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Author Topic: Nautical "Strange but True!"  (Read 137736 times)

Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #350 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #351 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.
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #352 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
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #353 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.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #354 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
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swordfish fairey

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #355 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
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #356 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!
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #357 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.
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #358 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
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derekwarner

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #359 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
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #360 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #361 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #362 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #363 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!.
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #364 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
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #365 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #366 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?
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #367 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
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #368 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #369 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.
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #370 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
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #371 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.
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Notes from a simple seaman

Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #372 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.
 
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #373 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.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #374 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.
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Notes from a simple seaman
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