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 Post subject: My starting to be a sailor
Unread postPosted: March 17, 2017, 6:31 am 

Joined: July 19, 2010, 4:51 pm
Posts: 404
I served my apprenticeship with this renowned company. At the tender age of sixteen I flew out to Australia (a very unusual experience in 1953). It was a BOAC Argonaut which was a four engine plane. We stopped each night and stayed in a hotel. Next morning after breakfast we boarded and set off again. It took five days to complete the trip.

The ship I joined was an "ocean" built ship built in the USA for wartime service. It was a coal burner and had been working on the Aussie coast for a few years and the crew we relieved flew home. The ship was on long term charter to the Australian Government and our main trips were carrying coal and iron ore.

Main port or home port was Newcastle NSW where we loaded coal from railroad trucks that were lifted on board by crane and dumped into the holds. It took a couple of days or more to take on a full load. From there we sailed to either Melbourne or Port Adelaide and discharged. Then it was on to Whyalla to load iron ore for either Newcastle or Port Kembla and do the whole thing again. For two years with very little variariation this is what we did.

Whyalla was an ore loading port though there was a steel works too. We used to hope that we had to wait and go to anchor as the fishing was outstanding and we took full advantage of it. It supplemented the meals as, being Australia, we were fed mutton very frequently. It was cheap as the sheep were raised mostly for their wool.

Loading was done from a long jetty and a fixed chute so the ship had to be moved to load each hold. A big workup and we were either shifting ship or battening down. With beams and hatch boards, there were two sizes and as they were made of hard wood with metal bands - bloody heavy to heave up over the coamings. Certainly had to be strong to do that. Next was the tarpaulins. In the summer it was only two but winter there was an extra one. It was tuck, table tuck for the three then the battens were put in around the edges. Chippy the carpenter put the wedges in and, as his helper, on many an occasion I knew to put the wedges in correctly. It was hypotenuse against the hatch and woe betide you if they were not in correctly. Later on I was allowed to hammer the wedges up tight.

It was all go loading there but as we were on charter to the Aussies we were paid overtime. Another perk was that all the crew were paid "dirty money" and, if my memory serves me correctly, it was one pound Aussie per day paid monthly. As my apprentice wages were 7 pounds ten shilling a month at first I was well off.

On the odd occasion that we were allowed ashore because of a loading breakdown, or if we were loading an empty hatch, we could walk the length of the jetty into town. Didn't do it if the wind was in the wrong direction as the dust blew off the belts and you got coated in a red layer long before reaching the end. Not much there when you did get ashore anyway.

Ships

Firby

“ My first ship Firby was an war time built 'Ocean class' vessel and was to say it was basic would be an understatement. The navigational equipment was only what was necessary - Magnetic compass D.F., echo sounder, and not much else. There was no automatic pilot or radar. Deck watches were three per watch and, except for the 'farmer' in each watch, you did your two hour trick at the wheel steering. The 'farmer' changed each watch and, for those that have not come across the term before, it was derived from the days when he could not steer.

to be contiued


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