BANKLINE voyages and conditions 1950’s

Reflecting on life in the early 1950’s, the differences from the 1970’s and 80’s vessels were vast.

Here are some facts.

It was normal to go round and round the world before returning home.

There were some exceptions but generally this was a time that was notable for wha22t we did not have, i.e….

No Bar

No Pool

No handy boat

No wives on board

No airconditioning

No short trips

No Sat Nav.

No Radar

No bridge controls

No auto steering


No chance to get off (legally)

What we did have:

2 years onboard

Menus stuck in a fork!

Limited air starting of the engines

An Aldis lamp for signalling

A trailing log line

A deep sea lead

Wooden boats

Radial Davits

A ‘Bond’ depending on the Master

A ‘Sparky’ in his hut

A fan in the cabin (sometimes oscillating!)

Steam Winches on deck.

Wooden hatch covers, tarpaulins, and locking bars.

Here comes the good bit….

We had wood decks that glistened in the wet

Open rails on many ships

Long stays in port that could be weeks or even months

The sweet smell of spices and tea in cases

A variety of cargoes, bagged or bulk

Slow trawls around remote Pacific Islands

A slow, often captivating style of life

We were happy

These long voyages could be heaven or hell (as in Hotel California) but either way they left a lasting memory. For many, it was a life changing experience. On the bridge it was a good day when 300 miles was achieved. The many twin screw vessels still in the fleet often ran on one engine while the other was under repair by the hard pressed engineers.

The author, (above) steering a Liberty ship.

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