Going Aloft and Going Down.

13th December 2008, 08:53
As Youngster on Joining the RFA, I was 15 but shortly to become 16. "Tidereach being My first ship. I was able to cope with any job the Bosun dished out (Ernie Lassiter). As it was He would try to give You the most challenging task but I would do it, if it wasn't up to His standard I would have to do it again to the best of my ability.
I would suggest that going Aloft, Tank Diving, Riding Stays are the most dangerous tasks for a seaman, perhaps that's debatable but I would be happy to do them, even quite enjoying going Aloft, painting rigs and white lead and Tallowing the Stays etc.
My first stint in the RFA was to last for 5 years, leaving to get married and work ashore in various jobs including 22 years in the PAS/RMAS at Portland but of course that all came to an end in 1995 when the Dockyard closed, what was I to do?.
All I knew was Ships, so at the age of 54 I re-joined the RFA. I chose the RFA as most of My employments were with the MOD and it would help to add to My Pension. I was very grateful to the RFA for taking Me on at that age but what a shock to the system. I couldn't believe how much it had changed from the Old Days and to perfectly honest I found it very difficult to handle for which I am still paying for now. Still, I persevered and did a final 6 years until I reached 60 ( With a bit of Sick time thrown in). Anyhow finally getting to My point. I could not do the jobs that I was so eager to do in My earlier years which became a bit embarrassing. The highest I was able to manage was the foremast of "Orangeleaf" rigs were right out, I didn't mind tank Diving, getting dirty wasn't the problem, it was the bit in between I didn't like going up and down the ladders, none of which had safety hoops and some of the welding was a bit suss'. I didn't shirk My duties but I was only to happy to be tender at the tank top. Bassically I had lost My bottle but the Bosun's and Lads were brilliant and very understanding and were a joy to work with. Still it did not make me feel any better as some of the Old Hand's of around My age would fly up the rigs, Stan the Man, Shaun etc with no fear and excellent Seamen to boot.
So there it is My confession, So as You may imagine I was only to happy to be selected for watchkeeping Duties at sea or alongside. Which was OK as most of the Lad's prefered Day-Work anyway. I would sooner do a couple of hours in HQ1 than Climbing or Diving any day. My Dear Son Andy who did 14 years in the RFA did warn Me that it wouldn't be the same as it was in the Old days and I replied No Problem, A piece Of P**S. It does pay sometimes to listen to Your Son's advice!!.

13th December 2008, 11:18
Good to hear about your exploits Tony with the RFA.
We don't realise as we get older we can't move as fast as our younger days.
I spent all my life working in shipping agents and a great deal of that time as a water clerk climbing up accommodation ladders and occasionally rope ladders which weren't always as secure as they should have been!
Often carrying heavy parcels and mail ,were the heaving line from the ship came very useful.
Like you I was prepared to tackle anything which came my way but now I
think it would be a matter of 'pass'.
As you say times have certainly changed.

Best Regards

14th December 2008, 18:48
Yes gentlemen, but a bosun would be a fool, to tell you to go aloft when you were not keen to do so. So what? My dad didn't want to go aloft anymore? don't matter one iota. He's still a hero to me!! If it wasn't for him, I would never have found my Niche' in life. Why the confession Dad?

14th December 2008, 20:55
Strawberry Junior :

Guess it was a form of exorcising on his part, something he wanted/had to do, but how many of us would admit to any past possible weakness on our part? Very few, and that's exactly why you are absolutely right to regard him as Hero, Mentor, Dad and Best Pal ! I have a sneaking feeling he is quite proud of your own achievements too .... !

Strawberry Senior :

Well done, we are the same age you and I and it is at least 20 years or so now since I first started to lose the arrogance and immortality of youth, and tread very carefully indeed when ascending heights or descending depths in my line of work, so I know the apprehensions and 'fear-factors' that you came up against. The bravado of the younger years sort of evaporates with age, but it is still a wee bit of a disappointment to come to terms with the fact one is not quite as 'up for it' as was the caes in past years!

Good luck to you both !


15th December 2008, 18:34
Thank you for the kind words Eriskay. From Myself and Dad!

15th December 2008, 21:27
Old strawberry :
Good to hear of your exploits. Heights can be a bit daunting. I used to have a head for heights but it was destroyed on my first trip to sea. We sailed from Aden to Bombay as a decoy ship for a convoy which was leaving a while later. There were 3 apprentices - one was a first tripper like me ( but I had been on HMS Conway where we climbed the rigging) the senior apprentice had no head for heights, so I was made to do the dawn and dusk lookout from the upper crows nest on the foremast which was , truly, a wooden barrel lashed near the top of the fore topmast. The lower part was, of course steel but the upper was wooden. From the table of the lower part there was a wire rope ladder, fastened at the table and at the top of the mast. When you climbed up with the ship rolling gently the ladder would bend away from the mast and then return close to the mast. This was disconcerting to say the least.
My fellow Rotarians last year persuaded me to arrange a party of 6 to do a week's trip on the Jubilee Sailing trust's sqauer rigger Tenacious and we had some good Channel sailing. I even went up and out on the main yard when alongside but with the Health and Safety lark I was well and truly hooked onto something the whole time. Nevertheless I was quiet pleased to do it at 82

16th December 2008, 10:28
Thanks for Your Message Sid. May I add, rather You than I.