Reserved for those who sailed with the Port Line
I was a first trip Deck Boy on the MV Port Quebec 1956/7 on a 12 month MANZ Run. Whilst that was over 50 years ago I remember it as clear as if it happened this morning. The following notes cover a small part of it. Hope you don't find it boring.I was on the MV Port Quebec from November 1956 to October/November 1957. I was one of 4 Deck Boys and we alternated, week about, as sailors peggy, petty officers peggy, and 2 weeks on deck. The Deck Crowd were a mixed lot, 7 were southerners, 4 from Stornaway, 1 Scouse, 1 Geordie, 1 Yorky, and 1 each from Derby and Manchester. Only 3 had sailed on Port boats previously and none had sailed together before. Everyone worked in well together, apart from the bosun. The sole Yorky aboard,†he physically assaulted at least three of the deck crowd and, in reprisal, narrowly avoided an early death from shackles falling from the foremast whilst they rerigged the lifting gear.
The accomodation was two berth cabins port side aft, greasers were down the starboard side. Down the centre was the mess room split in two, deck crowd port, engine room starboard and a tiny kitchen was shared. This was a sink, and a hot water cylinder, and a place for the plates, and a food warmer. There were two tables fitted to the deck in the mess room, they were fitted with hinged boards that could be swung up and clipped together in stormy weather to prevent meals sliding off the tables. There was no refrigerator but we did have a plywood cabinet attached to the baulkhead (wall) with a small mesh covered opening about the centre. It was here that we kept our dry stores, tea, sugar, tinned food such as jam and condensed milk. I dont recall that we ever got fresh milk or ice cream so there was no need for a fridge!!!
On the Poop Deck, above our accomodation, the five Petty Officers lived in single berth cabins. They were the Bosun, Lamp Trimmer, Donkey Man, Engine Room Storeman and the Carpenter. They also had a small mess room.
Behind our mess room was a room called the recreation room which contained a glass fronted cabinet which housed some books. We referred to this as The Library. The books were either hard back books on loan from the Seamans Mission, or an accumulation of paper backed cowboy novels. I still dont understand why sailors read cowboy stories. Around the sides of this room were fitted seats, and there were a couple of small tables fitted to the deck. This room was rarely used because the deck was so steep rising to the stern. Under this room was the steering flat. An alleyway separated the cabins and the mess rooms., running U-shaped. At the stern were two oilskin lockers, abaft the cabins were the showers, wash hand basins and toilets, with the deck sloping upwards towards the stern, as in the recreation room.
Around the coast of Canada a mid winter visit to the toilet could bring squeals of delight as the ships stern dropped into an Atlantic hole and forced icy cold columns of water up through the toilet hitting the unsuspecting sailors rear end.
The vinyl flooring was mopped with cold tea, and the brass portholes and ships bell was kept clean using Brasso or vinegar†and sand from the fire buckets. Sand rubbed with rag was also used to clean off the calcium that formed on the inside of the toilet bowls. The wooden toilet seats and duck boards in the showers were scrubbed clean every day. Once a week the coconut mat used on the floor of the alleyway was attached to a line and towed over the stern for a while then carefully retrieved so that it didnt get wrapped around the propeller.
On one occasion we were either washing down or painting the funnel and I was struggling to raise myself on the Bosuns «hair. The bosun stood behind me and shouted, Pull Peggy, Pull like yer pulling a N^^^^^^^off yer Grannies back!!! That was something beyond my imagination!!!
Every morning the captain would inspect the accomodation and mess rooms, the Chief Mate dutifully following behind with a notebook and pencil, and the Chief Steward behind him. Occasionally they would give advice on how to clean a toilet or the boards around the mess room tables. This ship was pretty much clapped out but our area was always immaculate so any advice was a bit of a joke. One day the captain, who was quite short, reached up and ran his hand along the top of our library bookcase. He then placed a penny up there so on the next inspection he could check to see if any dust had accumulated. When I told the Crowd they were indignant. Anyway, when the next inspection came around, the Old Man reached up for his penny, but got two halfpennies instead, he glared at me, and I just looked on innocently not knowing what had been done, then the trio scudded off. It was the mess room joke for weeks. He also had the habit of reaching up and turning on the blowers to see if they worked. On one occasion he did this after the Crowd had half filled it with foo foo powder (talcum powder).
The deck and engine room officers, stewards and galley staff were all housed amidships, as was entry to the engine room. The galley faced aft from there. The galley team was the cook, the baker/second cook, and the galley boy. The cook was a distinguished gent who had apparently been a chef in large London hotels and on P& O liners. When he signed on in London he had expected to be joining one of the Port Lines grey hulled yachts, as no doubt many of the newer vessels appeared to be, and got a huge shock when he stepped aboard this pre-war relic in New York. Life just got worse at every meal time as something happened to the oil fired stove, a blow back I think. It sent black soot into the air and bits floated down onto the waiting food. It was just something we reluctantly got used to, but I dont think the cook ever did. One day he said to me, Why on earth did you ever come away to sea. I naively said, I wanted to see the world, Cookie. Then why the ###### didnt you buy yourself an ###### atlas, he said. During the course of the voyage the cook went on several alcoholic benders and the Chief Steward had to come in and help the baker prepare the meals. Later he had his tap stopped so he couldnt buy any alcohol, but this only resulted several weeks later with both the cook and baker drunk, apparently they made something using the bakers yeast.
As we rotated our duties amongst the four of us over the year we got a lot of different experiences and we certainly learnt a lot. Doing the Peggys job in winter had its advantages, generally it was nice and warm inside, but we still had to make those trips across the after deck to collect the food in the slotted aluminium panniers in snow and ice on a violent rolling deck. On occasions we had to hang on to the lifeline with a lizard in one hand and the food container in the other, and this would mean three trips at every mealtime. Seems that only rarely did sailors get to work inside in bad weather. The only inside jobs I can think of were shovelling the muck from the bilges, scooping up the dead rats and wharfies crap, and clearing the holds of the dunnage used to line the ships side to prevent the condensation sweating on to the cargo. By its very nature this could only be done when the ship was empty, a light ship, and was invariably being tossed around in a stormy sea, at least it always seemed to be when I had to do it.
The Lazy Q habitually broke down, on average every three days, sometimes several times a day, but she never broke down in really bad weather. Break downs provided excellent opportunities for shark fishing. The bait was either a bit of old meat or mutton cloth soaked in blood attached to a meat hook on a wire strop attached to a fairly strong lanyard or rope. Our reel was one of the capstans on the poop deck so the shark, once hooked, had no chance at all.
When I was a kid, chicken we got once a year, at Christmas time. On Port Line we got it every Thursday and Sunday, along with plum duff . On other days we got Brown Stew and Dumplings, and one day a week we got Curry and Rice, also known as Duck S*** and Hailstones. As a growing 16 year old I ate everything and thought how lucky I was. On top of which I was paid 12 pounds 12 shillings and 6 pence a month. Heaven. Stu
well holystone me!!!†
Port Hobart 4 trips 27th Feb.63 till 12th Oct 64Port Fairy 28th Oct.till 64†20th March 65
-- Edited by paul on Saturday 18th of May 2013 09:00:45 AM