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Author Topic: Nautical "Strange but True!"  (Read 151571 times)

Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #575 on: April 09, 2010, 07:57:42 pm »

Incredible Bryan!

Colin
Colin, the word "incredible" has two meanings. Do you mean the one that means that it is not-credible, or the one that means credible but beyond normal comprehension? Not wishing to get into a semantic thing you understand! Bryan.
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Colin Bishop

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #576 on: April 09, 2010, 08:08:13 pm »

Frightening then!

Colin
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #577 on: April 09, 2010, 08:32:12 pm »

Frightening then!

Colin
And in there lies a beaurocratic answer. Not really willing to leap from one side of the fence to the other. So I imagine you have a yellow rosette? (I favour blue, myself)....but I expected better from you Colin. Which was it? Bryan.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #578 on: April 10, 2010, 05:25:34 pm »

Olwen-12

Colombo was to be the last “real” port visit of “Outback 88”, with the exception of a couple of days in Gib to knock the rough edges off  and allow us all to have a “haircut run”. An “end of term” feeling was in the air for a few days, but this slowly evaporated when the realisation that we still had about 5000 miles to go sank in.
As usual, the Suez transit was uneventful and a bit boring for us “old-hands”…although I suppose some of our later “new joiners” enjoyed it. For those of us who had more or less got used to being “hot, bothered and bewildered” it never ceased to surprise, even when expected, the drop in temperature between the bottom end of the canal and the Med end. From the high 80s to the low 60s in just a few hours is a bit of a shock to the system. Then plod along past Crete and have a very brief stop-off at Augusta to disembark all RN personell who were not needed any more. The RN rather euphemistically call this “Advance Leave Parties”. Huh. I could name a few RFA people who should have joined them. But then a lot of nasty, cold and wet weather all the way to Portsmouth. Not a total “Fun in the Sun” trip, more of a “Portland in the Sun”.

But, as always, some statistics can be quite interesting.
During the 6 months of “Outback 88” “Olwen” visited 12 ports. We had 120 days at sea and 60 in port (28 of which were accounted for by Singapore and Sydney), which by anyones reckoning didn’t leave much time for anywhere else.
We had steamed 36000 miles burning 10700 metric tonnes of FFO and consumed 17 tons of potatoes.
There had been 105 RASs, passing over 37000 tonnes of fuel etc to other ships.
Even without an embarked flight (except for the couple of weeks with the Grange flight) we still managed to rack up 450 landings, and countless “Vertreps”.
To hold body and soul together the ships company had cashed cheques to the value of £170,000. But a rather “nice” statistic is that we were “home” to over 300 individuals for one night or more. I hope they enjoyed their stay.

As usual, our arrival home (Gosport Fuel Jetty) was somewhat less of an event than was put on for the returning RN ships. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we’d snuck in at 3am the following day.
Then the “reliefs” began to arrive. I found it particularly intriguing that Capt.”S” had already got his bags and so on loaded into a car before his relief arrived. His “handover” took less than 5 minutes.I knew my relief from previous ships, so there was no problem there. Free again. Unbelievable!
But MoD always works in devious ways.
Next one, a new ship, new people and a smile on my face again. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #579 on: April 13, 2010, 09:27:00 pm »

There must be some moderator out there that can delete that last post and the query post that follows it! A bit of it is misleading as I confused the events on 2 different ships. BY.

Deleted as requested Bryan. Sorry, I was too busy reading and enjoying it!

Roger in France
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Thank you. A more "truthful" one will appear tomorrow, with pics. Bryan.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #580 on: April 14, 2010, 03:07:47 pm »

Galahad-1

True to form, just as I was starting to “get my feet under the table” again, (a term itinerant sailors and some others may recognize) the ‘phone rang again. Guess who. Although I was less than half way through my (well earned) leave, the “request” was an interesting one. It seemed that “they” had appointed a new recruit to the RFA as a 3/O(X) to “Sir Galahad”, but as his first trip in the ship as a watchkeeper was to be a Norwegian fjiord run, sometimes without the services of an “inshore” pilot the Captain (who I knew) had requested a bloke experienced in this area to “help out”. Actually, I was quite pleased with this as I loved the Norwegian coast even in winter…but it also meant I could continue my leave from “Olwen” when the UK summer eventually arrived. The young 3/O that I was to stand the 8-12 watch with was a very nice kid (only 20ish to my Oldish) and we got along fine….much to the relief of the Captain. I also knew the X/O, so that was OK. A big plus for me was that as I wasn’t  regular member of the ships company I didn’t have any regular “other duties”, so apart from “babysitting” the new guy I could even lie down and read a book during the regular fire exercises…..in fact, I used to toddle up to the bridge and just chat to the Capt.in an informal way (no “sirs” and all that). It all made for a relaxing “cruise” for me. As I’ve explained before (when talking about the LSLs in general) the Norwegians have developed a very sophisticated system of lights to guide ships in, out and around the many watery corners they have there. As I’d (a few years ago) sort of won my spurs learning this system, on the odd occasion when the embarked pilot needed some sort of break he was “reasonably” happy for me to do the job.
When was I last on the Bridge doing the job I was really trained for….have to go back a few years! But like riding a bike, it soon comes back. I really can’t recall all the little havens we popped in and out of (even if I knew how to spell the names) to drop off and pick up various elements of the Army or Marines. All good stuff, and very satisfying.
As with all LSLs this new “Galahad” didn’t have much in the way of a flight organisation. Yes, some members of the crew were flight deck trained, but the ships infrastucture didn’t run to a hangar or anything like that. Basically just a landing platform and a refuelling capability…2 flight decks actually, because the maindeck forward of the bridge was also designated as such (as with the earlier ships). Considering the role these ships had there wasn’t really a need to have full flight capability. There were differences between this “Galahad” and her sad “mother” though. Apart from being bigger and faster, this one had “visor” type bow doors as opposed to “normal” doors. She was also built with what the RN constructors had decided was a “stealth” capability. Basically all that meant was that all the bits of the ship that would normally be vertical when the ship was upright were angled either inwards or outwards to “deflect” a radar beam. Absolute tosh when moving around a bit at sea. A dead giveaway as far as I’m concerned. One “evolution” that the RFA is constantly doing is that of “darken ship”. But the spec. of the ship omitted the manufacture and fitting of “deadlights”. So home-made bits of cardboard or tin sheet were made up and taped in place when ordered. Quite amazing when you come to think of it, you spend millions of quid building a very capable ship and “forget” something like deadlights! Anyway, I always thought that “darkening ship” in this day and age was a bit of a throwback, after all, you don’t need human eyeballs nowadays to see a ship, or target it. Probably better off pretending to be a well lit cruise liner or something. Anyway, I digress. Due to the inward slanting of the accommodation bulkheads it was a hell of a job to pull one open….and even more difficult and dangerous to get inside before the door decided you should suffer a broken hand, foot, leg etc….especially if the ship was rolling a bit.(also remember that the W/T doors on a fore and aft bulkhead were almost invariably hinged on the forward edge…so you also had to open against the wind, and endeavour to keep the thing open till you could get inside (or out). Nasty, dangerous things! And these were heavy doors! But otherwise she was really just a modern version of the original with the same attributes and negatives ( i.e. she bounced around and rolled just as much as her parents did).

Only one event comes to mind about that “cruise”, and that was the Sea King crash. I may have mentioned this earlier, if so I’m sorry.
Many of the troops were airlifted into remote spots in RN Sea Kings…usual stuff. If I remember correctly, this particular aircraft was carrying a load of Marines into the middle of nowhere. The pilot attempted to land on what must have been a moutainside, or at least, somewhere pretty steep. Anyway, he well and truly stuffed the aircraft into the “hillside” (without any casualties) and so brought the ferry run to a sudden halt. Apparently the Marines just hopped out and went on to do what they were supposed to do, leaving the aircrew stuck there without much in the way of edibles and so on. The radios were OK, so a rescue was feasible for the crew, but what to do about the aircraft. The UK doesn’t apparently have anything that can carry out such a thing (they may do now, but not in 1989 they didn’t).

The only helo that could effect a salvage job was the USN “Sea Giant” (I think that’s what they called it). I’d seen photographs of this beast, but if the subject of a photo is taken in isolation with no reference points then it’s almost impossible to gauge a size. We were up some fjiord or other, the Sea King was miles away up some mountain, and the “Giant” was on a USN carrier out in the Atlantic doing the naval aspects of this exercise. So this became an exercise in its own right. The Giants range must be phenomenal as it reached the Sea King OK. I guess that some sort of team were either dropped or brought in, as the Sea Kings rotor blades (or what was left of them) were removed before a lift could be done. You’ll have gathered by now that Galahad had been tasked to “load” the Sea King and take it back to the UK.

We’d just disembarked the troops and vehicles, but were due to go to somewhere else unpronounceable to pick up some more…they’d have to wait.

I’ve explained the principles of a “Vertrep” in the past, but just to remind you, a “normal” load would be a pallet of whatever, generally underslung on a 20’ webbing strop. Some more specialised lifts had slightly different arrangements. The load could be released at any time by the aircraft crewman by pulling a lanyard attached to a quick release hook. As usual, the crewman would probably be lying on the floor of the aircraft keeping an eye on the load. Sometimes an 80’ strop would have to be used, but not all that often and then only for “odd” things. Bear with me…all that guff has a reason behind it!

Obviously, we were all aware when to expect our new bit of cargo. Normally one saw an approaching helicopter before it was heard. The other way round this time. Difficult to describe a noise, but this was a much deeper, “throbbier” and sort of slower beat than was “normal”. A Sea Kings rotors rotate much slower than you may imagine. Looking down on a rotating rotor head it’s really quite easy to watch each individual rotor “root” going around…but the outward end, although obviously rotating at the same RPM is pushing the speed of sound.
Anyway, our first sighting of this monster looked just like another reasonably close Sea King with a “normal” underslung load. As you’ve guessed, this little load was the quite large Sea King on the end of what must have been a 160’ strop. The length of the strop here makes sense. The downwash from this monster, even with such a long strop (which was by itself the thickness of a ships tow-rope) was enough to blow a person off his feet. I think this thing must have had about the same number of crew members as your average passenger jet. No hanging out of a side door for this crew …the wind would have decapitated them. No, 2 little heads were visible peeking of a hatch in the middle of the aircraft. And the noise!! Under the onslaught of this downwash the Galahad was being blown all over the place.
With such a long strop, some “guide lines” were eventually attached to the Sea King and then “landed” somewhere close to the intended spot. As will be seen in one of the attached pics. I really did admire the crew co-ordination and professionalism  of the US crew.
Our next “pick-ups were a bit surprised to see a rather busted up Sea King on the deck, and probably wondered about their future means of transport. But, kindly souls as we were, we told the truth (for once) as all these kids hadn’t really been enjoying themselves during the last couple of weeks or so.
And that’s about it for “Galahad”. I enjoyed it. But again, when allowed (?) to do what I enjoyed doing most…navigation….most things can be forgiven. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #581 on: April 14, 2010, 03:18:55 pm »

The pics:-
1...Relative sizes? Pity I couldn't get them both in profile.
2...Well, that's one way to clock up a "landing"!
3...A typical winter view in the Inner Passage. Easy to see how I enjoyed these twists and turns, even at night (although the heart-rate went up a bit then). Poor Sea King. Shrouded and hemmed in by land-bound trucks.
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Martin [Admin]

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #582 on: April 14, 2010, 04:33:45 pm »


Topic tided up.
thanks so all those that helped sort it out

 OK, the word     L Y N X     causes the forum problems, you are hereby notified.
 ... until we all forget and do this all again in a few years!   %%


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Roger in France

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #583 on: April 15, 2010, 07:22:23 am »

Very atmospheric photos, Bryan. Thank you.

Roger in France
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #584 on: April 15, 2010, 07:27:51 am »

When I was at Mayport, Florida I witnessed something similar, except it was an old fighter (looked like a Sabre) They hadn't got the load slung correctly ie nowhere near the cg, and the plane was gyrating madly under the chopper wash. If anything it looked like some prey fighting to be free of a giant hawk !  The pilot must have been satisfied as the whole shebang slowly disappeared into the distance, still flapping around. Come to think of it, If planes etc have a set slinging point when operational and this Sabre was a dead one and probably without engine - this may explain the out of balance slinging

Mike
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #585 on: April 15, 2010, 08:00:09 pm »

Bedivere-1

When my “Olwen” leave finally expired I really think that MoD hadn’t a clue what to do with me. A bit of “insight” (from my perspective) may help. By 1989 the RFA fleet had been reduced a fair bit from what it was like in 1982. Then it wasn’t uncommon for a ship to carry a 1/O(X). As a group we were all ex-navigating officers who were sort of removed from bridge and “operational” duties to being more a senior officer with more “whole ship” responsibilities. Very few of which had a “nautical” bent. Well, OK, some did.
I’ll try and give you a bit of a run-down on the duties we had.
1…NBCD Officer.
      This put the 1/O(X) in charge of all aspects of Fire Fighting (and training), the maintenance of all associated equipment (with the aid of an AB who did the actual work), keeping up to date with Chemical defence procedures, and although widely ignored having a “plan” in case of a Nuclear or Biological threat (a not impossible scenario in the late 60s and 70s). Damage control…mainly doing the training for the guys doing the getting wet and hammering wedges in and so forth…as well as learning stuff from the Engineering staff about emergency ballasting and so on.
2…Naval Stores Officer.
      All stores ordered for the deck department were done via the 1/O(X). This could be a huge undertaking. From a new chronometer for the bridge, through sail twine for the deck store-keeper to new RAS hoses for the rigs. The catalogues for this stuff were vast, and took a fair amount of learning a way about them. Then the dreaded “accounts” had to be kept up to date. Stores were classified as “consumable” (paint and stuff), “Permanent” (anything that wasn’t “consumable”), or V & A (Valuable and Attractive…..such as a chronometer). All had to be ledgered and inspected as “being there” on a regular basis. That’s where the “Olwen” had fallen down….the inspections hadn’t been done, but the boxes had been ticked. All comes to rest on somebody!
3…Loan Clothing Officer.
      It may or not be well known that an RFA ship had a bigger stock of “menswear” than your average Marks’n’Sparks. I can’t recall stocking underpants, but that’s about the only item. Of course, the system was originally brought in to provide the crews with “working gear”, but, like Topsy, it just growed and growed. Seamen come in all sizes, from huge and burly to thin and scrawny….just like the rest of us. So over the years the ships had become a “catch-all” supermarket. I kid you not here, but it wasn’t at all unusual for a crew member to join the ship with only a plastic supermarket bag as luggage. The ship would provide. Foul-Weather clothing. (for a cook!?), Fair weather stuff (to go ashore in). DMS Boots in all sizes and widths ( and both available as either electrically “conductive” or “non-conductive”). Plimsolls (sandshoes to you and me) were used as slippers (all “authorised”). “T” shirts (white) used for anything you wanted. You get my drift here. Or you think you do. As it was all “free”, not much care was taken to look after all this stuff. Even though we always had a ships laundry (then run by a couple of Chinese chaps) I would regularly get some idiot who wanted a new whatever because “this one is dirty”. And all this gubbins had to be ledgered both “in” and “out” against the persons name. And (according to the “rules”) when they left the ship all the filthy stuff they’d had issued had to be returned and bagged for disposal. I fell foul of this rule (but only temporarily) by refusing to accept “returns” from contracted people. Instead, I made out a “permanent loan form” to them which meant that they had to take the used items away with them and use whatever it was on their next ship. At first this didn’t work, but once I started sending photo-copies to that ship…well, things changed a bit. But really, MoD didn’t give a stuff. Wastage in MoD…tell me about it!
4…
      Explosives and Armaments Officer.
This is a post that for very sensible reasons is decreed to be shared between 2 “responsible” officers. One officer is supposed to be the armaments “accounting” officer, and the other is supposed to be in charge of the stowage and subsequent issue/ use of such stuff. Never happened in my experience. Both tasks were loaded on to one person (the 1O(X)). This was obviously wide open to fiddles, but no-one seemed to care. But MoD did care about some things. An example. If we had a 20mm “shoot” then all expended shell casings had to be collected and counted…and the count of fired and collected had to tally otherwise a “letter” would eventually arrive. With a 20mm gun mounted so the barrel hangs over the ships side…..guess wher a lot of the casings went. Explain that to the “suits” in Whitehall. But this was minor stuff when I became sort of responsible for the various bits of “nasty” we eventually started carrying.( This is all on a “tanker”….not on a stores/ammo ship where we had specialised guys looking after it all.),
5…Liaison Officer.
      Responsible for making sure his-nibs gets to where he’s supposed to be at, at the right time. Organize trips out for the crew (normally a "xxxxx"-up). This was always a pain in the nether regions.
6…Flight Deck Officer.
      Again, started from humble beginnings, but when the “Forts” came in, being capable of carrying and operating 5 Sea Kings it was a bit too much to ask of the RFA ships company. When I first started this lark we had either a single Wessex embarked or a visiting (temporary) flight that brought their own personell. That got whittled away. Also as FDO the 1O(X) would be responsible for all things pertaining to flying operations…including the loading, issuing and quality control of the AVCAT. Smelly stuff…..but great for cleaning small paint brushes.

It wasn’t for nothing that the RN equivalent was nicknamed the “OJO” (Odd Jobs Officer). Sometimes it was rewarding (only sometimes), but in general………

As time went by, a bit of common-dog started to creep in. Like, why have a Pursers department that doesn’t do stores other than the catering type things. Why is the Ch.Engineer just an “advisor” to the NBCDO when he knows (or should) the ships systems better than any deck officer could ever hope to. Give the Liaison bit to the Ops officer….that’s what he’s there for. Clothing…give that to the pursers as well.

Eventually the Flight Deck went to the pursers/engineers as well…….
But as you can tell, my function in the ship was becoming more and more redundant. No bad thing really.But what does the MoD do with the 6 or 7 of us who are left?

     All of us were fully qualified Master Mariners (Foreign Going), we all knew each other pretty well after meeting up quite often over the years. I guess it was a bit of a shame that “some” had succumbed to the blandishments of larger houses and private schools. Me? I’m a parsimonious little sod….and I actually like where we live, and never really wanted to move (upwards, sideways or even downwards)..so here I happily sit. But we all knew that no promotion was going to come our way, so we had no real inkling what MoD had in store for us. Being one of the minority percentage that was by then mortgage-free, and number one (and only) son about to build his own nest, it occurred to me that an “early retirement” could be an option. Perhaps in 5 years or so when I’d be 55. But how was the next 6 years to be played out.
This was when I was appointed to “Sir Bedivere” (again). Regular readers of this spiel will know that I had always loved the LSLs, so I was happy about this. In the normal course of events the position of Nav/Ops officer would be delegated to a 2/O, so having an experienced 1/O aboard raised a few eyebrows (especially at Marchwood, where they were used to being able to flannel a youngster). Some may have thought that this job was a sort of “demotion”….but in no way did I think that. I was back doing the sort of job that I loved, in a ship I enjoyed being in and with people I liked being with. No change in “rank” or salary…just a change of tasking. Smashing!

The Captain I knew very well from other ships and apart from the times when “formally” was required it was to be an amicable period….albeit a hard work one. I also think “he” was secretly relieved that he had a rather experienced guy on the bridge that he didn’t have to be constantly watching. But perhaps that’s just my vanity. I even enjoyed “doing” the 4-8 watches again! Apart from doing our “stint” on the Marchwood-Antwerp trot we did eventually get to do a longish, coldish, roughish and all sorts of other “ishes” spell in another Norwegian winter.

But first, a little “backtrack”. Because of the “usual” relative inexperience of the bridge staff on an LSL the Marchwood-Antwerp thing was very stressful for the Captain. All this charging up and down the English Channel, finding a way around the infamous “Sandettie Roundabout”, getting past all the ships at anchor and so on was apparently beginning to take its toll on the bosses health. Poor lambs.To alleviate this stress it had been decreed that after 3 “runs” the Captain would have a trip off. Great for him, not so good for the others. However, trusting as he may have been, he was a bit taken aback when I proposed to go out of the Solent via the inshore passage. Past readers may recall how I hated the run up, round and past the “Bramble”…not because it was dangerous or anything, just that it always seemed such a waste of time. The inshore passage is a bit odd…as are the tides in the Solent. But if the mathematics are done right then the passage is perfectly feasible for an LSL, even though there would be less than 2 feet of water under the ship (in places). Doing that route could either shave a couple of hours off the run or, more importantly, have a bit of time in hand rather than flogging the ships guts out to meet a deadline. I guess I won my “spurs” with that.
But a couple of months later I found myself for one of the very few times in my life at sea to be seriously worried (a bit scared, in fact).
We’d been sent to Dundee to pick up a contingent of Marines to take to Norway. The weather forecast was pretty poor, but nothing unusual. (This was the trip when my glasses froze to my head).
The LSLs had a long history of bursting their flexible fuel lines, and when this happened the ship more or less came to a grinding halt….in a nautical way. So reliability in bad weather was quite important. For some reason that escapes me now, I went to the bridge for my morning watch a lot earlier than I usually did. We weren’t rolling or anything, but the stern seemed to be lifting a lot. We were actually “surfing” on some waves. Come daylight the sight astern was horrific. Even though the bridge was only a few yards forward of the funnel I could see the wave tops over the top of the funnel as we dropped into a trough. It later transpired that we’d been caught by one of those “once in 100 years” storms. The 4-8 watch went by with a lot of nervousness on my part, so I elected to stay up there during the 8-12 bit…just as well.
The young 3/O never once looked astern of the ship, but seemed intent on carrying on a conversation with a rather inattentive helmsman. Honestly, I kid you not. If the ship had broached we would have gone over in a twinkling. I was getting a bit scared by this time. The helmsman became abusive when I told him to concentrate…so I had him relieved. Capt. and I took over the watch….and so it went on. Others were also concerned for our safety…even our” Lords in the Admiralty” sent a signal asking if we were OK. Eventually we got to where we had to hang a quick left turn into milder waters……thank goodness for the massive inherent stability of the LSLs. One roll of probably 40 degrees and we were through. I never ever, ever wanted another couple of days like that. But it still amazes me that others on board just thought it all a big surf ride. Ignorance can be bliss, I suppose.

But the fjiords beckoned. In and out, up and down, mooring in places where the only place to drop the stern ramp was on the local main road (which seriously "xxxxx" off the locals). And onwards, more to the north. Past the end of the famous Blue Glacier, and into a land of almost permanent darkness and gloom. I must admit that the moonlight showing up the Lofoten Islands was spectacular, as were all the stars and the occasional bursts of the “Northern Lights” (I only ever saw them in shades of green, never the multicoloured variety). We’d been directed (by the Army) to a little place north of Tromso. Two am. A rickety wooden jetty opposite a chipboard factory. No-one there, so our crew had to nip ashore to tie us up. And so we waited…and waited. You’ve already guessed….I think that the notion of Latitude and Longitude is an alien concept to our khaki clad brethren. Wrong port. (And not for the first time!).
I think we just more or less said “sod-it”, and went to Tromso. I really like Tromso, even in the dark. The pubs are always full of students, although with the price of beer over there I can’t imagine them drinking very much.
Then we had to do a beach-landing. In Norway? First find a beach. Just about every bit of coastline rises vertically out of the sea. Then it has to be the “right sort of beach”.  Eventually found one not too far from Tromso. So we did that. Bunged the vehicles and troops ashore and letting the army officers work out how to get an armoured car up a near vertical cliff. Not my problem ‘guv.

It was about this time that “our” carrier made a boo-boo and got a bit too close to some rocks, no need for enemy action this time. So farewell to her for a few months. (see where your taxes are going?).
Leaving this area there were no pilots available for the long slog south, so we had to take the open sea route…..bang, straight into big nasties. The bridge on an LSL had video feeds from various “vulnerable” parts of the ship, so it wasn’t very long before I saw water spurting into the bow space compartment through a gap in the bow doors. Ooopsy. Another awkward “turn-around” and head for calmer waters to fix it.

We had other “bits’n’bobs” to do, but eventually my time on Bedivere was up, go on leave, and re-enter the “mainstream”.   BY.
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craftysod

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #586 on: April 15, 2010, 08:40:47 pm »

When reading your exploits Bryan,when you stop,its like putting down the good book your are reading,and waiting for the next chapter.
In our case we cant pick up that book and long to hear the next chapter from you.
You have lived a life most people would be envious of,wonderful reading.
Mark
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #587 on: April 16, 2010, 05:48:13 pm »

When reading your exploits Bryan,when you stop,its like putting down the good book your are reading,and waiting for the next chapter.
In our case we cant pick up that book and long to hear the next chapter from you.
You have lived a life most people would be envious of,wonderful reading.
Mark
Craftysod...whatever your real name is....thank you. But in reality I never considered my life to be anything out of the ordinary. I mean, like it wasn't as if I was ploughing a lone furrow. I was only one of a bunch of people who happened to be there at the same time. If "they" (whoever they may be) wanted to write about the same incidents etc. then you'd probably get many more versions of the same events. I have tried to be truthful though...but at times, and perhaps understandably, my more personal feelings/observations had to be stated.
many people have lived (and are living) more interesting lives than mine. As far as I am concerned I'm writing to a bunch of people who are interested in model boats/ships who may never have had the choice/opportunity or even desire to have a sea-going career. It wasn't all sun and roses, but whose life is? The biggest difference between a life at sea and a life spent in a shore job is the isolation from what you may call "normal" life. But that was "normal" to us.
Life at sea as a bachelor is carefree and suited to the mavericks in society.....until some lovely bit of fluff comes along and (as the years go by) becomes SWMBO. I've been lucky with the (obviously mentally retarded) one that chose me....now approaching 50 years ago, and I'm not poisoned yet. But let no-one fool you. Leaving a new home and wife is hard....but it really does get even harder as time goes by. Dreadfully. Children grow up without "dad" being around. Basically, it all boils down to trust. "I" supply the money, "She" organises the home and raises the children. Not easy. But, funnily enough, "home domestics" were very seldom mentioned on board ship.
One thing I miss is the "bar chat" on board. You'd think that being stuck in the middle of an ocean without any TV coverage the conversation would be a bit "flat"...not a bit of it. Before the advent of video-tapes, the highlights of the week were "film nights", nowadays the "younger" elements just slump into chairs and mindlessly watch whatever is being shown,...night after night. The "elder brethren" would continue as before and always come up with something to learn, argue about and laugh about....and that makes a "team".
Sorry to sort of answer you at such length, but the subject of "togetherness" has rarely been touched on in my previous postings, and your response kind of triggered a long forgotten synapse. Thank you. BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #588 on: April 18, 2010, 06:27:11 pm »

Fort Austin-1.        (1990-91)

Somebody “up there” must love me! Despatched to join “Fort Austin” just lying there in Devonport awaiting my presence. But nobody had told me that she was just lying there with nothing to do. Fine by me. Apart from the expense of not getting any “duty Frees’, life sat alongside a jetty as opposed to bouncing around on a hostile bit of ocean had a lot going for it. Naturally I knew many of my fellow inmates, plus I knew the ship pretty well (intimately, you may say). What was unexpected was the “news” that a) the ship was up for sale, b) MoD were attempting to inveigle commercial outfits to have a look around and see if they could operate some of the ships functions cheaper than the Stonnery could. Interesting.
A quick resume on what the Forts did (still do, really).
Basically they are “dry-stores” ships. With the added complication that they are also ammunition ships. Bearing in mind that the hangar can comfortably accommodate a pair of Sea Kings ( side by side) as a “usual” thing, she could also utilise the hangar roof as another “deck”, plus she could “park” another Sea King sideways on the main flight deck in front of the hangar doors……and also have another “on the spot”. So carrying and operating 5 Sea Kings, while not usual, wasn’t all that unusual either. Remember that she was(is) classified as a “merchant ship”. Semantics. But my point here is that the ship had to be equipped and loaded with everything a large flight contingent may need. Not to mention the need to accommodate all the specialist people needed to keep these things in the air. Lots of bodies. Big demands on the catering staff (perhaps I should amend that to “Hotel Services”). But these beasts needed “ammo” and sonar buoys and so on…as did their compatriots berthed in “proper” warships. Not to mention all the other things that go “bang” that the RN need. I’m not even going to attempt to quantify how much foodstuffs we carried, but I think it was in the region of “6 man-months” (work it out for yourself)….a lot. Then we had “Disaster Relief Stores” …comes in handy when re-directed to a place hit by a hurricane or earthquake etc. Then there are “General Naval Stores”, which encompass everything you can think of. Modern ships quite often have “specialised needs”, so they sort of put in their shopping list to be drawn on as and when required. All in all a reasonably comprehensive list of stuff that had to be kept accessible.

This is the period when the M&S team descended upon us…..they didn’t stay on board very long, but although the ship didn’t get a report for “ages”, it seemed pretty clear to us (as they were leaving) that they wouldn’t have a clue where to even begin. So another bright idea bit the dust.
And nobody bought the ship either. Just as well when future events are taken into account.

So it was decided that the “Austin” would have a full refit by DML ( the privatised bit of Devonport Dockyard). So we had to “offload” everything ….not just the “cargo”, but all the ships stores and equipment….took about 3 weeks. I haven’t a clue where the Stonnery sent all their stuff, but the ships gear was all stuffed into “Devcons” or “Chacons” ( Come on…wake up…I’ve told you before that a “Devcon” is a “Devonport Container” and a “Chacon” is a “Chatham Container”….both the same, smallish wooden boxes with a door).
As is usual in an Admiralty Dockyard, all “work” grinds to a halt in late afternoon. This had the benefit (to me, at least) in that I could have a wander around the old southern part of the dockyard again and remind myself of some of its history. And there’s lots of it. I really don’t know if the “old” part is ever open to the public to browse, if it isn’t, then it should be. Even the old granite “dry-docks” are things of beauty, being all “stepped” (not slab-sided like the modern ones) and shaped to fit the class of ship they were made to hold. Google Earth shows this quite clearly. Nearby are the brick buildings in terrace form that were used to house French POWs in the Napoleonic era. Dark, gloomy and when full of prisoners probably very smelly, cold in winter and very hot in summer. How those guys managed to make those superb bone models defies belief. There was also the “execution” (by hanging) room with an adjacent room that held the “Lime Pit”. Barbaric, but still fascinating. Carry on round the bottom of the yard and there, in much glory, looking for all the world like a medieval timbered barn…but much bigger. It’s actually a covered repair slipway….maybe it was also used as a building slip, I don’t know, but it’s a tremendous bit of ancient timber building. Carry on a bit and there’s an odd little conical hill with a spiral footpath to the top where there’s a little pagoda type of summerhouse. All beautifully preserved. I was told that this is where one of the King Georges used to like sitting watching “his” ships going back and forth. These little walks on a nice evening when the yard was all but deserted had a magical feel to them.
But the day arrived for docking the old girl. It’s quite surprising how “long” Devonport dockyard actually is. This was a “dead move” (no ships engine power), just a small fleet of tugs. Our dry-dock was to be one of the old “battleship” docks. Huge great things. In at least WW1 these docks were “double-ended” to make entrance and exit easier directly from the river. Perhaps this applied during WW2 as well, but now a ship has to be guided into the basin and swung around before being eased into the dock. Time consuming.  But eventually it was done and we sat on the blocks in the now partially flooded dock.
Now it was time to “pay-off” all the people who weren’t going to “do” the refit. Those who were staying now had to scurry around looking for somewhere to stay for the next 3 months. Fortunately I’d been able to bring a car down from home, so I wasn’t dependent on “digs” near the yard. I eventually ended up in a holiday flat near the town centre. Normally these places are shut up for the winter, but the owner was delighted to have the place occupied for a long period that included Xmas and New Year. Again, another vagary in MoDs thinking. As very little work was going to be done on board between (say) 4pm on a Friday, and 10am on the following Monday those of us who could go home for the weekend were actually paid to do so. And a First Class Return train ticket from Plymouth to Newcastle even in 1990 was not cheap. I could have opted to fly (as could everyone else), but the timings of the trains and planes was just too inconvenient and made the time at home too short. So I drove. Certainly piled on the miles over those few months. But it was worth it even if it was just to get the weeks laundry done! (MoD paid “x” p per mile, which was good of them). Eventually I established that it was a regular 6 hour run, so that could be fitted in with “at work” times.

So. Let the refit commence.
Let me say from the start that I knew this was going to be a somewhat different refit to the ones I’d done before .(Apart from the “Gold Rover” one). Not at all like the fun and games played by the likes of Barcley-Curle or Smiths Docks. Oh, no….these Janners were portrayed as the cream of the British ship repair industry. AND they were all trained to the high standards demanded by the Royal Navy.
Remember that paragraph……
Obviously, the first thing to do when people came back into the yard (I was going to say “came back to work”…but honesty must prevail), was to get the remaining water out of the soon to become “dry-dock”. Amazing what stinking slime and sludge collects in these things. Then came the “Walk-around”….under the ship, sort of thing to make sure the ship was “sat” OK on the blocks. A bit of a nonsense really, as we would have sort of noticed if a 660’ ship had kind of toppled sideways or the dock gates hadn’t been able to close….but there you go.
Next came the time honoured  ritual of the celebration of “The Removal Of The Plugs”. Actually, it is a serious thing, and should be taken seriously, but it always induced a fit of the giggles in me. Locked away in some insignificant little cupboard somewhere within the ship was a nicely made wooden board with holes in it. A bit like a wood version of the plastic things “Mothercare” sells to teach children how to recognize the shape of things. This Holy Grail was to be ceremoniously carted (no plush cushion) around the ships bottom.
Every tank, space, volume of the ship that has some sort of hole in it that, if not plugged, would let water into the ship. These were all removed when in dry-dock. These are not little rubber plugs like the ones you have in your bath. These are “high tech” big brass jobbies. Thread diameter varies, but about 2” across. The “heads” are also of different shapes. Triangular ones for one sort of tank, square, rectangular and other oddball shapes depending on what sort of space they would plug. Also, each one would have a stamped number on the head to indicate which hole it went into. Also secreted away in the “cupboard” were the “special” spanners that would undo these plugs. Certainly not the “General Purpose Shifter” so beloved by “maties”…these spanners were also quite long. Two reasons, one accidental. After maybe 3 years getting used to being in place, they could be quite difficult to remove. The accidental thing was that the spanner length tended to let the spanner wielder escape whatever “stuff” left in the space hit the dock bottom rather than “him”. Although I don’t for one moment think that was an original consideration. On removal these plugs would be ceremoniously placed in the correct (marked) hole in the wooden board. Depending on who the “placer” was, this could take a minute or two. This board is getting heavy. And we may have had an awful lot of tanks/spaces etc. So there was more than one board. The ship by now was not in the hands of what remained of the ships company, but was now officially in “dockyard hands”….but the ship kept the plugs.(and spanners).

You could by now, quite reasonably, be thinking that the ships “owner” (represented by on-board” staff, and some HQ staff would be somewhat relegated….not a bit of it.

Next was to be the “conference”…..next time.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #589 on: April 18, 2010, 07:07:05 pm »

Just to remind you what she looks like.....
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Roger in France

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #590 on: April 19, 2010, 07:45:18 am »

Quite agree, Bryan, Devonport Dockyard is a fascinating place. I was born in Plymouth and a period of my education was in a school one wall of which was the Dockyard wall. Few folk have any sense of the historical interest of the place. Most of my school friends went to work their.

I assume you are also familiar with the Royal William Victualling Yard, a glorious piece of architecture downstream from the Dockyard at Cremyll near the mouth of the River Tamar.

As for DML, my nephew who is a senior manager with them, is a Member of Mayhem.

Roger in France
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fooman2008

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #591 on: April 19, 2010, 08:21:06 am »

I will donate this thought from a Yank
Most of the above stories qualify as what the USN would call a sea story.
This is defined as the following 20% fact, 20% fiction, 60% balls ("xxxxx" in the RN) to tell lies like that!
The amount of truth in the story is not the fun but the way in which it is told!
I'll post this one from a thread I have over on the R/C groups board.
Tales of Liberty (Tommy Liberty)
Mr first ship (an East Coast DDG-2 class) was blessed with the arrival of a young man appropriately named Thomas Liberty Jr.. He was a gangly kid from Kansas who had never seen the ocean before arriving in Norfolk (He went to boot in Great Mistakes (lakes)). We got under way after our overhaul and proceeded to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for refresher training (they now do it in your own home port, much the worse in my opinion, since in a different port you have to concentrate on what you are doing). Anyway Gitmo had a little rat problem, they were size of cocker spaniels and the sheet metal rat guards on the mooring lines didn't even seem to phase them. Thus, we were required to have a rat watch, one man on the ship with a shotgun and a man on the pier with a .45. Since I was the senior watchstander I got my choice of which of the two I got and took the deck (hot coffee and company on the quarter deck) Liberty (generally known to all hands as Libo) had the darkened pier. About 0200 (2 AM) I heard a loud scream the sound of gunfire and the few lights on the pier went out. I had been on the far side of the ship, I racked the shotgun (putting a round in the chamber) and ran for the brow (to the pier) and ran down the pier, someone on the quarterdeck hit the topside lights and there I saw Libo standing on one the dock bollards (single horned mooring device for tying up the ship) with his .45 with slide locked open shaking. I asked him what was going on and he replied, "It was the biggest f---ing rat I've ever seen in my life, I was afraid for my life man I had to kill it! I had too!"
I asked if he had hit it, he told me he had drilled it at least once (he had five rounds in the clip, the Navy doesn't load 7 to save the magazine springs). In the light from the ship I saw a gaping hole in pier transformer for the other side of the pier sparking and making strange noises. I retrieved a flashlight from the quarterdeck and proceeded to see if I could find Libo's trophy rat. In the back of my mind I knew from qualifications a few days earlier that the slightly visually impaired Libo was probably more likely to hit a rat throwing the weapon than shooting it. Upon closer examination of the transformer I noted a neat 5 shot grouping right in the door of the transformer but no rat! I salved Tommy's conscience telling him he had probably blown the rodent off the pier into the water.
Five minutes later (while our electricians were trying to restore the transformer and get us some power) two truckloads of Marines rolled in at an extreme rate of speed. It turns out that they had been running security drills when the power went out on two piers and about half the base, thus triggering a real security situation including rousting out the resident SEAL team and several small boats (supposedly armed with grenades to repel swimmers). Never did have the heart to tell him he blew hell out of a 3'X8'x4' deep transformer box, probably saw his own shadow in the dim lights on the pier......
Foo
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #592 on: April 19, 2010, 08:34:31 am »

Quote - Most of the above stories qualify as what the USN would call a sea story.
This is defined as the following 20% fact, 20% fiction, 60% balls ("xxxxx" in the RN) to tell lies like that!
Unquote

I have to ask if you have actually read this thread and, that being so, which parts of Bryan's account you consider as "20% fiction and 60% balls"?

Barry M
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #593 on: April 19, 2010, 11:16:15 am »

I look forward to a reply on that one! (Should I start "dreaming up" a response? Bryan.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #594 on: April 19, 2010, 11:46:45 am »

Quite agree, Bryan, Devonport Dockyard is a fascinating place. I was born in Plymouth and a period of my education was in a school one wall of which was the Dockyard wall. Few folk have any sense of the historical interest of the place. Most of my school friends went to work their.

I assume you are also familiar with the Royal William Victualling Yard, a glorious piece of architecture downstream from the Dockyard at Cremyll near the mouth of the River Tamar.

As for DML, my nephew who is a senior manager with them, is a Member of Mayhem.

Roger in France

Roger...thanks for the "heads-up"! I suppose I should be careful about what I (intend) to say about DML now! But what the heck, I'll say it as I saw it, after all, it was 20 years ago, and DML hadn't been going all that long, especially where RFAs were concerned. At the moment, suffice it to say that it was a bit of a learning curve on both sides! But then again, it's your problem to work out which are the alleged 20% and 60% bits as "suggested" by someone who wishes to remain anonymous.
Although I had many dealings with the Royal William yard, I never got around to actually going there...regretably.
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Roger in France

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #595 on: April 19, 2010, 01:35:36 pm »

Bryan, I thought it only right to alert you. However, I doubt you colud be more critical than he is!

Roger in France
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Shipmate60

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #596 on: April 19, 2010, 01:38:34 pm »

Roger,
DML are now Babcocks.

Bob
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #597 on: April 19, 2010, 03:38:57 pm »

Roger,
DML are now Babcocks.

Bob
Okey Dokey Shipmate, but was DML during this refit....it said so in ruddy great letters on the destroyer garage roof! Bryan.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #598 on: April 19, 2010, 03:40:14 pm »

Fort Austin – 2

The “refit conference”…obviously this isn’t the high-powered job, all that and the awarding of contracts etc. was done months ago.
For almost the entire period from the end of the previous refit up to the time the “spec” (specification) for this refit was published each ships department had been filing items that needed doing that were either beyond the capabilities of the ships staff and/or needed dockyard assistance. The ships input ranged from the quite trivial to very major. There would also be “A & A”s (Alterations and Additions). Also, as the refit progressed there would be “extras” or even deletions when, for instance, one job impinged on another so the 2 had to be combined. All this was vetted by MoD and either passed or rejected. The MoD also had their own (large) input (naturally). A lot of it was pretty standard stuff like docking procedures, storage of landed stores, hull cleaning painting…..the list here became endless, but of course had to be put in writing and costed. Then there was the list of new fit equipment. Too big a range to list here, but it would regularly include a more or less full re-equipping of the military radio/comms gear, new radars, galley equipment and so on. I’m deliberately leaving out the RAS gear and Engine Room stuff….although, if we were to have an upgraded or new type of RAS rig both the deck and e/r personell would be involved. Anyway, you get the idea of the comprehensiveness of “the spec”. On a ship like the “Austin” this document could easily run to 300 pages or more….and that would be the “working-condensed” version. The “main” version would be many times larger, and available for reference should “we” need to consult it.

The senior MoD representative was always a Marine Engineer Superintendent. This guy was generally a serving Ch.Engineer doing a 2 or 3 year secondment in the position, and he’d return to sea at the end of his time ashore. Unfortunately we had a guy who was (in all fairness) not the most popular Chief in the RFA. Over the next few months he appeared to be on a mission to delete everything he could with the exception of anything to do with the Engine Room. After many complaints by all the other departments he was told by “our” side of MoD that his job was to oversee and implement the “spec” and not to kill it off. So some sanity was restored..but with more frequent explosions of bad temper. The DML line managers just didn’t know where they were with this guy. But I’m ahead of myself.

The ship had 2 “Portacabins” allocated for use “as required”, our “low-level” conference was to be held in one of them. The more senior of the ships officers from each dept. and the yard management staff who we would be dealing with on a day to day basis. Also served as a “get to know you” meeting. This system was new to me as it was not my experience in a commercial yard…..one change for the better, I thought. (OK, I know DML is more or less a commercial outfit, but is pretty “naval” orientated).

From now on I’ll concentrate mainly on the refit as it affected the deck department…with some side-excursions, but you must be getting used to those by now.
We, the “deckies” had an XO, 1/O, 2/O and a 3/O. Plus a bosun and about 6ABs (now called SG1As) (Seaman, grade 1 “A”). The first thing we did was to split up the “spec” into bits that would be the responsibility of each individual officer to oversee (within the overall control of the XO, who also had his own “bits”). Other departments did likewise. My main area was the flight-deck complex, but there were many others. Also aboard was an RN PO and 6 ratings (all Fleet Air Arm) who were part of our embarked flight. All specialists in their own field. Another good move. In all, from all departments, we had more ships personnel on board than you would normally find during a refit in a commercial yard. We were also very pleased that DML had no qualms about allowing the various POs and ratings getting on with tasks they’d not been able to do when the ship was “operational”. Something that in many commercial yards at the time just wasn’t heard of.  So all in all, things started off on a pretty high note.
“Austin” was by now 20 years old and so had major surveys to undergo. One of the first jobs always done in dry-dock was the ranging of the anchor cables. It is common practice to “break” the cable at all the shackles and move the “inboard” shackle to the anchor end. Most ships have between 9 and 11 shackle lengths per anchor, so if a ship refitted once every 3 years it would take a ships average life expectancy to completely “end for end” a cable. There could be a little confusion here…..2 sorts of “shackle”. The shackle that is broken is a “joining link” between 2 shackle lengths….a “shackle” being 15 fathoms long (90 ft). So, for instance, “Austin” would have around 900ft (150fm) of anchor cable attached to each anchor. A lot longer than the ship. And each link in the cable took 2 strong guys to lift! There’s an awful lot of weight stowed in those cable lockers. During this survey, a shackle length was chosen at random and taken away for a stretch test. Devonport dockyard as a very good “test” facility for all this sort of stuff….unfortunately it’s at the far outhern end of the yard about 3 miles away. They test everything from anchors, anchor cables, wire ropes, all the many sizes and types of “normal” shackles to the myriad of blocks and tackles that a ship like would carry. A very big job indeed, and observing all this was just about a full-time job for the bosun…so much so that he had to buy himself a second hand car to keep up with the commuting from one end of the yard to the other. How do you “test” an anchor? Easy really. Ours weighed in the region of 7 or 8 tons each (we had 3, 2 fitted and one spare….the one “I” bent in 1982 when we snapped a cable). The anchor is hoisted quite high above a concrete pad and dropped. Then it’s checked for cracks and things. Basic, but effective. I don’t know how long the concrete pad lasts though.

Of course, while this was going on so were all sorts of other things In common with yards all over the country many of the more “unskilled” jobs would be done by contracted labour on a “job and finish” system. The firm that got the job I’m coming to must have thought they’d won the (not yet in force) lottery! “Needle Gun” every square inch of paint from the outside surfaces of the ship. All the superstructure, all the decks (including the flight-deck….but that was more “specialised”) and the hull above and below water. The sheer noise of all these guns ….and the mess! OK, at the end of each day it was all swept up (in fact the ship was kept remarkably clean throughout the refit), but it was estimated that well over 200 tons of paint was removed. How the pursers kept sane I’ll never know. They had to keep the ships office open all refit (paying out money to us) and looking after all the other guff that pursers do.

At the end of each day there would be the days”wash-up” to review progress or lack of, which could get quite lively and I generally enjoyed it all, not too sure about the line-managers though! But after that little lot about a dozen of us (never ever was the “super” invited!) would repair to a pretty good pub just outside the gates…the “dozen” also included some of the line-managers who, like us, knew that there is a good line between a professional argument and personal friendship…..and it was really that raport that made this refit the success that it was. To a degree.

To save your fatigue and sort out the 20-20-60% split, I’ll call that a day. BY
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #599 on: April 19, 2010, 04:24:55 pm »

Whilst writing the last episode ( on the refit), another part of my little mind was cogitating the remarks made by Foosomebody. The only "Foo" I ever knew was a rather seedy Chinaman who was a donkeyman on the LSLs when we had Chinese crews. He used to show very cheap and crudely made "blue movies" to the embarked troops at a couple of shillings a pop.
But as far as I can recall I don't think I've ever called someone elses post a load of bull. I may have disagreed on more than one ocassion, but my name and who I am is there for all to see.
When I first read Foos post I sort of assumed that it referred to the tale he was about to tell. Having read it again, I'm not so sure.
I hope that the "moderators" leave it in place....I'm quite capable of fighting my own corner (thanks, Barry, you'd make a good "second"!), but I'd really like to hear some of Foos reasoning....a not immoderate request, surely. We had a discussion on this forum recently about "aliases", "nom-de-plumes" and so on......I think that Foos post sort of strengthens my feeling that anonymity should not be used as as free licence to hide behind when basically calling someone else a liar. Not on.
As always, I'm willing to answer, refute or just plain disagree with a critic,...on an open forum with a person with a name and a point to make. But I find Foos position untenable, sly and somewhat malicious.
Let's hear from YOU Mr.Foo, as a real person. Not a cypher. Bryan Young.
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