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    British Power

    0 Comments by Doc Vernon Published on 3rd December 2019 08:51 PM
    By Spencer Lewis with Thanks

    SS.British Power 27.12.62 to 24.9.63

    BritishPower was one of a med size crude oil tanker of 42,000 tons Built ina class of 6
    BRDestiny, BR Duchess, BR Ambassador, BR Statesman, BR Judge.
    Havingleft the British Sailor, and knowing that my report on that trip hadbeen sent to Britannic House, I was told that I would be selected tosign a Company Contract, a much talked about thing with usyoungsters, I am still 17:
    Joining:Train from Manchester Piccadilly to Glasgow Central then a smallcostal train that run up the coast to Hellensburgh and Arrochar.There was a small station at Finnart. All closed down now. Then afive shilling Taxi to the jetty.
    Inlater years joining ships at Finnart, the nearest rail link wasHelensburgh, the results of the rail cuts.
    Iwas very impressed seeing the BR Power, a super stream lined Tanker,a class of Tanker built by BP was the last of good looking Tankers.(see photo)


    Butnow I was not being employed by the Shipping Federation, but directfrom BP Tankers, so getting a telegram to join the British Power onthe 27 December 1962, as an assistant Steward, meant that my age fora rating had been overridden by BP, So I need not worry about my agewhen signing on.
    Butthat was not to be, I joined the ship in Finnart Oil Terminal justoutside of Glasgow. When signing on was not a problem, with theshipping Master, but became a problem with The Seaman’ Union, againMy age !!! On the Grenock Federation they had a surplus of AssistantStewards all waiting for work, so the Union Representative launched acomplaint, I could sail as catering Boy but not as a Steward.
    TheCaptain conferred with the shipping Master, plus I had the telegramfrom BP stating I would join as Assistant Steward. (both of whomdisliked the union Man) As not to cause any problems, I would sailon the ship as Catering Boy, but once at sea I was promoted toAssistant Steward, seemed fair to me. In fact My Seamans Book hadAssistant Steward stamped, on the day of signing on.
    Iwas one of the first of the catering staff to get onboard so had agood look around, after meeting with the Chief Steward, I asked forthe Job of mess man, Did I know what I was doing ? A Greenock Crew!!!!!
    Theship was empty of Crew until evening when the Coach arrived with theseaman and firemen. just before New Year we had a bunch of drunks,apart from the PO’s no contract men. I had heard about GreenockCrew so was aware of their behavior.
    Theyhad all signed on at the Federation and were given Advance Notes,Most were drunk when they came on board, then they need to get to theGareloch Head Arms to try and cash the Notes , which they did.
    Myfirst Breakfast was quiet, just the PO’s came to the mess room, nosign of the crew, Cleared the Breakfast away, getting myselforganized for lunch, a few of the older crew came looking forTea/Coffee about mid-morning, Snarling and groaning like wildAnimals, like creatures from the film –HOBBIT.
    Theycame around again at lunch, looked at the food and grunted some more,Most had soup, I think solids was too much for them. Same thinghappened again at Tea time, so virtually nobody to serve, I quicklycleaned the mess room, Leaving cold meats, Cheese and salads in therefrigerator with loaves of Bread, Joined some of the Catering Crewand went to the Pub for a few beers, This Pub was stuck in the wildsof Gareloch, Because of the Tanker jetty, it was used to Seaman. Beerwas Good Tennents Draught, Light or Heavy two types.
    Allour Deck Crew and engine crew were inside, drinking pints of Heavyand throwing back glasses of Whisky, none of them recognized me.
    TaxiBack to ship and a good night’s sleep, Had a cabin to myself,lovely cabin, Streets ahead of the British Sailor.
    TheChief Cook and Galley crew were Company men, very helpful as was thechief Steward, only odd person out was the 2nd Steward,again another waste of space, this Rank annoyed me throughout theships I sailed on. Later in my career with BP I wrote a lettersuggesting that ships would benefit with an extra steward and takeaway the 2nd Steward, waste of space and a waste of time.It did eventually happen but I don’t think by my letter alone.
    Inthe Mess room for breakfast, I fed the PO’s and younger seamen, therest of the animals were asleep.
    BecauseI worked aft in the Crew Mess , The 2nd Steward he hadnothing to do with me, my working boss was the chief cook.
    “Smoko”tea / Coffee time at 10 am, all crew came for the Tea etc. andanything that was left from Breakfast. My Team of animals appeared,demanding mugs for their tea etc. Nobody asked for things politely,just a grunted ‘give us’ as you looked into the scarred / Brokennose faces with bloodshot eyes , really quite scary. I think this wastheir first attempt of doing any work.
    Theirwork was not my problem all I had to do was feed them, The Bosun ,TheChief officer and the 2nd Engineer had the problems ofgetting work from them.
    Oncedischarged we sailed with order to proceed to Tripoli in the Lebanon.With direct orders for our return to Finnart, really exciting, backto the Mediterranean to load by submarine pipe line, just a bitfurther up the coast from Sidon.
    Onour trip south though the Bay, My crowd of Morons were beginning tosober up. Now they were starting to eat Solids. Breakfast mainlyconsisted of Boiled eggs!! Also started to act normally, they werevery good when you got to know them and their food needs.
    Inmy first week I had no problems with them.
    BeerIssues ! Now they were down to standard 5 cans per week, 2 on aWednesday and three on a Saturday, you were not allowed to accumulateany cans. All had to be consumed that night, but at least it helpedto settle their Nerve or “DT’s”
    Weatherwas good through the Med even though it was winter, I had my firstInspection of the mess room by the Captain, he found no Problems butasked me how I was managing with the Greenock Crew !!!!
    Dulyarrived at Tripoli, same system of tying up to the buoys for aSubmarine pipe load. Not interesting apart from the letting go ofthe big lines, still a very dangerous operation. See not below:

    Originally Posted by Harlequin [IMG]file:///C:/Users/Vernon/AppData/Local/Temp/lu162289ojln2.tmp/lu162289ojlnb_tmp_59c88fd8022d050d.gif[/IMG]
    Thank you for the time and effort in supplying me with this info Graham. I'm sure that he did go on to become chief engineer.
    He had a bad experience on his first ship, three crew members were killed when a wire parted whilst berthing, I know from one of his letters to me just how badly it affected him, I believe two of them were cut in two, an upsetting thing for anyone, let alone a youngster on his first trip. Once again, many thanks.
    Question Harlequin, was the incident at one of the buoyed berths in the eastern Med or off Banda Mashur in the gulf. I remember in my early days, and on the crude ships visiting both Lebanon and the other Syrian port (Tripoli and Banias)??? in the eastern med Buoyed berths and during mooring and un-mooring how scary the after poop was, especially if taking the log and one had to go either via the steering gear hatch or the funnel door to track done some log detail. Un-mooring I found most unpleasant because if one came out of a galley exit entry point the wires could be snaking down the deck and out over the bits. A change of underpants was required, and to a first tripper to these berths un-nerving



    Fullyloaded and sailed for Finnart, as we would be in the UK we had tochange Ships Articles, which means that the crew have the opportunityto leave the ships or remain,
    Tooeverybody’s surprise all our drunks opted to stay on board, I thinkthey wanted to bank some money before leaving, so one more trip, butwhat nobody knows will it be a month or eleven months !!!as we sign12 month articles.
    Theseguys, my first animals were turning out to be a good bunch, certainlygave me no problems, now they were leaving the mess rooms clean.Standard trip back through the med weather was good sleeping withBlankets , which always makes you sleep stronger.
    Ourfirst four week trip went very fast, soon back at the tail of theBank to pick up the Pilot, Straight alongside at Finnart, Money onboard and we can all go ashore to celebrate.
    Inthe pub, my crew now recognized me and I had lines of beer broughtfor me on the counter, My animals were looking after me.
    Nextmorning for breakfast, standard hard boiled eggs and Porridge, allhad bad heads but now we all had names!!!
    Nextnight all ashore again, except this was a Saturday night and therewas a Calighe on at the village hall. First top up with beer beforewe left the Pub, taking a carryout with us,( cans of beer) typicalScottish Village hall dance, Reels and Jigs, I am not a Dancer but wemade do, No young ladies in sight but plenty of Mature women, Made nodifference to us, just grab your partner and away you go.
    Mostof us knew we would not be taking them to Bed, but nice to hold awoman close to you in a slow Mooch smelling the scent of a woman.
    Thelady I was dancing with and getting close too was the owner of theTaxi Company in Gareloch, so she drove us back, after we paid her theFare, I stayed in the Taxi for half an hour talking and Kissing,nothing wrong in kissing. When we parted I had her telephone number,for our next return , not just for a taxi but for a date. Woah Spenceyou did well.
    Nextmorning everybody is up early ready for sailing, just as we receivedour orders, proceed to Banais in Syria and load for the isle ofGrain. Not much excitement here, where are all the exotic ports Isigned on to see?
    Theships sailed, for once it was starting to feel good, our alcoholicswere walking around and smiling talking to people rather thangrunting at each other.
    Outsideit was a cold grey wet day, typical Scottish Weather, this stayedwith us all the way down to Gibraltar. I have omitted our eveningleisure occupations, We read Books and played crib a film once a weekif the projector was working, Books I have always been fond of since12 years old, cribbage was a board game I learned quickly andinstantly liked, spent many hours playing this on Later ships.
    Wehad just received our repaired film projector back on board reel toreel with three films, movies to be shown once a week, one showingfor the Officers and one time for the crew, “Wallport Films” wecould swap with other Company ships in port, or get the Ships agentto exchange for us, in ports where the system worked. Years beforeVideo Cassettes came into being.
    Laterwith a New Chief Steward and a New chief cook, the film nights were abig occasion, We arranged a interval after the first Reel, startedwith spam sandwiches but later we worked up to Fish and chips ‘Carryout’ complete in newspaper wrappings, we managed Hot dogs but madewith Sausages, the fried onions and mustard made the pleasant to eatfrom our bread buns, “ Nobody complained as it was a freebie inthe evenings, always had willing volunteers to help get it servedand to clear away the rubbish after.
    Ourdrunken Greenock Crew were getting to be more than human, But Istill had some more surprises to come from them.
    Bayof Biscay was good very calm, but with that was Fog , we had rollingFog Banks as we tuned Finestere to go into the English Channel,before we reached the I.O.White we were on “dead Slow’ with Foghorn wailing. We inched up to Dungeness and anchored, I am not sureif it was safer to be under way or be at anchor. At Anchor you haveno Maneuverability. But at slow speed the ship was able to steer awayfrom any problems,
    Meanwhilewe sat in thick ‘Cotton wool’ Fog, listening to other shipsengines thumping away as they passed close to us, we could not seeanything, the wind picked up and the fog cleared, we took on ourThames river pilots and sailed up to the I.O.Grain , Berth availableso straight alongside.
    Acouple of our Greenock crew left the ship, but Majority stayed, Afterserving my Team lunch, and clearing up, I was confronted by thebiggest Animal in my mess, asking me when I would take a day off,What a day off ! Unheard of in those days, You signed on and workedevery day until you signed off.
    Iexplained that I would need to ask my boss for an afternoon off. Noyou don’t he said I’ll fix it, he then goes to my Boss the ChiefSteward, and then tell’s him That I would have the next day off,the Deck and engine room crew would feed themselves, he organizedthe Galley Boy to look after the PO’s mess, so my job was covered.
    Nobody dared say No to this guy , he would rip their heads off. Therewas me still 17 years old and a lion tamer in the Lion’s Den!!! Ilooked after them for two months , now they were looking after me, Ilook back on that now and smile. The Greenock crews had the hardestreputation in the Merchant Navy.
    Idid take the next Day off, stayed in my Bunk in the morning, then hadlunch and went to Chatham by bus to do some shopping, it felt like aholiday. Did my shopping have a few beers then back to the Isle ofGrain by Bus, it is a long haul by Bus one hour.
    Iwas up early the next morning to start work, thinking I would have amess to clear up, I was surprised to see everything clean and tidy.
    Afterwe had all finished, shower and change then up to the Pub “Ivys”,there were 5 small pubs within a short taxi ride, Rose and Crown atAllhallows , later to be my local pub. The British Pilot at lowerstoke.
    TheShip which was Ivy’s, Cat and Cracker in Grain Village, the otherone in Stoke I forget the name at present.
    Duringthe winter months all very Quiet, but Tourist’s came to Allhallowsin the summer, several caravan sites around. Their other trade wasSeamen, though most of us used Ivy’s.
    Thisevening I was in Ivy’s my crew of Greenock Heavies, all drinkinglike there would be no Tomorrow, I was not allowed to buy a drink; Ihad a string of Glasses of beer in front of me.
    Nextmorning finished loading ballast and we sailed once again for theMediterranean and The Syrian Port of Bannais full cargo of crude withLEFO, so anywhere in Europe.
    BritishPower always maintained a good speed, the weather down to the Med wasgood, was we passed GIB we were out on Deck for our two hours break,shorts on and lapping up the sunrays, all brown again within a coupleof days, this time we did not reach our loading port when we got ourorders, we would discharge In Santa Cruz, which was Tenerife. Wellthat was looking interesting and a new port for me.
    Justwhen we were passing Malta, we heard on the radio the news thatPresident Kennedy had been assassinated , a shock to us all on Board,even though we were not American. Loaded in Bannais, then full steamahead for the Canary Islands, which took us 10 days.
    Themorning we were due to arrive, we could see these tall mountains inthe distance, Scenery like moonscape. We went straight in, a funnysituation; the berth was half between a Submarine pipe line and halfa jetty, on a small lump of rock, so we were not attached to themainland, later we learnt our way of getting ashore was by a launch.
    Wetook our Money showered and changed ready for the highlights. When wegot to our Jetty it was at the end of a breakwater, so another walkto the end of the breakwater, no dock gates! Straight onto the mainroad and a roundabout, on all sides where ‘Cantinas’ Womenoutside wearing short dresses and low lying Blouses, inviting us into drink. A bit different than getting a Taxi to Ivy’s!! The samecantinas were the fronts for Brothels, as a nearly 18 year old , Ihad never been into a Brothel, only places I had read about in theNews of the World.
    Firstthings first, we need to taste the beer,”Corona” it was cold,Gassy and strong, best part it was cheap. Then up into the small town1962 was before many Tourists Could find Tenerife.
    Someof us went to a Spanish style Restaurant, had a meal and some localwine, and then watched a Flamenco Concert, This was far better thanbeing In Bannais or Mena Al Ahmadi. Had a very nice Intellectual evening.
    Backto the jetty via the Cantinas. Look at some girls, find out someprices, and then back to the ship armed with Information for our nextnight ashore.
    Nextnight we went ashore, direct to the bars , never mind the Paellas andother Spanish food, just give us Fried Chicken and Chips, we wash itdown with Local wine and beer, though I preferred the beer to thewine, but our Greenock crew could drink anything. WE explored moreinto the town, so in 1963, Tenerife was not the Tourist area we knowtoday, though we could see the first foundations going in for the NewHotel blocks that we know today,
    Thebars were mainly the old type original Spanish Cantinas, before thesigns you see today “ALL DAY ENGLISH BREAKFAST, Bangers and mash,Heinz Baked Beans, Sausage , eggs and chips, Etc.
    Ithink we tried out all the Bars in the main street, before having toRun back to catch our last boat to the ship. When we got back to ourboat, it was sitting empty, we had all come back at the same time andthe boatman waited for us.
    Backon board our ship, not to late and not to drunk, ready for the nextday,. We learnt that we would finish pumping our cargo before middayand we would sail early afternoon, our Agent had arrive with our nextset of orders, we would sail across the Caribbean to ‘La Salinas’ a small port in the Maracaibo Lake of Venezuela. Load a full cargofor the Isle of Grain.
    WellI am certainly getting some Good ports to talk about on this trip.
    Twodays out of Tenerife, I caught severe Diarrhea. It was severe as Icould not hold my bowels together in my short walk from my Cabin tomthe toilet block, My treatment was the old fashion course of‘Sulphadimidine Tablets ‘ which I had to chew to a powder in mymouth then wash down with water.
    British Power Attached Images
    Last edited by Doc Vernon; 3rd December 2019 at 09:06 PM.
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