Radio officers fact or fiction - Ships Nostalgia
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Radio officers fact or fiction

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  #1  
Old 29th August 2005, 02:37
thunderd thunderd is offline  
 
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Radio officers fact or fiction

The few R/O s that I met were absolutely larger than life characters, BUT a wee bit strange.

At first I thought they had DTs but apparently it was just the morse key twitch, when talking to you they were also moving their wrists and sending morse at the same time.

The ones I knew did drink a lot and some even suffered from AIDS (Alcohol Induced Dizzy Spells).

The radio room was always a mystery to me and I've often wondered what the R/Os did all day.

Did they:
Send a status and position report to the owners....have a beer
Maintenance, polish the morse key...have a beer with the first mate
Listen for a weather report...have a beer with the chief engineer
And so on

I don't want to read a book on it but perhaps one of the sparkies on the site could write a paragraph on "a day in the life" of a radio officer.
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  #2  
Old 29th August 2005, 03:48
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mcook mcook is offline  
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The hardest part of packing for a deep sea trip for me was finding room
for all the paper-back books I used to read on watch.

malcolm
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  #3  
Old 29th August 2005, 04:08
thunderd thunderd is offline  
 
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Thanks Malcolm that's eight hours of the day accounted for. LOL
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  #4  
Old 29th August 2005, 12:22
thunderd thunderd is offline  
 
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Dave thanks for the explanation, it certainly didn't look as easy as I thought. One thing that did intrigue me was, what seemed to me, your extensive use of VHF (I may have misunderstood you), I always thought VHF was a very short range frequency which would have made it unrealistic for ships at sea.

Again it was a great explanation thanks for taking the trouble.
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  #5  
Old 29th August 2005, 13:40
Doug Rogers Doug Rogers is offline  
 
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Derek,
VHF was an invaluable piece of equipment for relatively short range communication. Talking to harbour authorities, pilots, tugs etc..or commercial communications like telephone calls. Distance of comms was dependent on line of sight, the higher the antennae the better the range. Indicatively on the P&O passenger ships we used to have viable communications at around 90 miles...not bad at all. Hope that helps the overall picture for you.
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  #6  
Old 29th August 2005, 14:58
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Dave made a very good point in his message. The fact that an R/O is mainly left to his own devices on board (because, like thundered, there weren't many people who knew what we actually did) it was up to the individual R/O to set his own standards. My first trip on the Mangla (a nice, relatively modern ship) was with a senior R/O who was hired by Cunard-Brocklebank on the same day as me. He was an absolute alcoholic party animal who was fired at the end of that trip. We sailed from Las Palmas at about 7:30 in the morning on that first day and he was already drunk and stretched out on his day bed. I asked him what I should be doing and he said "Go on watch". Well, I sat in the radio room for the next 8 hours straight wondering what all the knobs, buttons and bells actually did but too scared to find out. I was that green that when the steward arrived with a glass of fresh, cold fruit juice I said no thanks, I don't have any money on me to pay for it!!! I did manage to get the main receiver tuned to 500khz, and scribble some 'by-the-book' entries into the log, and that was about it until my erstwhile chief managed to surface long enough to send the departure telegram. Having said all that, it was possibly a blessing in disguise. It was me that did the majority of the repair work. It was me that was called out at 2 a.m. to fix the radar. It was me that did all 8 hours of the watch every day. It was me that, having done the coastal trip on our return to Europe, was promoted to the heady heights of Chief R/O for my next deep-sea voyage. I was still 18-1/2 then.

I vowed never to end up like my senior on that first trip. This isn't to say that I haven't fallen off a morse key now and then, but I mostly saved the partying for shore, which in those days we had plenty of days in port to allow for that.

On joining a new ship, I tended to work like stink for the first month, or however long it took, to bring it up to my standards (whatever they were) and then sit back for the rest of the trip (equipment breakdowns not-withstanding) with my feet up on the operating desk with yet another book (mostly science fiction!). Mind you, the days went by quickly enough what with keeping a close eye on the clock, winding the clock, getting time signals for the clock, etc., etc......
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  #7  
Old 29th August 2005, 17:24
trotterdotpom trotterdotpom is offline  
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[QUOTE=DaveM......

The lads paying off were always a pain. The old man would have closed their accounts by the time they wanted to make their calls or send a final telegram. So they were always wheedling for me to pay for it on my account and they'd pay me in cash when they got their money off the old man. I stumped up twice because their circumstances truly were dire, but neither paid up, so I never bothered again regardless of the tale of woe.

Dave [/QUOTE]

I'd forgotten about the carry on trying to collect money for private radio traffic. It seemed as though everyone wanted a phone call but nobody wanted to pay for it. Many folk would be surprised to hear that shortages had to be paid for by the RO. One good thing about company employment was that you just gave a list of debtors to whoever did the wages.

As you can see from the above posts, Derek, there was plenty going on in the old radio shack, but nobody saw it happening and there was nobody in the bar for a mutual appreciation society.

John T.

PS I like to think I was conscientious p*** artiste - a time and a place for everything.
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  #8  
Old 30th August 2005, 00:50
thunderd thunderd is offline  
 
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Thanks again gents for the interesting insights into that "mystery" room on ships
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  #9  
Old 1st September 2005, 18:43
Navyblue Navyblue is offline  
 
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Spare a thought

Hi Fellow Sparks and all ...

Have a though for me, least you guys did not have to come to Periscope depth and try and talk to the world with a mast 1 ft out of the water with the mast being washed over and try and talk to somebody, and the Skipper doing his nut because nobody would answer me.

Ahh Happy days ...not !!

Regards
Martin
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  #10  
Old 1st September 2005, 20:04
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Hi 'Navyblue'

Welcome to the site. I am sure it would be interesting to hear
some stories from the Grey Funnel Line. I am sure you must
have quite a few!

malcolm
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  #11  
Old 1st September 2005, 20:12
Navyblue Navyblue is offline  
 
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Hi Malcolm.....

Yes a few, you never know who,s watching you !!!

Regards
Martin
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  #12  
Old 2nd September 2005, 01:55
thunderd thunderd is offline  
 
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Hi Martin, welcome to the site, a couple of posts ago you just answered a question I posed here a few weeks ago....could subs communicate by radio under water...From your posts it looks like the answer is no. I'd heard tales of them towing a long wire behind the vessel but obviously that's just not so. Anyway I hope you enjoy the site.
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  #13  
Old 2nd September 2005, 19:37
Navyblue Navyblue is offline  
 
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Hi Derek..

To answer your question ( in part)

We needed a mast out of the water to Transmit,

Yes, we could tow a wire half a mile long , and or two omni-directional buoys
they were used for receiving the broadcast only, VLF and LF.

Not sure it thats still the case.....most communications is done by
Satellite comms now, I was using Satellite Comms way back in the late 70,s
early 80,s. Im sure its more suffisticated now.

Regards
Martin
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  #14  
Old 6th September 2005, 18:08
Stuart Stuart is offline  
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Do you think that it is possible that somewhere, somebody has actually archived all our lovingly completed logs, or have they all been pulped and turned into toilet rolls?

Rgds
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  #15  
Old 7th September 2005, 02:00
thunderd thunderd is offline  
 
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Thanks for that insight Malcolm, definitely no napping with that log to be kept was there?
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  #16  
Old 7th September 2005, 04:00
lakercapt lakercapt is offline  
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Do ships still have sparkies or do they have other duties like electronic officers to tend the many pieces of gagitary that is now on board
?
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  #17  
Old 18th September 2005, 12:29
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lakercapt,

I'm afraid R/Os are generally an extinct breed nowadays. GMDSS has seen to that! The only exceptions are large passenger ships (presumably because of the volume of traffic) and the Grey Funnel Line!

The quaint 'Holywood' image of Sparky, lashed to his chair and hammering out ...---... on the key as the ship sinks beneath him, is no more!

Gulpers
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  #18  
Old 19th September 2005, 01:15
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The quaint 'Holywood' image of Sparky, lashed to his chair and hammering out ...---... on the key as the ship sinks beneath him, is no more!

Gulpers[/QUOTE]
Sad in many ways Gulpers because there are many documented cases of these brave lads doing just that, their sacrifice should not be forgotten.
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  #19  
Old 19th September 2005, 08:41
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Couldn't agree more Derek. Don't take the comment the wrong way, it wasn't meant to cause offence. Some of my fondest shipboard memories involve Sparkies and the crazy antics they used to get up to!

Rgds,

Gulpers
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  #20  
Old 19th September 2005, 11:08
thunderd thunderd is offline  
 
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Gulpers nobody could possibly take offence at what you said because obviously none was meant, like most of us you were lamenting the loss of yet another of our loved traditions (in as much as anyone could love an R/O) LOL
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  #21  
Old 19th September 2005, 12:29
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Sorted ..... as the kids say nowadays!
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. . . . A closed mouth gathers no feet!
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  #22  
Old 19th September 2005, 17:58
Shipbuilder Shipbuilder is offline
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I don't think even large passenger ships have R/Os now. Passengers just phone home with credit cards on the satellite. Heads of departments type and send their own messages. Electronics officers repair the equipment if it goes wrong. Junior deck officers correct the ALRS (Ha Ha Ha). Goodness knows who mends passengers hearing aids, radios, watches, false teeth etc etc etc. Towards the end of my sea time (October 1992), I was working harder and longer than in any of the preceding 31 years and I was really happy to take voluntary redundancy several years before the final end to the R/O. My last ship was a passenger ship and I still comunicate with the captain via e-mail as we sailed together on two ships of the same name continually between 1979 and 1992. Generally, they were very happy days. Now I just build models and write (about the sea of course).
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  #23  
Old 19th September 2005, 18:12
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R736476 R736476 is offline  
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A number of the RO's I sailed with were Marconi Men - that's what they were called - and contracted out from Marconi to the shipping co's. They weren't all shy, so there must be some signed onto SN who'll spill the beans on the great life they led!
Cheers
Alex
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  #24  
Old 19th September 2005, 18:15
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Cool

The R/Os are being too modest about their intellectual activities. The legendary games of chess with a Marconi operator on another ship - all moves communicated by morse - for example. Beats internet gaming.
Great lads. In their honour I have posted an old Marconi photo in my gallery under the title "Gentlemen of the Sea".

Fred
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  #25  
Old 19th September 2005, 18:35
Hugh Wilson Hugh Wilson is offline  
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First watch

I'll always remember my first watch alone as Junior R/O in August 1968. We left Manchester for Dubai (round the cape because the Canal was closed). The ship was F C Strick's Khuzistan and our sister ship, Baltistan, was 24 hours ahead of us. The Chief R/O, derek Austin, said " You'll be okay but keep an ear out for the sister ship" I sat there for a while panicking because I didn't know what to do if she called, until I had an idea. I turned the RF gain down so that we still had the usual 500Kc/s burbling away in the background, but there was no chance I'd hear anyone more than a couple of hundred miles away. He never did find out!!
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