25th July 2011, 22:36
Previously I said that there was plenty of mahogany on the M.V. Treleven. I also commented that it caused two Incidents. One which I have mentioned was that all our cement boxes were made in mahogany. This incident concerns the table which the chief engineer had made. As I had to pass his cabin on the way to and from the dining saloon for meals, it was convenient for him to catch me as I passed. One day I was invited in and told: "Take that to the carpenter's shop."That" was a large piece of mahogany stowed behind his armchair. It was about 4 feet long 2&1/2 feet wide and at least an inch and a half thick. As the thickness varied from 1&1/4 inches to 2&1/4 inches from side to side Chippie planned to fit a mortice and tenon frame all the way around it. To do this he intended to use his brand-new plough plane to produce a tenon half an inch thick all the way around the edge of the piece of timber. For the benefit of youngsters who have never heard of such an item it consisted of a handle incorporating a guide to run along the edge of the workpiece, and protruding from it to one side were two parallel cylindrical guides about 6 inches long. These carried a device which held one of a variety of cutters and controlled the depth to which it worked. These cutters were available with various shaped cutting edges and by using suitable combinations of cutters numerous shapes could be formed on the timber. By using a straightforward rectangular edge Chippie produced a tenon to a width of about 3 inches; then by the use of a similar cutter he produced a groove in the mortice to mate with the tenon. His existing guides were quite adequate for this little job. However, as the thickness of the board varied so much he intended to thin down the thicker side. For this he needed longer guides: he had a quiet word with the chief engineer which meant that I had to produce them. Naturally we did not have any steel bar of the required diameter. We had 1/4 inch and we had 3/8 of an inch but the guides were 5/16 of an inch! As I did not fancy producing pencil sized steel bars in the ship's lathe I persuaded chippie to use brass bars as a stopgap. I suggested that when he was home on leave he bought some silver steel bars and that I would round off the ends for him so that for a few shillings he would have guides which were comparable to those for which the plane makers would have charged him several pounds. I do not remember whether or not he went along with my suggestion. On another day I was told to go and see the Bosun, who took me to his store and I returned with an armful of burlap. Then I was sent to see the mate and returned carrying an old log line. These were special woven cotton ropes which were used to tow a small propeller thus giving an indication of how far the ship had travelled through the water. As they were very rarely replaced because they were so expensive, to acquire one one needed at least three gold bars on the sleeve. They were highly prized to take home as clothes lines! Now we had all the materials; after tea one day I was dragooned into helping the chief wrap all the items of the table in the burlap, sew up all the edges, then lash it all securely together with the log line. The next day I was given the Chiefs address and stencilled it out onto a suitably sized piece of canvas: after the paint had dried I had the pleasure of sewing the label onto the burlap parcel. I was now happy that I had finished everything to do with the table. Wrong! Sometime later the chief was woken in the middle of the night by a loud bang and the tabletop had split right down the middle. So we unwrapped it and I took the tabletop back to the carpenter's shop where it was repaired by making new ends and gluing it all back together. So then of course I had the privilege of parcelling it all up once again. Now I was absolutely convinced that my involvement with the Chiefs table was finished! How wrong could I be? When the ship arrived in Hull I was sent for and instructed to help the driver carry the package down to his lorry for delivery to the Chiefs home address. We knew that when we arrived in London the ship would be overrun by staff from the head office and quite clearly the chief did not want them to see anything at all of this venture. While I was home on leave the tail shaft was replaced by the spare one as the original was so badly worn in way of the seal (actually, a "greasy packing" one) that on the way home fully laden the bilge pump had to be run 21 hours a day (3 ½ hours per watch!) to keep the level under control in the tunnel well. Unfortunately the upheaval in the tunnel recess meant that the cupboard that had been erected to hold the spare coir fibre for the feed filter had to be dismantled. Over the years a considerable amount of loose coir fibre had accumulated within the cupboard and the result was that when we came to pump out the tunnel well it was impossible. Back flushing proved useless as well, so it was obvious that I would have to do some serious bilge diving. It was not possible to drop down into the bay where the bilge suction pipe was as the checker plate was too near the ship's side. Four or five bays away the floor plate was cut away to allow me, dressed only in a loin cloth, to drop down into the water, which was of course covered in oil. In this area of the ship the frames are united by transverse plates complete with a horizontal plate about 4 feet off the bottom of the ship: I had to drop down into this only accessible bay, and then slide on the horizontal plate over towards starboard, as the bilge pipe was on the port side, and then manoeuvre my body forwards and once more to the starboard side to enable me to lift my feet up, swing them forward and drop down into the next bay. After several repetitions I was alongside the bilge pipe and by squatting down I was able to explore the bottom of it. I discovered a large wad of fibre completely blocking the pipe and when I pulled it out it tapered to nothing at the other end over a length of nearly 3 feet! No wonder back flushing was ineffective. I stayed where I was, while the water subsided and a lot more coir fibre arrived accompanied by numerous pieces of wood all of which were dutifully placed upon the checker plates. Whereupon I returned to the engine room and was given a paraffin (kerosene) bath after which I had two showers in rapid succession and was then told that it was so near the end of the watch that I was not to bother to go back to the engine room but to get dressed and call the second engineer for his watch. When he saw that I was dressed - to say that he was extremely annoyed would be an enormous understatement, despite my explanations I was severely rebuked and then he went down the engine room to tell the third engineer what he thought of him. To be continued. Zebedee.