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Something to read in these lack of article times

A couple of items I was doing for our retirement club magazine

Ceylon. The MV Somali was anchored about half a mile off shore in Trincomalee loading tea. We had a gangway down to a pontoon on the starboard side for boat access and further aft a lighter tied alongside from which the boxes of tea were being unloaded. On the port side aft two of the lads were fishing without too much success. To brighten their lives, two of us decided to swim from the pontoon around the stern of the ship and pull on their fishing lines. As we reached the stern a small local fishing boat went by with three guys in it. A couple of them pointed to the sea and made snapping actions with their hands and mouths. We about turned and both broke Olympic swimming records back to the pontoon. We were both frightened to look in our trunks when they were taken off.

When it was lunch time the local cargo handlers would sit in a shaded spot, unfold a banana leaf in which was their lunch of rice and whatever. They all wore sarongs and leather type flip flops and that’s all. The guys who worked the derrick winches would always rig up a thin coconut mat to keep the sun off. It was always interesting just to watch how the locals worked.

Swimming Pool. The MV Somali had no air conditioning and no swimming pool. The engineer’s accommodation was situated on the main deck level and each cabin had two windows, like train windows they could be lowered down for ventilation. In heavy weather external hinged steel covers were swung over the windows. Your bunk was below the two windows and it was normal to lie there with the sea rushing down the deck and over the windows when the ship rolled. Cabin doors were of the jalousie type and an electric fan plus deck head punkas completed the ventilation.

Once we entered the Med from the Atlantic the ship’s carpenter would construct a strong wooden box 10ft x 10ft x 6ft deep on the after deck and secured quite close to the ship’s side. Into this was inserted a large tarpaulin and this was then filled with sea water from the deck fire main up to a foot from the top. Finally an external ladder was fixed to the side. It was lovely to come out of a hot engine room and have a dip in our own pool. It was also strange when it was a bit choppy as it felt as though you were going to get washed over the side as the water slopped up on the sea side. If anyone’s worked it out? It’s 16.99 m3 of water or just under 17 tonnes of water inside the pool, so quite a strong box.

Roger Monk Somali’s Ref Engr 1961

Where are you from: Dartfrd Kent

Re: Something to read in these lack of article times

Hi Roger, Your story brought back memories. I actually lived in Trincomalee on two occasions for 3 years each time thanks to my Fathers job. (Brit Gov).The common practice for locals fishing was to lob a grenade into the water or failing this a stick of Dynamite. As the stunned fish rose to the surface they swept them up. As for Sharks in the Harbour this was very rare. Bear in mind that at this time there was a huge amount of Naval traffic at all hours.

Where are you from: originally Gosport now Campbelltown

Re: Something to read in these lack of article times

Hi Roger, Further to my previous, I did one trip on the old "Pipiriki" following 3 years with Shaw Savill on "Southern Cross" and "Ceranic".It was with some trepidation I traveled to liverpool to join what was in 1965 an old girl.Air- conditioning? Not in 1944 when she was built, but there was a Thermotank heating coil (with which no doubt you are familiar). Not used much. As in your ship, Somalia, we did have a crude swimming pool along the same lines as you described 10 ft square and each night, exhausted, we threw ourselves in making little barking noises as the ship rolled from side to side.This was no doubt aided by NSZ supplying Coates Plymouth Gin at 5 shillings a bottle! 5 Shillings!.The common practice was to half fill a tankard with Gin and fill up with Tonic and ice. A very happy ship and with a particularly fine Captain (Captain Cripps)who treated all crew regardless of rank and position with the same regard and respect.A wonderful man who spent many hours in the Officers smoke room and always retained the respect. A bit like Philip Jackson who I sailed with in Himalaya. Those were the days!

Where are you from: originally Gosport now Campbelltown