Way back in the dim and distant past, when even the earth seemed so much younger, even I was young.
Seems remarkable now, but it is still true for all of that.
From March 1968 to November of that year I was a second trip Engineer apprentice on board the SS. British Captain, O. N. 307967 68 000 TDW, 24070 NRT 18 000SHP.
At that time one of the newest and biggest ships about, I understand about the sixth in the British Merchant Navy.
Yes, we had one way back then
Well eventually, in May, we were sent to our guarantee dry dock (ie the one after the first year).
Surprisingly, since the ship was a Camel Laird job, we were sent to Falmouth, one of the few places at that time with a dry dock big enough to take us.
Well, being good boys, we eventually heaved into sight in that delightful part of the world, to be told to park up on the pick (anchor)in Falmouth Bay and await space alongside.
After being parked for several days we had the pleasure of seeing one of the company's, nay, the world's, biggest disasters wander in and park on her pick near to us.
That was the ss British Comet, one of the six Light class boats which were thrown together in Italy during the late 50's.
These floating monstrosities were doubtlessly the greatest cause of engineers to seek their fortunes ashore that we ever had.
I was eventually became one of them, with my seagoing career and nerve destroyed by the British Lantern.
For the next week or so we were both there enjoying each others company and banter.
Eventually came the day, actually early evening, when we got called in.
I was down below on engine room watch at the time and the 'old man' a wonderful character called Capt Lowry called us up on the bridge-engine room 'phone and told us that he would ring down dead slow ahead to ride up and lift the pick, then half to clear, then a double full when we were to give it all we had.
He indicated that his idea was to exit the bay completely before turning about and heading for the river, passing the Comet close as to warm up the paint work and "rock that boat so much that they would realise just how big we were".
Surprisingly all went to plan and the Comet was left suitably rocking at her moorings, until we started to approach the river when he rang down for half again. Winding back the manoeuvring valve, the engine just carried on increasing speed.
Our manoeuvring valve had collapsed internally.
As it was the Chief Engineer had come down and he called up the old man and gave him the good news, viz, You have full ahead, flat out or nowt. Your choice.
Lowry decided on discretion this time and the Chief hit the button to close the Coburn Valve (Bulkhead valve or emergency shut off valve).
So there we were, floating about Falmouth Bay, now little more than a 900ft barge. There was only on tug at Falmouth then, a little thing with all of 35tons tractive effort on the hook. This looked a lot, from memory, like the Portwey, pictured here.
Give the little bu**er it's due, something like 4 to 6 hours later we were tying up alongside all nice and snug.
So that meeting her in London yesterday is more like greeting a long lost acquaintance.
Keith J Chesworth