MV Juna – Christmas 1967

Loading__Clan_McDougall__with_frozen_meat_for_England

There comes a time that when you are offered something and it sounds great, you should be careful – but I wasn’t careful and agreed.

As MV Juna reached Fremantle in Western Australia I agreed to supervise the loading of freezer and chiller cargo, on the understanding that once is had been completed I was free to do whatever I wanted while in port.

I felt in a good mood as it was late December, and Christmas was just around the corner, so I agreed to the 1st Mate’s offer.

We arrived on Sunday 17th December in the evening, and of course being Sunday, we had to wait until the morning before work could begin.

800px-Unloading_frozen_meat_from_'Clan_MacDougall'

I started at 7.00 am on Monday, just as the shore labour came on board. We were to load deep frozen meat, ice cream, vegetables, butter and yoghurt into freezers, as well as cheese in to the chiller. Most of these items were for the Persian Gulf.

The stowage plan had been created so I didn’t expect too much trouble, and I anticipated that the whole job would be about two working days.

The plans of mice and men – we had two freezer/ chiller holds and I was up and down the vertical ladders to the various decks all day to sort out problems, and to change the stowage plan, because not all of the cargo was available at the correct time, so I had to improvise taking in to account the ports of discharge. There was no point in stowing ice cream for Bahrain behind ice cream for Kuwait – if our first port of call was Bahrain.

images.jpg

All through the first day nothing went right – cargo delayed, ringing suppliers & transport companies, making sure the freezer doors were closed as we waited for the next truck load. Making sure the cargo was frozen solid before it was loaded – I must admit I was not particularly polite to our agents who had arranged the cargo – I didn’t get to bed until 6.00 am Tuesday.

Eastern_Prince3-1951

The above diagram is not of the Juna, but hopefully will give you an idea of what I am mean.
Using No 1 or 2 as an examples the upper tween deck and the lower tween deck of both holds had large freezer chambers, and to get to each, one climbed down a vertical ladder attached to the inside of the hold.
You held on to the ladder with both hands as you climbed up and down. I was responsible for the freezer cargo in both ‘tween decks of No 1 & No 2, a total of four areas.

We worked both holds at the same time, and I was up and down the ladders several times an hour, so it didn’t take long to become tired, and I had to be careful not to make mistakes when climbing the vertical ladders.

After going to bed at 6.00 am I was woken at 8 am and again at 9 am with questions, and in the end  I left my comfortable bed at 11.00 am frustrated at the constant questions considering each gang had an experienced supervisor.
Of course the labour changed shifts every so many hours and went home, which required fresh instructions for the new supervisors.

The second day progressed, and I returned to my bed at 4.00 am on the third day – fully clothed and with my shoes on.

I passed out cold.

I was twenty three and reasonably fit, even though I smoked at that time – I considered it my duty to smoke, because cigarettes & alcohol were duty free.
A carton of 200 cigarettes was about 9/- (9 shillings or about 45 p – about £12.21 ($15.25 US) in today’s money.)

I was up and about at 10.00 am and worked through to midnight, by which time I didn’t know what day it was or what time it was . . .

Loading

We finally finished loading the freezer / chiller cargo at 11.00 am on Thursday, it had taken us 75 hours to complete the loading, the original plan was 48 hours, and I’d been on duty for 60 of the 75 hours, and at the end I had a whole 24 hours to myself, before we were due to sail.

I slept most of my off-duty time, so next time I will consider any offers more carefully.

All the above pictures are from the internet to illustrate how we loaded freezer and chiller cargo in the mid 1960’s.

product-41914-t-374

Today the container is packed at the freezer works and is lifted in one piece on to the ship and plugged in to a power supply.

download

To illustrate how far transport has come; the above container was created to carry sushi!   Both above pictures are off the internet.

I wasn’t the only one working long hours during our stay in Fremantle. The First Mate had suggested various cargo work for the other officers, and the cadets, everyone worked flat out for the entire period of loading. We loaded dry cargo as well as the freezer cargo.

We sailed for Bombay (now Mumbai) on the 22nd December, and once again I had the ‘graveyard watch’ midnight to 4.00 am and mid-day to 4.00 pm, my favourite watch.

It was going to be Christmas at sea, and New Year’s Eve at sea, before we would arrive in Bombay.

Each ship in which I’ve sailed, except for the LST, had a small bar where the officers would congregate when off duty.

Carpentaria0013

Obviously when the above was taken it must have been Christmas time, but I’ve blotted out their faces because I don’t know how to get in touch with the officers in the photograph. This was not the bar in the Juna, but another Company vessel.

Each bar had a unique name – Stagger Inn, (the bar of MV Carpentaria) is one that comes to mind, Coolumbooka Inn,  Coolumbooka River supplies water for the town of Bombala in NSW Australia, and the name of the ship in which this bar is located was MV Bombala.

You’d think I could remember more than two, but . . .  the one thing I can remember is that in every officers’ bar / saloon a portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth was prominent.

For other Christmas’ at sea I kept the Christmas Day menu of our main meal, but for some reason I can’t find Juna’s menu.
Watches still had to be kept and so those who worked day work (mainly the cadets and  the First Mate & Captain) could enjoy Christmas Day, but for those of us who stood watches, we had to be circumspect as to how many drinks we consumed.

At that time we didn’t have a breathalyser system on board, and this system of checking car drivers had only just been introduced in the UK, in October 1967.
It was up to the Captain or First Mate to decide if anyone was unfit for duty, and if they did decided that one was not fit to stand his Watch you were finished as a deck officer with British India Steam Nav. Co.

If you were an engineering officer, the final decision would be made by the Chief Engineer but logged by the Captain.

On New Year’s Eve all the deck and engineer officers were invited to the Captain’s cabin for drinks, and if you were on the 8 – 12 watch (i.e 8 pm to midnight & 8 am to noon) the party could  well be still going when you left the bridge.
Being on the midnight to 4.00 am watch, I left the celebrations about 9.00 pm to get a couple of hours sleep before taking over the Watch on the bridge, which was just before the New Year came in – and by ten minutes passed midnight I was sure to have a number of visitors to keep me company, other than the helmsman.

In the middle of the ocean one could be as noisy as one wanted to be and not upset the neighbours,

4th-of-July-Fireworks-Cruise-image-1

and even in ‘a lonely sea and sky’ we would never use fireworks, because ‘fireworks’ (distress rockets) were only to be used at sea, when in distress.

tall-ship

Sea Fever – by John Masefield
“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.”

300px-HMSConway1

HMS Conway in the River Mersey.

John Masefield, who, I am pleased to say, was also an old ‘Conway‘ and he was in the old ship from 1891 to 1894, and UK poet laureate 1930 to 1967. In addition to writing poetry he also wrote twenty-three novels.

1-john-masefield-1878-1967-english-poet-everett

John Masefield 1878 – 1967

 

 

Back to sea

Chilka-07[1]
In mid November of 1964 I received a telegram that ‘my services were required’ in London, because I was to join the Chilka – she was launched 1950 so she wasn’t too old.
I enjoyed my time in Chilka, because she was a very happy ship, and when I joined she was loading cargo for the East African coast.

I signed on late in the afternoon, and after unpacking I visited the ship’s bar for pre-dinner drinks. In the bar I met friends from HMS Conway – one was the first tripper who was with me on my first ship, the tanker, and another who was also in my term during my time at Conway. We had a very pleasant evening of ‘remember when’?

During the next eleven days, the ship worked cargo and I was on general duties depending on what the First Mate required. It was mainly day work, so I had the evenings free, which gave me time to visit London, rather than just the dock area.
Being cadets we did managed to visit a couple of very famous London dockland pubs near where the Chilka was berthed at KGV (King George 5th docks).

These docks were opened in 1921 and reached their peak during the late 1950’s early 1960’s just as containerisation began to grow. The docks eventually became uneconomical and closed in 1981, after which the London City Airport was built. Part of the dock was filled in to create the runway and passenger terminal.

EPSON scanner image

King George V docks in the 1960’s, as you see, the dock was huge.

rdhist6Loading cargo in the 1960’s was very labour intensive, and the introduction of containerisation put a lot of stevedores out of work.

250px-London_City_Airport_Zwart

The 1990’s

All our yesterdays, times change, and after the heartache at the time, I think the locals today are better off than their predecessors in the 1960’s.

We sailed on the last Friday in November, in a rain squall. It was a dirty afternoon that turned in to an early cold and wet night as we made our way down the River Thames, to the open sea and the English Channel.

My watch was the graveyard watch – midnight to four am. As I climbed the ladder to the bridge, for the start of my watch, I remembered a line of poetry from John Masefield’s poem ‘Cargoes’ – ‘Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,’ but for us it was November, but butting down the Channel was exactly what we were doing that dark and wet Friday night. It’s funny how the smallest things come back to you years later.
The last verse of Masefield’s poem.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

PunduastormcropI took this photograph when I was 3rd Mate on another BI ship a couple of years later, I’ve included it in this blog as an illustration of butting down the Channel.

 

Wineglass Bay – Tasmania

DSC09733r

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

John Masefield – second verse of Sea Fever.

DSC09743r

Approaching Wineglass Bay, Tasmania.

Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me
As I gaze upon the sea!
All the old romantic legends,
All my dreams, come back to me.

The Secret of the Sea – verse one – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

DSC09751r

Entering the Bay

“Wouldst thou,”–so the helmsman answered,
“Learn the secret of the sea?
Only those who brave its dangers
Comprehend its mystery!”
The Secret of the Sea – verse eight – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

DSC09755rClose enough for me . . .

DSC09757rPeaceful and calm as we enter the Bay.

DSC09758r

Clean, clear water – ‘civilisation’ has yet to arrive.

DSC09759rVirgin beaches

Like the long waves on a sea-beach,
Where the sand as silver shines,
With a soft, monotonous cadence,
Flow its unrhymed lyric lines;–
The Secret of the Sea – verse four – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

DSC09760rThe entrance through which we passed to enter Wineglass Bay.

DSC09761rBlue on Blue with our wake drifting astern.

DSC09762rAt peace with the world – our ship is hardly moving.

DSC09763r

We curved through Wineglass Bay, followed by Oyster Bay, and exited via another gap in the coastline.

DSC09764r

 White caps can be seen as we leave the shelter of the Bay and head out to sea.

DSC09765r

Till my soul is full of longing
For the secret of the sea,
And the heart of the great ocean
Sends a thrilling pulse through me.

The Secret of the Sea – verse ten – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 – 1882

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

The final verse of Sea Fever – John Masefield, 1878 – 1967

‘the long trick’s over’ – at sea your watch (time on duty), was sometimes referred to as a ‘trick’. I liked the ‘graveyard’ watch, which was Midnight to 4.00 am and noon to 4.00 pm.

Nice and quiet at night in the middle of an ocean, when you touch the stars, because they were so clear, and so close.

Sea Fever

I was fortunate to attend HMS Conway, which was a training ship (see picture below) to supply officers for the merchant and Royal Navy – most us went in to the merchant service.

The college began in 1859, and I attended ‘Conway’ between 1960 and 1962. During my time we lived in barracks because the old ship had run aground and broken her back in 1953 while being towed through the Swillies, which is a very dangerous stretch of water  between the North Wales coast and the Isle on Anglesey. She was on her way to dry dock in Birkenhead, but never made it.  . . .

Conway-01After leaving Conway in 1962, I went to sea, and my first ship was a tanker, the Ellenga, with a gross tonnage of 24,246 gt. At that time she was quite a large vessel.

Ellenga

Tomorrow we sail from Sydney harbour aboard the Diamond Princess, which is just under 116,000 dwt and nearly five times the size of my first ship.

DSC04736r

The above was taken last September, (2015), and the small yellow / green ship is a Sydney harbour ferry. The black vessel is a tanker bunkering the Diamond Princess moored alongside the Sydney Cruise Terminal, where she will be tomorrow when we join her.

For many of us who went to sea as young men (I was eighteen on my first trip) never lose the love of the ocean. One old Conway, John Masefield, captured the feeling of the sea when he wrote Sea Fever.

Sea Fever

By John Masefield.  HMS Conway 1891-94.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Punduastorm
South China Sea in 1967 at the start of a typhoon.
Cargo ship ‘Pundua’, built 1945, 7,295 gt
I think I prefer
Diamond Princess, built 2004, 116,000 gt
Tomorrow, thanks to our daughter & son-in-law, a hire limo will transport us for the expected hour’s run to the cruise terminal. Our check-in is 11.30 am, so all being well we will have lunch on board.