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Author Topic: Nautical "Strange but True!"  (Read 151572 times)

BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #700 on: October 08, 2010, 08:40:27 am »

Mike,

I'm not sure if Jardine Steps survives let alone the eating stalls.  :((  There has been so much land reclamation that I believe even the Cellar Bar on Collyer (Collier?) Quay is a half-mile inland now.

Barry M
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #701 on: October 08, 2010, 09:11:37 am »

Thanks for that Barry, can't stop progress I suppose but a bit sad all the same. You also dragged another memory back with the Cellar Bar, many was the hour spent there, all in a good cause of course !  %) O0

Mike
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #702 on: October 08, 2010, 03:47:56 pm »

This started off as an answer to MikeKs' references to novelty and disillusionment, but like Topsy it just growed and growed and became an episode in its own right.
Start with Change Alley (still in Singapore). Change Alley still exists, or so the street sign would have you believe. Part of it is on a footbridge over a motorway (I think the motorway used to be Anson Road, but it's hard to tell), and continues up an extremely narrow and dark alleyway between 2 skyscrapers. And is full of more "tat" than you'd believe without seeing it. I've seen better car boot sales. Not recommended!
As I mentioned, and Barry enlarged on, most of the scattered eating places have been coralled. Newton Circus and the Satay Park near the Merlion come to mind. Both excellent places to eat, and enjoy all that goes on around you.
Ah, the "Sweet River". Imagine, if you can, Singapore without all the land reclamation that makes the entire old (and large) harbour area a sort of large lagoon. When I got my first taste (and smell) of Singapore the cargo quay (singular) was single sided, and the seaward side was exactly that. Tie up port side to the quay, and from the starboard side the view was of an open ocean all the way to Sumatra, Borneo and points further south. Wide open. So the "Sweet River" discharged all its nutrients more or less directly into the sea. The mouth of this river...a bit of a misnomer for an oversized creek, was crossed by the famous (and quite beautiful) chain bridge that is now also part of the F1 race track. The harbour, having only one long wharf, was inadequate for the sheer volume of traffic that even in the 1950s was huge. So apart from the lucky few cargo-liner outfits like Blue Flue, Ben Line, P & O and BI that had their own berths, most of the other ships had to anchor out in the Roads. This was still the situation in 1969 when I expounded on the hazards of a night passage through the Roads when heading for the Johore Shoal Buoy. Anyway, all these ships had to be discharged and/or loaded whilst at anchor. Via barges. Big, crudely made things powered by old London bus engines, or engines from WW2 trucks. they were about the same size as the big steel things seen on the Thames. A ship discharging a full "broken" cargo (Cargo in crates etc) could be anchored off for up to a month, just filling up barge after barge. They were also "home" to the crews. And didn't have any toilet facilities that I could see, unless a thunderbox counts as a "facility". I said they were crudely built. "Crude" as in the way a junk could be called crude. Meaning "simple", rather than shoddy. But all these hundreds of barges had to have some sort of "home" to go to. When the creek was stuffed with these things (all with different symbolic bow paintings) the creek was invisible. It really was that crammed. And all those thunderboxes and whatever else was chucked over the side. Rice sweepings for one. And the stench of rotting rice combining with human output really makes for a heady mixture. "Sweet River" indeed. Almost made Port Said appear to be potable.

      But moving on to the real subject of this memory lane.
Mike, your'e only partially correct about worn off "novelty" and a sense of "disillusionment".
Referring to the "funny handshake" business, a good pal of mine (who later became a decorated RFA Captain) knew my antipathy towards things Masonic. So he went "round the houses" and had a word with Anne with the aim of "working on me". But she's not like that and just reported the conversation as it happened. The gist of it being that a promotion would be almost guaranteed if I "joined-up". Apparently I did have backers in "High Places"....which amazed me as for years I'd been under the impression that the MoD would have been delighted to see the back of me! Well, that perked me up a bit! Still said "no thanks" though, and so there I stuck as a First Officer. But I never really considered this to be a disillusionment, more as a fact of life.
As far as "novelty" wearing off; well, partly. But I've always thought that that would apply to anyone in just about any job eventually. I agree that with the majority of the ships doing the same sort of thing it can all get a bit mind numbing at times. probably one of the reasons I loved the LSLs so much. No time to be bored, busy, busy, busy with almost every day being different somehow. But almost invariably very happy ships.
The Multi-crewed jobs were different (RFA staff, Stonnery and Flight) were always riddled with some sort of factional gamesmanship which got a bit wearing. But first and foremost, no matter how lousy the weather or how disgruntled we got with "events", the internal cameraderie generally remained intact. And that's about the only I still miss (a bit).
"Part" disillusionment really only began after the Falklands thing had blown over. Up until then I'd considered myself to be a fully paid up Seaman Officer, rather than a "pen-pusher" with seamanlike tasks added on as an afterthought. As such, most of my ilk had a certain amount of autonomy. Post 1982 all sorts of primary school guff began to flood out of "our" section of the MoD (primarily aimed at gaining promotion points from the authors from what I could gather).
     I'll give you just one example of this silliness as an illustration.
Navigation. By now it may have penetrated that I'd got past the Primary School level of knowing how to "Navigate" and so on. On a practical level, I was probably one of the most experienced Navigators in the RFA at that time. But what did the RFA do? They got a recently promoted and very young First Officer who'd been an RFA cadet and "trained" in the RFA ways to write a "Navigation Bible" that would be regarded as "The Law" as far as things Navigational were concerned. You'll possibly agree with me that any manual written by one person will be written around that persons personal preferred methods and prejudices. And so it was. This manual at over 100 pages was so full of trivia! This guy even went so far as to lay down the law on how thick a course line on a chart should be drawn, and how large the course annotation should be (he "ordered" half an inch tall). I (and others) basically said "bullucks" to the whole thing and stuffed it into the back of a cupboard. But it served its purpose. The shore bound civil servants loved it and he was fast-tracked to further promotion. I certainly have no gripe about people being fast-tracked if they're worthy of it, but to gain promotion this way only stores up problems for the future in that I believe it breeds the dictatorial type who eventually recognizes his own shortcomings and his lack of earned knowledge.
       By the late 1980s I'd just about had my fill of the sea-going life in general. Leaving home was getting harder and harder to take. So around 1990 I resolved that now our mortgage was paid off, and our son was finding his feet in the outside worls and would soon be dropping out of the nest, I would take advantage of being a sort of civil servant and use their rules (that they didn't really like us knowing about) and apply for early retirement at the age of 54. With the civil serice rules of enhancement that would put me well into their bracket. But that was for the future.
And so endeth the longest "aside" I've ever written! But after all, it's reall all part of the saga when all is said and done. But of course, I'm still on "Fort Austin", and after 2 months into this Oriental Cruise only Singapore can count as a "real" stop as far as the crew was concerned. So back to that soon.

       
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #703 on: October 08, 2010, 05:19:02 pm »

I think the moan in the other part of the Merch that ' things have never been the same since accountants started running the show ' sowed the same sort of seeds around the same time Bryan.
By the way, we (Jardines) also had our own berth in Singapore, so there  %) %) :}

Mike
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #704 on: October 08, 2010, 06:22:48 pm »

I think the moan in the other part of the Merch that ' things have never been the same since accountants started running the show ' sowed the same sort of seeds around the same time Bryan.
By the way, we (Jardines) also had our own berth in Singapore, so there  %) %) :}

Mike
OK, so I missed a few. So what? For myself I'd have rather sailed with Jardines or China Nav than any of the ones I mentioned with the possible exception of Blue Flue. Not surprised at the accountants taking over at Jardines. They always ran it, being primarily a banking outfit. Was it "Taipan" or one of the other books that really gave the semi-historical story of the feud between the 2 families?
Keep reading....and talking. This "writers life" gets a bit lonesome......especially when being done pro-bono. Regards. Bryan.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #705 on: October 08, 2010, 07:58:37 pm »

Just to enrage BarryM who’s probably still in his grimy boilersuit and wondering how to clean out his fingernails without the use of a power tool, I should mention that RFA Officers get dressed for dinner. No Barry, that really does not mean that during the day we ran around in the pinkish nuddie. On third thoughts, that could have brought a bit of unexpected levity. But such are dreams, alas. No. I meant that at 1800hrs, off came the white shorts, white socks and white shoes. The deck officers generally had a shower (sans underwear) before getting dressed again. I can’t answer for another departments people, but we did have one of “them” who wore “greys” instead of “whites” and happily answered to the name of “Manky”. (He was the one whose cabin the stewards refused to enter). I’m sure the “Baldrick” character was based on him…including the postules. How he kept his job I’ll never know. But having showered, the deck officers (and possibly the pursers and radio guys who never broke a sweat anyway) would change into a nice fresh white shirt, long black trousers, black socks and shoes AND the obligatory cummerbund. Then off to the bar to enjoy a friendly chat over a gallon or two of something before dinner. All very couth. Even the “purples” who’d managed to deposit their spanners somewhere would attempt to pretend they were human. We also had an Engineer nicknamed “Sledge”. A farmers son from Leicestershire, a reasonably big chap of around 16 stone and 5ft 9” tall, and all muscle, good and quick brain and as mild mannered as any engineer could hope to be. He got his name ( I imagine you’re ahead of me now) after being hit on the head by a flying heavy end of a 28lb sledge hammer. Still has the big scar to prove it. Nice chap.
But in a place like Singapore most of the “off-duty” bods would scorn the offerings of the chef-de-jour and take off into the wilderness ….and more often than not return to the ship just as the senior duty officer was about to shut the ships bars. A trial that could be really character forming. Luckily for everybody, most of the happy returnees were just that. Happy. But as always happens in any walk of life, there is often at least one who is never a “happy” drunk. No particular department. Nice enough until a point is reached and the entire character just changes. If I was the size of a heavyweight boxer then solutions may have been easier, but with my body being the size of the “before” picture in the body building adverts I could only resort to words and nimble feet. And the keys to the bar grille. It would be a shamefaced and very contrite hungover person who confronted his Head of Department the next morning. The “usual” sentence for this was to have his “tap” stopped for a week. Which meant that he could use the public rooms, but only drink non-alcoholic stuff. To a large extent, this worked.
Closing the Crew Bar was a different thing altogether. Could be perhaps 100 guys in there all well topped up. No point in arguing with this lot. But “my job” was to ascertain that the bar was locked shut at the appointed time. Never a problem. I just checked that the grille was locked down and the entry hatch was also locked. Knowing fine well that unofficial spare keys had been cut. But my job was done, and if anything “untoward” happened later my hands would be clean, as the log entry and custody of the keys would show. Live and let live? I think so.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #706 on: October 08, 2010, 11:13:22 pm »

Bryan,

I am not worthy.  ;D  ;D    Here I sit playing with my 3hp, hydraulic, reciprocating, fingernail brusher, dreaming whistfully of boilers and turbines and showering the Bridge in soot, when my reverie (Oh, Oh, what a reverie..) is disturbed by a vision of you in cocked hat, cummerbund, knee breeches and (fishnet?) stockings, enjoying pinkers with the lads in the bar.  :o  :o

Of course those of us who served in the real Merchant Navy - the ones whose Company had to make a profit rather than just drain the taxpayers purse - made do with 'Blues', 'Half-and-half' and 'Whites' with not a cummerbund in sight. We regarded those without the benefit of a purple stripe as poor maladjusted unfortunate specimens (as usually found in a Petrie Dish) whom it was our duty to humour and strive to educate. Alas, our efforts to point out that the ice in their gin, the light by which they read their dubious magazines, the water which laundered their clothes - in fact all life support and the means by which the vessel moved - came courtesy of those God-like figures whose atmosphere they were permitted to breath, the Engineers.  My how it gladdened our hearts when they seemed to be getting the hang of something mechanical (such as a paperclip) but the effort frequently drained them and they had to lie down and rest.

There is just one I will always recall, who fell on top of me as I rested in a storm drain near the Lighthouse Bar in Montevideo. He was wearing a Whitley Bay Wanderers FC shirt and, before he crawled away, borrowed  a Fiver off me. I reckon with interest he owes me a small fortune by now.  Barry M   <*<  <*<
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MikeK

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #707 on: October 09, 2010, 09:06:49 am »

OK, so I missed a few. So what? For myself I'd have rather sailed with Jardines or China Nav than any of the ones I mentioned with the possible exception of Blue Flue. Not surprised at the accountants taking over at Jardines. They always ran it, being primarily a banking outfit. Was it "Taipan" or one of the other books that really gave the semi-historical story of the feud between the 2 families?
Keep reading....and talking. This "writers life" gets a bit lonesome......especially when being done pro-bono. Regards. Bryan.

Once I got out there I decided that China Nav had the better runs around the the islands, but as Jardines office was the first one I came across in London, when hawking my brand new 2nd Mates ticket (not even the ticket - wasn't it form Exn16 ?) That's where I ended up. Quite a culture shock for a Cardiff tramp - time served Geordie. They too used to get tarted up in white shirt, black trousers with shiny stripe and cummerbund for dinner. The life was certainly colonial with a steward to look after every three junior officers and one to each senior. Up until some time in the evening I forget they would answer the bell rung in your cabin to get a beer etc for you - all very 'Upstairs Downstairs' There was a bell board on the bulkhead in the pantry with the rank on each little disc exactly the same as his lordships' used to have in the servants pantry ! To add to the farce you were supposed to refer to the stewards as 'boy' (usually he was closer to 61 than 16 !) Fortunately this system was dying out with the end of the real old 'China Coast Men' and reverting to normal ship practice. Bloomin' good life we lived, though even if it was a three year stretch !

Mike
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #708 on: October 09, 2010, 03:06:42 pm »

Bryan,

I am not worthy.  ;D  ;D    Here I sit playing with my 3hp, hydraulic, reciprocating, fingernail brusher, dreaming whistfully of boilers and turbines and showering the Bridge in soot, when my reverie (Oh, Oh, what a reverie..) is disturbed by a vision of you in cocked hat, cummerbund, knee breeches and (fishnet?) stockings, enjoying pinkers with the lads in the bar.  :o  :o

Of course those of us who served in the real Merchant Navy - the ones whose Company had to make a profit rather than just drain the taxpayers purse - made do with 'Blues', 'Half-and-half' and 'Whites' with not a cummerbund in sight. We regarded those without the benefit of a purple stripe as poor maladjusted unfortunate specimens (as usually found in a Petrie Dish) whom it was our duty to humour and strive to educate. Alas, our efforts to point out that the ice in their gin, the light by which they read their dubious magazines, the water which laundered their clothes - in fact all life support and the means by which the vessel moved - came courtesy of those God-like figures whose atmosphere they were permitted to breath, the Engineers.  My how it gladdened our hearts when they seemed to be getting the hang of something mechanical (such as a paperclip) but the effort frequently drained them and they had to lie down and rest.

There is just one I will always recall, who fell on top of me as I rested in a storm drain near the Lighthouse Bar in Montevideo. He was wearing a Whitley Bay Wanderers FC shirt and, before he crawled away, borrowed  a Fiver off me. I reckon with interest he owes me a small fortune by now.  Barry M   <*<  <*<
Barry, just what can I say or do to get you out of your gladdened despondency? Please be careful with what you're doing with the nail cleaner. And just try to forget how much money I owe you from Montevideo. I would have paid you bac, honestly, but all my money went on the resultant medical treatment. I can only put the entire episode down to a case of mistaken identity. But even then, and in desperate need of some comfort, I did (at the time) wonder why she was reduced to plying her trade from the bottom of a storm drain. Oh, what a night, what a night it was.....and 2 weeks later so were many others. (name witheld on request).
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #709 on: October 09, 2010, 05:16:43 pm »

Sorry for that little gap in proceedings, but I was electronically mugged by an Aberdonian who wanted repayment of about 50p plus interest accruing from 1962. He claimed he was wearing a suit. Perhaps he was, but at that time of the night, and after a few little tipples, I’m afraid it slipped my mind that Scotsmen abroad tend only to wear the jacket part of the suit, and some feminine type thingy below, so under the circumstances I think it was an excusable little error.
     Now older, but not perhaps much wiser it’s time to continue with the perambulations of “Fort Austin” during her not so merry cruise around the mysterious Orient.
     I mentioned earlier that all the ships were to have a partial, but large, crew change in Singapore. But one group of people were despatched to Mombassa. A Marine contingent. I didn’t know any of this until I talked to one of tem in Singapore. They’d been loaded as cargo into a Hercules for the 6 hour flight to Cyprus, then transhipped to another Hercules for a 12-14 hour haul to Mombassa. Then they were packed (literally) into “Invincible”. She was already overcrowded with “staff” and other hangers on (and the “media”, of course). I seem to recall that the 3 mini-carriers were designed to carry a maximum of 770 people or thereabouts. Apparently she now had around 1100 on board. As during “Outback ‘86”, even officers of Commander rank were sleeping on camp beds in generator spaces. That’s just an expression of fact, and not one of sympathy you understand. The Marines by the way was by way of being a full Marine Band, who would be with us off and on for a prolonged period. But even though we were getting a bit “full”, there was still plenty of space for everybody, and it was a taste of “luxury” for the Marines. Stowing their dress uniforms and some of the instruments was a different thing altogether.
      Just after leaving Diego Garcia both of our aircraft awoke with serious illnesses. One of them was decreed “terminal” until a new part could be flown out from the UK, and the other had a busted shock absorber, quite serious for a helicopter I was told. This was fixable, but to do the job the aircraft had to be jacked up and the ship almost perfectly steady, otherwise the thing would fall off the jacks. Wouldn’t you have thought that after all the years aircraft off ships at sea a better jack would have been produced? Still, no more flying for awhile. Big smiles from the ships company, now we could listen to the Marine band practice in comfort.
      One of the reasons that we would proceed to Singapore on our own was because the “fighting force” (which must have included “Olwen”) were scheduled to do an “invasion” landing exercise on some little island in the Malacca straits. This all had to be called off when lots of yachts converged on the place (deliberately) and really spoiled the planned fun and games. So they weren’t all that far behind us when we arrived at Sembawang. And “Invincible” needed yet another main engine change.
When the rest of the group arrived about a day after us we found out why we were going to have to sail early. The Singapore authorities wanted us out within the next 48 hours as they needed the berth, but the other ships could remain for the next 5 days.
In the past, a ship carrying “explosives” would go to a buoy in the Johore strait just off the dockyard. Not possible now, with all these tankers just waiting to be repaired.
And it didn’t help knowing that the warships were returning for another 4 day break leaving us and “Olwen” at sea.
Much gloom and gnashing of gums ( teeth, actually, but if we stayed at sea much longer we’d all get scurvy, and then it would be gums).
       Anyway, orders is orders. So, reluctantly we chugged off into the South China Sea and sort of drifted around for a bit to let the engineers complete their unfinished maintenance. I suppose we must have held some “on board training exercises” just to keep the crew happy, but it was all  bit half hearted and lacklustre. I forgot to mention that we’d lost the Marine Band for awhile as they had some gigs to do in Singapore.
Of course we’d also done our bit of the crew change (hence the odd bit of “exercising”, but they’d all got the glums as well as the rest of us. With one exception. We’d “gained” a new 3rd Officer (of the deck persuasion). He’d been ashore for about 8 years before he got fed up and came back to sea. His shore job had been running a Bingo Hall in Brighton. Very rusty on Bridge procedure, but give him a microphone and the ships daily bingo numbers and he’d keep the crew entertained for hours (if we’d let him).
       Our next planned stop (as a group) was supposed to be Tokyo. But this time we’d all been lied to. We were actually going to a place none of us had ever heard of. Yokosuka. Thought it was an old joke about “The Beatles” at first. But no. It’s an odd place where the American carriers and so on berth. So on we trog.
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BarryM

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #710 on: October 09, 2010, 05:42:29 pm »

"Sorry for that little gap in proceedings, but I was electronically mugged by an Aberdonian who wanted repayment of about 50p plus interest accruing from 1962. He claimed he was wearing a suit. Perhaps he was, but at that time of the night, and after a few little tipples, I’m afraid it slipped my mind that Scotsmen abroad tend only to wear the jacket part of the suit, and some feminine type thingy below, so under the circumstances I think it was an excusable little error."

Given the aspersions on my honour, may I point out that I was not alone in that storm drain being accompanied by a young lady from the Mission to Seamen who was ministering to my spiritual needs. It was she who was the subject of your endeavours. She later claimed she felt nothing - or something next to nothing.   ;D

Barry M

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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #711 on: October 09, 2010, 06:24:58 pm »

"Sorry for that little gap in proceedings, but I was electronically mugged by an Aberdonian who wanted repayment of about 50p plus interest accruing from 1962. He claimed he was wearing a suit. Perhaps he was, but at that time of the night, and after a few little tipples, I’m afraid it slipped my mind that Scotsmen abroad tend only to wear the jacket part of the suit, and some feminine type thingy below, so under the circumstances I think it was an excusable little error."

Given the aspersions on my honour, may I point out that I was not alone in that storm drain being accompanied by a young lady from the Mission to Seamen who was ministering to my spiritual needs. It was she who was the subject of your endeavours. She later claimed she felt nothing - or something next to nothing.   ;D

Barry M


Do storm drains have plugholes? perhaps that was my mistake. (name witheld). BY.
PS.....joking aside. at the end of my last little ditty to you, I put "name witheld".....and guess what? Next time I came on to the forum I was a "welcome guest"!!!!! So I had to go through the rigmarole of looking at those stupid letters that I can't see properly and kept being rejected as an illiterate. Is "it" trying to tell me something? Bryan.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #712 on: October 10, 2010, 06:44:29 pm »

Yokosuka. A town renowned for nothing as far as I could tell.
But there must be some sort of tourist industry there as it’s the home of a famous Cruiser that led the Japanese to victory over the Russians a little while ago.
      I love history and all that, but at the moment I really can’t be bothered looking up dates ,names and reasons for that conflict.
      The waterfront is a real jumble of all sorts of shipping “facilities”, but I suppose the main one has to be the naval base where the USN has its local home. When we were there it was playing host to one of the USNs larger carriers, which sort of made “Invincible” look like one of its lifeboats. We on “Fort Austin” tied up opposite USN “Spica”. That probably means absolutely nothing to you, but it did to us. “Spica” was an ex RFA of the “Ness” class, the original model from which the “Forts” were spawned. There was a fair amount of co-visiting between the 2 ships, although contrary to usual form, we hadn’t been allocated a “buddy” ship, so “Spica” became our unofficial one. We were interested in the changes that the USN had made, and they were equally interested in what “Mk.2” was like. Our Engineers, many of whom knew the old “Nessies” back to front had a field day, and answered loads of questions about the remembered quirks. The Officers Bar had actually been retained, but as the USN is a “dry” navy, it was soft drinks and coffee only. When they visited us in return it was with a sense of both wonder and regret at what they were missing. “Austins” bar/lounge being a sort of pastiche of a mythical English pub complete with brick fireplace, copper topped bar with large engraved mirror behind it. Nice furniture and the obligatory wall displaying the collection of crests from all over the world. The only jarring feature was the garish “swirly” patterned fitted carpet that reall should have found a home in one of the UKs less salubrious DHSS hostels.
On “Spica”, the RFA accommodation had been largely ripped out and made “multi-berth”…..so it was also a bit of a downer to our American friends to see what they’d been denied. Needless to say, we had more visits from them than they did from us.
       Again, as was my wont, I meandered around the town observing some of the oddities. It was obviously a very old town with many buildings of some age squashed between more modern stuff (survivors of WW2?). Very narrow streets crammed with tiny little cars and vans of the most unusual and bizarre design. Think of Gwhiz cars as luxury machines and you’ll get the idea. Loads of eating houses that had wonderful models of all the available dishes on display instead (or as) of a printed menu.  Of the older people I was bemused to see many of them still wearing the deep soled wooden clog things that I thought in my ignorance had died out 50 years earlier. And everything was so immaculate. But my bewilderment only increased when I saw the sunken tracks of a 12” gauge railway meandering through the narrow streets. Single track. But this was the local version of a Metro System….which stopped of at the local really fast train to Tokyo station. Old meets new. And why not.
Street signs caught my eye. All in Japanese of course, but until then I’d never realised that they use the same Arabic numerals as we do in the English language. I didn’t bother going into Tokyo itself as large modern cities are just so overwhelming to me, I much prefer the smaller places.
       I was going to post a picture of Yokosuka from Google Earth here, but after realising it would be just as easy for you to do it, I decided against it. However. I’d never really looked at this area before and was both amazed and horrified at what I saw.
Obviously I knew that Tokyo was at the conjunction of 2 tectonic plates that gave rise to the earthquake “problem”. But I’d never imagined that the Japanese series of islands were just perched on the edge of an abyss. Which also solved my misunderstanding of what the term “Inland Sea” means.
But all in all, the visit was a waste of time, effort and money. When we left we did do a four or five day exercise with the Japanese Defence Forces, but it was all very low key.
And then we got a warning that Okinawa was about to be hit by a typhoon that was heading towards the Tokyo area. So we shut up shop and skedaddled off to the south.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #713 on: October 10, 2010, 06:51:52 pm »

I know I said we scooted off southwards, but not for long as we were supposed to go to Pusan (S. Korea) next.
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #714 on: October 11, 2010, 03:32:54 pm »

But let us return to Yokosuka for awhile, having just unearthed a few more tit-bits that have jogged the memory cells.
     It did actually take us 10 days of meandering to get from Singapore to Japan. Most commercial ships (even the slower ones) do it in little more than 5 days.
     We’d had 37 crew changes in Singapore, and a further 60 of us (including me) were to leave in Hong Kong. The other ships in the group were due to change a similar percentage…which makes for an awful lot of people. By now you’ll have realised that throughout this pleasure cruise there had been little or no “domestic” interaction between any of the ships. Zero in fact, even between the RFAs (not that we ever even saw much of them). So any “news” pertaining to the group was at best “patchy”. It was slowly filtering down to us that the MoD were having second or third thoughts about ways of getting these 200 plus people back home….not to mention the 200 plus coming outwards. Well, they’d better make up their minds as we only had a few weeks to go. From  the “Austin” point of view this was just about the final nail in the box. We’d all been looking forward to a flight home in a scheduled flight, but now it appeared that the options had been narrowed down to either an RAF “Tristar” or a chartered aircraft. Both these options were anathema to us for 2 reasons. One was that whichever aircraft was chosen, both would be operating under RAF rules. Which meant really lousy catering (“bag-rats” again) and no alcohol. The second was that the arrival airport would be the dreaded Brize Norton. So we couldn’t even look forward to our escape any more.
       During the hop from Singapore to Yokosuka at least 60% of “Austins’ crew came down with a form of ‘flu (including me). Although it only lasted for about 3 days it was serious enough to put most of that 60% in bed, which put a tremendous strain on the non-afflicted. But most of us were up and about again a couple of days before our arrival. Very weak and shaky, but “up and about”.
       I forgot to mention that our Doctor was (once again) the Welsh Wizard from the “Olwen” trip. So I found out that even after all his “ministrations” to the Fergie, he hadn’t even had a “mention in Despatches”, never mind his coveted CBE! Tough.
       Our engineering department seemed to have suffered the most, and it did their already low morale the world of good to find out that they’d have to change a main engine piston while we were in Yokosuka for our 4 day visit. A request from “Fort Grange” asking if we had a spare piston we could have flown to them was met with a certain amount of sardonic laughter. If that request had been received while we were in Singapore, we’d have had a nice long break waiting for “our” replacement. Such is life.
       Around the same time we were getting signals from the MoD warning of pretty hefty redundancies throughout the RFA fleet (mainly Officers). And there was a nasty sting in the tail. It was mooted that those chosen for redundancy would be offered alternative employment “somewhere” within the MoD empire, and, their legal obligations fulfilled, any refusal to take up whatever was offered would severely affect the level of redundancy money being offered. Nasty.
Both the “Forts” were scheduled to be “laid-up”. “Grange” in 1994 and “Austin” in 1997. I mentioned ages ago that while awaiting our 1991 “Austin” refit in Devonport that “Austin” was on the market even then, and even Marks and Spencer” had been asked if they could bring a bit of commercial sense into the way much of the stores side of things could be “modernised”.
     Seems a bit odd to me that writing this in 2010, both ships are still considered valuable assets and are being deployed all over the world. At this time, we found out that “Regent” was to be disposed of …she was scrapped at Alang in 1992/3. Similarly a couple of the older “Rovers” would be put up for sale. This also happened.
      I would think that sometime or other I’ve mentioned that one of my “jobs” was that of “Armaments Officer”. Not the “cargo” sort of stuff, but the ships own supply of rifles, machine guns, rockets etc. This also included my taking custody of “private” weapons. This is where a bit more silliness creeps in. Our Chief Cook bought an expensive but ceremonial Samurai sword in Tokyo. He was sensible enough to let me know about it. But he wasn’t so happy when I showed him the regulation that ordered me to take custody of this thing and secure it until he left the ship. Of all people! This was the man who had permanent access to every sort of cutting implement imaginable to hand in his galley. I could see his point, but I really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.
     A very odd tale to wind up this episode.
One of the Stonnery received a cutting from his local paper concerning a court case which featured a past member of the “Fort Austin” Stonnery department. This chap had been arrested for attempting sexual congress with a hole in a public toilet door. He’d pleaded innocent (as one would), and after a medical examination it was proved that he was too large in circumference to have fitted the guilty hole. The case had been dismissed, but it must surely have destroyed any reputation he may have had. I wonder how the medical was conducted?
    But on to Pusan.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #715 on: October 11, 2010, 06:36:21 pm »

So, en-route to Pusan we got “The News”. (26th July 1992). And it wasn’t good at all.
We got our flight details. For some reason or other we got to know “when” they were all arriving, but not “who”. It’s always a great help when you know who’s relieving you, especially if you know the guy personally. That way you can plan your “handover” notes aimed to help him better. Some stuff you can leave out in the knowledge that he’ll not need it, but other things he may need to be brought up to speed on, and what things are “outstanding”. This can save loads of time for both people. They were all to arrive in Hong Kong (old Kai Tak airport) on board an RAF “Tristar” on the 26th of August. All of us “leavers” would board the same aircraft on the 30th and arrive at 0100 at Brize Norton on August Bank Holiday Monday. Good God! What idiot decided on that! How the hell was a planeload of knackered and starving people expected to get from Brize Norton to anywhere beyond Swindon on a Bank Holiday weekend (in 1992). Our anger turned into real fury when it was disclosed that all the RN and Civil Service officers would be travelling courtesy of British Airways to Heathrow! Even though it’s a part of an RFA senior officers contract that we would always fly “club class” when a scheduled light is available.
           But if that was the way it was going to be then I did have a “Plan B”. We had relatives living in Amersham . So I could get Anne to drive there and spend a day with them before picking me up at Brize and we’d go back to Amersham before carrying on back up to Geordieland. Sounded like a plan to me.
         And all that “good news” arrived before we even reached Pusan. Great gloom and disinterest descended.
        As was the “norm”, the day before arrival Pusan was to be spent RASing and Vertrepping all the other ships. Fine for them of course. A frigate or destroyer comes up alongside for perhaps a couple of hours then goes away again. Her days “work” done. But then another heaves up alongside, and another and yet another and then the Carrier that can take twice as long. So “Austin” could be looking at a 12-14 hour heavy stint the day before an “official” visit begins….so we’d look a mess unless a lot of night work was carried out. My god, was I looking forward to getting out of this trip!
       Pusan. What a dump. A very large dump, but a dump nonetheless. A very large 1960s city that can’t make up its mind if it’s Oriental or American and finished up worse than the back streets of Wallsend. I had visited this place back in 1959 and didn’t like it then either. I didn’t spend much money there, but many of the crew spent small fortunes buying Xmas presents for their children. But after only a week, when the “branded” trainers they’d bought “cheap” for themselves all fell apart they began to wonder about the rest of the stuff they’d bought. Too late to return it all! But no-one really came to grips with the local currency anyway. The local currency (apart from US dollars) is/was the “Won”. And at 1450 won to £1, conversion needed some thought. Imagine having £1 worth of Won in one won notes.
       Of course the “big event” on our programme was to be the cocktail party/reception to be held in “Invincible”. This turned out to be a Curates Egg event. “Fort Austin” was nominated as co-host (whatever that may mean). I was “appointed” as senior officer of our contingent. That is, make sure everyone is correctly attired in the nice white “Bush Jacket” sort of thing and arrive at the time demanded (by signal, no less) at the right time in order to greet the guests. This had an unforeseen outcome.
I suppose there must have been a dozen RFA officers following me up the gangway to board the carrier. I was greeted by an apoplectic RN Commander who began treating me and my “team” as being less than human, accusing us of not being there to greet the “guests”. He was surrounded by the immaculate gangway guard all trying very hard not to look smug at this “dressing down”. I used to be quite hot tempered when things of this nature happened. But not this time. I “just happened” to have a copy of the signal I’d been sent from the carrier with me. I presented this jumped up oik with it and said that I and my group would now return to “Fort Austin” as our presence was quite clearly not required or desired. The Commander nearly had a heart attack, visualising his so-desired promotion prospects taking a knock. The fact that “his” severe looking gangway staff burst out laughing did nothing to make him feel better.
     Poor “Invincible”. Out of over 600 accepted invitations only 200 turned up. Koreans must be the most bland-faced people on earth. The word “inscrutable” doesn’t even begin to describe them. You would get more conversational reaction by talking to a pepper grinder. They enjoyed “our” Marine Band though…..especially that bit when the drummers do their rapid fire party piece. My all time favourite also, truth to tell.
       And that was about it for Pusan. Didn’t like the place at all and have no desire to return….not that I’m likely to.
       I haven’t a clue why it took us 8 days at sea to get from Pusan to Hong Kong. Navigational ignorance perhaps? And then 2 weeks sorting things out (the ship was really in need of some TLC by this time). Then the flight home.
But to Hong Kong.
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #716 on: October 12, 2010, 02:15:38 pm »

More apologies required! I just plain forgot to post this earlier!
The 1st one is a general view of the huge harbour area. At least, it’s big now. Before the outer breakwaters were constructed Pusan had been devastated by huge waves driven in by the many typhoons you get in these parts.
But the 2nd one is more interesting. Using either these pics or going direct on to Google Earth….have a look at the ships in that inner harbour! These are not just harbour barges and so on, but proper ships. (don’t try to compare them with the vast “bulker” in the foreground).The quay marked “our berths” was more than long enough to accommodate both “Invincible” and “Fort Austin”.The ships in that inner harbour ….beggars belief really!
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #717 on: October 12, 2010, 07:12:41 pm »



For the previous couple of weeks or so I’d been wondering why we’d neither seen nor heard from “Olwen”. The frigates and destroyers must have refuelled alongside in Yokosuka otherwise they’d have just been drifting around the ocean. But all became clear. After “topping up” all the warships (we still didn’t need any) on the way north, she peeled off and limped into Hong Kong with some major mechanical problem. At the time we left Pusan her repairs were guestimated to probably take another 2 weeks.
      From what we gathered, she was alongside at the only longish quay the small naval base had. This could cause problems finding a berth for either us or “Invincible” when we arrived in only a few days. While I would have been really chuffed to see the “Invincible” stuck out at anchor, and 2 large RFAs hogging the berth, that just wouldn’t ever happen. No matter how urgently we needed repairs of our own.
      Apart from “mechanical” stuff, we had another major problem.
To explain this, may I remind you of my misgivings during the Devonport refit just over a year ago.
       During that winter refit I complained that the preparation and application of the extremely expensive new flight deck coating was not being applied correctly. After being “pooh-poohed” by both “the man in charge” and the Dockyard management I’d chanced my arm put my misgivings into writing, and made sure they were duly “logged in”.
          Now it was to be “chickens coming home to roost” time. The huge variations in temperature during this deployment ranging from “too hot to stand on the deck without proper boots”, to wearing “woolie pullies” at night, had naturally caused the ships metal to expand and contract….particularly areas like the flight deck that “overhung” and were open to the elements both on top and underneath. As I feared, the flight deck coating began disintegrating and coming off in quite large sheets. This meant the ship having to “Opdef” the flight deck. “Opdef” meaning a serious operational defect beyond rectification by the ships staff. We had no option but to disembark our 2 aircraft to “Invincible”. Plus the maintenance guys, who were not best  pleased. Nor were our Lords and Masters back in the MoD.
      The upshot of all this was that poor “Olwen” was dragged (literally) kicking and screaming out to an anchorage I remembered all too well about 10 miles from the town landing jetty. Our “minor” warships just fitted into the small basin of the naval base, and we plus “Invincible” got the main alongside berths.
        It quickly became apparent that re-coating (at least in part) a ships flight deck to the correct specifications was something new to this little base outpost. But bless their little hearts, they tried their best. In fact it became very reminiscent of Hong Kong contractual work as seen in the 1950s. The “paint” had to be ordered and flown out from the UK. This stuff isn’t really a “paint” as such. And at well over £100 per sq.yard of coverage isn’t your normal B&Q “non-slip” stuff. But while we were awaiting delivery we were descended upon by a horde of  original style little Chinese ladies all dressed in black, wielding long handled 2” scrapers. The idea was to scrape off the loose stuff and stop when the loose stuff ended. At least that’s what I assume the officious Mandarin had told them, but as I don’t speak Chinese he could have told them anything. So we finished up with a 10ft wide bare patch around the sides and back of the deck. Job done. So far. It rains in Hong Kong, and my does it ever rain. Why pay people to scrape when the “elements” can do your water blasting for you, free? So. With no protective covering on the now bare steel parts of the deck….rusty patches quickly appeared. Little Chinese ladies reappeared, but armed this time with little wire brushes. This would continue on a daily basis until or deck “gloop” arrived.
      Sometimes it doesn’t just rain in Hong Kong. You can get the most magnificent thunder and lightning storms as well as the rain. One evening as we were hosting a little drinks party for about 50 guests, one of these things erupted. So most of us (and the guests) went up to the bridge to watch (and listen). All of the guests were well used to these storms, but as they all lived in “High Rise” apartments none of them had ever seen the majesty and violence that happened over the harbour. The thunder was right overhead, and the lightning almost seared the air. No wonder all those buildings in Hong Kong have huge lightning conductors built into the structure….and here was me just thinking they were a cosmetic addition just to make the building that much higher than its neighbour. To observe multiple lightning strikes with sound effects added, within 100 yards of where you’re standing, is pretty mind blowing.
       The berth we were at was open to the harbour (no protection), and the local authorities were a bit concerned about this. Two very high value ships sitting there with no real defence could be an open invitation to some sort of attack….particularly from underwater. At low tide we (and I presume “Invincible”) were actually sitting in the mud ( for want of a better word for over 100 years of whatever sits on the bottom of Hong Kong harbour). So “it was decided” that both ships would have their bottoms inspected. Perhaps I could have phrased that a bit better, but what the hell….
For an underwater examination there’s a tried and tested method. First, lines are placed at regular intervals from one side of the ship to the other but going under the ship. A bit like preparing for a mass keel-hauling. These lines operate as guides for the divers. This was all fine and good at high tide. But these Hong Kong divers also continued the searches at low tide. Which meant they had to burrow through the mud  with only their fingers to guide them under a slowly lowering 30,000tons of ship coming down on top of them. Words fail me at this point.
        Eventually our flight deck “paint” arrived. Only one teeny little problem. All the industrious wire-brushing had cleaned the steel surface so well that the vital “pre-coat” had been scoured off. Words like “Oh, knickers” and suchlike were bandied about. Too late to do much about it now, so a good dollop of yellow chromate was slapped down. (very adaptable were these little Chinese ladies). It all looked very pretty. A dark grey flight deck with a bright yellow border. Still no sign of a tent to keep the rain off though. Evidently the little ladies had reached their level of competence as they were exchanged for another horde…little Chinese men in black with baggy shorts and all wielding a trowel. Taken off some construction site or other I presume. This “paint” stuff is supposed to be laid at a very tight specified thickness, and not just trowelled on like a layer of plaster. But that’s what we ended up with. At vast expense, not only because of past idiocy and megalomania, but because it would all have to be re-done correctly when the ship was back in the UK. Tax payers money? Tell me about it.
     Being alongside made me a bit more willing to have a wander ashore. Not bad if you like anonymous and very overcrowded cities. But very close to us was a large public square. Close? About 200 yards from our stern, but a 400 yard walk to get there. Around 4pm the air was filled with the high pitched screeching of some unknown species of bird. What a racket. But this turned out to be the “Ahmas” time off. The equivalent of an au-pair but in reverse. They all congregate at the same time every day and discuss who knows what, but whatever it is, it created much hilarity.
     But as I was due to fly home in a few days time I wanted to do another couple of things. This may sound a bit patronising, but it really isn’t meant to be. Most people, being aboard a ship or not, always seem to wait for someone else to arrange things for them. But I sort of got wind of an evening out (mainly aimed at tourists) that began with a full Chinese Dinner in a top restaurant (with booze attached), followed by an open topped tram-ride through the older parts of Hong Kong. (Wanchai, Happy Valley and so on). Seemed like a good idea. I got sufficient “takers” and booked the evening. And what a hoot it was. The meal was beyond belief…but perhaps the never ending tide of Chinese wine had a part to play there. The open-topped tram was another bit of an eye opener. The front part of the top deck was covered and converted into a bar area. I hadn’t realised when I booked this jaunt that the drinks were all part of the “trip”. So it all became a bit hilarious….until tomorrow. But it was for sure one of the better outings I’d ever arranged.
        Before I girded my loins for a flight home courtesy of the RAF I had one more thing to do. I wanted to buy a printer for my computer. As in Singapore, many businesses are arranged in groups. Computer stuff seemed to be established in an area of Kowloon …the north part, closer to the New Territories than the harbour area. That is, miles away. Then I had a visitor from the “Invincible”. My old friend from the “Olna”, the ex-marine sniper, ex-policeman who’d found God somewhere down the line and who now did the fire and brimstone bit. Great to see him again. So off we both went to Kowloon on board the old “Star Ferry”. And then on to Nathan Road. Oh, my goodness. In my younger days Nathan Road was full of places that could make, sell or get you anything your little heart could desire. The sky would be visible. The end of the road could be seen. Not any more. The sky is almost obliterated by high rise concrete and glass “emporiums” (emporia?), the “Road” has gone from about 2 miles long to nearer 10 miles. And not even a welcoming old fashioned Chinese sort of pub. Sad.
Our destination was an area I can only name as “Shimmy Shammy Po”. Which is right under the approach run for the airliners coming into Kai Tak. Standing in the street all one can see is the fuselage, the wings are out of sight. All the washing hung out to dry between the buildings must have reeked of aviation fuel.
But getting there. We decided to catch a “Metro” rather than a taxi, just to see what it is like. Finding an entrance for a visitor is a bit difficult. We eventually sussed out that what appeared to our English eyes were not public conveniences with the odd blast of hot air coming out of them but could well be Metro stations, and so they were.
Shimmy Shammy Po is very much “old” Hong Kong trying to come to grips with “new” Hong Kong. They may have modernish buildings, but this is a working class district and so very traditional. The people who I’d come to think had disappeared all seemed to be stuck up here away from the glitz of “modern” Hong Kong. A teeming mass of people dressed and working as if the 20th century hadn’t arrived yet.
       A quick word about the metro system.
As you’d expect, quick, quiet and clean. And cheap. But what I certainly hadn’t expected was the lack of carriage endings. The entire train is a long open tube that wiggles and wanders in the most interesting way. Knocks spots off anything we have in the UK.
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Netleyned

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #718 on: October 12, 2010, 07:30:22 pm »

Little Chinese Ladies :-)) :-)) :-))
Jennys Side Party :} :} :}
I remember they painted the Eagle in about four days in 1968
Whoever controlled the workforce must have made millions from HMG
Happy days
Love the Story of Your RFA life Bryan
We had a slightly different angle on it but it is a fascinating read
Thanks for letting us all share it

Yours aye

Ned
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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #719 on: October 12, 2010, 08:00:13 pm »

Yes Jenny of side party fame was quite a character - she eventually got an MBE or similar - she only died last year no one knows how old she was,
she just knew she had been born on a sampan in Hong Kong harbour
Geoff
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #720 on: October 12, 2010, 08:03:38 pm »

Little Chinese Ladies :-)) :-)) :-))
Jennys Side Party :} :} :}
I remember they painted the Eagle in about four days in 1968
Whoever controlled the workforce must have made millions from HMG
Happy days
Love the Story of Your RFA life Bryan
We had a slightly different angle on it but it is a fascinating read
Thanks for letting us all share it

Yours aye

Ned
Ned, Thanks for reminding me about Jennies Ladies!
I'm not surprised you (in the RN) have a somewhat different "take" on things that happened. Or in attitudes. But 1968 was just after I'd joined the RFA, and many things have changed. Particularly during the last decade. My animosity towards the RN wasn't all against the individuals, more against the system. But having said that, most RN people were (and still are?) "short term " people and not lifetime seafarers. There is a difference.
Why don't you produce/ post your side of things on here? Perhaps letting others see the other side of the coin. But, I repeat. 1968 is a long time ago, and I'm up to what it was like in the early 1990s. Cheers. Bryan.
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Tug-Kenny

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #721 on: October 12, 2010, 08:17:34 pm »


Fantastic detail Brian. We landlubbers are loving this.  :-)) :-))

Ken


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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #722 on: October 13, 2010, 03:07:24 pm »

I don’t know why I keep apologising when I unearth “snippets” that I’d forgotten to mention earlier. Must be something to do with my shy and retiring nature or something.
But this little bit happened during the run from Yokosuka to Pusan.
“Invincible” must have had a new influx of “Staff” officers who’d brought some new ideas with them, mainly “things to keep the rabble busy”. And so it was decided that “Invincible” was going to act as a tug and tow the “Austin” for a few hours. This isn’t a new thing as it gets an airing every now and again during work-ups….and at other times when those in charge of such things can’t think of anything “new” to do. Being towed by an aircraft carrier should be a doddle. The first experience of this sort of thing was way back in 1967 when the titchy little frigate “Hardy” was told to tow “Resource”. These little frigates really were small (and cheap). I think “Resource” nearly pulled the stern off the “Hardy” before we began moving. But “Invincible” had a little more power than “Hardy”. Unless the strain caused another of her main gas-turbine engines to give up the ghost again. I can’t help but think that Rolls-Royce must be always rubbing their hands in glee whenever any of these 3 ships went on a long voyage. I had been told by someone who should know, that many of the engine failures were due to a design fault at the back of the ships that caused excessive vibration. Who designed these ships? Hold up your hands you Corp(se) of Constructors.
Anyway, the purpose behind all this malarkey was to assume the ship to be towed was either a derelict or the crew had given up trying to fix things. Personally I’d have thought that sending some RN engineers first to see if they could fix things. But perhaps the term “Salvage Money” started the palms sweating instead. Of course nothing much could be done if the propeller or rudder had dropped off.
Don’t laugh. This happened to one of the “Rover” class. (I think it was the rudder that went AWOL). This may well have just been put down as “happenstance” if some other factors hadn’t been involved. The first being that it happened in the middle of the Pacific. The second was that she was the only re-fuelling ship escorting a small group of ships. The third was that the lead ship of the group was HMY “Britannia” with the Queen and Phillip aboard doing the rounds of their Pacific domains as far as New Zealand. The upshot of this was that “Britannia” spent a long time towing her own petrol station behind her. Much hilarity in the press and elsewhere, and very red faces within the RFA.
       But again, I digress.
For exercise purposes, the ship to be towed was often assumed to be a derelict. A derelict worth millions and millions of £, carrying all sorts of “stuff” that could be very useful to a lot of people holding certain political allegiances.
So the first priority is for the “rescuing” ship to get a team on board the derelict. Easier said than done. A good time could be had by all when in flat calm tropical waters (as this was), but a different thing altogether in a Winter North Atlantic gale. And commercial ships tend not to have large flight decks. So the boarding team have to come by boat and get aboard somehow. Us “derelicts” were on hand as “safety numbers”. But by and large we let them make their own mistakes…after all, it was their training exercise.
Anchor handling equipment on a major warship is totally different to that found on an RFA. The only common factor between us and “Invincible” would be the size of the actual anchor cable. (Bloody big). How on earth this would work if the ship to be towed had no power beats me. It doesn’t actually, but it would mean the towing ship having to heave the anchor cable out itself. Very tricky. The anchor cable of the ship to be towed is invariably used as it acts as a “spring” for the towing wire. Prevents sudden “snatches” and things. So if you ever see a ship being towed in these conditions (doesn’t apply to short term towing in and out of port by proper tugs) the chances are that you would see the towed ships anchor cable disappearing into the sea and re-emerging some distance ahead, having been miraculously transformed into a wire.
      In some circumstances (as would probably arise if the derelict was a commercial ship) the anchor on the end of the cable to be used would be left attached, and the tow wire fed (with great difficulty) up the hawse pipe and shackled to the cable. But as the RFA moors to a buoy on a regular basis we have cunning plans. Look at just about any RFA and you will see a large “bull-ring” set into the bulwark right at the front of the ship. Then it’s all pretty straightforward. Tie off an anchor , and “break” the cable at a very conveniently placed joining shackle, attach the tow wire and feed the whole lot out through the centre “bull-ring”. Sounds easy, if heavy and tiring work even for the RFA crew who are used to doing it. But for an RN team it always proved that bit too difficult without some tuition from the RFA Bosun and leading hands.
Eventually we were towed at up to 6 knots for a few hours. But did the RN put our gear back to where it should be? Nah. So our guys had to do the disconnecting and re-attaching of the anchor. A wasted day as far as we were concerned.
So there we go. Seamanship lesson completed!
However. Of course all of this had been watched from behind armoured glass in an air-conditioned wheelhouse by the bridge team and the Deity. Coffee machine at hand. Now as you may have gathered, I for one was not a stranger to this sort of “exercise”, but the junior bridge staff most certainly were. So for their own future benefit at least some of them should have come up to the fo’c’sle head at least as observers. In fact the Deity should have ordered it. But it was just another case of “sloping shoulders”. When the time comes for some of them to learn “the hard way” it’s going to come as a bit of a shock.
But the Deity wasn’t finished. He had one of his super wheezes. So he arranged for us to tow HMS “Newcastle” the next day. Oh, Boy!….but the Choff was put in charge of this one (to his chagrin).
       That was all just a long winded aside from the main feature. Hence the apology!
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Notes from a simple seaman

pugwash

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #723 on: October 13, 2010, 04:24:09 pm »

Bryan, dont apogise for the "little digressions", they put more life into the story.  A lot of similar things probably happened to
all of us who were involved in the RFA or RN but we have forgotten them or couldn't tell the tale as well even if they were still
in the grey cell hard drive,
Geoff
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Bryan Young

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Re: Nautical "Strange but True!"
« Reply #724 on: October 13, 2010, 06:07:45 pm »

Not that you (or I for that matter) will be at all interested in what happened to poor old “Olwen”, but I thought I’d better bring her back into the tale. As I mentioned, just before we all arrived at Hong Kong she was dragged away….but not to the anchorage out near Aberdeen as I had surmised. No, she was put on to a buoy somewhere or other, well hidden from prying eyes. Her problems seemed to be regressing rather than progressing. She is still expected to be able to limp to Singapore for more repairs. Perhaps that’s why “Invincible” did her towing exercise with us? Just in case.
      I had news that the guy who was to relieve me was the same person I’d relieved so long, long ago. Seems odd that. He must have had either a very long leave, or he’d been off doing various courses or something. But it made writing my handover notes simple.
      But yet more anger from those due to fly home via the RAF. The already meagre baggage allowance had been decimated because of “operational requirements”. Which in turn meant that us “leavers” had been begging boxes of various sizes in which to park our “stuff”, and not expecting to actually get it back until after the group returned home just before Xmas. Mine included. This would have a great “knock-on” effect. By the time the other ships returned to the UK many people would be coming to the end of their leave period and due to join another ship. Now what do you do? Most of your “voyage gear” being still somewhere at sea. And nobody but nobody wants the pretty hefty expense of buying new stuff around Xmas time. This wasn’t living, it was becoming purgatory.
The flight itself promised to be a bit of a marathon. Hong Kong to Singapore, then Muscat and Dubai before the UK. All on RAF rations.
       One long established tradition in Hong Kong is that certain “traders” have been licensed by the government to board and trade (sell) stuff to the ships crew. With the ships permission of course. The Deity didn’t want to know, and the Ch.Officer who knew as much about Hong Kong as I do about astrophysics was dead against it….purely out of ignorance. At least he listened to my reasons for allowing them on board, and eventually capitulated….with the “warning” that everything to do with “them” would be down to me. Wow! Responsibility! Big deal. This family group of traders (8 of them) had to be found a place where they could “set up”. For some reason or other, probably going back to my cadet days, I’ve always had a soft spot for honest traders….and none whatsoever for the more “dodgy” ones. Anyway, I found a spot in the clearway fairly close to the gangway area but out of the way of the daily fork-lift Grand Prix. It didn’t take long before everyone on board realised that they weren’t being ripped off, and the goods on sale were all of reasonable to good quality. After all, one “bad” report from a ship could break them. I made a point of visiting them a few times a day to see if they’ any problems. But it seemed as if the crew had taken them to heart (especially a couple of the children). Naturally, being an “ammo” ship, we couldn’t allow their normal cooking pots and so on to be used. Their only alternative was to eat on board their little sampan that was kept tied up on our outboard side. They slept there as well. But our POs had other ideas. The Ch.Cook cleared a small part of his galley and allowed them to use it. At first, the trading family would pack up all of their wares and put them back on the sampan every night. But being so close to the gangway meant that the QMs could keep an eye on it all….and to be honest, although our crew may not have been the straightest of people, in this situation they were. And not one item was half-inched.
     So what with the Chinese Womens Institute digging holes in my flight deck and a branch of John Lewis operating in the clearway I was kept a bit busier than usual.
     By now my “crate” had been packed and stowed down some dark dungeon or other. So I was feeling a bit “pauperish”…and not really looking forward to the flight home. In 1991 smoking was still allowed on an airliner. One saving grace during a long flight. But not on an RAF aircraft. (although I did see the pilot of our Herc during my flight to Port Stanley puffing away quite happily). So I had to buy some sort of Chinese gum substitute…..until Anne managed to get a card of Nicorette to me just in time.
     A little “silly”…..in the UK, “Ovaltine” has always been promoted as a “good nights sleep” drink…in Hong Kong it was being promoted as a “wake you up and get going” drink. I became confused.

And then my little world collapsed.
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Notes from a simple seaman
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