Saturday, 20 July 1985

Bore Sun

Having completed my General ratings school and received the relevant certificate I could not find a job from the employment centre and I was cleaning up a supermarket to earn a living from something. It was pretty tedious job as I always went in after closing hours when the mates started drinking beer and having fun as I remember. The shopkeeper was also very particular, there was to be no streaks on the floors so the machine needed changing water every so often and the pre-sweeping had to be very thorough. At least it taught me doing a proper job if nothing else.

Bore Sun (by Tommy Gjerling)

I already had a union calendar with all the shipping companies listed in them but every so often when I called to ask for a job the reply was always "no have". Then I thought (or probably my mom told me) of going to see the Personnel Managers in person and I went to those shipping companies in my home town of Turku. I can only remember the Bore Line office that was in the Rettig Palace in those days on Nunnankatu. Today it is a museum as the family donated(?) the estate to the city and when they did some works on the foundations they discovered a major archaeological find. The exhibit is really worth seeing, but I digress, back at Bore Line offices I met with the HR manager Kari Salminen and had a short chat with him, can't remember about what though. I must have made an impression as after a few weeks I received a letter from his office with "report to work" header and a date, 14th June 1985, I think it was a 2 weeks temp job replacing someone who was sick or had summer leave.

Anyway, the date came and I remember that after stepping off the bus and walking into the port I was sitting on a bollard on the jetty smoking and watching Bore Sun a few hundred meters away. I finished the smoke, picked up my bag and sauntered over to the ship, I think I met the Chief Officer on the ramp and as I explained my business he waved me to the crew staircase leading up to the weatherdeck.

"North State" was the real mans ciggie in those days, enough tar and nicotine to put an elephant down

Up on the weatherdeck I had to walk along the "cowbridge", a walkway that was used by crew to get to the engine room and holds from the accommodation that was in the forward. Once at the accommodation block I somehow ended up in the telegraphists office who did the duties of the purser onboard among things. I showed him my paper from the office and I think he already had my contract ready for signing but then he asked for my certificates and medical, I had the OS certificate but medical, huh? Sparky, Mr Helminen, huffed and swore under his breath and called HR in office (ship was connected to phone-grid when in port):
- They don't teach these kids anything in school these days, this new chap has come onboard without a medical cert!
- ...[office]...
- What? Send him to the Doctors? Where? Ok! Bye!
He slammed the phone and turned to me, wrote down the address and told me to get going there for my medical and be quick about it as the ship was leaving in a few hours. I think I got money for taxi and examination, had it done and returned maybe an hour later at the doorstep of Sparky. He was satisfied he could sign me on and I was duly signed on by the port official ("mönsträysmies-sign on man") and I was also issued a seamans book, wage book and a customs book. Where I would need these was still a mystery for me and as time went by these became obsolete and only the Customs book was needed to import goods bought abroad based on an elaborate points system. This was of course basis of always come up with as low as possible receipts for the Customs officers in order to save your import points and to avoid paying custom taxes.

Seamans discharge book with yours truly

At some point I got a cabin too, nice single room with ensuite and a porthole one deck above weather deck. On top of me were the officers cabins and then there was the Saloon and Captain's quarters with Owner's cabin. On top was of course the bridge. It would take me weeks before I was even taken to the bridge or meet the Captain. Then came evening and and I think it was around 8'ish all ropes were let go and I was looking aft as my hometown slowly disappeared behind the archipelago and sun was setting. I suddenly realized I did not even know where we were heading to. I found someone and asked where we were going and was told our next stop was Kiel canal and straight after that Cuxhaven in Germany and then it was Harwich in UK before heading back to Finland. We were doing 1 week roundtrips to Turku.

Boatswain S. Tilander mixing paint

On deck there was 6 guys and 3 of them were daymen and the other 3 watchmen. The pecking order was strict, the older chaps got the daymen duties and then after that the better watches (8-12) but as I was 16 I was not allowed watchduty before I had 1 year under my belt so I became dayman as well and worked 8-17. Of course in evenings there was many times cargo handling and mooring operations that I had to participate in. The 2 cargo lifts were always operated by crew back then, nowadays there are just ramps on ro-ro ships. 

One evening the older guys (I was 16 and the next oldest was 30 something) were drinking beers in the dayroom and of course as the youngest I got to bring beers from such and such cabin. As I was coming down the stairs with my hands full of beer an old codger climbed up the stairs and I just wondered who that was, it turned out to be Captain Nisse.

Weatherdeck of Bore Sun, on the right is the "cowbridge"

My temp contract went well, I worked hard and everyone liked me, I sort of became the mascot of the ship because of my age and I think my temp contract was extended a couple of times. Then suddenly the summer was over and so was my contract on 20th July 1985 and I remember it took me weeks before I could find my next job that was on m/s Fortuna but that's another story and thus my seafaring career began...

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