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Author Topic: Nautical "Strange but True!"  (Read 151574 times)

Colin Bishop

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #650 on: October 03, 2010, 04:55:08 pm »

Me too, great stuff. I love your writing style Bryan, really brings things to life for us lifelong landlubbers.

Colin
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #651 on: October 03, 2010, 04:57:06 pm »

I am really enjoying the new "episodes" Bryan. Thank you.

You do mean that the palm trees are artificial?

Roger in France
Ever seen a real steel tree growing? Not dab hands at topiary are the Egyptians!.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #652 on: October 03, 2010, 04:58:14 pm »

It’s always pot luck whether you get a day or night transit, but both can be interesting (in parts).
But let me begin with the preparations for the Port Said arrival.
Canal dues are payable on “tonnage”. Not the weight sort of tons, but the volume sort (100cu ft = 1 ton) of cargo space. The canal authorities have always considered stores etc stowed in the fo’c’sle to be part of the cargo, so before arrival the ships crew would heave everything out on to the deck. Saved a few quid I guess, and gave the mate a chance to paint the deck. Although RFAs are considered “commercial” ships, we always had so much stuff in there that a) it would have taken a week to get it all out and b) there was no deck space available to put it all on. So it stayed put. Warships are exempt (from this “space” tax) as they work on “nett” tons anyway. But they still pay.
Some ships carry their own Canal Searchlight ( a giveaway can be the presence of a large round hatch on the prow. Ships that don’t have to rent one, that is fastened somehow to the ship or just hung over the bows. Either way, they still work in the same unexpected way. The canal is not illuminated in any way except at crossing points or small towns. Instead the boundaries of the canal have reflectors mounted on sticks every hundred yards or so. The beam from the searchlight is split into 2 narrow beams at a pre-defined angle. So if the split beam illuminates a reflector on each side of the canal at the same time the ship is in the centre of the canal. As a cadet I had to do my usual stint “on the wheel”, and always found it much easier than you’d think as the water itself would help keep the ship centred. The main problem was always the ship behind trying to make baby ships with your ship. So “your” ship would have to increase speed so causing problems all the way up to the “lead ship”. And some of the “pilots” got really excited when this happened. Arabic epithets flying all over the place.
      A daylight passage was, naturally, marginally more interesting. Still didn’t stop the mating instincts of some ships though. I can’t begin to recall how many times I’ve been through the canal, but it changed every time. The only constant was the greenish/bluish water.
In the 1950s the more or less average draught of a loaded ship was around 30 feet. And the canal was dredged to not much more than that. So a loaded ship wouldn’t be far off the canal bed. This gave rise to an odd phenomenon called “squat”. Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t mean that everybody on board had to squat, no, the ship did. The water under the keel sort of got shoved away and the ship sank a bit..could be up to about a foot or more.
Dredging was always going on. Primitive dredgers in my early days, now much more sophisticated ones. But the last time I went through, one thing had remained the same. Gangs of hundreds of people (convicts perhaps?) toiled away filling baskets with the “sand” that is the banks of the canal. Carry basket to top of the banks, empty basket, and watch “your” sand trickle back to where you’d just brought it from.
Another “oddity” was the dress of the fairly regularly seen soldiers standing around. The air temperature in the canal area is always hot, but more often than not these soldiers would be wearing what appeared to be ex British Army surplus greatcoats.
Sometimes the south convoy has to stop in the Bitter Lakes to let the northbound go by. This is the area where so many ships were trapped after the canal was shut in the 1970s. But there was always one permanently moored “ship” there. A ship made up from the rear half of 2 T2 tankers. A ship with a funnel at each end. Very clever. It was a “home-made” de-salination plant. I wonder if it’s still there.
But eventually we reach Port Tewfik at the southern end. The “top” of the Red Sea. And surrounded by forbidding, desolate and barren red mountains and hills. And ships by the score. Forget the transitting ships although they an be of some interest, but cast an eye over the others. Very much like a ships graveyard. But these are the Pilgrim ships and local ferries. Many of the ex British Rail cross channel ferries but with so much top-hamper added that their original shape is almost lost. Horrible.
But  southwards and onwards.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #653 on: October 03, 2010, 06:46:48 pm »

Me too, great stuff. I love your writing style Bryan, really brings things to life for us lifelong landlubbers.

Colin
Thank you Colin. I hope I'll keep you interested 'cos there's a pathetic episode coming up.....pathetic because I'm whinging about my "lot" in this rather silly deployment. Bryan.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #654 on: October 03, 2010, 07:51:32 pm »

For the canal transit (ours was a daytime one) the underemployed flight personnel had decided to run a relay team the length of the canal (84 miles) in the same time as the ship would take. Not that we’d allow these idiots ashore to do it. They had to do it all around their new beach area. The flight deck. This was easy to arrange. All that was needed was to push the sandy beach back a yard or so from the safety nets, pull back the deck chairs and portable bar a few feet and presto! We had a running track. They did it too. Raising a few hundred £ for charity (I forget which one). But shades of the Athletics Meeting on “Fort Grange” so many years earlier….everybody except Deity and the Satan were mugged for cash at every corner. (Deity and Satan seldom left their spacious suites, never mind walking around corners).
But then the flight deck had to be made ready for the boring return of the 2 large and noisy (and smelly) aircraft. Speaking of “smelly”…..the accommodation still stank worse than any harbour dredging from Port Said would have done. And with 240 people on board all trying to keep cool, the air-con was really struggling.
       I’ve sort of regaled you before with the trials and tribulations of going down the Red Sea with an RN group. Especially a group with “staff” embarked. Again this became more of a survival job than trying to improve “efficiency”. But one (little) plus was that our aircraft were not fitted with the filters needed for flying in desert conditions, so we were spared that extra enjoyment.
       Many of the ships company originally thought that they would be coming on a “fun trip” to the mysterious Orient. Even some of the old lags. They should have known better, is all I can say. The RN with their huge crews can afford to have a bit of fun and a few “rest” days. Not easy for us, and probably worse for “Olwen”. But many were having second thoughts and were putting in to join those being relieved in Singapore. I guess a lot of this was to do with the notion that they’d been cheated out of the in-port time that the other ships had enjoyed. Sounded reasonable to me.
       Eventually after the RN navigators found “Hells Gates” after much toing and froing  and we exited the Red Sea, turned left a bit and headed off towards the Horn of Africa. Heading a bit east of south east, as opposed to a bit north of east if heading for the Gulf. Ah, the Horn of Africa! Cape Guardafuie. The lighthouse perched on those huge cliffs that I once saw at a range of nearly 200 miles…..and whose keepers (French) had been eaten so often by the local Somalian tribes that it was now unmanned. But then the ship “moved” a little. Not a lot, just a little jiggle. The first movement  away from the vertical since we entered the Med a decade ago. Righty-o, the SW monsoon was still going, and it wouldn’t be long before we caught it broadside on. I mentioned this that evening (in the bar, where else?) and predicted that we’d be rolling like a pig by morning and the wind would be strong and wet. The youngsters (predictably) just laughed at me. They weren’t laughing the next morning when they looked at the remnants of their nice newish stereos lying in bits on the cabin floor. And we really did roll, until we turned more to the south and butted into this really nasty sea on top of an equally nasty swell. At least the sound levels emanating from competing  cabins was reduced considerably. A small bonus point. But alas, this was all accompanied by mass doses of sea-sickness. I suppose the still pervading poo smell didn’t help much. But yet another bonus point! All the flight crews took to their beds for the next 5 days! If I’m to be really honest, I wasn’t feeling all that bright and bushy tailed myself, but I was bloody sure I wasn’t going to let on about it!
But I’ll leave you to enjoy your Sunday supper and continue tomorrow.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #655 on: October 04, 2010, 03:57:20 pm »

This picture is of the green and luscious area Known as "The Horn of Africa".
The island off to the north-east is Socotra, a mountainous island inhabited by wild pigs and unfriendly natives
Off to the lower left are the "Gates of Hell". Narrow enough to be able to build a (big) bridge across, but that would be asking for trouble. But from the shape of this part of Africa, you can understand why the SW monsoon wind (and rain) comes howling up the coast and deflects to the north-east.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #656 on: October 04, 2010, 04:49:14 pm »

   All this “talk” about poo reminded me that it wasn’t only the engineering department that was up to its oxters in it. One morning, and feeling just as sick as the rest of us (with more reason) I had a visit from “Chippy”. A senior PO that I knew well from previous ships. I’m sure I could see a faint “off green” aura around him. I didn’t like to mention the whiff off his clothes as perhaps mine did the same to his nose. But he had a “sort of” complaint. Now, you must appreciate that “chippy” is one of the top 3 ranking Petty Officers. One of the 3 who actually run the ship no matter what delusions us officers laboured under. His “complaint” was that he’d joined the ship as a master shipwright of long standing, and he now couldn’t see why he had to spend his working hours with his head stuck down some toilet or other, so he was actually requesting to be relieved in Singapore. Him and 90% of the ships company. But without his realising it (yet) his name was already on the list. That was the first time I’d seen him smile since you know what first hit the fan. Oddly enough he lives less than half a mile from me, and we bump into each other now and again.
         By now we were approaching the equator. And the ship is loaded down with guys who’ve never been further than Margate. At the last count we had at least 55 virgins to initiate…that’s a lot out of a total of 240.
“Crossing the Line” on an RN or RFA isn’t anything like the sedate business you may find on a cruise ship. Just  the opposite. In fact it gets a bit brutal at times as the effect of the wee red tinnies takes hold.
And all “choreographed” by the senior POs.
The initial preparations started ages ago when the galley staff began emptying the galley slops into however many oil drums they thought would be needed. So by the time we reached “the line” there would be all sorts of hob-goblins lurking in the drums.
Then Neptunes Police Force are appointed. Generally from the more thuggish element of the crew. Uniformed in blue boilersuits and white hard hats and armed with some sort of trunchion, their task is to search the ship and seek out the quivering wimps hiding under bunks or wherever and deliver them more or less in one piece to King Neptune. The poor unfortunate would then most likely be totally immersed in whatever goodies the galley had dreamed up. I often felt a bit sorry for the junior galley staff who had to contribute to the makings of their own purgatory….but not too much sympathy as they’d been responsible for a lot of  galley “mistakes” in the past.
After the dunking and spluttering and the odd bout of vomiting (into the oil drum) the novice would be chucked into a “clean water” pool. This was OK for the first “volunteers”, but not so nice for number 20 and so on. Not so “clean” by this time!
On some ships where only a few novitiates are to be “baptised” the “tinnie” effect really takes over and “old hands” (including, gleefully, some senior officers) get a going over. But with over 50 of them to be seen to, even the police seemed to run out of steam.
However, the Law of Unintended Consequences made itself known. Not being “content” with coping only with lousy air-con, the whiff of poo and the aroma of honest toil and sweat, we now all had to suffer the lingering after effects of the contribution from the galley. Still, if my memory served me right, the newbies would feel right at home in some parts of Mombassa…..although there was still some distance to go yet, and what could befall us before then. RFA? (Ready For Anything).
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #657 on: October 04, 2010, 05:50:28 pm »

Have you ever been invited to a party you know beforehand that you’re not really welcome at?  Well, that was us at Mombassa. So the ships split up. Only “Invicible”, “Bayleaf” and “Fort Austin” would be going to Mombassa. “Newcastle” and “Olwen” would have to suffer a week in the Seychelles, “Norfolk” and “Boxer” similarly in Mauritius. None of us gave a toss about “Invincible”, but we all felt that yet again “Austin” had drawn the short straw.
There was only about 300 miles to go from “the line” to Mombassa, so expectations were running high. Mainly because we would be getting some long overdue mail, but in general everybody just wanted (and needed) a break and a bit of time “on parole”. Six weeks or more of unrelenting misery, bad smells, too much work and latterly some extremely uncomfortable weather  does not make for a happy ship. With the exception of the “Crossing the Line” ceremony, I for one got a vague inkling of what life aboard a slave trader must have been like.
Not surprisingly, many of the ships company had applied for “local leave” for a few days. Particularly  the RN flight maintenance lads. They lived in 9 man “mess” cabins, a bit smelly, noisy and claustrophobic, whereas “our lot” with a few exceptions all had single berth cabins. The “leave” arrangements for the RN contingent was up to the flight commander, and I presume the arrangements for his people were done by using one of the aircrafts radios. But they’d been booked into holiday chalets just a few miles up the road at a reasonable price. Other crew members had opted for a 3 day Safari and costing a small fortune. But most of us just decided to do “day running”….not that we had much choice as “duty days” still had to be kept. (One in three is the norm).
       But first we had to actually get to the place.
It was no surprise to find ourselves (and the other 2 ships) tied up to buoys on the opposite side of the river from the town. I’ll try to show that in a photo.
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Dreadstar

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #658 on: October 04, 2010, 06:00:47 pm »

Brilliant as always Bryan,you can tell that things ain't going to go according to plan here. {-)
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #659 on: October 04, 2010, 06:49:27 pm »

Brilliant as always Bryan,you can tell that things ain't going to go according to plan here. {-)
Thank you.....it's always nice to get some feedback!
Can it get worse? BY.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #660 on: October 04, 2010, 07:03:04 pm »

To be honest,I can't remember if we were at buoys or anchored, but I tend towards buoys because of the monkeys.
No, I haven't totally flipped my lid yet.
If the following pic is clear enough then you'll be able to see that we were within a good catapult shot of the shore. It may well have been the scent of alien poo drifting down, but something attracted hordes (tribes? flocks? herds?) of baboons on to the beach nearest us....and never approached the other 2 ships. These gangs really went berserk, to the extent of throwing what I can only assume was their own poo at us ( I really wish I could write "poop", 'cos that's what it was). What a racket. Day and night. Well, at least we got a welcome from somebody!
Having to get a ferry was a bit of a pain, but it was better than the do-it-yourself "pully-hauling thing that the stationed Cable and Wireless ship had to make do with in the 1950s.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #661 on: October 04, 2010, 07:41:43 pm »

Bryan,

I have to express my concern that you used a Junior Engineer to clear the macerator in the xxxx tank. Had you no Apprentices on board?

Keep up the good work.

Barry M
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #662 on: October 04, 2010, 10:28:01 pm »

Bryan,

I have to express my concern that you used a Junior Engineer to clear the macerator in the xxxx tank. Had you no Apprentices on board?

Keep up the good work.

Barry M
Personally, I'd have preferred to see the Ch.Eng do it.....or the Deity. Bryan.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #663 on: October 05, 2010, 01:52:08 pm »

    What with all the reports and rumours (mostly true) about the hazards awaiting the unwary when ashore, the Ch.Officer was “instructed” to “make a pipe” to the assembled masses on this subject. Actually it was a bit of a combined effort gathering information from those of us who’d been there before.
The “good news” bit was that the various ships crews were to be made welcome at the big resort hotels just up the coast. These places are all in “secure” compounds, both to protect the guests, and make it that bit more difficult for said guests to spend their money somewhere else. The last time I was in Mombassa was on “Pearleaf” back in 1968/9. A lifetime ago! I remembered the place as basically safe and very colourful. All in all, a pretty good run ashore. But times have changed. Now it’s pretty dangerous.
       The first place to be really wary about was the unlit road leading from “our” small ferry landing to the sort of  huge statue depicting 2 huge crossed elephant tusks, beyond that one was “relatively” safe. There was to be some sort of organised transport to and from the resort hotels, but taxis were available. That was fine with us, as very few RFA people had any desire to share buses full of the typical RN matelots out on a “jolly”.
The “Road to Hell” was actually quite short….about half a mile or so. But even walking it in groups wasn’t deemed advisable. From the taxi windows we could observe the many glowering gangs deprived of their easy prey, and the many, many ladies of negotiable affection who were “open” for business 24 hours a day.
But we were also warned of the risk of catching Aids. Risk? According to the “pipe”, it was a 99% certainty even if you got within 6ft of these dusky maidens. And if you got “mugged” and were lucky enough not to get a severe beating into the bargain, the chances were that you’d be returning to the ship wearing only your skivvies. Seemed as if even the muggers had a deep down regard for propriety.
We only had one  person fall victim here. And I assure you that this is totally true.
The Chief Officer who’d made the pipe warning all and sundry of the dangers. Walking back alone and at night he was very fortunate to get away with only the loss of his watch and his wallet (and a bloody nose). I don’t think he ever really lived that down…unsurprisingly.
        The resort hotels were really top-notch. And  very expensive. Most of the guests seemed to be either European or from the Antipodes. It was very evident that they resented their tranquillity being rudely and very noisily (and later, drunkenly) being destroyed by the howling mobs from “Invincible”. Easily recognizable by their “uniform” of union-jack  shorts and tattoos. Again, I’m not exaggerating hen I say they were an embarrassment. The vast majority of the RFA guys (who, as usual) were both older and wiser than their RN counterparts, had come ashore neatly dressed and as far as I know caused no problems. The “open door” offer to the “Invincible” was withdrawn forthwith, we remained welcome and appreciated it.

           And that was about it for Mombassa.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #664 on: October 05, 2010, 02:38:56 pm »

When we left Mombassa the air within the ship was at last pretty well smell-free.
We’d also been able to top up our fresh fruit, salads and veg. We would have done that as a matter of course, but the stuff we took on board in Cyprus all “went off” very quickly. So it was nice to have a cold meal for once instead of stuff like Irish Stew and its ilk day after day in this climate.
     I wouldn’t go so far as to say we left Mombassa for the high seas with lightened hearts and a spring in our steps, but the mood was certainly better than it had been.
We felt even better when we were “detached” from “Invincible” and “Bayleaf”. They toddled off to meet up with the other ships and get a big suck from “Olwen”. We didn’t need any fuel. In fact we still had more than ample to get us back to the UK non-stop. Which might have been a good idea.
But we were going to Diego Garcia. This would be my 2nd or 3rd visit, one of the very few people on board who’d been there. I suppose the Navigator found out where it is because we got there, but most of the crew were a bit nonplussed to find themselves in an unknown lagoon  surrounded by palm trees set in the middle of nowhere.
The more recent history of Diego Garcia is pretty well know now, but a quick resume may jog a memory.
The territory of Diego Garcia is a British “possession” despite it’s Portuguese name. During the Vietnam War the British Government  leased the place to The USA so they could build an Air Force base there so allowing them to launch more B52 bombing raids on Vietnam. Of course “they” were still operating out of their huge WW2 era bases in the Philippines and Guam which are closer to Vietnam. But they must have thought it worth while. Years later the already huge runway was enlarged to act as an emergency landing area for the Space Shuttle. The indigenous population was shunted off to other islands in the Indian Ocean, and as I write this in 2010, they are still fighting to be allowed back
The lagoon is really vast, much larger than you could ever imagine a “lagoon” to be. This area is now also “home” to a lot of “in readiness” ships of the US Maritime Sealift Command (The US version of the RFA). These ships are huge, and are fully loaded with all the requisites for “war” (Persian Gulf, at a guess), but are under a “care and maintenance” regime and are not fully crewed up.
There has always been a token UK presence on the island…must be a nice job. We were going there to deliver some “stuff”. I don’t know what it was as it was all carefully crated up….but I know what holds it came out of, and it wasn’t cold weather clothing!
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #665 on: October 05, 2010, 03:34:00 pm »

Diego Garcia. General views. The large wite dots in the lagoon are some of the “in readiness” ships.
The living area,PX and so on are on the NW point.
Those B52s….just sat there.
Of course, you could easily get this yourself from Google Earth!
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #666 on: October 06, 2010, 04:46:22 pm »

To celebrate their freedom from the dictats issuing forth from “Invincible” the flight officers decided to hold a “sundowners” on the Monkey Island (different sort of monkeys here). A “sundowners” is a sort o f well prepared impromptu drinks party held by any particular group of officers for the free entertainment of their fellows. The timing is obvious from the name given to the event. This is all very well when the ship is stopped or something, but when the ship is churning along at 20 knots into a 10 knot head breeze, the wind over the bridge roof is pushing 40mph. Quite enough for the drinks to be blown out of the glasses. So, for all their good intentions, that little soiree didn’t last very long. Our stop-over at Diego Garcia was a bit less than 48 hours (2 days and one night), but some of us had a nice dinner in the base restaurant (American steaks), and bought all sorts of stuff from the base PX (Post Exchange…the supermarket). I bought enough ground coffee to see me through until I left the ship.
A  reminder about the media people. They were still with the group, but had transferred to the other ships before we got to Mombassa. In fact, due to the sea-sickness epidemic we hadn’t seen much of them for quite a while. And as they are going home from Singapore, we won’t be seeing them again. There is a God.
       Of course the flyers still wanted to fly, but with no pressure on them the “Fly-Pro” could be arranged to fit in with the ships routine. I also suspect that “they” would like to have meals at our times and not some re-hash left in a press. So all was tickety-boo again. Personally, I’d have thought that just stooging around one of the emptiest bits of Ocean on the planet would have re-defined the word “boring”. But they could at least play with their “dunkers” and do a spot of eavesdropping on flatulent fish or copulating whales.
        Usually when “we” travelled from the Red Sea to Singapore the route was via the southern tip of Ceylon, and more or less straight east then turn right down the Malacca Strait. This would have been a bit pointless this time, so the route via the Sunda Strait was the obvious choice, the gap between Sumatra and Java. Although very little traffic runs between Mombassa and the Sunda Strait, it becomes a bit of a congestion point. Tankers and Bulkers coming up from on the “Cape” route to Japan, china etc. will use it both inward and outward bound. A very wide  (200 miles?) entrance from the west, but narrowing to about 10 miles at the eastern end. 10 miles sounds a lot, but remember that the Dover Straits are closer to 22 miles wide. OK, there’s a sandbank in the middle of the Dover Straits (the “Varne”). This area (Sunda) is an easy if busy route during the day, but can get a bit hairy at night. Also, the Sunda Strait is home to Krakatoa. An island that is left to port when entering from the west.
I’d seen it on many earlier trips when I was a Ben Line cadet and a junior officer with Cable and Wireless but seldom from an RFA. So I was interested to see how the thing was growing. Wow!. When I was a cadet in the mid-late 1950s it was still just a “toddler” in human terms, in the late 60s/early 70s it was a young teenager. Now, I guess it’s approaching adulthood, complacently smoking away to its hearts content and wondering when it will decide to lose its temper again. And wreak more havok on the world. As it assuredly will. (Unless Yosemite gets there first).
      I must beg a little forgiveness here. I’m sorry if my posting maps and stuff smacks of  “teaching to suck eggs”, but I know from experience that there an awful lot of people who don’t really know global geography. So I’m just trying to make imagining this voyage a little easier.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #667 on: October 06, 2010, 06:18:30 pm »

A couple of small “asides”………
Looking back through reams of stuff, I came across an odd statistic.
Every ship I’d ever sailed in, from 1956 until 1992 ( this voyage), I’d been to somewhere I’d never been before (even if it was only Dundee). This one, nearing the end of my so-called “career” promised to break that record. And I remember that really pi**ed me off a bit. But there was a long way to go yet.
    Secondly, working the flight deck on a “Fort” was not at all like being the FDO on an “OL” or any other RFA. On all ships other than the “Forts”, the FDO had direct, hands on, control of the flight deck. He controlled everything that went on there. He could communicate with both the bridge and the aircraft. The bridge via the HCO actually controlled the aircraft until the FDO took over at ¼ of a mile, and controlled the landing. I believe the pilot of the aircraft did have something to do with the landing, but what his job was, I’ve no idea.
But the “Forts”, ah, a different kettle of fish altogether. We had “FLYCO”. This was (and is) a mini copy of how aircraft carriers operate aircraft “doings”, so letting the bridge get along with what the bridge does best…have a cup of coffee and tell everybody else what to do. This method of working is (sort of) OK when the FDO and the bridge are the only links in a chain. “Flyco” was supposed to break that chain and let flight operations carry on without much in the way of bridge interference. But this is the RFA and not the RN. So “Flyco” rapidly became just another layer of non-essential clap trap. So the ships FDO, normally a well experienced First Officer, was given a new title. That of ships “Aviation Officer” (AVO). Under him (me) was an RN officer designated as AAVO (Assistant Aviation Officer….but you guessed that).
This AAVO did not necessarily have to have FDO qualifications. In fact, even after all these years, I’m still unsure. However. In general, no matter how experienced they were in flight deck operations, the RFA FDO was only ever qualified as an FDO2. This meant that he wasn’t qualified to do a few things. Unimportant stuff like supervising the arming of an aircraft, or controlling the driver of the “mangler” (the electrically driven tractor thing that was used to move the aircraft in and out of the hangar and so on). So other ways and means of  keeping an aircraft “fit to fight” had to be found. And, as usual, it was fudged. Lines of demarcation at “lower levels” were easy. But when the lines of command came into practice it all became a bit tangled.
       I’ve said often enough that the RFAs are civilian and civilian manned. But when that “civilian” ship has 4 “weapons ready” Sea Kings embarked, and with the facility to deploy them lines, understandably, get a bit blurred. Nobody but nobody wanted to take the final step here. Certainly not the political or MoD lot. Nor did the RN really, they just put up with it and kept their collective heads down. So where did that leave the Commanding Officer of the RFA? In a sharply clefted forked stick is my guess.
On one hand he was CO of the entire ship. As a civilian. But he also had a fighting aviation force equivalent to 2 frigates under his command. And the prime purpose of having a Flyco was thus undermined. It really is impossible to have 2 autonomous operating systems within one ship. Just “who” is in charge?
This might get a bit complicated now.
Although Flyco was always manned by an experienced FDO, the bridge retained control of all flying operations. One of my big bugbears was that very seldom were any of the bridge staff actually trained as an FDO. This had one main ramification. Landing or launching a helicopter, especially a big one like a Sea King, was always “wind dependent”. All aircraft have an “operating window”, deck movement, weight, load, air temperature and wind direction. It’s this last point that used to get to me. A lot. The bridge, FDO and Flyco all have the same “widgets” (the adopted name). A widget graphically shows the wind limits (direction and force) that the aircraft is capable of operating in.
Too complicated? Might get worse!
Simplify. An aircraft really prefers to take of or land into the wind. For simplicities sake let’s just agree that a Sea King likes the wind a few degrees off the port bow so it can land “fore and aft” on the deck. Especially when the pilot is in the right hand seat (opposite to your holiday flight). But with a helicopter the “widget” can be turned. The thing the bridge staff never seemed to understand was that the wind was relative to the aircraft, and not the ship. So. I used to recommend “off wind” or “cross deck” landings (only possible in daylight hours). Almost invariably the bridge would reject this and spend ages turning the ship so wasting an unbelievable amount of time.
     To conclude this exposition, “Flyco” became just another layer within many others. The bridge retained control and flyco was just an unnecessary relay station. But that’s how it was during my 10 years off and on the “Forts”. I really do hope it’s all sorted out a lot better now. 
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Notes from a simple seaman

Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #668 on: October 06, 2010, 06:34:06 pm »

It just occurred to me that I’ve never posted a pic of a “Fort” flight deck. OK, I know it’s of “fort Rosalie” (nee “Fort Grange”), but the 2 ships are the same.
“Flyco” is perched behind those windows above the left hand side hangar door. Made for poor visibility of the whole deck. Forts “George” and “Victoria” have Flyco on the ships centre line.
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Notes from a simple seaman

Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #669 on: October 06, 2010, 09:30:10 pm »

Perhaps I'm going too fast.
The postings are really just about all written "off the hoof" so to speak. No pre-editing or things like that.
I'm grateful for the "numbers", but what I really miss are responses. Not the two word things, but ideas on how to make it better. What sort of stuff have I left out. What sort of stories do you find boring....or otherwise.
I'm not writing a book here, I'm only trying to tell you what life on board the ships I sailed in was like, and what we got up to and where we went.
No need to be an amateur book critic.
The last time I asked for some sort of response was a couple of years ago, and I recall that Colin Bishop posted that "I must be lonely"..far fom it. I do have another part to my life, but at the moment I feel as if I'm just talking to the fresh air.
I would think that anyone trying to do a story such as this has been would, even if it had been published, have had some letters of criticism (or praise)......but not apathy.
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Notes from a simple seaman

Colin Bishop

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #670 on: October 06, 2010, 10:04:19 pm »

Bryan, we're all spellbound!

You are telling it like it was/is and I find it quite fascinating. You have visited parts of the world that I will never see and brought them to life from your personal observations. You have also provided an insight into what life aboard ship is like which is very different to the experience of most of us who get these things from sitting in front of the telly. You have obviously lived a full and eventful life and I for one am slightly envious.

So just carry on please!

Colin
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Arrow5

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #671 on: October 06, 2010, 10:35:56 pm »

Yes please more of the same . You seem to have the knack, dont change a thing.  :-))
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..well can you land on this?

Dreadstar

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #672 on: October 07, 2010, 12:19:49 am »

I concur,I really like your easy style of writing Bryan,very similar in style to that great Python traveller. Keep up the good work mate. :-)) :-))
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pugwash

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #673 on: October 07, 2010, 12:25:00 am »

Sorry Bryan I should have posted but I have just been sitting back enjoying the saga so far.  Even though I was Grey Funnel Line
and not RFA a lot of things rings true just the same.  As far as I was concerned the best place for the Carriers and Cruisers(yes we still
had them in my day) was sailing  away over the horizon in the opposite direction. Especially if you had a good skipper, I can't say I'm impressed
by "Deity".  I'm sure everybody is enjoying it as much as me.
Geoff
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #674 on: October 07, 2010, 08:23:37 am »

Still following your story with great interest Bryan. Having only done 3 months 'probationary' 3rd Mate in the RFA I only glimpsed the machinations of the powers that be and the wasting of tax payers money. (eg doing a Navex on passage between Gosport and Portland involving steaming way out to sea to get out of territorial waters - the real reason was so the bond could be opened for a ciggy issue  O0 God knows the cost of fuel for that jaunt ! ) Certainly no criticisms on your narrative, but since you resumed I thought you seem a little more bitter towards the 'Powers' albeit certainly with good reason !


Mike
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