15th June 2011, 19:22
In my second posting I mentioned that I had omitted some background and some details: I would now like to rectify some of these omissions. When I joined the Treleven she had just come back from a trip to West Africa, apparently this was one of several such trips. The usual cargo was forest products by which was meant principally mahogany logs, there was also some sawn mahogany timber as well as a small proportion of concentrates. There were two results to having all this hardwood on board the ship one of which I will relate one now and the other one deserves a posting all on its own!
In those pre-fibreglass days, much use was made of a device called a cement box and as its name implies this was a wooden box which was filled with cement. It was very useful for checking leaks in seawater cooling systems where the pressure was low. It was also used for dealing with leaking rivets. I remember on one occasion when the ship had been a bit too friendly with the quay and had started quite a few rivets leaking: under the directions of a Lloyds surveyor a large cement box was made to enclose all these leaks. As he said, "It's not meant to stop every drip but it is meant to prevent it becoming a flood". While we were at sea we got the carpenter to make the boxes and they were of course made in hardwood!
Although they were made in beautiful mahogany they were not dovetailed. The carpenter obeyed the precepts of Prof JE Gordon in his book "The new science of strong materials" well it was new in 1968 when it was published! In this Penguin publication chapter 7 refers to glues and plywood and has a subheading "When all else fails use bluddy great nails". Of course in the original bluddy is spelt correctly but I have changed it to try and prevent its being censored automatically. Over the years on these older ships the cement boxes featured quite prominently on various occasions! Normally of course they were not made in such exotic materials. The 1950s saw a proliferation of weird little cars in Britain, as the priority for "proper" cars was to export them so that the home market suffered. One of the British offerings was the Bond mini car: this was a three-wheeler with a fairly long bonnet and one wheel at the front. If you lifted the bonnet you discovered a 500 cc motorbike engine complete with kick starter and as all this was mounted directly above the front wheel rotating about a vertical axis; by turning the steering 90° to either side the car would turn in its own length making parking extremely simple of course. The relieving chief engineer, who had one of these, was one who had retired and returned from retirement to look after the company's ships but only when they were in London. In those days London was a very busy port so he had plenty of opportunity to use his car. One day he gave me a large bottle that I recognised as once having contained Esso motor oil. This bottle was made up of concentric glass cylinders with the bottom one being about 4 inches diameter and 4 inches high, the next being about 3.5" x 3.5" and the rest reducing similarly until it reached a normal size at the neck. "Put some oil in that Mr. Zebedee" he said and winked. I returned with a bottle full of best marine diesel engine oil and gave it to him. "Thank you Mr. Zebedee" he said and winked again: "You're welcome Sir' I said and winked back. "Don't be cheeky boy." He screeched while winking again; with all pretence of formality ignored!
That's when I realised that it was not a friendly wink or even a conspiratorial one; the poor old chap had a nervous tic.
In due course the sailing chief returned and to avoid confusion I'll call him Rupert. Rupert had brought the ship out from the builders and had been on it ever since and this was to be his last trip before going to repeat the occurrence so he must have been quite a senior chief which I didn't recognise or appreciate at the time. As soon as he came back I was introduced to the duties of an "assistant refrigeration engineer". The Company's rulebook was quite specific that access to the refrigeration chambers was entirely at the Chief engineer's discretion. My duties consisted of checking the cold room temperatures on a daily basis and reporting them to the chief engineer before entering them into a special logbook. Naturally if anything needed to be done to the system such as topping up with gas, making and fitting parts to the automatic starting mechanism or de-icing intercoolers yours truly was brought into play under the personal supervision of Rupert. All good experience of course and I remember emerging from the first inspection of the cold chambers and his comment: "Not much of a fridge engineer are you Mr. Zebedee." "How do mean Sir?" "Your pockets are empty!" This omission was easily rectified of course and the odd apple, orange, tomato or piece of cheese became useful additions to my diet.
One of his first questions on returning to the ship was to ask where had I served my apprenticeship. I explained that it had been with Hain’s subsidiary at which he appointed me ship’s turner as he assumed that I was a competent lathe operator. What this really meant was that I had to keep the lathe clean and oiled and all the cutting tools sharp while he did the interesting jobs and I got all the awkward ones.
I said that we loaded railway lines that took six weeks to discharge, Loading in Middlesborough was by shore side crane and so their length was no problem. As the ships were built to be able to transit the Manchester ship Canal the derrick lengths were limited by the height of the cross trees which had to pass under the road & rail bridges. When we came to discharge the railway lines they had to be tilted to get them out through the hatch openings,

Consequently the lower ends fouled the hatch coamings so badly that they had to be dragged outboard & laid on the coaming and bulwarks to be re slung.
I know that to people brought up in container ships the concept of days, let alone weeks in port is strange; but even in those days six weeks was an unusually long stay in one port! In New Zealand we loaded a full cargo of wool and initially I was puzzled by the proliferation of buildings with the legend “Joe Blogs Pty., Wool Dumpers”. The firm’s name is obviously imaginary & maybe the description of their procedures has changed but in those days they packed the fleeces into bales about four foot cube, wrapped in burlap and bound with steel bands. They weighed approximately three to the ton, but special parcels of fleeces would have two bales banded together. I discovered on subsequent trips that these 8X4X4 bales HAD to go in the lower hold in Australia whereas the New Zealand dockers wanted them in our tweendecks! There they were stacked three high and apparently it was easier to roll a double to position and upend it than it was to maneuver a single onto another single and then try and repeat it in headroom of only four feet! (Say 1.2M) We anchored off Gisborne for two or three days while the wool was brought out in fair-sized coasters before completing loading Auckland and/or Wellington. (It was more than 50 years ago, remember, as well as the first of several visits to New Zealand wool ports.) We returned to the UK via Panama, Curacao and Dunkirk, or even Dunquerque, where discharge commenced and was completed in Hull. In Hull the dockers installed two extra wooden derricks over each hatch and, using ropes and the whipping drums on the winches made short work of completing the discharge. We proceeded to London in Ballast and the voyage was complete. (Thumb)