MANAAR. Crikey

John Leary
3rd October 2006, 19:27
I sailed with Captain (Crikey) Morris on one coastal and two deep-sea voyages. From memory he was a tall, well-built man with a good head of grey hair. Although he always seemed to have a pleasant expression on his face he was serious in outlook and was not one to tell a joke. I never knew him to encourage idle conversation when you concluded discussing ships business. It was not just me. I do not think he socialised very much with any of the ship’s officers. However he was always considerate and pleasant to my wife when she joined the ship in 1966.

He could be put out when things were not to his satisfaction or when ship’s discipline was infringed. Under such circumstances the most extreme expletive he would use to show his displeasure was “crikey” which was the origin of his nickname. This story relates to the two occasions, on the same voyage when I was “crikied”.

On the Manaar the Cossor VHF transceiver was located in the radio room. The remote control unit was located on the bridge and was connected to the transceiver by a long, multi-cored cable. There were facilities for the connection of a second control unit inside the radio room but in their infinite wisdom Brocklebank’s radio department decided to save money by not installing it. There was however a length of control cable connected to the transceiver from a second control unit outlet socket but it stayed there coiled up doing nothing like a headless chicken.

Manaar’s radio room was located on the boat deck on the port side so whenever you wanted to hear a received signal when carrying out any repairs or tests on the VHF receiver you either had to run up to the bridge to listen to the loudspeaker or you called the bridge on the intercom to ask them to turn the volume up. This in my view was a real horses ar.. of a situation.

I made a request to the radio department for a speaker to be supplied so that I could install it in the radio room. They agreed and came up with a very nice, Eddystone loudspeaker, which had a circular metal case. I scrounged a volume control and an on-off switch and installed the loudspeaker to the spare handset cable whilst we were coasting prior to going deep-sea. I was very pleased with the result because it meant that faultfinding and testing was now so much easier. My first trip junior lent an enthusiastic hand but I omitted to make it clear to him that it was only to be used for testing purposes.

The circumstances of the first “crikey” came after the loudspeaker was installed when we were still coasting. The junior R/O was on watch alone in the radio room. Things must have been quiet because he decided no doubt out of curiosity to listen to the VHF whilst keeping watch on 500kHz. The first thing I knew of this was when I was summoned before the old man and dressed down because we were monitoring transmissions that were none of our business. He also demanded to know what right I had to install this facility without his knowledge and permission.

Now before I relate the next part of the “crikey” it is important to state what may be a little remembered fact which was that on British merchant ships at the time, it was the radio officer’s PMG certificate that allowed navigators and other members of the ships crew to transmit and receive messages on the VHF equipment.

As I said until I was on the receiving end of the “crikey” I had no knowledge of the matter. I’m one of those people who always come up with the perfect answer to a difficult question about three hours after the need arises because I need time to think. However I did my best which was to tell the old man that the loudspeaker was installed with the knowledge and approval of Brocklebank’s radio department who had supplied the parts, that the loudspeaker was installed as a means of more effective faultfinding and that whilst he had total authority over the wireless station, the equipment could only be operated by the navigators because of my ticket.

I think a combination of hard facts, a robust defence and an acknowledgement on both our parts that there was something to be said for the others point of view resulted in my departure from his day room with honour satisfied by both parties and me only suffering minor wounding after being “crikied”. When I spoke to my junior about the incident his only comment was to claim he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

The second “crikey” was double-barrelled because it was delivered to both the second mate and myself. Before the deep-sea crew had signed articles, Manaar had done a coastal trip, which included a visit to Glasgow. In Glasgow her ancient BTH radar had been replaced by a smart modern English Electric set that had all of its transmitter and receiver equipment mounted in a small cabinet that was fixed to a bulkhead above the chartroom table. So much better than the big beast that it replaced. It wasn’t true motion or anything like that but it was a vast improvement over the old kit.

The problem from the Captain’s point of view was that it didn’t have a timer with an audible alarm that sounded every six minutes. To the best of my knowledge such a feature was not standard on any radar sets of the day and certainly had never been part of the radar equipment I had trained on or sailed with. It was certainly never fitted to the old BTH radar.

Protest as we might the captain was adamant that the radar was deficient and the second mate and I were collectively responsible for putting the matter right. I think at the time this crikey was delivered we were deep sea without recourse to any shore side parts or support.

Today with integrated circuits and a vast electronic hobby market the components to manufacture a small timer would be easily obtained anywhere in the world. However in 1966, at sea, the options were limited to say the least. Over a few beers the second mate and I racked our brains to come up with a solution to the problem. Sadly, every avenue we explored was either impracticable (water clock) or impossible because of the lack of suitable components. We even scoured the ship for alarm clocks belonging to the crew but this was a dead end because the clocks we found were either unsuitable or the owner would not surrender it for the cause.

The outlook looked bleak and we faced the prospect of a long trip under a black cloud of crikey displeasure and disapproval.

In 1966 Manaar was in her sixteenth year. During that time the ship’s radio department had accumulated a load of junk and bits and pieces that previous R/O’s had squirreled away in the ship’s radio lockers against the prospect that one day the whatchamacallits or thingymebobs would come in handy. Salvation came in the form of a small 12 volt dc motor that had an extended shaft on which were fitted a couple of non metallic cogs acting as a reduction gear. I also found a couple of relays that would operate on 12 volts. I think the second mate found a bell that we could use. I had no idea what equipment the motor came from originally as it carried no manufacturing marks but I said a silent word of thanks to the R/O who had saved it.

What we produced was not in any way elegant but it was capable of ringing the bell at approximately six-minute intervals. Its power source was the Aldis battery. We had nothing to regulate the input voltage from the battery so the timing of the bell was a bit iffy depending on the state of charge of the battery. I think the chippy made us a box, which he also varnished. When it was assembled and tested we held in our hands the ultimate crikey deflector.

We were as proud as punch with our creation. When it was demonstrated to the captain he managed to contain his boundless gratitude and enthusiasm and accepted it with words along the lines of “I told you it could be done”!

Captain Morris I salute you. Having spent a few years at sea and many years working with some very forthright people, when I have been angry or needed to sound off I have never been able to confine my choicest language to “crikey”. That takes someone special with enormous self-discipline.

Pat McCardle
3rd October 2006, 20:51
''CRIKEY'' Sparks......A marvelous story(Thumb)

Tony Selman
3rd October 2006, 21:18
Another one of your excellent stories John. Very entertaining and a good bit of R/O's ingenuity as well.

4th October 2006, 19:16
Sailed with Cpt Morris on his firts trip as master on the Maihar in 1958, sometimes Crikey was changed to Cranky!

4th October 2006, 23:11
Sailed with Crikey Morris and Mrs Crikey on Mangla in 1970. May have been his retirement trip. I joined in Colombo and left in Wilmington Del / Philadelphia. A get me home for my wedding.

Only time we crossed swords was when he would check the bridge late evening and I was enjoying the breeze through the opened wheelhouse windows. Poor chap was cold. I don't think we got a "crikey" though!