UT 704 Anchor-Handling Tug/Supply Vessel

Jeff. J.
22nd December 2009, 00:08
Discussion thread for UT 704 Anchor-Handling Tug/Supply Vessel (http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/guides/UT 704 Anchor-Handling Tug/Supply Vessel). If you would like to add a comment, click the New Reply button

rcraig
24th December 2009, 20:28
I found the history of these vessels very enlightening.
I started on AHTS vessels out of Aberdeen on the Wimpey Seadog on 4th February '75. She was probably then about the last of the old class preceding the 704, having been built about '73.
Low freeboard, with twin engines giving out about 4,500-4,800 h.p., or thereabouts and a bow thruster so weakly powered (my recollection is about 150 h.p. and there was no stern thruster) that it was not put on at sea, as being simply a useless distraction.
Bollard pull was I think about 40 tons. This class of vessel was still being used for rig tows but near the end of such use, but very much employed on anchor handling throughout my time ('75-'77).
All anchor handling was done using pelican hooks. Shell, in '75 produced a video film of this technique and the first showing was to MSA inspectors, or whatever they were called at the time, who were horrified and the video regrettably not put out for public use. Given that none of them had been offshore their reaction was not surprising. Watching the mate knock out the pin from the hook then dashing for the crash barrier and jumping over it as wire snaked out and the anchor buoy took off down the deck flaying from side to side must have been quite enlightening for them.
They were superseded within the company by the Wimpey Seafox etc., based directly on the Smit-Lloyd class of vessel which in turn was probably following the 704 design.
The older vessels were good handlers but there was of course, no question of lying beam on and holding position (unless the wind had caught you wrongly in the first place). You were either bow or stern on to wind and far too often on the weather side without the option.
I remember the first bow/stern thruster/joystick vessel that I came close to, lying beam on to the platform, the Swedish Tender Carrier (?) and the American toolpusher saying to me over the radio "Why can't you lie like the other guy is doing?" Given that I was doing a bloody good job just holding her in position with the wind on the bow and snatching cargo, the answer (with the transmit button off), was a series of four letter expletives...followed by a transmitted sarcastic comment about our respective day rates. But the bit that really stuck in our craws was that she was obviously carrying what seemed to our fevered eyes, an attractive female stewardess on the bridge.

rcraig
25th December 2009, 18:42
I had hoped that someone might follow up on this thread as there is a story to be told and unless I have missed it, it has not yet been told.
So, in the period immediately before the advent of the 704, here are a couple of them.
When I stepped on board the Wimpey Seadog in '75 as mate, never having been on one of these vessels before, my first impression in the accommodation was that the lavatories and accommodation stank. The ship, to use a Scottish expression, was minging. Having always thought a ship could be measured by the state of her "lavvies" first impressions were not happy ones,so I turned to and cleaned them out. If they were good enough for me to use, then they would be clean. The old antennae had already informed me that telling the crew to clean them out would be offering up the chance to get a response I did not want.
We sailed out within a couple of hours, some of the crew having vanished and been replaced and we picked up enough to comply with the minimum laid down for working.
We set off on our 3 day trip west of Shetland. The weather had other ideas. We sheltered in the lee of the islands frequently. I had never experienced conditions like it for discomfort. Because she carried deck cargo, and was a stiff vessel typically of that type, she rolled violently, pitched ferociously as an added bonus, even leaked through the wheelhouse windows 40 ft. up in heavy head seas and because of the low freeboard was constantly awash on deck.
Unused to such movement, I often looked with alarm out of the bridge at walls of green water as we rolled heavily over and thought she would not make it. It took some time to get used to it.
Not a great deal of work was actually done at the rigs. In those days, the ships ran in to the rigs, and about half a cable off (?) dropped anchor in say, 400-500 ft., ran in digging in the anchor, turned round and then backed up to the rig before securing to two ropes lowered down by crane.
Most of the work that trip was done by snatching, that is, backing up and holding her by engine movements, because it was too rough to tie up. Without a bow thruster, it required good handling by the master.
We were snatching on one of the semis, backloading collars, which if not properly secured in the slings, tended to open up in the bundle on landing on deck.
We were close to one rig, lying at a very awkward 45 degree angle and a bundle came down, opened up, started to roll as we rolled heavily as the spare mate fell on the sea covered deck and a collar rolled up his thigh, as I did a Highland sword dance around another one.
We either steamed back to Aberdeen with him in considerable pain or we lifted him up on the basket. The latter was done with considerable difficulty.
We got back to Aberdeen three weeks after we set off on the 3 day trip. And I realised then why she had been in such a **** house state when I first stepped on her.
In those days, you did 6 weeks on and 3 weeks off. At the end of the 6 weeks as I was about to pick up my bag to start leave I was called to the telephone kiosk which was our communication centre with head office in Gt. Yarmouth. The Old Man had just flatly refused to do another trip again without relief and I was suddenly master, turning round within hours never having towed, handled one of these ships, or anchor handled.
Those were the days, as they said. Wimpey's paid the laid down minimum and often had problems retaining crews. Although they put on board the best food I have ever seen on board ships, cooks turned over and were generally speaking, not good. On one 5 day spell, either 4 or 5 cooks came and went, the longest lasting for the only trip we did in that time, a day and a half.

orkneyman
25th December 2009, 20:51
Did you ever come across a guy called Mick the Marine he sailed with Wimpeys for years i believe. Mike McHale was his proper name i think

rcraig
25th December 2009, 23:29
Did you ever come across a guy called Mick the Marine he sailed with Wimpeys for years i believe. Mike McHale was his proper name i think

Unfortunately, if I did, my memory isn't good enough to remember.

rcraig
28th December 2009, 09:28
Where are you all? Retired and not on site? Ah well.
Until others, if any, come along.

It was a beautiful day, calm and sunny in the N. Sea. So we were not working cargo alongside. There almost seemed a perverse will at work where if the weather was good, you were not called in and when it started to deteriorate, you were.
We were stern to, close to the platform.
A "Shore" boat called up to say she was coming up to pick up the 16 ton (?) container loaded with a generator. She warned she only had one main engine operating and would have difficulty holding her position.
She closed up on the other side.
The voice of the American toolpusher could be heard occasionally on the VHF.
I watched the load lower down and then the slings parted suddenly, dropping the container on to the starboard quarter of the vessel with a huge cloud of dust erupting, as it then broke up and went over the side. The dust settled and the Old Man then dryly said "I take we are OK now for proceeding on to Rotterdam for repairs?".
And then the toolpusher "Get that goddamm crane driver off the rig on the next flight", on the common net. Seemed a bit unjust then. No one hurt.
Just another North Sea day then.

We were operating out of Torry Dock, Aberdeen and under charter to a major oil company who were without any competition the worst charterers I met. The ship's movements often seemed dominated by the desire to get you the hell out of port to help reduce the office workload.

We had just completed an 11 day trip west of Shetland in hellish winter weather and we were knackered. I was master. We worked 5 on and 5 off. Only the master was allowed to handle and he was also a watchkeeper. It was not unusual to spend 24, 36 or more hours constantly on your feet and handling. I had asked for a night in for the crew, had been almost promised it and promptly sailed out into the tail end of a full storm with an urgent cargo for a Heerema barge, a 5 ton container which we all reckoned was full of old socks. And barytes which had been lodged in the tanks for months and which was unlikely to pump out readily.

We arrived off the barge to be asked why we were there, and hung off for a day waiting for the swell to subside. We got alongside and bumped and crashed there for several hours and allegedly discharged barytes which was thought might make the trip worth while. They were not short of it and as there was no ready way of determining what if anything had been discharged, we on both vessels pretended that some had passed over.

A call came over the medium wave radio (this was 1975) and surprisingly it was clear. It came from the oil company operative at Torry Dock and it instructed me to pump out all the barytes into the sea on the way back to Aberdeen. I said that I could not quite make out the message. I could. But I simply did not trust the bastard. (You could tell how fond I was of him?). I called up the mate and other witnesses and asked him to repeat the message, which he did.

We sailed over a now tranquil sea with beautiful visibility. You could see to the horizon eight miles away (7.27...just checked my Nories) and the barytes billowed out as far as the eye could see, it seemed, in a way that it never did when you wanted it pumped out in real life.

We arrived in Aberdeen having checked out the remarkably clean tanks by then....old dampish barytes never discharged easily...put out the gangway and the oil company rep stomped up the gangway and gave me verbal instructions to sail for Great Yarmouth with our barytes as soon as we had stored up. Boy, did I get a lot of satisfaction out of that one.

IainMu
28th December 2009, 21:04
Did you ever come across a guy called Mick the Marine he sailed with Wimpeys for years i believe. Mike McHale was his proper name i think

Mick and me were back to back 2nd mates on the Oil Chieftain for a trip in 1987 or 1988. I did quite a few trips but as far as I remember he went to the Oil Mariner in the Falklands and he was there for quite a while.

are39
1st January 2010, 09:08
Where are you all? Retired and not on site? Ah well.
Until others, if any, come along.

It was a beautiful day, calm and sunny in the N. Sea. So we were not working cargo alongside. There almost seemed a perverse will at work where if the weather was good, you were not called in and when it started to deteriorate, you were.
We were stern to, close to the platform.
A "Shore" boat called up to say she was coming up to pick up the 16 ton (?) container loaded with a generator. She warned she only had one main engine operating and would have difficulty holding her position.
She closed up on the other side.
The voice of the American toolpusher could be heard occasionally on the VHF.
I watched the load lower down and then the slings parted suddenly, dropping the container on to the starboard quarter of the vessel with a huge cloud of dust erupting, as it then broke up and went over the side. The dust settled and the Old Man then dryly said "I take we are OK now for proceeding on to Rotterdam for repairs?".
And then the toolpusher "Get that goddamm crane driver off the rig on the next flight", on the common net. Seemed a bit unjust then. No one hurt.
Just another North Sea day then.

We were operating out of Torry Dock, Aberdeen and under charter to a major oil company who were without any competition the worst charterers I met. The ship's movements often seemed dominated by the desire to get you the hell out of port to help reduce the office workload.

We had just completed an 11 day trip west of Shetland in hellish winter weather and we were knackered. I was master. We worked 5 on and 5 off. Only the master was allowed to handle and he was also a watchkeeper. It was not unusual to spend 24, 36 or more hours constantly on your feet and handling. I had asked for a night in for the crew, had been almost promised it and promptly sailed out into the tail end of a full storm with an urgent cargo for a Heerema barge, a 5 ton container which we all reckoned was full of old socks. And barytes which had been lodged in the tanks for months and which was unlikely to pump out readily.

We arrived off the barge to be asked why we were there, and hung off for a day waiting for the swell to subside. We got alongside and bumped and crashed there for several hours and allegedly discharged barytes which was thought might make the trip worth while. They were not short of it and as there was no ready way of determining what if anything had been discharged, we on both vessels pretended that some had passed over.

A call came over the medium wave radio (this was 1975) and surprisingly it was clear. It came from the oil company operative at Torry Dock and it instructed me to pump out all the barytes into the sea on the way back to Aberdeen. I said that I could not quite make out the message. I could. But I simply did not trust the bastard. (You could tell how fond I was of him?). I called up the mate and other witnesses and asked him to repeat the message, which he did.

We sailed over a now tranquil sea with beautiful visibility. You could see to the horizon eight miles away (7.27...just checked my Nories) and the barytes billowed out as far as the eye could see, it seemed, in a way that it never did when you wanted it pumped out in real life.

We arrived in Aberdeen having checked out the remarkably clean tanks by then....old dampish barytes never discharged easily...put out the gangway and the oil company rep stomped up the gangway and gave me verbal instructions to sail for Great Yarmouth with our barytes as soon as we had stored up. Boy, did I get a lot of satisfaction out of that one.

sounds like you had same problems with toolpushers as i had.
Mate....Grizzly bear towing/anchoring Penrod 74 in 1974 NZ.
ordered to rig 50 miles nw New plymouth,got there offloaded and told to anchor in 200ft,told rig only had one anchor and windlass pretty U/S.Just do it,swung emergency fire drill on me,took 30 mins to get to rig.All NZ heard him chew me out.
One month later same tool pusher,same thing again ,this time ready for him.
Get your godam Ar... over here,pronto if not sooner etc.Made it in 7 mins.Was praised to high heaven by him,then told to reanchor,said i cant no anchors left,chewed out again when told him i followed his orders to the letter and gas axed the chain of.Big boss ashore ordered me back to port,met me on wharf,told him what happened ,where is anchor now,on bottom was answer,can u get it back ,Yes replied, How come, I buoyed it of,why wasnt rig told,didnt ask just yelled at us.Outcome, went up to the yard picked up 10 ton buoy,25 ton anchor went back and laid permanent mooring with floating line for pick up and fastened on board to pelican hook.Result Peace at last.

rcraig
6th January 2010, 20:24
Those who were there at the time of pelican hook work on anchor handling might agree that it was probably one of the most dangerous jobs at sea, especially when laying out or taking up one of the last anchors to a rig with the weather deteriorating. Serious injuries occurred and at least one fatality in the North Sea.

Standing at the open stern with a steel wire pennant in your hand, one eye passed through the other, waiting to get close enough to the buoy to lasso the cross tree at the top was a stimulating experience! With the ship pitching and rolling out of synch. with the buoy which in turn would be heaving around, on a vessel with no bow or stern thruster, required good nerve from the master and the gang aft.

A good heave, or two or three, might result in the lasso catching. Then sharply pulling the lasso tight and taking the inboard end up to the shackle on the tow wire. Followed by a fast and wary screwing in off the shackle pin as the vessel cork-screwed around while ready to jump clear if the wires suddenly shot off to one side if the skipper lost control of her, before jumping clear counting your fingers.

The most dangerous anchor handling job I did was with a Seaforth Maritime diving tender whose name escapes me. She usually lay to 8 anchors which only weighed about 1 and a half tons(?). Her anchor buoys were large reinforced fishing boat plastic buoys. You lassoed, hauled the buoys on board attached to the wire in turn secured to the anchor 450 ft below on the sea bed.. They were then hung off on the pelican hook in the usual way before then letting go the anchor wire pendant.

It was the connection of the pelican hook which was the problem.You had to pull the gear over to the anchor pennant which then caused you to be aft of the buoy. On 2 or 3 occasions the buoy ripped apart as the reinforced section at the base pulled off the plastic buoy...luckily with no one in line with the buoy.

I remember yet the wariness I felt when as relief mate on the vessel I found myself lined up behind the buoy connecting the pelican hook. Constipation then would not have been a problem. I think that I got a slight inkling of the feeling that a bomb disposal operator must get when working on the edge of danger.

Why did you do it? For the usual reasons which still apply I suspect. You wanted to get the job done to the best of your ability.

I take my hat off to those who worked and work on AHTS. I am sure there are many tales of the risks and the sheer discomfort involved.

The story of the 75 ton shackle which failed on one of the Wimpey Seafox type vessels and shot fortunately over the bridge without anyone being injured.

Standing with my head jammed against the corner of the bulkheads in the skipper's lavvy, trying to pee, leaning forward, barely keeping my feet in a heavy head sea, the contents of the bowl spilling back out. The dirty black sludge slurping back up from the waste pipe in the wash basin and up the bulkhead because the overside valve had failed. The crashing of the loose anchor at all hours which simply could not be bowsed tight. Water pissing through the wheelhouse windows and rolling down the cabin walls below. Heating failed for the third trip in a row and condensation streaming down the bulkheads. And all in December in the North Sea.

Handling the mooring rope from a tanker needing to be moored to a spar buoy in the middle of the North Sea and trying to pass it up from the starboard quarter whilst waist deep in water...ahh, was that not character building!

The crews did an often difficult and dangerous job with often surprising equanimity and their contribution has scarcely been noted anywhere.

Nick Balls
6th January 2010, 20:58
Lovely old Job, as I used to say !! Try this link/story for the lighter side of the North sea:
http://www.shipsandoil.com/Features/Homemade%20Pizza.htm

rcraig
6th January 2010, 21:12
Thanks for the link. So there was a humorous side!? 'Twas always challenging!

ddraigmor
6th January 2010, 22:17
UT704 Story on here - look in the directory.

Jonty

rcraig
6th January 2010, 23:52
Well aware of that. Talking about vessels that immediately preceded them as I explained in the first narrative. If the originator of the thread objects I'll happily stop.
Thought that in the absence of any response from others it might be of interest to outline the reality of life on AHTS before their evolution to a more advanced level and possibly explain why progress essential.
Happy to step aside and make room for your contributions.

John Dryden
7th January 2010, 00:10
Well it was the oil boom(my arxe) but you were there with the crew,I know the oil companies made it,my guess so did you.

rcraig
7th January 2010, 00:24
Well it was the oil boom(my arxe) but you were there with the crew,I know the oil companies made it,my guess so did you.

Oops. Missed that one. Must be my old age!

RayJordandpo
7th January 2010, 17:52
Anchor handling over the bow in the sixties, that was dangerous work.

rcraig
7th January 2010, 18:06
Anchor handling over the bow in the sixties, that was dangerous work.

How was that done? I have a vague recollection of it happening in the Southern sector....or am I yet again wrong?

david_crosby
7th January 2010, 21:08
I was Mate and Master in the early Smit Lloyd AHTS's (14, 33, 34) in the late '60's. Underpowered and a bugger to operate from the after controls (they only controlled pitch, not revs) when anchor handling. Luckily they were built like brick outhouses and difficult to damage.
I had a go with a couple of UT704's when I went on relieving spells several years later when I was working in the office and the difference was enormous. The 704's were responsive and much better laid out.

rcraig
7th January 2010, 23:14
I was Mate and Master in the early Smit Lloyd AHTS's (14, 33, 34) in the late '60's. Underpowered and a bugger to operate from the after controls (they only controlled pitch, not revs) when anchor handling. Luckily they were built like brick outhouses and difficult to damage.
I had a go with a couple of UT704's when I went on relieving spells several years later when I was working in the office and the difference was enormous. The 704's were responsive and much better laid out.

Just shows you. I was so used to verbal instructions down a speaking tube that I thought the old Wimpey Seadog class were the bees' knees with bridge control, and what I thought was good response then.

You've reminded me (I think) that the Wimpey ships were also operating on pitch control

RayJordandpo
8th January 2010, 01:01
How was that done? I have a vague recollection of it happening in the Southern sector....or am I yet again wrong?

With United Towing In the early days of anchor handling in the Northern and Southern areas of the North Sea also West Africa we used to anchor handle over the bow using rollers in the bulwarks forward. The port side of the tug was sheathed with timber, deck, inside the bulwarks and halfway up the housing. The mate would stand outboard on the rubbing strake and lasso the buoy. The wire was then hove up with the windlass and transferred to a pelican hook attached to a large six fold purchase block, it was then hove up the deck using the drum of the main towing winch. To release the anchor we simply knocked out the pin of the hook. All good stuff until the weather turned nasty! The Americans came over and showed us how it should be done over the stern (Theriot, Gulf Fleet etc.) needless to say I soon joined Theriot where the job was easier and the pay better. Shortly after, UTC converted or built stern anchor handlers

rcraig
8th January 2010, 11:03
It would be interesting to see photographs of the process. Makes even a difficult stern job easy in comparison. Thanks.

RayJordandpo
8th January 2010, 19:16
I don't actually have any photos of anchor handling over the bow but I will try and dig some up from somewhere. What made with this method so dangerous was the fact that you were always amongst the gear, there was nowhere to take refuge. For example: when the anchor was being hove up the deck, the wires in the block tended to twist, so a seaman had to follow it with a crow bar attempting to take the turns out of the wires in the block, no mean feat in a force 8 in Norwegian waters in January. I have seen a mate literally disappear under water whilst stood outboard when the bow dipped in a swell. Granted, lifelines were rigged but often found to be a hindrance. I don't recall the company providing life preservers in those days. Another dodgy job using this method was 'stripping out' when you had to trace the anchor wire from the rig or barge with a hook or shackle and try and break out the anchor.

rcraig
9th January 2010, 11:35
What method did they use for the anchor "fishing"?

I am rather glad that I missed out on the "older" methods of anchor work!
We certainly had no lifejackets for working at the stern, or anywhere else for that matter other than the bulky BOT ones. But there was a philosophy then that any jacket would have been bulky. Although it wasn't helped by the company which provided less than the minimum safety equipment. There were no individually provided safety boots, nor enough, so that if you wore any they were what could be grabbed and only if they were big enough.

I was relieving mate on one of the Wimpey vessels and we had tied up to a rig in marginal conditions. The skipper had dropped the anchor in what he thought was the right position for the wind fine on the bow. But the wind had veered and strengthened and we were beginning to roll heavily shipping seas over the side with the vessel then beginning to lie very uncomfortably at an angle to the rig and the windward rope surging violently. Pre 704 vessel and only the engines to work.

The skipper told me to let go. I shouted out the on duty AB and ran down the deck (yes, I know...as will anyone who has been equally stupid will know..not easy on a rolling ship and never sensible..) to prepare to let go.

I felt a heavy crash to the top of my head and dropped pole-axed to the deck face down in the water knowing immediately that I had been hit by the crane hook/ball and that I was almost certainly not wearing my hard hat and that I was a goner. (As well as an idiot...I'll say it for you..). I turned my head, surprised that I could, and saw a yellow hat some distance away.

I had been wearing it, it had been hit and sprung off my head leaving only an indentation on the nose and a broken tooth. Had a very relieved crane operator.

When I claimed for the dental treatment off Wimpeys they said the incident had not been logged and therefore they wouldn't pay. Nice old fashioned company!

The lack of power, and decent thrusters in some of the pre-704 vessels did create problems although no doubt having the power does not stop you being forced into difficult marginal conditions.

RayJordandpo
9th January 2010, 17:32
The company didn't provide any form of safety equipment in those day. It took three men to drown before they provided us with a useless form of life vest which was so bulky they were almost impossible to wear. I remember as mate ordering work gloves, Instead I was sent a tin of swarfega! It took a lot of explaining to make them realise that we weren't interested in keeping our hands clean but to stop them getting torn to shreds by jagged anchor wires.

rcraig
9th January 2010, 21:56
Different era. Funny what we put up with! Can't remember much input by the BoT or MSA, or whatever they were called, in those days.
But they did check the navigation lights.

Billyly
10th January 2010, 04:19
I started with Seaforth in 1977 and was on the Seaforth Hero and Seaforth Prince anchor handling with pelican hooks. I came across one of the old Seaforth boats in Singapore last year. It still had the logo cut into the funnel and was running cargo with an Indonesian crew. When I looked at I realised what limited equipment we had to work with compared to today. It certainly was a good "apprenticeship" and makes a mockery of the so called safety systems, HAZID meetings and the rest of the stuff you have to go through today! We used to rub the menu off the blackboard in the mess room, have a quick discussion about the set up and then go to it!!
I was also on the dive ship Seaforth Cape, most of the time I was there we were at the Montrose Field tending the SBM but we did anchor to a 4 point spread a few times.
A few years ago I went to Nauru Island to renew the offshore mooring system for the Phosphate loading gantry. While there I was shown a photo album of how they " anchor handled" from the bow of the Rosie D in the early 80's I took photos of the photos which are attached.
Imagine the Toolbox Meeting for this operation!

rcraig
11th January 2010, 13:10
You have reminded me how fickle memory can be. I had said earlier that the Seaforth (unknown) vessel lay to eight anchors, although it passed through my mind just where 8 anchors could be stowed given her configuration. I am pretty sure that it was the Cape.

The toolbox talks I remember tended to be on the lines of...Where the hell is the shifter?...type. We always seemed short of working tools.

I always found it strange that it was so difficult to secure deck cargo on those low freeboard ships. We had two low powered windlasses placed near the quarters and one other higher powered forward plus the towing winch. It was very difficult to bowse cargo down.

I sailed with a particularly good handler and skipper on my first trip in Feb. '75 (in the 6 week trip days) who told me of a cargo he sailed with from Torry Dock just a few trips before. It included part of a flare stack placed vertically against his wishes, and a full deck load. Despite a bad forecast he was instructed to sail.

He made one other call to the controller to advise him of the severe weather he was encountering and instructed to continue.

He made a final call to advise them that all the deck cargo had been washed overboard and presumably that there was little point in continuing. I have no doubt that the story is true.

The Nauru shots are interesting! Could be useful for an introduction to a talk on health and safety. I wonder what happened when they came to disconnect bits of the chain?

rcraig
15th January 2010, 10:57
When I took over the Wimpey Seadog as skipper, it was after 6 weeks as mate and in acccord with usual practice, had not handled the ship at all..it being the skipper's function.

It meant that I had never even handled her to take her out of Torry Dock, an interesting exercise when for the first time I faced astern, working with a wandering tiller, a bow thruster and walked her sideways out of the berth. Well, just occasionally sideways as she waltzed first bow and then stern out barely in control.

When it came to anchoring and tying up at a rig the real problems started. With bridge control it seemed a simple enough exercise. Drop the anchor, dig in, turn and back up until close enough to take the lines from the rig.

Unfortunately all my experience until then had been conventional. Drop anchor, and then lay up to say, three times the depth of water, and then back up. Again and again the stern swept by the rig legs close to but then I was unable to hold her on the engines. It became a nerve racking exercise trying to tie up in poor conditions, at night, as I struggled to hold her wondering why the hell, as someone who had been used to handling at close quarters and fairly successfully a very awkward class of ship, I was not succeeding. Then one day the penny dropped. Bugger the catenary; treat the anchor chain as a rigid bar, and come back with tension on it even if it cracked away and smoked at the windlass. Eureka, it worked and the job transformed immediately into the interesting challenge it remained after that.

Those with powerful thrusters, joysticks and or DP will wonder what the problem might have been.

What was the position on other vessels at that time ...75'ish? I can't believe that Wimpey's alone, before they bought some Smit Lloyd type vessels, were using grossly underpowered bow thrusters that did not merit putting on at sea?

Considerable concentration was required on the approaching stage to decide just when to drop the anchor.

One dark, very foggy night at one platform, whilst we were standing off, a modern Norwegian vessel was steaming in to the dropping position. Typically, just before she was about to drop anchor, a voice could be heard from the platform, on the VHF, asking to speak to the skipper who responded. Now, if she had a bridge layout like ours, it could mean that you had to walk over to the telephone away from the controls.

Whatever, the conversation continued on until the ship ran into the legs of the platform, the skippers concentration obviously having been distracted. I did feel very sorry for him. I think the platform closed down for a fortnight.

Despite the tales of difficulties there were many days of good weather, easy handling, and humour, even if the latter was often retrospective. The principle target was to ensure that no one was injured and then that the job was done well.

Wimpey's, alas, paid the minimum and did not keep crews long. But I liked working for them...they reminded me of my time with Bank Line. Never a surplus of equipment and get by with what you had. The best food of any organisation I worked for, but unable to retain cooks because pay was better elsewhere. They once plaintively sent round a letter to the ships saying that they objected to the large amount of fillet steaks and double cream being ordered.

rcraig
22nd January 2010, 11:58
The areas that stuck out in my mind when working those earlier vessels were the potential dangers of working on deck and the skill needed to handle the ship, the latter usually closely linked to the former.

Holding the ship still without reference points or thrusters whilst the crew aft were trying to lasso buoys and shackle up to wires and chains. The exposure to the crew when working on deck.

Eg., I remember on one occasion when we were backloading drill pipes. Conditions were not good enough for tying up. We were instructed to come in on the windward side for whatever reason. The wind was on the bow which meant lying to at an angle. She was difficult to hold in position. One end of the pipes was disconnected and the bow started to pay off. In an attempt to give us some more distance off the legs...and we were close...it required kicking the stern round and in and kicking ahead for distance.

For reasons I can't remember now, the deckhands had great difficulty in securing the other end of the sling and we finished up in the parlous position of either having to push the stern round and come ahead with grave risk to the crane operator of pulling him down with his crane as he came to the end of his scope, or accepting that we drifted down to the legs and hope that we could connect/disconnect in time.

The vision of the crane coming down with the operator producing a certain result against the uncertainty of lying and bouncing alongside the legs with its uncertain results left the first option clear. We cleared the load in the nick of time.

What puzzled me in those days was why the crane wire was not connected with a weak link at the bitter end. If there were any secured in such a fashion, they were not on the cranes of the few operators I spoke to.

The conditions on the vessels were often not particularly good for the crew either, leaving aside the discomfort of stiff vessels in high seas.

I was relieving as skipper for a month over Christmas and New Year. We were running from Peterhead. It was typical lousy North Sea winter. When I stepped on board she had just about completed loading and she had just finished a trip where the heating had failed. The ship was bitterly cold and streaming with condensation throughout the accommodation. The crew of 7 were not happy and that made 8 of us.

I can't remember if it was fixed just as we sailed or not, but either way, it was not working immediately we sailed.. We were out for a few days of considerable discomfort, cold and very wet, and that was just inside...if you haven't experienced it, don't try.

We arrived back alongside the North Pier in Peterhead, quite near the harbour entrance. We loaded. We were told spares for the oil burner were not readily available...it was leading up to Christmas..and to sail on orders from the charterers. The crew told me where to go and said there was not a snowball's chance in hell of sailing without heating. There was no rational or logical answer to that!

So I told the super, but not of course the charterers. The crew pushed off to the pub, leaving me, the mate and an engineer on board.

The easterly increased up to force 6/7. Seas were breaking over the breakwater and we started to range up and down ominously, the lines jerking as we bounced around. First problem was to get the trip delayed without admitting that we could not do it anyway. I remember at one point standing at the pier as the spray and tops whipped around me, wondering...and the next step?

Spoke on the radio to the platform manned by experienced marine operators who had no problem with postponing with a gale forecast at the rig.

That only left the problem of what the hell to do if we broke adrift. If I went to the pub half a mile away to get the crew out and she broke adrift in my absence...? If I sent the mate what the hell would I do with one engineer on board and nobody else. Gangway...ropes..all trailing....darkness and force 7...

So I sent the mate and no one came back. Including the mate. And the wind subsided in due course. And the super under the threat of coming off charter got the oil burner working and we all lived happily ever after.

ddraigmor
22nd January 2010, 12:33
Interesting thread. I never sailed on any of the 704's but always throught they looked the business - must be something in it as a few are still sailing today!

The 6 weeks on, 6 off days......did we really get up to what we look back and laugh about now? Did we get away with things like no lifejackets on the open stern when using a lassoo? Crawling on pipe stacks that were slippery with drilling mud to hook on? Tying up to rig legs in seas around your waist.....?

Yes we did.

I was glad I was a part of those early days.

Jonty

rcraig
22nd January 2010, 19:18
Jonty

When they first introduced the change to 4 on and 4 off there was a surprising number of people who did not want it and preferred the old 6 on and 3 off. Me, I had thought the latter such a bonus compared to what I was used to that I was surprised to have it improved.

In any event I was there for the money and was happy to do longer.

ddraigmor
22nd January 2010, 23:00
I preferred the 42 days on, 42 ofdf myself. The 28/28 gotr to be routine after a while and always appeared to be too short.

The money and the leave were both incentives, as I recall!

Jonty

RayJordandpo
23rd January 2010, 10:39
I liked the 5 week on/5 week off system that Denholm Offshore worked, just about right for the North Sea.
I once did nearly eight months on an anchor cranker in Angola. We were supposed to do six months but the country was on the verge of war and visas were getting difficult to obtain. After the six months were up the agent called us to the jetty at Cabinda and informed us that a full crew change would be taking place. We waited, waited and waited, all showered, packed and raring to go but nobody came. Eventually the agent appeared and apologised for "big mistake" and told us that our relief crew were still in the UK. As you can imagine there were a few long faces as we sailed back to location to do another six or seven weeks. The only private cabins on that ship were the old man, chief and mate, everybody else lived in a forecastle. I must admit, I was glad to get home that trip

rcraig
28th January 2010, 10:54
In the early days, terms such as risk assessment were simply not used or thought of. You generally worked until you finished the job, and certainly in my experience, working predominantly under charter to one of the major oil companies, they were simply not interested in hours of work and requests for short bursts off to rest the crew were simply ignored. If you had insisted then it was likely that the company might be informed that the charterers wanted you off contract.

We sailed out on one short trip to a rig not many hours away to the east of Aberdeen. Short trips could actually be quite demanding. Doing 5 hours on and 5 off watchkeeping as master with only one mate meant that in the time off with meals and the usual communications with the shore and the platform there was not a great deal of time to kip. If you had had a night in port it was highly likely that you would have moved ship whilst alongside at least once and more if unlucky.

At the rig we stood off for reasons which as usual were not explained, at instant stand by for call in. We were called in and tied up. When we had discharged and backloaded we sailed for Aberdeen, where on discharge we loaded one Bruce anchor which we were to take to the Firth of Forth for the new rig, the "Chris Chenery". This was roughly '75 and these anchors were new to me and to most folk.

The vessel had a wooden sheathed deck except for a small steel sheathed deck aft near the stern roller. The anchor was placed forward for reasons I cannot remember...possibly partly ignorance. We sailed and arrived off the "Chenery", hung around and finally anchored off and tied up.

The rig was to my eyes a blessed change from the 3 legged 135F (?) type which I had been working with, being square so that you could work close to, without legs on either side. The reality was that she had been finished off on the cheap (that was our theory) with a short stumpy derrick which required you to get in very close. An absolute sod to work with when snatching (without tying up). And she could not jib out far enough to pick up the anchor forward. Not that we could have snatched the job because of the weight and our inability to lie beam on.

I then discovered over the next 12 hours that Bruce anchors hold very well on wooden decks. If the sea bed were made of wood then no rig would move. We could not even haul the sod aft using our own inadequate windlasses aft. At the end of 12 hours we left for Aberdeen with a buggered up deck, and an anchor still stuck on it. On arrival there we shuffled around as usual, loaded up and sailed back out to the rig we had started on.

Who to give the first navigation watch to? The mate was as knackered as I. Not only had he been keeping navigation watches he had also been doing 12 hrs on, on deck, working at the Chenery. He made up part of the deck crew as we only had 3 deckhands. He was not allowed to handle the vessel so all handling had been done by myself. The whole crew had had a pretty long stint. I took the watch

By the time we got to the rig, I had done almost 60 hours without sleep. There were a lot of fishing boats out on that trip. There were no watch alarms in those days. If there were, we did not have them. Did we fall asleep?

As Jonty said above....glad to be part of those days. Maybe encourages me to look askance at some folk now and think..."Get off your ****, you lazy b*****d".

Is it the same now? I hope not. But speaking to one captain of a very modern Scandinavian AHTS equipped with the very best of automated gear, and a crew of 8, a couple of years ago, he said he would much rather be back on coasters or deep sea if the option still existed. One of his problems was the excessive amount of communications which required his almost constant attention. Another was the lack of manpower on any job which required that.

rcraig
6th February 2010, 13:39
Potentially, the most dangerous jobs for those on deck were those connected with anchor handling, towing and tying up tankers at sea. Apart from the inherent dangers associated with each particular job, a lot depended on how well the vessel was handled.

It could be agonising to watch a ship handled by a nervous skipper and irritating for those on deck. For those handling the earlier vessels, the 500 h.p. thrusters available on the later AHTS's would have seemed like a miracle invention.

Probably my hairiest moment (it seemed longer) was one day in the early '70's lying head to wind on the windward side of a large platform. To put it in perspective, it was part of a field which it was said had paid for its construction cost in two years...it may be true. Just the sort of platform you do not want to be responsible for putting out of commission, leaving aside other extraneous considerations, of course!

About force 5, fresh breeze, moderate sea and quite a heavy swell. We were snatching as it was marginal for tying up...wind direction, swell, etc.,... and if I remember right, not a particularly good forecast. We lay off at an angle from the rig as the wind was not dead ahead.

We closed up. The bow thruster was not on. It was useless at sea. We were working either pipes or collars, whatever, but they were long anyway. It was proving difficult to hold her in position, the wind catching the bow repeatedly.

The inevitable happened. The load swung at one end and got caught just as the bow paid off. Quite how is difficult to visualise now. The first thought as I've mentioned before (after the crew, that is) was for the crane operator. The stern could not be swung in to get the bow out as we would hit the legs.

We swung in towards the platform, falling down before the wind as I waited for the crew to clear the package. If they did not manage in time, then we were going to be on to the legs. Legs or crane was the initial choice. For those frozen seconds there was nothing could be done on the bridge, but I pressed the tit for the thruster for no good reason at all. It made not the slightest bit of difference except for its overload alarm which came on adding that extra bit of tension.

The load suddenly came clear. We were by then falling under the overhang of the platform. I had never been under the overhang before (beam on). I wasn't even clear that it was possible to be under it; that the funnels and mast would be clear.

We were rolling heavily as she paid off. Bangs and clatter from below. The crew on the after deck looking up. We fell off beam on. We could either fall down on to the legs or belt her ahead and hope that we would not hit the corner leg at full power. There would be no chance of trying to steer her bow out as the stern would tuck in and rake on the legs which sloped out under water.

With my little electric wandering tiller in my hand on midships, standing at the aft end of the bridge, I hammered the engine controls straight on to full power. She shot forward...they were quick responsive vessels...and seemed to rocket past the legs. As she did so, the mud, diesel and water hoses caught on the twin funnels like a string on a bow. The main engine alarms were going full blast and the noise in the bridge was hellish. I could see the crew looking up and they started to run forward, as the hoses caught.

Just then, the phone rang and there was the toolpusher on the other end saying " Can you come out a little further, we can't see you" to which the retort was "That's not your usual complaint, is it?" Little did he know! How the stern missed the last leg escapes me.

As the adrenalin shot through and my hair tried to get back to horizontal, it was straight back in for the next load/discharge. It did pass through my mind that a little bit of R & R might be useful for a break. Like simulate a small illness, a swoon or something.

Ahh, the fun days.

rcraig
25th February 2010, 12:36
This particular story has little to do with AHTS vessels except that it happened on one.

It was the summer of '75, if that was the year of a long, hot, calm summer with a high seemingly stationed permanently over the North Sea. I remember the year, if not the date, for two reasons.

One was lying alongside at Point Law in Aberdeen in intense heat close to the fish meal factory with the stench of the meal permeating into our clothes and all around the ship.

The other was that because of the calm conditions at sea a slight vibration could be felt one day as we steamed out of Invergordon. A place only Invergordonians could love. Some might say. Not me, of course...well.

So it came to pass that we duly tied up alongside another vessel there and hired a diver. And he came up to my cabin and I briefed him and chatted about how much I liked diving, my past experiences...the usual touch of ego and vanity...and how I wished etc. So he said he had a completely new set of spare gear and how I must want to go down and have a look at the screws with him. And suddenly my enthusiasm seemed to cool as I thought how long it had been since last I dived. However, "vanity, vanity, all is vanity"...as we shut down and isolated all engines and pumps.

So I donned the gear and duly slipped over the side with him and looked down into the dark green bottled coloured water as it sank away into the abyss below, a trail of the usual detritus of berthed ships vanishing out of sight. In truth it was not that deep immediately below the ship. But the "abyss".....

I dropped down behind him, breathing frantically out of control like an untrained beginner, sure the bottles were sucking in and out like lungs. We reached the screws and there was scouring around the tips where she must have hit something. I tried to pretend that I was interested and we hung around for a week...or possibly three minutes.

I returned to the surface, settled my nerves had a shower on the alongside vessel and settled down in my cabin. Back up came the diver and said that he had found something and I really would be interested in seeing it. Interested?! I was crapping myself.

So back on with the gear thinking...control yourself, breath steadily, relax. I had dived extensively in the Far East, night dived there off Malaya, trained others in a diving club, dived in the black mud off Marchwood, by touch in the strong tidal flows of Portsmouth, and around the UK and done a shallow water professional diving course. So, it was a cinch then?

So down again, did not control my breathing, was still crapping myself, looked blankly at the spot he pointed out like a child looking for his socks in a cupboard (to this day still cannot remember what the hell he was pointing out) and returned to the surface. Had he then come back and said he had found gold, it would have made no difference.

Moral of the story?....not much. Don't dive with completely unknown diving gear after many years off. Don't too readily tell others to "Get a grip of yourself". Try not to hit unseen underwater objects.

John Dryden
26th February 2010, 01:06
Enyoy your yarns but this takes the biscuit, have decided you are(or were) quiet mad.You should have just jumped in and had a swim!

rcraig
26th February 2010, 11:27
Thanks John. I had rather hoped that others might have jumped in with their own accounts of operations on the vessels. Thousands must have passed through them and there must be some very good yarns of quite hairy, and also bog standard operations (which were often quite hairy) little understood by those who have not done such work.

Mad? I'll leave that to others to judge. I've had a tendency to say "Yes" to something where others with discretion might have said "No".

Although I wander even more than usual from the topic of the thread, I remember as a 46 yr. old apprentice lawyer (a very late developer) offering to go offshore as a roustabout with Atlantic Drilling to see the on-rig side of operations and the circumstances where accidents happened.

To finish up on the first 12 hr. shift in a bo'sun's chair suspended over the moonpool working on a shackle and wire looking down on grey boiling water 60-70 ft below, Force 6/7 running, bloody cold and wet, thinking hey...I've no insurance for this, a wife and two children with a mortgage...what the hell am I doing this for? Well, of course, the buggers were just testing me out.

And standing cold water jet blasting the threads of drill collars (?) at midnight, wet and uncomfortable as a howling wind blew through the drill deck thinking...not even a Bankline apprenticeship was ever this uncomfortable.

Character forming! It would have been a very useful background to have done it before working supply vessels. The whole package of my experience with both vessels and offshore over the years has left me with a considerable respect for the mass of guys in both environments.

tugboat
2nd April 2010, 22:33
quote[Shell, in '75 produced a video film of this technique and the first showing was to MSA inspectors, or whatever they were called at the time, who were horrified and the video regrettably not put out for public use.]unquote

One of our lecturers showed us that film as an end of term treat (probably to scare the crap out of us) when I was at Plymouth doing my Masters while working on tankers. I thought 'Wow, that looks a lot more interesting than plugging round the Cape'. I contacted some supply companies, only 2 replied and only 1 offered me an interview. Next trip, as soon as my results came through, I handed in my notice and went to work in the N Sea. This was 1980, so I missed some of the antics that you ruffie-tuffies got up to, but this thread is bringing back so many memories and I'll dredge up some stories in due course if anyone is interested.
I would love to get hold of a copy of that film now. I Googled it a long time ago but no joy.

rcraig
3rd April 2010, 10:34
quote[Shell, in '75 produced a video film of this technique and the first showing was to MSA inspectors, or whatever they were called at the time, who were horrified and the video regrettably not put out for public use.]unquote

One of our lecturers showed us that film as an end of term treat (probably to scare the crap out of us) when I was at Plymouth doing my Masters while working on tankers. I thought 'Wow, that looks a lot more interesting than plugging round the Cape'. I contacted some supply companies, only 2 replied and only 1 offered me an interview. Next trip, as soon as my results came through, I handed in my notice and went to work in the N Sea. This was 1980, so I missed some of the antics that you ruffie-tuffies got up to, but this thread is bringing back so many memories and I'll dredge up some stories in due course if anyone is interested.
I would love to get hold of a copy of that film now. I Googled it a long time ago but no joy.

Do let us have these stories. I would love to get my hands on the film too. I think parts have been used on TV recently.

tugboat
4th April 2010, 16:40
I went to work for Maersk who I have to say were a good outfit to work for back in those days. They spent a lot of money and had top quality boats with lots of horses. I joined my first boat, an R-class AHTS (13,000 hp), in Esbjerg as extra mate. We sailed soon after and the skipper told me to join him on the bridge for sailing (probably didn't want me to break a fingernail on my first day!). There was all this rumbling and smoke appearing from the chimneys, then louder noises as the thrusters spooled up. The skipper quietly said 'Let go' into a microphone, all the ropes suddenly disappeared and seconds later we were off the berth and doing 5 knots. I thinks '(EEK)Wot, no single up fore & aft? No bridge movement book? No pilot? Oh yes, I'm gonna like it here'
I was quickly initiated into the work, it being made clear that with a crew of 12, there were no bystanders. It was all a revelation after tanker work. No uniform, no bullshit, no formality between ranks, it was great and I loved every minute. Except the first time we had some swell and I felt seasick for the first time since I was a first trip apprentice. Soon got my sealegs though. The skipper was great, letting me have a go in the chair, keeping station on an anchor buoy. Cor, shiphandling, seamanship, things not really experienced on tankers. The only shiphandling on big ships was going to anchor. The only seamanship was splicing a mooring rope or making a new pilot ladder. There were still no shark-jaws then,so we used the pelican hook system. Initially we knocked them off by hand, but later we used the tugger winch which removed some of the drama. If you've got the buoy and pennant laid out properly it's a pretty safe method. I think if you have a good driver in the chair who is on the ball and is able to keep the worst tension off the pennant, there is no real problem. Lets face it, if one complied with Health & Safety as it seems to be applied today, supply boats and anchorhandlers would never leave the quay. It's a tough job, but it had/has to be done to keep the oil flowing. We didn't complain about the dangers or the crazy hours that we worked, so why should H&S get their knickers in a twist. I had to leave the sea in 1992 due to health problems, but a few years ago I spoke to someone who is still sailing on the boats, and he said they have to do a Risk Assessment before they leave port. I nearly wet myself when he said that!
More another time. Cheers for now.
P.S. As I recall, that film was called 'Waiting on Weather' If anyone who reads this knows where it is being hidden, please let us know.

John Dryden
4th April 2010, 17:13
The film is in the British Film Institute library but I have no idea how to view it.

tugboat
4th April 2010, 17:33
Hey, thanks a lot John, I'll follow that up.

rcraig
4th April 2010, 17:45
The film is in the British Film Institute library but I have no idea how to view it.

Great! There must be a way to view it and I shall try to get a copy or excerpts. If anyone gets a copy, remember, the handsome one in it is me.

Tugboat

You remind me of the sheer pleasure of handling these ships, especially (and preferably) in good weather. But being in such close proximity to installations meant you could never quite relax.

One day, a good day albeit a little windy, we were lying close to and snatching at a platform. I decided, a little unnecessarily perhaps, to bring her really close to the legs. Now, our engine controls were like any other, and initially the first connecting link was by chain. Below that, I can not remember the controlling links. Be that as it may, I go astern on the starboard engine with a fair amount of power, ready to drop back on the engine and to hammer ahead on the port. I tended not to believe in the timid (cautious?) approach to handling these vessels.

As I pushed astern on the starboard engine, she suddenly jammed on the controls. Pushing forward on the port engine sharply, in the sudden surge of adrenalin (often spelt as.. panic..) I jumped up with both feet on to the display cabinet and pulled back with my full weight.

And she cleared! Of course, the proper approach should have been to shut off the starboard engine immediately, but to close down one engine close to the rig without a bow thruster available was not wholly instinctive!

To this day, I still have this image of me leaning back with all my weight and seeing the whole shebang pulled out of the cabinet with me on my **** back on the deck like a Monty Python sketch.

Peter B
4th April 2010, 17:53
Great story Tugboat, a very enjoyable read! (Applause)

rcraig
4th April 2010, 18:09
Great story Tugboat, a very enjoyable read! (Applause)
I'll go along with that

tugboat
4th April 2010, 19:44
Aw shucks, now I'm feeling all embarassed!(LOL)

david_crosby
4th April 2010, 23:11
I was quickly initiated into the work, it being made clear that with a crew of 12, there were no bystanders.

Ahhhhh the old good days :-)

With dear ole Smit (1970) we had a crew of 8, 2 Mates, 2 Engrs, 4 sailors (one of which was cook except during anchor handling).

rcraig
4th April 2010, 23:32
And with Wimpey's it was usually a crew of 8 but only if you included the master. If the charterer required it you would hope to get a spare mate for anchor handling.

tugboat
5th April 2010, 00:03
Ahhhhh the old good days :-)

With dear ole Smit (1970) we had a crew of 8, 2 Mates, 2 Engrs, 4 sailors (one of which was cook except during anchor handling).

I know, we young upstarts had it easy. I have every admiration for those who went before, when the N Sea first got going, including those totally unsuitable American boats with the funnels down aft that I was told were often swamped.
I was spoiled, I did my first 2 years (as Mate) on high powered AHTS with all the whistles and gongs including joystick and loads of thrusters but, much to the Skipper's amusement, I got him to teach me the basics of driving 'by hand'. This stood me in good stead when I was promoted to Master, cos they gave me a 'P' class vessel which had 3,000 horses and a wee diesel driven thruster that was prone to getting in a huff if you worked it too hard. Also, with the housing being a lot lower than the 'R' class, the stern looked a lot further away. The boats were really lowtech. Instead of VP props, they had clutch in/clutch out gearboxes driven by pneumatics. The time taken to clutch out from astern into neutral and then into ahead, coincided pretty much with the time it takes your bowels to turn to water! Oh what fun we had! I tell you though, that boat taught me how to drive and made me into a proper shiphandler. I learned by experience 2 very important lessons.....firstly only use the minimum power necessary to get the job done (and keep the rest in reserve to get yourself out of trouble)......secondly, always have an escape route in mind in case an engine or bowthruster or steering packed up. I wonder if the young guys on the boats today learn the old fashioned way? I fancy they probably have backups for everything, so they can just use brute power to correct any mistake. My apologies to them if I've got that wrong.
My first trip as Master was a helluva steep learning curve. Fortunately there wasn't much paperwork in those days (bet it's different now!) but being straight supply we were carrying stuff that I hadn't come across as Mate. Full deck cargoes of casing, for example, as we got a charter working with a laybarge. I'm glad I paid attention in college, cos I had to construct a loading and stability plan with 'moments for'd' and 'moments aft' and TPCs and all that guff. It all gave ME a few 'moments' I can tell you! Amazing how differently a boat handles when she is on her marks, a bit like flying a decent sized aircraft for the first time when all you have flown before are little 2-seaters. Amazingly steady and ponderous. Going alongside a laybarge was fun, just as you were sidling nicely alongside all ladylike, the bugger would suddenly shoot ahead making a complete mess of your fantastically skilled manoevre. I'm glad I haven't lost ALL my marbles and can still remember this stuff. Well, nostalgia is what this website is all about, isn't it?
Well 'tis getting late, the dog is looking like a draught excluder, it's my turn now. Looking forward to more of this thread, it's a good'un.

Charlie_Wood
5th April 2010, 08:56
Well, of my 20 years at sea the 8 years I spent in the North Sea were the ones I look back on with the least nostalgia and fondness. Although lucky to work for a great company, everybody else in the industry seemed to treat us as the lowest of the low. Maybe my view is jaundiced by having an accident in which two people were killed and the top barristers at the inquest, whilst shedding crocodile tears were only intent on clearing the oil major's yardarm and sweeping all the safety issues under the carpet. The NUS barrister being the only one to ask awkward questions.

At 35 the thought of doing the job for another 25 years was truly depressing and I was (and am) so grateful that a piloting job fell into my lap in 1989. Peterhead and Lerwick don't feature too highly in my top list of runs ashore!

tugboat
5th April 2010, 09:50
Hi Charlie, an accident like that is bound to affect you and no-one is going to criticise you for feeling as you did. Serious accidents were remarkably rare, given the antics we used to get up to on deck, though I'm sure there were many 'near misses' that were never made known outside the boat they happened on.
I well remember anchorhandling on deck as Mate in marginal weather. The timber deck had been torn about and there were big jags of wood sticking up that we had no time to deal with. A big greenie came over the roller and knocked me off my feet, washing me up the deck in a sitting position. I knew I was heading for a particularly nasty big jag so I pushed down with my hands as hard as I could, but I was convinced I was going to be needing a Medevac for major abdominal surgery! Somehow I missed it and all I got from the skipper was laughter over the mic. I went up to the wheelhouse door to give him some verbal abuse, and the Extra Mate held up bits of paper giving me 5.9 for artistic impression, the bugger! I had to laugh too, and apart from being soaked through there was no harm done. Experiences like that were all filed away in the brain, and helped make me a better skipper when my turn came, as I always drove the boat to make it as safe as possible for the guys on deck.
Laughter was very much the norm on the boats I sailed on, such as you never get on the big ships. Sure, we got messed about by the rigs, but it all helped to make us a self-reliant team on board.
I once hankered after a piloting job, but then I reckoned I'd soon get fed up trundling along the same stretch of water every day. I liked the freedom of being 'out there'. It's horses for courses, Charlie, and I'm glad you found what suited you. Anchorhandling and towing was what I was good at, it all seemed to come naturally to me, and with it I found my niche in life. I loved it and I'd be there now if I could. Aw, I'm gettin' all misty!

tugboat
5th April 2010, 15:24
I've just been looking at the National Film Institute website and, sure enough, 'Waiting on Weather' is listed in their archive. The bad news seems to be that one can only view such items by going there and watching it in a cinema environment. It would appear they don't sell copies. So, basically, if you are disabled or can't travel for some reason you lose out. That doesn't seem right. I might give them a ring to make sure I've got that right, though.

tugboat
6th April 2010, 19:41
I phoned the British Film Institute today, they no longer offer the service of making copies of their archive footage due to "staff shortages"! They gave me the email for someone at Shell who might be able to help. I have sent an email and apparently they are out of the office till next week, so hopefully they'll get back to me at some stage and I'll post the result.

John Dryden
6th April 2010, 20:14
Oh well tugboat,at least you have a trail to track it down.Good luck.

tugboat
7th April 2010, 16:49
OK, good news for all you ex North Sea Tigers who want to relive past excesses and impress 'er indoors'! The Shell film 'Waiting on Weather' is available via a guy called paul.johnson@dubbs.co.uk who will arrange a copy. The price is 25 + 5 delivery + VAT = 35-25p , don't all rush at once. A clear case of getting hold of the right person who knows the right person who knows the right person.(Gleam)

P.S. Many thanks to John Dryden who initially pointed me in the right direction.

tugboat
9th April 2010, 11:40
Well, my WoW DVD arrived this morning Special Delivery! I've just watched it and it's brilliant. It seems very 'dated' which is to be expected, but I can see why I was inspired to shift from tankers stooging round the Cape. My thanks to John Dryden, the British Film Institute, Jane Poynor at Shell, and staff at Dubbs for making it possible to see the film again. A real nostalgia trip. Well recommended viewing for old rufty-tuftys like me.

tugboat
12th April 2010, 11:49
Great! There must be a way to view it and I shall try to get a copy or excerpts. If anyone gets a copy, remember, the handsome one in it is me.

Sooooooo Mr Craig, which one was you, the fair-haired one with the sideburns or the bearded piratical type?!

This thread seems to have gone quiet so I'll add a bit more. I have enjoyed re-reading some of rcraig's posts about working without a bowthruster and having near-misses. By the time I went Master in '82 I had a diesel-driven BT but sometimes we were expected to work in weather where the bow was out of the water so much that the thruster was useless anyway.
I remember sailing from Aberdeen on a hotshot with a couple of containers. It was blowing a SW'ly gale up the chuff on the run out, so we made good time, but by the time we arrived on location there was a heck of a sea running, about 10 metres if you included the underlying swell. We were standing on nose or tail when we turned head to weather and the bow was lifting well clear of the water. The rig wanted those containers urgently or it would have to shut down. Huh, no pressure then!
The job had to be done head to weather, there wasn't any way the boat could hold position stern into those seas, and anyway it would have been impossible on deck.
I got the lads up to the bridge for a chat to see if they were prepared to give it a go, as they were the ones who were going to be in the firing line, so to speak. I did a practice run while they were up on the bridge, and they agreed to have a crack at it but they were going to have to be quick. Fortunately we'd had to foresight in Aberdeen to lash the containers individually, which was going to pay off now.
We had to do the job as if there was no thruster, though it was running. The only way I could hold the bow into the wind was with main engines and I couldn't afford to let the wind get even a few degrees onto one bow or we were done for. We had no anemometer to easily watch, so it was a matter of leaning forward and squinting up through the eyebrow windows to see how the flags were lying.
I positioned the boat about 2 cables directly upwind of the crane and went sternfirst hell for leather down towards the rig. As we approached I shouted to the lads on deck, they dropped the chain on one lift, I clutched in ahead on the engines and used lots of power to keep the boat head to wind and stopped just long enough for the lads to hook on and the crane to lift clear before shooting ahead and out of it. We had to do that twice, and I was glad when we were done, I can tell you. I was dead chuffed with the lads too and I reckon we earned out charter fee that day.
I sometimes think of those events where we were so lucky and got away with a risky operation, but now I'm older and wiser and not as invincible as we felt when we were younger, I'm inclined to pause and think what might have happened if one of the engines had failed to clutch in or the steering had failed (as was not unknown back in those days).

rcraig
12th April 2010, 12:27
The bearded one.

You can see the camera man on the quarter on some of my gallery shots of the Wimpey Seadog, all taken on a quiet day otherwise I would not have been taking them. Should not have been taking them on a calm day either!
How did you manage to chain down your individual containers, or have I picked you up wrong?

tugboat
12th April 2010, 15:15
Oh, I thought you said you were the good looking one, hehe!
In answer to your question, as it was a hotshot we only had a couple of containers on board. Each was chained to the barrier separately, so it took only a few seconds to release. We cleared the chain off the deck as we pulled out each time. As we stood on our nose, it almost slid for'd on it's own! Only joking!

rcraig
13th April 2010, 18:03
There was a great deal of pleasure as Tugboat implied in handling these vessels. And responsibility (without getting too pompous about it). I had said earlier that at the end of my first six weeks I was walking off the quay from the Wimpey Seadog, was called to the kiosk phone and told I was sailing out that day as master. Without any anchor handling or any other handling experience on such ships.

I was very confident about the handling...the rest was different. Anyone who could take a 230 ft landing craft into her home berth at HM Gunwharf in Portsmouth in a spring cross tide with or without a cross wind in attendance, heading 20 degrees off course at a minimum speed of 5+knots before sharply swinging in to straighten up and then having to crash into astern to avoid hitting the launches barely one ship's length along the quay, all by shouting down a voice pipe to a helmsman and telegraph operator, was at least used to close quarter situations. And for one or two, embarrassing situations.

So I sailed out on a 3 day trip which was to last 13 days (not 6 wks. as I've incorrectly stated elsewhere) because of the hellish weather up near Shetland. And for two weeks simply could not anchor off the rigs and tie up successfully because I had failed to grasp the need to keep the anchor cable taut in 400+ ft. of water.

This meant that I could not hold the vessel still long enough to get the lines from the rigs secured tight enough if there was a cross wind. And there was always a bloody cross wind. It was March. The nights were long and very, very dark. If you can imagine the feeling of going from rig to rig and having continuous difficulty in tying up you will realise that there are more relaxing pastimes both for morale and reputation. To encourage all further, the heating failed in the accommodation.

So it came to pass that we were called in to one of the cruciform rigs. It was not a good night. I recollect a moderate swell with a wind on the quarter coming through the rig. About Force 5. I ran in, dropped anchor, turned and backed up. As ever, swung the stern round, got her very close to the rig legs...and then she started to pay off. Being a cruciform rig there were legs off to port and we paid off to them. I pulled out and tried again.

The stern swung round, close to yet again and it was either then or on a third try that the starboard quarter line was secured. Then the port quarter rope. But we lay with both lines aft leading out to starboard and the anchor leading out on the starboard bow with an increasing wind picking up and the legs to port ominously close. It was a wholly untenable position. The crew were aft and wet and without doubt pissed off. I was pouring with sweat in a bloody icy wheelhouse. And I wanted my mammy.

Over the radio I heard the toolpusher (presumably) saying with irritation "What the hell is he doing in that position?"....or impolite words to that effect and a remarkably calm voice saying with remarkable understanding of my own position that he did not think the captain had any more desire than they had for me to be there either, and then said that if I wished to depart to do so without ceremony and ignore the mooring ropes. Which was very generous of him. They were brand new. There was no way we could let go conventionally. We would have been straight down on the legs to port.

I tannoyed the after deck, cleared the crew, checked they were gone. We were lurching and jerking heavily on the ropes and the decks were constantly awash.

Wandering tiller on starboard heading, down with the engine controls and she surged forward and two mooring ropes snapped and whipped as we shot forward. We cleared the legs....wouldn't be telling you if I hadn't.....and recovered the anchor. I noticed that in the icy cold wheelhouse I was wearing a vest having got shot of my other top gear, and I was still streaming with sweat.

Shortly after the penny dropped and with correct use of the anchor, as I've previously narrated, the handling became an interesting and enjoyable challenge. No, just in case you are wondering, I never injured anyone during my three years or caused damage to ship or installation.

Would I recommend this crash course...almost literally....method of learning ship handling? Er...no.
But for losing weight, it is unbeatable. In 6 wks on my first trip in command I lost 21 lbs.

tugboat
13th April 2010, 20:36
Haha, good yarn that, and well told,sir. Oh I hated those cruciform rigs, may have been DF96 & 97, but not sure. That hole in each corner was just not wide enough to play with, and IIRC the cranes didn't have much radius so you had to get in quite close. They could only plumb the aft end of the deck so we had to tugger the cargo down aft if there was a good deck load. Snatching was hard work at those rigs and hoses in the water just waiting till your eyes were elsewhere so they could sneak down and have a look at your propellors!
Talking of anchoring and tying up......I remember the first time I had to do that, it was a jackup and I ended up with half the deck hidden under the helideck. I was somewhat embarassed, but it was a lesson quickly learned and a mistake not made again.
For those reading this who are not initiated into the ways of the supply boat (it takes all sorts, I suppose!), the ideal situation would be no wind or current and the boat would end up with the anchor leading straight ahead and a rope on each quarter leading out at 35-40 from aft, allowing one to stop the propellors and the thruster. The skipper lights a fag and brews a cuppa and the lads on deck do all the work, and a good time is had by all!
Sadly things aren't like that, I think I only ever had a quiet tie-up like that on 2 occasions. Wind and seas and tidal currents play havoc with that little scenario and and I recall that on more than one occasion my anchor chain was leading 50 or so out on the bow. It tended to be quite fun letting go in those situations.
It is appropriate to express my admiration and gratitude to the many crane operators I shared discharges and backloads with. They were almost universally of the highest calibre and demonstrated extraordinary skill in some pretty horrendous situations. Given that on rigs the crane is often at nearly full radius (especially when the boat is leaping about in winter conditions) so the driver is horizontally a long way from his hook, and on platforms the driver is about a mile up in the sky so also a long way from his hook. Almost to a man, when backloading they would do their best to place the lifts where you wanted them and in a proper solid stow so there was little tuggering needed. Good guys, and if I meet one in a pub sometime I shall buy him several drinks.
Another little story connected with tying up to rigs. We had dropped the anchor and were running in. Just about to turn when there was a helluva bang from up for'd. The mate shouted up that the windlass was falling to pieces. It turned out that the dog clutch, which was badly worn and rattly on it's shaft, had finally caught on it's partner as it spun and it had shattered into pieces. We pulled off to sort it out. We had to 'hang off' the other anchor, i.e. lower it out of it's pipe, break the cables and pull the duff one in with the good windlass. Thankfully it was decent weather and thankfully we had enough room in the chain locker to accomodate the extra cable. Another time I was glad to have paid attention in college!
It was slightly embarassing going into Esbjerg with 2 anchors hanging out of one pipe. A colleague on another boat who watched us come in said it reminded him of seeing a lassie with her skirt caught in the back of her knickers!
There I go, lowering the tone again.(LOL)

rcraig
13th April 2010, 23:55
You've certainly helped to refresh the memories. The crane ops were the difference between a wary sluggish discharge/load when "snatching" and a quick turnround with minimum risk of things going wrong with the risk of the wind catching on the bow. The alert competent quick driver made all the difference.

In the very early days, the sight of a deckhand using his hand and a moving finger or two to indicate to the crane operator whether to lift or lower a couple of inches always seemed incongruous given that the cab might be 70 feet up above and there was not a snowball's chance in hell of it being seen clearly.

You could tell immediately if the operator was good just as they quickly picked out the tentative edgy skipper who crawled back unwillingly with his stern and stayed too far out.

I went out as a roustabout for a week about '80/'81 to see what it was about and went up into the cab and it was enlightening. It was a helluva exposed position and it did not appeal to me. Leaving aside that I have no head for heights.

rcraig
15th April 2010, 20:36
Well, Tugboat, I've just got my copy of "Waiting on Weather" and it was worth the waiting for. That is, 35 years. I have only one major criticism. The casting editor was crap. The most photogenic guy is not shown. Me. There is a stern view of me as mate letting go....you may have blinked...and a reference, a kind one to a guy called Ray who, as mate, listened to the crew. If I hadn't, I would now be typing this with my toes. We were obviously used for continuity and I recognise in particular the repeated shots of letting go the pelican hook, the bit which caused the MSA (BoT?) inspectors so much alarm when they saw the film. No, I was not the bearded guy shown in the film.

It is a very good film accepting that it has the usual disconnected bits in it which only those involved would spot.

tugboat
16th April 2010, 09:22
I'm glad you too got your copy after all these years. I shall probably watch it many a time, sad fellow that I am. Be interesting to know if anyone else sent for a copy. I don't suppose there is any contemporary professional footage to get hold of. How could we find out? I have enjoyed watching some of the amateur clips on the SN Offshore Forum, I have never joined or got involved with YouTube type sites but it seems to be a source of potentially interesting clips. I greatly regret that digital cameras weren't around when I was at sea, as I would have been snapping away like a good'un. I have some photos though and I'll have to see if I can upload them to SN. I recently got a new scanner/printer thingy that may produce better results than my last one.
I have been remembering the ports I was based in, Aberdeen being the main one of course, and wondering how they have changed. I know they have a new port control building since I was there. The place was always jam-packed with boats and Blaikies Quay was often 3 deep. I dare say the place is a lot quieter now. I wonder if they have a webcam up there overlooking the harbour? I shall put that on my 'to do' list. I had to go into Great Yarmouth a few times in my early days as skipper and I have to say that going in there with the tide whistling past the piers was not a life-enhancing experience. I expect you may have been a regular visitor there in the early days so were well used to it. I remember having to turn the boat round in the river while the ebb was on. There wasn't much room to spare as those boats were quite long, so had to do it just above the turn where there was a small gap before the start of the proper quays to stick the bow into. It was a case of lots of power to get round as quickly as possible and as the stern swung round with just a couple of feet to spare I'm sure all our eyes were out on stalks. A prayer said to the God of bowthrusters! Had it failed we would have been jammed across the river for all to gawp at until the tide slackened. At least it got the heart pumping, which is more than can be said for trudging round the Cape at economical speed.

rcraig
16th April 2010, 20:02
I would recommend the rather old and not particularly clear YouTube video of the Smit-Lloyd 6 (4?) working anchors in conditions which were arguably rather worse than marginal.

Did only a couple of trips from Gt. Yarmouth. We berthed right under the company offices. I remember the river well.

It may only have been me that had absent minded spells. On one occasion we were lying alongside starboard side to and thereby facing up river. We had to move ship. There was as always a strong current running but otherwise nae bother for a North Sea tiger moving ship.

So stand by fore and aft. Let go the stern rope, hold on the after spring. Let go the forward ropes, and the forward spring. We sprung out, the bow paying off fast. Of course. Was about to go slow ahead to take the weight off the spring when I noticed I had forgotten to start the engines. You may have a different anatomy from mine, but my stomach and sphincter muscle seem to work together in such circumstances.

I pressed down the two buttons. And nothing happened. We were swinging out very fast. Tried again and I think it was the third time that one engine started up. Not the port one, which I really wanted if I only had to have one. Power on and let go.

A salutary lesson. Drifting down river out of control would have been bad enough, but to do it under the head office...?

I think the next story will sink into anonymity. The (nameless) vessel sailed out to one of the Southern sector installations. For some time, lengths of umbilical had been returning to shore from some closed down sub-sea device. It was very thick cable, the core of it being copper wire. It had been the practice for the cable to be acquired by the dockers, the company to whom it belonged not being interested in it. They stripped down the cable and picked up quite handsome sums for the copper.

Now the crews were the guys who had the difficult task of handling this cable and sometimes in uncomfortable circumstances. This particular crew decided that it was time they took advantage of this deal and stripped down the cable before arrival in port.

The dockers, being suddenly filled with an outraged sense of morality, took umbrage at this, only discovering it when no cable materialised for them to take, and reported the matter to the police. They carried out the most cursory of investigations (so I am told) and decided that the matter was of no substance.

It just goes to show that even the most contrary of God's creatures may see the path of righteousness when he is given sufficient cause to. Like losing money.

tugboat
18th April 2010, 20:13
I thought I'd done some daft things while I was at sea but that takes some beating! Our sphincters have been well exercised over the years, so hopefully we won't be troubled by incontinence till we're 110! I cannot imagine your expression at the moment of dawning realisation, it must have been like something out of Tom & Jerry. Blind terror, sweat popping out the size of cricket balls, the speech bubble above your head "Aaaarrrrrggggghhhh"! With a lesser man it would have been followed by the brown puddle on the deck, lol. I once asked my Chief why we didn't start engines from the bridge, he said it was because of various circ pumps for lubes and water etc needing to be put on first. Now I realise it's because we're too daft to be trusted with such complicated things. It's kind of comforting that the job is being done by someone who knows what they're doing.
Sheesh, I cannot get that scenario out of my head now you've put it there. Had it happened to me, I think I'd have nightmares about it to this day. And right out side the boss's window too.
Your tale about the copper cable rings true. Back in the 80's the garbage skips we backloaded were a rich resource for goodies. There was scandalous wastage by the rig people in those days but it all changed at the end of the 80's when belts were getting tightened by several notches. As for dockers, don't get me started.
I have another hairy tale of my own that I'll save for another time, so watch this space!

rcraig
5th May 2010, 19:43
One of the less desirable places to berth was in my home port. Well, it was if you were based at Shell Base in Torry dock, Aberdeen. Why? Because you were on constant stand-by to move the ship because of the endless comings and goings of supply vessels in a confined dock.

It meant that if you did go home you would have to leave the house immediately to get there in time for a ship move at any time of the day or night. Now, these were the days when mobile phones were such that you needed a Land Rover and trailer to carry them and we all thought them embarrassingly pretentious to have, never mind the cost.

If the call out was during pub night opening hours, the real fun was to get enough crew to assist and that needed local knowledge of the appropriate pub being used that night. The Torry Bar however was quite handy.

The better and much rarer place for a berth was up in Regent's Quay in the main harbour area. This was a much better proposition and meant that apart from being much quieter, you could expect normally a night's uninterrupted sleep, mainly because you would be waiting for a spot charter.

Now Torry Dock had only one advantage, the security guard. At Regent Quay no such check existed so that the ship was readily accessed by the....how shall we put it....the hoooers...(a well known Aberdeen expression of endearment).

There were women who frequented the ships, certainly the Wimpey ones, who were pleasant and genuine lassies who simply liked a good time and who met up with their favourite captains, engineers and mates (the other crew turned over so fast that there seemed no connection with them). I was, of course, simply an interested bystander.

And there was a different class of women, many of them coming from the Wolverhampton area for some reason, who were simply a pain in the butt. Many were on drugs and also sold drugs, and stole, and they were a particular target for the police.

So it came to pass that in the course of one week alongside we were twice raided by the vice squad, and successfully too, at least from their point of view.

It just so happened that at the time I was "resting" as relief master in between terms at university and I was doing a law degree. I had visions of headlines in the local press, on the lines of "Hooer house vessel master running brothel in training to become a lawyer"....Read all about it....

When the worm turned (i.e me) and finally tried to clamp down I was indignantly told by a cook that it was apparently alright for me to take my wife on board but somehow it was different for the crew to take their women on board. I tried to point out that the particular and only women to whom objection was being taken did have some problems for us, but to no avail.

Whenever my wife tries to act above her station I still remind her of her perceived status.

And remind the reader that in those days you did not sack seamen as the problem was not getting rid of them but holding on to them or replacing them.

tugboat
6th May 2010, 11:56
Aaahhh, Aberdeen Harbour, so many bars, so little time! And Torry Dock, with the incredible stench of rotting fish from the bins outside the merchants across the road. Ya needed a stranglehold on your gag reflex berthed there. And shi.ehawks lined up along the cargo barrier overnight and reminding us why they were so called.
I didn't go to Shell Base very often, just the occasional spot charter for a run, as they had big Scandahooligan boats on long term charters. Poor b...ers got worked pretty hard too.
I was often on the other side of the dock, or on Mearns Quay opposite, and sometimes on that horrible little 'river berth' that was about long enough to tie up a rowboat. That was all Wood Group in those days.
I remember Regent Quay too, times waiting for a spot job, my night on board, up on the bridge in the evening for a coffee, and watching the 'ladies of the night' and the kerb crawlers. Binoculars? Moi?!!!
I have to say I found the Aberdeen harbour area a pretty depressing place in the winter with all that granite, and all the overflowing roof gutters that you had to dodge on the way to the office. It was good to get away up into town sometimes or go for a walk up the the road along the beach.
I just downloaded a map of the harbour to refresh my memory on some of the quay names, and found mention that the Fittie bar is still going strong! That place is an 'institution' in it's own right.
Looking at the webcams, the boats all look huge now. We used to whizz around the harbour like pond skaters, and shuffling berth was a 15 minute job. Shifting these modern monsters must be more of a headache though, they ought to be fitted with parking sensors, lol. I'm kinda glad I was in the industry when I was, I missed a lot of the poor equipment that you had to cope with, and I missed the hassles of huge boats and loads of bureaucracy. I also missed Satcoms where owners can get hold of you at any time of day or night. Phew, glad about that!

billyboy
6th May 2010, 12:23
Keep it up lads. I love reading these tuggie tales

Burned Toast
6th May 2010, 18:51
I'm glad you too got your copy after all these years. I shall probably watch it many a time, sad fellow that I am. Be interesting to know if anyone else sent for a copy. I don't suppose there is any contemporary professional footage to get hold of. How could we find out? I have enjoyed watching some of the amateur clips on the SN Offshore Forum, I have never joined or got involved with YouTube type sites but it seems to be a source of potentially interesting clips. I greatly regret that digital cameras weren't around when I was at sea, as I would have been snapping away like a good'un. I have some photos though and I'll have to see if I can upload them to SN. I recently got a new scanner/printer thingy that may produce better results than my last one.
I have been remembering the ports I was based in, Aberdeen being the main one of course, and wondering how they have changed. I know they have a new port control building since I was there. The place was always jam-packed with boats and Blaikies Quay was often 3 deep. I dare say the place is a lot quieter now. I wonder if they have a webcam up there overlooking the harbour? I shall put that on my 'to do' list. I had to go into Great Yarmouth a few times in my early days as skipper and I have to say that going in there with the tide whistling past the piers was not a life-enhancing experience. I expect you may have been a regular visitor there in the early days so were well used to it. I remember having to turn the boat round in the river while the ebb was on. There wasn't much room to spare as those boats were quite long, so had to do it just above the turn where there was a small gap before the start of the proper quays to stick the bow into. It was a case of lots of power to get round as quickly as possible and as the stern swung round with just a couple of feet to spare I'm sure all our eyes were out on stalks. A prayer said to the God of bowthrusters! Had it failed we would have been jammed across the river for all to gawp at until the tide slackened. At least it got the heart pumping, which is more than can be said for trudging round the Cape at economical speed.

Google : Ships and oil.com and you will be able to use their web cam from Torrey. also see what ships are in port sailing and arrival.(Smoke)marrex marine.
ray

tugboat
7th May 2010, 08:45
Cheers, Ray, I had already seen that webcam though I found it via Google. The website though is a new one to me and looks a good'un, so many thanks for that.

tugboat
11th May 2010, 16:19
December 1989 we were working for Amerada Hess and I was sent up to Cromarty Firth to take the Ocean Benloyal out of the dock at Nigg and tow her to a location in Central North Sea. There was a storm brewing so they wanted her out of the dock beforehand and lined up ready to go on location when the weather abated. The rig had been in layup for a while and had refitted ready for this new job. Given the weather prospects I asked about the condition of the towing bridle and was told it was in good order.
Well, we tweaked the rig out of her hole and down to the Fairway buoy, I was the only one towing with one other boat in company.
The log entries read......1833-pilot leaves rig, 1910-passed Fairway Buoy, 2250-tow parted at bridle, 0008-tow reconnected........bland entries that hide the brown-trouser reality.
Once clear of the fairway buoy we turned onto heading and I started to pay out some wire and increase the power gradually. The rig was obviously still ballasted right up with the tops of her pontoons awash. The wind had started increasing pretty much as soon as we got her out of the dock and that continued over the couple of hours as we went down channel. By the time the tow parted it was SW8-9 according to the log. When we pulled in the tow-wire, we found it was the short pennant between our gear and the big flounder plate that had parted. When I queried the rig about it, they said it was the only part of the towing gear that hadn't been replaced!
The rig wound in on his little winch and pulled up the bridle but couldn't reach anything. By this time the rig was blowing downwind at 6 knots and the problem arose of how to reconnect the tow. For some reason he couldn't/wouldn't run out any anchors. I can't remember if there were seabed obstructions or maybe he was afraid of damaging his gear. In our favour was that the weather was from the SW, therefore not much fetch so not much sea running. Also the rig was sailing downwind with the weather right 'up his chuff'. I had to put the stern of the boat right back between his pontoons almost touching the cross-member in order for my guys to be able to reach the bridle. I couldn't use more than a smidge of rudder or we would have been pranging a pontoon, and at 6 knots the thrusters are ineffective, though I was obliged to experiment with that! My deck party, once the flounder plate was on board, set to with a will but as usual when you want things done in a hurry the split pin was declining to play the game and they took ages to get it out. It was probably only 10 minutes that we were tucked into the pontoons, if that, but it seemed like a lifetime. The guys on deck did a great job as quickly as they could, and the Chief on the winch was on the ball too, but I think my knuckles took a while to regain their colour! It was a rotten tow all round really, we were leaping about all over the place, freshening the nip regularly, playing with power settings, trying very hard not to stress the tow as I had lost confidence in the rig's gear, but when the weather went down we put her on location OK. That was December 21st. I reckon we earned our towing bonus on that one.
An added pressure was that we were due off for Christmas, so by the time we had pumped stuff to the rig and backloaded time was getting tight. Had to do Master's accounts on the way to Aberdeen so I was fair knackered by the time we hit the beach. Happily the reliefs were waiting and it was a trip I was glad to see the back of.

Nick Balls
11th May 2010, 17:27
I bloody knew it ! You simply can't escape them!
About 6 years years ago I was having a pint in the 19th Hole (Campells) Down in Torry and reminiscing with the Landlord about Torry during the 1980's .
Trouble was in those days I could never get away from those damn anchors! Seemed you could never just sit down and have a nice quite pint. Nor get away from the latest tales of daring do. The very last thing you needed during a hard North sea winter. Oh Happy days ! By the way the landlord still seemed to know more about the many ships crews and their names than me! Looking back I would never have missed a moment of that special time with some special people. Just wish i could write it all up.

tugboat
11th May 2010, 17:57
Well why not? A friend of mine is co-author of a new book out called "Voices from the bridge" which is reminiscences from shipmasters over the years. Maybe we need such a book about the North Sea. Could call it "Tiger Tales"!

rcraig
11th May 2010, 23:17
I bloody knew it ! You simply can't escape them!
About 6 years years ago I was having a pint in the 19th Hole (Campells) Down in Torry and reminiscing with the Landlord about Torry during the 1980's .
Trouble was in those days I could never get away from those damn anchors! Seemed you could never just sit down and have a nice quite pint. Nor get away from the latest tales of daring do. The very last thing you needed during a hard North sea winter. Oh Happy days ! By the way the landlord still seemed to know more about the many ships crews and their names than me! Looking back I would never have missed a moment of that special time with some special people. Just wish i could write it all up.

Come on then, start here!

tugboat
24th May 2010, 10:23
Another little tale to give you a laugh. I was working in the Danish sector out of Esbjerg with my little PSV and we regularly tied up to the platforms and rigs. There were a variety of boats working the fields and ropes in props were a regular feature. There were dive boats out on the field too, and they were drafted in to clear the propellors. I was ashore one night in Esbjerg with a bunch of divers off a boat that was having a few days break, and foolishly bragged that I had never had a rope in my props. Anyway I sailed and, would you believe it, that very trip as a crane was lifting a rope up the strop broke and down it plunged. I clutched out the props but it was too late. I pulled off by winding in some anchor chain. I called up the dive boat that was on the field and they said they'd come over when they finished what they were doing. I was desperate to get it cleared before the other dive boat (to whom I'd been bragging) came out to the field again. As luck would have it the diver was still clearing my prop when the other dive boat came back out. They did a slow flyby along my portside, and the divers were all lined up at the rail p...ing themselves laughing. I stood outside the wheelhouse and waved back in my embarassment. Then ,as one, they all turned and dropped their trolleys and gave me 'the full moon'! Ah, sweet memories, lol !!!

Nick Balls
24th May 2010, 11:55
Great stuff! You just have to laugh. Some of the North sea stories are just brilliant and oh so true.
Who remembers the foremast Christmas tree of the Star Sirius? Now while I never worked on her , I was working for the same outfit. Lots of ships had a Christmas tree but this one was 'special' Apparently powered by the Fwd Anchor light electrics it was always illuminated (Look away now MCA!) Once away from port they would set them going and she became pretty famous. First time I ever saw her was way up north on a very very black and windy old night. We were clinging on for dear life , hove too in wind speeds exceeding 80kts .(Christmas of course having been F**ed up for us by the office workers in the oil companies) Being on Watch I spotted this complex arrangements of coloured lights,away off, initially thinking them some form of restricted vessel and of course due to our own lack of maneuverability, due to the conditions,was quite concerned to find out exactly what it was!
What a great and cheerful sight ! Made my Christmas that year.

tugboat
24th May 2010, 12:06
Haha, brilliant, I wish I'd seen that! Talk of the rough weather and bouncing around reminds me of the mechanics of sleeping while stooging WOW. I never liked the thwartships bunks, a recipe for friction burns on your 'bits'. Fortunately the daybeds were f&a, so I used to sleep there. I used to jam myself in with upturned chairs and anything padded that came to hand, until I could barely move. Getting up was a bit of a problem, a monkeys fist hanging from the deckhead would haver been useful. Lying there, I tried not to think of coffins! When stooging at night in bad weather, the trick was to work well up to weather of the rig during your watch, turn downwind just before calling your relief, and that gave you a smooth ride for a while till you got to sleep. Seemples!!

michaelF
24th May 2010, 16:45
Great stuff! You just have to laugh. Some of the North sea stories are just brilliant and oh so true.
Who remembers the foremast Christmas tree of the Star Sirius? Now while I never worked on her , I was working for the same outfit. Lots of ships had a Christmas tree but this one was 'special' Apparently powered by the Fwd Anchor light electrics it was always illuminated (Look away now MCA!) Once away from port they would set them going and she became pretty famous. First time I ever saw her was way up north on a very very black and windy old night. We were clinging on for dear life , hove too in wind speeds exceeding 80kts .(Christmas of course having been F**ed up for us by the office workers in the oil companies) Being on Watch I spotted this complex arrangements of coloured lights,away off, initially thinking them some form of restricted vessel and of course due to our own lack of maneuverability, due to the conditions,was quite concerned to find out exactly what it was!
What a great and cheerful sight ! Made my Christmas that year.

Nick ,
sailed on the Star Sirius two years as mate 85 & 86 do not remember anything about the Christmas tree lights ? What year were you talking about .

mike

decky74
24th May 2010, 17:58
The company didn't provide any form of safety equipment in those day. It took three men to drown before they provided us with a useless form of life vest which was so bulky they were almost impossible to wear. I remember as mate ordering work gloves, Instead I was sent a tin of swarfega! It took a lot of explaining to make them realise that we weren't interested in keeping our hands clean but to stop them getting torn to shreds by jagged anchor wires.

Hi ray, the only anchor handling l did was on seaman in the 70s, utc, she had a cage bilt round her props to stop the buoys getting jammed there, it was quite a job working the the hook, aspecially in bad weather, her winches used to struggle, they were to slow, like you said, what safety gear, wellys and a wet suit, decky 74

Nick Balls
24th May 2010, 20:05
Michalf
Would have been around 87, I was working on the Star Hercules in Brazil during 85/86
I knew a lot of the lads on the Sirius ....Still a few about! Can't remember but think Vince Kelly would have been skipper.

ddraigmor
24th May 2010, 21:46
My mate was on the 'Sirius' or the 'Spica'. Mick Sharp. Colin Campbell was on one of them too as Leading Hand. I sailed with Colin in OIL on the 'OIL Hustler' - a fabulous bloke and a truly excellent seaman. He was living in Stonehaven then.

One story I do recall about him was after we'd been fitted with mud tanks on deck for a semi. This was on the 'OIL Hustler'. Complex arrangement but basically they were 4 x 40' containers filled with one off mud that was to be discharged up to the semi.

We'd hooked up the line to one of these - weather was on the turn - and the plan was to discharge and then pull off (we had the single rope tied to the rig on the quarter back in those days ). The pump clogged before the discharge was over, the weather had got up and she was shipping them in green rollers up the open stern. I was on watch with Colin and we were told to disconnect.

I remember taking the line off the maifold, the crane coming down, the strop put on and the pipe was airorne. Suddenly, she dipped her back end in and I was caught in the open by a massive roller that floored me. I ended up underneath a stow of flexible pipe, under water - and it was Colin who dragged the pipe off me and pulled me to my feet!

Being roughie toughie Northsea Tigers, we carried on with the job. Managed to get the mooring line off and then it was for'ad to recover the anchor. Bitterly cold night, drenched under my oilskins - but yes, they were the best of days!

PS - I used to write for Marex - in the News and Views bit. Vic Gibson who runs the site was ex Star Offshore and OIL. Had an idea for a book of Northsea tales - got lots off Captain Cliff Evans who was with JMC at the time - but despite an advert for interested people to send me their stories so I could collate them into a book I got no response.

Jonty

michaelF
24th May 2010, 22:24
Nick,
it was in dec 86 / jan 87 that lots of stars men left with voluntary redundancy , i did it was an offer to good to miss , i think they underestimated how much it would cost them. If you remember they wanted to cut the leave down to 2/1 and reduce pay etc .

Jonty ,
last time i talked to vic he was moving to Spain the next day .

ps reference christmas tree , Sirius was one of the brightest stars.

mike

Nick Balls
25th May 2010, 12:00
Oh yes I remember that for sure! One of the most difficult times for me!
We had been working in Brazil and were told 'It is 2:1 nothing less' I took the option of saying no and assumed that I had lost my job! In fact I had another one lined up and offered in double quick time. Some of the lads took the option(In Brazil) and regretted it straight away. I didnt , but was then offered a job back in the NS on 1:1 which I took.
As many know that was just the start of the problems. Strange thing about Star was it always had some brilliant people working on the ships but was totally lacking elsewhere. I still keep in contact with a few of the originals including Capt John (Raggy) Charlton and Capt Paul Hunt , both now retired and both brilliant guys to sail with.

michaelF
25th May 2010, 14:07
Nick ,
as i remember the meeting for the change of contract took place between the company and us , everybody who was in port was on the bridge of the Star Sirius , it got quite heated and ended by that if you didnt like it be at the office the next morning and you would be paid what was due, apparently there was quite a queue . Our contract stated one months pay for every year you had been federated in the MN , which added up to a tidy sum.
Like you i took it , got a job , promoted , and more money and stayed on 1/1 working out of Aberdeen.
Happy Days.

mike

Nick Balls
29th May 2010, 11:29
Mike, Strangest of all, I carried on working for Star!!!!! Worked out OK because of the MNOPF Pension.

tugboat
21st June 2010, 22:31
This isn't necessarily relevant to this thread except it happened on an anchor-handler and possibly wouldn't have on a conventional vessel. We were working out of Norway and we were doing crewchange. It involved a considerable minibus journey to Bergen, a flight to East Midlands, and then we were going our separate ways.
Anyway, we had a young cook, and he was going home to get married. The engineers made up a leg manacle with a length of chain and one of those heavy iron balls off a sounding pipe. On pay-off day, we were all ready and changed into our shore gear, just waiting for the new guys to arrive. We all went up to the bridge and sat the cook in the aft driving seat and gave him a card wishing him and his missus well for the future. At the same time the 2/E crept up behind him and stuck the manacle on his ankle with a padlock, ran to the wheelhouse door and made a big show of throwing the key over the side.
Well, the cook was a bit gobsmacked but took it all in good humour. He was having trouble seeing the funny side as we drove to the airport along windy roads as the manacle was beginning to really chafe the skin off his ankle. We got to the airport and the security people wouldn't let him through. We kept it going for a while until he really thought he might miss his flight. Then a second key was produced. The security people put the manacle in a cardboard box and said he could collect it at the other end. At East Midlands we were all waiting at the baggage reclaim when this thing appeared. It had partially demolished the box and it slid down the slope with an unholy row. We had been imbibing on the flight so we were a bit of a noisy lot. We threatened to put the thing back on his leg but he did a runner. The other travelling public probably thought we were a right unruly lot. Well, gotta live up to the rufty tufty image, eh?

tugboat
15th July 2010, 12:58
Come on, guys, there have got to be loads more stories out there, give us a laugh and an opportunity to suck our gums and remember it all. More Tiger Tales please! I've shown you mine, now show me yours!

rcraig
31st August 2010, 11:54
Last trip on supply vessels. Celebration drinks with the crew in the Torry bar in Aberdeen. I think they wished to make sure I was definitely leaving.

Bar chock-a-block (hey, how nautical can you get!) with crews from the supply vessels in Torry Dock, all making sure they they were suitably prepared for any sudden move such as Shell might require of them. Confident in the knowledge that any such move would only be made after due deliberation and bearing in mind such things as the weather and consideration for the crews time off. Some unkind persons might suggest that the urgently required container of cotton waste or old socks was only designed to get you the hell out of the way, but no, I am sure, I think, that was never the case. I have no doubt that on every occasion we were required to sail out in severe gale conditions in the middle of a deep static depression to a rig only 12 hours away where the ship could not be worked for days, that it was vital to do so.

I digress. Back to the bar. Final drinks with my wife valiantly doing her duty and not drinking. A classic traditiion which I insist on maintaining in the teeth of non-traditionalist pressures. The mate, I think it was, decided that as a student I obviously needed to minimise outgoings, and proceeded to sweep the counter of the bar clear of all glasses, used or unused into two large plastic shopping bags under the eyes of the owner who looked benignly on comforted in the knowledge that he owed an awful lot of his prosperity to the thirsty crews who besieged the bar. And so I proceeded out into the sunset swaying in the way that only long time mariners do when ashore after a rough and long passage.....

Nick Balls
3rd September 2010, 17:22
A Brilliant description of a normal day at the 'office' rcraig ! and yes Tugboat there are lots of stories still worth telling, just need to get them all down on paper!

R870708
7th September 2010, 15:28
Reading these "ditties" brought back so many memories of the early OIL boats "Explorer, Discoverer"etc. and onward for a few years to the era of OIL "C" class boats of the "fun" we had, Ross MacDonald being washed up the deck and thro' large diameter casing only to arrive at the winch housing head first after a greenie comming over the a**e end unannounced. Can still see him trying to stand up wearing his soaked Parka, safety gear NAH! The memories are there, its getting them into a cohesive format for inclusion.
Had a recent trip out to one of the NW shelf units to watch a backload amongst other things and a 2mtr swell stopped work, good or bad its so very different now.

rcraig
9th September 2010, 16:38
Reading these "ditties" brought back so many memories of the early OIL boats "Explorer, Discoverer"etc. and onward for a few years to the era of OIL "C" class boats of the "fun" we had, Ross MacDonald being washed up the deck and thro' large diameter casing only to arrive at the winch housing head first after a greenie comming over the a**e end unannounced. Can still see him trying to stand up wearing his soaked Parka, safety gear NAH! The memories are there, its getting them into a cohesive format for inclusion.
Had a recent trip out to one of the NW shelf units to watch a backload amongst other things and a 2mtr swell stopped work, good or bad its so very different now.


Never mind the "cohesive" bit , just get 'em in!

kernewekmarnor
9th September 2010, 18:33
My first trip on an anchor handler after leaving the deepsea trade:
Maersk R boat working deck cargo at some rig. tasty drop of weather.
me as 2nd mate and 2 AB's on deck.
big lumper comes over the roller. i jump up on the barrier. AB1 hot-foots it fwd, AB 2 decides to jump in a basket.
this gets washed up the deck with him in it. not really an issue except that as the tide went out the basket started heading back down the deck to the roller with AB 2 still in it! we both saw what was going to happen and shouted at him to jump out, he just froze and i can still see his face as he sped past me heading for the stern at a rate of knots shouting "Sec' help!!"
Basket got stuck on roller and see-sawed. I was convinced it was going to go and yelled at him again. He suddenly seem to wake up vaulted out of the basket, and sprinted up the deck at a rate of knots that would have left flash gordon in his wake, shouting something about job, ar*e, ship, stick...all very garbled.
Skipper then came bellowing over the deck tannoy for us to stop f*@*ing about and get the basket back up the deck!
somehow the basket was nicely wedged and we managed to get the tugger on to it and on the uproll dragged it back up the deck.
after coming from the relative comfort and at times mundane life of the deepsea side of things you can imagine what my first reactions to all this was. I was convinced i was sailing with a bunch of heed the balls' and had never seen working practices quite like this.
Then we went anchor handling.........

rcraig
3rd December 2010, 17:59
Mate on an anchor handler. Started on deck at 1800. Mind you, hadn't really finished that day as we worked 5 on 5 off. A calm cold day and the vessel drifted off the rig for reasons now forgotten.

The job was to clear a new wire from a spool on deck. The wire was long and expensive and about tow wire diameter. The previous shift had started on it. Whoever had put the wire on the spool had done so with a considerable disregard for wire handling. The result was that the wire on the spool was simply a bunch of b***ers, with twists and turns and blind eyes throughout.

Using crowbars, hand, and stern winches, repeated efforts were made to clear the mess. Darkness descended. Hour after bloody weary hour passed with a lot of swearing. The fog closed down around the deck, clammy, and wet with cold seeping into the bones. Uncomfortable, ill fitting and inadequate working gear. Midnight came and went. Tepid mugs of tea. Then three a.m. and four in the morning. 6 a.m. and enough was enough.

To hell with it. "Get me a fire axe". Ever cut a large diameter wire with a fire axe? Three or four cuts later the lot had passed over the side. Not a good idea to clutter up the sea bed. Not even in '76.

keithsparks
25th February 2011, 13:02
just read the tales about anchor snatching. Believe it or not i was the r/o on the Merchantman with jack golden george bartlet ernie callen etc when it all started in the 60s with global adventurer, i was on deck with the lads more than in my little radio room when the bow snatching started it was ALL hans on deck to assist i have still got a scar on each shin where shackes kicked back and clouted me when i was a bit too slow and the same bow snatching off cabinda luanda on tradesman for six moths at a time with nobby winterbottom no hard hats and life jackets then pinching the spanish welders work gloves and the yanks fancy dark glasses remember running the top honcho out to a pipe laying barge off yarmouth and the poor sod dying of seasickness and the lads sympathising with him eating greasy bacon sarnies oh happy days