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Thread: Best trip, Tramping in the 80's

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    Default Best trip, Tramping in the 80's

    In October 84 I flew to Long Beach to join a 5 hatch, open hold, geared bulk carrier as Mate. She was bunkering on her way from Jacksonville to Japan with a cargo of Phosphate. After leaving Long Beach, for the first week we never saw the deck as it was covered in heavy seas. We eventually arrived at a small port in Japan, whose name I cannot recall, for discharge which took around a week.
    After that it was ballast back across the Pacific to Prince Rupert to start loading a cargo of timber for the U.S.A.
    The voyage across was bloody cold and a workup as two of the cranes hoist wires needed renewing plus all the cabs and internal access to them had to b cleaned and painted, some new cab windows fitted etc. in order to make sure they passed the Canadian Stevedores inspection.
    After loading in Prince Rupert (snow one minute, lashing rain the next) and getting thrashed at pool in a local bar by two girls in skin tight jeans and low cut tops, next port was Nanaimo where I had not been to since the early 70's. Amazed to find what used to be a sleepy main street with just a couple of bars had morphed into a street of topless go-go bars.
    After Nanaimo it was round to Alberni to complete loading where I was dismayed to find the Beaumount hotel near the docks had burnt down but pleased to find it had re-opened as part of a hotel in town. Even more pleased to find that its lunchtime menu served ice cold ale, excellent hamburgers all served up by topless bar staff.
    We completed loading in Alberni and set off for the States. First port was Beaumont in Texas where there was a great bar, Get Down Browns, where every Thursday they all cleared the tables to do the Texan Two Step dance.
    After that it was Tampa then Jacksonville and final port of discharge was Brooklyn, Green Street Wharf up past the naval dockyard and the abandoned shipyards. A real dump of a place and pretty dangerous to.
    To get alongside we had the bow right up to the end of the dock with the stern sticking out into the river. At night ahead you could only see darkness illuminated by the odd weak street light whilst astern it was a blaze of lights that hurt your eyes, Manhattan in all its glory. The jetty was in a pretty rotten state to such an extent that only two forklift were allowed on it at any one time but on it was a hut with a big Cadillac car parked outside. There was a constant traffic of stevedores going into and out of the hut, emerging with a slip of paper in their hands. We were taking diesel bunkers there by road tanker and I was told to "see the man" in the hut to obtain permission for the road tanker to enter and park on the jetty during lunch break. I went into the hut where a huge negro in a fancy suit sat behind a desk with a stash of money inn front of him and a couple of tough looking guys sitting with him. I marched in bold as brass and demanded to know if he was "the man" telling him we would be receiving bunkers by road truck during lunch hour. There were some surprised looks around the table but I just said "that's o.k. then" got a grunt of acknowledgement and left. The bunker tanker arrived and we duly took bunkers. One of the stevedores asked me how I had got permission from "the man" so I told him I just went in and told him what was going to happen. He went a bit pale and said you do know he was the Mafia and controlled everything that went on at the berth, including which trucking company was allowed in to take the timber away. No I said, he was just a fat guy in a suit as far as I could see. Apparently he was also a bookie running a "numbers" ring which was why the stevedores were in there placing bets on numbers in horse races.
    After completing discharge we then went down to Panama City Florida, to load a cargo of drill pipes for Saudi Arabia. This was the first every consignment of pipe from the particular steel mill to be exported to Saudi so in order to prevent any damage they treated each sling like it was glass and the amount of timber used in shoring and tomming off was incredible.
    Panama City was a holiday resort yet many of the locals cars all seemed to sport dents front and back, which was a bit weird. All was revealed when I was taken for a drive along the seafront road that ran along the beach front. On the other side was lines of hotels with a constant stream of fit young girls in skimpy bikinis crossing from there hotel to the beach, distracting any driver causing many minor collisions between the cars on the crowded road.
    After completion its was off to Al Jubail to discharge the drill pipes where gangs of Philippine stevedores literally ripped the cargo out with slings of pipes swinging all over the place at breakneck speed making it too dangerous for any crew to venture on deck. What took around 10 days to load was discharged in some 36 hours in the blazing heat and we were left with tons of very nice sawn timber that had been used for shoring and tomming off, in our holds. We tried to get the Saudis to take it ashore but they flatly refused to despite it being perfect for construction use.
    Our next cargo was to be loaded in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, we spent the whole voyage hatch cleaning and dumping all that lovely dunnage overboard.
    First call in the Philippines was Surigao City where we anchored to get clearance to go to Nonoc Island to load and pick up our Supercargo for the voyage. Did not get ashore there but we were swamped by Filipino girls wanting to party. After getting clearance we went to Nonoc to load 500 tons of Nickel Brickets in 1 ton steel drums. Each drum had three sets of paperwork in triplicate which each required to be signed individually, no carbons. Thought my hand was going to drop off by the end of it all. Those 500 drums were worth about $7 million.
    After Nonoc we went to Bitung in the Philippines to load Plywood. After that we went to Ambon to pick up labour for our next two ports that were situated on two islands in the Sulewesi Sea. Along with labour came families and supplies for one of the Islands, all living on deck.
    Arriving off the first island we discovered it was almost uninhabited beyond a logging camp and a saw mill. Anchoring off the sawn timber was brought out to us by barge but due to the swell it proved very difficult to load from the barge. Having no real charts for the area we could see that if we shifted anchor to further into the bay we were anchored off there would be calmer water, so using the radar I made up a rough chart of the bay and then, putting the lifeboat down and using the hand lead line, I did runs of soundings in order that we could safely anchor further into the bay. After shifting we found that we were able to load easily off the barge. The packages of timber were nothing like the nice cubes you loaded in B.C. The only common thing was that all planks were 1" thick but each sling contained a different number of planks all of different length.
    Leaving the first island we went to its neighbour were we berthed in Mandano to load plywood from a factory staffed totally by Balinese girls who were kept in a compound akin to Stalag 90. We had a Barbie on the beach across they bay where we were greeted by a tribe of natives who promptly slaughtered a pig and joined us in our Barbie, painting our faces with tribal marks.
    After that it was back to Ambon to drop off the labour and there families then onto Polamea in Sulewesi where we loaded 1500 tons of Nickel Shot. There we met up with a Scottish guy who had gone native and who made his living transporting goods around the islands in his two masted schooner and spent his nights drinking beer on deck with his Indonesian girl. Going ashore into the small town there was some fantastic food to be had off the street vendors and every small shop seemed to have a sign outside them advertising Guinness, Mackeson or Players cigarettes for sale.
    After Pomalea we did the following ports loading more timber, though not necessarily in this order. Kota Kinabalo, Semerang, plus a couple of other I forget, all the time loading slings of Indonesian timber, each sling containing both different numbers of and lengths of 1" planks. All of the timber was loaded using ships gear and manual labour along with soaped planks to get the slings to slide out into the wings of each hatch. We also called at Penang to load 1000 tons of Tin ingots. Eventually we were full up with a deck cargo and set off for Europe where we discharged in Rouen, Rotterdam and Newport, where I paid off after one of the best trips ever.
    rgds
    J.A.
    p.s. excuse the spelling of some of the ports

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    Default Re: Best trip, Tramping in the 80's

    John, never worked on the tramping trade always the liner ops.
    Sailed on the SA VAAL on the mail run for year. Transferred Clan Line, fruit run for 2.5 years.
    In the fruit close season, sailed UK- S.A. Mauritius.
    1972, the fruit season ended early, July, we loaded the last cargo, which had double dunnage, which indicated that we would be a store ship when we arrived Europe, generally off Southend.
    Surprisingly as we headed North, we received no indication of our final destination, which was unusual as the destination changed daily in normal season.
    Fourteen days after we left the Cape we arrived Soton for a full discharge. The super informed us that there was no cargo for us and that we should go on leave, leaving our deep sea gear behind, and that in all likelihood we would be laid up in the Blackwater (he was lying).
    After 10 days received a call rejoin ship. Arrived ship, announced sailing Argentina. So much for a layup and long leave.
    Vic

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    Default Re: Best trip, Tramping in the 80's

    A little addition to my original post. Some of the initial ports sewers originally booked to load in would have meant we would not only have circumnavigated Sumatra but also loaded in a couple of ports up rivers in Kalimantan, but I guess the brokers had already booked sufficient cargo from the actual ports we visited.
    Nickel shot was formed by pouring molten nickel from the top of a tall tower through water spray. The molten nickel cooled and broke up into small misshapen pieces which were then sent for export. After discharge of it in Rotterdam, we had around a ton of hatch sweepings collected and at that time nickel was going for something like 9000 a ton, I thought that it would be a nice little earner for the welfare fund, yet no scrap merchant were interested in it so that went over the side somewhere in the English Channel. The only thing they were interested in was the woven tarpaulin that had been put on top of the nickel to separate it from the timber stowed on top of it.
    Shortly after completion of discharge of the tin ingots to a barge in Rotterdam, we were boarded by a gang of Dutch customs guys who claimed that we had failed to discharge all the ingots and that we had stolen a number of them to sell for ourselves. It got quite heated even after they had not only been shown where the cargo had been stowed but also after they had searched the ship. After showing them the port log with times and name of the barge we had discharged them to, they went of in search of the barge, boarded it and there search revealed the missing ingots that the barge skipper had decided to purloin them for his own gain.
    Rgds
    J.A.

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    Default Re: Best trip, Tramping in the 80's

    Sorry lads....you can't beat The Bank Line for tramping....70s / 80s
    Joined as 6/E in Bangkok, after completion of an Australian National Line Engineer Cadetship on box boats and bulkies.

    Bangkok, Singers, Rangoon, Madras, Colombo....East Africa...Maputo (LM), Mombasa, Majunga, then Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town.........through Magellan Straits to Valraraiso........10,000tonnes of palletised sugar cubes for Bandar Shapour in Iran...back through the straits. Over two months in the Gulf!!!! Load in SA for West Coast S. America....back through Magellan (need to wear two boiler suits in the ER).....Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. ..Pay off in Vancouver after a double header (14 months). Fly to London. Supposed to be sent back on leave to OZ...but having such a good time...after a month joined a Copra boat in Hull and off to the South Pacific......and on it went...spent 7 yrs on Bank boats......best time of my life AND learnt a lot of engineering as well. Went back to OZ with a ready made Scouse family and did my Chief's ticket. Back to ANL for a year, then swallowed the anchor.....ashore with boiler and burner service.

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    Default Re: Best trip, Tramping in the 80's

    I take it your a scouser Rod, Terry.
    {terry scouse}

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    Default Re: Best trip, Tramping in the 80's

    Hi Terry,
    Actually I am what is now a lost race...Anglo Indian. Family emigrated to Australia when I was 9.

    Did my time on Aussie ships and then joined Bank Line. Met my future wife in Liverpool. Married at Prescot, lived in Whiston. Brought a ready made family of 3 Scouse kids (2 Liverpuds and 1 Evertonian) to Brisbane in 1984. Personally would have stayed, but more of a future for kids growing up and working in Australia. Another daughter born in Brisbane soon after...LFC supporter. Unfortunately my wife died in 1988. Two kids back in Liverpool and two in OZ now. I usually get back to Liverpool once a year.

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