20 September 2011

Sea Life 1952. Delilian leave Avonmouth bound Canada.

First draft:
After my home leave my next voyage on the Delilian was a short one of 5 weeks. The Delilian's route was a standard between the UK and the St. Lawrence River in Canada except when the deep winter freeze iced the river over. The Radio Officer's post on the Delilian was a permanent one and he was due to take his annual leave. I was to be his stand-in for one voyage. This also would be the Delilian's final trip this season before the big freeze started to close the St. Lawrence River to sea traffic.

The Delilian was a passenger cargo ship licensed to carry up to 50 passengers. The passengers on the outgoing voyage were mainly immigrants including family members to Canada from the UK, mostly. On the return voyage  passengers were a different variety and  lower in numbers. A few,  as one of my colleges put it were disillusioned  immigrants returning to the UK.

I cannot remember much of the other officers aboard, one of them the 3rd mate was older than the usual 3rd officer who was usually young. He was  considerably older and would be possibly in his early 50s and sported a neat trimmed grey beard. I learned that until recently he had, after marriage, spent many years ashore. His wife, apparently died, he was very lonely and in the end could not carry on further on his own. He then reactivated his qualifications and came back to sea as 3rd mate. He was a pleasant man, I can picture him distinctly, I got on with him well. I also remember the 1st mate, the chief officer as a friendly man but that was really all except what I will relate a little later.

The captain, I remember him as a thin man and somewhat austere, not very approachable.  I tried to decipher his surname  on one of my documents. It seemed to be Macfitzallen. I found his manner not very pleasant. One day when we were getting close to Canada, the days were foggy and also been overcast. The noon sighting could not be taken for the past few days to determine our position.

The Chief Officer (1st mate) phoned me and requested that I try to take a DF reading from the coast stations to possibly pin point the ships position. We were 500 miles from the coast and I said I would try but 500 miles distant may introduce an error. I selected the two strongest stations after warming up the DF receiver and carefully measured the bearings of both stations and then repeated the remeasured  readings 3 times. I then took the readings up to the bridge. I gave them to the 1st mate and he plotted them on the chart. He said that our course indicated we must be drifting south. He then informed the captain who came up to the bridge. Looking at the measurements he said we could not be that far south. Turning to me he snapped that those measurements could not be right, and to try again. I did so and added a extra measurement  from a 3rd station for possibly more accuracy. The 1st mate re-plotted the bearings  but our position came out near the same. The captain turned his back on me muttering can't you use the bloody thing. I said to his back that 500 miles could introduce a slight error (but not that much I knew). I left them to it.

Next day the fog cleared and the day was sunny. The 1st mate would get his reading today. Just after 1600 there was knock on the door and the 1st mate now ending his watch,entered the radio room. Smiling he said "Sparks, you were spot on with both those readings, we had drifted south! But don't expect the Captain to acknowledge the fact. I've sailed with him too long". After that I noticed the captain used to speak to me occasionally and pass the time of day but did not mention the the DF bearing readings.

Note: Years later I learn't the probable reason for the captain's rudeness. When I was young I did not look my age due to my light bone structure and my small figure. At barely 19 years old, I looked much younger than I was. As the years progressed I learnt to cope with the problem and shrug it off and by the time I was in my 30s it did not seem to be there.
Since moving to Hamilton my new doctor is similar to what I was, even in his early 30s. I think that is why I relate to him very well during my visits to him. He is a very pleasant young fellow and his mind is very sharp on the up take with any question I may have.

We visited Montreal  and Quebec, I do not remember any other port. We seemed to dispense of our passengers mainly at Montreal, being a more "English" place than Quebec which is very French orientated, many speaking only using  French speech. Later, on another ship, my thoughts were reinforced that this was correct. We unloaded our general cargo and also picked more for our return trip back to Avonmouth.

The weather in Canada was very cold, but the days were sunny and the air dry, the temperature was minus 20 degrees, that would be Fahrenheit in those days.

We arrived back in Avonmouth on November 20th 1952 and after I had signed off the Delilian I caught up on some overdue leave owing to me from the Tynebank trip.

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