UT 704 Anchor-Handling Tug/Supply Vessel - Ships Nostalgia
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UT 704 Anchor-Handling Tug/Supply Vessel

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  #1  
Old 22nd December 2009, 00:08
Jeff. J. Jeff. J. is offline  
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UT 704 Anchor-Handling Tug/Supply Vessel

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  #2  
Old 24th December 2009, 20:28
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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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They were superseded within the company by the Wimpey Seafox etc., based directly on the Smit-Lloyd class of vessel which in turn was probably following the 704 design.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.

Last edited by rcraig : 25th December 2009 at 00:16.
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  #3  
Old 25th December 2009, 18:42
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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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.
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  #4  
Old 25th December 2009, 20:51
orkneyman orkneyman is offline  
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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
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  #5  
Old 25th December 2009, 23:29
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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Originally Posted by orkneyman View Post
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.
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  #6  
Old 28th December 2009, 09:28
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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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.

Last edited by rcraig : 28th December 2009 at 09:39.
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  #7  
Old 28th December 2009, 21:04
IainMu IainMu is offline
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Originally Posted by orkneyman View Post
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.
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  #8  
Old 1st January 2010, 09:08
are39 are39 is offline  
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tenders NZ

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Originally Posted by rcraig View Post
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.
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  #9  
Old 6th January 2010, 20:24
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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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.
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  #10  
Old 6th January 2010, 20:58
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Nick Balls Nick Balls is offline  
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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/...de%20Pizza.htm
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Old 6th January 2010, 21:12
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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Thanks for the link. So there was a humorous side!? 'Twas always challenging!
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Old 6th January 2010, 22:17
ddraigmor ddraigmor is offline
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UT704 Story on here - look in the directory.

Jonty
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Old 6th January 2010, 23:52
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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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.
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  #14  
Old 7th January 2010, 00:10
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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.
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Old 7th January 2010, 00:24
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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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!
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Old 7th January 2010, 17:52
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RayJordandpo RayJordandpo is offline  
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Anchor handling over the bow in the sixties, that was dangerous work.
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Old 7th January 2010, 18:06
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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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?
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Old 7th January 2010, 21:08
david_crosby david_crosby is offline  
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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.
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Old 7th January 2010, 23:14
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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Originally Posted by david_crosby View Post
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
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Old 8th January 2010, 01:01
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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
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Old 8th January 2010, 11:03
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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It would be interesting to see photographs of the process. Makes even a difficult stern job easy in comparison. Thanks.
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Old 8th January 2010, 19:16
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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.
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Old 9th January 2010, 11:35
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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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.
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Old 9th January 2010, 17:32
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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.
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Old 9th January 2010, 21:56
rcraig rcraig is offline  
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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.
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