City of Canberra

A visit to Sydney

A Visit to Sydney It was 1970. I was 2nd Mate in a cargo ship, the “City of Canberra”, sailing on the MANZ line route between the East coast of the USA and Canada, and Australia. This was one of the many “cross trades” operated by British liner companies in those days. Trading between foreign countries, these ships rarely came to the UK. MANZ stood for Montreal Australia New Zealand Direct, and it was a …

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City of Karachi

Nautical Heath and Safety

Nautical Health and Safety I had always wanted to join the Merchant Navy. And here I was, cadet with Ellerman Lines. Joined my first ship in Avonmouth. A few weeks previously I had visited a local naval tailor and got fitted up with all the items of uniform and other stuff on the list in the company cadet conspectus. That conspectus! Yes. Lots of pictures of cadets in uniform doing officer-like things. Navigation on the …

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Apprentices on a sailing ship ‘streaming the log’

Ten and a Chinaman!

Ten and a Chinaman (Why nautical speed is measured in knots) Ship speed is measured in “knots”, a knot being a speed of one nautical mile per hour. I am occasionally asked why this unit is so named. Back in the days of sail, with no modern technology of any kind, it was important that a record be kept of the distance the ship had sailed. This was to allow the Master to calculate the …

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Queen Mary in Southampton, 1969

Queen Mary’s Whistle

Queen Mary’s Whistle In November 2014 I had a speaking appointment aboard Queen Mary 2. Very pleased finally to get to lecture on board this magnificent vessel. It was to be a short cruise, Southampton to Hamburg and Oslo. Delayed sailing from Southampton because of a failed Azimuth motor in one of the pods, we finally left the port around midnight. The passage up the Elbe was completed in darkness, and by breakfast time we were …

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John Biscoe

Small World – The People You Meet

The People You Meet… One of the joys of serving as a cruise-ship speaker is talking to the members of the audience after a lecture. Invariably there is a small gaggle of passengers wanting to ask questions, usually while one is trying to unrig laptop and generally vacate the venue (the vegetable-carving demonstration commences in ten minutes). I am fortunate in that my “chosen subject” is Maritime History, mostly relating to the 20th Century, and …

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An Old Friend – John Biscoe Launch

An Old Friend From 1972 till 1975 I served as Navigating Officer in the RRS (Royal Research Ship) “John Biscoe”. This was an interesting appointment, a huge contrast from the cargo liners I had served in hitherto. Each year we would make a voyage to Antarctica, sailing from Southampton in September, returning in April. During that voyage we would be engaged in the relief and re-supply of the British scientific bases in Antarctica. The ship …

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