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Thread: My first trip

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    Default My first trip

    On 17th September 1967 I was in the shipping federation offices in Liverpool inquiring if there were any companies taking on deck cadets. By the end of the day not only did I have a job as deck cadet with Canadian Pacific, passed the medical exam ( which consisted of the company doctor telling me to strip down to underwear and lye on the couch while he took my blood pressure during which time his female secretary came in Unannounced with papers for him to sign and him asking her "what do you think of this one", looking me over she said "he is not going to die tomorrow is he" and that was it, "o.k son you can get up, you've passed"), had my photo taken and applied for my discharge book and seaman's i.d. book, visited Greenberg's outfitters and signed for a load of uniform outfits and foul weather gear along with a huge suitcase to fit it all in.
    The first interview I had was with Blue Funnel where I had to listen to some guy going on telling me that should I be considered for a job with them I should consider myself fortunate as not only did they have the finest ships in the British merchant navy but there officers were the best trained also, his description of their cadet training seemed more like borstal to me. Then when he asked me if I had any homosexual tendencies I was beginning to think that this was not an outfit I wanted to work for
    By contrast my interview with C.P. was completely different. The guy interviewing me was continually being called away to attend to other business so the interview consisted of him viewing my O level certificates, confirming that yes I did want to go to sea as a cadet and then saying that subject to passing the medical I had a job and when could I sail this was Tuesday so it was agreed that we would meet on Thursday and I would join my first ship that day. On meeting him that day, along with my newly issued discharge book and huge suitcase he informed me I had been appointed as 5th officer to the empress of England and when I queried this he suddenly realised that I was not the person he thought I was. The upshot was that I was sent across to Tranmere oil terminal to join the Lord Mount Stephen, a 66000 ton crude oil tanker. On joining I was shown to my cabin and sitting there wondering what to do when the chief steward came in wanting my discharge book, he also threw a carton of cigarettes in the cabin asking me if I smoked and if not to hold onto them for others. Next the chief officer came in and gave me a boiler suit and told me to meet him right away in the cargo control room. I eventually found it and was told to follow him and do as I was told. Now this guy was an ex royal marine and fit as a butchers dog. Within minutes we were descending down the cargo pump Room where 4 high velocity centrifugal cargo pumps were screaming away and he was signing me to operate bloody big valve wheels, minutes later we were charging up the deck again swinging valve wheels, boy was I knackered after a few hours of running around swinging valves.
    We eventually finished discharge and sailed for the Persian gulf and I got settled into my daily routine. Turn too at 06:00, scrub out wheelhouse and polish all brass work, then day work with the Spanish crew, chipping and painting, greasing and overhauling deck gear, learning to splice rope and wire. After clearing the bay of Biscay and getting over sea sickness, tank cleaning commenced. This involved jumping heavy Radical tank cleaning machines attached to heavy duty rubber hoses around the deck, placing them through specially designed openings in the deck and lowering them into the cargo tank to be washed this was done by rotating jets of hot sea water being pump at pressure through the machines via the attached hoses, the machine nozzles rotating vertically and horizontally by internal gearing, driven by the wash water. Each tank would have a number of machines working I. It and at regular intervals these machines would be lowered to different levels to ensure that all areas were high pressure washed, the wash water and any remnants of crude oil were discharged directly to sea. On completion of washing and then gas freeing the tanks we descended into the tanks and hand shovelled any remaining crude oil into buckets which were hoisted up to deck and dumped overboard. This was a dirty stinking job carried out in high temperature and poor atmosphere, crawling over pipelines and girders to reach all parts of the tanks base. On completion the tank would then be filled with clean sea water ballast that would be discharged to sea during loading. To clean the ships tanks took around 10 days, not every tank would be cleaned, just those required for the ships normal sea going ballast condition taking into account stress and propeller immersion. Those tanks not required for clean ballast would be subject to be loaded on top of any remaining cargo at the next load port.
    On the voyage to the gulf my routine was Monday to Friday working with the deck crew 08:00 to 17:00, Saturday morning dhobie in the morning, study in the afternoon, Sunday scrub and clean my cabin and bathroom for captains inspection, Sunday afternoon appear in front of the captain and repeat parrot fashion the collision regulation I had learnt that week.
    In addition I gained my steering certificate and ended up doing all steering when the pilot was on board. I also learnt Morse code using the works lamp, working with the 3rd mate on the evening watch. That first voyage we loaded off shore at Das island, discharged in Gothenburg then went to Lisbon for dry dock where I was introduced to the joys of the Texas bar. That ship was my home for 11 months, with further voyage to the Persian gulf and occasionally loading off shore in Libya. Discharge was usually Rotterdam or shell haven on the Thames, the ship being on long term charter to shell U.K.
    That was the beginning of a 41 year career at sea, sailing on many different vessel types and only working for three different companies, one of which was in a shore based job, ending up as master on chemical tankers trading Northern European waters. I enjoyed every minute of it, given the chance would I I do it again or would still be doing it if I hadn't been forced into early retirement.
    Rgds
    J.A.

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    Default Re: My first trip

    In 1967 like John I left school, I had applied for an apprenticeship in an engineering company, "when you finish your time are you going to sea?" I was asked, I looked at him as if he had gone loopy! I had never given it a thought! Fast forward 4 years and my ideas and ambitions had changed, Silver line had an ad in the chrony for junior engineers, my letter went off and a date for an interview arrived, same day as an exam I was having, phoned up, " that's Ok we will rearrange and please disregard the telegram we have sent you.
    It is almost 50years now but the telegram read "Possibility junior engineer ship leaving for Japan late next week. Do you wish to be considered." ARGENTIC. Needless to say I got the job although my interview ended up mainly as a discussion on the merits of Newcastle and Sunderland.
    First ship, Silverfjord on her maiden voyage, join in LA, was sent tickets and travel itinery, I was so chuffed and excited it never occured to me to read the letter properly so I set off for LA with no passport (I had been told I could travel on my seamans papers) and no US visa. I must have been the luckiest guy alive that week. I sailed though customs and immigration. My first time on a plane and it was a jumbo and first time on a ship! We sailed up the coast before I felt a little home sick and a further few weeks before I really stared to enjoy the life. The engine room was unmanned but the chief kept us juniors on watch, the bridge had control after 17.00 and I was on the 8 to 12, they had 3 alarms, minor, slow main engine and stop! Chris was in the control room when every alarm started to go, yes I had Brown trousers, then every one piled down into the eng room "I didn't touch F... all" !!! was all I could say.
    I must have done something right though because 3 years later I was sailing as 3/E, I had the best job ever, met some great people, went to some great places, had the best of time and experiences.
    Sadly, in one way it lasted for to short a time before marriage and kids came along but also the merchant navy was changing and contracting rapidly at the time so maybe I left at the right time.

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    Default Re: My first trip

    Re # 2.

    What a difference a decade makes Chris. There's no mention of you having to pass a Pre sea grading interview which determined if your engineering apprenticeship was good enough for you to become an engineer at sea. If the examiner was satisfied with one's apprenticeship papers he was then given a Pre sea grading certificate. I got a Grade 2 which was the best one could get without having a university degree.
    I can't get over the fact that engine rooms were unmanned and that after 1700 hrs were then controlled from the bridge. Looks like all an engineer requires at sea now as far as tools are concerned is a pair of gloves padded with rubber tips at the finger ends for pressing control board buttons.
    Most unlike being an engineer on a steam turbine tanker in 1956.

    Fouro.

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    Default Re: My first trip

    Fouro
    I did get a grading cert, 1C if I remember correctly, I served my time in Wallsend at Victor products making stuff for the pits and stuff, hence the C grade, I was excempt part A of my 2nds ticket apart from the the 6 hour drawing! The ministry where I took the exam is now no longer, with flats on the site, the old MN building down on the quay is probably a bar(as are most of the old shipping company buildings) Franks the MN outfitters on Side is now a restaurant/bistro.

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    Default Re: My first trip

    To Chris,

    I wasn't looking for faults in your well written letter but it was so noticeable the Grading certificate wasn't mentioned in it.
    I would say the Grading certificate was the most important one of the lot as it was the deciding factor if a person went to sea as engineer or not.

    Regards from
    Fouro.

  6. Thanks Chris Thompson thanked for this post
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    Default Re: My first trip

    As a little follow on regarding the interview I had with Blue Funnel, in the first mail I received on that trip, my mother had forwarded a letter from them saying that they had granted me the privelidge of a job with them and I was to report to their training center on such and such day ( I use the term privilege as it's my interpretation of their tone of the letter). I wrote back to them saying as I was already employed and sailing as cadet with Canadian Pacific I would not be taking up their job offer. There reply to me for turning them down was a very snotty letter telling me that in future, should I consider applying for a job with them my application would be rejected,
    Rgds
    J.A.

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    Default Re: My first trip

    Hi John.
    Your tank cleaning story took me back, it was great, I was on many tankers ,and the tank cleaning was the one thing I hated, so much so that on one tanker on which I did four trips I took the wheel which many hated for the full eight hours a day, while we were tank cleaning. Great clean all day an on overtime.
    Des
    Last edited by Des Taff Jenkins; 3rd October 2020 at 01:34 AM.
    Lest We Forget

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    Default Re: My first trip

    #6 Ouch!

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    Default Re: My first trip

    Quote Originally Posted by John Arton View Post
    As a little follow on regarding the interview I had with Blue Funnel, in the first mail I received on that trip, my mother had forwarded a letter from them saying that they had granted me the privelidge of a job with them ( I use the term privilege as it's my interpretation of their tone of the letter).
    Rgds
    J.A.
    Blue Flue Masters have always had the impression that their Masters Foreign Going Certificate is far superior to any other MFG issued to to lesser mortals. Even the MN historian Richard Woodman (ex BF) book's are tainted by his disdain for tramping Masters, probably not discernable to the average non maritime reader but like a beacon who where not granted the privilege of sailing with BF.

    The story going round Liverpool for many years was promotion in BF was impossible unless you were 2/m on two BF vessels which had collided by adhering to recipricol courses laid down by Head Office in Liverpool

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    Default Re: My first trip

    After my six month voyage on the Euryades a Sam Boat of Blu Flu to the Spice Islands, my very best trip ever, [ see the story]
    Capt. Greenwood in the Office sent me a letter telling me to join the new MELAMPUS, for its maiden voyage,
    We got the ship ready for sailing, nice and clean, derricks dropped and stowed, flags flying everywhere, a stand on the quayside for the Dignitaries, and a Brass Band,
    Then the 1960 Seamens Strike started and several of us walked off.
    Sailing Cancelled, Band stopped playing, Blu Flu embarrassed.

    I got another letter from Mr Holt telling me Never Ever come back to Blu FLU.
    Brian

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