My first ship!

Philthechill
14th August 2007, 20:00
When I boarded "Maskeliya" in Tilbury on that long ago day in the early 60's, little did I know that was the start of 15 years of sea-going! After climbing the gangway I was taken along, by the QM, to meet the bloke I was relieving, a chap from Middlesborough by the name of Bob. I never got to see him again as, when he got home he, apparently, rang Mr. Fraser and told him he wouldn't be returning. Bob took me along to meet Second Engineer "Ben" Lyon who told me to come along later when all the deep-sea crowd had finally left. Bob informed me that I was "Day aboard Engineer" and then took me on a lightning tour of the engine-room showing me how to start and stop the fridge plant, how to pump bilges, add water to the donkey-boiler etc. etc. All this went straight over the top of my head as I hadn't the faintest idea what he was talking about. When I tried to glean more info out of him he just said, breezily, "Oh you'll soon get the hang of things!" then shook my hand, grabbed his cases and vanished! I started feeling monumentally depressed as I felt completely overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what I was supposed to do! Shortly after he, and the rest of the deep-sea crowd, had gone "Ben" came to my cabin and asked if I fancied a beer. I went along to his cabin to be introduced to the rest of the coastal crowd. Ben asked what I had done in civvy-street and, when I told him I had served my time as a precision-turner in an optical instrument-makers, his only comment was, "Great! We know we've got a turner if we need one!" I apologised to Ben for not understanding 99% of what Bob had told me, at the same time expressing doubts about my ability to be able to carry-out the duties I was supposed to do as "Day aboard". "No need to worry about that Phil", he said, "We'll be around to help you!" I was extremely relieved to hear this and thought what a great bloke Ben was and, feeling the depression lifting instantly, started asking him all kinds of questions and learning more with each passing minute! There was another 5th Engineer had joined the same time as me called Taff who, unsurprisingly, was from Wales. He was 38 years old and in his own words, "always fancied going to sea" but as he was "just" a motor-mechanic hadn't been able to get a job. Then came the great Exodus, of engineers, from the sea when National Service was knocked on the head and shipping companies would take anyone who had served any apprenticeship that was remotely connected to engineering! The only downside for us light-engineering types was that we had to get at least two years sea-time in before we could attempt going for a ticket. He was a strange character was Taff and, on his first morning after joining the ship, he came wandering into the Engineers Mess, (having missed turning to at half-seven!!!) dressed in his pyjamas and dressing-gown, for breakfast. Ben gave him a mild bollocking mainly centred round his "relaxed" apparel rather than not turning-to! Taff worked his way through the menu and, just before he licked the print off the Menu card, said to the Mess-Room boy, "I'll try some of them preserves please Boy!" When he was brought some marmalade he said, quite disgusted, "Well it's only marmalade!!" Two days later, and much to my great dismay, Ben was paid-off and sent home to get his deep-sea gear as he had to take over from someone who had gone sick on another ship. His relief was ex-RN Lieutenant-Commander(E) Harty (RN Ret'd) who was about as much use as the proverbial ****-pocket in a vest! He would sit in his cabin all day drinking gin and issuing jobs to us as, and when, we'd finished the last one. He was used to having loads of men under him, in the RN, and thought the MN was run in the same fashion. One day my oppo Taff, and I, went for a new job and he said, "Cut along to the steering-gear and change it over!" We went down aft and studied the mass of machinery in front of us! We, neither of us, had the faintest idea what we were supposed to do but, seeing a big brass plate with the magic words, "To change steering-gear over open/close the following valves", thought this was what we had to do! We dutifully changed all the valves as listed and then reported back to the 2nd. We sailed a couple of days later for Avonmouth. Once the ship was out of the Thames and heading for The Channel she started working-up to maximum speed. Around 02.00hrs the Engineers Alarm went off and we all raced down the ladders to find Stan McGuigan easing the engines down to Stop. He had received a message from the bridge to say that the rudder had gone hard-over but wouldn't come back. The Chief was a squat Jock called "Dour" Dewar and he had us all go down aft to look at the steering-gear asking if anyone had done any work on it, whilst in London. When Taff and I said that we had changed it over he asked what we had done. When we told him about changing all the different valves, as per the brass plate instructions, he then pointed out some other wording that we hadn't spotted (and if we had I doubt if we would have done anything different!), "Under the following, Emergency Conditions, speed of the vessel must NOT exceed 10 knots". "Dour" asked Lieutenant-Commander(E) Harty RN (Ret'd) if he had made clear to us what our job consisted of, when he'd told us to change the steering-gear over and, when he found-out he hadn't, bade us leave the steering-flat saying, at the same time, "Dinna worry lads, it's not your fault". We were nearly back in the accommodation and could still hear the rantings from the Chief! He made L.C.(E) Harty RN (Ret'd) do the change-over back to normal conditions too! Apparently, as we found-out later, we were supposed to change the steam steering-engines over by simply removing the driving-plate from between the engine-coupling and the pump-coupling, on the engine which had been used homeward bound, and put it on the overhauled engine so the one used could be overhauled "going round the land". Somehow L.C.(E) Harty RN (Ret'd) (with massive amounts of help from Stan McGuigan) made it round the coast but I've no idea what happened to him after that as I went deep-sea on the ship whilst he paid-off. The 2nd who went deep-sea was that other great stalwart Engineer of Brock's "Big" Jake Donnelly. I learned a massive amount about all engine-room machinery from Jake! There's much more about my first ship but I reckon this lot is enough for ONE thread!!! Burra salaams! Phil

R58484956
14th August 2007, 20:22
Good story Phil. My first day down below the engineer I relieved was leaving the company so he gave me a 5 minute dash around the machinery and said " she's all yours" and up he went. 8 hours later I was relieved and he showed me what I was supposed to have done to bring the ship upright, what readings to take etc etc. I think it took me a week to feel happy on port watches, and of course to know what to do..

Tony Selman
15th August 2007, 14:57
My first ship was the good old Matra which I joined in Royal Albert Dock in March 1964. When I clambered up the gangplank the first person to meet me was another regular on this board Donald Macleod, who was 2/Elect at the time. He took me along to meet the CR/O who was not in his cabin so off we set to find him and just to show what a good board this is the third person I met in the Merchant Navy was also (previously regular) a user of the board 3/O Mike James. The second person incidentally was 2/O Nigel James. The CR/O was in the Radio Room and he was Evan Thomas "Mac" Williams, who despite his name was a true Scot from Greenock, or thereabouts. Not too long afterwards I was taken somewhat apprehensively to meet the Captain which was something of a daunting experience after 15 minutes on board. John Watson Ross immediately put me at ease and called me "laddie" as he did most other people and from that moment on I always found him firm but fair and always approachable. Interestingly he was also Captain on Mahsud my last ship in Brocks over 6 years later. The final person on the initial round of meetings was C/O John Munro.

That evening I was taken ashore with a group of people to a pub in North Woolwich which I now can't remember the name of other than it was very popular and it was reached by crossing the bridge across the entrance lock to RAD and then it was a short-ish walk. I drank more beer than I had ever done in my life and when I got back to my cabin I could not sort out the heat coming out of the louvres, gave up, and then woke up a bit later in a red hot cabin and threw up in the sink. Welcome to the MN!

There were a great group of people on that ship and I remain friendly with Don Macleod to this day. Amongst the engineers were two people who I got on particularly well with in S3/E Ed Putnam and J3/E Charlie Drought, both of whom were great shipmates.

I'll stop there and see how the thread develops.

R58484956
15th August 2007, 15:47
It seems to me that Brocks where a bit more welcoming than P&O, I was not introduced to anybody and someone said get your boiler suit on and get below,not even told where ER entrance was situated. At least I was shown to my cabin by the 2nd's Goanese steward. We were in KG5 and all the engineers lived in London area so probably all home and dock staff engineers on board and they are not interested in newboys.
PS The Chief nodded his head to me on my 2nd trip, 3 months after joining, never spoke in 4 trips.
Good old days??

Philthechill
15th August 2007, 17:47
My first ship was the good old Matra which I joined in Royal Albert Dock in March 1964. When I clambered up the gangplank the first person to meet me was another regular on this board Donald Macleod, who was 2/Elect at the time. He took me along to meet the CR/O who was not in his cabin so off we set to find him and just to show what a good board this is the third person I met in the Merchant Navy was also (previously regular) a user of the board 3/O Mike James. The second person incidentally was 2/O Nigel James. The CR/O was in the Radio Room and he was Evan Thomas "Mac" Williams, who despite his name was a true Scot from Greenock, or thereabouts. Not too long afterwards I was taken somewhat apprehensively to meet the Captain which was something of a daunting experience after 15 minutes on board. John Watson Ross immediately put me at ease and called me "laddie" as he did most other people and from that moment on I always found him firm but fair and always approachable. Interestingly he was also Captain on Mahsud my last ship in Brocks over 6 years later. The final person on the initial round of meetings was C/O John Munro.

That evening I was taken ashore with a group of people to a pub in North Woolwich which I now can't remember the name of other than it was very popular and it was reached by crossing the bridge across the entrance lock to RAD and then it was a short-ish walk. I drank more beer than I had ever done in my life and when I got back to my cabin I could not sort out the heat coming out of the louvres, gave up, and then woke up a bit later in a red hot cabin and threw up in the sink. Welcome to the MN!

There were a great group of people on that ship and I remain friendly with Don Macleod to this day. Amongst the engineers were two people who I got on particularly well with in S3/E Ed Putnam and J3/E Charlie Drought, both of whom were great shipmates.

I'll stop there and see how the thread develops. Tony! I trust you've had a look at the photo of Charlie, stood by the Atlantic Conveyor Memorial in The Falklands, I posted under the Container Ships slot in the Gallery? The original I put on was as black as the 'obbs of Hell but Alan (Sparkie2182) very cleverly removed it and lightened it and now you can see Charlie in all his silver-haired glory!!! Burra salaams. Phil

Tony Selman
15th August 2007, 22:51
Phil, I did indeed previously check out the photo of Charlie in the Falklands. I must say I would never have recognised him from that but I don't think it does him much justice.

If you want to see a couple of him in his prime check one of my old threads called "Matra's finest" and there are a couple of him with a group of others taken in 1964/65.

I keep meaning to send him an email but never get round to it. This should prompt me into doing it.

Salaams

sparkie2182
15th August 2007, 23:19
my first was the atlantic conveyor............

bitter irony.............:(

Derek Roger
16th August 2007, 03:52
Great story Phil ; I liked your tribute to "Jake : he was a good engineer and a great friend / man . I sailed with him on my first trip ( coastal on the Mangla ) during the summer of 1964
I was a real green apprentice ( we were put on the ship during the college break from Riversdale Tech in Liverpool ; god forbid that apprentices should hsave a holiday because the college was closed for a few weeks )
I was put on the 4-8 and having never or almost never had to get up at 4 in the morning I fell back to sleep after my call from the "Tail Wahlla "
Ariving on the plates Jake proceeded to give me a Bollicking to which I replied " Well why didnt you come up and give me a call ! He exploded ! What ! the Second give a mere apprentice a call ! etc etc . I realised my place in the overall scope of things pretty quickley . By the end of the watch he was as in good humor and we got on fine ; I also learned a lot from him and later stood by the Mahsud in Sweden with him and others ( He was Chief then and I 4th ; we both ended up in Trincomalee that trip after being transferred to the Mahseer to bring her back to Colombo ; then returned to Mahsud )

Oh Happy Days Derek

Derek Roger
16th August 2007, 04:02
PS Phil;
Most knew Jake as a rough tough Glaswegian Engineer of remarkable talent ( which he was )
Few knew his other side which was a fanatic of classical music ( particularily Shumann and Shubert )
He related to me that as an apprentice on the Clyde with little money he would go to the concerts and listen from the back door . Sometimes once the people got to know him he would be invited back stage to listen to the music .
Regards Derek

jaigee
16th August 2007, 11:52
Hi Phil,

Reading the description of your introduction to an engine room amazed me as it is virtually identical to mine on Booth's Clement, even down to the whistle stop tour and list of your 'duties'! I also came from a light engineering background, a Jig Borer in fact, very useful at sea!

After the five minute induction course, the deep sea engineer went off and I was left to my own devices for the night, as you say, completely depressed and distraught. My 'Guardian Angel' though was one of the West Indian firemen who looked after everything all night, and was actually quite amused that I had ventured down the engine room at all!

Next morning I was summoned to the Raphael to go deep sea, I think that they were most surprised I was still on board!

john g
19th August 2007, 19:12
Joining a Brocks boat ......Oh ex company appentice can't tell you anything you'll know it all .....bye bye ....Tilbury late 60's first steam all other ships MOTOR !!! I could write a book on what followed didn't we learned quick in those days.

Trevorw
20th August 2007, 00:17
If you'd been in Blue Flu' you would have had to have taken an exam at Odyssey Works before they would have even let you near a ship! Vive le difference! It's all about standards!!