Lookout focsle bell signals in Blue Funnel - Ships Nostalgia
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Lookout focsle bell signals in Blue Funnel

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  #1  
Old 9th February 2008, 12:36
Capt T Capt T is offline  
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Lookout focsle bell signals in Blue Funnel

I have been trying to get a 5 bet off a mate of mine for years now. No luck. I contend that in Blue Funnel, contrary to "normal" practice, if a light was seen on the starboard bow, the focsle lookout signaled this by TWO strokes on the bell. A light to port warranted ONE stroke on the bell and right ahead was three strokes (as per normal).

Usually, the signal is one for stb and two for port, but Blue Flu was different.
I reckon they had a good reason, as a light to stb could mean action on your part al la ColRegs and was thus more important than a light to port. Another explanation is more circumspect; as we often carried Chinese on deck and STARBOARD has TWO syllables, hence two strokes on the bell, while PORT has but ONE syllable and warrants but one stroke on the bell.

All this went out the window by the late 1960s when ships got bigger and the accomodation, and hence the wheelhouse, moved further aft and out of earshot of the focsle bell. The lookout was moved aft onto the monkey island and very soon after that onto the bridge wing. No doubt nowerdays he sits in a big leather chair with his feet on the console.

Anyone know where I can get an "Official" answer eg, copy of Company Orders or similar. I tell you, my mate is NOT going to part with his 5 just on any old recollection !

Of course, I may be totally wrong, but I think not.

Capt T
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  #2  
Old 9th February 2008, 12:41
K urgess K urgess is offline
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Welcome aboard, Sir.
We've had discussions about this before but I can't find them at the moment.
If you're mate will accept the word of a couple of Blue Flue Masters I'm sure they'll come forward soon and back you up.
I've moved your post to the say hello forum where more crew are likely to see it.
Sit back and enjoy the trip.

Salaams

Last edited by K urgess; 9th February 2008 at 12:44..
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  #3  
Old 9th February 2008, 13:13
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gdynia gdynia is offline   SN Supporter
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Welcome onboard to SN and enjoy the voyage
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If theres a way theres a will
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  #4  
Old 9th February 2008, 14:44
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Greetings Captain T and welcome to SN. Plenty of ex Blue Flue and various masters on this site. Sit back and wait for your 5. Bon voyage.
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  #5  
Old 9th February 2008, 18:20
Trader Trader is offline  
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Welcome Capt. T,
You have won your fiver, I can vouch for the different bell ringing on Blue Flue, I spent four years there in the 50's. Mind you I can't prove it you will have to take my word for it. I think that you will get many more replies in the same vein.
Trader.
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  #6  
Old 9th February 2008, 18:53
Bill Davies Bill Davies is offline  
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Capt T,
This thread has been raised elsewhere under Blue Funnel Anomalies I think.
However, I am not in a capacity to offer anything 'Official' but like Trader I can confirm that in my time in the foc'sle in Blue Funnel (55/61) the reporting was 'one to Port', 'two to Stbd' and 'three dead ahead'

Bill Davies
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  #7  
Old 10th February 2008, 19:11
Capt T Capt T is offline  
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Thanks everyone, we all seem to agree, but I wonder where there is anything "Official" to verify our recollections.

Capt T
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  #8  
Old 10th February 2008, 19:29
Bill Davies Bill Davies is offline  
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Capt T,
Memory is one of the few faculties that still work and I am almost sure you raised this question some years ago in 'Sea Breezes'.

Brgds

Bill
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  #9  
Old 10th February 2008, 21:30
Capt T Capt T is offline  
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That's right Bill, in 1998. Loads of replies then but no 5 as nothing "Official".

The only reason I raise it again is because, along with a couple of dozen others, I have had some recollections published, by invitation of the author, in a book by Canon Bob Evans "A Lantern On The Stern" ("Liverpool's Seafaring Heritage"). In my bit, I told a yarn or two about lookouts and the bell signal issue resurfaced. A few pals read it, said I was wrong and the hare has started a fresh run.

Well remembered,

Capt T
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  #10  
Old 10th February 2008, 22:03
Bill Davies Bill Davies is offline  
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Thanks Capt T.
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  #11  
Old 11th February 2008, 08:57
Anchorman Anchorman is offline  
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I have just spoken to an ex BF AB from the 60s and he said the lookout signal was as you stated 2 to starboard 1 to port. If you get enough replies and print them out Im sure your mate will pay up. Maybe the company produced their own seamanship manual? in which you could find a reference. Mine only states the normal signals used in other companies.
Not sure of the logic in the system though, would have thought all sightings could be equally important. Did BF employees carry the system on to other companies?
Neil
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  #12  
Old 11th February 2008, 13:55
Capt T Capt T is offline  
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Dear Anchorman,

You try getting a fiver out of a Geordie without "Legal Proof" !!

The system did have logic, whichever was used. It would have been a bit pointless, say, to use rapid ringing of the bell if anything was seen, anywhere. The question/dilema facing the officer of the watch would be "Where?"

By about 1967 the Blue Funnel/Glen Line seastaff amalgamatd with Elder Dempsters who no doubt used the convenional method. However at about this time the lookout was moved back onto the monkey island/bridge wing so no confusion arose - that I know of anyway.

Capt T
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  #13  
Old 11th February 2008, 14:12
Anchorman Anchorman is offline  
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Hello Capt T.
Take your point on the Fiver.
What I meant was the logic in your initial post "I reckon they had a good reason, as a light to stb could mean action on your part al la ColRegs and was thus more important than a light to port"
I appreciate that you needed some signal whatever it was to indicate where to look. Hope someone comes up with a definite answer for you.
Regards
Neil
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  #14  
Old 11th February 2008, 14:40
Capt T Capt T is offline  
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Neil,

What I meant was the OOW has more chance of hearing at least one of the two strokes on the bell if a v/l was sighted to stb and get out the chartroom or wherever he happens to be lurking and assess the situation.

If that v/l turns out to be a crossing v/l on a steady bearing and closing, then risk of collision exists and it is your responsiblity to avoid collision al la the ColRegs (usualy with an alteration of course to stb around the stern of the other v/l). A similar situation with a v/l to port means that, intially, your obligation is simply to maintain your course and speed, ie it's the other v/ls obligaton to take action to avoid collision.

Capt T
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  #15  
Old 11th February 2008, 15:05
Dave Wilson Dave Wilson is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt T View Post
Neil,

What I meant was the OOW has more chance of hearing at least one of the two strokes on the bell if a v/l was sighted to stb and get out the chartroom or wherever he happens to be lurking and assess the situation.

If that v/l turns out to be a crossing v/l on a steady bearing and closing, then risk of collision exists and it is your responsiblity to avoid collision al la the ColRegs (usualy with an alteration of course to stb around the stern of the other v/l). A similar situation with a v/l to port means that, intially, your obligation is simply to maintain your course and speed, ie it's the other v/ls obligaton to take action to avoid collision.

Capt T
Capt T,

Good reasoning! Perhaps you have it. Takes a canny Geordie to figure that one out?

Dave
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  #16  
Old 11th February 2008, 16:11
Anchorman Anchorman is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt T View Post
Neil,

What I meant was the OOW has more chance of hearing at least one of the two strokes on the bell if a v/l was sighted to stb and get out the chartroom or wherever he happens to be lurking and assess the situation.

If that v/l turns out to be a crossing v/l on a steady bearing and closing, then risk of collision exists and it is your responsiblity to avoid collision al la the ColRegs (usualy with an alteration of course to stb around the stern of the other v/l). A similar situation with a v/l to port means that, intially, your obligation is simply to maintain your course and speed, ie it's the other v/ls obligaton to take action to avoid collision.

Capt T
Hello Capt T,
What if the vessel to port was a sailing vessel or fishing vessel? and he missed the one ring for vessel to port. Just as important I would have thought. I always treat sightings with equal attention until the situation has been fully assessed, but thats only my view. Which is why I queried the reasons for BF system being different. Did you not have an acknowlegement from the bridge which if not received the bell was rung again?. The few times I stood focsle head lookout we did, but not sure if it was common place, as you say the lookouts where starting to come aft in the mid 60s.

I have checked through some old admiralty seamanship books and the Royal Navy did not have any system for bell signalling regarding lookouts, what I can find anyway. I thought it may have originated there.
Regards
Neil
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  #17  
Old 11th February 2008, 18:28
Capt T Capt T is offline  
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Come on Neil, I've not said that a ship to Port is unimportant, but by the law of probability it's more likely that you will need to take action with a sighting to Stb - bearing in mind that your F/V or sail boat can appear on either bow with equal chance. That's why on ships with the Master's and Chief Engineer's cabins side by side on the same deck - Prom deck directly under the Bridge deck - the Old Man's accommodation was always on the Stb side ie he could glance out of his window to see what was going on, on the more important side - the Stb side.

Now to achnowledge the focsle bell from the bridge would have been a good idea, though it was not done in Blu Flu. If you had - by answering strikes on the bridge bell it would have woken half the ship up ! Ok, it could have been by focsle phone, but this used to be stowed away in the Fore Peak out of the weather on passage.

To be honest the OOW usually saw anything before the focsle lookout - higher height of eye etc. Mind you, you had to keep walking up and down, from port to stb, to avoid the blind spots on a typical cargo v/l full of masts, samson posts and derricks.

It worked for me anyway, I never bumped into anything. Well nothing I'm going to admit to here !


Capt T
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  #18  
Old 11th February 2008, 19:05
Bill Davies Bill Davies is offline  
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Capt T,
Interesting post.
Quote:Mind you, you had to keep walking up and down, from port to stb, to avoid the blind spots on a typical cargo v/l full of masts, samson posts and derricks. Unquote.
You should recall we we referred to samson posts as 'columns' in 'the China'
Thats another anomaly!!

All the best

Bill
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  #19  
Old 11th February 2008, 23:39
sparkie2182 sparkie2182 is offline  
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i did not know about the siting of the o.m. accomodation w.r.t. that of the cheng.

an interesting post......

many thanks

Last edited by sparkie2182; 11th February 2008 at 23:42..
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  #20  
Old 13th February 2008, 02:12
tell tell is offline  
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surely the signals should be commensurate with the ships siren signals as to which way it was altering course
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  #21  
Old 13th February 2008, 08:34
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Tony Crompton Tony Crompton is offline  
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On the Tees before hand held VHF radios were used to communicate with tugs our signals were the same as the B.F. lookout signals. This was in the days when all the tugs had open bridges.

On the ships whistle, or our own "Acme Thunderer" whistle:-

Long and short --------- Tow the Bow to Port
Long and 2 shorts -------- Tow Stbd
Long and 3 shorts -------- Tow Ahead

3 shorts for the stern tug followed by

1 short ---------------- Tow the stern to Port
2 shorts ---------------- Tow to Stbd
3 shorts only -------------- Tow astern

one short ----------------- Stop towing.

No one knew exactly why the signals were this way round but some of the old
Pilots reckoned it was easier for the tug skippers when looking astern at the ship. i.e. one blast was to their right!!

--------------------------------
Tony
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  #22  
Old 13th February 2008, 10:01
Capt T Capt T is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tell View Post
surely the signals should be commensurate with the ships siren signals as to which way it was altering course
That is behind the confusion and this correspondece, but it shouldn't be if you give it some thought.

Firstly, you are NOT signalling an a/c to port, stb or whatever, the lookout is simply indicating he has seen something - it could be a mountain ! Secondly, the sounding of 3 blasts on the whistle indicates "My engines are going astern" - nowt to do with seeing something right ahead (3 strokes of the bell).

It all boils down to this - it doesn matter what you did as a signal beteen OOW and Lookout, it was a local issue not involving the ColRegs or any other vessel. What matters is that both the OOW and the Lookout should be singing from the same hymn sheet. Also what matters is that I get my fiver after all these years, so I STILL need to get my hands on something official from Blu Flu standing orders or similar.

Capt T
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  #23  
Old 13th February 2008, 10:36
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Tony Crompton Tony Crompton is offline  
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Another ""Amusing" story about our tug signals.

After a few years the "City of Port Elizabeth" class started taking passengers on their coastal voyages. Leaving Middlesbrough Dock for the first time with passengers, and approaching the dock entrance, suddenly "Anchors Aweigh"started booming out over the ships public address system. It was so loud that it drowned out the Pilots signals to the tugs and the ship landed heavily against the knuckle.

It was not played again after that!!!

--------------------------------
Tony
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  #24  
Old 13th February 2008, 11:44
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blobbybluey blobbybluey is offline  
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take it from a b.f deckboy/o.s it was definately the wrong way around,i dont know why as far as amalgamation of glen /e.ds etc ,they were all the same indeed on ,the flintshire the minute a pilot was aboard or visibility dropped below ten miles a focsle lookout was ordered by the very strange but very affable capt thompson.re the same for columns vs samson posts
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  #25  
Old 13th February 2008, 14:14
Capt T Capt T is offline  
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Originally Posted by blobbybluey View Post
take it from a b.f deckboy/o.s it was definately the wrong way around,i dont know why as far as amalgamation of glen /e.ds etc ,they were all the same indeed on ,the flintshire the minute a pilot was aboard or visibility dropped below ten miles a focsle lookout was ordered by the very strange but very affable capt thompson.re the same for columns vs samson posts
.

I am certainly affable and possibly strange too, but it wasn't me! Flintshire was Glen Line and when I sailed with them it was with an all Chinese crew on deck, in the E/R and in the Catering Dept. I was in fact Senior Midi on Flintshire in 1963 when she was possibly on Voy 3 or thereabouts. I left Ocean Fleets in 1975 to seek command elsewhere as it was then a requirement of the good old BoT for their nautical surveyors to have at least 2 years in command of a FG ship. No chance of that in Ocean at my tender age in 1975 and of course their fleet number was in decline and promotion was non-existent.
Capt T

Capt T
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