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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 12, 2017, 4:04 pm 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
One summer my wife and young daughter decided they would like to spend some time with me. My mother almost had a heart attack when I told her. Hey joined in Liverpool and to the Quarries to load for Trollhatten and my daughter was spoiled rotten by the crew who were mainly family men. Built a swing on the boatdeck and every morning she managed to open the cabin door and grab the had f the first crew member and say ”walks Man’and off they would go. The cook had a small tale made for her in the galley and she was fed there so Mom and I could have our meals in peace. In Sweden she was entertained by friends I had there and to hear her babble away you might have thought she was speaking Swedish. Next we went to Poland to load coal for Cork. When there one of the officials requested to use my washroom. After we had sailed I noticed that everything was gone, soap, toothpaste, aftershave, toilet rolls, razors and anything else that was not bolted down.
One good thing about our visit was a trip to the Baltona store. It was a place where you could get many great deals. I still have some hand carved crystal glasses, carafes and bowls. My wife bought a great suede jacket which she still has. What most of the crew bought was vodka and pure spirit for selling in Norway or Sweden. Alll had to be paid for in” hard” currency.
The trip to cork was uneventful and I was amused to see my daughter standing and swaying with the movement of the ship. She was never seasick at any me she was on board with me and they were many until she went to university.
Back to the Quarries and a load for Odda in Norway. When you get your outward clearance it has what bonded stores we had on board (we loaded bonded stores at the quarries as we were bound foreign),and that was required by the customs in Norway to see what was still on board after our short trip. It was to try and combat smuggling of alcohol which is very expensive there. Now the stuff we had purchased in Poland would not show on this list and there were many willing customers so a lively trade was going on. The pure spirit was a premium seller and vey profitable.
More later


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 11, 2017, 9:07 pm 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
Yes Llanddulas was a challenge even in the best of weather.
I was in Liverpool expecting quiet weekend as they had not finished discharge when I was asked to call our office. I was “requested” to assist a Norwegian ship they had chartered to load at the quarries and as he had never been there was to say the least somewhat apprehensive and I was to assist.
Arrived at a very smart ship with more modern gear than we had and as they were ready to sail would explain on route. The Liverpool pilot took us out to the “Bar” and disembarked. Although Ll anddulas was officially in their area they tended to avoid t like the pox. As there were no large scale charts of the area I drew to the best of my ability the Jetty and how we were going to approach and berth. His words were madness, crazy, stupid and many more in Norwegian and I told him I had done this many times so fear not. (ha Ha Ha as this was often a bum puckering experience).
Although the conditions were not ideal, but they seldom were I explained how we were going to ,three hours before high water at Liiverpool, approch at an angle allowing for the current and tide. Then go full astern and let the transfer thrust bring the stern parallel to the jetty and the current would bring us alongside. Even though I say so myself and we came up as gentle as kissing your sister. I had already told him only to have ballast on board to help handle the ship that could be pumped out in three hours, the amount of time it would take to load.
When we had tied up I looked down on deck and saw some crew members dressed in their finery ready to go shore. I told the captain there was nothing to see ashore and at any time they might have to get off the berth (it dried out at low water!!) due to winds or equipment fairure
Went down to his cabin to do the paper work , outward clearance etc. How do you disembark he asked. Here was my reply. Who takes the ship out and I told him he did. When you were finished loading the tide would be starting to ebb as what you did was let go all the moorings and when they were in go full astern until well clear of the jetty, turn and go on to your passage. He was not happy with that but there wasNnoway for me to get off the ship and I was not going to Norway that trip.
Back to the ship to enoy the rest of the weekend!!!


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 9, 2017, 8:05 pm 
Thanks Mr. Lafferty for the links to see what the Capt. is speaking of. Almost absurd to expect vessels to make dock there and remain in place to load.

Thanks gentlemen,

Alex


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 9, 2017, 5:33 pm 

Joined: March 13, 2010, 10:51 am
Posts: 1058
Quote:
There is a jetty sticking out and the flood tide runs from west to east.

I'm sure that can be a tricky landing. It proved a disastrous departure for the Carrier on 3 April 2012 when it tried to leave the jetty with a cargo of limestone during a full gale. The Carrier, launched 27 September 1985 as the Inga by Husumer Schiffwerft AG, Husumer, Germany, for Jen Peter Ludke KG of Rendsburg, was broken up in situ. Renamed Carrier in 2002, it was registered at Antigua and Barbuda, owned by Reederei Erwin Strahlmann eK, Hamburg, at the time. You can see it all here:

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-w . er-3906055

and here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BV3kj9qCDPo

and read about it here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.u . Report.pdf


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 9, 2017, 1:49 pm 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
In some of my stories I refer to the "quarries" which was the main port we used to ship out limestone.
Should you have the app "Google Earth" you can look it up to see what I mean when I talk about it
Llanddulas Wales UK.
There is a jetty sticking out and the flood tide runs from west to east..


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 8, 2017, 10:26 am 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
As we were on home trade we were into may ports round the UK and other countries so I became fairly familiar of then. London was one of them and there must have been dozens of wharfs or berths that we visited frequently. That being the case I had a pilot exemption for the Thames, and that will come into a later tale. On one occasion we were unloading at one wharf and when the tide went out we were high and dry. We knew his would happen so the After Peak tank was filled with water to use for cooling the generator. When the tide turned and started to flood but on this occasion we were stuck to the mud and we were anxiously watching the water level rising and getting dangerously close to deck level. We were getting ready to run one of the mooring wires under the boat to break the suction when she popped up much to all our relief. When I did pilotage I used to be paid a bonus but it had not changed in years and the AB who was steering, if on overtime got more money than I. I did win one time though as the pilots in Sweden went on strike and the company asked if I would take the boat in without a pilot. I agreed to do so but for half the pilotage fee. Thought they were going to have a fit at a fee so high but I mentioned that they were getting it at half price and the freight for cargo if I went in. Being Scots they did see my reasoning!! Another tale along the same lines. When we went to Sligo was picked up a pilot and (his wife told me this, when he knew we were coming he went to church and offered up a special prayer for a safe trip) he boarded and we had doubts as NWly gales had cut back on the tide and when we reached the “Iron Man” which pointed to the channel and had a water gauge sure enough the water was down but at this point we were committed. The nearer the berth we got the slower we became until at two ships lengths from the dock we came to a shuddering stop. The tide receded and we were stuck on the mud. Did not take long before the TV crews from RTE (Irish TV) were on the scene and that evening broadcast was “British ship blockades Irish port". Bit of broadcast license as fishing boats could still get past!!


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 7, 2017, 5:23 pm 
Great stories as usual Capt!


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 7, 2017, 1:45 pm 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
You are always told that you remember your first school teacher, first kiss, first love etc and in this instance my first command as master. The ship I was familiar with as I had sailed on her as first mate so there were no surprises!! All who have sailed know that the captain is referred to as “The Old Man” and in this occasion I happened to be the youngest crew member. We had loaded in the Quarries at LLandulas and were bound for Ghent. During the second nigh the chief engineer called me and said he thought that he third engineer had had a heart attack. We had him brought up and according to the “Ship Masters Medical Guide” he had all the symptoms so I got on the radio and sought medical advice. Alas the reception was not that good and the doctor after me answering a few questions also asked if we had morphine on board, which we did. He suggested I give him poor radio reception amount and get him ashore as quickly as possible.
Consulted our charts and decided the nearest place was Fishguard, a place I had never been but told the C/E to open her up and told them would be there in three hours. I gave the 3/E two syringes of morphine so he was in Lala land and found he had a pharmacy of pills etc as he had known he was prone to heart attacks. As I was nearing the port at full speed a fishing boat asked where I was going and when I told him he asked what was our draft and when I said 21 feet he said I better stop as at this state of the tide there was only 18 feet of water . Crash stop and the fisherman took the engineer to the awaiting ambulance. He did survive but had that fisherman not warned me in time I too would have had a heart attack as I tore the bottom out of the ship. First and last captain’s job. I did receive a letter of thanks from him unlike an incident that happened about a year late. I was called to the bridge by the second mate who had observed a distress flare not far from us. We slowed and approached the position and found a catamaran with a two man crew in a bad way. The cat was sinking and they were nearly exhausted pumping to keep it afloat. That was their last distress flare we had sighted. They were so tired we had to send a crewman down and tie them on to lift them to the deck. They asked if we could tow the cat to the nearest port so we tied it on and proceeded to the nearest port. By this time the local lifeboat arrived so I handed the tow to them and carried on to London. It transpired the two we had saved were only a delivery crew and did not own the cat which coincidently sank before the lifeboat got it to port.
Several months later I received a letter from a law firm that threatened action as I had not (according to them) taken sufficient actions to save the cat. Not a word of thanks for saving the lives of the two men from the crew!!!


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 6, 2017, 5:42 pm 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
On one trip on passage from Blythe to Londonderry with a cargo of coal (this was during the period of “The Troubles) in Northern Ireland we we sailing through the Rathlin Sound when a RN frigate called us up and told us to heave too. We stopped and three Zodiac full of marines, armed to the teeth boarded.

All the crew were assembled in the saloon except one engineer and myself on the bridge. Discharge books for all crew were examined by the officer in charge. I asked if we could continue the voyage otherwise we would miss the tide. That was approved so we started again but a marine with an automatic machine gun watching out. Next I heard the frigate frantically blowing its whistle so I dashed out of the chartroom to see us heading right for the RN boat. I realised what was wrong and pushed the marine away from the compass. Hurriedly explained to the officer that the ship was on automatic pilot and the ship only had a magnetic compass so when the marine stood next to it his weapon made of steel attracted the compass and the auto pilot was only following the setting. A very close call for me being shot. They were searching for weapons and got covered in coal dust but never found anything but I am certain the captain on the frigate was not the only one who got a scare.

This was normal practice at that time.

We were sailing into Poland frequently and I was offered firearms few a very low price in US dollars but never took them up on that. Poland at that time was a very restricted place and we had guards at the top of the gangway checking your pass leaving and returning to the ship with a curfew at midnight. Later than that and you spent the night in jail, with a fine. In US dollars of course as Zlottis were not accepted.

There was a store there called Baltona which sold an amazing variety of goods but only for hard curacies. But more about that later


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 6, 2017, 10:59 am 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
Stories of my time on Gem Line boats
A Robbie boat was stemmed to load at a quarry on the west coast of Scotland and had given an ETA of 0700 hrs.
That time came and went and no sign of the ship. At noon the quarry called the office in Glasgow to find out what was happening but they could not respond as they were at a loss as to where the v/l was. They sent a message to Oban Radio for the vessel. Oban Radio was in many parts of the west coast an unreliable signal at the best of times but eventually they managed to raise the ship and told them that their office wished to speak to the captain via a link call (radio telephone call).
The superintendent asked the captain what was going on and was informed that they were aground on a sand bank having gone the wrong side of a channel marker.
I am coming up to see you and will be there in four hours so have a boat ashore at the road to pick me up said the superintendent.
Ah well said the captain in his broad west coast accent we will not need the boat as in four hours it will be low water and you can walk out to us!!
She managed to get off at a higher tide and the captain still had a job.
One of our regular trips was loading coal in Poland for west coast of Ireland ports, Killybegs, Sligo etc.
A memorable trip we had miserable weather with one gale after another so I anchored a few times to avoid the worst of it.
I was thinking of anchoring again as there was a strong Atlantic storm forecast and after clearing the Western Islands there was nothing west of until the American coast and it was a rough stretch.
The cook came to me a informed me that if we were to anchor again we would not have any food left to complete the trip.
We had a rough time until nearly at Killybegs resembling a submarine with the decks awash all the time and rolling and pitching like mad.
We were very welcome there as the coal merchants had run out of coal several days before we arrived.
Standing on the wharf a young boy approached me and asked if he could have a bucket of coal for his grandma. No problem help yourself was me reply.
Looked out a little while later and there were a hoard of young lads getting buckets of coal.
No grandma, they were up the road selling it!!! Enterprising you g rouges.

What was a long time ago, when I was on leave, the shore superintendent called me up and asked me if, when I left the vessel I was regular captain on, if everything was working well. A strange question but yes was my reply all was functioning and in good order.
There reason for the query was the vessel had ran aground in Italy.
I found out later on what had transpired.
They were on passage from Norway to Savona in Italy. They had given the agents and everyone else, including the engineer room the ETA.
The engineer on watch noted that the exhaust temperatures on the engine were getting higher and higher and he could not understand why. He called the chief engineer who when he got out of bed looked out of his porthole and got a great big shock as it appeared that cars where driving on the road just off he bow. He told the engineer to stop the engine and woke up the captain.
He dashed up to the bridge and saw the second mate sound asleep in the pilot chair. A swift kick brought him out of his slumbers and he was horrified at the view ahead. It was the main road into town only a few meters away.
His story was he sent the other man on watch on an errand and he had sat down and dozed off too.
The ship had steamed through the general anchorage and missed all the ships there including tankers and went right up on the only sandy beach for miles. Luck had been on their side in that aspect and here was no bottom damage to the ship.
A few tugs managed to get her off.
The second mate did not get fired as at that time there was controversy about two watch system going on these long passages and the company did not wish for that system to change.
Although we had many days of good weather we all seem to remember the times we were tossed about , life being uncomfortable. I had to admire the prowess of the cooks who somehow with a few exceptions managed to have a meal for us. Keeping it on the table was another matter as even with the table clothes wetted down and the fiddles raised the plates had a will of there own and as one hand was required to hold on it took some getting used to eating for a mobile plate.
We were sailing to Norway one occasion having loaded in LLandulas and after clearing the Pentland Firth were very active. Our new second mate was having a tough time of it and was violently seasick (must admit I was not feeling so great myself).
He called me to the bridge as he was vomiting blood and I was very concerned.
We out to the port wing and was sick again and I noticed the red vomit. Took a few seconds to realize it was not blood but the reflection of the port sidelight. Big relief!
Going up the Trollhatten canal there are a number of locks to transit before getting up to the lake and berthing at Trollhatten.
We were fairly regular at that trip and on the "Cameo" when in the lock you had to tie up at an angle as the ship was just a little too long.
The bow was at the lock gates and the Stern just cleared the other set of gates.
We had finished discharge and on our way down to Gothenberg and the pilot and I were on the bridge wing when we heard the engine room telegraph ring.
The chief engineers son (his family was doing the trip) had swung it to full ahead.
Heart racing I ran in as I heard the compressed air being blasted into the engine and rang STOP.
The engine just kicked over when it stopped.
I had visions of surfing down the canal crashing though the other locks at great speed.
The little boy was banned from the wheelhouse from then on in.
The pilot aged somewhat on that trip !!


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 6, 2017, 7:10 am 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
My wife and I were tired of long trips and not knowing where I would be next so thought a complete change was necessary especially when we wanted another child. A complete change was what I got when I joined the next company. All their ships were on the small side the largest being 1599.9 GRT so they could sail with a reduced crew. To call them coasters would be a mistake as we sailed from north Norway to the eastern Mediterranean Sea. That trip took fourteen days which is a long haul with only two mates and you were very tired doing it.
There was a system in place where every morning at ten o’clock at each evening at ten o’clock we would talk to each other on 2301 kcs and relay our positions, weather and next port etc. For the folks at home that might not get a weak signal the others would pass it along and the many ashore listening would be up to date and keep the others up to date. I started as 1st mate and being a deep sea man found their ways somewhat novel .
The main loading place was in North Wales called LLandullas where the company owned a quarry which had high grade limestone much in demand for steel making as well as other products and our main ports were London, Ghent, Antwerp, Trollhatten, Odda in Norway Rotterdam etc. The first time I went there to load I was astounded as everything was done contrary to your practice of good seamanship. The Jetty stuck out at right angles to the shore and you went in there hours before high water and loaded as fast as they were able. The ballast left on board were the FP ad #1 DB. For docking was pumped out as fast as possible. Every seaman knows that to berth a boat you stem the current or tide. Here the tide rushed in at a fast rate and it flowed in from the west. That was the side you had to dock to .You had to approach at a steep angle and let the tide bring you alongside. Wrong approach and you missed, same if too slow. You got two chances then it was you waited for next tide. You would not be popular as all the loading crew ere sent home. I used the fast approach as you stopped when you ran on the shingle beach and the tide coming in floated you into position.
I have many stories of my very learning times there.


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 4, 2017, 4:46 pm 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
After my vacation I was offered a position on a new building that was near completion and the mate that was supposed to go got sick (a sign that all was not well(sic).

I joined just before sailing from Norway at the end of February and it was bitter cold but we were bound for Tampa to load for Fremantle and then load in Port Pire and Walvis Bay for Avonmouth. A short trip to work out any problems.

The trip across the Atlantic was miserable and it was pleasant to get down south and into the “Gulf.” Loading was efficient and I was very surprised that the captain decided to sail, not via the Panama Canal but down the Atlantic and round the Cape of Good Hope. It was a bigger surprise when we were going to do the great circle route from there to Fremantle. This area of the world is known for its bad weather and I asked the captain to reconsider as I would not be able to get any deck work done. He of the old school would not hear of anything that was contrary to his views. (Now I knew why the other mate go sick!!)

It was a terrible trip going so far south I thought we would see penguins! With one gale after another and the daily run much reduced. So any advantage of it being a shorter distance was nullified. When we got there at a place outside Fremantle called Kwinna? which was miles from nowhere it was a disappointment but when I went on the dock the sight that greeted me was one I never expected. As the final coat of paint had been applied in freezing conditions in Norway and the buffeting we had received with the bad weather there was hardly any paint on the hull and the ships name was no longer recognizable.

We had no chance to do anything here and when we got to Port Pirie I gave the crew a job and finish to repaint he hull. They did it in three days thanks to the Canadian who invented the paint roller. They then went on a big party as that port was renowned for its accommodating ways. Little had changed since I first was there in 1955 and they still used the ships cranes and grabs to load in spite of a brand new unused loader system that the WWF had refused to allow.

From there it was on to Walvis Bay and there is no greater fool than an old one as again the captain insisted on the GC routé. We had a brief stop at Capetown for bunkers. It was when we were securing that the master called me a fool in front of crew members. I completely lost my cool and old him that this fool was no longer going to load the cargo or run the crew but only do my watch. It was a very relaxing time for me on the way home to Avonmouth and any decision I referred them to the master.

On arrival the shore captain was here to meet us and I told him my version of the voyage. He asked me to do another voyage but I declined as I had been away for over four months and had honestly had enough of this obsolete way of conducting business. No sad fare thee well and I was looking for another job. I found one that turned out to be a great learning experience and I will relate this in the next episode


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 2, 2017, 4:24 pm 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
When we transited the Panama Canal ,surprise, surprise. There were two bags of mail. One was the long missing one and a new batch. In the first one was mail from my wife confirming that she was pregnant the other telling me about the birth of my daughter.
Our trip to Liverpool was uneventful and most of the crew had that nautical euphoria called “The Channels” when the end of the voyage is near. I was inflicted too as I was anxious to see my wife and daughter. A funny incident about when my wife went for the post natal check up the young intern said in a sort of confidential voice that it would be OK to have sex again. He was rather taken aback when my wife said I don’t think my husband will like that. Not the normal response. It was only when she explained that he was a sailor in the middle of the ocean at that time!!!.
Payoff and the captain hardly spoke to me which suited me just fine and off I went to a well earned vacation . A few days later I received a letter from the company offering a two year contract with better salary and leave but I had no intention of signing. Two weeks later they called me to see if I would fly out to Panama to bring a ship home and again I declined. What would have happened had I been on contract I asked. We would have insisted that you go was their response. Nuff said


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 2, 2017, 4:06 pm 
Kinda cool to hear of bottles washing up. Have heard that a few times in my life time.


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 Post subject: Re: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: May 2, 2017, 10:29 am 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
The trip through the Panama Canal is always an interesting experience and the engineering in the new part I have only seen on news clips and they certainly have made improvements. Here is a bit of trivia. What direction would you be heading when you go from the Pacific to the Atlantic?
North West

The port of St. John in NB Canada is one of the most depressing places I have been though there are natural wonders like the reversing fall and the extremely high tides. A surprise visitor was the deck superintendent (shore captain) to do a surprise inspection. I was standing on deck when he said when you have time I would like to see the port lifeboat swung out. No time like the present I said and with my two trusty apprentice’s, headed up there. . Removed the securing pins and lifted the lever and as sweetly as you like the boat swung out and stopped at the embarkation deck. Bet that was a surprise I said to him as you could not do that when you allowed the ship to sail from Liverpool. Did he look a bit crestfallen and I did not earn any brownie points.

I was allowed a couple of days leave and went up to Toronto to visit my brother and family and was more than ever convinced that I wanted to live in Canada but it was not going to be easy to get the approval. Then back to the ship and once more Tampa to load for N.Z.

The crew were their usual misbehaved louts and the long trip to NZ we managed to get some work done. It was a place called Wangara with another port to finish. A party mood for our merry men and again the pilot and tugs were standing by. With the help of the Bosun, Chippy, two mates and both apprentices we secured the derricks using the preventers and the runners. Then I rounded up the non crew party goers including from the captain’s cabin and pt them ashore. The captain I would not allow on the bridge and once we cleared had the steward clean up all the empty bottles and mess.

I had by this time had had enough of this carrying on and told the captain in no uncertain terms that I would not let this performance happen again or I would call the office and tie the ship up. That went down like a lead balloon and he hardly spoke to me for the rest of the voyage.

Back to Mourilyn to load sugar for Liverpool and I was getting anxious as the birth of our child was imminent. I plagued the Sparks and he never missed a traffic list from Portishead Radio where all messages were sent to ships by Morse code. On 12th August the news finally arrived that I was the proud father of a daughter. I had hidden away four cases of beer and four bottles of rum plus two bottles of champagne to wet the baby's head.

What surprised me was we were in the middle of the Pacific and two hours after the birth and I received a message. My wife had alerted the nursing staff and a telegram form was ready for her to send to me. As a side note I put a message into one of the champagne bottles and next day threw it over the side with a message inside. Six years later his bottle washed ashore in the Philippines Islands and was picked up by a group having a picnic on the beach. That was the only one I have ever been picked up of the dozen I have thrown over board. My daughter has it in her scrap book now.


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