As an aside:
Whilst at school I went on the school’s cruise ship Nevasa https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Nevasa
For 10 days in November 1966. We left Southampton, called in a Lisbon, Gibraltar, Malta, Alexandria (where we were taken to Cairo and saw the pyramids, the Sphynx and the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities which houses all the good stuff from Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus) and then on to Venice from where we flew home. During my time aboard Nevasa I made friends with some of the Indian crew. I have always had an affection for the people of India. One of these guys that I got on well with was Antiono Fernandez who hailed from Goa and we exchanged addresses in the hope that we might stay in contact. Now everyone knows this never happens so I thought nothing more of it.
We were at home, it was Friday night about two weeks after the Nevasa trip and we were getting ready to go out for the evening to the local Community Centre when there was a knock on the door. Standing there was Antonio Fernandez and three of his mates. They had got a taxi all the way out from Southampton to Holbury (12 miles or so), they were very smartly dressed in their suits and we were all gobsmacked!
We wanted to go out. We had no food or drink to offer them. It was, in retrospect a little embarrassing but I had taken some 8mm movie film whilst on Nevasa so we decided to invite them in and show this film to them. Each 50’ of standard 8 film runs through in about 4 minutes and I had taken 4 films, I hadn’t even had time to splice them together into one unit.
We all sat and watched the films together and then they went, presumably to find a taxi and we went out. We couldn’t even help them get a taxi as we didn’t have a telephone then.
This episode gradually slipped into the dim and distant past as such things do… until I joined Cotswold. Who should be my cabin steward but the very same Antonio Fernandez! It really is a small world.
Fags, Food, Booze & Entertainment
A ‘friend’ at school persuaded a rather gullible me to take up smoking. This happened in the middle of our 5th year (Year 11 today). Unfortunately for me the habit ingrained itself and I became a habitual smoker, much to the chagrin of my non-
By the time I arrived at college (September 1968) I was well hooked, this went on and I eventually went to sea. What an eye-
I found my job as a Radio Officer to be quite a nervy job and often lit the next off the last. Sometime around December/January 1973 we went up the Persian Gulf. I was not prepared for the heat, remember we were on a non air-
This brought a warning signal to me. I was finding it difficult to breathe accompanied by chest pains. There was nothing for it, I had to find a way of giving up smoking. I had tried (many times) to reduce my consumption but they did not work and usually resulted in consumption going up.
I had to persuade myself that I was cheating myself out of good health, mean it and believe it. I needed a plan.
We were up the Persian Gulf miles from anywhere and we had run out of that which I decided would be my ‘cigarette substitute’ – Rose’s Lime Juice. We would not be taking on such supplies until we arrived in Durban some week or so away. This gave me time to work myself up to the challenge that I had set myself.
We arrived in Durban and took on supplies, fags, booze, Rose’s Lime Juice and all the other provisions we needed. The departure from Durban was my chosen time to give up smoking. I had already run out of fags, bought the Rose’s Lime Juice – ready!
OK, you’ve guessed, I bottled out and went down to the Chief Steward and bought 400 Benson & Hedges and they had gone up in price, they were now 55p for 200! Tear into the first pack and take a drag, normality restored! Then a second!
But ‘You said you would give up’ ‘Cheating yourself out of good health’ Oh, the guilt! That was the last cigarette I ever smoked. The date was 28th February 1973 and we had just left Durban (ingrained in my mind!). I left the ship some months later with 398 cigarettes and gave them to my shore-
About a week after giving up I had a very difficult and testing time. The outsides of ships are painted white which is highly reflective. The crew were repairing some rusty railings just outside my radio room door. The flashes of the arc-
I have never smoked anything since.
The food served up on each of the ships was variable. On the whole it was quite good. Cluden was probably the worst -
Cotswold was probably the best.
At the time most aspects of shipping fell under the auspices of the ‘Board of Trade’ and they stipulated that certain types of food should be made available. One that springs to mind were prunes. These were known as ‘The Board of Trade’s Little Black Workers’ and were served at least twice a week!
I have included booze in this section as the stories are much the same across all of the ships on which I sailed. There is, apparently a commonly used pet name for the Officer’s Bar on board ship ‘The Pig and Whistle’. This name was not used on any of the ships on which I sailed but it was usually the Radio Officer who ‘ran’ the bar. By ‘running the bar’ I mean checking stock and ordering back to the Chief Steward or Purser, making sure it was open, clean and often serving. We had to set our prices to cover costs and keep a very modest set of accounts to check for this. Spirits were served from optics, beer by the half (rare) or pint and the variety of mixers and cordials. The beer was always a lager to assure that it could be kept in the hostile temperatures and timescales of sea-
As ‘Officers’ we had our own lounge, within the main accommodation area and often next to the ‘restaurant’ (that wasn’t what we called it but I cannot remember that now) and was well furnished, always had a dart board, a television that never worked and of course the bar.
Cockroaches are a way of life on ship particularly with Chinese crew. Cockroaches never bothered them. For more on this see ‘Cluden’. Cockroaches love beer. At the end of the evening the bar steward would always have to empty the beer slops trays away and wash them. On the odd occasion when this did not happen the person opening the bar the next morning was presented with a vision of cockroach rear ends sticking up in the air with the cockroach heads down in the grilles of the slop trays drinking the beer. Yes, we would have inebriated cockroaches. They were actually easier to catch because they were slower to move and didn’t always scurry for cover.
On one ship in particular we used to have ‘cocky races’ every Sunday lunchtime. We always had a copious supply of insect killing spray and would spray (from a close range) three vertical lines spaced by about a foot, up the bulkhead at the back of the bar. Two cockroaches were chosen and each put near the bottom of the bulkhead between the lines of spray (lanes) and the start signal was to spray a horizontal line under them. This caused them to run upwards to escape the spray. If they went straight up they also escaped the effects of the lanes. Eventually they would fall off and die as a result of the spray and the winner was deemed to be the one who climbed the highest.
The booze was fairly cheap. Gin was about 55p per bottle, and Scotch/Brandy were 60p. We used to charge about 3p per shot. Mixer cans were also about 3p each. Beer was about 5p a pint. No wonder we drank a lot! I learned how to make pink gins and was complimented many times.
Any excuse for a booze-
Having listed various methods of entertainment above there was one more that we all enjoyed and that was films. All the ships on which I sailed had a contract with Cattermoul Film Services. They supplied us with a Bell & Howell 16mm sound film projector with a screen and (not to spare any expense) an Anamorphic Cine lens. The films, chosen pretty much at random were delivered every three months or so to the ship via the local shipping agents. We would see the likes of Jungle Book (which we showed so many times we must have nearly worn it out), Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Dirty Harry, indeed any Clint Eastwood film was a sure-
It was always my job to set up the projector and usually to show the film even if on duty. One got used to how long each spool was going to last and changeovers were slick so little ‘watch time’ was missed.
As said above, we usually had a television on board. This would have bee a multi-
Darts was ever popular. You would have you resident expert and everyone else tried not to lose too badly but it improved your mental maths (well from 501 downwards).
Crib (cribbage) was played a lot. I used to be quite good at it but have not played since I left the sea.
When I joined my first ship (Benkitlan) the first thing my Senior R/O (my mentor) asked my was ‘Do you play Bridge?’ to which I replied ‘no’. ‘Good,’ he said ‘and don’t ever learn. You can be absolutely sure that you will be on ships where the Old Man (the Captain) and two others will be utterly avid bridge player and you would then be the fourth person to make up the bridge team and be ‘required’ to play bridge at every conceivable hour of the day or night.’ Needless to say, I avoided that situation but I was asked on many occasions to make up the numbers for a game.