The holiday has started for some . . . the beginning of another cruise for us.
In addition to our normal duties on board, plus ferrying passengers ashore in the lifeboats, we were expected to help entertain the students in the afternoons, during sea days. Most afternoons were free for the students, lessons being held in the morning on sea days.
This photograph & the one below are thanks to John Coulthard
I made sure to stay away from the girls with hockey sticks, out of respect for my ankles.
I preferred frog racing – much calmer . .
In the evenings we were expected to be around in full uniform to dance with the students – always a pleasure to comply with certain orders.
Curfew for the students was 9.00 pm.
If we extended our stay in port, while at anchor, we would have a ‘regatta’ – teams of students would man the lifeboats and ‘row’ them around the ship in a race. The only difference is that they didn’t use oars, because the lifeboats had ‘Fleming Gear’, which is a handle by each seat so that the passenger pulls the handle back and forth and a shaft drives a propeller.
The above shows the white bars, which are ‘jacked’ back and forth to drive the propeller.
The race is on . . . we cadets would dress up as pirates and shout at our ‘rowers’ – a popular film at the time was Ben Hur, which has a number of scenes of slave rowers, rowing to the beat of a drum.
So we tried this to get everyone in time . . . sometimes it worked, but . . .
On one particular cruise it was a Catholic school cruise with many younger students – ten or eleven to fourteen years old, and the teachers were the nuns. The nuns used to take part in many of the games and also the boat race. I had three nuns in the bow of my boat and my ‘crew’ were finding it hard to move the boat fast enough with the dead-weight in the bow. As a pirate I used to carry a whip, which I could crack while shouting pirate slogans such as ‘Row you swabs! faster, faster!’ and other such niceties.
The nuns, dressed in their black habit ‘uniform’ and a smaller version of the cornette, the traditional nun’s head gear, (something like the headgear in this picture),
were enjoying the sail until I cracked my whip and shouted for them to ‘Row, sisters!’
I was quite surprised when all three bowed and grabbed a handle and started jacking it backwards and forwards. We increased speed, but not enough to stop us coming in last.
Later I was called to see the Captain and ‘asked’ not to become too enthusiastic when shouting at the nuns, because they were also on their holiday. I could take a hint.
Also during sea days we were expected to give half hour talks about the happenings on the bridge while at sea, these talks were to both first-class passengers and students. They began at 9.30 am and went on until 4.00 pm, with a short break for lunch. The groups were quite small because we couldn’t allow too many at one time, because this would interfere with the operation of the bridge. In today’s world one would not be able to get anywhere near the bridge.
This part of our duties was nerve racking until you had your patter down to a fine art. The jokes always raised a laugh, the questions were nearly always the same, and it became enjoyable being able to speak to so many people from all walks of life.
All BI deck & engine room crews came from India. The catering staff for the Europeans were from Goa, because they were mostly catholic, which helped, because we didn’t have the religious food restrictions due to pork or beef.
I found the above photograph on the internet to give an idea of a ship’s bridge in 1965 compared to today.
Today’s bridge is all enclosed with repeater computer controls at the centre, and on each bridge wing.
In 1965 we didn’t have computers, satellite communications, and we definitely didn’t have Satnav or GPS. We used our eyes, and took bearings of prominent points of land. A bearing of the right-hand land mass and another on the left, and where they cross on the chart that’s where you were . . . this system has worked very well for centuries.
We did have primitive RADAR – compared to today’s RADAR – and an echo sounder, and a lead line for obtaining how deep the water was close to land. At times we used the echo sounder, and then cross checked with the lead line!
The Dunera had the ability to go forward or astern, plus the experience of the Master in taking her alongside without the help of thrusters – perhaps a tug to nudge her alongside.
How times have changed, the Dunera bridge wings were open to the elements, whereas today the bridge is air conditioned, and you don’t need wet weather gear to go on watch.
Today the officer on the bridge controls the engine, whereas we used to use a telegraph to communicate with the engine room.
We moved the lever to what speed we wanted. This action was mirrored by the repeater in the engine room, and the duty engineer would acknowledge the order by working the engine room repeater telegraph and mimicking the order back to the bridge. A simple system that worked well.
I digress, during the bridge chats with the students and passengers I was nearly always asked how we found our way around the ocean. Light heartedly I used to refer to the log that was streamed aft, which was used to estimate our speed.
The idea was that the ‘rocket’ shaped item, which is called a rotator, would be towed behind the ship and spin so registering our speed. The rotator would be spinning below the surface on the end of a rope. It did look as if the rope was running out from the ship in to the water. Passengers had been shown or told of how the system worked.
So, tongue in cheek I would say that the end of the rope was tied to the quay in Southampton, and when we wanted to go home, we just hauled the rope in until we reached home. Most people just laughed, or at least smiled – except one elderly lady believed me, and later was speaking to the captain about how we found our way home . . . . . I was called up by you know who, and told to change my punch lines.
The student dormitories were male or female and we had security staff that patrolled the ship at night. The head of security was called Master at Arms, who wouldn’t stand for any messing about from the students, or anyone else.
The students ranged from eleven years of age, to late teens and early twenties. I did sail with a Swiss school cruise where some of the students were a little older than me. The Swiss cruise sticks in my mind because the Swiss girls bought all the Old Spice after shave from the ship’s shop thinking it was perfume.
For me it was very disconcerting to dance with an attractive girl smelling of after shave. I had to remember to use a different brand of after shave for myself, just in case she thought I was using perfume!
The one thing I can say about my time in Dunera, is that I was never board . .