The bosun & the deck boy - Ships Nostalgia
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The bosun & the deck boy

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  #1  
Old 3rd January 2009, 10:14
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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The bosun & the deck boy

It was on board the SS Carlton in 1952. We were headed for Melbourne and called at Ceuta for bunkers (oil). No shore leave. Armed guards came aboard, I don't know why. I can't remember where we got the money, perhaps we sold some our clothes but as soon as the mate was into the saloon for lunch we were down the ladder and into town. I can't remember much about the trip ashore but many of us came back rather the worse for wear. Myself and another AB we reported as lying on the deck in a pool of spilled fuel oil trying to fight each but too drunk to actually make contact. Too drunk also for our stations on the forecastle head when we left the port.
Next morning up before the Captain. All ABs except two logged. Fair enough. But the unfortunate Bosun; he was to be demoted to Deck Boy, Can you imagine it? The bosun's job was then offered to an mature AB from the island of South Uist. But Jock, good loyal fellow, said "No Captain I will take the bosun' job away from him." The Captain was now in a quandry. The only other unlogged AB was a young ex RN lad, so he was offered the job. He took it. He managed to carry out the job with the assistance of the mate.
The bosun eventually got his job back. How that happened is another story

Last edited by Arthur Jenner : 3rd January 2009 at 10:17.
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  #2  
Old 3rd January 2009, 11:05
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cant wait to read the other story Arthur...LOL
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  #3  
Old 3rd January 2009, 11:40
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Good one Arthur. Sounds like a great run ashore!
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Old 3rd January 2009, 12:11
bert thompson bert thompson is offline  
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Welcome Arthur to this great site
Best wishes
Bert.
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  #5  
Old 3rd January 2009, 23:33
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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Here is the complete story:
The Boatswains Revenge
Arthur Jenner


Five men lounged against the bulkhead outside the Captain's dayroom. A dejected looking group; they comprised the Boatswain and four AB's awaiting the Captain's pleasure. Displeasure would better describe the Captain's mood; strong displeasure. He had taken exception to the behaviour of these five men in the previous port.
The SS Carlton had called at the Moroccan port of Ceuta for oil bunkers. The stay had been very brief; twenty hours only; and some of the crew had ignored the order that there was to be no shore leave. (Tell a merchant seaman that he is not allowed to go ashore, and especially don't tell him why, and he will go to the utmost lengths for find a way to disobey). At that time used clothing could be sold for very high prices in parts of North Africa. Any kind of clothing would do, but suits and overcoats brought the best prices. On this occasion, a few old coats and a couple of blankets had been sufficient to buy a quantity of cheap brandy, which in turn had caused the inebriation of several of the crew including the five who were standing with aching heads outside the Captain's room. The five had been missing from their stations when the time came for the ship to leave the port. The Boatswain had been found dead drunk in the steering flat. Jack Pardy and `Lofty' Evans who had been ineffectually trying to murder each other while lying on the deck in a pool of spilled fuel oil, were eventually separated, dragged out of sight of authority and left to sleep it off. Fred Preston and Vernon Stone had been discovered, sitting in the middle of the town, serenading a statue; and had been marched, protesting loudly, back aboard and put to bed.
Captain Bloodwood dealt quickly with the four AB's. They were fined, logged, lectured and sent on their way. The Boatswain was subjected to somewhat more bizarre punishment. Albert Churchman, a mild mannered man, had been at sea for more than fifty-three of his sixty-seven years. At the age of fourteen he had run away from home; from a cruel and drunken father; and had since sailed in every kind of merchant ship known, under at least five different flags, in three periods of comparative peace and two of long world war.
Captain Bloodwood was a small spiteful little man. He resembled nothing so much as a bad-tempered, snappy, pekinese dog, both in appearance and temperament. He was sixty-four, almost as old as the Boatswain and due to retire at the end of this trip. Most of his seagoing life had been spent in the service of the owners of the Carlton, and some would have said that he had become moulded into the embodiment of the Company's mean, grasping policy.
"Well Churchman, what's your excuse for your disgraceful behaviour in Ceuta?" asked the Captain. He was seated at a small desk and beside him sat William Clerk, the Mate. The logbook was open in front them and they both stared with cold, impassive faces at the old, unhappy man before them.
"I dunno; I suppose I had a drop too much to drink," answered Albert shamefacedly; raising his bowed head slightly, to look at the Captain from his pale, watery eyes under their heavy tired, lids.
"You were aware, were you not, that no shore leave had been permitted and also that bringing intoxicating liquor aboard is expressly forbidden by the ship's articles."
"Yes sir"
Albert had learned from long experience that in such circumstances it was best to say as little as possible and to plead guilty to anything short of premeditated murder.
"I regard your behaviour as a very serious breach of discipline, Churchman. You, being a petty officer, are supposed to set an example to the younger members of the crew. I am going to make an example of you; I am going to demote you to the position of deck boy; and I am going to make John Mackay the new boatswain. Mr Clerk, record all of this in the log."
Albert, on hearing the Captain's words, experienced the worst shock that he had ever in his life received. In all of his seagoing years, he had never heard of such a thing. The shock of the Captain's pronouncement at first numbed his consciousness, but as the reality of the sentence penetrated his awareness he felt a kind of fear; and as he looked up into the Captain's little, wrinkled, vindictive face, he experienced, for the first time in his life, hate. The shame of such demotion was enough to drive a proud man to suicide. What would his friends at home say or worse, think; how would he live with the rest of the crew. Not just the shame, but the reduction in pay from twenty-eight pounds a month to ten. That would be hard to explain to his wife.
The Mate had almost as big a shock as Albert when he heard the Captain's pronouncement. He had never known such a thing as a Boatswain being demoted to deck boy; to an AB, yes; that would have been fair enough; but to deck boy; that was sadistic. He wondered what action the Seamen's Union would take when the ship returned to the UK. Surprised and a little shocked though he was, William Clerk was, first and foremost, a practical man. He would make no objection. His Captain's word was law, and William would support him in everything as long as it was not to his own disadvantage.
"You may go Churchman. Don't let me hear of you being drunk again this trip, or it will be the worse for you"
Both Albert and the Mate wondered how much worse the Captain could make it.
Next, the Captain sent for John Mackay to inform of his promotion. John knocked on the Captain's door and waited.
"Come in," said the Captain.
John Mackay, (`Jock' to his friends and his shipmates), a small, wiry man from the Outer Hebrides, entered and stood in front of the little desk. Like most men from that region, he was a dedicated man of the sea; tough, quiet, efficient and thoroughly loyal to his friends. He'd had his share of the brandy, but he could hold his liquor better than most.
"I am going to promote you to Boatswain, Mackay." announced the Captain.
"No Captain, you are not," replied Jock, who had already heard of the boatswain's disgrace.
"Why, Mackay? You are the most experienced seaman in the fo'c'sle. It'll mean more money." The Captain could not understand why anyone would not jump at the chance of promotion, and more money.
"No, Captain," responded Jock, "I have nothing against John Churchman, and I'll certainly not take his job away from him,” and he turned and walked away before the Captain could reply. Cecil Bloodwood was now in a considerable quandary. Of the five remaining AB's, four had just been punished for the same offence as the ex-Boatswain, and he could not, without looking foolish, promote one those. The three apprentices who completed the deck crew were definitely not eligible, and besides, one of these was already doing the duties of ship's carpenter. The fifth AB, Ralph Lethbridge was the most unlikely Boatswain imaginable. He was an ex Royal Navy lad, who had spent most of his naval service as a signaller, and could hardly tie a reef knot. He was a kind of gangly youth, and was nicknamed `Lightning' for obvious reasons. The Captain had, however, left himself no choice. The Mate had long before decided that any suggestions he might make could easily rebound, and so remained silent. After a moment of thought, the Captain sent for Ralph. Lethbridge, I am going make you acting Boatswain. You seem to be the only sober man in the fo'c'sle. You will not be paid any more money at the moment, but if you perform your duties well, I may see fit to sign you on at full Boatswain’s pay. Your first job, of course will be to rearrange the watches, now that you will be on day work. After that you will report to Mr. Clerk. Off you go now"
Lightning, bewildered by the sudden and entirely unexpected promotion, wandered out of the Captain's presence, and started to make his aft, to the crew's quarters. He was overtaken by the Mate, who fell into step beside him. "I'll come with you and break the news to the lads,” he said. As was to be expected, the lads did not take the news well, but they knew that nothing could be done, and resigned themselves to the situation. Their sympathies were solidly with the Boatswain, but there was nothing they could do, since the Captain of a ship at sea is a virtual dictator. The voyage continued down the west coast of Africa, with a bunkering stop at Capetown, and then the long, cold great-circle run across the southern Indian Ocean to Melbourne. The ship berthed in the Yarra at a wharf fairly close to the city on a Thursday morning, and immediately, the work of discharging the cargo began.
The following Saturday afternoon Albert Churchman, Lofty Evans and Fred Preston were in the crowded bar of Young and Jackson's Hotel in the centre of the city enjoying a few quiet schooners away from unhappy atmosphere of the ship, when they were unexpectedly joined by Andrew Walters, the Third Engineer. "Mind if I join you," asked Andrew. Ship's engineers tend to be little more sociable than deck officers, who usually act as though they are in a higher social class than the rest of the crew.
"Go ahead, Third," replied Fred.
The engineer sat down and took a deep draught from his glass.
"I could show you a very interesting sight not too far from here," he said. "What do you mean." asked Lofty.
"The Boatswain here, would be particularly interested, I imagine," the engineer continued, teasingly.
"Come on, spill it," said Fred, "what are you talking about"
The engineer was enjoying himself, but could not keep the mystery to himself any longer. "Drink up," he said, "and follow me"
He led the way out of the bar and down Flinders Street back towards the docks. After about five minutes he stopped and entered a small pub. They didn't go into the bar, but down a narrow corridor to a door marked `Lounge'. Andrew opened the door and stood aside to let the other three in. It was a dingy room with smoke-yellowed ceiling and walls. There was a long table in the middle of the room covered in glasses, ashtrays and pools of spilled beer. Seated on forms around the table were a number of people of both sexes. At one end, his head resting in a small pool of vomit on the table, was the Captain, completely drunk. Beside him was a girl, trying to wake him. On the other side sat the Mate, staring fixedly into space. The Acting Boatswain was seated halfway down one side of the table with one arm around the neck of a bored looking middle-aged woman. He looked up as they entered.
"Come and join us lads, we're having a marvellous time," he said, in a thick drunken voice. "Oh, for a camera," said Fred softly.
"I've got one," the engineer whispered, quite unnecessarily for the group at the table would hardly have comprehended, had he shouted at the top of his voice. "Come back to the ship, and we'll get it."
They left, returned with the engineers camera, and took the photograph. The first day out of Melbourne, on the way to Bunbury WA to load wheat, the Captain sent for Albert Churchman.
"I think, Churchman, that you've learnt your lesson. I'm going to restore you to your position as Boatswain."
He was a model Captain for the remainder of the voyage. He had heard about the photograph and was worried by it, but he dare not mention it. He was terrified that it may find its way to the shipowners, or even worse, to his wife. In fact, there was no photograph. It had been too dark in the Lounge for the old box Brownie and in those days only professionals used flashguns. (A True story. Only the names and a few small details have been changed)
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  #6  
Old 4th January 2009, 00:03
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What a great story Arthur, I enjoyed every minute. That is the stuff Ships Nostalgia is made of. More please, more, more!
While you consider that, please look out any photos you may have and consider posting them. Even though you may think they are boring, the every day life of an old tramp ship is just what the members of this site would enjoy.
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Old 4th January 2009, 00:25
ddraigmor ddraigmor is offline
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You have a great talent for story telling and that was a first class story!

More!

Jonty
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  #8  
Old 4th January 2009, 02:49
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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I wanted to put some photos in but couldn't cut and paste them. I don't know why.
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Old 4th January 2009, 05:16
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More please Arthur, I bet that you have plenty of those yarns up your sleeve.
I always like to hear of Young and Jackson's it was a one time favourite pub.

Bob
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Old 4th January 2009, 05:51
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Excellent, brings back memories of the good old days. Cheers janathull
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  #11  
Old 4th January 2009, 07:00
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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Here is another true story"
COLD COMFORT
by Arthur ‘Lofty’ Jenner
Jack Chislewell, ship's carpenter, checked that the windlass' brakes were firmly on and that the steam cock was tightly closed, and turned to make his way aft. The ship was now safely moored in Port Said harbour awaiting the assembly of the southbound convoy
The assembled ships were the usual motley crowd: ships of a variety of types and sizes and nations; even a Russian ship that shut down its generators and used oil lamps at night. There were passenger ships bound for Australia and the orient; tankers heading for the Persian Gulf and myriad trampships bound for almost anywhere you could name, south or east of the Gulf of Aden.
As Jack passed through the alleyway beside the bridge, the sailors were just finishing rigging the accommodation ladder, and were lowering it toward the water. The harbour pilot's boat was waiting to take him ashore.
Bumboats clustered, waiting, carrying on shouted conversations with members of the crew leaning on the rails; attempting to force their wares on wary customers. Local `street' merchants are not particularly welcome aboard ships in any port, but in Port Said they most definitely `persona non grata'. They are renowned for their business acumen, and what you see is very rarely what you end up getting: if you get anything at all. No strategy, however, has yet been devised that could keep a determined Port Said arab off the ship of his choice.
Jack arrived at the stern of the ship, where he shared a small cabin with the boatswain. The ship was not many days out from London, bound for Lourenço Marques to load coal. Jack and the boatswain, forced to share a very small room, had not yet, nor were they ever likely to, become bosom companions. Jack, a small, dapper, fussy man in his thirties, temperate and a bit straight laced, was hardly the ideal room mate for the grubby, dissolute, very unsavoury character in his mid sixties, who was the boatswain.
Jack reached his room, entered and closed the door. He opened the door of the long, steel locker that served as a wardrobe and took out a pair of light brown gabardine trousers. He held them up to examine a small stain on one of the legs. Jack was very concerned about his clothes. He had paid quite a lot of money for these trousers, and was worried about the little stain. He decided he would take them to a dry cleaner when they reached a civilised port. He was interrupted by a loud kicking on the room door, and a hoarse voice in an unfriendly tone ordered him to: "Open this bloody door, Chippy. I've got the tea" Jack immediately laid the trousers on his bunk, and opened the door. The boatswain entered carrying two kits of hot food and a brown enamel teapot.
"I suppose it would've been to much trouble to call in at the galley on your way aft, to give me a hand with these", grumbled the boatswain.
"Sorry Bose, I didn't realise it was teatime or I would've", replied Jack.
The boatswain set the kits and the teapot down on their small table and together they began their meal.
"Bloody good cook, we got this trip Chips," said the boatswain, "Haven't had grub like this since I was on the Port Line, and I've sailed with a lot no hopers since then."
"He's OK," responded Jack, "A pity he hasn't got better material- to work with though".
They continued to eat in silence.
"There's someone at the door." announced Jack, as a light tapping was heard.
The boatswain, being nearest, reached for the handle and slowly eased the door open. A brown, fez topped face appeared in the opening.
"Bos'n Sir, you want to do business? I give you one very good bottle scotch for two blankets, Good scotch, look, Johnnie Walker".
"Go away, we're having our tea." snapped Jack in a loud voice.
"Leave him alone, Chips," said the boatswain, "We might land a bargain here," and to the arab; who by now had fully opened the door and started to enter the room, he said, "You take one blanket for two bottles Johnny"
The arab responded by putting his right index finger to his eye, pulling the skin away from eyeball, turning his head a bit sideways and thrusting it close to the boatswain's face, saying, "Oh, bos'n, you see green in my eye? I honest businessman, but I not stupid. Don't try to rob me Bos'n Sir. You give me one good blanket and one pair English shoes for two bottle Johnnie Walker."
"Ha ha," the boatswain laughed, "I could buy lots of bottles of scotch for the price of my good shoes in England"
"Do it then. Go and buy lots of scotch with your shoes Bos'n," responded the arab, by now standing in the middle of the room.
The boatswain was now convinced that he needed the whisky and was sure that he was about to strike a good bargain.
"Alright," he said, "One blanket one bottle whisky."
"One good blanket for one good bottle whisky", echoed the arab.
The boatswain walked over to his bunk and removed an old threadbare blanket from a drawer under it.
"Here you are Johnnie, one good blanket, give me the scotch", he said.
"Bos'n you make big mistake, that old blanket no good, I not stupid. I give one small bottle Spanish fly for that blanket".
The boatswain unable to resist the lure of the aphrodisiac agreed, but being determined to get the whisky, said, "Now what about the scotch?"
"Just like before," replied the arab, "One good blanket for it."
Meanwhile, Jack who had finished his meal, and had no wish to become involved in the negotiations, was scraping the plates into one of the kits, preparatory to washing up. He opened the door and took out the kit to empty it over the side of the ship, leaving the door open behind him.
"OK," said the boatswain, now determined to have the whisky at any price, "Here's a good blanket." He picked up a neatly folded blanket from Jack's bunk and gave it to the arab.
The arab laid the bottle on the bunk, quickly grabbed the carpenter's gabardine trousers, turned and was out of the door before the boatswain realised what was happening.
Outside, Jack was returning with the empty kit, and as the arab flashed past him, he recognised his best trousers. He very quickly realised what had happened. He dropped the kit, let out a yell of anger and ran as fast as he could after the arab. The arab was very fast. Running along the side of ship he called to his companion in his bumboat and when he reached the point above the boat, he dropped the blanket and trousers into the waiting arms below, ran to the accomodation ladder and down it into the waiting vessel. Pursuit was useless. Jack and the boatswain stopped breathless by the rail gazing into the dusk. Their quarry was no longer in sight but had disappeared among the other small craft littering the harbour.
"You stupid, bloody idiot", Jack yelled at the boatswain, "Why did you let him get away with my best trousers?"
"Sorry Chips, he was so fast I couldn't stop him," the boatswain answered almosy inaudibly. There were quite a few interested members of the crew in the vicinity, and the unfortunate boatswain was suffering from acute `loss of face'.
"You shouldn't have let him into the room in the first place," The carpenter said, " How could a man with your experience get taken in so easily? We'll be the laughing stock of the ship after this."
There was more truth in his remark than the carpenter realised. The story was retold for years, and is still being told to this day, as you dear reader know.
"I'll buy you a new pair when we get to a decent port, Chips," said the boatswain, "Anyway we've got the bottle of whisky. Let's go and drown our sorrows."
Together they returned aft and entered the cabin. Jack opened a cupboard and took out two glasses which he set down on the table. The boatswain picked up the bottle, removed the seal, unscrewed the cap and filled the glasses. He picked up a glass, held it up and said, "Good luck Chips."
He raised the glass to his lips and took a liberal swig. He spluttered, spat and nearly exploded.
"The filthy, robbing, arab bastard," he gasped, " This is cold tea"
"I hope you have better luck with your spanish fly," remarked Jack wryly.
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Old 4th January 2009, 11:40
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Another good one Arthur. Captures the flavour of our Port Said friends very well.

As far as cutting and pasting photos goes, you can't do it. You can attach pictures by going into "advanced" mode when posting but you are limited to very small pictures and the quality is also poor.
The place for posting pictures is the Gallery. Click on the Gallery tab at the top of the page, when you are in the Gallery click on the tab at the very top that says "Upload Photo" then simply follow the instructions. You can post full sized quality photos that way and we would all love to see some.
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Old 4th January 2009, 13:02
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Well Arthur

I read both your stories with great interest all seamen have tales in them of events that happened while at sea. I spent half my free time between watches yarning with old hands in the mess as they took me round the World to pubs and bars with shipmates good and bad including officers. So many characters. Both stories bought back memories of Port Said and a vindictive Bosun troublesome Ab's and good and bad Officers and one R/O who gave the Skippers Tiger a hard time until the first bit of bad weather in the Bay and his soup landed in his lap. I will leave you guys to work out how it arrived in his lap but the weather was very bad.
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Old 4th January 2009, 14:05
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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Not all of my stories are true. Would you like some fiction?
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Old 4th January 2009, 15:15
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Arthur the stage is set, just awaiting your entrance.
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Old 4th January 2009, 23:42
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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The Lifeboat Fiction

The motion of the lifeboat was violent and Vincent felt ill. On the ship he had felt proud that he hadn’t been seasick even during the heaviest gale, but now, shivering and flung violently about, he knew he was seasick. Seasick and terrified.
Vincent had been on his first trip to sea as a junior engineer. The ship had been an old tramp steamer returning from the Mediterranean with a cargo of iron ore. The explosion that had sunk the ship had occurred between six and seven bells in the middle watch. Vincent had been on his way up from the engineroom and had been almost thrown from the ladder. The explosion could have been caused by several things but was almost certainly a hang-over from the war. It may have been a mine that escaped its mooring and remained drifting around the ocean. It may have been an artillery shell lying in the bilges since the ship had carried munitions, and that had been set off by the violent motion of the ship. Whatever the cause, it had quickly sent the ship to bottom, the iron ore had ensured that. No time to make sure that all forty-five of the crew were woken up. Time only to launch one of the four lifeboats. No time for all the men who were awake to scramble into it. Of the engine room staff on duty only Vincent had survived.
He had been dragged into the lifeboat by the only other survivor, an AB named Alec. The other sailors who had lowered the lifeboat had been washed away by a wave that almost filled it.
Now Vincent, being a ‘first tripper’ had been kidded by the other engineers that all AB’s were a bunch of lawless individuals who would think nothing of slitting the throat of a young engineer for the contents of his wallet, and since sailors and engineers rarely came into contact, the innocent Vincent had been frightened almost to death when confronted with the large and dominating presence of Alec in the boat.
Alec was a mature and competent seaman. After they had bailed until exhausted he streamed the sea anchor to keep the boat’s head into the wind and settled himself into the stern to ride out the storm..
Vincent scrambled into the bow and lay there wet and shivering. His unreasoning mind dwelt on the monster at the other end. Alec certainly looked ferocious with several weeks growth of beard and hair that was untrimmed and matted. The sheathed knife at his waist seemed to be proof of his evil nature.
Vincent’s unreasoning mind began to think of defence. What could he do if the monster awakened and attacked him? He looked at Alec’s knife. If he could creep up to him, he might be able to grab it and kill him while he slept.
He started to move. The violent motion of the boat difficult made it difficult to struggle over the high thwarts. He moved slowly towards Alec. He was halfway there when suddenly Alec grunted and turned. His knife was now under his right side but Vincent could see the haft and considered that he could grab it quickly without disturbing him. He took a deep breath. As his hand closed around the knife, the boat gave a lurch throwing him against Alec. Alec woke, startled, and tried to stand but lost his balance. He toppled backwards, his head striking the top of the rudder as he fell into the sea.
Vincent watched as Alec floated unconscious and slowly sinking and drifting away from the boat. His fear ridden mind cleared as he realised that he was now safe, though his fear of Alec was now replaced by a new fear. The fear of the sea.. The wind was blowing stronger, the seas seemed to be higher, the clouds were darker and he realised that against this real enemy he was now utterly helpless without the assistance of Alec.

Last edited by Arthur Jenner : 5th January 2009 at 00:07.
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Old 5th January 2009, 00:59
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Couple of cracking stories there Arthur...best i've read on the site yet,sure your name isn't Douglas Reeman!!! only joking! Went through Suez Canal outward & homeward for a lot of years on the Far East run on the box boats and stopped of at Port Said a few times so i know what these bum boat men are like at Suez.Am not much of a story teller so i envy your talent....keep them coming mate.
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Old 5th January 2009, 01:45
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ENCORE, Fiction, fantasy or reality, keep them coming Arthur. Your stories might entice others to have a go at a yarn or two and the fiction angle may allow some of us to embellish a mundane true story into something exciting.

Regards Bob
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  #19  
Old 5th January 2009, 11:06
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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How about a bit of poetry?

Sea Picture
by Arthur Jenner

Beneath the fading stars and icy, pre-dawn sky
The peaceful, millpond sea unbroken lies.

A grimy smudge of smoke in distant sky appears,
Heralding the approach of a small tramp, iron ore laden,
Making weary progress to some distant port.

Closer now into our sight she steams,
Her wake patterning the mirror sea.

The slowly lightening sky another player to the scene reveals
Scarce ruffling the surface; moving slow,
Keeping the trudging ship within it’s view:
A periscope.

Oblivious, the tramp plods on.

A dull explosion, muffled by the sea.
Ship shudders, slows and starts to settle.
No time for panic nor no time to lower boats.
Iron ore is heavy and in minutes ship and crew t’wards Davy Jones are gone.
Grimy smudge of smoke – sad, transient epitaph.

The periscope slides slowly ‘neath the sea.

Under the rising sun and chilly, morning sky
The peaceful, millpond sea unbroken lies
© Arthur Jenner 2006
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  #20  
Old 5th January 2009, 11:52
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Arthur many thanks for your stories and poem. Much appreciated.
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  #21  
Old 7th January 2009, 01:10
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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Voyage Not Completed

Here is a true story

Voyage Not completed

This was my first deep sea trip as an Efficient Deck Hand or EDH as we were known and it produced the only VOYAGE NOT COMPLETED stamp in my discharge book. We signed on at Tilbury shipping office on the 9th of August 1946. I can’t remember when we sailed, but it must have been shortly after. We were destined for Casablanca, where we would load bulk phosphate for Fremantle and Adelaide. The Fort Glenora was what was known as a Fort boat. These were coal-burning cargo steamers of about 5000 tons nett. built in Canada during the war; good solid ships – not like the ‘liberty boats’.
I will try to remember the crew as far I can. I will leave the deck crowd ‘til last. Captain Briggs was a pleasant man with a pointed ginger beard. He was taking his wife and his seven year old son John with him on the voyage, as some masters and senior officers were allowed to do after the war. The mate was a thinnish rather severe sort of a man. The second and third mates I barely remember, but seem to recollect that they were fairly pleasant types. There were a couple of cadets but they do not come to mind. I can remember none of the engineers, donkeymen or greasers. The firemen were all negro; mainly from the West Indies and were on the whole a pleasant lot. We didn’t have a lot of contact with them, even though they lived in close proximity. Of the catering staff I can only remember the two who came ashore with us in Port Kembla. The second cook and the second steward whose name was Ted Povey. Ted played the mandolin.
Now to the deck crowd. The bosun was an old man; not too far off retirement. A serious but inoffensive man. The carpenter I can’t remember. I believe I can remember most of the AB’s and ordinary seamen even though a lot of names have fled my brain. The one who stands out was Babbington. He was called Babs and surprising didn’t object. He obviously had a first name but if I ever knew it I have forgotten it. He was tall and slim, aloof and domineering, very strong and very aggressive especially in his cups. He would have been about forty years old I suppose and he would have been the forecastle boss. I say forecastle even though ships built during and after the war didn’t have forecastles any more. We lived aft and there were two men to each room. Babs shared a room with his mate who was a South African. He was the antithesis of Babs; short and tubby, jovial and friendly. When he was drunk however he was almost as bad as Babs. I can remember the names of very few of the crew, so I will have to give them false ones: let’s call this man Bob. I shared a room with a fellow who was a good bit older than me. We got on fairly well probably because we were both interested in pencil drawing. I will call him Max. He came from Chatham. A lot of seamen seemed to go around in pairs and looking back I can see that it was a phenomenon more prevalent than I realised at the time. Max had a mate whom I will call Ron, who was from the same area as himself; I think it was Gillingham. Ron and I shared an interest as well. We played chess. We played chess at least once every day and by the time I left the ship we were very evenly matched. Ron had another interest and that was in the game called ‘crap’. This was a very popular game with the negro firemen and Ron often used to go into their accommodation to play it. There were two other AB’s. One was small skinny fellow who was covered in long black hair and the other was a fellow whom I should remember but can’t, even though he had been on my previous ship, the Ben Read. There were two ordinary seamen. One was a big ungainly fellow from Yorkshire. A quiet inoffensive lad whom I will call Harry and the other was Roy Anderson from Southend. I think there was also a deck boy.
When we arrived in Casablanca where the loading of phosphate was quick; only two or three days at the most, the Captain sensibly decided to allow us a sub of only one pound each because, of course, we would only have had a very limited amount of credit to our names. There was not a lot one could do with a pound even in those days, but Babs and his offsider managed to become more than a little inebriated. Apparently they marched up to the saloon and demanded more money from the officers and, I believe, became very aggressive. I don’t know how the incident ended but it gave us an indication of the sort of behaviour that we were likely to expect from Babs - forecastle boss extraordinaire.
I can’t recollect any noticeable incidents between Casablanca and our next stop except that Babbington had a very poor opinion of me because I had only been at sea for two and a half years and was on the same pay as himself and he couldn’t resist a few sneering remarks at meal times. The rest of the crew were friendly enough though.
Our next stop was at Durban for bunkers, I think it was only an overnight stop but there was a very ugly incident. When we came aboard in the evening after our run ashore Ron, my friendly chess playing friend, was seen on the wharf beating up the inoffensive Yorky ordinary seaman. I never found out why.
Next morning the ship could hardly creep out of the port because the firemen had had grand booze up and were too hung over to raise enough steam. We did however manage it and to the best of my recollections as we steamed our great circle path to Fremantle without any memorable incidents. I remember that I drew a pencil portrait of the captain’s son at about this time but I can’t remember what happened to it.
We discharged part of our cargo in the port of Fremantle and proceeded to Port Adelaide minus two members of the crew. I can’t remember who they were except that one was an assistant steward.
In Port Adelaide the wharfies became somewhat militant and they were continually striking and causing the business of discharging our phosphate to take much longer than anticipated. Some of us were enjoying ourselves in Adelaide city and were becoming fairly attached to the place so we had no particular desire to leave it. Before we left for our next port of call, Port Kembla for bunkers, a replacement assistant steward called Dusty Miller was signed on. I think he might have been an AB but was the only replacement they could find. After we left it was discovered that three more members of the crew were missing.
Some of us had become rather attached to Australia, and Adelaide in particular, by this time and Dusty, the new member of the crew, who had apparently, absconded from a ship some time previously and was very familiar with this new country, persuaded four of us to join him in another ship jumping exercise.
We spent our spare time during the run to Kembla in preparing for our expedition back to Adelaide. Roy and I made rucksacks from an old tarpaulin while Eddie, the second cook, and Ted Povey gathered some pots, pans and eating utensils together. On the night before we arrived in Kembla the lads gave us all their left over Australian money.
The ship arrived fairly early and we were tied up at the wharf about nine if my memory serves me aright. We couldn’t have chosen a better place to desert because Port Kembla North railway station was very close to the end of the wharf.
At morning smoko, about ten in the morning we waited until the mate left the deck to go to the saloon for his tea break. We took all our luggage onto the wharf and hid it behind a shed. At midday the mate went to his midday meal and the five of us went down the gangway, collected our gear and made for the railway station. At the station we booked our seabags and cases to Adelaide by goods train; to be picked up. We enquired about travel away from the port and bought tickets to Bulli. We didn’t have long to wait for a train and once it started we all breathed a great sigh of relief. We didn’t know how long it would be before the mate would realise we had gone. Someone suggested that when he realised we were missing he would start making enquiries at the station. The ticket seller would tell him we’d bought tickets to Bulli and a reception committee of cops would be there to meet us. So what to do? We decided we should get off at an intermediate stop. We were now just leaving North Wollongong and decided we would leave the train at the next stop; whatever that might be.
The next station was Balgownie, now called Fairy Meadow, so we hopped off and, after stopping to buy a billy can, started heading west. We walked along the left side of the load with our thumbs wagging in the traditional hitch-hiker manner. A small truck stopped and we hopped aboard. I don’t think he asked where we were going so he kept on until he reached his destination; Mount Keira. looking further East we saw a magnificent view of wooded hills stretching as far as we could see with Cordeaux reservoir in the foreground. We realised then that we needed a map because we had come to a dead-end.
After disembarking we found a field with a nice view of the whole coast right down to Kembla and we could see the Fort Glenora lying at the coal wharf, so we relaxed, settled down, boiled the billy, made a meal and spread our blankets. We were soon asleep
I was the first awake next morning and discovered that we were sharing the field with a herd of cows.
I walked over to place where we could look out over the coast. The ship we had left yesterday was no longer alongside the bunkering wharf: she would be well on her way to Japan.
It was a strange sensation: it wasn't fear: it wasn't homesickness nor even loneliness; no, none of these. It was a feeling of being marooned, which in a way I supposed we were. These were the thoughts that occupied me as I lay in the grass gazing at the Pacific Ocean and the towns of Wollongong and Port Kembla spread below me. Yes, it was a feeling of being marooned. The five of us, cut off from everything we knew: on the opposite side of the globe, with no idea of what awaited us in this very large island. We were now totally dependant on our own resources. We had very little money and optimistically, we believed we would be able to get enough casual work to finance our needs on our journey to Adelaide. Of the five, I was the only AB. Dusty Miller and Ted Povey were stewards, Roy Anderson was an Ordinary Seaman and Eddie was a cook. Obviously catering wouldn’t be a problem with two stewards and a cook.
I began to wonder if we had done the right thing in leaving the ship. The shipowners wouldn't think so and neither would the Captain. The company certainly wouldn't think so either, especially as the ship had already lost two men in Fremantle, and three in Adelaide. I thought my parents would be something less than elated when they found out as well.
Well, what did they all expect? It was 1946, I was nineteen and the war was just over. We’d had six years of going without just about everything. Six years of war propaganda and thinking of nothing else but when it would end. Six years of lives disrupted and distorted. Six years of regimentation. What did they expect us to do when we saw a chance to do something interesting and exciting?
I knew what they would expect. They would expect us to conform, to continue to let ourselves be regimented, to continue to do our duty for King and Country and to continue to work hard to help the shipowners to make enormous profits.
So here we were, self-marooned in Australia, at the top of Mount Keira, on the first day of a new adventure. In the rush to get away from the ship, we hadn't taken too much notice of the fact that we'd taken a dead-end road. Well, we'd just have to go back down again, buy a map and sort out a practical route.

Last edited by Arthur Jenner : 7th January 2009 at 12:46.
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  #22  
Old 7th January 2009, 04:20
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Thanks. I hope there's more.
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  #23  
Old 7th January 2009, 04:30
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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Charlie

Charlie
Here is another true sea story:

"Dave."
"Yes Charlie?"
"Will you write a letter for me?"
Dave put down his magazine and leaned over to look at Charlie in the bunk below.
"What do you mean?" He asked
"Will you write a letter to my wife for me?"
"I dunno, why?"
"I can't write English; only Maltese. She's English - I mean Welsh really"
"When?"
"Whenever you got time, Dave"
"Alright, I'll try. I'm not much of a letter writer though. I never could spell very well. What about tomorrow afternoon?"
"Thanks Dave"
Dave lay back and continued looking at his girly magazine. Charlie turned onto his left side and started a tremendous fit of coughing. He turned onto his other side and spat into an old condensed milk tin that he kept on the floor under his bunk for the purpose. A typical evening this, in a typical fo'c'stle on a typical trampship at sea. Men of the twelve to four watch asleep (or at least trying to sleep); the eight to twelve watch lying on bunks reading or sitting at the mess room table writing letters and the four to eight standby man longing for eight o'clock.
"I'll kill that dirty, bloody Charlie," muttered Dave to himself, "if he doesn't stop spitting in that rotten tin."
The next afternoon Dave and Charlie wrote Charlie's letter and between each two ports for the remainder of the trip, they wrote another. Charlie, however, received no replies. No one of us, except Charlie, expected him to because we all knew that Charlie's wife was just a Tiger Bay prostitute who had married him for the allottment money, and was probably receiving a monthly allowance from a number of other `husbands' at sea. Nobody, however, had the heart to disillusion him, so he would wait with the rest of us in each port when the mail was distributed, and turn away sadly; disappointed and unbelieving when the distribution was complete.
Some six months after the start of the trip, the ship was back in the UK, discharging iron ore in the port of Middlesborough. One of the clauses in the articles that all seamen sign at the beginning of each voyage, states the voyage will only be regarded as ended when the ship reaches the final port of discharge of the cargo or a drydocking port; this of course at the discretion of the Master. (If it were at the discretion of the crew, there would rarely be any other decision than that the voyage would terminate at the soonest possible moment). A trip is a trip; and any bits tagged onto the end of are nothing more than an infernal nuisance at best. In this case; when the cargo was unloaded, the ship would have to be taken to South Shields in the River Tyne for dry docking, and only then would we be paid off.
It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. The ship had been in port for about a week, and unloading was almost complete. Three of the five hatches had been unloaded. They had been battened down during the day, and derricks lowered and secured ready for sea. Number four hatch had just finished and we were starting to put on the hatchboards. The beams had been lowered into their slots and the hatchboards were being lifted on to the beams. It is a curious thing, that sometimes some of the hatchboards on a ship are shorter than they should be. No one knows how they get shorter, or, if they had been made for a different ship, how they came to be aboard this particular ship, but the fact is that short hatchboards regularly appear on quite a lot of ships, and on this particular hatch there were quite a number of them. Everyone knew they were there, and everyone took a bit more care than usual when battening down number four.
It was late in the afternoon: it was winter. The wind was rising and bringing with it a cold sleet. We were all in a hurry to finish work. Half of the hatchboards were on and some of us were lifting boards onto the hatch; others were standing on the hatch, fitting them into place. Charlie was carrying one end of a hatchboard and when he stepped back to lower it into position, he stood on the end of one of the short ones. The board he'd been carrying fell with a crash as Charlie slipped quickly through the gap into the empty hold. He tried to grab the hatchboards on either side of him, but failed and as he passed through the 'tween deck hatchway, some ten feet below, he glanced off one of the steel beams before dropping another twenty five feet or so onto the semi cylindrical propeller casing, from which he slid slowly on to floor of the hold. There was a sudden panicky shout from someone; "Charlie's gone;" and when the we looked down into the gloomy depths of the hold, and saw the unmoving bundle of rags that was Charlie, lying on the bottom, all of our minds turned to the same thought, `It could have been me', and we must all have experienced the same inward shudder of fear. No one moved for a second or two; then the boatswain said to the two men nearest to him,
"Alright, you two go down and see how he is".
The two didn't move, and so the boatswain and another AB went down. Eventually a stretcher was brought from amidships and Charlie was lifted out, just alive but unmoving, by derrick, and was taken off to the nearest hospital.
It was teatime, and thankfully we stopped work. After tea, with the wind becoming stronger and colder, we gingerly continued battening down number four, and then moved on to number two; the last hatch to finish. By now the wind was blowing very hard, and it took twice as long as normal to batten down number two, even though its hatches were nearly all the proper length.
By eight thirty the job was finished, and silently, without discussion, we headed for the nearest pub.
Someone phoned the hospital from the pub, and was told that Charlie had died shortly after his admission.
Alcohol thawed frozen tongues, and diluted our sorrow.
"Poor old Charlie, I don't suppose anyone knew him very well, I didn't," said Alec.
"Nor did I," responded Fred.
"Dave used to write his letters. Hey Dave, what did poor old Charlie write about to that pro in Cardiff"
"He didn't write anything at all, did he Dave. Dave can't read or write either, but he wouldn't admit it to Charlie. He just scribbled on the paper and threw it away later."

Last edited by Arthur Jenner : 7th January 2009 at 04:33.
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  #24  
Old 7th January 2009, 10:58
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Good stories Arthur, good stories. I wish you could find the pencil drawing you did of me on the Fort Glenora, it may bring back even more memories.

Funny how little things make an impression on you. Your tale of the short hatch boards is so true, how did it happen? Never thought about it before - just accepted it as a fact of life.
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  #25  
Old 7th January 2009, 12:32
Arthur Jenner Arthur Jenner is offline
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Yes John I wish I had that picture for you. I thought I'd given it to you. I suppose I must have left it behind and someone else either took it or threw it away.
I wrote bit of a yarn in the tanker section if you are interested
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