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I'm starting what I hope is a straightforward request for information about the hatch cover arrangement on older steamers. (Continuing my research on SS Camlough's last voyage in January of 1932)

I'd appreciate any comments from folks who have practical experience of ships with boards fitted to cover their hatches - or who have heard stories from older mariners about this arrangement.

I've already identified that seawater getting into the stoke hold of SS Camlough was likely to have contributed to her final catastrophic loss of power during a fierce gale.

The information I have about Camlough's hatch arrangements comes from some photos of a beautifully detailed model which was made for the owners of the new ship and her identical sister SS Corteen in 1920, when the ships were launched. (By coincidence, this model happened to come up for sale in 2017). See photos

The attached photos of the model clearly show that her hatches were covered with boards - shorter boards being fitted over the stoke hold hatch.

It's my understanding that these boards would have been covered with tarpaulins to prevent water getting into the holds.

We know from contemporary accounts that the Camlough took a tremendous battering from waves and wind on its last journey under reduced power. Even though she would have been riding high in the water (traveling light under ballast) they were 'shipping seas fore and aft' and there were 'tremendous waves'. (Met office statistics in their Monthly Summary for January 1932 mention the 'widespread and destructive gales in Scotland' that happened on the 13th and 14th - giving highest wind readings as 86 mph on the 13th at the Butt of Lewis and 95 mph on the 14th at Bell Rock.)

This is definitely not the kind of weather that a captain would choose to set out in with a repaired/under-powered engine (but of course the ship had become irrevocably committed to its course around the southern tip of the Isle of Man and across open sea to Belfast before it became apparent just how awful the weather was going to become.

Again - any practical observations about water getting into the holds will be greatly appreciated.

Under these conditions, how likely would it be for hatch coverings to become dislodged, allowing seawater into the stoke hold?

Footnote: the photo that shows the stern of the Camlough shows almost exactly the portion of the ship which still remains in the sands of the beach at Monreith in Scotland, where she was stranded/wrecked. Only the very bottom section of the ship was left after most had been cut up and taken away for salvage. What remains is a kind of 'footprint', running from just above the stub of the propeller shaft protruding at the far aft to just forward of the supports for her boiler. This wreckage was well-exposed in this past winter's storms, but has now been completely buried under feet of shifting sand.
 

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yes but there would have been 3 tarps side wedged and secured with 4/ 6 locking bars to hold them in place/ sailed on many a ship with that rig.before steel hatch covers became common.
 

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There's a drawing of traditional system (beams/boards/tarps/battens/wedges etc) on this site.
https://forshipbuilding.com/category/equipment/page/2/
Scroll down to 'Hatch Covers'
The coal bunker hatch , immediately forward of the boiler/engine space, would have been similarly fitted. Some ships had hinged ' trimming doors' in the side trunking and bell mouthed vents on top as in the case of the model of Camlough. If water was getting in to the stokehold I would suspect it came via openings associated with the bunkers or through the aft superstructure. It seems unlikely any water entering the holds would have reached the stokeholds due to intervening WTBs.
 

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The attached photo is one I took on my last voyage as Apprentice on the MV Port Wyndham, built in 1934. You can clearly see one of the hatches secured as described by tiachapman, with 3 tarps wedged and secured with locking bars.
 

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On the coasters I sailed on they only had two tarpaulins. We never had any leaks, and we sailed in gale force winds.
 

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I also had plenty of experience of wooden hatchboards. However the boards were always fore and aft on thwartship beams. Two or three tarpaulins well wedged would be watertight. The model in the photographs has the boards athwartships with no sign of what supports them. I have never seen this system, so can't compare it with the system I'm used to. Could Camlough's system have become obsolete as found to be flawed?
 

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#6

I agree with Robert.

I also saw many hatch-boards and it never occurred to me until now that they were all fore-&-aft. What was uppermost in my mind, though - even then - was that the hatch-beams - on which the boards rested - were thwartships - and thus formed an integral part of the strength of the hull. It was common practice to shunt a ship from one berth to another in harbour with hatches open - that is, without hatch-boards in place - but it was always good practice to ensure that hatch-beams were in place in order to provide integral strength in the event of collision - an ever present possibility.
 

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From an entirely practical point it would make sense for the hatch cover to be shaped in the manner of a carriage roof, with an arc to shed water on either side.

There is very much in common with the two structures and traditional carriages are/were built with curved cross beams and boards laid fore and aft with a protective covering over all.
I wonder which came first - I would guess that ships followed land.
 

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Every boarded hatch which I ever saw was flat. The reasons for that, I'd guess,
were twofold. First, any raised camber in the middle, running fore & aft would make the creation of a watertight seal at the fore-end and after end more difficult; and, secondly, a flat hatch-top left a convenient flat open space for deck-cargo, when required.

The more recent McGregor hatches worked on entirely different principles.
 

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Casting my mind back to Naval Architecture lessons I remember one lecturer describing a system (now against the Rules and even when allowable to be depreciated) whereby hold bilges were in gutterways that could, by opening a sluice valve be allowed to drain to the Engine Room and pumped, reducing the piping arrangements necessary.

I have no idea when this practice ceased and without the GA drawings we can't find out if this applied to "Camlough". Perhaps another member might know when the Rules changed?
 

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Sailing/motor barge hatch boards were convex. Fore and afters in the middle of the holds and a thwart ship support in middle of main hold. Two tarpaulins and then battens around the bottom in the batten hooks. Wooden wedges with the big square end facing forward. Most of the leaks came from through the bottom as most were wooden hulls.
 

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On the coasters I sailed on in 60's they had gutter ways to a strum box before the pump, while washing the holds, which was nearly every trip we had to clear the strum box several times especially after discharging grain.
 

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I am sure the ship construction lecturer at Liverpool anaautical, was it Captain Ferryman, must be spinning in his grave with the atriums or whatever on these modern day passenger ships. I can picture him now back in the 50s trying to hammer home to us the importance of hatch beams and hatch boards f9or longditudinal strength. I was on 450 footers then and he impressed it on me. I cringe every time I am aboard one of these behemoths at the memory.
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The locking-bars, too, contributed to structural integrity as they served to prevent dislodgment of the hatch-boards, which otherwise were held in place only by gravity and canvas.
 

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I very much doubt the model detail is accurate. GA drawings of similar ships of the period all show f&a boards thus supported by transverse beams. The weather conditions appear to have been F12+. The fact that she went ashore and did not founder in deep water indicates that the holds did not fill and so quite likely the hatch covers remained intact. In such conditions even if in ballast heavy seas would have broken over the ship quite likely doing damage. Water would find its way in through openings (the model shows a number in the aft superstructure) as well as the funnel. Particularly vulnerable would be the two bell mouthed vents giving direct access to the stokehold. If they became damaged or detached this would be an obvious way for large volumes of seawater to enter the stokehold and there would have been no practical means of prevention in theprevailing conditions
 

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If memory serves me right I am sure that the hatchboards on Palm boats, supported by king and queen beams, had a slight camber to allow water to drain off. Certainly never interferred with deck cargo. The king and queen beams also co-incided with the athwartship beams of supporting the deck.
 

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Barrypriddis is correct in mentioning the two differant types of beams as there were two sizes of hatch boards. Having lifted many in my days it was unlikely there was water entering through the bunker hatch. It was secured for sea the same as the cargo holds. The king beam was the one with the ridge down the certre to fit the boards. The queen beam was flat and the support in the middle for the long hatch boards. I built muscles tossing these things!!
 

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I should have gone to Specsavers! Looking closely at the model photos it is clear that the inner ends of hatch boards for the holds are supported by a slightly raised longitudinal central beam giving a degree of camber. So transverse hatch boards rather than the usual sort. I was clearly in error to doubt the accuracy of the model. I agree with lakercapt that there is no reason to think the hatch covers to holds or bunker were breached as she would have foundered rather than stranded. The reason she could not be salvaged was she was driven so far on shore on the high tide. She was clearly not waterlogged. "Camlough" sister ship "Corteen" was renamed "Ballyclare " in 1951. Photo here (modernised ) in ballast or part loaded:
http://www.shipspotting.com/photos/middle/1/2/2/1181221.jpg
There does not appear to be a trimming door to the trunk of the coal bunker. The door adjacent would lead directly via access ladder to the stokehold. Probably weather tight rather than watertight. The other openings in the aft superstructure are visible. In these raised quarterdeck ships, bunker, boiler and engine space formed a single watertight compartment. Any seawater getting in would find its way down to the stoke hold, the floor of which was lower than the rest of the compartment. I wonder if there survives a photo of "Camlough" ashore? It would be interesting to see if the stokehold vents survived the tempest.
PS There is one on wrecksite.eu. Vents and boats in situ but signs of disturbance:
https://www.wrecksite.eu/img/wrecks/camlough_aground_adj_auto_corr_j_wilson.jpg
 

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Afterthought. Once the engine had stopped Camlough would have fallen off the wind and broached to, drifting downwind more or less beam to sea. This would have resulted in severe rolling and in the sea conditions large volumes of breaking water coming over the bulwarks aft some of which would inevitably find its way below.
 
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