Friday, 31 May 1985

School - General rating

In 1984 I was completing my basic schooling from class 9 at St. Olofsskolan i Åbo. It was the only Swedish speaking school in my hometown and all with Swedish as mother tongue was attending this school. Even some Finnish speaking parents opted to put their kids through Swedish school so they would learn the language. Anyway, towards the last semester the study coordinator started briefing us kids of where to go and start higher studies.

Åbo Navigations Institut

We were given a book with all technical schools, institutes, universities, colleges etc. In there you could see what average you needed to get in and so on. I was a disinterested student in those days and had a very poor average somewhere around 6.5 (min 4 - max 10) plus I had no idea of what I wanted to be when I grow up.

We were also sent on familiarisation trips to different learning establishments around Turku to see what they are doing and let the school tell what they are about and what they offer. I can only recall my visit to Åbo Navigations Institut, the Nautical College. I liked the miniature boats and ships in display casings as well the presentation that was given of the school. Lastly we were taken to an auditorium and asked if we had any questions. I remember asking what a Captain was earning and the reply was around 10.000 Finnish marks (around 2500USD), to my 14yr old ears it sounded like a huge amount of money and in those days it was not a bad salary but I still was not deciding on becoming a sailor.

Me & classmates at their lodgings

Some months later the last semester was coming to an end and we had to fill in the papers to apply for other schools, becoming an uneducated laborer was out of the question, we had apply somewhere. My mother wanted me to study for architecture as I was not bad in drawing stuff but I found it not appealing. I was leafing through the book and could not find one occupation that was even remotely appealing until I came to the page of Åbo Navigations Institut. Then I remembered the tour we had done and I felt there was something in it so I filled in my application for going studying to become General Rating (deck and engine).

My mother was horrified and had talks with me that if I go this route I have to go higher than rating as seamen were guys who only were interested in 2 things: booze and loose women. She made me also apply to a Christian general education Institute in the Archipelago in case I would not make it and in fact I was put on the standby list as they had a full complement of applicants already. The whole summer I was then working at a general store in Nagu selling hardware and living with my Grandmother. I still had no idea of what autumn would bring.

Autumn came and leaves were starting to turn red and yellow and finally they turned brown and were falling off trees when I got the information that I had been accepted to the General Rating course at Åbo Navigations Institut. We started early August but there were no other students as the Officers and Captain students were still out sailing so they would be coming later in the month.

Lita at Long Beach Roads 1983, photo by Raimo Mäkinen

Lita at Long Beach Roads 1983, photo by Raimo Mäkinen

We had a lot of practical works to do and at times were sent to ships to work as apprentices while in port. I remember working on Henry Nielsens m/s Lita, one of the famous ships built 1975 in Sevilla, Spain. It was a nearly 200m long bulk carrier that could load 35000DWT. We were there helping it getting ready for it's last voyage as she had been laid up off Turku. We were rostered to go there certain mornings and "ring the bell", that was a line ashore going through a pulley and attached to a big schackle on aft deck. One would pull the line and let the schackle bang on the deck and a deckhand would row ashore to pick us up. Eventually she went from Turku to load cargo in Yxpila and from there I suppose she never came back to Finnish waters or flag. Two lucky classmates were selected to follow the vessel from Turku to Yxpila, my mother said no to such a trip. It was a huge ship in my eyes. Things did not go very well for Henry Nielsen as they ended up with one ro-ro ship and later the whole Company ceased operation, their era of bulk carriers were over.

s/s Borea

The other famous ship I was working on was s/s Borea, a passenger liner between Turku and Stockholm. She was originally one of Bore Lines ships and had been acquired by a team of investors to try and restore her fame on the same route. The effort failed and she had other people trying to make money from her and today she sits at Aura river as a floating hotel. I recall how we used to do various work in the steaming hot Engine room or on deck chipping rust but the perk was that we got to use the sauna afterwards and somebody always managed to get hold of a few beers from the friendly stewardesses.

Our teachers for professional subjects was Captain Kurt Eksten and Engineer Ralf who was a good team and they instilled in me the ideas of self discipline and work ethics and it has carried me forward in my life until this day. At mathematics we had Mr Goran that had the principle that no one knew how to count so he started from the start: 1,2,3...10 and so on. He really took his job seriously and gave me a new view of maths. As this class was also preparatory for Officers school we had to study quite a lot of extra beyond practical work and exercises. I believe this was interesting for me as I graduated with remarkably better number than a year before from the basic school...

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