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My starting to be a sailor
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Author:  Lakercapt [ April 7, 2017, 2:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

It was the same company but a newer vessel and slightly larger and I was assured that it was a “happy ship”. He chief engineer and I flew via Amsterdam on KLM o Tokyo and via the polar route and not the long tedious route when I flew home to be married with one stop in Anchorage in Alaska. FromTokyo in was on to the ship which was unloading coal (what else). I did not realise it but a new experience was in store as it was crewed by Chinese from Honk Kong. The deck and catering staff as were the 4th and 5th engineer. A big difference from the crew on that last horror of a ship as they were diligent and hard working and never went adrift when in port.
The captain was very much a gentleman and did not interfere with my running of the crew.
We sailed for Nauru which was to be a regular port in the next few months. And as I mentioned before it had to be exact star sights to find it and I am glad to say we always did. On this occasion there was a swell from a distant storm and it was considered too risky to go to the buoy moorings. It turned out to be a long wait as we drifted off for 34 days. That caused a big problem as fresh water was running short. When a rain cloud was spotted the engines were started and we chased after it and after letting the boat deck washed clean the scupper pipes were blocked and one had a hose directed to the engineroom tanks. There was a separate tank for potable water. On the other side of the boatdeck we striped off and had a welcome shower courtesy mother nature. There were an abundance sharks and we passed our time by fishing for them. They made a welcome change to our diet and the crew cut off their fins and the poop deck awnings were festooned by strings of them drying.
On board we had movies and one was a popular one “South Pacific” we watched so many times and for a change once watched it backwards!!!Eventually the swell died down and we were told to approach and pick up the mooring master and the mooring crew. As they had done this many times they were proficient and soon we were loading with dust all over the place. Having been there before I had all the accommodation vents sealed and fans switched off. It was very uncomfortable inside but that was better than having all that dust inside.
Twelve hours later we were on our way to Sydney NSW and happy to have the rain maker functioning again so we could have showers and get our dobhi done (laundry). The voyage was uneventful and we were glad to resupply and get the fresh water tanks (ER) filled. I also took the opportunity to open up the potable water tank and have it cleaned out and a coat of cement wash done. This job was usually tackled by the cadets and chippy. When it had dried it is filled with fresh water and allowed to sit for a day, dumped and refilled.
It was not a speedy discharge as no work was carried out during the weekend (how very civilized). I took this opportunity t do the tourist bit and climbed up that famous landmark, Sydney Harbour Bridge and took pictures of another famous building under construction, Sydney opera house. During our stay my to be best man joined as second mate.
On completion of discharge we were to proceed to Port Kembla to load what else but coal for Japan.
To be continued.

Author:  Lakercapt [ April 5, 2017, 9:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

Once again we sailed for Japan and this time it was for the port of Amagsaki and I was excited as this was where I was to be relieved and head home for vacation and to be married. Was all packed long before we arrived there and was off with no sad look back. Again the jinx of that ship carried on as when I was going down the gangway the sole of my shoe caught and came off. Got the taxi driver o take me a shoe store and with a great deal of gesturing got a pair of shoes. As everyone knows new shoes had to be broken in and I did not have time for that so to the airport and got the puddle jumper to Tokyo. Next was a BOAC Comet to Hong Kong where I had a few hours layby until I got on the 707 to fly to London. When I was waiting I took the new shoes off to relieve the discomfort and had a struggle to get them back on. Took them off again on route to London as feet tend to swell which is common.
From London it was a flight to Edinburgh where I barely was able to walk in those shoes. My future wife was there with my parents to greet me and walking to the car disposed of these damn shoes. It was a busy couple of weeks as all the arrangements had been made for the big day.
My best man was delayed and at the last minute my cousin’s husband stood in his place. It was supposed to be my uncle who drove the best man and I to the church but he was injured in a coal pit so I drove his car and the rest of the party to follow. I got to the ferry and as I had a good lead was last car on. On disembarking I took a short cut as I had driven the route many times before. Bad luck seemed to follow as we got a flat and with a strange car took a while to get the spare and change it. I had my uniform and the best man all his finery but we got rather dirty. The other party caught the nextferry and were surprised not seeing that I and arrived at the church. My mother not being a diplomat mentioned it to the bride and she was most upset thinking she was being jilted at the altar. We arrived before the service was due to start but have you ever tried to clean up using only cold water??. The ceremony and reception went well and he best man (supposed to be)arrived in time for the festivities. He had been delayed as that ship had an engine breakdown
When the guests departed off we the newly weds set off on our honeymoon. I made a mistake of leaving my case unattended and when I opened t a massive amount of confetti poured out. Our hotel was on the beach front and as the weather was hot for the southwest of England we spent time sun bathing. As I was well tanned from my time on board I told my new wife to cover up after a short exposure so she would not got burnt. To this day she still does not pay attention to me and the result was very bright red bride. That night I heard words I did not want to hear “ don’t touch me” as she poor soul was in real discomfort. That changed later I am pleased to report!!!.
After the honeymoon we stayed with her parents until it was time for a very sad parting as it was time to go back to sailing.
To be continued

Author:  Lakercapt [ April 2, 2017, 6:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

As a small rider to the island of Nauru. As I mentioned it was in the middle of the nowhere and it was extremely important that I obtained accurate star sights for accurate positions otherwise we could sail past and not notice it. This was before GPS. It was very low lying and a poor radar target. The local islanders were rich as most received royalties from the British Phosphate Commission who mined the rock. They were a very large people in stature and girth and with a few exceptions did no work. Manual labour was done b people from the Marshall Islands with Chinese doing the clerical work (they were also the shopkeepers). The administration was all done but Australians.

Author:  Lakercapt [ April 1, 2017, 9:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

This fuel was not marine diesel but one that is classed as IMFO or intermediate marine fuel oil which is only a slightly lower SG than bunker fuel so when it cooled it made a black sticky mess. I could have cried as we were now in for a major clean up.
The pilot boarded shortly thereafter and we dock in Chiba which was a large steel making complex.
The discharge started right away and a brown/red dust added to the spilt fuel compounded my anguish. To make matter more ironic the captain received a message that the ship had been put up for sale and there were prospective buyers coming to view so could he please see that everything was spick and span!!
I did not see anyone going round but I am certain a look at the deck and another down he glory hole of an engineroom would be more than sufficient to make them run away. There was not sale alas so I had to struggle on.
When in Chiba an invitation to go to a Japanese restaurant was given to the Captain and chief engineer (by the tugboat company) but as their relationship was more like on a war footing that the frosty one before they declined. The second engineer and I were replacements and to say that this was an outing that still to this day I remember well. It was not like the ones that are now common here in North America where you sit on a stool and the chef cooks it flourishing his knives . We were escorted to this Japanese establishment that had rooms divided by paper screens. We had to remove our shoes on entering and the hostess dressed in traditional Kimonos took us to a room with a low table that had a brazier in the middle. It we tough for us foreigners to get comfortable so special backed cushions were supplied. Saki was served with great frequency, warmed and soon we had a steady glow. Food was cooked as we sat there and we were asked to select from a vast array of sea food and other stuff I did not recognise as well as beef. The host and hostesses treated us like royalty with the traditional Japanese bows etc. A very memorable evening and we were feeling no pain. We were asked if we would like to visit some night clubs but we declined as enough was enough.

When we finished discharge we were to sail for the island of Nauru which is a coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean thousands from the nearest landmass. It is nearly on the equator and this was the first time of many for me to visit this forlorn place. We were to load phosphate there for Australia. It has a very unique history and during WWII was occupied by Japanese Imperial forces. They fortified this small island and at that time (1964) the remnants were still in place. When the Japanese captured Singapore by coming from the north and not by sea as the British in their wisdom expected there were large naval cannons pointing seawards. One was transported to Nauru and was mounted for its defense. More of that later as I was hospitalized there when I had an injury when there on my next ship. The phosphate was dug out of ancient coral heads by cranes with clam shell buckets. It went along conveyor belts to storage facilities but before it reached there it passed through a section that had electro magnets. This to pick up any metal fragments of bombs, shells from unexploded ordinance. There was lots of that and occasion it had to be removed and taken away for disposal. The ship was secured off the reef using a series of buoys. They were moored in very deep water and if any swell came up you had to depart to ensure the mooring were not dragged off position. Two large cantilevers swung out and poured this very dusty cargo into the ship. Loading took just about 12 hours for a full cargo of approximately 12,500 tonnes. When finished moorings were released except one bow line and when all formalities were completed we sailed by hitting a slip pin. As there were not air services to the island at this time we carried passengers in our spare cabins. The US army had built an airstrip when they recaptured the place but it was not in use at this time.

To be continued.

Author:  Old Man [ April 1, 2017, 9:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor


Your musings would be very popular if you ever decided to put them in book form. I want the first copy - signed of course.

Author:  Lakercapt [ March 31, 2017, 10:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

Much had changed in this place, a frequent port of call when I was an apprentice but we were not there long enough that I could go exploring.
When finished we sailed rod the coast and into Port Adelaide to load a cargo of iron concentrate under charter to a business man who had bought this cargo that had been lying there for years. Fund a buyer in Chiba Japan where we were to take it. Our noble master told him we would load as much as possible and when I heard this tonnage I questioned his figures telling him that it was not possible allowing for the fuel and water. We will only carry the minimum water and fuel. The chief engineer and the captain who had frosty now it was definitely icey .He cut back the c/e’s stem and did not make any allowances for delays etc.. As he had the final say there was no argument.
So we sailed and as the days went by it was becoming obvious o that parties concerned that it was going to be tight. The rain make (our name fro the desalination gadget in the engine room that had been giving loyal service for so long quit needing parts we did not have on boards.
The captain instructed the mates to log adverse weather when it was flat calm. There was no way not to do so but not being fools were kept a separate log of true conditions should there be any questions at a later date. A wise decision as it transpired. We could see he was getting more agitated as he daily run and fuel figures were presented to him and it became apparent that we were going to run out of fuel .
Three days short of our destination we came to a halt reserving the little diesel fuel for the generators. The company had been informed of our predicament and arranged for us to be towed to port.
A message from the tug asked us to remove the port anchor as they wanted to use the anchor cable during the tow. AS no one on board ever had done this we put our heads together and devised a plan ( I told the captain to keep out of the way or the crew would not work with him around.) we lowered the anchor and a brave sol was lowered on a bosuns chair to attach a short wire strop through the joining shackle. With the port # 1 hatch derrick swung out the runner was shackled on to the strop. Slowly lowering the anchor and hauling on the runner winch we manager to get the anchor level with the fore deck then swung it inboard. Securing it on deck we with a lot of cursing, heat and big hammers got the joining shackle free. We were fortunate that it was flat calm. Two days later this gigantic Japanese tug came close and a boat with several men boarded and using a painter we hauled a long nylon rope on board. Then a thick wire which as shackled by the Japanese crew to the anchor cable. This was paid out and then the tug started to tow us to our destination. We on board only had to steer keeping the tug ahead. It was very slick and only took about a couple of hours. We were towed just below our speed when sailing. Again the sight of Mount Fuji indicated that our voyage was nearing its end. They anchored us just off Chiba port and a fueling barge came alongside immediately. Alas things on this ill fated ship ever went according to plan as strong winds came up and the barge started to make it surge up and down. This was too much for the hose connection and it parted and fuel oil sprayed all over the front of the wheelhouse which had recently been painted and all over the deck getting covered before it could be shut down.

Author:  Guest [ March 31, 2017, 2:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

thanks for taking the time for these stories there great!

Author:  Guest [ March 31, 2017, 1:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

Hi Lakercapt! Thank you for taking the time to share your stories with us. Do not worry that there are not a lot of comments, some people just don't. Look at how many views you post has received, that is a better indicator of our interest. I look forward to seeing more of your travels on here. Again Thank You for sharing these with everyone. RN

Author:  Lakercapt [ March 31, 2017, 1:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

Pete in Holland MI wrote:
Very cool stories from your past. I enjoy reading them, but ask a few favors to help enhance the reading:

1) Approximate year of the story.

2) More details about the boat (steam or diesel, approximate age or year built, approximate size, etc).

3) More details of where in the world you are at, for those of us who are geographically challenged. Some stories, I have know idea where they originate from.

These details will help better understand your experiences.

Thanks again !


Glad you are enjoying the rambling of my life as a sailor.
All the ships were motor except the first two and the tankers (T2 and turbine)
All carried about 10,000 /12500 tons except the coaster.
First stories Australian coast, second North America, Italy, Tunisia, Venezuela, British Guyana, Canada.
Date wise firsts stories from 1953, West Coast (Africa) 1958/1962
Masters certificate 1962
Lasts tales 1963/4.
Except for WWII built were fairly modern and to go back for each one too much.
Hope hat helps but I will try and include the detail in future.
I am now up to 1964 so a few more stories to come should the moderators allow.

Author:  Pete in Holland MI [ March 31, 2017, 12:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

Very cool stories from your past. I enjoy reading them, but ask a few favors to help enhance the reading:

1) Approximate year of the story.

2) More details about the boat (steam or diesel, approximate age or year built, approximate size, etc).

3) More details of where in the world you are at, for those of us who are geographically challenged. Some stories, I have know idea where they originate from.

These details will help better understand your experiences.

Thanks again !


Author:  Blevins [ March 31, 2017, 10:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

Captain. I have just finished reading your posts and found them most interesting. Your work in producing them is most appreciated by me.
In an earlier post you mentioned the smell of Braso.
That brought back so many memories for me.
My uncle was captain of the SSMantadoc and I spent an overnight with him when they were docked at the a Dominion Coal docks in Toronto.
Throughout the night, I polished brass in the wheelhouse. Quite an adventure for a 10 year old!
That was 57 years ago.
I too can still smell the stuff.
A great memory.
Thank you so much.

Author:  Lakercapt [ March 30, 2017, 4:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

The passage to Tokyo was nearly the same as the previous and I managed with the aid of two cadets and the rest of the deck crew to get much needed maintenance done. The approach to the capital of Japan from the sea is impressive as Mount Fuji the sacred mountain is observed a long way off. It was snow covered and just like a picture postcard. Pilotage though Tokyo bay is like playing chicken with traffic going in all directions. We were to discharge at anchor using the ships equipment so we were in for at least ten days stay.
All made the most of our time there to explore and there were many strange things, alien to our Caucasian eyes in this very congested and busy city with the subway being no exception as they had staff that did nothing but push the last passengers before the doors closed.
When we sailed the third engineer was missing,we thought that he had overslept with a young lady. Alas this was not the case as his body was recovered as we proceeded to our next port, Miike which was in the Inland sea. That put a real downer on everyone as he was a popular guy.
The inland sea was like a trip you wish you could make every day as it was very scenic and bustling with craft of all makes and sizes and the pilots took it all in their stride. We arrived at this port and I believe we were the first European to have been there since the end of WWII. Walking up the town would attract a bunch of kids that followed you about and the black 4th engineer was a major draw. He was is a bar where the ladies asked him a very embarrassing question. They were led to believe that blacks had three testicles and he willingly showed them that was not true.
On deck on the afternoon of 9th November 1963 I heard a massive bang and a short time later a mushroom cloud was observed over the town. I rushed to get a picture with my camera that I had just purchased. We were soon to find out that there had been a violent underground explosion it the coal mine. It was to be one of the most serious disasters in history and 458 miners were killed. My photograph alas was on a transparency and was not suitable for the newspaper as a reporter came to see me. A fund was started for the survivors and families and when the crew heard of this we contributed a not insignificant amount of cash. When the captain gave it to the ships agent he was overwhelmed and would not accept but asked if the captain would hand it to the mayor. This was arranged with much publicity and dignity. The towns people were very touched that these foreigners had shared their grief and from there on during our stay our money was not accepted at any bar or eating place.
Prior to our sailing a grand picnic and outing was arranged for all the crew and people all dressed in traditional clothes and hosted the crew to a fantastic outing. The day we sailed all crew members were given a bunch of flowers and a keepsake. Hundreds came down to the quay and wished us sayonara and many tears were shed waving us off. A very touching experience for all.
We went to Mackay in Queensland to discharge this fertilizer for the sugar cane fields, which I found out later was used as an explosive in the Oklahoma bombing and by the IRA and even in mining. Ammonium nitrate is very dangerous stuff when mixed with fuel oil. We had enough on board to make the town of Mackay disappear off the map had it been used for that purpose. Again we had a fairly long enjoyable stay. One evening I noticed a wrought metal chair on the patio of one houses that served alcoholic beverages and mentioned it to someone and next morning I woke to find it in my cabin. I still have it to this day and it has been a world wide traveller.
Next we sailed to the port of Numea in the New Hebrides Islands to load Iron ore but as it was Christmas we tied up at the town and celebrated in fine style. This although the name suggests otherwise was under French governance and as in all paces ruled by them very French in style. It took several days out in the back of beyond to load and then it was away to an old haunt of mine, Port Kembla in NSW.

To be continued

Author:  Guest [ March 28, 2017, 10:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

Great reading capt please continue

Author:  Lakercapt [ March 28, 2017, 5:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

Should the readers wonder how I remember all these ships etc. I have a record of every ship I ever sailed on and a photograph of these vessels except one that sank (not whilst I sailed her) The internet helped with the later as I thought it would be of interest to my grandchildren as my children had more sense than I and did not opt for a seagoing career.
As my fiancée and I decided that I needed to go back deep sea I got the offer of a job as mate on a ship that was loading in Durban S.A. so packed my gear and off I went. That taxi from the airport deposited me, to my horror at the bottom of the gangway of a rusty looking wreck. Oh no what have I let myself in for and although many first impressions turn out to be wrong this one was spot on and my misfortunes and horrible experiences came true. I can safely say this was the worst ship I ever sailed on. There were some good points but they were far outweighed by the bad. There was no way to get off and I was destined to be on her for nearly ten months.
When I introduced myself to the captain I thought right away he was a strange guy and this was proven on many occasions in the coming months and I do believe that he was later on taken away by two large gentlemen in white cloths!
The ship was loading sugar for Japan. I was looking forward to that as I had never been there before and it was a first of many times I was to visit that fascinating country.
Bags of sugar were loaded on to the tops of the hatches and cut open and dumped into the hold. This ship had old fashioned beams and hatch boards but made of metal instead of wood that I had laboured over a few years back. It was a slow process but no-one complained as Durban at that time was a great run ashore for sailors.
My first disagreement with the captain was about how much fresh water we were to carry for the passage as he had reduced my order considerably and his words were that water could be made on route and more cargo paid the wages. That I know is true but these fresh water desalination plants that ran off the waste engine heat were particularly unreliable (reverse osmosis was not available then). He got away with it on that occasion but it came to haunt him later.
We sailed and were destined for Kobe with a stop for bunkers at Singapore which was another first for me. And there was time to do some shopping and buy stuff you would throw away later. The trip was fairly routine except one early morning watch I heard a weird noice from the engine room and sparks and flames spewed from the funnel. Not to worry I was informed as it was one of many scavange fires that that engine was prone to.
Kobe was a sailor’s paradise with the fantastic shopping in the famous Moto Machi and the ladies very accommodating!! With the rate of exchange them it allowed me to purchase many electronic marvels that were just coming on the market and a very good run ashore all together. This was in 1963 and things changes when I visited years later.
We were ordered to return to Durban that pleased many of the crew who had made friends there. The return voyage was a repeat with nothing of note.
Loading in Durban was at the same slow pace and most of the crew though sad to leave were broke and needed the trip to Japan to save up again. I don’t recall any untoward happenings but the Sunday inspections were a trial. These were conducted by the captain, myself, the chief engineer and the chief steward and the bosun, when doing the deck. Nothing would please the captain and fault was found at every place. Afterward we were invited (summonded) to the captains quarters to discus the affairs and me to sign the official log.
To be continued

Author:  A J [ March 27, 2017, 7:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My starting to be a sailor

Captain, I second what Hugh3 posted previously! I imagine there are many who read your writings, electing not to comment, anxiously waiting for the next venture you take us on.

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