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Hi everybody, time is catching up on us. I joined the kaitawa may 63 captain john warren ,captain robertson august 63 captain george sherlock january 64. I was discharged at portland to Whangarei Hospital feb 64. after sick leave was to rejoin kaitawa but was sent to kaiapoi, after two trips frank underwood( ex navy with me)came to releave me .he asked me if he could go to the kaitawa instead of me and i said ok. Those of us on the kaiapoi about 12mths later will remember how close we were to going down in a storm after losing engines,john bray 4th engineer nearly lost his life in the engine room,the canadan r/o started smoking again.sailed on most of the colliers and karamu.I was the electrician with the motor bike on board .thats another story.
 

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I joined Kaitawa as 4/E in August 1951 Capt Tulloch was master, later Capt Gillan. Mick Danby (i think that was his name was 3/E). Chuck Walsh was C/E. When we arrived in Wgtn October 1951 I went to "the Castle" knowing they were extremely short of certified engineers. Told them a ship that never got out of sight of land was no use to me and if they could offer me nothing better I would head straight back to China Coast where a 2/E berth was waiting for me. They immediately told me to sign off and go to Auckland and wait for Waimate on her maiden voyage from Uk. One of this class of colliers had a flywheel come loose and put ito New Plymouth for repairs. First stop for us was to check both flywheels. There was a theory that more than a 30degree roll could cause fuel problems to main engines. Anyone able to confirm this?
 

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Hi Fergi, the hatches leaked we took that list and lost the port engine first ,no lub.oil as i remember ,then got a blockage (a rag ) in the lub oil return pipe starb engine ,crank case filled up and oil coming out the fly wheel ,lost that engine, john took the inspection plate off, oil came out he went in to try and clear pipe ,chief forgot to put the shaft brake on, prop came out of water,if it had turned the other way it would have killed him.We carried him and put him in his bunk.made new plymouth .engineers from scotland checked the engines and said it was impossible to run engines on the lub oil pressure we were running them on.they were out here to give evidence about the kaitawa.
 

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Spongebob
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Hi Fergi, the hatches leaked we took that list and lost the port engine first ,no lub.oil as i remember ,then got a blockage (a rag ) in the lub oil return pipe starb engine ,crank case filled up and oil coming out the fly wheel ,lost that engine, john took the inspection plate off, oil came out he went in to try and clear pipe ,chief forgot to put the shaft brake on, prop came out of water,if it had turned the other way it would have killed him.We carried him and put him in his bunk.made new plymouth .engineers from scotland checked the engines and said it was impossible to run engines on the lub oil pressure we were running them on.they were out here to give evidence about the kaitawa.
Just picked up on this one Fergie and your reference to low lube oil pressure suggests the same problem as on sister ship Kaitangata when I joined her in 1957. The 2nd , 3rd , and 4th engineer, all West Coaters had walked of after a dispute with the new C/E who has come from Blue Star and the replacements were Norm Naylor as 2nd, Les Smith as 3rd and me as 4th. We were all ex Devonport Dockyard . The chief explained that the main engine driven oil pumps could not maintain pressure on their own and the standby manouvering pump has to be run continually at sea.
We berthed in Westport , checked the engine oil pumps as all OK then , when boxing up a unit found that the bottom end bearing had a clearance that you could poke a stick through.
We took shims out then checked the other bottom ends to find likewise clearances and after working all the hours God gave us we test ran the engines slow ahead alongside against a fast river run to find all pressures OK even at slow speed.
The chief was delighted and told us to book as much overtime as hours in the day so at the end of my first trip I paid off in Auckland for the Christmas period with a paycheck never imagined.

Bob
 

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Hi - I was 3/0 for a voyage from Auckland to South Australian Gulfs on KAITUNA. Think the master was Capt Billingham (??) who gave me a bad time so I then resigned to go on and on elsewhere. I had previously been on TOFUA for a couple of round voyages to the islands and would have liked to stay there forever! From Peter Ballantyne
 

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Hi Fergi, the hatches leaked we took that list and lost the port engine first ,no lub.oil as i remember ,then got a blockage (a rag ) in the lub oil return pipe starb engine ,crank case filled up and oil coming out the fly wheel ,lost that engine, john took the inspection plate off, oil came out he went in to try and clear pipe ,chief forgot to put the shaft brake on, prop came out of water,if it had turned the other way it would have killed him.We carried him and put him in his bunk.made new plymouth .engineers from scotland checked the engines and said it was impossible to run engines on the lub oil pressure we were running them on.they were out here to give evidence about the kaitawa.
That I would assume was 'KAIAPOI'. I was at a Union Company annual reunion last Tuesday the 28th. November and actually talked with the Master at that time Capt. Ray Stewart about that voyage , he is now 91 and living on Great Barrier Island with family . A Master I sailed with Many times in the late 1960's and 70's. who I still keep in touch with.
 

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Hi All.
My best times were on the NZ coast, after leaving the Home boats i emigrated to NZ in 57
Was on the Kurow 57, Karatani 58, Waipori 58, Waimate 58, Kaimai 58, Konui 58, Kaiapoi 61, Konini 62, Kawerau 62, Karu 64. all multable trips
Did many a trip down to Westport and Greymouth to Whangarie, well remember the long wharf there. best was the Kaimai running the East coast Auckland to Bluff and back, plenty of oysters.
We moved to Aus in 74 went back to live in Whangarie for five years in 2000, then came back to Aus.
While living in Onerahi used to see the cement boat Golden Bay coming into the Portland berth doing the sharp turn around Limestone Island.
Cheers Des
 

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Spongebob
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Hello there Des, you must have been crossing the same waters at the same time as me . My ships were Kaitangata, Navua, Kaitoa and the reefer Tarawera.
A couple of mates were on the Kaimai on the East coast grocery run, third mate Scot Trevor Joseph and electrician Mike Jackson.
Spent some of my youth near Whangarei living at Maungatapere and going to Whangarei Boys High school.

Regards Bob
 

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Hi Spongebob.
I remember a trip on the Kaiapoi coming back from Westport hit a good storm, as i was Bosun my cabin was facing the foredeck, massive waves hitting the bulkhead and a split appearing in the bulkhead, water coming in but lucky it was not to fast, wedged a towel and some wood with a length of timber to the after cabin bulkhead.
As someone has said on here the lids on the hatches were always leaking and the wedges had to be hammered home on the way back to Auckland or Whangarie. Good old days.
Cheers Des
 

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RE M/V KAITAWA

I just finished reading some ideas about how and why the Kaitawa went down.
Regarding the communication by the R/O to the coast station. The writer
indicated the operator had a Canadian accent. Yes that is correct. The
question was why he used radio telephone instead of c/w. Perhaps I can
clear this up or offer another reason.
I joined a cargo ship in Japan in 1973.
We went through a typhoon south of Hong Kong on our way to Singapore.
It hit us after dark, and the captain wanted some up to the minute weather.
I tried getting a signal on both the antennas but no luck.
It was very dark, (night time), very rough (mountainous seas) etc.etc..
I was able to get a weather report on AM, but it was 4 hours old, not good
enough, but all there was to be had.
The next day the first mate came to me and said, don't take any flack, your
antennas were all down, along with some other equipment that had been
washed overboard.
I offer this as a counter to any armchair mariners. I listened to comments
ashore after the Kaitawa went down, and was hurt by the so called experts.
Since there are still evaluations surfacing, I am prompted to get my two
bits worth in.
Phillip Mowatt was a good friend of mine. Any comments, additions, corrections send to
[email protected]

Pierre LeRoss

ps I have had the good luck to pass Cape Rienga twice in the middle of the
night since then, and have had a quiet, double, single malt scotch in memory
of those men caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
 

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Hi Pierre.
Thanks for that post. It's a long time ago and I had only just gone ashore; my last ship the Karu which I doubt would have survived that storm. I did many trips to the West coast and they remain in my memory as the most frightening in all my time at sea.
Tugger
 

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Kaitawa

Further to the USSCo and the Kaitawa fallout

I returned to Vancouver March 1967 from my job as R/O with the UssCo of NZ to be told that the Company did not notify the parents
of P. Mowatt for four months after the disaster.
All the speculation and court proceedings and arm chair experts
at the time, and still it seems, prompt me to add this post script.
Give a thought to those who go to sea to serve all those on land.
They are away from their families, seven days a week, 24 hours
a day till they return. I still have a love for the sea. Thank you
for the space to add my bit.
Pierre
 

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I joined the Kaitawa in September 1963 as the RO having previously sailed with NZS. Johnny Warren was still the captain, the third engineer was a Canadian and the Lecky came from Greymouth. I remember visiting his house for his sisters 21st - a great time had by all. Unfortunately I transferred to the Kawatiri where the Captain (Lochead) tried to give me a lesson in RDF. After that open warfare was declared between the two of us and I was then sentenced to several weeks on the Karitane UNBELIEVABLE. I subsequently did a pier head jump onto the Koromiko Doug Croucher (skipper) and a bloody good bloke. Thoroughly enjoyed that trip but regretted leaving NZS. Still do.
 

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I've appreciated reading this thread rather than enjoyed, Kaitawa went down when I was a kid (11) & the story must have affected me somewhat as I had nightmares about her afterwards for some years, too vivid an imagination perhaps, so she has long stayed in my conscious. I've had this site bookmarked for some time, it shows a Memorial to the Kaitawa at the entrance to the Port of Estport from where she sailed on her last voyage, it includes a full crew list. Sorry if this has been put up before, I didn't see it.
Steve.
 

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I have only just picked up this report on the Kaitawa hence the delay in making a comment. I joined her as the Radio Officer in Sept 1963 having foolishly left a berth with the conference lines. I was appalled at the state of the radio room and its equipment. It did carry both w/t and r/t but MF only and all battery driven, there was a constant layer of coal dust all over the accommodation and probably in the galley as well. Fortunately I was transferred after a few weeks to another USS banger. Not a good outfit to work for.
 

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Spongebob
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The Kaitawa and five others of her class used as west coast colliers were a 'bad buy' for the Union Co , mainly due to the twin five cylinder British Polar engines which saw them underpowered for the duty and waters of the west coast.
I later sailed on Kaitoa, a similar hull but with six cylinder Polars , and oh the difference in so many respects.
The colliers because of their inadequate power, their stormy west coast course , and their general state of repair , became the ****-ships of the Union co .
There were older and ships in worse repair such as Kanna and Karu but the pleasantness of their East coast runs were a redeeming feature .
The colliers no doubt suited crew who were west coast home porters from Greymouth and Westport but in the main, as far as the engineers were concerned , transfers were always sought.
I did about six round trips between Auckland and Greymouth or Westport to deliver specific grades of coal to Portland cement Co, the Colonial Sugar Co at Chelsea and the Auckland Gas Co.
We sailed south light ship and rolled our guts out then came back laden to the gunnels at next to no knots and usually punching into the prevailing north westerly that produced a cork screw motion that made a sound sleep impossible.
As forth engineer I had a singular luxury over other crew as my tiny cabin had a bunk placed fore and aft and a day bed that lay athwartship under the bunk so I could pick and chose the best for sleep.
Dirty ships too, that coal dust got into every corner.
There were occasional highlights , the West Coast Pubs , defiance of the six pm closing times, the deep sea blue cod fish with chips , a lecky that played the violin well , on the after hatch top following dinner, and above all the experience off the Taranaki coast while steaming home when two giant blue whales mistook our ship for one of their kind.
Skipper Desmond Champion, last NZ master of the Pamir, spotted them, telegraphed for slow speed when they came alongside and showed us their might, they were so close we were able to gauge their length at about 70 to 80 feet and their twin blowholes identified them as Blues . Talk about halitosis when they spouted and wet the foredeck.
Captain Champion said to me , "take a good look lad you will never see this sight again".
He mention that he had experienced whales alongside sailing vessels before when the quieter motion of the ship did not concern them but this show was unforgettable to all on board .
I was shifted from Kaitangata to the little banana boat Navua , like chalk and cheese but that collier and the whales are a forever memory.
I realise more and more that we on this site had unforgettable experiences that will never be available again.

Bob
 

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I have just read the report of the loss of the "Kaitawa" and in the short period (thank goodness) that I sailed on her I did not see any sort of calibration chart for the DF nor did the ship have any sort of depth sounding equipment, which may have been installed after I left the ship. The TX and the receivers were all powered by a bank of 24 volt batteries, all very primitive and there were times when it was difficult to contact ZLD by w/t when leaving or arriving at the South Island ports.
 
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