those wheels. So it had to travel along the trough as seen in the pic. But the big wheels had to keep turning (where have I heard that before?!!). So a by-pass rope was fitted into the line. It was a bit like changing railway points between carriages. Pulling that lever I always found pretty nerve wracking as a miss-time could cost millions of £ and weeks of time. And I was only a lowly 24 year old 3/O.  A bit out of context, but this is how the cable was loaded into the tanks. Took a long time.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 16, 2008, 10:27:24 pm
Another innovation at this time was the introduction of the (American) "Omega" navigation system. This was supposed to be the all singing all dancing system of global navigation that would make the older "Loran A and C" (also American) system redundant.  As a "navigator" I always thought Loran was a heap of excrement as it took too long to get a decent result....but "Omega" was something else. It takes a country like the USA to market a heap of poo like Loran and then try to replace it with an even bigger heap of it. At this time the "Decca Navigator" was widely used. Invaluable for cable repair work up to about 200 miles from shore. But it was a "coastal" thing for those countries that installed the system. Any idiot could operate the Decca system as all you had to do was to read 3 clocks and find the points on a chart where the readings coincided. The Americans liked us having a 2' high stack of "correction" manuals and an oscilloscope on which the poor watchkeeper had to line up peaks and troughs. A Nightmare!
I think that "Mercury" must have been used as a vehicle for testing out "Omega"....although our MOD was later conned into buying it. Anyway, our "Omega" system went "boobs"-up so we were told to terminate the lay and buoy off the end then go to Guam to have the "Omega" looked at.  About 600 miles. Our Captain at the time was an absolutely superb seaman who looked like a trunkated version of James Robertson Justice. (This is for older readers!).  He must have been bored as he decided to have a full scale  abandon ship exercise at 5am. Fortunately I was still awake having just come off the 12-4. But he was serious. Everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) was embarked into the lifeboats. The Captain was the only person left on board. Then he took the ship away.
(He was a bit "touched"). So there we were. 200 people in lifeboats in the middle of the Pacific. No sign of the ship. So we all got together and us "navs" reckoned that Guam was thataway...and set off accordingly. A certain amount of panic had to be suppressed. but it really was a beautiful sunrise on a wonderful ocean. I was quite enjoying it! But our Captain (smart "xxxxx")  had jus taken the ship below the horizon and circled back. After about 8 hours in the boats he brought "Mercury" back up to us again.
He looked very pleased with himself. The GPO bunch were not best pleased and reported the whole thing back home. The C&W management must have had a better sense of humour than the GPO lot as all our Captain got was a message saying (I paraphrase)
"We understand the requirement to exercise the ships company in emergency procedures, but it should be emphasised that sufficient personnel should remain on board to deal with any further emergencies". And THAT I suggest is what I would call really enlightened management.
End of day. Continue later. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 17, 2008, 04:58:17 pm
Guam and onwards.
Our "berth" in Guam was a bit of a surprise. I for one hadn't realised that Guam in those days was just one big US military base. But these were the days when the US Air Force were attempting to re-configure N.Vietnam from a vast height. The "berth" was pretty well adjacent to the main runway where B52s were taking off and landing 24 hours a day. A bit too noisy really for us who were used to the tranquility of ocean travel. Even 42 years later I still have vivid memories of these behemoths launching off within minutes of each other. All 8 engines howling and the wing tips almost touching the ground until they got "lift". The night launches were also pretty spectacular.
A big surprise to us was that the USN considered the "Omega" system to be a classified bit of kit whilst we Brits in our ignorance thought of it as being just another bit of commercial junk.
I mentioned the Mariana Trench earlier...I think, but if I haven't then remind me.
When we returned to the UK I left C&W. A wonderful company to work for but domestic circumstances forced a change...so I joined the RFA and stayed there until I retired...but that is all another story. Thanks for reading this lot. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 25, 2008, 08:07:27 pm
H Bryan
Interesting insight into the cable workings.

I remember going onto the C&W (I think) ship stationed in Vigo several times it was stationed there for years in 60s 70s.
Dave
During the 1960's I guess the ships you saw were the old "Mirror" or the newer "Recorder". The ships were actually based in Gibraltar and had Spanish crews (and very good ones at that). Being Spanish and based in Gib. in the 60's brought about its own problems that led to the occasional bit of violence. As most of the crew came from areas not too far from Vigo it was an obvious place to give the crew a bit of R & R. I used to be entranced by the little fishing port opposite Vigo, and had many memorable (to a degree) lunches there.
The "Norseman" was different. As she spent most of her life based in Rio she had a Portuguese crew with some Brasilians. It always struck me as "odd" that the Portuguese were quite happy to spend 2 years away from their families "back home" until I found out that most of them had a second family in Rio, and as most of them owned a smallholding farm in Portugal they were quite content to allow "wife no.1" to maintain it. I recall that the bosun joined "Norseman" as a deck-boy when the ship was new and retired when the ship was scrapped. 40 years on one ship with a month at "home" once every 2 years. Fortitude? The "mind-set" of this crew was also strange as most of them came from the cod fishing fraternity. These were the guys who used to go out to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland in schooners and were then set adrift in little dorys' for days on end. The loss rate was horrendous. No radars then. Just trust in their Captain to come back and find them (and the fish). Perhaps that is why the crew preffered to eat a cods head as opposed to the bit we like with the chips. We had a new Captain at one time who was appalled that the crew had to eat cods heads while we orifices had the "good bits". "All Shall Eat The Same" he decreed. The crew went on strike until they got their cods heads back. Wrong thread perhaps, but it is remarkable that a sense of "withdrawal" can occur when the 'net is cut off. After a couple of days I managed to finish jobs that had been hanging around for yonks. Win some, lose some. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 26, 2008, 05:56:30 pm
I think I shall make this a daily serial of "odd snatches" of life at sea. Be better than "East Enders" at the least...and it will be true.
We have all heard tales of (so-called) "Ball Lightning". Some of you may think it doesn't exist. Wrong. Back in 1957/8 I was a cadet in the "Ben Line" on "Bennevis" ( ex "Ocean Gallant", if memory serves). Not being the "farmer" that night on the 12-4 morning watch I was doing my stint on the wheel. Nice night. Somewhere between Singapore and the Philippines. Quite unexpectedly an orange ball about the size of an old fashioned "medicine ball" flowed through the wheelhouse windows. The OOW ducked and I was a bit too mesmerised to do anything. This "thing" floated past my head into the chartroom and down the stairs and was lost from my sight. Soon afterwards the Captain and some others appeared on the bridge wanting to know why they had been woken up by a bright orange light that permeated everything. It faded quite quickly, and all returned to normal. Never saw anything like it again. And this is true! BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: polaris on March 27, 2008, 06:36:47 pm

Dear Bryan,

What you say is perfectly correct. I know of two instances - the first coastal and the other 1.5 miles from the sea.

The first was during a massive nightime thunderstorm and was seen by my Mother and her Family. A ball of "fire" was seen "hanging in the sky", and after five minutes or so simply faded away. The second was also at night and was seen in the parlor of a farm, when "something the size of a small ball' came down the chimney and "went round the room a few times and went out leaving the smell of sulphur" - this instance was in the 1930's. They seem to be a 'night thing', but most likely they are not noticed during daylight, but, whatever be the case, they are very rare.

They can also be called Thunder Bolts.

Regards, Bernard
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 27, 2008, 10:26:28 pm
Moving on a little to 1976. The year of the long hot summer. It was also the anniversary of something important in the USA...so important that I can't remember what it was. But our "powers that be" decreed that a "fleet" (Ha!) of RN and RFAs should attend..to show the flag as it were. I was 1/O(Nav) on the ""Olna" at the time. Creaming across the N.Atlantic in a group of perhaps 7 ships we had a serious "Seizure" within the stern gland to the prop. We were the only "tanker" for the group. Consternation ensued. As we had our own problems to deal with I can only assume that the USN helped out. We were lying basically adrift when our RN Pilot (Wessex helo sort) suggested that he and his team which included a diver should "have a look". So off they went. The first reports were that the hose-line that was prematurley let go from HMS "Lowestoft" had got itself really well and truly seized into our prop bearings. Great. Not an SOS but a call for assistance to MoD resulted in the 2 big "R" class tugs being sent out to help. "Our" diver went down again and after being nuzzled by a shark reported that the rope had just about disentangled itself. Captain and Ch.Eng. decided to "go for it"....and so we did with the proviso that we would NOT change speed from "full ahead" as the stern bearings would last longer that way (or so I was told). So we headed back towards the UK. 21 knots, balls out. ....I forgot to tell you that there was a single handed yacht race across the Atlantic going on at the same time. A "thing" was seen in the water which proved to be a capsized (French) yacht, so we really did have to help..troubles or not. Much grumbling from the mechanistas but we had to do it. The "Zodiac" was sent away with the No.1 crew. Within 3 minutes of leaving the ship it had impaled itsellf on the semi-submerged mast of the yacht. Much embarrassment. The "real" crash-boat was manned and sent. The poor guy on the yacht must have had odd thoughts....but he had a broken neck. The crash-boat crew got him back alongside the ship but our (very elderly) doctor refused to go down the 8ft ladder to assist. So 2 very good ABs carried the poor guy to the deck. Of course the Zodiac was still impaled so they and the crew had to be "rescued". Done. I was on the bridge watching all this lot, with the Captain looking increasingly distraught, muttering stuff like "why did it have to happen to me" and suchlike.
The yacht itself was very valuable so it was decided (above my pay grade) to take it in tow. The worst case scenario. we were stopped, as was a half submerged yacht. Tie a tow rope on and guess what...it gets tangled up in our prop. so the yacht is dragged into our prop an is basically minced into little pieces. Oh dear, how sad, never mind. By this time the 2 big tugs had dropped whatever they were doing and were coming to fetch us. Not a chance. Back up to full revs again and head for home. I actually passed between the 2 tugs but going in opposite directions. They must have been seriously miffed. We eventually came to rest in the big dry-dock in Falmouth. Enthusiiastic cutting out of our shell plating etc. allowed the prop shaft and all the associated bits to be removed and sent to Tyneside....who just happened to be starting there 2 week holiday. So there we were. Stuck. A free holiday in Falmouth for (as it turned out) 6 weeks. And then we went chasing the "Kiev"...
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: polaris on March 28, 2008, 12:33:20 pm

Dear Bryan,

I forgot to date the first event in my prev. Post, it was 1942.

Regards, Bernard
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 28, 2008, 06:30:21 pm
Until I joined the RFA I had never been on a tanker in my life. I had always preferred to see the cargo coming in (or out) rather than taking it on trust. But the RFA is not just tankers. There were ammunition ships, general stores ships, an aviation ship,Landing ships/troop carriers, a survey ship and various others, a big fleet that stayed out of the limelight as much as possible. So the personnel moved around a lot between the various classes. One heck of a good education in things nautical. My first tanker was a freighting one called "Pearleaf" (actually owned by Blue Funnel, but none of us knew this until after the Falklands thing and MoD decided that she was redundant). At the time (1970) her main job was to ferry fuel oil from Iraq (and elsewhere) to Singapore. Good training for a new 2/O Nav. Tankers are smelly things. To my dying day I shall remember stading over a 6" sighting port trying to gauge the ullage when the oil was coming into the tank at 1000 tons per hour. Awful. Before I joined Pearleaf I told MoD that I had no experience maintaining Gyro Compasses (the 2/Os job then). The standard bit of kit then was the "Sperry"...about the size of an old fashioned dust-bin. The gyro itself was a 56lb wheel that whanged around at 36000 rpm. Not a toy to be played with, but as all the main electrical contacts were open mercury filled "tubs" a fair amount of maintenance was called for. A few years later I had one that ran amok and nearly destroyed a steel compartment...but that's another story. Anyway, MoD took pity on me and sent me on a "course". I have been on many courses but this one was special. The venue was Ditton Park castle near Windsor/Slough. This place was/is the Admiralty compass establishment. I was the only student. All the civil servants who worked there would go home at "close of play" leaving me the only inhabitant of an ancient castle complete with ramparts, battlements, a moat and a drawbridge. Absolute magic! After learning all I could about the Sperry thingy I was stuffed into a backward facing seat on an RAF VC10 to go to Bahrein. As luck would have it my seat neighbour was a Harrier pilot (then called a Kestrel)  who had been the pilot of the aircraft that famously took off from a coal yard in London as part of a transatlantic race. That passed the time away. After finding my way around the Persian Gulf (on paper) I got the ship back to Singapore, but coming back into the Gulf was odd. I had never actually entered the Gulf and just assumed I would turn North(ish) for a bit and then turn East(ish). Nope. There is a moving boundary line of temperature and humidity in the area of the Hormuz strait. It is invisible, but just as sharp as a line drawn on paper. At around 2am we must have crossed this line as we suddenly encountered thick fog. So I did all the necessary, called the Captain, put the Engine Room on "stand-by" and began blowing the whistle. That's when the (huge) Mongolian quartermaster left the wheel, shoved me to one side and began wiping off the heavy condensation from the inside of the bridge windows. One of lifes more embarrassing episodes. That cost me more than a few beers. But our "old-salt" Captain later told me that he was waiting to see my reaction and that I was by no means the first to be caught out. Since then I have done the same to Gulf "newcomers" and so regained my lost beers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 28, 2008, 06:53:09 pm
Seen this? Sent to me via an e-mail. I would love a poster of it. It originally came from a rig manager off St.Johns, Newfoundland.
It was estimated to weigh 300,000 tons so it was towed away (!) out of danger to the rigs.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 29, 2008, 07:56:05 pm
Another day in the life of a simple sailor. Back aboard RFA "Pearleaf" again. Our Radio Officer (only one in this class...4 of them plu a Yeoman and signallers on the "bigger" ships)came across a tin of luminous paint. I think it must have been meant for touching up the many luminous dials we had then. Quite radio-active I believe, but we didn't know that at the time. (1969/70). He decided to paint a human skeleton on to the front of a dark blue boilersuit. A "test-run" in his darkened cabin proved satisfactory. You may recall that I had a little score to settle with our 6'6" Mongolian quartermaster....so the scenario was set. On a very dark, moonless and cloudy night in the Indian Ocean at around 3am the R/O donned the suit and made his way to the fo'c'sle. I turned off the mast nav. lights, and that was his cue to turn around and dance. The QM screamed and ran off the bridge. If I hadn't known what was going to happen I would have joined him. I just left the auto-pilot on, switched the lights back on and continued until the end of the watch. The QM was quite nice to me after that.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 30, 2008, 06:07:58 pm
Another day in the life of a simple sailor. Back aboard RFA "Pearleaf" again. Our Radio Officer (only one in this class...4 of them plu a Yeoman and signallers on the "bigger" ships)came across a tin of luminous paint. I think it must have been meant for touching up the many luminous dials we had then. Quite radio-active I believe, but we didn't know that at the time. (1969/70). He decided to paint a human skeleton on to the front of a dark blue boilersuit. A "test-run" in his darkened cabin proved satisfactory. You may recall that I had a little score to settle with our 6'6" Mongolian quartermaster....so the scenario was set. On a very dark, moonless and cloudy night in the Indian Ocean at around 3am the R/O donned the suit and made his way to the fo'c'sle. I turned off the mast nav. lights, and that was his cue to turn around and dance. The QM screamed and ran off the bridge. If I hadn't known what was going to happen I would have joined him. I just left the auto-pilot on, switched the lights back on and continued until the end of the watch. The QM was quite nice to me after that.
Just thought that I should really have showed what the ship looked like:-
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 30, 2008, 07:47:02 pm
RFAs generally have a major refit and update each 2 or 3 years. Each refit lasting about 3 or 4 months. As the ships are expected to be in a generally good condition this frequency probably explains their longevity. I have had a few e-mails complaining that this is supposed to be a "model boat" forum, I think that at least an inkling of how ships and their crews worked can help a model maker. So no apologies. The next 2 are about RFAs "Resource" and "Regent". Big ships that were seldom seen by the general public unless the observer was out on Plymouth Sound or up Loch Long. Being ammunition ships they were always kept "a certain distance" from habitation. Never mind that aircraft carriers carried a similar amount of "stuff" and were allowed alongside. To my little mind this was always a rather odd thing, as isolating a major ammunition ship miles from anywhere without any security made it a prime and easy target for any "organisation" that wanted to make some sort of statement. Especially during the IRA years. Designed in the late 1950s and produced in the mid 1960s they were to be part of Harold Wilsons' (and "Tony" Benn) carrier strike force. Is this starting to sound familiar? In the mid 1960s the RFA was so supplied with 3 "Ol" class fuel replenishment ships, 3 new store ships (the Ness class) and the 2 "R" class ammo ships. The RN also took delivery of what was to be the first of many "Bristol" class cruisers, and of course, the "County" class destroyers. I don't know about the subs as they live in a world of their own (until many years later when "Diligence" came onto the scene). The RN also got "Fearless" and "Intrepid" and loads of frigates (Leanders). So we had a pretty big and powerful Navy until Wilson and his lot axed the carrier programme leaving the RN and the RFA orphans without a mother. The new RFAs were a massive departure from the old, although the "new" Tide class were pointing the way forward. "Resource" and "Regent" were very big and very heavy ships. Around 660ft long. The flight decks were higher than that of the old "Ark Royal". For some strange reason that would escape a modern naval architect they were designed to sink in an upright and level posture. Work that one out if you can! The core of the ship(s) was a huge "duct keel". A duct keel is a squre tube, basically. This one (if it were not for the presence of the massive bottom framing) was big enough to drive a car through it. All the hull scantlings were huge. The main deck plating was over 1" thick (compared to modern ones that are 1/2 that thickness). And to allow for easy "run-off" of contaminated water....we are in the "cold-war"....there were no upstands at the deck edges, so the hull always looked a bit scruffy. The original design was meant to look a bit like the Canadian "Protecteur" class, but ours were designed by the RN "Constructors". Can.t leave well enough alone. So instead of having only 3 decks at the back end we finished up with 6, and at the bridge end "they" forgot to design in accommodation for the Radio Officers...which meant another deck amidships. That is why when you look at the eventual pic the sidelights are 2 decks below the bridge...as was the Captains cabin. A wee touch of incompetence here. All this added weight to the original design, which in turn brought in the law of unintended returns. In this case stability. Concrete and all sorts were tried until some bright spark (no pun intended) suggested using 3,000 tons of unused WW2 500lb bombs as ballast. After all, it is an ammunition ship. And so it was done. Another feature of the 2 ships was that they would carry the bulk of the RN supply of "Sea Slug" missiles. You know the one, the thing that was launched from the Meccano contraption on the back end of the "County" class destroyers. To stow these things ( and we must have carried over 50 of them) they had to be carried on their own deck and not in a hold. To this end the top deck between the midships house and the after one was one continuous deck. 400ft? Each "Sea Slug" came in its own tubular cradle that also doubled as a fire main. (THAT guaranteed a lot of peace of mind), and had to be connected to the ships fire main so you can imagine the pipework and hose connections to that lot. When "Sea Slug" was abandoned the space was utilised for the stowage of "Milan" missiles and others of that ilk. All with the warheads pointing outboard....until the "boffins" were told that each missile was aimed directly into a crew members cabin. Oops. In truth, at sea theses 2 ships were very good. Fast, quiet and comfortable. Very easy to handle despite their size and being single screw. Alas. Although the bomb load ballast was effective and had to be retained along came the "Torrey Canyon". Another source of 500lb bombs had to be found, and they were found supposedly fit and well in storage in Malta. So off we went, got the bombs, came home and gave them to the RN and RAF. Older readers will recall that a lot of them were "duff". Such is life. But we were allowed to keep our "ballast" until the Falklands thing came along. Then the bombs were taken away and another sort of ballast put in its place. Not too good. From then on the ship never seemed "quite right" and a certain amount of nervousness set in when bad weather was encountered. I will give you a story of a typical refit on this ship next.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 30, 2008, 11:22:15 pm
Refits lasting 3 - 4 months. That must be even better than C&W!!!  ;D Those of us in the commercial world had to be content with less than half that time. Mind you, we had to show a profit and couldn't rely on the taxpayer's cash.   ???
Hopefuly you were talking with tongue in cheek? Ever seen how long it takes to refit a warship? 2 years and more. And the RFAs are the so-called "little-juniors"...even when they are fitted with Phalanx guns, 20mm cannon, decoy systems, ability to operate 5  (5) Sea King Helicopters, re-arm them and send them out again, at the same time as re-fuelling/re-storing 2 other ships. Frankly Barry, you ought to learn more about the value for money the RFA gives, and not speak from hearsay. The RFA is still civilian manned and operates ships quite effectively (for the purpose) with smaller equivelant crews than the RN does. How long does a "commercial" ship last these days? How much "in depth" maintenance does it get? A commercial ship is there to make a profit for the owner and as soon as that goes down out goes the ship and in all probability the jobs of those in her...to be replaced by cheaper crews who in all probability don't even know how they finished up there. Sarcasm I can accept. Jokes I can accept. But cheap jibes from someone who should know better I will not accept. The "Fort Austin" and "Fort Grange" (as was) were brought into service in 1979. They still look immaculate and are, although elderly, still vital components of our rapidly declining Fleet. Sorry, but you touched a raw nerve there with the barb about taxpayers cash. Cheers. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 31, 2008, 12:35:56 am
Bryan,
Sorry if I upset you as that was not my intent but I stiil believe that commercial operations are an incentive to get it right and at best value. Responsible shipowners (and I readily admit they are not all in that class) know that a well maintained vessel leads to an efficient - and thus profitable - enterprise. Where is the incentive for MoD - with a track record of over-runs in budget and timing - to do likewise?

Regards

Barry M
The incentive is not for MoD but for ComRFA. He has to live within a budget. I think you will find that most of the over-runs in every field lie pretty firmly within MoD Whitehall and NOT with the people "on the ground" (as it were). I agree that there is no profit motive, but that in itself doesn't mean that there is no incentive. There is a huge difference between "cost-cutting" and "cost-efficiency", and I think that therein lies the problem/arguement. One is politically driven and the other really just wants to get on with the job....efficiently. A basic lack of understanding seems to pervade the "suits", and these days (in all cases regarding any of the "people defending the realm") this closed mind set and antipathy towards those who do care seem to be in the ascendancy...witness your own posting earlier because you believed that money spent maintaining ships was not profitable. It is not about profit! How do you quantify real security? It is not money. It is the quality of the people you entrust that security to...and they need tools to do that job. Forget the debacle of the Iranian gunboats, and the stupidity of some of those involved, but think of all the good things that have been done against the odds. People. Not Money.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 31, 2008, 08:13:12 am
Bryan,

I do not believe that I have ever said I believed that "money spent maintaining ships was not profitable", although I do not deny that that is an opinion held in some quarters (some US companies come to mind). However, commercial operations do have to demonstrate that they can operate efficiently, in safety and profitably. This concentrates minds in a big way. A service operation like RFA (whatever its budget) will not come under the same pressure to examine its operations to  ensure best practice and, even if it incurs cost over-runs, will not go bust.

I worked for a company where one segment of its marine operations operated (expensively) to a particular service regime because "that was how we always do it". When the system was shaken up and the service operated under a revised and more efficient manner, the costs reduced. Being a service operation, it could never make a profit, but it could - and did - reduce expenditure.

Having got that off my chest I think we should agree to differ while remaining on terms. Now by all means go on with your postings; I find them very interesting, informative and amusing and I'm sure that is a view shared by the majority of Mayhemers.

Regards

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 31, 2008, 05:18:55 pm
RFA "Resource" underwent a refit at Barclay-Curle in 1972. I greeted this with a bit of trepidation given the apocryphal tales I had heard about Glasgow. But I reckoned that if I could survive the rigours of a "session" in the "Jungle" (North Shields) I could survive anywhere. So it was with a sense of bemusement that I found the area around B-Cs to be a "dry" area. Dry? In Glasgow? This was akin to finding a Scottish-Newcastle pub in Jeddah. Would Billy Connolly have been working there in 1972? I hope he was. "Resource" and "Regent" (Remorse and Regret) were the then "state of the art" ammo ships. So many secrets regarding their "cargo". I think I have mentioned the "triple crewing" stuff. But refits tend to be about the ship and so the refit staff would be a token civil-servant (a weapons guy), a few senior rates from the embarked flight, 3 deck officers, a Radio officer and a multitude of clankies (reasonable enough as most of the refit would revolve around their interests). And we all lived in various lodgings somewhere. Our first "hiccup" came when the "dockyard-mateys" found a load of plastic dustbins in one of the holds. These were speedily taken ashore and erected as goalposts for the regular lunchtime footie match. (Not all "mateys" disappeared off to the nearest pub at lunchtime). About a week later our "resident" civil-servant decided to pay us a visit and do his "jobs-worth" thing. Even before he reached the ship he threw the most tremendous "wobbler" I had ever seen. It turned out that the "goalposts" were in fact secret containers for nuclear depth charges that the civil-service crew had forgotten to off-load during de-storing. Nothing to do with us chummy, we were never allowed anywhere near the "nasties" compartments! Now, of course, everybody in Glasgow and points east knew what they were. If only he had kept quiet! The next "biggie" was to be the removal of the LP turbine minus its casing. (The LP turbine is the biggest one). "Resource" was a very "tall" ship at the back end entailing a lift of over 100ft to clear the ship. After days of preparation the lift commenced. All was fine until the turbine was within 20ft of being landed and great sighs of relief could be heard. Then the wind blew. The crane jib wobbled sending a "wave" down the lowering wire. In those days a lot of ships still needed "props" when in drydock. We didn't so the long (30ft?) props were arranged vertically along the side of the dock. About 20 of them. The wave in the wire snatched the guide ropes out of the hands of the handlers. The turbine whacked into the first "prop" and created a large "V" shape among the blades..and then the prop toppled...hitting the next one etc. just like a set of dominoes. The noise! The mess! The shouting and tearing of hair was quite theatrical. It was around this time that the turbines from the QE2 "fell off" the back of a truck taking them to Germany. Eventually we got our engine back and the refit was coming to an end. We needed about 500 tons of FFO (Furnace Fuel Oil) to maintain stability and get us to Loch Striven where we would fully refuel....if we didn't turn corners too fast. This wee dab of fuel was to be loaded while the dock was part flooded and at night. So the ship was still "on the blocks". The night (junior) engineer was entrusted with this reasonably simple task. An awful smell of FFO greeted us the next morning as we arrived from our lodgings.Somehow the poor guy had managed to pump 500 tons of oil into the starboard side of the ship and straight out of the port side into the semi-flooded dry-dock. That extra 500 tons was almost enough to make us wobble, which would have been a mega catastrophe. Gawd knows who paid for all this, but as I was just a lowly 2/O it was all above my pay grade.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 31, 2008, 07:20:42 pm
MMMFFFMMMFFFTTTMMTFTFTFMMMMFFTFTFM = Sound of Chief Clankie (eh?) keeping hand over mouth and trying desperately hard not to make comment about RFA.  {-)  {-)  {-)  {-) :o  :o  :o  ::)  ::)  ::)

Cheers

Barry M
Nothing wrong with being a clankie when we wus called fish-heads and "sparkies" were all considered to have been spawned by hat manufacturers. More a term of endearment really! I actually began my career as an Engineer (coming from a long line of them) and was enticed by the photos of Engineers in immaculate white boiler-suits with caps on their heads. (I was only 16). Taken to a ship "to have a look" (Common Brothers) I quickly noticed a bunch of really filthy, oil soaked and knackered people. "Who are they?", "They are our Engineers". End of story and a hasty retreat. But I really do admire the skills and proffesionalism of ALL engineers, marine or otherwise. Although we are still allowed to poke fun at each other, are we not....or has the EU banned that as well. Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 01, 2008, 02:29:54 pm
RFA "Retainer" (part one). "Retainer" was originally built as a cargo-passenger ship for China Steam Nav as "Chungking". The RFA bought her and her sister ship later re-named "Resurgent" (but as I never sailed on her I shall ignore her). This was my first ship as first officer and I loved her dearly. Although getting on in years and had been chopped about a bit by the RFA, she still had an element of old fashioned grace and style about her. She had also managed to evade the vandalism of a superintendent who wanted to demolish the old passsenger lounge/bar and fit generators in its place as he had done with Resurgent. That bar made the ship. Situated at the back end of the boat deck it was large and airy with glass patio type doors on 3 sides. Very decadent for an RFA. This ship had few of the (then) modern systems of a purpose built RFA and was none the worse for it...especially to someone like me who enjoys his home comforts. There was also an old but very good upright piano that got a lot of use (and abuse). That is until one very late night some of the engineers decided to strip it down into its component parts. Every bit, including the frame and the woodwork. Must have taken them hours. They then laid out the hundreds of bits in a fan shape on the deck. When I did my early morning rounds and found it I really couldn't stop laughing..,even though it could be counted as a serious act of vandalism. Naturally he who must be obeyed had to be informed, who was understandably furious, but also had a good laugh when he saw it. Obviously he had to hold an enquirey, it was also obvious that it had to have been the work of the 8-12 and 12-4 watchkeepers. The guilty ones were duly hauled up and made to wait in an ante-room. Much trepidation as this Captain had a fearsome reputation..unfairly I thought...but what they didn't know was that the rather lengthy wait was while I waited for the old-man to stop chuckling and put on his "grim" face. Took him about half an hour, and this man could look thunderous when required. Lots of quaking in shoes followed. The upshot was that the guilty ones were ordered to re-build the thing during their off-duty hours and their "tap" was stopped for as long as it took to re-build to the captains satisfaction. Took a couple of weeks, but it never sounded the same again...unsurprisingly. But that did'nt matter much as shortly afterwards, one very rough afternoon it broke free of its tethers, crashed through a patio door and chipped itself to bits as it was forced through the side rails. Not that the crew were innocent lambs though. We had a bit of a visit to La Madelena (Sardinia) where there was a sort of Nato Naval Base...and a French Foriegn Legion post. British seamen invariably make the right choice as to who to go on the razzle with. Naturally, they missed the last boat back to the ship. No worries there, they just liberated a fleet of pedalos from a beach and peddalled back, then let the pedalos run free thinking no-one would be able to prove anything. There is very little in the way of tides or currents there. So come daylight it was sort of noticed that RFA "Retainer" was surrounded by a lot of free-floating pedalos. That cost the "lads" quite a lot as the local gendarmerie didn't have much of a sense of humour. End of part 1.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 01, 2008, 02:33:45 pm
"Retainer"...(2). From the 2 pics you will see that among many changes the original bridge has been removed (made into the Captains cabin) and a new bridge built on top.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 01, 2008, 02:35:15 pm
Sorry, hit the wrong button!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 01, 2008, 02:36:26 pm
Retainer pic 2
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 01, 2008, 03:27:18 pm
"Retainer"..last part. "Retainer" and "Resurgent" were really general stores ships but were in reality ammunition ships with a general stores capability. Which is why we seldom got anywhere near a jetty to tie up against. Always felt like pariahs when all the other ships in a group tied up somewhere nice and got spoiled rotten while we could be up to 12 miles out of the way! The ammo was simple stuff like bombs, shells, bullets and stuff. Nothing really nasty, but enough spoil a towns day. I guess none of this had anything to do with the fact that her electrical supply was DC and she was still wired up with the old fashioned lead and cloth cabling! This meant that if you wanted to bring a radio or tape recorder with you, you also had to lug around a transformer. Being elevated to the rank of 1/O I had no part to play in the navigation of the ship. But that all changed. The Suez Canal was still a pretty dangerous place for shipping in 1974...especially at the Northern end around the Port Said area. The RN was tasked (by NATO?) to use some of its minesweepers to "secure" the area. That was OK, but the "powers that be" decreed that the ammunition ship RFA "Retainer" should lead the minesweepers through a possible minefield into Port Said. Good thinking. Let the civilian manned ship go first. (and you wonder why I have a jaundiced view of the RN!!). Our navigator refused to do it so I was (willingly) co-opted into the job. I had my own reasons for being willing. The main one being that I would prefer to be blown up by my own error rather than worry about the competence of somebody else (we were going to go in no matter who was driving), also I had already sussed out that the many fishing boats in the area must hav a pretty good idea where not to go, so I just went from one group of fishermen to the next with my little fleet of 6 minesweepers a safe (for them) distance behind. The nav. was flown home and left the RFA. Just another day. Alas, the nav. was not replaced so I had to continue doing 2 jobs for the next few months. The bit that really sucked about this was that all the deck officers (including the Captain..not the "piano" one, this one was a greedy soul) got "short- handed" money when I was the only one who had extra work. But who said life was fair? A much funnier episode was when trying to pick up the anchor from some unpronounceable port in Malta. From one of the pics you will see that the windlass area is invisible from the bridge. I was foc's'le officer. After a little while the cable jammed on the gypsy. I could see why, but the bridge couldn't and this very irate captain started the old leaping up and down and ranting performance. A commonly used expression when things go a bit pear-shaped is to say things have "fallen apart". In this case it was literally true. The windlass had literally fallen apart in two halves. All I could do was a Stan Laurel and scratch my head as this baby was going nowhere today. To cut the story short, the windlass was fixed by "stitching" the halhes together, the first time I had ever seen this done and very successful it was. Never got the oil stains out of the wooden deck though. Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 02, 2008, 07:18:31 pm
Every now and again a MoD ship has to undergo "cold weather trials". I think that this is a euphanism for "make the poor sods suffer while we have another cup of tea". I mean, lets face it, if the sea has a layer of ice on it, it doesn't mean that the sea underneath the ice was frozen....otherwise it would be. But the suits had decided that in this particular year (1969?...but that doesn't matter) that "Resource" would do it. So off we trogged (I was the Nav) looking for ice. Just heading North ought to do it. Well, how far North do you have to go before you are heading South again. No ice. Scoot over to Iceland. That must be good. Nope. And this was in the middle of winter. Like January. My arguement that we should wait until March fell upon deaf ears. Stuff'em. So, burning up lots of fuel and getting the whole crew seriously miffed we eventually found some off Greenland. All this time we had been in the "land" of everlasting night. Big ammo ship full of whatever steaming around aimlessly must have confused the hell out of the "Red" team. And all the time the weather was fairly nasty. One gets tired of being bumped around 24 hours a day and never knowing if it was breakfast or dinner time...the cooks didn't either as they just seemed to cook on a whim. But we found ice. The sludgy sort. This was a blessed relief as the ice flattened out the sea to a nice gentle swell and let everybody get a good night (day) sleep. We trudged through this stuff for days getting very bored until one loveley morning the SUN actually popped a little over the horizon.The colours reflecting off the grey ice were amazing and led to the lightening of 200 troglodyte hearts. They say that Norwegians have a very high suicide rate during the winter. I am not surprised. As one Norwegian put it to me, "In Summer there is fishing and f......   but in winter there is only f......" Much as I love Norway I am not surprised. As an aside, Tromso and Port Stanley (Falklands) have one thing in common. They are the only 2 places I have ever been to that have their satelite dishes pointing downwards. Even though Port Stanley is about the same latitude South as Leicester is North. Point to ponder. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 02, 2008, 08:00:28 pm
Remember "Skylab" that came back to earth in 1979? Everybody was assured that it was "well clear" of anybody. Well, they was wrong again. I don't really know what "they" call a "near miss" or "well clear" but it was only 200 miles from RFA "Lyness" when it came down. It must have been in daylight 'cos we didn't see it...but thats close enough to put the willies up me. Moral...DO NOT EVER TRUST WHAT THEM WHAT KNOWS...EVER.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 03, 2008, 07:40:05 pm
Back to basics...the first trip. Having completed my one year pre-sea training at South Shields during 1955/6 I joined the "Ben Line" as a cadet. Being a Scots outfit using "cadets" would have been cheaper than employing apprentices. Joining ones first ship is still a pretty traumatic experience for a 16 year old. First break away from the womb of "home" life and all that. Although I thought that I had joined the "Ben Line" the ship I was to join was called "Bardic".( I thought that all "Ben Line" ships were called "Ben-something"..but not "Bendover" or "Bendoon" ..but what did I know). So there I was in a brand new cadets uniform on Plantation Quay in Glasgow wondering what to do next. In those days the required "kit" for a cadet verged on the ridiculous and filled a very heavy "sea-chest" that a puny little first tripper had very little chance of heaving up what appeared to be an endless and almost vertical gangway. Thoughts of going home but had no money. With spirits as low as the physical stamina the chest was heaved rung by rung up the 300ft to the deck. All the while being educated in the Glaswegian venacular version of the English language. Such nice people to teach someone the art of self sufficiency. "xxxxx". Eventually some bored looking "officer" showed me to a hovel that had 2 bunks in it. The last thing I expected was to be met by a fellow "cadet" that I had just spent a year with at SSMTC and had always hated even on first sight. Oh,Lordy,Lordy, what have I done to offend you? At least he was in tears (also) and commendably had taken the top bunk. Silly "xxxxx". But as we were to spend at least the next 6 months living together in this slum we had better get on with it. Still wanted me mum though. Having hung up my uniform (the last time I would wear it for 6 months until I had to wear it to go "home") and being totally ignored by everybody. This was not the way I had imagined it would be. And surely we would be fed on this "thing" or did one fend for oneself? This subject was not covered during pre-sea training. I was equally not aware the this "thing" had a Chinese crew. Quite startling to a kid who had never before seen a Chinaman. But there began my life-long regard for the Chinese. He (I think he must have been just a deck-boy or something) took me aft to the Chinese quarters and gave me something to eat. Very odd, but very nice. But I would have eaten a boiled rat at this stage..perhaps it was. I also couldn't help noticing that various Chinamen were asleep on the floor (sorry, deck) with their heads propped on wooden things that reminded me (good education) of the blocks that people put their heads on before they were decapitated. But they had their ways. It then and always intrigued me with Chinese crews as to how they could "squat" so comfortably, with the bum almost touching the ground and the knees up to the chin. Odd then, and still odd now. Eventually some person who had to be obeyed (he had 3 stripes on his sleeve) began yelling at us 2 quivering wrecks and told us to go to the "mess room". A term that was probably Martian in origin. Having found this compartment (no other word for it) we were told that this would be where we would eat for the duration of the voyage. As Cadets we were not to be allowed the privelege of eating in the same area as the "proper" officers. This rule applied to the junior engineers also, who shared this wee cubby. The difference was that the engineers were allowed to eat in their boilersuits, but us 2 deck cadets had to be washed and in clean clothes berfore eating. All this is quite character forming. To ask for a glass of iced water in the "mess room" usually brought the response that cold water was for the Officers and not for us. Similarly with sauce. If we had HP sauce on the table we were not "allowed" tomato sauce. You may think I am pulling your leg here, but this is the way it was, truly. As cadets we were not allowed to mix with the officers or use the officers lounge, but nor we we allowed to fraternize with the crew (of whatever nationality). A lonely time that leaves scars. But I had another 2 and a half years of this to go. In those days it was very much frowned upon to change companies. To us cadets this was a given fact. A judge could have sent me to a better place. But my parents had spent a lot of money that they really couldn't afford, and were still under the illusion that their son was being trained as an "officer". The truth was exactly the opposite. We cadets were treated as whipping boys for every sadistic sod that ever went to sea. I will tell you about some of the jobs next.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 03, 2008, 07:58:35 pm
Pic of "Bardic" with any luck;-
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 04, 2008, 05:55:27 pm
The main duty of a very young cadet was "cargo watch". This entailed sitting in a corner of a working hold and making sure none of the puny 6'6" politely spoken stevedores attempted anything naughty regarding the cargo. I really don't think my imposing 5'6" stature had much effect as case after case of whisky was accidentally broken. "Bardic" was an open shelterdeck ship that served during WW2 as the escort carrier HMS "Puncher". We later sailed for Liverpool where the stevedores were like the Glaswegians but the language was different, and instead of drinking liberated whisky they took simple delight in wrecking a consignment of Daimler Conquest Century cars. Eventually we slunk away en-route to New Zealand and into the teeth of a gale that would batter us until we were beyond the Azores. Thats with hindsight as us cadets weren't allowed anywhere near the ivory tower...only much later on were we "allowed" to go up to scrub the deck and polish the brass. Promotion! It's a very odd thing but all my life if the ship was just doing what ships do in normal (?) weather I would feel slightly seasick with the regular heaving (of the ship), rolling and pitching. I'm sure I am not alone in this, but one learns to disguise it. But in really bad weather I was "as happy as Larry". So I was badly sea-sick through the Bay of Biscay until the weather turned really nasty...as did the circumstances. The sail training ship "Pamir" had gone down somewhere near us and we were part of the search team. Nothing found. The entire crew including 84 cadets were lost. Quite an intro. to life at sea. Us cadets were put to really good and purposeful use....things like cleaning blocked toilets or sitting in a stinky sweaty heaving fo'c'sle cutting up old mooring ropes into 6' lengths, stripping the lengths into yarns and then making football sized balls to be used later as cargo separation markers. But one job really sticks in my mind. As well as the normal bilges she had athwartship ones. Basically square tubes about 2.5' in section and nearly 80' long. We were told to paint the inside of one of them with "Silverine". No ventilation, just an open "strum-box" hole at each end. No lights, only a torch, a tin of smelly paint and a 3" brush. My claustrophobia didn't kick in for a few more years. But a moment to savour was the sudden appearance of the bottom of a sounding line in front of me. It clunked a few times on the bottom of the dry bilge, so I gave it a few tugs. I learned later that the Chinese "chippy" had run off in hysterics. I had been warned that as a cadet I would be treated harshly and was sort of prepared for that, but the treatment I and others endured for the next 3 years bordered on the sadistic, and if it happened nowadays the perpetrators would be serving a jail sentence...on second thoughts, perhaps not.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 04, 2008, 09:10:28 pm
Just to lighten the mood after the last one. Before the advent of easy air travel and before Terminal was even a dream, the only way to get "odd" cargoes around the world was by sea. So 3 little tales here. The first one I was not involved with, but a mate of mine was. They were fo some reason carrying a circus from somewhere to somewhere else on the China coast. Naturally, all the animals were in cages except for a cow elephant and her calf that were shackled together and to to the deck. The baby managed to slip its shackle and went walkabout. Enticed by the smells from the galley, that's where it went. And got stuck in the door. Trumpets of distress. The mother elephant broke free and went to the rescue. I will leave the ensuing Chinese Fire Drill to your imagination. The last time I saw a Full Blown chinese fire drill was watching them trying to lasoo a runaway tank ( the 60 ton variety) that had broken adrift on the tank deck of "Bedivere" Another story. But the next 2 I was definetely involved in..although still a cadet. There was an occassion when we had to transport around 30 Military Police dogs to Malaya. (We were having a few problems there at that time). Mainly Alsations but a few Labradors etc. plus a team of Army handlers. The dogs were well accomodated..better than me, anyway; with large kennels and one dog to a kennel. Very quickly the dogs were befriended by the crew (UK this time) and so became pretty useless as police dogs without remedial training. The smaller dogs (Labs) worked out how to slip the collars, and showed the others how to do it. Clever buggers. But they only did it at night. It became a fairly regular thing for the lookout to report growling and scratching of claws on the steel deck...and climbing a mast or whatever to be safe. This only happened to me once, but it was from "my" friendly dog. A really huge Alsation that sadly died during the voyage. But they could scare the pants off the crew though, if the smell wasn't right. The second (and oddest) was when we had to bring a small swimming pool sized tank of live tropical fish from Singapore to Antwerp. The tank was erected in a sheltered spot and 4 little wiry Chinese chaps placed a plank of wood diagonally across each corner of the tank. Our Chinese "painter" (Ben Line carried painters specifically to maintain and paint the wood-grain on the exterior bulkheads) translated. These 4 guys were going to sit (in watches) all the way to Antwerp stirring the water with bamboo poles. The ships engineers evolved a way of using the fire main, filters and heaters to do the job for them. As I recall we did not lose too many fish. But there was a "closer" to this. The "Stand-by" to Antwerp was very long and in those days an anchor party was always deployed. The Carpenter (who always drove the windlass) was in desperate "need", but was refused permission to leave his station... so he "went" down the hawsepipe. Pulling his overall back on he quickly realised that he had missed the hawsepipe and was now wearing his "doings" down his back. Ho Hum. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 05, 2008, 08:25:02 pm
The old "Bennevis" (ex-"ocean Gallant") has to be one of the worst ships I ever sailed in. You would think that a "Ben" boat would have "Ben Nevis" as its flagship.Just the opposite. A really crappy old "Ocean" boat capable of perhaps 10 knots if the elements were favourable. The crew even lived in 10 man dormitories..the old "gunners" accomodation. and this was 1957/8! The cadets had their own bivuacs somewhere up behind the funnel. To go for a shower was an exercise in fortitude, plumbing and engineering expertise. Imagine you are doing this in the depths of a very cold and snowy winter. Strip off and wear a towel..rememember to take your soap (issued one bar per week or less).Go 20 yards and down a ladder and enter the main accomodation block. Then enter the Engine room and turn on the water (hot and cold) supply to the bathroom. Return to bathroom. Have shower. Go back into Engine room and turn off water supply. Dash across open deck, up outside stairs and enter hovel. That's living? But then there were the cockroaches and maggots to be dealt with. This caboose was adjacent to the so-called fresh vegetable locker. Which really meant that due to the rotten steel the cockroaches and maggots had an open door to my house. Better than an alarm clock was the slight tickling of a cockroach sucking the moisture out of a nostril. But us 2 "occupants" had a cunning plan. We would put a cup of cold tea into the bottom of a kit-bag and wait. A few hours later we would have a seething mass of cockroaches in the bag. Then we would use the old "Flit-Gun" as a flame thrower. Insect crematorium...but they kept coming back. Must have killed millions of the buggers. The largest cockroaches I ever saw wer in Port Sudan. Again, as a "cadet" I was on "cargo watch" observing very tall thin black men with huge mops of hair annointed with camel dung (Brylcreem not having reached these parts of the world) loading sacks of Gutta Percha. This must have had some sort of security aspect, but it escaped me. But these guys were a gentle and friendly people who just wanted to show us cadets "things" about their country. The only one I really recall is "the march of the cockroaches". The stevedores took the pair of us to the back end of the ship where the hatch tarpaulins had been laid out to bleach and dry out. At a signal the tarps were whisked back and underneath were millions of these 3" long creatures. An awesome sight. But they must have sensed the water as there was a stampeding headlong rush to the quay edge and a "waterfall" of cockroaches resulted. Lots of big smiles. That is how they dealt with cockroaches on the quay in Port Sudan.
I have often cogitated about my early life at sea. But this forum is better than writing a book. All of you are interested in ships, boats or whatever and so what better place to tell of a life at sea? Better by far than being stuck on a Library shelf and ignored. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 05, 2008, 10:38:02 pm
Why would Mr.Thompson & Co. name this rust bucket after the main "Ben" in Scotland.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 05, 2008, 11:53:39 pm
But I wa still a "first-tripper", this being my first excursion to the magic "Orient". Our first port of call was to a place whose name I cannot recall at the N.end of the Dutch East Indies. Soon to be called Indonesia. All sorts of little wars were going on then between everybody and everybody else. The ship tied up ahead of us was bombed and as she was loading cubes of paraffin wax (what did we use that for?) she went up like a Roman Candle. All very exciting. The downside to this was the thievery. The locals must have been the forefathers of the modern day pirates. I well remember slamming down a scuttle (plus deadlight) on to a bunch of prying fingers and chucking the severed bits out again. Tough, but that is how it was. My first visit to Singapore was "so-so", but Hong Kong was magical. No high-rises then. I loved it. The team of lady painters who slapped new paint on the hull, the traders who were everywhere but wouldn't steal anything, the Star Ferry that cost only a penny. I was more than earning my £13 a month when I bought my parents a beautiful carved top folding coffee table for $84(hong kong) when the $hk was worth 1 shilling and 3 pence. (about 12p now). I now have it after my parents died and it still looks wonderful. It is really hard to convey how marvellous Hong Kong was then. Singapore was drab and smelly. Now the tables have turned and Honk Kong is just a noisy, smelly (diesel) place with concrete canyons instead of streets. Singapore has (in a lot of areas) re-furbished itself and is now more interesting as a result. Go there. But miss out Hong Kong. But back to the fifties:- Our agents must have been scraping the barrel for a cargo for this crappy tub that was supposedly part of a "crack-line" company. (modern usage of "crack" not known then). So we were sent off to Haiphong in N.Vietnam. Just a few years after the French did their usual withdrawing act and the US were just starting to settle in further south. All this just to load 4,000 tons of stone. It was very odd to hear "Orientals" speak French as their first language. The pair of us cadets went off for a walk (having been given permission by "him" after proving we could recite whichever "Rule of the Road" he wanted to hear). I changed £1 into 10,000"dongs" (all in 10 and 100 dong notes) and bought a pith helmet that I still have. Haiphong then was surrounded by paddy fields. But as much as I looked I never glimpsed an Irishman. But we were chased by 2 ton of very angry water buffalo. I have never been so scared in my life..even after all that has happened later. But then off to Shanghai to give them 4.000 tons of stones that they must have really wanted for some reason. Wow! This place in the 50's was from another planet. No cars. Millions of rickshaws. Millions of bikes. Millions of people and millions of smells. THIS was the Orient as far as I was concerned. By now I had discovered the delights of beer. And Shanghai did not disappoint. The old waterfront used to hold the British Consulate that the Chinese had turned into a bar. The superb bar top must have been nearly 100 ft long! And the beer was as good as anything elsi in the world. And I am NOT talking about that yellow stuff they call lager. But everything has a downside. In Shanghai then there were billboards all over the place depicting Americans being skewered and/or decapitated and the heads being used as footballs. Every street lamppost had loudspeakers attached that spewed out exhortations to the populace..loudly. I got the impression that most of the more menial labour was done by women..whose sense of fashion was to paint their gums black and their teeth red. Startling to a young western kid. We had a "mega" accident here. We were using the "new" nylon mooring ropes. Not knowing how much they would stretch and how they could fuse. Quick break, vicious backlash and 3 (UK) crew members cut in half. My luck that it was my turn on the bridge wing, so all I really saw was a red mist before our Captain (a more kindly man than the earlier one) just spun me around and told me to sit down. Such are memories. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 06, 2008, 06:58:25 pm
Just to lighten the mood a little after the last one, a couple of tales about anchors and anchoring.
I think I have mentioned before that the guy on the Bridge seems prone to leaping about and screaming orders to the guys on the foc's'le. It always struck me as odd that "him up there" seemed to forget that he  was once "one of us down there". Arrogance? Possibly. But I think it comes from a misguided feeling of superiororority. "Let it be done" seemed to be the watchword. The first time I saw this was (again) as a cadet when the ship was approaching a quay in Singapore. Port side to the quay. Captain said "let go port anchor". The mate doing the job up on the front end waved his hands and said (basically) No. "That is an order" said God. So we dropped the anchor on to the quay. So many examples of power going to the head I couldn't even begin to describe.
The next one that comes to mind was many years later whilst in "Pearleaf" (RFA). Again involving minesweepers. For some reason that escapes me we had to rendezvous with 6 of these little things off the coast of Socotra. (Look it up yourself). Re-fuelling these things was akin to filling up a car. Similar nozzle. Except that we could pump at "x" thousands of tons an hour...not gallons per minute. Chances were that the little sweeper would be covered in diesel within a few seconds. After a few "hiccups" they were all secured alongside fo the night. Chose a nice anchorage and let go the anchor. Nice an secure. Out of sight of land, overcast cloud and nobody on the bridge thought to check on the anchor cable. When I came up for my watch (4-8 a.m.) I noted that the ships head was "meandering" a bit. Checked the anchor cable and thought it was odd that it was hanging vertically. Called Captain. During the night the ship had dragged the anchor over the edge of the shelf and so the anchor was dangling uselessly underneath us. So we were drifting "somewhere" with 6 minesweepers attached to us with 6 shackles of anchor cable dangling about. No way was the windlass going to be able to lift that weight. So we just moved North (in hope) until the anchor grounded, picked up a bit and went on "bit by bit". We had drifted over 20 miles and no-one had noticed! Could have happened to anybody I suppose.
Many years later whilst in RFA "Fort Austin" coming in to anchor in San Carlos sound a direct order from the bridge to "let-go" led me to ask for a delay...there was plenty of space. NOW!!! was the reply. So I dropped 7 tons of anchor directly on top of a poor unsuspecting little penguin. I hate killing things of whatever genus. I later had a stand-up row with "God" over this and he sort of apologized. But it was on this same ship when we eventually returned "home" from the Falklands we anchored overnight in Broddick Bay. Very secure and safe even in the lousy weather. Picking up the anchor next morning changed all that. We again had about 5 shackles out. ( For those who do not know, a "shackle"is the length of cable between joining shackles and is 15 fathoms long...90 feet). The anchor snagged and the windlass struggled. Wind blew up to 80mph and the ship went backwards. Too much for the windlass (Capstans, actually) which blew a fuse and siezed up. The anchor cable got tight. Each link in this cable would be around 15" long and made of 2.5" dia. steel. I watched this steel being stretched until the links became over 2' long and the centre strut bent. I then cleared the foredeck and waited for the bang. Only time I have ever seen an anchor cable snap. Getting a replacement from Rosyth Dockyard was then a comedy of errors. We had lost 4 shackles of cable plus a 7 ton anchor. All items on an RN or RFA ship have a "pattern number". So I called Rosyth who confirmed that the pattern number I had requested was in stock and would be delivered the next day. 3 days later and still no sign of delivery I called again. OK, they had the pattern in stock, but had not realised that we were asking for perhaps 8 tons of cable. 4 big trucks and no crane to help. Such is life. Eventually sorted but what a performance. Heavy Lift ships next. Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 07, 2008, 04:37:46 pm
I only did one voyage in Benledi...but it did last a year. The heavy lifters were very interesting and unusual ships developed from the earlier Danish "Bel" boats (not "Ben"). In the main pic of Benledi she looks like an overgrown coaster but these looks are deceptive. In reality she was 470'x67'..about the average size of a cargo liner of the period (1945). Ben Line had 4 of these. Benledi, Benwyvis, Benarty and Benalbanach. Originally built for the "War Ministry". Can you imagine a modern country having a "Minister for War"? Makes it sound like going to war was a day to day happening...but again...on second thoughts...ho hum. More honest than the euphemistic "Ministry of Defence" I guess. But back to the ship. The high bulwarks and hatch coamings make the ship look smaller than it was. The 3 heavy derricks were rated at 120tons SWL. Big by even modern standards. The base of these derricks was not as found these days, but were in effect a half of a 2' (or even a 3') ball bearing and just sort of sat there relying on its own weight to keep it in place. The "shrouds" to the mast were heavy round steel castings around 4" dia.But even at that size they would "thrum" when lifting say a big steam locomotive. "Normal" derricks have the guys attached at the derrick head, not with these things, the guys were attached directly to the load. Sensible really as who would want to try and catch a free swinging 100 ton load swinging idly in the breeze? The tripod arrangements abreast of the 3 big derricks were for the guys, 4 guys to the load thus giving good control over the load. All the winches for the guys and lifting gear were housed in compartments under the deck. I seem to recall that the ships crew manned the winches when doing the heavy stuff, probably to the fury of the stevedores union. The guys themseves were either 6 or 8 fold purchases. Huge lengths of wire involved. The main hoist purchases were similar but used (possibly) 1.5" diam steel rope. Lots of that also, and it all had to be maintained with oil/grease whatever. That meant many hours in a bosuns chair getting slung all over the place in lumpy weather and getting oil into every orifice a human was born with. And no "Swarfega" in those days...paraffin. No rags either. Just cotton waste that had bits of metal embedded that were there to rip skin. Happy days. The hatch covers were large and heavy steel slabs that needed the heavy gear to lift off. Nothing easy on these ships! Before lifting anything heavy the main derricks had to be used to lift their own lifting gear..if that makes sense. The main lifting beam would weigh about 10 tons . That was centrally attached to the lifting purchase (the shackles alone took 2 men to lift them), the the 2 "bananas" (about a ton each) had to be fitted to the ends of the beam. Pics 2 and 3 show this quite well although they are of one of the original "Bel" boats. See how similar these ships were to the later "Benledi" type. A good example of "if it aint broke don't fix it" Note the size of the bilge keels on the light vessel. You will also realise that the high bulwarks and coamings provided access for the tending of lashings and very much secondarily gave access to the back end for the inhabitants of the midships accommodation so they could get something to eat.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 07, 2008, 07:21:36 pm
Being such a rotten, cold,damp,windy and slushy day up here in Geordieland I have decided to keep the central heating on and do another post instead of getting on with "Havelock". I cannot now at a distance of nearly 50 years remember where I joined Benledi. It must have been London. But without looking at my early discharge book I can't be sure. Just in case you were wondering, a seamans discharge book is NOT a medical record.It is in fact a record of sea service. Dates of joining and leaving a ship (discharge) are recorded, as are grades of conduct. VG, G or DR. That is;- Very Good, Good or Declined to Report. All seamen including the Master and Ch.Engineer have to have this book....but considering the behaviour (for want of a better word) I have often wondered who notates the Captains book. The vast majority of people got a VG. I remember only a very few that had a G....and a DR could mean the end of a sea going career. Not to be given lightly...although there were more than a few. In those days we had a very different rating structure. Mainly for ratings, but there was also an "officer" thing that now looks strange. We still had National Service in those days and one way of getting out of it was to be a time-served engineering apprentice which allowed one to join the Merchant Navy as a Junior Engineer Officer. At the end of National Service I wonder why the MN found it had a severe shortage of junior engineers? But the rating structure was also "odd". Going from the "bottom-up" (if you will excuse the expression) we had the Deck Boys, the junior of which would be "Peggy". Now don't get into a lather. All that meant was that this kid had to maintain the crews mess and make the tea and so on. As they got older and a bit more experienced they would become Ordinary Seamen. Once their "time" was served (see my earlier alliteration to a judge being able to send me to a better place) they could go to school and take their EDH (Efficient Deck Hand) certificate. But there was an anomaly.We also had an in-between rate called "DHU" (Deck Hand Uncertificated)These men were generally older than the late teens of the OS and had decided for whatever reason to try life at sea in their 20s or 30s. I guess a lot of it was economic, and some were ex-RN whose experience was not at that time given any recognition. Some were great, some total misfits. And I'm sure some of them were on the run anyway for one reason or another, and in those days it was not unusual to have a few jump ship at a port they liked the look of. Especially New Zealand and Australia where they would most likely feel at home. ( Sorry!!!! Forgive me, but I just could'nt resist that one...true as it is). But after a while a rating could sit for his ABs ticket. After that they could be promoted to bosun, but to all intents and purposes thats where the rating structure stopped. Of course there are many well documented cases of ratings going on and getting their 2nd Mates. Mates and Masters Certificates and many went on to be Master. That must have been a hard and dedicated slog for them as even now a rating who wants to climb can be seen by some of his thicker brethren as something of a class traitor. It does happen. But I really must get back to heavy lifts! But I hope you found this little excursion at least readable. Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 08, 2008, 05:13:11 pm
Back to the main subject. I haven't a clue now what was in the holds, but I clearly remember 9 tugs as deck cargo. How long is a TID? As Benledi was 67' wide and these things had a considerable overhang I'm not sure what they were, but they were destined for an oil company and we were to take them to St.John, New Brunswick. As this was early Spring (and so the ice should have melted) we could still look forward to a lumpy passage. And so it proved. I guess our average speed from here to there must have been not much over 8 knots. We also got a bit fed-up with seeing the old Queen Mary keep on going past us in both directions. (I think we may have been a bit south of the "quicker" route because of the cargo). I guess the 3rd mate felt the same as one night he flashed it up and asked the standard question "What Ship?". The snooty sods didn't even reply, just swtched on their funnel lights for a moment or two. So our 3rd made switched on the funnel light (singular) to our puny little buff coloured thingy. Respect restored! I have mentioned St.John before, but it bears repeating. Going ashore to look at the town we walked across a horizontal gangway to the quay. When we returned a few hours later all we could see were the tops of the big derricks. I really thought that the ship had sunk. The tidal range there is just phenomenal. When the tugs and whatever was left was unloaded the ship was both bereft of a cargo and well out of the normal operating area of the Ben Line. So some bright spark got us a charter to carry coal from Sydney (Nova Scotia) to Montreal. Bit of a come-down for a specialised heavy lift ship. This is when I saw the upside-down mirages etc. To give us cadets a little more spending money than our £13 a month we were allowed to help the "trimmers" in the holds (along with our ABs etc). The money was great, but it months later that I found out that the "mate" had been trousering half of our wages on top of his own "cut". I still cannot forgive people like that. Then Buddy Holly died.
A quick excursion into year 2008:- After my couple of allusions to a judge being able to send me to a better place , there was in todays Daily Mail (8th April) a reference to "hard labour" meted out by British courts in the past. One of the hated tasks was that of making "oakum" by the shredding of old ropes. Left fingers bleeding and hurting a lot. Very odd that this was a staple task throughout my (and others) cadetship. Character forming?
Back to Buddy. We were again back in Sydney loading more coal but I remember the whole town going into a muted sort of mourning, his sort of music being even more popular than it was in the UK. Then the main reason for our trogging up and down the St.Lawrence became clear. A large cargo needing a heavy lift ship had been arranged but weeks of preparation and contracts had had to be finalised. The cargo turned out to be a pair of huge American steam locos. and associated rolling stock that were needed at the new town (as yet unbuilt) of Port Cartier. (North shore of the St. Lawrence but much further east). Much cleaning of holds and loading of dunnage resulted. Dunnage? Lots and lots of rough timber planks of all sizes but of poor quality suitable for not a lot, and used to protect the ships structure from damage and various other "odd jobs". The rolling stock down in the holds could be chocked and lashed but the locos were too big and heavy for that and so had to be "landed" on a specially constructed short length of rail track. A specialised job done by the rail company. Not too well as it turned out. Loading the 2 locos on to the foredeck was quite exciting to a 19 year old. Much better than those grubby old tugs, big as they were. The listing of the ship was quite severe during the lifts. I wish I knew then what I know now about stability (or used to know) and how the ship was compensated. Nearly wrote constipated, but that could have been just as apt I think. But all very impressive. The St.Lawrence being a river is generally pretty flat until you get down into the estuary when proper seas are met. The loco on the starboard side loosened up a bit and the first the mate knew about it was when a pair of big buffers came through his office bulkhead. What joy! Pity he wasn't in the way of them. Port Cartier was at that time just a jetty with a rail line on it going nowhere except what was to all intents and purposes a lumber camp. Moose,bears and all sorts of other ambulatory killing machines were abundant. Not as abundant as the black flies and midges though. But for all that, Benledi was the ship that gave the embryo town a link to the rest of Canada. Job done. Now off to warmer parts.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on April 08, 2008, 05:51:38 pm
Bryan,

This is really excellent. Not only am I learning a lot but I am also enjoying it and having a few laughs on the way.

I repeat my earlier comment....I really do think there is a book here. Maybe you should find a publisher with a "nautical bent" (excuse me) and send them a few samples.

Your reference to picking oakum takes me back to when as a very junior Inspector of Weights and Measures I was asked to check some scales in a prison where the prisoners were picking oakum and seemed to be producing a small volume picked for the weight it was supposed to be. I found that the crafty so and so's had jammed a large lump of metal under the goods pan so the weight they actually picked was much reduced!

One day I will tell you about weighing the gold raked out of the bottom of the cremation ovens, or weighing raw opium which had melted in flight and seeped between the planks of its crates!

Roger in France.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bunkerbarge on April 08, 2008, 06:21:41 pm
This is a great thread Bryan and all credit to you for putting it all together for us to enjoy.  You use all sorts of marine experessions that now seem to be a thing of the past but as soon as I hear them they all just seem to fit into place.  If I mention dhobying round here now they all look at me blank and if I ask a junior to get me a piece off dunnage god only knows what he will come back with!!

The anchor one makes me smile as my father used to tell me a tale of one of his very early days with Manchester Liners.  He must have been a third mate then in the early sixties when the company had a couple of ships with the up to then unheard of stern anchors.  Anyway my dad was on standby on the aft mooring deck going down the St Lawrence when for what ever reason the "Old Man" called for the stern anchor to be dropped.  Now althought the engine revs were very low the current down the Seaway was significant so the SOG was probably quite a few knots.  Anyway my father made the mistake of questioning the order and so was severely shouted at from the bridge and told to do as he was told if he wanted to keep his job etc..etc..  Needless to say he realeased the brake and stood well back.  The anchor hit the bottom, dug in and proceded to rip the chain completely though the windlass and down the hawse pipe. 

"So could you tell me please Mr Simpson, what steps did you take?".  "Very large ones sir!"

The bitter end came flying out of the chain locker, through the windlass, rattled down the hawse pipe and joined the anchor on the bottom of the St Lawrence!  Manchester Liners lost thier first stern anchor!!

By the way Bryan, when I used to go up the St Lawrence in the late seventies there was a guy on the American side who always used to hoist the flag of the ships nationality in his back garden as you passed him and play the contries national anthem through monstrous speakers so that the passing ships could hear it.  Did you ever come across him?

Great days.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 08, 2008, 06:41:47 pm
As a young and unattached cadet I didn't really give a monkeys about getting back to the UK....but the married guys did. We had now been away from "home" between 3 and 4 months and if we went home now it wouldn't be all that much shorter than the average 6 month trips the were the "norm". Add another month for "coasting" and you would hit the 6 months no problem. Except that 3000 miles the wrong way doesn't take you home. We go west. More mutterings among the marrieds, but what did the 3 of us care. As cadets we had been heaved upon from a very great height so many times that we had no sympathy at all. Not a career enhancing move, but morally satisfying at least. So off we went to Cuba. In ballast...I do recall that as we were across the seas all the way down the US coast. Regular rolling...upchuck. So we got to Cienfuegos just a few days after Castro had taken over, so we "endured" a week of Cuban "hospitality". Wild celebrations, shootings and Bacardi fuelled "high spirits" (remind you of anywhere?). Perhaps that is why I cannot recall what we loaded...but it must have been sugar.What else did they have? Apart from guns of course, but I don't think the authorities in Hawaii would have been amused. So sugar it must have been, for Hawaii and Japan. By now I was an "old-hand" re. the Panama Canal.  After all, it was my 3rd transit, and as the Ben Line was really a "Far East" outfit very few of the "seniors" (anybody above the "rank" of cadet") had been through it. Not that my advice and experience was called upon, you understand. Hawaii next stop. Wow! Just a pity that us cadets couldn't even afford a hamburger there. So as wandering around like lost souls became a tad depressing we went back to the ship and didn't go ashore again. I did manage to do a "trade" for some new Johnny Cash LPs that I still have today. In my ignorance I thought that Hawaii to Tokyo was only a hop skip and a jump. Big ocean is the Pacific. Being patriotic Scotsmen to the last, our bridge staff had arranged the crossing of the "date-line" so we got 2 working days instead of a day off. Bloody typical. But then came Tokyo circa 1959.
I recall Tokyo for only one reason. The mainmast light bulb. With all the heavy gear so high up you will appreciate that Benledi could roll a lot, and entering Tokyo Bay we were really rolling. It was not entirely unexpected that I would be given some unusual task..but this was a beauty. (I haven't mentioned that I was the only English cadet, and one of very few crew members aboard who were not of the Scottish persuation). So I was despatched up the mainmast with a bag of tools and a new bulb. No lifelines, no safety harness (not invented yet)and that was it. But no problem to a 19 year old immortal. So there I sat on the lamp bracket,wafting in great arcs enjoying the sights of a new city. Gloria Gaynor didn't coin the phrase " I shall survive"...I did! I have no more recollections of Tokyo so it must have been unusually uneventful. Osaka was different. A kindly "Missions to Seamen" guy took the 3 of us ashore for the day over the protests of the mate who wanted us to do some chipping or something equally vital. During daylight this saviour showed us temples and so on and explained much about Japan that I would never have known if it were not for him. In the evening (after finally getting a hamburger) he showed us the town. Never in my life had I seen so many lights. Everywhere was open. Adverts hurt the eyeballs, western dress mingled with kimonos and wooden clogs. Rickshaws competed with swarms of tiny little cars and vans....and over all this noise was the racket of the Palichinko balls. I think I have the name about right. All UK resorts used to have them. A row of slots and a spiral shoot that a ball bearing whizzed around until the ball dropped into a slot...or more often didn't. There must have been millions of them for the noise to deaden all the other town noises. Should have become an Olympic event and the Japanese would have won hands down. But time to leave and for the more experienced hands to look forward to more familiar stomping grounds.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 09, 2008, 03:58:35 pm
We must have called in at Singapore as I still have a couple of LPs that I bought in either the "Happy World" or the other one. Anyone remember these 2 places. A cross between an open air market and a fun-fair. Great for hard-up cadets, even though I was now getting £21 a month. And all I remember about the Phlipines was how many lovely big conical volcanoes there are..with smoke coming out of them. I do recall one of the engineers telling us lads about their night on the town (?). Seems that they were still thirsty whilst stumbling back to the ship when they saw a "pub" constructed out of metal advertisements so they went in, sat down and called for drinks...which really annoyed the owner of this desirable little residence. But then came Borneo or Sarawakto either Kuching or Rejang. Calm waters and a benign climate that cheered up even the grumpier people...except the mate of course. Vever really saw much of the Captain since we left Hawaii!. He seemed to spend his time searching the ship including the holds looking for his precious little cat that had fled from the 3rd mate ages ago. It was eventually found inside an empty spare bit of pipe, but by now it had gone feral and was not his little pet anymore so a lot of sulking was the order of the rest of the voyage giving Machiavelli the Mate a clear run at his beloved cadets. The next, and large in all senses of the word was for the UK. Wood. Whichever "port" it was we never saw it as we couldn't reach it and so did the usual thing and tied up to tree stumps downriver. This "visit" was to be a pretty defining period in a young lads life. Tied up to the tree stumps that were at the far side of a mangrove swamp using dipping eyes. Dipping eyes? Nothing to do with shyness or modesty. Just a way of putting 2 ropes on a bollard so either one can be let go first. The eye of the 2nd rope is passed through the eye of the 1st before being dropped over the bollard...or tree stump etc. Fairly common practice but hated by dockies the world over as it means a little more effort. The cadets had to go with the mooring crew as they had another task. This swamp was real M.U.D. Lots of tripping over and getting filthy and smelly (again)...not to mention coming eye-ball to eye-ball with these walking fishy type things that looked at you with the geet big goggly eyes as in the ballad of "The Lambton Worm". Scary as it was getting dark and our job was to hang oil lamps it the trees as sort of marker or anchor lights or something. Never did work out the reasoning as the ship was lit up like a Xmas tree anyway. While the crew were struggling with the ropes the 4 of us (a junior engineer had been volunteered to help us) split into pairs ..2 forward and 2 aft. Struggled back to the boat in real darkness and realised that the J/E was missing. Called, waved torches and all that but no answer. Next morning odd bits of hime were found in the trees. Never heard a thing. Could have been any of us. Never went back to re-light the lamps either. Not a sight to forget in a hurry. When I said the cargo was to be wood, I really should have said logs. Monsters of up to 8' in diameter and up to perhaps 40' long. This was in 1959 and so considered "a good thing", so don't go blaming me for destroying the planet. These logs had been cut years ago and left floating as "rafts" until they were bought. So they were probably twice as heavy as dry ones and covered in slippery slime. The "rafts" were allowed to drift downriver to our vicinity when they were pushed, paddled or whatever so we could hoist them. Everybody on board (probably not the Captain) had seen the ominous tall fin that surfaced now and again. I and another cadet were watching when one of the log jumpers slipped and fell into the water. A quick swirl and he was gone. The locals who were doing the loading just shrugged as if to say "things happen" and went back to work. The local means of transport were powered canoes. More or less very long "dugouts" with an odd outboard motor arrangement in that the prop shaft would be about 10' long and easy to swing up and so avoiding obstruction is the water. We had another couple of serious accidents here. Remember I told you about the high bulwarks and hatches? As one couldn't see over them a hatch slab was used to "bridge the gap". The foreman stevedore who controlled the winch drivers could thus walk back and forth between the ships side and the hatch. This worked well until one of the logs began to slide out of its lifting slings. The foreman heard or felt the thump behind him, turned and saw 15 tons of log coming at him He turned and ran...straight int a 40' deep hold. I hope he was dead before the log landed on top of him, as were 2 other men down the hold. But a good hosing down cleared most of the mess up although the bits that had gone down between the logs had to stay there. I had left the ship on arrival in London so I don't know the reaction of the London dockies ..if anything was ever found. The next one was serious for me. This was not the dryest part of the world and everything was permanently wet and slippy. I fell off a hatch coaming on to the deck. Alas, I was carrying a peplacement 500watt light bulb at the time. This shattered and sliced through a wrist artery and then up inside my palm. Until then I hadn't realised that blood can spurt a good 6' high. I managed to clamp the artery and went in search of the 2nd mate (in the absence of a doctor the 2nd mate was the usual "medic"). Didn't help me much when he fainted. Between me and another cadet we strapped my wrist up, pulled out the glass and bent my hand back towards the elbow. Hurt like hell but the bleeding was nearly stopped. Our kind and caring "mate" (what a misnomer) grudgingly gave me 24 hours off before returning me one handed to full duties. I still have the scar if I look for it. And that, despite a lot of future events, was the only injury I ever sustained at sea. Quite lucky really. And that is the end of the Benledi saga. My last "Ben" before completing my sentence was on "Benhiant" (ex-Beaverlodge). Another really crappy ship. End of the Ben Line for me!.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 10, 2008, 02:52:35 pm
This is a great thread Bryan and all credit to you for putting it all together for us to enjoy.  You use all sorts of marine experessions that now seem to be a thing of the past but as soon as I hear them they all just seem to fit into place.  If I mention dhobying round here now they all look at me blank and if I ask a junior to get me a piece off dunnage god only knows what he will come back with!!

The anchor one makes me smile as my father used to tell me a tale of one of his very early days with Manchester Liners.  He must have been a third mate then in the early sixties when the company had a couple of ships with the up to then unheard of stern anchors.  Anyway my dad was on standby on the aft mooring deck going down the St Lawrence when for what ever reason the "Old Man" called for the stern anchor to be dropped.  Now althought the engine revs were very low the current down the Seaway was significant so the SOG was probably quite a few knots.  Anyway my father made the mistake of questioning the order and so was severely shouted at from the bridge and told to do as he was told if he wanted to keep his job etc..etc..  Needless to say he realeased the brake and stood well back.  The anchor hit the bottom, dug in and proceded to rip the chain completely though the windlass and down the hawse pipe. 

"So could you tell me please Mr Simpson, what steps did you take?".  "Very large ones sir!"

Thanks for your kind words. My only trips up and down the St.Lawrence were in 1959, a long time before your trips in the late 70s. I hope the guy is still around. The only other place I recall ships being greeted was Durban where ships were met by "The Angel In White" standing on the end of a jetty. A sort of operatic Gracie Fields. But her heart must have been in the right place. At least it was better than being greeted by a bagpipe player! Bryan.

The bitter end came flying out of the chain locker, through the windlass, rattled down the hawse pipe and joined the anchor on the bottom of the St Lawrence!  Manchester Liners lost thier first stern anchor!!

By the way Bryan, when I used to go up the St Lawrence in the late seventies there was a guy on the American side who always used to hoist the flag of the ships nationality in his back garden as you passed him and play the contries national anthem through monstrous speakers so that the passing ships could hear it.  Did you ever come across him?

Great days.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 10, 2008, 04:18:57 pm
OK, I know that I saidI wasn't going to comment on my time in Benhiant, but looking through my old Discharge book reminded me of a quite different experience. Being caught in a full blown typhoon in Hong Kong. Nothing startling about the voyage. Same old same old and now getting seriously miffed at still being a dogsbody cadet. Mainly because cadets in other companies that we used to meet up with now and again (back to Connell House etc.) could all look forward to a spell as an uncertificated 3rd mate to give them a good grounding (oops, wrong word) in bridge procedure etc. But the Ben Line seemed to think that painting and chipping underneath a winch was more important. For "miffed", choose your own word. I assume some warning of the approach of a typhoon must have been promulgated as many ships up and went away to ride it out at sea. Possibly we had a mechanical problem, but all we did was to pay out more anchor cable....a further "aside" on anchors and cables (chains). Most ships carry around 8 or 9 "shackles" of cable on each anchor. As I mentioned earlier a shackle is 15 fathoms x 6 = 90 feet. 8 x 90 gives a total of 720 feet of very heavy chain to each anchor. That's a lot of chain and an awful lot of weight....even more when you add on 7 tons each or more of 2 anchors. Seamen know this, but an anchor is not there to hold the ship. It is there to hold the cable. The weight of the cable holds the ship. I never sailed in a ship longer than 680ft. So  a ship can put out a length greater than her own length. During dry-docking periods it is normal practice to range all the anchor cable on the dock bottom and swap the outboard end to being the inboard end, thus "renewing" the lengths. (After taking the anchors off, of course!). I would say that all ships nowadays have "self-stowing" cable lockers which by their design prevent the anchor cable either getting knotted up or jamming in the spurling pipe. Earlier ships did not have this facility. Although to be honest, I have examined both sorts of locker when empty and still can't work out much of a difference. Anyway, the non self-stowing sort required man-power or boys (read cadets) armed with 3ft long steel hooks to guide the incoming cable to precent it piling up. Pretty dangerous work really, especially when a pile of chain decides to topple over unexpectedly. Great fleetness of foot was required. It was also fairly common for a hook to get jammed and be trapped in the pile of chain, (sorry about the use of "cable" and "chain"..same thing in this context) only to reappear at great and lethal velocity when that anchor was next dropped. I imagine that many windlass drivers were killed or injured by these flying hooks over the years, but I only ever saw a few near misses. When you consider the sort of sea bed a ship would normally anchor in ( let us assume the Thames in the 1950s) imagine if you can what would be clinging to the cable. This was by far the most dangerous, smelliest and filthiest job on board a ship it was possible to do. Saw a few guys get broken ankles and so on but no deaths..."fleet of foot" being the watchword. But quite awful.
But back to the Typhoon. The tale itself is quite simple. The wind got stronger and stronger. The rain became a deluge and the noise became deafening. The bamboo scaffolding on nearby buildings collapsed in great heaps of debris. We were anchored just off the SW end of the Kowloon peninsular, just in sight of the old Kai-Tak airport. We actually observed a 3000 ton ship being swept up and plonked across the runway. Awesome. But "our" night was just beginning. At the N. end on the west side of Kowloon was (maybe still is) an area designated as a refuge for the many Junks and Sampans etc. during a typhoon. Just about all of these vessels had families of all sizes living aboard them. probably a few thousand people in all. As with all typhoons the wind changed and our anchors just dragged and the ship began to move sideways towards the "haven". The ships First Officer and his crew (including me) were depatched to pay out more cable. Walking was impossible. We all crwled along the deck but couldn't climb the foc'sle ladder to reach the windlass. Our old-fashioned "oilskins" had gone, as had much of our clothing and we were all being quite severly battered. Surrender. Benhiant eventually slammed sideways into the "haven" pushing and crushing the boats sheltering there. Many of the Chinese families tried to climb up on to our deck but our crew were ordered to beat them back. Every time this episode comes to mind I am so grateful that I was not involved in this carnage. Lord alone knows how many deaths "we" were responsible for apart from those caused by the typhoon itself. As far as I know no action was ever taken to find out. A very frightening and not glorious night. An that IS the end of my involvement with the Ben Line. RFA next! BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 10, 2008, 04:21:19 pm
Bryan,

This is really excellent. Not only am I learning a lot but I am also enjoying it and having a few laughs on the way.

I repeat my earlier comment....I really do think there is a book here. Maybe you should find a publisher with a "nautical bent" (excuse me) and send them a few samples.

Your reference to picking oakum takes me back to when as a very junior Inspector of Weights and Measures I was asked to check some scales in a prison where the prisoners were picking oakum and seemed to be producing a small volume picked for the weight it was supposed to be. I found that the crafty so and so's had jammed a large lump of metal under the goods pan so the weight they actually picked was much reduced!

One day I will tell you about weighing the gold raked out of the bottom of the cremation ovens, or weighing raw opium which had melted in flight and seeped between the planks of its crates!

Roger in France.
Roger, for heavens sake don't wait for me to finish! Join in!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 11, 2008, 07:21:15 pm
Wrapping up some loose ends, as always with this sort of writing things get missed, so these are just a few anecdotes to fill some gaps...all from C&W days.
Way back when I was prattling on about "Norseman" I mentioned that the "odd" bits of Marine life were pickled by the ships doctor. Berore this elderly and frankly, well pickled Irishman was replaced by a much younger and more savvy Scot, he kept us amused with his "little hobby". He used to collect very large insects (moths and so on) and give them a little injection of what he was probably on himself, tie the insects to a thread and take them for "walkies" around the deck. Perhaps he was on the wrong end of the thread.
Later, when in "Recorder" we had to survey and find a route for the new telephone cable across the Pacific and also down to Australia and so on. This route was to go past the Philipines and out into the Pacific from Singapore. The area we were going to look at was then (1964) not perfectly charted. Not quite at the "here be monsters" level, but not far off. The reason became obvious when our launch (sent ahead as a scout) reported many coral heads just below the surface. Many hours of sights were taken to establish a route through this maze. No GPS in those days.Pretty exhausting work for everybody for perhaps 6 weeks or more. The launch even put little poles on the really dangerous ones. Wonder if some of them are still there. Doubt it. But notwithstanding the odd jibe on this forum about the length of time we spent in port (jealousy) you wouldn't have your global comms without the submarine cable network. It was extremely difficult to ascertain with any accuracy the actual distance travelled by the ship. We always knew where we were (and where we had come from) but working out a mileage between these points was difficult because of all the alterations of course and so on. All the methods used in those days had a built-in inaccuracy. Sights included. So all known methods were tried and evaluated. Going by Engine Revs. allowing for slip was the Engineers solution...but as they could be relied upon to reach port hours (if not days) before the rest of the ship this was a non-starter. Similarly with "Dead-Reckoning". Reasonably accurate using trigonometry, geometry and a wet thumb was OK but more was needed. So a bit of kit called "Taut Wire Measuring ) was introduced. Perhaps it was an old RN system, but there we are. Essentially it was a deep sea sounding machine modified to work horizontally but with drums of thin piano wire each with 50 miles of wire. As the wire was payed out at the ships speed it was a bit like laying a very thin cable. Pretty good. Must have been, the real cable still works!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on April 12, 2008, 06:54:36 am
Bryan,

Thanks for the encouragement but most of my experiences are not related to the interests within this Forum so I will keep them to share over a beer if we meet one day.

However, there is one nautical one I can share.

My "patch" as a very young, newly qualified Inspector of Weights and Measures included Devonport Dockyard. As a Government Establishment I had no jurisdiction over what went on there and never visited. One day I received a request from a senior naval officer to visit him in the Naval Stores to advise on "disappearing rum". I set off in my van with all the equipment I would need to test the weighing and measuring equipment but being a non-naval type I drove on to and parked in a nice open, clear space which turned out to be the Quarter Deck of the naval land base. All hell broke loose and I was ordered to, "Get the ******* Hell off there!".

I met the officer who had contacted me and he explained that as Quartmaster and responsible for re-victualling ships he had large discrepancies in his rum stocks. We agreed I would test all his measures and as a ship was being resupplied at that time I was invited to go on board and test all the measures she had. I should explain that on board ship each mess had its own measures which were taken to the Ship's Quartmaster and the rum measured out for further subdivision in the mess. What I found was the motliest collection of measures you could imagine, most of which had been turned up in the on-board machine shop. They had been carefully designed to extract the maximum amount of rum Jack could secure without being seen to cheat.

I then returned ashore and was asked that while I was there could I test all the weighing and measuring equipment in the stores. I did so and found some tremendous errors. On producing my report to the officer I was asked what would happen if I had found such errors in civvy street (where I had jurisdiction) I said I would condemn most of the equipment and probably several folk would have faced criminal prosecution.

"Great", said the officer, "Can you give me a statement to that effect? Then I can write off £50,000 of missing stores to - bad weighing and measuring"!

There is a sequel. New, standard measures were issued to the ship but after a very short time they became damaged or lost and so the home made measures were resurrected!

Roger in France.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 12, 2008, 01:52:15 pm
Still back on Recorder...If by some mischance you have been following these tales you will recall that we called in at the Cape Verde islands for yet another "handover" of station. I'd forgotten that we also had to re-lay a shore end while there. Great delight from the locals. Many spectators. Our Captain (the same one who was, a few years later, to cast the entire complement of Mercury adrift in the middle of the Pacific) decided to "put on a bit of a show". A common way of putting in a "shore end" would be to first dig a trench up the beach (or whatever) for the cable to be buried in. Where no assistance from the shore was available the end would be towed ashore by the ships launch, the heavy cable being supported by oil drums. A little thought and a bit of mental arithmetic will tell you that a 56 gallon oil drum will support a weight of 500 lbs. (You don't expect me to do ALL the work, do you). But this time there was too much willing assistance from the shore...including a bull-dozer to drag the thing ashore. But Capt."X" (looked the spitting image of Pugwash) had his own ideas. Instead of floating a messenger line ashore and eventually the cable, he decided to use the Schermully line throwing rocket gear. All ships carry this equipment. Nowadays it all comes in a compact "Ready to Go" package, back then it was a large brass "blunderbus". Very impressive. The rocket itself was a metal thing that fitted either in the barrel or over the top of it, can't remember which, and had a dangly tail that a light line was attached to. We had always been warned that this gear should NEVER be fired without the line being attached as the rocket was almost guaranteed to flip over and come back to the launcher. This stuff is on board a ship to enable a "Breeches" bouy to be rigged between a vessel in distress and a rescue ship. Breeches as in trousers as that is how it transported a person. Not half as "sophisticated" as the RN/RFA method of "light jackstay" personnel transfers. None of us had ever seen one of these things fired in anger so to speak (how many seamen had?) but Pugwash said he knew all about them so he would fire the gun. A great shot. Direct hit on the roof of a little thatched cottage. Total constructive loss due to fire. The crowd got their entertainment and no doubt the house owner got a very nice new house and furnishings etc. out of C&W. Good fun though.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 12, 2008, 02:27:51 pm
For some reason that is now long forgotten instead of heading from the Cape Verdes direct to our "new" base port of Rio de Janeiro we had to go to Capetown first. Somewhere off the coast of Senegal we thumped a deadhead with our port propeller. A deadhead in this connotation is a log that has been drifting around for so long and has become so saturated that it "floats" vertically with its top end sometimes actually just below the suface. Many of them around, but the ocean is a big place. We were fortunate in having a spare prop for both sides aboard. Not that unusual when you consider the out of the way places a cable ship could be operating in. Easily got to Dakar on one engine and so into drydock. Although there were one or two new hotels being built Dakar was by no means the holiday spot it is today. Poverty was really rife. I would suggest it was as bad as that in Bombay or Colombo at the time. One of my abiding memories is that of very tall, very elegant, and very poor women striding along with impossible loads balanced on their heads whist the menfolk lolled around on the beach. Perhaps they were fishermen. When we were in the dock and the water was pumped out to perhaps 6' deephundreds (literally) of the locals leapt into the (large) dock with baskets and began scooping up the great shoal of fish that had been trapped in the dock. I wish I had pics of this. On to Capetown, nothing exciting apart from enjoying "local hospitality", but the departure was quite special.  Another mirage (should have mentioned this earlier when on about the St.Lawrence. Sorry. Capetown to Rio is not that far off from being a due east to west course. S.America hangs down a lot further than Africa. For 3 days steaming west at 12 knots we could still see cars and even people on the streets of Capetown. And the lights at night. A bit disconcerting at first until we decided that both our props had'nt fallen off and then just enjoyed the show. And then at about 800 miles out...poof...just disappeared. Felt quite lonely for awhile! Weird.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 12, 2008, 06:48:08 pm
Old Charts. Another pretty rotten afternoon so what better way of passing it than writing. Nowadays I expect most of you have seen a modern navigation chart. All pretty blue and yellow..and in metric for heavens sake! Before these bland objects came into use the charts were in black and white and were real works of art. The actual nautical information on the "new" versions is possibly better now than it was....but. The old style charts also showed a lot of topographical detail and information. Even land contours were often depicted. And always shown was the name and rank (plus the dates of the survey) of the guy who did it. In an earlier post I mentioned the island of Socotra (near the Horn of Africa) so I shall stay with that one, although it is by no means unique. This survey must have taken ages in pretty uncomfortable climates and surroundings. The chart showed little dotted lines showing the paths taken by the survey parties. Notations such as "wild pigs found here" or "natives not very friendly" abound. And this was only one of the thousands that make up the Admiralty world-wide folio of charts. The Americans had a slightly different "take" on the subject. Whilst not (then) as comprehensive as the Admiralty folio (indeed, a lot of the American charts accredited info. to the UK surveys), they printed a history of the chart area on the back of the chart. This was always fascinating and what a good idea. I guess the UK was "still ahead of the game" , but extra info regarding politics, flora and fauna were more or less hidden away in the depths of the "Pilot Books", and written in cold language whereas the US made the writing interesting.  Maintaining the folio was more or less a full time job for the 2nd Mate. Few ships carried a "full" portfolio. In general a ship would only carry the charts that it was "possible" that they may need. I suspect a "tramp" would carry more than a ship on the liner trade. Liner being a term for hips on a more or less regular run (or line) as opposed to those posh jobbies that carried a lot of passengers. Blue Funnel, British India, Ben Line etc. all qualified as being in the "liner" trade.
Apart from the charts to keep up to date there were (are) many other publications that need constant updating. Wherever in the world you may find yourself the mail would include the monthly issue of "Admiralty Notices To Mariners". (NMs in future).  Serious ones that needed immediate action were broadcast. Stuff regarding new wrecks, rocket firings from Cape Canaveral, War Games and firing areas...that sort of thing. The 3rd mate would normally be the corrector for the "Light Lists". Books that gave all the details one needed to know about every lighthouse and buoy etc. in the known universe...including whether or not it was on or off.
The equivelant one for Radio Officers was rapidly passed on to the "Sparky" to deal with. All this was the "commercial" side of things. The RN/RFA had all that plus the outpourings of guff from MoD...and their books were enough to more than fill an average sized cabin. Chock a block. (another nautical reference that I won't go into here). Charts are the present interest. In the 1960s the chart corrections were just printed in script giving lats and longs and details of the correction to be made.(In purple ink). Oe correction could affect up to a dozen charts. The poor 2nd mate (when I started doing it) had a selection of mapping pens and a few bottles of different coloured inks. Remember mapping pens? Thought not. The quill pen was peplaced by a similar thing but with a metal nib. A mapping pen was a very small nibbed version of that. One learned a great deal about calligraphy. But thank goodness a bit of modernisation came in and the various corrections were issued in the form of tracings to fit the chart. Cut the time doing corrections from days to hours. But there is always a downside. Whenever a noxious job came up the 2nd mate couldn't always plead "chart corrections" and disappear into the chartroom. Now of course with the advent of electronic charts all corrections are downloaded automatically, and a full world folio is at your fingertips. I guess this is all a great technological improvement...until the plug is pulled...but the sheer "class" of the old black and white things takes some beating.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 13, 2008, 04:54:48 pm
In common with most other ex cadets/apprentices taking the 2nd mates course (South Shields again) spending money was in short supply. I had managed to save enough to allow me to buy a 1959 AJS 500cc twin motorcycle. I think it must have been one of the first without the "jam-pot" rear shockers...could be wrong. I kept falling off it so I fitted crash bars front and rear. Really smart. Nice bike. But cash was needed and so I (along with others) got a job as "Second Mate" (direct from cadet!) on the Flat-Iron collier "Harry Richardson". No, we were Not all on the same ship. Poor grammar. Sorry. The "interviewer" never asked about my bridge experience...the fact of being an ex Ben Line cadet was good enough for them. I had never stood a bridge watch in my life! Nor had I supervised the loading/discharge of any sort or cargo before..ever. Outwardly jubilant but inwardly crapping myself I joined this barge thingy. The first odd thing was to go aboard via the wheelhouse and down stairs to my "cabin". Another surprise. No lights. Although working for the CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board) in the days of Nationalised Industry, the owners were obviously too tight to "plug-in" So in port the generator was turned off and those on board had to turn on their "bulkhead dynamos". i.e.an oil lamp. As my cabin ports would only be a few inches above the water line when the ship was loaded even I could see that it would be a little foolhardy to open one. I really should have been a farmer...the smells are nicer. The next big surprise was that all courses and canges of course were expressed in quarter points. And here was me thinking that a circle had 360 degrees. Not here they didn't. Gyro compass? "Whats one of them the, bonny lad?" (I will go into this at the end of this post).
Actually, I was pretty good at (theoretical) chartwork..laying off for tides and whatnot. Wasted. The watches on this early version of Bunkerbarges Disneyboats were 4 on and 4 off. Totally knackered within 24 hours. Thank goodness the whole trip was not much more than that. And the food was....well,..not quite like mother made. Everybody had to chip in a few quid a week to give to the cook (?) who went ashore to the nearest Salvation Army soup kitchen and later swore blind that he always got a "ggod deal" from his shops. Paying for your own food? What barbarity was this? Going from the results I assumed he was cooking bits of the cargo.
Trying to be a good "navigator" I eventually unearthed an (unused) azimuth circle and ploked it on top of the compas so I could take bearings. This annoyed the hell out of the guy on the wheel as he couldn't see his course. Didn't make any difference though. The bridge windows were at the level of a semi-submerged submarine and were so pitted, scarred and salt encrusted that even looking out of them was like wearing someone elses prescription glasses. And whoever heard of trying to take bearings through a window (that hadn't been opened since the "ship" was built). Nah, the navigation here down one of the most dangerous and congested routes around the UK was a rhyme which always escapes me as I was not there for the decades in which to learn it. So "they" never took bearings or even marked a position on the chart. Too expensive to rub out I think. Log Book? A good example would go something like "Passed Goodwins to port", with a time of passing if it could remembered or guessed with any certainty. A very slim volume. After a while I realised I was just there to make up the numbers and let the wheelmen get on with it. They knew the job better than me anyway. I was not expecting the whistle to loudly break-wind every time the "ship" pitched a little. I was assured by "them what knew" that the bending of the ship tightened the (long) whistle lanyard and produced these non authorised sounds. Oh, how I missed the dear old compassionate "Ben Line" (Not). But without my assistance we got into the Thames. Given how often the ship came here I was surprised they needed a pilot. Union Rules I expect. But I think the Captain would have s... a b.... if he had had to do his own pilotage and work out the clearance under the Thames bridges. "Harry R" had a tall funnel that had to be lowered to get under the bridges. But the stuff coming out of the funnel hole was still there. Made for a few unexpected laundry bills for the gawpers on the bridges. Oh, I nearly forgot. The mast(s) had to come down as well. One of them had a radar scanner on it. Radar? One of the owners must have won the pools and bought a job lot of WW2 items. Invariably the scanner would whack the top of the wheelhouse so making the picture a little odd. Still, with any luck, next time it may strike the other end and straighten up again. The next trip was to Dagenham. No problems. Full discharge for the mighty Ford Motor Company. The berth ahead of us was owned by the Tate and Lyle Sugar Corporation. The same grab cranes were used on both berths. As soon as we were offloaded the cranes dunked their filthy coal covered grabs into the pristine clean waters of the Thames circa 1961 and proceeded to discharge sugar from the ship ahead of us. I told this tale to a pal of mine who used to work in the Spillers Flour Mill (Newcastle) and he recalled that grinding up the flouralso include grinding up the rats and mice that were in there.  All that lovely protein...which incidentally would include the entertaining sight of weevils swimming out of the Shredded Wheat, before drowning in what was laughingly called "milk"....used to bet on which one would make it, or which one would drown first. Happy days.
We actually did some "foreign" trips on this scow. It still amazes me that so many people spent their entire working lives in this trade. At least as a miner you got to go home at the end of the shift (usually). My first foreign trip was to Blyth, about 5 miles north of the Tyne. Not to worry. The crew knew where the best pubs were and which bus to catch that would take them home for the night. This became more problematical when we went from London to Methil/Levin (Scotland). The extra hours on the length of the voyage proved to be too much for the cooks powers of forward planning so we ran out of food just before we got abeam of St.Abbs Head. But the crew knew the best pubs. Alas, no bus home this night.
In truth I cannot say I hated this ship. Taught me something that I still haven't fathomed. The money was great. £30 a week against £21 a month....and a few quid off that to help pay for the cooks new Ford Anglia (such were aspirations). In retrspect all I can say that it was "odd" and not seafaring as I had come to know it. Passed my 2nd Mates first time and joined Cable & Wireless of which you now know almost as much as me...until other snippets creep into the memory. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 13, 2008, 05:32:53 pm
The basic layout of a "flattie" never really changed. This one is older than the Harry R, but gives some idea wahat they looked like.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 13, 2008, 07:34:05 pm
As promised, a little talk on the "proper" Mariners Compass". Note to Martin, why can't I put the pic up first instead of last?
I, like all seafarers of the modern era grew up with the Gyro Compass. But I do have to admit to a bit of puzzlement as to why the word Gyro has become synonymous withe free money. Perhaps it is because they both depend on "spin", but what do I know.
Before the Gyro Compass the Magnetic version was "King". A quite brillianr bit of kit that is up there with Harrisons Chronometer. Unlike a Gyro, a magnetic one to retain its accuracy has to be constantly adjusted for all sorts of reasons. Much emphasis was always given to this subject at the "Nautical Colleges" although I suspect it has slipped down the agenda by now. It was all very mathematical....so I will ignore that side of it. For those who know the mag. compass I apologize and for those who don't I shall try to explain. We all know N.S.E & W. These are the "Cardinal Points". Half way between them we have NE, SW etc. Now, a Gyro uses all 360* of a circle (unless you are in the army where they use something called "mils"). All degrees measured from 000* (North) to 360*. Easy peasy. "Steer 025*is 25* to the right of 000* and "270* is 90* to the left. (of north). Not that easy with the mag compass. The mag. compass does not use the degrees of a circle. It uses quadrants. North to East is 90* and so on.The middle one (NE etc) is at 45*. But then that means that NNE is 22.5*. Get the drift? The 2 notations are mutually incompatible. So, the next  point "east of north" will be "north by east".. the pic will show that better than I can explain. The "B" means "by" and not me. So working it all out a "point" is 11.25* of a true circle. But as I said, forget degrees/Splitting it all up again you get half points and quarter points. (A bit like they serve in Norfolk).
But the mag. compass is affected by a few things. The main one being the earths magnetism (obviously), but the earths poles meander about a bit ( and even reverse, but not in this lifetime....)That in itself cocks up where North may (or not) be. This comes under the general heading of "Variation" and is marked on charts as "such and such" for a particular time and gives notes of predicted "variation" for some years to come. But the ship itself is a sort of magnet. Leave a ship in dock for an extended period and the ships integral magnetism will align itself to that of the eath. Not Good. Ask rmasmaster on this forum, he knows more about this than I do. The other concern for the mariner is "deviation". Funny how some words can come back and haunt you. Deviation is why ships compasses have "balls" (here we go again), and the vertical Flinders Bar (no comment) are fitted. I think I should go now before the hole gets deeper. But all of that is the difference between a mag and gyro compass.  Whew! By.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 13, 2008, 07:35:34 pm
Hit the wrong blasted button again.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on April 13, 2008, 09:56:12 pm
All modern small boat compasses are magnetic but are marked in degrees with just the  Cardinal points shown.

This is the one fitted to my boat.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 13, 2008, 10:12:40 pm
All modern small boat compasses are magnetic but are marked in degrees with just the  Cardinal points shown.

This is the one fitted to my boat.
Considering that you are really going up and down a (very nice) river, I don't think that any of my previous comments would apply to you.But if, perchance, you got blown out into the middle of the Atlantic your only recourse would be to head roughly East and ask the first person you met where you were (are). Silly point taken Colin, but the "big boys" have to abide by different rules. Cheers.BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 13, 2008, 10:19:47 pm
It's not quite all electronic yet Bryan. I use a set of Admiralty charts for the Solent intended for small craft. But you can look up the corrections on the Internet, print them off in colour and just stick them over the affected area (if you have a decent printer).

I'm afraid that I don't much bother with corrections these days as we don't go far and navigate by the chart, eye, tide table and a tidal atlas. Oh, and we have a GPS of course!

Colin
Forgot to ask, What is the difference between the "Tide Tables"  and a "Tide Atlas"?  Never heard of a tide atlas. Always used those little diamond shaped thingies on the charts and pencilled in the predicted streams.. but horses for courses and so on.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on April 13, 2008, 10:44:20 pm
Bryan,

Those compasses are not toys, they are used for blue water navigation in yachts and have all the adjusters etc. you have described but in miniature plus you are supposed to compile a table of variation for greater accuracy. I don't go out of sight of land so I don't worry about that as the boat is made of plastic anyway.

Re the Tidal Atlas, this is  an Admiralty publication applicable to a specific locality. Essentially it is a visual representation of the tidal streams that you would otherwise work out from the chart diamonds. There is a page for each hourly state of the tide, -/+ High Water at the applicable Standard Port. The arrows show the direction of stream and the numbers indicate its strength in knots. The lower value is Neaps the higher Springs. Obviously you extrapolate between the two.

In practice the Atlas is extremely useful. For example, in my case it will show at what time I need to be at Chichester Harbour Entrance to pick up a favourable tide down to Yarmouth. If I leave it too late I might find myself plugging the tide at Newtown Creek and either have to put in there until the tide turns (no hardship!) or fight the tide for a couple of hours to reach Yarmouth.

It does nothing you can't get from the diamonds but it's a heck of a lot easier to use - particularly when making that "where shall we go today?" decision!

Colin
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 14, 2008, 04:49:06 pm
Bryan,

Those compasses are not toys, they are used for blue water navigation in yachts and have all the adjusters etc. you have described but in miniature plus you are supposed to compile a table of variation for greater accuracy. I don't go out of sight of land so I don't worry about that as the boat is made of plastic anyway.

Re the Tidal Atlas, this is  an Admiralty publication applicable to a specific locality. Essentially it is a visual representation of the tidal streams that you would otherwise work out from the chart diamonds. There is a page for each hourly state of the tide, -/+ High Water at the applicable Standard Port. The arrows show the direction of stream and the numbers indicate its strength in knots. The lower value is Neaps the higher Springs. Obviously you extrapolate between the two.

In practice the Atlas is extremely useful. For example, in my case it will show at what time I need to be at Chichester Harbour Entrance to pick up a favourable tide down to Yarmouth. If I leave it too late I might find myself plugging the tide at Newtown Creek and either have to put in there until the tide turns (no hardship!) or fight the tide for a couple of hours to reach Yarmouth.

It does nothing you can't get from the diamonds but it's a heck of a lot easier to use - particularly when making that "where shall we go today?" decision!

Colin
Sorry Colin. Of course I recall the Tide Atlas...just my memory slipped a bit. A series of very important booklets. Must hurry along with my recollections before I lose my marbles altogether. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 14, 2008, 07:01:14 pm
All modern small boat compasses are magnetic but are marked in degrees with just the  Cardinal points shown.

This is the one fitted to my boat.
Just been looking at your compass again. What is the fixed scale for? BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on April 14, 2008, 07:30:33 pm
 Inclinometer. It tells you how many degrees you are leaning over. Although it's usually the last thing you are looking at!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Welsh_Druid on April 14, 2008, 07:54:14 pm
All modern small boat compasses are magnetic but are marked in degrees with just the  Cardinal points shown.

This is the one fitted to my boat.
Considering that you are really going up and down a (very nice) river, I don't think that any of my previous comments would apply to you.But if, perchance, you got blown out into the middle of the Atlantic your only recourse would be to head roughly East and ask the first person you met where you were (are). Silly point taken Colin, but the "big boys" have to abide by different rules. Cheers.BY.

Bryan

These compasses really are not "toys". I too had one fitted in my 32 ft Ketch. Using that plus tide tables we had no trouble arriving accurately at Lands End from North Wales and then from Newlyn arriving straight into the right position off Ushant (in the middle of a thunderstorm) to traverse the Chenal der Four.  No coastal following or river travel there !!

Of course this was prior to GPS. OK  we had Decca as a backup but thunderstorms can play havoc with the reception  !  A trustworthy compass is a god send then  O0

Don B.

P.S. very much enjoying your tales. Had some good laughs at some of them . More please  :)   
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 14, 2008, 08:03:21 pm
All modern small boat compasses are magnetic but are marked in degrees with just the  Cardinal points shown.

This is the one fitted to my boat.
Considering that you are really going up and down a (very nice) river, I don't think that any of my previous comments would apply to you.But if, perchance, you got blown out into the middle of the Atlantic your only recourse would be to head roughly East and ask the first person you met where you were (are). Silly point taken Colin, but the "big boys" have to abide by different rules. Cheers.BY.

Bryan

These compasses really are not "toys". I too had one fitted in my 32 ft Ketch. Using that plus tide tables we had no trouble arriving accurately at Lands End from North Wales and then from Newlyn arriving straight into the right position off Ushant (in the middle of a thunderstorm) to traverse the Chenal der Four.  No coastal following or river travel there !!

Of course this was prior to GPS. OK  we had Decca as a backup but thunderstorms can play havoc with the reception  !  A trustworthy compass is a god send then  O0

Don B.

P.S. very much enjoying your tales. Had some good laughs at some of them . More please  :)   
Thank you. I think I sometimes get carried away a bit, so I apologize. Sorry. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on April 14, 2008, 08:14:41 pm
No need to apologise Bryan. Your perspective as a shipmaster is going to be very different to us yotties. It's very interesting to see the differences.

Colin
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: seacommander on April 16, 2008, 03:29:15 am
Bryan

   Really interesting tales. The c/s ones stirred a few memories of the days I worked at Electra House in London on the end of some of your cables . I remember the Morse readers you mentioned the ink came down a very fine tube which very often dried up and blocked Went home many times with purple inky fingers.

You mentioned Porthcurno I believe the hut and the cables are still there. It was featured on one of the TV programs "Coast" I think When I was last that way a couple of years ago there  was a telegraph museum in the old CW training school and you could go into the underground area where the operations were moved to during the war.

             Thanks again for some really interesting reading
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 16, 2008, 08:26:56 pm
I guess this and the future postings could be construed as "part 2 of my life at sea". At first equally traumatic as I hadn't a clue how the RN/RFA worked. Big learning curve, and not always nice. So some of my recollections may sound a little humourless compared to other postings, but that is the way it was. Humour came later when I had a vague idea as to what I was doing.
After leaving C&W I was at a bit of a loose-end. Being recently married and with raging hormonesthe sea-faring life lost a lot of its attraction. As it has done to many a poor soul. I will gloss over the jobs I had as I still cringe a little. Managed to pay the mortgage and so on, but my life and training (?) was as a seafarer. Increasingly unhappy with shore life after a year of pettiness and the "money, money, money" attitude of the people I had to work with eventually eroded my soul. Had to go back to sea. All kinds of options were open to me, but I also had an awareness that the British Merchant Navy was in decline (1967). I had many interviews and many high paying job offers, but there was always a mental "niggle" of doubt about the long term future. When I was a pre-sea cadet the RFA was not an option. The ships of the RFA we could see at Smiths Docks etc. on the Tyne always looked old, somewhat seedy and (shall I say) a little "down-market". A bit like "Hungry Hogarths" or some such. Little snobs as we were then. But P&O wouldn't entertain kids from South Shields. They wanted Pangbourne, Conway and so on. So us clever little grammar school sods had to slum it in little known outfits such as "Blue Funnel", "BI", Ben Line", "Elder Dempster", "Royal Mail" and all of the other "second rate" concerns. Many companies in those days were aggressively advertising for cadets. The biggest one was "Shell Tankers". Promised the earth. Very few of my pre-sea classmates returned to take their 2nd mates "ticket". No-one had told them that their lives would be lived in a smelly environment, and the only "ports" they would encounter would be seen at a distance from the end of a long jetty in some of the most awful places on earth. I wanted more out of life than that. When I was in "Mercury" I had noticed a lot of activity in the Portland area. Helicopters buzzing, fast jets screeching, ships in close proximity and so on. Naturaly most of the vessels were RN, but I noted that more than a few were RFAs. These things were a lot more enticing than the rust-buckets I had seen during my pre-sea training days. So I rejected the high paying jobs and applied to join the RFA. I aked, and was given a ship to join to see if I liked it. No duties, just a familiaristion run. Nobody told the ship that, but I stuck to the terms I had been offered and was given a "free-run" to browse and observe. The ship was the then almost new "Olmeda", a fleet (liquid) replenishment ship (read "tanker") that could also operate 6 anti-submarine Wessex helicopters. (one in the hangar and 5 ranged on the "parking deck"). I had a very short introduction to the Captain who really only wanted to know if I had a bow tie. In those days officers had to "dress" for dinner. (Crap though it was). Those who had been "in the service" for a long time had blue "mess-jackets" (White on other occassions), whereas us plebs would wear our usual "day to day" doeskin uniforms.....with a bow tie. All very odd. Even doing the 12-4 night watch meant being in full uniform. But I put it down to being a quirk of nature.
Prior to this new building programme for the RFA they were generally regarded by the mainstream Merchant Navy as a sort of "cloth cap and muffler" brigade. Some justification in that, that I am not going to get into. I may be entirely wrong here (although I don't think so), but the new re-building of the RFA was to be compatible with and an adjunct to the new aircraft carriers to be built in the mid 1960s. The height of the "cold-war". These new carriers would have their own "fleet-train". Supply ships and so on. They would also have the added protection of the "Bristol" class cruisers and the Sea-Slug capability of the new "County" class destroyers..plus all the "Leander" class frigates. I will only give you one chance to guess what happened. The carriers were axed. (Ringing any bells?) But by then the "Fleet -Train" had been built. "Resource" and "Regent" were anachronisms from the start without the new carriers. The "Ol" class tankers proved to be very versatile and went on to give 40 years of superb service to navies all over the world. The "Ness" class were a bit constrained in although having a landing deck there wasn't anything else. But that was the RFA I was joining. At that time I hadn't really noticed that some of the really old, worn out and cruddy ships were still in service. No matter. Next one...first "proper" appointment in the RFA.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 17, 2008, 07:52:19 pm
My first "real" appointment was to "Resource". She was at Glenmallen. Where? Get a train to Helensburgh and we will have a car to meet you. The first of many lies told to me by MoD. No car. No money. Wait for 4 hours. Get a taxi and managing to break the local language barrier got him to understand that he would be re-imbursed and, bless him, he took me on the short tour of the Scottish Highlands.For those of you who don't know Loch Long, it's a very interesting place up from Faslane. A very scenic road up the eastern side of the loch, but you could be in for a big surprise. Come around a bend and you may well be confronted by a rather large grey ship that really has no business being there. Welcome to the Glenmallen ammunition and explosives jetty. One of the (very) few places in the UK where the RFA ammo ships can actually get to tie up. Not that it makes a blind bit of difference as getting from there to anywhere else takes dedication. But I suppose siting a major ammo depot in a populated area for the convenience of a ships crew may give rise to a few complaints. Loch Long was once used as a torpedo testing area. Nice and straight and long..hence the name?. I also recall watching dinghy fishermen hauling in 5' long cod. To get to anywhere else (unless you had a car) the RN laid on a sort of bus a few times a day into Helensburgh via Garlochhead (a good pub was there), then catch a train to Glasgow and then onwards. Took forever. So this is really where my "career" in the RFA began. Up a scottish creek with not many ways out. Although there was always a Mod-Plod presence on the compound gate there never seemed to be much thought given to the "water" side of the ship. Although I had had a brief introduction to the RFA aboard "Olmeda", this ship blew me away. Absolutely and totally different from anything I had ever seen before. (Remember the RFA is a civilian manned organisation).In an earlier post I gave a short description of the ship so I won't repeat that. But it was the on-board organisation, jargon and effectively having 3 crews ..and so many people! The jargon may as well been in Chinese for all the sense I could make of it. The entire ships company seemed to converse in TLAs. Also, although she was a dry-cargo vessel (a very loose term here), she had no hatches. All the decks were flush and the 5 decks of "holds" were served by lifts of varying sizes and capacities according to what particular whizz-bang was to be put in there. The "holds" and their contents were "looked after" by a civil service crew (CS from now on). The ranking structure of this bunch was also confusing. Can you really imagine a structure that would encompass the rating of a "Skilled Labourer"? Surely that is an oxymoron. These "dockyard maties" would spend all day whizzing around the decks on fork-lift trucks and really chewing up the nice green deck paint. And they had a habit of bumping into things (like bits of the ship) that would have been funny if it wasn't for the nature of the "stuff" they were carting around. If you are so inclined, perhaps you may care to take a peek at the pic. of Resource I posted a while ago. The gap between the amidships block and the back bit were joined by a passageway on each side of the ship that was probably 400' long. The ships ABs had the port alley (Burma Road) and the CS had the starboard (Coronation Street). Each crew was responsible for the cleaning of their own alleyway. The ABs had to fit the job in between other tasks. The CS employed a "specialist skilled labourer" whose sole task was to trog up and down their alleyway with a polishing machine and a souji cloth. 7 days a week. (Overtime at weekends,see?). The then rank structure was a bit bizarre also (been cleaned up a bit since then). Captain. Chief Officer, First Officer, 3x2nd Officers, 2x3rd Officers. 4X Radio Officers, One "writer" (a sort of purser) and a Ch.Steward who never really knew which camp he belonged in. Too many engineers to shake a stick at, 3 Electrical Officers, 2 Refrigeration Officers and possibly a cadet training unit...12 of them with their ow training officer. And I'm sre I have missed out others. One helicopter pilot (RN). The POs bar was just as crowded. Bosun and 2 bosuns mates. A Yeoman of Signals (and he had 2 signalmen below him). Engineers a bit similar with the Donkeyman at the top of the heap. The CS bunch had maybe 8 officers and a dozen POs. One of their junior officers had a very strange remit. His "day-job" was to oversee the large garage that fixed the busted fork-lifts, re-charge the batteries and so on..but his other "job" was to look after and "test" (not figuratively) the nuclear jobbies. All his "superiors" were pen-pushers. Tell you anything? With any luck you will now be as confused as I was. But the first "job" was an "ammo dump". Continue later. BY
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on April 18, 2008, 05:52:25 pm
Aw c'mon Bryan. Oil tankers are smelly - unless they are RFA tankers? The only "ports they would encounter would be seen at a distance from the end of a long jetty in some of the most awful places on earth"? I spent 14 years with Shell Tankers and, overall, they were a good company to work for (the move to IoM manning and the mass exodus was after my time). Yes, I did see the wrong end of jetties at Mena Al Ahmadi, Kharg Island etc., but I also became acquainted with the ports of North & South America, Carribean, Med, Northern Europe and Scandinavia, Middle and Far East and Australasia. Maybe we didn't spend as much time in port as C&W and the RFA but it was long enough to spend our money AND we didn't need to wear a bow tie.

Cheers

 ::) Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 18, 2008, 08:02:51 pm
Points taken Barry. But the fact remains that a lot of the kids I went to pre-sea with got a bit miffed-off and left. I agree that Shell (and one or two others were very good outfits to work for, but some of their advertising was a bit dubious (in retrospect), and these kids had "signed-up" at the age of 16, not knowing one end of a ship from the other. Times have changed. I talk regularly to a retired "Shell" Master, and he also bemoans the fact that tankers are now berthed miles from anywhere and then only for a few hours. Regarding the "bow-tie" syndrome....the height of pretentiousness by a Captain who only a few years previously would have been glad of a chance to even wear his uniform. New ships brought new attitudes, and many of them were well "over the top". Thank goodness sanity prevailed, although it took perhaps 6 or 7 years. The RFA in the mid to late 1960s was riddled with "bull" and stuff that some of those who should have known better tried to pass off as "traditions". But as one Radio Officer once pronounced to all and sundry "The RFA disn'ae have traditions...it only has bad habits"...and not many truer words were said at that time. The RFA haemorraged good officers in those days. I truthfully only stuck with it then because I couldn't see the British MN lasting too much longer. So many "small" countries building up their own fleets after being trained through British companies, Flags of convenience were on the rise and some major companies were diversifying into realms they had, historically, eschewed. And so they fell. I don't feel particularly proud or smug having seen this happening. Just that my eyes were open and the writing was on the wall..so to speak. Sorry for the long answer to a "simple" comment!. Cheers.Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Damien on April 23, 2008, 10:38:03 am
My wife found this while surfing different religeous beliefs, I'll put the URL in for anyone who wants a look.

After a shipwreck off the coast of Antikythera, divers found a strange object. Upon observation, it was found to be an extremely small scale planetarium, with the most intricate clockwork, by which the positions of the Sun, Moon and other planets could be worked out. The ship was said to have floundered around 60BC.
http://www.mendhak.com/95-is-god-an-alien.aspx (http://www.mendhak.com/95-is-god-an-alien.aspx)
Damien.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: tigertiger on April 23, 2008, 11:03:39 am
My wife found this while surfing different religeous beliefs, I'll put the URL in for anyone who wants a look.

After a shipwreck off the coast of Antikythera, divers found a strange object. Upon observation, it was found to be an extremely small scale planetarium, with the most intricate clockwork, by which the positions of the Sun, Moon and other planets could be worked out. The ship was said to have floundered around 60BC.
http://www.mendhak.com/95-is-god-an-alien.aspx (http://www.mendhak.com/95-is-god-an-alien.aspx)
Damien.

Apparently not a hoax.
http://www.antikythera-mechanism.com/

Wiki has more info and a lot on the functionality of it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 24, 2008, 07:52:30 pm
My wife found this while surfing different religeous beliefs, I'll put the URL in for anyone who wants a look.

After a shipwreck off the coast of Antikythera, divers found a strange object. Upon observation, it was found to be an extremely small scale planetarium, with the most intricate clockwork, by which the positions of the Sun, Moon and other planets could be worked out. The ship was said to have floundered around 60BC.
http://www.mendhak.com/95-is-god-an-alien.aspx (http://www.mendhak.com/95-is-god-an-alien.aspx)
Damien.

Apparently not a hoax.
http://www.antikythera-mechanism.com/

Wiki has more info and a lot on the functionality of it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism
This "mechanism" has been known about for a long time now....but I think was put into the "quaint" category by a lot of folk who should have known better. It is often said (and written) that Astronomers, Archeologists and other "high blown" people are pretty vicious about the work of others in their chosen field. A bit like ship modellers really. But it beggars belief that such a complicated thing could be made then when even writing was in its infancy. No, I have not "lost the plot", but other ideas about its origion should be considered with an open mind. There are other examples of the "unexplained" from times long ago. The Pyramids, the (Rhebus?) map (alledgedly drawn berore the earth was considered a sphere), Stonehenge, even. Many more if I could be bothered to trawl for them. To put it quite bluntly, after many years cogitating the Universe and all that guff, I still believe that this planet was either "visited" or "seeded". No doubt I will be vilified for such heresy. (I am NOT a "Scientologist"!). Just think about the unknowns and make up your own mind. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: tigertiger on April 25, 2008, 03:59:04 am
I think our ancestors may have been smarter than we thought. Often we get arrogant about our development. We may have re-invented the wheel on many occasions.

Until the printing press, most knowledge was either passed on to the apprentice, or died with the keeper. Now we have books we can share ideas, and build upon/improve what has gone before 95% of creativity is evolution and not revolution.
How much knowledge in the past was just lost, and I am sure there were some inspirational inventions in the past, that were lost or destroyed as heretical, or kept a big commercial secret.

For example, it is easy to see a situation where a commercial skipper invented a navigation device that gave him the advantage, then there would only be one such device.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on April 25, 2008, 01:17:49 pm
After all this time I thought the events on a certain ‘white oiler’ – refined product carrier – in the early-70’s, would be safely forgotten but it seems not! Perhaps it’s time to come clean.

We were trading in the Mediterranean and Tripoli, Naples, Piraeus, Marseilles etc. were all familiar to us. The only fly in the ointment was the Old Man, otherwise known as 'The Lurker' who had a habit of hiding around corners eavesdropping. Nothing was safe from his scrutiny and thirst for information. Thus it was that a plan was hatched to give him enough to (hopefully) put him into information overload.

One Sunday morning - "Six days shalt thou perform Field Days and on the Seventh thou shalt work only eight hours" - a small procession emerged onto the main deck in clear view of the Bridge where the Old Man was seen leaning on the rail. In front was the Chief Engineer with clipboard and slide rule under his arm, behind came the Second Engineer with a set of  steam tables and a large micrometer and following up was a trio of apprentices bearing calipers, tape measures, plumb bobs and a tray covered with a cloth. Under the command of the Second, measurements were taken of the deck, pipelines, tank hatches and in fact anything that could be measured, and passed to the Chief who consulted his slide rule and entered the results on the clipboard. By this time The Lurker was chewing lumps out of the teak capping in his anxiety to know what was afoot. (The 3rd Mate performed a brilliant impression later.)

Finally, the piece de resistance - the tray was uncovered with a flourish to reveal a gleaming brass object which was passed carefully to the Chief. Holding this up to his eye, the Chief trained the instrument on the deck, turned various knobs and clicked a small lever on the side before passing readings to an apprentice. Finally, the instrument was covered up again and the procession left the deck in the direction of the bar.   

Until he paid off a month later, The Lurker tried everything he knew to find out what had happened that morning. Desperate to know but equally desperate not to appear too nosey, he was stonewalled with murmurs of ‘commercial confidentiality’, ‘will save millions and make us a fortune’ etc. The apprentices, bribed with beer and offers of extended shore leave, managed to plead ignorance.

And the gleaming brass instrument? That was produced from a bearing brass of a steam windlass eccentric strap, scrap tubing and the innards of the Chief Steward’s clock (presented to him for services to malnutrition and “liberated” while he was not looking). To preserve secrecy it was cast overboard off Crete and to this day I assumed it still lay there gathering coral. Now I’m not so sure.

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on April 27, 2008, 06:18:44 pm
Our ancestors were every bit as smart as we are - they just knew about different things. A particular interest of mine is the ancient Minoan culture of Crete. When you look at what they achieved architecturally over 3,500 years ago it is just staggering. At Knossos there is a drainage channel going down stone staircase. The stones forming the channel are especially shaped to slow down the water flow where it goes around the corners on the landings to stop the water spilling out. They even had flushing toilets. Their fleet controlled the entire eastern Mediterranean.

Picture of a modern reconstruction of one of their ships below.

Fascinating stuff.

Colin
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on April 27, 2008, 06:22:08 pm
Ok - One more. I cannot claim to be personally involved in this one but the story was current in the 60's and 70's around The Fleet.

The subject of this tale, the Old Man, was wont to imbibe. Fair enough, not to put too fine a point on it, he was a total p***head. Why is another story; Sparkies were well know to be mad, bad, Irish or devotees of John Barleycorn - sometimes (bad news) all four. In my experience (and this is where 'those who know better' can leap in) if Chiefs drank to excess they tended to keep it quiet, the Second and the rest of the engineers didn't have the time while the Mate and the rest of the anchor-clankers were too close to the scrutiny of the Old Man. Only the Old Man had the time and - in this instance - the inclination.

Too many times the Old Man would shut himself away in his cabin for days. When docking, the Old Man was often found to be absent from reality and thus the Mate was in the habit of assuming command and berthing the vessel. Thus, after the vesssel had left Piraeus (port for Athens) and the Old Man did not surface, course was set for Alicante without comment. 

While the Mate was berthing the ship at Alicante, a familiar sheepish-looking figure was seen on the dockside standing next to a Company Superintendent. It was the Old Man. 

The story came out later in dribs and drabs of how the Old Man had fallen overboard, been picked up by a following, faster vessel and - keeping very quiet- been landed in Alicante to await his own ship. If the Super had not also been there he might just have got away with it. As it was, he stayed only long enough to pack his bags and leave for the UK, never to be heard of again. The Mate got a rollicking which did not appear to affect his later career and a new Old Man joined.

It was a different world then.  :)
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 27, 2008, 07:52:16 pm
Not all that different Barry. When the RFA took over the running and manning of the LSLs ("Sir Tristram" etc.) from BI management attitudes were distictivley hostile. But when the RFA/RN decided to do beach landings from the ships it caused panic within the "old guard". The BI "Master" was a gibbering wreck at the mere thought of it. So much so that he used to sit all crouched up on the deck in the corner of the wheelhouse. With a bag of chips...which he would offer to anyone passing. He was eventually carted off strapped in a chair, and was succeeded by an RFA guy (from an adjacent ship) wearing a brass coal scuttle on his head. He eventually became the "Commodore" of the RFA. But he never realised his ambition to be the first knighted commodore of the RFA.
And so such things happen. Sanity will eventually prevail, and so the LSLs went on under the RFA to be the (in my mind) the best ships for a "Nav" I have ever sailed in.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: john strapp on May 07, 2008, 10:20:19 pm
Bryan
Not all Shell tankers were smelly, like Barry M, I sailed on a few clean oil ones, one voyage I done, had a cargo of "TEEPOL" (washing up liquid) which is a byproduct of refining and you can't get cleaner than that!
Seven years with Shell parcel tankers and got a decent run of ports, only my last ship was a smelly bitumen carrier.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on May 07, 2008, 11:41:03 pm
John, that must have given a new meaning to 'tank cleaning'.

This isn't a 'knock the Sparkie' theme  but one story that springs to mind is of the Shell tanker which had been ten days out of port when the Old Man's siesta was disturbed by the Chief Engineer suggesting that he tune into the BBC World News. When he did, it was to hear that his ship was causing concern as London office had not heard from it since it left port. It turned out that the Sparkie had not seen fit to communicate with the outside world for some time but had been covering up by falsifying his radio log. Needless to say, he was relieved at the earliest.

Bryan - it definitely was another world then!  :)

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on May 08, 2008, 12:03:45 am
In my day, when joining a ship "out East" - usually Singapore - our kindly employer used to transport us by 'Combi flight'. This was a combined passenger and cargo flight where it was debateable which part was regarded of more value. Somebody once swore that the cargo consisted of pedigree Aberdeen Angus, in which case there was no question which had the better treatment and parentage.

However, in an earlier time, joining the Eastern Fleet meant a sea passage by liner. Obviously this gave considerable scope for enjoyment at Company expense over an extended period. Company expense and enjoyment were never encouraged by the Scrooges back in London and thus alternatives were sought. Somebody had a bright idea - avoid shipping Jolly Jack by sending him overland as far as possible with sea passage used only when unavoidable en route. Accordingly, twenty volunteers (?) were rounded up and sent forth.

What happened to those twenty has never been explained (as far as I know) but legend has it that not one made it to Singapore. Whether they fell by the roadside one by one en route (they were dispatched with expenses) or whether they or their descendents are still forming an expatriate colony somewhere, I cannot say; but the answers out there somewhere.

Most definitely a different world!

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: sweeper on May 08, 2008, 05:00:18 pm
In your day Barry?
It's not so many years ago that I (unwittingly) was booked onto a Combi 747 from O'Hare to Amsterdam. I couldn't understand why the highest number seat available was row 38 - I like to sit right at the rear of a plane.
The picture unfolded when I watched the very large side door being used to load pallets of goods.
As an aside, it was one of the best flights across the Atlantic that I have had.
Sweeper (a paying customer!)
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: banjo on May 10, 2008, 12:24:56 am
 :angel:
Brian...

 When the RFA took over the running and manning of the LSLs ("Sir Tristram" etc.) from BI management attitudes were distinctively hostile. But when the RFA/RN decided to do beach landings from the ships it caused panic within the "old guard". The BI "Master" was a gibbering wreck at the mere thought of it. So much so that he used to sit all crouched up on the deck in the corner of the wheelhouse. With a bag of chips...which he would offer to anyone passing. He was eventually carted off strapped in a chair, and was succeeded by an RFA guy (from an adjacent ship) wearing a brass coal scuttle on his head. He eventually became the "Commodore" of the RFA. But he never realised his ambition to be the first knighted commodore of the RFA.
And so such things happen. Sanity will eventually prevail, and so the LSLs went on under the RFA to be the (in my mind) the best ships for a "Nav" I have ever sailed in.


I am more than curious to hear about your experiences with LSLs.  I had an intimate connection with Lancelot and then the follow up Galahad class.   As the prime user the Army had an excellent working relationship with BI.   The ships were run to suit the customer, the Army.  That quickly changed when RFA took over.   There were suddenly more Officers than you could shake a stick at, all "experts" at things concerning the waters edge when previously they had been loath to venture inside the 100 fathom line.

The expeditious withdrawal from Aden in 1967 highlighted the value of the new class, this and the threatened cutbacks in the RN meant that someone jealously spied the LSLs and thought "OOO..we could be doing that". The ships  went from white to grey and, if it is possible at sea, downhill!!!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: banjo on May 10, 2008, 03:20:46 am
 :)
An afterthought..
I would not want anyone to take my remarks as a slur on the wonderful performance of all concerned during the Falklands campaign.

And so such things happen. Sanity will eventually prevail, and so the LSLs went on under the RFA to be the (in my mind) the best ships for a "Nav" I have ever sailed in.  I wholeheartedly agree.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 10, 2008, 06:27:04 pm
:angel:
Brian...

 When the RFA took over the running and manning of the LSLs ("Sir Tristram" etc.) from BI management attitudes were distinctively hostile. But when the RFA/RN decided to do beach landings from the ships it caused panic within the "old guard". The BI "Master" was a gibbering wreck at the mere thought of it. So much so that he used to sit all crouched up on the deck in the corner of the wheelhouse. With a bag of chips...which he would offer to anyone passing. He was eventually carted off strapped in a chair, and was succeeded by an RFA guy (from an adjacent ship) wearing a brass coal scuttle on his head. He eventually became the "Commodore" of the RFA. But he never realised his ambition to be the first knighted commodore of the RFA.
And so such things happen. Sanity will eventually prevail, and so the LSLs went on under the RFA to be the (in my mind) the best ships for a "Nav" I have ever sailed in.


I am more than curious to hear about your experiences with LSLs.  I had an intimate connection with Lancelot and then the follow up Galahad class.   As the prime user the Army had an excellent working relationship with BI.   The ships were run to suit the customer, the Army.  That quickly changed when RFA took over.   There were suddenly more Officers than you could shake a stick at, all "experts" at things concerning the waters edge when previously they had been loath to venture inside the 100 fathom line.

The expeditious withdrawal from Aden in 1967 highlighted the value of the new class, this and the threatened cutbacks in the RN meant that someone jealously spied the LSLs and thought "OOO..we could be doing that". The ships  went from white to grey and, if it is possible at sea, downhill!!!
Banjo: What you say will take a bit of mulling over. There was more to the RFA "take-over" than you might appreciate. I will address this in a future post....thank you for bringing it to my attention. But from the RFA point of view the ships under MOT ownership and BI management were underused, and all that changed almost overnight. The LSLs proved to be solidly integrated into the Joint Services (not just the Army) and proved their worth many times over the years. I shall come back to this subject.....eventually.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 13, 2008, 07:54:41 pm
As I said earlier, I have been mulling over the comments made by "banjo" re. the incorporation of the LSLs into the RFA, and would like to reply.
A bit of background first:-
The LSLs were never British India ships. They were "owned" by the then Ministry of Transport. This Ministry (obviously not an ecclesiastical one) also "owned" the troopships (Nevassa etc.) and quite a few others as well. Time came when ship-owning became a bit silly as other parts of HMG were better at it. (vis, the Navy and RFA). BI were the managers of these ships and were also, in the main, responsible for manning them with standard Merchant Navy personnel without much in the way of "services" training...but they did not own them. I would suggest that BI got the contract because of its very long association with HMG dating back to its days when it was more or less a private Navy...and its successful long running of the large troopships. Other companies also benefited from the largesse of HMG, but not as much as BI. Withe the demise of the large troop carriers and more air transport being used HMG and BI were really only left with the rump of the once large fleet, and they were left with the LSLs. I don't think that the RFA lobbied to have them then as it was totally navy oriented. The Army couldn't run them for obvious reasons....i.e would the crews (Caucasian and Oriental) want to join the Army? Much better to have a "piggy in the middle", so the RFA got them. (Remember that RFA also stands for "Ready For Anything"). Much the same can be said for the new "Bay" class now replacing the LSLs, the RN would love to have them, but how the Army would howl. But when "we" were given the LSLs the idea of the Joint Services set-up was embryonic. There is still competition between the 3 main services, but nowhere near the antagonism that prevailed during the 1960s.
So basically, HMG hived the ships off and became a "non-ship-owner" (not totally, but nearly so). It was all a long time ago, and memory fades a bit about inconsequentials, but I believe the LSLs were designed in 1959 and came on-stream during 1965/66, although "Lancelot" was different in so many respects that she really shouldn't be classed with the others. Some were built on the Tyne and others on the Clyde...the Tne built ones had swaged bulkheads.
The main "Base" for these ships was the Military Port at Marchwood (opposite Southampton). Excusively Army then. But the ships got around a lot. Then (possibly even now) a main role is to sustain the BAOR which means a regular ferry run from Marchwood to Antwerp. Mainly tanks and so on. Most of the jobs the ships did under BI management continued after the RFA "take-over", but the taskings became much more numerous and more integrated with the Army,RN and RAF. The RFA personnel were more used to this than the BI (or MOT) people, so in that respect efficiency improved. Although the ships (and crews) worked harder they contributed more to the overall balance of things than they did when they were left "out of the loop". The winter Norwegian exercises are a good example here (where beach landings are common). Also, being RFA manned, we didn't need specialised comms staff embarked. It was inevitable that some friction would arise in the early days. The RN didn't know what to do with the ships and the Army didn't like us "fishheads" running "their" ships. All beyond our control. Thats the way it is guys, get used to it. A lot of MOT people left and a lot of BI guys went back to BI or wherever, but a lot stayed and made a new career within the RFA...more than a few getting command on mainstream RFAs.
"Banjo" asserts that once the RFA took over there were more officers than you could shake a stick at. That is a ridiculous statement as the accommodation for ships officers is very limited. The Military (Army) officers have their own quarters. True, there may have been one or two RFA officers "learning the ropes", but not in my experience, and I was possibly the first RFA officer to be appointed to an LSL.
The comment about the RFA not wishing to go inside the 100fathom line is not just absolute balderdash, but scurillous. No-one but no-one is going to teach an RFA Nav about operating in a close quarters situation. It's an everyday event...as is beaching an LSL when it is allowed. The Nav "training" (then at Portland) always emphasised the proximity of "danger"...and how to do it "blind". Something the BI guys never did.
The "way of life" change for the BI people was a culture shock, and I sympathise with them. But it was necessary for the armed services. Where is BI now? The LSLs had perhaps 4 years service manned by BI, but went on to serve 38 years with the RFA. That says it all really.
End of part 1. more on LSLs soon. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 16, 2008, 09:47:29 pm
Before I launch into my own times on the LSLs perhaps a few lines on the ships themselves that you will not find in any publication. All the relevant data re. length and tonnage etc is easily available elsewhere (the ships are actually a lot bigger than they look). I suggest that those interested log on to <Royal Fleet Auauxiliary> and see what comes up. The basis of an LSL is a large raft with some sort of superstructure plonked on top. The "working bits" like the bow doors and the stern ramp really dated back to WW2 (but still effective). The bow doors opening like real doors do effectively limited the ships speed to a tad over 16 knots. When closed, the doors were "securely" held tight with numerous bottle-screws, but they always leaked a bit. I think it was "Sir Percivale" that thumped her forefoot on a N.Sea sandbank and sprung her doors a bit. Well inside the 100 fm. line. But the main "collision bulkhead" was the primary ramp.There were 2 main ramps and a smaller extendable one. Lots of wires etc. The main ramp fitted as a full bulkhead should, but was also secured with many bottle-screws. The USN at this time were also experimenting with bow doors for their landing ships as they had realised that the WW2 methods were not good enough. They came up with those strange looking things with a great snout sticking out over the bows. I'm still not sure how they worked but it must have been a success as they built a shed load of them. The "visor" idea didn't come for a long time, and I think that was a commercial thing for ferries. Access from the rear (pardon the expression) was via the stern ramp. A simple arrangement of a large steel plate hinged at the bottom and lowered by its own weight, but raised by what appears to be 2 small anchor chains.Naturally, these chains went down int a couple of "cable lockers" via pipes. LSLs bounced around a lot. The noise of these chains banging around inside the pipes incensed the sleepless crew, so they (as the Chinese do) took action and stuffed the pipes with mattresses, pillows and whatever. Amazing what spewed out of the pipes next time the stern ramp was lowered. Don't blame them really as the racket was really nasty. The stern ramp opened into a sort of corridor wide enough to take a battle tank before dipping down to the "tank deck" proper. This "corridor" more or less ran between and a bit above the 2 main high speed (ALLEN) main engines that gave prop speeds of over 300 rpm. And that is a fast prop for a full sized ship...stop the engines and you lost steering immediately. I used to drive them like waterborne truck when they became incredibly manoueverable. The bow thruster was a measly little thing of about 10 tons thrust. Not really enough when berthing in gale conditions.The Main tank deck could take perhaps 16 or 18 main battle tanks and another 3 left in the after trunk. At probably 70 tons each we are looking at over 2000 tons of concentrated weight centred about the waterline of the ship. Not good for stability. So these ships have extraordinarily deep double bottoms. Perhaps 11' deep. (Normal ships have maybe 3' or so).All on a draught of 14'. About 4' above the level of the tank deck level is the troop dormitory level (at the sides of the ship). I think there were 10 dormitories each holding 36 men. Brigade/Regiment strength? Can't remember. I do remember the "sea-sick" smell though. It never went away, even after a dry-docking period. I also recall that we were horrified to find that some of the dormitory doors could be locked from the outside and unable to be opened from the inside. For prisoners of war perhaps? (Another point that "banjo" may not know). With all this "stuff" aboard the risk of fire was always present. The tank-deck had 3 water curtains, and believe me, when they were on "full-bore" it was like 3 Niagaras. So the pumps and bilges had to cope. And they did. As vehicles entered the ship via the bows or stern and only occasionally got craned aboard there had to be some sort of access from the tank deck to the upper vehicle deck. Ramps. Very clever ones. Thes ramps wer also the hatch covers that could slide horizontally, drop one end to allow access from the rear or drop the front to allow for bow entry. It was a genius who designed these. All done with lots of wires, and the Chinese had the system off to a "T". But I will leave it there for today and continue later. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: tigertiger on May 17, 2008, 02:26:13 am
Hi Bryan

you said "The Main tank deck could take perhaps 16 or 18 main battle tanks and another 3 left in the after trunk. At probably 70 tons each we are looking at over 2000 tons of concentrated weight centred about the waterline of the ship. Not good for stability. So these ships have extraordinarily deep double bottoms. "

What is a double bottom?
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 17, 2008, 01:55:05 pm
Hi Bryan

you said "The Main tank deck could take perhaps 16 or 18 main battle tanks and another 3 left in the after trunk. At probably 70 tons each we are looking at over 2000 tons of concentrated weight centred about the waterline of the ship. Not good for stability. So these ships have extraordinarily deep double bottoms. "

What is a double bottom?
Exactly what it says on the tin! (in this case a rather large tin. The area below the bottom (ceiling, just to confuse you further!) of a hold and the insided of the shell plating. Generally about 3' deep and partitioned by many floors (floors on a ship are vertical) which can be open or closed. The compartments thus formed can be used for ballast (either permanent or temporary), fuel oil , extra hull strengthening and a bit of added insurance in the event of the bottom plates being breached. Floors are only found in double bottoms and are really just not very high bulkheads. Still confused? Good. Keep asking. Cheers, Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 17, 2008, 03:15:19 pm
LSLs again.
The LSLs also had what was then a fairly novel stabilisation system called the "Flume System" Sorry Tiger, but you're going to be confused again.The "Flume" is really quite simple in theory, but rather difficult in practice. To put it simply, it is an athwartship tank (of the water container sort and not the type with a gun on it). In the case of the LSLs the double bottoms were deep enough to incorporate one without intrusion into a hold or other space. Within the Flume tank are a couple of longitudinal bulkheads (not "floors" this time) that have holes in. The tank is partially filled with sea water. When the ship rolls the water cannot get back to the other side of the ship as quickly as it wants to thus limiting the roll. But we seafarers found that in use it made the ships movement unprdictable and a bit jerky...and the troops were still seasick, as opposed to being simply sick of the sea.
But it's time to go outside on to the open decks. There are 2 flight decks. One at the back where you would expect to find it and the other on the foredeck. One legacy of being designed for non-specialist crews was the absence of much in the way of aicraft support facilities. Basic re-fuelling systems and that was it. Apart from a very comprehensive comms fit (the LSLs were also designed to be secondary comms ships when working with a larger amphibious group). When the ships were designed the largest helo was the Wessex in all its guises. When the Sea King came into service there were doubts about the strength of the after flight deck. All the aft accomodation block was of Aluminium and the helo "pad" on the aft flt.dk. was of steel. Naturally, this steel section had to be insulated from the aluminium structure with Neoprene sheeting. Inevitably some seepage occurred and the aluminium would begin to show signs of sacrifice. I oten wondered if an unusually heavy landing would plonk the steel pad plus the aircraft through the aluminium and straight into the Military Officers accomodation. Messy. Eventually the decks were cleared for Sea King ops, but I think there was still a weight limitation. When the ships were pre-RFA they had 2 twin 40mm guns stowed in the forward hold. WW2 vintage. They weren't kept for long. The accomodation for the ships officers was a relevation to us RFA types. Small, but very well thought out and all with en-suite facilities. BI had a long tradition with passenger ships and so on whereas the RFA was basically run by transient civil servants who couldn't give a monkeys about the comfort of the people manning the ships. RFA management and ship design had to change..and it did. As a young seafarer I and most of my contemporaries would sooner cut off a finger than join the RFA. (Then derided as a "cloth cap and muffler" brigade). But times change. The bunks could fold up into a settee at the push of a button..and this gave rise to a sort of practical joke that involved fastening the bedding securing belts around the sleeping occupant and converting the bunk into settee mode, leaving the hapless occupant dangling in the void space behind with no way out. The whole shebang had to be dismantled to get the poor sod out. The then new "Rover" class were built with accomodation almost identical to the LSL model. There was also a large an well equipped hospital...as you would expect in a troop carrier. The officers bar/lounge was on the stbd. side between the ships accomodation and the Military offs area. (They didn't have en-suite or anything as they weren't expected to be "long term" guests). When "we" took over there was a permanently appointed Army Officer who acted as the liaison between "us" and "them". But after a couple of years or so when the Army had become used to us and found us to be more flexible than the previous regime, he was dispensed with and a Warrant Officer was appointed in his place.
When we (RFA bods) first appeared on the scene we quickly discovered that it had been the practice for the BI officers not to use the bar/lounge when army officers were embarked (unless invited, which wasn't always the case). This was firmly stamped out smartish and the army were told they were now "guests" on "our" ships and not the other way round. Much harrumphing. Tough. But the message got through and life settled down quite nicely for the next 30 odd years. Even the Marchwood Port Authorities (Army) became human. But the Chinese crews always caused problems....usually of a humourous sort. Marchwood is, as you would expect, surrounded by a heavy steel link chain fence. The Chinese loved 2 things. Fishing and eating (and gambling and mahjong). A chain link fence was no barrier to a determined fishing or hunting party. Geese and the odd swan (plus fish) often finished up in the crew galley.
The ships were very noisy. The turbo blowers for the main engines really howled day and night, the bridge was a very noisy place  as well, with all the radar gubbins directly behind the chart table. Lord alone knows how much radiation I absorbed from that lot. But the real killer was the ships stability. Too much of it. These ships had a metacentric height of around 13 feet. Most ships have about 3 feet. In practice this means that the ships "righting lever" is huge. So an LSL would roll 30* one way to 30* the other in around 4 seconds. Constant backache...and they pitched and heaved a lot as well (so did the troops). I once took a VHF call from a passing trawler off the top end of Norway who wanted to know if we had just come out of refit as our ships bottom was so clean.
See if I can find some pics for the next little lot.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 17, 2008, 05:25:18 pm
A few general pics of LSLs at work. You will see that they really are larger "in the flesh" than they appear. This could be because ships have in general become a lot larger and so a mere 400 footer looks small.
1:- A very crappy old pic of "Sir Lancelot" beached in Warbarrow Bay. But the pic shows some of the more obvious differences between her and her half sisters.
2:- "Sir Geraint" leaving Malta while still under BI management. They did look rather smart with the white hull, blue band and buff funnel. She is only part loaded here.
3:- "Sir Tristram" without a deck cargo. The side numbers appeared only after incorporation within the mainstream fleet.
4:- Not the usual way of landing a Sea King. ("Sir Galahad" no.2, Norway 1992)
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 17, 2008, 05:32:05 pm
Oops. Cocked that one up a bit. Pic 4 is a more modern one of "Sir Geraint" with at least one "Mexeflote" and what seems to be a pretty full load.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 22, 2008, 06:34:01 pm
Before I leave the design oddities of the LSLs, a couple more have come to mind. The galley. As you may recall I mentioned that the ships could carry nearly 400 people in various levels of distress. Troops like chips. The galley had a chipmaker. This thing was about 4" square and could accept 1 spud at a time. Good forward thinking there. So when carrying troops some of the poor devils were assigned to the task the Army was originally designed around. Peeling spuds and cutting them into chips.
The second "gizmo" was a beauty. The Bread and Butter machine. Most ships (that I sailed in) carried their own baker. The loaf that was produced on an LSL was extremely good....but odd. At around 3' long and 4" square it accepted a slice of "pussers hard" perfectly. ("Pussers Hard" is a huge chunk of cheese about the same sizeas the aforementioned loaf. Great when melted on toast). The Bread and Butter machine looked a bit like a scary lathe. This thing would cut a 3' long loaf into buttered slices in about 5 seconds flat. I tried it one night just for a sandwich and even though I pressed the go/stop buttons without a gap between I still had enough buttered bread for a dozen doorstoppers.
When we (RFA) took over the LSLs a quick walkround indicated that there were 2 galleys operating within the same large space. The very large forward area cooking for the troops and ships officers, and the after - much smaller - end used by the Chinese crew for their own cooking (swans etc....). The 2 areas were divided by a bulkhead with an access door. After getting really aquainted with the ship (Geraint), and doing a thorough inspection I noticed that the dividing bulkhead was a bit "coggly", and on investigation found that the b'hd was really a metal mesh screen that had been made to look solid by 4 years of accumulated fat from the stove. Talk about a disaster waiting to happen. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 24, 2008, 07:51:58 pm
Working up to a work-up.
I hope that you all appreciate that these musings are from my own RFA standpoint, and that the RN/ex RN readers will have theirs. I don't wish to tread in waters foreign to me.
Eventually this wee novelette will be about "work-ups"...but some background is required for those of you of a non-nautical persuasion.
During an RFA refit which would normally last for around 3 months once every 2 years only a skeleton RFA staff would be present. Mainly engineers as most of the jobs to be done are in their bailywick. A couple of comms guys, a supply officer to ensure we got paid and to look after the endless incoming and outgoing MoD bumph. A couple of deck officers to strut around and complain, and look after "their" bits of ship. Last bit isn't really true....but only partly. There would also be a few ratings to do "whatever".
Coming towards the end of a refit a crew would begin to arrive. First as a dribble, and before you knew it the ship would be awash with eager beavers wanting to know where the best pubs and totty were to be found. So professional. If it was a Tyne refit I was expected to know all the answers. If I did, then SWMBO would quite rightly have thrown a wobbler. I know more about Plymouth night life than I do about it "up here".
But getting the ship ready for sea is the easy bit. Just get the basics right, do the sea trials, compass swinging and all that stuff and then head off to the re-storing, re-rigging port. But not always. Leaving the Tyne on "Tidereach" for an 8 month deployment we went beyond the piers and the ship died. The Mrs. was not amused as she had to put up with me for another 3 weeks. But it was a crappy old ship anyway.
If the ship is a "front-line" tanker (then Olna, Olmeda etc) then you could reasonably expect the de-storing to be at Gosport or Saltash. If the ship is a "dry" one (Resource, Fort Austin etc), then look to the major dockyards plus Loch Long. Let me begin with a "front-line" tanker. Prior to a refit the ship is "de-stored". This means that everything that is not needed for the trip from the de-storing port to the refit port is put ashore into "lay-aside". We were never told where the refit port would be until the last moment..stupid, but MoD loves its little pathetic secrets. Especially when the refit port knows all about it and there is always someone aboard "who knows" (me for one, if it was to be the Tyne). Portable stuff is jammed into "Chacons" or "Devcons"..just acronyms for large wooden crates about 7' cubes from CHatham or DEVonport. A lot of these find their way into a second life as quartermasters huts complete with all mod-cons. Dockyards do not like this as it buggers up their accounting.
Big things like the re-fuelling hoses that had to be "tested" were also sent ashore along with all the associated running gear and so on. This period would last for perhaps 3 weeks.
Towards the end of the refit we would be subject to a series of HATs (Harbour Acceptance Trials) that would clear (or not) the ship to prceed to the next stage. HATs would ensure the Flight arrangements were OK and the RAS gear came up to spec. The "civvy" stuff was left to the Lloyds surveyor. The SATs (Sea acceptance Trials) came later. Then we go on to the re-storing port. Hopefully this is the same as the de-storing one....but not always. On the odd occasion when this was not the case chaos reigned. Just....for example....de-store at Plymouth, and re-store at Rosyth. I'll leave the logistics and "common-dog" thinking behind this decision up to you. But it is during this period that beaurocratic stupidity really comes to the fore. Generally speaking on a day to day basis Naval Stores are not that much of a problem (although I did find that Portsmouth was much more helpful than Devonport or Rosyth). But all Naval Dockyards see ships as an encumbrance to the running of the Dockyard. Naval Dockyards are run by civil servants. (The USN Dockyards are run by the Navy). Admirals do not count in our yards. The "boss" is usually a PSTON (make of that what you will, but it is one up from a STON).
A couple of examples here might explain a bit.
But as SWMBO is calling me to dinner, that will keep until tomorrow. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 25, 2008, 07:11:03 pm
During one particular refit (Devonport) a lot of our hoses were classed as "unsat" during testing. So we had to get new ones. These things are horrendously expensive and get heavily used (and abused) in all sorts of weather. The civil servants refused to issue us with replacements on cost grounds...and stated that we had "sufficient". (about 80). The ship was programmed to eventually go off on the "Armilla" thing in the Persian Gulf (when the "Boghammers" were doing their thing). I had to go personally to the relevant office to try and sort this out. The "discussion" eventually got to the point when I asked if they knew what kind of ship they were dealing with. A lot of blank faces.....even though there was a large photo of our sister ship hanging on the wall in the same office. When "they" kept on saying "no" I had to tell them that I had no option but to OPDEF the ship, and give my reasons in writing to the Admiralty. OPDEF being an Operational Defect that would prevent the ship carrying out an allocated task. We got our hoses.
During one of the regular "re-organisations" the control of certain bits of kit were transferred from the Navy to the RAF and the Army. I think the RAF were put in charge of issuing "domestic" stuff like furniture and so on. God knows what the Army was in charge of. To prevent the re-fuelling hose chafing themselves into ribbons as they slid over the cradles , said cradles are lined with "coconut matting". The RAF refused to give us our order for 100 yards of this on the grounds that it was specifically for the walk-ways around swimming pools. Oh dear. Back to square one. Got it eventually, but with many toys being thrown out of the RAF pram.
And if you really want to know where a lot of your tax money goes......our Captain really needed a new coffee table for the use of guests etc. A simple little thing with a drop leaf at each end. About £20 at MFI or Ikea. I was somewhat startled to see the ship had been billed for £190 for the table. More queries. Yes, the table cost £20, but the (Naval) dockyard charged for collection including the van drivers pay for the period. Then we were charged for "warehousing" (including the handlers salary), and then again in reverse for delivery to the ship. All beautifully accounted for.
Then we go off for re-ammunitioning. You do recall that the RFA is a civilian manned organisation, of course you do. Ammunition? Are we Congolese Freedom Fighters? Mercenaries? (Perhaps closer to the truth). But there we are, miles from anywhere. This has always struck me as rather odd. An RFA tanker does not carry a civil service "crew", but the "ammo" ships do. The same crew members heave the stuff on and off the ship. A Tanker has to load ammo miles from anywhere whilst the Ammo ships can load all sorts of "nasties" within a mile of the City of Plymouth. Apart from being nonsesical I can only assume that it is because the "whinging janners" wanted a boat to get home at night. Lots of stuff to load. Chaff rockets, 20mm ammo, GPMG stuff, aerial gizmos and lots of "fireworks". Quite a few tons of this lot. (Still "civilian"?).
Eventually all is done, and if time permits we may go off on a "shake-down" cruise. This is ostensibly to get the crew bedded in and "get us all up to speed" (as it were)...but a major reason was to go far enough West to allow the bond to be opened and break out the duty free ciggies and stock the 3 bars. But we did do a lot of work as well. Lots of firefighting training and damage control, engine and steering gear failures...all the usual day to day stuff you will find in a normal household. Generally during this period prior to BOST we would be joined by either another RFA or an RN vessel so we could "stretch rigs". This would be in the form of a dummy RAS to get the whole schermozzle working as it shoud. The RFA ships were always a bit reluctant as they did the whole thing for real every day (and night), but the RN always needs more practice. Nothing derogatory here, they always had "newbies" to train...and this is a good chance.
So. Now it is on to Portland (now Plymouth of course) for "Work-Up"(BOST) proper...and so the story begins......
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 27, 2008, 04:48:07 pm
After the "shake-down" it is fairly usual to nip into Devonport or Portsmouth for a few days to do whatever needs doing.
On arrival at Portland, more often than not, an RFA is stuck on a buoy. Most RN ships are given an alongside berth. Well, I suppose it is "their" harbour! I think I mentioned some time ago that the RN define the seasons strictly by date and totally ignore what the weather is actually doing. A good example of this pottiness is the mooring to a buoy. If you are going to a buoy before the 20th of May then you have to have 2 anchor cables attached to the buoy...even if the weather is sub-tropical. This is a real work out for the deck crew. But if you moor after the 20th of May then one cable will suffice, even though the weather may be Arctic and blowing a hooghly. "Rules is rules". The same applies to which uniform you wear. But one quickly gets to realise that a certain amount of pig-headed sadisticness pervades the minds of (some of) the FOST teams...especially thos who delight in the public humilation of senior officers. They say it is all "character building"..but then, they would say that, wouldn't they.
Many RN personnel only ever do one "work-up" during their entire time in the RN. Could be because a lot of them are not "in" for a full career. The RFA crews are much more "permanent", and so yet another work-up is just another 3 weeks of hassle. Mind you, I agree with all this "in principle"....itis just that one can get too much of it. Another damn silly arrangement is the RFAs penchant for relieving those who have done the refit and work-up with new joiners. So many of the new crew will not be "up to speed". Even the FOST teams used to think this a bit of madness.
The 1st week is the "harbour week", and the FOST staff really do inspect the ship extremely thoroughly...not just for physical cleanliness, but procedures, accounting and so on. This is good as it often shows up areas that have been allowed to slide a little. A bit like taking a driving test after 20 "safe" years on the road. It can be a pretty tense time even for those who are on their 6th or even 10th work-up and who know "the system". We wil also have at least 2 "harbour fires", when a proportion of the crew are ashore (or told not to partake). This requires a totally different organisation to the more usual "at sea" scenario. It could also involve shore based authorities. But more on that later when I discuss ammo ships.
One of the reasons that the RFA ships have much smaller crews than the RN is because (particularly) the RFA officers do a lot more multi-tasking than their RN counterparts. A simple example here would be the general spread of nautical knowledge imparted to MN officers during their training to pass their "tickets". RN people are much more specialised. So to my mind a MN officer getting further RN training gains a heck of a lot. The RFA traditionally had a very high officer to rating ratio. This has changed drastically. The ratigs and POs now have a much more structured career path, and the officer complement has been able to be reduced. Long overdue.
And from what I hear on the grapevine a lot of decent RN ratings subsequently join the RFA when their time in the Andrew is up.
But I am talking about the 1970s and 80s here. RFA training for officers was always carried out in Service establishments for obvious reasons, but this has been extended through all ranks. Good. Even though all RFA personnel remain firmly "civilian".
During our leave periods it was more or less expected that we officers would be called away from the lee of bum island to do one or more courses. Mainly on the S.Coast. Lots of 1st class train travel! (Even by air now and again). 2 weeks at HMS Phoenix for yet more  (filthy and cold and wet and hot) fire fighting training. Back to the same place for the nuclear, chemical and biological aspects of war. Aldermaston for more of the same...except this time we had to dress up and behave like soldiers! Yeucch. On to RFA HQ (London) for a week doing "Alcohol and Drug Abuse Training". Never did really work out what the course name meant...but as the drug councillor (sorry, lecturer) was in re-hab or something the alcohol bit was mainly conducted in a pub. As a 2/O , 2 or 3 weeks training as a radar helicopter controller...RN style, with perhaps 4 aircraft in the circuit simultaneously. A couple of weeks at HMS Cambridge learning how to fire, maintain and control "defensive" weapons. (Good training for when the Falklands thing came up). Off to the SBS base at Poole to learn about "security". Somewhere else to learn more about things that go "bang", and how to deal with undesired "leakages" from same. A rather stupid Radar Nav Course at somehere in Hampshire that wasn't half as good as the standard MN stuff at any MN training college. A dangerous cargo course at Warsash (waste of time, but the local restaurants are good). Naturally, all these courses were spread over more than one leave period. Leave periods were extended to cver the time spent away. I was even sent to the civil service college at Sunningdale to learn about PR. Awaste of time for me as I am not by nature a "spin doctor". To the chagrin of those who sent me! Thankfully a lot of these courses are now attended by POs and Ratings. I guess you could say that "we" got a pretty good post-graduate education in subjects well away from the general mainstream sort of stuff. By far my favourite venue was the old Staff College at Greenwich. Steeped in history. To walk through the tunnel connecting the 2 wings and emerge into the Painted Hall for dinner was like being royalty.
But the real world would beckon. Portland, and back to the realities.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 28, 2008, 04:27:27 pm
FOST being FOST, he is not paid to trust the training given by any other establishment but his own. Alas, he doesn't do any of it himself....or even come to see us. He "may" pop aboard for a drinky-poo and a sticky bu with the Captain, but he certainly does not address the masses. Perhaps when the TV cameras are there. He has Accolytes to do the dirty.
Portland trains naval ships from all over the world. Please, again, read this in the past tense. Even the USN do it now and again. For all my vitriol, I admire the system and its reason for being...but not some of the people.
I could be wrong here, but perhaps not. I think the whole idea started off during WW2 when the RN was huge and had recruited thousands of undertrained officers and ratings. Sure, they all went to shore based establishments to learn the basics, but doing it all in practice aboard a real ship is different. Portland then was very much a front-line base. Some clever and farsighted politician or naval officer decided that real on board traing should be provided. Tobermory in Scotland was chosen...and what a superb job they did. It was only natural that the programme should continue post WW2, and the programme was moved to Portland. Portland is a very odd place. It is so odd that I think it should be re-classified as a foreign country. During the period of one of our many spats with the Spanish I did once muse in public (only half tongue in cheek) that it may be a good idea to give Spain Portland if they left Gib alone. The 2 places have much in common...including their own language. Although the citizens of Weymouth would not care to be likened to those in La Linea.
Portland harbour is huge. I guess you really have to see it from the air to appreciate its true sizeLook at some of the old wartime photos with uncountable numbers of major ships at anchor (and many more smaller vessels) and there is still room for another fleet. Mind, it doesn't feel all that big when coming in to a precise anchorage on a dark and stormy winters night! Portland has 3 entrances. North, East and South. The South entrance was blocked (deliberately) with an old battleship. The ESC (East Ship Channel) is the one most commonly used for entering and leaving. The NSC is more often used by ships doing a "blind pilotage" or some other evolution that requires a bit of"privacy". The NSC is also prone to interference by uncaring fishing boats and cross-channel ferries that don't give a "xxxxx" even if you are the Royal Yacht. Many an emergency "full-astern" in this area.
In all the years I "passed through" Portland I always thought how "WW2" it looked. Not that it was ramshackle or anything, well, not all that much. It was just the style of everything. And having a small Moss Bros shop just outside the main gate seemed to give the place a "Dads Army" sort of feel. Having a socking great lump of rock so close to the water meant all the buildings and so on were compressed into a long ribbon. Nothing ergonomic about this place. Turn right and you will reach the main gate and then on to Town" or Weymouth. Turn left and you are confronted by a paved route up the North face of the Eiger. God, that hill is steep (and long!). Unfortunately, half way up this hill was the Portland Fire School. Lordy, not again! Not too long ago this country had numerous car scrapyards. (Bear with me). These yards were often on oil saturated ground. So was the Portland Fire School. When the "sadistic ones" lit their fires all sorts of miature oil wells used to sort of explode...usually very close to important anatomical bits and pieces, to the glee of the "ones" who knew where to stay out of trouble. Another dirty and wet day for all "pupils".
By now I had graduated from being a helicopter controller to being a fully fledged Flight Deck Officer. (Another course done during a leave period), but my big mistake here was not to know or realise that the London to Weymouth train got cut in half at Poole. I don't need to tell you which half I was in. There is something sort of world changing when you sit on a train, see the engine pull away but you don't go with it. Such is life. The FDO course was pretty good fun apart from that went on long after the pubs had closed. We "students" were offered the chance to be a front seat passenger in the rattly old Wessex that was our training aircraft. For some reason most of the RN guys declined. I loved it. As the "circuit" was very tight, the aircraft had to bank very steeply, so the pilot asked me to hold the old instrument panel in a position where he could see it. All lends to the romance of the occasion. During a lull in procedings he took us out over Portland harbour and asked if I would like to try and "drive the thing". What a hoot. So I got it to go up and down, I went sideways, I went backwards, In fact I could get it going anywhere but in a straight line forwards. Many years later I surprised a Sea King pilot by actually doing it, but the Sea King was easier to fly. During this course our digs were in La Linea, and so I became sort of aquainted with the wonderful sea front clock. I shall come back to the clock.
One of the oldest tricks in the book that the "sea-riders" (as the sadists like to be known..makes them feel superior or something) do is to either smuggle or post a pretend bomb on board. If the ship missed it the we would be marked as a "security failure" and in need of remedial training. What some of these morons never twigged was that many uf us RFA types had more experience of Portland than they did. Our normal response was to quietly search until "it" was found. Re-package it and send it back whence it came. We sent one back that sat in an office for 3 weeks until it was discovered. Naturally this infuriated the sadists as "we" were not supposed to be free-thinkers. But we won that moral battle.
Every Friday evening the WPP came out. The Weekly Practise Programme. This can be quite a complicated document. It covers all ships running out of Portland (and there could be a dozen or so), what they should be doing at any one moment, and where they should be...especially important if you were to be doing flying ops or a RAS etc with another ship. Sorting this out is a real headache for the Nav. This part is not training, it can stretch some poor guys to a sort of breakdown as every single point has to be perfect. From the ships speed, tidal considerations, the ships position in "the box" (more later on that), where to finish so the next "serial" could begin on time. Doing that and being "ready in all respects" was probably the most difficult and taxing jobs I ever had to do as a Nav. One of my pals (who later left the RFA) was a Nav on another ship, and through tiredness or whatever failed to spot a misprint in the WPP the said (for a particular time) "No calls on Fost". So he didn't. Only when it was too late did he remember that it should have read "NO calls on FOST" (i.e. Nav.Off calls on FOST"). He got a right bollocking for that one.
Another "tradition" with the RN is that some snooty young RN officer is designated to do a "walk around" (in our case a "sail-around) on a Sunday morning. Near us was moored the nuclear submarine HMS Sceptre. The little oik doing the inspection complained that the RFA in question (us) did not give a suitable salute to mark his passing. (I'd probably miss his funeral as well), and that our main radar aerial was not aligned absolutely athwartships. (an impossible task with our radar set-up). I just knew I was going to have fun with this one! Sceptre was accused of "looking like a midden". What, pray,can a submarine look like apart from a submarine?
The CO of Sceptre invited me and a few of our officers over for lunch and a bit of mutual commiseration. And a very merry afternoon it was. Now we return to the Weymouth Clock. During my guided tour of this fantastic machine...the sub, not the clock..my host asked if I would like to play with his periscope (the metal one). We were perhaps nearly 3 miles from Wemouth beach. I had also never really thought how high these periscopes can go. But when you think how deep these subs are I should not have been surprised. After a good look around he showed me how to zoom the thing. "Try the Weymouth Clock Tower"....ZOOM. The poor girl probably still doesn't know that her surreptitious copulation was being carefully observed and commented upon by a bunch of guys 3 milles away. Made my day.
As far as the little oik was concerned I made sure he and his CO were invited to lunch on another day, during which the error of his ways were pointed out to him, and to put it mildly, saying he left with his tail between his legs and a further "chat" with his CO.
Round 1 to us.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 28, 2008, 06:27:11 pm
Another rather crappy day in Geordieland, so I may as well continue.
Every ship loves to see another one cock things up.I think it basically alleviates despair. So to lighten the mood a little.
At one time the Brazilian Navy were quite regular "customers" at Portland, working up their new Niteroi class frigates (destroyers?). They looked like large versions of our "Amazon" type frigates. I can never remember type numbers, preferring names. But what a wildcat bunch they were. Every one a Grand Prix driver. It was glorious to watch "Niteroi" doing a "rapid departure" evolution. A pity that the order to let go the ropes first wasn't given. Snapped ropes everywhere and even a couple of bollards uprooted from the quay. FOST response to this was a bit more measured than it would have been if the ship had been RN. Something on the lines (no pun intended) of "Enthusiasm when leaving harbour is to be commended, but attention should be given to preparations" But the Brazilians had one more surprise in store. Due for an early morning final departure many, many people in the Portland area awoke to find their bicycles missing. Never to be seen again.

Now and again an RFA Chief Officer is appointed to Portland as senior "sea rider". Often to the annoyance of the RN. One guy I knew quite well tells a nice story about a German destroyer. He was "riding" this ship during a Thursday War", and one of the pre-programmed evolutions was a Man Overboard exercise. The ships "swimmer" was briefed and kitted up, and at the appointed time he "fell" overboard. The ship was hammering down the Channel on a "war" footing. No action was taken about the man overboard. Our man attempted to prompt the Commander into action. His response was "Ve are at Vor,Ja? OK, Ve go on"...leaving the poor swimmer stuck all alone in the middle of the English Channel. He was eventually picked up by another ship. This particular Commander was obviously intent on playing things for real and also sticking it to the RN big time. During his harbour week the local employees at the base decided to go on strike for some reason or another. In the late 70s it didn't take much effort to get "the lads" out on strike. This strike also forced the local power station to shut down. German answer? An armed platoon who "interned" the strikers pickets and his own engineers restored power. This was NOT an exercise! Nowt wishy-washy about that guy.

A "naughty" about the RFA. For those not familiar with the main passage into Portland / Weymouth, there is a very large and awkwardly sited sandbank  which helps define the infamous "Portland Race". It is well marked with buoys, but the tides can be unforgiving. One lunchtime the watchkeeper on RFA "Olwen" was trying to make up for lost time and got it wrong. On a falling tide to make matters worse. Nicely aground. The National dailies loved it. Alas, at the time the RFA was running a national recruitment drive that said...in essence..." Join the RFA and visit places other ships do not normally go". Good timing!.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 30, 2008, 06:48:12 pm
If you can cast your mid back a bit, you may recall that Cable & Wireless used standard Admiralty charts with overprinting. The Admiralty also do this for their own purposes. One of which is (was) to make the Portland exercise areas a quite unique bit of ocean. Natuarally, the real geographical points were left "as is" (stupid not to), but the overprinting included things like make-believe sandbanks and other hazards. These were treated as "real" by working up ships as part of the navigational training, and woe betide those who treated them as "less than real". These "hazards" were printed in more or less the same way as found on a standard chart, but it was always pretty clear as to what was "real" and what "wasn't". The chatrs themselves were always treated as genuine and were kept as up to date as the real ones. In fact, it was very rare for a a "non-Portland" chart to be used except during a real emergency.
Another, and perhaps more important set of overprints were the "boxes". The Portland exercise areas covered an awful lot of liquid real estate, from well to the East and West of Portland and to about half way across the English Channel. The Channel in these areas was, of course, always open to normal shipping...how could it be otherwise...which could make things "interesting" at times. The entire area was divided into "boxes" printed in various colours and ocassionally even overlapping each other. Boxes came in many sizes from quite small (perhaps a couple of square miles) to huge. Apart from the submarine areas that do not concern us here the biggest was the RAS Corridor.This was an E-W area of maybe 40 miles by 5. A RAS would generally be carried out at 12 knots...although if operationally required it could be increased, with a consequent rise in the danger level. I think the fastest one I was involved in was done at 18 knots. A bit scary.The corridor is E-W for 2 reasons. Prevailing weather and tides, and the impracticality of going in any other direction. An upwind course is generally preferred but downwind is pretty common. Portland being Portland a wind from the N or S or any point between had to be expected and dealt with. The worst case would be an arranged RAS with a frigate which had to spend a fair while preparing, and then the wind would change...as would the sea. The last thing a little frigate would want would be to stuck on the windward side of a large replenishment ship. Changing rigs was perhaps a 30 minute job, but a heck of a lot longer for a frigate...especially if they only had one probe. "Probe"?. A very sexual beast. The supply ship is equipped with a large male appendage, and the receptor has a large "bell mouthed" "female" part. When the connecting jackstay between the 2 ships is connected the "male" part slides down the jackstay, slams into the receptor and begins pumping. A RAS takes as long as it takes..hence the length of the corridor. (In real operations, we could do a "pumpover" from one tanker to another that could take up to 12 hours....all at 100ft apart). But as indicated in the previous posting the ships have to be in the correct box, at the corect time, on the correct course and at the correct speed and positioned in the right part of the box by "start-time". The Navs and Ops officers cannot collude against this Fost dictat. It is workable, if done correctly. Hence a lot of stress, which is precisely what Portland is all about. And none of these evolutions is done in isolation. Ships transitting to an R/V point can have a galley fire, an aircraft crash on deck or even (a rather popular one) the Commanding Officer has a heart attack..and so structures and responsibilities have to be re-jigged "on the hoof". And the show would have to go on.....because we are being trained for a war at sea, and THAT is a hell of a lot different from chugging from point A to point B.
All these evolutions start quite slowly for a "newbie" ship, and build up pretty quickly over the following 2 or 3 weeks. During their (hopefully) final week they are full participants in the "Thursday War". To make up the numbers of participants the "not quite ready" ships are co-opted, but at this stage are not required to be on a "war footing", although they will still have to deal with FOST engendered "problems" (no easy ride here!). The experience also gives the "newbies" a bit of a taste of what to expect when they are promoted to the "first team".
Portland in summer can be quite benign. Stressful, sure. But winter is another thing altogether. Still the stress, but add a lot of weather induced misery on top. Horrible.
Next is the "Thursday War". BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 05, 2008, 07:35:28 pm
Before I begin (no, it is not Jackanory), a word for "Roger in France":- I tried your method of posting. The screed went somewhere but Lord alone knows where. I guess there are people around the world scratching their heads trying to make some sort of sense of it...
To begin.
It is not unusual for the "ship" to be preparing for the "war" while the poor Nav. is doing his ultimate test. The "Blind Pilotage" entry into Portland harbour via the NSC. All done on radar using parallel indexes and so on. No chance of a quick peep out of the windows.This navigational test is a killer and needs many hours of preparation. Using the Portland charts, there is a large and irregular shaped sandbank/reef between the natural entrance and the FOST entrance. This is laid out as a narrow channel. The Navs job is to get from the "start point" to between the breakwaters within one minute of the stipulated time. At the same time he is doing this he is required to maintain a running commentary on what he is doing. The winding course will take the ship within yards of disaster, and so all wheel orders and engine rev.counts have to be done with regard to the ships size, her "pivoting point" and sideways movement...and with regard to the position of the radar aerial being used. Very easy to forget the 400 odd feet of ship trailing along behind the radar. It is quite nerve wracking. I failed miserably on my first attempt, but after an entire night trying to sort it out I passed the next time. Makes no difference if it is day or night...but a heck of a lot of difference to the rest of the ships company who may have been looking forward to an evening ashore. Sorry, chaps. FOST Rules!
While the Nav is doing his "thing", the rest of the ship has been preparing itself for war. One of these preps is the destruction of your living space (cabin). According to FOST all (and I mean ALL) moveable items in your cabin have to be bundled up into a large heap in a corner and lashed down with rope. This is a megga inconvenience. Come back to your cabin for a kip and then remember that all your bedding including the matttress is part of the heap. Rats. Lie on the floor. I never really got my head around this thinking. If a shell, bomb or simple fire hits or impinges, does it really matter if everything is in a heap or not. Just another example of the Marquis de Sade at work again. A bit like (much later) an idiot CO during the Falklands thing trying to ban smoking during an air-raid...but there we go.
So the ship is now ready for war. We are all dressed up in our blue or white boilersuits, anti-flash gear (very fetching, and all carrying our "survival kit". Enough to fill a suitcase and be too heavy to hoist into a locker on a tourist flight to Majorca (or wherever). Not knowing what we may encounter, we have to tote around:-
1...A personal self contained compressed air breathing set. This gives about 20 minutes of air. Excellent. Heavy. Large bright orange bag.
2...A Gas Mask. A term hated by the military (so that is what we call it). "Personal Respirator" is the PC term. This is "fitted" to your own facial shape by RN "experts" (hah!).
3...A "Once Only" survival suit. A lightweight all enclosing "pak-a-mac" designed to delay the onset of hypothermia. But if you don't tie the cords correctly all the air will go to your feet and so make you float upside down.
4...A Lifejacket. Standard RN issue. Tightly packed into a pouch worn around the waist. Pretty good things really....except that you can never get the damn things back into the pouch. I general usage they are worn on an almost daily basis during RASes etc. Years ago we used to just hang them around the neck uninflated (they are not auto-inflating for many reasons...another type is) until tests in a pool proved that the human lungs are insufficiently strong to inflate the jacket when in the water, so now they are worn "semi-inflated".
And all sorts of other bits and bobs depending on the threat. When all this lot is hung, strapped and carried then doing any sort of work or anything requiring mobility is both tedious and difficult. This gets even worse if the ship may encounter a Nuclear, Chemical or Biological hazard. But I won't get into that stuff.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 06, 2008, 07:28:05 pm
Sorry to have to do this, but I must backtrack a bit. Front-line RFAs are built with "citadels" enclosed within (usually) the superstructure. RN and RFAs are liberally endowed with "vents" of all sizes ranging from a few square inches to many square feet. All have distinctive markings. Generally indecipherable to an RFA crew, but it all boils down to where they go and what they do. Some suck, others blow. Some that are normally shut have to be opened, and vice verca when the ship is entering a "hostile environment"...nukes and chemicals and that sort of thing. When all the vents etc. are corectly opened/shut the AFUs (Air Filtration Units) are powered up to give the citadel a positive pressure. Entrance and exit for personnel is via double air-locks. The AFUs are really noisy beasts and this only increases the tension level when they are running. A citadel test is always carried out at the end of a refit. This is when you find out which cabin(s) have had a little hole drilled somewhere so an aerial can be fed out. Naughty. The presence of these holes is normally indicated by a whistling from the little hole. The internal pressure build up (or lack of it) is measured by a simple manometer. (A "U" shaped glass tube partly filled with a liquid, pressure from the inside forces the liquid down on the high pressure side. Not all that unusual to see the thing going backwards...must be a leakage somewhere). Eventually somebody decides "that is as good as it's going to get".
Then we must do pre-wetting trials. As if sucking and blowing isn't enough it now seems as if we will have to wear incontinence pants. "Pre-wetting" is a spray system that supposedly keeps off - or washes off - "contaminants. When we had nice green decks and the ships were reasonably new seeing this system working well was akin to watching a nice lawn being watered. But over the years and given the average sailors ability to lose all sense of reason when given a paint brush a lot of the spray heads get choked. So instead of a good spray it now looks more like the system has a prostate problem. More money spent.

But back to the "war"
By 7a.m. the ships company have been fed and watered. Dressed in full "wartime" regalia, toting "ditty bags" and strung around with all the "survival" gear we are "ready". Even with names/ranks printed on the boilersuits the crew are as identifiable as a team of Daleks. Except for our Captain, who is "of short stature" and has an Olympic size belly. Nice to recognize the one who makes the decisions.
This is (as usual) to be a "co-ordinated" departure. That is all the ships have to leave the harbour entrance in a pre-determined sequence , at a pre-determined time and be 1000 yards apart, and be in line astern. This is a doddle for the war canoes, but can be bloody difficult for a 30,000 ton replenishment ship that is on a buoy and invariably pointing the wrong way. OK, we are on a "slip-rope" and the buoy jumpers and their boat are safely back on board. But we still have to turn around and slot into our allocated place in the procession. And assuming we manage that, there is a hard right turn immediately on clearing the entrance piers. Again, a doddle for frigates and destroyers but a tad awkward for a 660' long ship. By the time our stern can swing clear of the stonework we are hopelessly out of line. But until hinges are fitted to the hull we have no option.
As soon as this armada is clear of the main channel entrance buoy the game begins. Naturally, there are 2 sides. "Us and Them". Blue and Red in those days, but now are probably deemed to be Pink and Eau-de-Nil or something. Our "opposing" forces include one or more submarines, FPBs and aircraft. There may be other surface units also tossed into the mix. But the aircraft are worthy of a mention as they are probably the main "threat". Designated "Falcons", they are in fact ex RAF Hawker Hunters (now owned by a private company) and flown by "geriatric" ex RAF pilots (probably about 40 years old of so). And these guys really know what they are doing. Some of them even flew with the Red Arrows...probably when they used the Hunters. By now all the ships are at "Action Stations". Guns and decoy rockets manned...guns not loaded, but the decoys may be. Naturally enough the first attack is from the air. For a "first timer" on deck seeing a Hunter screeching in very low at over 400 knots with vortices swirling off its wing tips it is a bit of an exciting heart stopper. And this goes on (and off) for a few hours. Of course we get hit. People get injured, killed or worse (they might miss their "action snacks"). You will realise by now that the Corps of Sadists have a team on each ship intent on making life as awkward as is inhumanly possible. (On good authority, I hear that on leaving the RN many of them get jobs with local councils and are in charge of wheelie bins and car parking).
All the evolutions and exercises done during the previous weeks in more or less isolation now come all at once. Fires, Damage Control (shoring up bulkheads and stuff), medical teams treating the wonderfully and realistically (and overacting) casualties. Lose electrical power, steering gear breakdown. Bridge team decimated (Captains love this as they can toddle off for a brandy or something). All ths chucks the ships organisation out of the window. Although nowadays the job of NBCDO is the province of the Ch.Engineer (now Captain(E)), in those days it was the 1/Off(X) who was the NBCDO. Me. It was always impossible to not get carried away with the tension and "realism" of all this. Totally and utterly knackering for everyone on board (except Capt. Pugwash). All the courses and shore training do not prepare you for your first exposure to a Portland War. Anti-submarine zig-zags (timed to the second to avoid collisions), anti-torpedo evasive manoeuvres, blah, blah, blah. And then it is all over, and we have to revert to normal behaviour before entering harbour for "wash-ups". These de-briefings are done in front of the entire ships company (except those who really have to be someplace else). No-one, of whatever rank is excused having their shortcomings (or, indeed, good points) made public. Can be quite humiliating. But with a few reservations we come out of it all with a "Sat" (satisfactory), which is OK. I have only ever been on one ship that got a "Good", and that was really because the ships company had been together for a few months rather than a couple of weeks.
I'm sure I have inadvertently left a lot out here, but I hope you got "the feel" of it. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 14, 2008, 06:11:46 pm
RFA "Pearleaf".
Casting minds back aways...After I completed the rather bizarre gyro course in my own personal castle, I was eventually flown to Bahrein (as always, facing backwards in a VC10). Not having a visa or anything I was whisked away by "somebody" and sent off for miles and miles in the darkness of a Gulf night to Allah knows where. Wherever it was we eventually got there. I was greeted by a Chinese QM who immediately took me to the officers bar. He must have had second sight, but there was more to this than altruism. Just about every officer on board was there...not to greet me, of course, but it sure set the tone for the next 9 months. The guy I was relieving had already left the ship which was a bit of a "downer". But I was made very welcome by a wizened welsh dwarf who was wearing a tatty old vest, baggy shorts that may once have been white and a pair of ""xxxxx"-quicks" (flip-flops to you land lubbers). He was also chewing a matchstick and playing a banjo.He turned out to be one of the most professional and caring Captains I ever sailed with in the RFA. I was told to get a beer and come to see him at "O-Crack-Sparrow-Fart" next morning. My first surprise was that the "meeting" was to be held in his bedroom. No problems. His first question was to ask if I played table tennis. I thought it best to say yes, although I was pretty crap at it. A big grin and I was uhsred into his dayroom. Which was filled by a full size table tennis table. He was now wearing a cleaner pair of baggy shorts and chewing a new match. Me, in "meeting new Captain for the first time" dressed in immaculate whites. Five minutes after he had lobbed a bat at me I was as rumpled as he'd been the night before...and all the playing time he taught me about the ship and ho he ran it. But one thing he never told me. After about an hour of being hammered by a master (in both senses) he suggested I might like to get the courses etc. to Bandar Mashur laid off. It was with some trepidation that I said "OK, but can you please tell me where we are now, as I really need a start-point". Everone on that ship loved him to bits. Not long after joining I realised why the rather swish wood panelling in his dayroom had cracks, splits, dents and holes in it. You guessed. Bat damage. There were 3 public rooms on that ship. The officers bar / lounge, the dining saloon and the table tennis room. Happy days. Funnily enough the ship was run to a very high standard (with the exception of a few bits of wood panelling). The Chinese crew were loyal to a "T" (whatever that means), the ship was immaculate and everything was done well...and soberly. In retrospect I cannot recall anyone abusing the "system".
The main task for the ship was to keep Singapore Naval Base topped up with FFO, Deisel and Avcat; running between various Gulf ports and Singapore....with the odd excursion to do something else. She was RAS capable with 2 beam rigs and a stern RAS capability. So nothing outstanding about the job, but life still had its "moments". This was my first job "on my own" as it were. Smashing. Even the gyro held no terrors after "my course". But no-one had told me that this ship had 2 different sorts of gyro. The Sperry 1005 I could handle, but a Browns I had only vaguely heard of. The Sperry was a monster of a machine that really needed a cabin of its own, and looked as if it could withstand a near miss from a 6" shell. In other words, typically American. The Brwon was British, and therefore smaller and more "elegant". Both relied on Mercury for electrical contacts. But the only thing they had in common was the spinning wheel. The Sperry compass "card" twitched permanently from side to side, and the Brown pumped up and down. Eventually I cracked it and came consider the Brown a better machine, but not as robust as the Sperry. Being bog ignorant in those days I was not aware that mercury digests gold. So it ate my rather new wedding ring. I guess both the gold and the mercury still lurk somewhere within me, but SWMBO has never been totally convinced of that story.
Leave it there for today.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 15, 2008, 08:47:53 pm
My first trip back to Singapore from the Gulf coincided with the first Moon landing. We were just rounding the lighthouse at the bottom end of Ceylon (or had it already been re-named...can't remember). I had the 12-4 watch (this was a night one) ...with a huge full moon in view. I had one ancient bakelite headphone earpiece plugged into the RDF (radio direction finder) and was tuned in to whatever. All the English speaking stations were broadcasting it anyway. Quite emotional really, what with where I was, what I was doing and looking up at this huge moon. Shall never forget that watch.
Entering the Singapore Straits at night (and for the first time "on my tod") can get pretty nervy. Almost as bad as approaching the Scheldt in the middle of a winters night around those mythical nautical "roundabouts"....except Singapore is warmer, and the constant sheet lightning gives one a fleeting photographic glimpse of unseen little boats and stuff. But eventually I got near to the JSB (No TLBs here!)(Johore Shoal Buoy) so I can get the rest of the ship out of their scratchers ready to go up the channel to Sembawang where the Naval Base is. Sembawang is on the North side of Singapore Island, very close to the Johore causeway that links Singapore with mainland Malaysia. My previous experience of Singapore had been as a Ben Line cadet when if not anchored in the roads we would be in Keppel Harbour, and with C&W which had their base at the western end of the strait. So Sembawang was a bit of a first (of many) visit. Lots of muddy water and trees on the way up, past the Changhi Memorial. Very "prehistoric" until civilisation re-appeared in the form of a naval base. Still think it was an odd place to build it though. Sembawang village during the 60s and 70s was a glorious refuge from the 20th century. A walk to the village from the base only took about 30 minutes, but it was always fascinating.Tiny little Chinese or Malays riding bicycles loaded with enough cargo to fill a large Transit van, 3 ft deep monsoon ditches alongside the road with bellowing bullfrogs....and all sorts of other wildlife. Even louder and "scarier" on the return trek. Up until perhaaps the early 1980s Sembawang was a real Kampong. Now it looks like a sort of Oriental Milton Keynes. Soulless.
But at the time I am talking about the shops were really just very large wooden sheds...filled with everything a matelot could desire...except that one, sir. Heaven alone knows how many pictures of tigers painted on black velvet were sold over the years. A counterfeit tape or watch? No problem. The renowned "Toothy Wong" the tailor had his base here. And what an institution he was.Poor Toothy, died in a fire in his shop. His son, Alan, still bears the scars from that fire, but he re-built the business and it was thriving last time I was there. But the usual evening destination was the "Sembawang Hilton".This was in fact an empty dirt floored lot between 2 shops with ancient rickety tables and chairs and a smelly open sewer about 20 yards away. The cooking was done in woks made of old boilerplate and heated to incandescence by oxy-acetalene torches. Chuck raw food into there and it would leap out again fully cooked in a matter of seconds. All gone now. The best food in all of Singapore. But I have digressed too long. I have forgotten that I was supposed to be on a ship.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 16, 2008, 04:56:41 pm
An aquaintance of mine at the time was a gun collector and had a "few" items from the US guys who were a bit busy in Vietnam at the time. He asked me to "look after" a Thompson machine gun for a few weeks. He also gave me about 400 rounds for it. This was a pretty open secret on board and I was eventually persuaded ( by the engineers, who else?) to fire the thing. So boxes and tin cans were chucked over the back end and we all had a blast. ...and missed everything. Su Ki Lun (bosun) eventually approached (walking as only the Chinese can do) and asked if he could "look". OK. Within a few seconds the gun was laid out in its constituent parts, with him muttering "Lap Sap" to himself. (If you want a translation that won't set bells ringing ask Tiger Tiger). So he put it all back together and fired in short bursts and began sinking boxes and cans with ease...and a big grin. "Where did you learn that, Suki?" ...."Ah, Long March, 1949". We slunk off stage left.
Being on a "small ship" it fell to me as 2/Off to be the "medical officer". Hmmm. But in one sense I am suited to it as I appear to be impervious to the suffering of others (unless they happen to be my nearest and dearest). At that time I was both interested and clueless about "doctoring". An untrained Mengele sort of thing. All merchant ships, including those with a "real"doctor have a "medicine cabinet", usually a cupboard somewhere or other, stocked with whatever the ever changing rules say it should be stocked with. My only "guides" were a copy of "The Shipmasters Medical Guide" and an old copy of MIMMS (a sort of medical thesaurus that can point an ignoramus towards something else that is incomprehensible). So I devised my own method of diagnosis. This was difficult with the Chinese as they used to slather any afflicted part (sometimes internally as well) with a sort of purple paint. Quite lurid sometimes ....especially....no, not going there. One of my neighbours at home owned our local butchers shop, and in a flash of inspiration I recalled him having a chart of a cow showing where all the cuts came from. Magic. So I drew up a full size human outline and stuck it on the inside of the cupboard door. Then divided it up. Headaches, tummy, clap,knees, piles...you get the picture. Then I re-organised the cupboard to fit the categories. So what is difficult about being a doctor? Over the months the system was refined. I even got a diagram of a person from the rear...but I had to keep the key. However, emergencies happen. In that event I would have to drag the captain away from either his table tennis or bed to take over the bridge if it was on my watch. My most notable among th officers was a 3/Eng who had somehow managed to get a metal splinter down into the end of a finger that he couldn't get out with a pair of pliers. Engineers do not have tweezers...too wussy apparently. So, sat him down, got the end of the splinter and pulled.Three inches of wire came out. He looked at me and very clearly said "do you mind if I ..." and fainted. That bit was easy, after all, he was an ex-first division football player.
End for today.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 16, 2008, 07:01:08 pm
OK, I lied...but the sun went in so I may as well continue:-
Going back to the Gulf...or returning from it in a nasty monsoon season can make even the usaually benign Indian Ocean a tad uncomfortable. Tankers by their very nature have a low freeboard, so any little dollop of sea tends to wet the decks. Every now and again the parent of the little dollop comes along to keep an eye on the offspring. One such, very stealthily, came up and over our starboard side. Very quiet. No breaking water. But the sheer power was enough to buckle the foredeck catwalk and dislodge all the paint from the foremast in one go. The Chinese LOVE thick paint. This wave stopped them earning a lot of overtime chipping the paint off. This monsoon is a particularly "wet" one and the seas were a bit on the lumpy side. Still warm though. It was pretty normal to aim the ship at a rain squall and drive through it to give the ship a fresh water wash. The deck officers and the radio officer lived amidships and everyone else was aft. The lounge / bar is aft. The catwalks have wood walkways. Get slippy in the wet. Before the horrible advent of "videos", showing a film was a social highlight. Alas, no more. In wet weather "we" had to scuttle down the aft catwalk to avoid a drenching. Ship pitching, you slide. Forwards and backwards. Poor Radio Officer. Escaped getting wet but slid the wrong way, hurtled through the bar door and straight through the cinema screen during reel one. It took 2 months to get a new one accompanied by one of those "we do not understand" type of letters from MoD.
But not all was sweetness and light. The Chinese and Hygeine were mutually incompatible. Open the pantry fridge door to get the makings of a sandwich and you could be greeted by the insect version of the charge of the lLight Brigade. Still, the roaches didn't eat all that much.
Suki (the bosun) had, somewhere or other, attempted to increase the global population of the Chinese race. Naughty boy. But was suffering as a result. Silence and purple paint. Eventually he came to see his old pal Dr.Crippen. Poor sod. His cojones were about the same size as a good King Edward potato, and the other bit looked like a very large peeled purple parsnip. Oops. This is a bit beyond me I thought. Our nearest port at the time was Mauritious. They refused to help as they were an RN Station and therefore were not able to assist "non-RN personnel" Nice one guys. On my own again. Looking at my medical "chart", I (with the agreement of the local table tennis champion) decided "we" (meaning me) had to give him an injection of "something". I did not have at this stage a little box marked "testicular reduction". Mind you, it was fascinating to shine a torch through the "afflcted bits" and see what should have been the "working bits". It was just a bit of bad luck that he arrived at my cabin..sorry, "surgery", as was practising giving an injection to an orange. Come on, we all have to learn, and on what better than an ex major in Maos army? So he lay on my settee, bum towards me...ram sized thingies fortunately pointing away from me, but the bum was so tightly clenched that I would have better luck injecting a teak door. His fists were also tearing my settee covers to shreds, and this was not on!. So. Plan B. For proper treatment he was going to have to wait for week until we got back to Singapore. If this poor guy had been a European he would not have been able to walk, but in those days all Chinese (sailors, anyway) had legs as bent as a champion jockey he could just about manage a shuffle. So. I made him a sling to go around his neck and support the "afflited parts" (I think Ali-G copied the idea for his film). Then I got the ships carpenter....a tiny little guy called (true!) Wan "xxxxx"...to replace the bosuns cabin chair with a toilet seat....so he could sit more comfortably. So he was basically immobilised. Then I put a notice on the ouside of his cabin door telling the crew NOT to open the door, point and laugh. It was nearly 10 years before Suki and I became friends again, but then he got killed in a fight somewhere. A nice man.





Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 16, 2008, 07:06:07 pm
If the Forum will not allow real Chinese names to be published then I fear that there will be very few Chinese contributors! BY
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 16, 2008, 07:43:36 pm
Somewhere along the line we did have to pay a visit to Mauritious Island. Goody. But I was flattened by the warmth of our reception and accepted the apologies. At this time the island was under some sort of militia or communist control, but we (the UK) still had a "Governor" in place. Huh? The first time I went there it was a prosperous and thriving place. Jet travel hadn't reached it as far as tourism was concerned. This visit. Run down, seedy, fly blown and full of strutting "soldiers" with guns. Thank heavens someone came along to rescue the place from these little dictators. Just shows how easily a place can slide if no-one cares.
Risking the wrath of many, I would say that Chinese cooks are not always the best in the world. On "Pearleaf" ours were "OK", but very stuck in their ways. Two instances. I wanted some potato crisps on the bar prior to Sunday lunch. Zero comprehension. The only solution I could think of was to "borrow" a wood plane off the carpenter whose name is *naughty word* and a vice from the engineers. Shaved a couple of spuds, deep fried the shavings and then they got the idea. Croutons for soup? No idea. The Ch.Cook had only one way of doing it and was not going to change. Fried Puffed Wheat. Not all that bad really.
Generally our "stop-over" in Singapore was perhaps 3 days. This probably seems a lot to modern tankermen, but then again we were not a commercial ship. But one of the reasons for a delay was the weather. In particular was the risk of a lightning strike while discharging Avcat. At roughly 4pm each day we would "button up" and wait for the daily thunderstorm. Never failed. Better viewing than a firework display. Hot rain! Relief! But it was the same lightning that saved our skins once. Going down the Malacca Straits and just about to relieve the 3/O at midnight. He was just heading between 2 white lights that he "assumed" were 2 fishing boats. Except it wasn't. A quick flash of lightning showed a large tanker drifting sideways without NUC lights. And he was aiming for the middle of it. Felt a bit shaky after that one. And the 3/O left the RFA shortly afterwards.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 16, 2008, 08:04:03 pm
But Pearleaf had been out and about for a long time, and it was time to come home for a refit. Call in at Mombassa for a bit or R&R, round the Cape and point vaguely "northish". Although Pearleaf was by no means an elderly ship she did have a lot of rivets in her hull construction.And one leaked. I guess we could have been trailed for a hundred miles or more from that one rivet. Nothing we could do about it.
The Chinese are inveterate smugglers. At least our lot were. But they really dipped out big time on this occasion. We all know about fitting false pipes and so on, but this time "they" had been buying and stashing gems, sealing them up and dropping the packages into a cargo tank full of oil. Normally, the crew would do the tank cleaning. Not this time. So they lost the lot. They had also decided to stow mega amounts of booze between the "cabin" walls and the shell plating. Just their tough luck that that one plate was to be renewed. Made one almighty crash when it all fell into the bottom of the dry-dock. Felta bit sorry for them though.
But that is about a little insignificant ship going about its business. The same as countless others you may see. But all of them are like an ants nest. That is:- there is another way of life going on in that tin box. One you will never see or be part of, and at the parting of the ways some to be seen again, others never. Memories can linger....a bit like this posting I guess.
End of Pearleaf.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 25, 2008, 05:55:10 pm
It would appear that I am becoming a fixture on Geraint as I am now appointed for a second time. Not to worry. I like the ship and what she does. This time around she is a fully paid-up part of the RFA and quite smart in her grey paint and green decks. We have by now established a good working relationship with the Army, and our officers mess and the officers mess at Marchwood are open to each other. Unfortunately this cannot apply to other ranks as we still have a Chinese crew. Just imagine how easily "our lot" could lead these poor innocent young soldiers into a life of debauchery. Getting from Marchwood to Southampton in those days was a bit of a problem. It's a long way round by road, and the "ferry" service run by Husbands shipyard was more or less on an ad-hoc basis. Life became a lot easier when these ferry arrangements were formalised. I only mention this because it became not that unusual for residents of Southampton to see a "gang" of Chinese squatting on the kerb of the main shopping streets with all their latest purchases strewn around them arguing who was going to carry what. (Naughty! You thought I was going to say something else). Quite funny to see, but as that was how they did it in Hong Kong why should they change the habits of a lifetime. The Chinese also had a totally alien way of looking at marriage. As crew members often came from the same family they usually made sure that one would be aboard, and another would "look after" the family. I will never forget the look of sheer delight on our barmans face when he found out that his wife had given birth to a son....even though he had been aboard the ship for 8 months.
     Although it pains me to say it the RFA never (ever) got to grips with the full capabilities of the LSLs. Earlier, when I was one of the "new" brigade I learned a lot from a Captain Swan. He showed me how an LSL could adjust her trim very rapidly for either beaching or docking at purpose made ferry ramps whatever the state of the tide. The RFA "big-wigs" pooh-poohed this and re-arranged our arrival at ports, or beaches, to suit the ships sea-going trim. This added hours to the trips to Belfast, and also made our arrival times very predictable. This caused security problems. This obduracy was highlighted when a long "low-loader" got stuck trying to get over the bow ramps. My suggestion that the ship be trimmed was totally ignored...and those capabilities were never (in my experience) used. Sad really.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 25, 2008, 06:32:23 pm
Sorry for splitting this up, but I don't want to be caught out again by overlapping someone elses post and then lose the lot.
It was after one of these Liverpool-Belfast runs during a particularly nast winter gale that I had one of the scariest but funniest experiences ever. We'd just got tied up in Belfast around 2am and me and another chap were just leaning over the rail having a breather when we noticed a small rowing boat creeping very slowly towards us. When the boat came alongside there was a sort of loud "clang" followed by the small boat being rowed away faster than a small rowing boat had any riight to do. Both of us "watchers" were pretty well knackered and so it took a few moments to translate disbelief into reality. Words like "Golly Gosh" and "Well, I'll be blowed" (or words to that effect). The Marines were superb, no disruption, no panic. They took the "thing" away and we slept well. More security next time though, particularly on the outboard side.
Around this time I had another of my "labour-saving" ideas. This notion came about partly because I was getting a bit iffy about the children in the Engine Room constantly asking "are we there yet". But more importantly, the LSLs were not built like "proper" RFAs and so had no designated secondary command position. The MCR (Machinery Control Room) was meant to double up as this. To facilitate this one of the bridge radars was "portable" (ha ha). The idea being that the bridge team, or what was left of it, would lug this radar down into the bowels and re-locate. As the "Nav" I had sort of investigated this idea and basically found it to be a bit of a non-starter. The Engineers having not much to do on passage (tongue in cheek) apart from watching a few clocks I instigated a crash-course in "dead-reckoning" navigation. The engineers took to this like ducks to water..to the fury of the Ch.Eng....but he came around eventually. There was already a gyro repeater in the MCR so by rights they should have known what direction we were heading in. But as I always set the thing up way off line they never really knew. But now I was getting serious. In the MCR was also a set of (empty) chart drawers...apart from old sandwiches, oily rags and other disgusting things that engineers collect. Got that lot cleared out and issue them with a set of used charts for the trip we were doing. Think I was going to give them new ones? They'd only use them for making gaskets or something. This all proved to be a great success and got the fishheads and clankies working better together. Still got a bit miffed being told when I should alter course by the MCR though!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 26, 2008, 04:35:24 pm
It was a welome relief to get away from the "Belfast trot" and let another LSL take over for awhile. We had been tasked to take a full load of troops and their vehicles to Istanbul for a NATO exercise...but we were also carrying something quite new. Two hovercraft. Probably SN4s or something, but they were probably the earliest ones MoD took on to evaluate. During the trip south we hit a nasty bit of bad weather off the Portuguese coast. In those days ships carrying vehicles (particularly on deck) had to ensure batteries etc. were disconnected. But these rules apparently didn't apply to the Army. Once again in the middle of the night (I was still a 12-4 watchkeeper) after tons of heavy spray had been bleaching across the decks and with the ship rolliing and pitching like crazy many of the deck vehicles went berserk. Lights randomly flashing, horns blowing and at least half a dozen electrical fires. You may call this site "mayhem", but real mayhem is watching 50 underdressed and seasick squaddies rousted out of their pits in really rotten and wet weather at sea trying to salvage what is left of "their" vehicles electrics. Took the whole passage through the Med. for the poor sods to sort them out.
It would appear to be a "Law" that everything "odd" takes place at night. True in my case anyway. Same voyage, a pleasant night passage through the Straits of Gibraltar, when a rather "xxxxx" squaddie burst through the wheelhouse door. No standing on ceremony here; "Oi, Mate..me mates just jumped over the wall". Dear God, all I needed was this. Hit the button, start turning about and generally set things in motion for a Man Overboard procedure. Never realised that our martinet Captain wore Chinese silk dragon pyjamas. Funny what one notices in times of stress. Luckily we got him back with only "medium" hypothermia. Turned out that he was homesick (as opposed to "seasick", "sick of the sea" or "sick of home") and had decided to swim the 5 miles or so to Gib. Poor deluded soul.
By this time I had befriended the chap in charge of the hovercraft. Neither beast nor fowl, but interesting. One day he mentioned that he had to do an "underskirt inspection", and would I like to go with him. You bet! For this inspection the hovercraft had to be powered up and "float" at full power. I was NOT expecting this. The idea was then for us 2 to crawl under the hovering hovercraft and using torches check that all was as it shoul be. I don't really know what I was expecting. Noisy, yes, but no real air pressure. Got a bit concerned about those 2 big fans whirring around a couple of feet above my horizontal little body. Another odd day, but one not to be missed.
Eventually I found how to get to Istanbul despite the fatuous comments coming from the MCR. Perhaps teaching these troglodytes a bit of navigation had gone to their heads). This visit of ours would be the first time the population of Istanbul had seen a hovercraft. For those of you who have been there you will probably attest to the general chaos. ( If the Turks ever discover mechanical handling about a million barrow pullers will be out of work...and do large ladies still buy their bras' from a barrow, testing them for size by puting them on over a heavy overcoat? Just wondering). At night it is worse for shipping as "they" do not rely on the usual nav. lights, but on huge bow-mounted searchlights that waver all over the place. Cue in the "Dam Busters" march. Wonderful. But when we dropped the hovercraft and they flashed up the entire harbour and onlookers went haywire. Ferries jostling and bumping and people hanging off the bridge. Made life interesting for a couple of hours. But while the hovercraft did a few party tricks for the masses we had to get on with our dicharging. Another part of our cargo was 2 large containers holding the entire stock of NAAFI "goodies" for the troops for the period of this rather large exercise. These containers were loaded on to Turkish Army low-loaders which went away and neither trucks or cargo was ever seen again. Oh,dear. Not my fault,guv.
Another LSL would pick up after the execise, so were going home empty but got re-directed to Malta to pick up a load of something or other. This was my first visit to Valetta since my C&W days. New impressions...forests of TV aerials and no birds whatsoever (They shoot them all, and so the brighter birds stay well clear). But everything else was still brown and blue with little black clad people scuttling around. Bus and taxi drivers still crossing themselves before launching ot into the mobile scrapyard.  365 churches all ringing their discordant bells on a Sunday morning. An unusual place.
So "we" decided to have a party. Generally a phone call to the local nurses home will get a good response. Worked this time also. We didn't anticipate 20 nuns coming to a party. Even more worrying was that not only did they drink our bar dry, but also put most of us under the table. Worse than the bloody Norwegians. But they were nice girls, and they were in "summer" uniform...as was proven when the 3/Eng. dropped a cigarette on to the lap of one of them. Whoomph. A flaming nun. She was quickly extinguised but had to borrow some clothes to get her back home.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on June 27, 2008, 11:21:35 am
"Although Pearleaf was by no means an elderly ship she did have a lot of rivets in her hull construction.And one leaked. I guess we could have been trailed for a hundred miles or more from that one rivet. Nothing we could do about it. "

Bryan, Bryan, Bryan,  ::)
You really should have asked the Gentlemen of the ER to sort it for you rather than distracting their great minds from considering the secrets of the Universe with your Stargazers small science.  ::)

You will know about fish-bolts but perhaps others don't.

Imagine an all-riveted 32,000 dwt tanker of some age. She never goes to some ports without the harbour authorities preparing an anti-pollution boom. Her decks are marked with red circles indicating those areas where the heavier members of the crew are advised not to linger unless they want an oil-bath. Some of her cargo tanks have cracks in the shell plating which have been drilled out and 'Thistlebond' patches applied internally. (I wish I had shares in the company - would have made a fortune!) In six months time she will be driven up an Indian beach to be scrapped.

Meanwhile, she is at anchor, trimmed by the stern while in the forepeak, a crack engineering team is preparing to fix a leaking rivet that has resisted caulking. On deck, the Mate and two Deck Apprentices await orders from the CET. The rivet is about to be replaced by a fish-bolt consisting of a bolt slightly smaller than the rivet, fitted with two washers and rubber seals and a nut. (Similar to those bits once sold for repairing holes in kettles - ask your dads you young'ns.)

A metal rod small enough to go through the rivet hole and attached to a long length of line is prepared. The end of the rivet in the tank is chiseled off and the rivet belted back through its hole into the sea. As the hole is still some 8ft below the waterline, this produces a spectacular jet of water into the forepeak. The metal rod is pushed down through the hole against considerable water force and a temporary bung in the shape of an Engineer Apprentice applied to the hole. On deck, the Mate & Co have managed to identify the sharp end of the ship and passed a line under the hull from side to side,working it back aft of the leaking rivet.

Once the weight is through the hull, the Mate & Co bring their line for'd and sweep the weight and its attached line up to the deck. The weight is released from the line (remember not to let go of the latter, Mr Mate) and the fish bolt with one washer and a rubber seal attached instead. The fish bolt is then dropped overboard and drawn up into the rivet hole, remembering to remove the Apprentice before it is seated home. A rubber seal, washer and nut are then fitted to the bolt and the whole lot tightened. Voila, no leak. Dismiss stargazers and retire to cabin for refreshment, debrief and deckhead survey.

Only another gadzillion rivets to go -  I wonder if the present crop with their computer-laden Control Rooms who have never checked heavy fuel oil for salt water contamination by tasting it, still have as much fun?

Barry M
 
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 27, 2008, 05:25:48 pm
"Although Pearleaf was by no means an elderly ship she did have a lot of rivets in her hull construction.And one leaked. I guess we could have been trailed for a hundred miles or more from that one rivet. Nothing we could do about it. "

Bryan, Bryan, Bryan,  ::)
You really should have asked the Gentlemen of the ER to sort it for you rather than distracting their great minds from considering the secrets of the Universe with your Stargazers small science.  ::)

You will know about fish-bolts but perhaps others don't.

Imagine an all-riveted 32,000 dwt tanker of some age. She never goes to some ports without the harbour authorities preparing an anti-pollution boom. Her decks are marked with red circles indicating those areas where the heavier members of the crew are advised not to linger unless they want an oil-bath. Some of her cargo tanks have cracks in the shell plating which have been drilled out and 'Thistlebond' patches applied internally. (I wish I had shares in the company - would have made a fortune!) In six months time she will be driven up an Indian beach to be scrapped.

Meanwhile, she is at anchor, trimmed by the stern while in the forepeak, a crack engineering team is preparing to fix a leaking rivet that has resisted caulking. On deck, the Mate and two Deck Apprentices await orders from the CET. The rivet is about to be replaced by a fish-bolt consisting of a bolt slightly smaller than the rivet, fitted with two washers and rubber seals and a nut. (Similar to those bits once sold for repairing holes in kettles - ask your dads you young'ns.)

A metal rod small enough to go through the rivet hole and attached to a long length of line is prepared. The end of the rivet in the tank is chiseled off and the rivet belted back through its hole into the sea. As the hole is still some 8ft below the waterline, this produces a spectacular jet of water into the forepeak. The metal rod is pushed down through the hole against considerable water force and a temporary bung in the shape of an Engineer Apprentice applied to the hole. On deck, the Mate & Co have managed to identify the sharp end of the ship and passed a line under the hull from side to side,working it back aft of the leaking rivet.

Once the weight is through the hull, the Mate & Co bring their line for'd and sweep the weight and its attached line up to the deck. The weight is released from the line (remember not to let go of the latter, Mr Mate) and the fish bolt with one washer and a rubber seal attached instead. The fish bolt is then dropped overboard and drawn up into the rivet hole, remembering to remove the Apprentice before it is seated home. A rubber seal, washer and nut are then fitted to the bolt and the whole lot tightened. Voila, no leak. Dismiss stargazers and retire to cabin for refreshment, debrief and deckhead survey.

Only another gadzillion rivets to go -  I wonder if the present crop with their computer-laden Control Rooms who have never checked heavy fuel oil for salt water contamination by tasting it, still have as much fun?

Barry M
 

All points well and truly taken. But really Barry, all sorts of ideas are non-starters when the ship is fully loaded and in the middle of no-where when the problem arises. Not really much you can do about it. Although the idea of putting an Engineering cadet into a "dry-suit" has a certain appeal.
Anyway...how come you are only up to "Pearleaf"? Apropo of nothing really, but doing the Damage Control "courses" at Phoenix we students did have to fix all sorts of leakages under massive water pressure. Not a nice way of spending a day.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on June 27, 2008, 06:40:44 pm
All in a days work for those of us outwith the Grey Funnel Line and its associates.  ::)

Dry suits? Bit namby pamby isn't it? We used to give the Appo a quck sook from a welding oxygen bottle and throw them in with an old flange for weight.  Job and finish..... O0
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 27, 2008, 07:54:00 pm
All in a days work for those of us outwith the Grey Funnel Line and its associates.  ::)

Dry suits? Bit namby pamby isn't it? We used to give the Appo a quck sook from a welding oxygen bottle and throw them in with an old flange for weight.  Job and finish..... O0
I gather that you are also not a paid up member of the elf'n'safety brigade then. Long may you reign. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on June 27, 2008, 09:22:27 pm
Bryan,

I count myself very fortunate that I had a conventional seagoing career in the 60's and 70's when  communication was via Sparkie and the office could be kept at arms length, Following that I found myself in a world where I combined technical and operational roles in the most varied activities possible. This I found myself leading a cutting-out raid at midnight or deterring boarders with fire-cannon. Looking back, it was a great time but it was the swansong for initiative and independence. Now its all Mission Statements and written procedures to spread the blame for any failure as far as possible and remove the need for thinking. I'm glad I'm no longer part of it.

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 28, 2008, 04:22:43 pm
Bryan,

I count myself very fortunate that I had a conventional seagoing career in the 60's and 70's when  communication was via Sparkie and the office could be kept at arms length, Following that I found myself in a world where I combined technical and operational roles in the most varied activities possible. This I found myself leading a cutting-out raid at midnight or deterring boarders with fire-cannon. Looking back, it was a great time but it was the swansong for initiative and independence. Now its all Mission Statements and written procedures to spread the blame for any failure as far as possible and remove the need for thinking. I'm glad I'm no longer part of it.

Barry M
And Amen to that! Cheers. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 28, 2008, 06:43:48 pm
Although the RFA had a pretty bib fleet in the early 1970s, there were a lot of ships that didn't really fit the RFA "profile" (for want of a better word). Apart from oddballs such as "Discovery", "Ennerdale", "Derwentdale" and "Dewdale" there were the titchy little things like "Hebe" and "Bacchus" being sent off to far flung places. "Hebe" and "Bacchus" were essentially BI "Bulimba" class with the back end cut off. The "Dales" were (in those days) almost supertankers, and really just ferried oil about. I think that one had a Seychellois crew and the other 2 had Fijians. So we had British, Chinese, Maltese, Seychelle and Fijian crews on the ships. Madness in retrospect.
RFA "Ennerdale" had a rather unusual demise. Possibly in 1972 she hit an uncharted (true!) rock pinnacle while leaving the Seychelles.Fully loaded. Sank very quickly. Chief Officer managed to depart with all his belongings. This was all kept very quiet but Chapman Pincher (Daily Express) got hold of the story. I "may" be wrong here, but the RN sent a sub to destroy the wreck with a then new torpedo. Torpedo not workee. Much anguish and "D" notices placed....and nothing more was said. The ship was eventually disposed of but I am not privy as to how.
Other ships running under the RFA flag at the time were little coasters ( ammo carriers, water carriers and oilers etc.). This "second string" was either scrapped or handed over to another maritime branch of the MoD. However, the "mainstream" RFA still had a number of clapped out old wrecks. The early "Tide" class was the worst, nothing to commend them at all, whereas "Retainer", "Resurgent" and "Reliant", although old and not really "fit for purpose" had character and were lovely to sail in. But they were kept chugging along long after the RFA re-invented itself to become the very professional outfit it is today.
May I point you to a book? Simply called "The Royal Fleet Auxiliary", recently published, and is a treasure trove of information. But this is about my memories and not a catalogue coming from others.
So here I am back on Resource again. This was the period of the Glasgow refit that I just about started this saga off with. If I had known then how this "thing" would develop I would have arranged it better. Tough. Done now. Post refit and post "work-up" we were joined by our resident Wessex (No. 469....some numbers you never forget. Like my Discharge Book:- R680051) complete with a Marine pilot and about 15 maintainers who were delighted to escape the confines of the other grey ships. The pilots name was Dick Purchase...immediately renamed "Handy Billy" by the crew. For obvious reasons. He also had to wear beer bottle end glasses. Odd for a pilot, but what an asset he was to the ship as a whole.
Post this and continue.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 28, 2008, 07:34:44 pm
We had also "embarked" another crew. Mainly Glaswegians. I can only answer for the Deck dept. here, but the other departments did have the same "mix". This, remember, is a ship carrying a significant portion of the UKs nuclear deterrent and all sorts of other "nasties". The majority who "signed on" were sent by "The Pool" (British Shipping Federation), and were nautical nomads. Most of them had at least one "DR" in their book. (Meaning basically unemployable). All the ships complaints were pushed to one side with the response that "Due to the Governments Policy of Rehabilitation" you WILL accept these seafarers as members of your crew. Some of you may imagine the problems we had thereafter.
A quartermaster who always "took a leak" over the steering wheel to spite the next wheelman.
Another QM who used to delight in using the ships broadcast system to announce that "The Liberty Boat Has Just Left"...never having announced its arrival.
The Galley staff who would slather internal wood stairways with fat so that someone, preferably an officer, would fall....it worked once and a young seaman died.
There was another "seaman" who was a rabid Celtic supporter. If Celtic lost he would lock himself in his cabin, stoned out of his mind and weeping....and refusing to work. And we could do nothing about it! (Well, we could, but it was safer for everybody if we just left him where he was).
Somewhere about this time we were involved in another, but low key execise in the Western Med. Towards the end of the exercise the "powers that be" had decided to do an evaluation of the then Nato carrier borne aircraft in low level attack mode. There were probably a dozen or so of these but I recall only 3. All the ships were put into 2 long columns and stopped their engines.The centre "alley" was for the aircraft. The 1st I recall was the French Etandard (?) that really howled but was even to my untrained eye not made for this sort of stuff. The next was the USN "Phantom". Talk about noise. About 60ft above the water but tail down. Great spectacle. Then there was the "Buccaneer". Silent approach (hell of a racket after it passed). Dead flat and much,much lower than the others. Gosh. It wa so impressive. The only time I have seen this from the pilots viewpoint was during the opening sequence of the original TV programme (Sailing?), and it is still mind blowing.
The MoD (and NATO, I guess), were also pretty keen on knowing how noisy their nuclear subs were. So not missing an opportunity while all these ships wer stopped HMS "Warspite" came under us at 400 ft. What a racket! If we had been moving then nothing would have been heard, but being stopped was a different thing altogether. During all of this lot, all the ships had piped "Hands to bathe"....so hundreds of matelots of all nations were happily splashing around just a little out of their depth.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: GaryM on June 29, 2008, 01:05:44 am
Worrying to put it mildly -
"This, remember, is a ship carrying a significant portion of the UKs nuclear deterrent and all sorts of other "nasties". "
"Most of them had at least one "DR" in their book. (Meaning basically unemployable). "

Eye opening - keep it up Bryan. O0

regards
Gary :)

PS as a land luber - the way you describe the seamans death due to catering staff playing a "prank" is incomprehensible to me, yet it comes across to me as an almost "acceptable" occurrence.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 29, 2008, 02:58:49 pm
Worrying to put it mildly -
"This, remember, is a ship carrying a significant portion of the UKs nuclear deterrent and all sorts of other "nasties". "
"Most of them had at least one "DR" in their book. (Meaning basically unemployable). "

Eye opening - keep it up Bryan. O0

regards
Gary :)

PS as a land luber - the way you describe the seamans death due to catering staff playing a "prank" is incomprehensible to me, yet it comes across to me as an almost "acceptable" occurrence.

It was not a prank. Nor was it acceptable. It was me and the Ch.Officer who had to deal with the poor kid. He'd landed on his head from a fall of 16ft. His head had been pushed down so far that the top of his head was about level with where his mouth should have been. He was airlifted to Toulon where he died 3 days later. He was only in his early 20s. But a ship at sea does not have the resources of a land based police force. The examples quoted were only a few of many including minor sabotage that could have escalated. It was a political decision to employ these people...not the RFAs....especially on this class of ship. At one time it was necessary to remove the doors from some cabins as they were being deliberately kicked in. The crew bar was closed (thus penalising the innocent as well as the guilty). As I said, those of us who have had to endure this sort of behaviour from so-called "seamen" will know what I am talking about. Not nice. Thank goodness that 99% of that sort of behaviour has disappeared and "normal" professional life can procede. All I am doing is to relate incidents that I was involved with and not really trying to make any sort of legal argument or judgement. Cheers. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 29, 2008, 06:50:08 pm
This would also be the 1st time I had met the USN being a bit less than "serious". I think it was during a RAS with USS"Albany"..a cruiser that was about to be taken out of service. During the RAS the Albanys' Marine Band regaled us from one of the gun positions. Much appreciated, and a nice gesture that was to be repeated time after time by ships of all nations. But she was "my first".
"Handy Billy" was a knight in shining armour as far as morale was concerned. He used to take crew members up in his "flying machine" (chosen by lottery) and scare the living daylights out of them. Perhaps the Governments policy worked, but I had not joined the RFA to be a prison warden. I had one long flight with him..about 200 miles..going from us to "Hermes" off the Cape of Good Hope. He got a bit bored and decided to do a bit of "cloud bogging" (as he termed it). I think the ceiling for a Wessex 5 was about 12,000 ft. Anyway, he would go to this ceiling and look for holes or tubes in the clouds....and then drive along them. Absolute and total magic. What a nice guy he was....and hopefully still is.
Our only port on this leg of the voyage was Port Elizabeth. We (the ships company) had decided well before arrival that we would host a day long party for the local schoolchildren, orphanage children and any others whatever their colour. Now I know that a bit earlier on I was a bit critical of some of our Glaswegian crew members, but even the hardest of hard nuts seem to melt when confronted with expectant, shiny little faces...and so it was to prove.
Instead of allerting the local Press, "Handy Billy" decided to do it "his way" (with the agreement of "God"), and so a few hours before we arrived he took his Wessex down the Main Street at "very low level" ( to him that possibly meant under the telephone wires) with his crewman chucking out "flyers" all the way. Later, there were some Diplomatic repercussions about all this, mainly because we were not supposed to enter a South African port in the first place, but as our Capt. was approaching retirement he didn't give a fig anyway. Thank goodness for the free thinkers of this world. We had hundreds of kids come aboard. No parents ( Imagine that nowadays! Entrusting your kids for a day of mayhem to a gang of head banging thugs). South African Railways  even used a huge Steam Loco to ferry the kids who lived a bit far out to the ship. A nice gesture.
The POs (as always) organised the entertainment. They built a "rocket ship" on RAS principles that launched from the (very high) bridge deck and travelled 400ft to the entrance of the nuke weapon prep area that was now a Santas Grotto.  Each child was then given something from NAAFI before boarding trains. (Essentially a well disguised fork lift truck with 3 trailers). That then drove back along the main deck to the longest and narrowest lift (the one for big missiles) and then transported down 50ft or so to an empty area where a sort of playground had been set up. Even now after the intervening 36 years I can easily recall the joy of those kids. But equally important, the crew started to pull together and a lot of the nastiness and drunkeness disappeared. I eventually got some of the real "hard cases" into my flight-deck team...and couldn't fault them.
"Hermes" was going to continue East, but we were going N.West. Bermuda for a start. Great. All by ourselves. No "Rodneys" to answer to. Not a cruise though. Lots of Portland type training and flying exercises and all that stuff...and quizzes and flight deck barbecues and horse racing nights. No need for "Neptune" as we'd done all that on the way south. But a few days free stopover in Bermuda is a chance not to be missed. I think you may agree that the nearest beach to the ship would be the most popular one, especially as we had not broken watches.
End this one.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 29, 2008, 07:48:17 pm
For those who had a bit more time off (rather surprisingly the "skilled labourers" who were always moaning about something), the idea of renting a moped seemed a "good idea". Well of course the inevitable happened and some of these idiots drove over (small) cliffs, or through walls or simply fell off. Cue ER. Thank goodness we had a "proper" doctor to treat them. Those that weren't in hospital, that is. Our Doctor was one of the most gentle, caring and incompetent people you could ever wish to meet. He was a very black man..I repeat VERY black man. He must have been about 115 years old. American. Name of George Washington. (I am not joking...he got his name from slave ancestors...authenticated). He was about 5'6" tall and about the same in width. In his younger days he had been a pro. baseball player untill he got hit in the throat. Talked in a nice quiet hoarse whisper ever after. But then he married an English lady, went to college and joined the British Army...finishing up as a Surgeon Brigadier. Here is a free spirit.
He got leave of absence to go to a "reunion". 2 weeks passed and our Capt. had to 'phone his wife to try and get him back. He was in Florida. Well. with over 150 people on board and still operating under the Merchant Shipping Acts, we couldn't sail without a doctor. So MoD appointed a locum. (This was all before we originally left the UK...it's just come to mind). This (Scottish) bloke was a real oddball. I used to get guys coming to see me after seeing the 'doc complaining that whatever their ailment, would just quote some passage from Shakespeare or Burns and send them on their way. Inspiring possibly, but not helpful. This doc then took to wearing a kilt with an eppauletted uniform shirt in the evenings. Eventually our Capt. had a large notice pinned on all the boards reminding officers that "Fancy Dress" was not allowable on a daily basis. But this was also the same Captain that posted a notice on the door of the amidships officers pantry stating that " This Officers Pantry Is NOT For The Use Of Officers"....because he used to keep his stinking fish-bait in the pantry fridge rather than use the fridge in his cabin. It all made life "interesting".
But back to Bermuda.
The Choff (Ch. Officer) was not particularly well liked. He fell asleep on a Li-Lo on the beach...and sailors being sailors, set him afloat..outwards. He was pretty well sunburned by the time he was rescued, but he remained a prat.
In those days I loved playing cricket. Never much liked watching unless it's us and the Aussies in a Test Match. We (the ship) were challenged to a game by the Governor (who else?). What he did not tell us was that "his" team were long term prisoners....rape, murder, you name it, and that we would be playing in a disused quarry with only one access. The rim of the quarry was manned by armed guards and there were no spectators. While we were batting it was evedent that some of the "fielders" had other priorities and were sitting on the "grass" (no pun intended) scrabbling for little packages that their friends had left for them. Also, their bowlers had nothing to lose by knocking our heads off. Very, very intimidating. But we won, bruises notwithstanding, but I wouldn't do it again, even though the Governors Reception later was wonderful.
But we all got home eventually and I went on leave. Another ship next time. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 06, 2008, 08:12:32 pm
It had to happen eventually I suppose, but my appointment to "Tidereach" in early 1973 was a bit downheartening. The upside was that she had just come into Wallsend for a 3 month refit and I was to be "one of the team". "Great" says I. 3 months sleeping in my own bed and having a beer in my local, and then only 3 months away doing what I should be being paid for. Ah, the ignorance of youth. I would be imprisoned on this rusty old tub for 6 months after she left refit..much to the chagrin of Mrs.Y. But at that stage I was just fortunate to be living at home instead of some grotty B&B of flat in Wallsend. Although she was not all that ancient in ship terms (hope you did'nt think I was referring to Mrs.Y) the first "Tide" class was built as a "development" from the earlier "Wave" class and were really the start of the RFA modernisation programme. Not a lot of thought had gone into the accommodation for the ships company, but some real wizard had designed the hull. As a sea-going ship she was superb. Everything about the hull was "right". Some ships you never feel absolutely comfortable with, nothing you could put a finger on ; but "something not quite right". After years at sea this feeling becomes second nature, something to do with the interaction between the way a ship moves and the way a seaman instinctively responds. The old "Tides" had this quality in spades. So "sea-keeping" was her great strength. What a pity about the rest of the old tub. I think the superstructure and the upper decks must have been made out of re-cycled steel from scrapped cars. Except that it wasn't all steel.
One of the jobs the dockyard was doing entailed drilling one 3/4" hole into the bridge front. Up came the "gang of three" (always in threes) plus a foreman and got themselves set up and then waited for a shipwright/carpenter to set up the wooden "push-bar" for the drill. And he had a foreman. So 6 people here to drill a hole. All set up and the drill went through in about 5 seconds. That is when we realised that the entire bridge structure was made out of 3/4" brass plate. No wonder it never rusted like the rest of the ship. All to do with magnetism I think. But as the job had been scheduled to last an hour but had only taken 20 minutes the entire gang sat down and had a 40 minute smoke-o....all the while complaining that the Japanese were taking their jobs away.
When this class of ship was designed it was never envisaged by "them what know" that a mere RFA would ever be entrusted with the operation of such esoteric machines like helicopters. I can still feel the shudders now. So no flight deck. In fact she didn't have much of anything that was pertinent to naval ops in the 1970s. Not even modern re-fuelling rigs.
Butduring this refit "they" had decided to fit an electronic boiler management system ....obviously, compared to now, it was a pretty primitive set-up, but this was "state of the art" at the time....even though that expression had yet to be voiced. These early "electronics" were ( so I am told by those in off-white boilersuits) quite heat sensitive. So the "guts" of this lot were placed in the boileroom.
In those days the RFA refit organisation was exclusively run by and for the engineering department to the exclusion of almost everything else. So although the ships machinery was still superb, the rest of the ship was falling apart. It may not sound much nowadays, but for a tanker designed just after WW2 to be still capable of a smooth 19 knots was good going.
More later.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on July 07, 2008, 01:33:15 pm
Bryan,

A team of Top Engineers in the snug of the 'Stokehold and Shovel' has considered this brass plate bridge. Steel superstructure - yes. Wooden superstructure - yes. Aluminium supestructure - yes - but brass???? Can you throw any more light on this? If other ship's can put up with magnetic materials why would this have one? Was it all hard-brazed (the mind boggles at the problems) or riveted? Was the supporting structure insulated from the brass or was it all corroding rapidly in the salt atmosphere as the induced current went to work? Not that we are suggesting that Dr. Gordon's Remedy has caught up with you at last but an all-brass bridge? Any Junior Engineer worth his salt would have been in there with a hacksaw cropping off unobtrusive bits to fund his next run ashore.

The Public must be told!

Cheers,

Barry M   
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 07, 2008, 03:07:03 pm
I assure you that we were just as astonished as you and your buddies are. Bear in mind that I had just joined the ship and knew very little about her. The first of the class was laid down in August 1952 so I imagine the design work started around 1947.
Perhaps there were a lot of gash shell cases around at that time!? Not even c/s "Mercury" had this amount of brass...although her radio room was totally copper sheathed. But there you go.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on July 07, 2008, 03:48:38 pm
I bet it made some Superintendent very happy when it went for scrap.

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 07, 2008, 04:02:57 pm
I may have alluded to this in a previous post, but it was during this refit that the Lloyds Surveyor made the astonishing discovery (courtesy of his little pointy hammer) that all our steel lifeboats were fastened up with aluminium rivets. Whoever thought that one up deserved getting his head kicked in. So a new set of boats had to be issued. Yet more nights in my own bed! At this rate I would be going on leave again without ever going to sea on the old tub....not to mention having only spent a couple of nights on her anyway! But as is usual with shipping outfits the left hand never seems to know what the right hand is doing. So the "personnel department" had most of our Maltese crew flown in (not to mention the Chinese laundrymen from Honk Kong..more about them later). So ther we were with a crowd of miffed maltesers joing a ship that was apparently "ready for sea" but certainly not "fit for purpose" (as it is now known, in those days it was simply " the effing effers effed"). The cabins and all that were OK but there was no heating and no steam for the galley. More lodgings required. And you were all wondering why your taxes were so high? I should mention that this state of the art fleet tanker could carry a crew of 140 (!). Oh, what fun we were having. And this (according to my Discharge Book was in mid-winter...had to be, really.
But to digress. Chinese laundrymen. Until shortly after the Falklands the RFA employed quite a few Chinese crews, not just on the LSLs, but all ships no matter what nationality the main crew, had Chinese laundrymen. They were not really integrated into the ships company as such, but were employed on a sort of private freelance contract (unless the ship had a Chinese crew in the first place of course). Naturally, they had to take part in lifeboat drills and so on, but in general they were left to their own devices.  The chinese for some reason hated fire drills...especially the way the RFA play them. Not for us the old "Board of Trade Sports". I used to set up a full scenario a la Portland. Galley staff never went much on them either for obvious reasons. On a fully chinese crewed ship fire drills and damage control exercises were either a hoot or a despair. The term "- - - - - as a Chinese Fire Drill" was not coined in jest. So I used to have the occassional "fire" in the laundry. Howls of anguish from the laundrymen who insisted on trying to keep washing and ironing even though I had set of a couple of smoke bombs in the laundry. Almost pitched battles when a fully equipped BA team arrived and set up re-entry procedures. The galley staff equally...but I tended to leave them alone a lot as they always got their own back. The galley on these ships was aft, and the officers dining saloon was amidships. Dead easy for a "salt water dinner" to be arranged. But back to the laundrymen. On some ships (and I think Tidereach was one of them) they didn't even have their own accommodation...they lived, worked, ate and slept in the laundry; sleeping under benches. Although they could use the crew mess if they wanted to, in general they set up their own cooking facilities in the laundry (fire hazard? you bet it was). We usually carried 2 of them.Always known as No.1 and No.2. Almost without exception they were superb...possibly a bit too much starch, but who's quibbling. They set their own charges. If these were thought too high then they got less trade...so it all eventually evened out. Even the Chinese can bear losing a little "face" where money is concerned...and the Chinese are nothing if not pragmatic.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 07, 2008, 05:30:53 pm
Eventually the "great day" arrived when my wife (who was by now getting tetchy) could have "her" bed to herself and we would all sail away. But not too far, as we had to do the rather tedious "compass swinging" palaver and then do the "measured mile" off Newbiggin. Compass swinging? Well, if a ship lies alongside for an extended period without changing direction then the earths magnetic field will will change the ships own magnetic field. No matter how much brass there is. And there is always the aft magnetic compass to remember. This is exacerbated if a lot of metal bashing had been done, or changes made to the ships structure. So the magnetic compasses have to be re-callibrated ("corrected"). The earths variation we can do nothing about really as it changes both constantly in effect, and also with the ships geographical position. So at this stage the compass can only be adjusted for our present location, i.e. off the Tyne Piers. "Deviation" we can do something about. Nothing to do with newspapers, lawyers and courtrooms. This is the ships own magnetism and can slew a compass way off "true" (in a manner of speaking). This correction is done by the judicious placement of all sorts of magnets in and around the binnacle. The obvious visible ones are the flinders bar and the soft iron spheres . But there are many other little bar magnets placed in slots behind thos neat little wooden doors in the binnacle body. Quite a skilled job really, but one that any holder of a Masters Certificate should be capable of given the time and inclination. These little magnets are supposed to be moved around a little as the ship goes from one part of the world to another...especially going from one hemisphere to another. I never ever saw this happen and certainly didn't do it myself. It was easier and quicker to just take an azimuth and put in the log. Azimuth? A lovely word. But all it really boils down to is taking a compass bearing of a known celestial object as it rises or sets on the horizon. Compare the bearing you get with what it should be and there is the compass error. A bit more to it than that, but thats the basics. But as Gyro compasses and GPS are all the fashion now surely the magnetic compass is obsolete? Or is it.
The trials team find a few glitches that are not acceptable so we return to wallsend for another 24 hours. Not unusual for any ship. (Yes, another night in my own bed). The next day, all is fixed and we have the ship to ourselves. Tugs and pilot are left at the South Shields Groyne (short pier) and we away at last. For 2 miles. And then the ship just died. The new "state of the art" boiler management system has decided that it is too hot and bothered to play this game any longer. So there we are blocking all other outgoing and incoming river traffic untill the tugs get out and take us back in. Only as far as North Shields this time as "our" Wallsend berth had already been taken. Two more weeks.......
We did eventually sail (alas) and went through all the hassle of re-rigging and re-storing, although it must be said that we did most of all that in N.Shields by getting whatever we could sent up to us. Then we did the Portland thing (again)..badly, as we just hadn't had time to "shake-down".
Our eventual destination would be a stint on the Beira Patrol. But first we had another task. We were accompanying a couple of frigates all the way (who were also well delayed by our problems), but we were carying a passenger. The" Anglican Bishop Of The South Atlantic" no less. Didn't know we had one? Well nor did we until then. An interesting Diocese that covers Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha, St.Helena, Gough Island and Bird Island. There may be others, but those were the ones we visited. All very interesting but Bird and Gough are really just inhabited on a temporary basis by people who count birds and whatnot. The Bishops HQ was in St.Helena. A magical place. Imagine "Jurassic Park" without the big things that kill you and you have it. But I must backtrack a little to the area just N. of Senegal. And that will be later.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 08, 2008, 08:34:39 pm
I am sorry and all that, but I have blundered about the brass wheelhouse. "Tidereach" did have a bridge-front bulkhead of brass so no porkies there, but the brass deckhead was on another and much later ship. The post from Gary-M got me thinking. Sorry for all that. I am not used to grovelling, but in this case...... oops.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 08, 2008, 08:40:04 pm
If the pic comes up then this is what an "old" Tide looked like:-
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 12, 2008, 07:45:34 pm
The trip south was uneventful ( busy, but nothing unusual) until we got somewhere a bit North of Dakar. Trillions of fishing boats. A real obstacle course especially at night. 48 hours to get through them. These were not your little local boats, but real big ones from Bulgaria (explain that one), Spain, Russia and Korea. No wonder there are no fish left in that area..
Then the "highlight" of the trip. During my daily check of the gyros (one forward, and one aft) it was pretty clear that "something" had affected them. Perhaps "infected" would be a better word. As I have said before, these machines were really robust. They were also housed within a socking great steel framework. So it intrigued me that the aft compass was bouncing up and down a bit...the Sperry only twitched from side to side. Didn't like that much so I shut it down and "locked" it and reported to Choff. Then went to check the forward one. This one was beginning to both bounce and oscillate. Odder and odder. Called Choff again and he came to watch. At first it was amusing, as one seldom gets to see a gyro compass (especially a heavyweight like the 1005) going off its trolley. But as we watched this thing began to go berserk and was getting dangerously violent. Choff reckoned that if this thing broke loose it would go through 3 bulkheads before it stopped. "Turn it off", he ordered, and then skedaddled. Its the way of the world that the main power supply breaker had to be behind the blasted thing. Still, had to be done. Takes a couple of hours before one of these beasts comes to rest...but no harm done. So now we had no gyros and were going to have to rely on the magnetic one. As usual, the RN have a cunning plan for every contingency. This one is quite simple. A frigate pulls in front of you, steamms a steady course and you (we) tuck in behind and compare courses. I imagine that this procedure is all well and good for these warships that have basically "novice" bridge watchkeepers, but it really taking things a bit far when these children are trying to teach us how to steer a course without a gyro. I got my own back by taking moonlight star sights and giving a 3am position to them. Shortly afterwards the silly "compass checks" were abandoned.
I think I mentioned a long time ago about the RN method of going fishing. Lob a few HE things into the water and then go in and collect whatever comes up. Not nice, but effective and all a welcome change to the menus. A bit spectacular to watch.
But back to the Island visits. I had been to Ascension a couple of times before in my C&W days. Back then it was mainly a relay station with a small military "airport" (1962ish) and a small NASA tracking station. A launch from Cape Canaveral could be seen overhead from Ascension 20 minutes after launch. Some going. But now in 1972/3 the whole place had been "upgraded" and the airport was pretty big, with a lot of USAF and RAF activity. I guess the RAF were involved because of the upheavals in Africa at the time...so what has changed?...
The fishing off the shelf that surrounds the Island is fantastic. Not a fisherman myself, but I enjoy eating the catch. The Island is also home to the "Wideawake Petrel", and the airport is named after it. Ten years later I found out that it was inaptly named.
The "Bish" having said hello,we went on to Tristan da Cunha. Another tall and volcanic island. (Those of you of my age may recall the evacuation of the island). The "town" still looks like a lot of allotments with pigeon crees, but the crees are the houses. Apretty independent lot of folk.
But St.Helena is the jewel.
Dinner time.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on July 13, 2008, 10:02:04 am
Just caught up on your reminiscing of the RFA Tidereach Bryan and have started to get stirrings in the grey matter (albeit small - nothing to worry about !) I did three months probationary third mate on her around 1972/3. We went over to Vieque (spelling ?) in the  American Virgin Islands along with HMS Bulwark and the RFA Resurgent (aka Detergent). In front of me now is a photo of all three during a RAS that the Navy photographer took from a helicopter. The Old Man was a Scotsman whom I didn't really hit it off with, I found it hard to lose my ex China Coast habit of mixing it in with traffic which was a no-no in the RFA apparently, and oh boy did he let me know it !!. This all has a familiar ring to it so either we have talked of it before or I have been on some other forum - I did say the brain cells were only slightly stirring  :D :D. I left the RFA at the end of that trip partly through my relationship with said skipper and partly to try and swallow the anchor - I had been married less than a year at the time. (Eventually coughed the damn thing back up again !)

regards

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on July 13, 2008, 07:17:13 pm
This is where I get the feeling we have talked about it before - was it that cabin at an angle aft stbd side of the housing ?
I have a feeling that she had recently returned from a Beira Patrol when I joined

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 15, 2008, 06:34:05 pm
This is where I get the feeling we have talked about it before - was it that cabin at an angle aft stbd side of the housing ?
I have a feeling that she had recently returned from a Beira Patrol when I joined

Mike
Yes, we have. I also recall that I mentioned that the "triangular" cabins were later given to the R/Os. But I would still like to "meet" the plonker who decided to fit filing cabinet drawers (steel) without a locking arrangement, the same person also arranged for all mirrors to be of polished stainless steel. Nobody looks good in the mirror first thing in the morning, but the unrecognizable gargoyle can really undermine ones self esteem. Of course, it was free and one didn't have to pay to "laugh" at a twisted image in a fairground.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: yewmount on July 15, 2008, 06:58:56 pm
Hazards of a regular run.

After giving up 'blue water sailing' I turned to the coastal trade. While serving on two regular runners I discovered the following.
First. on the m/v "Darlington" of AHL sailing out of Goole to Copenhagen with Carlsberg empty crates and returning with fulls one of the crew was in an embarrasing position. Anyone who has navigated the Ouse near Goole will know of the low-lying land and it is disconcerting to look down on rooftops from the ship's bridge. Hanging from one house window was a large white sheet- a signal to the crew member not to come home as his wife had her "monthlies" :embarrassed: Needless to say he got a transfer.
Second. While on Ellerman's Wilson Line's s/s"Volo" on a regular run from Hull to Oslofjord we sailed at 6pm every other Friday arriving Oslo just after noon Sunday. As it happens a VLCC ore carrier sailed from Trondheim for Immingham and our paths crossed at 11a.m. Saturday morning. Although he had to give way to us he never did.  >>:-( We reported him but to no avail.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 15, 2008, 07:55:15 pm
St.Helena.
On the approach it looks very forbidding. Just lots of very high cliffs withe one little "slot" where the landing stage is. This then leads into a surprisingly pretty little town. But within those encircling cliffs is another world. I know that this is not supposed to be a travelogue, but this place is fascinating. To see places like this and also be paid to do so.....well, can't get better than that ,can you.
St.Helena was always a "stopping off point" in the days of sail, so it isn't really surprising that all sorts of trees, veggies, flowers and so on were seeded here...and thrived. A "natural" Kew Gardens. Also, nowhere to build an airport (Good!).
I haven't a clue where the Bishops house is, but the Governors house is quite stately in a very old "colonial" style. We (the chosen ones) went there for a reception and dinner. Not very far from the Governors house is the house that Napoleon was "housed" in. This is certainly not a prison. (I imagine that the island itself was the prison). The "real" prison on St.Helena is a very small "one bed" wooden building..and why not, a large "privy" really for the very occasional miscreant. The wallpaper in Napoleons "house" is still the same arsenic impregnated stuff that was common in those times. (So no conspircay there).
The reception and Dinner at the Governors place followed the usual pattern until it came to the time for the women to retire. That was a bit of a reversal....but this is St.Helena and "things" were different here. We, the males, were escorted out of the dining room and on to the large lawn where, apart from grass and so on, were 3 large boulders. Walking around. Very slowly. These were the 3 Tortoise that had been there since Napoleons days. These things were "big". Local custom has it that visiting guests to the "residence" are obliged to widdle on them after dinner. I assume the the Queen declined. But all this "widdling" over the years must account for their funny colour and algae growth. This world never ceases to amaze me with odd little things like that.
But there is a more sobering side to St.Helena. As I mentioned, the island was a "stopping off" place. Voyages to Australia, India and China and then in reverse. Many people died en-route. The deaths of young women going out to India to be married. The deaths of young soldiers wounded in India etc. All burried in one of the saddest graveyards I have ever visited. I shall always remember my few days on this magical island.
But then we were off again. This time to Capetown. Well, not really. Capetown then was not politically "acceptable" but we did have good reason to be there. Gyro compasses. The RFAs are officially designated as "merchant ships" and so we were allowed to anchor off Robbin Island. Mandela must have been in there at the time. Our new compasses had been flown out and were to be fitted by an "expert" whilst we were at anchor. All this stuff was delivered along with the "expert" who never stopped moaning about being aay from his family and complaining about the impossibility of re-building 2 gyros while on a rolling ship. I agreed with him on the second part, but no sympathy on the first. Of course, I was still obliged to do my anchor watches so I had those as well as the wimp to contend with. But there was a huge compensation. Capetown (their summer) is hot. The sea is very cold. Fog. Every morning there would be a very thick layer of fog limiting visibility to about 50 ft at water level. But from the bridge level I could see forever. The bridges and masts of all the other ships with this "cloud" under them. Wish I had a photo. Eventually the compasses were done and Mr.Wimp flew back home. And we trotted off for our stint on the Beira Patrol.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 16, 2008, 07:01:36 pm
The Beira Patrol was as uneventful as you would expect it to be. People pay fortunes to cruise around exotic places, but us "pros" just find it all a bit of a pain in the tripes. Apart from the now and again re-fuelling of the frigates and whichever carrier needed a "top-up" there really wasn't much to do. The highlight of the week was always the "fly-past". A Hercules, a Victor or Gannet...but they came to drop our mail. A little red "box" with a parachute on it. At least we were not forgotten. But sheer boredom set in. Forget Portland and all that stuff. This is when the crew decided to fill a bathroom with water (as I told yonks ago) and "go fishing". I converted "my side" of the wheelhouse into a model boat building area. I think that the only memorable thing was seeing "Bencruachan" coming slowly past with her bow section at a funny angle.
Every now and again the frigates would gather around us and the various ships would host little soirees. These little social events were a great morale booster as the frigates were just as isolated as us. We used to host "pub lunches". This, alas, did not apply to the crew as being Maltese were not really into this inter-ship thing. Although only supposed to last for perhaps a couple of hours, it was not unusual for these very sober gatherings to last until sunset. The RN reciprocated by holding "sundowners". A gathering of the "brass" on top of their little bridges. Being just a lowly 2/O I was never invited to one of these. But it was always chuckle-making to see all (perhaps a dozen) of these guys trying to keep from falling off the bridge tops without losing dignity. Of course it had to happen. And it was our Captain. A rough and ready "casevac" was done. A badly damaged leg that needed some TLC. Of course it was just serendipity that we (Capt. and me) had completed our sentence and were due for parole. The nearest place to put the pair of us ashore was the Seychelles. How sad. At this time (just after Sunderland had won the Cup) the airports in Kenya and Uganda were not considered safe for UK nationals. And the only "safe" flights out of the Seychelles were 10 days apart (by Brutish Caledonian VC10s)...and we managed to mis the flight by 6 hours. Again, how sad. So thank you all for my 10 day holiday in the Seychelles. The flight back was remarkable in that there were only a dozen passengers...so we were all upgraded to 1st class. The re-fuelling stop was at Addis Abbaba...never realised that the airport was so high above sea level. But that was my final farewell to the "Tidereach" and good riddance. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 17, 2008, 05:13:57 pm
After leaving Tidereach and getting used to normal humanity again (stuff like wearing clothes and speaking a recognizable form of English and so on) I was a bit miffed to get a call from Mod (apologetic, I grant you) asking if I would "mind" breaking my leave and do a "few weeks" on RFA "Reliant". Well, this was better than doing yet another "course"....and I wouldn't even have to go to sea on her as she was laid up in Rosyth awaiting a decision on her future. Rosyth is not my favourite place and the dockyard is certainly not pedestrian friendly...and the pubs are miles away. But when I got an assurance that my leave would accrue as if I were on a "deep-sea" voyage, and would be added on to my already handsome leave due I agreed. (Does one ever really get a choice in these matters?).
"Reliant" was a lovely oldish cargo ship originally owned by Ropners and used both commercially and as a cadet training ship. But the RFA had been a bit more sympathetic to her than was the case with "Resurgent". Totally different ships anyway, as "Resurgent"s sister ship was "Retainer". I'm sure I posted pics of them all some time ago. The ship (again) had a full Chinese crew, and an almost complete complement of officers including "Stonnery". So therefore she was loaded and kept ready for sea....even though she was "laid-up". MoD had stipulated that there would be no wives spending weekends on board...probably one of their more perspicacious rulings. We were berthed on the "outer wall" so had no shelter. Not to worry...it made our comings and goings easier (see later). We had two "legends" aboard as Captain and Ch.Engineer. The Capt. was a smashing elderly guy called Bonshaw-Irwin. He had been massively decorated during WW2, particularly for his part as a nav. during one of those famous raids into a French harbour to blow up the locks and so on. I really cannot recall now which one it was. The Ch.Engineer was an "import" that came with the LSLs from the MoT. "Davey" Crockett. He was about 5' tall and about the same in width (an Glaswegian to boot, although he had lowered the tone of rural Kent by moving there). He really was as strong and belligerent as he looked. His "man-management" was a barked order (incomprehensible even to a Geordie), followed by the original clunking fist. He got his way. His "hobby" was cooking. In the Officers Bar. The ingredients were almost always rabbit, that he used to hunt during the night within the dockyard. Then cook, and wake up as many officers as he thought fit at about 2.30am to come and eat the bessed stuff. No-one dared refuse. Funnily enough, he was really a very kind man...apart from his "quirks". The Captain had a much more subtle way of getting his own way. On the other side of our berth (within the harbour) was the more or less permanent berth of HMS "York" (DLG). Naval ships and their routines are for some reason very loud and lengthy, and start ridiculously early in the morning. Bonshaw needed his sleep. So he quietly cultivated the friendship of FOSNI (Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland) by many invites to "tea". FOSNI loved this, and used to come in his official car with his flag flying, feint towards "York" (which always caused panic) and then trot up our gangway to greet the (well dressed) Chinese QM on our gangway. No ceremony. In fact I cannot recall Bonshaw ever greeting him...the Admiral made his own way to the old-mans cabin (chatting to whoever he met en-route). His "tea" was always the same. And it was tea...but he particularly liked the special buns that Bonshaw had specially made. They may have been tasty, but they were also slathered in icing sugar that liberally coated the Admirals uniform. Always left us looking both smug and scruffy. And "York" got moved to the other side of the basin.
Bonshaw was re-appointed to "Grey Rover" and briefly hit the headlines when a Canadian submarine got a bit too close and the Rovers props chopped his conning tower off. The Rover didn't even know the sub was there, but some wally in MoD decided that the RFA was to blame....came to nothing of course, and the sub. commander presented the Grey Rover with a chunk of mangled conning tower as a memento.
But back to "Reliant". As I said earlier Rosyth has precious little to offer to guys coming in to an anchorage after a pretty rotten 3 week N.Atlantic exercise. The RFA guys were not really welcome (!) at the RN establishments (so what's new). Where to go?
So "Hotel Reliant" was born.
The RFAs that came into Rosyth and put people ashore were well aware that these "libertymen" (horrible American phrase...but does the job) would "miss" the last boat back. Party time. But being well and truly constrained by the big fat ugly slob who represented HM Customs and Excise we had to tread very carefully. Stage One was to contact Scottish and Newcastle Breweries to come and fit our bar up with pumps and so on. OK, they knew it was a small scale operation, but with my powers of persuation and their willing co-operation we had a functional "duty paid" bar. Then came the advantage of being on an outside berth. The NST would be lowered and driven across the Firth to a recently arrived RFA. This was "The Brown Bag Run"....and kept our bar well supplied with stuff in bottles. We also brewed our own beer, much to the delight of the Chinese crew but mainly pleased the Ch.Cook who used it a lot in some of his weird and wonderful menus. The stewards who kept the spare cabins neat and tidy for our "guests" were always "thanked". So everyone was happy. All done without the MoD knowing, and certainly not anywhere near the "isolation" they had originally envisaged. But all too soon it was time to go back on leave and do some real work.
My next ship would be "Sir Tristram".....and who would be my Captain? He with the damaged leg from "Tidereach". Oh,Boy.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 19, 2008, 08:14:18 pm
After the leave period comes the farewell. Let no-one tell you that going away again gets easier the more you do it. It doesn't. It gets harder. It takes a pretty strong marriage to last through many years of separation (although not all at once, obviously). The sinking feeling that always comes when cases are being packed. The little bursts of temper that are not really meant. It's a horrible feeling. But oddly enough, similar emotions occur when you are leaving a ship to come home. Not the "ship", but the people you have come to know. Some you will see again, others, never. A bit like a little death really. But once on that train heading onwards the mind switches to being a sailor again. "Home" will be put on the back-burner for a couple of weeks whilst I get used to the new bit of my life. Then I get a bit homesick. Always the same response....."Get on with it and don't be so soppy". She should have been a Gunnery PO at Whale Island.
To me, the huge advantage of being in (on?) an LSL was to be temporarily free of the RN. As an Institution, the RN is magnificent. The attitude of the personnel is not. I enjoyed working with the Army. They didn't know much about how we operated, and we in turn didn't know much about them. So we got along just fine and learned a lot about each other. I really never came across the the affected snobbery that seemed embedded within the RN officers, even when we were working with the most prestgious Regiments.
But back to a person. (He of the damaged leg). He is dead now. Reasonably young (late 50s), but he had a very odd take on life. A very large and "hail fellow-well met" sort of chap that could change in an instant into the worst sort of tyrant you would ever imagine. But once I had sussed out that was a diabetic alcoholic I found ways around him. (I actually liked this guy!). Get all the days work done before before lunch was no.1. After that, forget it and go into "damage control" mode. His disease was severe enough for him to have both big toes amputated....which gave some wag the idea of giving him a pair of "flip-flops" as a Xmas present. Now and again (usually around 2 am) it was not unknown for him to burst into someones cabin and "xxxxx" in the wardrobe. Completely unaware of it the next day. When sober and being proffesional he was excellent, but otherwise........
When the RFA "took-over" the LSLs the Officers bars were pretty bleak places. Probably because the ships officers were not allowed in them when the army was on board. That quickly changed, and all the LSLs developed their own character. "Tristram" had gone for the "Olde Worlde" look. (Others were different, but just as effective). "Tristrams" bar had, as a little feature, a stuffed fox within a glass case. The "engineers" had had a go at this thing and had given it a "wobbly head"....and a cigarette. The head and ciggy would vibrate in tune with the engine revs. Disconcerting to some. Most of the Army Officers we carried were very tall compared to us little weeds. They were not particulaly good at staying upright in bad weather, so (I think it was a Radio Officer) a number of those springy type hand hangers were bought from an outfit scrapping old tube carriages. If you recall, they also had heavy balls on the tail. These were fixed above "our" bar so to miss our low heads but strike a tall army guy between the eyes. The army saw the joke (thankfully) and it became a bit of a "tradition" to be whacked. (As I have said......the RFA has no "traditions"..only many bad habits).
More later.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 21, 2008, 07:10:26 pm
My time on Tristram began on the old trot...Marchwood-Belfast-Liverpool- Belfast-Glasgow-Belfast and so on.The Scottish Regiments we took home were obviously not liked in N.Ireland. We had two "incidents" in that period. One was rifle fire at our bridge which was a bit disconcerting but the other was a bit more serious. For some odd reason the troops were lined up on deck as we left instead of being sent straight down into their dormitories. A large crowd of "locals" had assembled a bit downstream and were armed with short lengths of scaffolding tube which were hurled at the soldiers on deck. Many injuries. Totally avoidable.
On board the ship us "permanent" guys were getting a bit depressed with all the nastiness that had nothing to do with us really. OK, I know that that sounds like a "cop-out", but it isn't actually. Although we were painted grey and had a big number painted on the ships side I guess we (us on board) never really considered ourselves as "combatants". So it was a bit of a "wake-up" call when we got fired upon. A lightening of the mood was called for. I had a long plank painted up as per a truck with "Long Vehicle" on it with the various stripes etc. This was fastened to the stern ramp so couldn't be seen when the ramp was down. This lasted for about 3 weeks before some RN wally reported it. A mild bollocking ensued. About the same sort of "censure" I got after I had painted a large keyhole on the bow doors of Geraint. Some folk have no sense of humour.
Coming back from Glasgow to Marchwood  the RN had given us a deck cargo. This "thing" suddenly appeared alongside on the back of a large truck. All the paperwork was in order, so we loaded this beautiful 16 bladed highly polished propeller. Put it on deck, lashed it down and away we went. Nobody told us that this was a new and secret prop. for a nuclear submarine. Not my fault,guv. If we had been told to cover it up we would have. Lots of nasty signals, but we could lay the blame elsewhere.
But that was the end of our Belfast stint. For some reason that totally escapes me now we had to go up the Kiel Canal to Rendsburg. (probably got the spelling wrong). As a "Nav", I used to hate that part of the N.Sea. Everything is so unpredictable, and so many ships just seem to get a mental block and ignore the normal rules. But a lovely day cruising up the canal. An equally lovely afternoon spent browsing around a nice clean old town. Back to the ship to find a lot of problems. It appeared that sometime the previous night a string of British paratroopers had been accidentally dropped into the canal and had drowned. The Germans were suggesting that Sir Tristram had "run-over" them. Nice try. We could prove that we were nicely snugged up in a German town at the time. Older readers may recall this incident. Many recriminations came afterwards. ((I think there was a senior officer suicide).
More later.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 21, 2008, 07:35:50 pm
I now recall that were there (Rendsburg) to embark German and Dutch troops who were to take part in an exercise centred on the Outer Isles of Scotland. Not many vehicles. Stopping off somewhere on the UK coast we embarked a hovercraft maintenance squadron. At the time we hadn't a clue why...soon found out. When we reached the exercise area we found 2 very large hovercraft waiting for us. Never saw anything like these before. Somebody on this forum will tell me I am sure. Normal sort of "bodywork" but with 2 huge diagonally angled prop shafts sticking out. Very noisy. All we could do was to re-fuel them and send them on their way until they needed us again. The Germans and Dutch put on their hairnets and went away to do whatever soldiers do. Except that they didn't. At the "Post-Op" de-breifing it transpired that the German and Dutch troops had come across a liitle "off license" run by another "Patel"....and so stayed put. I really do wonder sometimes about the commitment of our "European" partners.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 21, 2008, 08:34:22 pm
We eventually got shot of that lot and were sent off to Cyprus. First stop Famagusta. But not for long. I for one didn't expect fighter planes screeching overhead firing real guns. "xxxxx" Portland, get out of here...quick. This was the first assault by Turkey against Cyprus.. Nobody had warned us. So we skedaddled. No direction really, just "get out of the way" sort of thing. Eventually someone in the MoD discovered that "they" had a ship in the vicinity and were handy. So we were despatched to Dhekelia. Not too far away. Not much more than a good cricket ball toss from Famagusta. An evacuation plan had been implemented. God knows what the plan would have been if we or another LSL hadn't been in the vicinity. The jetty at Dhekelia had been left to rot for decades. I really cannot believe that a US Base anywhere in the world would allow that to happen. We went in stern first and began embarking the wives and children of our military personnel. Lots of them. In the absence of further instructions we would follow our original plan and return to Marchwood. But also knowing that the politicos must be dashing around like headless chickens we made alternative arrangements. Like go to Italy, Gibraltar,or anywhere that could take these "refugees". No answer was forthcoming, so continue towards Marchwood. Only 2500 miles. I was the 4-8 watchkeeper  and so saw all the sunsets ahead of me. I also got to see the island of Pantalleria ahead of me. What I did not expect was to see a sunrise ahead of me the next morning......on our way back to Dhekelia for another "load" of wives and kids. This happened 3 times. The children loved it all, and the Chinese crew made superb "baby-sitters". The last batch we picked up more or less filled up the ship, so we must have had well over 300 women and children aboard. And the final loading also included as many private vehicles as we could carry...a lot.
So now we had perhaps 20 UK officers, 56 Chinese and over 300 women and children on board. Sure kept the galley staff busy.
The last private vehicles loaded had to be put on the weather deck. This was fine when in the Med., but not so good when when a nasty bit of weather hit us going up the Portuguese coast. The LSLs were not the most comfortable of ships in lumpy weather, so a lot of our "passengers" were not seen fo a few days. The children seemed to love it. It was all a bit of a playground to them, and our Chinese crew loved looking after them.
The cars on the weather deck were really wrecks due to bleaching salt water spray by the time we got home. Big brass band and all that.....but that was enough. Time to go on leave again.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 23, 2008, 06:59:20 pm
Just getting a bit out of sequence now. When I first began this saga I had no idea that it would develop the way it has done. And the years 1974-1976 were done early on. "Retainer" and "Olna". "Retainer" was in 1974, and was chronicled on Page 7 of this screed..(Reply 126 of April 1st 2008), "Olna" came later but is Reply 104, Page 6.
Next was "Sir Bedivere" and a trip to Vancouver. But I haven't written it yet. Too busy enjoying a bit of sun interspersed with a bit of half hearted rubbing down of "Egham".
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 25, 2008, 10:05:33 pm
Lucky me. After a couple of years on the "big ships" I was appointed to "Sir Bedivere". Magic. I always had a theory that being appointed to an LSL was viewed by some as a retrograde step. Mainly by those who thought that being apart and away from the "mainstream" ships would damage promotion prospects. How sad. I always thought that if we only have one life then it's better to be happy and contented instead of having vaunted ambitions that are not always going to come true...hence leading to disenchantment and some bitterness at the least. So, in the main, the guys appointed to LSLs were the happy-go-lucky types who always made the LSLs "happy" ships. There were of course exceptions, but they either put in for transfers to other ships or suddenly "saw the light" and began enjoying life.
The first major task we had on this deployment was the disposal of a very heavy load of "old" ammunition that was to be dumped at sea somewhere in the Western Approaches. I've mentioned this before when I wrote about "Resource" and the dump prior to getting the non-exploding bombs that were meant to blow up the "Torrey Canyon". But Resource was a specialist ammo ship. The LSLs were nautical trucks with a passenger capability. Before an LSL "did a dump" (to inadvertently coin a phrase), all sorts of handling gear had to be installed aboard. Getting the "stuff" up to the weather deck from the tank deck meant having what appeared to be very wide moving staircases fitted. Then various sorts of conveyor belts like airport carousels were arranged to get the "load" to the jettisoning point. All very interesting to me as I had never done one of these on an LSL before. But it was all "old hat" to the Chinese crew. I was reliably informed by the Chinese bosun that things hadn't always been "correct". One of the BI Captains had been adamant that these dumps should be done simply by opening the stern door and just shoving the stuff out. Apparently he had taken a lot of convincing that as the stern door hinge would  at times be below the ships waterline the tank deck would be flooded with catastrophic results. He did not remain a Captain in the RFA.
As usual during a dump, the ship went around and around an oval shaped "track" whilst all the while ditching all these things that were beyond their "sell by date". As always, the engineers would 'phone the bridge to complain of odd bangs and "whooshes" and so on. From the bridge we could see discolouration in the sea. This dumping could take perhaps a week. The sea bed in these designated dumping grounds must be the opposite of a joy to behold. We do it, the Germans do it. the French, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and uncle Tom Cobbley and all do it. When you consider how many years this has been going on for it is easy to imagine that there must be more "stuff" down there than there is "up here". Even though it is 3 miles down, the pollution must be horrendous. But enough of that. Back to the "trip"....
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 29, 2008, 08:21:12 pm
Although my wife had been aboard various RFAs and had done a couple of "shortish" voyages with me this would be her first "long-haul" trip....to Vancouver. As an added bonus our son (then aged 10ish but now 40ish) could come with us. Some other officers also had wives and children along. I would have thought, in my ignorance, that being a troop-ship numbers wouldn't matter...but other Rules limited the number to 12. As it turned out, thank goodness for that. The "kids" were housed in the military officers accommodation with a nice bunk each. The parents had to cuddle up on a single 3' wide thing.
This voyage was an annual thing at the time. The Mod (Army) used ranges in Canada to train and test tanks and personnel. So an LSL would be used to transport 16 new battle tanks to Vancouver, and bring back 16 used ones. It's a long way to Vancouver via the Panama Canal. Whenever I asked why "we" didn't just go to Montreal (or somewhere) and use a train as transport I was always met with a load of "waffle". In later years (not too many) The ships went to Prince Rupert...a small port further north. So after all the toil of getting there the ships company didn't even get a decent run ashore. But we went to Vancouver.
None of the wives and children had ever done a voyage of this length before and wer understandably a bit nervous. Especially as it was early December and so not the nicest time of the year for a N.Atlantic cruise. But we were going to follow the Met.Office "recommended" route for this time of the year, and were going to go south to the Azores before cutting over to the Windies. Nothing altruistic about this. If the "passengers" got sea-sick then so be it. We really only cared about the 60 ton monsters sitting below us on the "tank deck". But all to no avail I'm afraid. The Met Office had once again given us a "bum-steer". 4 days out of Marchwood and the first of the bad weather hit us. Only a f8 but enough to make things a bit uncomfortable. All the ships officers bunks were fore-and-aft, but the mil. officers cabins all had athwartship things. The kids quickly got used to the idea of sliding from one end of the bed to the other, but I had to explain to "She Who Now Has To Obey ME" how to wedge a lifejacket under the mattress to stop being chucked out on to the cabin deck. It was also a bit difficult getting her to understand that getting out of bed to replace things that had fallen over was not a good idea. Leave them, sort it out later, they aren't going anywhere. I still, even now, push "things" away from edges at home...just in case...But really the only time I saw her get really annoyed with me was when I couldn't stop laughing at her hopping all over the cabin trying to put her tights on.
Beyond the Azores the weather actually go a lot worse and we were taking a real pounding. Again, the kids loved it. The Chinese stewards always polished the fore and aft alleyways about 6a.m. Lots of slippy soap. The kids learned this very quickly and so all of us "adults" had to adjust to the racket the kids made when sliding up and down without any effort as the ship pitched. Annoying, but harmless.
Dinner time.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 30, 2008, 07:11:59 pm
Now that wives are allowed to put a permanent stop to model making I guess I had better finish this section before I am unable to do so. Sort of re-writes the "have and to hold until death do us part" bit. I suppose now it really means that she can hold you really close to make sure the knife goes in where she means it to go. Followed by a Viking funeral in at least one of my models. So I'd better be on time for dinner tonight.
Back to the screed.
Big tanks when being driven on "normal" roads have rubber inserts in their treads to stop the road surfaces being chewed up. Similarly, when being carried aboard a ship, the tanks are sort of jacked up and rested on trestles to take the weight off their tired "feet"...and also to stop the rubber things letting the tank slide around. They are also securely lashed to the deck with all sorts of couplings and chains. All very secure, and the lashings are checked and re-tensioned every hour or so. But we were in a really vicious bit of weather by now. An LSL is well over 400ft long, but the swells we were meeting were so big and long that the whole ships length would go down one side of a wave, flatten out and whole length climb up the other side, balance on the top and start all over again. The wives and kids thought this was "normal" and so didn't worry. We did. Then the worst happened. A tank broke loose. Fortunately it was one of the centre (of 3) ones, but it was banging around like crazy. Ever really stopped to think how you would go about catching a 60 ton monster that had found freedom? Although it was somewhat constrained by the presence of the other tanks around it it was very clear that this could get a bit serious. So we had another Chinese Fire Drill. 20 Chinamen dashing around with lashings and trying to avoid being squashed. OK, it was serious, but from where I was sitting on the top of the renegade "trying" to get some sort of order into things it was absolutely hilarious.
Then a bit of the ships bottom fell off. Really. Luckily it was a plate at the bottom of an engine room cofferdam, which meant that any water coming into the ship would be held within the cofferdam and only rise to the ships waterline...which at this time was somewhat variable. This all made for a good excuse for the engineers to have "show you my hole" tours. A good variation on the Golden Rivet I think. All good stuff.
Eventually we came into calmer waters and anchored at 5 minutes to midnight on New Years Eve. Xmas must have been in there somewhere, but I have no memory of it at all. Sad really, as all the kids seemed to like it. Lots of mail and pressies arrived..and a great sigh of relief by us "drivers (including the engineers)" that we had come this far without anything really untoward happening.
Obviously the Panama transit was a new thing for the wives and kids (the kids still thought the alley sliding was better), but Panama is always a source of wonder, but it's funny what people remember years afterwards. While writing this bit I asked the potential knife wielder what she remembered ...."Pelicans" was the answer. OK, who am I to argue.
But then onwards and northwards. My own lasting memory of this leg was the constant rolling in the Pacific swell, how stupidly long is the coast of Baja California. To trot along at 16 knots fo a week or so and still be able to see the same blessed mountain is sort of depressing. Eventually we reached the Juan de Fuca Strait, the entrance to Seattle and Vancouver. It was at about this time that my young son showed a glimmer of common dog when he said to me that if he ever came back to Vancouver there is a faster way of doing it. And has flown ever since.
Normally, on a day to day basis, I would "make a pipe" to the assembled masses and tell them our speed, position and all that malarkey...but this time I really did have to give the mike to a 2/Off who spoke Queens English. Being a Geordie I could easily imagine the embarrassment of broadcasting the fact that we were now in the "Juann-de Fuccas" strait.
More later.
Oh, we're all reading it Bryan - much better than "Listen with Mother"!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 02, 2008, 07:10:26 pm
Exploits, Roger? Nah. Just the sort of life the average seafarer would have during the time I was "at sea". Nowadays I am all at sea with modern life and technology. Can't even fix a modern car without access to £trillions of computer equipment.
But back to Vancouver.
What a fascinating and welcoming place Vancouver is. At least, I hope it still is. We were there for nearly 3 weeks. I guess this was the time it took for our new tanks to be delivered and the "returns" brought back.
Now, I must beg for a little "understanding" on some of the points in this section...it was after all over 30 years ago. I think we tied up to a "railway" quay quite close to the city centre. Well, not too far as a crow would fly anyway. But there were a lot of railway lines (with designated crossing places) to get over before civilisation was reached. But if you mis-timed your crossing and got shut out by a passing train then more or less forget the day. These passing trains were over 3 miles long and were doing about 2mph. But the visit doesn't really begin there.
Our first unexpected "guests" were a pair of Vancouver Police Detectives (one of them from South Shields) who had more or less adopted the visiting LSLs, and had appointed themselves as unofficial "hosts". They were of great assistance. Naturally, we gave them honorary membership of our bar. Probably what they came for in the first place....but they certainly made our visit most enjoyable.
Anothe welcome visiting guy was the head stevedore who smoothed out all discharge and loading problems. I imagine that this was a "union" thing, but nothing really to do with us. He did however recount a tale about an earlier visiting LSL. I think I may have recounted this earlier, before I got this involved. The tanks were discharged from the LSL directly into the bowels of a ferry that tied up astern of the LSL so that the stern ramp of the LSL could land on the ferry, allowing the tanks to just drive from one ship to the other. On that particular occasion the ferry hadn't tied up securely enough so that when the first tank drove over "our" ramp the tanks weight pushed the ferry forwards, the ramp dropped and the tank plus driver went into 30 odd feet of water. This head stevedore had dived in and managed to get the driver out of the tank. Thus saving him from drowning. Alas, the driver shot towards the surface and fractured his skull on the bottom of one of the ships. He then died. The stevedore got some kind of commendation for his efforts. I think that if any of our Vancouver readers are so inclined then the local newspaper archives will have a fuller story.
Our 2 "tame" policemen took "us" (me, wife and son) up Whistler Mountain. They apologized for not getting us seats on the regular helicopter, but as there had been no snow (for the skiers) the helo had been stood down. All very pretty and all that, but what makes this an "odd ode" was the public toilet. This wonderful bit of architecture was a wooden hut in the middle of a rickety wooden bridge that spanned what appered to be a bottomless (no pun intended) ravine with a torrent at the bottom of it.  Males on one side of the hut and Females on the other. It was something straight out of Monty Python to see the 2 "streams" crossing and disappearing ino a mist. I imagine that it was not a popular spot with anglers.
Eventually the "broken" tanks arrived and were loaded. We were to take them to Antwerp for onward transport to Germany for repair. I have been led to believe that German tanks were sent to somewhere in Wales for their repairs (?).
But of course we had to leave and it was with sadness that we said farewell to all those who had been so kind and welcoming. (i.e. a good party was thrown). One of my most favourite cities, ever. The long haul back to Europe. Still had the hole in the bottom perhaps I could have phrased that a bit better) but it seemed OK. Rolled all the way to Panama again. A night passage this time, and I was astonished and delighted that sections of the canal had been lit with underwater lights. Quite beautiful. The rest of the run to Antwerp must have been uneventful as I cannot recall any of it. So by luck and good fortune we found the entrance to the Scheldt and picked up the RFA "preffered pilot" at Flushing. Personally, in spite of all the pollution and so on I have always enjoyed going up (or down) that river. The "Barges" that house families, always immaculate, housing estates well below the river level, huge wind farms standing idle because (according to our pilot) the maintenance costs outweigh the output "income". (Sound familiar?)
Then there are the beautifully kept locks at the entrances to the massive harbour complex. Did any of you ever see the locks on the Thames or the Humber? We should be ashamed.
But there we are. My wife and son went off to visit Antwerp Zoo...but as they got to the bottom of the gangway I remembered that I had always wanted one of those caps that everyone there seems to wear...so I yelled at my wife that she was not to forget to buy me a "Dutch Cap". Instant horror. Furious embarrassment and lots of laughter. To this day I don't think she has really forgiven me. But just as embarrassing was the question my 10 year old asked on their return...."Why do all those shop windows have ladies doing their knitting in them, daddy"
Back home, take ship to refit and go on leave. Phew.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on August 03, 2008, 09:36:00 am
Great stuff so far Bryan, it has all the makings of a book !
To save me diving into the depths of Google, I did two weeks on the RFA Tidepool whilst waiting for 'my' ship - Tidereach - to come in -( this was spent at Portland doing a 'work up' which opened my eyes a bit on what was to come !) One of those ships had a RAS flag that was flown with a picture of two tumbling dice over a sea with the motto 'Licensed to Fill' Or I might be getting mixed up with the two ? Presumably based on her number 007. Not remembering the pennant numbers now, which one was it please ?

Looking forward to the next episode.

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 03, 2008, 05:22:25 pm
Great stuff so far Bryan, it has all the makings of a book !
To save me diving into the depths of Google, I did two weeks on the RFA Tidepool whilst waiting for 'my' ship - Tidereach - to come in -( this was spent at Portland doing a 'work up' which opened my eyes a bit on what was to come !) One of those ships had a RAS flag that was flown with a picture of two tumbling dice over a sea with the motto 'Licensed to Fill' Or I might be getting mixed up with the two ? Presumably based on her number 007. Not remembering the pennant numbers now, which one was it please ?

Looking forward to the next episode.

Mike
Mike, I don't think we had 007 as a side number, but I would hazard a guess as being "Tidepool" as "Tidereach" had a Maltese crew who were not really into that sort of humour. Perhaps the crests will jog a memory:-
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on August 03, 2008, 05:58:03 pm
Thanks for the crests Bryan. It looks like, as you suggest, I might have the two mixed up. It was definitely a play on '007 James Bond Licensed to Kill' and was flown when partaking in a RAS, at least I got the tumbling dice bit right ! Possibly it had nothing to do with side numbers - just a bit of humour on the James Bond thing

One other event that stuck in my mind from those days was when we sailed from Gosport round to Portland it was decided to have a little 'Navex' en route. This in involved heading in the direction of Ushant until clear of the territorial limits, then opening the bond to give everyone a ciggy issue and top up the bar supplies. Not something I had experienced in 'outside' companies for sure !! We then turned around and toddled back to Portland ready for the fun and games. Writing this has just brought another bit to mind of the 'no expense spared' attitude. As you said, the Tidereach had a Maltese crew who to a man were fairly devout Catholics. Consequently every Sunday at sea a helicopter was laid on to bring the Catholic priest over from HMS Bulwark to hold a service for the crowd followed by a few G&T's for the Rev in our bar then sending him back in the chopper. As you know the 'Reach only had a glorified kitchen table on the back end so the chopper had to do two round trips for this religious event, and they talk about carbon footprints nowadays!!

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 05, 2008, 07:38:21 pm
After a nice leave period I was sentenced (appointed) to RFA "Olwen". I had heard on the "grapevine" that the Captain was a bit of a martinet, but sometimes you have to take these stories with  pinch of salt. They guy I was relieving was a total nervous wreck...and I do not mean that lightly. I was "ushered" into the presence of this Captain who immediately told the guy I was relieving to "get out of my sight". A nice start, I thought. Perhaps the tales were true after all. I gave it a few days and realised that if anything the stories were understated. In the 10 days I was there I twice saw my "superior officer" reduced to tears by this man. But I still think that it was a weakness in him that allowed himself to be so bullied...after all, he wanted that 4th stripe so badly he would put up with any humiliation to get it. Moral fibre? Forget it. He did eventually get his 4th stripe, and I sailed with this wimp later....and he was still a wimp. After observing the mental state of my outgoing counterpart I decided that in no way was I going to spend 6 months being hectored by this tyrant. So after 10 days and a letter to MoD I was relieved. That guy really thought that hanging and flogging were within his rights. Ages later I found out that he was quite reviled by other Captains who were all pretty glad to see the back of him. One of the very few people I have met in this life that I have really detested.
I was quickly given another ship. "Sir Lancelot"....undergoing a refit in Liverpool. I won't bore you with refit details except to say that it was "normal" without any major traumas. Alas, the only place we could find to stay that was within easy reach of the ship was a new and rather nice "Seamans Mission". Well, the building was nice. But it was seriously lacking in the culinary department so we usually trecked into town to eat. Defeated the object really. I was also not too enthralled by the managements assumption that all their guests wee bedwetters, and so had covered all the mattresses with heavy duty plastic covers. Most unpleasant...no carpets either. It was then deemed a priority that the ship be made basically "liveable". Quite a relief.
I love Liverpool. Probably because the Scousers and Geordies have so much in common and tend to get along withe each other pretty well (until it comes to football).
Eventually the first "batch" of the Chinese crew arrived. As they all seemed to have relatives of one sort or another in Liverpool they weren't too fussed about living on board anyway. But they did all need working clothes. I don't know what other shipping outfits do, but the RFA supplies everything from skinnies through sandshoes and socks to heavy duty waterproofs and so on. In fact (true) I have seen people join a ship with only a plastic carrier bag and leave the ship months later with only the same bag. A bit like prison, I guess.
But there is (was) always a clothing problem with a Chinese crew. Their physical size. This seemed to range from that of an undernourished 6 year old to that of a well fed sumo wrestler. A nightmare. Those of you who have worked for the MoD will know about DMS Boots. (DMS = Direct Moulded Sole). They are really quite the bees knees as working boots. Steel toe caps, high quality leather that can take a polish so well that they can be worn to a cocktail party. The "extreme" sizes required for a Chinese crew meant that special sizes had to be made. Little ones at size 5, and big ones up to size 14. The loan clothig locker on these ships would rival any John Lewis store. And it was all "on loan". Some came back clean, but most were smelly and dirty...and had to be stored somewhere. And the Chinese didn't even pay UK income tax!
Finished refit, didsea trials and tht was it. Shortish (4 months) but then back into the lee of Bum Island again.
Then to a "proper" RFA..."Olna". More later.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 08, 2008, 07:30:10 pm
Colin, thanks. I only knew about the tanks because the Army told me. But as far as Pembroke is concerned that is a different story.
I think it was while I was in Sir Tristram that we called in at Pembroke and tied up alongside this horrible old hulk that had been butchered about something awful. But once on board it was easy to see that this "thing" was the remnants of an old warship. At the time she was just being used as a jetty, but I believe she had also been reduced to a coaling hulk somewhere down the line. A long way down the line she was made for. "HMS "Warrior". I saw and went exploring. The rest is history. I followed her rebuild with huge interest ad visited her a few times. The organisation that rescued her and the team in Hartlepool that ressurected her all deserve naming. There are many photos that show her being "reborn" from complete abandonment to becoming the swan that she is today. But there is another little "tittle-tattle" about her. When I was "exploring" her (when she was only a hulk) I noticed that she was not an "Ironclad" but an iron ship that had inner wood sheathing. People still persist in calling her an "ironclad"...wish they would'nt. The hull, though rivetted, is as smooth as a modern day welded ship...wonderful...and must have been bloody expensive. Some of the main bulkheads are solid 3" thick iron. How were they cut? But if you really want to see her glory (no pun intended for French naval historians) I suggest you look underneath. During my first solitary exploration I found a way into her double bottoms (this would be in 1974 or thereabouts) and although she had had her engines removed, underneath was pristine.
Years later when she was finally settled into her place in Portsmouth I decided that I should take our Cadet Training Unit to see her. The CTU had their own training officer, but was more than happy for me to give him a day off. Must have been a dozen of these young kids who, while keen enough, didn't know very much.
A few of you will have "done the tour" of "Warrior" but forget all that. (Apart from complaining that furniture would never have had castors, and a 2 ton gun in your cabin needs a bit more than a bit of string to hold it in place). Go over the rails in the Engine Room and look at the underside. No-one will stop you if you know what you are doing. The cadets were amazed that even the beam knees were scrolled and were wonderful bits of Victorian naval architecture. Colin Bishop. Dicky D and all those who live "close", please do this if you can. You will see Naval Architecture as you never ever imagined it. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on August 08, 2008, 08:21:30 pm
Missed that Bryan, but you are right about the attention to detail in those days. I have some interesting shots of the Victorian gunboat Gannet preserved at Chatham, including the gutted engine spaces, which I could post on a separate thread if anyone is interested. The ship was of composite construction with wood planking on iron frames.

Colin
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 08, 2008, 09:22:01 pm
Missed that Bryan, but you are right about the attention to detail in those days. I have some interesting shots of the Victorian gunboat Gannet preserved at Chatham, including the gutted engine spaces, which I could post on a separate thread if anyone is interested. The ship was of composite construction with wood planking on iron frames.

Colin
You have told me often enough not to be "coy" about things. Go ahead and see the reactions!. I would have assumed that any "real" model-maker would love to have historical information to hand. All grist to the mill....as they used to say.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 09, 2008, 06:33:12 pm
The 3 "O" class fuel-replenishment ships were all built on the Tyne in the mid 1960s, and did a great job until quite recently. Of course they were expensive to run (being steam turbines) and very noisy. But for their time they were streets ahead of anything most other countries had. The Shah of Iran had a "one-stop" version made for his country...the "Kharg". I often wonder what happened to her as all the infrastucture of which she was a part was modelled along the lines of the British system. I have searched (via Google Earth) the coast of Iran but can find no trace of her. They were pretty quick as well, regularly hitting over 20 knots when required. Not bad for a "tanker". When they were first built they all had a hangar that could accommodate a single Wessex helicopter. But the forward end of the hangar also had a full size hangar door, and forward of the hangar was a "parking deck" for up to 6 more aircraft. (Anti-submarine versions were the "norm"). With this capability in mind the accommodation for the aircrews was quite extensive. Officers amidships and POs and ratings aft. This also meant that the "public" rooms (bars and dining areas) had to be pretty big as well. Therefore the galley staff had to be "beefed-up" also. These things snowball! The deck rew had to be large enough to operate at least 2 rigs 24 hours a day as well as being able to supply a flight-deck crew on a 24 hour basis. The ships never really had much in the way of "temporary" manning except for the aviation side of things. The RFA comms staff were considered "competent" enough on their own (hence 5 Radio Officers)...and so it went on. But the manning levels were way lower than that which the RN would have needed if these ships were under the white as opposed to the blue ensign. Also, to the eternal chagrin of the "stonnery", no civil servants were carried. Goody. It was always a bone of contention with the stonnery that "we" were trusted to load, handle and operate systems that involved weaponry. But with all the courses we used to do I guess we were as well suited (if not better) to the job as they were. Surprising how many strings there were (are) to an RFA Officers bow. (Nowadays some RFA Officers are even appointed as PWO...Principal Weapons Officer...on a frigate. Well trained civilian mercenaries I often thought.
Later on, the single hangar was replaced with a double length one that could house 2 Sea Kings. The original "parking deck" being used to stow aviation spare bits and so on. This hangar extention brought with it another problem. Windage. The sheer size of it meant that a force 5 or 6 wind (particularly on the port beam) would be the equivelant of a 30 ton sideways push at the back end.
It also sort of screwed up the original wind parameters for aircraft operations, which had to be re-calibrated.
In the enclosed pics I have used a pic of RFA "Tidespring" (one of 2, the other being "Tidepool") just to show the evolution of these things from the first "Waves", via stuff like "Tidereach" and so on to a frontal view of the latest (of 2) Fleet Replenisment ships. (The latter will be on the next post as I have forgotten to do it!).
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 09, 2008, 06:58:29 pm
Another comparison shot to illustrate the "evolution". The first is "Olna" and the 2nd is the newest "Wave Ruler".
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on August 09, 2008, 07:23:21 pm
I went on board RFA Largs Bay at the "Meet Your Navy" event at Portsmouth a couple of weeks back. She is a replacement for the "Round Table" (Sir Tristram class) and is a hugely impressive ship. Bryan, I don't want to hijack your thread but I have some pictures if there is any interest.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 09, 2008, 10:26:55 pm
It is not "my" thread....it's open for everyone. Please, everyone, get this clear, although I have been writing about my life at sea it in no way means it is a private site. Chip in with your own...or start another thread. This is, after all, a Forum that means in itself "open to everyone". But thanks for the thought behind the post though. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 09, 2008, 10:35:44 pm
I went on board RFA Largs Bay at the "Meet Your Navy" event at Portsmouth a couple of weeks back. She is a replacement for the "Round Table" (Sir Tristram class) and is a hugely impressive ship. Bryan, I don't want to hijack your thread but I have some pictures if there is any interest.
Back to the evolution thing I guess. Tasks are different, so the ships are different. There are many "odd odes" to tell about the building of the new "Bay" class, and many of them involve political shenanigans. But one "repeatable" one is that the RN would love to take them over...but that would mean open warfare between the RN and the Army.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on August 09, 2008, 10:42:55 pm
I can believe that Bryan, my impression was that they are very capable ships - and the First officer confirmed that!


Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 21, 2008, 08:11:14 pm
Fast forward now to the summer of 1978. "Tidepool". This was to prove one of the best "trips" I ever did in the RFA. According to my Discharge Book I joined her in Portland, which must have meant being thrown back in at the "deep-end". But I must have been an old-hand at Portlanf by then, so it all went off as expected.
First Week Report...."Below Standard".
Second Week Report...."Ships Company Responding To Staff Advice".
Third Week Report..."Significant improvement in all departments and the ship is judged to be satisfactory"
What a load of old "hoo-ha". I still think that those people who were appointed to Portland were the direct descendants of the Spanish Inquisition. Or else they were recruited from Broadmoor or Rampton.
On this ship, although not one of the "creamy-toppers" we had possibly the best mix of personnel possible. The whole team worked well and it was a pleasure to be part of it.
Just as well really, as our "assignment" was to be the UKs contribution to STANAVFORLANT. Well, we did also have HMS "Ariadne", but as she refused to play nuch of a part I will forget her. The "group" involved ships from Norway, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Holland, Spain and the USA. And us. No Italians this time.
STANAVFORLANT? Standing Naval Force North Atlantic.
What it all boiled down to was that we would all partake in all sorts of exercises (anti-submarine, anti-aircraft and so on) during the "working week". (Early Tuesday morning until mid-Friday afternoon). By which time we should be within reach of somewhere nice to spend the weekend.However, it was a "Staff Requirement" that the crews of all the ships should get to know each other. In no way am I going to comment on the collaboration between the ratings and the POs of the various ships.
Perhaps "raucous" would fit.
But our Captain had decided that with "Ariadne" staying aloof then "Tidepool" would be remembered.
Lets backtrack for a minute. All the other ships were either Destroyers, Frigates or little submarines. We were the only ship that had "space". We had 3 bars. The Americans had none. The other European ships had "drink available" (not bars). So the sensible thing to do was to treat all the ships the same and allow free access from one ship to another. Got a bit complicated sometimes when strange faces appeared at breakfast....but this applied to all the ships. Being the "big ship" among the tiddlers (plus having the 3 bars) it was quite easy to lose track of how many lodgers and of what nationality we had staying overnight. As far as I am aware no "lodger" was ever hauled over the coals by his own ship after these weekends. And that made everyone very happy. Apart from "Ariadne", of course.
As all the ships were more or less tied up togetherthe interchanges were superb. The Americans compensated for the lack of liquid hospitality by having a 24 hour meal service (Wonderful). The Danes and Norwegians kept "open house" with snacks and the Portuguese kept us supplied with wine. The Germans were a little different. Welcoming, but not really able to get into the "fun" side of things. Very serious. I thought I would find this with the Americans, but they were fun.
But the Germans had another card to play. They had provided the little submarines  to both attack and evade the group. I believe these things were meant for ops in the shallow N.Sea and Baltic. Very quiet. I don't think they were often found, but they were were always more than happy to tie up alongside us and have the crews use our "facilities". There were not many officers aboard these subs, but those who could would always be invited to spend the night with us. But those who did never slept in the cabin they had been given. They all preffered to sleep under the lounge "settees" that had only about a foot of space underneath them.
It was on one of these occasions that I got to chatting with the CO of one of these subs.I asked him why, given that they were so successful, they never went to Portland to train and teach others. His answer was that as "they" had written the book on submarine warfare he felt no need to teach others. Says it all, really.
We (Tidepool)_ finished our stint in Lisbon. As a City, I love Lisbon. The inner harbour is nice and secure. The Nato fuel jetty is not.  The entrance to Lisbon is wide open to the N.Atlantic and in bad weather huge rollers come creaming in. And the fuelling jetty is right in their way. I think we exhausted our stock of mooring ropes that night. Not nice. But then we all left to go back north again.
It seems to be a tradition that departing ships do a "steam past" down 2 rows of ships. We had recently re-fuellled the German destroyer but they had had a fuel spill (FFO, not modern deisel). So with her ships side covered in oil the crew had used paint rollers to write "F... Off Tidepool". Taken in good heart. But we were off to Florida and sort of rescuing HMS "Birmingham" who was running out of fuel.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 05, 2008, 07:09:55 pm
The thing about "rescuing" Birmingham was a bit of an eye-opener for me. I knew that she had gas-turbine engines, but I had'nt realised that she used her fuel as ballast. The engines being so light in weight compared to deisels she became a little "edgy" as her fuel load ran down. Therefore she needed a bit of a "top-up" more often than would be considered normal. She was by no means the only frigate/destroyer to have this problem, but it was a first for me. In retrospect it appears to be yet another cock-up by my least favourite MoD(Navy) Department. The "Constructors". This little episode gave rise to yet more little pearls of wisdom from those "who are supposed to know" stipulating the level of fuel reserves any ship should have available at all times. A euphemism if ever I heard one. So the RFA spent yonks charging around the oceans topping up frigates and so on that had unwisely used more than 25% of their fuel. All a bit daft really, but we eventually reached Tampa where the local pilot promply ran us aground. Smack in the middle of the harbour entrance. Kind of makes a mockery of the large signs seen in all USN Dockyards claiming that they are "A Defect Free Organisation". Anyway, this clown had just misjudged the tide and we were able to carry on after a few hours. I liked Tampa...especially the bars that had Banjo Bands, but I was equally miffed at at the locals insisting that our ships name was "Tadpole". Perhaps it was just their dialect, as in their insistence in calling buoys "booeys". Bloody colonials! On our way home we were treated to a low level flypast by an airliner carting our then Prime Minister (Callaghan) home from some important barbecue or something to deliver his well known question "Crisis, what crisis?".
All in all a pretty good trip, especially the first part, and then it all sort of fizzled out and we just saw an awful lot of water (again).
I was overjoyed to get "Lyness" as my next ship. I was getting a bit fed-up with constant ammo ships and tankers. A nice clean straightforward stores ship without an aircraft embarked sounded like seventh heaven. More on the Nessies" later.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 06, 2008, 07:51:43 pm
Sorry for yesterdays truncated epistle, but I forgot about "dinner-time".
The "Ness" class. 3 sister ships built on the Tyne. "Lyness", "Tarbatness" and "Stromness". Built during the mid 1960s when the RFA was going through one of its periods of navel gazing. These 3 ships were designed by Swan Hunter and were built around the same time as "Resource" and "Regent" (Clyde and Belfast). Many moons ago on this thread I described "Resource". Big for its time. General stores (including 'fridge stuff) but mainly ammo of one sort or another. I believe the "R"s came in at around £11m each. A bit pricey in the mid 60's. All 3 "Nesses" cost about the same (for 3). But as the "R"s had been in gestation since the late 1950s being constantly "modified" (another euphemism) by our beloved corps of "Naval Constructors" this wasn't surprising. For some reason they who were "in charge" decided that "Lyness" would have a UK crew, "Tarbatness" a Maltese crowd and "Super Sampan" would be a gigantic Chinese takeaway. Guess which one was the most popular appointment! They all had slightly different roles within the great scheme of things. Memory fades a bit, but I think "Tarbatness" was the Air Stores ship, "Stromness" was food and "goodies" and "Lyness" general naval stores. All 3 carried a fair amount of "other stuff" as well. None were capable of issuing fuel and liquids other than bar replenishment stocks. You would think, rational human beings that you are, that the 3 ships would be deployed within some sort of "calling distance" of each other. Wrong. "Strom" was almost excusively employed enjoying herself in Singapore and other points East. Haven't a clue where "Tarbatness" disappeared off to, and "Lyness" got stuck mainly with NATO in the colder parts of the globe. (When the colder parts were colder than today). As you can imagine the visual impact of the 3 ships was as chalk and cheese. "Strom" could have doubled as a Royal Yacht, "Tarbatness" just looked a bit "seedy" and "Lyness" could look like an old nag after a N.Atlantic winter. But that was just on the outside. Guess which one was the best one operationally and which the worst. Whilst having a large flight deck these 3 ships were not aircraft compatible. No hangar and so on. The flight deck was there to enable the Stonnery to load the deck up with stores for Vertrep. OK, but still a waste of what could have been a more versatile ship. It wasn't until the late 70s when the 2 new "Fort" class appeared (Austin and Grange), that this was rectified. The "Forts" looked like enlarged "Nesses", and indeed the general layout was similar...but I'm getting ahead of myself. The 3 "Nesses" served very well until just after the Falklands thing when they were all sold to the U.S.A. who promptly added a hangar and kept them in service until quite recently. 40 years of service is not bad going. I do hope that the 3 ships are brought back to the UK for breaking up though. It would give me great pleasure to tell the "anti-pollution" brigade that although the ships have an awful lot of asbestos in them, they were built in this country for service with the MoD(N). But I doubt that they would listen.
My "trip" on Lyness was very much an "odd-ball". For reasons that escape me we left the UK a couple of weeks after the "group" and so we were on our own. Lovely. We should have been going to places like Singapore and Hong Kong, but instead we went directly to Australia via the west coast route. This was when we were not a thousand miles away from the splashdown of Skylab. A bit close for comfort. Being on our own without all the general day to day "evolutions" thought up by "staff" gave us a chance to really get up to speed with fire-fighting and damage control exercises. After a bit of haggling and arm twisting I managed to get the lower forepeak (3 or 4 decks down) cleared of long forgotten stores and other junk and then convinced "management" that shoving in about 3 ft of sea water would be a "good thing". As rhe ship was rolling about a bit the water got to sloshing around quite nicely which meant putting in shores and wedges was not easy for the teams...but the water was warm(ish) and it was all done in "slow time" and in good heart. There are few things more frustrating than being underwater trying to hammer a wedge into place only for the wedge to slip away and float to the surface, catch it and then try to remember which way round it goes. (I know its the pointy end, but there is a reason why wedges are not the same on both "long" sides...for the same reason there are soft-wood wedges and hard-wood wedges). It,s also not funny to be clobbered by an Acro-Prop that some gormless idiot has tried to pass down a ladder the wrong way up. But we learn from our mistakes (?). This was all much better than the "Go-Go-Go" attitude of the sadists running the Drew at "Phoenix". Dinner time again, continue later. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 06, 2008, 08:00:51 pm
The "Nessies"
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 08, 2008, 07:34:59 pm
So the Damage Control efforts went off OK. Probably helped that I was the one that got soaked half a dozen times while the "participants" only got wet once...although one team decided that they would like another run at it as they weren't happy with their performance the first time around. Spoke volumes to me did that. Not many ships can do or afford this space and effort, but I wish they could.
Firefighting has always been a bit of an odd thing on Merchant ships. It's one heck of a lot better now than when I was a cadet. Then it was just called "Board of Trade" sports. No-one took it seriously. Everyone knew "it" was going to happen and so a hose was rigged to throw water over the stern. The old "Siebe-Gorman" helmet, air hose and bellows were laid out. pretty crap gear really, but that was what the "Rules" said you must have. The "firefighter" would don the asbestos hood which came down and sat on his shoulders, the air-hose would be connected and somebody would be told to pump air to him with an old fashioned blacksmiths type of wood and leather bellows thing. so if the "pumper" kept going the poor sod at the other end would get some air. If the "pumper" decided to have a fag break he was well and truly stuffed. This was probably OK when there was no smoke or fire, but that was never a consideration. As there was only the one smoke helmet the guy wearing it had to drag his own hose. But as one person cannot drag a fully charged hose 60ft and around corners it was always done with an empty hose. The whole thing was a joke.
It was only really after joining the RFA and getting to grips with the "ethos" of firefighting that I began to see a lot of sense in the RFA/RN attitude. Point 1....and all points thereafter....in the middle of the ocean the only real lifeboat is your ship. Save it. I cannot help but see that many crews abandon their ship at the first hint of trouble. There are good exceptions of course, as Bunkerbarge and some others will testify, but these events do happen and a lack of basic training lies at the heart of it all...as well as getting untrained crews from wherever to man the ship.
It may be a bit enlightening to some if I walked you through a fire-fighting exercise from the days when I used to do it.
1....About 3 days before the "event", walk around the ship looking for awkward but "feasible" areas. Be aware that "eyeballs" are watching, so disguise intentions.
2....Work out which will be the "lead team" (the ones who will do the most work) and decide which of this team will either go missing or be injured. This ensures a seperate "search and rescue" exercise and gives the 1st Aid teams something to do.
3....There will always be some people who would not be involved (this time), so appoint them as "monitors" (be they deck boys or senior officers).
4....Arrange to have the selected compartment "isolated" (electrically). Obviously a few people have to be aware of the idea, but it was very rare for anyone to "snitch" as I think they all realised that it was all being done "in a good cause" and no benefit would come from cheating. The execise would normally begin with me setting off a smoke-bomb in the selected compartment. All the "main" RFAs have a constantly manned "HQ1" (very Navy). The reaction from HQ1 triggers the exercise.
5....All fire-fighting exercises are done with fully charged hoses, which means having a back-up team of hose handlers ..and believe me, 60ft of full hose is heavy. But as the lead guy cannot see where he is going we also have to have a camera guy to steer him.
But you get the idea by now.
Try not to do the exercise at full speed and be prepared to call a "pause" if things are going a bit pear-shaped. Always do a de-brief, preferably face to face with the ships company and let the monitors have their say. Surprising what a lowly galley-boy can come up with sometimes!
A "biggie" like this I would do about once every 3 weeks, but once a week for little ones that wouldn't involve the whole crew.
Apart from not being a thousand miles away from the Spacelab "splashdown" the whole voyage was quite benign and more of a paid for cruise really. Everyone got a weekend off in either Australia or NZ (a weekend in these circumstances being 4 days).
But then a gentle meander home in time for Xmas. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on September 09, 2008, 07:35:51 am
Brian,

Very interesting description of the fire fighting exercise. Your advice "to save the only ship in the vicinity....yours!" seems sound to me! I was thinking that the fire exercises I was involved in (not on board ship) were a mockery by comparison.

Roger in France.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 09, 2008, 12:01:27 am
Thanks for your comments Roger. A couple of guys in our club have commented on this, and agree that the "Board of Trade" sports were, and are, inadequate. Having been retired for a goodly number of years now, I would really like to hear how more "modern" people such as Bunkerbarge etc. address the problem. It would still seem to be a weakness in Merchant Ship manning that so many ships trotting around the oceans today are manned by people who have only rudimentary (if those) skills that were once considered unacceptable. A bit like the banking crisis really, the "bean counters" take over then everything goes oopsey.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Shipmate60 on October 09, 2008, 12:12:08 am
Bryan,
With manning now down to, or close to, the Minimum Manning Standard the ethos of firefighting has changed dramatically.
We are now taught that BA is for rescue only as we only have the bodies for 1 team now.
Damage control is not practiced anywhere as much as it was.
The theory now is to use the fixed firefighting system. If it is in an area that is not covered by the fixed system, isolate, boundary cool and wait for assistance or take to the lifeboats.
One big change from when I first went to sea 30 yrs ago.

Bob
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 09, 2008, 12:58:47 am
Bryan,
With manning now down to, or close to, the Minimum Manning Standard the ethos of firefighting has changed dramatically.
We are now taught that BA is for rescue only as we only have the bodies for 1 team now.
Damage control is not practiced anywhere as much as it was.
The theory now is to use the fixed firefighting system. If it is in an area that is not covered by the fixed system, isolate, boundary cool and wait for assistance or take to the lifeboats.
One big change from when I first went to sea 30 yrs ago.

Bob
I understand about the minimum manning standard. I can also understand (albeit with clenched teeth) that you only have personnel sufficient for rescue purposes. Do fixed systems really work when you want them to? How often are they really tested? What areas are not covered by these systems?
I preached Damage Control above fire because it was more likely to happen....not because of use of weaponry, but because of stuff like groundings and collissions and so on. Fire can then result.
If all fails then you have to take to the boats. You can bet your bottom dollar (if you have one left)) that the lifeboats are the poorest maintaintained bits of the ship. OK...the engines are run once a week, the stores are checked once every so often....and that's it.
So there you are in the middle of nowhere sitting in a poorly maintained lifeboat waiting for some other agency to come and get you out of this predicament. Perhaps there is no other "agency". What then? Unless your "home" has actually sunk then it is still "home".
I am in no way getting at you "shipmate-60", but attempting to describe the knock-on effects of a "dumbing-down" attitude of shipowners and lack of oversight by the so-called flags of convenience.
The vast majoritory of you will read a Daily Newspaper. Very few of you will read the publications such as "Lloyds List" and so on. Ships sink at an alarming rate and nobody seems to give a damn. Out of sight- out of mind. Poor sods. But who gives a stuff when there is money to be made.
All this in response to a general comment! Sorry. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Shipmate60 on October 09, 2008, 01:28:53 am
Bryan,
I can only answer for the ships I have been on.
The fixed firefighting system is tested weekly as are the lifeboats.
We do know the dangers and so do maintain the emergency gear well, how do I know? I am the safety Officer on board and if I ever suspect there has been any "biro" maintenance all hell breaks loose.
But things will only get worse as we are now going GP instead of Engine Room and Deck.
This will cut the manning numbers even more, it still goes on.
I am now desperate to take Early Severance, but another of our Chief Engineers resigned last week so not likely.
At least we still have all Brit Crews so language and culture are not a problem.
My present ship is 32 yrs old and due for replacement, but her replacement keeps "slipping to the right" so she will need her Special Survey and possibly one more.
But of course money is tight so she will continue to decline at an ever increasing rate.

Bob
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bunkerbarge on October 09, 2008, 09:46:51 am
Thanks for your comments Roger. A couple of guys in our club have commented on this, and agree that the "Board of Trade" sports were, and are, inadequate. Having been retired for a goodly number of years now, I would really like to hear how more "modern" people such as Bunkerbarge etc. address the problem. It would still seem to be a weakness in Merchant Ship manning that so many ships trotting around the oceans today are manned by people who have only rudimentary (if those) skills that were once considered unacceptable. A bit like the banking crisis really, the "bean counters" take over then everything goes oopsey.

A very interesting point Bryan but I have to say my employer is not a typical modern company.  They take all aspects of safety extreemly seriously to the point where I see it as a significant reason for working for them.

As far as fire fighting goes we go well above and beyond the requirements as regards supplying equipment and our frequency of training.  We actually are regularly complemented during our USCG drills and inspections and I know for a fact that no other company takes this to the level we do.

Just to give you an idea, we have four fully equiped fire teams, two manned by deck department  personnel and two manned by engineering teams.  The idea being that in an engineering scenario the engineering teams tackle the fire while the deck lads support with boundry cooling and in an accomodation situation the roles are reversed.  The "On Scene Commander" for the deck lads is the Safety Officer and the engineering team equivilent is the "Staff Chief Engineer".  Each fire team consists of four fully suited and BA equipped fire fighters with approximately six back up team members for hose handling and running etc.   We also have an equally equipped "Search and Rescue" team who are used for clearing accomodation areas but could also be used to support the fire teams if required.

Each of the seven vertical fire zones has it's own fire locker with the main ones that the teams used having large numbers of spare equipment as well as the other lockers holding spare gear should the primary locker not be available.  As far as equipment goes we also have infra red heat sensing cameras both helmet mounted as well as hand held and all the BA sets, helmets suits etc etc.. are the best and continually maintained by the deck team.  We also have CO2 coverage in the main areas, including galley hoods as well as a high fog smothering system in the high risk machinery spaces.  That's the gear.


Training is also well above and beyond.  We send the teams ashore each month to do a days refresher training at the local shore based fire station in our home port.  Consequently each team should get a days refresher a couple of times a year.  This is live scenario training, fully suited and in BA.  We also have the trainers on board for a cruise to do training with the teams just prior to any USCG inspection to get the teams up to the best standard.

Regular on board drills incorporate a weekly drill where we alternate a deck scenario with an engine room scenario and team training so we should do an engineering scenario at least every month.  The location of the scenario is entirely up to the "Staff Chief Engineer" and we try to come up with a location relevent to anything that is going on at the time and is always a fully suited excercise involving hose handling and involving casualties.  i.e. if we have a project going on in a particular place we might decide to have a scenario in that location just to concentrate peoples minds on it.

Obviously these two situations are not comparable and some would argue that as we are protecting 3600 lives we should be at this level.  Then again what is the value of any life on any ship?

I'm sure that the budgetary constraints we are going to be looking at in the future are going to make this an ever challenging situation and, unfortunately, it is going to take incidents and possibly loss of life to keep things on track.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 09, 2008, 06:59:23 pm
Thanks for your comments Roger. A couple of guys in our club have commented on this, and agree that the "Board of Trade" sports were, and are, inadequate. Having been retired for a goodly number of years now, I would really like to hear how more "modern" people such as Bunkerbarge etc. address the problem. It would still seem to be a weakness in Merchant Ship manning that so many ships trotting around the oceans today are manned by people who have only rudimentary (if those) skills that were once considered unacceptable. A bit like the banking crisis really, the "bean counters" take over then everything goes oopsey.

A very interesting point Bryan but I have to say my employer is not a typical modern company.  They take all aspects of safety extreemly seriously to the point where I see it as a significant reason for working for them.

As far as fire fighting goes we go well above and beyond the requirements as regards supplying equipment and our frequency of training.  We actually are regularly complemented during our USCG drills and inspections and I know for a fact that no other company takes this to the level we do.

Just to give you an idea, we have four fully equiped fire teams, two manned by deck department  personnel and two manned by engineering teams.  The idea being that in an engineering scenario the engineering teams tackle the fire while the deck lads support with boundry cooling and in an accomodation situation the roles are reversed.  The "On Scene Commander" for the deck lads is the Safety Officer and the engineering team equivilent is the "Staff Chief Engineer".  Each fire team consists of four fully suited and BA equipped fire fighters with approximately six back up team members for hose handling and running etc.   We also have an equally equipped "Search and Rescue" team who are used for clearing accomodation areas but could also be used to support the fire teams if required.

Each of the seven vertical fire zones has it's own fire locker with the main ones that the teams used having large numbers of spare equipment as well as the other lockers holding spare gear should the primary locker not be available.  As far as equipment goes we also have infra red heat sensing cameras both helmet mounted as well as hand held and all the BA sets, helmets suits etc etc.. are the best and continually maintained by the deck team.  We also have CO2 coverage in the main areas, including galley hoods as well as a high fog smothering system in the high risk machinery spaces.  That's the gear.


Training is also well above and beyond.  We send the teams ashore each month to do a days refresher training at the local shore based fire station in our home port.  Consequently each team should get a days refresher a couple of times a year.  This is live scenario training, fully suited and in BA.  We also have the trainers on board for a cruise to do training with the teams just prior to any USCG inspection to get the teams up to the best standard.

Regular on board drills incorporate a weekly drill where we alternate a deck scenario with an engine room scenario and team training so we should do an engineering scenario at least every month.  The location of the scenario is entirely up to the "Staff Chief Engineer" and we try to come up with a location relevent to anything that is going on at the time and is always a fully suited excercise involving hose handling and involving casualties.  i.e. if we have a project going on in a particular place we might decide to have a scenario in that location just to concentrate peoples minds on it.

Obviously these two situations are not comparable and some would argue that as we are protecting 3600 lives we should be at this level.  Then again what is the value of any life on any ship?

I'm sure that the budgetary constraints we are going to be looking at in the future are going to make this an ever challenging situation and, unfortunately, it is going to take incidents and possibly loss of life to keep things on track.
Thanks. A very nice reply. Perhaps if sceptical future passengers were made aware of your precautions they may not be as sceptical? Your response has certainly eased my mind a little. You have dealt nicely with the "mechanics" of the system....but is there also a regime to allay passenger panic? I would imagine that this would be pretty high on the agenda given my own experiences in an exercise scenario that did actually create panic among the volunteer "passengers". Cheers. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 23, 2009, 08:10:52 pm
Just been re-reading my last few posts here and realised that it all sort of petered out just before the Falklands thing came up. As there was no reaction to the cessation I just assumed that any slight interest had evaporated...so I gave up. I am grateful to those who said my meanderings cheered up the breakfast table, and feel a little sad that my humour may have been replaced by the more usual glowering. If what I write is readable, would you want me to continue? Bryan.
PS, as because of some stupid electronic glitch I seem to be unable to receive e-mails I guess I won't be able to read any replies! What do I do now? Tried calling the ISP provider who I believe is located on Pitcairn Island and always seems to be out scrubbing statues when I call. Oh, woe is me. Still, the gout has cleared up. Cheers.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 25, 2009, 06:33:10 pm
After this rather lengthy gap in my meanderings it may take a wee while to get back into the swing of things. I may also repeat the odd "happening", but if I do, then I beg your forebearance....if not your forgiveness. So I apologize in advance. I think I left you all when I went on leave from "Lyness" after a particulary stress free voyage to Aussie and back....thanks to you, the taxpayer. Having spent some years travelling the world at your expense I think it is only fair that I tell you what some of your money was spent on. Readers of my earlier postings may recall the stresses and strains of "The Portland Work-Up"....those periods together with some horrific, mind sapping, physically uncomfortable and pretty dreadful N.Atlantic "war-games" help to mitigate the lack of guilt I feel about enjoying some of the better times.
According to my Discharge Book I joined "Tidepool" in 1980. (again). This is the ship the yanks insisted on calling "Taadpole". Bloody Colonials. Apart from multi-crossings of the Atlantic and the presence on board of a very Islamic Doctor, the trip was unremarkable. Except for the Doctor. Normally the ships doctor is a fount of entertainment as well as being both an evil necessity and the butt of many jokes. Also, although he carries an honorary 3 rings, he is welcomed in the Officers Bar, Petty Officers Bar and the Ratings Bar...a bit like a priest really. Or an Imam, in the case of this guy. No humour at all. On various occasions he would bide his time until a crew member who had inadvertently "insulted" him paid a surgery visit.....and would then be given the most painful treatment the guy could devise. The RFA has (had) a long history of "odd-ball" doctors, but this chap was in a league of his own. I fell foul of him just because I got into a shower stall because he wanted it first. So his patient list went down quite quickly. His comeuppence was quite dramatic. It was during a Mess Dinner with various members of other Navies attending (yes, we did know how to do "posh" when required). The soup was "green pea". The "doc" in deference to his "rank" was at the "top table". It was only when he reached the bottom of his bowl did he see 3 bacon rinds had been inserted. Total mental eruption. Much hilarity and tut-tutting....he left soon after, to be replaced by a Dr. Kronk, who despite his odd name was well regarded. So another leave beckoned. It must seem that I was always on leave......not so. Came home a gibbering wreck on more than one occasion, perhaps it still shows.
     But then in '81 I was reappointed to "Resource". By now I knew the old girl better than her designers did! Long time readers may recall that this is the ship that had goal-posts made out of nuclear weapons containers, had its main turbines shattered and somehow managed to load 500 tons of heavy fuel oil only to pump it all out again into an empty dry-dock. But that was in 1972. Things were better now. Or so I thought.
    But I still sort of liked the ship. Before they took the bombs out she was a very good "sea ship". For new readrers I should explain. Due to various legal constraints the 2 "R" class ships (the other was "Regent") they were never allowed to operate at their designed draught, so they had to be ballasted. Rather than wasting good money , and this being a very volatile high capacity ammunition ship "they" decided to use WW2 500lb bombs as ballast. About 3000 tons of them. On the grounds that one explosion is is good as another I suppose. But then came the "Torrey Canyon" grounding and the "ballast" was given to the RAF and RNFC. (I know this was a few years before the time I am writing about). My point is that the new ballast may have well been made of aluminium. Use more than 15* of helm and you began to wonder if your will was up to date. Another "awkwardness" of these ships was that as far as the Gov't and the RN were concerned "we" shouldn't be allowed anywhere close to centres of habitation. Sometimes I wondered if that definition included the habitat of foxes, stoats and owls. On one occasion (USA) we were left to rot 12 miles away from the port. So much for shore leave. With a crew of 200 and being at sea for over a month this could cause a few problems. Especially when all the other ships in the group were enjoying "hospitality". But there we sat. Plymouth was even worse. We used to tie up to a buoy near the detached breakwater. The communication cable had "gone down" yonks previously and had never been re-instated. So there we lay. No defence apart from 2 geriatric guys on the gangway, no weapons, no defence and loaded to the gunwhales with everything you do not want to know about. If only Al Queda had known!. But for the crew even making a phone call home was an evenings trek. Catch an MFV, half an hour to shore, find a phone box, make call then wait in the rain (always rains in Plymouth) catch a boat back(another half an hour) and that was the run ashore. All in all, the RFA was treated pretty shabbily by the RN and the Dockyard and for that I find it hard even now to forgive their attitude. Other countries were more welcoming.....just as well as our mooring ropes may have become fossilised.
But now I can recall where I was up to, and will continue soon. Cheers. Bryan.
     
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 26, 2009, 06:30:05 pm
Just waiting for some glue to dry, and I've run out of clamps. So what better way of filling in some time than to continue this sorry tale.
    I guess I must have done yet another refit on "Resource", but nothing really comes to mind. Except that it must have been on the Tyne. The only reason that comes to mind is because when I first met brian_c (of this forum, and I was then retired) he mentioned that he used to work at Smiths Docks, and had "done" a refit on "Resource". Indeed, he was..and still is, as far as I know, quite proud of the fact that he and his "chums" had found a hidden hidey-hole to skive off in. Until some sod locked it up. Well, that "sod" turned out to be me. I told you earlier that I knew the ship better than her designers did. The area Brian and his (non)work mates thought they had found was a sort of void area above a lift machinery space. I must admit that they had done it out quite nicely with a roulette table, easy chairs and a fully stocked bar. Just made that up really....but it was a snug. So I stuck a Detector lock on it (the sort of high-tech gizmo that we then used to guard the "nasties" compartments). I opened it up again just before the refit end and quietly watched the ant trail going in to collect their long lost possessions. But Brian was younger then. Now he has shorter hair and a rediscovered work ethic.
So after that I imagine that we did yet another BOST (another name for the "Work Up", meaning Basic Operational Sea Training, except that it wasn't as basic as the name would suggest.....but I've been through all that malakey earlier).
This "shortish" trip was, as I said mainly a big re-store for the RAF and Army in Cyprus, with a bit tossed in for Gibraltar. This was in addition to our "normal" weapon load, disaster relief stuff and (very importantly) lots and lots of food (fresh and frozen), literally tons of beer and all the sweeties and choccy bars the armed services seem to exist on. I suppose we should have had a big sign painted on the side saying "Stop Me And Buy One"...not so daft really as whenever an RN ship was "inadvertently" in our vicinity it was inevitable that a RAS or Vertrep would be requested. We had our own Wessex 5 embarked (side number 469 for you historians). You name it, we had it. Dish cloths and cleaning gear, bits for machine guns (complete guns if thats what you wanted), ammo, a missile or 2? No problem. And always lots and lots of beer (Draught or Canned,sir?) and never forgetting the insatiable demand and consumption of the choccies. This class of ship if you recall, had a large Stonnery contingent. But the poor NAAFI manager was basically on his own and had to beg manpower from other departments. Always given, but at "a price", which could possibly explain the huge "write-down" allowed by the NAAFI management!
    Anyway, I digress. During the trip south our engineers suspected a condenser contamination problem and so before we berthed in Gib.naval base it was decided to anchor overnight in Algerciras Bay so the problem could be "looked at". I have a funny feeling that I have told this tale before, but never mind. I know that "Bunkerbarge" has a long memory, but this is the same ship that had the comical disasters during the 1972 Clyde refit when a Junior Engineer managed to load (overnight) 500 tons of FFO through the stbd side and pump it all out again through the port side....into an almost empty dry-dock. So "Resource" had a bit of "history" as the parlance goes. So, back to the overnight anchorage. For some unexplained and unusual altruistic reason I decided to let the Nav. have a night in bed, and I would do his morning 4-8 anchor watch. But it was such a beautiful sunrise. The light was magnificent.
The 12-4 engine room watch was to test the condenser for signs of leakage using some gloop called "Flourescene" (or something). Apparently only a few drops of this stuff will find its way into every nook and cranny imaginable, and so indicate wher a leak may be. Using a full bottle is a bit of a no-no, and has unintended consequences. I had been wondering about the intensity of the dawn light, but all became clear (no pun intended) when I strolled out on to the bridge wing. Almost the entire Bay of Algerciras was a very vivid luminous pale green. Oops. Oh,dear. This must have been visible from space. I can just imagine an astronaut saying "Hello Houston, I think we have found "Resource" again".
Unfortunately the aftermath of this little hiccup was beyond my pay-grade, but I imagine Mrs.T had some naughty words to say.
But then on to Cyprus, and a more serious event. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on February 26, 2009, 07:56:58 pm
Bryan,

Almost right Bryan - it was Fluoroscene used for detecting leaks in condensers and coolers. However, it only showed up under an ultra-violet lamp which was a large and awkward bit of kit to work into a confined space. If you could see something glowing on the water, did you think of checking the scuppers in way of your whizz-bangs? With a geiger counter?

Cheers - keep it going

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 26, 2009, 10:39:44 pm
Bryan,

Almost right Bryan - it was Fluoroscene used for detecting leaks in condensers and coolers. However, it only showed up under an ultra-violet lamp which was a large and awkward bit of kit to work into a confined space. If you could see something glowing on the water, did you think of checking the scuppers in way of your whizz-bangs? With a geiger counter?

Cheers - keep it going

Barry M
Could be that you are correct, but as the whole bay was a "funny colour" I am at a loss. Perhaps the whole ship was irradiated? God knows. I just remember the livid green bay. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on February 26, 2009, 10:51:13 pm
Bryan,

You may be right after all. After a drop of Dr Gordon's tonic, my brain cell has creaked into life. It tells me that under ultraviolet light, fluoroscene glowed brilliant emerald green but under natural light it imparted a sort of dull green sheen to water.
Thus, my apologies.

Ye gods, the things you have to dredge up from your memory on this Forum. It'll be boiler water phosphate testing next or how the Mate tarmac-ed the Firth of Clyde.

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 27, 2009, 04:38:14 pm
Bryan,

You may be right after all. After a drop of Dr Gordon's tonic, my brain cell has creaked into life. It tells me that under ultraviolet light, fluoroscene glowed brilliant emerald green but under natural light it imparted a sort of dull green sheen to water.
Thus, my apologies.

Ye gods, the things you have to dredge up from your memory on this Forum. It'll be boiler water phosphate testing next or how the Mate tarmac-ed the Firth of Clyde.

Cheers,

Barry M
I'd quite like to hear about tarmacking the Clyde. Going back to that flourowhetever stuff. I recall that it came (comes?) in different colours. We had a junior Engineer (why is it always them?) who decided one night (after his 12-4 watch) to to use some of the red/purple variety to colour some of the bar lampshades. Next morning there were funny coloured lines all over the lounge deckhead. Strange how "deckhead" can rhyme with a more apt word. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on February 27, 2009, 07:17:27 pm
Bryan,

Why is it always Junior Engineers? Having once been just such I think it is something to do with being in the limbo between apprentices and Senior Watchkeeper status. Five years of training (as such it was in my day) was behind you and suddenly you get a wee bit of responsibility and considerably increased pay ; a heady mix which encourages mild lunacy.

The Tarmac of the Clyde (cue for a song there?) ocurred on a bitumen tanker. Bitumen tankers carry their cargo at nearly 200 deg F. in order to keep it liquid and thus pumpable. Letting the temperature drop is a major calamity as the on-board heating is normally only enough to counter heat loss; not enough to warm it up from cold. Life on a bitumen tanker can be literally hellish because the accommodation is built over or alongside the cargo tanks. I served on two of them (one of which had bullet holes in the bar bulkheads) which was two too many.

The aforementioned attempt to create a new Clyde motorway happened when the Mate was transferring cargo and misjudged the ullage of the receiving tank. Hot bitumen poured out of the vents and an opened tank hatch, through the scuppers and over the side where it spread and solidified on the water surface while glueing itself to the hull.  By the time the pumps were stopped,the ship had its own motorway attached alonside and an interested crowd gathered at the rail. (Don't they always?)  Not long after this was augmented by Port Representatives who were not best pleased. Suggestions that attempts should be made to camouflage the spill by painting a white line down the middle and erecting a few bollards were judged unhelpful.
Next day the Old Man and Mate were summoned to the local Sheriff's Court to be charged, castigated and relieved of currency.

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on February 28, 2009, 02:10:02 pm
Roger,
Although there were a few who probably were borderline insane, most of us got by with patience, tolerance and humour. The latter especially was vital to the world we chose to live in.

Remember that the world of work in which Bryan and myself and indubitably others on this forum lived was a significant remove from today. There were no mobiles, email, ipods or iphones; two way communication with home existed only via surface mail (hugely appreciated) or a rarely used and very expensive radio link in Sparkies Shack (if within voice range).

Entertainment came from our own resources, the Walport Film Library (films swapped with other vessels whom you hoped had something you hadn't seen), BBC World Service, ship's library or out of date newspapers.

We couldn't choose our companions on the vessels we were posted to and so toleration was the order of the day. You may have loathed some of your colleagues but you had to live with them, quite literally cheek-by-jowl, for months on end and thus you learned to put up and shut up when necessary. We worked together, we lived together, around the clock and on top of the job for 6 months plus.

We had no Mission Statements or any of the gobbledegook that substitutes for plain language today. We knew our jobs and got on with them. If we got it wrong we got a b******ing, if we got it right - well, that was expected of you. Why else were you there? If you worked hard then you could play hard; but don't be late for or miss your watch.

Paperwork was at a minimum and almost exclusively for the Old Man and the Chief Eng to take care of with the aid of typewriters (no PC then), pencil and some of Dr Gordon's tincture. The job didn't suffer if we were not endlessly processing reports for submission to the Head Office where they will probably be filed unread.

Head Office indeed, was something we probably only saw for the biannual medical or an interview. Otherwise it was best avoided. Communications of a personal nature from all members of the ship's complement to the Office had to be read and countersigned by the Old Man to show he approved of them. Human rights had yet to be invented.

Communication from the Office came via surface mail or the dit - dit - dahs that poured into Sparkies ears and eventually drove a lot of them doolally; in my experience more than a few Sparkies came under the heading of 'Mad Bad and Dangerous to know'.

Automation of machinery was still fairly basic although this had changed vastly by the time I left. What had not changed was the manpower to run the plant which in my experience consisted of C/E, 2/E, 3/E, 4/E, three 5/E, a P.O. Storeman and 4 Fireman-Greasers. Note no Electrician as the 3/E doubled-up in this role. Watches were 4 hours on and (theoretically) 8 hours off but as 'Field Days' could be expected on at least six days per week lasting 2 - 3 hours covering maintenance, the actual 7-day working week was +60hours - and we did not get overtime. Why did we put up with it? Because the job demanded it and we were proud of who we were and what we did.

Machinery was less reliable than today when plant has been improved and ER manning has often been cut to the bone. Except for drydocks, we did all our own maintenance and benefited from the experience in terms of increasing technical knowledge, self reliance, and the ability to fault-find and turn our hands to most areas. I doubt if these days marine engineers have anything like the same opportunity to expand their depth and range of knowledge.

I hold a Combined First Class Engineer's Certificate (Steam and Motorships) for Unlimited Service which probably makes me one of a dying breed given that steamships have almost left the oceans. It took me a 5 years Apprenticeship combining practical and theoretical experience, followed by the necessary sea service and periods at Nautical College studying for higher grades of certificates and examination to get there. Nowadays, apprenticeships have shrunk in length and Certificates seem to be awarded for 'modules'. I am not decrying the efforts of todays marine engineers but I do doubt just how all-embracing their professional lives are.

All the above sounds like a voice from the distant past from an almost forgotten age but it all happened in the last 40 - 50 years; far less that a single lifetime. Was it some kind of Golden Age? No way - it was bloody hard work for less than just rewards but it was a life that taught self-reliance, confidence and knowledge of human nature in all its forms. It also taught tolerance of that same humanity and an ability to shrug and laugh at ourselves.

Would I do it again? Nowadays, not a chance. The world has turned and produced a different working environment which may be fine for the present generation bobbin' on the oggin'  who know no other way of life. Perhaps we forget all the rough times as memories lengthen but - and I suspect BY will agree with me here - it was a good time to be alive and serving at sea.

Regards

Barry M

Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 28, 2009, 04:05:26 pm
I couldn't agree more with Barry. As many of you on this forum have mentioned, the most beautiful ships seem to have been built from the late 1940s until the mid 1970s. Just about the lifespan of a well made and well maintained ship. During that period, in the main, shipping companies did what they knew best, then the "bean counters" took over and diversifivation was the "in thing". Yes, I realise that other countries were developing their own Merchant (and Naval) fleets and so the UKs share of the market was bound to shrink...but so catastrophically as to be almost decimated. Flags of convenience, unfair (perhaps illegal) practice by some foreign Governments, the sheer bloody-mindedness of the UK unions all had a part to play. But in my opinion the root cause of the demise of our MN was the mistaken and malign influence of the "money-men". Ring a bell with any of you?
As for going back to sea in the modern environment not a cat in hells chance. My last ship was "Fort George" and it was like living in a utilitarian factory unit. Horrible. I also had a guided tour of "Wave Knight" and although the capabilities of these modern ships is beyond impressive there is no way I could ever get attached to any of them. Apart from the fact that everyone from a junior steward to the Captain seems to need a higher degree in electronics. To be honest, I can't even understand why the Bridge is fitted with windows. Nobody ever looks out of them nowadays. I'm with you Barry! Cheers. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on February 28, 2009, 06:49:25 pm
What better place can there be than to be chuffing through the Med at 18 knots without an RN ship within radar distance. Not a care in the world. A good chance to (lightheartedly) tighten up on some of our emergency procedures and get a bit of night-flying in. But in general, life was by RFA standards pretty quiet for a change. Now and again, when appropriate, some wives could be carried on "non-operational" trips. When I first joined the RFA this concession was for Officers only. But then, you must realise, that many of our crew members were "non-contract" and sent to us from "the pool". An horrific idea on this class of ship. As time went on the Established POs could also be accompanied. Now that the RFA is all contract manned I am led to believe that some senior ratings can also be accompanied. But still (for many reasons) the numbers are regulated. So we had some wives on board.
As there is no Naval Base in Cyprus (no need to when we had Malta) the closest we could get was to anchor off the harbour at Akrotiri RAF station. Very close to the end of the runway. "Harbour" is a pretty grandiose word for this haven. Probably big enough for three of our lifeboats and a couple of dinghies. But it was still an interesting place to be. Apart from the normal aircraft movements (not that I would agree that anything the RAF does can be classed as "normal") we could sit and watch, listen and have our guts shaken up by the dusk and dawn launches of the U2s and Blackbirds. Wow! Are these things noisy or what! But there we sat. Fat, dumb and happy transferring our gift offerings to those whose "Dear Santa" latters had been answered. We hosted a couple of CTPs (Cocktail Parties, Roger) and life was good.
Then the US Embassy in Beirut was hit with massive casualties. Cyprus is surprisingly close to the Lebanon....about 90 miles or so, less than an hours flying time in a Wessex. Our aircraft was immediately offered and the offer accepted. Ray Colborne (recently deceased) was our only pilot, but he flew that aircraft night and day bringing casualties back to Akrotiri. Of course he wasn't the only one, but it was quite heroic all the same. My flight-deck crew were also pretty stretched doing routine flight maintenance and so on because we were so far behind the normal flight parameters.
Two of our embarked wives were nurses, and one of them was a senior theatre nurse, both volunteered to help out ....and that was the last their husbands saw of them until we got back to the UK.
It was just one of those time when an RFA happened to be in the right place at the right time, but there are many, largely unsung, times when this sort of relief has been tendered (although this one was a bone-shaker).
There would be nothing else of note before we returned home and I went on leave (again)....but then Mr Galteiri had to stick his spoke in.
 Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 01, 2009, 09:28:50 am
Ratings, MN (Merchant navy
CPO = Chief Petty Officer
PO = Petty Officer
AB = Able Seaman
EDH = Efficient Deck Hand
DH = Deck Hand

GPS = General Purpose Seaman (Seaman judged fit to work in either Engine Room or on deck as work required)
F/G = Fireman/Greaser

BM
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 01, 2009, 11:29:48 am
You'll also come across terms specific to particular crews such as 'Serang' for a Lascar Bosun or 'Casab' for a Chinese Deck Storekeeper or Carpenter.

BM
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 01, 2009, 04:17:28 pm
Ratings, MN (Merchant navy
CPO = Chief Petty Officer
PO = Petty Officer
AB = Able Seaman
EDH = Efficient Deck Hand
DH = Deck Hand

GPS = General Purpose Seaman (Seaman judged fit to work in either Engine Room or on deck as work required)
F/G = Fireman/Greaser

BM

You forgot DHU (Deck Hand Uncertificated). A sort of honorary designation given to ratings who joined the MN too old to be deck boys or OS (Ordinary Seaman).But there are still others. L/T (Lamp Trimmer), DSK and ESK (Deck and Engine room Store Keepers), QM ( Self evident), unless it really stood for Quasie Matelot. I could go on, but I get bored so easily nowadays!.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on March 01, 2009, 05:00:28 pm
What qualifies an EDH as "efficient"?

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 01, 2009, 05:03:49 pm
Roger,

'Examination' - if I remember correctly. What the standard was you might persuade BY to tell you. We Engineers never got involved in such things - too busy.

BM
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 01, 2009, 07:39:17 pm
I can already foresee that Roger is going to keep this going out of sheer devilment! EDH.
When an "Ordinary Seaman" had "served his time" (not a bad anology in some cases) he then had to sit a sort of GCSE exam to see if he had learned anything beyond wielding a paintbrush, making tea etc. and prove that he had assimilated at least the rudiments of seamanship. Pass that and you became an EDH. Surprisingly many failed to progress further to become an AB. The skills were always there but perhaps the erudition and lack of education held them back. The "Seafarers Education Society" (still going) helped many educationally impoverished guys to better themselves. Some even reaching the rank of "Master". Their biggest problem as I used to see it was the downward peer pressure from their own shipmates. In a lot of cases the "students" would be castigated and sometimes even beaten up a bit for their "betrayal of their class". All very sad. Personally, I come from a large family of NE coal miners who always gave me support and urging to "better myself". I was one of the lucky ones. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 02, 2009, 07:36:10 pm
In common with all those of you who are old enough to remember, I spent many hours watching the unfolding events in the S.Atlantic on the "telly". This sort of engendered a feeling of deja-vu as it reminded me of the episode in 1974 when the Argentinians made another attempt to take the Falklands by force. I was in "Retainer" somewhere in the Eastern Med when a more or less full mobilisation of our naval assets were ordered to r/v (even you know that one, Roger!) somewhere west of the Gib. Straits. So off we plodded with great anticipation and not a little dread as the old "Retainer" didn't have much going for it in terms of self protection...or anything else for that matter...but we did have a cargo load that included weaponry. But it came to nothing as the "word" came through that the Argentinians had "returned to base". As far as I can recall little or none of this ever came out in the UK press....but it happened.
So watching the unfolding events in early 1982 gave me a bit of a sinking feeling (perhaps not the best word to choose in the circumstances) but at the same time I was glad I wasn't there, and also a bit of guilt knowing that many of my compatriots, friends and shipmates would be. Nothing I could do about that. Then the "Atlantic Conveyor" got sunk. From "the grapevine" and the media I had a pretty good idea what she was carrying, so the loss was going to be huge. I also knew one of the RFA guys who died, so it became a little more personal.
I may be being a bit controversial here, but it is what I felt at the time and I think I am being truthful. The RN in my somewhat limited experience often tended to "hide" behind large ships (RFAs) in exercise scenarios. And I think that became a bit of a "mind-set" and so the pattern repeated itself here. This is also when my esteem for the RN began to wither and become pretty jaundiced.
But sitting in front of my telly, and even though I still had another month or so of leave to go, I knew what was going to happen. When the 'phone rang I knew it was MoD(N) (always sounded "different" somehow). So I was "STUFT". (Sorry Roger, "ShipsTakenUpFromTrade"). I was "appointed" as the MoD presence on the Blue Funnel Ship "Laertes".
The ship itself is worthy of a chapter on its own, but that's another story....but it didn't look like any "Blue Flue" youwould recognize. Remind me later to horrify you with it.
After Devonport Dockyard had completed the required "A&A"s (Alterations and Additions) and we had been loaded up, off we went south.
Actually, for the sake of some sort of continuity with these ramblings, I think I shal break here and tell you about the ship and its personnel in the next episode. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 04, 2009, 08:15:09 pm
M/v "Laertes" and many of her sister ships were built in Poland around 1979. The main gripe I have about them is that we (the British taxpayer) paid for most of them. You can thank a certain Mr Callaghan our then Prime Minister for this. Then what really stinks is that "we" had to actually buy them when they were built!.
In general appearance she looked pretty much run of the mill. All aft accommodation and E/Rm etc. with a heavy lift Hallen or Stulcken type derrick amidships., and various cargo handling cranes set on top of mast-houses. This one was originally meant to go to "Russian" owners (the state) and was surprisingly heavily built. Not your usual cargo ship then. Later on the Ch.Engineer gave me a bit more of an insight and some associated problems. The biggest one was that of compatability. For instance, the Sultzer main engine was not quite a Sultzer so genuine Sultzter spares didn't fit. The same applied to most of the mechanical "bits" so getting spares was a nightmare for him. The electrical system was East European even down to the domestic electrical sockets...and all notices were in Russian. Even the toilet seats were "back to front". The internal constructio was all steel. ...even the small lockers had steel bulkheads. No "man-made" partition bulkheads on this ship, which in turn made the firefighting arrangements pretty basic. Shut the (steel) door, turn on the sprinklers and (hopefully) that was end of incident. So what's wrong with that. Well, nothing really, and in the majority of cases it is actually preferable to our (RN and RFA) way of doing things. But it breeds complacency, which can in turn lead to a pretty slap-dash approach to the whole subject of firefighting, damage control and survivability. I think that this "mind set" could be one reason why poorly trained and motivated modern crews  are so keen to abandon ship when Murphys Law comes into being.
So that was one aspect of the ship I had to keep in mind. There were some other quirks as well, "Standard" manning was at a minimum. The galley was run by one cook and a galley boy. The bridge would normally be manned by the OOW and a rating who doubled up as lookout, helmsman(when needed), waker-upper of the next watch and general runabout dogsbody and so on. Not quite the organisation I wanted to have in a ship going into a war zone.
When I arrived in Devonport all geed up and ready to go I had my first look at the ship. I was really quite amazed that there was no crew and just a handful of officers. There was a very good reason for this (as there always is!). When my Lords and Mastersdecided that they were going to charter this ship I don't think that they realised it had been trotting around the globe with a a Sudanese (or was it Somalian) crew. So they were paid off and Blue Flue had to collect a UK crew pretty smartish. They did, and the UK crew (mainly "real" Holts people) were excellent. But then the real and immediate problem was the seheer filthiness of the living spaces that had beeen recently evacuated (in more senses than one) by the departing crew. It made me wonder if Captains Rounds or any other inspection had been undertaken since the ship was built...and she was only 3 years old. I elected to book into an hotel for 3 nights and sort of "re-join" when things had settled down a bit. The Dockyard cleaned things up a bit and then the new "scouse" crowd arrived and did a more thorough job of making things habitable.
Must go now....Dinner is on the table. Continue a bit later. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 04, 2009, 10:19:15 pm
Laertes (contd).
In normal circumstances an Admiralty Dockyard is , at its best,pretty lethargic. At its worst, then nothing happens. But when it is really at its best it's like a beast transformed. Fitting an RN comms centre with all that goes with it would normally take a couple of months or so. This was done in 3 days and nights. All sorts of ancilliary steelwork was fabricated and fitted in the same timeframe. I could only stand back and wonder about the transformation in both attitude and work practise. If only that attitude could continue!
When I had my first meeting with the ships Master we hit an immediate snag. Being a dyed-in the-wool sort of chap, he insisted that me and my "team" should "sign on" as members of his ships company. No,says I, I am appointed here with my "team" by the MoD to oversee the running of this ship and relay the commands etc. of my superiors. At this point he gave up and for the rest of the trip was pretty well non-existent.But the Mate however was of a different calibre, and we soon had a very good working relationship. Thank goodness.
The new RN radio room now had an RFA radio officer in charge with an RN PO and 4 RN ratings.The ships cargo (when it was loaded) would be cared for by 8 members of the "Stonnery". In addition we had a sprinkling of RN, RAF and Army ratings embarked to "help out as and when/where needed. The galley was a first priority. This little lot more than doubled the ships usual complement. With the exception of the Stonnery and the Armed Forces personnel the ships crew and the RFA contingent were on the standard 100% "war bonus" addition to salary. This is only applicable when entering a designated "war zone" and ceases the moment you leave. This may seem to be a bit of an anomaly, but no matter what Naval training and "ways of working" the RFA use, the personnel of the RFA are still categorized as itinerant Merchant Seamen, and are therefore eligible for such things as a "war bonus". Whereas the Stonnery (civil servants)  and the armed forces are direct employees of the Crown, and are considered (as far as pay goes) to be only doing what they signed up for. Scope for argument perhaps, but I didn't make the rules.
So the ships company were sort of quite happy to share "their" ship with a bunch of strangers who were doing things they had no knowledge of. Being a fairly large ship and built to accomodate a much larger crew there were (almost) enough spare cabins available. But even so, some of the junior rates had to "double bunk". Don't get me wrong here. I don't mean they had to share a bed in "Morcombe and Wise" style. That would be a step too far. Perhaps not if Harriet Harperson had been Defence Secretary at the time. No, extra bunks were fitted.
While the loading of the ship was going on I made myself known to the ships officers. As I have said,only 2 RFA  people were embarked, me and the R/O. On our first night at sea we (the pair of us) dressed in our usual evening "Red Sea rig" (Black trousers, short sleeved shirt with epaulettes and a cummerbund). We were both a bit non-plussed to be greeted with jeers and laughter from the ships officers. How are the mighty fallen. From being a "pukka" mainstream cargo-passenger company the once mighty Blue-Flue now allowed its officers to dress in whatever they wish to dress in. For the rest of the trip we compromised by leaving off the cummerbunds and kept the rest. And, slowly, did one or two others.
They were all really nice guys though. All very proffessional in their work, just came from a different culture from us.
Before I finish this episode, one more thing. The Second Engineers cabin had been originally built as the abode of the (Russian) political officer. It still had an en-suite and workable fully equipped radio room in it, for the use of....
Just makes me wonder if we are being dragged down that same failed route in 2009. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Jimmy James on March 06, 2009, 10:31:24 pm
The Swedish Navy have some super pic's of cat tracks on the sea bed made by Russian Submarines and I've seen them my self on the side scan sonar when we were working in the Baltic of the coast near Gothenburg. Some of the Russian seamen I've sailed with say they were actually wheels not tracks..
As for the Pentland Firth in 65 the ship I was on lost a lifeboat dancing with the Merry Men of May in a force 9 gale .. The sea just picked it up and ripped it out of the davits and tossed it away like a kids toy
Jimmy (Freebooter)
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 06, 2009, 10:59:34 pm
Jimmy,

If you can be bothered to go back to my posting of 5th March 2008 in this thread, You'll find I raised the question of caterpillar tracks on the seabed around oil platforms but you are the first person I've come across who could throw any light on them. Do you have more detail?

Very interested,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 06, 2009, 11:01:47 pm
The Swedish Navy have some super pic's of cat tracks on the sea bed made by Russian Submarines and I've seen them my self on the side scan sonar when we were working in the Baltic of the coast near Gothenburg. Some of the Russian seamen I've sailed with say they were actually wheels not tracks..
As for the Pentland Firth in 65 the ship I was on lost a lifeboat dancing with the Merry Men of May in a force 9 gale .. The sea just picked it up and ripped it out of the davits and tossed it away like a kids toy
Jimmy (Freebooter)
Jimmy, I may be wrong here, but didn't you mention these "tracks" awhile ago? I don't recall any feedback on the subject, but I can also see how frusrated you must be having visual evidence and a total schtumm from "them what knows". For what it's worth I believe you, and perhaps the relatives of the "Gaul" may met you at least half way. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 07, 2009, 07:19:25 pm
There reall is only one way to get to know a ship and its people, and that is to get free of tha land and rely upon yourselves, and the equipment you are either blessed with or lumbered with. In this case we had a large mixture. The Blue-Flue guys knew exactly what they were doing insofar as they were operating a commercial cargo ship. The RN blokes were fishes out of water without the strict RN Rules and discipline to guide them. But their PO (and temporary Regulator) was superb. Although they all enjoyed the freedom of the crew bar there was very little in the way of transgressions. The Army and RAF ratings did, at first, think they were passengers. Understandably really as none of them had "been to sea" before. So some training was required. They got split up into little groups and then on a daily basis given duties which involved them with more experienced members of the ships company. It worked OK. The "Stonnery" staffbecame a bit of a law unto themselves as they were niether nor fowl, but socially they mixed in pretty well and eventually everybody on board more or less knew what everybody else did for a living. Ostensibly they were all part of a team appointed to a ship with a sort of "structure" with me at the sharp end. In reality it didn't quite work out that way. The "Stones" (Supply and Transport(Navy)) are civil servants. As such they are unionised and steeped in the workings of a Naval Dockyard and had therefore an entirely different work ethic to a "normal" ships company. They also operate under a "different" set of Rules, have a different rank and pay structure. All very odd to me!. A few of them had actually seen service aboard an RFA so were not totally unfamiliar with a ships infostructure. But their expertise lay mainly with the "cargo", and particularly the bits of it that can go "bang". Professionally this was an impasse,but we got over it by by agreeing on some loose boundaries that neither of us woul deliberately breach.
With one excursion to help a yacht that had run out of food and got itself "lost" the run to Ascension Island was quite serene. At first, the various exercises I had devised were treated as a bit of a joke, but when it was graphically shown that a "life-saving" bit of kit will kill you if improperly used then a bit more attention was given. The stop at Ascension was "scheduled", but the outcome was not.

On approaching the Island I was repeatedly trying to make contact on a designated frequency. No response for 3 hours in spite of their callsign being "Wideawake" (named after the Wideawake Petrel that lives there). Oh,dear, shades of things to come, I thought. Eventually, when we were within spitting distance of the place they "Wakened Up" and told us where to anchor. Too late. As I was already familiar with the place from my C&W days I got the hermit (Captain) to anchor on a shelf that I knew was a good fishing ground. "Brownie Points" to me. So that was "done and dusted" as the saying goes. I was then told that "SNOWIE OWL" wanted to meet me for a debrief...or was it a brief?
First I had to wake up "Wideawake" and no I had to meet a guy called Snowy Owl courtesy of an aircraft called a Budgie. Even the old "Eagle" comic or "Thunderbirds"wouldn't stoop to that level of Public School humour.
As far as I was aware "SNOWIE" was the "Senior Naval Officer West Indies" (God knows where the Owl bit came from), but wayever it was it's still a long way from St.Lucia.
As I said earlier, I had already told the ships company that this anchorage was probably the best fishing spot around the island, and that they should make the most of it while I was gone. My judgement was correct, just a pity that the Army and RAF guys seconded to the Galley had to be taught what a pan was for and how to use one.
I used to love travelling in a "Service" helicopter. All the strapping down into a doorway and hanging over whatever the aircraft was over while it banked and swooped and dived and generally enjoyed itself. Like a fairground, but free. I've often pondered on why the "fast jet" pilots seem to think they are getting the best of the aviation world. A fasthelicopter that can "tree-hop" and stop in mid air is a much more exciting thing to do than screech along at a speed you have no reference marks for. All eyes are on the instruments, but with any sort of helo No.1 eyeball is king. Magic.
I was to be airlifted to this meeting via the HDS (Sorry again, Roger....Helicopter Delivery Service). As none of my motley crew had ever been anywhere near a flying aircraft I had to brief them on "static". I chose the "Blue=Flue" guys mainly on the principle that I didn't want them to feel "left out". Ducks to water. There are 2 ways of getting a passenger into the lifting strop. The easiest way is to wait until the aircrafts earthing line hits the deck and discharges. The 2nd (and most popular in the RFA) is to catch the aircraft line with an earthing pole. Basically a broom shank with a brass hook on one end and a solid lump of metal on a wire at the other end. ...this is because the paint on the deck can act as an insulator. There is a 3rd way..and is not advised. There always seems to be an overzealous muppet only too keen to dash out and grab the dangling wire. The static charge can Knock you on your back and is very painful. But it happens with untrained crews.  So as time went on the Blueys got used to "catching helicopters" in safety.
More later. Cheers. BY.




Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 08, 2009, 04:58:28 pm
Can't get these bottom-crawling subs out of my mind. Jimmy James has come up with some more info but actual details seem impossible to find. The US Navy had bottom crawlers, (see http://news.softpedia.com/news/Secret-Forty-Year-Old-Nuclear-Submarine-Retired-99015.shtml ) it appears but details of the Soviet Navy seem to be like hens' teeth.

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Jimmy James on March 08, 2009, 07:43:47 pm
There are many strange things that go on at sea, BUT you tell them to shore people for the most part they think you are telling tall tails so for the most part I don't bother. I find people who have never been to sea have different values and a different way of thinking to long serving seafarers. And am always dropping myself in the smelly stuff for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time,,,But yes I've seen the tracks on sonar records and the people concerned have been sent copies .dates times ..and positions ..But this was years ago in the 70's and 80's  what they did about I haven't a clew
Jimmy (Freebooter)
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 09, 2009, 02:07:55 pm
I have been having a PM conversation with Jimmy James who has also come across strange seabed tracks. Jimmy has survey ship experience and of working with Russians who hinted they were aware of the tracks and their cause. He related the following which I thought was just so hilarious (is that the right word?) that it was well worth passing to a wider audience. Thus, with Jimmy's permission, here is his account of working with one particular Russian. Read on and boggle.

Barry M


Barry
 I lot of my info comes from Nickoli Machinko (he died about 6--7 years ago just after berthing his ship in Hull -- Heart attack -- fell over on the Bridge just as they finished making fast). He was one of the original Russian officers we took on, I was sent along to baby sit them and teach them the job i.e.; paper work, gear deployment, line running and station keeping on gear deployed on the sea bed etc; He was by far the best of them and spoke very good English,  after about 2 years he was promoted to Master and was very good at his job,,, I met him about a year later in Freetown and we had a bit of a wee up (as you do) and learned a bit of his history, He was a Senior Master (and a red card holder) and used to do special jobs for the government. One night when he was well oiled, we were talking about West Africa when he banged his fist on the table and said "You people know nothing about Africa,-- I (he said jumping up and thumping himself on the chest) started the War in Angola". We all shouted him down and told him to explain how he could start a war, and this is what he said " I took my ship there with a cargo of 20,000 AK 47's , 3,000,000 bullets, 300 artillery guns  50,000 Shells AND!!! 30 Agricultural Advisers----"Compulsory" I --Thump- STARTED--Thump --- THE WAR ---Thump .. It turned out He was a Russian Gun Runner among other things, but due to bad luck he lost his ship and his card and was beached until Russia fell apart.
Anyway thanks for Listening to an Old Sailor Burbling on Glad I was of some small assistance
   Jimmy (Freebooter)
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 11, 2009, 07:36:31 pm
I didn't actually start any wars...well, not major ones anyway, more like spats with SWMBO, and that is quite enough for me.
Referring back a bit; travelling as a passenger in a service helo is not quite the same as hopping on to a jet to Majorca. First requirement is a "flying suit". No shorts and stuffed donkeys here. Failing a "proper" fliying suit (khaki thing with lots of pockets and knee pads and so on) a cleanish white boilersuit will suffice. No nylon clothing (especially socks) as in the event of a fire the nylon will melt and fuse (permanently) into the skin. DMS boots. (Direct Moulded Sole) and a proper lifejacket if flying over water. The standard RN issue type (comes in a pouch that is impossible to re-pack once opened!) is sort of OK, but the aircrew waistcoat type is better. I had been supplied with one of these (just "in case"...). Then you will need a set of ear defenders. I always managed to lose mine as when I got into an aircraft I was given a set that plugged in so I could talk to the aircrew. Still, they're cheap enough, so no sleep lost there.
And so to meet SNOWIE. A very urbane chap in immaculate whites (had to live up to his moniker, I suppose) and me looking, well, a bit less than immaculate would be being polite. A little bit of blah-blah followed by a clearing of the throat. Oh,oh, I thought. Here we go, what's next.
"Ahem", We are a little short of spaces on the transport aircraft at the moment, and we have some people here who need to rejoin their units...can you help?"....."How many"...."About 25"...."What are they?"...."Um, various" (no clues there). Oh, dear, more "doubling-up", but as it wouldn't be for very long and the fact that in a few days the crew would be on the "war-bonus", I didn't expect too many complaints. OK. That's his problem sorted. I should have known better after all these years working with these sods who are trained in the art of duplicity from an early age. (They are more commonly known as Royal Navy Officers..and this one had "served his time"). "Ah, before I forget, we have a bit more cargo for you". Well, big-mouth me, always willing to help, says "OK, we still have a lot of space". Big Ooops. "Well, we have a few Cluster Bombs we need delivering"...."F...! How many?"...."Four lifts"...well, that didn't sound too bad. I imagined a Wessex or a Sea King (except most of them were already deployed), so I asked "What aircraft?"...."Chinook"....Oh, "xxxxx". Both the Wessex and the Sea King can carry 1 underslung load, but the Chinook carries 2. So instead of 4 loads I could expect 8 large nets full of cluster bombs. Now a cluster bomb is not a titchy wee thing. More like a full sized beer barrel. Oh, well, needs must I suppose. Next I had to explain this to the "Stones" who understandably went a bit ape-poo. The Chinook is a rather large aircraft. Well, there are 2 versions...but this was going to one of the big ones. "Laertes" was not designed to operate with any aircraft, never mind a bloody Chinook......especially as they were going to be operating with the standard 30' hoists, therefore operating at somewhat less than 30' above the deck. I couldn't risk the ships company with this as a) a large double underslung load is a lot different from a bag of mail. b) this was weaponry. c) As yet I didn't know if I had an experienced flight deck crew embarked. The crew were a bit miffed at first, but once they were organised into rigging fire hose, shot mats and so on they began to realise their limitations. But their main task was to shift the huge Heavy Lift derrick from its normal stowage position (ie leaning forwards) to a position where it leaned aft. That exercise kept them busy for a while. (Much sucking of gums again, and I guess I wasn't the most popular guy on board at the time). If the big derrick had been left leaning forward then the rotor blade clearance would have been down to a couple of feet, now it was about 8' Not much, but the best we could do. Another problem that was not immediately obvious to the ships Officers was the fact we were swinging to a single anchor, and while aircraft generally come in "into wind" (fortunately non to speak of here) and the ship was lying head to the slight breeze and sea then the aircreaft would have to approach from the starboard beam. Not comfortable for the guys on deck, but even trickier for the aircrew..especially given the minimal rotor clearance. Only those "new" guys and us RFA people knew that the rotor downwash would affect the ship, effectively blowing it a bit sideways and slewing it a little. And you always get the gawpers. Understandable I suppose, but very much a hindrance. So we were ready...or as ready as we could be. The sheer size and noise of the aircraft on its first approach obviously scared the whatsits out of some people. (I imagine that this very problem was why RN and RFA personnel were appointed to these commercial ships in the first place). The 1st and 2nd nets were landed successfully on the hatch covers, chocked as well as we could and the helo strop released from the aircraft end. The strop could be recovered later, but having it in place kept the net together...thank goodness. Then the hard work. The ships cranes then had to be traversed and the nets (plus bombs) lifted and lowered to the deck alongside the hatches, strip off the shot mats and open the hatch covers. Then lift and lower the "cargo" into the place the "Stones" wanted it. Then they were stowed properly. One load down and 3 to go. But that was the basic operation. Simple in concept, hard in practise and certainly stressfull for the aircrew. That little lot took most of a day, and in no way were we or anybody else going to attempt it at night.
Next day we started again. Similar weather conditions. Not used to it, but getting there. 3rd drop was fine. 4th was a disaster. Either the aircraft went backwards a few feet or the ship was pushed a few feet to port, who knows. But the load landed half on the 5' high hatch and the other half carried on to the deck. The strop holding the neck of the net together broke and so we had about 10 cluster bombs droppng 5'or more and rolling around the deck. People were scattering in all directions. Natural reaction I suppose, but there was nowhere to go. If that lot had gone up, followed by the rest of the ship I reckon that part of Ascension Island (including the airfield) may not now exist in its present form. But that had to be "it" for the day. Palpitations over, bombs stowed and everybody ready for a beer.
A couple of years later when I was again in the Falklands we were operating with a couple of Chinooks (another story) and one of the pilots listened with disbelief ...as he had been the pilot. I now think it was a combination of the rear rotor wash pushing the ship to port and the reaction pushing the aircraft backwards. So we had a beer. His (the pilots) co-pilot mentioned that his "boss" (him next to me) had a DFC. It's only polite to ask why....so I was told that on his way back to Wideawake....but on a different job to ours....he had had a front rotor failure but had managed to put the thing down OK. Takes guts to keep flying after that, I think.
Probably from the same aircrew I learned something that I really should have figured out for myself....except at the time I didn't know. I was always curious as to why a load of cluster bombs were sort of stshed away on Ascension. Years later I read about the RAF "Vulcan" raid on the Port Stanley airstrip. At that time an old fashioned but workable metal plate thing laid by the Argentinians. As we now all know I think out of the 5 aircraft that left Ascension, 3 had to turn back. I think we got their loads. But what a feat of Logistics!
Our "new" passengers were certainly not ignoramuses, but all pretty senior rates from all 3 services. They really took a lot of weight off my back and the RN PO who had been struggling a bit with being "the Senior Rate".
And so calm was regained. I had been instructed that somewhere South of Ascension I should post "The Articles Of War" about the ship to inform the ships company (now more like an emigrant ship than a regular/normal ship) of what was expected of them, and how this document was legally binding. The "Hermit" (Captain) refused to let me do this. Quandary, Seek advice. "Cover your bum" and all that. As the "war" was effectively over by then I was told to "let it ride"....."for now". Fine by me.
No-one was taking any chances however, and so we had been routed south paralleling the African Coast before turning West towards Port Stanley. Saw some wonderful icebergs. On a clear moonlit night the glint of moonlight on a berg could be seen way over the horizon. Wonderful clear skies....but as we point down the wrong way there, there are not as many stars to see as there are "up here", but all very pretty. Then we arrived and anchored in Stanley Sound.  More later. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 12, 2009, 06:13:09 pm
I knew I had a pic of a Chinook somewhere! I know the 2 pics don't match up, and it is only a single lift (or drop), but it may give an idea of "proximity" and so on.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 12, 2009, 06:51:12 pm
As I was rummaging through my "filing system" trying to find the Chinook pics I came across these 2. Although they are not "model boat" oriented, they may bring back some memories to some of my fellow seafarers of a time before Singapore decided to become "posh"...and now they wish they had just left it as it was. Martin, Please do not delete these pics as they will stir old thunks. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 12, 2009, 08:37:57 pm
Bryan,

Now I know where I fell over you! Memories of pints of Tiger, the crossword kids, shoeshine boys and a Marine Sergeant who looked like Dusty Springfield after a bad night - whom nobody ever crossed.

I remember waking up after a bad night to find a 4ft. yellow elephant at the bottom of my bunk. Closer (and later) inspection proved it to be plastic and inflatable but it gave me a nasty turn at the time.

Must dig out my old pics if I can still find them.

Thanks for the memories,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on March 13, 2009, 06:34:01 am
Bryan,

Your description of the "Chinook episode" was scary enough but that photograph is staggering! Surely there has to be a less hazardous loading method?

I continue to enjoy your reminiscences.

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on March 13, 2009, 07:34:04 am
Thanks for the memory stirrer Bryan, that street was unique in the world !
Continue to enjoy your very entertaining reminiscences
Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Dave Buckingham on March 13, 2009, 08:11:42 am
Brings back a few good memories of the GOOD old days.

Most of the world has been whitewashed since then

I remember the US helicopter cavalry in Vietnam flying between our masts and circling them on a tanker l
loaded with aviation fuel and petrol (Sorry combat grade mogas)

Dave
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 13, 2009, 08:30:03 am
Bryan,

Your description of the "Chinook episode" was scary enough but that photograph is staggering!

Roger in France

Roger, Exactly which photo were you staggered by?  %)

Bryan, On reflection it's probably just as well that the picture of the street is too indistinct to make out faces; could cause problems with various SWMBO's. Think I'll keep my photos under cover.
 :-))

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on March 13, 2009, 01:39:32 pm
Barry M,

Street bars don't really do it for me and a fine pair of long legs are all very well but that probably means they can run too fast for me these days!

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on March 13, 2009, 02:12:14 pm
Roger, you do realise that the long legs belong to bloke's ? that's what Bugis Street was all about !

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on March 13, 2009, 02:23:36 pm
You mean they are all Drag Queens? Oh dear how embarassing that I could not tell!

Roger in France   :embarrassed:
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 13, 2009, 04:32:30 pm
Roger, I thought you would be too elderly to be embarrassed! I would have mentioned the "orientation" but then wondered both who would fall for it and who would "tell it as it was". Good for a giggle! Actually the majority of the "girls" were very nice blokes. Believe it or not, at least one of the beauties in the pic was a welder in Sembawang shipyard. That pic was taken in the late 1960s, way before cosmetic surgery became the "in-thing". I guess they were just born that way. Bugis Street (Haven't a clue where the name came from) was always a "must go there" street. Quite short, only a hundred yards or so, but very safe, very boisterous, very entertaining, great food (always washed down with either straight "Tiger" of "Tiger Tops" (for the wimps). Then you got a rickshaw to take you to somewhere else (like Raffles, or the ANZAC NAAFI....or the "Intercontinental" where the air stewardesses stayed). The Rickshaw "drivers" were invariably very small, very old (probably about 30 or so) and very strong. Good job Singapore is pretty flat though. Many was the time when we used to take "pity" on the driver and put him in the passenger seat and pull him along ....and then paid him for the privelege! Funny stuff is "Tiger" beer. Bryan Yong.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 13, 2009, 04:46:42 pm
Bryan,

Your description of the "Chinook episode" was scary enough but that photograph is staggering! Surely there has to be a less hazardous loading method?

I continue to enjoy your reminiscences.

Roger in France
That sort of loading or discharging is what a "Vertrep" is all about. Although more expensive than a standard "RAS" there are times when the sea is just too rough to do a "solids" RAS. At least at Ascension the sea was calm. In really bad weather even a Vertrep can be hazardous. Although the aircraft may be stable, the ship underneath it could be dancing around all over the place, so at the moment of lift or drop the load (about a ton) would tend to skitter all around the deck until the whole weight was either on the deck or in the air. RFAs tend to be quite large, but Frigates etc. tend to be pretty small and bounce around quite violently, which makes things even more dodgy. And that is why you need a fully trained and "aware" flight deck team. As I said earlier (re Ascension), my biggest worry was the lack of proper training for working with aircraft. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 13, 2009, 05:02:41 pm
Bryan,

You must be the only posh Geordie I know.  :P  We never wore cummerbunds and so weren't allowed in Raffles while the Intercontinental (air hostesses or not) and the ANZAC NAAFI were for wimps, Shaw Swivellers and the like. We started off at Connell House or the Cellar Bar and then via Toby's, the Paradiso, Bugis Street, the Market, Pedicab races and sundry other places and activities probably now shut down on grounds of public health and morality continued on our downward slope. The really determined (usually Blue Flue types) did not consider they had had a good night unless they woke up in a monsoon ditch.

Tiger beer never tastes the same back here and the Kelong Bar's Nasi Goreng lingers still in the memory - so does a case of the Bugis Street Belly which confined me to the Great White Telephone for some time.

If you had the good fortune to be waiting some days to join a ship or waiting for the weekly flight home, it was close to heaven.  %)

Now I understand it's all sanitised and tourist-friendly and Change Alley is a mere imitation of the real thing. I believe it's called "Progress".

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on March 13, 2009, 05:12:33 pm
I was two rickshaws behind you Barry  :D

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 13, 2009, 05:35:46 pm
Once had 2 weeks staying in the "Cockpit" while waiting for "Recorder" to come in. Ran up quite a bill, but C&W paid up for it! BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 13, 2009, 09:17:07 pm
Must have been the cost of drinks for all those air hostesses?   %)

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 13, 2009, 10:11:05 pm
Must have been the cost of drinks for all those air hostesses?   %)

Cheers,

Barry M
I plead the 5th ammendment!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bob on March 13, 2009, 11:32:27 pm
Amazing what a few years "progress" will do. Bugie Street, not the way I remember it. Do you see the guy with the tie?
Railway station for a quick starter, Connell House to post the mail, Cellar Bar for orders, Change Alley to replenish, Regent Street for a feed then Bugie St and beyond.....
Turn too 0600 tomorrow, a unit to do (job and finish) before lunch tomorrow then away again.
Last night before sailing the market stalls outside the dock gates to get rid of all the small cash bludged from those who couldn't get ashore. ( Couldn't have used it all, found a saltbag full of "shrapnel" when ferreting around in the garage cupboard looking for a peice for the model yesterday)
Its not like that anymore......I'm sure we had the best years
Bob
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 14, 2009, 08:52:41 am
Guy with a tie? - That must have been Bryan!  %)
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 14, 2009, 04:21:32 pm
A tie? In Singapore? Really! Only the Rodneys wore ties. Also nothing looks more ridiculous than a rat-assed Rodney still wearing his tie! I always remember a sort of human Commanders definition of "a good run ashore" (Singapore)..."Wear your best "Toothy Wong" suit, get legless, have your suit torn and then fall into a monsoon drain". At least we didn't wear a suit, and to maintain dignity a plodge along the drain (about 3' deep when empty) saved the hassle of actually falling into the thing. Apart from that, it was a pretty sure route home when you learned the directions. It wasn't all "posh", Anson Road held many delights....but it was always nice to "ring the changes". Almost a coastal trip for you Bob!  Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 14, 2009, 05:29:03 pm
Anyway, the delights of Bugis Street were not in my mind as we approached Stanley Sound. For those of you who access "Google Earth" this is a doddle, but for those without I'll sort of explain the layout.
The reason the Islanders are known as "Kelpers" (didn't know that? Shame on you) is because of the huge kelp forests surrounding the islands. And I use the term "forest" with good reason. You may think you have a "weed problem" in your local boating lake, but this stuff has trunks as thick as telegraph poles. Underwater trees. Probably do to a full size ship what a bit of weed does to your model. Great for the marine life though. Stanley Sound is really one of a pair, the other just around the corner to the North is Berkely Sound. Another good anchorage....well used by fish-factory ships these days, but more on that another time. Stanley Sound has another "inlet" that leads to the town and harbour of Port Stanley. This inlet has a fairly narrow entrance and is not really usable by modern large ships, especially with a draught of 25' or more. But that doesn't matter as the "port" facilities are basically non-existent...that is, there is nowhere to tie up to. At least there wasn't in 1982. So all the STUFTS anchored in the main Sound.
We were directed to "raft-up" alongside our sister ship Lycaon, so at least our arrival had been noticed this time. But nothing happened for a couple of days. No visitors, no nothing. Part of our cargo was 6 CSBs. (sorry, Roger, "Combat Support Boats"....not the "Courage Sparkling Beer" stuff, although we had that as well). These are pretty nippy things fitted with (I think) Ford V6 engines re-configured as water jets. So we "resurrected" one for "operational purposes". Naturally, everyone and his dog wanted a "run-ashore",..but not this time. Me, the 2/E and a couple of "deckies" went into Stanley to try and seek out the elusive "guiding light" who could tell us what was going on. Nobody had a clue. Although I did meet up with a team of smiling Gurkhas loaded down with crates of beer, who took me to meet their CO. He hadn't a clue either, but was just grateful for the respite. So we had a beer. He was pretty interested in our cargo and mused that he could have done with some of it a few weeks earlier. The loss of the "Atlantic Conveyor" must have been a dreadful blow. For what it's worth, I still feel that a few "small" ships are probably a better bet in a war than one socking big one...especially if it is poorly defended. So I went back to the ship and decided that another CSB should be brought to life to be used as a "jolly" boat. This was worth a few more Brownie Points, but as the boat could only take about 12 people max, it was more of a ferry service.
We had a couple of days of this before the powers that be realised that some of the assets they had been waiting for were already there and waiting to be collected. Then I got the visitors. Army, Navy and Air Force. All demanding priority.
Please don't get me wrong here. Before the "pen-pushers" arrived there was a fantastic esprit-de corps between all the services that I had never believed possible. Wonderful guys to work with and totally free of any inter-service rivalry. This period was probably the most satisfying period in all my time in the RFA.
I'm sorry for the (lack of) quality in the pics, but perhaps later ones will make up for that. Next time will be a more casual look at Stanley and a bit of the aftermath. Ta for reading. BY
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: ronkh on March 14, 2009, 07:06:49 pm
Bryan,
Absolutely fascinating. Please keep them coming and any chance you might write a book?
Brilliant stuff.

Ron.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 14, 2009, 07:15:44 pm
Bryan,
Absolutely fascinating. Please keep them coming and any chance you might write a book?
Brilliant stuff.

Ron.
Thanks Ron. But if you go back (both in time and my takes on the world) you will see that I have been asked this before. The answer is the same. No. I'm more than happy just writing for you lot, and perhaps give the "non-seafaring" members of this forum a little taste of what being "at sea" is about. Mind you, I sometimes find myself "all at sea" trying to cope with and understand the attitudes and behaviour of my fellow "citizens" these days.  Cheers. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Jimmy James on March 14, 2009, 09:03:31 pm
Brian,
 you don't happen to have any Pix of Bugi street before they tarted it up do you? I killed many a Tiger there in the old days and dented a few Anchors to when i worked for The Grey Funnel Line, Ben Line, Hungrey Hogarths & Chatty Chapmans.
Most of your readers won't know that the Bugis were notorious Pirates, Thieves, Kidnappers and Assassins. Bugis street was the site of the old Bugis village and is the source of the old saying used to frighten children came from (Behave Or The Bugie Man Will Get You) Yep!! Years ago Old Sing Sing used to be a great run ashore ---- Now it one of the most civilised and safest Ports/ Cities in the world --- By the way the Sing Goverment have moved Bugis street about a mile inland and made a street market of it
But just around the corner is a shopping Mall and in it is a full size replca of a Bugis Raiding Ship.
Jimmy (Freebooter
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 15, 2009, 02:09:41 pm
Brian,
 you don't happen to have any Pix of Bugi street before they tarted it up do you? I killed many a Tiger there in the old days and dented a few Anchors to when i worked for The Grey Funnel Line, Ben Line, Hungrey Hogarths & Chatty Chapmans.
Most of your readers won't know that the Bugis were notorious Pirates, Thieves, Kidnappers and Assassins. Bugis street was the site of the old Bugis village and is the source of the old saying used to frighten children came from (Behave Or The Bugie Man Will Get You) Yep!! Years ago Old Sing Sing used to be a great run ashore ---- Now it one of the most civilised and safest Ports/ Cities in the world --- By the way the Sing Goverment have moved Bugis street about a mile inland and made a street market of it
But just around the corner is a shopping Mall and in it is a full size replca of a Bugis Raiding Ship.
Jimmy (Freebooter
Sorry Jimmy, those were my only 2 pics. Thanks for the info on the street name. Learn something every day! When were you with the Ben Line? Cheers, BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 16, 2009, 07:22:27 pm
My first foray into Port Stanley really was a "fact finding" mission, not as a tourist. You must realise that at this time we were still (technically at least) in a state of conflict with Argentina. We would get many "Yellow Alerts" each day and every now and again a higher level one. So it wasn't all beer and skittles. It probably was to those who had done the actual fighting, but we had arrived as new-born babes and hadn't a clue...and nobody stirred their butt to give us any sort of briefing. Lessons were learned, as I found out years later in Croatia.
Everybody wanted to do an ET and "phone home". At that time "Marisat" was in its infancy, and was definetley not used for personal calls. Not like now where cabins are fitted with Internet connections. (I wonder how the security of a ship is held with that sort of access?). But times change. So. To "phone home" one had to endure a long, wet and not very pleasant boat trip to the local C&W station and stand in line for as long as it took. (ages). This is another station with a dish that points "the wrong way". Basically at the sea horizon. I think I mentioned earlier that the dish in Tromso actually points downwards....this is the other extreme. Except that it isn't. Port Stanley is at about the same latitude South as Leicester is North, about 55*. And that is about all that they have in common. (people in Leicestershire speaking a strange version of equally unfathomable Brummy). The midlands of England are generally quite benign, but at 55* south there isn't much of a land mass to disrupt the wind that thinks it should have a "red spot" and just circulates around the globe. Although in terms of mph the relative speed of the earths surface is less here than it is at the equator, the whole stretch is covered by water. Nothing to stop the wind (or the seas). Even as a "Navigator" I have never really understood the term "The Roaring Forties" (unless it was purely poetical). It really should be the "Fifties" or even "Sixties", 'cos thats where the serios wind is. A good example of this is any one of the few trees in the Falklands. They all bend to the east. A bit like Northumberland, then. But I digress. Again.
The "powers that be" eventually took away the CSBs (it was their cargo, after all), but were kind enough to let me "keep" a 24' motorised naval whaler, so I could conduct intership business with the maximum discomfort...especially as I would have to drive the thing myself. No harm in that. After all, I'm supposed to be a seaman. My first visit was to RFA "Regent" . Weather was Ok so no problems getting there. Took the 2/E, the Senior RN Comms rate and the same couple of deckies as last time. It was nice to be back on "home-ground" again. The "Bluey" 2/E took one look around the large open decks of Regent and vry shyly said "Where are the hatches?". ...he had never before seen a ship that had flush deck hatches and lifts as opposed to "proper" hatch coamings. He was also a bit bemused by all the fork lifts doing their usual Monaco Grand Prix performance all over the place. Nice to be "home". I, conversely, was startled by the narrowness of the alleyways compared to the much more spacious ones afforded by Laertes. But it was smashing to meet old pals and "chew the fat". But the weather suddenly got a lot worse and so we left...on a very hairy trip back to our Bluey. Enough for now. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 16, 2009, 07:37:49 pm
About time I showed myself! In the whaler. 1982.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on March 16, 2009, 09:09:59 pm
Shackelton Incarnate!  :}
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 16, 2009, 10:38:11 pm
Must be wearing his cummerbund underneath!  %)

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Jimmy James on March 16, 2009, 11:04:17 pm
Ben line Just after the seamans strike in 66=67 Benvenue & Benglow Nice ships and short trips only 6 months and a rum issue every sunday
Jimmy
(Freebooter)
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 17, 2009, 04:36:00 pm
Ben line Just after the seamans strike in 66=67 Benvenue & Benglow Nice ships and short trips only 6 months and a rum issue every sunday
Jimmy
(Freebooter)
Ah, you joined them about 4 years after I left after serving my sentence. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 17, 2009, 04:42:49 pm
Must be wearing his cummerbund underneath!  %)

Barry M
You developing a cummerband fetish Barry? All depends what "outfits" paid the mortgage. I did (mentally, at least) think that one Captains obsession with the wearing of bow ties in the evening (with full reefer jacket uniform) was way over the top...especially when the steam heating was on. Thank goodness more sensible minds prevail nowadays. Cheers, Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 17, 2009, 07:15:20 pm
"Cummerbund fetish?" Certainly not - I always found they rode up over my corset.  %%

Cheers

BM
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 17, 2009, 08:19:50 pm
"Cummerbund fetish?" Certainly not - I always found they rode up over my corset.  %%

Cheers

BM
Oh dear, they are supposed to hold the gut in, not disguise the hooks and eyes of the corset. But just to make you salivate again, we had 2 sorts. Not corsets, "belly bands"... I know I'm going to get this wrong, but one of them was a really long silk ribbon called a "Kummerbund" that was worn only to cover the area between the straining trousers and the popping shirt buttons. The "Cummerband" was the short thingy worn with a "Mess Jacket" (or Waiters Coat) but made so that the "item" didn't look a bit naff from the rear. These "short" ones also tend to have squadron of ship badges embroidered on them,so are reversible. I don't think my (short) ones will fit any more. (Unless I do a bit more sucking in). Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 17, 2009, 08:41:42 pm
Why-Aye you posh old Geordie Spice you - I bet you looked lovely in either picking yourself out of a monsoon ditch with a stewardess on each arm.   {-)  {-)  %%  :}

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 18, 2009, 04:20:59 pm
Why-Aye you posh old Geordie Spice you - I bet you looked lovely in either picking yourself out of a monsoon ditch with a stewardess on each arm.   {-)  {-)  %%  :}

Cheers,

Barry M
Whatever gave you the idea that we wore those thing ashore? As you well know, there were only ever 4 things to check before venturing forth....Watch, Wallet, B--- bag and Spats. Thus fully equipped, one could go anywhere (sort of).
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 18, 2009, 07:12:13 pm
Why-Aye you posh old Geordie Spice you - I bet you looked lovely in either picking yourself out of a monsoon ditch with a stewardess on each arm.   {-)  {-)  %%  :}

Cheers,

Barry M
Whatever gave you the idea that we wore those thing ashore? As you well know, there were only ever 4 things to check before venturing forth....Watch, Wallet, B--- bag and Spats. Thus fully equipped, one could go anywhere (sort of).
I think Spectacles and another bit of poetry was more commomly used!.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 18, 2009, 10:41:14 pm
First it's cummerbunds and an almost-a-grey-funnel-type (as in almost-a-gentleman) is now running around in spats!!  :o  :o  :o I'm glad I was in the real merchant Navy.  %)

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 19, 2009, 04:36:38 pm
First it's cummerbunds and an almost-a-grey-funnel-type (as in almost-a-gentleman) is now running around in spats!!  :o  :o  :o I'm glad I was in the real merchant Navy.  %)

Barry M
Not all that long ago (mid-late 80s) I siled with an SRO (Senior Radio Officer----we carried 5 of them) who was a dead ringer for "Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken "fame". He cultivated the "look" down to the smallest detail, and used to real panic in every town we visited that had a KFC outlet. Nothing wrong with being a harmless nut-case, but R/Os were certainly out in a league of their own.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 19, 2009, 06:48:13 pm
I guess there were about a dozen other ships lying at anchor in Stanley Sound, each one wanting to get on with the cargo discharge. Ican't imagine the owners being all that fussed though as they were probably being paid on "time" spent as STUFTs. Being sort of honest, I think that the slow rate of discharge was a combination of at least 2 things:
a) What bits of any ships cargo was needed the most.
b) As there were no locally operated barges etc. much of the assorted cargoes were ferried ashore via the ubiquitous "Mexeflote", and  these were normally only carried by the RFA LSLs., and they could only carry 2 "ready for use" units. Broken down into "kit" form I suppse more could be carried, but that assumes space on board is available.
Although I may criticize the "Stonnery" from time to time, when they eventually get their act together their system works a treat. But at this stage just about everything was in the hands of the Army Logistic people. They are probably very good at doing what they are trained for, but discharging large commercial ships was not part of their training. Not then anyway. If the "stuff" didn't Roll-on and Roll-off again they were jiggered. So it was all a bit leisurely with only the "now and again" HDS mail drop to liven up the days. The ships crew rapidly became bored with the (non) delights of Port Stanley, and our still embarked Forces personnel were getting a bit cranky. This led to a few "altercations" that were beyond my remit to sort out. A blessing in disguise. Another trip ashore to "report" and all of a sudden things started to happen. Very quickly our "passengers" were taken elsewhere...to their units I suppose, but it was all a bit chaotic without much in the way of info being passed along from one place to another. But their departure freed up a lot of space, and certainly made the job of the cook and his "boy" a lot easier. Not for long.
This is my 3rd attempt at trying to show / describe Port Stanley just after the cease-fire. My first 2 attempts were, on re-reading, too light hearted. I concentrated and commented more on the "oddness" of the place rather than recalling the emotion shown by the Falklanders. It just didn't seem right to make fun of their town and, by implication, their suffering.
I've just spent half an hour browsing Stanley on Google Earth, and to be honest it was very depressing. I appreciate that "things" move on, and the Kelpers probably deserve a bit more prosperity, but I found it sad that so much of the original charm has been replaced with "structures" that do nothing for the scenic value of the place. Even the old "wreck" of the sailing ship "Elizabeth" has succumbed so that only her stern section is visible. What were muddy streets are now almost avenues. I'm not really complaining about "progress" as such, it's just that it all seems to have gone a "Standard UK High Street" sort of way, without much regard to what was good about the place. Tourists (with their welcome cash) may well be a bit disappointed. In 1982 the town was a bit ramshackle. Rather akin to a cold weather version of an Australian bush town, tin roofs and hoses that appeared to have been originally built to house pigeons. All that needed to be changed. Good. The little cafe with its sign "Closed for Lunch" that also sold flffy penguins labelled "Made in Birmingham"....all gone, and with it a lot of the charm and quirkiness that made Stanley what it was.
The sea front had many derelict wooden jetties that used to be "home" to 19th century whaling ships, the hulk of one was still there in '82 (American, now taken to the USA for re-building). Thank goodness the main yard of the "Great Britain" is still there. The sheer size and weight of this thing beggars belief. The (then) only hotel in Stanley was the "Upland Goose", named after a bird that is even worse tasting than a fox (or so I'm told).
The "Freedom" memorial from WW1 is naturally still in its place, but I wonder how many visitors will remark on the similarity of the ships names then as those in the 1982 conflict.
While meandering up and down the slushy, muddy side streets I came across a rather down-at-heel corner shop that did'nt really have much on display. Curious, I went in. To be greeted with a bear-hug from the elderly owner. It turned out that he thought I had come to give back his binoculars that the Argies had stolen from him. I felt rotten about that, he seemed so elated. I was also the first "Brit" that had come to see him since the "war" ended". So I stayed for a cup of tea and listened to his tales. Every emotion you can think of came pouring out of this old chap. I must have been there for more than 2 hours, but I enjoyed it. But he wouldn't let me leave without giving me a "present". My wife is a stamp collector, and I'd noticed a shoe box full of stamped addressed envelopes on his counter. They were all first issues (Falklands) going back to Winston Churchill in WW2....."How much for these?"...."Face value to you, son"....No good arguing, but I did eventually find a pair of binoculars and took them to him.
Then I stumbled across the Welsh Guards.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 19, 2009, 06:57:49 pm
Oops. Sorry! I forgot to put captions on the pics!
"9"..This was more or less the "norm" for the secondary streets. The Cathedral is to the far right of the pic, and is on the waterfront.
"5 & 6"..The "Freedom" memorial.
"2"...A rather sad aircraft parked at the Cathedral gates.
"4"...June in Port Stanley. The "near" water is the inner sound, you can just make out the larger vessels in Stanley Sound beyond the hills.  Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 20, 2009, 07:42:30 pm
Clutching my shoe-box I slithered back down the hill to "Main Street" and started off to the C&W place to call home. These were always very short calls as at £3 a minute it all became a bit pricey. So what with getting ashore, phoning home and then getting back on board a 3 minute call could take up to 5 hours to make. Even worse than being in Plymouth, at least there are pubs in Plymouth.
At the bottom of the hill is the "Post Office", a very large building that still appears on "Google Earth". I had previously thought that the Post Office was just an adjunct to a warehouse. It was, but I had also noticed a lot of soldiers going in but neither queing or coming out again. Odd.
In all my wanderings I had never once been asked by anyone to show any ID or anything, so I just walked through the PO and into the warehouse. Oh, dear. The floor was about an inch deep in dirty water and about 30 camp-beds were scattered around. All the "kit" was just sort of soaking up the water. Most of the beds had a soldier lying on it. Some reading, some sleeping but most just gazing at nothing. This is how some of the survivors of the LSL bombings were treated. No washrooms, no "canteen", no nothing.
It wasn't all that difficult to find the young army Captain "in charge" and arrange to get his men out of there. "Laertes" had a large and unused compartment originally designed to be a gym. We hadn't used it for our "passengers" as camp-beds, sleeping bags and so on were not part of our load...otherwise a bit of cargo broaching would have been justified (eventually). So this dispirited and emotionally drained group of kids were re-housed. Warm, dry, comfortable, fed and watered. I gave up my bunk to the young Captain and dossed down on the "day-bed" (settee, sort of), except that I got no sleep. The outpourings of this young officer (he must ave been in his mid 20s and I was 41) were really heartbreaking, but I guess this was the first chance he'd had to speak about the bombing and its aftermath. Simon Weston was one of his men. But soldiers are pretty resilient sorts and within a couple of days they were helping out in the galley and so on. The ships company welcomed them with open arms . All sweetness and light. They wee only with us for perhaps a week before being flown home, but I think that period helped "douse" a few of the mental wounds that "authority" had either overlooked or ignored. I actually felt that for once I had contributed something.
Fortunately for them it was the day after their departure that "Sir Tristram" was towed into Stanley. I'm pleased that they didn't see it. "Tristram" was one of my old ships (Cyprus, Belfast etc) and felt pretty horrible, think of what those young lads would have felt seeing her coming in. (pics at end of screed).
You may have noticed that one of the ships due to be "dismantled" at Hartlepool is "Sir Percivale". Even though she was locally built her dismemberment here has provoked some anger amongst the "save the world" groups. This class of ship (built in the early 1960s) had vast amounts of asbestos built-in, and as the ship "worked" in a seaway it was not unusual for powdered asbestos to "drizzle" over everything. The MoD solution was to spray PVA (the same stuff we use as a release agent on GRP) all over the place. Looked hideous, and still didn't stop the "drizzle".
But that is only a bit of background.
Once again "those who must be obeyed" played a blinder. It was decided to moor Tristram at the end of the main jetty (next to the cafe) and use her as an accommodation ship as the main troop dormitories were largely free of damage. But the back end was totally open to the elements. It gets windy in Stanley. So ay after day I could see clouds of dust wafting over the town. The mind-set of some people beggars belief.
But by now we had been off-loaded and had been earmarked to take some "stuff" back to the UK. This "stuff" turned out to be Argie weaponry. Not quite in the WMD category, but bad enough to be worrying. I imagine other ships had the same.... but only if they had "Stonnery" embarked who knew how to look after these things.
On the way home my main job was to "get the books straight" as we would have an "auditor" visit. Beurocracy is descending already. But 2 little events shattered my complacency. The first was half way between the Falklands and Ascension when a south bound frigate called to say she had mail for us, and would like to do a heaving -line transfer. OK. Good. No problems with that. Just hold your course, frigate steams up tosses a line and job done. But after his long hibernation the "Hermit" decided to make his presence felt and was horrified at the thought of another ship coming within 20 miles of him. Sorry lads. No mail today. And this was a "Blue Funnel" ship. How are the mighty fallen.
Then the "Stonnery" suggested that I might take a peek at something "odd" in one of the holds. We had already verified the history of the weaponry we were carrying because all the "history sheets" were available. Most of it was Russian, then transferred to Libya and then sold on to Argentina. All old stuff. But what we had in the hold was actually growing. Tendrils of virulent blue, green and yellow stuff was seeping out of everywhere. Oh, poop! Slow down, keep going and do NOT bounce the ship around!.
We eventually made it back to Plymouth and moored to "C" buoy normally used by RFA ammo ships. A "high powered" team of inspectors arrived pretty smartish and declared the ship to be "unsafe" (as if we didn't already know that). We all left as soon as we could and went our seperate ways.
I thought I was free of the Falkands. Think again!.

The first 2 pics are of "Tristram" being towed into Stanley.
No 14 is of a "fly past" that we knew noting about, hence the hurried pic.
15 is another "chance" shot of a Pucarabeing airlifted by a Chinook....I believe this Pucara is now based at Yeovilton and is still flying. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 04, 2009, 05:36:53 pm
About half way through my leave the phone gave its little distinctive trill.
"We would like you to join Fort Austin ASAP".
"Why?, I've only just got home!"
"Because we had to transfer "X" and we need you there".
"Where's "there"?.
"Port Stanley".
Shoot (or words to that effect). No good arguing. Off again to the cold. But it's the journey from the UK to Port Stanley that is the main subject of this episode.
Having already been there, done that and passed up on the Penguin and so on I knew that although summer was just around the corner (or what passes for summer in those parts) I would be wise to take my "winter gear" with me. I always worked on the principle that clouts can be discarded, but if you haven't got any then you can't put any on.
The first part (Newcastle - Heathrow) set the tone for the trip when we nearly collided with a Navy helo when on the Heathrow approach. Violent evasive action, luggage and people landing on top of me (I think I've mentioned this before).
Getting to Brize-Norton with full sea-going gear is always a pain in the tripes. First get to Swindon and then on to either an RAF "bus" or as sometimes happens, a 3 ton truck. I was lucky, I had a bus. Things were looking up.
Ever been to Brize-Norton? Not quite reaching the low standards of Heathrow would be putting it mildly. Everybody gets "lost" in the system. Some Senior Officers (Not RAF ones though) get bunged into dormitories full of farting squaddies whils some little oik gets billeted in a room bigger than he has ever lived in. But thats the RAF for you. Can be good for a bit of wry laughter though.
As usual our aircraft would be a VC10, one of my all time favourites, especially when they were operated by British Caledonia. But this is the RAF. Along with Qua(i)ntas their proud boast is that they have never lost a passenger (meaning killed...plenty of the other sort of "lost"). Aeroflot could take lessons in passenger relations from this lot. As all passengers in an RAF aircraft sit facing backwards it makes for an interesting view as the plane reaches rotation speed. Rabbits never really learn, do they. They sit there along the side of the runway doing what rabbits do (eat) and all of a sudden they are blasted head over heels (?) in little swirls of dust as the jetwash hits them. Well, I always find it funny.
The first stop would be Dakar for re-fuelling. About 6 hours from Brize. So naturally we had an in-flight "meal". RAF style. This is always the well known and inventive "Bag-Rats" stuff. A cardboard box with one of yesterdays sandwiches, an apple and the ubiquitous Wagon Wheel". Ryan -Air has a lot to learn from the RAF before they reach this level.
At Dakar we were graciously allowed out of the aircraft, but were surrounded (at a distance) by armed guards to prevent any approach to the posh part of the airfield where the tourists gather. This included our VIP passenger (our then Minister for Defence John Knott). Until then I hadn't realised that we also had a contingent of SAS with us. This became evident when they disappeared en-mass into the scrub and came back with rather large lizards that were quickly depatched by having their heads bitten off. From that I gathered that the SAS were not really in favour of the RAF catering. But then a few more hours in the air before landing on Ascension Island. This time they were "wideawake" and so no problems there. But it was to be a 12 hour "stopover" , so we were all herded into tents (with the exception the Min of Def, of course). Bad news. No lighting, no sanitation, no food no nothing. Deep gloom from everyone.
The 12 hour delay was apparently to allow the refuelling tanker aircraft to get airborne and in position for our re-fuelling stops. The logic of this escapes me.
At 4am we were woken...not that anyone in our tent had had any sleep...and told to "embark". Where? Ascension is a volcanic island and so the ground around the airfield is not quite as smooth as at your local council tip. An open-cast coalfield may be nearer the mark. No lights, no torches. Except for one little light in the distance that we were told to aim for. (See what I mean about losing passengers?). This was not a good experience.
Our aircraft was a "Hercules". Whoopee! I was really looking forward to 18 hours in this thing without any guarantee that we would be able to land when we got there. Still, we were all now in the maws of "the system" and nothing we could do or say would change that. I still found the Hercules pretty fascinating. Having never been in one before I was struck by the openness of the flight control systems. Bits of rod and wire all doing their thing in full view and often within an arms length. There are no seats as such in a Herc. There are bum-shaped hammock sort of things along the fuselage sides and thats about it. At the back end near the ramp allthe mail and cargo was piled in a great heap. I have to assume it was piled scientifically for reasons of weight distribution...but I had my doubts.
But in this "pile" I decided to make my nest. So on with my sheepskin coat and snuggle in. As you may see from one of the later pics some of our passengers were still dressed in jeans and shirts. Of course it had all been pretty warm going on hot until now. But as these people were in the main "journalists" nobody had given them a "heads - up" on what to expect!  I was also thankful to have remembered to bring my ear-defenders. There is no noise insulation in the cargo area of a Herc. The prop tips as seen from either of the 2 tiny viewing ports appear to be only inches away from the fuselage. There is no draught insulation, so it gets a bit breezy and very cold at 250k and 23000feet. There are no toilets. As we also had 2 large cylindrical (and smelly) extra fuel tanks sited with the passengers there was no smoking. Ye gods. Everyone ought to be made to suffer this trip at least once, just to appreciate the norm of usual life. And this is an 18 hour flight. Naturally, we had a couple of (identical) "in-flight" meals. So I think we had the left-overs from the VC10. If the rear ramp had been opened I think that many of us would have cheerfully stepped off it.
But regarding the "toilet facilities", I'm not going to speculate on how the aircrew manage, but our esteemed VIP had to make do with the same screened off bucket that the rest of us mortals had to use. It was quite typical that the "curtain" should be 18" shorter than it could have been. Perfectly acceptable if one only wanted a widdle. Perhaps not so good otherwise. I have a lovely pic of a pair of skinny hairy legs with trosers around the ankles. That is my "portrait" of the then "Minister of Defence". I'm not going to post it. No point really, but it has given amusement to those who have seen it.
I was both pleased and flattered to be sought out and invited to the cockpit to observe the 1st "in-flight" refuelling. At least it wasn't done in cardboard boxes. Pics will follow.
And so the flight droned on. 2 more re-fuellings, and more than boredom and cold (and the will to live) became a sense of "What the f--- am I doing here".
When we landed I had another surprise. I never realised that a Herc could go backwards under its own power.

Pics time.
1.   General shot of the inside of the Herc. Massive vibration. The extra fuel tanks are visible, as are a few inappropriately dressed journalists.
3.     The initial approach.
5.     Nearly there.
7.   Getting closer.
6.   Plugged in.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on April 04, 2009, 05:44:56 pm
Did you get paid as well Bryan?

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 04, 2009, 06:18:12 pm
Did you get paid as well Bryan?

Roger in France
About 100% less than I would have been paid if it was still classed as a "war zone"!
At least you've read it. Cheers. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Shipmate60 on April 06, 2009, 09:37:20 am
Off topic posts removed

Bob
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bunkerbarge on April 07, 2009, 07:31:18 am
What makes me smile Bryan is the number of people who suggest that yiou write a book and you state that you don't really want to.

From what I can see you've already done it!!  I'd simply publish this thread {-)  Great stories, as always and very interestingly written.  Many thanks for taking the time to put this together for us to enjoy and then keeping it up as you do.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 07, 2009, 04:13:29 pm
What makes me smile Bryan is the number of people who suggest that yiou write a book and you state that you don't really want to.

From what I can see you've already done it!!  I'd simply publish this thread {-)  Great stories, as always and very interestingly written.  Many thanks for taking the time to put this together for us to enjoy and then keeping it up as you do.
Well thank you kind sir! Next one up will be about Fort Grange and includes a run to S.Georgia before the tourist industry got its mitts on it. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 08, 2009, 06:46:04 pm
In what seems an age ago, when I was chuntering on about taking Hovercraft to Istanbul I think I said I couldn't find any pics. Have done now.
1.   General shot of LSL in typical Med harbour.
5 & 6.   We may have hovercraft on deck , but below we had trucks and Gazelle aircraft. The maintenance crews never moaned about lack of "work-space".
7 & 10.   Hovercraft can park themselves with only a little help. Look at the size of the prop on the "stopped" one. It was one of these that I crawled under when "lifted".
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 09, 2009, 06:50:50 pm
This time I did manage to get my full leave before being appointed to "Fort Grange" (now renamed Fort Rosalie to avoid signal confusion with Fort George). No flights this time. Joined in Plymouth Sound and apart from the usual RFA type "keep up to speed" sort of exercises had a pretty peaceful and stress free trip south. Plus, we had an embarked flight of 3 Sea Kings. As always the flight considered the ship was only there for the flights convenience, and so wanted to fly all the time. That attitude (the "norm" rather than the "exception") may be all well and good on an aircraft carrier, but not very helpful when embarked purely as an adjunct. Just can't get through to some people!
Our "base" was, of course once again to be the thriving metropolis of San Carlos. Miles from anywhere and nothing to see apart from the spreading oil seepage from "Antelope" Our main duty was to undertake sporadic coastal patrols. I should say that the actual patrolling was done by the aircraft and the ship was really only there to make transit times shorter. We poked our nose into Berkeley Sound a few times to keep a count of, and an eye on,the rapidly growing numbers of large Fish Factory ships that were appearing. It was od that the majority of these things were either Bulgarian or Korean. Since when was Bulgaria a sea-going nation? As for the Koreans, well, theyr'e all over the world like a rash nowadays. And the Factory ships all have their own train of fishing boats. They just hoover up the oceans, including Krill, which in turn deprives the krill eaters. All goes to make animal feed. All a bit sad and worrying.
The RAF were at this time still operating out of the makeshift runway near Port Stanley as the new airport at Mount Pleasant (what a misnomer!) was still under construction. Our intrepid aviators would often bring back fast-jet crews for a nights R&R (a "xxxxx"-up to you and me), so we got used to seeing Phantom and Harrier aircrews wandering around the ship. A constant moan from these guys was that they had nothing "to shoot at" apart from the occassional RN outfit that needed its engines warming up. I t probably seemed like a good "wheeze" to suggest over an ale or several that the Phantoms could do a dummy attack on us sometime. So a date was set, but no hard and fast time parameters, just "sometime" between 9am and midday on a chosen date. This was also a good time for us to exercise our "action stations" and gun crews etc. So, like topsy, it all just grew and grew. "Action Stations" at 0830. Guns and Chaff rocket launchers ready. By design there had been no briefing as to which direction the "attack" would come from so eyeball scanning of 360* was required. The only time most of us had ever been "attacked" by a fast jet was during the Portland "work-ups", so they were quite slow as it was all choreographed for exercise purposes. This Phantom played it for real, coming in at over 500 knots and 50ft above the water. The aircraft is itself invisible. All you see is a growing dirty shimmer in the sky followed almost immediately by the thunder as your world and guts turn inside out as the aircraft goes to full afterburner and imitates an ICBM at launch. This is one of those life changing moments. A realisation that if we were a real target then nothing we could do would prevent obliteration and the subsequent changing of the terrain around San Carlos. A bit of a "downer" to say the least. Even though the Phantom was just "playing", it was almost a case for the mass changing of underwear. Our poor 20mm gun crews didn't even see the thing until it blasted past them at bridge level an about 50 ft away. Unbelievable.
This "exercise" just cried out for a repeat with a different Phantom crew. But we insisted that the original crew be on board with us as "observers". After another welcoming jar or two they admitted to being a tad overenthusiastic, but more tellingly they also admitted that they had never been on the receiving end of a full-whack Phantom attack. Oh. goody!. The Phantom guys were really great company. The Harrier "kids" were for the most part young and pretty full of themselves, but the Phantom crews were much older (late 30s early 40s) and had generally seen service in "Eagle" and the old "Ark" etc. I guess they spent the rest of their flying days doing the exciting runs to Teneriffe or Torremolinos and so on. Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked again.
This "attack" was to be a bit more choreographed (said they...lying through their teeth). But we sort of knew where and when to look. Same speed, same altitude, same afterburners. But this crew knew that their "oppos" were on board and wanted to prove something. Gunners still had no chance. I was in Flyco (no helos on deck, naturally!). Same mucky shimmer, but this time the Phantom was at our flight deck level and I swear that a wing overlapped our deck just as he went to afterburner. Sheer mind numbing noise at that range. But the telling thing (afterwards) was the visiting Phantom crews reaction. Both elated and terrified at the same time. I think lessons in both humanity and self-knowledge were learned that day. But that wouldn't stop these guys from "doing the job"
I'll call a halt here and continue later this evening. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on April 09, 2009, 07:38:10 pm
Fascinating Bryan. Nice to see that some value was being got from my taxes...

Colin
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 09, 2009, 08:26:36 pm
SWMBO is out painting the garden fence so no dinner yet. May as well continue.

Then we had the "Case of the Missing Exocet". One of our Frigates/Destroyers had, on the way south, hit a bit of lumpy water and an exocet launcher complete with missile had vanished overboard leaving a lot of tangled wiring and a severely damaged lower unit. No-one on the bridge knew anything about it until daybreak. I can't imagine Jack Hawkins. Richard Todd or diddy John Mills not noticing that a major part of their armament was now floating on its way to some African beach. I'm still convinced that many modern bridge watchkeepers think that the bridge windows are only there to keep the sea out of their coffee and not for actually looking out of. But "something had to be done" about the damaged item. It's a rather sobering thought that getting a dodgy bit of high explosive transferred into a fully loaded ammo ship was considered to be the "best option". You may now begin to understand my scepticism re the altruism of the RN. The RN does what is best for the RN and hoo-ha to the rest of you. Anyway, we closed the ship down and heaved the broken beast aboard. Then it had to be transported 100ft aft within the ship to the flight deck lift where a Chinook would come in and (on a very long strop) take it away and drop it in a swamp somewhere. Not a good day, but at least we know where it is, which is more than can be said og Galtieries land mine fields. But I believe the local sheep are doing a pretty good job of mine clearance.
Apart from hosting a very successful Jim Davidso "Road Show" and trying to be nice to a few politicians life was pretty normal for an RFA.
Seafarers quite often have "obsessive" hobbies. Model shipbuilding being only one. But many are avid "bird-watchers" (OK, we all are when ashore, but I mean the feathered sort). The bird-watchers were moaning a bit about not seeing much . We weren't going anywhere for another week, and so with our perfect means of transport readily available (Sea Kings), a group were taken off to a colony of something or other and dumped for a few hours while the aircraft did its routine patrol before picking them up again. Bird watching and photography go hand in hand so it was'nt long before the 2 groups became one, and some great photos were displayed. Good for ships morale .
Another "hobby" was "keep-fit" and athletics (especially within the flight, we were much mor sedentary). But eventually a few of our crew joined in and things became a bit competitive. Then some bright spark decided to measure up the clearway and work out how many laps there were to the mile. I think it was 6 or a bit over.
I suppose I'd better try and explain what a "clearway"is. As far as I'm aware the "Ness" class were the first RFAs to have one, and subsequent stores/ amunition ships have followed the pattern. Older ships such as "Retainer" were commercial ships and converted to RFA use, but the ships design coudn't really incorporate a proper clearway (an "open shelterdeck" ship was almost there). "Resource", although built at the same time as the "Ness" class was designed by the much admired Corps of Naval Constructors, and so a clearway system was never even thought of.
When preparing for a RAS(S) (Replenishment at Sea..solids) the pallets are loaded up with the customers shopping list and made ready for transfer. On "Resource" the loded pallets were hoisted to main deck level on lifts and arranged on deck. At the mercy of the elements...as was the lift machinery. This was a very large open deck with fork lift trucks whizzing around all over the place and quite often interfering with the deck crew operating the rig. With me so far? The "Ness" class (designed and built by Swan-Hunter) realised that this was a problem and designed a ship that had the superstructure extended to the ships sides so tying the "old" midships block to the back one. But within the ship the lifts, pallets and so on were out of the weather. It also meant that the winches etc could be placed on top of all this and give even more space for the fork-lift Grand Prix. The loaded pallets could then be presented to the rig(s) in use as they were needed without cluttering up the deck space. So, essentially what you have is a ring-road within the ship. This is the "clearway".
I wasn't long before 7 minute miles were being recorded. I also wasn't long before other ships got wind of this and all sorts of inter-ship challenges were made and "things" sort of developed a bit, culminating in almost full-scale athletics meetings with ships pulling up alongside and "athletes" being air-lifted in. It's always the POs that drive this kind of activity. The next "addition" was the "Bookies Shop". All profits going to the ships charity. Then the "Burger Bar" appeared, rapidly followed by the "Fish'n'Chip" shop. The ships company became so involved with these events that our real job became almost secondary. But of course the ships coming alongside could re-store at the same time, and the aircraft would deliver as well as picking up people. Nothing wasted. But we began to run out of fish.
The other great hobby among seafarers is angling. The Falklands are teeming with huge Brown Trout. I think the size of them is due to the size of the "rivers". Or the width of them anyway. The rivers are quite deep but not much more than 6 to 12 ft across. So our angling fraternity got involved. Same procedure as for the bird-watchers. The "fly" fishermen were not too impressed at having to stand about 50' back from the "river" and learn how to cast into it, but there you go. Some wonderful fish. But not enough. So the Sea King crews just went off to anothe stream and lobbed a few thunderflashes (big bangers) into the water and scooped up the stunned fish. Problem solved.
When we eventually got home the ship presented Fern Brittan with a pretty big cheque for the local childrens hospital. The RNLI also benefitted to such an extent that the RFA crews kept up the momentum and eventually paid for a lifeboat. I think it was a "Brede" class boat.
But South Georgia next.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on April 10, 2009, 06:29:51 am
Fascinating, Bryan.

Your sense of fun and skill as a raconteur, however, overlies the seriousness of what you and your ship were truly about. Thanks for the telling and thanks for the service.

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 10, 2009, 07:50:40 pm
After the Athletics "season" had run its course many people were left in a state of limbo. The British forces were beginning to run down with many of the expatriates having to endure the Herc. flight back to Ascension. And they are welcome to it. The RN had pulled back a few ships to more temperate climes, so leaving the RFAs to do yet more of the jobs they were supposed to do. Not all of this was "Bad News" though. Until now the "jollies" had been treated as an RN "perk" and the RFA was ignored. So visits to South Georgia had been the preserve of the war canoes. As far as we were concerned a trip over to S. Georgia was more than just a "jolly". Ever since the Argentinian "scrap-men" were ejected, and the Argie sub "de-commissioned" a small contingent of Marines had been based in the old Grytviken Post Office building. They obviously needed re-supplying every now and again with a bit more than a Frigate could supply. And what better to do that than an ammo ship that also doubled up as a floating supermarket. Enter "Fort Grange".
Normally a Merchant ship without a passenger certificate wouldn't be able to carry more than 12 passengers. As we would often carry as many as "was required" a few more places were sort of advertised around the bazaars on a "first-come, first accepted" basis. Being a pretty full ship what with the flight on board we had space for about 20 extras. Sometimes the word "democracy" fulfills its meaning, so we had a passenger list of 1 Brigadier, a couple of army Captains and the rest were sergeants and army privates. A nice mix.
Although South Georgia is just over 800 miles fro the Falklands the bit of water between them is amongst the lumpiest and windiest stretches of water in the world. Not too bad getting there as the wind and sea is more or less astern. Of course, in "really bad" weather a stern sea can cause problems with steering and "pooping" (make your own minds up about that), but this time there was no problem.  Going back is always a different thing. Very uncomfortable....even more so for the "passengers" I suppose. Not my problem!
Entering Grytviken Bay was a bit eerie. Total silence. Towering mountains that deflected the SW gale. The "Blue Glacier" shining a brilliant pale blue in the sunlight. The snow bleaching off the top of the surrounding mountains. The magnificent clear and clean air and visibility.....and the silence.
A lot of "Ground Rules" for those going ashore had to be laid down, and these were presented by the OIC of the small "resident" team of Marines. Most of what he said was just common sense. We had permission to take souveneirs of whatever size (a lathe, for instance) and anything lying around...but no vandalism. Basically, take, do not destroy...ever.
RFA crews on the whole are a few years older and more "proffessional" seamen than their RN counterparts, so we had no problems with these rules. Because (I think) the sense of isolation and stillness of the place gave many of our ships company a bit of "breathing space" not normally found on board, many preferred to wander alone or in pairs. No mass parties.
Solitude and silence seem to be alien concepts to many young people today, so we as a whole were quite horrified by the levels of vandalism wreaked upon this beautiful place by some previous RN crews. Don't argue....I KNOW what ship they were in.
But of course our flight had to ruin all this tranquility. At "home" one more aircraft is just a minor intrusion, but here it was an abomination.A pox on them. The excuse for flying was that the herd of wild deer needed culling. These deer had probably been "imported" to vary the menu of whale meat. But when everyone left at 5 minutes notice the deer were just abandoned. They have become very stringy and not very well nourished animals, but they still breed. However much I agree with "culling" I was not alone in feeling absolute disgust with "our" flight actually machine -gunning the fleeing deer from behind (in both senses of the word). It only made it worse when they (the flight) couldn't understand why they were treated with disdain fo a couple of weeks or so.
My first "excursion" was solitary by choice. Time to myself. Looked at and into the flour silo that was still full of flour and home to millions of rats.(Never seen a human, so no fear...and none from me either), The full and slowly leaking oil tanks. The workshops that would only need a squirt of WD40 to look immaculate again. the little church....ah, well, different here. A simple wooden building on the lines of a Methodist Chapel with ground floor pews and a surrounding balcony. This was evidently the "social centre" as well as a place of worship. Films were shown here as evidenced by the smashed remains of a projector and reel after reel of old film strewn all over the place and trampled on. This, and other acts of mindless vandalism almost became my abiding memory of Grytviken. But the sheer beauty of it all pushed those thoughts away. I plodded over to Shackletons grave / memorial. Very simple and very apt. While I stood there and pondered on his feat of climbing the mountains behind me I for once in my life felt very humble.  Until the bloody Sea King came back and ruined my reverie.
Grytviken was a whale processing plant. It must have been hell working here, but around the corner so to speak is another base called "Stromness". This was the engineering and repair yard. So we took Fort Grange around to "have a look". No signs of vandalism here. Everything just as it was when they all upped-sticks and left at short notice. Although this was 1982 it really is true that unfinished meals were still there. Astonishing. But I expect modern tourism has ruined the best part. The solitude and silence.
I was going to put some pics on here at this point, but I've realised that the pics themselves have a little story. So that's the next one. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 10, 2009, 08:05:09 pm
A first glimpse outwards fro Grytviken, before the Sea King flashed up.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 11, 2009, 07:14:48 pm
I originally started off by describing each pic, until I realised that they really speak for themselves. Some are of Grytviken and some are from Stromness. The mood is the same. I realise that during the Southern Hemisphere winter the "population (in general) and the whaling ships plus their catchers decamped to warmer climes for refit and so on. "Southern Harvester" and "Southern Venturer" were regular visitors to the Tyne during our summer. The catchers were more likeley to be found in S.Africa.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 11, 2009, 07:17:21 pm
2 more in this series.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on April 11, 2009, 07:30:18 pm
Great photos Bryan.

Is that your ship in the background of the first and last photos.?

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 11, 2009, 07:38:50 pm
Great photos Bryan.

Is that your ship in the background of the first and last photos.?

Roger in France
Yes, RFA "Fort Grange".
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 11, 2009, 07:44:24 pm
More that are self explanetory:
This is not meant to be a "travelogue", but it is based on the maritime life as found in S. Georgia.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 11, 2009, 08:03:33 pm
This is the last post from S.Georgia.
Particularly aimed at our Engineering fraternity. Guys, eat your hearts out! All this equipment is available for free. All you have to do is to get to S.Georgia, dismantle and load what you want and ship it home. Easy.
The "odd-ball" here is the last pic. When I was wandering around a large "shed" I came across a wall that didn't look like a wall.
On further inspection I found I was looking at the open ends of literally hundreds if not thousands of boiler and condenser tubes All about 20' long. Perfectly preserved. Must have been worth a fortune!. All I came away with was enough Lignum-Vitae (shaped) to make a very nice biscuit barrel.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: craftysod on April 11, 2009, 08:21:42 pm
Brilliant story of your life Bryan,the last photos bring back memories,S.Georgia is very eerie,like a ghost town.
You can go into the library or the chemist,everything is still on shelves,and peoples houses,it is like everyone just vaniished.
The place had bulldozers just sat there for years but in perfect condition,scrappys heaven
Mark
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 11, 2009, 08:28:44 pm
I thought that would be the last of the Falklands for me but yhe masochists in MoD thought otherwise and so bunged me on to RFA "Regent" (sister ship to "Resource"). At least it wasn't a bloody tanker again. I hate tankers. I love the people and enjoy "the job", but tankers and me have a mutual dislike. I like cargo to be "visible" and not some strange smelly liquid powering through a pulsating rubber pipe. Valves and things to open and close were always a closed book to me although I could muddle through without much in the way of empathy. At least I can recognize a bomb, or a pallet load of sausages or beer and so on. But how do I really know that the pulsating rubber pipe is actually shoving through Avcat, Lube Oil or Deisel? Too late to take a sample. Heart attack time.
But I will get around to the next few years even though the earlier years are both fresher in my memory and a bit more "interesting" than the last years. So. I'll continue when I get a second wind. Thanks for reading so far. Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: TCC on April 12, 2009, 05:50:22 am
I was always led to believe that the Russians did have a bottom crawler, but no-one either saw it or could verify it. I think Tom Clancy was not just using his imagination on this one. BY.
Yeah, the Norwegians have photographed caterpillar tracks in the entrances to their harbours.

The Russian SBS?
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on April 12, 2009, 09:18:30 am
See Jimmy James postings on page 16 of this thread.

BM
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 27, 2009, 07:49:03 pm
While still grappling with the cut / cop /paste saga I remembered that somewhere I had a few pics taken during "race day" as poorly described earlier. A "sports journalist", I am not!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Martin [Admin] on April 28, 2009, 11:37:04 am
Is it just me or is this thread bordering on brilliant?!!!

Martin   O0
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on April 28, 2009, 06:14:13 pm
HOW DARE YOU, Martin.....it is not "bordering on brilliant" it is brilliant!

Bryan is being very humble and self effacing about it. I suggested he edit it into a book (others have subsequently suggested the same thing) but he has said, "No".

If I still lived in England I would show it to a couple of commercial editors who, I am confident, would approach Bryan with a ghost writer to knock it into shape as a book. A good script writer could then turn it into a film. I can just see Finnes playing BY! But he would have a better tailor for his uniform!

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 28, 2009, 07:38:51 pm
HOW DARE YOU, Martin.....it is not "bordering on brilliant" it is brilliant!

Bryan is being very humble and self effacing about it. I suggested he edit it into a book (others have subsequently suggested the same thing) but he has said, "No".

If I still lived in England I would show it to a couple of commercial editors who, I am confident, would approach Bryan with a ghost writer to knock it into shape as a book. A good script writer could then turn it into a film. I can just see Finnes playing BY! But he would have a better tailor for his uniform!

Roger in France
Dear God!!! Thats the last thing I want. All I want is to have a quiet and peaceful life after the years of turmoil. I don't mind telling the story (my version of it, anyway) but a literary hero I'm not. My life at sea was basically one of acceptance. Take what is thrown at you, suss it out and go on from there. Really no more than anyone else in those situations would do.
This forum is an open one. I don't claim any copyright on anything I have written. I only do it for hopefully the enjoyment of others who read it. And quite probably a little bit of "look at me" sort of syndrome....but I hope not. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bartapuss on April 28, 2009, 08:42:05 pm
Hey maybe Hollywood would grab the idea and set it in the Yank navy and BY would be portraid by Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone or even Steven Seagal  :-))
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Malcolm Reade on April 28, 2009, 09:13:26 pm
BY's natural modesty belies the story teller within!

Truth is, that when a tale must be told, the writer cannot deny himself, nor should he.

Brian's text may well need the benefit of some ghost writing, but it is a fascinating story, and the accompanying photographs make it truly unique.

This work HAS to be published, and if nothing else, the proceeds perhaps used to fund a maritime charity, should the author wish to deny himself the benefits?  There are many that are well worthy, as I'm sure BY would agree?

Malc


Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: craftysod on April 28, 2009, 09:33:00 pm
 And quite probably a little bit of "look at me" sort of syndrome....but I hope not. BY.
Why not,you have shown at lot of people the insight of another man that has had a fascinating career.
And is prepared to share your story of your life with us who have only dreamt of your adventures.
Yes i spent 10yrs in the navy,good times and bad,but could not put down in writing as you have,and shown
the people who have not been to sea,how life can be.
Cant wait for the next episode,and we should vote at the end of your career on hear as to whether it should be made into a book
Mark

Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 28, 2009, 10:15:42 pm
HOW DARE YOU, Martin.....it is not "bordering on brilliant" it is brilliant!

Bryan is being very humble and self effacing about it. I suggested he edit it into a book (others have subsequently suggested the same thing) but he has said, "No".

If I still lived in England I would show it to a couple of commercial editors who, I am confident, would approach Bryan with a ghost writer to knock it into shape as a book. A good script writer could then turn it into a film. I can just see Finnes playing BY! But he would have a better tailor for his uniform!

Roger in France
What! What "uniform" are you referring to? As far as I can recall I've never posted a pic of me in a uniform of any sort. Must be an imposter. You would be amazed at the transformation of me in "foul weather"gear to "full tropical whites" when at a "xxxxx"-up (sorry, I meant "cocktail party"). Could even moderate my language (and dialect) sufficiently enough to be understood by the Korean Minister of Defence...and that took some doing!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 28, 2009, 10:16:28 pm
Hey maybe Hollywood would grab the idea and set it in the Yank navy and BY would be portraid by Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone or even Steven Seagal  :-))
Foxtrot Oscar.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 28, 2009, 10:20:40 pm
BY's natural modesty belies the story teller within!

Truth is, that when a tale must be told, the writer cannot deny himself, nor should he.

Brian's text may well need the benefit of some ghost writing, but it is a fascinating story, and the accompanying photographs make it truly unique.

This work HAS to be published, and if nothing else, the proceeds perhaps used to fund a maritime charity, should the author wish to deny himself the benefits?  There are many that are well worthy, as I'm sure BY would agree?

Malc



No. I don't agree. For many reasons. I could enumerate them later but there are not many charities operating now regarding UK seafarers that I would trust very much. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 28, 2009, 10:29:18 pm
And quite probably a little bit of "look at me" sort of syndrome....but I hope not. BY.
Why not,you have shown at lot of people the insight of another man that has had a fascinating career.
And is prepared to share your story of your life with us who have only dreamt of your adventures.
Yes i spent 10yrs in the navy,good times and bad,but could not put down in writing as you have,and shown
the people who have not been to sea,how life can be.
Cant wait for the next episode,and we should vote at the end of your career on hear as to whether it should be made into a book
Mark


Kind words Mark. I have been (honestly) surprised by the interest shown. It all really started off with me answering Colin Bishop (I think) regarding odd bits and bobs of bits on older ships.....and just grew from there. But, as they say, many names have been changed to protect the innocent. You really have only read a fraction of what I have seen and wished I had'nt. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: kiwi on April 29, 2009, 08:27:07 am
Brian,
Whatever you decide to do re a book, you decide, but let me tell you, I'd be at the head of the Que at the book shop.
BUT, keep them stories flowing on the forum. I find them full of interest and an incite into another world.
So from one traveler to another, well done. Brilliant, just doesn't seem to be an adequate  expression of your illustrated writings.

kiwi
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 29, 2009, 05:38:09 pm
You know, what with the problem I'm having with this flaming copy and paste malarkey, and my reluctance to do double typing again, I'm beginning to wonder if the easiest way out is just to print the stuff and post it in an envelope to Martin; and then let him get over the Forbidden bit! Actually, another thought has just sneaked into my head. What if I just scan the printouts and post them as "pics". Think that would work? Think I'll give it a try. Wish me luck. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 29, 2009, 05:50:44 pm
Now this is just an experiment (covering my rear, so to speak). The scanned page at 400dpi came out at 1.95mb (!) so I've reduced it to 138 kb. See if its readable. Maybe I'll try 200dpi next time.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 29, 2009, 05:54:52 pm
Well, it "sort-of" worked! I can read it although not with the same clarity as usual. But as this is my only "workable" method at the moment, I shall persevere until told to stop, desist, cease or shut-up. Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 29, 2009, 06:17:31 pm
200dpi was useless and 800 dpi was far too big. So I'm stuck with 400. Not all that bad(!) if you zoom the page a bit.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on April 29, 2009, 08:11:49 pm
Having spoken so highly of your efforts I have to take exception to your reference to my home town, I was born in Plymouth!

I bet you knew Union Street?

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 30, 2009, 05:06:21 pm
Ah, Roger! At least you could read it! I'm not happy with this method of posting, but at the moment "needs must". Sorry if I upset you re.Plymouth! (not really). But although I honestly do like Plymouth.....Much nicer than Portsmouth or Rosyth....the town has its quirks just like every other place. Some good, others not so good. Being a Naval port since time immemorial has probably shaped the towns outlook on life...i.e. "transient". But this is about "shipping" and not a treatise on personal observations of the general local populace!
Again, personally, being in a position to wander at will through Devonport Dockyard taught me more history than I ever learned at school. Such a pity that so much of it is not open to the general public. The little summerhouse (gazebo) for the King, possibly the oldest (and medeival) barn type construction of a slipway. The "dry-docks" constructed of granite and shaped to fit a particular class of sailing warship...all still there. The prison buildings that used to house French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars.....and the execution chamber and lime pit. Still there. Even the more modern battleship dry-docks from the 1st and 2nd world wars are largely "as built". All wonderful to browse (preferably alone) .... but the indigenous population are not as "welcoming" as in my native Geordieland! Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 30, 2009, 05:23:27 pm
Following on with "Gold Rover" for a minute. I am aware that there is a kit version of "Blue Rover" on the market. Makes up to be quite a nice model, but very short on detail. If anyone is interested in building a "Rover" I have loads of pics of the various details that are not apparent on the kit. Bearing in mind the "Blue" was a batch 1 and "Gold" is a batch 2. I'll put a couple of pics on this thread, but if there is any interest I will post under "Real Ships". BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 30, 2009, 06:10:00 pm
Just 2, most of the others are in colour, but as it's a grey ship does that matter?
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on April 30, 2009, 06:16:31 pm
Help! I have the BY disease!

Forgive me Bryan, but I just wrote a rather lengthy post on your theme and just as I "polished" it I lost the lot!!!!!! Seems I have the same problem as you!

OK will try another way tomorrow.

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on April 30, 2009, 06:46:31 pm
Bryan,

I know what you mean about “nautical material” being off limits in Plymouth. To the Devonport Dockyard you can add the Royal Naval Barracks; the Royal Marine Barracks (including a fully working theatre called “The Globe”); The Royal William Victualing Yard etc.

I also agree with you about the “natives”. As a Plymouthian I accept that my compatriots are insular and unfriendly.

A story of the Royal Naval Barracks, Devonport: In about 1962 I was a Trainee Inspector of Weights and Measures in Plymouth. One day we had a telephone call from a very senior Quarter master (QM) in the Barracks who explained that he was having a problem with the accuracy of weighing and measuring equipment and asked for our help.  It has to be remembered that no official inspections ever took place in such a barracks because as a Crown Establishment they are exempt from Weights and Measures Laws.

The Inspector who was training me told me to load up our testing equipment and we drove off to the Barracks. Having been checked in by the Naval Sentry at the gate we were given vague directions to “Go down there and park up until the QM comes for you”. I drove around and the Inspector said, “Oh look, there is plenty of room to park over there”. I saw a large open area with nothing but a huge flagstaff on it and so I drover over and parked. As I engaged the handbrake a horrendous scream rang out, “Get that f***** car off the b***** Quarter Deck”!!!!! Apparently it was a Naval offence to even walk across the Quarter Deck.

Eventually we arrived in the QM’s office. He explained that discrepancies were arising in sharing out the rum ration and as a ship was about to set sail on a 2 year tour of duty he thought it a good opportunity to check all the measures onboard. What we found was laughable! “Jack” had arranged every possible method you could think of to ensure his measures were oversize so that when he went to draw rum for his mess from central stores he always got more than the mess was entitled to receive!

On returning to report to the QM he said, “Ah, I thought as much. While you are here could you have a look at the weighing and measuring equipment in my stores?” We carried out our tests and found a right shambles. There were false weights, unjust weighing machines and very inaccurate measures! On reporting this to the QM he smiled broadly and said, “Gentlemen your findings help me greatly. I can now right down that I have weighing and measuring errors in the stores which will allow me to write off
£50, 000 worth of missing goods”!

He paid our fee very willingly.

Roger in France

Wow it worked! Wrote it in Word and pasted it here. If I can do it Bryan, so can you!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on April 30, 2009, 07:38:02 pm
Roger. Good for you. My problem is not the "cut'n'paste" stuff. it's the bit at the end when I push "post" and I find I'm forbidden to enter the realms occupied by you Global Moderators...not that I want to. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: malcolmfrary on April 30, 2009, 09:20:26 pm
OK Bryan, this is written in Open Office, as being one of the nations impoverished I decided not to give my boat money to Microsoft.  This short missive will be highlighted using “Edit”, “Select All”, “Edit”, “Copy”.  I will then go to the reply box on this thread, click in the box then right click on the cursor and click the “Paste” option.   Earwigo.

And there it is.  And I lack moderators powers.  Now lets see what happens when I "Post"

Edit.  It worked!!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on May 01, 2009, 08:47:56 am
Fingers crossed you crack it this time Bryan - as if the scanning solution is the only route, you have lost one (very reluctant) follower of your most interesting reminiscences.  :(( Short of peering at the screen with a magnifying glass, I found the eye strain just a little too much

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 01, 2009, 05:09:56 pm
Fingers crossed you crack it this time Bryan - as if the scanning solution is the only route, you have lost one (very reluctant) follower of your most interesting reminiscences.  :(( Short of peering at the screen with a magnifying glass, I found the eye strain just a little too much

Mike
I agree with you. But it was worth a try. Number one son will visit over the weekend, and he has "computer knowledge" running out of his ears. I will prevail! Who said computers were "easy" for the "elderly"...probably the same moron that predicted the "paperless" office. Ha! A pox on them all. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 01, 2009, 07:13:19 pm
And so on to "Regent". My first time on this one but apart from some very minor differences (silly things like some internal ladders were of steel and not wood etc) I could have been back on ""Resource". Sometimes I sympathised with the wag who named them "Remorse" and "Regret". But actually they weren't bad ships. But it's the crew that "makes" the ship either a "happy" one or otherwise. Sometimes the ship was a happy one despite having a Captain who just issued edicts and having "edicted" expected everything he had proclaimed to be carried out. This is the ultimate "Ivory Tower" syndrome. It's also quite telling that very few Captains of that mind set ever checked to see if their orders had actually been carried out......95% of the time they were totally ignored except for those who were scrambling for promotion and so would do anything to earn some Brownie points. These sycophants were also often ignored by "them wot did the work". But this time our Captain was a 6'7" nice guy. At that size he could afford to be. The "Stonnery" was the same old, same old mixture of dockyard-mateys promoted beyond their levels of competence (simply because the Officers bar and dining saloon could accommodate them, while  the POs and Crew areas were "full"...always caused a bit of friction). And while I'm at it, what other organisation on earth apart from the British Civil Service could come up with the rank of "Skilled Labourer" I ask you! But their never ending whinging was the same old stuff. The "managerial" side of the Stonnery were perhaps the most ineffectual "managers" I have ever come across...ever. They may have been good at organizing the "stuff" to be loaded and then transferred to "customers" (jargon!), but man-management didn't really appeal to them. As the "hoi-poloi" in the Stonnery were very well aware of this, every rule in their (union) book was exploited to the full. "Overtime" was king. Asas their overmanning. Who else but the Civil Service would countenance employing a well paid guy whose one and only job was to polish one (long) alleyway? The ships staff who lived in a similar alleyway polished the thing as and when time permitted (they were salaried). A bit of a crunch came when we (bridge staff) noticed the same pallett of shells being trundled around the ship week after week, Sunday after Sunday. An enterprising engineer marked one of the shells and a photo of this was presented to the "STO(N)" (boss of the Stonnery). Much bluster and wringing of hands. Much talk of "bringing the wages up to par" and so on. Even now, after all these years, I cringe when I think of what a useless, moneygrabbing bunch of whingers that department employed.
Any way, as I'd joined during her refit (Tyne, again..naturally!) and had gone through the same process of being treated as a primary schoolchild at Portland once again we were considered "fit for purpose" and set off into the blue-yonder. But with only a couple of events to liven things up this was probably the most boring and un-productive voyage I did in the RFA. We called in at Gib. for no particular reason apart from letting everyone ashore for a haircut. On to the Suez Canal. By now I was getting seriously involved with the creeping disease called "boredom". Almost terminal, and the "cutting of wrists" began to seem quite attractive. So I organized a trip to Cairo and the Pyramids. This "party" would leave the ship at Port Said and rejoin at Tewfik (the bottom bit of the canal). I managed to get sufficient people to fill a "full-size" bus (50/55 people?). A 4am start. Yeuch. The "agent" I had booked this trip through had obviously never heard of "customer satisfaction". The bus had seats, but in all other respects it was more like a home-made lorry conversion driven by a madman. It's a long way from Port Said to Cairo...about 6 hours of terror (hence the early start). The terror comes from the Egyptian driving style. The white line in the centre of the road seems to mean that the driver must follow it as if on auto-pilot. So does the big truck coming the other way. At the very last moment (and I mean this) the vehicles swerved and passed. Absolutely awful. And we would be returning in darkness. Oh, well. May as well enjoy my last day on earth. The desert is not at all like even the dirtiest UK beach. For a start it isn't sand. It's mucky gravel. And it is absolutely covered with black plastic bags blowing around like kites in the non-stop wind. Too late to get off now. Stopped for a break somewhere but non of us fancied picking out a live pigeon that the proprietor offered to kill and cook for us. A quick (or slow) widdle, and we were on our way again. Got to Cairo. But before we reached our first destination (The Museum of Antiquities) the "driver" took us through the "City of the Dead". A great start to a fun day out. I suppose it should be called a cemetary, but it's more than that. It's a town within a town, only the inhabitants are well, not alive. They are in houses of various sizes, and the only living things to be seen are the feral dogs. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
I'll continue this later...you may have gathered that I am reverting to my "old way" of doing this. Time consuming, but masochistically more satisfying! BY
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on May 01, 2009, 07:18:35 pm
Egyptian driving standards haven't improved!

Colin
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on May 02, 2009, 07:34:31 am
Now I couldn't resist having a go at the copy/paste conundrum  O0 Like everyone else I don't see where the problem is - weird ! I simply opened word, typed a line of rubbish, highlighted it, right clicked and 'copy'. Then came here and opened up 'reply' and right clicked then 'paste' and hey presto rubbish line appeared.........or am I missing something along the line - not unusual  %%

Mike

ps as usual I didn't read it all properly, your problem comes on hitting 'post'........ I'll just shut up wait until your lad arrives  :-))
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on May 02, 2009, 07:51:13 am
This is a test text in aid of Bryan’s sanity

edit - well that worked alright did as above then hit post and not a murmur out of the forum watchdog.the plot thickens  O0

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 02, 2009, 08:17:01 pm
Contiuing with the mad drvers trip to the pyramids...
A quick trip around a huge mosque and the "famous" National Mueum where there is lots of "stuff" but it all seemed to by just heaped in "higgledy-piggedly". Presentation 1 out of 10. "Driving" through the streets of Cairo is weird. At the time of my visit it was thought that there were 16 million inhabitants. Pretty crowded. We were all wondering when we would see the Pyramids....and as we turned a corner in what appered to be an Egyptian Housing Estate...there they were!. In all the glossy mags and photos I'd seen up till then I always thought they were in the middle of wide-open spaces not tucked up against houses in the tackier part of Cairo. The Great Pyramid is a sight to behold, but when looking at it from any distance or viewpoint you are quite likely to be standing in a heap of camel crap. But enough of all that. On the way out of Cairo we stopped for our "inclusive" meal. The "restaurant" was on what can only be described as an uncleared bomb site alongside an open sewer. I had half expected something like this and had warned my fellow travellers to be careful what they ate (after seeing the results from other excursions from other ships). Being better safe than sorry I had packed my own "bag-rats" and didn't touch the "cooked" goat or whatever it was. All this went on under the gaze of many inhabitants who were half watchiing TV from receivers tapped into all the local lamp-posts. Really bizarre. A hair raising journey back to the canal, getting "home" about 4-30am. Knackered.
Within 24 hours over 30 of the "trippers" were in bed and wishing to die. Took a week to recover. So my "bag-rats" proved themselves. By the time these pallid, de-hydrated wraiths staggered out of their cabins we were just about out of the Red Sea and approaching Aden. But on and outwards past Socotra  to a point about half way between Socotra and Karachi. Our "destination"...if such a point deserves the title. We'd come all this way to deliver a bit of kit to HMS Exeter for her missile system. Which still didn't work, so we re loaded it to "eventually" take back to the UK. All that for nothing. As was becoming the norm in my life, our final destination was to be.......Port Stanley. Now to my uneducated logistical brain I would have thought that a quick trog down to the bottom of Africa, hang a right and head for the Falklands. Nope. Back up the Read Sea, back through the Canal, a quick slurp of fuel in Souda Bay, through the Gib Straits, take a left and head South. What fun!
A little diversion here. Mentioning the Red Sea and Aden reminded me of a visit we paid (forget which ship) to Djibouti with a load of "food aid" collected in the UK. Very humanitarian. Except that we watched in horror as "our" cargo was trucked to a russin ship that loaded it while discharging tanks and guns. How sad. Must go. Continue tomorrow. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 04, 2009, 05:29:32 pm
When did "Live-Aid" (the Geldorf thing) start? Could it have been as far back as 1979? If it was then the event I witnessed in Djibouti was in 1979 from "Lyness". So (if that timing is correct) a lot of the public response was totally wasted.

Just as a bit of "light relief" before going back to ships, you may find this interesting....
However, some rescues do work now and again. I post the next 5 pics with no comments apart from the observation that the wheel hub air-bags (designed to keep a ditched Sea King upright) seem not to have been deployed. A Sea King "can" land on water, but needs its rotors running to maintain stability, when the rotors are stopped the high mounted engines (hence a high C of G) will flip it over. Fortunately the weather was good! In a rough winter in the N.Atlantic I wouldn't have bet on anyone surviving.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 04, 2009, 06:53:46 pm
But back to the "non-voyage" in "Regent". Back to heading "south" yet again, the "lads" needed to be brought up to at least a "Sat" standard....or at least as good as they were when we left Portland some while ago. It's only human nature to resent exercises cutting into ones "off duty" time, and no-one ever gets used to it. For thos "on duty" when an exercise takes place the it's a welcome relief. Swings and roundabouts. For some strange and well forgotten reason RFA exercises were generally held at 3pm. Actually, the reason is obvious. The end of "exercise" meant end of "working day". Stuff that. I never went so far as to "push-the-tit" at 2am, but I saw nothing wrong with just after breakfast. Lets just say that the ships company were somewhat divided! But standards improved and morale was still pretty high.
Of course all this took place over a couple of weeks or so. Not like the RN who seem to want an exercise every blasted day. Tolerance levels have to be well observed....and not too much disruption into "happy hour" time. A point I personally agreed with wholeheartedly.
When we eventually staggered into Stanley Sound my 6 month sentence was about served. Done the refit, restoring, "work-up" and seen about 20,000 miles of different seas and oceans. So very shortly after we got to where we were going I was informed my relief was on his way. Goody!.
But another life enhancing time was ahead. I was now to learn how "the other half" lived. After leaving the ship I (and a couple of others who were also "relieved") had to live (exist) in temporary "transit" accommodation. To wit..a 20ft transport container. Oh joy.
This steel box was unheated, no washing or toilet facilities (none that I found, anyway) and equipped with sleeping bags that smelled as if a couple of dead dogs were still mouldering in them. It was winter again. Cold. One of my fellow incarcerates declared "Enough", went outside, slipped on the ice and broke his leg. Bad news. Miles from anywhere that we knew of. Strapped him up and then couldn't sleep for the moaning. Not the most pleasant of nights. For him, the news the next day when we got some assistance was the fact we'd strapped the wrong leg. Come on...he had told us which one hurt. Not guilty m'lud. But as he wasn't one of my favourite people on board I could'nt really resist a quiet and private chuckle.
No Hercules this time. This was the inaugral flight from the new Mount Pleasant (who dreamed up THAT name I wonder) to the UK. A newish BA 747 awaited us. I was one of only 15 or so people to be ensconced in 1st Class luxury. Bit of a change from the previous couple of nights. My "seat" was right at the front...I could rest my feet on the front radome hatch cover. Looking slantwise out of the little window I was so far ahead of the pilot I would be able to see what was going to hit us milliseconds before he did. A great comfort.
The top "hump" of the aircraft was given over to the "casevacs" (need help with that one Roger?) and the plane was full,full,full.
The pilot had asked for and been given clearance to do a "low pass" over Port Stanley. What a wonderful gesture. But a 747 growling over you at 500ft has to be impressive. Then the aircraft turned and returned for a second pass, but half-way down Main Street went into full power and just launched off into the sky. I was back in Port Stanley a bit later and the memory of that fly-past was to the locals the defining moment when they knew the conflict was well and truly over.
We landed on Ascension for re-fuelling. No modern "tunnels" to the aircraft...just stairs. So this was my first chance to see how really huge a 747 looks from ground level. (We had embarked in semi darkness). But then I slept all the way to Brize Norton, greeted by my wife and son, and so well rested that I had no trouble driving home. Something I would never had contemplated if it had been a Herc. flight.
I forgot to mention, as the 747 was an RAF charter we all had standard RAF cuisine...stuff in boxes....Bloody cheapskates!  BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 05, 2009, 06:44:54 pm
I won't re-do the Gold Rover refit (as posted in the failed version earlier) as it was just another refit with excursions.
But after my leave period I was appointed to "Olmeda". I had angled for this one as I was fed up with both the Falklands and permanent winters. My Lords and Masters must have agreed that I needed a spell in warmer climes.
Apart from being a "tanker", the Ols were pretty good ships, and for their age quite well appointed albeit in the RFA "style". That is, not a patch on what a decent caravan designer could come up with. But these 3 ships were of mid 60s vintage and had probably been designed in the late 50s as improvements / upgrades to the later versions of the "Tide" class. Olmeda could still push nearly 20 knots though. Of the 3 "Olmeda" was the best one, followed by "Olna" and trailing a bit was "Olwen". All 3 were built on the Tyne by 2 different yards. A "Swans" shipwright once told me that a sure-fire way of recognizing a Swans ship was by observing the mitres on the internal wooden door frames....the other yards apparently used butt joints. Little bits of attention to details like this made "Olmeda" a better put together ship than her sisters. A bit like buying a car, the same model built in one place can be significantly better than the same model built elsewhere.
"Olmeda" was launched and operated for a while as RFA "Oleander". But her name was changed due to signal traffic confusion between "Leander" and "Oleander". Thats why her crest was always that of the Alpine flower Oleander. The accommodation was by modern standards not all that brilliant (not that bad), but by the standards prevailing at the time of her design it was OK. Although much of the "working bits" of the ship were upgraded as and when needed the mechanical Rev.Telegraph remained. A bit of kit that would be in constant use during all our various evolutions.It was directed from the bridge by a series of solid steel rods and gears from the bridge to the engine room a mere 500ft away. The bridge end of this archaic bit of kit was directly above my cabin. Had to be soewhere I guess but a bit of "NIMBYism" used to afflict me now and again. One full turn of the telegraph indicated to the E/Rm a 1 rev up or down in speed. 20 turns = 20 revs etc. The open 90* bevel gear was also on my deckhead. Noisy doesn't even come close. The bane of my existence when trying to get some zeds in.....it didn't help that there was little or no sound insulation on the bridge deck or on my deckhead. Was I the only deck-officer who didn't wear clogs during a bridge watch?  Also, the ships were built as part of the "cold-war" naval response to aggression that would apparently be fought in the N.Atlantic. So not much thought was given to operations in Tropical areas. As all the water for showers etc. came from aft to midships, in cold weather the hot water wasn't, and in hot weather the cold water was hot enough to blister paint....the hot water being more like pressurised steam.
Between the for'd and after acc. blocks there were 3 decks open to the weather.  The lower one which was the ships "main deck" and had all the pipework and tank lids and so on on it was only about 6' or so above the sea when fully loaded. Very wet, what with all that sea water constantly sluicing across it (got a bit rusty as well). Most of the older type of commercial tankers had above the "tank deck" a simple catwalk between for'd and aft. Just a walkway really. But the "Ols" "catwalk was a full width deck and was in effect the main deck between for'd and aft. The centre part was clear, but all the RAS winches and most of the RAS paraphanalia was sited on this deck. Still plenty of bleaching spray in iffy weather though. 8ft above that deck was the RAS deck. About 15' wide from the ships side (leaving the centre part still open) mainly held the winch control cabs and lots of bits of wire going every which way. This was the lazy mans route to aft as it was on the same level as our bar(for'd) and the dining room (aft). A hazardous trip especially during "darken ship" nights. Quite a few broken limbs over the years. To be continued.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 05, 2009, 07:46:17 pm
"Olmeda"(Cont'd)
The top 2 decks were of necessity of fairly light construction. For a ship, that is. An "Ol" was about 660ft longand so "bent" a bit in bad weather. A short ship would go up one side of an ocean swell and down the other. A long ship cannot do that. So the top 2 "decks" were fitted with "expansion joints". Really just a fancy name given to the idea of 2 unattached plated being allowed to slide over/ under each other. It was quite interesting to look at these non-joints when the ship was bucking around a bit. To a person the feeling of the ship bending was so imperceptible as to be non-existent, but then one would notice the "joints" sliding back and forth over a range of up to about 4". Of course, if these joints had not been incorporated then it wouldn't have taken very long (about an hour) for the whole kit and caboodle to have come crashing down. So ships have to be a bit flexible. Otherwise they snap. Gawd knows how they do it in a modern large cruise liner. But you have all read about ships breaking in half "for no apparent reason"....well, there is a reason. The proper name for a ship bending over its length is called "hogging" and "sagging", but rolling forces cause similar problems called "racking", and then you have the forces imposed by the ship "yawing" (twisting). "Heaving" doesn't matter too much to a passenger unless he / she is having a conversation with the big white telephone. But in the structure this is countered by fitting extra frames (particularly at the front end)..these extra frames also counteract the effects of "panting" which can occur when the hull plates think they are lungs and try to go in and out during rapid changes of water pressure as the end(s) of the ship go up and down perhaps 60ft or more.
Queasy yet?
Confident that a modern ship (or any ship, when it comes to it) can cope with everything the ocean can chuck at it?  If so, you have more confidence than me! Smaller ships going slowly in bad weather are better and safer.
But back to the "Ols"
When these 3 ships were built they had a single length double ended hangar capable of housing (maintenance etc) a single "Wessex" helicopter. These aircraft wer always painted in that very fetching blue and yellow livery, much nicer than the drab grey or olive green of the modern stuff. The "double ended" hangar meant that up to 6 Wessexes (?) could be parked for'd of the hangar. Of course, that meant the "swimming pool" couldn't be used...even during a N.Atlantic winter there would always be at least one idiot that complained.
So there we can have (and did) one aircraft on the flight deck, one in the hangar and 6 arrayed on the "parking deck". Eight offensive / defensive aircraft operational from a "merchant" ship. Fully operational, these "tankers" also had weapons stowage, maintenance and preparation areas. Of course, all this military hardware needs both looking after and flight manning (especially if we had all 8 aircraft "up and hunting" at the same time. So a multitude of specialised workshops were "en-suite" . The good news was that the "Stonnery" never even got a toe-hold in an "Ol". (They could never really understand that ships could run without some sort of civil-service input).
But of course it was "pots and kettles" as some of the flights were more a pain in the butt than the Stonnery!. It may be a little difficult to visualize where and how up to 300 people could be accommodated. The ships were surprisingly spacious really. The RFA "permanent" crew were pretty well taken care of. The RN contingent always "fought" for a posting to an RFA as they only had to share a 4 berth cabin instead of a communal "mess-deck". The large "public rooms" . That is: cavernous cafeterias and bar / lounges for each of the three categories of crew (Ratings, POs and Officers). Also, from the RN point of view, the more relaxed discipline on an RFA made life more a pleasure than a chore. Efficiency was always high, with most of the onus being placed on the individual and his peer group. It worked. There is always the odd spat and so on whatever ship is involved, but in general it usually worked itself out.
To be continued.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 05, 2009, 08:14:35 pm
"Olmeda" cont'd.
Another thing about these ships was that they were incredibly noisy. Steam Turbine driven and fuelled with FFO when designed. (FFO...Furnace Fuel Oil, a sort of diluted crude). Eventually, when the RN stopped using the stuff and everybody swapped over to Diesel (exactly the same gloop you put in your car....unless you have a petrol one of course, but then again..mistakes happen).I think that changeover together with other things spelt the end for the Royal Yacht, Fearles et-al. The scream from the "blowers" on an "Ol" really did inhibit conversation at the back end. We at the front end were OK...the engineers lived midships as well as us "fishheads and the R/Os, pursers and RN flight crew). So "only" the ratings and POs had to put up with it. I still think that the POs used to converse in tongues unknown to man because of the screech. And then some bright spark of an engineer (MoD) had the wizard wheeze of bunging a couple of huge gas-turbines into the space just aft of the funnel for "extra generating power". Bloody hell. We could already power most of Manchester with what we already had! The intakes were so powerful that the flight-deck crew could be almost stuck to the louvres if they got too close. And the noise! Like 3 Sea Kings all running at the same time. Needless to say they were (very) seldom used and so became another waste of tax-payers money. Every port we went into the local authorities had complaints from the local inhabitants. Rightly so. But it also meant that usually we were plugged into shore power (local brownouts) and this gave everybody a bit of relief.
This was just a short one to try and explain what an "O Boat" was like. Next to the voyage. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 06, 2009, 08:02:21 pm
As an adjunct to my treatise on "O" class tankers I thought that pictures may be useful.
07a..."Olna" was new when this was taken. Single hangar. Not much in the way of flight support etc.
Apart from the flight deck all the other decks were painted green, the funnel top was black and the tops of the RAS rigs were white. All very cheerful, but all changed to drab grey after the Falklands episode.
05a.. shows the double hangar and much more "stuff" on the flight deck. These ships were now much more capable than they were when first launched.
06a...This just shows what I meant about the 2 "loose" decks above the main hull deck.
02a...A fully operational flight deck, but also shows the louvres fro the gas-turbine generator intakes..
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 08, 2009, 07:40:10 pm
"Olmeda" was part of an RN "round the world" deployment. The force went westwards from the UK to the USA. After that visit it was split up and some ships (the lucky ones) went off through the Panama Canal into the Pacific. Just the name "Pacific" conjures up thoughts of balmy days, benign seas and beautiful sunsets. Don't be fooled. All the above can happen, but this can also be a most vicious ocean. The N.Atlantic in winter is nasty enough, but a lot of that is due to the cold. The Pacific tends to have "warmer" winds but being a much larger stretch of water can whip up swells you wouldn't believe...and these swells will have breaking seas on top of them. Which Ocean do you want to drown in? Take your choice. Many seafarers have and still do... not that that is "Newsworthy" these days. Anyway, the group that went through the canal would be bucking into basically a head swell. Not too bad. The Southern group, after visiting the Falklands went around the "Horn" and angled NW up towards Hawaii. This puts the prevailing seas on the port bow and so you have that awful combination of pitching and rolling. After a few days of this and a certain amount of sleep deprivation tempers can get a bit short. Heads are aching. Backs are aching. Nothing stays where you put it. So I guess that 12 days of this are pushing the limits of civilised living. It is not nice.
After the group joined up again the whole shebang went on to Japan and then to Hong Kong. But as I have said before, the RN thinks a day without strenuous activity is a day wasted. So all sorts of "exercises" were carried out with elements of the USN, USAF and the Japanese. Glad I missed it. The only thing I missed is going around "The Horn". Never did that. But you can't do everything.As is usual with these lengthy deployments (11 months), there is a huge crew change about half way through. This was to be in Hong Kong.
I suppose I really "joined" the ship at Gatwick Airport. So many familiar faces going to different RFAs. Funny that I cannot recall seeing any "Rodneys" there...perhaps they were all going via "Crab-Air" (with their bag-rats). But us-all had a DC10 to ourselves, and what a nice flight it was. Proper service for one thing! Again I had a prime window seat and although we took off in the late afternoon it was a perfect time to see the night coming towards us and then the multitude of flares from the oil rigs over the Middle East. Then a never to be forgotten overflight down the Yellow River to Hong Kong. I was looking forward to landing at Kai Tak from the west but we landed the boring way..from the East, over the water. I had been looking forward to slicing through the washing lines strung up between the blocks of flats lining the the western approach. Pity. But I did wonder why the aircraft had to brake so violently after touch-down. Only when we disembarked (old fashioned stairs) did I see that the airport terminal sat astride the runway as a giant and terminal barrier. Ooops. Room for improvement here!. Perhaps, hence the new airport on "re-configured" Stonecutters Island. All of us lot were booked into a couple of hotels somewhere in Kowloon. So now it was Party Time. I still, after all these years, wish I hadn't. The worst hangover of my life. I vaguely remember telling the topless waitresses to put their top back on as they looked better that way.Then oblivion.
The guy I was relieving had evidently had a similar evening ashore as I never saw him again. Just as well that I knew the routine etc. of an "O" boat. But although the ship stayed there fo another 3 days I just did what I had to do and let the hangover subside.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on May 26, 2009, 07:40:19 pm
Hong Kong on this occasion held no delights for me. Apart from the brutal 3 day hangover. Hong Kong isn't the wonderful place of my youth. In place of the traditional trade shops such as cabinet makers, oriental "emporiums", food shops and street stalls with visually quite disgusting (but nice smelling and tasting) things that were "things" that could only be classified notioally as "food". People of all 3 sexes (perhaps more, but I was young and yet to fathom out the ways of the world) selling themselves or the "closest relatives". But above all it was safe. At the least sign of any sort of trouble some kindly person would usher us cadets out of harms way. Although I was only "earning" £13 a month (and the $HK was at 1shilling and sixpence) life ashore was "affordable". There were the "seamens" bars along the waterfront at Whampoa, a wonderful Seamans Mission that was a haven for us kids. The English "padre" (they were all called "padre" no matter what demonation they followed) and his Eskimo wife laid on all sorts of treats for the cadets and apprentices from all the different Companies (not forgetting the "Midshipmen" as cadets etc. were called in Blue Flue and so on). We were taken on swimming and barbecque trips to outlying islands that are now either owned (and private) by "moguls" or have been flattened for an airport or pricey housing.  The harbour would be full of ships of all nationalities. Most of them, no matter what country they came from, were instantly recognizable by their design and/or funnel colours. Not any more. All the ships look lke clones of each other with flags and funnels that are quite meaningless. Oh,dear. I guess the world has to move on, but it's not always done nicely.
Now the whole place is just a maze of concrete and glass canyons with all the "shops" selling exactly the same as the one next door. Nothing really to let you know you are in the "Far East"  (Although I would venture that Sydney should have that honour due to its geographical longitude and its booming "ethnic" population!).
Even the local population has physically changed. OK...I know the reasons why, and in no way would I wish their past hardships to re-visit.
"Olmeda" together with "Fort Grange" were anchored closer to Aberdeen (the HK variety) than say the Star Ferry terminal. We also had an RN nuke sub nearby (but she would obviously not be welcome in the middle of HK!). But our anchorage was rather typical of RN thinking...."out of sight, out of mind". To enable the crews of these 3 vessels to get ashore a "liberty boat" had been arranged (not by the RN). This proved to be a 200 seat "double-decker" with a bar (she was usually employed chugging tourists around the harbour, or having corporate "happy hours"). The trip ashore took well over an hour to get to the city centre. Some just stayed on board and staggered back aboard without getting ashore. But with one thing and another the "run ashore" would last about 3 hours longer than expected. For the next few days it was my turn to laugh at the hangovers.
The guy I'd relieved (never met him, didn't know him) had left a bit of a nasty "parting gift" for the ship. He'd arranged (by himself) to allow all the HK services that operated helicopters to come out and practise "deck landings" as we steamed out of the Western Passage. I logged 184 landings that morning.  "Scouts", "Whirlwinds", "Wessex" (all marques), "Sea Kings"....you name it, we had it. Given the temp and humidity in HK this was totally knackering.
Our next real stop was to be Singapore....but first we all stopped to pay homage and lay wreaths to the 2 WW2 Battlecruisers that were sunk not far off our passage plan. In really clear conditions and with the ship stopped in the right place the vague outlines of these ships can be seen. We were lucky. A touching moment.
Singapore and onwards next. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 10, 2009, 08:43:20 pm
These little ditties have become harder to write recently. Not for any particular reason or lack of interest, more to do with the lack of humour within "the job". Light relief was becoming a commodity only recalled in memory. But there were still moments.
During my "formative days" as a Ben Line cadet I preferred HK to Singapore. Mainly because it was more "Chinese" than the multi-layered population of Singapore...plus the fact that "they" were busy tearing down every smelly little hovel and Kampong that gave Singapore that distictive "aroma". (The "Sweet River" was very aptly named). That's not to say that Anson Road, Connell House and "other" places that a cadet should not be found in weren't worth a visit. But by the early 60s Singapore had overtaken HK as the place to be docked in...unless you are bunged out in one of the outer anchorages.
Approaching Singapore at night is a nightmare. Especially if you are passing the port area to go to the Naval Base at Sembawang which is on the Eastern side of the island and well up the Johore strait. Coming down the Malacca Strait is bad enough (especially in the shallow bit) what with the lightning storms , ships without lights, pirates and other sundrie distractions. But at the bottom end when you sort of turn left the poor guy on the bridge is confronted with a blaze of lights. The glare from the city is only a rotten backdrop to the hundreds of vessels whose lights merge into the background. Palpitation time. As the "Nav", I was always trusted to do this bit of the passage on my own. Thanks a bunch! If some bright spark could come up with a way of painting white lines on the water it could solve a lot of problems. It's no good you all saying "but you have radar". Mark One eyeball is what is needed here. It has been said (notably on the BBC News) that the Straits of Dover is the most congested shipping area in the world. Balderdash. The Dover Straits is well regulated and pretty well defined by natural hazards (the Varne Bank) and buoyage. OK now and again their is a "rogue" (generally a fishing boat that thinks the "rules" don't apply to him), but in general, although busy and needing a sharp eye, it isn't all that difficult until you come to the "roundabout" at Sandettie. A mythical thing,true, but it exists. As a Bridge Officer you have to believe that what you can only see on paper (the chart) exists in "real life"...if you don't then you're toast. So Dover is regulated. Singapore isn't (or wasn't in the period I'm talking about). But then, I'm approaching JSB (Jahore Shoal Buoy) from the West. Nautical "driving rules" state that you drive on the right. As many ships passing Singapore from the west also come from the east. And now I have to turn left in front of them. Some are ULVCs and some are Sampans that only shine a torch on the sail when within 100yards or so. My ship is 30,000 tons. Not huge, but big enough. I can't stop without some sort of not yet invented braking system. Slow down, and then scoot under the stern of a VlCC that probably has a trained dog on the bridge. Now time to get Mr.Captain out of his scratcher. And my day has just started. A couple of hours (under a pilot) to Sembawang, tie the bloody thing up and get going with all the paper-work that seems an inevitable and never ending torture. And of course the "authorities" want the cargo discharged. By this time, no wonder I'm a bit on the grumpy side. But as always the Singapore weather gives me a break. Knackered as I am, I'm not going to bed just to be woken up 10 minutes later by some wally who wants to know when we will be leaving again as he wants a "weekend" ashore.
So me and a couple of equally knackered Engineers toddle off up the road to the Sebawang Hilton.
I've got a pic of the Naval Base somewhere...I've posted it before, but it could be worth repeating. But this will all continue.
Please stop groaning "Bluebird", the "Onedin Line" will not again appear with these modern ships. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on June 11, 2009, 08:33:07 am
As ever, very interesting Bryan, I share many memories with you of the hard up apprentice ashore with pockets full of fresh air let loose on the bars of Wanchai. Did you perchance mean Wanchai in your post and not Whampoa as I seem to remember that Whampoa was the port for Canton upriver ? Or maybe you are right and my grey cells are just that little more befuddled than they were yesterday !  O0 %%

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 11, 2009, 06:51:07 pm
Mike, I think we may both be correct. My recollection is that the tugs all belonged to Wampoa shipyard and, as with Wanchai, the area was surrounded with places of ill-repute. A natural gravitational point....at least, one could "window shop" and hope some pretty little thing liked cherries. Gosh! The agonies of those days! But most of us grow up (a little) and eventually gravitate to the "Peninsular" (HK) or Raffles (SP)(after the Bougis St. "starter"). Glad you enjoyed the ditty!. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on June 11, 2009, 07:03:37 pm
Bryan,

At the present-day cost of about S$20 (£8) for a Singapore Sling at Raffles, I reckon you would be better off with a cold Tiger in Bugis Street.

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: swordfish fairey on June 11, 2009, 07:24:06 pm
Hello Bryan, enjoying your ditties too. With regards to the Seaking pictures it looks like a MkII with the Flot bags in the sponsons and it seems that only the port has deployed as you can clearly see it in the picture of it inverted ( it is the lighter coloured bag inside the triangle of other floats) It looks like the stbd is still safely tucked away in its sponson container. When I was on 814 Sqdn on the Hermes, we had a MkII Seaking ditch due to lack of oil in the main gearbox and that made a lovely landing on the ogin. All was well untill the A.E.O asked for the divers to open the electrical compartment door in the nose to check for water. As this door was below the water line there sure was after they had opened it, even if not before.I can relate to a lot of your stories having spent some time on RFAs with Wessex or Seaking flights....Keep up the dit telling.......Smudge
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 11, 2009, 08:04:48 pm
Hello Bryan, enjoying your ditties too. With regards to the Seaking pictures it looks like a MkII with the Flot bags in the sponsons and it seems that only the port has deployed as you can clearly see it in the picture of it inverted ( it is the lighter coloured bag inside the triangle of other floats) It looks like the stbd is still safely tucked away in its sponson container. When I was on 814 Sqdn on the Hermes, we had a MkII Seaking ditch due to lack of oil in the main gearbox and that made a lovely landing on the ogin. All was well untill the A.E.O asked for the divers to open the electrical compartment door in the nose to check for water. As this door was below the water line there sure was after they had opened it, even if not before.I can relate to a lot of your stories having spent some time on RFAs with Wessex or Seaking flights....Keep up the dit telling.......Smudge
Thanks Smudge. I spent so much time with different Air Groups and squadrons that they all now morph into one big lump...I only recall the "nasty" ones....849 comes to mind. Glad to see the back of that lot......but you'll have to wait until I get to 1991 to hear that tale!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 11, 2009, 09:13:20 pm
But back to the original narrative.
We are back in 1986 on "Olmeda" and I have only recently joined her as part of the "half-way" roulement.
The ostensible reason for this "round-the-world" cruise was to help the Aussies celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Aussie Navy. Or maybe it was to celebrate the throwing off of some historical shackles. Whatever. Naval ships from all over the world were to join up and enter Sydney Harbour on an appointed date, at an appointed time and at a pre-determined speed. I think the order of arrival (i.e. the "Convoy") had been decided in a very Aussie democratic way. That is, by chucking up all the names of the ships in the air and picking them up at random. This was great news for us "Auxiliaries" as the RN (if they were in charge) would have made us enter at least a day after the "proper" war-canoes. I think we were about number 7 in the "parade". I posted some pics of this lot ages ago. But although it goes against the grain a little, the RN attitude towards us may have been correct this (one) time.
As the fleet were all nicely lined up to enter the "Heads" and we were all just enjoying a last beer before going on "Stand-By" poor "Olmeda" had a bit of a brainstorm and died. No finishing of beers. Even before "pipes" were made calling us all "to stations" we were (all of us) ahead of the game. Me up to the pointy end and the clankies miles away to the blunt end. The chaos behind us was both embarrassing and hilarious.
The "Heads" going into Port Jackson...sorry, Sydney...are not all that wide, but having a 660 ft long ship trying to go in sideways leaves very little room for others to get past. Whoever was in charge of the "fleet" that day did a remarkable job. The whole lot of them executed a wonderful turn. Even numbers turned to port and odd numbers turned to stbd in a big circle and re-alighned themselves. By the time that little oopsy had resolved itself we were on our way again. Solitary splendour. A clear track for about a mile in front of us and about the same behind. Not a bad entrance strategy. Lots of attention and lots of little boats crewed by people of the female persuasion who really, really wanted to show us Brits what an Aussie shiela could offer.
Most of the "major" ships went and berthed at Woolomolongthingummyjig (can't be bothered checking the spelling), but the harbour was also full. "Olmeda"? Well, we went under the big bridge and tied up at an abandoned commercial wharf somewhere between Darling Harbour and the Fish Market. No bad thing. At least we could walk ashore. Sort of. When we arrived there was a guy standing on the quay with a bit of wire in his hand. I thought he was going to connect the shore telephones. Nope. He was sent from the Power Supply Company to provide us with "shore power". Considering that we could on our own supply most of Sydney with electrical power something a bit more substantial was needed. Man with wire leaves. We do eventually get connected to the East Asiatic power grid, and our Engineeers can break watches and do a bit of maintenance.
Dunno why it was, perhaps it was we were "accessible" but although we were hidden away we had loads of visitors. Followed by loads of "invites".
Continue later. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on June 12, 2009, 08:35:42 am
Mike, I think we may both be correct. My recollection is that the tugs all belonged to Wampoa shipyard and, as with Wanchai, the area was surrounded with places of ill-repute. A natural gravitational point....at least, one could "window shop" and hope some pretty little thing liked cherries. Gosh! The agonies of those days! But most of us grow up (a little) and eventually gravitate to the "Peninsular" (HK) or Raffles (SP)(after the Bougis St. "starter"). Glad you enjoyed the ditty!. Bryan.

Bryan, we live and learn ! I thought the drydock was the 'Hong Kong & Whampoa Drydock Co.' with presumably a branch in Canton/Whampoa, but if the tugs had it on the back...........
As for cherries ! My heartbreak was somewhere in Wanchai, small, slim, beautiful with a tight cheong sam split up to the thigh and madly in lust with me - until my coppers ran out, then it was me back to the ship and her off to a hotel with the third engineer !! All part of learning lifes lessons eh  %)
Enjoyed the latest addition, we used to tie up every trip at Wooloomooloo or whatever and one engineer was afflicted with Jonathan Ross's lisp, so we always got him to tell the cab where to go after a run ashore, he never twigged at our muffled (inebriated) giggles !

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: derekwarner on June 12, 2009, 09:41:46 am
Hi all...and as BY says..... to help the Aussies celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Aussie Navy

Yes BY.......you may remember the day during the celebrations that BB63 berthed at GID just under the 250 ton crane......and those anti Nuke protesters attempted to get in her bow wave....the brillant D of D response was for two chopper sky pilots  :-)) from HMS ? aircraft carrier berthed just up the wharf flew 250 meters & hovered over the protesters rubber duckies & blasted them away  O0  {-) up toward the harbour bridge  ;)

Poor old BB63  as if she had any NUKE things on board.........but what the protesters did not realise was just down the wharf was 4600 tonne of HMS ? frigate with 3" NUKE tipped projectiles for her pop gun  ;D...but we not allowed to talk about that  %)...thanks for your help......Derek
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 12, 2009, 07:56:43 pm
Hi all...and as BY says..... to help the Aussies celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Aussie Navy

Yes BY.......you may remember the day during the celebrations that BB63 berthed at GID just under the 250 ton crane......and those anti Nuke protesters attempted to get in her bow wave....the brillant D of D response was for two chopper sky pilots  :-)) from HMS ? aircraft carrier berthed just up the wharf flew 250 meters & hovered over the protesters rubber duckies & blasted them away  O0  {-) up toward the harbour bridge  ;)

Poor old BB63  as if she had any NUKE things on board.........but what the protesters did not realise was just down the wharf was 4600 tonne of HMS ? frigate with 3" NUKE tipped projectiles for her pop gun  ;D...but we not allowed to talk about that  %)...thanks for your help......Derek
Wasn't just you! We on a "tanker" (sort of) were targetted just the same. Anything painted grey was fair game to them. Funnily enough, they left "Fort Grange" alone as I think the idiots assumed she was a sort of passenger/cargo ship and nt the ship carrying stuff that could obliterate Australia!
I still think we had the best berth. Hidden away. No hassling about "dressing ship" and all that. No "lining the side" when the long forgotten VIPs took a "salute". We just walked or drove ashore and enjoyed ourselves...and no "last boat" to catch at some ungodly early hour. Still surprising how many waifs and strays finished up on "Olmeda" for the night! We had the best of it....including the "Dial A Sailor" organisation. Personally, I don't want to delve too far into that as I ran "our end"...but perhaps you could describe the system and include me out!. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 13, 2009, 06:19:48 pm
Oops!!! Made a huge boo-boo here. I got so sidetracked that I forgot to do the bit between Singapore and Sydney.
Is it possible that all those of you who have read the last offering can just forget what they've read? Thought not.  So forgive me if I backtrack a bit ( a couple of thousand miles or so) and return to Singapore.
Not now.
Next time. Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 13, 2009, 08:14:07 pm
I've got to go back to Singapore now. (Still "Olmeda" 1986).
The actual visit to Singapore was'nt all that memorable. Apart from having a quiet chuckle when our accompanying aircraft-carrier had to change an engine again. Big crate on the quay. Not much shore leave for some of those guys!
One of the things about modern Singapore was the prolification of Garden Centres. Anyone who has ever been there would think that the natural greenery and abundance of quite pretty wild plants would suffice. Not a bit of it! People are actually building "conservetories" to grow plants in! Whoever did that must be a marketing genius. I mean, if you put your leg into a hole in Singapore and leave it there for an hour, you can grow another leg.
But poor old Sembawang village was no more. Well, bits of it were. A new road was being driven through the "old town" and so the beautiful wooden shops were being erased. The local population existed on the back of the Dockyard. Much the same as Plymouth, Portsmouth and Rosyth used to do. Not to mention Gibraltar, Simonstown,Malta,Bermuda,Mombassa and Columbo. All gone.
Sembawang was a village that had its own identity. But as always, "Government" knows best. So tear down the village and build new housing blocks. When I was last there the women were still not using their new kitchens, preferring to sit outside and chat whilst cooking.
Anson Road is no more. Well, it is, but now it's a 4 lane highway serving the container terminal that has replaced the old wharfs. Sad.
One of the fixtures in old Sembawang was the legendary figure of "Toothy Wong". A tailor whose name was known around the world. I got to know him pretty well in the late 1960s, but other events arose and it wasn't until 1979 that I made his aquaintance again. But not long before I returned in "Olmeda" his renowned tailoring emporium had been burned down. With him inside it. His son took over the remnants and has made a success of it. Before any of the readers of this ditty come to the wrong conclusion..."young" Toothy tried to rescue his dad and suffered horrific burns. He wears these scars with pride.
While we were there the Government, recently being exercised with traffic congestion, had decreed that vehicles with an "even" number at the end of the reg.plate would only be allowed on the roads on dates that were "even". Conversely for the "odd" ones. This certainly reduced the traffic! Imagine the outcry if that was tried here. But in a state that can bang you up in jail and give you fifty lashes for dropping a fag-end on the street, and execute drug dealers this was all minor stuff.
Dinner time. Write later. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 13, 2009, 08:16:14 pm
Mike, I think we may both be correct. My recollection is that the tugs all belonged to Wampoa shipyard and, as with Wanchai, the area was surrounded with places of ill-repute. A natural gravitational point....at least, one could "window shop" and hope some pretty little thing liked cherries. Gosh! The agonies of those days! But most of us grow up (a little) and eventually gravitate to the "Peninsular" (HK) or Raffles (SP)(after the Bougis St. "starter"). Glad you enjoyed the ditty!. Bryan.

Bryan, we live and learn ! I thought the drydock was the 'Hong Kong & Whampoa Drydock Co.' with presumably a branch in Canton/Whampoa, but if the tugs had it on the back...........
As for cherries ! My heartbreak was somewhere in Wanchai, small, slim, beautiful with a tight cheong sam split up to the thigh and madly in lust with me - until my coppers ran out, then it was me back to the ship and her off to a hotel with the third engineer !! All part of learning lifes lessons eh  %)
Enjoyed the latest addition, we used to tie up every trip at Wooloomooloo or whatever and one engineer was afflicted with Jonathan Ross's lisp, so we always got him to tell the cab where to go after a run ashore, he never twigged at our muffled (inebriated) giggles !

Mike
Surprising that no-one has questioned cherries!.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on June 13, 2009, 09:00:57 pm



[/quote]
Surprising that no-one has questioned cherries!.
[/quote]

I just naturally thought everybody knew what you meant  :D I traded on that title for ages until it was painfully obvious that it couldn't be true !!  :((

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 13, 2009, 10:29:38 pm



Surprising that no-one has questioned cherries!.
[/quote]

I just naturally thought everybody knew what you meant  :D I traded on that title for ages until it was painfully obvious that it couldn't be true !!  :((

Mike
[/quote]
Perhaps we are both just out of time and this little world has just passed us by without us even noticing. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 14, 2009, 04:22:25 pm



Surprising that no-one has questioned cherries!.
[/quote]

I just naturally thought everybody knew what you meant  :D I traded on that title for ages until it was painfully obvious that it couldn't be true !!  :((

Mike
[/quote]
Painfully?
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on June 14, 2009, 04:57:35 pm



Surprising that no-one has questioned cherries!.

I just naturally thought everybody knew what you meant  :D I traded on that title for ages until it was painfully obvious that it couldn't be true !!  :((

Mike
[/quote]
Painfully?
[/quote]

Let's just say battle scars and leave it at that hmm....?  :o

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 14, 2009, 05:18:44 pm



Surprising that no-one has questioned cherries!.

I just naturally thought everybody knew what you meant  :D I traded on that title for ages until it was painfully obvious that it couldn't be true !!  :((

Mike
Painfully?
[/quote]

Let's just say battle scars and leave it at that hmm....?  :o

Mike
[/quote]
Most of us have been there and now better locked away and forgotten until, in the depths of the night, one awakes and for some odd reason, some mind squirmingly bit of the past pops up and then the nights sleep is ruined. Sorry to drag you into my nest of worms! Cheers. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 16, 2009, 08:16:45 pm
To avoid antagonizing our Antipodean pals, and to go back to the 1986 "Revue" at Sydney....
Also because I haven't written up the "in-between" bits, a few more pics of the voyage.
004 shows just how big the locks are in the Panama Canal. And it only takes minutes to drop or rise 20' or more in each one.
003...This will stir some memories! A lovely aircraft at the end of its days. But it does show how "Vertreps" are done.
002...More memories of perhaps the prettiest warships ever designed.
005...A nice pic of RFA "Fort Grange".
001...Ships tied up at Garden Island. Woolomoloothingummyjig jetty (the old wool berth) is towards the back).
006...Beat that one then! That tiny little bridge is actually the huge thing that is Sydney Harbour Bridge, A massive thing. The "Rain of Fire" was impressive enough, but that "biggy" I swear lifted our stern by a couple of inches. Memorable. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on June 16, 2009, 08:53:57 pm
That Panama canal aerial image is interesting, I've not seen it before. Presumably the idea was to have several ships in the lock at one time judging by the length/width ratio.

Colin
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 17, 2009, 05:28:30 pm
I don't think they can put more than one ship at a time in a lock. This would be a problem for the "mules" that attach themselves to all 4 "corners" of a ship and control its entry speed and alighnment. I can't be bothered to go into the history of the canal as it is well documented elsewhere, but I think the locks were built big enough to handle the largest USN ships (plus a bit) around at that time. Now, of course, some ships are just too big. Aircraft carriers are a prime example. But so are some commercial ships, hence the term "PanaMax". Too much history here for this forum.....not that I'm insulting your intelligence, more that better minds than mine have chronicled it all!. Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 17, 2009, 07:45:30 pm
Now let's see if I can get back to the "trip"! The recent diversions (postings) have sort of concentrated my feeble brain a bit. Keep them coming!
Before we left Singapore we embarked 2 rather special "extras". A couple of nephews of the Sultan of Brunei. Both junior officers in the Sultanate Navy. Nice guys, but then they could afford to be! It was very often noted during my time in the RFA that the Junior Officers were sometimes just ignorant but arrogant with it, Lt.Cdrs. were in a bit of a no-mans-land and tended to be OK as they had lost the ignorant bit. Commanders were the real "nasty bloggers" as they were both (fairly) knowledgeable and bucking for promotion. Lords of all they couldn't see. Sidetracked again! Anyway, these 2 kids were put under my wing so to speak, for the shortish hop to Brunei. Neither of them had ever been on a "full-size" ship, their experience being limited to coastal patrol craft. I guess I should ammend that by saying "apart from their uncles private yacht", which probably wasn't much smaller than us.But no weel uniformed flunkeys here. Being educated at places like Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth their experience of "life at sea" was limited to say the least. So I had them issued with a (new) white boilersuit and a pair of DMS boots. They would wear this rig at all times when "working". As much for identification as anything, as I didn't want them to get sort of "lost" (knowing what our deck crew could get up to). For meal times and other "social activities" (i.e. when the bar was open) they could wear their beautifully tailored whites. From my previous experience with the Iranian officers from the "Kharg" I knew that many Muslims enjoy a beer or 3 when away from "home". Point proven.
One of the purposes of their secondment was to be taught the rudiments of deep-sea navigation. "Shooting" stars and all that. (remember that this was 1986, and GPS was not an option...still isn't in my opinion, but there we go). A bit of a nonsense really when most of the passage was done within radar distance of the coast. But what coasts! How far out to sea does a mangrove swamp extend? Why are there no visual landmarks? But when I pointed out to them that each and every volcano....and there are many...was geographically fixed and so could be used as datum points. Not the easy way by just taking bearings. As I was supposed to also teach them a bit more about the sextant I decided to do the "Horizontal Angles" thing. Thus killing 2 birds with one stone. Apart from teaching accuracy with a sextant (makes no difference whatsoever if the instrument is used either vertically or horizontally), it also taught them the use of the long forgotten and hidden away "Station Pointer". This also bemused our regular Bridge staff who thought it quite wonderful and a great toy that they'd only ever seen in its box...and been too shy to ask about. Another benefit arising from my C&W days! (you can plot a track almost minute by minute with one of these things). I can explain its use if requested and my palm is slightly greased.
I also had to aquaint these 2 lads with Flight Deck operations. As we were not carrying an embarked flight we had to prevail on our "buddy" HMS "Beaver" with whom we did not have the best relationship. But a "day" "Flyex" and a night one were scheduled. It was a bit unfortunate that no Sea King equipped ship was close enough so we had to make do with a Lynx. A very capable aircraft, but not one that stirs the blood very much. So the day-time thing was easy enough. So for the "night" exercise I had to make things a bit more exciting. With connivance and a bit of hassle I arranged for a "Darken Ship" period. The aircrew were more than happy with this as they are all mad sods anyway. My 2 chickadees duly came with me to the fully illuminated flight deck and sort of assumed they were going to have a different version of the earlier thing. Wrong. Off went the flight deck lights. Off went the aircraft lights (he was visible earlier for safety reasons). Black dark. Aircraft now being controlled by the ships radar controller and the aircrafts own capability. I led the two lads a bit closer to the "bum-line" markings and just waited and listened to the radio. The horror on the 2 young faces when an aircraft suddenly appeared over their heads was magic. I just wish it had been a Sea king! But that's what the flight deck crew is trained for (all civilian RFA Ratings)...and was well put to use that will be described in the "drug-interdiction"trip I did later.
It must have been their influence that gave us an anchorage much closer to the city than that given to "Beaver". In my dreams I can still hear the howls of anguish, gnashing of teeth and general expressions of anger. Tough. But it did little to improve relations between the 2 ships. We were still 6 miles away from the harbour (the water is very shallow here), but "Beaver" was 10 miles out. Lovely.
Two of us were invited to "lunch" by our guests. Nothing remarkable about that, but their tales about their uncle were fascinating. Forget the Rolls-Royces and all that. My favourite was the answer I got when I queried the 2 seemingly identical Palaces.  It seemed that as neither of the 2 wives liked each other at all the Sultan had to provide exactly the same for each. Poor guy must have been worn out! Even to the extent that a holiday for one had to be duplicated for the other. Much easier to only have one ear-bender in the family!
But we sailed on. Next time. BY.
 
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on June 19, 2009, 08:10:55 pm
After a nice and peaceful few days in Brunei we set off Djakarta...and another series of "arguments" with the crew of "Beaver". But even during such a short passage we were once again subjected to a lot of the "odd-ball" things that the RN dream up "to maintain sharpness". Sod the maintenance of our ship. This sort of stuff may be all very well on a heavily manned war-canoe, but it becomes wearing for a ship that has less than 100 on board.
I quite like Djakarta. A real mix of the old and the new. Modern vehicles, thousands of buses weaving their way between old ox-carts and the Indonesian version of the rickshaw. And all small people! Made me feel at the grand height of 5'7" quite tall. I took our Senior Purser ashore with me, past all the pleasant bungalows with nice gardens. The centre reservation in the dual carriageway crammed with topiary of all sorts ...an unexpected vision. But Senior P wanted to see the local market. We both loved the Veggie part, but only I enjoyed the Meat bit. Cows heads, sheep, goat and unrecognizable heads were strewn all over the place. Entrails had to be gently sidefooted away. How the "other half" lives! The stink was appalling, and poor Senior P was feeling quite sick. But I was fascinated by all this lot. Wouldn't say I loved it...but it was a bit of an education. But right next door to all this carnage is a 5 star "International" hotel, so we went from 3rd world yeucch to 20th century luxury within 100 yards.
Indonesia also shares (in my opinion) with the Fillipinoes, the presence of some of the most beautiful women on the planet....until they start talking. You may think that Geordies, Brummies or Glaswegians are hard on the ear, wait till you hear this lot. These gorgeous girls that a man would die for all seem to speak (at the same time) in such piercing voices that it actually hurts the ear. Silence is not a word that is used in these parts of the world.
Anyway, glossing over a disastrous Embassy reception (young idiots getting out of their skulls), we were eventually on our way to the land of the XXXX (as Terry Pratchett would have it).
But we struck lucky. Before the Fleets of the World arrived in "the vicinity" (Australia is so big that the term "vicinity" was very loosely interpreted), our lot was all shunted off to various places on the East coast. As I said, we were lucky. We got to go to Darwin. By ourselves. It was probably dreamed up by some Staff officer to keep us out of the way. but it proved to be a smashing little town. Not so little in actual size, but its isolation makes it feel small and tight knit. It was odd to walk down a randomly chosen street and find that when the tarmac stopped at the last house there was nothing ahead of you. Nothing. Miles and miles of absolutely nothing. Agoraphobics do not live in Darwin.  In "normal" towns the inhabitants do not tie their roofs to the ground with 6' long tent-pegs. Of course that was the outcome of a devastating typhoon that caused massive damage, but the end result to a visitor was to make the place look like a permanent Boy Scouts camp.
Darwinians (the inhabitants, not the scientific adherents) do share a lot in common with all the other human inhabitants of this continent. They all have to co-exist with some beautiful and friendly co-occupants. Everything that walks, swims,crawls, slithers, flies or drives a road-train will kill you. Very human-friendly. Spiders that live in the "dunny" and can leap high enough to cause problems, snakes that can just about fly if they like the look of your throat, fish that can kill you even after they are dead. And the flies. Before the Australians invented wine, where did they get the corks for their hats from? One of lifes imponderables. But after a few tinnies the whole world wobbles a bit so the corks just look like they belong in front of the eyes.
But what greeted us on our arrival was not the welcoming flotilla of small boats, but a fleet of small boats hunting a crocodile that had "taken" a fisherman the previous day. Apparently a couple of guys had gone out fishing, and after a couple of "tinnies" or so, had dozed off....as one does. Mr.Croc then gets over the stern of the boat and makes off with a 6' bit of dozing lunch. Naughty. Don't these beggers know that they are a "protected" species? A bit like our Sea-Gull problem, but with an Aussie twist. The croc hunters got their target....and half of the "snoozer".
Darwin is full of contradictions. The Main Street has some loveley and modern shops, but also some very old Australian style Victorian buildings complete with verandas and corrugated iron roofs. Most of these are "pubs". Right slap bang in the middle of the street was an ancient pub that had perhaps a dozen 30" loudspeakers facing outwards into the street. Incredible noise. But inside it was relatively peaceful. 
I got chatting to a "Highway" policeman ....or perhaps he was talking to me...(he had to shout a bit)...but the gist of theconversation was that when the first set of traffic lights appeared in Darwin he'd be off again to pastures new.
Very odd people are the true Aussies. Perhaps that's why I love them.
Down to Newcastle (NSW) next en-route to Sydney. Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 13, 2009, 09:55:28 pm
When we left Darwin we still had loads of time to get to Sydney. As we were trusted (!) to navigate on our own without some Rodney pillock trying to prove a point we had an absolutely beautiful passage south, inside the Barrier Reef. "National Geographic" magazine couldn't have made it look better. It was time for a bit of rest for everyone....apart from the day to day routine and on-going general maintenance. But no major Fire Drills or Damage Control stuff....and no flying. Lovely. We had known for ages that the grey jobbies with guns and aeroplanes and lots of young idiots would be going to Brisbane, Cairns or Townsville. And they probably thought we would "lower the tone" anyway. Fine by us. As "Olmeda" was registered in Newcastle (Geordieland) we had opted for an RFA "weekend" (5 days) in Newcastle NSW. As always, Aussie towns are a bit of a surprise to a first-time visitor. Our first thoughts when steaming down between the extra long breakwaters enclosing the port was that we had made a dreadful mistake. All we could see were the signs of heavy industry. Coal staithes, steel works and all the rest of the urban blight that afflicts so many places. Not a good start. But our berth was closer to the town. Easy walking distance in fact. The fact that the berth hadn't been used for years and was falling apart was roughly par for the course as far as we were concerned. We were next to a sort of nice grassy area between us and the town itself. At least it would have been nice if the area hadn't been colonised (the wrong word to use in this context) by a lot of the (for want of a better word) "indigenious" populace. But they were harmless and gave us a lot of rather guilty fun.
A busload of our guys went off on a tour of the Hunter Valley vineyards and wineries. I think it must have been 2 days later when they began to remember how much they'd enjoyed themselves. I contented myself by just wandering around a nice old-fashioned smallish town. A recent posting posting on this forum showed the town as it is now,but even in 1986 the place had a sort of "frontier" feel to it.
My Geordie dialect intrigued a few peopleand when I said I was from the "other" Newcastle the term "Whinging Pom" was only used as a term of endearment...or so I'd like to think. Little did I think that I would return 2 years later to be greeted with the ussie version of "hello". "Not you again, mate. Have a beer". Lovely, but Sydney beckoned. And with it was our dramatic entrance into the harbour (see earlier post).
Continue soon.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 14, 2009, 06:02:27 pm
To me, one of the major delights of Sydney is the wonderful variety of sea-food. Our berth this time was somewhere beyond the bridge in a disused area of the docks. I guess no-one wanted a large tanker upstaging the little frigates! But again this was good news. We could actually walk ashore instead of having to wait for a boat. A local "Veterans Club" took a lot of the lads under their collective wing and really put themselves out to make the visit a great one. The idea of a "Veterans Club" is probably an American idea....and is certainly one of the better US imports into Aussie. It would be interesting to read of any experiences "foriegn" sailors may (or not) have when visiting the UK. I imagine our closest is the "British Legion". I'm always intrigued by a pretty large "clubhouse" on a main road into North Shields that has a big sign stating that they are " The British Limbless Ex-Servicemans Club". Perhaps it goes back to WW1, but from my observations of the place the word "Limbless" should be replaced with "Legless" (in a different connotation). But again, I digress.
Sydney. I like the "Rocks" and Manly is a town I could happily live in. But I shall plead the 5th Ammendment about what else went on in Sydney. Suffice to say a "good time" was had by all.
But we had to go on. Again we were lucky. The Rodneys had opted to go to Melbourne, but ages earlier I had stuck a spoke in the works and said we should go to Adelaide. On the (not unreasonable) grounds that The Aussie GP was on during that time period (a trick the Rodneys missed) and I'd like to see Mansell get his World Championship. I'd no idea that Adelaide and the surrounding area is so flat. It all looks a bit boring on the approach....line upon line of little bungalows hugging the beach (which, I'm sorry to say, isn't up to much)
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 14, 2009, 06:05:41 pm
I'm sorry I had to stop there. Since I downloaded IE8 the bloody system won't let me write beyond the limits of "the box". So I'm going to do a System Restore and see what happens.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on July 14, 2009, 07:22:01 pm
Bryan,

Yes, the problem is with IE8.  See: http://www.modelboatmayhem.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=18607.0;topicseen

The alternative would be to type it in your word processor in rich text format and then just paste it into the Mayhem box.

Colin
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 14, 2009, 08:01:12 pm
Bryan,

Yes, the problem is with IE8.  See: http://www.modelboatmayhem.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=18607.0;topicseen

The alternative would be to type it in your word processor in rich text format and then just paste it into the Mayhem box.

Colin
Hmmm....Tried that bit about pasting awhile ago and all I got was a message saying I was forbidden access to the secret files of MB Mayhem. Remember that?
Thanks for taking the time to try and help though.BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 15, 2009, 08:11:57 pm
Right. Lets try again.
The Aussie Navy arranged for 4 of us GP fans to have pretty good seats, and so armed with 4 bottles of good local "red" and an RFA ensign off we went. The seats were right on the corner where the Shoemaker shunted off Damon Hill a few years later. But we all know what happened and poor Mansell had to wait a bit longer to get his Championship.
These were the days when a certain amount of socialising actually took place between the drivers after the race. Adelaide had laid on a really stunning street party for all. A good night. But my abiding memory is standing somewhere quite salubrious getting rid of a gallon or 3 of XXXX or whatever when I realised I was surrounded by a bunch of dwarfs. But then I recognized the nose of Prost and realised I was having a widdle in the presence of the gods. As I said. A night to remember.
Next stop Freemantle.
Honestly. If you ever get the urge to go from the East of Australia to the West, fly, walk, hitch-hike or ride a bike. Never ever go by sea. The bottom end of Aussie has probably the most unremittingly awful bit of water I have ever traversed. The wind and water (waves) just keep on going around the world without a decent lump of land to stop it. Perhaps there used to be, but the wind and water probably got rid of it.
It really is odd how the world is arranged. The Med. is at 35*N and the Great Australian Bight is at 35*S. The similarities don't just end there. Both stretches of water cover as near as dammit 40* of longitude. I know which one I'd prefer to cross!
Eventually, after being pummelled by the head seas for 10 days into a state of weary acceptance of whatever fate had in store for us, we turned right to head up to Perth / Freemantle. "O" class tankers rolled a lot. But not usually this much. No wonder the Aussies are so good at surfing. If anything this was worse than the jarring and shuddering of the ship hitting the head seas. Seas? More like the hills of the Lake Disrtct had decided to go for a walk-about.
Battered,bruised and a bit bent we arrived at Freemantle....and the "social" life began almost immediately. Breath came back eventually and Freemantle was enjoyable (again). The crew paid visits to Perth, but the general consensus was that Freemantle was better for a visit. It helped that Freemantle was still basking in the glory of the Aussies winning the yacht race! But homeward bound next....with a few excursions. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin H on July 22, 2009, 04:27:55 pm
Bryan,

I have just spent a few days re-reading this thread and would just like to say a big thankyou for all your time and effort. A really enjoyable and informative read.

Colin H.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 22, 2009, 05:09:35 pm
Bryan,

I have just spent a few days re-reading this thread and would just like to say a big thankyou for all your time and effort. A really enjoyable and informative read.

Colin H.
Well, thank you kind sir! Yet to come is my very brief time on "Armilla", anothe trip that included Aussie, more trips (winter, of course) up the fjords, an interesting refit, a trip to the USA and my time in Croatia!. Keep reading ....as and when I get around to it. Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on July 22, 2009, 05:43:37 pm
Well, thank you kind sir! Yet to come is my very brief time on "Armilla", anothe trip that included Aussie, more trips (winter, of course) up the fjords, an interesting refit, a trip to the USA and my time in Croatia!. Keep reading ....as and when I get around to it. Cheers. BY.

Did a couple of trips into Beira (for copper if I remember rightly) and did a book and film swap via her boat with the duty RFA ship wandering up and down outside. Can't remember her name now though (That was the Armilla Patrol, yes ?. Or was that the Gulf War ?)

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 22, 2009, 07:53:40 pm
Did a couple of trips into Beira (for copper if I remember rightly) and did a book and film swap via her boat with the duty RFA ship wandering up and down outside. Can't remember her name now though (That was the Armilla Patrol, yes ?. Or was that the Gulf War ?)

Mike
Sorry Mike. The "Armilla" thingy was in the Gulf around the time the Iranians were using "Boghammers" (missile armed speedboats) to hit unprotected tankers. That was in the 1980s. The "Beira Patrol"  was in the 1970s. ...."Tidereach", remember?  That was the time "Bencruachan" lost (nearly) her foredeck.  You'll have to do some more crosswords or something to get the old brain back into kilter! Cheers. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on July 23, 2009, 08:37:51 am
Thanks for that Bryan, after I posted it I had a thought that we had mentioned the Tidereach in relation to the Beira Patrol. The Armilla patrol also rang a bell as we were on a run that included Dubai so had to pick up an escort in and out. I remember how it felt very strange to go back to coastal navigation at night without the comfort of the radar - switched off at the escorts request to stop beasties flying down the scanner ! (Or was that yet another 'Patrol' and maybe I am getting a little befuddled)

As for the suggested cures for a befuddled brain - thanks but no thanks, in this day and age I think it may be preferable to wander along in a happy daze  %%

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 23, 2009, 05:59:21 pm
Thanks for that Bryan, after I posted it I had a thought that we had mentioned the Tidereach in relation to the Beira Patrol. The Armilla patrol also rang a bell as we were on a run that included Dubai so had to pick up an escort in and out. I remember how it felt very strange to go back to coastal navigation at night without the comfort of the radar - switched off at the escorts request to stop beasties flying down the scanner ! (Or was that yet another 'Patrol' and maybe I am getting a little befuddled)

As for the suggested cures for a befuddled brain - thanks but no thanks, in this day and age I think it may be preferable to wander along in a happy daze  %%

Mike
Welcome to the club. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on July 23, 2009, 07:53:50 pm
It was a very odd feeling (although welcome) to be "allowed" to travel from Freemantle to the Arabian coast all on our own without "guiding light" sitting on the metaphorical shoulder. It was almost as if we had passed an exam of some sort. Were we now adjudged to be sufficiently profficient to be allowed loose on the worlds oceans without being shepherded by some kid who'd only read the BRs?. A BR is a multi volume of regulations that govern everything from how often you breathe to how to prepare a Hydrogen bomb. They would cover the walls of a fair sized living room and you'd still have a few left over. And woe betide you if even inadvertently, you fail to comply with even one scintilla of the wording.....even during moments of stress. Normally brought to your attention about a year after the event in question. This is possibly why all RN Officers appear to be formed from the same mould. Talk to one and then there is no need whatsoever to talk to another one.
It still intrigues me that I (yes, me, personally) was for a few years entrusted with the task of teaching young RN "Middies" the art of Ocean Navigation. And it is an art. (I was the Nav Officer at the time). Forget the new stuff like GPS and so on.No matter how good these whizzbangs are (and they can be very good), the little green wigglies will fail at some point. So in the event of an electronic shutdown a Navigator will have to fall back on the same skills his great-grandfather employed. Assuming "he" hasn't left these skills to lie dormant for too long.
I was reminded of this a little while ago when I saw an electronic chart for the first time. The young 2/Off knew how to operate all the bells and whistles, but he had never ever studied the chart he was "correcting" as it all appeared electronically. People of my generation got to know the world via the horrible and time consuming job of "chart corrections". It all sort of sticks in the mind. But if all that is required is to push a few buttons to update a chart you have vever laid eyes on.....then where is that rather deep knowledge of the world going to come from?
It wasn't all that long ago that I was given a guided tour around RFA "Wave Knight". What struck me most was not the sheer technical wizardry of the thing but its sterility. There was no "character", no "quirkiness" as there used to be. Nothing on that ship that said "this is my home". And I think that for a seafarer that sort of sense of belonging is important. Go to work in an office or car assembly plant then OK, you can go home at night. But a ship is not just your place of work, it is your home. The other crew members are not just your workmates, they are you neighbours. Some you get along with, and some you don't. But on top of that you have a largely self-imposed disciplinary regime that becomes second nature, no matter what rank you hold. So eventually the entire ships company evolves into a "unit". Nights in the bar. All get together for "film night"..all that sort of stuff. But this new RFA had TVs in every cabin. No social repartee between "deckies" and "greasers". Just sit alone in your well appointed cabin and watch a video, aaiting the next call to "duty"..appalling. If that is modern seafaring then I admit to being well pleased to be out of it.
Seafaring was always a pretty lonely sort of a job, but some modern "advances" seem to make it worse. Superficially all thes advances are quite excellent.....but at what cost to the psyche of the seaman?
But ignoring all that. We did manage to find our way up to the Arabian coast (only asked one passing dhow for directions). We had been earmarked somewhat malevonently to be the UK rep in another "Exercise Saif Sarifa"....which largely consisted of us being buzzed, strafed and otherwise obliterated by fast jets. Which we duly ignored. I'm sure the pilots enjoyed it. The other ships had all peeled of for a week in Karachi. I hope they all got the "runs", because when they all came out again and re-stored it was found that "Fort Grange" had "forgotten" to load any fresh veg. and salad stuff for us. Thanks a lot guys.  Eventually we got to Gib, only to find that the base had "run-out" of "fresh" because the frigates etc. had got there first.  We were supposed to go to Devonport, but all the Rodney ships piled into Guz and Pompey so for some reason we were shunted off to Rosyth. Who were not expecting us. (huh?).
So we anchored off somewhere near St.Andrews for a couple of days. One hell of an end to an eleven month "round the world" trip.

Leaving out the "ship business", I enclose a copy of the final issue of the ships "Daily Orders". You may (or not) find the details interesting.

1.  It is hoped to anchor late this morning, however whether we do or not is weather dependent. The situation should clarify this morning. Listen for the pipes.
2.  "Olmeda" is expected to move up to the Rosyth inner anchorage tomorrow (Dec.18 1986) and HM Customs will board to clear the ship. We will then berth alongside during the afterrnoon  watch.
3.  "Global '86"...wasn't it fun. We did 204 RAS(L)s and steamed 58,863 miles from Gosport to Rosyth taking in the world en-route.

4.  Loading and issuing fuels as follows.
                                          Diesel                       Avcat                      FFO

Issued                                 48,123                      7091                      18146
Received                              43,870                      5247                      19283

That works out at 0.8 RAS(L)s per day including "in port" time and 1.24 cu.metres (all grades) issued for every mile steamed.

I'll leave it there as the rest of it is not really relevant to this forum.
But from the above statistics it should be clear that all is not "play", and the ship worked pretty hard from "day 1".
RASing is only a part (although a major one) of what a "Front Line" RFA does. In 1986 we only had "Chaff" and 4 ancient 20mm cannon to use as self defence. This was 4 years after the Falklands War. The new ones are more akin to warships than their ancestors, but the RFA is still civilian manned. Last year the RFA celebrated (if that's the word) 100 years of its founding.
Navies around the world use the RFA as a role model (including the USN). And please don't say they all use it as an example of how not to do things!. BY.

Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Shipmate60 on July 23, 2009, 10:43:43 pm
Bryan,
I couldn't agree more with the demise of the messes.
On my ship everyone has a TV/dvd/stereo in their cabin so the social life on board has suffered.

Bob
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 04, 2009, 07:00:00 pm
As the next episode is about my 1987 appointment to RFA "Tidespring" I thought that perhaps a pic of her nearing the end of her 1987 Falmouth refit would be a good start point. Jeez. For someone who doesn't like tankers very much I certainly get my share of them!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 04, 2009, 08:13:52 pm
You may have gathered from previous posts that I much preferred "dry" ships (Stonnery excepted...but I could live with them)...basically on the grounds that having been weaned in dry-cargo things I would rather see "things and stuff" being transferred from one ship to another rather than just gazining blankly at a length of pulsating rubber pipe. Thats a bit lower than boring.
Anyway. To the ship itself. The 2 "improved" Tide class turned out to be a bit of a stop-gap between the old "Tidereach" class  and the new swanky "Olmeda" type (talking 1966 here). I suppose the old Tides did the job they were built for and worked hard for many years, but being non-aviation compatible they were a bit of an anachronism in thier latter years.
Plus the fact that they were literally falling apart.
However, the hull design was superb and made for very good "sea ships". So the new Tides were built around a similar but enlarged hull form. Unfortuneately the MoD encumbered them with such an awful lot of top hamper that they always felt a bit "twitchy" (other seafarers on this forum will know what I mean).The accomodation wasn't much to write home about either, considering what standards commercial shipping companies of the time were fitting. Who would have thought that 8 oficers sharing 2 showers (and 2 toilets) in the 1980s was acceptable? Obviously, not all at the same time....but now and again I had my doubts.
"Tidespring" and "Tidepool" (always referred to in the USA as "Tadpole".....but what do you expect from a country that pronounces "buoy" as "booie"....I rest my case) were built with aviation in mind. Hence the large (for its time) single hangar, a good sized flight deck and some (limited) aviation workshop facilities...and some very cramped "mess-deck" accomodation for the embarked rating RN personell. But, as always, the MoD were a bit behind the times. The hangar could only accept 1 Wessex but the "parking deck" was evidently based on the size of the Wasp. MoD had the sme problem when the large Merlin began to replace the Sea King)
Weapon stowage had also been forgotten or (more likely) ignored. Actually, weapon stowage in this class is worth a closer look.
We had a very limited space on the stbd side of the flight deck for pyrotechnics and so on, but that was it. But the aircraft we were supposed to be able to support were anti-sub aircraft. Which means more than one aircraft, sonar buoys and aerial torpedoes. Nowhere to put this stuff.
The space under the amidships block on all "traditional" RFA tankers was given over to the stowage of all the gubbins that the ship needed to function properly....and the lids for the forward cargo fuel tanks were there as well. The bright idea that weapon stowage areas could be built into this potentially hazardous area was given the nod by MoD. OK in theory, if the magazines had been built to even the lowest standards. What was not expected was 2 rows of what appeared to be cow/horse stables but without doors. Naturally, the bosun took advantage of this and as we weren't at war with anyone over the years the whole place became a deck store.
Until 1987.
You may notice from the pi that there are 2 types of fuelling rigs. 2 are fixed and are known as "Jackstay" rigs, while the 3rd one is a derrick...oddly enough called the "Derrick" rig. Both have the same function of pumping some sort of fluid into another. The recipient decides on the method. But nowadays more often than not the receptor will prefer the "probe". This is a large nozzle which slides down the jackstay and slams into place. Pumping proceeds automatically as the hose is already charged.
The ship is looking pretty clean with the exception of some bulkhead staining resulting from the testing of the pre-wet system. This is a sort of high pressure shower thing that's supposed to wash off any nuclear, chemical or biological residue that may have landed on the ship. Fat chance. If we were that close then the enfolding waves would wash it off first. I was once told "by a man who knows" that an exploding nuclear depth charge could create a vacuum bubble up to 1 mile in diameter. Then the sea comes back in. Think about it. BY
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 15, 2009, 06:34:21 pm
Although the old "Spring" was getting on a bit and was definetely showing her age most of the discomforts were more than adequately compensated for by having a great crew....many of whom I knew from previous ships. It's amazing what "hardships" can be laughed off when you are in a "happy ship".
Being in the main a fully experienced RFA complement the "work-up" was a doddle. Been there, got the "t" shirt and all that. I guess that it was a bit like re-taking your drivers test and putting right unwanted habits. So (as always) we only got a "Sat" from the FOST Staff. Good enough. Many RN people can go through their entire (short) career and never do a work-up...even more just do one or two...but us lot who outlived many of the ships we sailed in (on?) were frequent "guests" of FOST. But I've vented off about work-ups in previous posts so no need to iterate. But this time FOST gave us a couple of extra little jobs to do which sort of broke the "here we go again" attitude. The first one was to act as the towing ship for a target for both surface and airborne attack. No doubt many of the "attackers" would have preferred us to be the target, but what with courts martial and the dreaded letter beginning "we fail to understand etc etc" they attacked the target. Naturally the target was towed well astern of the ship. 1000yards comes to mind (about half a mile....sounds a lot but when you have a hot-shot pilot howling in at 400 mph then 10000 yards would be better. The aircraft were using dummy bombs, but it can still cause a sphincter closing moment if he gets it a bit wrong. Perhaps that should be "opening" rather than "closing". At least the surface ships were just using their "close quarters" weaponry. If they were using "out of sight" stuff then I wouldn't want to be in the same hemisphere.
Towing a "splash target" for aircraft is not uncommon. The sequence is that once the target is deployed (a little thing about 6' square that sends up a couple of plume of water) and a "spotter" is positioned (normally the ships FDO) the exercise can begin. Obvioulsy the aircraft pilot has no way of telling how close or far he was from the target. May be different if there was a socking great bang coming from just behind him. Hence the "spotter. The "target" is imagined to be at the centre of a clock face. Distance from the centre is harder to judge. But if you have a series of imaginary concentric rings then a rough estimate of accracy can be given. For instance a report saying "2200 number2" would tell the pilot that he was quite close but off to the top left. Latterly we would be working with the "Harrier". They would come in on a shallowish dive, "toss" the bomb and immediately climb away. All good stuff. I only twice ever saw a splash target actually hit....and they were both done by "Buccaneers", but they were made for the job. Wonderful to see their low level attacks. But even with dummy bombs, a hit on the towing ship would cause a real "bad hair day".
The other 2 exercises were reasonably routine.
We would pretend to be a hi-jacked commercial vessel and the SBS would tear up alongside (generally at night which severely affected the days alcohol intake), do their own boarding procedure ....although with a couple of ships staff as safety numbers (a worthwhile thig to do do as it was after all a training exercise. Then these very sinister looking boarders would storm the ship. During pre-exercise briefing "some people" had been shown around the ship and I presume plans of the ship had been perused before the exercise began. This could then become very scary even though it was an exercise. Not often does one get a sub-machine gun jabbed into ones neck by a guy dressed from head to foot in a black wetsuit. I think I could almost feel a bit of pity for any genuine pirate/hi-jacker coming face to face with this bunch.
The other was an aerial assault (for the same reasons) but by the SAS. But as this was a sort of "beginners" lesson it was conducted during daylight hours. Just as well, really. As usual we "fouled" the Flight Deck (NOT that way) with obstacles. Not to prevent the aircraft landing (not part of the game), but to exercise the pilot and his crewman in positioning the aircraft...as they would have to do for a commercial ship. Again, a couple of ship-supplied safety personnel were present. So the SAS guys had to abseil (rapidly) down a rope. About 6 men on the rope at the same time. Alas. The first man down got caught up in the loose coils of rope and fell over. With the others landing on top of him. Sub-machine guns skittering all over the place. Bloody funny that was. So we cleared the flight deck, landed the helo (Sea King), re-embarked the chastened troops and did it all again. Perfect.
Both the SBS and the SAS teams had to spend a few hours with us....a good chance for them to enjoy some food. When they were all dressed up they were seriously scary even during an exercise. But once the hoods were off and they were all noshing into the scran they proved to be quite a pleasant bunch of blokes.
After that, for some reason that escapes me, we went off to the USA. It must have been for some exercise or another; but all these exercises seemed to blend into each other.
Funny thing about exercises. We, as (nautical) foot soldiers never got to read the outcome or the lessons learned. To me that is stupidity. So it isn't really surprising that the ships companies found it all a bit boring and "run of the mill". I do recall ruffling a few feathers when I put in writing that when a ship was "sunk" or "damaged" or whatever that ship should be taken out of the "game" for a day or so. If nothing else it would concentrate the Rodney mind and perhaps they could learn how to take better care of their lifeblood (fuel). I got hauled over the coals for that, but I still think I was right.
The usual visits followed. Norfolk(Virginia), Mayport (Jacksonville,Florida) and Fort Lauderdale(Florida) for a bit of R&R. And I got paid for this. Who needs a cruise with Bunkerbarge!
One incident on the way home stands out. We were re-fuelling one of the USN "Saipan"(?) class of assault ships when she decided to do an emergency breakaway . Except she didn't tell us. So there was this 50,000 ton ship peeling away from us at a rate of knots with the hoses still connected. Our 6" hoses contracted to about 3" before the coupling on our deck gave way. This all happened very quickly and without warning...so we were still pumping. "xxxxx". Took us 3 days to repair the damage and re-rig...not nice in the middle of the N. Atlantic.
But the Gulf and the Hurricane that never was was looming. Cheers, BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on August 16, 2009, 02:27:48 pm
Bryan,

SBS 'attacks' on North Sea installations were - and probably still are - not uncommon. Although pre-warned, it must still have been un-nerving for the average bear to find them coming over the rail. Just how they were able to scale the steel or concrete legs from sea level I never found out. There are not too many hand-holds. How they got to location was also never revealed.

I had some contact with the SBS when trialling a recovery system for extracting persons from the water to a vessel. Our MD had contacts within the MoD and a SBS troop was "volunteered" (they must have done something really, really, really, bad) to act as guinea pigs.
It involved travelling on a converted trawler to the Northern North Sea in suitably bad weather before jumping over the side and thence being scooped out. Trawlers are lively at sea and this was no exception; the SBS were soon shouting down the great white telephone and regarded it as something of a relief when they were thrown overboard; being extracted back on board was a mixed blessing. The video recording of the recovery operation made hair-raising viewing for those back at base. To recover them, the ship had to get very close and seing the bows lifting an falling as it approached must have raised certain thoughts e.g. why didn't I join the SAS?

To get maximum value for money, they were also used to test new lifejacket designs which again required them to be thrown into the oggin in some less than nice weather.  (Different lifejacket colours were also tested for visibility at long range. Surprisingly the winner was not the universally used bright orange but a bright acid green which, as far as I know, has never been adopted for LSA.)

When the SBS were finally released back to dry - and stable - land, they probably vowed never to put themselves in a position to be volunteered for anything. I don't blame them.

Regards,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 16, 2009, 06:18:41 pm
Barry, nice response. When you mentioned a "recovery system" I immediately imagined a scoop net sort of thing.....you didn't elucidate further. But if the guys in the water were that close to a pitching bow perhaps the idea was to put a ladder over the ships side and let them climb up it. Funny that no-one thought of that before.
As far as finding "the target" goes....the SBS does love a submarine. That subject may well come up when I get to 1991!
I agree with you about the "Lime Green" visibility. For some reason Orange doesn't work as well as people think. But having said that I would be more than a little bemused if I was trying to find a lime green object in the middle of the Indian Ocean with perhaps a square mile of flourescing plankton around me!. Thanks and cheers. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on August 16, 2009, 07:06:05 pm
Bryan,

It was a 'Dacon Scoop' - a device that is now standard on most Rescue Vessels operating for the oil companies in the North Sea. See  http://www.dacon.net/default.aspx?avd=03&catid=41

Regards

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 17, 2009, 06:49:17 pm
Bryan,

It was a 'Dacon Scoop' - a device that is now standard on most Rescue Vessels operating for the oil companies in the North Sea. See  http://www.dacon.net/default.aspx?avd=03&catid=41

Regards

Barry M
Barry, just read your link...and I find I wasn't too far wrong. But surely the "capture" is still very much to do with extremely good ship handling in very adverse conditions. Are you really confident that those skills are universal? It would be very expensive, but perhaps a small helo would be a better bet. Of course that would mean scrapping some of the outdated fishing boats that are (sometimes) employed...but would make for a more effective system. Something on the lines of the USCG perhaps? BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on August 17, 2009, 08:29:42 pm
Bryan,
Successful operation of the scoop is the result of good shiphandling, the correct installation of equipment and a practised crane operator. Constant drills aim to achieve a high prospect of recovery and an actual rescue was accomplished in a Force 11. The first line of survivor recovery from a North Sea rescue vessel is via fast Rescue Craft (FRC) which can be launched day and night in less than five minutes. However, FRC have weather limits and that is when devices such as the scoop come into play.

In respect of recovery by chopper, every live rescue in the North Sea (+105) since ca. 1977 has been performed by a Rescue Vessel (or standby vessel as they were formerly known) and none by helicopter. The latter have always operated in support of the marine assets, transferring survivors when required. Even in-field SAR choppers need about 20 mins to get airborn and by that time - in most instances - survivors have been picked up by the Rescue Vessel. This is not to decry the helicopter but it is complementary to the Rescue Vessel and does not replace it.  BP recently had to admit this when it tried to get rid of the marine assets; a cost-cutting measure although they denied it.

As far as "outdated fishing boats" are concerned, you are correct. They are outdated and they have gone. I suggest you have a look at http://www.errva.org.uk for a briefing on the current position.

Advances in maritime SAR in the North Sea have too often been driven by tragic incidents and some operators will still go for the cheapest vessels but the responsible ones - and these are in the majority realise that safety pays and provide a good service.

Between 1980 and the mid 90's, North Sea rescue vessel specifications, crew training standards and conditions of service  were progressively raised. This was charterer-driven because frankly the dayrates were such that few (but not all) owners could or were prepared to commit to investment.

How do I know the above? Because from 1977 until 1996 I was employed by a major oil operator and responsible among other matters (1980 - 1996), for the specification, chartering and direction of all our standby vessels/rescue vessels in the Northern and Central North Sea - some 30+ vessels when the relief vessels were counted in. The Industry Guidelines for Vessel Specification/Operation and crew employment in force since 1997 are based on those that I created for my own employer while I sat on the industry committee that produced the Crew Training Guidelines. Incidentally, don't be fooled by that term "Guidelines". The offshore operators have undertaken not to employ any vessel that does not meet the Guidelines or can be proven to achieve the same objectives albeit by differing means.

Just to wind this up, before scoops were introduced I had been approached by the manufacturers to undertake a trial. This was arranged and although the results were promising I could not get financial approval to develop the project. Then there was a helicopter crash. The weather was too bad to launch FRC.  The only way to recover survivors was for the crew to reach over the ship's side and attempt to grab them as they drifted past.  In the subsequent debrief, I shall never forget the sight of  a hard-bitten bosun reduced to tears as he described grasping a man by his lifejacket becket only to see him slip through the webbing and drift away to his death. 
Very quickly two things happened: a) aviation lifejackets were fitted with crotch straps - a move which the aviation boys had resisted because of fears over snagging during aircraft evacuation and b} I had a very large budget to get scoops fitted and crews trained in their use plus the provision of any other bit of kit I thought useful.

Incidentally the USCG did (does?) send its crews for training to the same Stonehaven-based Training establishment that trains Rescue Vessel crews.

I hope you find this useful.

Regards,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 17, 2009, 11:05:36 pm
Barry.
Now THAT is the sort of reply that any serious question deserves. Erudite, educational and "not talking down".  Thank you. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on August 17, 2009, 11:16:27 pm
Bryan,

You might say that but I couldn't possibly comment - we engineers are far too modest...  ;)

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on August 18, 2009, 07:12:05 am
Thanks Barry and thanks Bryan. What a super thread this is.

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 18, 2009, 05:28:04 pm
Wow Barry, is the combination of a fishhead and a clankie gettin a fan club? That turns generations of something on its head! BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on August 18, 2009, 07:39:34 pm
Maybe Bryan. Now when I was in Marine Ops I was responsible for giving instructions to lots of fisheads and anchorclankers. In the main a splendid bunch who just needed the right handling; once they recognised the superiority of my profession they were putty in my hands...  {-)  {-)  %)  :P  :kiss:

Cheers,

Barry
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Jonty on August 18, 2009, 11:15:32 pm
  Just got up to date with you, Bryan, whilst listening to the Prom by the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain. Seemed to go together somehow!

  I love reading your stuff, but may I make a suggestion? A line of space between paras would make it easier for tired old eyes to keep track.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 19, 2009, 05:56:20 pm
  Just got up to date with you, Bryan, whilst listening to the Prom by the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain. Seemed to go together somehow!

  I love reading your stuff, but may I make a suggestion? A line of space between paras would make it easier for tired old eyes to keep track.
OK. I'll try it. Ta for the "heads-up". BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 19, 2009, 07:21:29 pm
Although we were originally destined for Portsmouth we had a couple of late detours foisted on us. Our 1st stop was to be at Loch Ewe and load some of their stock of FFO. This was to be my one and only ever visit. My lasting recollection is of a very rural place, miles from anywhere and festooned with modern "A" frame wooden holiday homes. The poor RN Lt. who was in charge of this place was overjoyed to have a visitor...albeit for one night only. (Is the Loch Ewe refuelling base still open for business?). Those that could get off rapidly found the solitary pub and had a great night. Shades of "Local Hero" again.

The next stop was really odd. Down the coast to Craigandoran (spelling?) to load a very special cargo. It soon became clear to all on board that sometime in the not too distant future we would be sort of meeting up with USS "Nimitz". We were to load their "Year Books". The USA really does try to look after their service personnel in a way we either ignore or can't afford. (I tend to the former). As with the US schools / universities and so on a "Year Book" is published ...a bit like an enhanced UK school magazine. Each pupil (in this case each member of the ships company) gets his or her own copy. But this is no ordinary school mag. Each is leather bound (blue in this case) and each is the size of a volume of Encyclopdia Britanicca. And just as heavy. And there were over 6,000 of them. So the reason for our stop at Craiganthingy became evident. Quiet and "out of the way". The delivery to us was via 3 airlifts carried out by USN Chinooks. All with female pilots...one of whom was gorgeous. A Chinook wouldn't fit on the Springs deck in the conventional fore and aft manner....so it had to be a cross deck landing. Another reason for doing this "in port". I'm not going into details of wind envelopes and ship movement here. Out of all the books, only one was dropped....into the water. It was rescued, but sodden. We tried to dry it out but I'm afraid some poor matelot was disappointed. I reckon that the books weighed in excess of 4.5 tons....but it was the sheer volume (no pun intended) that made 3 flights necessary. This had a "knock-on" effect, as you will see later. Truth to be told though, I'm sure 1 aircraft could have easily done it, but the chance of an interesting "training" flight was too good an opportunity to pass up.

When we eventually got to Portsmouth ( a week later than scheduled) we discovered that everything to do with "Armilla" had been given a pretty high priority. Not as high as it was for the Falklands, but high enough. This being back in 1987 the actual (political) reasons for the Armilla patrol are a bit vague in my mind. Protection of commercial shipping was obvious, but the rest of it escapes me. At the time, Iran was considered to be the threat to normal commerce, although the "incidents" were generally passed off by the Iranians as the work of "freelancers" or some such. The majority of "incidents" occurred in the northern part of the Straits of Hormuz. Ver fast (Scandinavian built I think) speedboats equipped with a ship to ship missile and probably some small arms would hide behind either "friendly" ships or one of the many small islands in the area then come screaming outand cause mayhem and death on commercial tankers just going about their day to day business. But by 1987 it had all expanded to the extent that many countries had a naval presence in the area. I don't remember if it was a NATO thing or not. All I knew was that we were going there.

Dinner time. Continue in a minute. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 19, 2009, 08:01:32 pm
Dinner delayed (don't ask).
We immediately began re-storing for a 6 month deployment....with a difference. Now may I remind you that "Tidespring" was neither an ammunition ship or an aircraft carrier. But we were now being "equipped" to be 3 things. A front-line refuelling ship and an ammo and aircraft carrying ship. Normally the stay of embarked aircraft on this class would be of "short" duration. Not like an "O" class that had the built in facilities to operate aircraft for months on end.

We were to embark 2 aircraft. No problem. Except that one was a "Jungly" Sea King (A stripped out Sea King that became an airborne truck piloted by Marines) and fitted for weaponry. The other was a full wartime fitted Lynx. Even the dullest among us knew that each aircraft needed different skills and training to maintain and service 2 entirely different sorts of aircraft. And 2 outfits of spares and so on. And they each had different weapon capabilities. So we had to embark 2 seperate teams of maintenance guys. Most of these people were Ratings and POs. Accommodation was at a premium now. The more junior ratings were more or less bunged into a "mess-deck" that was bunked for 15, but I think we got 25 camped in there. Not much in the way of washing or toilet facilties for them either. But the received opinion was that they would rather be with us than crammed into a war canoe. So that was a good start morale-wise. For once the aircrew fitted in with the RFA "ways" quite seamlessly, and the RN ratings were made equally welcome by "our lot".

The ship itself was more or less taken over by a MoD team who had previously decided what extra "bits'n'bobs" were to be fitted. To be honest, they really hadn't a clue what they were doing. All theory, not an ounce of practical experience between the lot of them. A bunch of "Boffins" combined with a team of my favourite people (Corps of Naval Constructors) was not a good start. To begin with neither set had any idea how a ship like Spring operated. I don't think they ever actually appreciated that it was just a specialised tanker with a hangar and flight deck on the back end. The fact that the entire ships complement were all well experienced seamen with great knowledge of both RFA and RN procedures mattered not one jot. Nor were they aware that the Persian Gulf in summer is a damn sight hotter than Portsmouth....and so is the sea.

Now dinner is ready!. Continue soon.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: omra85 on August 19, 2009, 09:44:44 pm
As interesting as ever - thanks Bryan.
The line spacing DOES work - and I never even realised that I had "tired, old eyes"!
Danny
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 21, 2009, 08:12:20 pm
I'm sorry if I now and again repeat myself. Perhaps my mind works in circles.
During this "preparation" period we were also fitted with this new "secret" gizmo that, when fired, was to temporarily blind the pilot of an incoming aircraft. Basically a super-duper version of the laser-pens that some idiots are apparently aiming at airliners. This "thing" needed to be kept "cool". Also, the "gun" part (looked like a shoulder launched missile thing) took more than a few seconds to show "ready to fire". And the "firer" had to stand on the hangar roof to aim and fire the thing. More or less where the incoming aircraft would be aiming. But what was ignored was the fact that the already hot water in the "cooling" pipework was then heated to almost boiler operating temperatures. Thank goodness we never had occassion to even attempt to use it. Another couple of million £ down the tubes.

And then there were the "anti shrapnel/splinter blankets that were supposed to be draped over the side rails in "vulnerable" areas. To protect this ship the entire ship would have to have a fitted blanket. And then there was the labelling on the "anti everything" blankets. The packaging stated 1943. Wow! We really are being equipped with "state of the art" stuff. All this garbage was rapidly consigned to "stores" (just in case). The ship itself was fully protected against attacks by either "Boghammers" or supersonic fighter/bomber aircraft by the 3 WW2 Oerlkon 20mm guns....manned by semi-trained ships catering staff. Loads of ammo. All made in Greece as there was no UK manufacturer. So now we were fully confident that we could see-off any Johnny Foreigner. Yeah. Sure we were.

But then there was the aircraft weaponry. Obviously each aircraft had different requirements. Different torpedoes, different missiles...different everything apart from the GPMG stuff. This was all "loaded and stowed" into our wooden livestock pens that were open to every Tom,Dick and Harry that happened to be passing. But we're "pros" right? So everything was treated with reverence. Anything painted white was given a widish berth. But (and it's a big "but"), everything apart from simple bullets and shells has to be fitted with a second component. Normally called a "detonator", but quite often a more complicated bit of kit. These "things" have to be stored well away from the main item. Very wise. "Our" detonator locker was a steel box about half the size of a tea chest made of the sort of steel that biscuits come in. It was really meant to hold the detonators for Scare Charges. (A scare charge is about the same size as one of those old Exide batteries (about 2" square and 6" long) and is really just to deter unwanted underwater swimmers from getting too close). The detonators for these are about the same size as a half used pencil...but will likely blow your foot off if you drop one. So I had nowhere to put any of the "fancy" stuff except in the Flight Deck pyro lockers.  All explosives are in a "category", so no 2 categories can be stowed in the same compartment. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place! The MoD said we had to load them. The explosive "experts" were suddenly nowhere to be found. So it was a case of ""xxxxx" it" and bung them into any odd corner that looked reasonably safe(ish)...in a ship carrying not just FFO and Deisel but a few thousand tons of aviation fuel. No worries.

It may be pertinent to mention here that both "Tidespring" and "Tidepool" had been put on the disposal list in about 1981. In fact one of the ships was already en-route to her new owners (Chile) with only a skeleton crew on board when the Falklands thing blew up. The ship then went on to become a vital resource in that conflict. If the 2 "Tides" had been taken away then the only major re-fuelling ships would have been the 3 "OL" class. Not enough. But here we were in 1987 still using these 2 ships that were originally designated as "redundant" being used as "front line" refuelling ships. Do you get the sense that all these "Staff Colleges", "Think Tanks" and MoD Mandarins really haven't a clue about such things as "What If" scenarios.

I would ask you now to ignore the fact that most of the RN is tied up in port because the Government just ran out of money. The ships are there and will (could) go to sea if required. But as most of them can only go a few yards before needing refuelling, who's going to get the pump out? The RFA does have 2 new major vessels (Wave Knight and Wave Ruler) and a couple of "One Stop" ships (Fort Victoria and Fort George). Most of the "Rovers" (although limited in size) have been sold off. The "Leafs" seem mostly to be laid up. I know that some new ships could be on the horizon (primarily because the new carriers will need them)..but will that happen?
The last generation of RFAs was predicated (during the Cold War) around a couple of carriers that were never built. So a lot of good ships were there but without a real purpose. Another Labour Government cock-up. Or is it that they just don't care? I always thought (and still do) that the prime responsibility of any Government was the "Safety of the Realm". Let down again, I'm afraid. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: derekwarner on August 22, 2009, 01:37:15 am
Bryan..........when I resigned from the Australian D of D...it took more     ;D signatures  >>:-( about not talking  :-) re the Defence Act....& 100 years goal if you spill your guts..... :D ....than was required prior to my appointment

As you say...."Anything painted white was given a widish berth" ....yes same here....blue TSAM's with a pointy top were only dummies.....WHITE harpoon missiles with a domed top were real

I vividly remember the requirements prior to entry to a GMLS13 live missile magazine.........remove your watch + metallic trouser belt + any $ coins + pocket pens + safety shoes = ZERO metal.... >>:-( no danger tags were involved.........just the fiberglass KEY [around your neck] to the 200 Hz fire control computer system which was racked out & the knowledge that the only duplicate key was locked in a safe on the bridge & required the Captains written authority to access it

Walking a staggered path between the two circular rows of WHITE birds ........the only sound was the 'shoooooooooooosh' of the air conditioning

I am amazed that you don't have your MI5, New Scotland Yard, a few SAS troops, MS16 + a few counter insurgent officers all posing as local postmen around your door  %% {-) %% {-) .......you will remember that 'freedom of information is only if you are not found guilty'  :police:.........

Sorry....must go some people  :police: are knocking at the door.........Derek  {-) {-)
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 22, 2009, 06:55:58 pm
I would have thought that many people would know that "dummies" are blue and "warshots" white. Nothing secret there. In my little ditties I've been quite careful not to stray into areas that may attract "some attention"...and I have no intention of doing so.

What to "put in" and what to "leave out" isn't really a problem yet as I'm only up to 1987. Perhaps the early 1990s may cause me to pause and think a bit.

But if you go back to the early days of this voyage through my memory you will find that in 1972 I sort of mentioned that the then secret nuclear depth charge containers were being used as goal posts by shipyard workers. I may even have mentioned about the Stonnery leaving a 600lb nuclear bomb hanging in mid-air because it was knocking off time for lunch.

To be "visited" by the powers that be for what I write about would be a waste of everyones time and energy. But then, I'm not an American. My involvement with the UK MoD ceased totally in 1994. I'm pretty sure that the world has moved on a bit since then although I'm not too sure about the mind-set of those who are running things at the moment. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 24, 2009, 08:05:45 pm
Eventually we left Portsmouth and then embarked both our aircraft and joined up with the rest of the "Task Force". Not all of the ships were going to the Gulf...the clever ones were going on exercises in the eastern Med. But I think there were about a dozen ships once we collected the ships coming out of Devonport. (They came west to join us). So we all set off "outwards".

I know that I have written some of this before, but in a different context...so bear with me.
All the ships nicely set up in a formation....my goodness, how the RN loves "formations"! I suppose they are correct to do so but they get so "picky" about things. Getting rather stupid lamp messages at 2am saying one ship or another is out of position by 100 yards gets a bit weraing. If it was during an "exercise" then that would be marginally acceptable, but when we were just on a peacetime transit....Pillocks.

During my "last rounds" of the ship on what had started off as a quite benign evening it was very clear that the wind had "got up a bit". All the ships were sailing under "darkened ship" conditions. For those who don't know, that means that all ships lighting apart from the nav.lights is invisible from the outside. One of the "last rounds" tasks is to make sure that this is so. But there is always at least one idiot that thinks the rules don't apply to him.

On this occassion there were no real problems, but after making sure all the bars were shut I went outside again to find the wind and sea had become a bit nasty. I've mentioned before what good sea-keeping hulls the Tides had especially when head to sea...top hamper made broadside seas an entirely different proposition....but we were "head to sea, so not too bad. This was when I found a very frightened young RN rating, freezing cold, soaked to the skin and only wearing a "T" shirt and shorts. Cowering behind whatever shelter he could find. He'd only been aboard for a few hours and so didn't know the way back to his "mess". Poor little soul. Probably wanted his mother to tell him again not to join the navy. But my last remaining compassionate bone told me to take him "home" ....but not without reminding him to carry a torch next time. By now the wind was starting to howl, and with us still being in the English Channel the seas were beginning to take on the characteristics of the Severn Bore. All looked a bit threatening. Looking across at some of the other ships in company it was obvious from looking at their nav. lights that the smaller ones (frigates etc) were beginning to have a tough time of it.

Eventually the carrier ordered a speed reduction to 8 knots. (from 12). This made things marginally more comfortable. Fully loaded and in calm water I would guess that our bow would be a good 20' above the water. Now it was regularly digging in pretty deeply. Where had this weather come from? Nothing in the forecasts. Now it was really getting uncomfortable. Nothing that wasn't "dangerous", but made just that bit more "off" because it was so unexpected. Fortunately, as was our practise, the ship had been well "secured for sea", so I had no real worries about that. Needless to say, the "formation" went all pear-shaped. As we were plodding along at the designated speed it became evident that others were lagging behind...so we reduced speed to 6 knots and kept at that for the rest of the night. Although we could see the other ships on radar it was impossible to see them visually. Rain and sea-spray (spray? more like machine gun bullets) put visibility down to less than half a mile. And the noise! Forget "Master and Commander"....this was for real. Our anemometers regularly went over the 100mph mark.
We were now pitching at a constant 15* angle. 15* may not sound a lot but on a ship over 500' long the ends of the ship are going very rapidly up and down through maybe 50 feet. One moment your feet are leaving the deck as you become weightless, and the next moment your kness buckle as the bloody ship comes up again.Those of you who have been through a China Sea typhoon (and there are more than a few seafarers on this forum) will know what I mean. (And I'm not forgetting what can be suffered during a N.Atlantic winter). But it's the sheer noise that will be remembered. Forget Clarkson and his exhaust howls. This noise comes from the bowels of the earth and ranges from an eerie wail to a banshee shriek. The rain and spray strips off the ships paint. And yet one is expected to "get some rest". Hah!. Most seafarers master the art of "synchronized breathing". Breathe in when you are being propelled upwards, and the exhaling takes care of itself on the way down. As do bowels, but we won't go into that.

A storm of this ferocity never really lasts all that long....not like the unremitting, if less severe, bad weather one can expect in other areas of the globe. By early daylight we were basically out of it. The wind had dropped to a more peaceable Force 8, and although the sea conditions were still making life uncomfortable it was no worse than many other days.
It may surprise you to learn that (honestly) there are more "pleasant" days at sea than "rough" ones....unless you are trotting back and forth across the N. Atlantic.

During the night we had been driven backwards nearly 40 miles by the combination of the sea surge and the wind, even though we were making 6 knots through the water. Scary. In fact, we were nearly at the point we'd started from. Apart from an awful lot of sea-sickness among the junior RN ratings (they had to clean it up, which brought on another bout), we came through with only paintwork damage. Other ships had to go into port for emergency repairs.

A bit of "normality" was restored by mid-morning, and many thoughts and anxieties were expressed about the well-being of crew members families etc. who lived on or near to the S. Coast. Understandable. The "Marisat" was made available (free) to those who were worried. In almost all cases it turned out that the families were more worried about  us that we were about them!.  So that was the "Hurricane" that wasn't from my viewpoint in 1987.

So on we went, somewhat depleted , but the laggards would catch us up during the Gibraltar stop-over.
But then, at Gib; we became the laggards.
More later. BY.

Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on August 25, 2009, 09:36:17 am
Another absorbing episode ! Bryan you certainly have the story teller's gift. As for the 'weightlessness' I always found it weird climbing ladders/stairs when it was alternatively climbing the north face of the Eiger, followed  by 'floating' with an invisible hand propelling you upwards.
Awaiting the next installment

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 25, 2009, 05:29:29 pm
Another absorbing episode ! Bryan you certainly have the story teller's gift. As for the 'weightlessness' I always found it weird climbing ladders/stairs when it was alternatively climbing the north face of the Eiger, followed  by 'floating' with an invisible hand propelling you upwards.
Awaiting the next installment

Mike
Hi, Mike. I agree that ladders were the worst, especially when rolling. The LSLs were by far the worst I encountered. All the internal ladders were set athwartships. When rolling really heavily going up a ladder ranged from being almost horizontal to leaning backwards. And if we were ponding a bit there was a good chance that the steel fire shutters would come down hard enough for decapitation!. Happy days. Glad your'e still reading. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 27, 2009, 07:45:57 pm
To continue with our "visit" to Gib.
I spent a few years based there during the 1960s in my C&W days. ("LDP","Recorder" and "Mercury"). In the early days the border was open and then later when it was shut. When it was open it was nice to hire a car and "tour" the southern parts of Spain. No "high-rises" then. Nice and unspoiled. I took my driving test in Gib, and anyone knowing the place will understand why I'm very good at hill starts! Those were the days when many "spoof" LPs were produced. One I treasured and still sort of miss was made by Peter Ustinov acting the part of a radio commentator on the Gibraltar Grand Prix. When the British still had a major military presence in Gib just about everything about the place was "good", and it was an enjoyable (if confined) place to be; but from what I saw during my later visits it seemed very run-down and a bit seedy. I know a lot of money has been invested (Apartment blocks and Marinas etc) but the underlying aspects of the town were, on the whole, a bit depressing.

But to 1987 and what should have been a nice bit of R&R. I suppose it was for some people but not for the deck crew. Before we arrived I'd been informed that we would be required to load even more of the solid stuff that goes "bang". Oh,joy. So before anything started to happen I asked for the boss-man of the armaments depot to pay me a visit and "inspect" what we had been coerced into loading. This (very pleasant) chap took one glance at our makeshift magazines and was all in favour of evacuating the ship until some sort of acceptable standard could be reached. He just couldn't believe that we had just been battered by the worst hurricane to hit the English Channel in living memory. He wasn't very impressed when I jokingly remarked that we must have done "something" right. But I wholeheartedly agreed with him that leaving "things" the way they were was just plain unacceptable. Fortunately, when he was given the full story he agreed that the ship was in no way responsible for the shambles and his report and comments would go way further "up the line" than we (the ship) could. Much later I read his report and I@d be very surprised if a few "demotions" didn't follow. But by then it was of no consequence to us.

The first thing that happened was a major re-shuffling of berths. We were moved down to the berth nearest to the dry-docks (the S end) and the RN ships were all shunted up to the N end of the main breakwater. Although we were now closer to the town in walking distance, we were further away from the town if an "accident" happened. But the shunting of the RN to berths as far away form us as they could be was a real bright spot in my day.Also, of course, like us many of the matelots lost a days run ashore because of the shunting about. Most of our "nasties" were taken ashore and stowed away "somewhere safe".
Some of you may well have visited St.Michaels cave (very impressive) or even walked along the galleries overlooking the Spanish border. But very few of you will have seen (or even heard of) the road system within the Rock. Mile upon mile of roads easily wide enough to allow 2 large trucks to pass....and on different levels. There is also a sort of "second town" in there, as well as all the depots for everything the 3 services need. One of the first question I asked when I first saw a (small) part of all this was why the buildings all had "normal" sloping roofs. I guess the answere should have been obvious. A week after it rains "outside", it rains "inside". I imagine a lot of the tunnelling work was begun in Napoleonic times, and has continued forever more, although WW2 must have kept a lot of people pretty busy. Being a major base for all 3 services it is probably on a par with the major UK bases....except this one is 3 dimensional, and not spread out flat. But there is very little evidence from the outside of all this. Fuel stocks, water reservoirs, armament depot, victualling depot, general stores for all 3 services....all inside the Rock. I can't help wondering how hollow the place actually is. Then there is the question that is seldom asked. What happened to all the dug out rock?
Easy. Most of the useful parts of Gib are built on it.
To be continued. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 28, 2009, 07:24:11 pm
Digression completed!
A team of people who actually knew what they were doing descended upon us and in pretty short order had made our stables and cow byres more suited to the purpose of stowing armaments. And at last we had proper segregation between categories. I eventually reminded "our man who knows" about our little tin box that was laughingly called our "Det Locker". "Bother" (or some word that is both shorter and sounds different but means the same). A new one was made ashore and fitted. Much bigger than the original. Fitting it wasn't so easy as the original was mounted on top of the avcat tanks. And doing any welding or drilling there was a real no-no. So some space was found in the flight deck area. We also had no way of disposing a weapon with a malfunction. The principle behind this sort of thing is simple enough. Put the duff item on a trolley, wheel it to the ships side, tip the trolley up and let the "thing" slide off into the sea. This gets a bit more complicated when the item to be deep-sixed is (for example) a very heavy aerial torpedo. So we got the same sort of gear fitted that the "Forts" have. That was a relief, as from experience I knew that a fair proportion of heavy weaponry would malfunction in some way, and it really isn't pleasant to have a dodgy bit of kit lying around. The decision not to load us with more "stuff" was welcome. Not because of any danger, after all: one big bang being replaced by a bigger one wouldn't make much difference to us. No, it was space available. If we ever needed to replenish our stock (heaven forbid) then we would have to get it from our closest floating armaments supermarket. But things would really have had to go "belly-up" if that became necessary.

So off we went in hot pursuit of our fellow travellers and "guardian angels". R/Vd with them a bit south of Cyprus...they had just been slowly chugging along wasting time waiting for us. After a mammoth day of refuelling them all we set off for Port Said and an uneventful transit of the canal. The temperature change between the N and S of the canal can be astonishing. 60* to 90* in 80 miles. And also, up goes the sea temp. High temperatures bring problems to all sorts of ships, for different reasons. I'm not qualified to comment on engineering problems except that the mechanistas were beginning to bang on about the condensers not working efficiently (cooling water not cool enough I suspect)....and "Spring" was getting a bit long in the tooth. The same applied to a "dummy run" with our new laser thingy. But as this was more than half expected it was no great surprise when the little green light just threw its hand in.
Generally the wind in the Red Sea blows from N to S at about 15 mph. Roughly the same speed as a ship. So you finish up effectively bowling along in "dead" air. On an "old-fashioned" tanker like Tidespring that means that any venting from the cargo tank just happily glides along with you. Of course, this would probably not be something to bother a commercial tanker as it would be empty and clean, being outward bound. But it was of concern to us. But over the years ships have developed a "cunning plan" to deal with this. Any prudent navigator will build into his "nav plan" some extra time and mileage. Every now and again during the hottest part of the day the ship (or ships) will turn around and steam the opposite way. Effectively letting a 30mph wind blow through the ship. As always, many of the "old ways" turn out to be the "best ways". "Blowing Tubes" could also cause harsh words between the Bridge and Engine room!

Of concern to me was the potential overheating of the "chaff rockets". As you will know, chaff rockets and their launchers have been around for a long time now. But with various mods to both the launchers and the rockets they are quite desirable things to have on board. The rockets around 6' long and 6" dia. Pretty heavy, but capable of being carried by one person. Oddly enough they are painted blue. Even though they are "live". Perhaps its because they are "passive" or classed as pyrotechnics I can't remember. Whetever they are they go out with a heck of a noise..especially if a full launcher load is fired as a salvo. The chaff crews had ambivalent thoughts about all this. When it was for practice they loved the loading and firiing bit, but hated the scrubbing down and repainting of the blast shield etc. Most RFAs have 2 launchers, one each side in the vicinity of the wheelhouse. We also had 20mm guns, but they are no problem. Useless, but no problem. As the chaff rockets are designed for rapid and faily close in response the magazine lockers holding them have to be pretty close to the launchers. These lockers are pretty much like the standard square lockers but longer and capable of taking between 16 and 20 rockets each. I think our standard fit was for 80 of them. The lockers being so close to the launchers means that they are exposed to the sun. And they are prone to degradation if overheated. they (probably) wouldn't go "pop" thank goodness. But once the temperatures inside the lockers went over 30 odd* they had to be kept cool(ish).
For one reason or another, mainly to assist in damage control, RFAs have a plethora of "shot mats". Big (about 8' sq.) and knitted out of 2" rope. Proper rope..hemp, manilla, sisal, coir and so on are measured by their circumference...wire rope is designated by its diameter. So our "cooling" arrangements were to simply drape these shot mats over the lockers and let a fire hose constantly dribble over them. Although the water coming out of the hoses was extremely hot, evaporation did help to keep the locker temperatures within limits.
Enough for today. tbc. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on August 29, 2009, 07:56:16 pm
Eventually we departed the Red Sea, turned left, and after another few days turned left again to head N towards the Hormuz Straits. So far this hadn't been a cruise by any interpretation of the word. More like a hot weather Portland work-up. But nobody really minded this time, including the notoriously bolshy galley staff, as this time it could all be "for real". The aircraft were having a pretty rough time of it. So were the aircrews. Helicopters really,really don't like hot weather. The air is thin (thin air?) and that limits their capability. AUW (All Up Weight) has to be adjusted downwards by sometimes quite a lot so that they can actually operate...and launch. All basic stuff, but needs some careful working out. This was just one of the reasons we did so much night flying, the air being that much cooler. But it did put a strain on those parts of the ships company who were actively involved because they still had their "day jobs" to do. Fortunately we also had a couple of dedicated RN HCOs embarked (Helicopter Controllers) who sit behind the radar screen for hour upon hour rather than being part of the flight deck team. The flight deck team was all RFA, but the RN maintenance guys had to be up there also...just in case they were needed. Up until now(ish) most deck officers at 2/Off level had been trained by the RN as an HCO. Perfectly reasonable, and generally proved very competent. But the 2/O is also a watchkeeper. One embarked aircraft is a bit of an imposition if embarked for an extended period, but having 2 makes the bridge organisation a bit difficult. When the "new" "Forts" (Grange and Austin) appeared with the capability of having up to 5 aircraft in the air at the same time it was obviously intolerable given our man-power, and so it became routine for RN HCOs to be embarked. The "Tides" were just more or less "ocassional" flying ships. Often enough with one aircraft on board for a lengthy stay, but this was the first time I'd seen it with 2 different sorts of aircraft, each having its own needs. It all meant a heavier burden on the ships company; but it was tolerable given some "give and take" on both sides.

Before we arrived at the Straits the RN Task Force Commander made a rather radical change to the "plan" that had been agreed  earlier. Originally we were all (half a dozen of us) going to go through the Straits in "Form One" (line astern) with HM Destroyer carrying the Task Force Commander at no.1. We were no.3. All ships to be at standard distance apart. (1000 yards?). The change ordered that "Tidespring" would be no1, and the Commanders ship would be at no 3. On top of that we were to be positioned at 2x standard distance ahead of the following ship. Still wondering why I love the RN so much? So, come the rather lovely cool dawn there we all were. All dressed in our white or blue overalls. Anti-flash hoods and gloves worn. All carrying our personal emergency air supply thing, Gas mask, anti-everything injection kit, vac-packed NBC suits and inflateable general issue life jacket. Weighed a ton. Any airline would have charged us a fortune in excess baggage fares just for toting this stuff. Ye Gods. It was nigh on impossible to even walk around never mind trying to do something worthwhile like navigating or fighting a fire or standing a watch in the Engine room. So most of us had 2 hold-alls. One with all the stuff we had to carry and one with all the personal stuff we would like to save if the worst came to the worst.  Guns and chaff crews were ready. Ship at full "Action Stations". Air conditioning off and the ship closed down with the air re-circ units howling away all over the ship. Fire parties suited up. Everyone VERY hot, but surprisingly not particularly nervous....on the outside at least. So on we went, and went, and went for a few hours until it was evident that nothing was going to happen. Keeping the ship at "relaxed" Action Stations gave us all to get a decent breakfast, and the ship was opened up again. It was horrifying what a stench had built up within the ship within just a few hours. It wasn't noticeable at the time, but the "non-smell" of fresh air highlighted it.
tbc. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 01, 2009, 05:00:30 pm
The first stop for the ship was to be Bahrein as we were going to have a 50% crew change. Most of us had been on the ship for well over 6 months now, and our time was up. And after the last 6 months I was ready for a spot of leave (again).

But the "fickle finger of fate" still had a final trick to play. There were 27 of us leaving in the first tranche. We would be leaving the ship about 100 miles short of Bahrein in the "Jungly" Sea King. 27 of us with full voyage gear.
Remember what I said about helicopters and hot "thin" air?
It was quite clear from the motion of the aircraft that it just didn't want to leave the deck. Eventually the front end lifted but the back end just skipped towards the side nets. Oops. I guess the pilot had to "over-torque" to just clamber clear, but we were only just clear of the ships side when the thing just flopped down towards the water. I now know within my soul of souls that "ground effect" works. I think we must have wave-hopped for at least a couple of miles before we had enough forward speed to increase height and begin a slow 180* turn and get to the usual 500ft transit height. Then all seemed to be well and hearts resumed their normal beat. Until we got into the thermals coming off Bahrein. I don't really mind a bit of buffeting if I'm in a 747, but suffering it in an overloaded Sea King is strictly for those with well trained sphincters. Confidence is also a bit eroded when the pilot is showing some nerve ends. But at least his next decision was the correct one. With the weight of the aircaft and the prevailing air conditions at Bahrein International Airport he had declared a "PAN" call. (A PAN is a step down from "emergency" but a couple of steps away from a MAYDAY). He requested a "running landing". To you,me and everyone else a helicopter lands and takes off in a more or less vertical fashion. And slowly. Sea Kings are just not supposed to land like a "proper" aircraft. And as the passengers bums are only about 4 ft above the ground the sensation of speed is increased. With only 4 little wheels at the front and a titchy little thing at the back helicopter tyres are not really made for this sort of treatment. So it was inevetable that at least one would go pop. I was ready for it and actually heard (and felt) the bang just before we came to a halt.

I'm in no way a religious person, but something or someone was surely looking after us that day.
We had to go to an hotel for a few hours before heading back to the airport to catch a proper plane home....but after a few cans with the lads, my only recollection of Bahrein was that the entire city seemed to be festooned with "Fosters" adverts. Rather odd for a Muslim/Arabic country I thought.
And that was the last time I had the pleasure of sailing on a "Tide". I think they both did eventually end up in Chile....and they are welcome to them. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 11, 2009, 08:18:46 pm
After my allotted leave span (about 4 months in this case) and after a fair amount of TLC my heart rate hade just about returned to normal. It always amazed me that the MoD knew just when to call, and the phone had a slightly different "tone" to it. I began to think that someone had inserted a "chip" into me while I wasn't paying attention.

But I was to join the "Olwen". Another "O" class tanker. (I've already posted a pic of her somewhere else on here). One "O" boat is the same as the others so I knew what to expect. The surprise was that she was coming into the Tyne for a 3 month refit in Smiths Docks.  Well, as you can imagine, that got me smiling again! All sour thoughts about the MoD were banished.
However, in my euphoria, I let my usual "going away again" session with "the lads" take place (they bought), but I didn't let on. So I joined the ship, did what was necessary, and said farewell to the well knackered guy I was relieving. Got the ship into dry-dock and made sure those who were staing had somewhere to go. The "old hands" had already arranged their "feet under the table" places, but the "virgins" (mainly Southerners) were feeling a bit lost. This was a foreign and alien country to most of them. The language appeared to be English, but not as they knew it. So they were a bit apprehensive . Easily got them into B&Bs in Whitley Bay, gave them info. on transport etc. and left them to it. Within 2 days most of them (maybe a dozen out of 15) had lost their anxieties and more "feet under the table" seemed to be the order of the day. Most of them were RN ratings who were with us just to look after aspects of the flight complex that was really their bailywick).

So, after just one solitary night away from home I re-appeared in the "Monky Arms" and had to make some quite expensive apologies. Worth it though!
The refit itself was pretty ordinary without any of the major cock-ups that had dogged some others I've been involved in ( read my 1972 report of the "Resouce" refit in Barclay-Curles to see how things can go wrong). Well, OK we had a couple. The first was an event I've related earlier, but may well bear repeating. For those of you who knew Smiths Docks of old this is "old news". There used to be more than one "main gate" to the yard. One of them was adjacent to the N.Shields ferry landing stage. With a pub next to it. The other was a long hike away up the hill . With a pub next to it. Yonks ago the ferry gate was closed, probably causing havoc with the pubs revenue. The much larger pub outside the top gate seemed to thrive. I don't know how many people Smiths employed directly in those days, but it was a lot. Before the whistle blew there was always a mighty crush at the gate. Whistle blows and it's a St.James Park exit. The pub was only about 50 yards from the gate. It had a very long bar. Before the "rush" the bar staff would literally cover the entire bar with opened bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale and each bottle had an upturned schooner on top of it. Within 20 minutes the bar had to be replenished. And again. I guess everyone had a "method of payment", but I never found out what it was. I would also imagine that this "rush" was not unique to Smiths. Although the yard workers in the then "dry" parts of Glasgow must have found a way around it. The same "rush" occurred at the end of the day shift. It doesn't take much imagination to work out what some afternoon productivity was like. However, during the evening shift ....or with people doing a bit of overtime...there were many fewer workers. Most of them worked in pairs, just finishing off jobs that the day shift hadn't completed. It was also very obvious to us that the "pairs" were more often than not "singles"...and these "singles" changed every half hour or so. It was no good asking a foreman or ship-manager why this should be, as the same mantra would be spouted..."Gone to the stores" or some such. Even though we all knew that these places were shut for the day.

Again, I must repeat that I'm not singling out Smiths. I saw this sort of stuff going on in all the yards I've had the pleasure of doing a refit in. But I do think there must have been a fair amount of intimidation and perhaps even some mild bribery taking place. But be that as it may. The pub prospered. But as with all these practices, it would all end in tears.
One dark and stormy night (I've been wanting to find a place to put that bit in for ages!) our night duty officer heard, while doing his rounds, a weak call for help coming from one of the cargo tanks. He discovered a "caulker" who had managed to "caulk" his own fingers between 2 bits of steel. No doubt shortly after his visit to the "stores", and where his mate was still waiting to be served.
I hope you can imagine the chaos this engendered. Red faces all round I reckon, but as the ship was officially in dockyard hands, the ships personell were not involved. Noticed a few missing faces later though. And I cannot possibly comment on the profit level of the pub.

The second episode happened to me. To my shame. A few weeks after the "caulking" business I was invited to join a couple of managers at the "Tynemouth Lodge" (another well known and historic pub) for a couple of lunch-time beers and lunch. Well, to cut a long story short, I was so well and truly stitched up. So much so that I had to be put in a taxi to take me home...although I still can't remember that bit. But "they" had chosen the day well. The day an inspection was to take place and which I was required to attend.
Oh, woe.
I was lucky to get just a mild written reprimand. I think I was chosen as I lived locally! Some lessons are learned the hard way.
By the way, my car was driven back to my house and the keys put through the letter box by"persons unknown"! Says it all really.
Next time....after refit.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on September 11, 2009, 10:47:53 pm
Bryan,

The pub next to the landing stage - was that the infamous Jungle?

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 11, 2009, 11:05:15 pm
Barry. No. The Jungle (Real name "Northumberland Arms....I think) was the next one along before you get to "The Porthole"...which is still going strong. The reason I didn't put the pubs name up is because I can't remember it. There were 2 of them, one at each end of the 2 ferry landing stages. I think Mike K may have the answer....? Cheers. Bryan.
PS....Why did you ask?
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Shipmate60 on September 12, 2009, 12:07:08 am
Bryan,
You fell for the oldest trick in the book.
Must admit some tried but even I didn't fall for that one.
You have just gone down a league in my book for that.
Poor old fish head
From
Your favourite

Clanky

Bob
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on September 12, 2009, 08:28:02 am
Barry. No. The Jungle (Real name "Northumberland Arms....I think) was the next one along before you get to "The Porthole"...which is still going strong. The reason I didn't put the pubs name up is because I can't remember it. There were 2 of them, one at each end of the 2 ferry landing stages. I think Mike K may have the answer....? Cheers. Bryan.
PS....Why did you ask?

Not sure how to take that one ! Sorry Bryan I know the pub you mean but was never in it. I did call in the 'Jungle' a few times in my younger days, just to see how my fellow seafarers spent their time ashore in my home port, you understand  %)

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on September 12, 2009, 09:25:46 am
Barry. No. The Jungle (Real name "Northumberland Arms....I think) was the next one along before you get to "The Porthole"...which is still going strong. The reason I didn't put the pubs name up is because I can't remember it. There were 2 of them, one at each end of the 2 ferry landing stages. I think Mike K may have the answer....? Cheers. Bryan.
PS....Why did you ask?

Bryan,
Some riivers like the Tyne and the Clyde in the UK bring memories to those of us of a certain fine vintage.  Like Mike K, my visits to the Jungle etc., was always one of scientific research into local customs and the more exotic fauna and flora.
Cheers,

Barry M
PS. Is Flora still there?
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 12, 2009, 05:15:15 pm
Shipmate60:- How can you refuse an offer from those you trust? It's in my nature to trust people. Sometimes that trust is earned, but just as easily destroyed. Are you perhaps "casting the first stone"? Everyone has these little set-backs in life. But I told it, and there I will draw a line.
Mike and Barry:- Considering what you have both said re. dockside pubs I had an idea. Dangerous things to have. I thought that during next week I could toddle down to the area and take a few pics to show what the place looks like now. Apart from anything else, they will give me a bit of a record of "changes". If I can find them, I can also include pics of "how it used to be". Interested? Cheers, BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 12, 2009, 05:22:18 pm
Bryan,
Some riivers like the Tyne and the Clyde in the UK bring memories to those of us of a certain fine vintage.  Like Mike K, my visits to the Jungle etc., was always one of scientific research into local customs and the more exotic fauna and flora.
Cheers,

Barry M
PS. Is Flora still there?
Barry. Sorry to shatter your dreams, but as Flora tended to spread herself out a bit she is now the Marketing director and Chief Overseer for her own Margarine company.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on September 12, 2009, 05:26:38 pm
Hi Bryan, that would be interesting to see, it is a few years since I had a wander around there. With regards the pub at the top of the walkway off the ferry, do you know if it is even still there as I'm sure it was boarded up last time I passed, so it might be a yuppie block of flats by now  <:(

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 12, 2009, 06:36:33 pm
Hi Bryan, that would be interesting to see, it is a few years since I had a wander around there. With regards the pub at the top of the walkway off the ferry, do you know if it is even still there as I'm sure it was boarded up last time I passed, so it might be a yuppie block of flats by now  <:(

Mike
I'll keep you informed. Sometime next week with any luck. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on September 12, 2009, 08:43:58 pm
Bryan,

I'll be very interested to see the results. Take care though; at one time using a camera in that locale could cause the locals to take grave offence in case it might be used in evidence against them.  Maybe still does.

Sad news about Flora - some of the regulars at the Jungle were well-known as enthusiastic educators of maritime youth in advanced biology.  %)

Cheers,

Barry M

PS. I don't suppose you want to nip down to Middlesborough and check out the Robin Hood while you're at it?   {-)  %%
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 12, 2009, 10:10:09 pm
Bryan,

I'll be very interested to see the results. Take care though; at one time using a camera in that locale could cause the locals to take grave offence in case it might be used in evidence against them.  Maybe still does.

Sad news about Flora - some of the regulars at the Jungle were well-known as enthusiastic educators of maritime youth in advanced biology.  %)

Cheers,

Barry M

PS. I don't suppose you want to nip down to Middlesborough and check out the Robin Hood while you're at it?   {-)  %%
No.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: derekwarner on September 12, 2009, 10:57:36 pm
Two pubs side by side but different just up the road from .........Garden Island naval base in Sydney.......Bryan will remember the Rock & Roll pub @ Woolloomoolloo - patrons spilling out onto the footpaths  O0 %% [Elton John does his OZ TV interviews behind the bar] ....

...but just accross the road another similar sized pub & if you walked in you could discharge a 12 gauge shotgun in the bar & not hit anyone  ;D :o ........Derek
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on September 12, 2009, 11:41:27 pm
No.

Ha! The bright lights of the big city on the Tees too much for a Geordie?  :P

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 13, 2009, 04:00:39 pm
As the lake was unusable today I took the pics I mentioned re the pubs etc.
2590
The restored and elegant edifice directly opposite the N.Shields ferry landing, with unsurpassed views over the river to beautiful downtown South Shields. The "Jungle" was in the centre part of the building entered under the portico. The "Crane" pub is at bottom left.
2591
The "Crane". The facade has been retained, but the pub itself has been made into the entrance for the apartment building that's been grafted on to it. Looks OK really.
2596
The dear old "Wolsy". I said earlier that the pub was less than 50 yards from the main gate. The remains of the gate are at bottom right. So I should have said 5 yards, rather than 50.
2598
Whats left of Smiths Docks. Once the largest ship repairer in the world with (I think) more than 13 large dry docks. I imagine that the 2 in the pic are being kept as a "waterfront feature" for the expensive new housing that's being built there.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: fooman2008 on September 17, 2009, 05:01:27 am
Tom Clancy;
I saw a mention of the Tom Clancy and here is a good story from a yank.  Clancy tried almost every publisher in New York for Hunt for Red October, no takers. Finally on the advice of friend (Larry Bond), he submitted the story to Naval Institute Press, the United States Naval Academy's publishing house.  Which had not bought a work of fiction for over two decades.
They bought it, published it, in an elaborate leather bound edition that was premium priced and it did almost no sales (retail was something like $35 U.S.).  Ronald Reagan's chief of staff his first term was Donald Regan (sp?), he was Naval Academy alumni and found it in the offerings from naval institute press and bought a copy.  Ronnie had a voracious appetite for anything to read and apparently ran out of stuff and asked his chief of staff what he recommended, Regan gave him the book.  Ronnie started to read, got about two chapters in and started yelling about who gave up their security clearance to this guy Clancy?!
He yells for someone to get the head of the CIA (William Casey) on the phone and get him down there (the White House).  Now the only reason I know that any part of that is true is because a classmate of mine's father was a White House policeman, and saw Casey getting out of his chauffeured Caprice in the very early A.M. on that day. (maybe that is coincidence)
Anyway a Congressman got wind of this and called for hearing over where Mr. Clancy had gotten his information for the book, and called for hearings.  I, fortunately, had the day off from school and could attend (we lived 21 miles from Capital Hill).  Here comes Tom Clancy, not exactly and intimidating guy, with thick glasses.  Following him is his late teenage son, carrying a huge pile of papers (almost to his head).  The Congressman calls the hearing to order and glares at Clancy to intimidate him and asks that he state his name, place of residence and occupation.
Clancy gives a slight smile; and replies "My name is Thomas Clancy Jr. and I am and insurance salesman from Hartford Connecticut, hoping to become a best selling author....."  This completely stunned the committee, and caused a ripple of laughter through the gallery watching this.  It turned out that Clancy had just signed with Doubleday (I think I cannot remember who it was) for the paperback rights to Red October.  Literally in the hallway that morning!  Over the course of the next two days (I could only attend one), he went through all his sources (NY Times, Newsweek, Time, Daily Mail, etc.) and none it was classified, he just took small facts and wove them into a hell of a story.  And invented a new genre, Technothriller.
It definitely falls in the strange but true category, as for the ship part how bout Red October?
Foo
P.S. The Naval Institute Press has only bought two works of fiction in the last five decades (Red October, and Red Phoenix), both have been in the #1 bestseller spot on the N.Y. Times list, not a bad record for them?
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on September 17, 2009, 09:55:42 am
Bryan,

2590 - Memories!! Is there no plaque on the wall to credit the Jungle with 'Services to Seamen'? Who could imagine what went on behind such a respectable frontage

2691 - The Crane. Isn't that an unfortunate location and direction for the 'Toilets' sign?

2598 - Smiths. Memories of my own wanderings around the Yard with my Supers hat on. I also recall that the sem-sub diving support Uncle John used to dock here with a pontoon in each of two parallel drydocks and the pontoon cross-braces just clearing the land between. Whoever realised it could be done that way should have got a very big bonus.

Thanks for the memories - I'm getting quite mist-eyed.  <:(

Cheers,

Barry M

PS. Now pick up the Brownie and off you go to Middlesborough; you could make a reputation out of this.  :P
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 17, 2009, 06:02:14 pm
Barry,et al.
Pic 85 is the no8 pontoon being "inaugurated" in 1892. Were you there for this one? Seriously though, Smiths did a lot of pioneering work that this area should be proud of.
Re.the pic of the "ex" Jungle. What would you consider an appropriate plaque illustration/coat of arms? An "umbrella" stuck in a slab of "margarine"? (Ex sailors will understand the "umbrella" reference....and that was the way it was spelled!)
I was going to remove the twisted "Toilets" sign, but I thought that leaving it in would just add that bit mmore "ambience" (so to speak). Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on September 19, 2009, 05:50:23 pm
Bryan,

Yes, that me waving my flag at the Inauguration.

No 'umbrella' for me - always had my raincoat on.   O0    As for the 'Toilets' sign, I think it was a reference to their beer.   <:(

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: john strapp on September 21, 2009, 10:12:42 pm
Smiths docks North Shields had only 8 dry docks, not counting the "Haddock Shop"
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on September 21, 2009, 10:50:02 pm
 er yes?

BM
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on September 22, 2009, 03:15:00 pm
Bryan,

No offence taken whatsoever. Actually you are closer than you think to those of us fortunate enough to live north of the border and not just because of the saying "A Geordie's just a Scotsman with his brains bashed oot".  I of course would never say such a thing.  :P

The Battle of the Standard (or Northallerton) was fought between English and Scottish forces in 1138. The Scots lost on a technicality as a result of some stroppy Galwegians - not Glaswegians - and very poor gamesmanship by the English. However, in the resultant negotiations, it was agreed that the Scotland/England border would run from "Derwentwater to the Tyne". (What happened to the bit that was West of Derwentwater I don't know - not thought worth arguing over?)

The Border was held at that line for ten years but then the English reneged on the deal; possibly because the Southern Lords wanted to keep a buffer of expendable English Northerners between them and the Scots. ('The slaughter of a few Northerners is worth it to keep the South prosperous' - does that ring a bell?)  :((

Thus if the English had kept their word, you would live in Scotland and that lot in South Shields would be over the Border in England. I bet that makes you cry into your Broon Ale!

Why (och) Aye,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bunkerbarge on September 24, 2009, 12:16:42 am
Just to keep everyone in the picture after a chat with Bryan and the moderating team we have decided to clean up this thread and remove as much as possible all the posts that are not relevent.  This of course will allow the pertinent posts to be read more clearly, in particular of course Bryans excellent, informative and entertaining reminisces.

If in the process of tidying up the thread I remove any members posts that they object to I apologise but I'm sure you all agree there is some value in a bit of housekeeping.     
 
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on September 24, 2009, 04:41:19 pm
May I have the (possibly) final word before Martin does his strip? I've enjoyed the recent lighthearted banter on this thread. Helped me over a bit of a sticky patch. Thanks to you all. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin H on October 01, 2009, 09:57:06 pm
Bryan,

I think I have found out why you enjoyed working for the RFA or at least put up with some of the bad times.

I was watching a program the other night `Warship` when the fleet commander visited RFA Wave Ruler and whilst they were there the TV crew took time to speak to a member of the crew, a P.O. I think. He explained the advantages of the RFA over the RN.

(1) Better rates of pay. (2) More shore leave. (3) Far, far better accommodation. They went to his cabin, big enough for 6 to 8 matelots, with easy chair, desk with computer, on suite facilities, family visits on board, etc, etc. The only down side according to the P.O. was that he would have to work till he was 60 before retirement.

As and aside you may like to google Wave Ruler and look at the captains CV. From what I have read of you excellent articles it would seem you may well have ran into him in his younger days.

Yours Colin H.
In anticipation of the next episode.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 07, 2009, 06:31:32 pm
Although I had been with "olwen" for nearly 4 months, most of my nights had been spent at home. So it wasn't all that difficult for me to agree to stay on for the round trip to Aussie and points east. Another 6 months. Turned out to be the worst decision I'd made in years. I should have remembered that apart from being the "unluckiest" of the trio, she was also the crappiest one (although she was still pretty good in comparison to some other ships)...and my ill fated week or so in 1977 when I had a major falling out with her mad and dictatorial captain.Most of the guys who'd done the refit were, in the nicest possible way, "left-overs" from before the refit and were more than ready to go on leave...especially as most of them were "southerners". So although I knew the ship and all that, it was a bit of a culture shock to have to start over again with a new crew. But, as usual, that was just the beginning. Re-storing is always a nightmare...and re-ammunitioning is even worse.
Before going into a refit all "not required for refit" stores are either put into a "lay-apart" store at the presumed re-storing base, or put into "Chacons" or "Devcons".
A long digression here.

"Chacons" and "Devcons" are wooden boxes about 7ft cubed. "Chacons" have a number that said they belonged to Chatham, and similarly "Devcons" came from Devonport. I never heard of a "Roscon". But at the time very few RFAs or RNs had any sort of shelter for the gangway staff. So guess what. These "boxes" (with a little ingenuity) could easily be converted into "Wendy Houses" for adults. I can't answer for the RN, but many RFAs converted them into real little gingerbread cottages. First job was to "fix" one of the double doors and cut an opening window into it. Fit a bench under the window so guests could be signed in and out. Fit a shore telephone connection. "Obtain" a fitted carpet. Make a connection for the ships power supply and fit a "Black Heater" (basically a lump of iron that acted a bit like a warm hotplate). Naturally, a chair, stool and bookcase soon followed...and interior lighting. When painted up they looked nothing like the original....and at least on an RFA they could be stowed below decks when the ship was at sea. All very pretty and practical. I imagine that both Chatham and Devonport dockyards had to employ someone whose sole pupose was to recover their missing containers. Fat chance. I don't know if any were ever recovered, but certainly none from any RFA that I was in.

Anyway. So a lot of them are needed before refit. Lists of contents are made up and then loaded on to trucks to be taken to goodness knows where. I'm not telling porkies when I say that it wasn't unusual for an officer plus a rating to be despatched from the Tyne to Exeter to track down a bit of kit that was belatedly found to be needed. The RN (or should I say the MoD) had these stores dpots all over the UK...sometimes in the most unlikely of places. So "our" stuff could be anywhere. And was. The RN Supply and Transport system (the "Stonnery") did all this with the aid of their own impenetrable filing system. So large boxes going "walkabout" throughout the UK was not unexpected. I've even seen 35ft lifeboats "lost" in this system, only to be found in somewhere like Loch Ewe. I'm not joking. The transport costs alone must have been horrendous.

Another little detour:- I once left a ship in Florida, was flown to Washington (!) and then via Ottawa to the UK. I had had to leave most of my "stuff" behind and just put my faith in the "system". The system worked OK. About 2 weeks after I got home an RN truck arrived outside my house with one box on it. Mine. I thanked the driver and asked if my box was just the last of a larger load. No. Then he drove back to Rosyth. The box would have fitted into the back of most hatchbacks. I'll leave you to consider esoteric stuff like "value for money".

Perhaps not many of you are aware that the MoD has a telephone system that runs independently of the BT network. I suppose it should be obvious for all sorts of reasons, but probably not a thing that has been at the minds forefront. But it's a godsend when trying to chase up missing items. Not being a novice at this game, generally one of my first calls would be to an RAF (not RFA) maintenance depot....generally the one that used to be in Carlisle...dyslexia does still rule in some areas. Quite often our "missing" bit were "found" in an RAF establishment. Equally often. because the RAF staff didn't know what they were dealing with, our "boxes" had been opened an inevetably some items went missing. It worked the other way as well. Very often we had packages posted to RAF "Olwen" (or somesuch). Naturally we re-directed them back to the sender emphasising that we were a ship and not an RAF base. Funnily enough, I never ever had anything meant for the Royal Field Artillery. Odd, that. Some of you may recall a newspaper report regarding 10 tons of anchor cable being delivered to an "Argos" store when it was clearly marked for RFA "Argus" which was refitting in a nearby yard.

I'll stop there and then continue as I have no desire to be "blocked" again! BY.

Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 08, 2009, 05:59:03 pm
Brian I specifically asked you if you wanted me to tidy up this thread back to your own original stories and you agreed.  After putting a considerable amount of time into this and carefully weighing up whether to leave or remove a post you come out with a comment like that.  Needless to say I'll not be touching this thread anymore.
Hey, hang about here will you! You've got absolutely the wrong end of the stick. I more than appreciate what you are doing. My reply was to another post and was (honestly) meant as a jocular answer to someone who I've been bantering with for awhile on the "Northumbrian" thread.
I was, and still am, hoping that the "trite" and/ or totally irelevant postings could be deleted. But as you will well have observed, some of the answers / queries are relevant to the topic. And those are the ones I was referring to. Sorry to have got your back up. Very unintentional. Regards. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 08, 2009, 07:36:10 pm
Going back to the lack of understanding between the services.
When "stuff" goes adrift there is a procedure to be followed. Form filling. Back then (1988 - as a reminder) All 3 services had different ways of doing this. Now we have a "Joint Services" organisation I hope it's better.
So, how does one make out a "missing" item report when it isn't clear about the "who", "where" and "why" business? The easiest way was just to fill in a form saying the lost item couldn't be found, and pass it up the line. Bending the truth (or at least the suspicions) a little. Personally, I think that this sort of "theft" fuelled an awful lot of "Antique" and "Surplus" shops at the time. Especially with items of clothing.

One great advantage that the USN has over the RN is that there Naval Bases are run and operated by USN personnel. Ours are run by civil servants. Actual ships are an encumbrance to the smooth running of the Dockyard. Unless we actually need to go to war when the system can (and does) go into an efficient sort of overdrive. But in peacetime the pen-pushers and bean counters rule.

Back to post-refit re-storing. This would take perhaps another month. This may seem pretty excessive to some of you, but believe me, it's necessary. An RN ship will probably take 3 times as long. An RFA may well be classified as a "Merchant Ship" (for various legal reasons) but there are many aspects that would never be found in a standard Merchant ship. For a start, there is the communications system. Testing and tuning of both the old and new equipment. Refining new Engine room systems. Getting new "rigs" to work...the list seems endless. The "big" one for the deck department is the re-building of the fuelling rigs. This ( in my experience) was always done by the Bosun and his "gang". Perhaps 15 of them. The hoses are heavy. 6" or so in dia and perhaps 30' long. An "O" boat had 8 rigs plus a stern one. That's a lot of hoses at £5000 or so each (plus spares). Maybe 7 connected hoses per rig. But there isn't just one hose. There could be up to 8 hoses matched and lashed per rig. FFO, Deisel, Avcat, Lube oil, Fresh water and so on. All have a dedicated hose for obvious reasons.

Then there is the Pursers group. They only know they have to stock up as far as they can for 6 months or so. Of course, some items are perishable and need to be re-stocked now and again, but the "core" has to be there. But at this stage it wouldn't be known if we were to have an embarked flight or not. This time it was a "not". But as luck would have it we were to have an embarked "force" (or 2 in this case). Both itinerant. First, we were to be the floating home for the Royal Marines Band. That sounded promising (no pun intended), and secondly to be a base and platform for a bunch of BAE rocket scientists who had been tasked to try and sell a high-tech high-altitude target rocket. More on both of them later.  Now it was clear why no flight would be embarked.

After the usual palaver at Portland many of the crew were relieved (in more senses than one), as the MoD played its usual trick again. A lot of the senior POs and Ratings who had taken the ship through Portland were re-assigned and peplaced by others who in the main were experienced....but the crew cohesiveness was lost. A sorry tale really, and it had gone on for years. To some of us it really make us wonder about the "worthwhileness" of doing a work-up. In effect, we had to do it all over again....but on our own while at sea.  Naturally, those guys who had done the Portland bit were more than a bit "xxxxx" off. But needs must.

The "Rocket Crew" were an interesting bunch. My memory of them is rather typical of cartoon characters. They all seemed to have beards and were a touch on the paunchy side. They'd also spent more time than I would consider healthy squatting on some remote western Scottish island testing their "missiles". I believe the name given to the rockets was "Petrel". Developed from something to do with weather forecasting....beats me why you need a rocket for that, but there you go. Before we departed for "Forrin Shores" we had to load up their equipment. It filled the double hangar. (Hence no embarked flight)....apart from one little corner where we parked a "Scout" (a Wasp without wheels) that was destined for a museum near Sydney. The "electronics" were stowed in the torpedo prep room. And then they all disappeared, not to be seen again until we got to Singapore.

Another little "odd-ball" was the Mini-Moke bought by the 2/O(N) for "jollies" in far flung places. God alone knows how long it took him to get clearances for it, but certainly months rather than days. He was also a bit miffed about the ships "plunge pool" being inoperable..so he bought his own. A medium sized "kiddies" paddling thing. But this had a sorry end. One breezy night in the Indian Ocean. The pool had been emptied but not weighted down. It was found the next morning wrapped around the radar gear in a shredded mess. There were repurcussions.
But that part of the trip is totally unmemorable apart from doing all the exercise stuff.
Life could get a bit wearysome at times. BY
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 13, 2009, 05:38:31 pm
I've noticed (easy to do) that the number of responses to my meanderings have gone from "some" to "zero" recently.
This is in all probablity due to an unfortunate misunderstanding between myself and Bunkerbarge. I plead guilty. But the wee spat has been amicably resolved between us, and life will go on. However, spending so much time and depletion of my remaining brain cells without any "feedback" whatsoever is pretty depressing. So any comments from you are welcome. On the other hand, perhaps all interest has been lost. In which case I should retire gracefully and with as much of my remaining dignity that remains.
Ah, the "blessed" peace of reduncancy!. Regards to you all. Bryan Y.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 13, 2009, 08:04:51 pm
Bryan,

It is good, we want it, rub, rub, rub. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT? We cannot argue with you, it all happened to you not to us.

Please carry on, it is well worth it.

I herebye promise to comment on EVERY episode.

Roger in France
Roger....I don't "want" anything. I just thought that a couple of comments and responses may have deterred people from responding just in case their comments my be deleted before "publishing" as it were.
All your comments, criticisms, downright denials and corrections are welcome. Although they will give Bunkerbarge a mild seizure. By the by...the "cleaning-up" process wasn't initially thought up by me, surprise, surprise.
It began when I mentioned what I was writing to my son and he said that it might be nice for my grandaughter to have something of me . Not to mention the fact that he hasn't a clue as to what I got up to while I was "employed"....so I think it would be for him as much as his daughter.
It all started off when I asked Martin if the thread could be lifted off and stuck on to a disc. It would appear not. So in the best Naval tradition he delegated the job to a minion. The "minion" being a rather senior officer on a rather large cruise ship. A nice regard for protocol  here...we all need to be reminded of where the heirachy really is.
So my heartfelt thanks do go to Bunkerbarge for his conscripted efforts. A real answer to the call of "duty". (when he gets out of the oily boilersuit). So I suppose Martin is just sitting back in his swivel chair, wondering what other little bombshells he can drop into the laps of the other moderators.
However, completely out of context, the "Maiden Voyage" of Northumbrian went without a hitch. Some say it could do with a bit more ballast. Not sure. Very stable in a strong breeze. New photos will be done once I get the people and some people on board.
Apropos of that.....against my better judgement I bought some "G" scale figures from "Virtual Village". I was correct in my initial post. These are "rip-offs" from Preiser. They have only done the "easy" ones, and not all that well either.OK for stuffing indoors, but not good enough for outdoors. So biting the bullet I've got a shed load of "proper" ones (I won't tell you the cost, but it's in 3 numbers). And most of them were unpainted! Similarly with vehicles. So many advertised are American. And the Shields ferry didn't see many of them.
Enough for one answer. Thanks for that. I shall continue......Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 13, 2009, 08:14:51 pm
C'mon Bryan, you're just fishing for compliments! You know we like it - just get on with it. Wear a dressing gown if you like.  ok2

Colin
No,Colin, I'm not "fishing". I welcome any sort of feedback as it helps me a lot. Also I don't "know" you like it. How could I unless I'm told?  It isn't like sticking an article in a magazine. It's more personal than that. To me it's more like chatting and arguing over a decent dinner. And in that situation one needs other points of view. Sorry to rain on your parade. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: omra85 on October 13, 2009, 08:24:12 pm
Hello Bryan
We're all still here and reading your episodes. If you keep your eye on the viewing figures of "Nautical, Strange but True" (currently 14306) you will be able to see how many read it.  I'm pretty sure that if we thought it was rubbish, you wouldn't be getting anywhere near that number of views.
Anyway, you can't stop now, I'm looking forward to getting lots of free pints down the pub when I regale them with MY adventures in the RFA (only joking, I wouldn't really steal your exploits and claim them for my own just to get a few free drinks .............. probably)  %)
Danny

Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on October 13, 2009, 08:37:47 pm
Aw c'mon, stop dragging it out. Get on with the next chapter where you start a new life as a drag artist and become Danny La Rue's dress designer.  :o

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 13, 2009, 09:47:20 pm
Aw c'mon, stop dragging it out. Get on with the next chapter where you start a new life as a drag artist and become Danny La Rue's dress designer.  :o

Cheers,

Barry M
So here we go again,eh? I hadn't realised you went to the "Grab a Granny" night at the Rex. To come all the way down from Thurso ,man: you must have been desperate. Or did you travel on the "go-anywhere for 50p" ticket. Even so, you must have given some consolence to the poor shaky mite of your choice....but as they all wobble when they walk I couldn't be sure which one it was. The grinning one without teeth, I thought. My dresses are made up for me by my 6 year old adopted Capuchin. As "he" (or perhaps "she"...can't tell yet) is Brazilian there isn't much conversation....but who needs words when your'e in love? Most nights at the Rex "it" does a "stand-in" night for me. Gets more applause, but I get the money. Perhaps Floras talents went far beyond our shores. Who knows.  BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on October 14, 2009, 07:59:26 am
During my short attempt at anchor swallowing I worked for Wimpey as a hydrographic surveyor (to be truthfull more of the surveyors gopher  %) ) We were staying at one of the small hotels around the corner from the Rex and wandered in now and then. I have a memory of someone in a penguin suit playing a grand piano and a lady (or was it two ?) gently torturing a violin  :D All in all a bit of a time warp back to more genteel days, but it seemed popular with grannies of a grabbing inclination. I suppose the Rex has turned into something far more unattractive nowadays ?

Mike

PS Re the feedback, I always feel I am interrupting the flow of a very interesting story, I suppose if there is none one could start to wonder if anyone is awake out there. There is, Bryan, there is aplenty !  :-))
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on October 14, 2009, 08:59:08 am
So here we go again,eh? I hadn't realised you went to the "Grab a Granny" night at the Rex. To come all the way down from Thurso ,man: you must have been desperate. Or did you travel on the "go-anywhere for 50p" ticket. Even so, you must have given some consolence to the poor shaky mite of your choice....but as they all wobble when they walk I couldn't be sure which one it was. The grinning one without teeth, I thought. My dresses are made up for me by my 6 year old adopted Capuchin. As "he" (or perhaps "she"...can't tell yet) is Brazilian there isn't much conversation....but who needs words when your'e in love? Most nights at the Rex "it" does a "stand-in" night for me. Gets more applause, but I get the money. Perhaps Floras talents went far beyond our shores. Who knows.  BY.

Bryan,
I think your medication needs adjusting.  %)

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on October 14, 2009, 05:09:19 pm
Furthermore, any lady with a zimmer was given a 10 yard start.  :-))

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 14, 2009, 05:57:15 pm
During my short attempt at anchor swallowing I worked for Wimpey as a hydrographic surveyor (to be truthfull more of the surveyors gopher  %) ) We were staying at one of the small hotels around the corner from the Rex and wandered in now and then. I have a memory of someone in a penguin suit playing a grand piano and a lady (or was it two ?) gently torturing a violin  :D All in all a bit of a time warp back to more genteel days, but it seemed popular with grannies of a grabbing inclination. I suppose the Rex has turned into something far more unattractive nowadays ?

Mike

PS Re the feedback, I always feel I am interrupting the flow of a very interesting story, I suppose if there is none one could start to wonder if anyone is awake out there. There is, Bryan, there is aplenty !  :-))

Poor. poor Mike....you obviously fell under the spell of the long departed "Mina and Mitzi"....and the pianist was probably Harry "I've never had a music lesson in my life" Atkinson. Ah, we had such a plethora of talent in these parts then. Personally I blame the invention of the Zimmer Frame for the demise of the Grab A Granny night....the little dears can now be seen in their hundreds scooting up the A19 towards pastures new. And so all that's left in Whitley Bay as the sun goes down (if, in fact, it ever actually comes up in the first place) are many establishments where, for a moderate fortune , one can get absolutely legless, fall into a ditch, have a fight and get your suit torn off. A bit like Singapore used to be ,really. Perhaps that's why we have so many people of the Orient settling here. Wan Chai Hei....BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on October 14, 2009, 06:43:11 pm
Ah but production of the Broon is now moving to Yorkshire and thus a strange calm should settle over Geordie land. - Maybe

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 16, 2009, 06:47:39 pm
Sorry about this,folks, but I'm going to backtrack all the way to Portsmouth. As I've mentioned earlier, I found this to be a god-awful voyage and so I think I must have unconciously erased it from my memory. I was moaning on about this to my other half...and within a minute had dumped all the letters I'd written during that "voyage" in my lap. So missing out the "lovey-dovey" and domestic stuff it becomes more like a diary. Consider this to be an adjunct to the last posting.

It would appear that the departure of the "Task Force" (as we were named) was filmed by many TV outfits. No doubt they dwelled on faces of weepy kids and "others". Always happens when the RN goes to sea for more than a week. But I doubt if any of the footage got aired beyond Hampshire. After a couple of days at sea regaining our sea-legs and just generally tidying up the ship I got my copy of the "Group" training programme up to Malta. Bloody Hellfire...it WAS Portland all over again. Mornings and afternoons was always to be taken up with RASing or Flying. (even though most of the RASs were "dummy" ones for practice). Then the "Boss Man"..or more likely some staff officer within the promotion bracket..wanted a copy of our projected internal training programme for fire-fighting, search and rescue (using the IR cameras), damage control, man-overboard (how many of us had ever seen that one for real?) and all the other gubbins that would push us a damn sight harder than the multi-manned RN ships. I hadn't expected the trip to be all sweetness and light as this isn't the RN way, but it did give me the first inkling that I may have made an awful mistake by agreeing to this so called "cruise". Considering that the basic crew of an RFA "O" class would be around the 85 mark, all this frippery was going to play hell with crew morale and ship maintenance. You, dear reader, must understand that any (indeed all) of the expected evolutions involve the entire ships company....or nearly so, whereas the RN ships can sort of parcel out everything into only the groups of people directly involved. I'm sure you can work out the impact on us for yourselves.

However, a real nasty "biggy" was about to hit the fan. "We" had discovered during refit and re-storing that the ships internal accounting system had been neglected and allowed over the previous few years to a level that was both unintelligible and unacceptable to us. I'm not impugning the financial side of things. The "accounts" system is divided into 3 main sections. "V & A" (meaning Valuable and Attractive), "Permanent" (basically stuff such as fixtures and fittings plus items that have no shelf life and are in more or less daily use), and "Consumables" (not just food, but rope, paint, bedding....you name it. If "it" can be used up or worn out it is likely to be a "consumable). To cut it short, the "books" and the "reality" belonged in 2 different worlds. And "we" weren't prepared to let this state of affairs to continue. The MoD then took the drastic ( in my experience) decision to abandon the accounts and start afresh. There was, in all likelihood , some criminality involved; but as far as I know only a couple of minor heads rolled. But the "on-board" consequences was a nightmare. A complete....and I mean complete....inventory of the ships entire contents had to be taken, done and dusted before we reached Singapore, wher a team of auditors would join us an reconstitute the "paperwork" side of things.
Lord alone would know where we could find the time to do all this...or how accurate it would be. In a perfect world the ship would be sent off to anchor (after the anchors had been counted) and left there until all was done. But during an operational tasking it was nigh on impossible. Inevetably, corners were cut and "assumptions" made. Just making the best of a bad job really, but even so we didn't "complete " the job until 2 days before arrival at Singapore many weeks later.

For once the Bay of Biscay was benign, but as a "fuel saving" measure our SOA (Speed of Advance) was to be 12 knots...not the 15 we'd planned for. Sounded like a long haul. Gave "Olwen" a bit of a breathing space. Boring but busy. It was only on arrival at Singapore and saw a new main engine waiting for the carrier that the truth dawned about the slow speeds. Lying sods.
Somewhere on the sunny side of Gib. we were attacked by the French Air Force. A bit of a half-hearted affair so we ignored it and carried on with lunch...bet the Rodneys were a bit miffed though...but no sympathy from this quarter.
About this time "something political" in the world must have been brewing up as we reversed course and then spent the next week doing a 100 mile "racetrack" . This wasn't a "voyage" more like an indeterminate sentence while being blindfolded. It was around this time that I seriously thought of asking  the bosun if I could buy myself a broken leg...I'd had enough already, and we hadn't yet reached anywhere !

We also had a CTU embarked (Cadet Training Unit) of RFA cadets under the "control" of a shore based RFA officer. Only 8 of the little sods fortunately. The CTU training officer was all for an easy life and arranged for all his first-trippers to be "farmed out" to a specified ships officer (in all departments) on a weekly rotational basis. Their only orders were that "Where he goes..you go" (within some limits, obviously). The days of it being "your turn in the barrel " are long gone. It was like having a stray puppy on my heels for a week. Poor little mite never even asked a question for a couple of days...I suppose I must have got a bit soft-hearted as I began asking him the questions he should have been asking me. But over the months he developed.
A sort of lasting memory of the CTU is of their utter dismay when the ship got out of UK TV range. They were all "Eastenders" fans, and all of a sudden, unexpectedly and un-forwarned they were bereft. Quite pitiful. Odd that kids (even then) had to be pushing 18 years before some of the realities of "life" began to ease into the conciousness. Later (lots of "later") when we got back into TV range all 8 of them gathered in front of the TV "to catch up"....within 5 minutes all of them quit and rejoined the land of the living, all bemoaning the fact that in the past they'd been watching so much garbage. And so do children grow up. I imagine that now they are all now in positions of some responsibility they can look back on their first trip with many memories. I know that I can, and how different a person I am now to the callow youth joining his first ship in Glasgow in 1957. I suppose I had a small part to play in the way they turned out....for the better, I hope. Good luck to them all. BY.

Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on October 17, 2009, 07:11:12 am
Good to hear about you helping with the Cadets, BY. We all have to start somewhere and the influence of a kindly, experienced mentor can achieve great things.

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on October 17, 2009, 02:55:26 pm
Good to hear about you helping with the Cadets, BY. We all have to start somewhere and the influence of a kindly, experienced mentor can achieve great things.

Roger in France
Actually,Roger I did treat the cadets fairly as I still recall with some disgust how I and other cadets were treated. I remember telling myself That I would never ever treat anyone in a manner that I would not like to be treated in return. Particularly if the "other is a "junior" and unable to respond. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on November 11, 2009, 10:02:05 am
Awful quiet in here. Are you OK Bryan?

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on November 11, 2009, 03:36:37 pm
Thanks Barry. Didn't realise you cared so much!
Yeah, I'm OK. I seem to have come down with a sort of writers block. Many of my earlier posts on this thread were about earlier times, but now I'm up to more "modern" days I've got  the conundrum that I could find describing events without implicating those involved in some events has become a problem. As I mentioned at the beginning of my last trip on "Olwen", it was a difficult voyage for me. A very large clash of personalities (not just with me but throughout the ship). This made life on a day to day basis very difficult. I'm still trying to find a way "out" without decrying the rather good job we did over a longish period. I would love to post a "warts and all" episode, but I could be unwittingly very unfair. And just writing the bald facts of the deployment would just be boring for everyone. So at the moment it's all a mental exercise until I can come up with my own solution. It will happen. Now you've jogged my feeble brain perhaps I'll get down to it again. Thanks for asking. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on November 11, 2009, 04:14:16 pm
Good! Just like to know that the Forum's Victor Meldrew is still alive and biting ankles.  ;)

Cheers,

Barry
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on November 11, 2009, 04:52:01 pm
A Geordie Victor Meldrew - what a picture that conjures up  :o I also have been starting to wonder at the quiet from your goodself. As long as you are hale and healthy that's ok then.

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on November 11, 2009, 08:00:09 pm
Geordieland is chock-a-block with Meldrews. Most of them seem to have joined Tynemouth Model Boat Club. If you would like 100 different opinions on a specific subject (and I use the term "subject" extremely loosely) then come and listen to this lot!
But perhaps it is just as well that Barry and Mike live at opposing ends of this once great realm of ours. Both of whom fled (one south and the other north) to escape the clutches of the now bereft (and old, and wrinkled and very,very droopy) Flora. But some of us have stayed on to welcome "The New Beginning" at "$*%)!L St.James' Park.....dot com". This has given us Meldrews a new lease of life. All is now perky in the land of League 2 (Scousers are still leading....alas).
But it's nice to know that in spite of all my deprivations and lowly origins I have managed to garner a "Fan Club" (albeit only 2). So there is some room for improvement I suppose. Anywhere between Aberdeen and Hampshire would be a good start. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on November 11, 2009, 08:36:25 pm
Ermm..... Not so sure about Hampshire; we know who hangs out there, don't we?  :o

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: DickyD on November 11, 2009, 08:55:03 pm
Shipmate60 ?  {:-{
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on November 11, 2009, 10:36:01 pm
I was thinking of The Bishop - or is he Surrey Man?  :-)

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on November 11, 2009, 11:03:51 pm
Absolutely amazing! A simple little reply already engenders more recruits. Not too sure about Surrey though...aren't they a little too posh for us mere mortals.....what with their yachts and so on.....
But OK, I'll get back to the main thread eventually. Sorry for the hiatus. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on November 12, 2009, 07:55:56 am
The fan base extends much further, Bryan.

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bunkerbarge on November 12, 2009, 09:28:29 am
I think with things like this Bryan it's important that you enjoy doing it and not to let it become a chore.  Take your time and add things as you feel like it and maybe if the additional concerns of implicating people make if it difficult then perhaps it's time to consider it a finished work.  You may then find it more enjoyable to go back again and revisit some of the things you have missed from your earlier days, who says it has to be in chronological order?

Just know that when you do decide to write something there are a lot of members here who enjoy reading it, and that's from an engineer!!  Just think of some of the stories where the deck and engineering teams actually pulled together, we all had to endure the "oil and water don't mix" clowns on both sides but I have some very good memories of enjoyable times working with some good deck officers.  Even my father was a second mate before he came ashore, which of course I always put down to the fact that he failed the engineering entrance exam!!
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on November 12, 2009, 09:45:31 am
The fan base extends much further, Bryan.

Roger in France

Quite true! At Mrs Hortensia Acorah's last 'Medium with a Message' seance, Henry the Navigator said he had sailed with you while Vasco de Gama said he hung on your every word - or did he say you should be hung for every word?  :P

Publish and be damned! Just sprinkle it with enough 'allegedlys' and change names if needed to keep the legal types off your back.
By the way, I think I've found news of Flora - watch the usual space.

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: cbr900 on November 12, 2009, 11:58:49 am
Brian,

The fan club has also reached the farthest of the Colonies,
we are enjoying your memories here as well mate.......

Roy :-))
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on November 12, 2009, 03:23:21 pm
By the way I haven't forgotten about tidying this thread up but I'm at work in a shipyard and simply haven't got time until I get home again in a couple of weeks.
The shipyard wouldn't happen to be in the Bahamas would it? If so, then one of the boss-men is a relative of a good pal of mine. Let me know and I'll see if I can get you a social introduction. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on November 12, 2009, 03:30:25 pm
Brian,

The fan club has also reached the farthest of the Colonies,
we are enjoying your memories here as well mate.......

Roy :-))
Wow! Brings tears to my eyes does that. I enjoyed my one and only visit to Tasmania (on board the "current" ship "Olwen" in 1988).
One of your very nice fellow citizens of the female persuasion allowed me to drive her to Port Arthur....a fascinating place until that idiot let rip with a gun. And you can get Newcastle "Brown Ale" down there! A civilised sort of place. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bunkerbarge on November 12, 2009, 03:52:40 pm
The shipyard wouldn't happen to be in the Bahamas would it? If so, then one of the boss-men is a relative of a good pal of mine. Let me know and I'll see if I can get you a social introduction. BY.

Sorry Bryan it's in Germany, although I've just missed out on our first dry dock in Freeport, which by all accounts was very successful and the yard did a good job.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: cbr900 on November 13, 2009, 11:02:41 am
Bryan,
That is exactly what he was an idiot, he originally was going to shoot up
another idyllic little town but the Police were payrolling often as the
Harley riders were in town, so the fool went to Port Arthur instead,
and the rest is history...............

Roy
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on November 13, 2009, 01:44:06 pm
I'm just wondering about coupling the ability to buy Newcastle Brown with "civilised"?

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on November 13, 2009, 05:57:06 pm
I'm just wondering about coupling the ability to buy Newcastle Brown with "civilised"?

Barry M
I don't suppose there is a "coupling" as you put it, but when one is almost as far away from "home" as it's possible to get then a little sight of "home" in the most unexpected of places can give a sort of warm glow....even without drinking it. Apart from that, I tend to the belief that the "Tassies" share a similar mind-set to the Geaordies and Scousers...so we get on together..but as I seem to like all Aussies and NZers.........BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on November 13, 2009, 06:04:42 pm
Hah, we are still picking up the pieces - and sticking some of them together - after the biannual invasion of Oz and Kiwi rellies who this year brought massive reinforcements.  Only the Noggies are capable of greater devastation; so why do I like 'em? 

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on November 25, 2009, 07:23:23 pm
A couple of weeks off for a walk in the park and all of a sudden it's presumed that I've popped my clogs.
Sorry to disabuse you.
But the last time I talked to you I left you drifting around the Med somewhere. Perhaps our Nav couldn't find Malta, after all, it is quite small.

I recall a certain amount of hostility to our visit...Maltese politics have always baffled me. They welcome our tourists but not those who saved them in WW2. A funny lot, even before Mintoff decided that he liked the Chinese more than us Brits. But it's a very odd sort of place (or was, in 1988). A language that no-one but themselves can understand, taxis and busses that would never in a million years pass an MOT (no wonder that the taxi and bus drivers used to say a prayer and cross themselves before setting off). A huge church for every day of the year...the noise of the Sunday bells was mind-blowing. A skyline dominated by very tall TV aerials (must have been some sort of status symbol). Only 2 colours, various shades of brown and blue.....brown landscape and buildings and blue sky and water, but also lots of black-clad local people. No birds. The locals shoot them all. Even the sea-gulls give the place a miss. Yet Grand Harbour is a place of great and outstanding beauty. So you may have gathered that Malta was not very high on my list of favourite places. Times may have changed....

Due to the antagonism about our visit, each ship (apart from Olwen) was allowed to "opt-out" and go someplace else. We had to stay "close(ish)" to "Ark". A couple of ships decided to go to Augusta (Sicily...not the US, although ...well, why not). But as a "just-in-case" measure "Orangeleaf" disgorged as much of her cargo as we could take. That took 7 hours out of the day. But then the situation became more "as usual"....the "Ark" and somebody else went into Grand Harbour to "do their bit", while the RFAs were to anchor 2 miles off St.Pauls....miles away. In a pretty steep swell at that. I really must be a born optimist because I always felt despondent when this was such a regular occurrence. Over the past month, on top of all the other "stuff", I'd spent ages arranging the hire of wind-surf boards, trips, visits and so on for the ships company.....only for our "agent of choice" to succumb to media pressure and chicken-out. So everything went for a ball of chalk. "Fort Grange" got seriously hacked off with all this hoo-ha and took herself off to Cyprus. So there we sat for 4 days. No breaking of the watch routines. No "enjoyment". Out of sight and out of mind and everyone on board feeling very cheated. Nor did we get any mail. "Ark" got hers, but it was a bit "inconvenient" to put ours on a sea-boat so they sent it off to Cyprus....despondency was now turning into anger.
This little lot isn't reading like a recruitment advert for the RFA is it. But that's the way it was.

We by-passed Cyprus and went south of Crete towards Port Said. Many of our crew (more often the young officers than the "old hand" ratings) had never experienced or expected the sea conditions that you can get when coming out of the lee of Crete. This is the area where Paul Gallico sited his novel "The Posseidon Adventure", and in real life, the ex-Bibby liner "Leicestershire" turned over. For a few hours it was more like being in a N.Atlantic winter storm than the Eastern Med. Not unusual, but it was a bit of a "wake-up" call to the more inexperienced or just plain complacent.

It was about now that the news broke about the mighty and infallible USN shooting down a (Korean?) airliner. Hmm. Gave some pause for thought and concern.
The Suez transit was as uneventful and as unexciting as usual, with the exception of the unusual steep rise in air temperature. Generally speaking I would hazard that going from the mid 70s at Port Said to the low 90s at Port Tewfik would be "normal".....but 110*F was not nice....it hurt. But only 20 days before Singapore. This may seem a long time, we could do that run in a fraction of the time. But the RN has never really got to grips with straight lines on charts. A bit of meandering is always required. Except that in the "Red Sea" you can't, or not very much. What a dreary part of the world is the Red Sea (I think it's called the "Red" sea because of the dust that gets into every natural orifice). Every time I ever went up or down this "rift" I would recall my cadet days in hell-holes like Port Sudan, Jeddha, Djibouti and Aden. I tell you, the most God-forsaken council sink-hole estates in the UK are sheer paradise compared to these places. But eventually we turned left and headed eastwards. Past an island that in my younger days I would have loved to visit..Socotra..but probably just as well I didn't as there is a "there be cannibals" sort of warning.

But by now we were back into "Portland In The Sun" sort of mode. Portland "Work-Ups" were hard work and miserable at the best of times. But I find it hard to say whether doing it in cold weather or very hot weather (or vice verca) one is better (subjective) than the other. In hot weather it feels like one is permanently on the verge of either heat-stroke or a heart attack. So I'll go for cold weather.
Then the Air Con system broke down. Go back to the cabin for a rest but only to find the place is at 90*F. No good opening the ports as the wind is from aft and I really don't want the funnel fumes in here on top of all that. I think I (and others) may have felt a tad suicidal at this point. And I've got a 6 hour stint on the flight deck to do tomorrow morning.
The Bridge team have been "relatively" protected from all this as they are watchkeepers. Getting promoted is not always a "good-thing"! And we are still a long way from completing this bloody audit. Me and "my team" all look, feel and behave like old wet dish rags..and we are to greet our wives in about 10 days when we get to Singapore when we are due a 3 week break. With the AirCon goosed and the "cold water" out of the taps too hot to put a hand in, temperatures both physical and mental were beginning to get a wee bit ragged.
But at least I've got rid of that red dust from my nether regions.
I shall continue!!!!!!!!! BY

Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on November 25, 2009, 07:30:55 pm
Very graphic Bryan, and to think that Sharm el Sheikh on the Red Sea is now a major tourist destination!

Colin
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on November 25, 2009, 11:18:01 pm
Bryan,

How nice to have you back and we won't inquire too closely why you were wandering around a park for a couple of weeks. Age does tend to affect the powers of navigation and perhaps the exit was one of those awkward ones that are so hard to find?   ;D

Mention of the duff aircon reminds me of a tanker's aircon problem when I was sailing 2/Eng - best job in the world. She was the typical 'Mates midships' and 'everybody else aft' configuration. All was fine until the motor for the aft, starboard, aircon compressor burned out; the unit supplying the Engineers and Firemens accommodation which was on top of and around the Engine/Boiler Room - and we were in the Tropics..  Nothing could be done; we didn't have a spare, we couldn't cannibalise from elsewhere and it was going to be a long time before the motor could be sent ashore for rewinding. The temperature in the accommodation soared.

At lunch that day, taken as usual in the Officers Saloon (aft and fed from the port, working, aircon unit) and mention was made of the problem and mutterings from the Firemen. "Hah", said the Old Man, "we didn't have airconditioning when I first went to sea. Didn't need it then, don't need it now. But if the crew are unhappy, why not take the motor from the midships airconditioning unit?"
The look of horror on the Mate's face was a picture but he knew better than to argue with that Old Man.
Excusing myself, I rapidly mobilised the 8-12 watch, the daywork Engineer and the E/R Storekeeper with a willing band of Firemen. If the Guinness Book of Records had sent reps they would have witnessed a World Record for extracting a very large (1400 lb?) motor from a confined space, along the Flying Bridge and up to the aft boatdeck. By the time I went on watch that afternoon, the starboard A/C unit was purring away and the cabins had cooled down.

Until the motor was rewound, the Mates spent the next three weeks with every available port open while quietly cursing the Old Man (out of his hearing). I think even the Old Man realised he had made a mistake as he sat in his cabin, reportedly dressed only in his underpants but there was no way he would admit it. As the Mate sat in my (cool) cabin, drinking my (cold) beer, I almost offered him the use of my daybed. Almost - but not quite.  ok2

Barry M  
Title: Nautical strange but true
Post by: Bryan Young on March 08, 2010, 02:56:20 pm
Sorry about this, but I was quietly thinking of continuing that thread, but for some reason or other I can't find it any more. Has it been moved, deleted or whatever? Now that I'm coming out of hibernation I thought it was about time I gave Roger in France something more to read over his corn-flakes. Bryan Y.
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: chingdevil on March 08, 2010, 04:31:19 pm
It is still here Bryan, try this link
http://www.modelboatmayhem.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=8808.500


Brian
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: Roger in France on March 08, 2010, 05:33:52 pm
Bryan, I assure you that you have a much more extensive readership than just me.

Also, I try not to eat breakfast when I am on Mayhem as I find the croissant crumbs jam the key board!

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: Bryan Young on March 08, 2010, 05:35:13 pm
Wow!...Thanks for that Brian. Now it's time to regroup the grey matter and embark on the final stages of 40 years as a seaman becoming a beaurocrat (pen pusher....although still in a ship).
I feel I should sort of warn you that the purveyors (i.e. writers) of an RFA site that is specialising in "publishing" tales of the RFA has asked me if I had (have) any objections to their re-printing my little ditties on their site. Well, that's OK by me. But they are all my rememberances, and so, in a way, they belong to me. I do hope that the Forum Moderators don't object too strongly. I really don't know how "they" came to beware of the thread.....but it would appear that present and ex RFA people are aware of my memorabilia, so as I get to the more recent recollections, the more careful I have to be. I would absolutely love to "name names" but the cost of a lawsuit sort of intimidates me a little. Naturally, the RFA site is only interested in my recollections of life in the RFA.....you, old readers , will perhaps recall my formative years in the "Ben Line" and "Cable & Wireless". Anyway, once I get the site address for the RFA thingy I'll pass it on to you so (perhaps) you'll get to see the other side...or not.
I've enjoyed (so far) re-living my life at sea with the members of this forum. So many people from so many different walks of life, but all interested in the various aspects of Model Boating (or Ships)....
But bear with me. I'll continue with "Olwen" ASAP . Thanks to all those who have mailed me to continue. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 08, 2010, 06:03:33 pm
Hello Bryan
We're all still here and reading your episodes. If you keep your eye on the viewing figures of "Nautical, Strange but True" (currently 14306) you will be able to see how many read it.  I'm pretty sure that if we thought it was rubbish, you wouldn't be getting anywhere near that number of views.
Anyway, you can't stop now, I'm looking forward to getting lots of free pints down the pub when I regale them with MY adventures in the RFA (only joking, I wouldn't really steal your exploits and claim them for my own just to get a few free drinks .............. probably)  %)
Danny


We are going back a bit here.....but remind me more of your "exploits" in the RFA. The RFA was full of nut-cases (I plead guilty), but still enjoy the stupidity of it all. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 08, 2010, 07:37:51 pm
Sorry about the little gap-----but it's nice to see this thread back in the mainstream of postings.
I think I'm now starting to think I'm I am in the 21st century.
I am also looking (as if I was a youngster) at a career "at sea". I shudder. When I were a lad....etc......ships went into a port and eiither loaded or offloaded "stuff". This process took a long time. Perhaps a few weeks. Naturally, the shipowners would welcome a shorter "turn-around" time and eventually they got it.
For those in "tankers" this wasn't anything new. They always went to somewhere obscure and miles from anywhere...and not for very long. Us lucky sods in dry-cargo ships had the long end of the straw. OK, It was hard work, but at least we could get ashore and sample foreign life.  But now the "dry" cargo ships are doing the same "turnaround" times as those old tankers.
So what's the point of "going to sea"?
In my case it was to have a look at life and life-styles that were really quite alien to me. And I saw it, loved it and welcomed it. It was pure education. Nastiness, warmth and violence...all there. If you weren't a junior sailor in the 1950s then you really have missed out on one of the great life experiences. Life at sea was certainly not about making your fortune...unless tou were "on the take", as many senior officers were.....but as a youngster it was more about seeing things that were beyond anything that school (grammar in my case) could ever prepare you for. And so I saw other cultures, saw life in its many forms. Religious, cultural and plain down on the street dirty. A modern seafarer sees nothing of that.
So why "go to sea"?
"Shipping Companies" as such no longer seem to exist. You can "buy" a ship, engage a management company to staff it, employ an"agent" to get you cargoes..............and never ever have any contact with the people you are employing.
Is this a backward step or not. When I first went"to sea" loyalty to the "company" was almost a religion. And in most cases the commitment was reciprocated. So it all became a sort of "family".
Even in the late 1960s it was viewed as a sort of heresy to leave the company that had trained you. That was the British Way.
And then all the household names went twits-up.
Thank goodness that I had the nonce to see that in advance, and so went "non-commercial".
Eventually (perhaps foreseeing the demise of C&W) the RFA offered the best option.
And so began the "Nautical But True" thingy on this site.
I think I'm up to 1988 on this.....but I'll continue.BY
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Jimmy James on March 08, 2010, 09:24:33 pm
Are you talking about names like Ben Line, Blue Flue, Blue Star, Chatty Chapmans, John I Jacobs, Halls of Newcastle, Hungry Hogarths, Baltic Line, B.I., Wilsons (Not Ellermans) Atlantic Steam Navagation, Metcalfs, to mention some I've Been on Also the Grey funnel Line and X number of Survey Ships,  Most are long gone and the like will never be seen again {:-{ :((
De Freebooter
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 08, 2010, 10:51:53 pm
Exactly.....and many more I could add to your list. Once the "accountants" and legalistras got into the boardrooms and began "diversifying" the writing was like Banksy on the wall.  BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 08, 2010, 11:24:53 pm
"For those in "tankers" this wasn't anything new. They always went to somewhere obscure and miles from anywhere...and not for very long. "

Not necessarily Bryan. Although I remember places like Mena Al Ahmadi and Kharg Island which were instantly consigned to the 'forgettable' file, I have no doubt that not all cargo ships had handy town berths.

My first trip as an Apprentice included 4 months on the Brazilian coast (slow discharge through a single 6" line) which left me wide eyed and legless and with an aversion to bootleg Bacardi for many years plus happy runs ashore in Rotterdam, Hamburg and several other ports willing to offer an education to the all-too-willing to be led astray.
Subsequent years brought contact with ports from Anchorage to Sydney and Singapore to San Francisco. We were rarely far from the bright lights and, if we spent less time in port than the cargo ships, we probably berthed at more ports than they did. Thus it was all swings and roundabouts.

The real shame is, as you say, that a way of life has gone for ever and modern seafaring is a totally different way of life. The oggin may still go up and down, the pay and conditions may be improved for them that sail on it but a way of life and the experiences it brought have disappeared.  We were the lucky ones.

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on March 09, 2010, 08:06:19 am
Cannot agree more with both your sentiments BY & BM, as a time served Cardiff tramp apprentice 1957-1961, the four corners of the world were my finishing school and boy did I learn a few things  :o Now it's all hurry, hurry with accountants breathing down the ship's neck. Miss the blokes but less sentimental about the job

Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 09, 2010, 08:50:10 am
It brings to mind a certain Master who, after a particularly enjoyable Crossing the Line ceremony, turned the ship around and re-crossed it just so that they could do it all again.  %%

Try explaining that to the Head Office in these days!

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: Bryan Young on March 09, 2010, 04:41:20 pm
It is still here Bryan, try this link
http://www.modelboatmayhem.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=8808.500


Brian
Your response was both welome and appreciated. However, I notice that the "early years" (my cadetship in the Ben Line) are not on that site. And, alas, these were the bits I was looking for! It was so long ago now that I've honestly forgotten how it all started! I think (hah) that it began with some odd ditties swapped with the Bishop. But I can't be sure. More help? Regards, Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: pugwash on March 09, 2010, 05:19:30 pm
Bryan I have enjoyed your seagoing sagas - I was just a mere novice only 10 years grey funnel line and 12
years yachting - not much compared with your 40 yrs.  Our paths must have crossed somewhere - probably
about 100 ft away as that was the standard distance for a RAS
Keep the story coming along
Pugwash
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: Bryan Young on March 09, 2010, 06:37:37 pm
Bryan I have enjoyed your seagoing sagas - I was just a mere novice only 10 years grey funnel line and 12
years yachting - not much compared with your 40 yrs.  Our paths must have crossed somewhere - probably
about 100 ft away as that was the standard distance for a RAS
Keep the story coming along
Pugwash
We talked at the South Shields Model Boat Show last year. I believe you were trying to find records of some conversion done to a frigate. (Bacchante?......).BY.
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: pugwash on March 09, 2010, 07:15:19 pm
Thats right. I remember meeting some of the Tynemouth MBC crew but though I never forget a face
I am lousy with names and getting worse as I get older - had just finished HMS Juno and was looking
for plans for HMS Aisne AD conversion  - drew them myself in the end - hope to see you at south
shields this year by only 6 days after hip op so I might be pushing it.

Pugwash
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: Roger in France on March 10, 2010, 07:21:10 am
Bryan,

I am pleased that someone else thinks your words deserve a wider audience. You may recall that when you started I told you I thought them worthy of publishing.

A word of warning. As you say they are yours and you need to think carefully about how easily you grant permission for them to be reproduced and in what form. I think you may need to consider where you stand if other parties make money from them. However, even if there are no financial considerations you should ensure their integrity by retaining copyright, by insisting you are acknowledged as the author and that granting permission to reproduce does not detract from your copyright. You may also want to insist that you have prior approval of any editorial changes, additions, deletions, the adding of any titles, captions, explanatory notes or illustrations.

I think I probably understand you well enough to hear you saying, "Do I need all this?". But I am sorry to say in this litigious and money grubbing world you need to protect your interests.

Roger in France.
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: Bryan Young on March 10, 2010, 02:29:24 pm
Bryan,

I am pleased that someone else thinks your words deserve a wider audience. You may recall that when you started I told you I thought them worthy of publishing.

A word of warning. As you say they are yours and you need to think carefully about how easily you grant permission for them to be reproduced and in what form. I think you may need to consider where you stand if other parties make money from them. However, even if there are no financial considerations you should ensure their integrity by retaining copyright, by insisting you are acknowledged as the author and that granting permission to reproduce does not detract from your copyright. You may also want to insist that you have prior approval of any editorial changes, additions, deletions, the adding of any titles, captions, explanatory notes or illustrations.

I think I probably understand you well enough to hear you saying, "Do I need all this?". But I am sorry to say in this litigious and money grubbing world you need to protect your interests.

Roger in France.
Roger, not too sure how to answer that. The people running the RFA site are only interested in the RFA "bits" and have promised to acknowledge the fact that they were first disseminated on this forum. I would have assumed that they had contacted the site owner (Martin). All I have done is to give them my permission to copy....but some sort of contact with Martin, even if only out of politeness, should have occured. Do you think I should send a PM (either to both parties or just one of them) with contact details?
There are many posting/threads on this forum .....are they all copyrighted to the "poster" by default? There are also many instances (I refer primarily to the thread "Is there anyone out there?) where regular quotations from original authors are used.
The RFA site writers have actually sent me the first batch of what they intend to place on the site, with a request that I "pass" them. As far as I'm concerned it's all being done "in good faith"....anything wrong in that? Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: Roger in France on March 10, 2010, 04:37:39 pm
I cannot speak for Martin. I wrote the above as a fellow Member, interested in your jottings (and not as a Moderator). It may be good to PM Martin, refer to the above posts and ensure he is happy.

When I wrote I was more concerned to protect your interests than that of Mayhem as I had assumed Martin was in the circuit.

I guessed you would feel all was being done in "...good faith..." as you say. However, if it were me I would still insist on "Copyright Bryan Young 2010". I also would insist on the right to see what was to be published in advance and the right to approve/disapprove.

My own experience (when I did a lot of writing and media work) was once to narrowly avoid a law suit because an item I produced was introduced on the BBC with a slanderous comment as an intro. I would not want you saddled with...."Here are some jottings from someone who describes the disorganised chaos of the RFA"...or something worse.


Sorry to be a prophet of doom but it is better to avoid damage than repair it.

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: Bryan Young on March 10, 2010, 04:53:32 pm
I cannot speak for Martin. I wrote the above as a fellow Member, interested in your jottings (and not as a Moderator). It may be good to PM Martin, refer to the above posts and ensure he is happy.

When I wrote I was more concerned to protect your interests than that of Mayhem as I had assumed Martin was in the circuit.

I guessed you would feel all was being done in "...good faith..." as you say. However, if it were me I would still insist on "Copyright Bryan Young 2010". I also would insist on the right to see what was to be published in advance and the right to approve/disapprove.

My own experience (when I did a lot of writing and media work) was once to narrowly avoid a law suit because an item I produced was introduced on the BBC with a slanderous comment as an intro. I would not want you saddled with...."Here are some jottings from someone who describes the disorganised chaos of the RFA"...or something worse.


Sorry to be a prophet of doom but it is better to avoid damage than repair it.

Roger in France
Roger. Thanks for your advice. I shall relay (in my own words) your concerns to the RFA site people and listen to what they say.
Perhaps your concerns on this subject could be spread to the wider "audience" on the forum as many members will not be reading this exchange. It may help clarify "stuff" a bit. Up to you. Regards. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: Shipmate60 on March 10, 2010, 05:08:54 pm
Bryan,
This thread is facinating.
There have been others that I would want to do a similar thread but they wont.
Keep up the good work.

Bob
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: kiwi on March 10, 2010, 06:25:51 pm
Hi Bryan,
Your various jottings on the forum would be the only ones that I've read all and every one you have ever posted.
Keep up the good work, you write such interesting articles so well.
A silent fan
cheers
kiwi

 :-))
Title: Re: Nautical strange but true
Post by: Bryan Young on March 10, 2010, 07:09:20 pm
Bryan,
This thread is facinating.
There have been others that I would want to do a similst thread but they wont.
Keep up the good work.

Bob

Thanks for that. Over the last few days I've been mulling over whether or not to continue. Eventually it seemed a little selfish of me to retreat and just let "things" lie dormant until it was all forgotten. As happens to most postings.
The main reason for stopping when I did was the fact that I just couldn't dredge up any humour out of the "Olwen" voyage. Of course, there must have been some, even to my cynical little brain.
I was only ever a First Officer (Deck) in the RFA. Although a qualified Master Mariner I never got promoted to a higher rank. Although my ship knowledge and general skills were sort of appreciated by some above me I'm afraid that my habit of either "speaking my mind" or "not being a "Team Player".....in other words, not wanting to be  corporate man...held me back. Nor did my absolute refusal to join the Masons do me any good. Even my wife was approached to "sound me out" on the subject. No chance. So there I stuck, a pretty highly trained and competent Navigator with opinions. Not really the best way to win over some of the more incompetent chancers that had attained their goal of "power". And it was in "Olwen" that I was to sail under 2 of them. The RFA sort of circulates personell between Sea-going" appointments and "Shore-based" ones.  This is absolutely superb in theory. Naturally, it brings people into contact with others who have a different mind-set. I refer here to the "civil service" part of the organisation. In so many cases I watched and saw people who I knew and respected as good officers on board a ship being transformed into uniformed beaurocrats. None of them twigged how they'd been manipulated. They began imitatating the current "Fashions".....such as always wering black leather gloves, or the sort of coat that was really designed for horse riders. The dropping of names of "those in power" that they'd met. This really sickened me. Very much my feelings when I read about anti-monarchists, rabid "leftists", staunch left-wing unionists and so on gleefully accepting a peerage. Makes me want to puke sometimes.
For some reason I never understood I was only the Deck Officers that succumbed to the riches offered by the Sir Humphries of the world they were projected into. The Engineers (and Pursers, Radio officers) all seemed to return to a sea-going appointment as normal people. As you may have gathered from my (too) many postings on life in the RFA that I have a sort of affinity with the dirty clankies. This is probably a mind-set from my family all being engineers in one form or another (mainly down coal mines). When I left school (Tynemouth High) I was really qualified for nothing. In retrospect I think I was better suited to a Secondary school. But then I would have had to learn a "trade". In my case that would have meant something that involved dirt and spanners. No thank you. So I eventually got a job as a young person being given the shittiest jobs ever doled out....a deck cadet. And I suppose that all coloured my take on "life" as a whole.
I enjoy getting dirty and using spanners....but in my own time. Although somewhat moderated (depends who I'm talking to) my accent / dialect is still discernable as sort of Geordie...but that's what I am. I'm not stupid, I'm reasonably well educated, have an interest in the world...and yet I still feel a bit of despair when I read (or see with my own eyes) congenital idiots being parachuted into positions that they are not capable of performing in.
I belong to no political party, but my leanings are to the "right"..but let down again on that front!
Over the last few years most of you ...at least those who responded and gave rise to some enjoyable chit-chat ...seem to have enjoyed my take on life (not just at sea), and so I thank you all.
But now.....................I WILL continue with "Olwen" and a few years further. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: malcolmfrary on March 10, 2010, 10:09:56 pm
I've only ever been to sea as a passenger, but, I did spend my working life, sort of, working.  Your description of the buzzword spouting over dressed numpties who get themselves shot up the promotion ladder does sound familiar.  If its as widespread as I suspect, it accounts for many of the troubles of the world.  Was it Parkinson who said that in any large organisation, people get promoted one level beyond their actual ability?  Not that Yorkshireman who liked cricket but disliked emus.  Some other Parkinson. 
There was a story of a new Executive Engineer (sort of a manager a few steps up) who came to a depot to speak unto his new people.  One of the things he said was "....and only a few years ago I was a Technical Officer"  at which a voice from a fairly indefinable point at the back of the room was heard to say "And if tha'd been any good, tha'd still be one".   Pandemonium.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: pugwash on March 11, 2010, 01:50:39 am
I never realised the RFA were as bad as the RN-  we had a commander as captain of HMS Aisne -
brilliant tactical brain - always knew where the sub would attack from - wouldnt take any rubbish
from the crew but was always first to come to our defence if something went wrong - and it came
to pass he told the CinC Med to F*** off and what did he expect of a 20 year old gunnery system
which was designed to shoot down aircraft flyingat 350 knots and not jets travelling at 1000k
Navies loss he never was promoted - would have made a great admiral.

Pugwash 
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 11, 2010, 04:45:09 pm
How nice! It looks as if this thread could just about get flying again as us "oldies" come thankfully out of hibernation and just simply pleased to be still of this earth.
Last time I posted anything on the "Olwen" voyage I think I left you half way across the Indian Ocean en-route to Singapore.
Well, of course being well shepherded by our RN "escorts" we did eventually get there. I guess that "someone" has to be in charge of procedure etc; but I can't help wondering why they (RN lot) had to be always so prissy about it. I'll remind you what Sembawang base looks like later on. Over the years I've been to Singapore many times either as a Ben Line cadet, a junior Nav officer with Cable&Wireless and in various capacities with the RFA. And so, over a span of perhaps 35 years got to know the place reasonably well. At least, thats what I thought until SWMBO joined me there. Naturally, it would have been a sort of suicidal act to drag her round some of the places I would (purely by happenstance) generally wind up in. Not alone you understand, but as a member of a group wholly interested in furthering International relationships.
If wives were to be carried at sea we were constrained by statute to a maximum of 12. When permission was given for wives to travel that is. On some voyages that were primarily of the "operational" sort it just wasn't feasible, or even wanted by us. In fact....and dare I mention it....but the majority found the presence of wives aboard at sea to be a bit of a nuisance. Apart from forcing "better behaviour" and so "cramping the style" wives could fall into fairly well defined categories. By the very nature of hubbies job it was inevitable that they were left to their own devices quite a lot. I will expand on this when I get to "Olna" in 1991. Although natural to us crew members, the "rank" structure meant sod all to the wives in general (although there would always be a queen bee who traded on the husbands position). I guess it was ordained somewhere that a ship-borne version of the Womens Institute (shortly to be re-named as "Wild Indians") would be established. Captains wives holding crocheting seminars in the crew bar, POs wives holding forth on the pleasures of running a pub in the Officers bar, and the lot of them just getting "xxxxx" in the POs bar. Quite disconcerting. And "film nights".....a nightmare. Who sits where? Then the poor unaccompanied souls had to rein in their natural tendency to comment on what they were watching. Just as tough, if not more so, for the accompanied ones. Meal times. Another contentious time. Peoples usual seats re-allocated and so disrupting things. It's hard work keeping things going in a regular way when irregularity seems to be the order of the day. And the worst of all was when a wife (or wives) had been aboard too long....and who would be brave enough to tell her to "go forth"? Women have this idea that they can do anything better than a mere man can. It can become like being at home without the escape route to the pub. I may sound a little "anti" about having wives aboard at sea, but what I've just written is condensed....i.e. none of this all happened at once, spread over more than one ship. But a real "biggy" would have to be the toilet/shower facilities. I, in common with all "senior" officers would have a reasonably sized cabin with a 3/4 bed and en-suite facilities. No problem there. But Junior officers, POs and ratings had communal "facilities. So the ships organisation had a choice of 2 routes. One, dedicate a particular space for use of females only, or Two, allocate times when the space would be segregated. Number 2 (a very inapt word to use in this context) was a non-starter due to the vagaries of the ships routine. So a sort of controlled chaos and "casting a blind eye" system sort of evolved. It could still be a bit disconcerting to a 12-4 (a.m) watchkeeper just coming off watch to bump into a hurrying female going to powder her nose. But this could always have a more sinister side.
On one ship (not to be named) but it was either an "OL" or a "New Tide" the accomodation for officer aircrew was together along one alleyway. On this particular run we had no flight but 6 RN officers wives were billetted there. I must have been a second officer then as I was on the 12-4 watch, when a rather distraught young lady appeared on the bridge to report "an odd happening". Going for a nocturnal wee-wee (as one does) to "their" communal facility she was confronted by a very fat person wrapped in the shower curtain and (as the saying is) "playing with himself". I think even I would have been taken aback by that. That person was easily identified and at the next port left us, never to be heard of again. Sort of lowers the tone a bit when that sort of thing happens.
But I'm getting ahead of myself again.....so back to Singapore.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 11, 2010, 08:13:35 pm
But we were not at sea. Tied up alongside and feeling very weary after a long stand-by, trying to get shot of all the jobs-worths that seem to appear out of nowhere whenever a ship presumes to encroach into their precious bit of water there was the invasion of the WAGS (although that term hadn't been invented then). About 20 of them plus perhaps 10 offspring ranging from 5 to 20 years old. This column may be called "Mayhem", but real mayhem has to be seen and not really appreciated. I finally recognized my other half before she was led off into some sort of crew slavery, gave her a quick peck on the cheek and (as she had been on this class of boat before) told her that I'd see her soon. What a romantic meeting. By the time I'd got back to my (?) cabin all the drawers and the wardrobe had been re-designated to her requirements. All I wanted to do was to "get my head down".....as opposed to ....well, I was tired.
All of the WAGS had flown to Singapore with Emirates ..which had entailed an overnight stop-over in Jordan. There they were treated as potential criminals and sort of "locked in" to a very nice hotel that they couldn't leave. Very odd. But welcome to a part of the world where things are done "differently". The "joint" they were housed in in Singapore was totally different. In fact, and not surprisingly, they all thought it was a damn sight better than the big grey thing they were expected to live in for the next 3 weeks or so. Tough.
But of course, I had another set of visitors to charm.
J.K. Rowling has described her "Auditors" in the Harry Potter books so well that I couldn't add to it. Individually I suppose they were nice guys, I even knew one of them on a social basis, but when the "auditor" hat was donned, well, just lets say the "nice guy" was nowhere to be seen. I guess they had a "guiding light" looking over their shoulders from afar. Although me  and "the team" had suffered and struggled to get things more or less straight, I was ripped to shreds. What a nice beginning to what was supposed to be a nice break with my wife in a far flung land. Basically, I more or less threw my hand in again at this point. If SWMBO hadn't been there I may just have done that.
But the WAGS had other ideas. So us roughty toughty seamen were dragged all over Singapore to "see the sights". I'd never wanted to visit the "Tiger Balm" gardens before, but as it was on the menu I had to dutifully tag along. Other poor bedraggled souls were dragged off to Sentosa for a "Day of Fun". But Singapore can give the canny soul an "out". In mainstream Singapore there are only two occupations for the itinerant traveller. Shopping and eating. Getting to Orchard Road courtesy of the superb system lulls the poor little darlings into a sense of security. They see all these great big emporiums with their escalators and everything and are immediately entranced. Loads and loads of shopping. Then we go to the next one, and a bit of doubt surfaces. Then we go to the next one and it's exactly the same as the other two. Same shops, same products,same prices. Now that some sort of doubt has crept in , I suggest that we go and have a look at "old" Singapore. Beyond the "Sweet River" (what used to be a stinking, rancid and perfectly horrible drain running through the heart of the town (not yet a city) is a maze of really interesting stuff. Originally the streets were sort of divided up in a way that we would find very odd. One street would be full of cabinet makers, the next one would be all Bird cages and singing birds (I got a chunk bitten out of my shoulder here by a parrot, but no compensation exists in Singapore!), another street would be given up to metal workers.....but you get the idea. Trade streets. One trade per street. And it works. SWMBO was fascinated, but even more so when I took her to look at the Karma Sutra tower. Don't women profess ignorance so well?
After that little excursion I suggested a drinky-poo at Raffles. As expected, this was greeted with approval...and so we walked, across a few bridges and into the bottom end of Orchard Road where (then) there was a long stretch of original buildings....and Raffles was about half a mile further on. Poor little mite. In my letters and so on over the years I'd told her that it rains in Singapore at about 4pm every day. OK, she'd forgotten that. But what she hadn't forseen was the sheer intensity of the downpour. The Raffles staff were, as always, very solicitous, and made both of us comfortable in the "Long Bar" where she had a couple of "slings" and chucked a few peanut shells down where others more noteworthy than us had done in the past.
At this time, unknown to me, one of the Navs daughters (the 20 year old) had become severely smitten by a dashing young helicopter pilot. This eventually became an engagement, and a marriage. All very quick. I wonder how it all turened out.
Continue soon.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 16, 2010, 07:46:20 pm
Karma Sutra Tower? Was that a bar near the Paradiso?

A souvenir of Tiger Balm Gardens.

Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 17, 2010, 04:09:34 pm
Bryan,

This is really excellent. Not only am I learning a lot but I am also enjoying it and having a few laughs on the way.

I repeat my earlier comment....I really do think there is a book here. Maybe you should find a publisher with a "nautical bent" (excuse me) and send them a few samples.

Your reference to picking oakum takes me back to when as a very junior Inspector of Weights and Measures I was asked to check some scales in a prison where the prisoners were picking oakum and seemed to be producing a small volume picked for the weight it was supposed to be. I found that the crafty so and so's had jammed a large lump of metal under the goods pan so the weight they actually picked was much reduced!

One day I will tell you about weighing the gold raked out of the bottom of the cremation ovens, or weighing raw opium which had melted in flight and seeped between the planks of its crates!

Roger in France.

Roger....As I'm at present trying (being the operative word!) to put all this stuff into a readable sort of book for my son and (mainly) my granddaughter I came across the above post. I don't recall reading story....or has "one day" not arrived yet? Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 17, 2010, 05:10:35 pm
Karma Sutra Tower? Was that a bar near the Paradiso?

A souvenir of Tiger Balm Gardens.


Oh, marvelous!!!! I've been searching for dear Floras' grave and epitaph for years now. If it was a bar then I wouldn't be in the least surprised, but nor would I be surprised if she had "modelled" for one of the figures in the enclosed pic. Thank you. Preserved forever in some sort of congress smothered in "Tiger Balm".
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 17, 2010, 06:01:51 pm
I've only ever been to sea as a passenger, but, I did spend my working life, sort of, working.  Your description of the buzzword spouting over dressed numpties who get themselves shot up the promotion ladder does sound familiar.  If its as widespread as I suspect, it accounts for many of the troubles of the world.  Was it Parkinson who said that in any large organisation, people get promoted one level beyond their actual ability?  Not that Yorkshireman who liked cricket but disliked emus.  Some other Parkinson. 
There was a story of a new Executive Engineer (sort of a manager a few steps up) who came to a depot to speak unto his new people.  One of the things he said was "....and only a few years ago I was a Technical Officer"  at which a voice from a fairly indefinable point at the back of the room was heard to say "And if tha'd been any good, tha'd still be one".   Pandemonium.
Parkinson (a Canadian I believe) also noted that "Work expands to fill the time available"...probably a mantra taken to heart by the present plethora of beaurocrats. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 17, 2010, 06:55:33 pm
Oh, marvelous!!!! I've been searching for dear Floras' grave and epitaph for years now. If it was a bar then I wouldn't be in the least surprised, but nor would I be surprised if she had "modelled" for one of the figures in the enclosed pic. Thank you. Preserved forever in some sort of congress smothered in "Tiger Balm".

Oh that Karma Sutra Tower! - I always thought that was the Tomb of the Happy Matelot.

Cheers,

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 17, 2010, 07:58:53 pm
Oh that Karma Sutra Tower! - I always thought that was the Tomb of the Happy Matelot.

Cheers,

Barry M
Aren't "clankies" also Matelots? I personally (with reservations) would assume that innovative couplings, joints and flexibility would have been drawn out, discussed and tested to destruction...by a committee. Perhaps thats why engineers always look so pooped out and bedraggled. Lucky sods. All that testing.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 17, 2010, 09:45:36 pm
Well, we are the Master Race.  %)  O0

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: MikeK on March 18, 2010, 08:04:48 am
Anyone notice the 'No Entry' sign in the picture - Ironic or what ? Or is it my weird sense of humour ?


Mike
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 18, 2010, 01:24:45 pm
Anyone notice the 'No Entry' sign in the picture - Ironic or what ? Or is it my weird sense of humour ?


Mike
That's why I left it in. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: BarryM on March 18, 2010, 01:33:34 pm
As the Actress said to the Bishop?  %)

Barry M
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 20, 2010, 06:56:06 pm
I make no apologies for putting up this pic again.
This was taken during the 1988 visit when the WAGs were with us. The main Dockyard is off to the left of the pic, but this bit was always called the Stores Basin and was generally full of RN and RFA ships until we pulled out of the area. It’s nice that the Singaporeans haven’t changed things all that much. I would guess on the lines of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.
HMS “Triumph” had a more or less permanent berth where the “Edinburgh” is berthed. Cross-ways at the dead end of the basin would be the normal berth for the “Station Tanker” (generally an old “Ranger” class). Where the commercial ship is tied up is the berth the RFA “freighting” tankers came to. “Pearleaf” and so on to top up the tanks visible at the bottom of the pic. I imagine that these were just “ready use” tanks though, and the main storage area was somewhere else unknown to me. Ammo ships went to anchor in the strait just off the basin (the land in the background is Malaya). The RFA is the “Olwen”…looking very small and insignificant in the pic. But she was 660ft long and therefore by no means a “small” ship. The comparison between her and the brute behind her was unbelievable when viewed in the “flesh” as it were.
In previous postings I think I bemoaned the demolition of Sembawang village. Picturesque and all that, but still basically wooden huts and shops…and the home of superb cooking. Also, “the” place to buy rip-off cassette tapes, counterfeit watches and tigers heads painted on black velvet if that was your taste. Now the “locals” live in modern blocks of flats, but many of the women folk still prefer to do their cooking and so on outside with all the other wives. Keeps the village atmosphere alive..so far.
Another, and welcome change is that the monsoon drains that used to be so lethal to unwary pedestrians, cyclists and motorists have now been fitted with perforated steel sheet lids. The fitting of these lids has had (perhaps) an unforeseen side effect. Those of you who have ever heard a fully grown bull-frog roar will know how loud they are.
Sembawang at night was always a noisy place at night from the frogs, but now they live in a man-made amplifier the noise can be deafening.
But local eating out hasn’t totally disappeared. Chong Peng just down the road from Sembawang has to be one of the worlds “must see” places. In what appears to be an old aircraft hangar it’s home to hundreds of food stalls, rats, mice, cats, dogs,bats and humans, all going about their business. Superb. The WAGs had a bit of “a moment” when they were first introduced to the place…but it was either that or go hungry, so they got the message and eventually enjoyed it all.
But the day came when we had to top-up our tanks and prepare to continue the voyage and “show the flag” sort of thing.
All connected up and pumping began….but our gauges showed nothing was happening. Were we pumping into the wrong tank? The diesel was obviously going somewhere, but not where it was supposed to be going. In fact it was being pumped directly into the Avcat tanks. Visions of mass rolling of heads became a nightmare. Until it was worked out that the main “inlet” pipe running through the tanks had fractured, so all the valves were being by-passed. Much scratching of rapidly balding heads ensued. But there was only one thing for it….empty the whole bloody thing out and fix the pipe. The other ships now had to do without their “open all hours” gas station, and fill themselves up hoping that either they wouldn’t run dry or “something” would turn up. So there we sat. It probably took a day or more to pump us out, and another few days blasting “fresh air” into the tanks before any work could begin. This meant going on to 24 hour “watches” for the ships company….or, at least, those who were involved. (The Galley staff, as usual, were exempt). This all played havoc with the domestic arrangements of those who had SWMBOs aboard. The wives seemed to get a sense of freedom from all this hoo-ha and went off in chattering little flocks to parts of Singapore that I don’t know about even until this day.
But all this came to a sort of grinding halt when the pipe was fixed and tested….and the “authorities” decided that we had either been there too long or they wanted the berth for somebody else. Or maybe we were just becoming an embarrassment to them. Who knows. But it was decreed that we would be taken all the way round to JSB (the Johore Shoal Buoy”) well away from any sort of habitation. I think that if “they” could have painted us yellow and declared the ship a plague area they would have been smugly satisfied. Of course, this couldn’t happen as we still had to load our cargo. From “bunkerbarges”. Another 4 or 5 days. Now the WAGs were getting a bit twitchy and ready to go home. And we all just wanted to get away from here.
And so it came to pass. On our way again.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 20, 2010, 06:59:17 pm
And that, my fellow mayhemmers, is my first successful "cut'n'paste" job...ever! Doesn't half save some time. Cheers. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Roger in France on March 21, 2010, 07:30:40 am
Gosh Bryan - a picture of the whole of the British Navy in the same place at the same time!

Those storage tanks at the foot of the picture, do they have green canvas roofs?

Roger in France
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 21, 2010, 02:42:05 pm
Gosh Bryan - a picture of the whole of the British Navy in the same place at the same time!

Those storage tanks at the foot of the picture, do they have green canvas roofs?

Roger in France
Roger. The tanks certainly look as if theyr'e fitted with some sort of flexible top, but as I've never been on the top of one I couldn't say. Having said that I have seen empty tanks (in the UK) with no top on. But then again, looking again at my pics of South Georgia most of the tanks there seem to have domed steel tops. Pays yer money and takes yer choice I suppose. Bryan.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: sweeper on March 21, 2010, 04:28:39 pm
Bryan,
Thanks for the many posts in this thread, very enjoyable. I know many of your readers have suggested that you print this saga, it is in a rather similar vein to an excellent work by a another M.N. captain from North Shields - "Before the box-boats". A very good read for anyone interested in the subject.
Re: your last one on Singapore. Things must have changed rather after your visit there. I was informed by a friend who had worked there that the "place" to get dubious stuff (electronics etc) was the Funan Centre. Looks nothing outside, about ten floors inside stuffed with all sorts of nice things. Sadly the law in Singapore had been strengthened on fake stuff, the penalties were already drastic became almost hanging material. Result, you'd be better off in Northumberland Street! Big purge of people doing wrong things, showed it all on local TV as they put everything in a big pit about forty feet long and ran a road roller over it all a few times. One of the many things I personally liked about the place, the law was meant to be followed and they made very certain that everyone was very aware of just what would happen if you didn't.

Please keep the story alive.
Thanks.
   
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 21, 2010, 05:56:03 pm
Sweeper, nice to hear from you.
Re. this thread I am in fact putting it into a "sort of" book form. But not for general publication. More as a sort of epitaph for later generations of my family to read. Now that we (my generation) have the wherewithall to do something that our forebears would find difficult, even if they were literate,I imagine that most of us have photographs of our parents, grandparents and so on, But in my case, apart from knowing that they were coal miners I know very little apart from the odd half-remembered stories I was tol as a child. It seems to me rather daft not to try and leave something behind. (apart from a dragging bum).
This entire thread in the early stages was meant to be purely and simply an indication to members of this forum who had never been to sea to get a bit of an inkling what it was like "in my day". But one or two posts urging me to write a book got the mind ticking over, so I've gone the "half-way" route. Family primarily. What they want to do with it is up to them.

       You are correct about the Funan Centre. I got a lot of (now outmoded) computer stuff there. I was always (very politely) asked if I wished to buy the "cheap" version or the "expensive" one!
       As far as "rip-off" watches are concerned, I have no problem. A fake watch must be made from the patterns and dies and whatnot sold on by the original manufacturers to a second party, and they really shouldn't yell "foul" when it's all passed on to a third party. All a bit odd. Tapes and CDs are another matter. But during the times I am writing about CDs were a rip-off in their own right. Far too expensive. Now they are cheaper, the counterfeiters aren't there. Now it seems to be fashion, hand-bags and shoes etc.

     I feel a bit guilty that this is such a long response to your short comment, but it struck a couple of nerves and so deserves an answer.
     When I was last in Singapore the "anti-litter" ruling was in full swing (metaphorically) with a $500 fine for dropping a ciggy end on the pavement. Even I, as a smoker, agreed with that. But another, and rather less successful innovation was the governments answer to traffic congestion.This was imported from the New Zealand model that decreed that vehicles with "odd" numbers at the end of the reg. plates could only be driven on "odd" dates.....and vice-verca. But I think that, on the whole, Singapore gets it about right. BY.
       
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 21, 2010, 06:04:15 pm
Olwen-2.

From my letters home after the Singapore visit I’ve managed to sort of piece together what happened next. “Ah, I remember it well” (sung in a French accent).
The other ships hadn’t gone very far ,mores the pity, but had just stooged around for a few days . The RN does busy stooging very well. So after only a day at sea we’d caught up with them, just the day before “Fort Grange” was to have her Admirals Inspection. And guess which ship had been “nominated” as her playing partner.  So back to “Portland” again. Although it was all ostensibly about the “Grange” it was absolutely knackering for us.
It all began at 0530 when we closed up for flying and embarked the “team” on board from the Ark. Without our knowledge (even a surprise to our Captain) the “powers that be” (on the Ark) had decided to give us an unprepared for going over. "xxxxx".
We even had an unannounced “Action Stations” thing thrown at us, with more smoke bombs used that I’d ever seen at Portland ….even though the use of these things are not recommended (officially) for use on board a tanker with our sort of cargo. The Engine Room fire was particularly exhausting. The only measure of comfort was that the Galley Staff had to be involved with this one as the galley was directly above the Engine Room. Such small-minded smugness was short-lived though as it was then announced that dinner may or not happen, but “if” it did, it would be late and “basic”. Just can’t win sometimes. And all this with the outside temperature in the high eighties with the Air-Con having to be turned off. Still, defence of the Realm and all that.
      The next day didn’t really exist for anyone. It was about 3 days before “things” settled down again…..and another couple of days before all the used “gear” was stowed away, the ship cleaned up and our cabins put back together again.
      Our next stop was to be Subic Bay in the Philipines. Just a short hop from the Singapore area. I’d never been there before, but it certainly wasn’t how I expected it to be. Naturally I sort of assumed it would be “similar” to the USN bases I’d been to in the US. Well, I guess I’d be right if I was thinking in terms of 1942.
(excuse me if I’ve written something like this before, as it seems sort of familiar).
       I wonder if the film “From Here To Eternity” was filmed here?
In the aftermath of our tribulations a few days ago our capability of making fresh water had taken a nose dive to zero. Now, if this had just been water for our own consumption it would have been ignored, but we also transferred the stuff to the smaller warships…and that was a reason to send us ahead to arrive in Subic a day before the others. Goody. I hope it spoiled their “Grand Arrival”. “Fort Grange” and “Edinburgh” more or less said “sod-off” and went to Manila instead. So, apart from the engineers (and shore staff) fixing the water problem, most of us had a day off.
Just about all of you will have heard of the NAAFI organisation that the British services use. The American version is called the PX (Post Exchange). This organisation bears as much similarity as Harrods does to the hot-dog caravan on North Shields fish quay. 3 differently graded restaurants and bars..all good, but dependent on the dress-code, and even had Grand Pianos for sale….apart from everything that could be expected in a John Lewis store. My companion on this “tour” was an RFA Radio Officer who displayed a wonderful and hitherto unknown talent for playing the piano and rapidly gathered a good audience….before we went for a beer.
Then our “rocket” guys re-joined us. Forgotten them?


Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 23, 2010, 03:12:21 pm


Our rather brief stay in Subic was a bit of a mixed bag. In no particular order I offer some thoughts.
Very few officers but many ratings ventured out of the base into the adjoining “township” that had, over the years, sprung up to provide local workers for jobs within the base…and also to cater for the needs of homesick sailors a long way from Kansas or wherever. Sembawang times 12. A huge difference here was the number of USN Officers who had found a sort of permanent female companion…personally, I think the truth would be closer to “she found him”…all absolutely gorgeous, but suffering from the same limited vocal range of their Indonesian cousins. That is, the only way to talk is in a high pitched yowl that sends dogs running for cover. The USN has since then given the base back to the host country, but I wonder what has happened to all those who depended (in one form or another) on the largesse of the USN people.
I don’t for one moment think I was the only “Brit” to wonder what the RN were thinking when the ships allowed their ships companies to swarm all over this rather staid base (all US bases are..on the surface, at least, models of decorum) dressed in Union Jack shorts and “T” shirts displaying “Englands Invasion Of Germany 1988”..and other quite nasty ones. And they tended to be dirty clothes. I don’t know how they got away with it, but none of the behaviour was much of a credit to the RN. But what’s new. Recall the vandalism I described in South Georgia? The disgraceful behaviour in Djakarta? And this rampaging “mob” also gave a severe beating-up to 2 of our somewhat older ABs (early 30s) just because they were RFA and not RN.
Kind of makes the case for being tied up a long way from them I suppose.

     Our “host ship” was the USS “Berkely”, a destroyer. We had their officers (and concubines) over for a “pub-lunch”. As you know, the USN is “dry”, and the American version of beer is, to put it politely, not the same as the UK version. After a few pints of CSB it was obvious that the good ship USS ”Berkely” wouldn’t be a “zero defect organisation” again for a few days or so. Well, we enjoyed it!

     The host ship for the “Ark” was USS “New Jersey”. She was tied up just in front of us, but to see her in such a WW2 setting was superb.Anachronistic, certainly, but she so suited those surroundings rather than looking a lot “out of place” like “Missouri” did in Sydney when surrounded by “modern stuff”. Oddly enough, in this sort of setting the ship didn’t seem as visually huge as you may expect. OK, they weigh in at around 60,000 tons, but a lot of that weight is armour, and they are very “fat” ships and have a draught around 30ft.
Our Captain was one of the guests at a CTP held on board by the Captain of the battleship, and during the sort of banal chat that goes on in the course of such poodle-faking the USN Captain was bragging about the size of his guns (as Americans tend to do). Just this once, our Captain stored this in his brain for future reference. Short term. When he made his, regrettably sober, way back “home” he had a pow-wow with the boss of our “rocket men”. 
The rocket team worked overnight in darkness to assemble their gear. In the morning the quay was crowded with USN people looking at the back end of what they had assumed was just another “fleet-oiler”. What they saw were six 30ft long “guns”, 2ft in diameter, pointing at 45* up into the sky. The word “flummoxed “ must have been invented just for this. But what most of the spectators didn’t know was this was the reason we were here. 

Before we sailed from Subic the New Jersey had decided to give us and the Ark a demonstration of “live firing” from the big guns. Very impressive,with lots of smoke, a huge amount of noise and then vast columns of water appearing appearing over the horizon about 8 seconds after firing. But it all seemed rather “old fashioned”. There was no “sheets of flame” as happens when the ship gives a PR demonstration. Just smoke, and so not as visually impressive. Also, as we were directly astern of her, the bodily sideways shift of the ship was quite discernable.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 23, 2010, 03:17:35 pm
The pic didn't show, try again:-
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 23, 2010, 07:15:57 pm
Time for a bit of lightheartedness.
The following pics were taken on either one of the "Forts" (Austin or Grange, can't remember). The first one shows Capt.Pugwash and others all dressed up to be invincible. Actually, he (that Captain), was one of the nicest people you could meet. A very good, astute and aware of the sensibilities of others. He was also a very good ship-handler. Alas, he died just a few years after this pic was taken...only in his early70s.
The other 3 may perhaps be of some interest to warship modellers.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 23, 2010, 07:53:34 pm
Another little diversion:-
I'd been looking for the plaque picture for ages...and now found! It was hung in the officers "lounge" of C/S "Recorder". The 1954 version of. It records a rather epic chase as you can see...but as always seems to happen, the story was hi-jacked by our colonial cousins on the other side of the Atlantic. They made a film called (I think) "The Sea Chase" starring John Wayne.
But in reality, it was 2 ships, neither of which was capable of much more than 9 knots. How frustrating that must have been on both sides. But it was an epic, and a testament to the sheer bloody doggedness of the "Recorder" that eventually wore down her opponent.
The second pic was one I took in Plymouth while Recorder was loading up bits of old scrap cable from (I think) a ship called the "Mackie Bennet". This ship was apparently involved in the aftermath of the Titanic sinking. Her role was in picking up floating bodies. But, according to the social strictures of the time, even the bodies were segregated by perceived "class". I imagine that those in dinner jackets were considered to be "First Class", and were therefore placed in a cabin, others were put into a hold or something.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Colin Bishop on March 23, 2010, 08:41:34 pm
The correct name was Mackay Bennett and she was chartered by the White Star Line to recover bodies from the scene of the Titantic's sinking.

Colin
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 24, 2010, 06:09:20 pm
OK Colin, thanks for that. She was just basically a hulk when the pic was taken. I don't suppose you (or anyone else, for that matter) has a picture of her when she was still "operational"? I seem to recall that she may have been a converted sailing ship....probably wrong. BY.
Title: Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
Post by: Bryan Young on March 24, 2010, 06:16:22 pm
After the demonstration shoot by the NJ we were sent off on our own to find an area of 2,500 miles clear of all shipping (including fishing boats). The warships all scuttled off to an area a long way away from us. A few hundred miles, at least. But trust the powers that be to nominate a firing zone slap bang across the main shipping route between Japan and points west (particularly the Persian Gulf).

For newer readers I’d better say what we were actually up to.
The rockets were called “Petrel”, and were a derivative from rockets developed to both explore the upper atmosphere, and also have a meteorological function. Purely civilian. But then the boffins at BAE decided that they could be adapted for use as a training device to train ships weapons teams in the interception of all sorts of rocket attack. The electronics pack fitted into the rocket could electronically simulate an attack by anything up to an incoming ICBM. As far as I’m aware, at that time there was no other “live” target available and all training was done with simulations.
These rockets were about 8ft lo