Read about or do?

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marcelo_malara
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Read about or do?

Post by marcelo_malara » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:01 pm

I notice that some of the members of the forum are former professional sailors, but most of us (including me of course, a sailboat amateur) are just interested in reading and learning about ships. Did you ever in your lifes think about becoming a professional sailor? If so, why did you put it down? Would it be different have you lived in another time, for example WWII or even Nelson´s time?

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RF
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Re: Read about or do?

Post by RF » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:48 pm

When I was a teenager back in the late 1970's I did think of trying to join the Royal Navy, but never really fancied it as a career largely because of the effects of the defence cutbacks by the Labour and Tory governments in Britain, and the changing role of the RN from a worldwide responsibility to an increasing NATO and Eurocentric focus. Not really much point being in something that you are becoming more detached from.

If I were American I probably would have been interested in the US Navy, but as I'm not.....
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: Read about or do?

Post by RF » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:52 pm

Thinking about it, I've just realised my true vocation - I'd like to go back to the 16 or 17 th centuries and be a pirate. You never know, I might end up as a lord or an El Supremo in some hitherto unknown place, like Jamaica, or even somewhere like Gran Colombia or even - Argentina....
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: Read about or do?

Post by marcelo_malara » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:17 pm

I would prefer the tea clipper era, those ships were really beautiful.

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RF
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Re: Read about or do?

Post by RF » Mon Aug 04, 2008 8:05 am

But life of course was a lot harder in those days......
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Re: Read about or do?

Post by iankw » Thu Aug 21, 2008 12:48 am

I was far too left wing in my youth to even dream of joining the armed forces, plus I'd probably be seasick. Oh for those simpler days when everything was black and white!!!!!

regards

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Re: Read about or do?

Post by marcelo_malara » Thu Aug 21, 2008 1:24 am

Well, being leftist wouldn´t prevent you of defending your country, unless you were pro-russian too!!! For the sea-sickness don´t worry: I am a sea-sick sailboat man and can say that you would eventually get used to it.

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Re: Read about or do?

Post by RF » Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:11 am

Being left or right doesn't really affect whether you can be pro-military or not, just look at the Spanish Civil War. And most revolutionary lefties by definition believe in the armed struggle.

Don't confuse ''left wing'' with pacifism.
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Re: Read about or do?

Post by iankw » Thu Aug 21, 2008 10:25 am

Well 40 years ago, in my area of England (Derbyshire), the army was viewed by the left wing as a tool of the rich, to be used when required against the working classes. Defending your country is, of course, a totally different kettle of fish, and relegates other thoughts to the rubbish bin.

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Re: Read about or do?

Post by RF » Thu Aug 21, 2008 12:40 pm

But these ''left-wingers'' were not pacifist they were class war warriors.
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Re: Read about or do?

Post by iankw » Fri Aug 22, 2008 1:09 am

Indeed they were - when the different factions could agree that is. :)

Ian

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Re: Read about or do?

Post by RF » Tue Aug 26, 2008 8:13 am

Always a class war warrior - its just that they view the class war so fundamentally that any slight difference in emphasis, tactics or language means that the left winger showing that is a revisionist or a ''capitalist roader.''
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Re: Read about or do?

Post by Vic Dale » Sat Aug 30, 2008 3:25 am

RF wrote:Always a class war warrior - its just that they view the class war so fundamentally that any slight difference in emphasis, tactics or language means that the left winger showing that is a revisionist or a ''capitalist roader.''
Yes! If there's one thing we hate more than capitalism i'ts an 'effing' revisionist. (Paraphrased from The Life Of Brian).

I joined the RN as a lefty and left as a lefty. I have always been suspicious of the communist party and even though I moved far to the left in the British labour party I never considered joining the tankies (Nickname for Communists by association with the Stalin tank) and I am glad not to have bothered with the revolutionary sects who announce themselves to be parties when their membership simply does not support such a claim. I preferred instead to be in the mass workers party, despite the shame of a succession of careerists and showmen we have had as leaders.

Our political group always supported conscription, not because it would strengthen the armed forces, but because it would dilute them and proletarianise a body which tends to have a rather middle class outlook at times. It should be remembered that it was the 8th army - Victors of El Alalmein - who had held worker's parliaments in the desert and who came back to Britain and politicised the masses contributing to the postwar defeat at the polls of Winston Churchill.

I have never been a pacifist. Anyone who takes up arms against me can watch out and that has been my guiding principle on the streets and in the pubs too. However I strongly object to British servicemen and women being sent to areas of the world to interfere with the natural workings of other societies. It is clear to me, that all we ever did was in support of wealthy corporations hoping to drain wealth out of peoples who could barely support themselves. In my time I know that I never did a bit of good for the peoples we were then dominating. In the eighties it was calculated that the living standards in Britain per head of population were had at the expense of 11 slaves living close to starvation in Africa. I have been there I have seen it and it disgusts me.

I love the sea and I love the ships, large and small, though the reality of life at sea is nothing like the Idealised rubbish we see in films. A large warship smells of cooking, so for experience go to the back of a large extremely cheap restuarant and bask in the smell. Where the cooking smells lay off, you may get a strong smell of diesel or soot. Electrical compartments smell of hot wiring - sort of rubbery and everywhere else smells of paint. Oh and I almost forgot the spud-locker - add the stench of rotting potatoes. When I was at sea, if a ship was in harbour the area all around the bow for many yards was filled with turds and toilet paper.

Machinery spaces are very hot. Put on some clean overalls and go through the airlock (only on old warships with open forced draught) and if the ship is in the Far East you will be ringing wet with sweat in 3 minutes. The first time you enter a boiler room in such circumstances it really is like trying to climb into an oven, the heat really belts out at you.

When a ship passes out of a harbour and out beyond the bar she doesn't lift to the sea, she drops into the first trough and that is what brings up the green-hand's breakfast - he isn't ready for that.

AS the ship heads into the sea, the wind even though it is not blowing hard is added to the ship's speed if you are heading into it and as the sea gets rougher, the distance between you and the sea far below seems to shrink until, if the weather gets up, the sea somehow appears to be above you. In heavy weather - my favourite - the ship will accelerate as it lifts to a sea and when it drops into the next trough she'll shudder as if she has stumbled, there may be a sideways lurch or tendency to corkscrew so that she drops sideways and then comes over to lay to the rother side as she lifts to the next swell. Go below and lay on your bunk and you will soon lose track of whether the ship is rising or falling. Feeling yourself pressed hard into your bunk engenders the sense that you are falling, but in reality the increased gravity is caused by the ship accelerating upward to clear the next sea.

In a large warship in heavy weather it is instructive to go forward and feel the alternate sensations of being weightless and then heavy as lead. When trying to climb a ladder near the bow, if yor timing is wrong, you may not have strength enough to complete the first step, your newly increased weight may cause your knee to buckle. Alternatively, if you are not careful the strength you put into your first step may combine with the fall of the ship accelerating you upwards completely out of control and in danger of fracturing your skull on the deckhead above. Both of these scenarios happened to me, I tried to take a step on the long ladder leading from the capstan flat up to 3 deck on a carrier in one heck of storm and quickly found myslef sprawling on the deck at the foot of the ladder. On another occassion my timing was out and I shot up the ladder, well out of control. The hatch above was closed with only the manhole open and somehow I managed to pass through without hitting anything. I shot out of the hatch and landed on the deck behind one of my oppos, who had been watching the storm through a scuttle (never a porthole in the RN) my sudden appearance shook him to the roots and he screamed like a girl.

There is nothing to equal the violence of a heavy ship in a storm, So many hundreds of tons of water atomised with a heavy thud and blown high over the superstructure. It is fascinting to watch the fo'csle deck on a carrier through the observation port in the screen door. As the ship heads downward into the trough the head punches hard into the sea and the whole area fills rapidly though the large wire handling ports cut into the ship's side. It fills rapidly and then thumps hard against the after bulkhead. The water pressure fills very single "waterproof" light fitting and socket. It is quite something to go up top and watch the flight deck taking it green too, knowing that just 4 inches over the whole flight deck can cause capsize.

A huge vessel like a carrier can be made to feel like a small boat in the right sea. In a heavy sea in a frigate or vessel of similar size there is a risk of pounding, if the forward movement is too fast and structural damage is risked if speed is not taken off quickly. Many is the time I have enjoyed chasing off on a "mayday" shout into the Irish sea or elsewhere in a force nine and at good speed. I have felt the ship shudder and on occasions known that something expensive has just happened, You can hear people below shouting and cursing because something heavy has come adrift and is chasing them.

Speed is an exhilarating thing. Although the modern warship may not be capable of much in excess of 30 knots a full power trial is exciting. The trial is promulgate in "daily orders" so everyone nows what is coming. The day's routine goes according to schedule, but at a certain point something feels different and it is realisation that the trial has begun. In the machinery spaces the whine of the turbines competes with the roar of the forced draught for your attention and between decks the sun reflected off the brilliant white of the wash streams in through the scuttle, lighting up the deckhead giving a visual sense similar to when it has snowed. Out on the quarter deck the notion of speed is very apparent, the wash at the stern piles high above you as the twin screws force water aft and it lifts high at the centre spewing to one side or the other. The wake fans out and the broad swathe of white remains on the water for a long time. There is a feeling that the ship will try to get away from under you and staring at that white boiling wake for too long can draw you aft and over the guardrails, into the white swirling maelstrom and into oblivion. A ship at high speed is visible for miles from the air.

Everyone is aware of the strain on the engines and each is listening for something to pop! Being near the boilers and the funnel uptakes feels very much like being next to a boiling kettle. It is almost as if the water and steam surging around the tubes can be sensed and perhaps it really is being sensed. Looking over the ship's side at the sea speeding past the hull, the rasping of the hull on the sea can be heard and it sounds as though the paint will be stripped off. The air is fresh and full of spray - cooking smells are not apparent. Below in the tiller flat or near the shaft tunnels the row is fantastic and equates to someone hammering on a steel drum as the screws pound the water outside.

In the boiler rooms the furnace burns white hot and cannot be looked at except through smoked glass, and the machinery running at full pelt churns out it's individual sound to combine with the whole in a relentless cacophony. There is excitement down there, no one can hear a word that is being said, except by shouting directly into the ear. Instructions between "Pommy of the watch" (Petty Officer Mechanical Engineer - POME) and his two stokers, one to each boiler front, is conducted by a very particular form of sign language to tell them to increase or decrease the number of sprayers to be kept lit. All the while he regulates the forced draught so as not to make white or black smoke which he views through the smoke observation port. This gives him a view across he base of the funnel, via a series of mirrors. His other eye is glued to the red spirit in the Igema, a device showing the level of water in the boiler. Loss of water in the tubes will boil them dry in seconds with the attendant possibility of meltdown and superheated steam errupting out of the front of the boiler to kill everyone.

The fullpower trial takes time to reach full speed. The beginning of the trial is not announced over ship's intercom and nor is the hghest speed. The stokers come up for fresh air and the smug look on their faces tells you that they have acheived their objective. You ask anyway and they are happy to tell you that we are doing 31.5 knots and have acheive X amount of SHP - measured by torsion meters of course.

The end of the trial is not announced either. All that is noticed is the ship beginning to calm down. On the bridge the Engineer Officer makes his report to the captain who then orders engine revolutions for cruising and gives a course to steer to the officer of the watch, before securing to his cabin to write his own report. The Bo'sun's Mate may open the key on the ship's broadcast and annouce; D' ya hear there! Secure from power trial. Hands to tea!" By which time the ship is cruising once more and hands are queuing at the canteen.

A few years ago I had the very good fortune to meet an old guy who had been to sea in HMS Hood as a Chief Stoker in 1935. He described the ship graphiocally, how she worked and how she felt and as he spoke I knew that my "old-ship" HMS Albion was just like her, in terms of her machinery and her condition and through his words HMS Hood came alive for me. It is in the same spirit of that old matelot sharing his experiences with me that I make this contribution to the discussion and hopefully what I have described here will give those who never had the chance, to gain some small idea of what it was like to serve in HM ships in the 1960s.

Vic

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Re: Read about or do?

Post by Bgile » Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:22 pm

Very interesting, Vic! An informative and entertaining read. I'm going to say a little bit about being on a nuclear submarine during the 60s and 70s, just a few years after your experience. Quite a difference!

First, there were no turds or toilet paper in harbor. Discharge of waste in harbor water was simply not permitted.

When you first come aboard you are aware of a strong diesel and hydraulic smell. Yes, nuclear submarines have a diesel engine for emergencies. After a day or two you become unaware of the smell unless you think about it for some reason. I don't recall being aware of smells much at all, except you can smell food when you are eating it or when you get really close to machinery. Maybe this is because air is continually filtered. Generally speaking, you are unaware of speed except at high speed you notice some vibration in the deck. The exception is the engine room, where it is more apparent.

If you are standing in the engine room at slow speed, you feel pretty much like you are next to the pier. When you first enter you may be aware of the almost imperceptible hum of the turbines. You can increase speed at any time, subject to tactical needs. There is no preparation required. You might hear "Ahead Two Thirds" over the MC, and hear the Engineering Officer of the Watch respond. You might notice the deck tilt as the ship goes deeper to prevent cavitation. A few seconds later, "Ahead Standard". You become aware that the hum you'd forgotten about is becoming more apparent and increasing in pitch. "Ahead Full". The hum becomes louder and vibration is beginning to become really apparent, and you get the impression of immense power being developed. It's just something you sense ... it's hard to describe. "Ahead Flank". Now the sounds are quite audible and there is quite a bit of vibration, but you can still talk without raising your voice much if at all. The ship levels off at her new depth, now much deeper than before.

Comparing my post with Vic's might give you some idea of why I tend to doubt the efficiency of surface ship sonar at anything over slow speed. Tactical experience supports this.

I've also served on a diesel submarine, and one of my most pleasant memories is standing lookout watch on the bridge (surfaced of course) at night. There is the low rumble of the diesels and as you look aft you can see the straight ribbon of the wake stretching into the distance with the twin diesel exhausts rolling off to each side. Looking forward you can see the occasional flying fish jumping across the bow. Overhead there is this incredible panorama of stars. Millions of them, much brighter than you ever see anywhere on land.

I didn't enjoy heavy seas at all. We had to lay below and shut the conning tower hatches because we would get green water over the sail. Sometimes we had to extend the snorkel mast to get enough air to the diesels and even then the head valve would close when a wave went over it, causing ears to pop as the diesels took their air from inside the sub for a few seconds.

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Re: Read about or do?

Post by marcelo_malara » Sat Aug 30, 2008 3:21 pm

Hi Bgile:

Is it true that a sub tends to roll heavily due to the round hull?

Regards

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