The Journey of an Apprentice to a Chief Engineer
|© DEREK SANDS|
The Manchester Vanguard. Apprentice Richard Simpson’s first new ship
I am a member of the Association but having a problem going through the correct channel for mailbag. Please cut me some slack and apologies
I came across the article from Shipmate Richard Simpson recently in the 2014 mailbag which gave me food for thought.
It was a hot summer in 1977 when Mr Richard Simpson travelled to Smiths Dock to join his first new ship as an apprentice. When he arrived at Smiths Dock there were three Manchester Liner ships at the dock. Two of the ships were the newest ships in the ML fleet. They were the Manchester Vanguard and the Manchester Venture.
With three ML ships alongside and far from the comforts of the home port it would be natural for the crews of the three ships to seek solace in a local hostelry. Accordingly, nature prevailed and the Bluebell was selected as the hostelry to seek solace within. The Bluebell was a large establishment located at the top of the escarpment away from Smiths Dock. It needed several cars to transport all the skeleton crews of the three ML boats up the road to the Bluebell, the road being a dual carriage way with a number of large roundabouts placed about equi-distance along the route. One of the cars, that made way to the Bluebell, was a white Toyota Celica and, at the car park of the Bluebell, the white Celica was parked alongside a red Toyota Supra.
Inside the Bluebell the evening was warming up and some of the younger elements of the ML team were, already, thinking ahead to the time immediately after the Bluebell closed for the night. The time to leave the Bluebell arrived, all to soon, but the young bucks had, by that time, attracted a number of young ladies and agreed with them that they should be escorted to visit the very best ships in the British Merchant Navy. Of course, the ship’s bonds were sealed and so the ML team had to buy stock from the Bluebell. The boot of the white Celica was very convenient to the point at which the “emergency stores” were brought out from the Bluebird and so the Celica was loaded to the load line and beyond.
About eight cars left the Bluebell and last to leave the car park was the while Celica which was just behind the red Supra. A very attractive young woman was driving the Supra whilst all travelling in the Celica were qualified deck and engine officers and it is believed an electrical engineer was in the car as well. On the way down the escarpment the speed of both Toyotas was quite rapid whilst shifting up and down the gearboxes to negotiate the roundabouts. However, at the bottom of the escarpment the red Supra deviated sharp left whilst the course set by the Celica was straight on. A very hurried gear change from fourth to second resulted in the Celica engine dying and left the Celica cruising down hill and taking a lateral road which led to a grassed area. The occupants of the car got out and the Celica bonnet was opened up to investigate the cause for the engine stopping.
Japanese cars were relatively new on the roads of England , at that time, and the latest offering from Japan featured inspection lamps that could be suspended under the bonnet. So, very soon a pool of light shone in the darkness of the grassy knoll. The pool of light bathed the engine space of the Celica whilst the ex-passengers now were all inspectors with their heads under the bonnet. Little known , to all the inspectors, a resident of the grassy knoll had made way to the pool of light to see what all the inspectors were doing. Little known, to the inspectors, was that a blue mini, trimmed in police colours, had cruised into the grassy knowl also to see what the pool of light was hiding.
The timing was perfect for a comedy sketch. The resident of the grassy knoll got to the pool of light about 15 seconds before the driver of the mini. The resident of the grassy knoll joined the inspectors and was content until a hard and loud voice said “what’s going on here” at which point the resident of the grassy knoll let out a huge bray and took of at high speed. The inspectors just had time to see a donkey’s head dislodge the Celica’s bonnet stay before the bonnet came down on them all.
Fortunately, the policeman joined in all the laughter and offered to take all those on the grassy knoll, except the donkey, back to Smiths Dock and as it was the end of his shift he would ensure he stayed with us. The following day, the Celica had all it’s camshaft followers and push rods replaced and the crews of the ML ships prepared to leave Smiths Dock.
One of the two new ships had recently returned from its maiden voyage and I relieved Second Engineer Tommy Keow. I sailed, I believe, on the Manchester Venture, Voyage 2, to Japan via Gothenburg , Hamburg, Le Harve, Marsailles, Suez and Singapore. The Captain was Peter Cullen, the Chief Officer was William (Bill) Lowe, the Chief Engineer was Walter Stiegent . It was a memorable voyage and of course I remember very well Apprentice Richard Simpson.
It is very warming to understand that some young people who came under our wing at sea learned from us. Indeed, I left ML in 1980 and spent time in the Oil and Gas Exploration and Production then Engineering design . In 2011, I started up a study and travel business with its main operating office in Bogota, Colombia. However, I am still a simple sailor at heart and since leaving ML I have had the opportunity to be a member of yacht clubs in various countries. This has led me to various organisations that teach sailing skills to young people and which I promote every minute of my time. I know that my old Shipmates are all well advance in years, but I feel that had they been given the opportunity they would be part of the volunteer crews that are the RONA SAILING PROJECT , ADVENTURE UNDER SAIL, TALL SHIPS ASSOCIATION and SAIL TRAINING INTERNATIONAL to name a few.
In signing off may I take this opportunity to wish all my fellow Shipmates a warm thank you for being just great people to sail with and to you, in particular, along with all the Shipmates leaders, thank you for keeping the rest of us all afloat and in touch. ( END )
The “Disney Dream” Chief Engineer Richard Simpson’s ship in 2014