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1956 to 1975
|06/06/2017 - 18:28||Michael Kemp||
I joined a scruffy looking Volvatella in Rotterdam in early December 1961, Captain Withers who had taken command a few days previously had a reputation for running a very tight ship but very much liked good quality food. Volvatella was Chinese crewed but with British officers and engineers, as 3rd trip Deck apprentice I was appointed ships carpenter which meant permanent day work, no watches but on stand by duties from end of passage through to full away on passage. I was responsible for the daily monitoring of drinking water for quality,quantity as well as ordering and monitoring the loading of fresh supplies. Captain Withers wanted Deck side cleared of rust and repainted, I was give the job of derusting all screws and threads on tank hatches including securing clips and the long hatch lifting threads, it was hard work, most lifting threads were badly corroded taking several hours each using a die and spanner all work was inspected each day, once all work was completed Volvatella looked very smart. Captain Withers then instructed me to refurbish the bridge decking seams with pitch and oakum, so I spent the next few weeks on my hands and knees! Over the months we sailed to Geelong,Miri,Kharg Island,Yokohama,Singapore,Bombay. On 5th February 1962 on passage from Geelong to Miri we caught a hurricane off Western Australia - boy was it rough! We left Bombay on 2nd July for Mena, en route a day or two out we were asked to stand by Venassa on passage from Germany - who had broken down in the Gulf, we one of a number of Shell tankers within a few hours steaming that evening, first light the following day we sighted Venassa and stood by waiting orders from Shell, within an hour of our arrival Achatina appeared and carried on passage after a few messages. From the moment we increased speed the previous evening it had been all hands on deck to prepare to undertake a tow, the insurance wire was hauled aft using a wire spring , as ships carpenter I protected all vulnerable rubbing areas deck side with timber as well as lining the stern panama fairlead with timber and lead sheet , 2 poop deck fairleads were braced with timber, finally anchors and windlass were made ready if needed. The insurance wire was flaked out down an aft companionway with a running pulley in the bight shackled to a messenger line and midship winch to control paying out. Finally the go ahead to tow came through and started the following morning - 7th July I think. We approached Venassa from port quarter firing a rocket line onto her forecastle from about 100 metres, as she had limited windlass power we hauled aboard one of her manila mooring lines which shackled to our insurance wire and then hauled to Venassa by her windlass and finally shackled to one of her anchor cables, our end of the wire had been lead through the midship sett of bits and secured round both poop deck winchs, the poop deck then out of bounds for the duration of the tow , a continuous watch being kept from the aft boat and bridge decks. The following day within a few miles of Mena harbour limits a decision was made to take Venassa's emergency power away from steering in readiness for harbour towing by tugs, I was on watch on the aft boat deck at the time as Venassa began to yaw and the towing cadence came higher and higher the more she moved, eventually the connecting shackle cleared the water and parted with a large spring like coil of insurance wire hurtling towards our stern for a few seconds before sinking.We were a few miles short for a full salvage payment but still received a bonus. Volvatella was probably the most rewarding hands on experience in my 6 years at sea - being in control of windlass and anchors when required , long hours with little rest 30 plus when towing , lots of shipboard DIY , and last but least good food and a very competent crew and captain
|08/29/2016 - 23:43||Richard Bunn||
I was junior sparks in 1962 when we were called to assist sister ship Vanassa which had lost power in the Persian Gulf. Despite dozens of telegrams to London we had to take her in tow up towards Mena Kuwait. A huge task at sea without tugs. Vanassa had to cut steerage to enable steam to be able to drop the anchor cable which was attached to a 7inch wire. The loss of steering caused the tow wire to snap! Spectacularly dangerous as wire flew back at our ship. We were 10 miles short of safety so any salvage was cut down. Though we did get a good bonus.
|01/10/2016 - 19:09||David John Turner||
As an apprentice I enjoyed being on the Volvatella as she was one of the best vessels in the fleet at the time. One of the turbo-generators had been built for display in an engineering exhibition and chrome plated nuts and bolts had been used throughout, very impressive! The automatic soot blowing system was much appreciated by the apprentices as manual operation was a pretty horrible job and usually assigned to them.