Your first Trip or Coast working Nights in Port.

ian keyl
18th December 2014, 19:57
Well we had done with the formalities of singing on and you were committed , we had emptied all the cargo for London ,your hands were full of splinters and blisters from stacking dunnage and sweeping decks.

We were preparing to sail out of West India dock for Hull ,you have worked hard days with the bosun and the sailors and all the derricks were dropped and crouched .
There was some serious dhobi to be done in the shower as the bucket with your work trousers soaking was looking awful .

It was a rough passage up the coast to Hull which we worked sea watches for the first time,on watch with a mate asking questions making cups of tea ,asking the old man if he wanted one ,if you got it right you might be in his good books.

As we entered the Humber it was almost blowing a gale and we took two hours to get into the locks and another hour to get tied up. It was half past four in the afternoon you had just done the 12-4 and the mate says "Oh by the way you are working nights with the Ch/off discharging latex".

Well thanks all the rest get a night off and the mates so they go up the road to the Lacarno, Land of the green ginger or the night club off Markham Lane something Parrot.

After dinner the Ch/off finds me and tells what he wants me to do ,I haven't got a clue, so I do my best The shore side crew are on board rigging their pipes and pumps and there is a fleet of shiny silver road tankers amassing on the quay alongside with big red letters "ARROW BULK". There are three sailors on nights to rig derricks and lift tank lids with Chippy. So why am I wanted?

I go to the hatch which the Ch?off said we were starting in and the men in white boiler suits from Synthomor and Dunlop have dipped the their tanks and taken samples and depart then we start.

At this point I need to tell you who the Ch/off is , Its one of the big lads (huge) and a bark as fierce as a dingo, It is Eric Dodds. In Ben Line the ch/off is in charge of tanks loading and discharging as apposed to the mate.
He has told me to keep my eye out for any leaks from the discharge pipes keep the over side scuppers blocked up so no Latex goes in the dock and keep him plied with tea . It is a freezing night and the cold weather gear was nothing like it is today,coats were heavy possible duffles trousers were crap unless you had heard of wearing woman's tights and to top that I had started with a cold.

It was about eleven at night when we finished the first tank and Eric collard me to go down the tank to remove any balls of latex which my block the hat box ,as we were going to ballast them with sea water.
I looked at him as we stood on the edge of the tank , He shouted at me "don't look at me like that get down that tank and check it ,besides the ammonia will do your cold a world of good." As I had been standing there a few minutes my eyes were streaming and anyone would have thought I was crying . A few minutes later i could have done so.
As I wearily climbed over the the tank top and felt for the first few rungs of the ladder gripping one of the screw dogs on the deck to hopefully save me if I slipped on the latex and wax coated steel work it would be thirty feet down, No safety harness or body lowering gear in those days.
I climbed down to the floor of the tank my eyes were like Niagara falls , I almost slipped over on the slippery surface as I made my way to the corner of the tank , as I bent down to reach into the hat box my foot went from under me and my head crashed into the bulkhead as I went forward into the square hole. My arm went into the box and latex went up my sleeve and my head got covered also off the bulkhead.
At this point I could have cried but no I blubbered trying to get my hanky out of my pocket hands covered in latex . Eric had lowered down a bucket for me to put the balls of latex in then he pulled it up.
The discharge pipe was still in the tank and he shouted down stay there shore gang are coming down to squeegee and puddle the tank as there is too much left in. They did that and I wondered why was i required to say there,who knows. My new TUF boots were surely water proof by now.

A couple of hours later the foreman comes to us and says there will be a break as we would be waiting for tankers to return from the tank farm and some from Leeds and Scunthorpe ,always a difficult name to spell.

Eric mentioned it be the best time to have breakfast, so he asked can you cook ,Yes i replied learnt as a scout in Africa, His reply being you had better be able.

So off I trotted to the engineers mess room to get our breakfast tray, The third ginger beer who was on duty was there having a cuppa ,as I lifted off the tea towel to inspect the the goodies ,he leaned over and said bloody hell we can see who is on duty to night ,pulling rank not the same as what us poor engineers and mates get.
I never knew what we would get it was my first time on nights, we had eggs ,bacon, sausage, tinned mushrooms ,black pudding and bread.
I went down to the main deck where the galley was and opened the steel half barn door and went in ,all very strange no nice gas or electric cooker that mum has at home just this huge steel range with pipes everywhere . I went down the alleyway to the sailors mes to ask how you switch the cooker on ,they all tell me how to do it so back I go. I put the lard in the frying which weighed a ton and cracked the eggs in to a mug shared the bacon and sausage out on plates for cooking.
I then did what I thought I had been told to do ,how to light the oil fired range ,bang a plume of smoke and soot rained up out of the hole in the top of the cooker soot was all over the frying pan eggs and bacon ,with my fingers still semi stuck together with latex I tried to pick off the soot but every time I touched it it seemed to get bigger. I cooked it all including fried bread and took it all back to the mess room for Eric, I made him toast in the mess room and his tea . We both ate it all . As I was picking the latex off my hairy hands and wiping my runny nose on my duffle coat sleeve, Eric passed a comment, " if you were my wife and cooked my meals like that i would have divorced you"

I then thought as I was at another tank gazing down at the latex as it slowly exposed another rung on the ladder.,What was wrong with his breakfast ,maybe this will be my one and only coast and Capt Robb will come on board when we get back to London and I will get the sack . At about half past five in the morning Eric was on deck with me having another cup of tea we were watching the Chinese painter pull in his ell pots he had over the side ,absolutely loaded with eels ready to sell in Hamburg. Eric mumbled out of the side of his mouth with his fag still stuck to his lip " If i am alive at lunch time you can work nights with me in Hamburg when we do the next lot".
Well I was surprised and I felt a lot better straight away even my cold seemed to lift , He then said it will be a lot colder in Hamburg ,go and see chippy as to where he gets his tights. What did he mean by this.
I soon found out and was very grateful for it in years to come standing bye on the foscle going up the Elbe or on Deck in Pusan in mid winter ladies tights do keep you warm.

I sailed with Eric a couple of times later and respected him as I learned a lot on my first coast. Our lives were one big learning curve.

Rgds Ian.

john fraser
18th December 2014, 20:21
Hi Ian. Enjoyed the story. I remember Captain Harry Mac. telling me how he got a pair of tights for Christmas from his wife.Being polite,I replied that they would be nice and warm going upriver to Hamburg.Back came the reply that they were for him to wear while watching rugby.They were actually mens tights

Farmer John
18th December 2014, 22:13
That story reminds me so much of starting a job and not really knowing what was going on. If it could be made an object lesson for all new starters, it also carries the message that if you try, it will get better and loads of other good messages. Love it.

21st December 2014, 14:27
Good stuff Ian. From someone who was so green I had no idea how to do lights and flags, let alone deep tanks, the tale ran true. Deep tanks came a bit later...!

30th December 2014, 13:54
Thanks for the memories. Surely cleaning out hat boxes nowadays must be against human rights legislation. The equivalent of sending young lads up chimneys in victorian times.
Had to chuckle over your tea making exercise. My first "exercise" made me think that this contraption must be the engine room.