Tales of the Deep, by Michael Smith

“Tales of the Deep”

by Michael Smith N.Z.

I decided to share my experience and stories of a 22 year career as an Engineer in the Merchant Navy with those others, who like myself, were called to go ‘down to the sea in ships’.  I am in my late 70’s, and have lived in New Zealand with my wife for the last 7 years. The stories that I will share with you are not in cronological order.  Whilst I will endeavour not to get to ‘deep’ into the engineering side of things, I trust that the engineers ‘out there’ will find common ground in my descriptions.  

I joined the M.V. Teakbank in late ‘64 as the 6th Engineer in Calcutta.  The Captain was Louis Wigham, who in my opinion  was the best ‘Old Man’ I ever sailed with. The Chief Engineer was from  Sunderland whose name escapes me.  The 2nd Engineer was Jack who hailed from Mount Lofty in South Australia.  He was around 63 years of age at that time, he had been at sea for about 30 or so years, the Teakbank was the last vessel he was to serve on.  The 3rd Engineer was Alvin Latty who hailed from New York.  Most pleasant person who basically along with Jack the 2nd showed me the ropes over the next 5 or so months. The 4th Engineer John hailed from Glasgow.  The 5th was Sam who had signed on about 6 months prior to me. He hailed from Durban.  The 2nd Lecki was Barry who hailed from Newcastle in NSW Australia.  I cannot recall who the Chief Electrician was.  Deck and Engine room crews were recruited from Chulna and Chittagong, and the Chippy was from Hong Kong.

The Teakbank was powered by a Doxford 4 Cylinder Opposed Piston oil Engine. It had three 500kw Ruston Generators.  The Main Engine was started by compressed air, two large air cylinders were fixed vertically to the forhead engine room bulkhead.  Whilst entering and leaving a port the main engine was run on Diesel Fuel, when at sea and at ‘Full Away’, the engine was run on Heavy Fuel.  About an hour before a pilot was picked up the ‘revs’ were slowly dropped to around 70rpm (normal running revs were 95rpm).  Two inlet pipes fed the Fuel Pump block, one fed pure diesel and the other heavy oil.  When coming into port it was a simple matter of shutting off the ‘steam heating’ to the heavy fuel lines, and slowly shutting the valve which reduced the flow of heavy oil and, at the same time, opening the valve on the diesel line, allowing the flow of diesel oil to the fuel pumps.  Within a couple of minutes the ‘tone’ of the beat of the engine changed and one could smell the faint traces of ‘diesel exhaust’, it is something engineers rarely forget!

To be continued………

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