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Thread: My first day at sea

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    Default My first day at sea

    BLUE SEAS AND SKY


    Leaving home that morning was quite easy, dad and I went to the station in a jovial mood and we said our goodbyes as I got out of the van. It was still dark and a cold damp morning, not unusual for that time of year. As dad pulled away I watched him driving off to work as I went onto the platform. I had a travel document, the last one I was to get, and sat to wait for the train. Travel to Waterloo station was something I had done many times, but this one was very different, this time I was leaving home. As I sat on the train I began to realize just what I was doing, I was about to begin a new life, not just a new stage. What lay ahead of me I had no idea, who would I meet, how would I go? Little did I realize just what was ahead, and some of the very odd people I would meet with, though I was also to meet with some who were amongst the best I would ever meet.

    Arriving at Waterloo station six thirty I knew I had plenty of time before the seven fifteen to Southampton, time for some breakfast, coffee, bacon sandwich, and two smokes. Unlike my trip to the “Vindi’ I was not to meet with any one going to Southampton. The train arrived on time and I took a seat by the window and sat back to enjoy the trip. Again unlike the trip to Sharpness this train had no bar, but breakfast and morning coffee was available so I had a dry run to Southampton.

    The station is not far from the docks, but a bit far to walk, so nothing for it but a taxi. I got in and told the driver “Windsor Castle” and sat back. We had been on the road for a couple of minutes when I realized we were going back the way the train had come in. I asked the driver just where were we going as I thought the docks were not this far from the station. He stopped the cab and said you told me ‘Windsor Castle’ which is just outside of London! This guy I thought is a phuckwhit, the ship I told him, not the bloody castle. He stared at me as if I was an idiot, asking why I had not told him I wanted the ship. Why, I asked him would I take a taxi to the castle? He turned the car around and headed back to the docks telling me that next time to be more explicit as the ‘Winchester Castle’ was also outside of Southampton and many people went there. We arrived at the docks and he told me the fare. I then told him he would only get the fare from the station to the docks, not the tourist trip. He looked at me and was about to say something when I tossed three shillings in the car and got out, pulling my case out of the boot.

    The docks were big, but not as big as K.G.5 in London, there were ships everywhere so I asked at the gate where to go. The gatekeeper pointed to his left, and there she was, not fifty paces from where we stood. I had seen ships in London, but nothing like this, she was big, and I mean big, or so I thought until I saw the Queens. The gangway up to the gunport door was the way onboard, so I walked up to be confronted by the Master at Arms on duty who required to know why I was on board? I told him I thought that was obvious, I was a crew member, and why would I be coming aboard this way if I was not? He then told me not to be so cheeky and report to the second steward who had his office on the flat of the gunport deck. Johnson was his name and he was at best not nice and at worst a bit of a bastard, but no doubt some idiot loved him.


    I handed him my papers authorizing me to be on board, and he looked at me as if I were from another planet. “Strange” he said that you should be here, are you a member of the “Strange” family, you know, George Strange at the ‘Vindi”? It gave me great pleasure to tell him no, and what did he know of George? He made no reply but picked up the phone and called the tourist gallop head waiter to his office. Somehow I knew this guy and I were to cross swords again before too long, he was I concluded a piece of Sh one T.

    It was Tony Talevra the second waiter who appeared at his office and I was duly handed into his care. Tony was a nice guy and he and I were to get on well, but first he informed me I had to be shown to the accommodation for ‘Bell Boys’ of which I was now one. What the shagging Hell I wondered was a bellboy, and what did he do all day, ring the bells? My question was to be soon answered as we began to make our way to the accommodation. It was a long trip down companionways, along working alleyways until at last we reached the accommodation very much at the bow of the ship. I was ushered into the cabin to be greeted by one of the other bellboys with whom I was to be working and sharing the cabin. His name was Mike and he told me that I would be on the top bunk as he had the bottom one. I remembered what Bob had told me about bunks and said that was O.K. He then informed me that two other bellboys would be joining us later in the day, and they had the other two bunks, as this was to be their second trip.

    I unpacked my case and stowed my gear in the locker allocated to me and Mike told me to buy a padlock for it when I next went ashore. Then I had to make up my bunk, not easy when you have never done such a thing before, but I found it not too difficult and was to learn that once at sea the peak steward would be doing it for me. This is not bad I thought, a room by the sea, all found, and an early morning call, and we get paid for this?
    Once this was all done Mike told me we should then go back to the tourist gallop to see what duties we would be required for?

    The dinning salon was big, seating about 250 at any one time, on tables ranging in size from two persons to ten. I was informed that on some of the other ships they had what were called aircraft carriers, tables that sat up to sixteen. One bulkhead was covered in a mirror, which reflected half of the saloon, and mixed among the tables were the wingers stations. It was these stations that we as bellboys were to be responsible for. We had to make sure that they were kept clean and fitted out with all the extras needed for the meal service. Sure sounded easy at that point, but doing it would prove to be another story. Our first task was to ensure that all the serviette rings were put out in numerical order around the tables, sounded easy until one of the other new boys, a chap by the name of Peter arrived to assist us, he was to prove a dick head par excellence. But he was not the only one I would come across in my travels; I had no idea so many of them existed. Peter was one of the other two bellboys of whom Mike had spoken, so this being his second trip I expected him to know something of procedure. The serviette rings were in two large boxes, one set in red, one in blue. For most people this is not a problem, but Peter it turned out is colour blind, this was allowed with catering staff, but not deck or engine for obvious reasons. Peter staggered in with the first box of blue ones and told me we had to start distributing them to the tables. You begin with table one and move on, easy!

    We had done about six tables when it happened, Peter tripped over by catching his foot on the table leg. If he had broken his neck I would not have cared, but worse, he spilled the contents of the box of serviette rings. They began to bounce across the deck in all directions and we scrambled to atrieve them but I knew we were on to a hard task. We had been searching for a few minutes when I heard a voice call my name and looking up saw Tony, the assistant head- waiter. He wanted to know what I was doing on my hands and knees scratching around? I was about to explain when he informed me he was well aware of why I was there but he had other tasks for me. So Peter was to left to clean up his own mess whilst I was taken to the linen locker. There I was told to make sure that there were enough cloths and serviettes to start the day, this was much easier and I completed the task without trouble. Peter however took all the day to complete his task of picking up almost 200 serviette rings and arranging them in order on the tables.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Default Re: My first day at sea

    Hi John
    My first day at sea as a deck boy, 16yrs and 13 days of age, on the "Oronsay"

    SEASICK. Big Time.
    Graham R774640

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: My first day at sea

    Graham, that was to follow for me a few days later when we hit the Channel.
    One of the roughest seas for years I was told.
    Took from Thursday night to Monday morning before I was fully recovered, but never sea sick again.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Default Re: My first day at sea

    I enjoyed the memoir of your first day, John. Particularly the taxi incident; you seem to have been street-wise. Please post more stories - you've the start of a book.
    Harry Nicholson

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    Default Re: My first day at sea

    I was 16 years and 3 days when I joined my first ship and slept with my jeans on the first couple of nights. Perhaps my Glasgow upbringing or perhaps a degree of prescience.
    Duke Drennan R809731

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    Default Re: My first day at sea

    My first day at sea I was still 15.
    We left London on the 22nd of August for Cornerbrook in NewFoundland arriving on Sept 1st..
    My 16th birthday was on August the 30th.

    I had to learn how to climb into the top bunk without a ladder.
    Gallery Manager and Friend of the Website

    R 693816



    Please visit the Gallery to see the latest photos

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    Default Re: My first day at sea

    Same destination as myself Mike, first trip to sea, Mv Treworlas to Botwood Newfoundland, never been abroad before, total trip 28 days, Newfoundland , lovely place, and would love to go back, kt
    R689823

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    Default Re: My first day at sea

    First trip was out to the Arctic Circle aged 13 years and four months, only away 24 days, but it sealed my fate for the next 60 years in the marine industry afloat and ashore but thankfully not on trawlers, did other trips on distant water trawlers and I take my hat off to all who served in them

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    Default Re: My first day at sea

    Very nostalgic, I remember mine 16 wondering what was in store
    after training at Gravesend as a, steward learning the make up of
    high class dishes and which wines to accompany , and the way to
    serve them, my first job was a galley boy on a dirty old tramp,
    wangled my way out of that one, but got a similar position on
    the Australia Star 9 month trip due to the N.Z. dock strike.
    You mentioned Tony Tavalera, he was I think he was Tourist c/std
    on the Reina del Mar 1956-57,great guy bit of a romeo,
    later sailed with him on the Pretoria Castle he was a one ringer
    (1960)

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    Default Re: My first day at sea

    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Nicholson View Post
    I enjoyed the memoir of your first day, John. Particularly the taxi incident; you seem to have been street-wise. Please post more stories - you've the start of a book.
    Harry, I have almost finished writing it, down to the last few chapters.
    But I find that one has to be in the right frame of mind to do so.
    Began writing it about ten years ago, stop, start but will get there.
    Have put a few other bits on before, will find some more.

    As for being street wise, living where we did in London you had to be if you wanted to survive in the first few years after the war.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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