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Thread: A miserable, rotten trip

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    Default A miserable, rotten trip

    My shipmate Ginger and I had paid-off from a three week home-trade (h.t.) visiting ports in Holland and Germany on the "Good Hope Castle". After five or six days leave at home (Southend-On-Sea), we figured on another h.t..

    We went up to the London pool and bold as brass, as only catering boys can be, asked for a h.t.. The clerk looked us up and down and said something like "It's your lucky day boys, Burries and Markes, "La Cumbre", you join her in Rotterdam, two stops in Europe and bring her home."

    We jumped at it. Ginger as catering boy, officers mess, and me as galley boy....Perfect.

    We were instructed to meet up with the rest of the crew at, I think it was Victoria Station, the following afternoon and off via a ferry to Rotterdam.

    Sure enough, next afternoon we met with the crew. There were no deckies or engine room crew, just catering. The Second Steward introduced himself and passed out our tickets and we were off. It was an uneventful crossing until we arrived at dockside Rotterdam and stared at the rust bucket in front of us the "La Cumbre".

    We found our way to our cabin (a two berther); dumped our bags and headed to the officers mess to sign-on.

    We could hear an uproar going on before we entered and soon found out why. The articles were 'deep sea' not 'home- trade', which meant we could be away for up to twenty-four months instead of a couple of weeks.

    The Chief Steward shouted for silence and told us as far as he knew, it was a one trip to Quebec and back to England for a major engine overhaul. With that a couple men walked out, not interested.

    I was seventeen and Ginger was just shy of eighteen. After turning eighteen Ginger would be up for his rating (promotion to waiter and that meant doubling his salary), and that's why we wanted only a home-trade trip. But if we refused the ship at the last minute, we believed we could have our discharge books pulled, and that meant National Service and the army. In any case it was a moot point, we didn't have the money for our return fares. We talked it over and convinced ourselves that six weeks out to Quebec and home wasn't too bad. So we signed on....But it left a bitter taste, we'd been shanghaied.

    We unpacked and changed into work gear and headed for our stations. Ginger to the officers mess pantry and me to the galley.

    I entered the galley and saw THE DEVIL! ... 'IT' was about five foot-three, ninety lbs., and ugly as a truck load of ass#oles , plus something was wrong with 'it's eyes: one eye didn't move. I found out later it was a glass eye. The Ship's Cook had on make-up, 'its' hair in curlers; wore clogs and check cook's pants; a short sleeved woman's blouse,and a female's fancy apron, and had a cigarette in the corner of 'it's' mouth.

    'It' put it's hands on it's hips, looked me up and down, leered and said. "Well don't you look yummy."

    To say my heart sank is putting it mildly, especially when 'it' added.

    "Don't you dare call me Cookie, call me Bubbles."

    The Second Cook and Baker introduced himself as Nobby, and seemed a decent enough sort, and he was. Usually its someone with a family name Clark that gets a nickname Nobby in the U.K., not so in this case. Nobby never paraded naked around the head, he always had a regular size towel around his waist, for example while he was shaving, but a certain not to be mentioned appendage could be seen dangling below the towel. Thus the sobriquet Nobby.

    I could see 'It'/Bubbles giving me the once over as I was peeling potatoes. I tried to ignore it.

    It was later that day, I had just been to the storeroom to pick up supplies. I walked into the galley and a hand grabbed me, you know where, and said, "Boo!" I let out a yell and (I'm going to call 'It', 'B') acting coy, leered sickeningly at me and said.

    "Well ain't you the goosey one?"

    I made it quite clear, NEVER! touch me like that again...Nobby said something like, Leave the kid alone Bubbles. 'B' huffed and went back to cooking.

    After dinner the pots and pans were to be washed. The barsteward of a Ship's Cook had deliberately left them on the stove and in the oven, and burnt the bottoms. I spent an extra hour fuming and scrapping the burnt crud off.

    Part of my job was to wake 'B' with a cup of tea in the afternoon after 'It's, nap. Again it was another attempt at grab-ass. I'd knock, announce the time and enter the cabin. 'B' was sleeping on 'it's' back, the glass eye open and staring. I'd call out to 'B' the time once more, put the tea down and it was a pat on the ass, or a leer. 'B' did it two afternoons. The third afternoon: I brought the all-ready-made tea to the boiling point in a pan; dumped it in a pre-heated mug, and hurried to 'B's cabin. I went through the drill and as this creature made it's move I said. "If you ever touch me again I'm going to sneak in and dump this boiling tea into your good eye, and you'll be blind as a bat for the rest of your f$@%^&g life." And I left and went back to the galley.

    'B' flounced into the galley. "I don't want any more tea; you can just bang on the door."

    Every time 'B' got in a bad mood, which was at least every other day, it was burnt pots.

    It was no use reporting it to the Chief Steward, what was he going to do...fire the cook at sea? The only time I saw the Chief Steward anyway was at the weekly Chief Officers 1100 hours inspection. Then 'B' was dressed like a man. No perfume ,make-up or female cloths, additionally 'B' had plates of freshly fried doughnuts and tabnabs and tea waiting for the officers. No flies on IT mate!

    Next it was Ginger's turn. Ginger was short, slender, with a mass of curly red/gold hair, and could have been a model of an angel for the Renaissance artists. The girls just loved him. Ginger would go to the head for a shower and 'B' would be waiting and follow him. 'B' would sing in a falsetto voice as 'It' put 'It's' make-up on (with a trowel), and 'It's' one good eye would follow Ginger in his mirrow. I'd told Ginger what I had done, fight back, but he couldn't, it just wasn't in him, he just tried to dodge 'B'. This went on for a couple of weeks or so. And then it suddenly stopped. 'B' had found fresh meat.

    It was a young officer's steward, first trip as a rating. I had no idea how it came about or what went on, but the winger became a night visitor to 'B's cabin. He looked miserable. At times we would see him sitting out on a hatch cover by himself, just staring out to sea. Tough, but we were left alone...perfect, except for burned pots.

    We returned from Quebec to Rotterdam only to hear the "La Cumbre" was not going to England but was sailing to Galverston, Texas. We were a week off-loading and loading. Long faces everywhere. The deckies were West Indian and below decks they were from India or Pakistan, they too were upset.

    Resignation set in and then it became "business as usual."

    My shift was over and we were sailing in the morning. I left the galley for my cabin to find out if Ginger wanted a last run ashore. Something was wrong: the cabin was too tidy. Then I noticed the photos of Ginger's various girl friends were not over his bunk. I looked in his locker, it was empty and his suitcase was gone. Then I saw a note on my pillow:

    "Sorry Rodders, I can't stand it anymore. I'm jumping ship. The army can't be worse than this. Ginger."

    He'd gone and so had the young winger.

    We sailed for Galveston, and 'B' would start on me again, or try. A swift, "You want a cup of tea?" would stop it for a bit, but it was more burnt pots.

    On the poop deck was locker where sacks of potatoes were stored. Any down-time I could get I would sneak into the locker and just sit on the sacks, and stare out through the slats at the sea, and day-dream how I could wangle that sick one-eyed barsteward near the railings and tip his skinny ass over the rail. Then I would get even more depressed knowing deep-down that I didn't have the nerve...In any case 'B' hardly ever came out on deck. 'It' believe the sun ruined the complexion.

    We returned from Galveston to Hamburg, only to be told it was to be New Orleans not England. The Second Steward told me Ginger's replacement would be coming aboard.

    I was laying in my bunk, the lower one, really cheesed-off. Angry at the world and everyone in it. The door opens and a guy my age walks in, looks around, drops his case and said.

    "You're in my bunk...out!"

    I couldn't believe my ears. "What did you say?"

    "What's the matter then. You got cloth ears? The lower bunks mine."

    I said something like, "Oh! I'm sorry," and climbed out of my bunk and 'cold cocked him'...I brought one up from the deck as hard and as fast as I could and punched him right on his breast bone. He collapsed, his face going red from gasping for air. I can still remember after all these years how much I wanted to hurt this twerp for all the crap I'd swallowed these last months. He's sitting on the deck, back against the door and crying his eyes out.

    "Who's bunk is it?"

    "Yours," he finally sniveled when he got his breath back.

    I turned-to for my evening shift and Nobby is doing the cooking and a new Second Cook is baking.
    I looked around and the DEVIL is gone. I never found out what had happened, Nobby just told me 'It" had been paid off. Nobby owned a ships cook's ticket and was the new Ship's Cook.

    Rumors swept around the ship, the best one that I gave any credence to was that 'It' was sick, dying,...but...perhaps that was just wishful thinking on my part.

    JOY! Peace reigned in the galley. Nobby taught me quite a bit about cooking and the Baker gave me baking lessons, and all was right in the world...except I'm sharing a silent cabin...two alienated catering boys.

    From there it was: New Orleans to Dakar to Cape Town to B.A. and finally to Bremen, all at the breakneck speed of seven knots--when it wasn't broke down and adrift that is. Ten months so far, some home-trade.

    Each of these legs were accompanied by rumors of where our next Port of call would be. By far the best--guaranteeing to pish everyone off-- was we were going to Christmas Island, and doing phosphate runs to Melbourne and back, for the balance of our deep-sea articles.

    I had become chummy with a Junior Electrical Officer, and much to my surprise the engineer officers and the deck officers were as equally upset as the crew. He told me the engineers had been holding the engines together with spit and baling wire and he (no pun intended) was in the same boat as me, in wanting off. He had just been married, and took this trip, a home-trade, to wangle another shore leave with his brand new wife.

    As we entered the English Channel bound for Bremen. He told me in secret, not to worry, because we would be paying off in Bremen. Now I don't know if it was planned that the engines gave out, or a major refit was scheduled for that heap of junk in Bremen, but we broke down. Due to a massive storm coming in and engine trouble, word came down to keep life jackets handy--I slept as best I could in mine. We limped into Bremen escorted by a tug.

    As he had told me, we paid-off. But the "La Cumbre" had one more rotten trick left.

    Burries and Markes had leased a Dakota to fly the crew back to London. Either the cabin wasn't pressurized, or if it was, it was out of order. My ears popped and I was stone deaf for hours and to top it off I had a terrible earache for better than a week.

    That did it for me with tramps or cargo ships. I wanted something like a train that floated. I wanted to know the day, down to the hour that the ship would return to England.

    Nobby had given me a letter of introduction to U.C.L. stating that I couldn't be rated as cook on the "La Cumbre", though I had a good knowledge of cooking, blah, blah. It worked. And my next ship was the "Warwick Castle" ( I can just hear someone saying after my pages of woe about 'B', "He chose the Castle Boats?"....From the frying pan into the fire?).

    I apologize for any confusion my using the nominative third person case 'It' for the one-eyed ship's cook, but I will not use 'She' for 'He'.

    I do not care what people do willingly in the privacy of their bedroom. Outside of that I admit I'm homophobic. It seems every day, a State in the U.S. is legalizing gay marriage and there has to be the manditory ten second shot of two men kissing. I'm sorry, it turns my stomach. I never saw any humor in the mincing 'queens' on the Castle boats, only disgust and perhaps pity. I had more than enough of them on the "La Cumbre" and the suggestive hints from similar types in a position of power on my first ship, the Port Line's "Port Jackson", thankfully not to the degree it was on the hell-ship.

    Later in my career as a chief executive, I often traveled with female executives or female staff members. We would always stay in separate hotels, not only for her piece of mind, but for me maintaining a reputation, as did "Caesar's wife"... one of purity. I never forgot the pressures used by people with power over me. And I was damned if I would conduct my life like them.


    Cheers, Rodney
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    Last edited by Rodney Mills; 5th December 2014 at 10:07 PM.

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    Default Re: A miserable, rotten trip

    Great Story Rod,
    A lot of nasty ships in the old days and some crews as well. I experienced some on my first trip, but sorted them out when I battered the biggest bully.
    Cheers
    Brian

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    Default Re: A miserable, rotten trip

    Rodders, great story there but having done three years with UCL and seen a lot of 'them' I had no problem, they never bothered me I never bothered them. But I do know some could never abide them but sdaly it was a quirk of their conception that makes them that way and all we can say is there but for the grace of God go I.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Default Re: A miserable, rotten trip

    what a great tale.You didn't even need a ghostwriter.How about some more

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    Default Re: A miserable, rotten trip

    One thing for sure, "NO" ghostwriter will be required to improve on the contents of this well written storey by Rodney, although there is a possibility Michael Walsh will be unwilling to agree.

    FOURO.

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    Default Re: A miserable, rotten trip

    I see you sailed across the Pacific from Capetown to B.A., well that's what a ghost writer would have had you do!

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    Default Re: A miserable, rotten trip

    Rodney sounds like the reverse of one trip I did. The cook a little scruffy bloke ex army he reckoned he was. The galley was midships and accommodation aft, the deck boy or peggy had to carry the food aft in Dixies. Every day one of the AB s would come from aft and put the contents of the plate over the cooks head, saying words to the effect whats this crap. They must have had this organised as was a different man each time. Don't think any of the mates and engineers knew about this, there may have been more to this than I knew, the cook never made an official complaint just used to stand there tears streaming down his face. As we lived in the same alleyway as the catering staff knew there was at least one there of sexual deviations, maybe the cook was as well and could of been your cooks brother. Cheers John S

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    Default Re: A miserable, rotten trip

    John S.

    I doubt very much if your ex-army cook was a brother of the "La Cumbre" devil...SISTER perhaps.

    Cheers, Rodney

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    Default Re: A miserable, rotten trip

    Will go along with all the comments Rodney
    Very well written indeed!
    Thanks
    Senior Member and Friend of this Website

    R697530

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    Default Re: A miserable, rotten trip

    My first trip on the Warwick Castle, I was the 5th baker.Two of us were assigned to do the night shift.
    The other guy was in his forties, and named Harry.
    When I joined to work by, I said hi Harry where are you going.
    He replied. To see how tight you are.
    Told him he had better not try.
    When we got to sea, he was in the bottom bunk and me in the top. This in an eight man cabin.
    He started the habit of grabbing me to wake me up.
    One evening while in my bunk, I waited for this to happen.
    His head came level with my roll bar.
    Just as it came into view, I landed a straight left right on his snoz.
    He tried to get me logged, but after I had explained that I was asleep, and when he touched me, I just lashed out .
    Said I thought I was dreaming.
    He never touched me again.
    He must have been messing with a junior rating.
    In Cape Town one of the deckies beat the crap out of him.
    Saw him some years after in the Stack of Bricks. He dodged me quick.

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