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Thread: Radio Officers on Ships

  1. #11
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    Default Re: Radio Officers on Ships

    #10 John S. In the 1970's in northern north sea, calls went through Wick Radio. If I recall correctly you had to book a slot, at times radio traffic was hectic. If it was a oil installation or a rig calling head office, could be on for ages. All you heard was computer code so you had no idea what was being exchanged.
    As you have said when talking to other vessels every one could listen to the conversation. I think Ch. 72 was one the Wimpy Lads favoured. I was on the first Seaforth Victor and the skipper Bill A. was conversing with one of the Wimpy skippers. He was p**sed off with the job and thinking of packing it in. A voice broke in from a B.P. installation saying if he wanted a change of job there were some going on the platform. Bill A. replied " If I wanted to join a circus it would be Bertram Mills " you could hear the twitters on the V.H.F. sets who were ear-wigging. I never sail with Bill again so could have changed jobs.
    Bill.

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  3. #12
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    Default Re: Radio Officers on Ships

    Thanks Bill I worked for Wimpeys as well they were my introduction to the. North Sea , I had to go to Great Yarmouth to their office for an interview, the supt. doing it said to me , this is not like deep sea you know , we expect our mates to work. To which I blew up and gave him a mouthful including when he had some seatime under his belt to come back and say that. However do remember ch. 72 being their gossip channel , however that was VHF , on the big set other ships would copy you on 2182 kHz calling the shore station and then follow you on to a working channel that the shore station gave you. 2182 being the distress channel as the same as 16 vhf a listening watch was always kept on these, they were also the calling up channels. Cheers JS
    Last edited by j.sabourn; 21st June 2022 at 12:02 AM.
    R575129

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  5. #13
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    Default Re: Radio Officers on Ships

    Now JS, you speak of Wimpeys.

    Would that be the builders, 'We import more paddies every year'

    Or the pre curser to the golden Arches we now have.
    Used to enjoy a Wimpey on a Friday night after a few.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Default Re: Radio Officers on Ships

    #13 Thats right their uniform was a donkey jacket with Wimpey in big white letters on the back. You were a walking advertisement for them. Your hat a white hard hat with the same in Black letters so no one would pinch. JS. Not to be confused with fast food and the other Wimpy, JS. A bit like whiskey and whisky. JS
    Last edited by j.sabourn; 21st June 2022 at 07:18 AM.
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    Default Re: Radio Officers on Ships

    G’day all. My last trip as R/O was in 1984 … The writing was on the wall by then, with GMDSS on the horizon, though all deep-sea ships still had to carry a R/O right up to the time of its implementation which was around the year 2000. Even in my time, I was spending little time in the radio room and a great deal more time in the engine room or cargo control room, working on instrumentation and control systems etc. So although my job title was “Radio Officer”, it would have been more accurate to use the modern-day title “Electro-Technical Officer” or ETO, whom you will still find working at sea to this day. The old system of CW (Morse telegraphy) has long gone, replaced by satellite communications which as everyone knows is completely reliable and will never go wrong, hence no need to carry a trained radio officer any more.

    Oh the good old days of HF radiotelephone calls… The R/O had to sit through every call from every ship ahead of you in the queue when waiting to put a call through Portishead. Most of it was mind-numbingly dull but you did get the occasional caller who’d liven things up a bit, forgetting (or not caring) that the whole world was listening…

    Happy days :-)

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    Default Re: Radio Officers on Ships

    A very interesting thread brings back happy memories, i did my radio licences in the following order VHF Restricted ,HF restricted, SRC ,LRC, Offshore restricted, GMDSS General certificate.
    All between 1984 & 1996. Don`t use them much now, occasionally on the Thames. May well use them in July at Cowes Week and, and on a day sail in September. Take care all best wishes MARITAIR

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  13. #17
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    Default Re: Radio Officers on Ships

    Ah Graham.... 'Twas always thus...That feeling of resentment for us R/O's time off in port......
    Well, I'm an ex-Sparks.....and I can assure you that not all Sparks had the attitude of doing nothing in port. I cannot speak for others but from my earliest days at sea I kept pretty busy in port.....

    But I did manage not to get into the Dual-Role of R/O-Purser...which was a thankless, horrible job.... especially down the West African coast.
    I did occasional tallying of the unloading of spirits from the Bonded Locker on a few occasions... when the dockers were simply dropping crates and helping themselves to the unbroken whisky bottles and guzzling them down....yes....down in the hatch. (Literally) When I tried to stop them.... I was almost lynched.... Thankfully, the Mate appeared and restored order.
    But that was enough for me: I was 19 or maybe 20..... But I said: This is not in my job description! (Or words to that effect!) Never got involved again with that side of things.
    Another "job in port" was updating the many volumes of Admiralty Lists....reams of the stuff. "Lists of Corrections"..... wading through page after page looking for a missing word or some other such triviality..... Mind Numbing to say the least. But it had to be done.
    And I also had to maintain the Navigation equipment...at least the Radars. This involved going up the masts and changing the gearbox oil, slip rings etc (I heard years later that no-one had ever seen a Sparks do this job before!) But I repaired depth sounders, VHF's, maintained the aerials of my gear of course.....
    Then there were the batteries to maintain: The Emergency Power to the Radio Room. Two banks of Lead-Acid batteries that the specific gravity had to be measured in every cell, every month, so as to be sure the battery was performing to specification.

    But I digress! Most of my time in port was spent down in the Engine Room ...in a boiler suit, providing an extra pair of hands..... I was a frustrated Engineer I guess.
    Indeed, I had investigated the career of Engineer prior to leaving school...but the only information I could get was from companies like BP, Shell or P&O who banged on and on about 4 years of college before you even got to go to sea....As a Cadet!...
    So I opted for the R/O's training....a mere two years. (!) I obtained my MPT 2nd Class issued 26th June 1970....I was 18 years old on the 28th!
    (Oh! Yes, the College fees were paid by the Government and my parents received the princely sum of "24 pounds per annum towards travelling expenses.")
    (Years later: I did the Dept. Of Trade Radar Certificate at my own expense in 1981.)[Even though I had been repairing/maintaining radars since 1970]
    (six month course.....2 grand, at least, that cost me, easily & I'm not counting lost wages.)

    In my later years at sea, I was with a Hong Kong company...on bulkers. The R/O was expected to assist the Captain with paperwork....
    There was no Chief Steward on these ships....just a Cook and his assistant...(Yup, times were indeed a-changing) and I got lumbered with the job of "catering"...not only for the Officers but also for the crew.... Usually Chinese, but more often, Filippino. So.... 11 officers and 26 or so crew. I... with no experience whatsoever of "catering" had to... well, Cater!
    37 mouths to feed....3 times a day, 7 days a week...... get on with it, eh!

    We changed crew (Filippino) on one occasion and I asked the Cook about his experience: He'd never been to sea and was, by trade, a butcher.
    His assistant...had never been to sea either....but! Had worked in a restaurant.....as a dishwasher.
    To say I had my job cut out is a bit of an understatement, I think you may well agree. For this work... I was paid a bonus!.... $100 USD a month.

    Anyway.... I fully realised that Satellite Comms were coming in and I would be soon replaced/redundant.... so my last ship at sea would have seemed ideal:
    I would retrain as the Electrician-Comms-Bod..... Yeah. Right. (Read on McDuff)in the history of
    I did three months as the Electrician and then, when the Sparky went on Leave, I would be the Sparky, in the mean time getting up to speed with RTTY (Telex) operation, which none of my previous ships had had. So.... Three months in, I'm loving the Electricians Job and learning the TELEX stuff from the current R/O... No problem.
    Sparks goes on leave and I move from the Electricians cabin to the R/O's as the regular Electrician comes back off leave....

    Now I discover what an absolute #$%& holes Captains can be. Because this guy was their role model. (I sincerely hope he is reading this: Because he knows who I am.)
    He made my life hell. He resented me for reasons I could not fathom. My Northern accent? The fact I enjoyed working with engineers... that old "Oil & Water" debate?
    He would dump a mountain of paperwork on the desk which included every cargo mark written in the most awful scrawl ever to pass for handwriting in the history of mankind....
    And say he wanted that sent to London...which meant of course I had to transcribe everything into the system from his crap handwriting.....
    Why? Was London truly interested in the marks on the cases of oranges? Of course not! He was just being who he was: A #$%&.
    (Later, when I was at home: The London Office phoned me and asked if I actually read the Personnel Report the Captain had submitted about me:
    They could not believe I had signed what he had written: That I "Was often late on watch by up to 10 or 15 minutes......." Totally ignoring the fact I was often on watch getting the latest message from London to coincide with London office hours....at midnight local time or even later.... What a ****, eh! No metion of that dedication at all.
    The slimy git held the report down, denying me the opportunity to read the reverse side...as I glibly signed it.... What a toe-rag.)

    (If you are interested enough: I will explain what the cargo was....where it came from and for where it was destined.... Could be an eye-opener for some.)

    And then came the Telex which changed everything: The company had been sold to Arab Interests and they had laid down their intentions as to the future of the company.
    It included, amongst many other measures, to eliminate the Chief Steward/Purser position..... and all related staff deemed "surplus" to the running of a 'modern ship'.

    Well... No Catering Officer. No Stewards. No real Cook-Chef...... Bog rolls on ration. (Yes, really...That Hong Kong Group decreed we could all have just 4 rolls a month!)

    It was the final straw, as they say. I quit. It was history repeating itself.
    The London Office begged me to reconsider...the Chief Engineer and the Chief Mate both phoned me at home to come back..... Nah.... Been there...done that.... etc etc

    That was the end of my sea-going career. 1970-1987. RIP.

    Made a decent career as a Refrigeration Service engineer...on Trucks and Vans...so I guess I got my engineers job after all......just wish it could have been on ships.

    Sorry for the rambling..... But I hope some have gleaned some insight into the job of the "Sparks".... We were not all the same. Not by any means.

    (By the way: I live in Chile now...just inland from Coronel..... Easy to spot on Google Earth.... It's the house where the Red Ensign always flies....God Bless you all..)
    Last edited by Steve Singleton; 23rd June 2022 at 09:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Radio Officers on Ships

    Thanks Steve. A fascinating account. Only a solid chap would put up with all that. I came ashore in 61 when there was not a hint of the changes bearing down on the sparks world. I went into TV studios and did well by growing along with the rapid changes in technology - from where an early video tape machine, the size of a piano, and hundreds of valves, would go on air with two fellows struggling to keep it stable, through to its semiconductor-driven and miniature descendant being fired off by an office girl with hardly any eng. experience. The fortitude of the ocean going r/o did well for the likes of us.
    Harry Nicholson

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  16. #19
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    Default Re: Radio Officers on Ships

    Wow! Bernard... You are so right. I looked into retraining as an ETO but given my tooth length decided it was not for me. Sadly.
    My last trip as an R/O was '87...and, as you say....The writing was truly on the wall.
    But you brought back some memories there: HF R/T links with Portishead..... My best was off Adelaide ..... with a 100W (?) Marconi job.... How?... I don't know.
    (Oceanspan VII? Pathetic.)
    But we did it..somehow...with all that antiquated gear. I still have a bug-key... which I fire up occasionally and make Morse Music.
    Stay good mate.

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  18. #20
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    Default Re: Radio Officers on Ships

    Hi Harry... Thanks for your very rapid reply, Yeah... I was a pretty resiliant chap back then!
    Not so sure now, though. My patience is wearing VERY thin.
    I know another Ex R/O in the Manchester area... he did a few years at sea, having trained at Brooks's Bar same as I did. (Albeit a few years earlier.)
    He saw an advert for ICL and went there..the rest...as they say...is history. Got in on the ground floor of computers and did fine.
    I just plodded along with my R/O career until... well.. as you have now read.... it became untenable.
    Just life. Is it not? We all make decisons and path changes..... I'm pretty happy with mine. (Shrugs shoulders)

    I can (almost) imagine what it was like in "TV World" back then...... Wow... that must have been a rollercoaster of a ride to todays techno world.

    Thanks Harry... I am glad you appreciated my small history...and that you shared yours with me........ and everyone else on here.

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