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Author Topic: Nautical "Strange but True!"  (Read 137804 times)

Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #50 on: March 16, 2008, 10:27:24 PM »

Another innovation at this time was the introduction of the (American) "Omega" navigation system. This was supposed to be the all singing all dancing system of global navigation that would make the older "Loran A and C" (also American) system redundant.  As a "navigator" I always thought Loran was a heap of excrement as it took too long to get a decent result....but "Omega" was something else. It takes a country like the USA to market a heap of poo like Loran and then try to replace it with an even bigger heap of it. At this time the "Decca Navigator" was widely used. Invaluable for cable repair work up to about 200 miles from shore. But it was a "coastal" thing for those countries that installed the system. Any idiot could operate the Decca system as all you had to do was to read 3 clocks and find the points on a chart where the readings coincided. The Americans liked us having a 2' high stack of "correction" manuals and an oscilloscope on which the poor watchkeeper had to line up peaks and troughs. A Nightmare!
I think that "Mercury" must have been used as a vehicle for testing out "Omega"....although our MOD was later conned into buying it. Anyway, our "Omega" system went "boobs"-up so we were told to terminate the lay and buoy off the end then go to Guam to have the "Omega" looked at.  About 600 miles. Our Captain at the time was an absolutely superb seaman who looked like a trunkated version of James Robertson Justice. (This is for older readers!).  He must have been bored as he decided to have a full scale  abandon ship exercise at 5am. Fortunately I was still awake having just come off the 12-4. But he was serious. Everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) was embarked into the lifeboats. The Captain was the only person left on board. Then he took the ship away.
(He was a bit "touched"). So there we were. 200 people in lifeboats in the middle of the Pacific. No sign of the ship. So we all got together and us "navs" reckoned that Guam was thataway...and set off accordingly. A certain amount of panic had to be suppressed. but it really was a beautiful sunrise on a wonderful ocean. I was quite enjoying it! But our Captain (smart "xxxxx")  had jus taken the ship below the horizon and circled back. After about 8 hours in the boats he brought "Mercury" back up to us again.
He looked very pleased with himself. The GPO bunch were not best pleased and reported the whole thing back home. The C&W management must have had a better sense of humour than the GPO lot as all our Captain got was a message saying (I paraphrase)
"We understand the requirement to exercise the ships company in emergency procedures, but it should be emphasised that sufficient personnel should remain on board to deal with any further emergencies". And THAT I suggest is what I would call really enlightened management.
End of day. Continue later. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #51 on: March 17, 2008, 04:58:17 PM »

Guam and onwards.
Our "berth" in Guam was a bit of a surprise. I for one hadn't realised that Guam in those days was just one big US military base. But these were the days when the US Air Force were attempting to re-configure N.Vietnam from a vast height. The "berth" was pretty well adjacent to the main runway where B52s were taking off and landing 24 hours a day. A bit too noisy really for us who were used to the tranquility of ocean travel. Even 42 years later I still have vivid memories of these behemoths launching off within minutes of each other. All 8 engines howling and the wing tips almost touching the ground until they got "lift". The night launches were also pretty spectacular.
A big surprise to us was that the USN considered the "Omega" system to be a classified bit of kit whilst we Brits in our ignorance thought of it as being just another bit of commercial junk.
I mentioned the Mariana Trench earlier...I think, but if I haven't then remind me.
When we returned to the UK I left C&W. A wonderful company to work for but domestic circumstances forced a change...so I joined the RFA and stayed there until I retired...but that is all another story. Thanks for reading this lot. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #52 on: March 25, 2008, 08:07:27 PM »

H Bryan
Interesting insight into the cable workings.

I remember going onto the C&W (I think) ship stationed in Vigo several times it was stationed there for years in 60s 70s.
Dave
During the 1960's I guess the ships you saw were the old "Mirror" or the newer "Recorder". The ships were actually based in Gibraltar and had Spanish crews (and very good ones at that). Being Spanish and based in Gib. in the 60's brought about its own problems that led to the occasional bit of violence. As most of the crew came from areas not too far from Vigo it was an obvious place to give the crew a bit of R & R. I used to be entranced by the little fishing port opposite Vigo, and had many memorable (to a degree) lunches there.
The "Norseman" was different. As she spent most of her life based in Rio she had a Portuguese crew with some Brasilians. It always struck me as "odd" that the Portuguese were quite happy to spend 2 years away from their families "back home" until I found out that most of them had a second family in Rio, and as most of them owned a smallholding farm in Portugal they were quite content to allow "wife no.1" to maintain it. I recall that the bosun joined "Norseman" as a deck-boy when the ship was new and retired when the ship was scrapped. 40 years on one ship with a month at "home" once every 2 years. Fortitude? The "mind-set" of this crew was also strange as most of them came from the cod fishing fraternity. These were the guys who used to go out to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland in schooners and were then set adrift in little dorys' for days on end. The loss rate was horrendous. No radars then. Just trust in their Captain to come back and find them (and the fish). Perhaps that is why the crew preffered to eat a cods head as opposed to the bit we like with the chips. We had a new Captain at one time who was appalled that the crew had to eat cods heads while we orifices had the "good bits". "All Shall Eat The Same" he decreed. The crew went on strike until they got their cods heads back. Wrong thread perhaps, but it is remarkable that a sense of "withdrawal" can occur when the 'net is cut off. After a couple of days I managed to finish jobs that had been hanging around for yonks. Win some, lose some. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #53 on: March 26, 2008, 05:56:30 PM »

I think I shall make this a daily serial of "odd snatches" of life at sea. Be better than "East Enders" at the least...and it will be true.
We have all heard tales of (so-called) "Ball Lightning". Some of you may think it doesn't exist. Wrong. Back in 1957/8 I was a cadet in the "Ben Line" on "Bennevis" ( ex "Ocean Gallant", if memory serves). Not being the "farmer" that night on the 12-4 morning watch I was doing my stint on the wheel. Nice night. Somewhere between Singapore and the Philippines. Quite unexpectedly an orange ball about the size of an old fashioned "medicine ball" flowed through the wheelhouse windows. The OOW ducked and I was a bit too mesmerised to do anything. This "thing" floated past my head into the chartroom and down the stairs and was lost from my sight. Soon afterwards the Captain and some others appeared on the bridge wanting to know why they had been woken up by a bright orange light that permeated everything. It faded quite quickly, and all returned to normal. Never saw anything like it again. And this is true! BY.
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polaris

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #54 on: March 27, 2008, 06:36:47 PM »


Dear Bryan,

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

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

They can also be called Thunder Bolts.

Regards, Bernard
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #55 on: March 27, 2008, 10:26:28 PM »

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

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #56 on: March 28, 2008, 12:33:20 PM »


Dear Bryan,

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

Regards, Bernard
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #57 on: March 28, 2008, 06:30:21 PM »

Until I joined the RFA I had never been on a tanker in my life. I had always preferred to see the cargo coming in (or out) rather than taking it on trust. But the RFA is not just tankers. There were ammunition ships, general stores ships, an aviation ship,Landing ships/troop carriers, a survey ship and various others, a big fleet that stayed out of the limelight as much as possible. So the personnel moved around a lot between the various classes. One heck of a good education in things nautical. My first tanker was a freighting one called "Pearleaf" (actually owned by Blue Funnel, but none of us knew this until after the Falklands thing and MoD decided that she was redundant). At the time (1970) her main job was to ferry fuel oil from Iraq (and elsewhere) to Singapore. Good training for a new 2/O Nav. Tankers are smelly things. To my dying day I shall remember stading over a 6" sighting port trying to gauge the ullage when the oil was coming into the tank at 1000 tons per hour. Awful. Before I joined Pearleaf I told MoD that I had no experience maintaining Gyro Compasses (the 2/Os job then). The standard bit of kit then was the "Sperry"...about the size of an old fashioned dust-bin. The gyro itself was a 56lb wheel that whanged around at 36000 rpm. Not a toy to be played with, but as all the main electrical contacts were open mercury filled "tubs" a fair amount of maintenance was called for. A few years later I had one that ran amok and nearly destroyed a steel compartment...but that's another story. Anyway, MoD took pity on me and sent me on a "course". I have been on many courses but this one was special. The venue was Ditton Park castle near Windsor/Slough. This place was/is the Admiralty compass establishment. I was the only student. All the civil servants who worked there would go home at "close of play" leaving me the only inhabitant of an ancient castle complete with ramparts, battlements, a moat and a drawbridge. Absolute magic! After learning all I could about the Sperry thingy I was stuffed into a backward facing seat on an RAF VC10 to go to Bahrein. As luck would have it my seat neighbour was a Harrier pilot (then called a Kestrel)  who had been the pilot of the aircraft that famously took off from a coal yard in London as part of a transatlantic race. That passed the time away. After finding my way around the Persian Gulf (on paper) I got the ship back to Singapore, but coming back into the Gulf was odd. I had never actually entered the Gulf and just assumed I would turn North(ish) for a bit and then turn East(ish). Nope. There is a moving boundary line of temperature and humidity in the area of the Hormuz strait. It is invisible, but just as sharp as a line drawn on paper. At around 2am we must have crossed this line as we suddenly encountered thick fog. So I did all the necessary, called the Captain, put the Engine Room on "stand-by" and began blowing the whistle. That's when the (huge) Mongolian quartermaster left the wheel, shoved me to one side and began wiping off the heavy condensation from the inside of the bridge windows. One of lifes more embarrassing episodes. That cost me more than a few beers. But our "old-salt" Captain later told me that he was waiting to see my reaction and that I was by no means the first to be caught out. Since then I have done the same to Gulf "newcomers" and so regained my lost beers. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #58 on: March 28, 2008, 06:53:09 PM »

Seen this? Sent to me via an e-mail. I would love a poster of it. It originally came from a rig manager off St.Johns, Newfoundland.
It was estimated to weigh 300,000 tons so it was towed away (!) out of danger to the rigs.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #59 on: March 29, 2008, 07:56:05 PM »

Another day in the life of a simple sailor. Back aboard RFA "Pearleaf" again. Our Radio Officer (only one in this class...4 of them plu a Yeoman and signallers on the "bigger" ships)came across a tin of luminous paint. I think it must have been meant for touching up the many luminous dials we had then. Quite radio-active I believe, but we didn't know that at the time. (1969/70). He decided to paint a human skeleton on to the front of a dark blue boilersuit. A "test-run" in his darkened cabin proved satisfactory. You may recall that I had a little score to settle with our 6'6" Mongolian quartermaster....so the scenario was set. On a very dark, moonless and cloudy night in the Indian Ocean at around 3am the R/O donned the suit and made his way to the fo'c'sle. I turned off the mast nav. lights, and that was his cue to turn around and dance. The QM screamed and ran off the bridge. If I hadn't known what was going to happen I would have joined him. I just left the auto-pilot on, switched the lights back on and continued until the end of the watch. The QM was quite nice to me after that.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #60 on: March 30, 2008, 06:07:58 PM »

Another day in the life of a simple sailor. Back aboard RFA "Pearleaf" again. Our Radio Officer (only one in this class...4 of them plu a Yeoman and signallers on the "bigger" ships)came across a tin of luminous paint. I think it must have been meant for touching up the many luminous dials we had then. Quite radio-active I believe, but we didn't know that at the time. (1969/70). He decided to paint a human skeleton on to the front of a dark blue boilersuit. A "test-run" in his darkened cabin proved satisfactory. You may recall that I had a little score to settle with our 6'6" Mongolian quartermaster....so the scenario was set. On a very dark, moonless and cloudy night in the Indian Ocean at around 3am the R/O donned the suit and made his way to the fo'c'sle. I turned off the mast nav. lights, and that was his cue to turn around and dance. The QM screamed and ran off the bridge. If I hadn't known what was going to happen I would have joined him. I just left the auto-pilot on, switched the lights back on and continued until the end of the watch. The QM was quite nice to me after that.
Just thought that I should really have showed what the ship looked like:-
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #61 on: March 30, 2008, 07:47:02 PM »

RFAs generally have a major refit and update each 2 or 3 years. Each refit lasting about 3 or 4 months. As the ships are expected to be in a generally good condition this frequency probably explains their longevity. I have had a few e-mails complaining that this is supposed to be a "model boat" forum, I think that at least an inkling of how ships and their crews worked can help a model maker. So no apologies. The next 2 are about RFAs "Resource" and "Regent". Big ships that were seldom seen by the general public unless the observer was out on Plymouth Sound or up Loch Long. Being ammunition ships they were always kept "a certain distance" from habitation. Never mind that aircraft carriers carried a similar amount of "stuff" and were allowed alongside. To my little mind this was always a rather odd thing, as isolating a major ammunition ship miles from anywhere without any security made it a prime and easy target for any "organisation" that wanted to make some sort of statement. Especially during the IRA years. Designed in the late 1950s and produced in the mid 1960s they were to be part of Harold Wilsons' (and "Tony" Benn) carrier strike force. Is this starting to sound familiar? In the mid 1960s the RFA was so supplied with 3 "Ol" class fuel replenishment ships, 3 new store ships (the Ness class) and the 2 "R" class ammo ships. The RN also took delivery of what was to be the first of many "Bristol" class cruisers, and of course, the "County" class destroyers. I don't know about the subs as they live in a world of their own (until many years later when "Diligence" came onto the scene). The RN also got "Fearless" and "Intrepid" and loads of frigates (Leanders). So we had a pretty big and powerful Navy until Wilson and his lot axed the carrier programme leaving the RN and the RFA orphans without a mother. The new RFAs were a massive departure from the old, although the "new" Tide class were pointing the way forward. "Resource" and "Regent" were very big and very heavy ships. Around 660ft long. The flight decks were higher than that of the old "Ark Royal". For some strange reason that would escape a modern naval architect they were designed to sink in an upright and level posture. Work that one out if you can! The core of the ship(s) was a huge "duct keel". A duct keel is a squre tube, basically. This one (if it were not for the presence of the massive bottom framing) was big enough to drive a car through it. All the hull scantlings were huge. The main deck plating was over 1" thick (compared to modern ones that are 1/2 that thickness). And to allow for easy "run-off" of contaminated water....we are in the "cold-war"....there were no upstands at the deck edges, so the hull always looked a bit scruffy. The original design was meant to look a bit like the Canadian "Protecteur" class, but ours were designed by the RN "Constructors". Can.t leave well enough alone. So instead of having only 3 decks at the back end we finished up with 6, and at the bridge end "they" forgot to design in accommodation for the Radio Officers...which meant another deck amidships. That is why when you look at the eventual pic the sidelights are 2 decks below the bridge...as was the Captains cabin. A wee touch of incompetence here. All this added weight to the original design, which in turn brought in the law of unintended returns. In this case stability. Concrete and all sorts were tried until some bright spark (no pun intended) suggested using 3,000 tons of unused WW2 500lb bombs as ballast. After all, it is an ammunition ship. And so it was done. Another feature of the 2 ships was that they would carry the bulk of the RN supply of "Sea Slug" missiles. You know the one, the thing that was launched from the Meccano contraption on the back end of the "County" class destroyers. To stow these things ( and we must have carried over 50 of them) they had to be carried on their own deck and not in a hold. To this end the top deck between the midships house and the after one was one continuous deck. 400ft? Each "Sea Slug" came in its own tubular cradle that also doubled as a fire main. (THAT guaranteed a lot of peace of mind), and had to be connected to the ships fire main so you can imagine the pipework and hose connections to that lot. When "Sea Slug" was abandoned the space was utilised for the stowage of "Milan" missiles and others of that ilk. All with the warheads pointing outboard....until the "boffins" were told that each missile was aimed directly into a crew members cabin. Oops. In truth, at sea theses 2 ships were very good. Fast, quiet and comfortable. Very easy to handle despite their size and being single screw. Alas. Although the bomb load ballast was effective and had to be retained along came the "Torrey Canyon". Another source of 500lb bombs had to be found, and they were found supposedly fit and well in storage in Malta. So off we went, got the bombs, came home and gave them to the RN and RAF. Older readers will recall that a lot of them were "duff". Such is life. But we were allowed to keep our "ballast" until the Falklands thing came along. Then the bombs were taken away and another sort of ballast put in its place. Not too good. From then on the ship never seemed "quite right" and a certain amount of nervousness set in when bad weather was encountered. I will give you a story of a typical refit on this ship next.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #62 on: March 30, 2008, 11:22:15 PM »

Refits lasting 3 - 4 months. That must be even better than C&W!!!  ;D Those of us in the commercial world had to be content with less than half that time. Mind you, we had to show a profit and couldn't rely on the taxpayer's cash.   ???
Hopefuly you were talking with tongue in cheek? Ever seen how long it takes to refit a warship? 2 years and more. And the RFAs are the so-called "little-juniors"...even when they are fitted with Phalanx guns, 20mm cannon, decoy systems, ability to operate 5  (5) Sea King Helicopters, re-arm them and send them out again, at the same time as re-fuelling/re-storing 2 other ships. Frankly Barry, you ought to learn more about the value for money the RFA gives, and not speak from hearsay. The RFA is still civilian manned and operates ships quite effectively (for the purpose) with smaller equivelant crews than the RN does. How long does a "commercial" ship last these days? How much "in depth" maintenance does it get? A commercial ship is there to make a profit for the owner and as soon as that goes down out goes the ship and in all probability the jobs of those in her...to be replaced by cheaper crews who in all probability don't even know how they finished up there. Sarcasm I can accept. Jokes I can accept. But cheap jibes from someone who should know better I will not accept. The "Fort Austin" and "Fort Grange" (as was) were brought into service in 1979. They still look immaculate and are, although elderly, still vital components of our rapidly declining Fleet. Sorry, but you touched a raw nerve there with the barb about taxpayers cash. Cheers. Bryan.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #63 on: March 31, 2008, 12:35:56 AM »

Bryan,
Sorry if I upset you as that was not my intent but I stiil believe that commercial operations are an incentive to get it right and at best value. Responsible shipowners (and I readily admit they are not all in that class) know that a well maintained vessel leads to an efficient - and thus profitable - enterprise. Where is the incentive for MoD - with a track record of over-runs in budget and timing - to do likewise?

Regards

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

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #64 on: March 31, 2008, 08:13:12 AM »

Bryan,

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

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

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

Regards

Barry M
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #65 on: March 31, 2008, 05:18:55 PM »

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

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #66 on: March 31, 2008, 07:20:42 PM »

MMMFFFMMMFFFTTTMMTFTFTFMMMMFFTFTFM = Sound of Chief Clankie (eh?) keeping hand over mouth and trying desperately hard not to make comment about RFA.  {-)  {-)  {-)  {-) :o  :o  :o  ::)  ::)  ::)

Cheers

Barry M
Nothing wrong with being a clankie when we wus called fish-heads and "sparkies" were all considered to have been spawned by hat manufacturers. More a term of endearment really! I actually began my career as an Engineer (coming from a long line of them) and was enticed by the photos of Engineers in immaculate white boiler-suits with caps on their heads. (I was only 16). Taken to a ship "to have a look" (Common Brothers) I quickly noticed a bunch of really filthy, oil soaked and knackered people. "Who are they?", "They are our Engineers". End of story and a hasty retreat. But I really do admire the skills and proffesionalism of ALL engineers, marine or otherwise. Although we are still allowed to poke fun at each other, are we not....or has the EU banned that as well. Cheers. BY.
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #67 on: April 01, 2008, 02:29:54 PM »

RFA "Retainer" (part one). "Retainer" was originally built as a cargo-passenger ship for China Steam Nav as "Chungking". The RFA bought her and her sister ship later re-named "Resurgent" (but as I never sailed on her I shall ignore her). This was my first ship as first officer and I loved her dearly. Although getting on in years and had been chopped about a bit by the RFA, she still had an element of old fashioned grace and style about her. She had also managed to evade the vandalism of a superintendent who wanted to demolish the old passsenger lounge/bar and fit generators in its place as he had done with Resurgent. That bar made the ship. Situated at the back end of the boat deck it was large and airy with glass patio type doors on 3 sides. Very decadent for an RFA. This ship had few of the (then) modern systems of a purpose built RFA and was none the worse for it...especially to someone like me who enjoys his home comforts. There was also an old but very good upright piano that got a lot of use (and abuse). That is until one very late night some of the engineers decided to strip it down into its component parts. Every bit, including the frame and the woodwork. Must have taken them hours. They then laid out the hundreds of bits in a fan shape on the deck. When I did my early morning rounds and found it I really couldn't stop laughing..,even though it could be counted as a serious act of vandalism. Naturally he who must be obeyed had to be informed, who was understandably furious, but also had a good laugh when he saw it. Obviously he had to hold an enquirey, it was also obvious that it had to have been the work of the 8-12 and 12-4 watchkeepers. The guilty ones were duly hauled up and made to wait in an ante-room. Much trepidation as this Captain had a fearsome reputation..unfairly I thought...but what they didn't know was that the rather lengthy wait was while I waited for the old-man to stop chuckling and put on his "grim" face. Took him about half an hour, and this man could look thunderous when required. Lots of quaking in shoes followed. The upshot was that the guilty ones were ordered to re-build the thing during their off-duty hours and their "tap" was stopped for as long as it took to re-build to the captains satisfaction. Took a couple of weeks, but it never sounded the same again...unsurprisingly. But that did'nt matter much as shortly afterwards, one very rough afternoon it broke free of its tethers, crashed through a patio door and chipped itself to bits as it was forced through the side rails. Not that the crew were innocent lambs though. We had a bit of a visit to La Madelena (Sardinia) where there was a sort of Nato Naval Base...and a French Foriegn Legion post. British seamen invariably make the right choice as to who to go on the razzle with. Naturally, they missed the last boat back to the ship. No worries there, they just liberated a fleet of pedalos from a beach and peddalled back, then let the pedalos run free thinking no-one would be able to prove anything. There is very little in the way of tides or currents there. So come daylight it was sort of noticed that RFA "Retainer" was surrounded by a lot of free-floating pedalos. That cost the "lads" quite a lot as the local gendarmerie didn't have much of a sense of humour. End of part 1.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #68 on: April 01, 2008, 02:33:45 PM »

"Retainer"...(2). From the 2 pics you will see that among many changes the original bridge has been removed (made into the Captains cabin) and a new bridge built on top.
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #69 on: April 01, 2008, 02:35:15 PM »

Sorry, hit the wrong button!
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #70 on: April 01, 2008, 02:36:26 PM »

Retainer pic 2
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #71 on: April 01, 2008, 03:27:18 PM »

"Retainer"..last part. "Retainer" and "Resurgent" were really general stores ships but were in reality ammunition ships with a general stores capability. Which is why we seldom got anywhere near a jetty to tie up against. Always felt like pariahs when all the other ships in a group tied up somewhere nice and got spoiled rotten while we could be up to 12 miles out of the way! The ammo was simple stuff like bombs, shells, bullets and stuff. Nothing really nasty, but enough spoil a towns day. I guess none of this had anything to do with the fact that her electrical supply was DC and she was still wired up with the old fashioned lead and cloth cabling! This meant that if you wanted to bring a radio or tape recorder with you, you also had to lug around a transformer. Being elevated to the rank of 1/O I had no part to play in the navigation of the ship. But that all changed. The Suez Canal was still a pretty dangerous place for shipping in 1974...especially at the Northern end around the Port Said area. The RN was tasked (by NATO?) to use some of its minesweepers to "secure" the area. That was OK, but the "powers that be" decreed that the ammunition ship RFA "Retainer" should lead the minesweepers through a possible minefield into Port Said. Good thinking. Let the civilian manned ship go first. (and you wonder why I have a jaundiced view of the RN!!). Our navigator refused to do it so I was (willingly) co-opted into the job. I had my own reasons for being willing. The main one being that I would prefer to be blown up by my own error rather than worry about the competence of somebody else (we were going to go in no matter who was driving), also I had already sussed out that the many fishing boats in the area must hav a pretty good idea where not to go, so I just went from one group of fishermen to the next with my little fleet of 6 minesweepers a safe (for them) distance behind. The nav. was flown home and left the RFA. Just another day. Alas, the nav. was not replaced so I had to continue doing 2 jobs for the next few months. The bit that really sucked about this was that all the deck officers (including the Captain..not the "piano" one, this one was a greedy soul) got "short- handed" money when I was the only one who had extra work. But who said life was fair? A much funnier episode was when trying to pick up the anchor from some unpronounceable port in Malta. From one of the pics you will see that the windlass area is invisible from the bridge. I was foc's'le officer. After a little while the cable jammed on the gypsy. I could see why, but the bridge couldn't and this very irate captain started the old leaping up and down and ranting performance. A commonly used expression when things go a bit pear-shaped is to say things have "fallen apart". In this case it was literally true. The windlass had literally fallen apart in two halves. All I could do was a Stan Laurel and scratch my head as this baby was going nowhere today. To cut the story short, the windlass was fixed by "stitching" the halhes together, the first time I had ever seen this done and very successful it was. Never got the oil stains out of the wooden deck though. Cheers. BY.
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #72 on: April 02, 2008, 07:18:31 PM »

Every now and again a MoD ship has to undergo "cold weather trials". I think that this is a euphanism for "make the poor sods suffer while we have another cup of tea". I mean, lets face it, if the sea has a layer of ice on it, it doesn't mean that the sea underneath the ice was frozen....otherwise it would be. But the suits had decided that in this particular year (1969?...but that doesn't matter) that "Resource" would do it. So off we trogged (I was the Nav) looking for ice. Just heading North ought to do it. Well, how far North do you have to go before you are heading South again. No ice. Scoot over to Iceland. That must be good. Nope. And this was in the middle of winter. Like January. My arguement that we should wait until March fell upon deaf ears. Stuff'em. So, burning up lots of fuel and getting the whole crew seriously miffed we eventually found some off Greenland. All this time we had been in the "land" of everlasting night. Big ammo ship full of whatever steaming around aimlessly must have confused the hell out of the "Red" team. And all the time the weather was fairly nasty. One gets tired of being bumped around 24 hours a day and never knowing if it was breakfast or dinner time...the cooks didn't either as they just seemed to cook on a whim. But we found ice. The sludgy sort. This was a blessed relief as the ice flattened out the sea to a nice gentle swell and let everybody get a good night (day) sleep. We trudged through this stuff for days getting very bored until one loveley morning the SUN actually popped a little over the horizon.The colours reflecting off the grey ice were amazing and led to the lightening of 200 troglodyte hearts. They say that Norwegians have a very high suicide rate during the winter. I am not surprised. As one Norwegian put it to me, "In Summer there is fishing and f......   but in winter there is only f......" Much as I love Norway I am not surprised. As an aside, Tromso and Port Stanley (Falklands) have one thing in common. They are the only 2 places I have ever been to that have their satelite dishes pointing downwards. Even though Port Stanley is about the same latitude South as Leicester is North. Point to ponder. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #73 on: April 02, 2008, 08:00:28 PM »

Remember "Skylab" that came back to earth in 1979? Everybody was assured that it was "well clear" of anybody. Well, they was wrong again. I don't really know what "they" call a "near miss" or "well clear" but it was only 200 miles from RFA "Lyness" when it came down. It must have been in daylight 'cos we didn't see it...but thats close enough to put the willies up me. Moral...DO NOT EVER TRUST WHAT THEM WHAT KNOWS...EVER.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #74 on: April 03, 2008, 07:40:05 PM »

Back to basics...the first trip. Having completed my one year pre-sea training at South Shields during 1955/6 I joined the "Ben Line" as a cadet. Being a Scots outfit using "cadets" would have been cheaper than employing apprentices. Joining ones first ship is still a pretty traumatic experience for a 16 year old. First break away from the womb of "home" life and all that. Although I thought that I had joined the "Ben Line" the ship I was to join was called "Bardic".( I thought that all "Ben Line" ships were called "Ben-something"..but not "Bendover" or "Bendoon" ..but what did I know). So there I was in a brand new cadets uniform on Plantation Quay in Glasgow wondering what to do next. In those days the required "kit" for a cadet verged on the ridiculous and filled a very heavy "sea-chest" that a puny little first tripper had very little chance of heaving up what appeared to be an endless and almost vertical gangway. Thoughts of going home but had no money. With spirits as low as the physical stamina the chest was heaved rung by rung up the 300ft to the deck. All the while being educated in the Glaswegian venacular version of the English language. Such nice people to teach someone the art of self sufficiency. "xxxxx". Eventually some bored looking "officer" showed me to a hovel that had 2 bunks in it. The last thing I expected was to be met by a fellow "cadet" that I had just spent a year with at SSMTC and had always hated even on first sight. Oh,Lordy,Lordy, what have I done to offend you? At least he was in tears (also) and commendably had taken the top bunk. Silly "xxxxx". But as we were to spend at least the next 6 months living together in this slum we had better get on with it. Still wanted me mum though. Having hung up my uniform (the last time I would wear it for 6 months until I had to wear it to go "home") and being totally ignored by everybody. This was not the way I had imagined it would be. And surely we would be fed on this "thing" or did one fend for oneself? This subject was not covered during pre-sea training. I was equally not aware the this "thing" had a Chinese crew. Quite startling to a kid who had never before seen a Chinaman. But there began my life-long regard for the Chinese. He (I think he must have been just a deck-boy or something) took me aft to the Chinese quarters and gave me something to eat. Very odd, but very nice. But I would have eaten a boiled rat at this stage..perhaps it was. I also couldn't help noticing that various Chinamen were asleep on the floor (sorry, deck) with their heads propped on wooden things that reminded me (good education) of the blocks that people put their heads on before they were decapitated. But they had their ways. It then and always intrigued me with Chinese crews as to how they could "squat" so comfortably, with the bum almost touching the ground and the knees up to the chin. Odd then, and still odd now. Eventually some person who had to be obeyed (he had 3 stripes on his sleeve) began yelling at us 2 quivering wrecks and told us to go to the "mess room". A term that was probably Martian in origin. Having found this compartment (no other word for it) we were told that this would be where we would eat for the duration of the voyage. As Cadets we were not to be allowed the privelege of eating in the same area as the "proper" officers. This rule applied to the junior engineers also, who shared this wee cubby. The difference was that the engineers were allowed to eat in their boilersuits, but us 2 deck cadets had to be washed and in clean clothes berfore eating. All this is quite character forming. To ask for a glass of iced water in the "mess room" usually brought the response that cold water was for the Officers and not for us. Similarly with sauce. If we had HP sauce on the table we were not "allowed" tomato sauce. You may think I am pulling your leg here, but this is the way it was, truly. As cadets we were not allowed to mix with the officers or use the officers lounge, but nor we we allowed to fraternize with the crew (of whatever nationality). A lonely time that leaves scars. But I had another 2 and a half years of this to go. In those days it was very much frowned upon to change companies. To us cadets this was a given fact. A judge could have sent me to a better place. But my parents had spent a lot of money that they really couldn't afford, and were still under the illusion that their son was being trained as an "officer". The truth was exactly the opposite. We cadets were treated as whipping boys for every sadistic sod that ever went to sea. I will tell you about some of the jobs next.
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