The Lingula was my first ship and the first trip lasted just a year. My first port was Havana, Cuba. Batista was still just hanging on to power, but when we were ashore there was fighting in the outskirts of Havana. It was quite exciting for a first trip apprentice, seeing armed soldiers rushing around. We did several runs between Rotterdam and Norkopping, Sweden. We carried a highly refined oil and the tanks had to be thoroughly cleaned each time so we had lots of time in Rotterdam each turn round. It was winter and the Baltic was frozen and several times we needed a Russian icebreaker to get us out. The pilot drove out to the ship from Norkopping and then walked the last few hundred yards. The bow plates were very badly dented by the pressure of the ice and after winter we spent a few weeks in dry dock at Wilton Fiornord having new plates put on the bow. It was -50 degrees and all the water services froze solid we had to "go" over the side.
On the 11th April 1967 I found myself sailing along the coast of Vietnam bound for the port of Nha Trang. I was a crew member on board the Shell tanker MV Amastra. We were carrying a cargo of Jp4 fuel for the American air force. We had loaded this cargo in Singapore, while there the Bum Baot girls had come on board,along with an Indian Sikh, he was telling fortunes. He told me I would be going home soon, I had already been on board the Amastra for seven months.On this morning I went on deck at seven o'clock to watch the early morning mist clear from the mountains, a first glimpse of this country so much in the news for so many years of war.
Mid day came and we finally reached our destination in the large bay at Nha Trang. We were to anchor and connect up to a submarine pipeline, where we could remain as a floating storage depot for the American air force. The idea being the fuel would be safer in a ship in the bay than in the storage tanks ashore where the Viet Cong could attack and destroy it.
There would be no shore leave as we were in a war zone. That evening we had a film show on board, one of the three films we were allowed per month,so things were not so bad, a few cans of beer and a nearly new film, what more could we want.The film ended about ten thirty pm, I returned to my cabin to play with the dials of my brand new Phillips World receive radio,just bought in Singapore.It had been a long and soon I was in my bunk with lights out,but not for long.
I was rudely awakened by a dull thud and vibration in my cabin,quickly followed by the ships alarm bells being sounded.I was out of my bunk as quick as a cat chased up a tree by a bull dog,on with shoes and trousers, and one other very important thing my Lifejacket, for I could not swim an inch.I was met in the alleyway by my ship mate John Young from Longford and the third engineer shouting,get out quick she's going down.We dashed along the alleyway and up the companionway to the deck where we found the crew messman cowering down behind the ships steel bulwark.I asked him what had happened ,he replied we might have been fired on from ashore,he didn't know for sure. Within an few more moments the lights went out and the ships horn sounded the abandon ship signal.
My lifebaot station was midships on the port side, which meant I now had to make my way along the catwalk above the tanks of jet fuel oil to reach my boat station, where my job was to tie the painter from the lifeboat to a bollard on the fore deck. I have often heard of the experession of a person's knees knocking together,now I was experiencing it for myself first hand as I made my way along the deck after securing the painter.My lifeboat had now been swung out over the ships side by the other crew members, when along came the marines to rescue us. Small patrol boats and amphicars were sent from shore when the lights went out , and our distress call was picked up.By now we could see and feel the ship sinking by the stern.The Viet Cong had sent out an under water swimmer to plant a limpet which blew a large hole in the engineroom. As no one knew how many had been planted , we were told to stop lowering our own lifeboats and get in the rescue boats as quick as possible,because if there was another explosion we were all dead men.
The marines in the amphicars brought us to a beach to await a lift to Camp McArthur, it was the start of a new day for all the crew now safely ashore in war torn Vietnam
Joined her in May 1963. She was in dry-dock at Cammell Laird's yard following a 6-month period acting as a 'topping-off' vessel in Bonny, Nigeria. Large crude oil tankers could not cross the sand bar at mouth of the Bonny River when fully loaded and so could only leave Shell's up-river Bonny oil terminal with a part cargo. Once across the bar, they anchored on the seaward side. The San Florentino, a smaller vessel capable of crossing the bar with a full cargo, then took out enough oil to 'top off' the larger vessel until it had a full cargo.
To this end, the San Florentino had been fitted with large wheel-type fenders and the necessary davits and winches to enable them to be lowered over the side to hang between the two tankers as they came together to transfer cargo.
In the dry-dock these arrangements were removed and six months' growth of tropical weed, barnacles and other accretions were chipped off the hull. This growth had been so profuse that on the voyage from the Bonny River to the Mersey, the ship was unable to make more than 10-11 knots instead of the normal 15 knots.
Apparently personnel serving aboard her in Bonny had been paid an 'inconvenience bonus' locally, cash-in-hand to compensate for the discomfort and lack of shore leave. As told to me, this was hush-hush and not to be revealed since tax was not deducted. Later, whilst serving on the vessel I heard that the payments had been declared to the UK tax authorities by Shell and all the guys that had received the bonus subsequently received a demand for unpaid tax!
The crew had been invited to a party,by a middle aged "Lady",and her friends, at an old house close to town in Melbourne.The party was in full swing,when two firemen decided they both wanted to take the same"Lady" to bed,after much pushing and shoving,JOCK turned to me,and after removing his glass eye said "Here hold this while I sort this B****** out".After I calmed them both down I think they decided they didn't want her anyway.
Third ship as Deck Cadet, When there was a generator failure the old Doxford Diesel just kept going!
Joined in Malta, as Deck cadet, Later we damaged the bow entering the dock at Antwerp and later smashed the prop at Stanlow. The crew on board at that time were fantastic, never been on a ship like it. Brilliant.
My first ship as Deck Cadet joined in Rotterdam and straight to Barry Dry Dock to replace propshaft bearings. Loaded Lube oils in Curacao ended up in New Zealand, Only ship I spent Christmas aboard in 9 years with Shell!
I joined the Etrema in St John for the sea trials as third mate and raised the Red Ensign for the first time on the hand over to STUK.
Er zijn weinig namen die mij zijn bijgebleven tijdens mij Shell vaartijd maar die van Hans Slingerland vergeet ik nooit want die sprong kort voordat we Port Said naderde overboord de voorgeschiedenis duurt te lang maar paar uur later Hans weer aan boord en opgesloten in het hospitaaltje en in Port Said van boord gegaan 1 dag voor de kerst en nooit meer wat van hem gehoord
To join in Brunei Bay where she was layed up involved a two hour launch trip (seemed like two anyway). As we approached the ship the superintendent eng. pipes up and said "just one thing lads, be careful where you put your hands, we have had reorts of sea snakes climbing aboard" I wont bother you with the replies.