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Athelchief

Athelchief was a steam ship, the only one on which I sailed.


Built in 1958 by Cockerill at Hoboken, Belgium, she had been launched as ASTROPALITIS. Sold to Chandris in June 1974, she was handed over on the Tyne as ATHENIAN STAR but was soon broken up, arriving at Kearny on 29.8.75 for scrapping.


Callsign MTZX


27th September 1972 – Join Athelchief in Liverpool


26th June 1973 – Leave Athelchief somewhere in the UK – Immingham.



We were on our way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana which is about 220 miles up the Mississippi River from the point on the crow’s foot where the pilot boards. For the next 75 miles or so, until you reach New Orleans you are travelling between the great Mississippi Levees. These are high banks either side of the river to contain it from flooding the nearby land. Not far from the crow’s foot entrance there was a massive oil drilling rig parked to one side, it was a normal practise to bring them in for repair every now and again. The legs of the rig were in the river and the platform some one hundred or so feet above, with a short 6 ft gangplank from the bottom of the levee to one leg. We could see a man walk down the levee, cross the gangplank and climb one of the rig’s legs. The pilot turned to me and asked “How many feet of that oil rig’s legs do you reckon are under the water?” His reply was 170 ft.


The river meanders a lot and is fairly busy with tugs pushing many barges up and down the river. Over the 220 miles the height gained is about 56 ft. As you travel up the river it really looks as if you are going up hill. We went there to load a mixed cargo of Beef Tallow and Soda. The tallow stank! It had to be kept heated for the entire voyage to India lest it set solid. We off-loaded some of the cargo at Mombay and the rest at Cochin in southern India. We were taking the products to a soap factory. On the journey there was a remarkable transformation of the tallow. We loaded Beef Tallow in Baton Rouge but discharged Lamb Tallow in India. Bombay was bustling and a great  introduction to India but Cochin was a lovely place, rural India with wonderful inland waterways. The last of our dubious cargo was discharged at Chittagong in the what was now the newly named Bangladesh, a short distance  up the Karnaphuli River.


From Chittagong we travelled in ballast to the top end of the Persian Gulf and up the Shatt-al-Arab waterway to Basrah. This was before the major conflicts which have blighted the area since. Basrah is situated about 60 miles up the Shatt-al-Arab above Khrramshahr & Abadan. We had time to go ashore and visit parts of Basrah as we were loading Palm Oil. One day, for a treat the local Agent organised a (multi) boat trip for a number of us to take a hosted trip down the Shatt-al-Arab to have a look at the waterway, local farms and to some some of the most delicious food.


From Basrah we went to Albany, the capital of New York state some 150 miles up the Hudson River. This was another lovely trip to inland USA to discharge our palm oil. On the way in and out of New York harbour we passed the Statue of Liberty. It is amazing how difficult it is to spot. It seems so small against the New York skyline.


At some point we went to Recife to load molasses. Here you could buy 6 bottles of Coke for £1 and get a free one litre bottle of Bacardi

The Bacardi out there is not the same as here, ours seems to be smoother and more sickly, theirs is slightly rougher and far more palatable.


Went through the Panama Canal to Trujillo on the Peruvian coast and came back through the Panama Canal.


Went to Paramaribo in Suriname, it was hot!


Went to Houston Texas


Ports included: (but not in that order)

Liverpool

Avonmouth

Durban

Bombay

Cochin

Chittagong

Basra

Recife

Paramaribo

Trujillo via Panama Canal

Houston TX

Baton Rouge LA

Groton CT

Albany NY