29 July 2011

Sea Life 1952. Tynebank leave Newcastle NSW bound Geelong

First draft:

Time came to leave Newcastle in New South Wales and sail with our remaining cargo of rock phosphate for our second destination, Geelong.

The pilot was aboard, 2 tugs were sitting close by with our crew on alert fore and aft on our vessel , our engines turning over gently, all awaiting the pilot’s instructions from the bridge. Then the pilot gave the signal, and the tugs moved us slowly away from the wharf, into mid stream and paused, the tugs then just as slowly moved us 360 degrees round.
First, before sailing we needed to go to the coaling wharf to load bunkers for our journey. Arriving at the wharf, our 2 tugs at the pilot’s instructions  manoeuvred us smartly round, pointed us seaward, to be able to sail without the tugs assistance on our completion of coaling.

On completion of coaling we left the wharf under the pilot’s command, his instructions came quickly, to the engine room. Slowly forward then stop, slowly aft then pause, then forward again, then stop. Between these instructions other instructions went to the coaling crew on the wharf waiting fore and aft to loosen the ropes holding us to the wharf. Slowly, we drifted from the coaling wharf.

At the correct moment the pilot gave the order slow ahead and the Tynebank moved into the river channel. We moved down the twisty channel, then past Nobby’s Head and out of the harbour. The pilot was not ready to leave us yet, a number of ships were anchored, waiting for berths in the harbour. We cleared the vessels swung onto a southerly course and then our pilot decided to leave us.

Our journey would take us about 4.5 days. Past Sydney, round the “corner” and into Bass Strait separating Australia from Tasmania. We didn’t have radar so the officer of the watch needed keep a sharp lookout for there are many small islands in Bass Strait, strong currents and many fishing boats.

We were now approaching Port Phillip Bay and about 2.5 nautical miles from the entrance into the bay itself, we were met by the pilot boat. Our destination was of course not the port of Melbourne sitting at the northern head of the bay but the port of Geelong on the western side in its own separate bay.

Port Philip Bay is large, covering 1930 square kilometres and the shoreline is 264 kilometres in length.  Although it is extremely shallow for its size, most of the bay is navigable. The deepest portion is only 24 metres, and half the region is shallower than 8 m.

Geelong is tucked away in Corio Bay and is a pleasant city of 100,000 with many parks, reserves, gardens and green areas. The beach and long foreshore is its main draw card. The rainfall is low and the sun keeps to a moderate temperature of 25 degrees in summer.

The port area was neatly tucked away to the north end of the bay and like the town neat and tidy. I remember liking Geelong and all that went with it.

During our stay in Geelong we visited Melbourne mainly window shopping in the city centre and sightseeing around the city and many  its parks. 

Thinking back, during our time in Port Kembla we had wanted to find  possible local dances... there weren't any, nearest ones were in nearby Wollongong. We had got 2 taxi's, one of the drivers suggested a particular place so he had taken us there. There was plenty of activity but no one would dance with us, apparently we were considered strangers. I didn't try my luck at all, I couldn't dance.

One day whilst walking down a street in Geelong and window shopping, I came across a door next to a shop advertising "Dance Academy, upstairs and open". My thought went back to our time in Port Kembla and dancing, I then thought for a minute, then I hopped up the stairs and knocked on the door from which music was emanating. A lady maybe 38 opened the door and invited me in. I said I wanted to learn to dance, so she asked me a few questions including "what kind of dancing". When she understood, she suggested 3 or 4 lessons would get me going enough to be able to go down to the local dance hall  and get some practise in. I don't know now how much it cost but it didn't seem at all expensive. So we arranged next day for the first lesson. She taught me the steps for the different dances and by the forth lesson I could manage to stay off treading on her toes.  

In those days, down at the local dance hall there was mainly, only 3 dances types, foxtrot, quick step and waltz. Jive, rock n' roll, swing were "just nosing in the door" in the 1950s.

In Geelong , I didn't get the chance to go to a dance. It wasn't until I got back to the UK before I could put my "skills" to use and then only after a couple of beers.

We were coming  to the end of our time in Geelong, our cargo would be unloaded in a couple of days. One afternoon I wandered up to the bridge and wandered into the chartroom, the first  officer had a chart out and plotting a route, he looked up and said "hello Sparks, heard the news?'... "Don't think so", I replied. He said      "we're due to sail for Fremantle when we finish here, picking up a load of wheat, not sure for where yet". We talked awhile and then I wandered off, wondering where our destination might be.

A couple of days later we left Geelong. As usual our pilot turned up to take us down the channel and through the heads. Then, dropping off the pilot, we started to head westerly across the Great Australian Bight, light ship for Fremantle in Western Australia.

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