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Preston Brewery

September and a rain-swept quay in Dublin, a city not generally short of rain, and this remarkably sleek little 2,000 tonne bitumen tanker, Esso Preston, swinging into her berth. I was appointed to her as 3/e, apparently because having sailed with triple expansion engines and Scotch boilers before I was, therefore, considered to be sufficiently competent to do little damage to hers.

Lugging my bag on board I encountered the Mate, who said gruffly “Watch where you walk on this deck.”
I had already noted that the deck was uncomfortably hot, but not that hot. “Why? What’s the problem?”
The Mate shrugged. “It’s the heat for the bitumen. Makes the maindeck rust away a lot and it’s a bit thin in places.” He added with a grin “If you have any female visitors, high heels are not permitted!” So off we go for another few months of coastal work. No sea time for my second’s ticket and no bond locker. What in God’s name did I sign on for this? Oh well!

The absence of the bond locker was not that serious as there were regular runs ashore to local pubs, but we did all baulk a little at paying shore prices. However, we found a back street pub in Portishead where we had many a night of beers and singsongs around a piano. There, the ladies of the night would happily join in such seamen’s songs as “And the hair on her dickdido reached down to her knees.” But somehow it was not sufficient. We could bring back beers to the ship, but they were soon exhausted. Then a brainwave!

My mother, a good country lady who wrestled with the shortages of everything during WWII was an avid home brewed beer maker. Her home brew would stun a mule at twenty feet. An engineer’s committee was duly formed, and it was unanimously agreed that I should seek Mum’s assistance to obtain the makings of a real home brew. She duly obliged, with packets of brewers yeast and instructions, so now we needed malt and hops, and something to brew the mixture in. Portishead again came to our aid.

From a chemist’s shop in the docks we obtained cans of malt extract and some mysterious material called “hop extract”, which we deemed to be near enough. The vat proved to be easy as we berthed close to a factory of some sort that had long racks of huge glass carboys stored outside. We liberated one without questioning what they had originally contained, and without being questioned about where we were going with it. So now we had the means, and because of my (claimed) experience, I was appointed as master brewer. We filled the carboy with the malt and the yeast and gallons of water, and then came the ceremonial addition of sugar that would establish our brewery. How much? Ah well, dump a few bags in and see what happens! Bags! Ships bags. Not yer p***y little shops bags. The third mate was designated as the procurement officer, and he duly turned up with large brown paper bags of sugar. We added it to the mix in the carboy until we engineers decided that saturated solution had been achieved.

Yeasts, being discriminating little buggers, need to be kept warm, and we decided that the best place to do that was in the fiddly deck casing by the funnel. Over the next days the mixture in our carboy turned white and foamed to the extent that as a good 3/e I began to wonder if it needed some anti-foaming chemical. However, after a week or two the foaming seemed to have settled down, and we began to believe that this brewing business was a piece of p**s. We looked forward to the first brew.

The trouble with ships is that they have these God like mortals called “Masters”, and ours was of the disposition that officers, and particularly engineers, were delinquents of whom to be wary, while crews were transients prone to disappearing when needed. He believed in Sunday inspections, when he would search the ship for anything that might offend him. As he toured his command he began to sniff the air, increasingly with his movement aft, until he remarked to the Mate “This bloody ship smells like a brewery. What’s going on here?” I have this vague recollection of the third mate saying something about it being due to a brewery just up the dock, which earned him the first sampling of the brew.

At last the brew was deemed ready. There was a layer in the bottom of the carboy that looked like snow on the Alps, and we now needed to siphon off the magical liquid. The 4/e was given the task of sucking on the siphon tube as, given his ability to down pints ashore, he had been declared the nearest equivalent we had to a portable Hamsworthy bilge pump. So the Four-oh sucked and dipped the tube end into the vast array of assorted bottles we had ac***ulated as fast as we could place them in front of him, and they progressively filled with a somewhat cloudy amber liquid that was, we were convinced, second only to nectar from Heaven. And it evidently was, as the 4/e became increasingly incoherent and prone to giggling without any obvious reason. It transpired that he was continually losing suction in the best tradition of bilge pumps and was, as a result, consuming quite substantial quantities of the liquor as he re-established it.

So now we had it! The first brew from the Preston brewery, and what wonderful stuff it was if one didn’t mind the cloudy appearance. The one thing it certainly had in abundance was alcoholic strength, and we soon discovered that two or three pints of it were sufficient to turn the hardiest drinkers among us into rambling idiots. Meanwhile the yeast content had the interesting and useful side effect of maintaining a high level of bowel regularity in all who availed of it. Nectar from Heaven indeed!

Fortunately the “Old Man” never found out what was going on, but as the Chief Mate revealed, arriving on the bridge one morning in the middle of the Irish Sea, he grumbled, “I don’t know what’s going on with this bloody ship. It still smells like a brewery when we’re nowhere near one. We keep running out of sugar because we are using more of it than the bloody Queen Mary, and all the engineers and mates are going around giggling like lunatics over nothing!”
“Well, Captain, let’s face it, most engineers are lunatics anyway, and I guess the mates are simply laughing at them.” Ever the soul of diplomacy, our Chief Mate!
 

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What a cracking yarn Art6, any chance of a few more stories like that,
I must also say how well it was written.
I could really do with three pints of your glorious brew right now.

Cheers (hic).
Pat Baker
 

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A good tale "ART6"
Incidentally I was on the Esso Preston when she ran aground entering Cork back 1974. She was eventually scrapped after the grounding incident.

Cheers & Rgds
Lamby
 

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Discussion Starter #6
A good tale "ART6"
Incidentally I was on the Esso Preston when she ran aground entering Cork back 1974. She was eventually scrapped after the grounding incident.

Cheers & Rgds
Lamby
That's interesting Steven. I didn't know what happened to the old girl. When I was on her in 1966 her maindeck was indeed as thin as my tale suggested, so I can't imagine how she got to 1974 without falling apart!

Regards

Tony
 

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That's interesting Steven. I didn't know what happened to the old girl. When I was on her in 1966 her maindeck was indeed as thin as my tale suggested, so I can't imagine how she got to 1974 without falling apart!

Regards

Tony
Preston Brewery

September and a rain-swept quay in Dublin, a city not generally short of rain, and this remarkably sleek little 2,000 tonne bitumen tanker, Esso Preston, swinging into her berth. I was appointed to her as 3/e, apparently because having sailed with triple expansion engines and Scotch boilers before I was, therefore, considered to be sufficiently competent to do little damage to hers.

Lugging my bag on board I encountered the Mate, who said gruffly “Watch where you walk on this deck.”
I had already noted that the deck was uncomfortably hot, but not that hot. “Why? What’s the problem?”
The Mate shrugged. “It’s the heat for the bitumen. Makes the maindeck rust away a lot and it’s a bit thin in places.” He added with a grin “If you have any female visitors, high heels are not permitted!” So off we go for another few months of coastal work. No sea time for my second’s ticket and no bond locker. What in God’s name did I sign on for this? Oh well!

The absence of the bond locker was not that serious as there were regular runs ashore to local pubs, but we did all baulk a little at paying shore prices. However, we found a back street pub in Portishead where we had many a night of beers and singsongs around a piano. There, the ladies of the night would happily join in such seamen’s songs as “And the hair on her dickdido reached down to her knees.” But somehow it was not sufficient. We could bring back beers to the ship, but they were soon exhausted. Then a brainwave!

My mother, a good country lady who wrestled with the shortages of everything during WWII was an avid home brewed beer maker. Her home brew would stun a mule at twenty feet. An engineer’s committee was duly formed, and it was unanimously agreed that I should seek Mum’s assistance to obtain the makings of a real home brew. She duly obliged, with packets of brewers yeast and instructions, so now we needed malt and hops, and something to brew the mixture in. Portishead again came to our aid.

From a chemist’s shop in the docks we obtained cans of malt extract and some mysterious material called “hop extract”, which we deemed to be near enough. The vat proved to be easy as we berthed close to a factory of some sort that had long racks of huge glass carboys stored outside. We liberated one without questioning what they had originally contained, and without being questioned about where we were going with it. So now we had the means, and because of my (claimed) experience, I was appointed as master brewer. We filled the carboy with the malt and the yeast and gallons of water, and then came the ceremonial addition of sugar that would establish our brewery. How much? Ah well, dump a few bags in and see what happens! Bags! Ships bags. Not yer p***y little shops bags. The third mate was designated as the procurement officer, and he duly turned up with large brown paper bags of sugar. We added it to the mix in the carboy until we engineers decided that saturated solution had been achieved.

Yeasts, being discriminating little buggers, need to be kept warm, and we decided that the best place to do that was in the fiddly deck casing by the funnel. Over the next days the mixture in our carboy turned white and foamed to the extent that as a good 3/e I began to wonder if it needed some anti-foaming chemical. However, after a week or two the foaming seemed to have settled down, and we began to believe that this brewing business was a piece of p**s. We looked forward to the first brew.

The trouble with ships is that they have these God like mortals called “Masters”, and ours was of the disposition that officers, and particularly engineers, were delinquents of whom to be wary, while crews were transients prone to disappearing when needed. He believed in Sunday inspections, when he would search the ship for anything that might offend him. As he toured his command he began to sniff the air, increasingly with his movement aft, until he remarked to the Mate “This bloody ship smells like a brewery. What’s going on here?” I have this vague recollection of the third mate saying something about it being due to a brewery just up the dock, which earned him the first sampling of the brew.

At last the brew was deemed ready. There was a layer in the bottom of the carboy that looked like snow on the Alps, and we now needed to siphon off the magical liquid. The 4/e was given the task of sucking on the siphon tube as, given his ability to down pints ashore, he had been declared the nearest equivalent we had to a portable Hamsworthy bilge pump. So the Four-oh sucked and dipped the tube end into the vast array of assorted bottles we had ac***ulated as fast as we could place them in front of him, and they progressively filled with a somewhat cloudy amber liquid that was, we were convinced, second only to nectar from Heaven. And it evidently was, as the 4/e became increasingly incoherent and prone to giggling without any obvious reason. It transpired that he was continually losing suction in the best tradition of bilge pumps and was, as a result, consuming quite substantial quantities of the liquor as he re-established it.

So now we had it! The first brew from the Preston brewery, and what wonderful stuff it was if one didn’t mind the cloudy appearance. The one thing it certainly had in abundance was alcoholic strength, and we soon discovered that two or three pints of it were sufficient to turn the hardiest drinkers among us into rambling idiots. Meanwhile the yeast content had the interesting and useful side effect of maintaining a high level of bowel regularity in all who availed of it. Nectar from Heaven indeed!

Fortunately the “Old Man” never found out what was going on, but as the Chief Mate revealed, arriving on the bridge one morning in the middle of the Irish Sea, he grumbled, “I don’t know what’s going on with this bloody ship. It still smells like a brewery when we’re nowhere near one. We keep running out of sugar because we are using more of it than the bloody Queen Mary, and all the engineers and mates are going around giggling like lunatics over nothing!”
“Well, Captain, let’s face it, most engineers are lunatics anyway, and I guess the mates are simply laughing at them.” Ever the soul of diplomacy, our Chief Mate!
I love this story - I was on the Preston as an engineer cadet in 1967 and loved the ship. Not so keen on the second engineer who had been a cabin steward with Cunard originally but had somehow become an engineer and had a dispensation to sail as 2nd. He put me on his own watch (4-8) and after a couple of weeks left me to it and never bothered coming down until just before 8 in the mornings. I didn't mind this as he had a foul mouth and a foul temper to go with it and was usually hungover in the mornings, having been drinking with the Chief most nights until past midnight. As for the Chief himself, he was an alcoholic Geordie who to my knowledge, never once set foot in the engine room! The 3rd and 4th were both great guys however and we would often swap watches so that we all got a chance to have a good run ashore.
 

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Art, a very good story, I missed it the first time round.....Being from Preston, when I saw the tittle I was expecting a tale about Preston Docks..........

Cheers Frank
 
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