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Author Topic: Nautical "Strange but True!"  (Read 137830 times)

Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #150 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.





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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #151 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
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #152 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #153 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #154 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #155 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!
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #156 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.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #157 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
 
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #158 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.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #159 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
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #160 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.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #161 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
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #162 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #163 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #164 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.
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GaryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #165 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #166 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #167 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #168 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #169 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.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #170 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   
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #171 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.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #172 on: July 07, 2008, 03:48:38 PM »

I bet it made some Superintendent very happy when it went for scrap.

Cheers,

Barry M
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #173 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #174 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.
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