The Loneliness of Command.

Hugh Ferguson
13th September 2007, 17:30
It would be interesting to hear of peoples' varying experiences on this subject. I decided to go into piloting at the age of 28 after taking Master's certificate. During the piloting years there occurred many opportunities, whilst at anchor, to chat to ships' captains and I'm sure that there were many who looked upon the pilot as, as it were, a disinterested party to whom he could talk openly about his trials and tribulations. In the course of these chats I often learned of what I may have missed.
Some of these conversations stand out in my mind. The Norwegian captain who showed me photographs of his home and his family, and his bookshelves lined with books by English authors. I wondered why he chose to read books in English and his answer was because there was such a lot to choose from!
And there was the Dutch captain who had not a single soul on board with whom he could chat to in his native language-he had just spent a month anchored off a West African port.
There were others who sought solace with a hobby of some sort, one or two I knew, with a bottle of gin. An Italian captain, in a 20 year old tanker 40 days out (around the Cape) from the Persian Gulf, with his 3rd mate, who happened to be a very attractive young lady from Trieste. He was the most contented of the lot!
Come on shipmates, tell me what I missed.

PollY Anna
13th September 2007, 18:42
Hi Hugh

I should think they will be queuing up, as there are a lot of Skippers (Masters) on this site. I think some might even use this site to fill in those lonely hours at sea. Not being able to discourse with the crew, they will through this site have contact with the outside World.

Regards Ron

Bill Davies
13th September 2007, 19:16
Hugh/Ron,
I left British Flag in 1969 (Masters FG 1968) primarily for the money and also for the promotion prospects. The route to FOC ships was via Silver Marine in Liverpool (two middle aged woman). Initially the only Brits to be found were in the Radio Room. The Master's were for the most part German. Apart from the top four and the Sparkie the crew were a 'the league of nations'. Later in 72 on gaining command I started finding my own work from 72 onwards the employers were mostly US and Japanese (who were trying to reduce costs and flagging out). For the next 33 years in command in everything thrown at me from Panamax to ULCCs (Marcona, Kaiser, Universe Mitsui, NYK etc,etc). The 70s saw a flush of Brits in some of the companies but from the early/mid 80s I was more often than not the only European on board. Yes, life was lonely with long trips to boot. I used to look forward to the Pilot arriving on board and especially if we had to anchor which would mean we could 'shoot the breeze' for a few hours. Now, I look back in my retirement and think it was the life similar to that of a hermit (albeit a wealthy one). Did you miss anything Hugh. I don't think so. As I look around my home in Shropshire (Welsh borders) I sometimes resent it.

tunatownshipwreck
13th September 2007, 19:17
You really ought to write your stories down, might be a book in it.

lakercapt
14th September 2007, 03:34
The long distance runner was what we had in commom when I sailed on British ships.
On coming to Canada I discovered that there was a more relaxed and informal relationship with the crew and I relished the comradie. Used to know the crew's wifes and children (or husbands in some cases) and it would be unheard of to adress them by their surname
Usually found that the C/E would share problems and consol each other at times. It was very seldom that this familiarity lead to the crew taking advantage and I certainly enjoyed this style rather than the hide bound system in U.K. ships. Maybe it changed latterly as it was too tied up in traditions that ceased to exist.
Bill

Binnacle
15th September 2007, 21:11
The ship is safely tied up, just two new bumps, most of the crew have gone to bed. There's just you, the NWM and a motorman awake. On the table you have the F1, tax tables, graduatated pension tables, NMB book and a ready reckoner. You're changing articles in the morning. The agent will have to be told what cash you require and the breakdown. An hour or two previous you had been alternating between between the bridge and the wage book between locks. It's before decimalisation and calculators. 3 months and 23 days at £67/12s a month plus 8 days leave, minis allotments, subs, bond, tax, insurance, MNOPF. All done in the pencil copy side of the F1, ink the seamen's side. You can't do these calculations until you are sure the ship has a berth. Would be nice to be with a company where the office does the wages. Honest poverty keeps you going. Four days ago you were pooping them. Tomorrow night you will have fun going up and down the columns of the portage bill, it doesn't balance, you're £1/12/5p adrift. Feel like sticking that value of stamps on the debit side. The gentlemen from the shore will be coming aboard, junior directors, operational managers etc (comic singers). Loading was delayed Stateside due to ballast problems. You have compiled a log of all ballast problems in case they try to pass the buck. The thought crosses your mind, life might have been easier, if when up for second mate the examiner had kindly shown you the door. Two a.m., wages done, too late to phone home, quick whisky and a beer, bed. Nearly forgot, must remember to note protest tomorrow and order up bond. Happy days.

PollY Anna
15th September 2007, 21:35
Binnacle

Sounds like you enjoyed every minute of it.

Regards Ron

Steve Woodward
15th September 2007, 23:15
Loneliness of command.
Excluding a few bad times I enjoyed every minute of it , regrets, yes, I wish I could do it all again
Why ; the diversity and good will of seafarers

Hugh Ferguson
16th September 2007, 16:45
When I was up for 1st Mates-nigh on 60 years ago-I lodged, for a few weeks, in the home of a captain's wife. She was a great lady for "chat" and I learned a great deal, not just about the loneliness of command, but the loneliness of the one left at home to bring up the kids. She had been married long before the advent of official leave and, as many thousands of others, lived the greater part of her married life apart from the husband she adored.
I remember her telling me of an anxious day spent in Liverpool waiting to know if her husband, then a 3rd mate, had retained his job. (I think this was about the time of the great recession, c.1930). At that time she already had one son and was to have two more sons, and a daughter.
During the first 14 years of their marriage her husband was away at sea for every christmas during those years, and the eldest offspring had become a teenager by the time he first saw his father carve the turkey.
I never once heard that lady complain of her lonely lot. She accepted it as it was and always appeared happy and reasonably contented. She frequently joked about every homecoming being like a another honeymoon! Her only dread, so she said, was when her three sons went off to sea (as they all did), she would never, hopefully, have them all come on leave at the same time. I think this had a lot to do with a returning husband acting as if he was still in command of a ship!
I'm sure that her stories were the beginning of my ambition to go piloting instead of captaining, and having been a lot in places like Calcutta and Singapore, it appeared to me that pilots seem to earn considerably more than captains. But, starting that career in Aden soon disillusioned me on that score!
Yes indeed! It is not just the loneliness of the one who goes away to sea!

Hugh Ferguson
29th September 2007, 11:51
It would be interesting to hear of peoples' varying experiences on this subject. I decided to go into piloting at the age of 28 after taking Master's certificate. During the piloting years there occurred many opportunities, whilst at anchor, to chat to ships' captains and I'm sure that there were many who looked upon the pilot as, as it were, a disinterested party to whom he could talk openly about his trials and tribulations. In the course of these chats I often learned of what I may have missed.
Some of these conversations stand out in my mind. The Norwegian captain who showed me photographs of his home and his family, and his bookshelves lined with books by English authors. I wondered why he chose to read books in English and his answer was because there was such a lot to choose from!
And there was the Dutch captain who had not a single soul on board with whom he could chat to in his native language-he had just spent a month anchored off a West African port.
There were others who sought solace with a hobby of some sort, one or two I knew, with a bottle of gin. An Italian captain, in a 20 year old tanker 40 days out (around the Cape) from the Persian Gulf, with his 3rd mate, who happened to be a very attractive young lady from Trieste. He was the most contented of the lot!
Come on shipmates, tell me what I missed.

As a footnote to this I thought I should enlarge on the last subject of this post.
This occurred, as you would have noted, during the closure of the Suez Canal when any tanker that was remotely serviceable was pressed into service. Can you imagine, nowadays, a tanker being chartered to transport a cargo of 15,000 tons of crude from the Gulf around the Cape.
That was the case with this particular ship which I boarded off Folkestone at that most perfect time of 6 o'clock on a fine summer's morning.
I was greeted, very agreeably, by the Italian captain, and was left in the company of the Spanish Chief Officer, for what should have been the last 2 hours of his watch. He was not a happy man as I was soon to discover.
Come 8 o'clock no relief for him had appeared in the form of a 3rd mate as one might have expected. But that was none of my business and I left him in charge whilst I went down to the officers' bathroom for a shave. The door was locked which rather surprised me and I returned to the bridge and made mention of it to the un-relieved C/O.. He just shrugged his shoulders and offered no explanation.
At about 8.15 the air was suddenly filled with the unmistakeable aroma of Chanel No.8 (or thereabouts), and this gorgeous vision of a beautiful young women appeared at the entrance to the wheelhouse. No uniform, so I still hadn't twigged that this was the 3rd mate. It was, and the Chief Officer, having been relieved at the least, half an hour after what I would had thought to have been a judicious time to relieve a senior officer, disappeared after an absolute minimum of formality. It had been she who had locked the bathroom door!
She spoke excellent English and we chatted non-stop for the rest of her watch on our way up to Thameshaven. She had gone to sea against her family's wishes-a very self assured young lady.
Pointing to all the valves and piping along the fore-deck, I asked her if she knew all about them: she astonished me by admitting that she had nothing to do with that part of the job of transporting oil around the world!
Sometime during the morning the captain put in an appearance and you could see immediately, by the way they exchanged glances, that this was no ordinary relationship between a ship's master and his 3rd mate!
No wonder that that Spanish C/O was not a happy man. His authority had been completely undermined. Iwonder what became of them all.

Burntisland
29th September 2007, 12:30
With a lighter observation on what has been a very profound and thought provoking litany of comments................And I'm serious in what I say about that..........Only the owner of the emotions knows the real story..........However...back to the lighter comment.........Hugh, I like many others on here I'm sure.......am wishing for God's sake that you had some pics of that 3rd Officer!!!

Hugh Ferguson
29th September 2007, 13:36
With a lighter observation on what has been a very profound and thought provoking litany of comments................And I'm serious in what I say about that..........Only the owner of the emotions knows the real story..........However...back to the lighter comment.........Hugh, I like many others on here I'm sure.......am wishing for God's sake that you had some pics of that 3rd Officer!!!

So do I! But, sadly, there were no digital cameras around in those days. One pilot I knew carried a camera but it was an unusual thing to do. I can imagine there would have been more than a few ships in which that would have been regarded with some suspicion.
In foreign-going days I carried a camera for a while but it was stolen in- guess where-and I never got 'round to getting another: how foolish can you get! That's one of my great regrets.

Bill Davies
29th September 2007, 15:54
So do I! But, sadly, there were no digital cameras around in those days. One pilot I knew carried a camera but it was an unusual thing to do. I can imagine there would have been more than a few ships in which that would have been regarded with some suspicion.
In foreign-going days I carried a camera for a while but it was stolen in- guess where-and I never got 'round to getting another: how foolish can you get! That's one of my great regrets.

There are Pilots that subscribe to this site who obvously carry a camera on every job. Must be some sort of Insurance

Steve Woodward
29th September 2007, 18:36
Perhaps the camera is carried because they are a member of SN and have a better oportunity of taking ship photos than most and do it for the benefit of the members. even for those having a dig at others

non descript
29th September 2007, 19:48
There are Pilots that subscribe to this site who obvously carry a camera on every job. Must be some sort of Insurance

Bill, in case you were having a small dig… let me set one record straight. We are more than grateful to Steve Woodward for his contributions to the Site, both photographically and also generally – it would be sad day if he forgot his camera and having had experience of his very high standard of professional ability as a Pilot, I can assure you that he has absolutely no need for such “Insurance”, whilst we on the other hand have good reason to be grateful for his careful and dedicated work.

To my mind, the Old Tongan Proverb: "If you cannot say anything pleasant, better not say anything at all" - seems appropriate.

Steve Woodward
29th September 2007, 19:59
A couple of days ago was the first time I did not take a photo because I damaged my camera, we boarded a ship after a 40 minute pilot launch journey which took 1hr 45 minutes in 40 knots plus wind and a slightly choppy sea, boarding took 45 minutes because the ship wasnt were he was supposed to be and we had four goes at boarding due to a bad lee, the 11 mtre climb to the deck was a bit rough with a 150,000 ton ship rolling heavily and which had not rigged a combination ladder, being now an hour late we safely got the ship alongside having swung the ship through 180 degrees still in forty plus knots of wind, driving rain and a mega spring tide and without the use of the ships engines which failed for 15 crucial minutes during the swing / berthing.
days like this are rare, but do I criticise ships masters, darnd right I dont, but I could make an exception for one or two!!!!!

Bill Davies
29th September 2007, 20:02
Tonga,
My first reaction was not to dignify your post with a reply.
However, I was not having ' a dig' and that is the end of it.
It is common practice for Pilots to carry camera's for the very purpose I mentioned and that I can understand.
Now unless you have anything else?


Bill Davies

Bill Davies
29th September 2007, 20:08
Perhaps the camera is carried because they are a member of SN and have a better oportunity of taking ship photos than most and do it for the benefit of the members. even for those having a dig at others

You are aware that I have had a post from Tonga about having 'a dig'.
I can assure you that I was not even though your subsequent was unnecessary.

Burntisland
29th September 2007, 20:26
Sorry I brought up the "pic of the 3rd Officer" bit. Certainly didn't mean for a showdown on Main Street. Easy guys.

PollY Anna
29th September 2007, 22:21
Hi Burntisland I'm with you

I would rather have a pic of the 3rd officer any time. Beats the bow of a ship in any kind of weather

Regards Ron

Steve Woodward
30th September 2007, 08:57
Marks Support very welcome, Some folks obviously do not know as much about pilotage as they think they he do.
Every move I and the other 119 of my fellow pilots make is recorded for posterity and post mortem should we make a mistake. The Humber like all major ports is covered by a high definition radar and all targets are tagged with their names, this data is recorded continuously and retained should it be needed. There are also dozens of video camera's all over the river these are also continously recorded and kept so that when you approach a lock or berth you are without doubt 'on camera'. Add to this the VDR - Voyage Data Recorder which is being fitted to all new ships and retro-fitted to many more, these devices record the ships movements plus radar information and all voices in the wheelhouse plus, in some cases, video in the wheelhouse all very welcome in a dispute about who said or did what. Kind of makes a little kodak a bit superfluous.

Anchorman
30th September 2007, 09:37
I personally think it is an excellent idea to carry a camera, for whatever reasons, and hope you soon get a new one Steve, your contributions are much appreciated. My only regret is not having one when I first went to sea. I think anyone starting off in any profession should be advised to carry a camera.
Neil

Peter4447
30th September 2007, 10:05
Thinking about it logically I can't quite see what advantage there would be in a Pilot carrying a still camera as some form of 'insurance'. There are, however, many occasions when having a camera handy can be very useful.

With the small digital cameras available I do carry one in the glove compartment of my car. A couple of years ago I got lost in a city and turned off the main road into a side street, parked up and went to ask directions. Five minutes later I returned to my car and found a 'parking ticket' being affixed by a Warden. After she had left the scene I duly photographed exactly how and where I was parked. I wrote to the Council explaining the situation but they were adamant I was 'guilty' because I was parked on double yellow lines etc etc etc. Because of their attitude I refused to pay and eventually the case went to the Ombudsman and to whom I sent my photographs. The last I heard was a letter from the Ombudsman saying that having seen my 'evidence' the Council had decided not to proceed and that he had instructed them to cancel the parking ticket!

Clearly in some cases carrying a camera is useful but what use it would be to a Pilot as evidence gathering is quite beyond me - although I am sure it would be nice to have a camera handy to take a piccy of an attractive 3rd mate as a piece of seafaring nostalgia!

Peter4447(Thumb)

Hugh Ferguson
30th September 2007, 13:07
I can hardly believe that my innocent submission about a glamorous 3rd mate has led to these contributions. How about this for an addition to the theme of wives, women, girls and other assorted females in ships!
On this occasion I had been piloting another tanker most of the night and had come to anchor during the early hours. She (the ship) was one of those beautifully appointed Scandinavian tankers of that glorious era, and I had turned in for a few hours, to enjoy the superb hospitality offered by those people, in the unoccupied "owner's suite." Come 8 o'clock I found myself being gently awakened by a vision in a full kimono!
I thought I was dreaming! But I wasn't. She was a Japanese girl and had been taken on out east some-place on account of the ship being short of crew. She was another lady? who had created considerable dissension amongst the lads-so the chief officer told me. But, I'll desist from further details, for you never know, it may result in more misunderstandings amongst the members.

Steve Woodward
30th September 2007, 13:15
I guess some commands aren't as lonely as some (Frogger)

Bill Davies
30th September 2007, 13:28
Hugh,
I agree that thead go adrift somewhere however, reverting back to my initial comment on this thread I believe the lonliness must be wholly contributed to the lack of one's wife. The ships I sailed on in that pursuit of command and money was my choice and as I said I resent it now. Still, my boys have their own farms adjacent to mine and the girls in medicine and when I mention anchor they enquire what I am talking about. I understand there were those who did bring there wives on every voyage but perhaps, perhaps they missed out in other areas.

non descript
30th September 2007, 18:32
Hi Burntisland I'm with you

I would rather have a pic of the 3rd officer any time.
Regards Ron

Ron,
There is a suggestion that she wore green trainers, or at least she did when she was ashore. (EEK)

PollY Anna
30th September 2007, 21:26
Hi Hugh

You do seem to be having a lot of luck with your sea time, I had to find my visions ashore, nobody ever woke me dressed as you describe it.

All my 3rd mates were male, so no luck there either.

Regards Ron

dredgeman
4th October 2007, 18:45
Reading thru this thread from the first posting, Well done Steve Woodward for taking your camera to work with you, and Bill i bet you wished you kept your biased opinions to yourself now dont you.

Bill Davies
4th October 2007, 18:54
You would lose the bet!

dredgeman
4th October 2007, 19:12
odds seem well against you Bill, but anyway never mind, lets progress on..

non descript
4th October 2007, 20:01
Gentlemen, may I make a gentle reminder that that the ethos of this Site, and one that sets it apart from others discussion groups on the web, is the underlying spirit of friendship and a genuine willingness to live together without making an issue – I think it is called being part of the solution and not being part of the problem. We really do want to avoid personal attacks and live as the Sea has taught us.

With this in mind I would commend Bill for his reasonable and forbearing response at # 30; and I would remind Dredgeman, that whilst his posting at # 29 was both reasonable and supportive, it could, when viewed in the cold light of day, be seen as a tad too aggressive and a bit too personal.

Please do remember that the written text can lead to a misunderstanding, whilst the same phrase, used of a throw-away line as we would in pub and face to face, with direct eye contact, can more properly underline that it was really only said in jest.

The feeling is that enough has been made of the issue about cameras and it is time to move on please; a reasonably valid request given my earlier involvement.

Please take my comment as it is meant, i.e. supportive and constructive.

(Thumb)

Mark

dredgeman
4th October 2007, 20:31
Mark,
Agree with you fully on the above, very well thought and well written thank you, all i am trying to state is that who the Hell do certain poeple (no names)think they are by taking the mick out of hard working pilots, this high and mighty attitude and looking down on others and trying to pull them to peices by sarky comments such as above, now come on lets get a grip as we are not onboard now are we ?? this here is suppossed to be an open forum with no Ranks therefore all you old have been shipmasters out there, lets have a bit of respect for those hard working pilots because i,m pretty damn sure theres been many a time that you have been really glad and releived to have them on your Bridge even if you are too proud to admit it, I know i have, so a bit less of this snootiness please, here we have no rank or class..thats all i,m saying now as i will now rest my case..

Tony Crompton
5th October 2007, 10:25
One point about Pilots carrying Cameras is that they are not "Intrinsically Safe".
Any Pilot caught with one in a refinery would at the least have it confiscated
and at the worst heavily fined as no doubt he would have been
through a dematching area with large notices forbidding any electrical items,
including cameras.

That is one of the reasons why Pilots vhf radios are so expensive,to be safe
to be used in a non gas free environment. Tankers bridges are not always totally
gas free and just immagine what a flash could do then!!

Having said that however I carried a camera for my last few years and have
6 albums of photos that I get enormous pleasure from now retired. Only wish
digital cameras had been around then. (Condemned by my own admission!!)

The only time I took a pic "of evidence" was of a Pilot Ladder that was totally unsafe.
-----------------------------
Tony Crompton

jazz606
5th October 2007, 11:32
If I was a pilot; unlikely in view of not being a member of the left handed bricklayers' s Society. I would certainly carry a camera. Mayby one of these fancy mobile phones with photographic, video and sound recording facilities. In fact I think in these litigious (when weren't they) times one would be daft not to.

Steve Woodward
5th October 2007, 13:32
On passing through the refineries post Job we always turn off our mobile phones ect - amusing as we are driving in a vehicle with an infernal combustion engine!

Tony Crompton
5th October 2007, 14:05
It was once explained to me that,however unlikely it was to happen and a multi million to one chance, that it was technically possible for phones,cameras, etc if dropped or knocked and the battery became disconnected from the terminals, to cause a spark when it retouched the terminal, even if the equipment was turned off.

On "Intrinsically safe" equipment the connections were all sealed in airtight parts.
-------------------------------
Tony Crompton

Peggy747
7th October 2007, 12:42
If any of you Pilots, Masters etc should come upon that beautiful 3rd Mate (c1967)again and You take Her photo--Please dont post it on here !!!!

Peter

Bill Davies
7th October 2007, 13:07
Peter,

Once a 'china boat man' always a 'china boat man'. Behave yourself.

Brgds

Bill

Hugh Ferguson
8th November 2007, 20:34
The following comparison, with Lakercapt's experience in a more layed back culture, is with an example of how things were in an old Blue Funnel ship in Fremantle one late evening in 1949.
I had had a day off and took the opportunity to visit Perth to see how things compared with the austerity I had left behind a few weeks earlier in a power, coal and food shortages Britain.
One of my purchases was a 78 record (for years I carried a very heavy load of a wind-up gramophone and 20 or so 78's), of the Karelia Suite which any classical music buff will tell you has a lot of volume, and on a wind-up gramophone there is no volume control.
Returning late I found the ship near deserted with only the master's light still on. I couldn't resist a listen to the music but had hesitated to risk disturbing anyone,especially the captain. It was not long before I noticed a shadow passing to and fro outside my after port. It was the captain, so I opened my port but it would have been unthinkable for me, the 3rd mate, to invite him in and the thought of him joining me of his own accord did not even occur to me.
Poor old boy! He had gone to sea in sail about 1913. Most of his married life would have been spent apart from his wife and family, and there he was keeping company with a bottle of gin, and denied by the culture of the times, from sharing a few moments of listening pleasure with a junior 3rd mate!
I don't think that way of life would appeal to many nowadays. I did 3 voyages with him but knew little or nothing about his circumstances. He went right through the war as a master. This nation should feel deeply indebted to people like him.

BlythSpirit
8th November 2007, 21:10
Gentlemen - having been stuck in a lonely hotel 40 miles south of Milan, Italy I have logged on to my favourite site and checked what I thought was an interesting topic on the Mess Deck:- Hugh Ferguson brought a perfectly reasonable topic to the Mess Table: The Lonliness of Command for discussion.
Since I left the Merchant Navy I was fortunate enough to be "In Command" albeit in a different context.
" You command respect - not demand it" is a a truism I have found to be an accurate observation.
The people who graduate into the position of leadership, in whatever field of endevour, are to be lauded - not despised.
I personally feel that the narrow confines of shipboard life were overly restricting, with outmoded practices and frankly laughable attitudes.
I got a commment from one thread comment lambasting my choice of employer as "not from the top drawer"!!
Command is by definition lonely : If you can't hack it - change jobs!!

Cap'n Pete
8th November 2007, 23:03
Hi Hugh

I should think they will be queuing up, as there are a lot of Skippers (Masters) on this site. I think some might even use this site to fill in those lonely hours at sea. Not being able to discourse with the crew, they will through this site have contact with the outside World.

Regards Ron

I am afraid Polly, that the vast majority of seafarers do not have the luxury of internet access on their ships. There is a move to provide wifi access in major container terminals so visiting seafarers can use their laptops while they are in port, but with short intensive port stays, I cannot see this as a big success. I think you will find that all the serving masters and other seafarers using this site are on leave.

Bye the bye, many seafarers do have email access while at sea. This is through a store and forward system by which the captain will send and receive all the ship's emails via a satelllite link to a provider ashore who then distributes and collects the emails via the internet.

There is little doubt that internet access will be provided on ships within the next few years, but all links are via satellite and with access costing up to $5 per minute, imagine what a couple of hours surfing is going to cost.

Bill Davies
9th November 2007, 13:51
Command is by definition lonely : If you can't hack it - change jobs!!

BlythSpirit,
Having 35 years in command in ships where, in the main, I was the only 'round eye' onboard your definition is very timely.

BlythSpirit
9th November 2007, 15:03
BlythSpirit,
Having 35 years in command in ships where, in the main, I was the only 'round eye' onboard your definition is very timely.


Bill,
I checked your profile - your long and successful career at sea speaks volumes!! Fifty years in total -16 years attaining the top position and 34 years in the "Command" position: you obviously could cope with the rigours of the job. All respect to you and others of your ilk - most people enjoyed their time at sea, including myself, I have only fond memories of my 13 years and certainly credit the experience with my subsequent success in shoreside endeavours.

PollY Anna
9th November 2007, 15:27
Thank you Cat'n Pete for that. I just pick up my computer and I am surfing one tends to forget that not everybody can do that. Mind you in my time we had steam radios with wind up record players that could only be used on a mill pond.

Regards Ron

John Brighton
26th March 2008, 06:14
Good morning all,just like to say how much i enjoy reading your postings and if the cap badge is "Pilot" well i`ve learnt something to-day as i`m interested in all things naval (including 3rd. mates) so keep em coming you all have a lot to offer,John.

Hugh Ferguson
27th March 2008, 19:44
Good morning all,just like to say how much i enjoy reading your postings and if the cap badge is "Pilot" well i`ve learnt something to-day as i`m interested in all things naval (including 3rd. mates) so keep em coming you all have a lot to offer,John.

Yes, John, the cap badge is a Trinity House Pilot badge. Hugh.

Hugh Ferguson
28th March 2008, 22:54
Bill,
I checked your profile - your long and successful career at sea speaks volumes!! Fifty years in total -16 years attaining the top position and 34 years in the "Command" position: you obviously could cope with the rigours of the job. All respect to you and others of your ilk - most people enjoyed their time at sea, including myself, I have only fond memories of my 13 years and certainly credit the experience with my subsequent success in shoreside endeavours.

Hear, hear to that!

John Williams 56-65
5th June 2008, 21:40
Gentlemen - having been stuck in a lonely hotel 40 miles south of Milan, Italy I have logged on to my favourite site and checked what I thought was an interesting topic on the Mess Deck:- Hugh Ferguson brought a perfectly reasonable topic to the Mess Table: The Lonliness of Command for discussion.
Since I left the Merchant Navy I was fortunate enough to be "In Command" albeit in a different context.
" You command respect - not demand it" is a a truism I have found to be an accurate observation.
The people who graduate into the position of leadership, in whatever field of endevour, are to be lauded - not despised.
I personally feel that the narrow confines of shipboard life were overly restricting, with outmoded practices and frankly laughable attitudes.
I got a commment from one thread comment lambasting my choice of employer as "not from the top drawer"!!
Command is by definition lonely : If you can't hack it - change jobs!!

Reading the foregoing posts on respect I think many of those who have commanded other men have a strange idea of what is meant by respect.
" You command respect- not demand it"? Not so. Speaking as one who has never commanded anyone, at any time, I have little idea as to how those who do have command see themselves. But in my experience no one can command or demand another man to respect him. Respect is something that has to be earned. Having dealt in various ways both with ships officers and military officers in my time, respect is not always the first attribute you would say was a common factor amongst all of them. Granted you are duty bound to obey the orders given by a superior officer but you don`t neccesarily respect the man giving the order.
We have all sailed with ships officers, I should think, who don`t seem to have much idea of what they are doing, especially when under pressure. Their idea of getting things done the way they want them done, is to shout, and if that doesn`t get the required result,shout even louder. However the officer that gets the best out of those who are under his command by telling them in a reasonable tone of voice and can show by example that he knows what he is talking about, is the one that gets results. This is mainly due to the intrinsic character of the man himself.
I would suggest that you look around you and ask yourself "Do I respect that men or am I just obeying his orders because he is in charge. Two totally different concepts.

jaydeeare
5th June 2008, 23:15
John, what you said was very true. Whilst doing my Nav Cadet Course, one of our Instructors said something very similar. Something like, "One day, you will get a gold ring on your sleeve. This does not entitle you to respect by the crew. Respect has to be earned. Respect the crew, and the crew will respect you."

This is a message I have kept throughout my liffe.

I have met Officers that I would gladly follow through Hell and back, if necessary. Others I wouldn't have p****d on if they were on fire. The former earned my respect, the others didn't.

With Juniors I have worked with, I hope I had their respect. I NEVER took credit for work they did. I ALWAYS mentioned who actually carried out the task when credits were given, but took the flak when things didn't go right. Then THEY took a helluva rollicking from me.

Binnacle
8th June 2008, 10:52
We would be failing to cover this thread adequately if we overlook those less than honest masters who in their chosen solitude spent time calculating their extra earnings, i.e. "back handers" from ship chandlers, at the expense of the crew's feeding standards., unseemly crew bond profits, dishonest income tax returns regarding same. "Inaccurate" calculation of crew wages etc. Fortunately in the minority, but fully deserving the contempt of those lesser mortals unfortunate enough to be sailing under their command. Fortunately on those ships where Merchant Shipping Acts were applicable their greed could be restrained. These people IMHO fully deserve loneliness of command.

Bill Davies
17th June 2008, 17:54
Binnacle,
You seem to know a trick or two so please enlighten me.I have relieved literally dozens of Masters in my 35 years of many, many nationalities and have never discovered irregularities as you discribe. There were several Greek Master's whose wizardry with accounts was worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records but nothing that comes close to what you are describing.
Bill

Pat McCardle
17th June 2008, 18:24
I go along with you on that Binnacle, especially the feeding, bond & inaccurate calculations of wages ie overtime payments, again in the minority but it did happen.

Binnacle
18th June 2008, 20:51
Pat,
One would have to be rather naive indeed to believe that the efforts by many Members Of Parliament over the years to bring out legislation to protect seamen from dishonesty and greed was an unnecessary exercise. Those sailing under the British flag, including ship-masters, were fortunate that these laws existed for the protection of all concerned. As you correctly state, dishonest ship-masters were in the minority, but did occasionally crawl out the woodwork.

methc
18th June 2008, 21:40
Italian captain, in a 20 year old tanker 40 days out (around the Cape) from the Persian Gulf, with his 3rd mate, who happened to be a very attractive young lady from Trieste. He was the most contented of the lot!

Not all that contented Hugh: I piloted that tanker also and when that vision appeared on the bridge I asked her who she was. "I am a Navgating Officer"she replied. "Yes but what do you do?" I continued. "I do all that is necessary on the bridge in the 8 to 12 watch." was the answer.Pointing along the deck ahead I asked if she also took a deck watch during loading or discharging. "No" she replied "My Captain does that for me" At noon the Captain,that contented man, took her hand and led her away.

Keep smiling,Hugh.

John Williams 56-65
1st July 2008, 20:37
Pat,
One would have to be rather naive indeed to believe that the efforts by many Members Of Parliament over the years to bring out legislation to protect seamen from dishonesty and greed was an unnecessary exercise. Those sailing under the British flag, including ship-masters, were fortunate that these laws existed for the protection of all concerned. As you correctly state, dishonest ship-masters were in the minority, but did occasionally crawl out the woodwork.

That is a terrifying thought that seafarers have to rely on the efforts of Members of Parliament to protect their interests. Here was me thinking that dishonesty and greed was another way of spelling Member of Parliament

Hugh Ferguson
25th November 2008, 21:58
When I was up for 1st Mates-nigh on 60 years ago-I lodged, for a few weeks, in the home of a captain's wife. She was a great lady for "chat" and I learned a great deal, not just about the loneliness of command, but the loneliness of the one left at home to bring up the kids. She had been married long before the advent of official leave and, as many thousands of others, lived the greater part of her married life apart from the husband she adored.
I remember her telling me of an anxious day spent in Liverpool waiting to know if her husband, then a 3rd mate, had retained his job. (I think this was about the time of the great recession, c.1930). At that time she already had one son and was to have two more sons, and a daughter.
During the first 14 years of their marriage her husband was away at sea for every christmas during those years, and the eldest offspring had become a teenager by the time he first saw his father carve the turkey.
I never once heard that lady complain of her lonely lot. She accepted it as it was and always appeared happy and reasonably contented. She frequently joked about every homecoming being like a another honeymoon! Her only dread, so she said, was when her three sons went off to sea (as they all did), she would never, hopefully, have them all come on leave at the same time. I think this had a lot to do with a returning husband acting as if he was still in command of a ship!
I'm sure that her stories were the beginning of my ambition to go piloting instead of captaining, and having been a lot in places like Calcutta and Singapore, it appeared to me that pilots seem to earn considerably more than captains. But, starting that career in Aden soon disillusioned me on that score!
Yes indeed! It is not just the loneliness of the one who goes away to sea!

It was huge surprise to see this lady (her photograph) on the recent T.V. program, Who Do You Think You Are. The person researching his family was none other than her grandson! His name Laurence Llewelyn Bowen. Grandfather, Captain R.E.Wilk's (ex master of Blue Funnel Line, Peleus) photo also featured as did, in person, two of his sons-all familiar figures to me!

TonyAllen
26th November 2008, 14:04
As usual a great thread but have you considered the loneliness of a 16 year old galley boy on his own in the afternoon in command of the galley while all others are getting their heads down for a couple of hours and faced with a full bag of spuds to peel by hand.he dint have 4 mates or 4 engineers to relieve him.Just joking Boys I would do it all again sharpish keep it going Regard Tony Allen PS wish I had a camera in those days but unable to afford one

sidsal
11th December 2008, 19:47
What a brilliant Thread this is ! Hugh and Bill touch a nerve about loneliness at sea. I gave up the sea partly because I developed a cloud on my lung. I had a few months before I had time to sit for master's. I had taken a correspondence course from L'pool Tech and intended to go straight for Extra. Too ambitious probably.
However I am glad that I was more or less forced to change tack and have seen my 2 lads grow up and had anormal married life. I have seen the sareers of my friends who staryed at sea and had command but I don't envy them. I am particularly sorry for those Brits at sea who have only foreign shipmates to mix with. It is the chat and the banter that keeps you sane , I think.
Mind you shpmasters in , say, Brocklebank in the post war years had a nice time - competent officers, obedient lascar crews, little interference from the office etc. It all came to an end unfortumately and the world became a tougher place.
I used to have a fellow director in the small firm I ran and he used to compare life with a game of cards. Some people are dealt a hand full of trumps and others have a lousy hand. Good simile I think !
I have had a wonderful hand !!

Bill Davies
11th December 2008, 21:05
Sidsal,
Would concur. Good inputs from Hugh & Bill.
Relatively short time in command myself (by comparison) and enjoyed the luxury of British Flag with loads of wives hanging about. Intrigued with other threads re only European onboard. Now that must be lonely.
Happy with the hand I was dealt.

Hugh Ferguson
18th October 2012, 16:05
Forgive me for resurrecting one of my threads but it would be interesting to know of any changes along the way-container ships for instance!?

(Never discovered if Bill was congratulating himself on good input! I wonder where he is now!)

John Cassels
18th October 2012, 18:23
Hugh , Bill is alive and well and contributing good style.

Malcolm S
18th October 2012, 18:42
I spent all my working life at sea and sailed as Master for many of those - yes it could be lonely at the top - but I ate better !
M
Any ship can be a minesweeper – once.

Hugh Ferguson
18th October 2012, 19:45
"Bill is alive and well"; delighted to hear it but where is he? We had been friendly adversaries a few years ago but we both agreed about the superiority of Blue Funnel, especially the bosuns.

Varley
19th October 2012, 00:28
I spent all my working life at sea and sailed as Master for many of those - yes it could be lonely at the top - but I ate better !
M
Any ship can be a minesweeper – once.

Bridgeton managed it more than once - all dependent on the tonnage ratio ordnance:ship. Boy, was the first time used as an excuse for every subsequent misalignment and failure.

garry Norton
19th October 2012, 04:35
Having sailed as Master and Mate I never found command lonely.
As Mate on Stratharlick we paid our captain of in Dubai and spent 2 weeks at anchor with no master.During that time the Chief Engineer looked after maters relating to company maters and I did the deck side.It worked well the Chief with the safe keys and I had the captains cabin keys.Cables from the company were posted on the notice board so every one was kept informed.
On the FPSO in Egypt the ship had no master and as Oil Movements I looked after the deck matters and the Chief Engineer who was my boss looked after all other stuff.This I found ideal as any repairs were quickly done, much better tha n when I sailed on tankers.

Leratty
20th October 2012, 11:59
As old no offence intended (: masters do you think possibly after the 70's it became harder, or more lonely in command as the ships became so much larger, less crew etc thus less even basic social intercourse on a daily basis? I never quite understood why a master had to keep at all times to himself? Of course understood why they may not wish to dignify a young whipper snapper with conversation in appropriate moments? Have to say quite a No on ships I served, did with me & I enjoyed those conversations. The ones who were aloof possibly made their bed etc? We have had 600 people employed in our own biz (not now thank God) & I always tried to speak with staff-workers no matter at what level. It was maybe an Aus thing? Anyway it was something I learnt in the mining industry with a multitude of differing nationalities, temperaments & it was a huge benefit to all including of course me. For sure you get more from someone if you are human & acknowledge them, even if only with a hello or good morning + smile? Maybe as I never aspired to command I should not be commenting on the difficulties of that position, but is it any worse than being in charge of large No's of staff be it your own biz or a multi national?
Piloting sounds very interesting to me, so many experiences, differing ships, conditions, so much skill required with each type of ship the weather prevailing along with the people you would have to get on with. Bet there are some hairy stories from there as well as some amusing ones too. Richard

tzinieres
20th October 2012, 13:17
Forgive me for resurrecting one of my threads but it would be interesting to know of any changes along the way-container ships for instance!?

(Never discovered if Bill was congratulating himself on good input! I wonder where he is now!)

He's all over the British Merchant Navy site!

louie the fly
20th October 2012, 17:41
I would like to ask past and present Masters if you consider that the loneliness of command was self inflicted. Why did you have to be so aloof and far removed from ship board life? Was it based on tradition to be the perpetual stern faced figure alone with your thoughts?
One of the finest men I ever had the pleasure to sail with was Captain Ian North, who tragically died when the Atlantic Conveyor was hit by missiles. He could often be found in the galley, chatting to the cook with a bacon sandwich and a mug of tea in his hand. He used to arrange football matches between crews when in Port Line and organise coach trips to the interior of Japan when on the Crusader run.
A complete opposite to the stereotype of the lonely Old Man pacing the boat deck. He had the full respect of every man aboard the ships he was in command of and will be missed by all who knew him.
Louie.

James_C
20th October 2012, 17:52
The problem is that not everyone, and dare I say few, can easily combine being everyones friend and being the boss who at times has to stand back and make unpopular and far reaching decisions, or to discipline people.
Hence it's no surprise some individuals tend to remain aloof, as they find that without personal connections possibly getting in the way, it's easier to make the hard/unpopular decisions.
Some do take it to extremes though.
I sailed with one Master who was never out of the Officers bar, he'd often be invited into the crew bar too and was great fun in the social sense. However, for the Mates he was an absolute nightmare, an overbearing know it all with small man syndrome who seemed to believe that he was the greatest seaman since Noah, and with a penchant for bullying the weak/too polite. Third mates were the normal target of his ire, and some even resigned after sailing with him.
I quickly learnt to keep my distance from him as he'd literally be your best mate one minute, and then turn on you the next for the slightest infraction. Keeping that distance and an incident involving raised voices between him and myself where I told him his future kept things civil between the two of us.
Everyone else (Engineers, Catering people, deck crew etc) loved him of course and thought him a great sport, but then they never had to work with him.

alan ward
20th October 2012, 18:03
I would like to ask past and present Masters if you consider that the loneliness of command was self inflicted. Why did you have to be so aloof and far removed from ship board life? Was it based on tradition to be the perpetual stern faced figure alone with your thoughts?
One of the finest men I ever had the pleasure to sail with was Captain Ian North, who tragically died when the Atlantic Conveyor was hit by missiles. He could often be found in the galley, chatting to the cook with a bacon sandwich and a mug of tea in his hand. He used to arrange football matches between crews when in Port Line and organise coach trips to the interior of Japan when on the Crusader run.
A complete opposite to the stereotype of the lonely Old Man pacing the boat deck. He had the full respect of every man aboard the ships he was in command of and will be missed by all who knew him.
Louie.

Captain North was my fathers room mate and friend at THNS in the 40`s and was most upset and quite bitter about his death.I remember him saying`He avoided death during the Battle of the Atlantic only to die,at his age ,all the way down there in the middle of nowhere

Uricanejack
21st October 2012, 01:29
When I first went to sea I was 17. The Captain was in his 60's. He seldom spoke to me. Usualy it was just an order. We had little or nothing in common other than being on a ship. He was allways polite a gentelman. He listened to glen miller. I liked the sex pistols. He seamed to sosialise only with The Chief Enginere Chief Steward and the Mate. It never occured to me he might be lonely.
The Captain on my next ship was also in his 60's. He was a friendly kind of man who often came down to the bar . and bought me a beer chatted to me about all sorts. wouldn't let me drink rum.

I respected both. I liked the 2nd much more even though he thought the beatles were long haired freaks and I thought they were old. I dont think he was lonley.

I prefere to get to know my ship mates and crew. I hope I am aproachable as far as I know I am respected. I cant say I am lonely.

Leratty
21st October 2012, 07:05
James C, yes I agree with, "The problem is that not everyone, and dare I say few, can easily combine being everyone's friend and being the boss who at times has to stand back and make unpopular and far reaching decisions, or to discipline people." I don't think in that position, or as a employer-boss you need to set out to be everyone's friend, just be human & respect is earned, weakness utilised. You are unfortunately correct that some parties misunderstand or abuse such friendliness, I had one or two over the years but soon brought them into line. It is a hard line to draw when issuing instructions, or at sea I suggest orders. I do not recall anyone when I was at sea who would disregard or question an order, does anyone recall such a thing? As to heavy drinkers up there, hmm I reckon that was just pure boredom with those ones & there were a few were there not?
For me the good officers way out numbered the bad & those good ones were mentors in some ways. There were very few I did not have respect for & only a couple of Captains. One was quite mad, almost Capt. Queeg like, used to give the 3rd a seriously hard time in front of us, how he took it buggered if I know. Anyway he was eventually removed from the ship & the other I recall just a bitter, sad individual.

Michal-S
21st October 2012, 09:27
Drop of acid to this barrel of honey:
What do you miss of being the Master? Examples:

1) Dealing with small frustrated people in the office, mostly unexperienced engineers, ex-3rd mates with max.2-contracts in their seamen's books or clerks with economic background. Do not try to be impolite to them or, God forbids, execute "Master's overriding authority". Looking for a new job will be the effect.
2) Commanding crew of sea-lawyers who know everything about their rights but shoud use velcro-tape for their shoes as they do not know how to bend a knot anymore.
3) Sleepless nights with bridge-drivers who cannot read charts and organising all COLREGS with AIS and VHF sets.
4) State and port authorities who will rob your safe and stores, leaving no receipt to account for, on a ground of ever changing not possible to follow "local regulations" (Ukraine and Nigeria top the list but it is growing and spreading worldwide).
5) Standing at a gunpoint, with all your crew, while happy boys and girls wearing uniforms and rifles are checking your papers, asking stupid questions and searching your vessel (USA and Israel).
6) Being disrespected and mistreated by everybody from agent to garbage collector and expected to swallow it or...see: no.1 above.
7) Spending hours in front of computer screen preparing reports and forms that nobody is going to give a .... for.

OK, apart of that - I do not regret being the Master. Satisfaction coming from nice manoeuvre let you forget about bad aspects.
Best regards to all Captains and Pilots who were the Captains before.

oldman 80
21st October 2012, 09:32
Well just how the hell I managed to miss this string escapes me. It's been going since 2007.
The Loneliness of Command - well yes sometimes it did become a bit lonely, but not often, and not for long.
I was far to busy to be lonely - I just did not have the time to be.
(Gleam)

Edit:- The loneliness after command and subsequent illness - that's where the real loneliness lies. The officers, the engineers, the crews - I miss them a lot, at least more than 90% of them. Oh and of course, the cadets - they contributed so much, generally far and above requirement - the very cream of the nation, so they were. That was a long time ago though. Perhaps I should have told them so, but I didn't, as I felt sure it might go to their heads. L.O.L.

lakercapt
21st October 2012, 14:57
[QUOTE=Michal-S;629427]Drop of acid to this barrel of honey:
What do you miss of being the Master? Examples:

Well said Michal.

2) Commanding crew of sea-lawyers who know everything about their rights but should use velcro-tape for their shoes as they do not know how to bend a knot anymore.
.
4) State and port authorities who will rob your safe and stores, leaving no receipt to account for, on a ground of ever changing not possible to follow "local regulations" (Ukraine and Nigeria top the list but it is growing and spreading worldwide).
6) Being disrespected and mistreated by everybody from agent to garbage collector and expected to swallow it or...see: .

My last British ship (I had my immigration papers and date set to come to Canada) had this type of crew who were soon able to tell you that it was not their job. Alas most were on company contract.
When instructed to replace a mooring wire, broke out the new coil the wrong way and had a cats cradle of twisted wire on deck trying to sort it out. When I admonished them they called a union official (we were in Immingham) and he asked me to go on the dock with him to sort out our differences!!!!! I declined the offer as I did not wish for anything to delay my going to Canada.
Sorry that that was my last dealings with a British crew as most of the time I enjoyed working with them (Not the last lot)
The demise of the UK fleets was imminent with that sort of mentality!!!
The company I was with gave me a years leave of absence should things not work out in Canada and return to my old job without loss of seniority which I greatly appreciated

Hugh Ferguson
26th October 2012, 17:40
As usual a great thread but have you considered the loneliness of a 16 year old galley boy on his own in the afternoon in command of the galley while all others are getting their heads down for a couple of hours and faced with a full bag of spuds to peel by hand.he dint have 4 mates or 4 engineers to relieve him.Just joking Boys I would do it all again sharpish keep it going Regard Tony Allen PS wish I had a camera in those days but unable to afford one

I hate to admit, Tony, that indeed I did not ever consider the loneliness of that galley boy left, whilst all others enjoyed a siesta, to get on with that uttely thankless task of peeling a mountain of spuds!
A couple of ships I sailed in had a spud peeling machine in the galley but it didn't seem to get much use, probably because it didn't do the job well enough. Could that be the reason?

oldman 80
26th October 2012, 22:45
I hate to admit, Tony, that indeed I did not ever consider the loneliness of that galley boy left, whilst all others enjoyed a siesta, to get on with that uttely thankless task of peeling a mountain of spuds!


Never mind, you are not the only one, I never thought of him either, probably because we didn't have one.
However back in the early 60's we did have a peggy or deck boy and I seem to recall the Bosun lending him to the Cooks to peel potatoes in the afternoon, if he wasn't required on deck.

oldseamerchant
26th October 2012, 22:57
However back in the early 60's we did have a peggy or deck boy and I seem to recall the Bosun lending him to the Cooks to peel potatoes in the afternoon, if he wasn't required on deck.

What ships did this happen in??(Whaaa)(Whaaa)

John Dryden
26th October 2012, 23:30
Nothing wrong with peeling spuds.My father taught me that at an early age.He was a seaman on deck and was very young on his first trip.

oldman 80
26th October 2012, 23:48
What ships did this happen in??(Whaaa)(Whaaa)

Fine Ships, cargo liners - North Sea Chinamen Ships.

(Wave)

oldseamerchant
27th October 2012, 10:37
Fine Ships, cargo liners - North Sea Chinamen Ships.

(Wave)

And what was the Galley Boy doing? (*))

Don't tell me he was blackening down!!!(*))

TonyAllen
27th October 2012, 16:29
I hate to admit, Tony, that indeed I did not ever consider the loneliness of that galley boy left, whilst all others enjoyed a siesta, to get on with that uttely thankless task of peeling a mountain of spuds!
A couple of ships I sailed in had a spud peeling machine in the galley but it didn't seem to get much use, probably because it didn't do the job well enough. Could that be the reason?

thanks Hugh Those spud machines could rip the skin off your hands if a spud got cought and you had to take it out by hand but they could not take the eyes out unless you reduced them to the size of a table tennis ball then you were told off for wasting spuds so the best option was to peel them.also they used a lot of water and to clean them was a thankless task to be avoided at all cost,but like many ex seamen I would like a crack at doing it again, but now its all in my mind regards tony

oldman 80
28th October 2012, 00:16
And what was the Galley Boy doing? (*))

Don't tell me he was blackening down!!!(*))


Now actually that is a very good point you mention, - assuming your spelling is rubbish.
It is a long time ago now and on some of those ships there was a galley boy - but not all.
I seem to recall a few occassions when " pushed for time " and preparing for sea, the Bosun might well ask the Cooks to lend him the galley boy to help BATTENING DOWN. Depending on the situation at the time the cook would probably agree, and furthermore if time permitted, might well turn out on deck to give a hand himself.
However those days are long gone - the days when attitudes were right and everyone got on well in the main and always looked after their shipmates.
Yes they were very fine ships indeed - manned by the "salt of the earth", -(Smoke) in most cases.
Besides those ships had a very tight schedule to meet.

oldseamerchant
29th October 2012, 23:52
Now actually that is a very good point you mention, - assuming your spelling is rubbish.
It is a long time ago now and on some of those ships there was a galley boy - but not all.
I seem to recall a few occassions when " pushed for time " and preparing for sea, the Bosun might well ask the Cooks to lend him the galley boy to help BATTENING DOWN. Depending on the situation at the time the cook would probably agree, and furthermore if time permitted, might well turn out on deck to give a hand himself.
However those days are long gone - the days when attitudes were right and everyone got on well in the main and always looked after their shipmates.
Yes they were very fine ships indeed - manned by the "salt of the earth", -(Smoke) in most cases.
Besides those ships had a very tight schedule to meet.

There is no spelling mistake. 'Blackening down' and 'Battening down' are two entirely different things. As for the rest Dream on!

oldman 80
30th October 2012, 00:32
There is no spelling mistake. 'Blackening down' and 'Battening down' are two entirely different things. As for the rest Dream on!

Oh really.
I've no idea what blackening down means - none at all.
Its hardly a nautical terminology - me thinks, unless it's a very modern one.
(Scribe)

Edit:- It's Nostalgia - not dreaming.

John Briggs
30th October 2012, 03:30
Sounds like something stokers do when they get bored!

billyboy
30th October 2012, 03:41
Maybe it means blackening down the galley stove (with Zebro, remember that stuff?)

oldman 80
30th October 2012, 04:53
Maybe it means blackening down the galley stove (with Zebro, remember that stuff?)

Zebro - no that name doesn't ring a bell with me I'm afraid.

Brasso would tho - we used plenty of that as cadets - then to cut costs and time etc., they painted it all, instead. Saved a fortune in Brasso, and we cadets didn't mind too much at all. More time to read the papers, and determine where we were going.

(egg)

billyboy
30th October 2012, 05:19
My Late Mother used it a lot when i was a child to blacken down the grate. Used to look nice all black and shiny .
She was not impressed when i spilt some on the rug though.

oldman 80
30th October 2012, 06:11
My Late Mother used it a lot when i was a child to blacken down the grate. Used to look nice all black and shiny .
She was not impressed when i spilt some on the rug though.

Oh I see.
I could understand Blackening Out. Thats what we did in later years during the tanker war.
Seemed pointless really - and the suspense was just terrible - just waiting for that missile to arrive.

billyboy
30th October 2012, 06:53
One thing i never experienced was tanker work Oldman. However I take my hat to all that did. Especially in a war situation.
Imagine sitting on all that Gasoline preying a torpedo wouldnt come your way. Brave men worthy of respect in my book

oldman 80
30th October 2012, 07:08
One thing i never experienced was tanker work Oldman. However I take my hat to all that did. Especially in a war situation.
Imagine sitting on all that Gasoline preying a torpedo wouldnt come your way. Brave men worthy of respect in my book

I thank you kindly for that comment, on behalf of all tankermen who served through those days.
They are worthy of the gratitude of the whole world - keeping that oil flowing - no matter the ultimate cost.
Unarmed Merchant Seafarers - so many, - like lambs to the slaughter, they went.
Those in shore offices though - they considered it "safe".
Well they would wouldn't they ? Cuckooned in their executive suites, far from the chaos and carnage.
(Fly)
Edit:- That bloody great flash, and the bang, and all of a sudden the lights dimmed, that is, - just before they went out.

Leratty
30th October 2012, 07:54
Oldman80, Good God Brasso brings back memories of my first trip as an App. Two days out feeling like Horatio Hornblower too what with the shiny buttons on that uniform believing I cut quite a dash, weather just starting to pick up & feeling a little queesy (not saying a word but it must have been obvious to all) when I am instructed to haul the to me huge ships lanterns-lights in from either side of the wing of the bridge & polish them with Brasso. JC after one I was sure not too well, officer of the watch, 4-8, was I am sure having hysterics watching me. After 1/2 way through the second I was cactus, spent the next couple of days as we crossed the Bay rolling & pitching alone, sick as a dog. Only food was water & dry biscuits I recall. Capt. & C/O visited once or twice, they must have laughed though seen it many times before. It sure cured me from then on from sea sickness. Only ever would get queesy occasionally for first couple of days light ship, or working down in the holds on over time at night cleaning up. Ironic as when ocean racing as navigator often was sea sick, pretty embarrassing, but there you are. Cucumbers will do it too every time for me!
As to tanker men, I often wondered what made them so keen on those vessels? After one trip I never wished to serve on one again, even for all the terrific conditions. Paid off in Leith could not get back to London fast enough. My hat comes off to them. Apropos "That bloody great flash, and the bang, and all of a sudden the lights dimmed, that is, - just before they went out." SCARY! Richard

tom roberts
30th October 2012, 22:26
Oh really.
I've no idea what blackening down means - none at all.
Its hardly a nautical terminology - me thinks, unless it's a very modern one.
(Scribe)

Edit:- It's Nostalgia - not dreaming.

Maybe blackening down refers to black lead and tallow on the standing rigging,i.e.the stays etc,a lousy job I have referred to in an earlier thread when s.o.s on the Anglian,try getting your hands clean afterwoods.

oldman 80
30th October 2012, 22:41
Maybe blackening down refers to black lead and tallow on the standing rigging,i.e.the stays etc,a lousy job I have referred to in an earlier thread when s.o.s on the Anglian,try getting your hands clean afterwoods.

Good point, perhaps you are right.
Can't say I ever did any black lead & tallowing. Did plenty of white lead and tallowing though - heaps of it in fact.
However with that in mind I don't recall us using the expression whitening down, so I'm still a bit sceptical.

oldseamerchant
30th October 2012, 23:28
Hardly nautical..modern??
something stokers do!!!
brasso!!




Clue.........Capital of Sweden?

Strachan
30th October 2012, 23:30
Maybe blackening down refers to black lead and tallow on the standing rigging,i.e.the stays etc,a lousy job I have referred to in an earlier thread when s.o.s on the Anglian,try getting your hands clean afterwoods.

Blacking down (in Blue Flu) was done with Stockholm tar on the standing rigging. A sod of a job.

oldman 80
31st October 2012, 01:14
Blacking down (in Blue Flu) was done with Stockholm tar on the standing rigging. A sod of a job.

Oh yes stockholm tar - in North Sea Chinamen ships (the opposition) we applied it to the decks, a hell of a job in the tropics.
But I thought we were talking about blackening down - not blacking down.
Some cadets used to sneak ashore in the night and paint (Ship by Ben) in yellow along the hulls of Blu Flu ships parked in London.
That caused one hell of a stink I seem to remember.
They had to go back and paint it out again a few days later.
Youthfull exuberance - they thought it a good idea at the time - but realised the error of their ways. The situation was however handled quite diplomatically and resolved quite amicably in the end.
(But it was the Bosun who gave them the paint !!!!)
(*))

billyboy
31st October 2012, 01:51
Blacking down (in Blue Flu) was done with Stockholm tar on the standing rigging. A sod of a job.

Thanks for that Strachan. I learned something new there.

Leratty
31st October 2012, 07:31
I recall the "greasing down" we had to do, particularly when an App. Ridiculously then having to dress in uniform for meals, dumb ****'s. It consisted from memory of a bucket of some diabolical thick black-very dark brown stuff the Lampy used to make up which was used for the topping lifts etc. All I know was it stank & was as Tom says a right ***** to clean off your hands too. Reckon that is why I hate getting my hands dirty as it gave me a phobia (: Precious I know. That bucket used to hang off the bosun's chair & I think we used cotton waste to apply it....don't recall using bare hands without something but there were no gloves. You were shackled (bosun's chair) to the topping lift or whatever you were greasing. Anyway it was a shocker of a job, reckon it was some form of initiation or punishment? Richard

alan ward
31st October 2012, 10:31
I can`t remember the last time I saw a Galley Boy.The Sugar Crystal had a Catering Boy,chatty little sod he was too.I tried to keep him out of sight.

Aberdonian
31st October 2012, 12:24
My Late Mother used it a lot when i was a child to blacken down the grate. Used to look nice all black and shiny .
She was not impressed when i spilt some on the rug though.

Just for the sake of accuracy, billyboy, the graphite polish we are both familiar with was named Zebo. It used to come in black and white striped tins with a screw top similar to Brasso. The process of applying the stuff with a rag to grates and cooking ranges was called “black-leading” (as in the metal lead) in my neck of the woods.

Stovax is offering tubes of the polish in Amazon but calling it Lead Zebo Zebrite.

Aberdonian

Aberdonian
31st October 2012, 12:39
I recall the "greasing down" we had to do, particularly when an App. Ridiculously then having to dress in uniform for meals, dumb ****'s. It consisted from memory of a bucket of some diabolical thick black-very dark brown stuff the Lampy used to make up which was used for the topping lifts etc. All I know was it stank & was as Tom says a right ***** to clean off your hands too. Reckon that is why I hate getting my hands dirty as it gave me a phobia (: Precious I know. That bucket used to hang off the bosun's chair & I think we used cotton waste to apply it....don't recall using bare hands without something but there were no gloves. You were shackled (bosun's chair) to the topping lift or whatever you were greasing. Anyway it was a shocker of a job, reckon it was some form of initiation or punishment? Richard

Fish oil?

Teeare Scarrott
18th January 2013, 17:09
In my view, being master is the best job on board. Can be very trying at times so best not to stick at it for too long. Get out before the twitching starts! Best when youngish, 30-50.

Ex-captain
Teeare/Terry

DURANGO
18th January 2013, 17:42
In my view, being master is the best job on board. Can be very trying at times so best not to stick at it for too long. Get out before the twitching starts! Best when youngish, 30-50.

Ex-captain
Teeare/Terry

Sorry Terry I have to disagree in my mind the best job at sea was on deck as an a.b. in the 50,s and 60,s ,not for me the loneliness of command not that I would have been up to all the studying that went with it best regards Dave ex a.b .

Strachan
18th January 2013, 19:30
Fish oil?

It'd more likely be Stockholm tar. :-)

Teeare Scarrott
18th January 2013, 19:46
Sorry Terry I have to disagree in my mind the best job at sea was on deck as an a.b. in the 50,s and 60,s ,not for me the loneliness of command not that I would have been up to all the studying that went with it best regards Dave ex a.b .

I should have added, "master with a good crew"

Cheers to them all
Terry

Aberdonian
19th January 2013, 10:08
It'd more likely be Stockholm tar. :-)

Different ships different long splices I guess, Strachan, but Leratty’s reference to odour suggests fish oil. The stuff was commonly used for coating ship’s running gear, particularly wire runners, and is still used nowadays for protecting metal surfaces and penetrating rust scale -- albeit in a deodorised form.

Many of us will recall, whilst working cargo, getting an unwelcome greasy black streak on a shirt from a dipping slack runner in an unguarded moment on deck!

Aberdonian

Waighty
20th January 2013, 13:39
Zebro - no that name doesn't ring a bell with me I'm afraid.

Brasso would tho - we used plenty of that as cadets - then to cut costs and time etc., they painted it all, instead. Saved a fortune in Brasso, and we cadets didn't mind too much at all. More time to read the papers, and determine where we were going.

(egg)

Brasso was excellent at removing scuffs and stains off linoleum and other similar types of flooring. We used it for such a purpose every day at Warsash in the 1960s, before wiping off and applying the polish which I remember being called "deck crap"!

Waighty
20th January 2013, 13:51
Lonliness of Command - If you are a gregarious and very social sort of bloke then as master I think you might well find command lonely whereas if you're happy with your own company, you won't find it lonely and in some cases it's a positive advantage to be on your own. I realise to some this will smack of being insular but so what, we're all different.

The best description I ever heard came from James Clavell's book Taipan where the main character Dirk Struan described command and all its attendent responsibilities as "that's the joy and hurt of it". You take the good with the bad but always ready to take responsibility for your decisions.

Ron Stringer
20th January 2013, 15:21
[QUOTE=oldman 80;631171]Zebro - no that name doesn't ring a bell with me I'm afraid./QUOTE]

The name was Zebo and it was commonly used for cleaning cast-iron grates, stoves, ranges and ovens. Came in a stubby little can like the Brasso cans but had black-white stripes.

See http://www.shepherdminiatures.com/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=547

It is still available but is now sold in tubes, like toothpaste.

Teeare Scarrott
20th January 2013, 17:10
Lonely captains should get a talking parrot. Great company! But don't take it home!

DURANGO
21st January 2013, 13:59
Lonely captains should get a talking parrot. Great company! But don't take it home!

You dont need to be a captain to buy a parrot I bought one in Cartagena Columbia back in 1963 when I was A.B. in the Royal mail line ship Eden and yes I took him home [ well I think it was a he ] I had that bird right up untill 2006 I have to say it broke my heart when he died , I bought it at the time because it was talking spanish I was just about to buy the bird using a watch that I had bought out east some time before when the lamptrimmer stepped in and gave me ten dollars for the watch which I then gave to the fella who was selling the parrot regards Dave .

stan mayes
21st January 2013, 15:11
Nice one Dave -
I hope you are keeping well.
Stan

kypros
21st January 2013, 15:53
Durango I brought mine home when down SA on Lamports had it for a few years before I swallowed the Anchor got married imagine my horror came home from work to find my wife had sold the parrot and cage for£10 he had bit my young sons finger she had advertised it in the local rag I could have got a £100 for the parrot alone in any pet shop at the time the cage cost me more than that that fella must thought all his birthdays had come at once. KYPROS

enzoneo
21st January 2013, 18:39
Got an African Grey - he coughs and splutters (ans swears) just like me.
Had him from an egg - ugly bugger when he was a babbie but now. He/she brightens the place up no end and makes both me and my wife laugh most days with his whistling singing, coughing and talking.

Teeare Scarrott
21st January 2013, 19:06
Had a budgie on another trip. Also splendid company. Called her Maggie after the infamous Lime Street lass of the song "Maggie May".

eldersuk
21st January 2013, 23:59
Can't stand a bird that talks too much.

DURANGO
22nd January 2013, 07:51
Nice one Dave -
I hope you are keeping well.
Stan Hello Stan nice to hear from you mate yes apart from all me ailments I,m fine , I had to go to the hospital the other day to have some deep tank soundings taken it seems to be ok what do they say Stan a creaking gate goes on forever best regards Dave .

jmcg
14th March 2013, 00:16
Can't stand a bird that talks too much.

There is a subtle difference .

The feathered variety will shut up if you cover the cage with a towel or such like.

The other variety will not!

BW

J(Gleam)(Gleam)

Hugh Ferguson
6th August 2014, 10:17
This post could be read in conjunction with the thread, "FinalVoyage" which was about Andy McClounan's career in Port Line.

In that thread I referred to the poignancy of Andy having retained in his log a letter written by his son Donald.
This attachment is an even earlier letter written by Donald, showing that he can now do "joined up" writing! That he should have retained that scribble all those years is not just poignant but sad.
It reminded me of Andy being aboard a brand new Port Line ship that was beng visited by the Queen (Royal standard hoisted on the foremast) and the Queen making some mention to Andy about how proud he would be to have Donald follow his long and loyal service at sea.

Andy is thought to have responded, "Not bloody likely ma'am" which was very evidently a miss quotation of what Andy actually said to Her Royal Highness.

As a pilot I have frequently listened to British ship-masters bemoan the fact that they tried getting into a piloting career but failed usually on account of having exceeded the 35 years of age cut-off point.

How true is it that command is not as fulfilling as one might hope it to have been?

Leratty
12th August 2014, 09:36
Hugh, could it be the old 'grass is always greener on other side' syndrome? I strove for a particular position in a large Co & when I achieved it boy it was for me a disappointment so left to be back on site.
Each to their own I guess + you never know until your there.

Hugh Ferguson
12th August 2014, 11:48
This post could be read in conjunction with the thread, "FinalVoyage" which was about Andy McClounan's career in Port Line.

In that thread I referred to the poignancy of Andy having retained in his log a letter written by his son Donald.
This attachment is an even earlier letter written by Donald, showing that he can now do "joined up" writing! That he should have retained that scribble all those years is not just poignant but sad.
It reminded me of Andy being aboard a brand new Port Line ship that was beng visited by the Queen (Royal standard hoisted on the foremast) and the Queen making some mention to Andy about how proud he would be to have Donald follow his long and loyal service at sea.

Andy is thought to have responded, "Not bloody likely ma'am" which was very evidently a miss quotation of what Andy actually said to Her Royal Highness.

As a pilot I have frequently listened to British ship-masters bemoan the fact that they tried getting into a piloting career but failed usually on account of having exceeded the 35 years of age cut-off point.

How true is it that command is not as fulfilling as one might hope it to have been?

A truer version came to me in a letter from an old ship-mate of Andy's as follows:- The Queen Mother said in the course of their chat, "I'm sure you will be very proud to have your son follow in your foot-steps"; to which Andy replied, "Not if I have anything to do with it".

Binnacle
12th August 2014, 16:42
It was often refreshing to ring FAOP and just be in the company of your own shipmates again, thankfully leaving all the shore wallahs behind. One must always, or nearly always, treat them with the greatest courtesy, your employer, the ship owner, expects nothing less. Gifts of cigarettes and alcohol should be handed out gladly to speed the vessels every endeavour. This is particularly important on port arrival, dealing with port medical officers to avoid any delay at quarantine anchorages and with harbour officials to avoid unnecessary tug and harbour charges. Greatest alertness must be exercised when dealing with charterer's agents, cargo surveyors etc., particularly when asked for signatures. It is advantageous to spend time studying C.P. clauses prior to port in the event of any dispute. Telephone conversations to owners may be monitored by agents etc.

Hugh Ferguson
12th August 2014, 18:05
Andy and a stowaway aboard the Port Phillip:
(I love the nautical terminology: "I drew up alongside him")

Strangely, Ron King couldn't spell niece right and Andy never, througout the entire length of his log, got to get his "i before e except after c" right; it was always recieve! The niece referred to was the dear lady who gave me Andy's log, his son having died young many years ago-I believe he had been a teacher.

George Bis
10th September 2014, 17:42
Hugh/Ron,
I left British Flag in 1969 (Masters FG 1968) primarily for the money and also for the promotion prospects. The route to FOC ships was via Silver Marine in Liverpool (two middle aged woman). Initially the only Brits to be found were in the Radio Room. The Master's were for the most part German. Apart from the top four and the Sparkie the crew were a 'the league of nations'. Later in 72 on gaining command I started finding my own work from 72 onwards the employers were mostly US and Japanese (who were trying to reduce costs and flagging out). For the next 33 years in command in everything thrown at me from Panamax to ULCCs (Marcona, Kaiser, Universe Mitsui, NYK etc,etc). The 70s saw a flush of Brits in some of the companies but from the early/mid 80s I was more often than not the only European on board. Yes, life was lonely with long trips to boot. I used to look forward to the Pilot arriving on board and especially if we had to anchor which would mean we could 'shoot the breeze' for a few hours. Now, I look back in my retirement and think it was the life similar to that of a hermit (albeit a wealthy one). Did you miss anything Hugh. I don't think so. As I look around my home in Shropshire (Welsh borders) I sometimes resent it.

Fascinating. You make my sea career seem quite dull!
In 1979 when Sugar Line folded I got as far as talking to the good lady's of Silver Marine but took it no further.
I finished up in the Road Haulage industry and have just retired.

Split
12th September 2014, 11:05
In my view, being master is the best job on board. Can be very trying at times so best not to stick at it for too long. Get out before the twitching starts! Best when youngish, 30-50.

Ex-captain
Teeare/Terry

Am scrolling this thread.

Thank God you brought it back on topic!

Hugh Ferguson
12th September 2014, 11:37
Am scrolling this thread.

Thank God you brought it back on topic!

Good grief! I never imagined this thread would go like this! Tell us more.

chadburn
12th September 2014, 13:09
Fascinating. You make my sea career seem quite dull!
In 1979 when Sugar Line folded I got as far as talking to the good lady's of Silver Marine but took it no further.
I finished up in the Road Haulage industry and have just retired.

George, Pat Hughes had the same background as B.D. from what I gather. As an alternative I have read some of Terry Scarrot's writings which I found to be very honest and realistic about how it was in the days when I was at sea.

Split
13th September 2014, 11:34
[/COLOR]

Good grief! I never imagined this thread would go like this! Tell us more.

From me, nothing to tell. I left as chief officer. I had a good think, in my last year at sea, in between plastic patches and cement boxes, and did not want to spend the rest of my working life at sea.

Reading that these old sea dogs are pondering over what "blackening" is leads me to think that I was correct! Now, I have a serious problem. What the hell is killing off the geranium in my flower pot?

trotterdotpom
13th September 2014, 12:55
"What the hell is killing off the geranium in my flower pot?"

Maybe it's a pelargonium, Split - can't stand the harsh Spanish otoño. The lonliness of the the long distance storksbill.

I sailed with an Old Man in Oldendorffs who invited everyone to his cabin on New Years Eve - he was such a tw*t that nobody went. Eventually, he sent the steward down and told everyone we were ordered to his cabin. Everyone, apart from the lucky gits who were on watch, attended. Nobody talked to him except the bosun but he was Swiss and would do anything for a Dortmunder Union Bier. From January 1st he went back to being lonely, I expect. Arschloch!

John t

bfraser47
13th September 2014, 20:40
"What the hell is killing off the geranium in my flower pot?"

Maybe it's a pelargonium, Split - can't stand the harsh Spanish otoño. The lonliness of the the long distance storksbill.

I sailed with an Old Man in Oldendorffs who invited everyone to his cabin on New Years Eve - he was such a tw*t that nobody went. Eventually, he sent the steward down and told everyone we were ordered to his cabin. Everyone, apart from the lucky gits who were on watch, attended. Nobody talked to him except the bosun but he was Swiss and would do anything for a Dortmunder Union Bier. From January 1st he went back to being lonely, I expect. Arschloch!

John t
Hi John, first time I've come across anyone else who sailed with Oldendorff. I did a couple of trips on Ludolf and one on Dietrich. Saw an add on the telex when doing a back shift at GKA, was so broke and browned off being cold I jumped at the chance.
Cheers, Brian

trotterdotpom
13th September 2014, 23:05
Think there are one or two on the site, Brian. Even one Mate who sailed with the same Old Man I was talking about. He shared my opinion. Generally, I thought the company was OK. I was in Jobst, Regina and Henning.

John T

George Bis
28th September 2014, 17:14
George, Pat Hughes had the same background as B.D. from what I gather. As an alternative I have read some of Terry Scarrot's writings which I found to be very honest and realistic about how it was in the days when I was at sea.

Hi Chief,
Thanks for your thoughts.
To follow "the loneliness of command" I suppose that while I am full of admiration for B.D.'s career and would love to read a fuller account of it one of the things I most enjoyed about my own sea career was the comradeship. I suppose we all think "what if" but I don't think things turned out too badly for me. If I am not rich I have always tried to be happy!