Masirah Mississippi collisions 1963

17th September 2006, 23:31
There are not many references to collisions in the Brocklebank forum and I wonder if some of you might be interested in the following two, which happened to the same ship in the same river within three weeks of each other. I was 3rd Mate on Masirah between Feb '62 and May '63 along with Capt Simpson, C/O Sam Baxter and 2nd Mate Trev Williams - all the crew were great and she was one of the happiest ships I sailed on.

Towards the end of March '63 we were heading for our berth in New Orleans in a strange fog which only allowed one to see the topmasts of other ships. At about 0830 hrs we only had about a mile to go when we spotted the masts of another ship heading down river. She was fine on the port bow and heading slightly across us. The radar had alerted us to her but her angle of attack seemed to force the pilots to pass starboard to starboard. The Masirah's bow scraped along the other ship's boat deck but damage was relatively slight and well above waterline. I do not recall a major inquiry, but it probably ruined Capt Simpson's whole day. We continued round the Gulf ports without incident and finished up back in New Orleans for loading.

On the evening of April 10th we had to wait for the American freighter "Kenneth McKay" to pass downstream before we could swing into the river for our departure and we had her in sight for all the 8 to midnight watch. The pilot, very laid-back, spent the time in the high pilot's chair with his feet up against the wheelhouse windows regularly demanding mugs of coffee. For those of you who are interested in the anatomy of disasters the following is an abbreviated version of my statement to US Coastguard - we all had to prepare one. Hope it doesn't bore you.

[I]"During the night of April 10th the "Masirah" was proceeding down river from New Orleans and, as 3rd Mate, I was keeping the 8 to midnight watch on the bridge. Visibility was good during this time, though VHF reports from Pilottown and the Passes gave warnings of dense fog in those areas. At about 2330 hrs VHF reports gave improved visibility in the Passes and preparations were made for changing pilots.

At 0008 hrs Cubits Gap light was passed at SLOW AHEAD - lights of Pilottown and anchored ships were clearly visible. I proceeded to hand over to the 2nd Mate. As we approached Pilottown a bank of fog passed across the river, the radar was operating on a range of one and a half miles. The "Masirah's engines were rung to DEAD SLOW AHEAD at 0010 hrs and were stopped at 0012 hrs as we entered the fog bank. We sounded fog signals and the helm was put hard to starboard.

Pilot Booksh boarded at 0013 hrs and the river pilot proceeded to hand over - both were studying the radar. At 0013 hrs the 2nd Mate was sent for'd to prepare for anchoring and I took over telegraphs and movement book. An echo was noted on radar about one-half mile on the port bow and at 0015 hrs a ship's fog signal was heard about two points on the port bow.

At 0016 hrs the steaming lights of a large vessel became visible about three points on the port bow at a distance of about a cable. She was crossing at an angle of about 75 degrees to our heading which was about south-west. FULL ASTERN rung on engines. At 0018 hrs engines were stopped and the "Kenneth McKay's" bow stuck heavily in way of No3 hatch port side, angle of impact about 80 degrees. "Kenneth MacKay" swung to starboard and struck the port bridge wing heavily in passing. At 0019 hrs "Masirah went SLOW AHEAD and swung to starboard to approach anchorage - starboard anchor dropped at 0024 hrs. After the collision all engine movements were given by phone as ER telegraphs were damaged. Pilots Hingle and Booksh left together at 0141 hrs."[I]

Obviously the ship we had tailed all evening had turned in the fog and was proceeding back upstream to anchor.

Damage to the port side of Masirah's No 3 hold was serious - a gash which fortunately did not extend to waterline and allowed us to proceed to Mobile for drydocking and repairs to both bow and shell plating. We felt really sorry for Capt Simpson - he did not deserve these accidents. I also apologise to Sam Baxter who was wakened so rudely at exactly 0018 hrs to the sound of tearing steel outside his cabin. I'm sorry, but everything happened so fast and I was trying to persuade Capt Simpson to leave the port bridge wing where he was shouting obscenities at the "Kenneth MacKay's" bow which was only 5 feet away. I was due to be married on 18 May - I often wonder if God was trying to say something, though I did make the church on time (just).(Smoke)

18th September 2006, 00:44
Great story Peter!I sailed with Sam Baxter Mate on the Mathura in 1955,which was my first voyage.


18th September 2006, 00:47
Reference my last post Did Sam Baxter make Captain??Anybody know?


18th September 2006, 01:31
Reference my last post Did Sam Baxter make Captain??Anybody know?


Yes, Mike, he was in command of various ships towards the end. I got in touch with him through Friends Reunited about 3 years ago and we exchanged photos of models, etc. I know that he was Capt on Mahseer for a while and got into trouble for re-establishing the white band on the hull after Brocks had abandoned it for economic reasons. Sam also mentioned a command in which he was delivering a ship for scrapping but "nearly not making it" - would love to know what happened. He lives up a mountain somewhere in Wales I think. He is a true gent.


PS. I am typing this at 0130 hrs! I blame my late nights on our 6 to 6 watches in Calcutta and, when I was teaching, the preparation of all those useless worksheets in time for next day's classes!

Tony Selman
18th September 2006, 10:01
What a great story Peter and very well told. I particularly like "I was trying to persuade Capt Simpson to leave the port bridge wing where he was shouting obscenities at the "Kenneth MacKay's" bow which was only 5 feet away."

I coasted with Sam Baxter but can't remember on what ship without checking my discharge book and I agree he was an excellent man to sail with.

Tony Crompton
18th September 2006, 12:05
I sailed with Sam on "Makrana"'s first four trips.

I also have been in touch with him through "Friends United", but not for a year or so now. Sam was always in my time a confirmed batchelor but after I left "Makrana" he married Dave Woolfenden's ( mentioned on the Brock threads a few times) sister!! Dave was second mate on "Makrana". Must be almost unique the Mate marrying the Second Mate's sister!!

I believe Sam's son is a Liverpool Pilot.
Tony C

Derek Roger
18th September 2006, 18:33
I sailed as 4th Eng with Sam Baxter ( Sam San ) where he was Captain of Mahout in 67 . We were the first Brock ship to change livery to the White Hull Blue band ( Mitsubishi Dry Dock in Kobe ).
I also sailed as Chief Engineer with him on Mahsud in 75 A splendid man !!
If you look in my gallery you will see a few photos I took in Kobe at Xma s acouple of which show Sam . I have more of a Pool Party at my familys friends in Melborne ( Sam is also featured jumping into the pool . ) I will post them if there is interest .
Happy days Derek

24th September 2006, 16:29
That a wonderful record for Masirah's history, thanks very much for posting it. As I recall we did not have very many accidents, but we were not immune either.
I can really relate to the comments on Capt. Simpson. I was in Masirah when he took over Masirah from Stan Broughton. Stan had left to retire on arrival in Liverpool the rest of us going home on leave. My last trip as senior apprentice. I rejoined in Glasgow as 4th Mate with John Watson Ross as skipper for the balance of the coast. Capt Simpson joining in Southampton where we had gone to collect six Centurion tanks for Aden.
I have to say the Capt Simpson and I did not speak the same language, may be because of the huge difference between him and Stan, what ever, we seem to get off on the wrong foot. That was until we got to Calcutta on the return leg. We were late and so Malakand had been substituted for the Southern US service, we arrived as she was finishing off and getting ready to depart the next day.
Having finished mooring we were relaxing, as you do, when CS summond me to his cabin. He was in a foul mood, steam coming out of his ears as they say. I did not think I had done anything to upset him, other than existing that is. When he had finished exploding it transpired that he had been told that he was loosing me to Malakand as she had no 4th Mate and Masirah was returning to the UK so did not need one. CS had a problem comming to terms with the Masirah, and himself, being subservient to the heap of ageing scrap that was Malakand. That was not how he saw Masirah's role and as Captain of her he also felt slighted. There was nothing he could do about it, I had to go but not before he had put up a stiff reguard action to retain me. So I signed off in Calcutta and signed on to Malakand for a voyage that turned out to very much not run of the mill, but that a Malakand story.


S Fraser
24th September 2006, 19:15
What a wonderful account, which sent a chill down my spine as I remember that night, but the detail is lost to me. Great that you retained the copy of detailed Coastguard statements, as I can see the events unfolding with your account. I was senior apprentice, and I think I had just come on watch with Trevor Williams. As I remember I stayed on the bridge as the junior app. Tom Coates had gone down to meet the pilot, so I presume I must have been making some entries into the movement book prior to the collision. I remember "Winkey" Simpson on the port wing shouting at the other ship, but everything after that is lost to me. I do remember two things that struck me later, one being that where the "Ken MacKay" struck was where the pilot ladder had been rigged, and it was the Chief Engineer ----Knowles who had the lucky escape as his cabin was below Sam's and very close to the point of contact.
I too felt sorry for Winkey Simpson, as I think he was getting close to retirement and was a really classic old-school Brocks Master, and he did not deserve the agro of this incident. I think he had his wife with him that trip, so the revenue of the distilleries was greatly reduced!!
He retired to Storth in Cumbria on the edge of Morecambe Bay, and I met him a few times in the local, as my parents lived close by. He never lost that enquiring edge and the quisical way he looked and "winked" at you.
Interesting days.

17th October 2006, 17:14
I am posting 3 photos of Masirah in Mobile, April '63, showing some of the damage and repairs - in the Ship Accident Gallery.

John Rogers
18th October 2006, 12:51
History is repeating itself, they had another collision a couple of days ago,one ship traveling down river ran into a ship that was at anchor,put a 12 foot gash in her hull.

18th October 2006, 17:50
Hi Peter

Thanks for posting the damage shots.

I recognise Chippy Foster leaning over the rail. He was a good bloke to know, learned a lot from him.