R/O's Daily work

wireless man
18th January 2009, 21:07
As someone who is interested in the daily duties of the Radio Officer could some of you sparkies please let me know what sort of traffic was passed to you and what sort you passed back. What were you expecting. Did the master draft routine messages or did you draft your own.What was their content. This I expect looks anoraky but it is of interest to me.
Regards
Max

charles henry
19th January 2009, 14:46
As someone who is interested in the daily duties of the Radio Officer could some of you sparkies please let me know what sort of traffic was passed to you and what sort you passed back. What were you expecting. Did the master draft routine messages or did you draft your own.What was their content. This I expect looks anoraky but it is of interest to me.
Regards
Max

As a "Sparks" in the fifties, I kept the standard 8 hour a day watches which times varied depending on where the ship was. Normal watchkeeping comprised of copying Portishead traffic lists into the log, making log entries every (By memory 5 minutes) getting weather reports, sending the odd message (There were not many unless on passenger ships, too costly ). Sending Ocean Letters, or if on homeward bound, receiving them. Took DF bearings when required and on one occasion did what I was really paid to do, originate a distress message.

During off watch time (My free time) I checked batteries and filled in their log,
when necessary adjusted or repaired the radar, radio equipment. Read a lot of books.....

There was no overtime in those days = was a grand life

de chas (Pint)

Gareth Jones
19th January 2009, 14:54
and spent a lot of time on the bridge chatting to the mates ?

BobClay
19th January 2009, 15:26
Don't forget stocking the bar fridge and doing the Vernons Pools lists and messages.

:rolleyes:

greektoon
19th January 2009, 15:28
No disrespect to the conscientious R/O's out there but when we first ran trials on the GMDSS system about 1987 I realised what was not being done previously. A stream of up to date and legible Wx and Nav warning info from the little NAVTEX was most welcome.

Vital Sparks
19th January 2009, 18:09
On display in the radio room of every British merchant ship was a copy of the Wireless Telegraphy Act which stated that it is a criminal offence to reveal the contents, or even the existance, of a radio telegram, so our lips are sealed :-)

Mostly it was pretty boring stuff, on tankers the worst thing we had to send was a "Port Data Message" which was a seemingly endless string of figures
about what cargo quantities had been loaded/discharged. I once in error claimed to have loaded 250,000 tonnes of cargo into a 25,000 tonne ship.
Head office replied, asking if we had put the overflow into the Captain's bath!

During the periodic redundancy campaigns of the early 80s, we used to take very long morse messages which would take over an hour to receive.
These would explain what was happening and ask for volunteers. The final message of each campaign consisted of the marine payroll numbers of everybody on board, in one of two lists. The following are, repeat are redundant and the following are not, repeat not, redundant. I never noticed when my number came up and always had to read the message back to see which list I was on.

Routine daily traffic would be AMVER and OBS (AMVER = report of destination, route, speed etc in case we go missing, OBS = weather observation in 5 digit numeric code)

A vessel awaiting orders may be instructed to go to "LEFO" meaning (Lands end for orders). Telegrams also contained company "K" code such as
KIZTO, KACNY and KJIJX but I cannot remember what they mean.

Moulder
19th January 2009, 18:15
No disrespect to the conscientious R/O's out there but when we first ran trials on the GMDSS system about 1987 I realised what was not being done previously. A stream of up to date and legible Wx and Nav warning info from the little NAVTEX was most welcome.

None taken - I see from your profile that you were a chief mate at sea so not really qualified to criticise. [=P]

When I first went to sea in 1971 the watches were 2 on 2 off stretched over a day from around 0800 to 2200 ships time. On British ships the first task was to tune into Portishead and take the even hour traffic list - whilst also keeping an ear on the 2nd receiver tuned to 500 KHz.
Direct contact then had to be made if there was traffic at Portishead.
Weather forecasts and navigation warning broadcasts were then monitored for new bulletins - these were then typed up for the bridge and delivered asap - especially if any of the subject matter was along your trade/navigation route.
Weather OBS messages had to be sent every 6 hours to either a local coast station along the route or a relatively nearby HF station.
The occasional private telegram was sent - with an increase in these around Christmas.
On some ships I sailed on, every 3rd day we would send a noon position report with eta and rob's (oil remaining on board) and any bunker requirements. On average we had about 2 to 3 messages per day to/from the 'old man' concerning all aspects of ships business.
When approaching a port there would usually be a fairly long stores message to send - this was where I first learnt what a 'capsicum' was and that there was a cut of meat known as 'cubed roll'!!
On some ships we also monitored an intership schedule every watch where ships from the same company would work each other at a specified time on a specified frequency. This enabled us to exchange gossip and company news but more importantly to pass radio traffic for onward (free) transmission if one was in a difficult contact area for a particular coast station.
I sailed on mostly cargo and bulk carriers but I'm sure that our tanker colleagues handled more 'data' type traffic.
During the watch, a continuous listening watch was kept on 500 KHz with mandatory log entries of calls and signals heard.
A time signal had to be passed to the bridge once per day to check chronometer errors.
Radio publication corrections and accounts were also maintained during off watch periods as was any technical maintainance required in the radio room or bridge.
At the end of the day I would usually venture to the wheelhouse to sample the 3rd mate's cocoa making efforts and mark him out of 10. (Eat)


Regards,

Steve.
(Thumb)

Ron Stringer
19th January 2009, 19:35
No disrespect to the conscientious R/O's out there but when we first ran trials on the GMDSS system about 1987 I realised what was not being done previously. A stream of up to date and legible Wx and Nav warning info from the little NAVTEX was most welcome.

As someone that was involved in the development of the NAVTEX system (originated by the Swedish PTT but modified and brought to its final form by an international working party of the ITU/CCIR), I can safely say that you would also have found, at least in the early days, that about 90% of those Nav Warnings received each day were either applicable only to sea areas far from your intended route, or were repeats of messages already received. It was some time before the system evolved to allow for selection of the desired transmitting stations/areas of interest and for the equipment to ignore messages already received.

Of course once those essential features had been added after a year or two, it took much, much, longer for the navigators on board ships to learn how to press the buttons that selected the desired areas. But that was only to be expected.[=P]

BobClay
19th January 2009, 19:47
There were also occasional curveball messages. We once picked up a bunch of 'boat people' out in the far east, and as we were bound for Singapore, the traffic flew thick and fast, including long long lists of vietnamese names (often very complicated names), passport or other id numbers, origins etc etc.

In amongst the goodies these guys (and women plus kids) were carrying were gold bars, and a very worn out looking chinese made Kalashnikov. The bloody traffic that generated .....

My old Samson key started to eat batteries that week.

Ron Stringer
19th January 2009, 20:15
In the 1960s, Portisheadradio broadcast Nav Wngs by Morse. Some sadist there scheduled the Nav Wng transmissions in the last half hour of the watch. They did that with Atalantic Weather Forecasts as well, with the result that the R/O had to copy and type them at a time when he was trying to clear the Master's messages (or the OBS message from those guys on the Bridge) which, it seemed, could not be submitted to the radio room until just before Sparks was due to go off watch.

By the way, those Nav Wngs were numbered sequentially, so an alert navigating officer would be aware of any omission and request the missing messages - as I am sure always happened.

tunatownshipwreck
19th January 2009, 20:39
Great reading here, thanks.

greektoon
19th January 2009, 21:05
None taken - I see from your profile that you were a chief mate at sea so not really qualified to criticise. [=P]

When I first went to sea in 1971 the watches were 2 on 2 off stretched over a day from around 0800 to 2200 ships time. On British ships the first task was to tune into Portishead and take the even hour traffic list - whilst also keeping an ear on the 2nd receiver tuned to 500 KHz.
Direct contact then had to be made if there was traffic at Portishead.
Weather forecasts and navigation warning broadcasts were then monitored for new bulletins - these were then typed up for the bridge and delivered asap - especially if any of the subject matter was along your trade/navigation route.
Weather OBS messages had to be sent every 6 hours to either a local coast station along the route or a relatively nearby HF station.
The occasional private telegram was sent - with an increase in these around Christmas.


On some ships I sailed on, every 3rd day we would send a noon position report with eta and rob's (oil remaining on board) and any bunker requirements. On average we had about 2 to 3 messages per day to/from the 'old man' concerning all aspects of ships business.
When approaching a port there would usually be a fairly long stores message to send - this was where I first learnt what a 'capsicum' was and that there was a cut of meat known as 'cubed roll'!!
On some ships we also monitored an intership schedule every watch where ships from the same company would work each other at a specified time on a specified frequency. This enabled us to exchange gossip and company news but more importantly to pass radio traffic for onward (free) transmission if one was in a difficult contact area for a particular coast station.
I sailed on mostly cargo and bulk carriers but I'm sure that our tanker colleagues handled more 'data' type traffic.
During the watch, a continuous listening watch was kept on 500 KHz with mandatory log entries of calls and signals heard.
A time signal had to be passed to the bridge once per day to check chronometer errors.
Radio publication corrections and accounts were also maintained during off watch periods as was any technical maintainance required in the radio room or bridge.
At the end of the day I would usually venture to the wheelhouse to sample the 3rd mate's cocoa making efforts and mark him out of 10. (Eat)


Regards,

Steve.
(Thumb)

I beg to differ. A vital part of the R/O's raison d'etre was to to provide timely and comprehensive weather, nav warng and safety info for the use of the vessel's navigating officers in the safe navigation of the ship. I would therefore suggest, in the light of my ability to compare directly the performance of the R/O with early NAVTEX receivers, that I am qualified enough to comment.

Ron. At the time I am referring to (1987 / 88), we were able to select stations and message types, with the exception of default Nav wrngs and distress alerts etc.

Ron Stringer
19th January 2009, 22:37
Joking apart, one of the reasons that there are many more weather broadcasts and navigational warnings than of yore, is that as a corollary to the setting up of the GMDSS, in the 1980s at IMO the member nations decided that it would be a good thing if coastal states were to collate essential safety information and forward it to ships within the adjacent sea areas. Not only that, they recommended that the information should be broadcast at least in the English Language (other languages could be provided only in addition to English). This created (not immediately) a source of safety information for ships that could be read by the navigator.

Navtex had started to be used in Western Europe in the late 1970s and eventually a co-ordination panel was set up to organise station identities, areas of responsibility, transmitting schedules and transmission powers. Until then, it was left to port states to decide what station designations they used, when they transmitted the warnings and over what range they could be heard. You could have three countries each with a transmitting station 'D' and all transmitting at 07 minutes past the hour. Like all international affairs that took several years to sort out - ''We had our station running first so you will have to change your transmitting time/station identifier.'' ''We have a 15 kW transmitter and a massive antenna array and have a 4,000 km range.'' - which was used only to broadcast local weather and coastal Nav Wngs.

For several years ships in the Med would complain of their Navtex producing reams of paper covered in weather messages from the station in Iceland, or Baltic Ice Warnings. Eventually sense prevailed and the system became civilised.

However, prior to the IMO recommendations that Port States should provide safety information to ships, in most areas there were no such transmissions of warnings or weather forecasts. What little information there was, was in a local language and targeted at their fishing fleets. No problem for a R/O to copy and type out but most of the Mates that I sailed with would not have thanked me for weather forecasts in Portuguese, Russian or Serbo-Croat.

In addition to the Admiralty nav wngs and Notices to Mariners broadcast from Portishead, I copied all messages prefixed with the Safety signal (TTT) from all local stations, in whatever language they were transmitted, and passed them to the Bridge. I have no idea what they did with the foreign language ones (not too sure what they did with the English language messages).[=P]

In the case of routine weather messages, apart from the ocean weather messages broadcast from the USA, UK, and a very few others, for most voyages you were not covered by any forecasts or warning messages. On the coast, I copied local weather messages where they were transmitted in a language understood on the Bridge (normally only English on the ships on which I sailed). I didn't find this a chore - I was sitting there on watch and only had to change frequency on the receiver and pull the typewriter towards me. So the Bridge got whatever there was to get. If the R/Os that you sailed with did not do the same, it was a pity, they had no excuse.

As you say, by the late 1980s the Navtex service was becoming effective and IMO had accepted the use of the INMARSAT satellite-relayed equivalent (SafetyNet). So there would have been a big increase in the amount of information being broadcast and consequently an increase in the amount reaching the Bridge (in whatever format).

Tai Pan
20th January 2009, 16:20
thank goodness i left in 1960, sounds totally boreing.

CAPT.BOB
20th January 2009, 16:32
Thanks!I always wondered what was going on in the radio room.

BobClay
20th January 2009, 17:02
On a BankBoat, trundling from Panama to Aukland we had a German Captain. Now living in the UK, I think he'd come across after the war. Anyway the 2nd mate was complaining he was bored, so I typed up a joke nav warning.
The rough details were: a) A subsea earthquake had caused a giant whirl pool which was sucking down ships (I put that about a day ahead). b) An Iceberg the size of Australia was floating beyond the whirlpool. c) A german pocket battleship, whose crew were not aware that the war had been over for 20 odd years, was shelling and sinking ships just our side of the whirlpool. (All in all, the course we were following was bad news).

I put it on the chart table and waited for the 2nd mate's reaction. Then I heard footsteps on the stair, and unbelievably at that time of the afternoon, the old man came up and went into the chartroom. It was too late ... he saw the message and read it. I thought, 'here comes a bollocking of stellar proportions'. (This was my first trip deepsea on my own as a sparky).

He looked through to the shack and laughed out loud. Never let it be said the Germans don't have a sense of humour. (He didn't change course though).

[=P]

Mimcoman
21st January 2009, 01:31
Good story, Bob, made me laugh. I can just picture you waiting for the OM to appear.

Robinj
21st January 2009, 13:44
Concur with all thats been said. One thing I do was to keep track of Ice bergs etc when going from Glasgow to New York. Reading and nearly becoming an Alky was the main pastime.(Pint) (Pint)

Vital Sparks
21st January 2009, 13:54
On a BankBoat, trundling from Panama to Aukland we had a German Captain. Now living in the UK, I think he'd come across after the war. Anyway the 2nd mate was complaining he was bored, so I typed up a joke nav warning.
The rough details were: a) A subsea earthquake had caused a giant whirl pool which was sucking down ships (I put that about a day ahead). b) An Iceberg the size of Australia was floating beyond the whirlpool. c) A german pocket battleship, whose crew were not aware that the war had been over for 20 odd years, was shelling and sinking ships just our side of the whirlpool. (All in all, the course we were following was bad news).

I put it on the chart table and waited for the 2nd mate's reaction. Then I heard footsteps on the stair, and unbelievably at that time of the afternoon, the old man came up and went into the chartroom. It was too late ... he saw the message and read it. I thought, 'here comes a bollocking of stellar proportions'. (This was my first trip deepsea on my own as a sparky).

He looked through to the shack and laughed out loud. Never let it be said the Germans don't have a sense of humour. (He didn't change course though).

[=P]

Hmm, dangerous joke. Wireless telegraphy act states "Uttering a telegram known to be false" is also a criminal offence.

teb
21st January 2009, 14:43
I'm suprised no RO from Blue Funnel/Glen Line have not replied to this thread as the 1st RO also carried out what would normally be Pursers duties as well as making out cargo plans with cargo distribution lists on the homeward voyage!!!!! Teb.

R651400
21st January 2009, 17:13
I'm suprised no RO from Blue Funnel/Glen Line have not replied to this thread as the 1st RO also carried out what would normally be Pursers duties as well as making out cargo plans with cargo distribution lists on the homeward voyage!!!!! Teb.
Waiting for John Garner to answer that one?
I parted ways with Blue Funnel when I was offered promotion to 1st R/O.
Reason?
I didn't spend a year of my radio college time to have no radio work and colour in cargo plans for the rest of my life!

Pat Kennedy
21st January 2009, 20:37
None of you sparkies have mentioned what you did in port.
On most cargo ships I was on, particularly Blueys, the RO did cargo watching duties.
I spent many hours in the tween decks when I was a deck boy, chatting with a bored radio officer while pretending to watch the dockers. I even learned the rudiments of morse code off one spark, whiling away a hot afternoon in Singapore.
Pat

K urgess
21st January 2009, 20:46
I used to enjoy doing cargo watches. Especially in expensive ports to get a bit of extra for a run up the road.
Although facing down dockers in Montevideo armed with hooks who had been caught in the cargo wasn't necessarily the best idea, even if I was backed up by the third mate.
Doing cargo watches during the day, SSSSSPAFASWASS, back for more cargo watches so the mates could go ashore, a couple of hours shuteye, more cargo watches, SSSS.........
Couldn't do it now. I'd be dead in a couple of days.
I also used to enjoy a bit of deck work even if it was only fettling aerials and halyards. Learn a lot by watching others at work.
Also usually ended up as the gopher. Organised the transport, found the best bars for the evening's machinations, did the shopping for everyone. A real chore. [=P]

holland25
22nd January 2009, 00:13
During my time in Blue Funnel as 2nd R/O,late 50s, I did cargo watching in Jeddah, damaged cargo surveying at all outward bound ports. In Texas City on the Ulysses I performed as a check tally clerk, I think we were loading copper ingots. I also did about 10 nights duty night officer on the Glengyle in London, I dont think she was working cargo.I also tallied mail bags in Colombo.Sailing from New York eastwards I was required to keep a fair copy of the cargo plan up to date, ready for handing over just before we sailed. I was also responsible for the crews mail accounts, kept the overtime records and general two finger typist for crew lists and the like.I didnt get any extra but it was explained to me when I joined that I would be called upon for these tasks. I would have to say at the time I found it quite interesting, it was all new, and I only did it for a couple of years.I also felt that, in a small way, I played a part in the success of the voyage.

teb
22nd January 2009, 06:14
My sentiments too holland 25

teb
22nd January 2009, 09:58
just a thought about extra duties- on my first voyage as 3RO during world war 2 other that cargo(K) watch in port I was also detailed to load ammo on a Oerlikon cannon for a dems gunner.Was also sent to a gunnery school in Fretown during the voyage. After that I was given!!! the 12 to 4 watch in the radio cabin- great days????

Tai Pan
23rd January 2009, 15:33
Staff levels on Bluies & Glen were more than adequate, there where two R/Os, if one went sick etc ship could sail, same with Mates Engineers and lekeys. The 2nd R/O kept normal H8 watch, he also did damage cargo surveying in port and also checked the strong room on discharge. The 1st R/O did not keep watch although he did releive at meal times ( so none of the switch the AA on whilst I have my dinner). He acted as Purser ( nothing to do with passengers or catering etc that was the Chief Stewards job). He did all the Old Mans paperwork, logs etc, all the paperwork needed to get the ship in and out of port, wages book, cargo plans, cargo books. I actually found it very satisfying, you were part of the ships deck officers, instead of some guy belonging to marconi etc.
Dealing with agents and port officials, consulates etc etc was avery good grounding when I came ashore, at 26 I was not fazed by anybody and could hold my own in any buisness company. I thank Holts for that and made many friends both on ship and ashore. this is only a brief outline but its what made sparkies part of the crew and company and not a suopernummery.

K urgess
23rd January 2009, 16:28
I was never treated as "some guy belonging to Marconi" but during my time I've done just about everything you mention as part of the ship's staff.
Let's face it the job was what you made of it and some of us made more of it than others.
Cheers
Kris

andysk
23rd January 2009, 16:58
Vitalsparks,

I was only on one tanker, the Hector Heron, on charter to BP, and remember LEFO well. Of the others you quote, KACNY was acknowledge, KIZTO is very familiar, but I can't remember what it means, as for KJIJX I haven't a clue ! It was all sooo long ago, and the code book was quite some size !

King Ratt
23rd January 2009, 17:54
KIZTO I think was BP code for Fullstop or period.

andysk
24th January 2009, 12:39
KIZTO I think was BP code for Fullstop or period.

Thanks KR, you are right ! It certainly appeared pretty often in those messages !

Tai Pan
25th January 2009, 11:45
I was never treated as "some guy belonging to Marconi" but during my time I've done just about everything you mention as part of the ship's staff.
Let's face it the job was what you made of it and some of us made more of it than others.
Cheers
KrisAgree Chris. the other thing was on joining or docking. the only two MIMC offices I knew where Liverpool where I joined and was immediatley sent to Southampton, not a good start. Both were very seedy, rundown shoddy buildings staffed by the same type. the waiting room was about as big as broom cupboard full of blokes in raincoats and trilbeys smoking their heads off trying to keep warm, and you were called by a morse buzzer. ugh.
The other side was to enter India Buildings, the main concorse was cathederal like, up to the second floor, huge amounts of mahogany and beautiful glass cases with immaculate models of the fleet, you were asked to go and see someone by a seargent of commissioners. We then moved to the 7th floor, the waiting room was huge with comfy chairs and tables, the Masters room was on the right and deck & R/O on the left. Engineers had their own floor somewhere else. You were looked after by Stan Ludgate and Charlie Metcalf, Stan was one of the worlds gentlemen, they both knew about your home circumstances and took a big interest and tried to help if they could.They really looked after the staff unlike Varley at southampton. I could go on a lot more about how they treated me, could not fault Holts, thats the difference.
john

Bill Davies
25th January 2009, 11:53
The other side was to enter India Buildings, the main concorse was cathederal like, up to the second floor, huge amounts of mahogany and beautiful glass cases with immaculate models of the fleet, you were asked to go and see someone by a seargent of commissioners. We then moved to the 7th floor, the waiting room was huge with comfy chairs and tables, the Masters room was on the right and deck & R/O on the left. Engineers had their own floor somewhere else. You were looked after by Stan Ludgate and Charlie Metcalf, Stan was one of the worlds gentlemen, they both knew about your home circumstances and took a big interest and tried to help if they could.They really looked after the staff unlike Varley at southampton. I could go on a lot more about how they treated me, could not fault Holts, thats the difference.john


John,

Be careful, you may be alluding to 'BF were the best' and that will get you into hot water.

Brgds

Bill

Tai Pan
25th January 2009, 12:03
John,

Be careful, you may be alluding to 'BF were the best' and that will get you into hot water.

Brgds

Bill I have my asbestos jocks on(K)

Bill Davies
25th January 2009, 12:08
You'll need them!!

Rita H
25th January 2009, 12:16
As someone who is interested in the daily duties of the Radio Officer could some of you sparkies please let me know what sort of traffic was passed to you and what sort you passed back. What were you expecting. Did the master draft routine messages or did you draft your own.What was their content. This I expect looks anoraky but it is of interest to me.
Regards
Max

That makes two of us !! (Thumb) My late father Ronald Sherman was a radio officer in the Marchant Navy working for Marcony ..... has anyone out there worked and sailed on the same ship with him ? He spent many hrs at sea writing short stories on scrap pieces of paper in the radio room ,in between receiving and sending off messages ....

K urgess
25th January 2009, 13:12
Changed a lot by my time, John.
I was treated exactly like that by Mobil when I joined one of their small tankers and presented myself at their offices. That's the one that's freshest in my mind. Others, I was just another member of the crew to the supers and agents and in some cases the one they had to see if they wanted something. Despite being a "mere" Marconi sparks.
I was never called to the traffic clerk's window by morse. I was morse deaf unless I was in a radio room. I got my orders by telephone from whatever depot thought they had me on their books and never went into the depot unless I needed some expenses. They had vans, they could deliver whatever I wanted. They had to catch me first.
I can't even comment about BF. By the time I got to sea they were gone and the best thing afloat had changed to another company.
I see masters still can't avoid popping into the radio room to have a word with sparkie. [=P]

jmcg
25th January 2009, 13:49
And what about being the "postman" for the crew? Another duty not commented on.

BW
J.

BA204259
25th January 2009, 13:51
Same here. I never heard anything from my employer (IMRCo) except by telephone. Brilliant employers. Wonderful choice of ships too, some of the best (but not in any spirit of claiming superiority), not stuck with one shipping company, not stuck with one or limited number of runs. I had many a chat with many a skipper, including Cunard skippers later to be Captains on the QM and QE. Odd thing is, I never heard one claim of superiority by these people.......possibly claims of superiority are due to an inferiority complex?.... caused by being inferior? Never heard it at sea.
Sparkie's forum has been remarkably free from trolls... let's keep it that way.

Bill Davies
25th January 2009, 13:52
Always kept an eye on the Sparks Kris. Sad to see them go. Always useful for correcting my spelling mistakes.

jmcg
25th January 2009, 14:09
Trolls?

Is this "Sparkie Speak" or do I need to get out more?

BW

J

K urgess
25th January 2009, 14:15
Always kept an eye on the Sparks Kris. Sad to see them go. Always useful for correcting my spelling mistakes.

Sad to see that you needed to keep an eye on sparks, Bill.
I hope you were the sort of master that was always welcome in the radio room.

J, do a Google on the word. Not a sparkie thing at all.

BA204259
25th January 2009, 14:17
Trolls?

Is this "Sparkie Speak" or do I need to get out more?

BW

J

It is not "Sparkie Speak", Google is your friend. I haven't noticed you trolling.

Bill Davies
25th January 2009, 14:26
I never asked. I was the Master.

R651400
25th January 2009, 14:46
Never sailed with a British skipper who couldn't master spelling. Thread "Shipboard Accomodation" ???

jmcg
25th January 2009, 14:52
It is not "Sparkie Speak", Google is your friend. I haven't noticed you trolling.

Thanks for this, I guess I will retain my Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus for some time yet.

Not in my nature to knowingly wind people up. Wrestled (verbally) with quite a few though. I do promise to "get out more".

Marconi- thanks for the tip re Google. The above still applies!!!

BW

J

jmcg
25th January 2009, 15:17
Never sailed with a British skipper who couldn't master spelling. Thread "Shipboard Accomodation" ???

Is this not a bit over the top? I think so. Is it "trolling"?

BW

J

R651400
25th January 2009, 15:31
And what about being the "postman" for the crew? Another duty not commented on.
If you think #45 is ott, I could say same to quotes above but would have let it pass until you referred to my input.
Trolling? If you haven't got the point suggest you go back to the drawing board or try and get out some more.

jmcg
25th January 2009, 15:48
Being "postman" was part of Sparkies duties and one of which we will always be grateful for. Whether it was a 40 page missive of endearment or a one page "Dear John" (and I had a few of those) it was always sparkie who delivered it on arrival.

Likewise he was responsible for accounting and stamping costs of outgoing material.

I do not believe my posting could be considered over the top in any way.

BW

J

Tai Pan
25th January 2009, 16:00
ruffled feathers, oh dear me. I am only quoting my own experiences and not claiming anything.dont need too.

benjidog
25th January 2009, 18:16
I never asked. I was the Master.

"The Master" - did you used to appear in Doctor Who Bill? :)

Bill Davies
25th January 2009, 19:30
"The Master" - did you used to appear in Doctor Who Bill? :)

Brian,

I helped you out some time ago with the Port and Stbd business surely you must know what the Master refers to.
Doctor Who....Liberian or Panamanian?

Brgds

Bill

benjidog
25th January 2009, 19:36
Yes I do Bill - the smiley indicates a joke. Sorry you didn't get it.

Bill Davies
25th January 2009, 19:51
Yes I do Bill - the smiley indicates a joke. Sorry you didn't get it.

Brian,

It was understood as a joke.
I just cannot bring myself to use smilies and it a coincidence you mention it but I was going to add a PS to that effect.
Incidentally, I have never watched a 'Doctor Who' programme although I understand it has somewhat of a cult following.
I am big into ‘Coronation Street’ but don’t tell anybody.

Brgds

Bill

Klaatu83
25th January 2009, 22:03
As a Licensed Deck Officer with 30 years experience, it always seemed to me that Sparks had the best job on the ship. For one thing he worked alone, unsupervised by the captain or any of the department heads. Most captains didn't know enough about radio to kibbutz over Sparks' shoulder in any case.

For another thing, the radio shack was secured in port. While there was always plenty of work for the deck, engine and steward departments to do in port, Sparks was invariably the first one down the gangway and never returned until sailing time!

One other peculiar aspect of the radio officers' job was that they often used to supply their own tapping keys. It used to be that deck officers weren't considered to be professionals unless they brought their own sextants with them. By the same token, many Radio Officers used to bring their own personal tapping keys with them. Of course the radio shack always had a key, but those radio operators claimed they could send much faster with their own because they were used to "the feel".

Klaatu83
25th January 2009, 22:15
Radio Officers were handy people to have around, and I still think it was a mistake to do away with them. Towards the end they became the ones who maintained all the ships' electronics, including radars and computer systems. I was on Sealand's old M/V Galveston Bay in 1997, only a couple of years before they did away with the Radio Officers for good, when the ship's computer system contracted a virus from an updated version of a computer program supplied by the steamship company. It took Sparks nearly four weeks to sort it out. Nevertheless, he was the only person on the ship who had the knowledge, or the time, to deal with the problem at all.

R651400
26th January 2009, 08:14
Being "postman" was part of Sparkies duties and one of which we will always be grateful for. I cannot vouch for ships ran by radio companies but if you're quoting BF, I only sailed on one British crewed Bluey and on this ship each department was responsible for delivering and collecting their mail from the ship's office. The 1st RO/Purser ex P&O was the most efficient I sailed with and ran a very tight ship. Woe betide any deckie who addressed him as “Sparks.”

jmcg
26th January 2009, 10:03
Please oh please let me know how us mere deckies should have addressed Sparkie. Sir?

The OM was afforded the courtesy of sir. The Chief Officer was Mr Mate. The others as found.

I was never one for syrup.

Yes BF and others and can only recall Sparkie having control of the incoming/outgoing mail. Never a steward, mate or engineer.

BW


J.

trotterdotpom
26th January 2009, 11:16
The only time I ever called anyone "Sir" was when I was a cloakroom attendant at the Top Rank in Bristol - and that was for the sake of tips.

John T.

Tai Pan
26th January 2009, 11:22
The smile of doing the mail. In singapore there was a certain clinic that would do tests. apparently you left a stamped addressed envelope, this was agents in Columbo. It was interesting to see who received these letters and how they reacted. the power of being a sparks!!

R651400
26th January 2009, 11:58
Please oh please let me know how us mere deckies should have addressed Sparkie. Sir?
Sir?
Doesn't that sound a tad obsequious!
In the instance I refer, my chief the 1st RO/Purser took objection to being addressed as "Sparks."
His sensitivity illuminated with a similar qualification of yours "mere deckies."

jmcg
26th January 2009, 12:00
John Garner

Would that establishment be the "eye" Clinic?

BW

J

Tai Pan
26th January 2009, 12:23
John Garner

Would that establishment be the Clap Clinic?

BW

Jmy goodness me, I never thought of that. i assumed it was from the mission!(MAD)

Robinj
26th January 2009, 13:04
Probably the best reason for working for a Radio Company was that you got around different types of ships and shipping companys and did not get stay on the same routes. You could stay on the same ship if you wanted too but I prefered to move about. My time in port was spent on any repairs, but luckily there wasn't many.

jmcg
26th January 2009, 14:33
Nice one John G.

Sparkies do have a sense of humour.

BW

J.

K urgess
26th January 2009, 17:01
I'd almost go as far as to say that a sense of humour was a requirement of the job.
Those without one usually became very interested in the bottoms of various bottles or holding conversations with lifeboats. [=P]

G4UMW
26th January 2009, 17:49
Most captains didn't know enough about radio to kibbutz over Sparks' shoulder in any case.

How true! We lost our main transmitter due to a transformer burning out, and had to rely on the emergency Tx for the trip across the Pacific from Panama via Pitcairn to Auckland. My boss showed considerable tact while explaining the situation to the Old Man, especially after he was asked "Why can't you use that one?" (pointing at the emergency receiver).

BobClay
26th January 2009, 19:19
While it's true there was a tradition of Sparkies not doing much in port in the early days, this pretty much went by the way once the MED came out, and companies expected you to have ago at anything and everything that was even vaguely electronic.

I did 10 years with CP Ships as EO then CEO (a bit of a daft rank considering there was only one indican). That job took me all over the ship, ... any number of systems in the Engine Room, a whole pile of systems in the cargo control room (nearly all the monitoring systems were mine from sensors to display). I can remember spending hours in the steering flat with a Decca Autopilot problem.

Not complaining, because I was paid accordingly, and the job was that more interesting. To that extent I did carry my own key, and a good digital multi-meter as well.

When I first went to sea I was an engine room rating. Did two years of that then went through the process of becoming a sparky. So, no more hot enginerooms in the tropics for me, or so I thought. That all changed with the MED. Grubbing about in bilges or up on top of the boiler (instead of in front of it) working on some sensor or another.

When they did away with electricians (a very poor idea I thought), I picked up some of his work, fortunately all the heavy stuff got plonked on the shoulders of the 3rd Engineer.

So, a sparkies 'daily work' definately evolved during the 70's and 80's.

mikeg
27th January 2009, 19:27
The R/O's world became more challenging and a lot more interesting with the advent of the MED. I too throughly enjoyed working on anything and everything that was vaguely electronic. Like you Bob, I armed myself with my own key and a decent multi-meter (Fluke) as the default radio-room meter/s were sometimes something of a lottery.
Looking back I think its such a pity that the best 'job' times were when our daily work had evolved, unfortunately followed by the R/O's extinction. Thats life I suppose!

K urgess
27th January 2009, 20:09
I think I enjoyed it more when I "had my feet up, reading a book". [=P]
At least then I wasn't tied to electronics. I had time for cargo watches, pestering the engineers about what they were doing, learn how to splice or check a lifeboat/sail the ship's dinghy.

BobClay
27th January 2009, 21:05
I think the move forward came with the scrapping of the 2 on 2 off system tied to GMT. When you think of it, a daily working routine by ships time would enhance safety at sea, because there wouldn't be those black holes when auto-alarms only were listening (on British ships anyway). With GKA moving onto hourly list transmissions, the working day became sensible.

That meant you could get stuck into your other work in the afternoons.

I can always remember being called down below one afternoon in times when the leckys were no longer with us, and shown a strange looking contraption in some remote corner of the engineroom. The conversation with the 3rd Engineer went something like this:

"What is it ?" I asked.

"It's an ultra-voilet water steriliser," was the reply. "And it doesn't work."

"How can you tell ?" I asked.

"There's an alarm. It's never gone off before."

I tried to look suitably sorry for this tragedy.... but he continued. "It's got wires ..... and what looks like a printed circuit card." Then he smiled and walked off.

I scratched my head and looked at the 'thing' the way you might look at an unexploded shell. It got fixed (as far as we know, put it this way, the alarm didn't go off again).

Daily work ... all gone now.

jmcg
28th January 2009, 00:14
I like your selection of words i.e this tragedy, the thing and unexploded shell.

Very good.

J

Bill Greig
28th January 2009, 09:39
I remember with P&O, we were also in charge of the Cattermoul 16mm films and the projection equipment. Invariably we also got the job as projectionist if we were not on watch. Interesting though.

jmcg
28th January 2009, 12:09
I remember with P&O, we were also in charge of the Cattermoul 16mm films and the projection equipment. Invariably we also got the job as projectionist if we were not on watch. Interesting though.

Yes, another role that Sparkie undertook. Following the Suez Canal closure in 67 ships had to round the cape and therfore longer voyage times. Blue Flue vessels "loosened up" a wee bit and provided a few more creature comforts such as films. I'm sure other liner companies loosened up too. I do recall Sparkie setting up the equipment and running the show in the Rec Room. Think the film was titled Lone Ranger Rides Again - full of black and white vertical lines and snowflakes.

Was the projector Bell & something????

Sparkie was your man. Much appreciated.

BW

J

trotterdotpom
28th January 2009, 13:43
Bell and Howell, JMCG, you were sure spoiled in that company.
Did you ever get to see "The Lone Ranger Rides Again II" - that was a good one, but Tonto was getting a bit fed up with it.

John T.

Pat Kennedy
28th January 2009, 15:14
RMS Andes had only one working movie when I was in her. It was 'Goldfinger', and we had all seen it so often that we knew every word of the script, and all hands used to shout it out in unison during each performance. It was absolute bedlam in the pig! I can vividly recall about two hundred drunken men yelling 'PUSSY'.
Pat

Ron Stringer
28th January 2009, 15:33
Following the Suez Canal closure in 67 ships had to round the cape and therfore longer voyage times. Blue Flue vessels "loosened up" a wee bit and provided a few more creature comforts such as films. I'm sure other liner companies loosened up too.

Well I was only at sea 1960-66 but in that time sailed on only one ship that did not have films aboard - normally from Walport. Glad to see that BF eventually recognised such modern things as movies.

M29
28th January 2009, 16:18
Hi All
In Bibby Line, we had "Walport" films as well.
There was a rather quaint set up concerning the 16mm projector. The Electrician normally showed the films and was also responsible for the projector, however, the amplifier, because it had valves (tubes for our American viewers) was the responsibility of the R/O!
Film shows were normally on Saturday Nights at sea and were the highlight of the week.
Because of the 2 hours on, 2 hours off watch keeping pattern kept by R/O's, I seldom saw a film in one go! I usually saw the end on the Saturday Night and perhaps see the beginning at the "watchkeepers showing" during an afternoon.
Once swapped "From Russia With Love" for the "Bolshoi Ballet" (a five reeler!) for a night with a russian ship alongside in Montreal. They said they thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't think we made it half way through the 2nd reel.[=P]
I wasn't sent to do a trade again that trip!

Best wishes
Alan

jmcg
28th January 2009, 16:28
Bell and Howell, JMCG, you were sure spoiled in that company.
Did you ever get to see "The Lone Ranger Rides Again II" - that was a good one, but Tonto was getting a bit fed up with it.

John T.
No never did see that one . Having donned a set of chaps, stetson and holster to replace shorts, revvie and pouch en vogage I was quite happy.


Revvie - BF speak for a type of cap similar to that worn by flour millers.
Pouch - where one's knife and spike was housed and carried about the waist like a belt.


BW

J.

Ron Stringer
28th January 2009, 16:50
Once swapped "From Russia With Love" for the "Bolshoi Ballet"

We had ''From Russia With Love'' on one ship for several months. It was a 3-reeler and, after the first complete showing, only the reel with the fight between the two gypsy girls was ever taken out of the box and shown. You could go down to breakfast in the morning and, passing the smokeroom door, would hear the film playing to those that had just come off-duty. That reel must have been played hundreds of times during the voyage, the other reels only a couple of times.

IanSpiden
28th January 2009, 19:35
The First Trident tanker I sailed on the Orama had a Debris film projector which of course I had never seen before , if I remember correctly there was an oil reservoir which fed oil on a drip feed to the projector arms to keep them lubricated, I was extremely nervous about this think breaking down as it was the only entertainment we had onboard for the long trips from Europe round the Cape and up to the Gulf , they seemed to hold up pretty well , they then went to Bell & Howell's which seemed to have an inherent fault where the motor speed circuit went haywire and stopped the whole thing , the circuit was of course a sealed block with no way of getting at it , then we started getting the Walport Video tapes which got no end of abuse and many just got wrapped up in the video players it always seemed to be difficult to keep to the walport schedule for swapping the things , either you did too many swaps or could never swap them at the right time, I guess it depended on the run you were on

R651400
28th January 2009, 19:55
Freelancing Niarchos and Marchessini, there was never anything other than radio duties.
Cinema projectionist was always leckie's work.
I wish I had a pound (sri euro) for every time I saw "The Five Pennies" between Bandar Mashur and Geelong

BobClay
28th January 2009, 21:29
Old joke:

"Well Tonto, we're surrounded by hostile indians, heavily outnumbered and nearly out of ammo. We could be facing the end here..."


"What's this WE sh1t paleface....?"

mike N
28th January 2009, 22:43
Seems some of you had it cushy. We never even had a dart board or pack of cards, let alone a film projector!!(Cloud)

BobClay
29th January 2009, 00:28
You can't begin to know how much a set of darts or a pack of cards would be preferable to six reels of the 'Song of Norway.'

:eek:

trotterdotpom
29th January 2009, 00:44
Another one about old Kimosabe:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto arrive in town and the Ranger goes into the saloon for a drink, leaving Silver tied to the hitching rail. Tonto remains outside because redskins are not allowed to drink firewater.

While skulling his tenth drink, the Ranger is startled by a cowpoke bursting through the batwing doors and shouting: "Who owns the white horse outside? It's collapsed on the ground."

Out goes the Ranger and finds Silver lying on his side with his tongue hanging out, obviously suffering from dehydration. The horse is revived, the Ranger brings a few large pales of water for him to drink and returns to the saloon.

A few whiskys later and another cowboy bursts in: "Who owns the white horse outside, it's collapsed on the ground?" he cries.

The Ranger goes outside again and finds Silver comatose. He decides it's far to hot for the horse so he tells Tonto to run round and round the horse and create a breeze, thereby keeping him cool.

Silver comes round, the Ranger re-enters the saloon and gets back to his drink. Before long, in comes another cowboy: "Who owns the white horse outside?" he asks. "Don't tell me he's collapsed again?" says the Masked Man. "No, but you've left your Injun runnin'," replies the cowboy.

John T.

Gareth Jones
29th January 2009, 00:56
I was never very good at languages - all my time at sea I only learned one word of a foreign language - That was the red India name for arze bandit which is - Kimosabi .

Ron Stringer
29th January 2009, 09:32
Watching the films was fine. What was less enjoyable (but far more memorable) was the weight of a box of films and the discomfort of humping the bloody things along some God-forsaken oil jetty to swap them with another ship in the Gulf or elsewhere in the tropics. The gangways were never so steep at other times.

Tai Pan
29th January 2009, 10:04
On Glengarru we had a lady doc, guess who handed out the condoms

R651400
29th January 2009, 10:18
On Glengarru we had a lady doc, guess who handed out the condomsNice avatar JG, Dommage no Glen Line?
Glengarry? Did you get a personal fitting?
From memory they were called dreadnoughts and the thickness of the rubber alone, one dreaded nought!

Tai Pan
29th January 2009, 10:29
avatar thanks to Roger.

R651400
29th January 2009, 10:35
Recognised it immediately!
How many times did you get fitted out for a dreadnought?

andysk
29th January 2009, 11:24
In Clan Line (AFAIR) due to the variable (ship's time) nature of the R/O's availability, it fell to either the 2/O or the Leckie to operate the Bell & Howell projector. I usually got stuffed with the alongside exchanges though and sympathise with Ron, especially in Bandar Mashahr, it was a very, very long way round to anybody for a swap.

We did swap 'Kes' for something off a Ghanain ship somewhere, they very politely said it was a good film, we ditched theirs and watched the Eurovision Song Contest instead !

I do remember giving up after half the first reel of 7 from a Russian all about the wheat harvest and (allegedly female) tractor drivers on the collective farms in the Ukraine. They could have kick started Concorde ....

Oh Happy Days

Andy

trotterdotpom
29th January 2009, 11:26
Didn't the dreadnaughts include that little tube of squirty stuff? Very romantic!

I quite liked doing the movie swaps - usually got a couple of beers with a different crowd. Don't forget it was all highly illegal too - copyright rules and also against Walports own regulations. What's the Statute of Limitations on swapping films?

John T.

andysk
29th January 2009, 12:05
..... Don't forget it was all highly illegal too - copyright rules and also against Walports own regulations. What's the Statute of Limitations on swapping films? ....

If that's still valid, probably half the membership here would have to go into hiding ! And that just as the UK prison population has stopped increasing !

BobClay
29th January 2009, 12:46
I remember swapping films with a Russian ship, I think it was in Madras, but it was a long time ago. We watched their film, which also had a lot of tractors in it. We lent them 'Get Carter', which didn't have much in the way of tractors.

They invited us across to help explain to them what was going on, not easy because I'm sure they showed the reels in the wrong order. But if you've ever had a drink with Russians, you'll know that after a while, 'order' becomes a meaningless word. What a bunch ! They drink the way a Saturn V used to burn fuel.

They thought the film was great, even though I'm pretty sure they didn't have a clue what it was about. Then they returned the film to the ship in a wheelbarrow, making a couple of more trips with it to return us.

Every time I see 'Get Carter' now I still remember that hangover.

(Night)

R651400
29th January 2009, 12:53
Didn't the dreadnaughts include that little tube of squirty stuff? Very romantic!t.p.. Prefer your dreadnaught to my dreadnought.The long nozzle on the little tube you refer to was enough to put anyone of any eventual necessity for a visit to the eye clinic. Not talking from any experience myself, I do believe the contents had rather a sandy texture.
Might be an idea to get back to the all important duties of the Radio Officer?

trotterdotpom
29th January 2009, 13:06
If that's still valid, probably half the membership here would have to go into hiding ! And that just as the UK prison population has stopped increasing !


Oh no, there goes the UK's last growth industry!

John T.

trotterdotpom
29th January 2009, 13:11
Bob Clay: "I remember swapping films with a Russian ship, I think it was in Madras, but it was a long time ago. We watched their film, which also had a lot of tractors in it. We lent them 'Get Carter', which didn't have much in the way of tractors....."

They would have loved it Bob because "Get Carter", when transposed into Cyrillic script spells out: "Eg Tracter". I always knew those commies were dyslectic.

John T.

trotterdotpom
29th January 2009, 13:40
t.p.. Prefer your dreadnaught to my dreadnought.The long nozzle on the little tube you refer to was enough to put anyone of any eventual necessity for a visit to the eye clinic. Not talking from any experience myself, I do believe the contents had rather a sandy texture.
Might be an idea to get back to the all important duties of the Radio Officer?

I don't believe anyone ever used them, R65, they just curled into a ball and watched tractor porn - "Massey-Ferguson Does Odessa", etc (those Commie birds couldn't resist a western car).

Another important RO duty was being a secret agent. Of course, MI6 only employed Marconi sparks, partly because of their transigent nature aboard the ships, but mainly for their good looks and capacity for alcohol. I can now reveal that that was why they spent so much time swapping movies with Russian ships - imagine how useful all those diagrams of boiler feed pumps and lub oil purifiers, drawn on beermats by drunk Commie Fourth Engineers, were to Century House.

John T.

Tai Pan
29th January 2009, 13:58
i am only a country boy, very strange enquiry!!!!

Vital Sparks
29th January 2009, 14:28
I lent a box of walport films to Russian ships on a couple of occasions. They used to watch all 3 films in a single session in order to get them back to us before we sailed. The vodka received in exchange was great.

Naytikos
30th January 2009, 07:32
Reading all of the preceding posts it is apparent that the R/Os job became whatever a particular individual made of it. Naturally there would be more scope on some ships than others. The only British ship I enjoyed was a Bank Line freighter which happened to be a weather reporting ship and inspired me with an abiding interest in meteorology; I took the readings and compiled the messages as well as sending them. Also there was the opportunity to do cargo tallying around the Pacific Islands and make more than the miserable 'consolidated basic' Marconi's were paying at the time.
When I went freelance, though, wide horizons opened and I became privy to the last detail of the ships' business, to begin with by writing all of the outgoing correspondence in grammatical English and developing into doing engine-room continuous survey reports, provisions inventories and portage bills. There was also the need to repair/service everything that used electricity and a few things that didn't (chronometers, sextants, barographs, the Schermuly Rocket, the radio-isotope CO2 level detector, etc).
During the course of it all I took the exams and ended up with a Master's Certificate as well.
Don't remember any 'free time' though!

Moulder
30th January 2009, 10:46
Reading all of the preceding posts it is apparent that the R/Os job became whatever a particular individual made of it. ........

Correct and that is true of every rank/job on the ship.

(Thumb)

R651400
31st January 2009, 11:08
i am only a country boy, very strange enquiry!!!! Thought another "blue funneller" on this thread personalised one GTZB RO with a sense of humour?

wireless man
14th February 2009, 10:39
Gentlemen
Haven't been able to log in for some time but very pleasantly surprised by the response.
Thank you all for your contributions
Max

Shipbuilder
17th February 2009, 08:47
Towards the end of my time at sea (1990 - late 1992), I found I hade very little free time. At sea, the satellite alarm (indicating incoming messages) that was in my cabin usually went off in about half-hourly intervals all day long and sometimes until late in the evening. I always took the messages and delivered them imediately. On one occasion, I took the umpteenth message down to a very harrassed looking captain one fine sunny afternoon and he half joking, half serious, asked "why don't you bring them down in a wheelbarrow?"

This went on in port as well. The same captain would often encourage me to go ashore in port and not come back until we sailed, but I never did because the communications never stopped. I often had the feeling that he wanted me out of the way, to have a respite from the messages that seldom seemed of any great importance, but still required dealing with!

On the what do you call an R/O question, one captain who is frequenting these board would not let ANYONE on board call me sparks. It was not at my instigation, because I didn't mind the name at all. The only one I objected to was Radio Operator, but this could be countered with:
Map Reader (Deck Officer)
Fitter (Engineer Officer)
Grocer (Purser Catering)
Writer (Purser).

A good alternative was surely the Christian name from fellow officers and Mr. from the crew. I tended to address crew members as Mr. on earlier ships (British crew) and found they responded accordingly. If they saw me outside working on aerials, they would invariably offer to help (British crews) On the ship I spent 11 years on, most of us were on first names terms anyway, from captain down and that worked as well - but that was an incredibly unusual situation - we were even on first name terms with the managing director. Our other small ship (a 400 ton ocean - going tanker did not even have a crew mess, officers and crew all ate and socialised together - that worked as well!

Anyway, I was very glad to leave eventually, because I had just become an electronic dogsbody. I was very well paid though and did 2 months on, 2 months off (as did we all), but I much preferred it when I was just a "Sparky!"

Bob

geobro
18th February 2009, 22:45
Most interesting to learn the additional duties many R/O's performed in addition to watchkeeping and maintaining their equipment, and seemingly without extra remuneration.

I joined the profession in 1943 and was employed by IMRC until I came ashore in 1953, to enjoy the new role of husband and, eventually, father.

I served on ten ships during that time, never more than two voyages on any, though two of the postings exceeded two years absence. I saw nothing wrong with that, but later realised what a hardship it was for the young married men on board.

At no time was I called upon to assist in any aspect of shipboard duties outside my own radio room requirements. The only occasion I did otherwise was when I was 3rd R/O on an ammunition ship which was loading cargo in Sydney. Through the auspices of my Sydney girl-friend's father - who was a stevedore - I got a night time job on the wharf, loading shells onto cargo trays; I was taken aside by the head ganger and told to "Slow down, laddie, you're going too fast".

My principal activity in port was to be available as drinking mate for Mates and Engineers, making sure they got back safely. In its way as responsible a duty as any of you would have performed for your shipowners!

On British crewed ships I was always "Sparks" .... or, in the early days "Young Sparks". With Asian crews I was generally Mr Sparks.

I wouldn't have had any of it otherwise.... Ah, happy days indeed.

andysk
19th February 2009, 14:10
.... On British crewed ships I was always "Sparks" .... or, in the early days "Young Sparks". With Asian crews I was generally Mr Sparks. ....

Or Marconi Sahib by some Indian crews, even though I was direct employed by B&C.

I often ran the bar, it had the advantage that what I liked to drink was always available. Also, I was able to persuade the engineers coming off watch to carry the beer up to the bar on the grounds that they drank most of it !

Ron Stringer
19th February 2009, 17:03
As a MIMCo employee on Joe Constantine's ''Lochwood'' I signed on in Avonmouth. Went across to Cardiff and then up the West Coast to Glasgow and then down again - Liverpool, Swansea, Newport then down to Marseille, La Spezia, Genoa and so on calling at all ports down to Sicily then across to Tunis before heading back to Avonmouth. Since my gross monthly pay was £36 per month and (apart from the bits between Avonmouth and Marseille, and Tunis and Avonmouth) we were never more than 12 hours between ports, I would have been skint the whole time had the OM not asked be to tally cargo for him.

The hours of work for Mediterranean dockers were not onerous and the weather in May was warm, so I spent the days sitting in the sun (or shade, as necessary) counting thing being slung ashore. Knocked off for meals, finished in time to shower before dinner and then ashore to spend my hard-earned (?) money in the Black Cat or the likes. Came back skint but at least I did not sign off owing the ship money.

Regrettably, that was the only ship that offered me a way to boost my purse.

john bell
4th March 2009, 21:05
Same here. I never heard anything from my employer (IMRCo) except by telephone. Brilliant employers. Wonderful choice of ships too, some of the best (but not in any spirit of claiming superiority), not stuck with one shipping company, not stuck with one or limited number of runs. I had many a chat with many a skipper, including Cunard skippers later to be Captains on the QM and QE. Odd thing is, I never heard one claim of superiority by these people.......possibly claims of superiority are due to an inferiority complex?.... caused by being inferior? Never heard it at sea.
Sparkie's forum has been remarkably free from trolls... let's keep it that way.

Yeah - same experience here. Marconi used to send a telegram halfway through leave. The dreaded Red Devil used to turn up. When I worked for IMR a nice gentleman used to phone me and offer me a choice of two or three ships, telling me what they were like and where they were likely to go. Brilliant employers for sure.
I notice we're still being very guarded about everything we did!
John Bell

BobClay
4th March 2009, 21:09
I notice we're still being very guarded about everything we did!

There are skeletons in them thar cupboards.....

:D

john bell
4th March 2009, 21:17
There are skeletons in them thar cupboards.....

:D

So Mark Twain was a sparks on a paddle steamer?

ronmac6
4th March 2009, 22:43
hi all

Great thread, I really enjoyed working my way through all the posts.
My problem was always the confidentiality issue with received messages.
When the old man got an important message I loved it when he said pass this on to everyone. It was difficult on some ships when the old man would test you & say F*** all to anyone to see how long you could last out.

One time & I want to be careful here about details even thou quite a while ago we received sad news about one of the cadets family, It was decided to order the cadets flights home without telling him until the last moment.
I had to avoid the bar as I couldn't trust myself to keep my big mouth quiet after a few beers.

regards ronmac

Naytikos
5th March 2009, 06:50
On the confidentiality front, I learnt the hard way that messages get out even though the R/O hasn't said a word to anyone.
My very first trip was on a trawler out of Grimsby. Late one night I was chatting to Wick on 2Mc/s when the 2/E shoved a message to his wife in front of me. Rather than break off, retune and call on 500 I asked Wick if he would mind taking it on R/T; no problem, I read it out and he read it back to me. What I didn't know was that there was an extension loudspeaker in the skippers cabin so he could monitor the radio when there was no R/O aboard. The message content was of a somewhat embarassing nature so when the skipper charged out of his cabin into the wheelhouse, shouted it out to the mate and called the C/E on the voice-pipe to share the gossip, it began a mini civil war aboard!

ernhelenbarrett
5th March 2009, 07:47
As R/O on the old Tweedbank we didnt have films or a projector.On the very long slow voyage from Panama to Australia our nightly entertainment was to wait till it got dark, grab a torch and a wooden hatch wedge, sit on the hatch and on the word "GO", switch on our torches and try to hit the rats as they ran past!! The Radio Room/my Cabin was a long shack on the aft end of the Engineroom deck abaft the funnel attached to the deck with four wire slings and bottlescrews! I had to tighten the bottlescrews every couple of days or so when the Radio Room/My Cabin started to slide to port or starboard with the ship rolling! I KNOW I should have bought the Staff Clerk
a beer in the Denmark Pub in East Ham !!
Ern Barrett

K urgess
5th March 2009, 12:17
Last thing at night check your radio room lashings, Ern.
First thing in the morning check the ship is still there. (EEK)

Clive Kaine
11th March 2009, 14:48
hi all

Great thread, I really enjoyed working my way through all the posts.
My problem was always the confidentiality issue with received messages.
When the old man got an important message I loved it when he said pass this on to everyone. It was difficult on some ships when the old man would test you & say F*** all to anyone to see how long you could last out.

One time & I want to be careful here about details even thou quite a while ago we received sad news about one of the cadets family, It was decided to order the cadets flights home without telling him until the last moment.
I had to avoid the bar as I couldn't trust myself to keep my big mouth quiet after a few beers.

regards ronmac

I never had any problems at all with the confidentiality issue, after learning the hard way on my first trip as a junior. We received a message from the charterers (Shell) about our next destination, and I went and blabbed about it in the bar. My senior found out and tore me off a very large strip indeed, quite rightly.

I never forgot that bollocking, and never divulged the contents of any message again.

Trevor Clements
22nd March 2009, 00:22
I have to confess that while on a tramp T2, falling apart, riddled with cockroaches, and on charter to Shell, I took a message in Shell code routing us to Lands End FWO. I then bet the 3rd Engineer that we would be home within the month. We duly went to Cardon and loaded crude which we discharged at Eastham. While at anchor at Lynas we got a message that his wife had given birth. Some of his mates saw me coming along the flying bridge with an envelope and ran in to tell him. He was most insistent that if this was another of my jokes he would see that I never got another job as a sparks. The message was real enough as was the celebration, but it taught me a lesson.

Klaatu83
31st March 2009, 20:34
A lot of countries didn't allow any transmitting while in port, so the radio shack was required to be locked up and sealed. That meant that the Radio Officer had the best job on the ship, because he could go ashore as soon as we docked and didn't have to be back until sailing time.

When I began sailing in the 1970s a mate wasn't regarded as a real professional unless he brought his own sextant with him. By the same token, many of the Radio officers used to bring their own personal tapping keys. They were special high-speed units, known as "side-swiper keys". Does anyone else remember seeing those?

Pat Kennedy
31st March 2009, 20:45
I do, my room mate on the Peleus had ambitions to be a RO and he had a side action morse tapper on which he practiced at every opportunity and far into the night for weeks on end, until it mysteriously vanished into the 'big locker'
Pat

hughesy
1st April 2009, 02:54
I always knew them as "Bug Keys", a lot of Russians used them, they got some speed out of them.
Hit the key one way your got dashes the other way you got dots.
I always liked the old fashioned "doorknockers" kept your wrists in shape lol

all the best
Hughesy

holland25
1st April 2009, 06:40
A lot of operators thought they could use a bug key, and a lot of them were unreadable,the dots and dashes used to run into one another.

hughesy
1st April 2009, 08:28
I agree with you there holland 25

all the best
Hughesy

mikeg
1st April 2009, 11:31
A lot of operators thought they could use a bug key, and a lot of them were unreadable,the dots and dashes used to run into one another.

Conversely many radio officers were well versed in sending on a bug key, especially on heavy traffic ships a bug went a long way to relieve the strain. Used properly a fully-automatic key can produce pefect morse, less likely with a semi-automatic but still possible.

trotterdotpom
1st April 2009, 12:01
Bearing in mind that there's not much point in sending at 40 words per minute if the receiver can only receive or write at 20 wpm.

John T.

mikeg
1st April 2009, 12:15
Agreed. Just because its possible to send a lot faster then some R/O's did. I found it quite relaxing sending on a fully automatic key, very long messages like victualling orders or more complex cargo messages were a breeze whereas on a conventional key at the end of a long day sometimes my wrist would ache (no comments!!!) I suppose nowadays would be called RSI.

hughesy
1st April 2009, 12:30
Seems like them military Operators did all that stuff reams and reams of traffic.
I must admit a lot of them could tpye like crazy and receive at high speeds or so they kept telling us when they came to college to go to sea in the MN.
But when I worked on offshore jobs, we hads loads of traffic, and never used a morse key.
just loads of telexs, I guess the job was more like an office worker than a real radio operator, plus loads more RT too.
But to me it was like working in a big factory offshore and not as much fun as going to sea on a ship.
But thats just my own opinion.
Eventually they got rid of the R/O, I don,t know if they still have them offshore or not??

all the best
Hughesy

K urgess
1st April 2009, 12:54
I bought my mechanical bug on Guam after nearly seven years of normal key bashing.
I just happened to spot it in a shop window. Can't remember how much I paid for it.
Never did cotton on to fully automatic electronic bugs.
My normal sending speed was about 20s so it took quite a while to send tanker stores messages.
'Course the first thing that happened was getting reported for over-calling GKB.
It was so easy. [=P]

charles henry
1st April 2009, 15:23
Made my first auto keyer using a 6sn7 in 1947, was a free running flip-flop
(Multivibrator). Built into a cigar box I used it at sea until 1954 when it literally exploded and burnt up. Bought a "bug" and had a helluva job learning to send the dashes.
If the fellow at the other end was using a mill fast speeds should be the order of the day, you simply cannot handle hundreds of a messages at 20wpm. (But then again I never got hundreds of messages on ships)
de chas

ronmac6
1st April 2009, 16:58
hi all
Did anyone ever buy and use a Vibroplex key (made by NY company).
I bought one in Oregon but never had the bottle to use it in action.
Always used my electronic key (ideal for calling GKB but unlike Marconi Sahib got away with over calling!)

regards
ronmac

K urgess
1st April 2009, 17:28
The one on the right in my picture above is a Vibroplex, ronmac.
Slightly modified with a wooden junction box as a base because the only had three legs and tended to slide. So it's got some of that non-slip beer mat stuff on the bottom and a Marconi badge for decoration. [=P]
Difficult to balance well but a joy to use once you got into the flow.
I could always tell when someone was using one because the dots and dashes were never at exactly the same speed.
It seemed that just about every US coast station used them when I first went to sea.
Sometimes when I really want to depress myself I'll start a loop recording of 500 on the PC and practice calling a UK coast station.
Never get an answer. (Sad)

Naytikos
1st April 2009, 17:42
I bought a mechanical bug in Japan on my first Greek-owned ship. No manufacturer's marks but about 8 x 3 inches with a heavy black base and transparent plastic top which cracked immediately when I removed it to adjust the settings. Lost it several years later when my car was stolen en route to the airport to join another ship. It was hard to re-learn a steam key and I managed to get an identical bug in Brussels while on an SAIT SITOR course. Still use it today. With regard to speeds: I found one could judge the receiving ability of the 'other end' by his responses and adjust the sending speed accordingly. I could never write fast enough to keep up above about 28wpm, but on a typewriter it was easy.

K urgess
1st April 2009, 17:52
I have to agree about the speed and the typewriter. It wasn't more than a couple of years before I was carrying my own. Made life a lot easier.
I always found that if you tried to show off and send fast it would get blasted back a lot faster so better to start slow and build it up as you got used to the responses and interruptions. [=P]

Shipbuilder
1st April 2009, 21:01
After satcoms came in, I sailed with a couple of captains who actively encouraged me to clear off in port. Although they never said it directly, I suspect that it was to stop the incessant tide of commuications pouring in from Head Office, because they never went poking around the satcoms if I was not there. I would often go ashore with those captains safe in the knowledge that they couldn't complain about me being ashore if I was with them, and them in the (justified in my view) knowledge that communications had been cut even for a short while.

Towards the end, it seemed to me that the general office policy was "why send a twenty-word message when a couple of hundred words would do the job just as well!"

King Ratt
2nd April 2009, 12:45
Paragraph 1 of the Navy Form S.1555 regarding Drafting a Signal states in Capital Letters "WOULD A LETTER DO INSTEAD????"

IanSpiden
2nd April 2009, 19:34
When I went back to sea in 1996, I sailed on the Maasdam which was the only cruise ship left in the Holland America Fleet without CBand Sat comms which gives a continous Communications back to the office 24/7 so they can email as much they want . Instead we used sat com A with a compression program ( which I cannot remember the name of ) this involved everyone on the ship copying all their messages onto a floppy disk and sending them to the communications Office , these were all loaded into the program and then a number dialled to Head office and all the mesages would disappear of to them at the same time all the Head office mesages were sent to us and they were all printed out on a 4 ply telex printer roll , our job was to read every message and send them off to the appropriate department head , copies of course to the Captain and the Hotel manager , we used believe it or not a roll of telex paper per day or more as they did not just send the message but the reply and the answer and the reply to that etc etc , 50,000 ton passenger ship , one Comms officer , still the money was not bad !!

Klaatu83
3rd April 2009, 16:55
In 1990 I sailed on the SS Ashley Lykes, one of the last of their old breakbulk freighters. Lykes was based in New Orleans, where they've always had their own peculiar ways of doing things. At that time their ships still lacked such common conveniences as ARPA, satellite navigation and satellite communications.

One day the Old Man came up on the bridge an noticed the electrician working on something. When asked what he was doing the electrician replied that he was repairing the sound-powered phone to the bow.

The exasperated Old Man then vented all his pent up frustration with "Leaky Brothers": "F------ company expects me to tell 'em what's going on out here, and I can't even talk to the f----- bow!"

john bell
9th August 2009, 00:21
Conversely many radio officers were well versed in sending on a bug key, especially on heavy traffic ships a bug went a long way to relieve the strain. Used properly a fully-automatic key can produce pefect morse, less likely with a semi-automatic but still possible.

I used a Vibroplex mechanical bug at sea - not with Marconi, you need sidetone! I now use an iambic electronic bug as an amateur. Could never understand why most R/O persisted with a straight key when it's so much easier with a bug. Modern electronic keyers have automatic character spacing as well as self completing dots and dashes. You can't go wrong. I still have the Vibroplex - bought it from Pacific Electronics in Seatle in 1966.
Regards

david.hopcroft
11th August 2009, 20:28
I bought myself a bug key in Capetown when I joined a fruit reefer. It was a Japanese made thing - the key that is - that served its purpose well. I started out making myself a local oscillator, but it was a nuisance, and key clicks alone were fine. With a call sign of ZSHI it certainly was worth it !

David
+

Steven Lamb
14th August 2009, 12:43
Helping some "Old Men" lighten the the top shelf of their fridges when asked to do so !

5TT
16th August 2009, 08:36
I recall initially being very disappointed on my first outing with my brand new Katsumi keyer. I had practiced for hours and hours at my folks place during my leave and had finally got the hang of it, only to join my next ship, my first all Marconi station, Apollo, Conqueror etc, and discover that the console required the key back contacts to desense the receivers etc .. The Katsumi only had contacts for key closure on the back, but it did have an internal relay as well as solid state switching and I obviously found the required connection on the relay .. So I ran an extra wire out through one of the 1/4 inch jack sockets on the back, probably the dc power one and hooked it up to a 3 pole jack plug for the console and was ready just in time to send my TR.

That keyer survived years of being chucked around by aircraft baggage handlers, always wrapped up in shirts and jerseys etc for protection, and once during a bagage handler strike at Heathrow it came down onto the baggage carousel on it's own, followed by the suitcase which had burst open, clothes, socks all rolled up into balls etc all came tumbling down in bits and pieces too, I was horrified .. but the key was fortunately undamaged and is still in use to this day on my ham station in remarkably good condition, the suitcase was a write off though.

= Adrian +

mikeg
16th August 2009, 19:05
Adrian,

I remember being in the same situation joining with my first semi-automatic key, I had to put in a 24V desense relay at the last minute :sweat:

On one trip to Japan I bought a fully automatic Katsumi keyer and sold my semi-auto keyer to a R/O on a ship tied up close by. I had to modify the Katsumi to fit an integral desense relay powered by tapping off its own PSU. I noticed I'd got quite dependent on the keyer but occasionally I used the conventional key to keep my hand in, so to speak (just in case (H) ) After a couple of trips I'd decided that an auto keyer was so useful that I built a back-up keyer from the Heathkit catalogue. Both keyers are still working well. I use them every Wednesday evening to teach a class of pilots (air) to receive morse, which I look forward to as its been very enjoyable. B\)

dave4e
28th August 2009, 13:23
Anyone use a Bencher twin Paddle key?, a favourite amoung many ham operators, wonder if anyone used one at sea?
I moved house a few years ago and have for one reason or another not had time to put any antennas up at my new house, I notice that 500Khz has been released for amateur use. Would llike to give it a try.
Dave ei4ht/m0giw

mikeg
28th August 2009, 15:34
I've not used a Bencher twin paddle but I always hankered after a Schurr Profi that many folk though was better than the Bencher.
Apart from the ease of use what I like about these keys is the precision engineering 'on show' - so to speak.

dave4e
28th August 2009, 16:26
Hi Mikeg,
Ive not seen one of those before, just googled it, nice looking key,

Anyway getting back to the original thread of "R/O's Daily Work" was he not the Captains drinking buddy? or is that just what my Dad used to tell me..

Dave

mikeg
28th August 2009, 18:37
Hi Mikeg,
Ive not seen one of those before, just googled it, nice looking key,

Anyway getting back to the original thread of "R/O's Daily Work" was he not the Captains drinking buddy? or is that just what my Dad used to tell me..

Dave

http://www.rufzxp.net/speed1000.htm
Good for sending at 200 words per minute (EEK)

I have shared a few beers with Capts and C/E's over my time - Sunday prelunch also was a regular drinks invite to old mans cabin for officers in Shell
(K)

Mike

dave4e
28th August 2009, 19:08
Hi Mike

Ive used high speed CW for meteor scatter on VHF, but used software to generate it and also to slow it back down,
Thats a very nice looking key, i like the thumb screw adjustment, the Bencher key is allen key adjustable but I like the set up of mine and leave it at that, Ive prefer a slightly larger gap for dot than dash, but others that have used mine hate it that way. All about the feel of the key aint it...

My dad was a marconi operator with Shell in the 60's, i have a list of his ships somewhere.

Most R/O's ive sailed with were more ETO's than anything else and in the past few years a lot migrated to IT departments on cruise ships.

My dad visited my ship recently, he said he knew that the RO would be replaced one day, but he didnt think it would be as small a box as it is!!

Dave

mikeg
28th August 2009, 19:26
Hi Dave,

My Katsumi keyer originally had microswitches instead of contacts. First thing I did was to fit it with normal (adjustable) key contacts plus (later) a de-sense relay. Key gap set-up is quite a personal thing - some R/O's like very small gaps whereas others will thump away at quite wide settings.

I probably knew your dad as I sailed on Shell ships for over 20 years starting in the '60's during that time I met many R/O's either on ships or company tech courses.

It's sad but true, the R/O has gone the way of the lamp-trimmer, chippy et al, we are now akin to the brontosaurus.

Mike

dave4e
28th August 2009, 19:44
Mike

My dad is Jim Ryan from Cork Ireland, he was with Marconi untill about 1976, off the top of my head he would have been on tankers, Hinnites,Vitrina, and Donacillia, hope thats the right spelling, His discharge book is at home, or better still ill have to introduce him to the Forum.

I learned Morse as a kid, the R/O was already a dying breed so went to sea as an engineer, im still good for 20 wpm,

73

Dave

mikeg
28th August 2009, 22:28
Dave,

I do recall Jim on the Donacilla in the late 60's (68 or 69 I think) - had a few QSO's with him and exchanged staff lists (as you do) but unfortunately I don't think I actually met him in person unless it was on one of the courses - its difficult to remember now I'm afraid.

Initially I worked for Redifon on Shell ships then Shell went direct employ and was offered a job at 100% pay increase :) but Jim's time would have been before that.

Mike

Dutchy62
11th September 2009, 01:03
You all seem to have missed the most important job for the sparks, copying and typing the football results every Saturday(ish). This was easier with a fixtures booklet and you joined a ship without one at your peril.

mikeg
11th September 2009, 16:33
I always brought a fixture book with me, it saved time. I used to type out the fixture lists with carbon paper (remember that!) so I got three copies, one in Officer bar, one in Crew Bar and one in the radio room as someone often rang up to find how their team had done. I remember giving a jnr r/o a stern talking to for transmitting during the football results after I'd said best not to. (it was an unimportant transmission).

Chas York
26th August 2010, 08:53
You all seem to have missed the most important job for the sparks, copying and typing the football results every Saturday(ish). This was easier with a fixtures booklet and you joined a ship without one at your peril.

Yeah, I always avidly got the classifieds, no matter what time of day or night,sometimes delaying calling up GKA/FFL/JCS/WSL whoever for QTC! (naughty!!) Being a staunch dyed-in-the-wool Liverpool supporter the footy was paramount! And on Greek/Greek Manned ships it was a sin to miss the "Propo" Classified pools results sent out by SVA!!

Chas York
26th August 2010, 08:55
Agreed. Just because its possible to send a lot faster then some R/O's did. I found it quite relaxing sending on a fully automatic key, very long messages like victualling orders or more complex cargo messages were a breeze whereas on a conventional key at the end of a long day sometimes my wrist would ache (no comments!!!) I suppose nowadays would be called RSI.



I loved my Hi-Mound BK100 and Katsumi EK-150 keyers! Made life so much easier!!

Chas York
26th August 2010, 09:03
Made my first auto keyer using a 6sn7 in 1947, was a free running flip-flop
(Multivibrator). Built into a cigar box I used it at sea until 1954 when it literally exploded and burnt up. Bought a "bug" and had a helluva job learning to send the dashes.
If the fellow at the other end was using a mill fast speeds should be the order of the day, you simply cannot handle hundreds of a messages at 20wpm. (But then again I never got hundreds of messages on ships)
de chas

MY first 'speed' key was one I cobbled up out of old relay contacts and half a hacksaw blade! Manual side-swipe, after seeing on in a shack on board an East Geman tanker when we were invited over for drinks in dry dock back in 1967 or 68. I then got a Hi-Mound BK100 which was great, and a similar gadget made by JRC (see my pics in Radio Stations section) which I also loved using. I moved into the modern age with a Katsumi EK-150 Iambic keyer which I found fantastic, except that I never quite got the hang of using full squeeze mode for letters like K, C, R, etc! Still got it here, on the hall window ledge, along with my HiMound, often have a quick rattle when passing!

mikeg
26th August 2010, 12:22
I moved into the modern age with a Katsumi EK-150 Iambic keyer which I found fantastic, except that I never quite got the hang of using full squeeze mode for letters like K, C, R, etc!

Katsumi certainly made excellent electronic keyers! One small personal gripe though, on my EK-1024 the paddle contacts were 'back to back' microswitches that I didn't like the 'feel' of, therefore I removed both microswitches and replaced them with key contacts - which for me made the keyer far easier to use.

I didn't get the hang of the squeeze technique either B\)

Mike

Chas York
26th August 2010, 13:22
As someone who is interested in the daily duties of the Radio Officer could some of you sparkies please let me know what sort of traffic was passed to you and what sort you passed back. What were you expecting. Did the master draft routine messages or did you draft your own.What was their content. This I expect looks anoraky but it is of interest to me.
Regards
Max

Traffic was mainly concerning ships business, cargo, crewchanges, position reports and of course when necessary, weather repors, navigation hazard warnings, distress, search and rescue, or other emergencies. I found most Captains, once they got to know me and realised I was capable of answering business messages would leave me to it, - if in doubt I'd always ask, and in almost all cases, except straightforward acknowledgements/position reports, I'd show them what I'd drafted before sending my reply to messages from owners, managers, and agents. Other matters such as intership chat / staff lists etc we always did our own thing. --- that answer your question? also, with Foreign captains whose English was not very good, I'd ask them what they wanted to say, and put it in my own words/abbreviations.

Chas York
26th August 2010, 13:29
Katsumi certainly made excellent electronic keyers! One small personal gripe though, on my EK-1024 the paddle contacts were 'back to back' microswitches that I didn't like the 'feel' of, therefore I removed both microswitches and replaced them with key contacts - which for me made the keyer far easier to use.

I didn't get the hang of the squeeze technique either B\)

Mike

haha! Never met the 1024, must Google it! tks 4 qso om, c ya!

mikeg
26th August 2010, 15:42
Hi Chas,

Sorry, my typo - its an MK-1024

http://www.rigpix.com/cwgear/katsumi_mk1024.htm

Mines showing the signs of age (arn't we all B\) )

Tks om 73's

david.hopcroft
26th August 2010, 20:10
I invested in a little Japanese 'bug' when I joined a Safmarine fruit reefer in Capetown - Z S H I - obvious reasons !

David
+

tunatownshipwreck
26th August 2010, 23:05
I invested in a little Japanese 'bug' when I joined a Safmarine fruit reefer in Capetown - Z S H I - obvious reasons !

David
+

ZSHI...a nice little "ditty".

Troppo
27th August 2010, 04:39
Anyone use a Bencher twin Paddle key?, a favourite amoung many ham operators, wonder if anyone used one at sea?
I moved house a few years ago and have for one reason or another not had time to put any antennas up at my new house, I notice that 500Khz has been released for amateur use. Would llike to give it a try.
Dave ei4ht/m0giw


I used a bencher twin paddle and electronic keyer for all my sea time from my first ship as a junior R/O.....my first old chief didn't like it....until I demonstrated that I could use it....

Always had a standard key in parallel though...just in case **** hit fan..

Troppo
27th August 2010, 04:42
Hi Chas,

Sorry, my typo - its an MK-1024

http://www.rigpix.com/cwgear/katsumi_mk1024.htm

Mines showing the signs of age (arn't we all B\) )

Tks om 73's


Ha ha! Bought one of them up the road in Akihabra (Tokyo) on my first trip...the memories were very useful...much better than my original home brew keyer.

I used to amuse my Chief by programming in the call sequence for HF stations, and just sitting back and pressing the button!

Watching the main tx calling JCS "by itself" was a real spin out in 1980...

:-)

Treborvfr
27th August 2010, 10:49
I bought a CMOS Keyer from a company in the NW UK that used to advertise in the REOU Magazine (in 1976 I think). Great little device, very well made, but worst investment I ever made, no matter how much I practised I could never use the thing, and always resorted to a hand key. I ended up selling it to a Marconi sparks on the MEC course I was on a few years later.

Bob

mikeg
27th August 2010, 12:29
Ha ha! Bought one of them up the road in Akihabra (Tokyo) on my first trip...the memories were very useful...much better than my original home brew keyer.

I used to amuse my Chief by programming in the call sequence for HF stations, and just sitting back and pressing the button!

Watching the main tx calling JCS "by itself" was a real spin out in 1980...

:-)

Bought mine in Akihabra as well, I loved that place!
On the first watch I used to programme the expected call sequence for that day. I agree novel for the 80's, I especially liked calling and filling in that call in the log at the same time. A good quality keyer, both my Katsumi and Heathkit still work well. I last used both keyers to teach morse to pilots (aviation) last year.

R651400
27th August 2010, 14:36
I bought a CMOS Keyer from a company in the NW UK that used to advertise in the REOU Magazine (in 1976 I think). Bob Bob I think you may be referring to the Star-Masterkey CMOS keyer made by Dewsbury Electronics (G4CLX) Stourbridge, West Midlands.
When in GTZB I bought the Japanese bug with transparent plastic lid made by a company called Dentsu Seiki. The plastic suction cups on the base were useless and it fell off the desk in rough weather smashing the plastic paddle and innards.
Miraculously restored by our Greek Chief Engineer I continued to used it right up to my departure from GND whence I passed it on.
Some years ago I was gifted the basic version of the Star-Masterkey now surplus to requirement. I'm happy to pass it on to a new owner just for the price of postage from France to wherever. One simple proviso only that it will be used by the new owner.
ps There is one presently on ebay ending 29/9

G4UMW
27th August 2010, 14:37
I bought a CMOS Keyer from a company in the NW UK that used to advertise in the REOU Magazine (in 1976 I think).

That sounds like Spacemark Communications who were the UK agents for Samson keyers. I bought my ETM-3C from them back in the early 70s - it's still going strong!

Treborvfr
27th August 2010, 17:13
Bob I think you may be referring to the Star-Masterkey CMOS keyer made by Dewsbury Electronics (G4CLX) Stourbridge, West Midlands.

The company I bought this one from was in the Manchester area, it may have been Macclesfield. They used to advertise in every issue of the REOU magazine.

I practised and practised with it and thought I'd got the hang of it, then the first time I tried using it on air I got a right rollicking off PCH! It never got used again after that.

Bob

5TT
28th August 2010, 05:18
Hi Mike,

I recall the shop I bought my EK-150 from had the MK-1024 in stock as well, in fact those were the only two keyers they stocked. I'd originally set out to buy a single paddle keyer so I was reluctant to buy either of them, but it was getting towards the end of a long day so eventually decided to get the cheaper one on the basis that it would be less money wasted if I didn't get the hang of it. I think it was about 60 or 70 pounds which back in '78/'79 wasn't an insignificant amount

I too never bothered about trying to use it in squeeze mode, was more than happy to become proficient using them the more conventional way, but I tried to observe myself sending the other day and I THINK I'm doing it right now.

I still use the EK-150 on my older ham radios that don't have internal keyers, but on the more modern ones I use Kent paddles which have got a more solid, precision feel about them, and take up less space on the desk, sat right next to the computer mouse in fact.

There's still a lot of morse activity on the ham bands with a generally very high level of proficiency too, and it's great to still be able to use the skills honed so long ago, it's really the only reason I started a ham station.

When my wife is sleeping I often slowly repeat the words "Begali Sculpture", without result so far I might add, but I have noticed that the parrot now seems to want a set too, so maybe one of us will get lucky one day :-)

= Adrian +

Troppo
28th August 2010, 06:34
I still use my original Bencher twin paddle - it is now plugged into my ham rig (IC756 PRO3, which has a built-in keyer).

Funny, I don't get on the ham bands much these days (bus man's holiday - I'm in radio professionally), but I can still use the paddle and a straight key....once learned, never forgotten....

Robert Wheeler
28th August 2010, 11:33
All this key talk caused me to visit the loft and dig out my battered old Samson ETM-2b.
Bought through the REOU mag advert in1974 and in use till about 1983 when I upgraded to something better.
I practised for weeks with this thing before summoning the courage to go live - OBS to ZSC - then never looked back.
The switch off sidetone message for myself was a reminder to switch off the small and very cheap radio I used as a sidetone as it was heavy on batteries.

mikeg
28th August 2010, 13:57
Hi Adrian,

The shop in Akihabra had both keyers on display, when I first saw the MK-1024 I didn't have enough money on me so I returned the next day. I requested a shop demo which was no problem. When I got it back to the ship I installed a built-in desense relay that was powered off the keyers own supply. It was later on that I replaced the microswitches for adjustable key contacts...and never looked back.
Can't imagine now how life would have been like without that keyer, I could virtually send all day without strain with my wrist resting on the edge of the operating position.

Just one thought, has the parrot picked up any morse? How bizarre that would be (Jester)

5TT
28th August 2010, 15:40
Hi Mike,

No not morse, the closest he's come to that is the "dit dit dah" from the microwave oven, especially if nobody has come to open it immediately and he thinks he might be getting some of the contents, but he does mimic the heterodyne notes when I'm tuning across the various bands and he occasionally seems to have a go at RTTY.
His favourite is still The Thin Blue Line theme tune which he whistles with great gusto :-)

= Adrian +

Criffh
29th August 2010, 15:15
I was recently foraging around in the attic, and came across my old Hi-mound mechanical bug key. Dots were originally produced by a contact operated by a swinging weight when the paddle was held to the right. Unfortunately though, as I discovered much to my embarrassment while in a QSO with a coast station, the key would send a series of dots whenever the ship (Texaco Bahrain/GQNB) rolled heavily to port. That was back in about 1970, and I converted it to an electronic keyer with the aid of half a dozen TTL chips, and a sidetone oscillator using an OC71 (remember those?!).
Re. Akihabara, I was in Tokyo 5 years' ago. Not much in the way of ham gear, mostly pc, phones, digital cameras and mp3 stuff. Rather disappointing.

Vital Sparks
30th August 2010, 18:07
Tried a bug but could never get the hang of it, my trusty Junkers "handomatic" went with me to every ship.

david.hopcroft
30th August 2010, 20:44
This is my 'little Japanese' bug. I used it for 20 years at GKZ. The paddle is araldited because ZSHI tended to roll, a bit to much even for the suction cup base one time !

David
+

hawkey01
31st August 2010, 17:13
I think I have used just about all types of keys over the years. When I was first at sea it was the standard Marconi key - very good too - then when I was ashore the first time I learnt to use an automatic which was a necessity. On my final trips to sea I had a little old brass hand key which I was given when I was in Skaramanga. I stripped it down and rebuilt it and it was just fabulous to use. I suppose you would call it a Post office key, nothing fancy. Then I had this massive machine I think it was a - Hi Mound - worked as either a bug or fully automatic keyer by throwing a switch. Absolutely fantastic action and I only parted with it when we were stopped using the mains supply for keys at GKA. For the life of me I cannot remember why they made this rule. It would run on batteries as well but took 12v so it was a pretty big battery and expensive - not a car type - the relays made a amazing clacking sound.Then I used a Bug like Davids above. Next came a ETM, followed by a Vibroplex - I used to borrow this from one of my colleagues who was not on operating duties. When the new station was built we had Katsumi squeeze keys on all points. My last auto key which I still have is a little green job which was made by someone up North. It did have a name but I cannot remember it. The keys is on a unit in the lounge to this day.

Hawkey01

Ian Whitehead
8th September 2010, 17:15
It depended where you were. 1st task was always to check the post at Portishead for long range messages, secondly check with local radio stations for instructions from Port or agents. That wa the first 10 minutes of a two hour watch. Next would be weather reports and a general call to see if there were any other company ships in the area. Occasionally the Capt would give me a coded message to send to Head Office, usually stores or arrival information, coded in five letter groups for both security and economy. After that it was feet up and book out listening to local traffic which was of no concern. On 500hz we had a range of 400 miles or so, if we were in a busy area there would be plenty of signals which you could pick up and log every 10 minutes to prove you were on duty. However, in vast lonely oceans there could be dearth of signals so I would try random calling rather than log nil to report. Crossing the Southern Ocean from South Africa to Western Australia was particularly quiet, until I got a call from a fellow BP Tanker asking if we had the epic poem "Eskimo Nell" on board. The next watch I reported that we had a version with 34 verses. I was asked to pass over verses 8 to 12, which I duly supplied. A Greek ship then called and asked for verses 28 to 34. Finally I got a call from a Swedish ship requesting all the intervening verses. I had not expected that number of ships to be in range. When we arrived at Kwinana, I took a trip into Fremantle and spotted the Swedish ship in port. Opportunity for a free beer! I mounted the gangplank and asked to see the Radio Officer, to discuss the filthy innuendos in the poem. I was told she was in her cabin.............

mikeg
8th September 2010, 18:57
I mounted the gangplank and asked to see the Radio Officer, to discuss the filthy innuendos in the poem. I was told she was in her cabin.............

Don't leave us in suspense Ian, what happened next...or is it too blue? :D

Billieboy
8th September 2010, 19:38
Don't leave us in suspense Ian, what happened next...or is it too blue? :D

It had occuured to me, that Ian, might be related to Mrs. Mary Whitehead!

Ian Whitehead
9th September 2010, 18:53
Don't leave us in suspense Ian, what happened next...or is it too blue? :D

I was taken to the cabin of a rather large and manly lady who was far less feminine than the Swedish girls we met in Stockholm. The ship was also dry. After a brief introduction I disappeared across the docks to an old Blue Flu boat which sailed regularly from Singapore to Fremantle with the only Guinness east of Suez, I have the name on the tip of the tongue. Just remembered MS Gorgon

One other aspect of the R/O life has not been mentioned. I did the winter of 1959 from Fleetwood on trawlers so that I could get home every two weeks to my girlfriend in Preston. On trawlers, my job was only to add value. Find the where other trawlers were catching fish, code all signals so that no-one knew what we were doing, follow the day to day market prices and landings and convert all the fish livers into top quality, marketable Liver Oil. I must tell you about how I kidnapped a taxi driver for two weeks........

Naytikos
10th September 2010, 05:47
It had occured to me, that Ian, might be related to Mrs. Mary Whitehead!

Billieboy: I think perhaps you mean Mary Whitehouse?

mikeg
11th September 2010, 17:11
manly lady who was far less feminine than the Swedish girls we met in Stockholm

Perhaps it was Mary Whitehouse (Jester)

athinai
12th September 2010, 15:29
I used to ''borrow'' the Vibrating Reed of the Type ''M'' Auto-Alarm and use it as a Side-swiper, It really worked pretty Cool.,
Eventually got a Vibroplex in the States and that was that. Since Graduated to a Second-Hand Electronic Key which I use on the Ham-Bands etc., Good Times and memories., (She was only a Sparkies Daughter, but DA DA DIT DIT)

mikeg
12th September 2010, 16:04
I used to ''borrow'' the Vibrating Reed of the Type ''M'' Auto-Alarm and use it as a Side-swiper, It really worked pretty Cool.,
Eventually got a Vibroplex in the States and that was that. Since Graduated to a Second-Hand Electronic Key which I use on the Ham-Bands etc., Good Times and memories., (She was only a Sparkies Daughter, but DA DA DIT DIT)


Another option is to use a hacksaw blade with a bit of tape wound around the end & screwed under the key knob. Just flick it up/down for dots, the speed depended on length of blade. You can use a kitchen knife as well for the 'poor man's bug'

Mike

5TT
12th September 2010, 19:30
One of the problems I had with straight keys on ships is that they were never screwed down, so it was always a two handed effort to send, with one hand needed to steady the key. No such problems with my Katsumi though, nice and heavy with very effective rubber feet, even in the heaviest weather it never once moved.

RE: Hawkey01's post above, I'd be very interested to know why the GKA chaps were not allowed to use mains power for their keys, if anybody out there knows the reason?

= Adrian +

Naytikos
13th September 2010, 06:50
Posted by 5TT
One of the problems I had with straight keys on ships is that they were never screwed down,

So why not screw it down?
If the next chap doesn't like the position he can always move it!

Larry Bennett
13th September 2010, 09:24
"I'd be very interested to know why the GKA chaps were not allowed to use mains power for their keys, if anybody out there knows the reason?"

This was due to the introduction of draconian Health and Safety/Liability issues whereby all BT-owned equipment had to be PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) tested - one's own personal equipment was not allowed to be used. The Katsumi keys provided by BT were fine as these were tested annually.

So, this is why one's own personal electronic morse keys had to be battery-powered....just in case an R/O was accidentally electrocuted - in which case BT could not be liable for any injury.

Things got a bit ridiculous when the station's Maintenance Officers (R/Os with an extra responsibility for basic maintenance) were forbidden to replace light bulbs, the job being passed to the station's engineers....

The early days of the nanny state.

Larry +

mikeg
13th September 2010, 11:06
Posted by 5TT


So why not screw it down?
If the next chap doesn't like the position he can always move it!

A few other options come to mind, a piece of nonslip matting or suction cups instead of feet would save left & right handers drilling multiple holes in the desk. Come to think of it I never did see a key screwed down except in radio college.

Mike

Ron Stringer
13th September 2010, 13:19
One of the problems I had with straight keys on ships is that they were never screwed down

Never sailed on a ship where the key was not screwed down. Went on plenty later where the key was a floating, plug-in affair (as on the Marconi radio room consoles) but that was after my time at sea.

hawkey01
13th September 2010, 15:07
Larry,

thanks for the explanation, saved me digging in the memory bank for the reason. It was very musical when Alan Padgett and I were using our big keys in the same wing. Loverly clack of relays. That key eventually went off to sea with the RN as one of the guys bought it from me when he was posted. For the life of me I cannot remember his name. I will have to look at the list on our site.
I see that you have talked your brother into joining us!


Neville - Hawkey01

david.hopcroft
13th September 2010, 20:30
'The paddle is araldited because ZSHI tended to roll, a bit to much even for the suction cup base one time !'

The same time the paddle got broken I also found out my chair was not screwed down - or even had one to screw down ! My 'little Japanese bug' had a habit of not being able to overcome the effect of the roll, so had to revert to the main key which was fixed down.

David

Billieboy
13th September 2010, 20:47
Billieboy: I think perhaps you mean Mary Whitehouse?

Whoops! Sorry lads, seems I had another Senior moment!, thanks for the correction Naytikos, apologies to all concerned!

athinai
14th September 2010, 18:38
Hey Guys,

Whats this SN SUPPORTER on some of the postings ?, am I missing something ?

Athinai

Gareth Jones
14th September 2010, 20:00
Hey Guys,

Whats this SN SUPPORTER on some of the postings ?, am I missing something ?

Athinai


They are the members who make a financial contribution to SN.

Gareth.

athinai
15th September 2010, 16:18
Gareth.

Thanks for the Info, Was wondering as I have long periods of not visiting the the Net etc., Strange contrast to the Main opening page,
what is the usual contribution Gareth, I dont want to be left out, Hi

Regards/ Athinai

Gareth Jones
15th September 2010, 18:52
Gareth.

Thanks for the Info, Was wondering as I have long periods of not visiting the the Net etc., Strange contrast to the Main opening page,
what is the usual contribution Gareth, I dont want to be left out, Hi

Regards/ Athinai

Well it's whatever you can afford - I give £20 per annum ( I think !)

Best 73's

Gareth.

hawkey01
16th September 2010, 12:55
Athinai,

at the very top of the page you will see the info bar - move to the right and you will see an item - Support SN - Click this and you can see a drop down - cost - which will give you several amounts. You choose one and click and follow prompts etc.

Hawkey01

Graham P Powell
16th September 2010, 15:39
Been off the air as my computer imploded!. Been following the GKA key saga with interest. If you had seen the wiring there you would definitely not have plugged into the mains!. Padgetts key made the lights flash. We had to ring Hinkley Point to flash up another genny before he could use it. I had a vibroplex ( still have ) but mainly used the GKA handmade keys. Somebody at GLD used a key made from a piece of hacksaw blade. Like so many things at GKA keys took on a life and culture all of their own.........
rgds
Graham Powell

david.hopcroft
16th September 2010, 20:15
Graham

It was Clive Knott -used it at GKZ also

David
+

Graham P Powell
17th September 2010, 09:43
Hi David, I think it was John "Cableship" Vaughan who told me it was Clive Knott at GLD that used it. Stuart Lund used a bug key made by Lionel Corporation ( model train makers ). They were made in brass during the war and quite collectible today I would think. I wonder if he still has it...?
You ought to see the GKA site today. It looks b....y awful.
rgds
Graham Powell

hawkey01
17th September 2010, 14:55
Graham,

glad you are back. Sorry about the PC!.
Indeed Clive did use the hacksaw side swiper. I saw it first at GLD - very fine morse as well.
He has a pub near us in Somerset - however I have never visit - reason unknown. I was told it is in Somerton.

Reference the old site - just think they still have more to build where the site offices are. Not a development of great beauty thats for sure. Luckily I can only just see it!

Neville - Hawkey01

R651400
17th September 2010, 19:20
Graham/Neville,
Had a contact with Clive recently operating /M from his narrow-boat somewhere in the Midlands. I got his address from an old call book as Fox and Hounds Somerton but believe he now winters in Taunton.
Clive unfortunately has developed Parkinsons and sends impecc via the pc keyboard.
Malcolm

Graham P Powell
17th September 2010, 20:16
Very sorry to hear he has Parkinson's. Not nice at all. He is still a sea(!) going R/O
if only on a narrow boat. Never actually met him.
Neville, An R/O called Alan Kerr was living over the road from you in Hendon Close. Not sure whether or not he is still there. I don't know him but I'm sure you would. "Mad Dog" Lineker lives behind you more or less. What a frightening thought
rgds
Graham

hawkey01
18th September 2010, 15:05
Malcolm,

I must try and get over to Somerton some time and look up this pub. I thought I knew all the pubs in Somerton, but I do not recognise this name. We used to go to Somerton and man supplementary RT from there. This was whilst the new station was built and we needed more consoles. At one point there were efforts to move the whole GKA station to a new one in Somerton. That caused a lot of uproar from us all as the property prices were so much higher there and many other problems associated with a full move.
Somerton Radio was one of our main sites and during the latter years really the main receiving station. The receivers at GKA were only front end the full Rx being in Somerton Radio. We used a microwave link to operate them. All the receiving aerials were sited there.

Graham - don't recognise the name unless it is Alan Carr who was here at one time but transferred to cable ships. No comment on Mad Dog. Someone is bound to ask us now how he got his name.

Neville - Hawkey01

Graham P Powell
18th September 2010, 16:02
Hi Neville, Thats the guy. He lived in the corner of Hendon Close and had a very large camper van. Not sure whether or not he is still there. What about the guys who bought houses in Somerton and had to move back. You could get some good duty swops with the Somerton blokes very often swopping a long day for a short evening and they would still work less hours than you.
Didn't you get stuck over there one night in the snow?. Mind you the reception there was fantastic.
rgds
Graham

hawkey01
18th September 2010, 16:34
Graham,

Yes! I certainly did. We could not even get down into the village as the snow was very deep and no Landrover available. We all went hungry. Had to sleep in a room fitted out with bunk beds - old metal type. Seem to remember it was something to do with the cold war era - nuclear bombs etc. Eventually relieved and picked up by Ron, the next day. Even his driving was acceptable that day. I rang in and advised that I would not be attending for duty that evening having basically not slept very well and we felt we were due it off. There was as always a lot of flack about not attending until sense and reason prevailed.


Neville

les.edgecumbe
27th September 2010, 10:42
As someone who is interested in the daily duties of the Radio Officer could some of you sparkies please let me know what sort of traffic was passed to you and what sort you passed back. What were you expecting. Did the master draft routine messages or did you draft your own.What was their content. This I expect looks anoraky but it is of interest to me.
Regards
Max
My most unfortunate vessel/trip/Master/Company.....Texaco. As a Marconi R/O I was expected to do most of the Masters accounts (Portage etc.) for the sum of £5 per month. I refused and after a very nasty scene onboard found myself returned to the UK from Scicilly.
This expectation/monetary return was an insult, also being completely outside the realms of my chosen career. Besides which the Master has all the time in the world for paper work - what else does he DO (ex responsibilty).

trotterdotpom
27th September 2010, 11:17
Well done, Les. I did that work for SSM and got paid quite handsomely for it initially. When they fell behind, I left.

I imagine Marconi's leapt to your defence - ha ha!

John T.

Ron Stringer
27th September 2010, 13:03
As a Marconi R/O I was expected to do most of the Masters accounts (Portage etc.) for the sum of £5 per month.

Les,

I was with Texaco (well, Regent Petroleum which was owned and run by Texaco) in 1965/66 and that was certainly not company policy then. I think it was just a try-on by the old man.

I had a similar try-on when I relieved the regular R/O on a Constantine's vessel for a trip running round the Med. I was asked to paint the radio room and the radar mast because they were only provided, at the shipowner's expense, for equipment rented from MIMCo. Therefore it was the MIMCo R/O's responsibility to maintain them. When I politely declined, he got rather belligerent, insisted that I had to obey his orders and assured me that the regular R/O always painted those areas. By then I was getting a little peeved so I told him that he had two alternatives, to wait for the regular R/O's return or to put his paint and brushes where the sun didn't shine.

No further action was taken, but that old man painted the wheelhouse himself, both inside and out. He was the guy that told the new Mate that his overtime on the 7-8 week trip would be limited to £120. The Mate was made up until he found out that was to cover the entire deck department and the trip involved visiting 8 to 12 ports, sometimes leaving or arriving at weekends!

les.edgecumbe
28th September 2010, 16:21
No - not a try on....it was both in the Articles and the MIMCo agreement (which apparently I had signed).
Les.