That Sinking Feeling

26th August 2007, 10:57
MV Flying Enterprise sank in Jan, 1952, see photo that is in the gallery. This ship developed cracks in the hull during a storm Northwest of Spain and then broke its rudder. The Captain, Captain Carlson, stayed with his ship, after all others had left, to the very end. The C/O did however return to his ship by jumping off the tug Turmoil and onto jump.

After two tow ropes were broken the tow was abandoned and the two were forced to leave the sinking ship. Captain Carlson on his return to the US became a very reluctant hero and was met by some 300,000 who lined the route to along Broadway to City Hall in New York.

In 1968 I was on a small inshore survey ship that hit rocks while working close to the coast and to this day I remember that sinking feeling as well as the questions at the inquiry after our return to Auckland.

My question to the many members who are or have been Captains or C/O's and for that matter crew members is:

How many would stay to the very end like Captain Carlson and of the C/O's and crew who would jump off the vessel that has just rescued you to go to the aid of your Captain. Maybe some of you have a tale to tell.

In my case we all stayed together on board as we were hard up on some rocks. To this day I remember that a lot of local people came out to us and rendered all the assistance they could until we were pulled off, patched up and set on our way back to Auckland under the watch full eye of a bigger vessel and all the eyes watching as we came into the basin at the Naval Base in Auckland.


Tony Breach
27th August 2007, 11:17
The mate who jumped onto the FLYING ENTERPRISE was Ken Dancy the mate of the tug TURMOIL not the mate of the "FE".

I think that the question is very difficult to answer as it depends upon the prevailing circumstances. I well remember being in a hellish storm in the North Atlantic between Portugal & the Azores with the main deck & sheer strake plates on both sides becoming buckled & distorted & all that could be done was to keep her hove-to as comfortably as possible. The weather was so bad that there would have been no way to get off the ship anyway & all the crew were well aware of the circumstances. We were lucky for there was an improvement in the weather & made a port of refuge - the Filipino crew went straight to church after berthing to give thanks for they knew we had been without options in that storm. I think that they had also prayed during the 22hours we were battling with the weather.


K urgess
27th August 2007, 13:19
I described my experience in one of my threads a long time ago.
All I can say is that we just got on with it and somehow, because there was a chance, the ship came first.

27th August 2007, 14:33
Hi Kris, any chance you can find it and link to it? A bit of a tease as it stands now: description of drama with a well known member involved to be read, but where? Regards, Stein.

K urgess
27th August 2007, 14:38
It's here ( in all it's glory, Stein.

I was only referring to the first story not my drunken experiences in Angola.


27th August 2007, 14:44
Being a founder member of the 'Self Preservation Society' I would shout "Women and er ....ME First" as we have no females on board I guess that just means ME. I would then be directing operations and shouting encouragement from No.1 lifeboat at a safe distance of at least 500 metres.

Seriously I think it is almost impossible to say in advance how we would react until faced with such a dilemma.
Ray Jordan

27th August 2007, 17:06
Hi Kris, good yarns both of them. Nearly got done in myself in a former Portuguese colony: Mozambique, Beira, but that was by black un-uniformed thugs, and a streetwise Norwegian thug got me unscathed out of it.
On that trip the ship opened up two metres of welding seam in a storm, but nobody had any idea of that till we had been in port for a while, and were unloading cement, so there was no "sinking feeling".
Looking forward to the rest of the yarns. Remember fondly coming off the watch in the night, sharing the messroom with the engine watch also coming off, and spending the hours one should have slept hearing about amazing feats of survival, most of it possibly true... Regards, Stein.

marine master
27th August 2007, 17:12
Going back to Flying Enterprise, wasn't there some doubt about the cargo being carried, legal or otherwise. that the mate and Captain knew something about it. Or is this yet another myth?

K urgess
27th August 2007, 17:25
I think you're right, Ray. You can't tell before hand what your reaction will be.
I confess to being swept along by events and not considering the dangers until later.

The engineers never thought twice about changing a Doxford liner in any sort of weather. The deck crowd didn't refuse to approach land just 'cos the radar was broken. If it got a bit rough you just battened down and waited for it to blow over. I seem to remember it was called being a member of the crew. Nothing to do with management teams where a bolshie member could just as easily tell you to do it your ******* self.

I used to get quite nervous when hearing reports of VLCCs blowing up or tankers catching fire. Too many Sunday afternoon movies like San Demetrio, etc., when I was a kid, I suppose. It was always the sparkie that got it in the neck first. The feeling usually passed after a couple of weeks and a few jars. Just doing a job if anyone asked.

Thanks, Stein. Written as I remember it and they're the sort of experiences where you can shut your eyes and see it run like a movie. As to the rest, we all had similair events in our seagoing lives and, if everybody else didn't, then I must've been on the wrong ship every time.

Ah Beira, favourite place for nicking the little train that ran down the wharf because you couldn't or at least the engineers with you couldn't, be bothered to walk back from the bars.


28th August 2007, 01:33
I agree that it depends on the what is happening at the time. I have over the years read stories in newspapers etc, and I am sure you all have as well, where crew have taken to the boats and shall a I say it, abandoned ship and passengers, if any, just to save themselves.

This leads to another question and that is; What type of training does the MN put cadets and crew through with regard to damage control.

I remember part of my training was being put in a hull, accommodation model on land and then having the hull develop leaks and of cause I think the worsed fear of all, FIRE. I guess naval training is a little different to that of the MN in the naval training may be a little more diciplined. What are your thoughts.

K urgess
28th August 2007, 10:51
I never had any explicit shipboard training. As sparks there was only one place I was supposed to be and that was the radio room until the Old Man said "Time to go sparks". We were trained to be able to send SOS messages in our sleep.

Just lived in hope that someone would remember I was there. I was supposed to go in lifeboat number one because that's where the radio was supposed to go but by the time I was due to leave it would be just jump and hope for the best.

It wasn't something I gave a lot of thought to. I suppose if you thought about it too much you'd never do it. Sparkies are renowned for being nuts anyway.

Every job has it's drawbacks.[=P]

Everybody else did the fire training etc., and regular drills were held. I suppose it was pretty standard throughout the MN as to who was responsible for what.


John Campbell
28th August 2007, 11:43
In 1973 when Master of the s.s."Texaco Westminster" my ship was high and dry in a giant floating dock in the port of Palermo , Sicily when that area was hit by a devastating storm which demolished the harbour mole with catastrophic results.
The dock was wrenched from its retention arms and floated seawards before foundering against a passenger pier. The dock sank with the tanker on top. I and twenty British Officers and Cadets ,plus about thirty Italians, abandoned ship in a severe storm by sliding down "Geronimo" style to the shore. Quite an adventure, and you certainly learn a lot and how years of training and experience click in and I was glad of all my Bank line and Caltex training.
Myself and the 1st mate returned aboard to reclaim the ship next day by paddling out to the vessel in the agents kid's dingy as the Carabineri would not give us a hand. The Mafia had eyes on the ship.
I wonder how many others have had the experience of being sunk in drydock?

Steve Woodward
28th August 2007, 11:53
It's all right Kris - they wouldn't have forgotten you - how many people on a ship could actually USE a lifeboat radio !!!

Never had to abandon ship but A VLCC I was master of was hit by lightning at a Singapore SBM whilst ballasting, very pretty the resultant flame, some 200 feet high. Funny there were lots of small boats in the area but all I could see was stern lights!!!!!

K urgess
28th August 2007, 11:58
All part of the plan, Steve.
Had to have some safeguards.[=P]
If anybody asked for instruction (and I don't remember any that did) it could always be broken.

Interesting experience, John.
I've heard of ships sinking when the drydock was refilled but never the drydock taking off and sinking first.
Must have been "exciting".


Steve Woodward
28th August 2007, 12:20
I doubt there was a radio in that yellow box, just a couple of beers and a sarnie or two

28th August 2007, 12:59
We ran aground on Twageos Point, Shetlands. It was during the last Cod War and we were going into Lerwick for crew change. It was during a horrific storm, in fact the harbourmaster said he had never experienced weather so bad in his whole career. The BBC were actually giving out force 12 which I certainly had never heard before. The coastguard fired a rocket and sent across a breaches buoy which fortunately we didn't have to use as we managed to get off the following day when the weather abated. Middle of winter, blizzards and a complete white out, I have never been so cold in my life. Radar useless, Decca (mark 12) spinning like a top. I wouldn't mind but we were only trying to assist a coaster in bother. He sorted himself out and went on his merry way for shelter and we ended up on the bleeding rocks.

Steve, you are so right about the old lifeboat radios. I used to dread testing those things. If by luck I did manage to get the thing working it took forever to get the stupid thing back in it's container.
Ray Jordan

K urgess
28th August 2007, 13:20
I loved the spin driers.
Needed two hefty persons to lift and even heftier ones to wind it up.
Lifeline, Salvita, Survivor. Names to conjure up nightmares.

Sounds like a puckering experience, Ray.