All in a days work.

McMorine
4th February 2010, 12:39
North Pacific, one hell of a storm, with a following sea. The stern was constantly going under as the waves crashed down on it. I had just finished lunch, the saloon table cloths were saturated in water to stop everything sliding about, even the chairs were on the move and the stewards doing their best to stay in one place to serve you. I came out of the saloon into the port engineers alleyway and through the small port hole in the storm door, could see the stern disappearing and reamerging as the ship battled with the sea. Then , this huge wave crashed down on the poop and the whole ship shuddered. I could hear alarms going off in the engine room, which was quite normal in bad weather, (tank high/low level alarms etc). The engineers changing room door opened behind me and the junior engineer appeared, shouting to me, that I was needed down below as both steering gear motors had failed and wouldn't restart.
I can't remember changing into my boilersuit, but I was down at the switchboard within a couple of minutes. The switchboard was situated fore and aft on the starboard side middle platform, along with the main engine control console. Each end of the switchboard housed the group starter panels for all the main machinery. The two steering gear panel failed lights were showing red. Checking the starters out and no apparent faults found, I told the Chief Eng'r I would have to go down aft to the steering gear compartment and see what was happening. Visions of the place flooded and motors under water came to mind.
The Chief decided it would be best that we both should go, but first we must speak with the Captain and put him in the picture. So up to the bridge to see the Skipper, I can remember him saying, with the weather conditions being so bad, "you may not make it" or words to that effect, meaning we were risking our lives. But we didn't have a choice, we had to get down there.
The best option was down the shaft tunnel and up the tunnel escape. The tunnel escape comes out via a watertight door for'd of the poop and the steering gear compartment w/t door is aft of the poop, so we are going to be outside getting from one door to the other. Life jackets were going to be too bulky for going up the escape and carrying them and putting them on once we were outside, wasn't an option. so we decided to tie a rope around our waist and hopefully be able to lash it to something solid on deck if we were going to go under. (seemed like a good idea at the time).
Going up the escape was like riding a roller coaster, but climbing a ladder at the same time. We got to the top and trying to judge when the ship was at the top of a wave, how much time we would have to get around to the steering gear door. I don't know which crew member had hammered up the dogs on the w/t door, but they had certainly done a good job. We knocked off all the dogs except two and waited our chance, as the stern rode up, the last dogs were off,we were outside, door dogged up again and making our move around to the aft end, hanging on to the grab rails around the bulkhead. We got the steering compatment door open and were both inside knocking the dogs tight as the ship seemed to fall away from beneath us, we got there that quickly, it was all a bit of a blurr. We were now standing at the top of the stairs leading down to the steering flat and the first thing we noticed, was how little water was swilling about and just a trickle coming from an air vent in the deckhead. The second thing obvious, was some of the fluorescent light fittings had come away from their mountings and swinging from their cables although still working. Once down in the steering flat, the two motors looked quite normal. Each motor has a stop switch mounted on the side of the terminal box, a cable is fed to the switch via a steel conduit coming down from the deckhead. Both switches had completely disintergrated, the force of the water on the deck above had pushed the deckhead down and pushed the conduit right through the switches and enclosures, effectively open circuiting and shutting down the motors. As all Electricians do, I always carried in my boilersuit pockets, various small tools and of course the very important roll of insulating tape. Using what was left of the switch terminals, I was able to short cicuit the severed wires and tape them up. All this was taking place while what seemed to be like riding a mechanical "bucking broncho" and the noise was horrendous. I've never ever been seasick, not even in a typhoon off Hong Kong, but I could feel the curry I'd had for lunch hitting me under the chin.
The Chief was on the phone to the bridge and I gave him the thumbs up to tell the engine room to start the motors. Both motors hummed into life as we checked around the compartment for any other problems. So, its job done and all we have to do, is get back the way we had come, which we did without too many problems.
I didn't know till later, the Sparks had sent out an XXX to all ships in the area. Thank God he didn't have to follow it up with a distress signal.

R58484956
4th February 2010, 13:08
MM A very interesting story with a satisfactory ending and not getting too wet at the time.

Ian6
4th February 2010, 13:53
Brilliant description of a hairy job, those of us on the bridge could seldom fully appreciate what was involved 'down below'.
Thank you
Ian

Alistair Macnab
4th February 2010, 14:12
McMorine.....
Well done! At first I thought, why in hell doesn't the Master turn the ship to avoid 'pooping' but then I realized that it was the steering motors that were gone and that the ship was helpless! Corr Lummy!
I once had a similar situation but forward, where the Old Man turned the ship around to run before the crashing waves but she was 'pooped' over the forecastle and we stove in the forecastle hatch and the stores flats below got flooded out. What a mess! We lost three men in that one!
Makes more emphasis on the risk you and the Chief were taking! Kind regards.

Charlie Stitt
4th February 2010, 14:31
Alexander, that was some experience, rather you than me. What ship were you on at the time ? When the steering went, she would be sure to broach and roll heavily, a very hairy situation. Good job your cargo was'nt iron ore or similar,or I doubt you would be with us to-day, telling this story.:sweat:

McMorine
4th February 2010, 15:33
If my memory serves me correctly, it was the Cedarbank maiden voyage 76/77 When I stood by the next ship of that class, I made sure the wiring to the switches was run differently.

Charlie Stitt
5th February 2010, 17:58
Alexander, you were on the wrong Cederbank. I don't think you would have had this problem on the 1955 Cederbank with her poop deck design. At least, getting down to the steering flat would have been a lot easier. On the Bankboats with no poop, it was decided to cut the bulwark away around the stern, and fit railings, this was, they said, to clear the water off the deck faster. No one thought about the extra three foot of wave it allowed to come on board, I never ever had the experience of this happening, any bad weather I remember having, was always on the nose, knocking miles of our days run. On the old Ernebank in 1958, on passage, UK to US Gulf, light ship, we took some heavy pounding, knocking hundreds of rivits out of the bottom plates. We called into San Juan, Puerto Rico as port of refuge, where a diver assessed the extent of damage, and the Engineers checked the amount of usable bunkers they had on board. As I was only acting 3rd Mate I dont remember all that went on, but we eventually sailed for Key West to take fresh bunkers, before heading to Galvaston for repairs .At the time, no doubt, I thought, this is the excitement I come to sea for,and of course it was something to fill an extra page in my letter Home.

McMorine
6th February 2010, 13:56
Hi Charlie, I was on the old Cedarbank in 1960, great ship with wooden decks. You mention about cutting the bulwark away and fitting railings on the vessels with no poop deck, if you go to my profile and my photos, you will see a photo, stern view of the Crestbank showing full bulwark around the stern. I'm sure the Cedarbank was the same. Wouldn't have made any difference in the conditions we were in at the time.

Charlie Stitt
6th February 2010, 17:03
Alexander,I had a look at your photo of Crestbank, not the type of stern I was thinking about at all. I am not keen on the design/shape of the stern for a following sea, on that class of ship. The only stern design I am interested in now, of course, is on pleasure yachts, I much prefere the cruiser stern for a following sea, less lightly to broach etc. Don't tell anybody, but I still get the occasional scare, and treat the big white top rollers with a lot of respect Cheers.

John Dryden
10th August 2010, 19:42
All in a few weeks work on the Olivebank,my first trip app.1969.Two pages from my journal which Capt.Wigham asked us to keep.First week routine stuff second week more exciting.If any ruftie tuftie tug men read the second part,no laughing!

Johnnietwocoats
11th August 2010, 05:10
Alexander,I had a look at your photo of Crestbank, not the type of stern I was thinking about at all. I am not keen on the design/shape of the stern for a following sea, on that class of ship. The only stern design I am interested in now, of course, is on pleasure yachts, I much prefere the cruiser stern for a following sea, less lightly to broach etc. Don't tell anybody, but I still get the occasional scare, and treat the big white top rollers with a lot of respect Cheers.

Charlie...I just spent the last hour and a half going over your photos in your profile.
Although we never sailed together they brought back many happy memories.
I sailed on the Foylebank in 1961..Great ship.
John

Charlie Stitt
11th August 2010, 19:13
Yes John, the photos taken while with the Bank Line, bring back many happy memories for me, of course there were tough times, but I think we all took these in our stride, perhaps we felt a bit cheesed off at the time we had to do something unexpected, but in no time at all we were joking about it. I remember once on the Foylebank, at about 2000 hrs, I was about to crash for a few hours before going on the graveyard watch, when the seacunny tapped on my door,'' ah Sahib, Chief Officer want topside''. This big first trip with the Bank Line Mate was in a fluster,'' Second Mate, the gyro is going haywire'' the Third Mate who was about to take over the watch was standing beside him with a big grin on his face, I will take a look says I as I turned about and went to visit big jumping jack giro. I only meant to have a quick look, switch off, then report back that nothing could be done until the morning, but no, muggens had to get stuck in, clean the rings, replace the mercury and all the other little things we did and which I have forgotten. I don't remember what time I finished, but I dont think I had much sleep that night. Did I get a medal, NO. ALL IN A DAYS WORK they say. At the time I thought this was rough justice, if only I knew then, what was in store for me next trip as Mate.:sweat:

pete
11th August 2010, 20:53
I must admit to liking the "Bouncing Betty", Brown type "B". If the wheel went Hard-over at half speed or more the Gyro sensor would slip past the 2 ring sensors Panic from the Bridge, or the vibrations would cause the "Cats Whisker" wires to touch again with the same result. and don't forget the Red Stop!!!. loved 'em...............pete

Johnnietwocoats
12th August 2010, 01:25
Yes John, the photos taken while with the Bank Line, bring back many happy memories for me, of course there were tough times, but I think we all took these in our stride, perhaps we felt a bit cheesed off at the time we had to do something unexpected, but in no time at all we were joking about it. I remember once on the Foylebank, at about 2000 hrs, I was about to crash for a few hours before going on the graveyard watch, when the seacunny tapped on my door,'' ah Sahab, Chief Officer want topside''. This big first trip with the Bank Line Mate was in a fluster,'' Second Mate, the gyro is going haywire'' the Third Mate who was about to take over the watch was standing beside him with a big grin on his face, I will take a look says I as I turned about and went to visit big jumping jack giro. I only meant to have a quick look, switch off, then report back that nothing could be done until the morning, but no, muggens had to get stuck in, clean the rings, replace the mercury and all the other little things we did and which I have forgotten. I don't remember what time I finished, but I dont think I had much sleep that night. Did I get a medal, NO. ALL IN A DAYS WORK they say. At the time I thought this was rough justice, if only I knew then, what was in store for me next trip as Mate.:sweat:

Of course i was only the Apprentice so didn't get much time on the bridge in those days. Knew the rest of the ship like the back of my hand though.
So my 14 months on the Fleetbank was a breeze as Senior Apprentice except for CS...LOL
Take care
Johnny

younglite
2nd December 2010, 03:16
Great story, Alexander. I wish I had a hundred guys with nerves of steel like yours!