Sea Stories bI was being shaken off my bridgeb


Jan 5, 2001
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It’s been a long time since I started a thread, so here goes.

I daresay we all have our favourite ships — Mauretania, Olympic, Aquitania, Normandie. (Olympic’s mine!) but there are many of those interesting incidents of sea life, from stowaways to storms and breakdowns to fires and explosions. They don’t have to be bad, but interesting.

For me, one of my favourite sea stories is that when Olympic encountered 120-mile-an-hour winds in December 1921 and suffered the vicious Newfoundland storm, which continued for two days, she still averaged nearly twenty-one knots for the whole crossing! Many passengers had not realised the extent of the storm — despite two third class passengers being killed and injured — and Olympic only once gave several quick rolls.

The ‘Queen Mary story.’ In wartime, Berlin radio announced that she had been sunk with all onboard (some 10,000 people!) and the Radio Operator burst onto the bridge and told the Captain, as he was worried it might be planned and that the ship might be attacked by U-boats lying in wait. The Captain replied: ‘How interesting, but don’t tell the troops (as) they’ll get upset.’

Then there’s the story of Mauretania trying for the ‘Blue Ribband’ in 1929 despite the horrific weather and averaging speeds far better than she had ever done before.

It would be nice to hear other liner stories; I hope we can have an interesting compilation.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
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Patricia Bowman Rogers Winship

Guest
Hello, Mark.

I'll preface this tale by paraphrasing a remark I heard online from one sailor to another. "What's the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story? A fairy tale begins with 'Once upon a time...' A sea story begins with 'Now this ain't no s***.'" This one is from Titanic and Other Ships by C.H. Lightoller. It's a classic.

"On one occasion a huge roast of beef was planted on the Second Officer's pillow. He was on the bridge at the time, and although immensely fond of a practical joke at other people's expense, could never bear to have one played upon himself; but this one was on him all right. The roast of beef was on one end of the mess room table which ran athwartships, and it was the custom, in this ship only, for the First Officer to carve. The boat gave one of her terrific lurches, which, when accompanied by the propellor coming out of the water, engenders a sensation immeasurably worse than express lift dropping from the upper floors of a skyscraper.

The First must have thought the Chief was going to check the beef. One did not, neither did the other, with the result that it came careering across the table, and having got a good start, each officer cheered it on its way. At the far end of the table the dish was brought up with a jerk by striking the fiddle, or wooden stretcher that is placed there to keep the cutlery and plates within bounds. The edge of the dish had just sufficient lip to give the roast an upward trend, and, althought there were two bunks, one above the other, and over ten feet of space, the roast described a graceful parabola through the air, across the rest of the messroom, through Barber's cabin, and came to rest on his pillow. The mess room steward at once set out to retrieve it, but we unanimously agreed that it was in far too good a place to be disturbed.

Barber had a habit of coming off the bridge and asking the steward what the others had had for their meal, as, of course, in these ships, there is a pretty long menu. We had coached the steward, before we had retired to our cabins and when Barber had made his usual enquiry, "Well, Davies, what have you got," followed by, "What have the others had? Oh, all right, I'll have the roast beef too," Davies replied, "The roast beef is in your bunk, sir." At first, Barber didn't know what to make of it, then, when he did realise this, as the song goes, "The air went blue for miles all round." and, to this day, he firmly believes that it was put there. When you take into consideration that the edge of the bunk was five feet from the deck, it certainly did seem pretty near an impossibility, but at the same time it will give a fairly clear idea of the contortions of a Western Ocean mail boat in an Atlantic gale."

Pat Winship
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
One might check Maxtone-Graham's "The Only Way To Cross" for the full particulars, but Captain Rostron had an interesting way of dealing with card sharps who came to his attention while he comanded the Baringeria. He would call the offender to his office for a nice little chat.

On his desk would be a loaded revolver...not exactly pointed at anything or anybody, but not pointed away either.

For some reason, the card sharps were very willing to reach an amicable settlement with the people they bilked.
wink.gif


Rostron was definately my kind of guy!
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Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
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Basil Lubbock's books are filled with many a good sea story. For those who've read Lightoller's memoirs and recall his apprenticeship days, his comments on what the boys used to get up to at sea make intriguing reading. Going through the correspondence of one of the other Titanic officers from when he was an apprentice, I don't think that either Lightoller or the lads Lubbock describes were exactly unique in their high spirits. This is from The Last of the Windjammers:

Wild Crowds

Not even medical students were more full of pure devilry than brassbounders; but where all were tarred with the same brush, some ships were noted for the wild crowd of young savages inhabiting their half-decks. Of such was the Earl of Dunmore, whose boys made things hum wherever they went. Sydney, Melbourne, 'Frisco, Callao - all the big sailing ship ports, in fact, have wondrous records of the doings of sailing ship apprentices stored away in their police archives.

When the famous cadet-ship Hesperous left Sydney for London in 1892 the three brass-balls of a well-known pawn-broker in Argyle Cut decorated the end of her jibboom; whilst the Blackadder towed up the Thames from New York on one occason with bullock horns on each truck.

But I think the palm must be given to the hard bargains of that fast four-poster Springburn, for in 1896 these dare-devils earned undying fame in San Francisco by kidnapping the notorious Shanghai Brown and sending him on a winter passage round the Horn.


He has some wonderful sections on the conflicts between apprentices and local boys in Sydney, the lengths they'd go to in order to outwit the stewards, etc.

After one of their stoushes,

Then was the time that irate short-tempered skippers had to go and bail out their "Hell's brood o' boys." Those same boys would no doubt have preferred lying back in a comfortable calaboose to cleaning out limbers or chipping paint.

No, in spite of all the hard working sky-pilots of the Seaman's Mission, a windjammer's half-deck never had the remotest resemblance to a Sunday School.


Wonderfully evocative material!
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Patricia, Michael & Inger.

Thanks very much for your contributions. Wow. This is the high-quality of story I like. I've another of Mauretania I'll add later. Bit stretched for time at the minute.

Best,

Mark.
 

Erik Wood

Member
Apr 10, 2001
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I have many a sea story as well. Some passed down other are life experiences I have posted many here. The funny thing about a sea story is that no matter how honest it starts out it gets more and more out of control the longer it is told.

Erik
 
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Patricia Bowman Rogers Winship

Guest
Nice to see you, Erik, and I hope you'll share a few more-- the more out-of-control, the better! :)

Pat Winship
 
Jan 5, 2001
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On the Britannic, there was one instance if I recall correctly when some of the Nurses sneaked-up to the boat deck at midnight to watch the twinkling coast of Sardinia, having watched porpoises; but the Matron had put the deck out of bounds and they had to suddenly disperse below decks. Matron also tried to keep men and women separate on the decks as far as she could, but she must have been annoyed when several couples went out of their way to hide from her beneath the gangways. One morning, the ship was moving through the Archippelago and several people thought a U-boat was chasing them; the ship was racing through at 25 knots and swayed somewhat when several turns had to be made.

This other story regards Mauretania. My source is Humphrey Jordan's fine biography on the vessel, which is entitled Mauretania and was published in 1936. Jordan was able to relate first-hand experiences in many cases as he had watched the ship with interest throughout her life. One instance details a man's appendix being removed while the ship was doing 27.4 knots through that horrible kind of storm; there are others which I'll add if I find the time.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

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