View Full Version : A CHILEAN VOYAGE ON THE ULSTER STAR (By Mike Hall)

Doc Vernon
14th August 2016, 07:51 PM

It was the end of March 1961 and raining, and my leave ashore was about to end, so I started to pack and prepare to go back to sea again.
I left home in Maidstone early one morning and caught the bus into town. From there I made my way to the railway station for the train to Woolwich. From there I made my way to the ferry for the crossing of the Thames, sometimes if I was in a hurry, I would use the foot tunnel, which ran under the river. From north Woolwich (the other side) I made my way to the docks.
I had reported to the federation offices in the Royal Group Docks on Monday 10th April and was given the ship, the Ulster Star of the Blue Star Line and job of Cooks assistant. My job as a cook’s assistant was virtually the same as a galley boy, but as I was on a higher rate than a galley boy, I had to have a higher rank. My area of responsibility was the preparation of the vegetables and all general cleaning in and around the galley. This ship had an unusual feature. she had piped music throughout the accommodation areas. My cabin was situated on the main deck and was a double berth cabin shared with the second cook. The cabin consisted of two bunks two wardrobes, along with a chest of drawers, a settee and a chair. We the crew signed on, on Tuesday 11th April, My wages for this voyage were £34-15-0.a month. The ship set sail on Wednesday 12th April for Rotterdam, leaving the docks assisted by two tugs into the locks and out into the river. Dropping the dock pilot off at Gravesend and changing with the river pilot, who when we reached the English Channel would disembark, and we were then on our way. Once we were out into the channel, the walkers patent log was put into use, this was a bronze rotator attached to a long line which when rotated by the ships movement forwards, measured the distance travelled and speed. This item of equipment was used every time the ship left a port. We arrived in Rotterdam on Friday 14th April, once docked, loading of the ship began. When loading had finished, we left Rotterdam on 14th April towards the Canary Islands and Las Palmas for re-fuelling.
After a few days at sea, we arrived in Las Palmas on Wednesday 19th April, where re-fuelling of the ship began. After about a day, we were on our way again. I did not get any time ashore, as we were not here long enough. Soon we were on our way towards Montevideo. During the crossing we had a fire/lifeboat drill, we were alerted to this by the constant ringing of the alarm bells, we would all gather on the boat deck, where the fire hoses would be tested, then we would try the lifeboats, as before release the clamps and press a button, down the boat would go until it was stopped, press another button and up she would come, lock the clamps, switch everything off and back to work.
This ship had four cabins below the bridge for six passengers; However we did not have any on this voyage.
On a Sunday the captain would inspect the ship wearing white gloves, (if he got them dirty, there would be hell to pay) to see if everything was being kept clean.
After about two weeks at sea, we arrived at Montevideo on Monday 01st May and as soon as we had docked, many people came on board to start to sort out the problems we had, had with the main engine. The cylinder lining had to be changed. The shipping company agent would come on board at most ports with relevant information concerning the cargo, but this time with details of the engine repair, and he would also have post from home. Several trips were made ashore for drinks and Sightseeing .Once the engine problems were complete, we were on our way. It was Thursday 04th May, for the small port of Santa Cruz on the Argentine coast arriving on Sunday 07th May and leaving on Tuesday 09th May where we unloaded cargo for two days. Soon we were on our way to the port of Punta Arenas Chile; we arrived and left on the same day, Thursday 11th May.
We then sailed down the coast and into the Magellan straits for the port of Puerto Bories, a meat factory port. Where we loaded frozen meat. We arrived here on Friday 12th May and departed
from this isolated port on Monday 19th May. The loading of the ship was carried out day and night.
To get to Puerto Bories the ship had to be guided through the kirke narrows, by a small boat chugging along in front of us, with at times only inches to spare either side of the ship, at one point our officers on the bridge were told to keep at a steady speed, due to the risk of grounding the ship. The dock we tied up against was only made of wood, normal docks are made of concrete. Only one ship at a time could be loaded here.
We only had a certain period of time to load the ship, as it was getting near winter and the whole area freezes over making it impossible for ships to get in and out. Whilst there we emptied the whole of the meat factory. The frozen meat was brought to the ship by a steam locomotive pulling about four wagons. Once loaded, we made our way back along the kirke narrows to Punta Arenas, arriving there on Saturday 20th May to start loading more meat.
On an occasion ashore, in Punta Arenas I and some mates went into a small shop in the town, to buy souvenirs, whilst looking around I came across a tin of toffees made by Sharps of Maidstone, Maidstone being my home town. What a long way to come for a tin of toffees made in my home town. No I did not buy them.
One morning the chief cook and second cook failed to get up, because they had a bad night ashore, they had drunk too much. So I ended up cooking the breakfast for the whole crew on my own. This proved I had learnt something.
On another occasion the second cook got into big trouble, because he was either eating or selling special ice creams in the shape of ladies (for special occasions) to people ashore. I think he was fined the loss of some wages because of this.
We sailed from this port on Tuesday 30th May, going to Buenos Aires to load more meat, we arrived on Saturday 03rd June. we were in port for just a few days. Several trips were made ashore, to the local bars, and I made some more trips for sightseeing.
once loaded we left Buenos Aires on Tuesday 06th June, to the small port of Rio Grande arriving and leaving on the same day, Thursday 08th June, where more cargo was loaded. We were soon on our way to Santos in Brazil arriving on Wednesday 14th June to find that we had to anchor outside the port for a day. The next day Thursday 15th June we made our way to the docks for more loading of cargo. Once loading was complete and all six holds full and secured, we were on our way back home to London. Leaving here on Sunday 18th June. It was here that our ship was in collision with the cargo ship, Capo Bianco, on a voyage from Buenos Aires to Genoa.no serious damage was caused to either ship, and we were both able to proceed to our destinations. We were on our way home.
This is where I developed two nasty boils on my stomach. I was ordered to take it easy for the rest of the voyage.
Our next port was Le Havre in France arriving on Sunday 02nd July, in the evening I went ashore with some other seamen, but due to the boils I could not enjoy myself and I made my way back to the ship early. We departed on Tuesday 04th July. To the last port Antwerp Belgium, arriving Wednesday 05th July, where I would have liked to go ashore, but I was in such a bad way, I could not. We departed on Thursday 06th July, for our home port of London.
The ship arrived back in London, on Friday 07th July, I had been paid my wages of
£118-16-8,The records show that I did not spend anything on this voyage.

I was in such a bad way I had to be escorted off the ship to the railway station at Woolwich, by the third officer. This officer even saw me onto the train. His name was Tim Hancock.
The train ride home was very uncomfortable.
When I got home, I found that my parents had gone away on holiday, so I had to dress my boils myself. However when I spoke to the neighbours about my problem, they took it in turns to assist me.It was over a month before I was well enough to even think about going back to sea again.

The CAPO BIANCO was built as the ORARI in 1931, for the New Zealand Shipping Company.
1958 she was sold to capo Gallo navigation, Italy.
1971 she was scrapped.


BUILDER-------------Harland & Wolff, Belfast
YARD NO------------1568
ENGINES BY--------Builder
YEAR BUILT--------1959
PROPOLSION-------Burminster & Wain
TYPE------------------Refrigerated Cargo Liner
OFFICIAL NO------300043

1959 Built for Blue Star Line, Named ULSTER STAR
1964 Transferred to Lamport & Holt, Same name.
1965 Transferred to Blue Star Line, Same name.
1975 Transferred to Blue Star Management, Same name.
1979 Scrapped by Nan Hour Enterprise co.

Doc Vernon
14th August 2016, 07:56 PM
May I just again say that all these Articles of Mike's past at Sea are very interesting and I really enjoyed reading and posting them once again on site for him!

It would be great to see others doing similar,with the likes of Capt especially (and many others) as I know he has many Stories scattered around the site,which are of similar interest and good reading!

Thank you to Mike for sending these to me good on you Mike!

Roger Barnes
23rd October 2019, 10:26 AM
I sailed that route on ‘Thessaly’ & ‘Paraguay’ Royal Mail Lines,as Engineer Officer in late 50s /60s visiting Chile to assist after the Earthquake ⚓️Roger Barnes

david smiley
23rd October 2019, 04:26 PM
I was wiith Blue Star Line during this period - and beyond. My autobiography is on Amazon - 'The unusual career of a 20th century mariner'.
I will happily send the draft of the book to those requesting same...<marineconsultancy@hotmail.com>
David Smiley