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  #1  
Old 20th September 2009, 12:18
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The Telegraph

Telegraphs

Back in the old days, the days before engine control rooms with telemetering, remote controls, computers and earmuffs, the watch keeping engineer spent all his time on the plates as he wandered around the engine room looking, listening, feeling and even smelling for a sense of change, a throb out of kilter, something running hot, a whine that changes tone or what ever warned of a change to the heart beat of the propulsion machinery and its auxiliaries.
Perhaps the sense that guided us the most was our hearing, the sounds of change to which we became very attuned albeit at the expense of our hearing faculties in later life as we used this sense without any dampening ear muff aids or medical advice of the fact that loud noise was injurious to our health.
Above all there was one sound that had special meaning, the jangle of the ship’s telegraph.
Its first “Standby” clang saw us galvanize into action to ensure that all the pre movement checks were in place and to eagerly await that first telegraph command call. It meant that we were leaving port, leaving home, or better still, leaving for home; it was an exciting sound and none better than the final full away double ring from the bridge that allowed us to settle the beast down for the long or short haul across the ocean or sea.
The big polished brass dial then goes quiet; the next time it rings will normally be at the end of the voyage. Down below we are denied the sights of the approach to an old favourite port, a new port or, above all, our home harbour as we suffer the “channels” of the home approaches but when that “clang clang clang” sounds again we are ready to provide whatever the master needs in the way of propulsion to berth the ship. It is a time when sometimes we need to tell the bridge that compressed air does not grow on trees but most times the act of berthing is carried out by those above us with the tenderness and competence of a mid wife birthing a baby.
The crowning sound and moment is that old sound, sometimes rung with gusto or a long and lingering tinkle of “Finished with Engines”

Bob
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Old 20th September 2009, 13:26
JoK JoK is offline  
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Nice post.
Or the terror inspiring Full Astern in the middle of the night on a long passage, and waiting for the collision.
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Old 21st September 2009, 07:51
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JoK, a “full astern” in the middle of the night watch would certainly frighten the tar out of me.
I Never had that happen but I did strike a couple of un expected telegraph rings when least expected. One was when we were in the Tasman on a collier plodding toward North Cape when both telegraphs clanged “slow ahead” in the middle of the afternoon watch. The skipper had sighted a couple of big blue whales ahead and we enjoyed their company for an hour or two. I told this story in my thread
“A tale of a whale” Jan 08.
Another time in the Spencer Gulf we got a “Slow ahead” then a “stop” when the skipper received a signal asking us to stand off the Gypsum port of Stenhouse Bay due to port congestion. The skipper was a keen fisherman so after studying the charts for good fishing grounds he decided to stop at sea to kill time and the drift fishing was very successful.

Bob
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Old 21st September 2009, 10:17
Doug Shaw Doug Shaw is offline  
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On a fully loaded 125,000 tonner (265,000 DWT) with twin Sulzer 7RND90s, we had an emergency Full Astern on the stbd engine right out the blue. It was late afternoon, with no-one in the control room and we weren't on stand-by. The air was shut off at the air bottles and we were on heavy oil doing 16 knots. When I entered the control room to answer the engine-room alarm and found the telegraph sounding, it nearly frightened the bejabers out of me. At that speed, attempting to put an engine astern was impossible. The best I could do was 'stop' it (though it continued to be 'driven' by the prop).

It turned out that the telemotor for the steering gear had burnt out and we had lost steering, sending us toward a vessel on our port side. Fortunately, the drag created by the 'stopped' stbd engine was enough to swing the bow back to stbd.

Bob, your post brings back many memories. I never knew the pleasure of having a 'home port', but I remember the 'channels'. (My, it's been a while since I heard that word.) And, I well remember the feeling one had at the sound of Full Away. It was always a relief to settle back into the sea-going routine no matter how enjoyable the time in port had been. Those were the days...

Regards
Doug
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Old 21st September 2009, 12:39
Philthechill Philthechill is offline  
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Angry NOT quite the same!

That wonderful jangling ring of the telegraph is a sound that's no longer heard in the engine-rooms of modern ships, as I found-out when I was on "Atlantic Conveyor" and "Atlantic Causeway" in the 1970's.

Standing in an air-conditioned Control Room with a couple of simple "joy-sticks" to unleash the 18,000 h.p. AEI turbines, as dictated by commands from the bridge, via an ELECTRIC-BELL (!!!!!), didn't have the same je ne sais quoi as being on the plates, sweat pouring down your face, swinging large control-wheels, making sure you had enough gland-steam "on" to maintain the vacuum and screwing the fuel-pressure control-valve up or down as the manoeuvers dictated, to coax the turbines into life, again dictated by commands from the bridge, but via Mr. Chadburn's large-dialled telegraph with its wonderful clanging bell!!!

Then that mad scamper round the engine-room, on FWE, to get "the job" shut-down as quickly as possible followed by the race "up-top" to get into a few cold Tennents with, (after several-dozen cans had been demolished), a shower and then to someones' cabin for more Tennents, invariably clad in just your "kilt" and flip-flops!

Marvellous memories! Salaams, Phil
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Old 21st September 2009, 13:39
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Bob, I could not have put it better myself, great memories , I chose the name chadburn for those very reason's and as I am now "finished with engines" however, telegraph's were a pain to repair , usually needed two people to reset and I understand the special chain is now very expensive.
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Old 21st September 2009, 14:08
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A story from the other end of the telegraph.
First command, rather nervous, pilot on the bridge and we commence singling up.
Pilot asks if everything is ready for departure and I reply yes.
Singled up and ready to go, pilot asks again if everything is ready and I reassure him that it is all systems go, thinking to myself that he is a bit of a nervous fellow.
Let go everything and slow ahead! My heart sinks and I feel sick in the stomach! There is the telegraph standing proudly and showing FWE. I had forgotten to ring stand by.
Rang slow ahead with thoughts of how could I have ruined my career before even leaving the wharf when there was that reassuring hiss of the starting air and then the thump, thump, thump of the doxford.
The Chief Engineer got a few beers out of me on the strength of that one!
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  #8  
Old 21st September 2009, 16:40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob jenkins View Post
JoK, a “full astern” in the middle of the night watch would certainly frighten the tar out of me.
I Never had that happen but I did strike a couple of un expected telegraph rings when least expected. One was when we were in the Tasman on a collier plodding toward North Cape when both telegraphs clanged “slow ahead” in the middle of the afternoon watch. The skipper had sighted a couple of big blue whales ahead and we enjoyed their company for an hour or two. I told this story in my thread
“A tale of a whale” Jan 08.
Another time in the Spencer Gulf we got a “Slow ahead” then a “stop” when the skipper received a signal asking us to stand off the Gypsum port of Stenhouse Bay due to port congestion. The skipper was a keen fisherman so after studying the charts for good fishing grounds he decided to stop at sea to kill time and the drift fishing was very successful.

Bob
Bob,
I echo other plaudits on your posting.
The movement book was one of the joys for junior engineers when first time at sea.
A note book of many pages, oily, smudged and at the end of entering or leaving dock, usaually wet with sweat. Each voyage had it's identification number to be entered at the top of a new page at the start of a voyage.
juniors duties were:-
Answer the telegraph and sing out the command.
Ensure the duty engineer acknowledged your command repeat.
Write down the movement requested with the time of the request given.
Do NOT miss any out!

After some experience during many and quick command changes the junior may develop a "shorthand", but had to make sure this "shorthand" was readable by the Chief Eng. ( If he accepted this method at all, many didn't.)

The picture added does show a possible result of the telegraph chain/s or links parting, the bridge telegraph may demand one condition but the E.R. telegraph tells a completely different story.
As Chadburn has said, repairing these systems needed at least two people with determination, skill and patience to set up the synchronization between bridge and engineroom. Shouts of a few choice words down or up the voice pipe did the trick!
Regards
Dave
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  #9  
Old 21st September 2009, 17:21
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Always irritates me when you go in a pub with nautical nick nacks on display and the order handle is pointing at a very different command from the repeter dial.

There is (was 7 years ago) a pub in Oban on the front that had a fully functioning telegraph in the drinking section and repeater behind the bar - cant think of its name though.

Duncan
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Old 21st September 2009, 21:03
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Talking of adjusting telegraphs I take the liberty of repeating the attached earlier post on "Compressed air starts"

Quote

Again talking of telegraphs yet another story comes to mind. The RNZN had a couple of WW2 vintage tugs of USA design and build and fitted with American “Fairbanks Morse” diesels, the sort that used to be fitted in submarines if I recall correctly..
One tug was along side near the internal combustion Engine shop at the dockyard and a fitter and his apprentice were sent on board to replace the flexible cables between the Wheel house and engine room telegraphs. They were replacing the original multi-strand galvanized rigging wire that was frayed and rusting with then new fangled stainless steel rigging wire. I remember that well because half the apprentices in the workshop were scheming as to how to cut a few feet off the cable reel to use as rigging for our small yachts.
The pair went on board and rove the new wire through the duct trunking connecting the two telegraphs, fitted it around the drums then rang the handles at both ends through their full travel to test the freedom of movement and as all was ok it was a finished job. What they failed to do was to check that both the telegraphs were sending and receiving the same signal and in fact the wire from the wheelhouse became twisted in the trunking or incorrectly attached at the engine room end. I can’t remember the exact cock-up but it sure was one.
The tug was used as a diving training and support boat and a couple of days later she was ready to leave her jetty for a training run. They cast off, the skipper rang full ahead as it was a straight forward run out of the berth but the engine room telegraph showed full astern so the engineer being sure that it was a mistake rang back full astern with gusto to draw the skipper’s attention to a seemingly silly command which showed up as full astern in the wheel house. also The skipper then rang full ahead again which still read full astern in the engine room so the engineer probably muttered “silly old bugger, I’ll give him full astern, so he started the engine and went astern to gently nudge the breast work with the stern fender which resulted in frantic ringing from up top only to perpetuate the problem. Short of trying to push the whole land mass of the Dockyard northwards there was little else the engineer could do so he throttled back and rushed up to the wheelhouse where a lot of yelling went on until the mistake was discovered. The Shop foreman was summoned and two red faced dockyard mateys went on board to untangle things. It eventually simmered down and as it was all in slow motion and no damage was done it became a huge joke but it could have had worse consequences.

No it was not me or my fitter; I was away at Tech that day and missed the actual circus.

PS The engines were Atlas not Fairbanks-Morse
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  #11  
Old 22nd September 2009, 13:03
Archie NS Archie NS is offline  
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Many years ago on my first trip as third, about three days past Capetown on the way to Eva Peron in Argentina. About two thirty in the afternoon, all nice and quiet, full away on passage, the telegraph suddenly bursts into life, two rings 'Full Astern', panic exhaust gas going through the boilers everything on main engine driven pumps, air bottles shut down. I answered it which woke up the second mate, started to pull the job in when the telegraph went back to full ahead, on the blower to the second mate, after a few choice words a female voice comes over the phone, the only female on board was the Old Mans wife. Turns out she had decided to polish the brass on the telegraph and had moved the handles out of the way.
This was on a tanker with accomadation midships and enginroom aft. So everyone midships heard to telegraph ring, the next thing the Chief and the second arrived on the plates wanting to know what the hell was going on, same up on the bridge. We had a good laugh about it later but at the time it was no so funny
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Old 22nd September 2009, 20:53
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On the twin Doxford H boats of NZScoLtd. the telegraphs and movement book would be kept by one of the electricians on duty. Apprentices or juniors would be running round the place looking after the cooling temps etc and as required getting in all the data for the log book. the 'middle' and senior engineer on watch would each be manning an engine control. On long passages such as Panama transit watches would double up to 6 on 6 off. to stave off boredom the space between engines made a superb spot for cricket matches. those were the days, god help the lads today working on their own down there. And I bet there are no cases of beer if a relief valve blows.
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Old 2nd October 2009, 06:43
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Satanic Mechanic Satanic Mechanic is offline  
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There is not a sadder more plaintive sound than when you take a much loved vessel to scrap and you get the final FWE

positively heartbreaking
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  #14  
Old 2nd October 2009, 08:01
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You hit the nail right on the head SM, a plaintive sound. When swung slowly the jangle can take on the sound of church bells ringing out a requiem however a rapid swing on the handle can sound a ring of jubilation, especially FWE in your home port, or perhaps the port where the lady of your current desire resides.
Its ring is all tunes to all men.

Bob
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Old 2nd October 2009, 08:06
6283 6283 is offline  
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When the Brimstone went aground in Coatzacoalcas, the engine room kept answering the bells until the water got to the main motor (t2-turboelectric). Then there was a big clack. Then the engineers rang FWE and the wheelhouse answered it.
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Old 2nd October 2009, 19:36
Jim S Jim S is offline   SN Supporter
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Slightly off the subject but I remember reading a book from the ship's Seafarer's Library sometime in the early-mid 1960's. Cannot remember the title or even what the storyline was but the part I do remember was that two young men were passengers on some ship, presumably an Atlantic crossing, but not sure. Anyway the pair had a wager as to when the ship would arrive.
One of the pair had noticed that the wire/chain of the bridge to engine room telegraph ran in a trunking above his bunk. An idea formed in his mind of a way to win the wager by slowing or stopping the ship on passage. A small hole was made in the trunking and he looped a piece of wire around the telegraph wire/chain. One day he decided it was time to put his plan into action and pulled on the loop he had made in this piece of wire. Unfortunately for him when the officer of the watch saw/heard the telegraph movement he immediately rang it back to Full Ahead. In a subsequent inspection to see what had caused the telegraph movement our man was found in his blood soaked bunk with a severed finger caused by his looped piece of wire as the mate rang the telegraph. Strange how such a piece of fiction writing has stuck in my mind.
Although Chadburn is a name that is probably best known as a telegraph manufacturer. Many Brocklebank ships (at least the "black four") had telegraphs made by J.W. Ray of Liverpool. - They also did pressure gauges.
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Old 2nd October 2009, 19:52
lakercapt lakercapt is offline  
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Was on a brand new "Palm Line" ship on the maiden voyage.
The bulb for the telegraph burnt out and I took the cover off to replace it but it slipped from my hand and I didn't know where it went.
Found out when we got back to the UK and a squad of workers boarded and hauled out the deckhead in the captains cabin.
Seems that it was rattling about there when the ship was rolling and about drove him bonkers (more so than what we thought already)
Course I did not own up to that!!!!
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Old 3rd October 2009, 15:02
Klaatu83 Klaatu83 is offline  
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Most of the ships I sailed on had the newer-type electric telegraphs. However, the first ship I ever sailed on actually had one of the old mechanical telegraphs, which were connected to the engine room by chains or cables. On the former one simply moved the handle to the appropriate position, and the bell rang or buzzed continuously until it was answered. On the old type you had to move the handle back and forth in order to ring the bell to get the engineers' attention. It looked similar to the electric-type telegraph but sounded entirely different, with a distinctive "Ka-shing, Ka-ching" sound that, once heard, can never be forgotten. On one memorable occasion the telegraph actually jammed while entering harbor, and we had to resort to transmitting engine orders verbally by sound-powered telephone. That was on the USNS Bowditch, which had been converted from an old WW-II Victory ship. Those were the days!

Last edited by Klaatu83; 3rd October 2009 at 15:38..
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Old 4th October 2009, 07:40
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This thread brings to mind a time at the Dockyard when the powers that be decided that they needed to fit some of the harbour craft with conventional telegraphs to replace crude bell systems.
Being small craft they needed small transmitters and receivers so samples were taken from the bridge and engine room of an old wooden hulled steam propelled trawler/minesweeper that was due to be towed to sea for target practice.
An apprentice doing his time in the drawing office was given the job of disassembling the units and making detailed manufacturing drawings of all the components such as housings, end plates, face plates, handles, cams rockers, chain wheels etc, all the bits and pieces, and his literal translation saw all the ornate scroll details faithfully drawn. These details were duly issued to the pattern makers, the foundry and the machine shop etc for manufacture of about 5 pairs of telegraphs.

I was in the machine shop and having completed my time on the rougher stuff I had been promoted to a brand new Denham lathe and was given the job of machining the components.
The bodies were cut from about 9 inch O.D heavy wall copper pipe and the first task was to cut a fine external thread on each end to take the lavishly shaped cast brass bezel ends so after grinding up a suitably profiled piece of tool steel I was ready to go (This was long before pre-manufactured tip tools or inserts and ceramics were still confined to the porcelain in toilet pans).
At the first timid tentative pass the tool dug into the copper and wrecked it much to the amusement of all working around me so along comes the very uncommunicative shop foreman and after muttering something about negative rake he re-ground the tool, fitted a new work piece then repeated my performance and more to the extent of pulling it out of the chuck much to everyone’s delight.
In the end it was one of the old hands, a Geordie Capstan operator that showed me how to do the job and using cow’s milk brushed on as a cutting fluid.
After months of work by perhaps half a dozen trades, including an old ex-Naval stoker/ fettler who burnished the units to look like the crown jewels, the telegraphs were finally installed and I am sure that the overall cost would have been well in excess of those sourced from Mr. Chadburn or other manufacturers but great apprentice training at the time and never to be applied again.

Bob
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Old 6th October 2009, 11:27
jim garnett jim garnett is offline  
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I also experienced the dreaded FULL ASTERN BOTH ENGINES on approaching st lawrence river.
I was near the shaft tunnel and alone in the engine room.Thinking it to the usual standby for
fog as was usual in that area,I strolled round to the controls and got a hell of a shock.
I did as requested and stood staring at the bulkhead.Normal service soon resumed and being
only a lowly fourth ,I never did find out what happened, but I never strolled to the telegraph again.
Jim Garnett
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Old 6th October 2009, 11:48
Billieboy Billieboy is offline  
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Bob, I remember cows milk for copper screw cutting, but a very old turner told me to use paraffin for boiler staybolts, (appx 11tpi), There was another tip, for aluminium, was tallow and cut at high speed, from chuck to tailstock, i.e. backwards!
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Old 6th October 2009, 12:40
Philthechill Philthechill is offline  
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Unhappy Magnesium.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Billieboy View Post
Bob, I remember cows milk for copper screw cutting, but a very old turner told me to use paraffin for boiler staybolts, (appx 11tpi), There was another tip, for aluminium, was tallow and cut at high speed, from chuck to tailstock, i.e. backwards!
When I was an apprentice (Cooke, Troughton & Simms, of York, England. Scientific and Optical Instrument Makers, I'll have you know!!!!!!!!) I was given drawings for some experimental eye-piece components to machine. However rather than using the usual brass these were to be machined from magnesium.

One of the old hands, "Bert" told me, "Be VERY careful machining that stuff, which you can only machine "dry" i.e. NO coolant!!! Be well aware, too, if you don't keep the tools sharp the friction, the blunt tools generate, can cause the work-piece to ignite and once magnesium catches fire you've one hell of a job extinguishing it!"

Talk about a bit of sphincter-tightening advice! I was doing about two passes with the tool, stopping the lathe, removing the tool and sharpening it re-starting the lathe etc. etc. until the gaffer came along and, after watching my turning-stopping-sharpening-restarting etc. asked what the 'kin 'ell I was doing.

After retelling the danger of combustion yarn the gaffer said, "Go to the stores, get some paraffin and use that as coolant and, while you're gone, I'll just go and have a word with Bert!"

I could hear them both laughing, fit to bust, as I made my crimson-faced way to the Stores!!! Salaams, Phil
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Old 6th October 2009, 13:42
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Bit of fine turning that, Phil!
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Old 6th October 2009, 22:14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob jenkins View Post
Telegraphs

Back in the old days, the days before engine control rooms with telemetering, remote controls, computers and earmuffs, the watch keeping engineer spent all his time on the plates as he wandered around the engine room looking, listening, feeling and even smelling for a sense of change, a throb out of kilter, something running hot, a whine that changes tone or what ever warned of a change to the heart beat of the propulsion machinery and its auxiliaries.
Perhaps the sense that guided us the most was our hearing, the sounds of change to which we became very attuned albeit at the expense of our hearing faculties in later life as we used this sense without any dampening ear muff aids or medical advice of the fact that loud noise was injurious to our health.
Above all there was one sound that had special meaning, the jangle of the ship’s telegraph.
Its first “Standby” clang saw us galvanize into action to ensure that all the pre movement checks were in place and to eagerly await that first telegraph command call. It meant that we were leaving port, leaving home, or better still, leaving for home; it was an exciting sound and none better than the final full away double ring from the bridge that allowed us to settle the beast down for the long or short haul across the ocean or sea.
The big polished brass dial then goes quiet; the next time it rings will normally be at the end of the voyage. Down below we are denied the sights of the approach to an old favourite port, a new port or, above all, our home harbour as we suffer the “channels” of the home approaches but when that “clang clang clang” sounds again we are ready to provide whatever the master needs in the way of propulsion to berth the ship. It is a time when sometimes we need to tell the bridge that compressed air does not grow on trees but most times the act of berthing is carried out by those above us with the tenderness and competence of a mid wife birthing a baby.
The crowning sound and moment is that old sound, sometimes rung with gusto or a long and lingering tinkle of “Finished with Engines”

Bob
Bloody near poetic sir,and so true,marvellous post as are many of the replies,by eck it takes me back a whiles....to all those that experienced these moments,Good luck Sirs,,,,,,To those that didn't,I'm afraid you really missed out....

Bonne Chance a Tout.....
Robbo
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Old 6th October 2009, 22:21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Satanic Mechanic View Post
There is not a sadder more plaintive sound than when you take a much loved vessel to scrap and you get the final FWE

positively heartbreaking

C'est Vrai.....
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