Radio officers fact or fiction

thunderd
29th August 2005, 01:37
The few R/O s that I met were absolutely larger than life characters, BUT a wee bit strange.

At first I thought they had DTs but apparently it was just the morse key twitch, when talking to you they were also moving their wrists and sending morse at the same time.

The ones I knew did drink a lot and some even suffered from AIDS (Alcohol Induced Dizzy Spells).

The radio room was always a mystery to me and I've often wondered what the R/Os did all day.

Did they:
Send a status and position report to the owners....have a beer
Maintenance, polish the morse key...have a beer with the first mate
Listen for a weather report...have a beer with the chief engineer
And so on

I don't want to read a book on it but perhaps one of the sparkies on the site could write a paragraph on "a day in the life" of a radio officer.

mcook
29th August 2005, 02:48
The hardest part of packing for a deep sea trip for me was finding room
for all the paper-back books I used to read on watch.

malcolm

thunderd
29th August 2005, 03:08
Thanks Malcolm that's eight hours of the day accounted for. LOL

thunderd
29th August 2005, 11:22
Dave thanks for the explanation, it certainly didn't look as easy as I thought. One thing that did intrigue me was, what seemed to me, your extensive use of VHF (I may have misunderstood you), I always thought VHF was a very short range frequency which would have made it unrealistic for ships at sea.

Again it was a great explanation thanks for taking the trouble.

Doug Rogers
29th August 2005, 12:40
Derek,
VHF was an invaluable piece of equipment for relatively short range communication. Talking to harbour authorities, pilots, tugs etc..or commercial communications like telephone calls. Distance of comms was dependent on line of sight, the higher the antennae the better the range. Indicatively on the P&O passenger ships we used to have viable communications at around 90 miles...not bad at all. Hope that helps the overall picture for you.

mcook
29th August 2005, 13:58
Dave made a very good point in his message. The fact that an R/O is mainly left to his own devices on board (because, like thundered, there weren't many people who knew what we actually did) it was up to the individual R/O to set his own standards. My first trip on the Mangla (a nice, relatively modern ship) was with a senior R/O who was hired by Cunard-Brocklebank on the same day as me. He was an absolute alcoholic party animal who was fired at the end of that trip. We sailed from Las Palmas at about 7:30 in the morning on that first day and he was already drunk and stretched out on his day bed. I asked him what I should be doing and he said "Go on watch". Well, I sat in the radio room for the next 8 hours straight wondering what all the knobs, buttons and bells actually did but too scared to find out. I was that green that when the steward arrived with a glass of fresh, cold fruit juice I said no thanks, I don't have any money on me to pay for it!!! I did manage to get the main receiver tuned to 500khz, and scribble some 'by-the-book' entries into the log, and that was about it until my erstwhile chief managed to surface long enough to send the departure telegram. Having said all that, it was possibly a blessing in disguise. It was me that did the majority of the repair work. It was me that was called out at 2 a.m. to fix the radar. It was me that did all 8 hours of the watch every day. It was me that, having done the coastal trip on our return to Europe, was promoted to the heady heights of Chief R/O for my next deep-sea voyage. I was still 18-1/2 then.

I vowed never to end up like my senior on that first trip. This isn't to say that I haven't fallen off a morse key now and then, but I mostly saved the partying for shore, which in those days we had plenty of days in port to allow for that.

On joining a new ship, I tended to work like stink for the first month, or however long it took, to bring it up to my standards (whatever they were) and then sit back for the rest of the trip (equipment breakdowns not-withstanding) with my feet up on the operating desk with yet another book (mostly science fiction!). Mind you, the days went by quickly enough what with keeping a close eye on the clock, winding the clock, getting time signals for the clock, etc., etc......

trotterdotpom
29th August 2005, 16:24
[QUOTE=DaveM......

The lads paying off were always a pain. The old man would have closed their accounts by the time they wanted to make their calls or send a final telegram. So they were always wheedling for me to pay for it on my account and they'd pay me in cash when they got their money off the old man. I stumped up twice because their circumstances truly were dire, but neither paid up, so I never bothered again regardless of the tale of woe.

Dave (Thumb)[/QUOTE]

I'd forgotten about the carry on trying to collect money for private radio traffic. It seemed as though everyone wanted a phone call but nobody wanted to pay for it. Many folk would be surprised to hear that shortages had to be paid for by the RO. One good thing about company employment was that you just gave a list of debtors to whoever did the wages.

As you can see from the above posts, Derek, there was plenty going on in the old radio shack, but nobody saw it happening and there was nobody in the bar for a mutual appreciation society.

John T.

PS I like to think I was conscientious p*** artiste - a time and a place for everything.

thunderd
29th August 2005, 23:50
Thanks again gents for the interesting insights into that "mystery" room on ships

Navyblue
1st September 2005, 17:43
Hi Fellow Sparks and all ...

Have a though for me, least you guys did not have to come to Periscope depth and try and talk to the world with a mast 1 ft out of the water with the mast being washed over and try and talk to somebody, and the Skipper doing his nut because nobody would answer me.

Ahh Happy days ...not !!

Regards
Martin

mcook
1st September 2005, 19:04
Hi 'Navyblue'

Welcome to the site. I am sure it would be interesting to hear
some stories from the Grey Funnel Line. I am sure you must
have quite a few!

malcolm

Navyblue
1st September 2005, 19:12
Hi Malcolm.....

Yes a few, you never know who,s watching you !!!

Regards
Martin

thunderd
2nd September 2005, 00:55
Hi Martin, welcome to the site, a couple of posts ago you just answered a question I posed here a few weeks ago....could subs communicate by radio under water...From your posts it looks like the answer is no. I'd heard tales of them towing a long wire behind the vessel but obviously that's just not so. Anyway I hope you enjoy the site.

Navyblue
2nd September 2005, 18:37
Hi Derek..

To answer your question ( in part)

We needed a mast out of the water to Transmit,

Yes, we could tow a wire half a mile long , and or two omni-directional buoys
they were used for receiving the broadcast only, VLF and LF.

Not sure it thats still the case.....most communications is done by
Satellite comms now, I was using Satellite Comms way back in the late 70,s
early 80,s. Im sure its more suffisticated now.

Regards
Martin

R651400
6th September 2005, 15:29
I don't want to read a book on it but perhaps one of the sparkies on the site could write a paragraph on "a day in the life" of a radio officer.
Derek, this is as brief as I can make it!
R/O's watch would start with copying Portishead traffic list from beginning to end, even if your ship was not listed.
When not involved in sending or receiving traffic, there had to be a log entry every ten minutes or less of another ship or coast station's call on the 500 kc/s distress band.
Mandatory log entries 15/18 past and 45/48 mins to the hour showing the R/O had observed the distress silence periods.
Maintenance logs eg for batteries showing daily voltages and charging periods and monthly individual cell specific gravity entries.
Logs could be flogged but woe betide any R/O that got caught out by the Inspector of Wireless Telegraphy.

Stuart
6th September 2005, 17:08
Do you think that it is possible that somewhere, somebody has actually archived all our lovingly completed logs, or have they all been pulped and turned into toilet rolls?

Rgds

thunderd
7th September 2005, 01:00
Thanks for that insight Malcolm, definitely no napping with that log to be kept was there?

lakercapt
7th September 2005, 03:00
Do ships still have sparkies or do they have other duties like electronic officers to tend the many pieces of gagitary that is now on board
?

R651400
7th September 2005, 04:06
Thanks for that insight Malcolm, definitely no napping with that log to be kept was there?
Definitely not Derek.
Logbooks with carbon copy had to be written in indelible ink to prevent any alteration, signed on/off every watch period by duty RO and daily by senior RO and Master.
Inspector of W/T London was staffed by old sparkies who ran a very tight ship.
n.b.
I have only mentioned watch-keeping, maintenance ie radar etc had to be done outside office hours eg if you were on a single RO ship.

Gulpers
18th September 2005, 11:29
lakercapt,

I'm afraid R/Os are generally an extinct breed nowadays. GMDSS has seen to that! The only exceptions are large passenger ships (presumably because of the volume of traffic) and the Grey Funnel Line!

The quaint 'Holywood' image of Sparky, lashed to his chair and hammering out ...---... on the key as the ship sinks beneath him, is no more!

Gulpers

thunderd
19th September 2005, 00:15
The quaint 'Holywood' image of Sparky, lashed to his chair and hammering out ...---... on the key as the ship sinks beneath him, is no more!

Gulpers[/QUOTE]
Sad in many ways Gulpers because there are many documented cases of these brave lads doing just that, their sacrifice should not be forgotten.

Gulpers
19th September 2005, 07:41
Couldn't agree more Derek. Don't take the comment the wrong way, it wasn't meant to cause offence. Some of my fondest shipboard memories involve Sparkies and the crazy antics they used to get up to!

Rgds,

Gulpers

thunderd
19th September 2005, 10:08
Gulpers nobody could possibly take offence at what you said because obviously none was meant, like most of us you were lamenting the loss of yet another of our loved traditions (in as much as anyone could love an R/O) LOL

Gulpers
19th September 2005, 11:29
Sorted ..... as the kids say nowadays!

Shipbuilder
19th September 2005, 16:58
I don't think even large passenger ships have R/Os now. Passengers just phone home with credit cards on the satellite. Heads of departments type and send their own messages. Electronics officers repair the equipment if it goes wrong. Junior deck officers correct the ALRS (Ha Ha Ha). Goodness knows who mends passengers hearing aids, radios, watches, false teeth etc etc etc. Towards the end of my sea time (October 1992), I was working harder and longer than in any of the preceding 31 years and I was really happy to take voluntary redundancy several years before the final end to the R/O. My last ship was a passenger ship and I still comunicate with the captain via e-mail as we sailed together on two ships of the same name continually between 1979 and 1992. Generally, they were very happy days. Now I just build models and write (about the sea of course).

R736476
19th September 2005, 17:12
A number of the RO's I sailed with were Marconi Men - that's what they were called - and contracted out from Marconi to the shipping co's. They weren't all shy, so there must be some signed onto SN who'll spill the beans on the great life they led!
Cheers
Alex

fred henderson
19th September 2005, 17:15
The R/Os are being too modest about their intellectual activities. The legendary games of chess with a Marconi operator on another ship - all moves communicated by morse - for example. Beats internet gaming.
Great lads. In their honour I have posted an old Marconi photo in my gallery under the title "Gentlemen of the Sea".

Fred

Hugh Wilson
19th September 2005, 17:35
I'll always remember my first watch alone as Junior R/O in August 1968. We left Manchester for Dubai (round the cape because the Canal was closed). The ship was F C Strick's Khuzistan and our sister ship, Baltistan, was 24 hours ahead of us. The Chief R/O, derek Austin, said " You'll be okay but keep an ear out for the sister ship" I sat there for a while panicking because I didn't know what to do if she called, until I had an idea. I turned the RF gain down so that we still had the usual 500Kc/s burbling away in the background, but there was no chance I'd hear anyone more than a couple of hundred miles away. He never did find out!!

Gulpers
19th September 2005, 22:54
A number of the RO's I sailed with were Marconi Men - that's what they were called - and contracted out from Marconi to the shipping co's. They weren't all shy, so there must be some signed onto SN who'll spill the beans on the great life they led!
Cheers
Alex
Alex,

What is a shy Sparky? I never sailed with any who could be considered as being shy!

Harry Nicholson
11th October 2005, 23:47
Hello chaps, I've just run across this site. I was a sparks at one time, I started out in Marconi 1956 but then moved to Brocklebanks where we were direct employed and much better treated and better thought of. Brock ships deep sea had two sparks even though only one was required by regs. The senior man did one 2 hr watch, maintenance of radar, overhauls, and was on call for D/F work and repairs all day, The distress auto alarm bell was usually close to his ear in his bunk and it did go off quite a lot but usually it was due to static (but you could not take a chance). The junior did 3x2 hr watches and helped out when needed. In port, on the older ships we often did a lot of rewiring of old rotten cabling. In Marconi I recall being discouraged from repairs, Marconi seemed not to trust us and preferred we waited until port and called in the agents, this seemed to be very stupid of them I thought. Brocklebanks however placed complete trust in us but they had gone to some efforts to choose the staff carefully.
When I watched the engineers come up for air in the Bay of Bengal, and wring the sweat out of their boiler suits, I knew that I had a cushier job. But I do recall a night in an Atlantic storm trying to get into Savannah: I was called out about 2am, there was a panic, there was no visiblity and the radar had failed and the pilot would not take her in without radar. I shot up to the bridge in my pyjamas; as I opened the wireless room door she lurched and all the water off the monkey island poured over me. I went outside again to the free standing radar hut and undid the deadlock handles, pulled the heavy steel door open. The door hinges sheared and I was pinned against the bridge bulkhead with the door on top of me all the while the ship (SS Marwarri built 1936) rolled like a pig and the rain poured down.
Tapaulins were rigged over the doorway by the Indian crew and I set to work. A transformer had overheated and blown its metal casing off which then travelled upwards smashing some valves on its way and throwing oil all over the circuits.
I had no spare transformer and so I had to get a negative 750v from somewhere.
There was a Cossor oscilloscope in the wireless room, I opened it up and earthed the output of it power supply, detached its normal earth connection and connected the chassis to the "Keep Alive Cell" in the radar by means of a cable through the porthole and into the radar hut. It worked! But the oscilloscope smelt a bit. Anyway we set off up the river like this and got in ok. The abused oscilloscope ended the night sitting in a pool of molten wax with the case too hot to touch, it never worked again and I was knackered. But I got a "mention in despatches" to head office in Cunard Buildings which was rather nice; when we got back to the Mersey the Radio Superintendent cautioned me about wrecking equipment but he had a distinct twinkle in his eye.

best wishes
Harry Nicholson
near Whitby, Yorkshire.

thunderd
12th October 2005, 04:04
Harry that was a great story for your first post with us, I hope you have some more good ones in store for us and I wish you a very warm welcome to the site.

glenn
12th October 2005, 11:16
Excelent book "SPARKS AROUND THE BRIDGE" Author Harry C Hutson ISBN 1 874098 02 6 About Trawler Sparkys in the late 60s a minefield of information concerning both the radio side of things plus deep sea trawling in its heyday

paul0510
12th October 2005, 22:26
Considering human nature and the way we seek companions of our own ilk, it has come as no real surprise to me, in retrospect, that I found myself, over a period of years as a 2nd Mate on various vessels, aligned in off-watch activities with the Sparks and Chief Steward.

Unfortunately the word ‚ilk’, albeit perfectly legitimate in this sense, conjures up a rather negative image as it is generally used in derogatory phrases referring to let’s say..rascists, hooligans, drunken layabouts, wh*remongers and the like, a picture that could never be appropriated to the above-mentioned broad-minded, gentile, of sober manner, and clean-living trio of ships’ officers and gentlemen. But let me not wander too far from shipboard reality, I mean, boys will be boys even at middle age and a little ‚horse-play’ under the influence is all part of what I call ‚marine growth’ which unfortunately in this particular form cannot be cured with just a dash of Sigma Anti-Fouling, if you follow my train of thought. Which, talking of trains, I’m off track again because the real reason of this thread was to bestow my heartfelt gratitude to all those R/Os and indeed Chief Catering Officers (to be absolutely politically correct…sorry-to-say another ghastly expression that could set me off at a tangent!) who would be patiently waiting in the ship’s bar at 04:10 (or later, depending on the Mate’s ability to acclimatise to a darkened, fag-reeking Bridge) in order to sink a few (more) Tennents, raid the galley for an early breakfast, exchange experiences of a jocular nature from various dens of iniquity worldwide……and light farts. GOOD LORD, did I just say that? Sorry, must have ripped out, no, let rip, NO, I say, how embarrassing, SLIPPED OUT.

One very portly, gentlemanly R/O in his 60s, from SW Wales, comes to mind whose girth not only precluded him from an otherwise ergonomic posture whilst morsing (elbow unable to make desk contact) but also foiled his every attempt to close the toilet door. As was the case on smaller ships the Mates, Sparks and CCO all shared the one, two-stall lavatory and on this particular vessel it was considered quite normal at about 09:00, after having wound the chronometer and preparing oneself to answer an urgent call of nature (we are but slaves to regularity), to find Big Jim sat chuckling and whistling to himself, kecks around his ankles without the least care as to who caught him ‚going through the motions’. Or worse.

For his size he was very light on his feet, amazingly so. One trick was to sneak up to the monkey island during the 12-4 to see who was bronzieing, a pastime that generally involved spreading a scratchy blanket on the scorching deck, draping a less scratchy bath towel over it and with a pillow in place, stretching out to cajole the epidermis into turning golden-brown trying at the same time to avoid burning one’s heels, that invariably failed to make contact with the short blanket, on bare metal. Engineers were a prime target especially if they dozed off and were unaware of Jim tiptoeing up to their inate forms. Squatting astride the ‚victim’s’ head, he would drop his shorts and let everything hang out until such time the sunlover, awakened by the snorting and sniggering of the cohorting Chief Steward, raised his head and……without the aid of a Hubble scope was eyewitness to one of Nature’s great mysteries, the Black Hole.
Unbelievable you say, disgusting you say, unfit for human consumption I hear…fact or fiction? Never sailed the briny, dear reader? We mariners all have our idiosyncrasies so for R/O read 2/O or 3/E or Bosun or Peggy, Ok?

Dear Jim, if you are still up-and-running at 90+ let me thank you and YOUR ilk for turning my years at sea into an experience of a lifetime and a ‘bloody good laff’……threep!


Paul

BA204259
13th October 2005, 09:59
Paul0510

How dare you sir, how dare you impugn the integrity and fine upstanding moral character of elderly ex-R/Os who are an example to us all?

I for one never behaved like that (and never will again)!!! (*)) (*)) (Applause)

I'd have replied earlier but took me two hours to stop laughing.

kelvinsballs
13th October 2005, 13:39
JUST QUICKLY SCANNING THE POSTS - ONE FOR YOU GULPERS.........

THE DREADED DIAMOND 'D' I SEE FLYING 120 ST. VINCENTS ST. GLASGOW ??
MY FIRST TRIP TO SEA ON THE NORDIC PATRIOT AS A Jnr R/O

Not Scottish
Not Denholms
Not Deck
Not Engine
Therefore not wanted.....................what an awful voyage........

R651400
13th October 2005, 14:31
I SEE FLYING 120 ST. VINCENTS ST. GLASGOW ??

Sorry about the first trip kb's, maybe not a first trip but I'm sure we all have had one of them.
Just as well you didn't manage down St Vincents St around closing time, it could have been worse!

billyboy
14th October 2005, 00:04
My brother had a marine band radio which he gave to my father. we used to listen to the various ships calling as they passed down channel. one night we heard my brothers ship calling in around midnight as she sailed down channel for some exotic destinatioon. at the end of his send the sparks said :good night to Mr and Mrs Still. ... Yes, the sparkies are human guy's

thunderd
14th October 2005, 02:23
Yes, the sparkies are human guy's

Come on Billy don't encourage them, they'll get all big headed LOL

Chipity
24th October 2005, 02:35
Alex I have been intrigued by the threads. the sparks on my first ship was a Marconi man. I understood he was employed by Marconi and not the shipping line? Did he sign the ship"s articles? The sparks that I refer to was ex RN yeoman of signals and had their own code when transmitting by aldis lamp,.It only took a few minutes for him to know who he was speaking to; At arrival at an Island roadstead it was the only means of communication, usually on the third mates watch who had difficulty reading the messages There were not VHF in them days.

Robinj
24th October 2005, 23:21
Now I've stopped laughing and being an ex R/O I don't think we ever got up to such tricks (I don't think), but it brings back memories. One thing about working for IMR you got around such a lot of different ships. OH TO BE BACK AGAIN.

R651400
26th October 2005, 01:45
Did he sign the ship"s articles?

Not only signed them Chipity, and may I humbly add, in my time was the only Officer to do so!

Paul Braxton
10th November 2005, 11:00
I was a 'Sparkie' and hell, but I loved it!
Used to hang around the ships docked in New Plymouth (NZ) when I was a kid and decided when I left school to join the MN. We had a careers bloke come around school with a few leaflets (this was in '67) and as luck would have it, I saw one near the front from Marconi Marine. That was it, I was off. Still got those old recruiting leaflets from Marconi's including one with the current rates of pay. £61 per month when I started.
I very quickly realised the benefits of doing the R/O's job: plenty of time off in port and being your own boss, a bit, anyway. Just two years at college straight out of school (painless and a lot of fun in its own right) then a lifetime of travelling round the world and having lots of fun... Wow!
Fact is, I would have done that job (at least for the first few years) cheerfully without pay, it was that good. Nothing I've done in the meantime has come anywhere near to touching on those times.
My first trip, in Oct. '69 was on the Shell Tanker "Serenia" out of Thameshaven bound for Forcados in Nigeria. My senior sparks was a bit of a character. Too big to get behind the bar in the officer's lounge and seemingly never sober. Filthy temper, too, but that's another story...
Was 'welcomed' to the new job feeling really rough with several shots of various vaccinations in both arms to be offered a warm can of beer and to hear the words: "This'll be your radio-room, Paul". Gee! I thought he was joking! He wasn't. Never saw him for the next few days as we sailed down the Channel. Sitting there scared and bewildered that first morning, looking at all the lights and dials and wondering where to start. Then a bloke in a boiler suit walked in, looking unfriendly and businesslike. "Can I send a telegram?"
"Uh, yeah... ah, can you write it out please?"
"Sparks usually writes them out" he observed grumpily.
Oh hell, my first mistake. Have I done the right thing here?
Hell, yes! The best thing about that first trip was probably the Chinese food and the Nasi Goreng we used to have on Tuesday lunchtimes.
Worst thing, but a good learning experience, was seeing the "Marpessa", a brand new 200,000 tonner out of Dutch Shell crippled a few miles off and on fire off Dakar. We had to spend 3 days on station watching her die. I was thrown in at the very deepest end possible with that one but looking back, it was the best way to learn.
Great days. Wish I hadn't left when I did.

lagerstedt
26th November 2005, 08:23
I have just had a read of the web site www.arendnet.com, which I got from a posting of Ruud's. The site is in Dutch but can be translated. It is a history of marine radio from the 1900's up to the intro of VHF. It also includes the licencing requirements for 1st and 2nd class tickets and some photos etc. One interesting note in the page stated that in 1923 only 20 out of 100 who sat the full exam, passed. Have a read, I am sure you will like it. As an ex Ham Radio Operator (licence now lasped. (ex ZL2BFO)) I liked it.

Regards

Blair Lagerstedt
NZ

terval
28th November 2006, 10:29
Happy days with the sparks, some not so happy if it was one of the gentler breed. I had the misfortune to sail with a female R/O and the only way to get rid of her was to ask if she had lost weight!!!
Regards
Terry.(A) (K)

mikeg
28th November 2006, 16:57
.
There was a Cossor oscilloscope in the wireless room, I opened it up and earthed the output of it power supply, detached its normal earth connection and connected the chassis to the "Keep Alive Cell" in the radar by means of a cable through the porthole and into the radar hut. It worked! But the oscilloscope smelt a bit.

Good thinking (Thumb) I'm sure many R/O's will come up with tales of adaption and 'making do' to keep essential equipment working. Off hand thinking back..painstakingly unwinding and repairing transformers and contactor coils to fix them when there was no spare..using boiler sight mica to repair compression trimmer...filing down carbon brushes to fit a motor-alternator. Skimming commutators with a lathe. Making up circuits to replace other failed items when no proper spares exist. I particularly remember one complete failure of the main receiver (R408 I think) because of a mini-signal (IF) transformer so I just bypassed it with a cap and it never worked so well!
Anyone else with 'make do' tales?

Mike

ReefRunner
29th November 2006, 07:41
Thanks for the lively & interesting posts. Wonder how many ex R/O's went onto become hams after retiring?

azimuth
29th November 2006, 08:11
We arrived from France to be decended upon by a large number of HM Customs and Excise officers. Our R/O was a mischievous chap from Aberdeen. A keen rummager looked at a box of tricks in the radio shack and asked the R/O to unscrew the cover-panel. The R/O looked suitably guilty and stutter-muttered something about needing specialist technicians and tools to re-assemble the innerds once they were disturbed and the Old Man's authority was required to comply with the Customs officer's request. Our departure from port could be delayed by two or three days. The rummager approached the Master for confirmation of the story. The O/M said that if, "Sparks says that is so then that is the way it is. Give me a letter of indemnity for any costs incurred and you can take the entire radio-room apart if you like." The Customs man declined a letter and with a baleful look at Sparks and searched every nook and cranny of his domain, so convinced were they that he was hiding something.

mikeg
29th November 2006, 10:20
On the Shell ship Naticina I found an unopened pack of 200 cigarettes behind a panel in the radio room. The cigarettes were totally dry and solid feeling so I guess they'd been there for a while. I still wonder what the story was behind that? Is somebody reading this now and hitting their forehead 'I forgot all about that!' (Smoke)

tedc
2nd January 2007, 16:55
In the mid 50s R/os would have spent a year or two at a Radio College before getting a 1st or 2nd class PMG cert.
After that many would apply to one or other of the "Major" radio contractors such as Marconi or IMR.
I went to IMR who had a good slice of the MN fleet including Cunard, shell, Blue Fle, etc.
Cunard was a popular start because you could be on watch with 3 R/Os, as I was in the old "Franconia" (1955) - which had Spark Transmitters in the lifeboats - wonder how many will remember Spark Transmitters!!
In those days R/Os with these big companies were allowed to take only £8.00 a month, in pay, from the vessel they were in. That meant that I'd have accumulated the vast sum of 2-3 pounds to go ashore with in most ports of the world - that kept us clean!
After learning how to download the newspapers onto a typewriter, take all the weather reports, handle all of the incoming and outgoing passenger telegrams & argue with the bookies about errors in the racing results (often read through great static way out in the atlantic), there wasn't much time left of the watch!
Cunard were a touch sensitive about iceberg reports from Newfoundland - they must have had a bad experience. Also dining in the 1st class rest't was fun if you only had a 30 minute relief from the 4-8 watch!
All in all life was busy on the Cunarders.
Life changed totally in 1956 when I took a quick trip in Shell's "Naticina" which was trapped east of the Suez, during the Suez war, & had to be re-attached to the far east fleet for another whole year and a bit. Oh those 2 year articles!!

Joining Brocklebanks was great. They had two R/Os who did one watch between them - but that's another story!

Oops! There I go rabbitting on again....!

mikeg
2nd January 2007, 17:47
Hi Ted,

You rabbit as long as you like :-)
I took my ticket a bit later in the early 60's at St. Mary's College Southampton & moved into East Park Terrace when it was finally built so I was a bit late for spark transmitters. Trained there on 80% valves 20% transistor I guess' also got my Radar ticket about the same time. Started out employed with Redifon on really god-awful pay but in fairness they sent me away on courses in between ships which I really enjoyed, 2 weeks at Decca Croydon then 2 weeks at Kelvin Hughes Hainault and another 2 weeks at KH Southend. Shell then went direct employ and I was asked to join at 100% pay rise Whooh... who was I to refuse that? And the courses kept coming.. Anchutz gyro's, Marconi Predictor Radar, KH SDR etc. culminating after many ships & courses with the MNTB Electronics Cert. Brilliant!
Shell ships were generally very well equipped radio-wise so I mostly enjoyed the maintainance side of things all around the ship, a good life and I now miss most of it.. I'm doing the Chas & Dave now... rabbit rabbit rabbit.

Regards,

Mike

tedc
2nd January 2007, 19:51
Hi Mike!

Thanks for that. I always thought that the accommodation in a Tanker was superb - so was the food.

However, this was Naticina version 1 - not the upmarket version 2 (with Aircon)

Do you remember the free beer, every Sunday, from Queen Wilhemena? (Oranjeboom I Think?)

Oh! and the 7% "danger money"!

Oh! And how about the 40 gallon drum of "Teepol" which Officers could get delivered to their homes........that's a LOT of Teepol...!

I did my MOT Radar Cert at Watt Memorial School in Greenock as that was where Brocklebanks used to send all of their 2 r/os as a pre-req to being promoted to 1st r/o. Used to wake us up with a bugle there as it was some sort of seaman's mission we had to reside in until we found local accommodation!

BeerSailor
2nd January 2007, 21:11
Interesting to read that Brocklebank only did 8 hours watchkeeping even with two R/Os. In 1967 my hours as 2R/O with NZSCo were Midnight - 0600, 1200-1400 and CR/O did 0800-1200, 1600-1800 and 2000-2200. Not the best hours for a junior to learn his trade, it was hard to find a reason to stay awake during the night watch. In the 70s this changed to more sensible daywork, and by the late 70s the 2R/O was a rarely seen specimen as cutbacks set in during the P&O GCD days of fleet decimation. The later NZS ships had well equipped workshops attached to the Radio Rooms and we were expected to make all effort at repairs before asking for shore help. Worst moment on the job? - Up a radar mast with an AB repairing the scanner motor in thick fog
London-Rotterdam. Best part of the job? - Knowing that most voyages involved a lengthy stay on the NZ coast!

mikeg
2nd January 2007, 23:28
Hi Mike!

Thanks for that. I always thought that the accommodation in a Tanker was superb - so was the food.

However, this was Naticina version 1 - not the upmarket version 2 (with Aircon)

Do you remember the free beer, every Sunday, from Queen Wilhemena? (Oranjeboom I Think?)

Oh! and the 7% "danger money"!

Oh! And how about the 40 gallon drum of "Teepol" which Officers could get delivered to their homes........that's a LOT of Teepol...!

I did my MOT Radar Cert at Watt Memorial School in Greenock as that was where Brocklebanks used to send all of their 2 r/os as a pre-req to being promoted to 1st r/o. Used to wake us up with a bugle there as it was some sort of seaman's mission we had to reside in until we found local accommodation!

Yes I thought it might be Naticina Mk1. I'd forgotten the free Sunday beer, I agree it was courtesy of Queen Wilhemena but I thought it was Freddy Heinekens brew but it could have been Oranjeboom..anyone else remember?

I remember claiming for a 7-1/2% east of Suez bonus as well and claiming back Sundays at Sea to Redifon (my employer then).

Teepol got used for everything at home except I was told by my elder sister that it wasn't kind to her hands (hands that wash dishes etc.)

Yes the modern Shell ships were luxury in accommodation with a built in HVAC system. Generally the food was very good. There was always plenty of work on as well, quite a bit of radio traffic for a tanker, shell schedules, wx, naveams, wx maps, obs and all the equipment/maintenance repairs around the ship that goes with it. In one port the Capt even brought a vacuum cleaner from his home for me to fix.... I fixed it and his wife took it back in the car :-)


Mike

Keith Adams
3rd January 2007, 00:22
You seem to have forgotten the very lengthy regional weather reports that when deciphered and drawn by the 3rd mate ended up being a precise map
of fronts and pressure gradients... came every 6hrs,if I remember correctly,in the form of a legal size sheet of paper filled with code numbers... bad enough drawing it up but would go crazy receiving it in morse. Rember the 6hrly report to and from The International Ice Commander? ... used to make me laugh as it always began... "Our aircraft have been out..." yea,
right, had a yellow funnel with red and white checker flag on it!Fun, Snowy.

roymuir
3rd January 2007, 00:33
This all reminds me:
She was only the Sparky's daughter,
but she did it cos her Da did it.

Regards, Roy.

mikeg
3rd January 2007, 01:16
You seem to have forgotten the very lengthy regional weather reports that when deciphered and drawn by the 3rd mate ended up being a precise map
of fronts and pressure gradients... came every 6hrs,if I remember correctly,in the form of a legal size sheet of paper filled with code numbers... bad enough drawing it up but would go crazy receiving it in morse. Rember the 6hrly report to and from The International Ice Commander? ... used to make me laugh as it always began... "Our aircraft have been out..." yea,
right, had a yellow funnel with red and white checker flag on it!Fun, Snowy.

I remember that all too well, occasionally I used to decode and draw the chart myself. Do you remember contacting the Atlantic weather ships named by the phonetic code permanently fixed within a grid system, those guys must have gone nuts.
Ice reports kept us up at all hours..growlers and bergy bits anyone?
Remember convoy clocks still on some bridges?

Mike

Keith Adams
6th January 2007, 05:44
Yes Mike, and don`t let us forget those poor sods in the US Merchant Marine
out on those ex-mothballed ships on station all loaded up with supplies incase of atomic warfare ... talk about a dreary job. Ha! now you have me recalling ABCD Warfare drills...Snowy

R651400
6th January 2007, 06:07
Interesting to read that Brocklebank only did 8 hours watchkeeping even with two R/Os. In 1967 my hours as 2R/O with NZSCo were Midnight - 0600, 1200-1400 and CR/O did 0800-1200, 1600-1800 and 2000-2200.

Blue Funnel were exactly the same as Brocklebanks.
2 R/O's on H8 ships. First R/O was basically ships purser.
You didn't name the NZSC ship in the quote but her size and/or passenger complement must have designated H16 watchkeeping..
Freelance Liberian flag I was H Zero!

mikeg
6th January 2007, 10:20
Yes Mike, and don`t let us forget those poor sods in the US Merchant Marine
out on those ex-mothballed ships on station all loaded up with supplies incase of atomic warfare ... talk about a dreary job. Ha! now you have me recalling ABCD Warfare drills...Snowy

My goodness, I'd forgotten all about that, thanks Snowy. I would imagine a posting to one of those ships would do nothing for career prospects.

I do recall hearing that an R/O was taken off by ship from one of the Atlantic weather ships due to mental health issues.. Apparently whilst on the trip home by ship he thought he was due to catch a train and rather cruelly the crew members used to send him to different decks frequently, saying he was on the wrong platform!
I'm not sure if this story is actually true, can anyone recall this incident?

Mike

BeerSailor
6th January 2007, 13:11
Blue Funnel were exactly the same as Brocklebanks.
2 R/O's on H8 ships. First R/O was basically ships purser.
You didn't name the NZSC ship in the quote but her size and/or passenger complement must have designated H16 watchkeeping..
Freelance Liberian flag I was H Zero!

It was standard practice on all the cargo ships. The Chief Steward was also Purser.

R651400
6th January 2007, 17:04
It was standard practice on all the cargo ships. The Chief Steward was also Purser.
Not sure what you mean by standard practice or things had changed by 1967?
I can only quote from memory but in my time, vessels from approx 1500 gt upwards including coasters, colliers, bulkers, tankers etc with no passengers and cargo ships up to a certain tonnage with 12 passengers need only carry one R/O, watchkeeping H8.... 0800-1000, 1200-1400, 1600-1800, 2000-2200 gmt.
Vessels outside this category with larger passenger complements kept either H16 or H24.
Looks like NZSC, if not falling into the H16 or H24 category in your case, were getting their pound of flesh.

BeerSailor
7th January 2007, 14:52
Yes, those were the hours for H8 ships but NZS chose to work H16 where a 2nd R/O was carried.

mikeg
7th January 2007, 15:10
Not sure what you mean by standard practice or things had changed by 1967?
I can only quote from memory but in my time, vessels from approx 1500 gt upwards including coasters, colliers, bulkers, tankers etc with no passengers and cargo ships up to a certain tonnage with 12 passengers need only carry one R/O, watchkeeping H8.... 0800-1000, 1200-1400, 1600-1800, 2000-2200 gmt.
Vessels outside this category with larger passenger complements kept either H16 or H24.
Looks like NZSC, if not falling into the H16 or H24 category in your case, were getting their pound of flesh.

It was so much better at 0800-1200 1600-2000, I really didn't like the two on two off, especially when busy with traffic.

Mike

K urgess
7th January 2007, 15:44
As a junior we went on to H16 but still at 2 on 2 off with my chief doing the official 8 and me doing the infill and the last watch.

Didn't it change several times after 2 on 2 off was abandonned? I seem to remember doing 4 hours straight then 2 off, 2 on, 2 off, 2 on, before it became 4 straight then another 4 flexitime as traffic demanded in no less than half hour stints. GMT times dependent on time zone.

On VLCCs under the last scheme I worked it just seemed that I never stopped and had to find time to do the last 4 hours of watches after everything else had been fixed.(Sad)

Worse thing ever was when the auto alarm went belly up. Needless to say it was one of the electronic Marconi Lifeguard "N" jobs. I could've coped a lot better with the old Lifeguard mechanical job. Took me 72 hours to find the fault, by which time I was truly on my beam ends!:sweat:

mikeg
7th January 2007, 16:13
As a junior we went on to H16 but still at 2 on 2 off with my chief doing the official 8 and me doing the infill and the last watch.

Didn't it change several times after 2 on 2 off was abandonned? I seem to remember doing 4 hours straight then 2 off, 2 on, 2 off, 2 on, before it became 4 straight then another 4 flexitime as traffic demanded in no less than half hour stints. GMT times dependent on time zone.

On VLCCs under the last scheme I worked it just seemed that I never stopped and had to find time to do the last 4 hours of watches after everything else had been fixed.(Sad)

Worse thing ever was when the auto alarm went belly up. Needless to say it was one of the electronic Marconi Lifeguard "N" jobs. I could've coped a lot better with the old Lifeguard mechanical job. Took me 72 hours to find the fault, by which time I was truly on my beam ends!:sweat:

All I remember is going from TOTO to FOFO for H8 except with satcom etc. where a dispensation cert. was given for essential electronic maintenance. I'd probably left the sea before the other watch changes came in.
I was just thinking just how much the mechanics of the old lifeguard I've remembered ever since it being drummed in..in college. It was good to watch it working, especially when it got to 3 and dropped back again (?HUH)

Mike

K urgess
7th January 2007, 20:17
I was just thinking just how much the mechanics of the old lifeguard I've remembered ever since it being drummed in..in college. It was good to watch it working, especially when it got to 3 and dropped back again (?HUH)

Mike

Ah but getting it started:sweat:

Never could get it first time. Some were worse than others and you had to walk away and come back to catch it unawares.

Best I ever managed was two twirls but normally it was about half a dozen.(==D)

RayJordandpo
8th January 2007, 01:27
When we stopped carrying radio officers on the tugs it was the job of the watchkeepers to handle all the radio traffic, likewise when I joined the dive support vessels in the offshore industry. I hated it. I dreaded the daily queue of hard case divers screaming for calls. All traffic went manually through the coast stations in those days (thank God when cellphones became popular) I was always getting mixed up with the frequencies and remember Humber Radio being the most unforgiving and seemed to always put us at the bottom of the waiting list "turn 20 Ugland Comex" As for the accounts I couldn't make head nor tail of this 'Gold Franc' lark. Just as well the divers were on a good salary, I must have overcharged them on many occasions. The carbon copy radio log was just a long list of "SPO" (silence periods observed) After putting through call after call I would try for a freebie by saying in my most professional radio voice "and one for myself old man" only for my heart to sink when when I'd finished to hear the coast station reply "that will be thirty minutes thank you" although on the odd occasion they granted us "minium call - three minutes" and then came the dreaded GMDSS, how I ever passed that course was a miracle (and quite a few failed on my course) I have never heard a deck officer say a good word about GMDSS and I am one of them. You can always tell when it's Sunday, deck crowd testing their equipment, pressing the wrong button and setting the alarms off. I may not have appreciated radio officers in the past but I certainly do now.
ray Jordan

R651400
8th January 2007, 06:14
Yes, those were the hours for H8 ships but NZS chose to work H16 where a 2nd R/O was carried.
Sorry BA, had you said all NZS ships I would have got the message.
There again who designates the watchkeeping hours in the first place? I would have thought the licencing authority.
The ITU publication List of Ships and Coast Stations was the bible with all the QRC info including watchkeeping hours. There must have been a choice left to the shipping company as in the case of NZS.

BeerSailor
8th January 2007, 22:23
I guess so long as the minimum hours were covered the shipping companies could do as they wished with the extra man. Common sense did prevail with the hours as Marconi Sahib points out. The last time I shipped with a 2R/O, in 1978, it was more or less daywork for the CR/O and the 2R/O filled in the gaps during the day and did the evening watch.
Not a bad way of life on the cargo ships was it?. We were lucky to go to sea
before it went belly up.

K urgess
8th January 2007, 22:26
Amen to that, BA

ernhelenbarrett
9th January 2007, 03:49
Re "Spark" sets, the British Gratitude/MAGQ had a spark set as an Emergency TX and an Emergency RX calibrated in Metres, using coils, you opened the lid and replaced coils when changing freq, the Spark set was great on MF if the Station you called was busy, you never had a QRY when using that TX.. and all this was in 1955 too. By the way the grub was lousy on board but we were
only on the UK-Scandinavia runs , round North Cape and up the Baltic as far
as Sundsvaal plus all other Norwegian, Danish and Swedish ports. I believe she ran aground on Bornham Island not long after I left her after 7 months Also am still a Ham VK5EGB
Rgds Ern Barrett

Robinj
11th January 2007, 23:01
I was always on my Tod except for my first trip to sea. So always did to two on two off watches, which was a pain if you followed the area time codes.

tedc
17th January 2007, 16:08
Re "Spark" sets, the British Gratitude/MAGQ had a spark set as an Emergency TX and an Emergency RX calibrated in Metres, using coils, you opened the lid and replaced coils when changing freq, the Spark set was great on MF if the Station you called was busy, you never had a QRY when using that TX.. and all this was in 1955 too. By the way the grub was lousy on board but we were
only on the UK-Scandinavia runs , round North Cape and up the Baltic as far
as Sundsvaal plus all other Norwegian, Danish and Swedish ports. I believe she ran aground on Bornham Island not long after I left her after 7 months Also am still a Ham VK5EGB
Rgds Ern Barrett

Hi Ern!

Must have been one of the last ships with a Spark Transmitter!!

Also, what I trip you had- right up the freezing bits of the planet!

Hearing about "North Cape" always makes me think of the Hull Trawlers "Lorella" & "Roderigo" (apologies if the names are wrong) which were lost up there many moons ago.

Derek Roger
17th January 2007, 16:43
In Brocklebanks we tended to carry 2 R/Os I could never really figure out why other than the youngsters had to learn somewhere !

Mind you we also carried 2 Electricians and there was not enough work to keep them properly employed .

Thinking about it now we also carried a 2nd Purser / Steward who typed the menus and issued the food to the cook and crew which left the Chief Steward not a lot to fill in his day other than dream on "tomorrows menu " or be difficult with the Junior Officers !
I remember after coming off watch one who on being asked for a bottle of Scotch from the bond told me " Ive already been down to the bond today ; you will have to wait till tomorrow "

He who shall remain namless had delusions of grandeur and went out of his way to aggrivate any officer with less than 3 bars .
He paid the price as we put a Menu card with a 1 inch hole in the middle into his airconditioning register ( the menus fitted perfectly ) which while not totally shutting him off reduced his A/C by about 50% . he complained bittery that his A/C was not as good as the other cabins .
Captain ; Chief Engineer and a few others tried to trouble shoot the problem for him but never came up with an answer .
We removed it the day before he was relieved as his relief was Walter Murphy who was a great guy and a favorite with everyone who went out of his way to please all on board.
I think he may have got the point when suddenly his cabin was like a fridge !

geobro
27th March 2008, 23:51
Well, I used to polish thhe copper and brass.
On Cilicia the Chf was fanatic about keeping all sparkling bright. Battery boards had to be dismantled completely and every nut, screw, washer, etc. had to be polished - indeed every edge and facet - then reassembled, after being given the slightest smear of pet. gel. Same went for all the nuts, bolts and washers on the insulators outside. Bloody dreadful work in winter in Glasgow!

He did a good job on me ...... guess what ... I continued this eccentric practice for my entire ten years at sea. Mebe Sparkies are indeed mad!

Roger Bentley
29th March 2008, 12:47
In Brocklebanks we tended to carry 2 R/Os I could never really figure out why other than the youngsters had to learn somewhere !

Mind you we also carried 2 Electricians and there was not enough work to keep them properly employed .

Thinking about it now we also carried a 2nd Purser / Steward who typed the menus and issued the food to the cook and crew which left the Chief Steward not a lot to fill in his day other than dream on "tomorrows menu " or be difficult with the Junior Officers !
I remember after coming off watch one who on being asked for a bottle of Scotch from the bond told me " Ive already been down to the bond today ; you will have to wait till tomorrow "

He who shall remain namless had delusions of grandeur and went out of his way to aggrivate any officer with less than 3 bars .
He paid the price as we put a Menu card with a 1 inch hole in the middle into his airconditioning register ( the menus fitted perfectly ) which while not totally shutting him off reduced his A/C by about 50% . he complained bittery that his A/C was not as good as the other cabins .
Captain ; Chief Engineer and a few others tried to trouble shoot the problem for him but never came up with an answer .
We removed it the day before he was relieved as his relief was Walter Murphy who was a great guy and a favorite with everyone who went out of his way to please all on board.
I think he may have got the point when suddenly his cabin was like a fridge !

Derek, Perhaps if more of us had tried to find out what each other did we would not perhaps be so willing to dismiss them. I did as an R/O have some idea of what the mates were involved with but much of the engineering side remained a mystery. Looking back now I wish I had been a lot more inquisitive but tempus fugit, and now I have to look at the engineering and bridge forums for knowledge. Suffice to say that in my time with Brocklebanks we did our own maintenance, and 2nd R/Os were often called to tally damaged cargo and keep the record of this. As for the radar, again during my time, the company sent R/Os to the James Watt College in Greenock to get their maintenance certificates as they had a BTH radar there and the company had that as the standard fitting. Except for one or two of the older ships which still had the Admiralty type 268. Regards, Roger

trotterdotpom
29th March 2008, 13:23
Well, I used to polish thhe copper and brass.
On Cilicia the Chf was fanatic about keeping all sparkling bright. Battery boards had to be dismantled completely and every nut, screw, washer, etc. had to be polished - indeed every edge and facet - then reassembled, after being given the slightest smear of pet. gel. Same went for all the nuts, bolts and washers on the insulators outside. Bloody dreadful work in winter in Glasgow!

He did a good job on me ...... guess what ... I continued this eccentric practice for my entire ten years at sea. Mebe Sparkies are indeed mad!

What's eccentric about that, Geo? My love affair with brass began when I worked as a lighthouse keeper and to this day I can't bear to touch it without a rag in my hand. I too polished brass and copperwork in the radio room - I even scraped paint from portholes and polished them up! I bet my reliefs loved that. I well remember sitting back, often sweating like a pig, and admiring my handiwork. Nowadays I have an authentic miner's Davy lamp, purchased 25 years ago at Llanberis, to cuddle and polish. Could be worse, imagine what Brasso would do to a canary!

John T.

mikeg
29th March 2008, 15:05
Want to polish this one??

trotterdotpom
30th March 2008, 12:20
Nice one Mike - why did Shell turn those out?

Can't stop now, rub-a -dub. rub-a-dub.......

John T.

ChasD
30th March 2008, 12:44
Hello Mike, Nice to see you're still about and that you still have yr lamp! As a first tripper I was allocated the job of polishing the DF loop - not sure if Chief R/O thought it was maybe the only job I could be trusted with ! Certainly did sparkle when we came in to port, but no, it was not a habit I maintained !

mikeg
30th March 2008, 13:10
Nice one Mike - why did Shell turn those out?

Can't stop now, rub-a -dub. rub-a-dub.......

John T.

Shell gave you a safety award if you didn't have an accident over a particular period which I can't remember now. Also received a combined clock & barometer on a wooden plinth and a gold plated pen with an embossed Shell logo. Really didn't have to do anything to get the award except keep safe ..which was high on my list as well(==D)
Now where's that Brasso?

Mike

mikeg
30th March 2008, 13:14
Hello Mike, Nice to see you're still about and that you still have yr lamp! As a first tripper I was allocated the job of polishing the DF loop - not sure if Chief R/O thought it was maybe the only job I could be trusted with ! Certainly did sparkle when we came in to port, but no, it was not a habit I maintained !

Try'd rubbing the lamp but no genie so far, don't think it's working properly..

I've never seen a polished D/F loop before, must be a heck of a job keeping a shine if you didn't have a trainee or 2nd R/O (Smoke)

Mike

K urgess
30th March 2008, 16:08
The title of this thread could be read as "Were Radio Officers fact or fiction?".
Sometimes feels like it.[=P]

All we got with Esso were SAM (Safety And Me) vouchers. I can't really polish the pressure cooker the Memsahib opted for.

I'm glad my first trip chief hadn't thought of that way of keeping me out of his hair! (EEK)

You can polish the attached over the net if you can manage it, JT.
The only sort of safety lamp I managed to save from going over the wall when they were replaced.

Salaams
Kris

BA204259
30th March 2008, 16:30
Mmmmm, my word Marconi Sahib, that is a big one!! TDP will love that..[=P]

geobro
30th March 2008, 16:47
Ah, Yes, the porthole. I too did that trotterdotcom. On the Baron Elgin! Can you imagine anything more incongruous!! On flash ships that had a fan I'd polish the blades and wire guard.

I had a ship's bell (brightly polished, of course) complete with blanco'd pleated cord finished in a Turk's Head - another idiosyncracy of mine - the object being I would hear the bell, no matter where I was about the place. Many a time a visitor would track me down out in the back blocks of my semi rural property, and I would say, "Why didn't you ring the bell?". "I didn't like to", was the inevitable answer. Not once - unless I demonstrated - was that bell rung in ten years! Human nature indeed; just can't understand some folks!

mikeg
30th March 2008, 16:48
You can polish the attached over the net if you can manage it, JT.
The only sort of safety lamp I managed to save from going over the wall when they were replaced.

Salaams
Kris

Is that lamp built to survive a nuclear attack?

Mike

trotterdotpom
31st March 2008, 12:09
Geo, you're my kind of guy!

Fubar, Geo and I will take that lamp for a wedding present - what a beauty, i hope you keep it bright.

John T.

K urgess
31st March 2008, 16:40
I had to polish the portholes, aerial feeds, etc., on the Baron Wemyss as junior Geobro.
Got a reputation for collecting brass over the years even to the extent of mates who were still at sea turning up with all sorts of brass "scrap" when visiting.
Funnily enough that lamp was a standard safety lamp on Big Geordie (Esso Northumbria). They finally decided to upgrade and they were about to deep six these CEAG ones. Quick rescue job.
They certainly are well built. Good job they were paying my excess baggage when I flew home.[=P]

geobro
2nd April 2008, 05:34
Wondering why Baron Wemyss had more than one R/O, Marconi Sahib ... when and why?

I think I saw a post about another Baron ship where contributor was a junior R/O. At odds with my experience and impression of HH. What happened ... did the company upgrade from iron ore to passengers? Please enlighten

trotterdotpom
2nd April 2008, 06:05
He would have been doing his 6 months as a Junior RO prior to being allowed to sail single handed on a deep sea ship, Geo. A good thing too, imagine all that mucky brasswork without a Junior RO - all the Seniors weren't like us you know, some of them probably just drank the Brasso!

John T.

geobro
2nd April 2008, 16:02
It did cross my mind TDP, but dismissed it; after all what was in it for HH? They wouldn't relish another mouth to feed - hardly recompensed by a bit eccentric brass polishing here and there. My Goodness! did those old sparks actually finish up drinking the stuff? I though they put it on bread; tho' never tried it myself

trotterdotpom
2nd April 2008, 18:30
I'm not sure what the score was with Junior ROs - probably the shipping company didn't pay anything for them. I only did three months then sailed solo on a small ship until I'd completed over the requisite 6 months. I can't remember if the gross tonnage or the voyage was the criterion.

"Hungry Hogarths" had a bad reputation but had a great leap forward in the late '60s when they became part of Scottish Ship Management. They became very forward thinking and conditions on board were excellent. SSM were the first company I sailed with which had replaced the curly, pink lint sandwiches at night, in favour of a fridge full of cold meat, salad, etc.

I heard that Brasso was supposed to be strained through brown bread, but surprisingly never got round to trying it - imagine my insides glistening like those portholes!

John T.

K urgess
2nd April 2008, 18:53
Just for the 6 months for ticket validation as TDP says, Geobro.
Quite an introduction to a life on the ocean wave. [=P]

geobro
2nd April 2008, 21:42
Well! fancy all that! Scottish Ship Management, indeed. Frige full of cold meats, salad etc ... who would have believed it! How thing change.

Baron Elgin, back in 1947 ... or was it '48 (can't be bothered getting out of bed to dig out my DB). No running water in officers' cabins. Water can and a bucket under the sink. Fill water can from tap at rear of accom block; operated by long wooden handled hand pump. My cabin was adjacent to pump so didn't have far to fetch.
Loaded cargo iron ore in Beni Saf (N. Afr); I think bound Middlesborough. Ran out of food in Bay of Biscay and meals consisted of bread and scrape. Captain announced we would put into Falmouth for fresh tucker and all would have a mixed grill that night. I never experienced a mixed grill on any ship up till then.
In Falmouth crew all lined up eagerly watching stores coming aboard, like children in an orphanage watching Santa's arrival. The OM kept his word but the cook wasn't up to the occasion and the meal was a disaster, even for those days.

Think the OM was Captain Strange (again my DB will have that info). He was too, as he was RNR and wore full impeccable uniform at all times; on the Baron Elgin, with it's one shiny porthole ..... Ah! happy days

Rip V. Winkle

K urgess
2nd April 2008, 21:50
Wasn't quite that bad, Geobro. (EEK)
I think I was just about at the end of the bad days for Hungry's.
The Wemyss was built in 1960 so was only 6 years old when I sailed on her.
At least we had a sink in the cabin and communal bathrooms.
Captain Minnards insisted on uniform but he wore his jacket (braid hanging off) with grey shorts and flip-flops. [=P]
Cheers
Kris

andysk
3rd April 2008, 11:05
.........I heard that Brasso was supposed to be strained through brown bread, but surprisingly never got round to trying it - imagine my insides glistening like those portholes!

John T.

I had a friend who managed a home for delinquent teenage boys in north london once, she had to keep the Brasso and the bread under lock and key for this reason ! Apparently a Mother's Pride sandwich loaf was the best bread for sieving out the solids.

BA204259
3rd April 2008, 11:41
In a similar vein, I once knew a bloke who came to work drunk for the midnight shift. Absolutely legless. In his drunken state he picked up what he thought was a bottle of gin and started swigging it. It was Carbon Tet. Immediately hospitalised. He survived but he was very, very lucky to do so. Don't think it's available now but we all had it on ships years ago.

trotterdotpom
3rd April 2008, 12:28
Geobro - you lived in hard times. If you were knocking around the 'Boro about St Patrick's Day 1948, that was when I was first seeing the light of day. By the sounds of it, you'd have given your eye teeth for a pink lint sandwich!

The grub ran out on my first trip but it was a trawler and we had fish and HP sauce - I still love it!

John T.

geobro
4th April 2008, 21:23
Hi TDP

I paid off Baron Elgin on 6th June 1947 .... lets see ....Mnnnn... that's nine months before you made your debut.

I assure you I caught the train straight to Edinburgh.

To change subject, the Master was Captain Strang ... was he still about in your time?

As for the sandwiches, I never came across them, not by that name anyway, but they sound appetising. Was it Spam? We only got that as a Sunday treat.

trotterdotpom
5th April 2008, 13:18
Geobro, pink lint was like soggy spam - prior to the invention of Tupperware the sandwich(es) came wrapped in a paper serviette and were as dry as a nun's proverbial by the time you came to eat them.

I seem to recall a Captain Jimmy Strang in SSM but I may be kidding myself - never met him but think I heard the name.

John T.

K urgess
5th April 2008, 14:51
The dreaded dog sp.... sandwiches.
Always been glad the trip only lasted 7 months.
I still can't stand sandwich spread even if it is Heinz.[=P]

geobro
5th April 2008, 22:19
I don't thin Captain Strang would be a "Jimmy" ... James, yes; he being very pukka RNR.

In Beni Saf I went into a dingy bar, coinciding with a young steward, also intent upon lubricating his larynx. We both requested a beer but the grumpy owner rattled off a mouthful of French, in which I deduced there was no beer. I nodded towards four French Legionaires, who were drinking a milky fluid, and said we would have the same. Drinks were served with a little dish containing the charge docket. Steward took one sip and rushed outside to vomit. Alarmed, I went out to see what was the matter. Mine host thought we were doing a runner and shouted "Police". They must have been close by, because within seconds there was the shrill sound of whistles.

At this we were off like roadrunners, racing down the long dusty road to where the ship was tied up stern first, awaiting a loading berth. Then there was the sound of shots, and we cranked up another knot or two. The jolly boat was at the ship's gangway, so we went up the mooring ropes, negotiating the rat guards, and fell in a heap on the deck in fits of laughter. Within a few minutes the mate came to me, saying, "Captain wants you".

He gave me a dressing down, "Officers do not socialise with members of the crew, Mr Brown, consider yourself reprimanded. Don't let it occur again on my ship"

No, he couldn't be a Jimmy.

We heard no more from the police. They probably had their hands full with the legionaires, who may have taken advantage of the commotion and done a runner too.

trotterdotpom
6th April 2008, 12:33
Obviously that Steward was a stranger to milky fluids. Sounds like the soldiers were probably drinking "pastis". Why do I know more about booze than I do about magnetrons?

Your "James" does sound a bit proper - he would have been really annoyed if you'd been shot. I'd say he'd have been long gone by the time of the formation of SSM, but the name is familar. Maybe a descendent, who knows?

John T.

andysk
9th April 2008, 21:34
The dreaded dog sp.... sandwiches.
Always been glad the trip only lasted 7 months.
I still can't stand sandwich spread even if it is Heinz.[=P]

Not heard it prefixed with 'dog', many other less complimentary words, but not dog !

It was always a favourite in Clan line for the late light sarnies, some used to say that's what the double bottoms were for.

charles henry
26th May 2008, 21:56
The few R/O s that I met were absolutely larger than life characters, BUT a wee bit strange.

At first I thought they had DTs but apparently it was just the morse key twitch, when talking to you they were also moving their wrists and sending morse at the same time.

The ones I knew did drink a lot and some even suffered from AIDS (Alcohol Induced Dizzy Spells).

The radio room was always a mystery to me and I've often wondered what the R/Os did all day.

Did they:
Send a status and position report to the owners....have a beer
Maintenance, polish the morse key...have a beer with the first mate
Listen for a weather report...have a beer with the chief engineer
And so on

I don't want to read a book on it but perhaps one of the sparkies on the site could write a paragraph on "a day in the life" of a radio officer.



As a Sparks you always kept a diividing line between working at sea and enjoying the sea these two photos show the two relalities de chas henry (Pint)

charles henry
17th June 2008, 18:37
[QUOTE=geobro;203819]Ah, Yes, the porthole. I too did that trotterdotcom. On the Baron Elgin! Can you imagine anything more incongruous!! On flash

You just brough back memories of 66 years ago.
In October 1942 the Baron Elgin picked up a bunch of half drowned survivors from a capsized lifeboat and took them to Madeira.
I was one of them. surely not the same ship? de chas henry (Pint)

BobClay
19th June 2008, 23:50
I do know one thing about the years I spent as a sparky at sea. Many times I joined a ship, and was immediately handed the key to the cashbox, and given the books for the officers bar. 'Sparks' looks after the bar had become a tradition in several companies I worked with.
(I'm not complaining, there were perks).

However I did draw the line at one thing....if there was money in the box to be spent on stuff for the bar, there would be no committee meetings (a forum for dissenters to waste a couple of hours). I do the work, I go out and spend the money ... that was the philosophy.

So, I once bought a football table for the bar (ya know, those things with handles), which was used so much it had to be rebuilt and re-inforced in the engine room (doesn't matter how much the ship is rolling, this game still rocks). Another time I bought a load of girly mags from a stall in Liverpool, and got some strange looks from other customers...and when I said it was 'for a ship', they all tut-tutted. Hard to bear, (although some of the mags were quite good ....).

It wasn't all bashing a morse key .....

Piecesofeight
10th October 2008, 19:38
Good thinking (Thumb) I'm sure many R/O's will come up with tales of adaption and 'making do' to keep essential equipment working. Off hand thinking back..painstakingly unwinding and repairing transformers and contactor coils to fix them when there was no spare..using boiler sight mica to repair compression trimmer...filing down carbon brushes to fit a motor-alternator. Skimming commutators with a lathe. Making up circuits to replace other failed items when no proper spares exist. I particularly remember one complete failure of the main receiver (R408 I think) because of a mini-signal (IF) transformer so I just bypassed it with a cap and it never worked so well!
Anyone else with 'make do' tales?

Mike

In September 1986 I joined the Intermar Alliance (a tanker) on the Gulf Coast of Texas and had the usual handover from the outgoing R/O who mentioned that the main transmitter was not putting out full power because the screen voltage was down, but he hadn't looked at it. [To be fair the rest of the equipment was in working order - Ed.]

Once I'd taken over I pulled out the power unit at the base of the ITT ST1680a and looked at the power supply. There were six 75v zener diodes in a stack and four of them had gone short so the voltage on the top wasn't quite what it should have been which explained the low voltage available, although the tx would operate on low power. I checked the stores and not surprisingly we didn't have anything that specialist in stock, we were at sea by this time and I couldn't go and buy some and I wanted the full power available so started thinking what to do.

I really wanted a dropper resistor (as opposed to wanting to get rid of them in every other circuit I ever came across!), but we didn't have any of those either. So how to produce 400V d.c.? I was still getting 150v (as I recall) from the remaining two zeners so I only needed to produce 200v to get the normal screen bias of 350v. After a while I remembered that the toolbox had a few spare soldering irons it of varying wattages. I remembered that a soldering iron is just a coil of resistance wire. There were two 30 watt soldering irons in the box so I wired them in series in place of the four short zeners, soldered a piece of twin flex to connect them into the circuit and ran the cable up the outside of the tx and stuck them side by side on top with a piece of silver duct tape.

One day the captain came into the radio room - he looked at the wire running up the outside of the tx, looked on top to see what was there - looked at me, said nothing, shook his head, and walked out again, that was funny.

They worked perfectly. When the tx was running I got my 400v adjusted it down to 350v for the screen bias, ran the tx, the soldering irons got warm and did no damage where they were, I ordered a packet of 75v zeners for delivery in Europe where we were headed and six weeks later they came on board in Leith where I soldered them into place.

Oh happy days. Several more stories like that if you want them.

Paul

mikeg
11th October 2008, 00:13
In September 1986 I joined the Intermar Alliance (a tanker) on the Gulf Coast of Texas and had the usual handover from the outgoing R/O who mentioned that the main transmitter was not putting out full power because the screen voltage was down, but he hadn't looked at it. [To be fair the rest of the equipment was in working order - Ed.]

Once I'd taken over I pulled out the power unit at the base of the ITT ST1680a and looked at the power supply. There were six 75v zener diodes in a stack and four of them had gone short so the voltage on the top wasn't quite what it should have been which explained the low voltage available, although the tx would operate on low power. I checked the stores and not surprisingly we didn't have anything that specialist in stock, we were at sea by this time and I couldn't go and buy some and I wanted the full power available so started thinking what to do.

I really wanted a dropper resistor (as opposed to wanting to get rid of them in every other circuit I ever came across!), but we didn't have any of those either. So how to produce 400V d.c.? I was still getting 150v (as I recall) from the remaining two zeners so I only needed to produce 200v to get the normal screen bias of 350v. After a while I remembered that the toolbox had a few spare soldering irons it of varying wattages. I remembered that a soldering iron is just a coil of resistance wire. There were two 30 watt soldering irons in the box so I wired them in series in place of the four short zeners, soldered a piece of twin flex to connect them into the circuit and ran the cable up the outside of the tx and stuck them side by side on top with a piece of silver duct tape.

One day the captain came into the radio room - he looked at the wire running up the outside of the tx, looked on top to see what was there - looked at me, said nothing, shook his head, and walked out again, that was funny.

They worked perfectly. When the tx was running I got my 400v adjusted it down to 350v for the screen bias, ran the tx, the soldering irons got warm and did no damage where they were, I ordered a packet of 75v zeners for delivery in Europe where we were headed and six weeks later they came on board in Leith where I soldered them into place.

Oh happy days. Several more stories like that if you want them.

Paul

Excellent 'out of the box' thinking Paul, using soldering irons was a stroke of genius, well done.
At times of failure I have taken convenient power supplies shared from one piece of equipment to another as long as the combined load was ok - I've also had those 'odd looks' at lengths of wire across the radio room.

I remember an HF transmitter on one of my early ships where a power supply smoothing capacitor had failed - it gave a very distinctive note to the transmission and found I was getting answered much quicker so I left it for a while, repaired it before the survey though.

Mike

Piecesofeight
13th October 2008, 13:58
<snip>

I remember an HF transmitter on one of my early ships where a power supply smoothing capacitor had failed - it gave a very distinctive note to the transmission and found I was getting answered much quicker so I left it for a while, repaired it before the survey though.

Mike

You've reminded me that some of the coast stations used to use some form of modulation on their CW because just after the SPs you'd get their CQs thundering out and some of them sounded quite "fruity", not like the normal tone so perhaps they were using your trick :)

Paul

Ron Stringer
13th October 2008, 15:59
You've reminded me that some of the coast stations used to use some form of modulation on their CW because just after the SPs you'd get their CQs thundering out and some of them sounded quite "fruity", not like the normal tone so perhaps they were using your trick :)

Paul

Most MF W/T coast stations transmitted MCW signals not CW. On 500 kHz they were required to use MCW, on their MF working frequencies they could use either CW or MCW but I can't recall any that used CW.

Moulder
13th October 2008, 17:19
Most MF W/T coast stations transmitted MCW signals not CW. On 500 kHz they were required to use MCW, on their MF working frequencies they could use either CW or MCW but I can't recall any that used CW.

I do recall GNF GNI & GLD using CW on their working frequencies at one time or another - I remember it because it was out of the ordinary for a UK station.

Steve.
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Jon Sparks
12th May 2012, 15:23
I had over 10 years employed by Marconi, and served on ships owned by Canadian Pacific, Nigerian National Line (2), Pacific Steam Navigation, Shell Tankers (3), Ben Line, Common Brothers (2), Strick Line, City Line, Port Line, & T & J Harrisons (3). These all rented their radio equipment from Marconi Marine, who were also contracted to supply the Radio Officers as well.
Oh I've missed out a few weeks coasting from the Tyne to the Thames with the CEGBs Dame Caroline Haslet managed by Stevie Clarks. Most important part of my job there was to get off when the pilots changed just before Tower Bridge and collect the mail, then get to Battersea Power Station before the ship arrived.