sparky did you ever send an SOS ?

Gareth Jones
10th March 2008, 04:10
When I first went to sea I imagined getting into a distress condition was a once in a complete lifetime at sea event. however in my 16 years at sea I twice experienced life endangering circumstances - once with bad engine trouble off East London South Africa - we limped back to Capetown at 2 knots and weather held ok (it was winter time) Capetown radio treated it as XXX (Urgency). Another time I was on a tanker which had a bad engine room explosion in Singapore drydocks (serious loss of life). but no radio traffic.

We have lots of sparkies on this forum - How many of us actually did get to do what we were sent to sea for ? Care to tell the tale ?

Tai Pan
10th March 2008, 11:05
Dis send a Mayday on yacht "Golden Leigh" in Irish Sea. GLD took control and we were looked after by the Padstow Lifeboat. GLD very professional.

K urgess
10th March 2008, 12:42
Thankfully no.
Worked a few though.
Was never close enough to help.
Most of my dangerous moments at sea didn't seem to warrant any sort of panic.

M29
10th March 2008, 18:28
Worked a few distress situations. Notably one on w/t and r/t on the Grand Banks involving the Coast Guard and a foundering fishing vessel. Thankfully when we got there, we only had to supply a lee so that the coast guard cutter could lift the men from the fishing boat. All saved thankfully.
XXX twice for a medical emergencies (1 outcome good the other outcome not good)
XXX with alarm signal in South Atlantic for man overboard, great response from ships around but a bad outcome (never found)

Do you guys remember the way an SOS jumped out the reciever at you?

Remember when those mobiles came out that sent SMS in morse when a message came in? I certainly jumped first time I heard it. Strange that most users just think its a beeping noise.

Alan

K urgess
10th March 2008, 19:50
"Do you guys remember the way an SOS jumped out the reciever at you?"

Definitely. [=P]
A little bit of annoyance coming through from me in my letter.
And before anybody comments on a typed up log - it was only for this extract.
Apart from anything else it'll show how I filled out my log.
We probably did it all differently.
All I've done is obscure the signatures.
It's very likely that they've all been burnt by now.(Cloud)

hughesy
10th March 2008, 20:15
One trip on an Oil rig in Argentia Bay Newfoundland. Chopper took off 2335hrs I got up early for some reason, was on watch 2400hrs,
Went to the Radio Room about 2345hrs, the other R/O, a guy from Newfoundland. Was as white as a ghost, I asked "whats up mate". He replied " I think we've lost a chopper". I asked if he'd started emergency proceedures, and he said "yes".
I can't really describe the feeling but it was like a sickly adrenaline fearfull
feeling, anyway we got into action calling coast stations and trying to get EPIRB bearings and all the emergency proceedures.
!8hrs later we found a little wreakage and the chopper was under the ice in the bay.
Nine men lost, I'd worked with those pilots for 2 years, loads of jokes and sandwiches and coffee sent to the helideck for em. They were Newfies and they made fun of my Yorkie Hull accent, "kettle calling the pot black".
there was a Tech, called Bob Burns he was supposed to be on that chopper, but, a fault came up and he stayed to fix it. He was white as a sheet, not his time to go I guess?
The saddest story was a passenger called Peter Murphy, from St Johns NFLD.
He was a new personnel manager for the company. So he came out to look over the rig, first chopper flight I believe was out to the rig and his second he never made it back. Left four kids ashore fatherless.
I can't remeber any of the other passengers. People reading this if you know these people, please accept my condolances it was off the Bow Drill One, off argentia bay 1983 NFLD. After that the avaition people came on board went over all the logs and all the traffic sent and received for this incident.Not something I would like to got though again.
I went on quite a bender that trip off, elongated wake if you like, I was living in Halifax Nova Scotia, I was by myself, still think about that night to this day.
"gone but not forgotten, safely anchored"
All ther best
Hughesy

sparkie2182
10th March 2008, 21:15
i remember tom bridge of mimco well....................:)


i had occasion the send two urgency signals.......one for serious engine failure in bad weather (North Atlantic) ,the other an engine room fire (Red Sea), and handled a number of distress situations including the collision of H.M.S MERMAID and
H.M.S. Fittleton in the 1970s.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Fittleton_%28M1136%29



a survivors account below.

http://www.tca2000.co.uk/fittletonaccount.htm

K urgess
10th March 2008, 21:23
Tom signed me up for Marconi at Hull depot on my 20th Birthday.
I don't think he was very popular with his lords and masters 'cos that was right in the middle of the '66 seaman's strike.
I got a sub to pay for my uniform and went straight on a month's leave.
He also "interviewed" me about one Old Man who had complained about my attitude and the state of the radio room. The spares hadn't been checked since the ship was built so I had to go through the lot and he had a habit of bringing "urgent" traffic a minute before the end of my last watch. Also I wasn't a watch keeper, according to him, so I wasn't allowed a couple of beers after last watch when the bar was closed (strict bar hours).
Needless to say he got his fortune told one evening when I came back from a VERY good run ashore in Lisbon. [=P]
That was on the same ship as my log extract but a year later and a completely different Old Man and atmosphere.
The only one ever to complain in 11 years. Not too bad a record. (K)

sparkie2182
10th March 2008, 21:31
tom always seemed a "good egg" to me also.............:)

i remember him "interviewing" me at the Fleetwood Nautical College open day when i was 13........telling me all about his first ship........the Oriana......:)

Cunarder
11th March 2008, 18:39
Never actually did send an SOS but came pretty close to it in gross weather off the Faeroes on Ross Juno in 1968. The only time I turned in wearing a lifejacket - the main tx fired up and the handset plugged firmly into the 2-tone alarm. All I had to do was hit the switch on my way over the side. Happy days!

Alan Marsden

hawkey01
11th March 2008, 19:09
Sent XXX on the Sarpedon with medico when one of our crew was seriously ill. Passenger boat on horizon but not a bleep out of them. Had assistance from another Bluey with a Male Nurse aboard. Carried fellow to Singapore and thankfully he lived to tell the tale but it was a miracle he did. Always wish I could have got the RO'S on the pax boat as they could not have failed to hear us!!!.

Handled and initiated a good few SOS and XXX situations from shore side. The one that effected me most was the Piper Alpha. I did not handle the initial contacts but was on early morning and throughout the day after it happened. Still brings a tear to my eye. May they rest in peace.

Hawkey01

Steve Woodward
11th March 2008, 19:25
Our C/off sent one in the Med, he was leant on a table on the bridge at the side of the GMDSS system, when his elbow slipped and went through the little safety cover on the 'Big red Button' he got a message :- do you wish to cancel this distress message, Y or N and he pushed N.
Took all day to answer every radio station and MRCC that we were in fact OK but if anyone else called the C/O might need a doctor !
Reassuring in a way.
Steve

Trevorw
12th March 2008, 01:29
I never have - the nearest I ever got was an XXX for a medical emergency - but my twin brother did! I was with Blue Funnel at the time and he was also an R/O with Marconi on a tanker called "Alva Bay". They were in collision somewhere off Gibraltar with an American ship named, "Richard D Lyon" - and they had to send out a distress message.

trotterdotpom
12th March 2008, 06:40
I did quite a few medical emergencies but a non-emergent case stands out.

Crossing the Great Australian Bight, one of the sailors informed the Old Man of an ailment. The Old Man told me the symptoms and I said: "Sounds like a dose of clap to me." He who must be obeyed decided that further advice was needed and we were put through to a hospital by Adelaide Radio. A very sympathetic nurse listened to the symptoms, "Mmm-ing" where necessary, then announced: "Sounds like a dose of clap to me!"

I cracked up and so did Adelaide Radio. I suppose a cure was obtained in Melbourne.

John T.

R651400
12th March 2008, 09:12
One of our engine room hands became very ill a few days out from Curacao on our way to Rio.
Being US built the ship had an excellent medical locker including books for self diagnostics. Many graphic pictures of the "John Knox" that would put the toughest, off commercial sex for life!
1st Mate and I did the diagnostic tick sheet, sent a XXX medico to Port of Spain, Trinidad and back came the result, possible severe kidney stones.
ER hand was landed, kidney stones confirmed and lad was operated on immediately, rejoining the ship on the return trip to Curacao.

Tai Pan
12th March 2008, 13:06
On Radnorshire answered an XXX for medical assistance. met up with other ship, cant remember name, in Indian Ocean, sent docter over in lifeboat, it was his first trip , very unwell when he returned.

Mick farmer
12th March 2008, 18:06
On British Ardour sent XXX for engineer with peritonitis Answered by very

helpful Belgian passenger ship. The ships doctor told us that from the symptoms we had 6 hours to get him to hospital.

we made Vigo that night and on meeting the engineer later he said the hospital told him he nearly did not make it this was1959 September in a very
bad Biscay storm

niggle
16th March 2008, 14:39
I sent one XXX during my 11 years it was from the maiden voyage on the Bank Line vessel MV Troutbank 1979 on passage the Suez Canal. The Bangladeshi crew reported that one of the seaman had not turned too after lunch and was nowhere to be found, after a search the captain instructed me to send an XXX whilst a Williamson turn was done to put us on reciprocal course to conduct a search. I cranked up the Main TX on 500Khz and with it being approx 1330 I sent the auto alarm signals first which then triggered my Auto alarm, first thought it was someone in distress but quickly realised I had not turned off my alarm before transmitting one. We spent at least a couple of hours searching to take us back to position where he was last seen with the bridge wings lined up on both sides with officers and crew on the lookout, unfortunately no trace was found so we then carried on to Suez despite it being a clear day with calm seas.

Niggle

Jim Moon
27th March 2008, 16:59
Remember being off Port Said in early 1980's and missing the Vernons Pools results - sent quick message on 500 and got short shrift from someone in middle of Red Sea, saying there was a distress in operation. Strange as all was normal around me......later found the distress was way off to the East Mombasa.

Got the Pools results, but no luck as always.....did anyone at sea ever win a "few bob" on Vernons Pools?

RO Vintage
27th March 2008, 21:41
I Was The R/O At The Time On The Shoreham One Of Stevies Coasters. Ended Up In Mullon Cove All The Crew Taken Off By The Lizard L/B That Was About 1978! Any Info Or Press cuttings I Would Appreciate, As My Cuttings
Were Lost In The Rosie, Of All Places Would Like To Hear From Mate With
Details Of The Shoreham.
Thanks

George Savage( Ex Mimco)

tedc
29th March 2008, 17:02
In 1956 Shell's "Dromus" suffered an explosion whilst in the China Sea (Somewhere just north of the Phillipines if I remember correctly).

My Auto Alarm missed the 12 dashes for some reason (maybe due to range or maybe the 12 d's were never sent) and the SOS was not picked up for some hours.
Subsequent tests on the AA showed it to be working fine.

I worked the SOS (we were also in the China sea heading for Japan) and we expected to change course and make our way over there (being also a shell tanker - "Naticina").

However Help was given by another vessel (RN I think) and we proceeded on our way.

Sadly, I believe a PO lost his life in the explosion.

You tend to focus more closely on Auto Alarms & 500 kc's after that....!

Of course we all knew the AA well as we had to be able to draw the complete circuit duuring PMG exams!!!!

IAINT
2nd April 2008, 21:21
i am afraid i had that unenviable task when the Kuwaiti vessel ''IBN KHALDOUN'' caught fire (1975) and had to be abandoned, all crew saved.

IainT

holland25
2nd April 2008, 22:29
Going through the Straits of Gibraltar on RFA Olna in early 1970, I heard a very strong SOS signal which I reported to the Bridge. The officer on watch said,"I think I have just seen it happen". Apparently a Spanish fishing vessel had sunk in front of us. The crew had all managed to get off, and we picked them up, complete with all their baggage, and even a canary in a cage.We contacted the Spanish Coastguard who came out and took them ashore. The boarding officer said it was something that happened from time to time, and even suggested it might have been connected with an eventual insurance claim.I don't know if that was true but the circumstances couldn't have been better, it was a lovely calm clear day and there was a fair amount of shipping about.

Ivor Lloyd
5th April 2008, 23:32
I transmitted SSSS in 1944 which signified that you had been torpedoed by a submarine . No one of course replied to such a message as there was a strict embargo on transmitting an acknowlegement.

ChasD
6th April 2008, 00:03
Managed to get through 25 yrs of key rattling without sending anything too dramatic. Closest I got was an R/T "Mayday" to "MSTS Saigon" as we came under heavy fire from chappies in black pajamas at Coral Bank, half way up the Saigon river in 1968. We were relatively unscathed compared with others on that run who took serious damage / fatalities. We seemed to have something of a guardian angel, got a lot of excitement, some ridiculous near misses but got away with it repeatedly. Maybe "Charlie" was just shortsighted on our watch !

Shipbuilder
6th April 2008, 20:57
On Halloween night, 1984, I was R/O aboard RMS ST. HELENA, small passenger ship (3,150 gross tons, 76 passengers) en-route from Cape Town to Avonmouth. Well off trade routes suffered bad engineroom fire. I had just left halloween party at 2200 & was fast asleep by 2230 when awakened by alarms, bells & smoke. Main power failed, but came back on again, but satcoms no good because gyro wandering & had taken dish off satellite. Emergency generator conked out because it choked on smoke, so main tx no good either. Sent SOS on 24V emergency Tx & OVERSEAS ARGONAUT answered immediately, 25 miles away (auto alrm job). They arrived very quickly. Flooded E/R with CO2. E/R Burned for 48 hours with tanker standing by. Once fire was extinguished, released tanker & just lay there for several days till German salvage tug FAIRPLAY IX took us in tow. Arrived in Dakar in about a week & remained there for one month for repairs. The rather than sailing home, we went south again to Cape Town & embarked more passengers despite fact our public rooms were a bit soggy & damaged. No one killed, but one or two minor injuries.
Bob

Bill Greig
7th April 2008, 15:53
Was involved with an incident whilst on M.V. Post Champion/GSUM, it would have been June 1977, we were just finishing watch when my second sparks picked up an SOS on 500Khz from Shaw Saville vessel "Megantic". We were in the Pacific about a week out from NZ, Megantic had suffered an engine room fire and was disabled at that time. We wer still about 200 miles from her position but lent some moral support. Gladly no casualties. Then two days later we broadcast our own XXX when we thought one of the elderly AB's had suffered a heart attack, but he had only choaked on a lump of beef whilst eating his tea! Thankfully.

K urgess
7th April 2008, 16:55
Some interesting posts in this thread.
Thank you all.

I must've led a charmed life.

I'm sure we'd love to hear some more about that, Ivor, (Thumb)

Cheers
Kris


I transmitted SSSS in 1944 which signified that you had been torpedoed by a submarine . No one of course replied to such a message as there was a strict embargo on transmitting an acknowlegement.

andysk
9th April 2008, 22:42
....... Remember when those mobiles came out that sent SMS in morse when a message came in? I certainly jumped first time I heard it. Strange that most users just think its a beeping noise.

Alan

The first time I heard one of them was when sitting on a crowded train in Victoria station in London waiting to depart; I jumped out of my skin and whacked my head on the overhead luggage rack. Caused a bit of mirth and sniggering at the time, and a bit of explaining when I got home !

andysk
9th April 2008, 22:44
For Bob, Shipbuilder :

Who was R/O on the Good Hope C at the time of the fire ?

hughesy
10th April 2008, 08:36
The first time I heard one of them was when sitting on a crowded train in Victoria station in London waiting to depart; I jumped out of my skin and whacked my head on the overhead luggage rack. Caused a bit of mirth and sniggering at the time, and a bit of explaining when I got home !

did the same thing meself (jumped outta me skin like)
All the best
Hughesy

Shipbuilder
10th April 2008, 20:13
For Bob, Shipbuilder :

Who was R/O on the Good Hope C at the time of the fire ?

I believe it was someone by the name of Maxwell, can't remember his first name. I was 2nd on PENDENNIS CASTLE at the time and sent one of those very long passenger cabin messages to GOOD HOPE CASTLE hours before the fire. Had to send it again to the next ship in line! GOOD HOPE CASTLE was very badly damaged, hardly anything left of accommodation. I joined in Bilbao for the last three months of the one-year refit. When she was all put together again, I asked to sail in her rather than go back to the big ones. Loved it there, two R/Os by that time & I appreciated getting all night in instead of getting up for the 4 to 8. Was there for almost two years, but then left company when they said they were selling all the ships.
Bob

freddythefrog
17th April 2008, 22:46
Nearest i came to sending a distress message was when we were in collision with a Norwegian Tanker Ross Bay, our ship Baynes, all aft bulk carrier, was
ripped open under the waterline 183foot long by the tankers bulbous bow, we were shipping water in forepeak, numbers 1,2 3 hatches and going down by the head. As soon as they hit us i had both the main and emergency transmitters tuned up ready to go, expecting to be asked to send distress message. Gladly, it was not necessary as we we in river maas inbound for Rotterdam with pilot on board, we were in constant contact with port control
at Rotterdam, they saw it happen on Radar and i heard the VHF saying" ross bay you are veering across the channel" they said this a few times then out of the mist came a tanker, we did not know at the time that it had discharged its cargo at Europort and luckily gas freed alongside. {Phew!!
Being in the river channel, not much room to move out of the way, the tankers steering gear had broken down while underway, she hit us and opened us up like a can of baked beans!! PCH was very good, kept an r/t channel permanently open for us during next 3 days, and GNF took some traffic off us as they had heard what had happened we had to run it aground on edge of waterway so we did not sink and block channel in and out of Rotterdam. needed 7 tugs to hold us on the sandbank while divers put underwater patches on and. Before the tugs would "push" everyone wanted to know "who was paying" no pay----no push, same with salvage men. had to get on r/t to Norway (jebsens) to say who is going to pay?? and do not have a meeting about it as we are sinking!!! anyway we got go ahead for them to pay, so they pushed for 3 days and nights. My radio room chairback faced forward and could feel it tipping back as it slowwly sank before we were on the sandbank. For 3 days i had the biggest workout of my life, messages here there and everywhere, cw, r/t hf mf you name it we had it, then the owner came from Norway to see what was happening, he decided to make some r/t calls to Norway, the bl----y Crusader Tx decided to pack up and started tripping out, I had to get the thing apart and fix it, while he was standing in doorway watching me!! anyway i managed to fix it PA screenfeed open circuit, got that sorted and back in business again. at one time log book was 9 hours behind----too busy to fill it in at the time.
On the 3rd day the tide was too strong, 7 tugs could not hold us anymore and we slipped off sandbank, made a run for the dock and got to dry dock
by skin of teeth. That is nearest i ever came to sending a distress, they said if we had been another 5 miles out when it happened it would have gone down. A very lucky escape, only thing injured was underwear, severe case of the gallopers all round.we all signed off in Rotterdam and flew home.
Also had to send a few xxx's for medical treatment at various times as well
on different ships. Picked up plenty of distress calls but always too far away to help out. ftf

Clive Kaine
21st April 2008, 13:05
I never sent an SOS, but I did send an XXX when I was on the P&O Bulk Shipping tanker Talamba/GMUF in January 1976. We were in mid-atlantic en route from Libya to Texas, and I woke up one morning to find the ship stopped. The Old Man informed me that we had a serious flood in the engine room which couldn't be stopped. Turned out one of the main overboard discharge pipes had burst adjacent to the ship's side, and the engine room was rapidly filling. We still had main electrical power, but for how long we didn't know.
It was the beginning of a very busy day, and I was very glad I had a junior R/O on board, who did all the log entries while I concentrated on operating. I sent an XXX requesting ships to come and stand by us in case we needed assistance. It wasn't an SOS, because there was no danger to life and we weren't sinking.
Very soon we had a number of ships nearby, including the P&O cargo ship Wild Auk and a German bulk carrier. As luck would have it, one of the largest salvage tugs in the world, the dutch-owned Smit London, was only a couple of hours away. She was equipped with generators and pumps as well as heavy towing gear. Once the tug arrived, we sent the other vessels on their way, with thanks. P&O agreed to pay salvage, and the tug towed us to the Azores where a team of divers patched up the hole in the hull. We were then towed to Brest where we discharged our cargo into an Indian tanker, and went alongside to await our fate. After a couple of weeks of rumour and counter-rumour, the company decided that repairing the 12-year-old ship would not be cost effective, and she went for scrap. A sad end to a fine ship.

CrazySparks
21st April 2008, 16:21
This XXX event occurred on 1st April (really!) late 70's off Singapore on a general cargo vessel with a middle-eastern owner, which I decline to name due to the nature of this tale.

Around 6.0am, I was woken by the mate. He claimed urgency, I claimed April Fool's day and told him to sod off! The mate persisted and informed me the 'old man' was severely injured.

Now this Old Man was quite young and displayed some really unfortunate drinking habits, and an even worse social disregard for the minimal proprieties required to make life at sea tolerable.

It turned out he'd fallen off a bar stool and cut his head open. The Chief Steward, a large and comedic gentleman from Ghana proceeded to shave the old man's head in a rather pronounced Mohican style so he could 'see the wound'. This was sweet revenge given his erstwhile treatmend at the hands of the alcoholic, abusive captain.

Anyway, out went the XXX for medical help.

A number of vessels responded, and a Russian vessel offered to send a doctor. 9VG offered a helicopter, which our C/O accepted. So, we changed course and rushed off to meet the chopper.

Never had I kept a log so meticulously!!!

The chopper approached the bridge wing with the medic leaning out, doubtless contemplating his mortality as he braced for exit. And then it happened...

Out came our suddenly lucid captain onto the bridge, gaping shirt revealing his string vest, his head proudly bearing the stylised tresses of a ferocious tribe of the old west.

**** OFF he screamed at the great iron bird with the whirly wings...**** OFF!!! AT which juncture the rather embarrassed C/O got onto the VHF and indicated a change in plan to the (probably confused) pilot.


Things settled down over the next few days. The old man restored some semblance of dignity with the Kojak look, the chief engineer (he's another story) remained sobre for a few days at a time, and so on.

Until we got to Japan. One night, on tentatively entering the officer's bar, the captain and C/E were confronted with a fleet of toy helicopters that 'the lads' had bought ashore as mementoes of the voyage, and as subtle little reminders to the captain.

The C/E laughed loudly - until he saw the plastic cowboys riding over the bar on their plastic horses.....

Happy days, chaps!!!

Vital Sparks
28th April 2008, 13:31
Transmitted an XXX after a crew member was seen jumping over the wall, around 10pm. Despite 500KHz having busy earlier in the evening there were no replies received. Fired up the auto-key and transmitted the 4 second dash sequence and was then surprised as my own auto alarm went off. That woke the boys up and a couple of ships then answered and joined the search.
They left about six hours later and we searched on alone, eventually finding a body at first light.

andysk
6th May 2008, 15:04
I believe it was someone by the name of Maxwell, can't remember his first name. I was 2nd on PENDENNIS CASTLE at the time and sent one of those very long passenger cabin messages to GOOD HOPE CASTLE hours before the fire. Had to send it again to the next ship in line! GOOD HOPE CASTLE was very badly damaged, hardly anything left of accommodation. I joined in Bilbao for the last three months of the one-year refit. When she was all put together again, I asked to sail in her rather than go back to the big ones. Loved it there, two R/Os by that time & I appreciated getting all night in instead of getting up for the 4 to 8. Was there for almost two years, but then left company when they said they were selling all the ships.
Bob

Thanks Bob; I do seem to remember a Maxwell, I think he relieved me somewhere, but the memory banks are a bit slow in their output !

I remember those long msg's as well, also the up country train bookings from Cape Town. Those mailship skeds must have saved the company a pretty penny ...

athinai
19th May 2008, 01:56
Is this a ''First''

While Alongside in a Certain Middle East Port, when the lets say ''The Other Side'' started to Shell us. I Called their Local Radio Stn whose nationality was that of the Shell. ''Using the Distress Prefix.'', and passed on my 73's = But it made no difference = we got off and ran up the Docks and she was hit broadside on and Sunk Alongside.

Quiney
4th October 2008, 20:06
Only ever had to send an XXX for medico help. The cheif engineer had been helping his lad with problems in both the engine room and the freezers. He was taken ill and the Capt ask for help. We were in the South China Sea and an Aussie station replied and managed to get a doctor by telephone. I sat at the key for 30 hours relaying symptoms and instructions. Sadly the Chief died some 24 hours later.
Whilst in the Isle of Man ferries (freight ro-ro) I was often called out at night by the auto-alarm when the night atmospherics increased the range on 500 to 1500-2000 miles. Many time the actual distress call was not heard but the controlling station in the Azore used to boom in.

IMRCoSparks
5th October 2008, 04:03
Back in April 1961, aboard Queen Mary, I was junior R/O working the MF bands.
I picked up a XXX from a Greek freighter. One of the crew had fallen down a hatch and wanted medical assistance.

I passed the message to the Chief R/O and he sent it up to the bridge. There was an immediate instruction from them to "not respond". Meantime I could hear the traffic between the ship and the US Coastguard. We were part of AMVER and the USCG indicated to the ship that we were the closest known vessel with medical facilities.

He called us on 500. The chief told me to note it all in the log. We did'nt respond and after about two hours we heard the Greek ship calling other liners in the area. I think one of them responded. They shifted to a working frequency and I lost touch.

I guess there was tremendous pressure to maintain the sailing schedule but I often wonder how often those sort of events were repeated.

Moulder
5th October 2008, 11:51
I find that totally incredulous - the Chief RO and Bridge Officers should have felt ashamed of themselves - they did not deserve to be called 'seafarers'.

(MAD)

trotterdotpom
5th October 2008, 13:09
Gulp! It's a wonder they didn't end up in court, especially as the USCG must have had an idea what was going on.

John T.

K urgess
5th October 2008, 14:56
That doesn't surprise me at all. I found that sometimes 500 could seem like the last place you wanted to send a distress or urgency message.

I must admit that SOS flowed very nicely off the key. I'm sure some of us at least must've practiced it.
Even in my log extract where I sent "SYHZ de GQAJ RRR QSL SOS" it gave me a bit of a buzz to send it. Always did even though I only ever sent it in response to others.

charles henry
5th October 2008, 16:31
1952 We had left Vancouver homeward bound .On the Cape Hawke (MAHB) the wireless cabin and my cabin were on the after end of the bridge. Was wakened by a tremendous jar and loud noise about 5am. Ran round to the bridge and found that a vessel had rammed us (William Luchenback) on our Starboard bow. Clear, calm windless morning and north bound she had veered off her course and penetrated our bow. There was some megaphone converse but at no time during the whole episode did I manage to contact her by radio and she never made any transmission on five ton.
About twenty minutes after the collision she, with no warning backed off leaving a gaping hole in our bow. The old man gave me a message to the owners and our posisition for a distress message, he said if possible to get the owners message off first. GKL was loud on 8 mhz and I cleared the Msg then went five ton and send the SOS got QSL from KPH.
The actual watch period started at 8am and it became obvious who didnt have their auto alarms on, Bedlam, QRT distress, where? QRT and so on.
I fired up the little 50 spark, put a book on the key and went for a coffee.
When I came back all was quiet, resent the distress msg.
We reached San Francisco and went Bethlerham Steel dry dock, they pumped out the water and then the remains of our bow fell off. Picture on front page of newspaper, lots of invites and parties for next 6 weeks.
de chas (Pint)

BOB GARROCH
23rd October 2008, 12:41
Once in Saigon during the Veitnam War Shell tanker Hemisinus The veitcong had tied a mine to the anchor cable and when the tide changed the mine swung round and laid against the port 3 tank. The old man ran into the office and asked me to get help then evacuated the ship. After I recovered from the absolute fear that renderd me speechless and picked myself up off the floor, I contacted the local MSTMS (Military channel for MN shipping) they dispatched a helecopter with seals onboard. They jumped into the water tied the mine to the helecopter and flew it away onto the other side of the river. Bravest men I have ever seen.

Another time (also Hemisinus)in Chulai Veitnam American airforce base. Americans evacuated and left us on our own . Called out for help, no reply from anyone. eventually the Americans realised it must have been a false alarm and returned with their tails between their legs. First time I have seen Scouse sailors crying.

Kuwait Tanker "Kazima" engine failure off Cape Finistere drifting ashore. Sent an XXX Ships stood by but the engineers managed to fix the boilers in time.

Fun times.

BOB GARROCH
26th October 2008, 06:04
Maybe the question should have been "Did you ever send an SOS and survive?

I dont think you will get many yes replies. Lets remember the Radio oficers you have gone down with the ship trying to get help for their shipmates.

BobClay
26th October 2008, 11:21
I thought this might interest you Bob, as I sailed on the Hemisinus, but at the time I was a fireman. You've probably got it, it was the photo from the ship's postcard.

BOB GARROCH
26th October 2008, 12:19
Thanks Bob much appreciated. My wife and I spent 6 months honeymoon on board as well Joined her in Tranmere and paid off Singapore lovely trip via the med, caribbean, africa, red sea, indian coast, bangkok . New Zealand, Australia. .. I always said I would never get married until I has been to Bangkok. Never happened until I had my wife with me.

BobClay
27th October 2008, 14:17
Lets remember the Radio oficers you have gone down with the ship trying to get help for their shipmates.

Reminds me of Alastair Maclean books. The ships paperback library usually had a whole bunch of them. Being a sparky in one of Alastair Maclean's novels was like being of those fellahs who were a red sweater in Star Trek. You just know he was up for the chop. Usually still tapping away at his key with half a dozen 20mikemike cannon shells in his back.

(EEK)

BOB GARROCH
27th October 2008, 15:05
allways the first to be killed in the movies as well

steve cockburn
31st August 2011, 01:59
oh yes,
off the bottom end of the channel.
first trip back after the Falklands and it was a Glaswegian phosphate carrier that turned turtle within 10 minutes.
The mate gave me the wrong co-ordinates (1 degree out) and I really could not understand why Landsend radio was not listening to me!! No wonder really. We were only just around the corner.
We rescued 8 but there were more aboard. HMS Illustrious came to pick them up and they were our guardship in the Falklands. Funny how the world works, isn't it??
Don't know whether I am years out opf this discussion but after 2 bottles of wine, wot the F***??
Regards
Steve

Troppo
31st August 2011, 02:57
That's amazing re the QM not answering an XXX!

Should have been an enquiry, and heads should have rolled....

Anyway, luckily I never had to send an SOS, but I was in the Iron Bogong/VJBA when the tanker Mobil Australis/VMMO (?..from memory) sent an SOS off Wilson's Prom in Australia. She had engine trouble, and was drifting ashore. Sent the RRR, etc, but we were too far away. This was in the early 80's....about 82, from memory.

I will never forget the sound of the auto alarm signal....the Bogong had a hatch through to the bridge from the radio room. I had just taken the evening wx to the bridge, and was leaning on the (open) hatch to the radio room, chatting to the 3rd mate when I heard the auto alarm signal.....

I was in the Baron Murray/GWES when we lost the deck boy over the side (we thought). It was daytime, and we were in the mid Pacific. Main tx flat out on 5 ton...XXX...nothing.... We eventually found him at the bottom of the lift shaft...the lift door interlock had failed, and he had stepped into what he thought was the lift...

Mayday
31st August 2011, 11:21
Falmouth Bay/GCFA, North Pacific, March, 1984. And yes, I survived.
Still get the shakes when I think about it.

John.

steve cockburn
31st August 2011, 13:41
Oops! should never reply to something after 2 bottles of wine!!!
I remarked about an incident where we actually responded to an SOS.
Never sent one myself although recall having one written out and ready to go on a Windstar ship in the Bonifacio Straits in the Med.
Mate had cut the corner on a leeward coast. Engines failed and we had no back-up. It was supposed to be the sails but they were not of much use on a leeward shore. Fortunately, as we drifted towards the coast, they got the engine going again and we were away.
I think 10 minutes more and we would have been in the boats!!
Hairy moments.
Cobes

trotterdotpom
31st August 2011, 13:49
"Anyway, luckily I never had to send an SOS, but I was in the Iron Bogong/VJBA when the tanker Mobil Australis/VMMO (?..from memory) sent an SOS off Wilson's Prom in Australia. She had engine trouble, and was drifting ashore. Sent the RRR, etc, but we were too far away. This was in the early 80's....about 82, from memory."

I remember that incident Troppo. The TV reports referred to her as a "Supertanker", although she was only about 30,000 tons (?). When I sailed on her (before or after the Bass Strait drift, I can't recall), I discovered she was a "super tanker".

John T

Julian Calvin
31st August 2011, 15:38
Was third mate on a Blue Funnel ship in the Meddy in '71 when the auto alarm was activated near midnight. Sparky advised position of the vessel in distress which was two hours steaming away. Called Old Man who said that others must be nearer, do not respond.
'Afraid sticking to timetable was embedded in some guys.
At this time some old men still refused permission for the VHF to be switched on after leaving port. Radar was only used "as required". This obviously saved a lot of electricity!!!

ted harrison
2nd September 2011, 00:41
I wonder if the R O on the Iron Horse in '62 is a member of SN? The Horse was outwqard bound from Birkenhead to Seven Isles when her main engine crankshaft broke assunder folled by crankcase fire. She was adrift off the NI coast for many hours until deep sea tug from the Clyde eventually took us in tow. Duncan Gregory Fraser was Ist Mate. What kind of emergency message dod our RO send out I wonder?

Troppo
2nd September 2011, 04:45
I wonder if the R O on the Iron Horse in '62 is a member of SN? The Horse was outwqard bound from Birkenhead to Seven Isles when her main engine crankshaft broke assunder folled by crankcase fire. She was adrift off the NI coast for many hours until deep sea tug from the Clyde eventually took us in tow. Duncan Gregory Fraser was Ist Mate. What kind of emergency message dod our RO send out I wonder?

If you were clear of land, probably an XXX (Urgency).

david.hopcroft
2nd September 2011, 20:19
The nearest I got was an XXX for medical advice. We were southbound to SA well south of the Canaries. We had just passed the SA Oranje who was northbound, so I called him. Instant response, Well impressed.

David+

ted harrison
3rd September 2011, 00:55
Troppo,
Not sure how far off the NI coast we were but I remember the boats being prepared (chastening experience) and each officer was offered a 'free' ship to shore telecon home (Commons were always generous soles). Didn't take up the offer myself.
I remember the atmosphere on board becoming a little tense as the hours ticked by but as a very young 4th eng', I don't recall getting too worried, maybe should have done as the talk was that had the tug not arrived when it did, it could have been a serious situation for us all.

sparks69
4th September 2011, 22:41
I never sent an SOS for myself but I seem to remember responding to the one sent by an Icelandic Coast station requesting evacuation of the Vestman Islands when that volcano went up and formed Surtsey (?) Or may be my memory is going ? The Old man thought I was joking (at three o'clock in the morning in response to Auto Alarm bells !)

david.hopcroft
5th September 2011, 20:19
I was on nights at GKZ that night. Remember listening with amazement. Could hear 500 quite clearly. Can't rmemeber details though sadly.

David
+

forthbridge
5th September 2011, 20:50
I never sent an SOS for myself but I seem to remember responding to the one sent by an Icelandic Coast station requesting evacuation of the Vestman Islands when that volcano went up and formed Surtsey (?) Or may be my memory is going ? The Old man thought I was joking (at three o'clock in the morning in response to Auto Alarm bells !)
I was on a flight from Reykjavick to Glasgow just after it happened and the captain went in low so that we could see surtsey.They did not seem to worry about volcanic ash in these days.

J. Davies
6th September 2011, 04:26
We rescued the crew of the container ship "New Concord" south of Taiwan when I was on board VLCC "Eriskay". Received the SOS on 500 KHz and relayed it. We were closest to the vessel and we ended up the rescue coordinator with a couple of other ships assisting.

http://xephemera.blogspot.com/2008/02/ss-eriskay-new-concord-rescue.html

Dave Drysdale
6th September 2011, 05:49
I crewed on a lifeboat for eight or nine years and remember well the adrenalin flowing when responding to a mayday. Have to say though that most were caused by simple lack of proper gear.

Paul Braxton
12th September 2011, 11:02
At the end of 1969, when I was just 18, on my first trip as a 2nd R/O on Shell’s “Serenia”/GHLE, we witnessed the fire and eventual sinking of the Dutch Shell’s VLCC “Marpessa”/PJMO, off Dakar, West Africa.
First hint of trouble was a column of thick smoke on the horizon. When we arrived on the scene, being, coincidentally the nearest ship, it was to see the horrific sight of the after end of the “Marpessa” engulfed in sheets of flame towering from the main deck right over the top of the bridge.
I remember sending the distress relay: DDD SOS DDD, etc., quite a sobering experience.
I don’t think I managed to escape the radio room for the next three days while she settled gradually by the stern and eventually sank on the afternoon of the third day. I had to handle all the comms between the other vessels standing by, as well as all the long range stuff via GKA and PCH, lots of R/T calls, C/W work, etc, with endless enquiries from news agencies in both countries. A never to be forgotten workup. Remember the palaver with phone calls via GKA in those days? ATEL msgs to Baldock, Herts to book the things? I learned quickly. Didn’t get the logbook written up for those days until well afterwards, from notes.
They lost two Chinese crewmen, killed in the initial pumproom explosion. The fire was eventually put out, but she must have broken her back. There was no hope. A large, deepsea tug was despatched from R’dam, the Smitlloyd company, but she arrived a few hours too late to get a tow line on her. Probably just as well.
The Crusader TX worked well; bit better than the Oceanspan 7 I trained on, and which was all I knew.
On the third afternoon, I was sitting in the shack, talking to the Dutch R/O, when the 2/0 came to the door and said: “Your ship is sinking”, to the open-mouthed R/O, who incredulously shouted: “You are mad!!”, whereupon the 2/0 just muttered something about ‘suiting yourself’ as he turned and went back to the bridge. I unfortunately didn’t see her go, as I couldn’t get out of the shack.
There were two other disasters of VLCC’s at about the same time: “Mactra” and “Kong Haakon”, I think; both had massive explosions while tank cleaning. Scary stuff.

Had to send several XXX msgs over the years; one about a medical emergency on an old BI ship I was on, bound for VPS and XSG with an Old Man crook. Had to work 3BA every day going across the Indian Ocean with medico msgs. Another about an AB going overboard in S. Pacific on an old Port Line ship the 'Port Lyttelton' in '70. (Got him back ok. He was only wearing a pair of shorts and trainers and thought the whole thing was 'quite interesting'). Flat calm seas, like a mirror and very warm, fortunately.
A few others as well.

Troppo
12th September 2011, 15:25
I'm amazed your chief let a first tripper send the DDD!

Mine certainly would not have - I would have been kicked out of the seat....

:-)

Paul Braxton
13th September 2011, 06:43
My boss R/O welcomed me onboard with a can of warm beer and the immortal words: "Hi, Paul. This'll be your radio room. You won't see a lot of me but I'll be around if you need me".
He was as good as his word, but it was the best break ever for me, 'cos I got to be thrown in at the deepest end and learned real fast; lessons which kick started me into the business. It was hard, but it was a fast, very fast learning curve for which I am, perversely perhaps, very grateful.

Paul Braxton
13th September 2011, 06:46
One downside: he did all the paperwork, including the radio traffic returns, so when I went solo I had no idea how to do any of that stuff. Had make QSO's with other GTZM ships (including a real gentleman on 'Port Caroline', who made it all easy) to figure out just what you had to do.

Troppo
13th September 2011, 09:06
In retrospect - he failed - his job was to teach you the things you needed to do the job by yourself.

Just like my first chief. Hopeless. Bloody hopeless!

That's the problem - being good at something doesn't necessarily mean that you can teach it to someone else....

Graham P Powell
13th September 2011, 10:05
First trip I responded to an XXX from an ore carrier called the Dukesgarth. They were requesting medical advice to relocate a dislocated big toe. I rang the British doctor( we had Spanish and Portuguese Doctors on board as well as we carried immigrants). Very laid back character. Told me what to do and I sent if off. End of story. Then my grumpy old chief came down and gave me a bollocking. All medico's should have been referred to the old man which thinking about now is of course correct. We also picked up an XXX from a Greek frighter called the Mariel which was on fire. That went via the old man and as it was on our way so to speak the ship was speeded up and we got there. Some men were already dead and a couple we took on board died of burns. We also nearly lost the lifeboat when it missed getting on to one of the alls and had a very close call with an empty Greek tanker which was also standing by. I just happened to be on the bridge as I had gone up there with a message for the old man. The officers on watch sent letter "U" on the funnel which means "You are standing into danger". That was then followed by R/T calls through the UK to the Greek vessels owners in St Moritz. This was on the RML ship Amazon/GVVV. We answered numerous medicos at GKA and at least on distress. I remember working one ship with the lifeboats slung out ready.
We kept the owners on the phone so that we could pass messages very quickly.
Regards to all
Graham Powell ( ex GKA)

mikehome
13th September 2011, 11:08
In 5 years with the RFA never had a major problem. We did ram the loch gates at Antwerp. I was on the telegraph on the bridge of RFA Empire Gull (1975) and doing the commands to the engine room for slow ahead, stop, half astern, full astern etc. When they yelled Emergency Full Astern - Wow! Nobody had ever bothered to train the poor radio officer on how they telegraph worked. The Captain came running in and ran emergency full astern but we hit the lock gates anyway. Quite a bit of damage to the bow doors. I do remember running down stairs from my bedroom when at home. There was a film on about the River Plate and they were sending out a distress signal. I was fast asleep and in another room but was instantly aware of the SOS distress signal.

The funniest one was on RFA Empire Gull on the Marchwood to Antwerp or Zeebrugger run for BOAR. There was only one Radio Officer and my predecessor had been on the ship for ever. He (and I) never kept watch at sea. We used the radio phone on the bridge. However we did run the automatic receiver. There was an alarm in the radio room, one on the bridge and one just above my head on the headboard of my bunk. This used to go off constantly with distress calls from the Bay of Biscay to Norway. At 10 knots if the wind was blowing we would never get anyway near a distress situation. Guess what that huge fire alarm bell within 18 inches of my head never woke me up once! The bridge had to send somebody down to wake me! Mike Spencer Bloemfontein

sparkie2182
13th September 2011, 12:54
"Just like my first chief. Hopeless. Bloody hopeless!"

Have to concur.

Kneth
21st September 2011, 05:16
Our ship m.v. Sweety Sandra foundered off the Bay of Biscay. Was rescued by the Royal Navy helicopters and taken to Falmouth, Cornwall.

trotterdotpom
22nd September 2011, 13:34
mikehome: "The funniest one was on RFA Empire Gull on the Marchwood to Antwerp or Zeebrugger run for BOAR. There was only one Radio Officer and my predecessor had been on the ship for ever. He (and I) never kept watch at sea. We used the radio phone on the bridge. However we did run the automatic receiver. There was an alarm in the radio room, one on the bridge and one just above my head on the headboard of my bunk. This used to go off constantly with distress calls from the Bay of Biscay to Norway. At 10 knots if the wind was blowing we would never get anyway near a distress situation. Guess what that huge fire alarm bell within 18 inches of my head never woke me up once! The bridge had to send somebody down to wake me!"

If Empire Gull was equipped with an auto alarm, presumably she was a compulsory w/t watchkeeping ship (ie over 1600 grt). How did you get away with not keeping watches?

John T

King Ratt
22nd September 2011, 15:40
Empire Gull may have sailed using Naval Single Operator Period watches. Auto Alarm was always on and 5 ton was on loudspeaker. I used this system many times whilst in RFA Bacchus who was a one R/O ship. The Naval Watch system meant that GKA was not overloaded with so many long encoded messages sent in groups of 5 and freed up that station to deal with Mership traffic. Whilst on watch the Radio Telegraph log was duly kept up to date and the customary Silence Period Observed was faithfully entered. These logs were signed daily by the Master and open to checking by Radio Surveyors.

Criffh
14th October 2011, 21:08
1967, MV Rossetti/GVMX, my second ship. Off the coast of Brazil one afternoon, watching two Brazilian Naval ships conducting an exercise as we sailed by. Several hours later, the cabin boy was reported missing, and a full-ship search was conducted. No sign of him. The captain sent a 'man overboard' XXX, and the Brazilian Navy abandoned their exercise and started a search. Morse comms with them was very painstaking, as their operator took about 15 minutes to get replies back to me! Late that night, the cabin boy walked into the duty mess, totally unaware of what was happening. He'd been curled up asleep under a tarpaulin on the afterdeck. The search was called off, and the captain had some very awkward explaining to do to the authorities when we arrived in Rio Grande, the following morning!
Winter 1977/78, Esso Warwickshire/GJVE. DDD SOS from GKZ. A Dutch coaster, the Holmer One was in trouble. Acknowledged the SOS and tuned into 2182, just in time to hear a strong nearby signal utter the words "We are now abandoning ship". Weather was horrendous, with winds gusting to force 11/12, and a heavy swell, and there was nothing but clutter on the radar. After an all-night search during which nothing was found, an aircraft spotted an empty liferaft the following morning. None of the crew made it.

Varley
7th November 2011, 11:17
All,

Another one who has not sent one but did respond (relay) to one while on Stonehaven (ex Hopepark)/GYXD:

Mohamedia 1975, Red Sea. Can't remember where the relay came from but ended up 'controlling' the distress (in civilian terms, the rescue was carried out by French Naval vessel).

Naval vessel did not communicate on MF (no idea why) but was in contact with Djibouti. Djibouti passed Navy information/instructions to us and we did the business on 500.

Naval vessel was already engaged in rescue when we got up to her, when she did communicate on VHF (very short range - NOT due my kit!).

Technique was for a small group of those abandoning to get into the water and for Navy to steam as if passing them when caught in 'scramble' netting.

Tasked by Djibouti to ask Saudi/Jordanian coast stations for numbers of SOB but remeber being irritated by Aqabaradio repeatedly telling us how many cattle were onboard but nothing of her compliment.

She was obviously not far off sinking, as I remember it, down by the head and listing to port with the oggin as good as level with the forward (open) hatch coaming.

At the time we were told that there had been no casualties (human anyway) but I note in Norman Hook's Modern Shipping Disasters 1963-1987, a well filled book for such a short period!, that one Sudanese seaman was lost.

No idea what caused the casualty. She was very close to the shore when we arrived.

Looking at the date this must have been my last trip before going back to school. I can't remember who of the regulars were there that trip John Dunipace, Bill Tizard, Mike Smith, Pol Sachas, some, anyway, of the three Toms (?). No doubt the Denholm team will put me right.

---

There was one other XXX I remember from Stonehaven. As we passed Socotra (on our regular trade between Lavan Island and Eilat) a Liberian tanker, at anchor there for repairs had been fired on by the natives - probably having fun. The message ended AND FROM THE SHORE THEY ARE SHOOTING AT US. This was in the days when the 'Pilot' ws more 'lyrical' and we learned that Socotra was where cannibalism had lsat been recorded (I thought this was in the far east).

---

Only one other direct involvement was off the US East Coast when on Tilapa. US CG alerted CQ oto yacht in trouble and to listen on R/T for her. Heard nothing but Federal Sea Scouts did attend to check my log at next port.

David