The bad times in Finnish shipping were still going on in late 80's and jobs were always temporary. Nobody employed crew on a permanent contract due to no vacancies as ships were sold en masse.
This time I had been called up from the job centre to report to Pasila as ordinary seaman. I signed on at west coast in some port with a power plant as ESL shipping's vessels supplies coal to all of them in Finland. As soon as we were empty we sailed for Poland or another port on the Baltic south coast to load more coal and bring it back to the hungry power plants.
Pasila being towed (unknown photographer)
The boat was already then pretty old and worn out. I remember one night I woke up to a loud clanking and suddenly blackout. Apparently something had gone wrong with the main engine (obviously if it sounds like a church bell on speed) but could not have been too major as we continued our trip some hours later. Also the 3 cranes we had onboard were hydraulic grabs that frequently broke down and had our Electrician busy for long periods of time. The crew was pretty insular and I never got on friendly terms with them, don't know why.
Later as Neva Trader (courtesy of shipspotting)
The Baltic states were still under Soviet rule (USSR went defunct in 1991) and the state of these countries were pretty grim and depressing. In Poland the longshore men peddled work boots, gloves and "crystal" ware. All was Soviet quality which was not much to write home about. The boots soles cracked pretty soon and were cold AF in winter but the gloves were pretty strong. The crystal was merely shaped out glass. I reckon the better stuff could possibly be found in town if you would be arsed to go ashore. Obviously no one was going having been on this run for years on end so they knew there was nothing decent to be found.
Once in Estonia I recall the foreman asking the Chief Officer for his "loading bottle" and he was so thirsty that he started emptying it straight away in our messroom and it did not take him long to be carried off the boat by his colleagues.
Another time we had to do ship to ship transfer from the flagship of ESL in those days, the m/s Arkadia, was too large to enter Helsinki port so she had to be lightered in order to be able to come alongside to the power plant jetty. The discharge of Arkadia was done by her crew and the grabs swung so fast it was not possible (or even allowed) to traverse between the ships at that time as coal was falling off the grabs in big chunks.
The boat had after all the years off freighting coal been permeated by the coal dust in every nook and cranny that every time I got up from bed my feet soles turned black from coal dust that had settled on the floor during my resting hours. I usually wiped the floor every day. The time passed pretty quickly as we were on the way all the time and soon enough I signed off in Lovisa. I was not impressed by ESL so never asked for another job with them either but then again I maybe got the bad luck of meeting the worst crew ever.
Surprisingly enough Pasila is still trading as Nordon somewhere int he world so it seems someone gave her TLC and makes money out of her.