As human beings we accept our own mortality. However when we look at photos of past ships (in which we served) being scrapped, a sense of great sorrow is experienced. When I look at the photo of the “Uganda” lying on her side, it’s painful. The Uganda provided me with one of the happiest seafaring times of my life, I will always be grateful to that vessel and the friendships I developed whilst serving aboard. Being on watch with “Dave Kirchin” whom I’d meet at 03:30 in the officers kitchen, who always wanted toast (before going to the Engine Room) he never wanted to make the toast himself and always asked questions about the preparation process. (As if to prompt me into making it) How do you make the toast (he would say), Put it in the toaster and turn it on (I’d say), How do you know when it’s done (he would say), The Bread turns brown (I’d say). Another toast experience; Roger Villiers always liked Marmite on his toast. I’ll save the rest of the story for another day.
I’m curious about one thing; we male seafarers always refer to vessels as she. Do the ladies (Waps) refer to ships as Men?
You were up and about at 03:30? I never got up until second call, and then only grudgingly. As long as you were on the plates at about 03:55 that was enough in those days. The Uganda was always a good hand over. Oronsay was the worst, those evaps were terrible. We called them Dobbin and Muffin, and Daisy Belle and Daisy May. Once you got them settled on a long run, they were OK, and you could relax. But any rev change, or if someone decided to mess about with them (normally a goofy J2), there were red salinity lights everywhere. Then we would have to sort it out again, until he cocked up again.
Yes the Oronsay evaps were things of nightmares. I remember one day completly losing it with them and was pounding one of them with a jumbo wheelkey when I sensed I was not alone I turned around and froze in terror as I was being watched by the Bopper, I steeled myself for what was to come but all he said in a calm voice was "now Ian talk to them nicely"
Whoever had the idea to put the flash evap in in later years was a genius.
The Oronsay was a wreck in 74 when I joined but its the ship I loved the most, It is my greatest regret that I turned down doing the scrap run.
Throwing a Wobbler!
With the Bopper sneaking a Peak, Wow.
Reminds me of the time, I went up in the engine room elevator
on the Arc. After a pretty brutal 4-8 watch with a combination hangover.
So, I'm in the elevator and it's going up and I'm saying at the top of
my voice (Ga, Ga, Ga, Ga, Ga, Ga etc) I get to the top and the entire
ships day engineering crew and 8-12 watch are waiting to go down.
They all stared at me, nobody said a thing. Not even "comfy" (the Chief)
they all quietly let me exit and they went about business as usual.
Very interesting comment that Oronsay was a wreck in 1974... I have heard similar remarks concerning Orcades and Chusan, immediately before they were scrapped. Yet - none of these ships was over 26 years old at the time of their scrapping (Orcades was oldest).
Nowadays, it seems commonplace for (apparently) much lighter-built "cruise" ships to go on for several decades. One discussion thread relating to the current scrapping of the former Pacific Princess in Aliaga, Turkey, bemoans the fact she is being broken up - yet she is over 40 years old! In my book, an amazing lifespan for any ship. Anyone know why these newer ships are able to go on so long, compared with the (I would have thought) much better built old-timers?
The thing was, they had had the life thrashed out of them on line voyages, and were not designed for cruising. They were at their best on long runs, such as down to Durban, or Port Elizabeth to Perth. Also all the equipment was of old design, as were the materials of construction. All maintenance was reactive, no PPM in those days. Worst of all they were cockroach infested, which could never be eradicated. For all the fun we had on them, they had to go I am sad to say.
Senior moment there I am afraid, I obviously meant Cape Town and Durban. ;)
Wham...you make an interesting point about the life span of some of the old ships being relatively short, and I would have to put it down to better materials like paint technology and methods of application, same as new cable insulation being far superior to the types used on the old ships.
I remember the shocking state of the lighting in the fan skids like frame 62 on the old Oriana given that she was only 15 years old in 1975.
Frame 62 was a night mare to work in given there where DC vent fan motors running in very humid conditions, the IR of most of the wiring was measured in ohms not meg ohms and was all down to poor cable insulation.
Given the new spec cable and paint available today ships like the big O could have sailed on much longer that they did.
The old ships where hard work....but we loved em.
I concur, the Oronsays tank tops were rotten and relied on "cement boxes", The Bopper said "If you can't mix concrete then your no use as an engineer" which was not quite correct as the ships carpenters usually did the form work and concreting. The distilled water tanks were double bottom tanks and several times all our distilled water was contaminated and all the good stuff was what we had was in the feed system. If the tank tops had been stripped and painted at drydock in the ships past the ship would have lasted much longer.
However the Arcadia was a peach by comparison.
Did Big John ever work on the Arcadia?
Yes Jonh Engefield was 2/Eng on the Arc 1976(May) I was J2Eng. It was UK out to Sydney . John Howell was C/Eng , TB was 1/Elect .The voyage was out via Capetown. On the subject of scrapping the older ships I suppose the cost of fuel could have been a factor. I would like to wish all readers and subscribers a Happy and Healthy New Year. By the way I spoke to Audrey Hobbs on New Years Eve Ken Is doing OK .I also had my usual telephone conversation with Ken Hewitt on his birthday on New Years Day.. He was 91 on New Years Day a
What was your opinion of Mr Englefeild then? he always struck me as an incompetent, bulling, fool.
I cannot remember serving under a chief that uncontrollably lost his temper, I did serve under several 2E’s who’s first reaction to a crisis was unloading on the nearest warm body. I did sail under a chief that supposedly had a legendary temper, although I never witnessed it. On the MV Gambada (P&O Bulk Shipping Division) Chief Engineer W. Furnace, aka “Fiery Bill”.
The most volatile second was on the SS Ardlui (P&O Bulk Shipping Division), a Scotsman called “Alex” who would literally explode (a complete meltdown), and whose main antagonist was the Inert Gas Fans (Lancelot and Ivanhoe) they were driven by steam turbines and invariably tripped off during the startup procedure.
Above the normal engine room noises one could here a lone Scottish accent scream out the word “Shiiiiite” (long and drawn out). At which point any junior office with any sense disappeared for a least two hours.
This lasted about 5 weeks, Alex was relieved in Cape Town and was replaced by a really great guy to sail with “Malcolm Jordan” another 2E from Scotland.
The Bopper certainly was larger than life and had a fearsome reputation, when I first sailed with him I gave him a wide berth whenever possible but when on day work you just had to endure. He let fools know what he thought of them he probably was worse on third engineers, senior leckies and freezers, juniors knew that they were incompetent so took the abuse. As time went on I found he put trust in me to do jobs I considered above my experience and I usually succeeded which did heaps for my confidence. I even managed to trick him a couple of times which he never found out.
Technically he was very good, his man management was not my style, most of the difficulties he got into was due to his desire to push a job along too fast, he certainly knew his way around the Oronsay which was a relief when the poo was hitting the fan. There were certainly worse senior engineers in P&O and a few good guys, but if it was possible I would sail with him again.
I was on Himalaya for the scrap run and she was in poor condition at 25 years. She was my first ship and without doubt my favourite.
When we took her into Kaoshung ( not sure of spelling ) we saw The remains of Orsova which went to scrap in 73, very sad sight.
I think it is true that the O boats and Himalaya were built for long line voyages not cruising, and that more than anything was there demise.having said that Himalaya 's hull was pretty pourus by 74, and I think that was due to the quality of the steel post war.. Ah but fabulous ships, reaction turbines, babbys boilers, and kin hot. My god we got away with murder, I was as mad as a badger in a barrel and in that company appeared normal.
I have never been so drunk in my life as on the day we left Himalaya at Kaohsiung for Taipei, someone got into the main bar and passed around bottles of scotch.
I recall her tank tops were a patchwork of steel plates bonded on where they had holes in them, in particular where the boiler blow down went into the bilges. At the last refit we did it was obvious she would not last long and the shoreside boilermaker P&O had (John i think his name was) said as much.
As you rightly said a fabulous ship with a great atmosphere and class engineers from the chief down
Glyn I remember that day very well. I had been drinking pints of Gin and tonic with Allsops chasers.
As everybody got off the ship I decided to go to the bathroom and then went back to bed.
When they got to the wharf and did a head count I was missing.
Andy Westwood and 1st mate had to come back aboard to get me.
When I hit the wharf Captain Terry said "Pull yourself together man you are embarrassing P&O in front of the locals". There was an elderly chinese couple sitting on the jetty!!!!!
Geoff Constable said he enjoyed sailing with me but I had 2 problems Women and Alcohol :-)
Ah yes Gentleman Geoff, a nice guy probably too nice for the Oronsay which he joined after the Himalaya went to scrap, After he joined he was clearly shaken by the way things were on the Oronsay, I remember after a Engine Room/Boileroom fire/Panic Alarm he asked "was this normal"? but also said that we all seemed to know what we were doing. As I said nice guy only minus was his attitude to the waste of jointing(klingerite).
I think we all had those two problems and at the time (as to this present day) I never saw them as problems but gentleman's wholesome activities.
I remember after leaving kaohsiung we went to a hotel in Taipei after a rather short flight where i was helped on board by two rather small Chinese hostesses. The hotel had a dance in the evening where we all regrouped and being fine officers we tried again to indulge in the two problems. Wonderful times, I think that was the last time i saw you as I flew to the UK and you to Oz.
Hi! I was a passenger on this last voyage of Himalaya. At the time I was Passenger Manager P&O Melbourne and I was escorting a group of some 200 passengers on a Women's Weekly tour group to Manila/Hong Kong and then to London. I'm not normally an emotional person but as the ship pulled away from the wharf at Sydney (at this stage I had already served the Company both at sea and ashore for some 20+years)and as the last streamer broke I felt quite sad and chocked up!
The actual voyage was quite interesting as we couldn't get into Manila because of a typhoon and we went out to sea for 24 hours and at one stage were looking for a missing ship. When we came into Hong Kong we side scraped a ship which caused quite a panic from those on board that ship
The voyage itself was very enjoyable as I knew quite a few of the Officers.
I notice in some other conversations there has been talk of the lack of "drinking" opportunities nowadays in the public rooms for Officers. How sad! When I joined as a Cadet we had a table at both sittings where we were with passengers and sweet talking to the Head Waiter ensured you had some young ladies there. As a Cadet also you could sign for beer and wine at the table but no spirits anywhere. Another Chat to the Head Barman and he made sure if you did sign for spirits, smooth talking somebody, he would amend your tab! In Orient Line every Officer from Cadet upwards had their own table but there was an Engineers Wardroom/Mess. As a Cadet it was off decks at 10pm except on Gala nights etc and then midnight or so for Junior Officers.
I went to a P&O Group Pensioner's Luncheon some years ago and I noticed then that the staff couldn't have the wine etc! More for us oldies!
Keep up the good work you old Seadogs. I know we all enjoy the stories even if we don't know the relevant character.
Good to hear again from you David. I have now returned to UK to live out my memories with my partner from Woodford Green!If you can why not consider joining us for the annual Pensioners' reunion luncheon held always on the first Friday in May in Southampton.It would be great to see you.