Monday, 20 December 1993

Norden

08.11.1993 -20.12.1993
m/s Norden

After some rest at home I got offered a job on m/s Norden as 1st Officer, again in charge of the Medical chest. She was owned by Rederi Engship Ltd. (now ceased operation as they were bought up by Bore Line). Norden was a 120m long bulk carrier built in the early 70's and had originally been built and owned by Finnlines. At one time when the going was bad for all shipping Companies, Engship was buying up all surplus tonnage, somehow they managed to get charter for all of them and made a bundle.

Norden (unknown photographer)

Norden could load about 10000 DWT and she was on a regular charter from Finland to Norway. We were freighting pyrite from Yxpila to Sarpsborg. The sulphur was literally melting the ship structure, everything was sticky from it, plus we had the rotten egg smell always with us. One could fart freely anywhere without anyone noticing. Once we had discharged in Norway we usually went back empty but once we loaded coal from Gdansk to Rauma.

The crew was nice although I can't recall the Captain getting high points on diplomacy and objectiveness. He enjoyed shouting like a banshee from the bridge unintelligible orders when things did not happen as fast as he'd like. Naturally things happened even slower when people tried second-guessing each other "what does he want now?"

I also recall the Chief Officer was a nice man but unfortunately he had a bad relapse and was a bit overly thirsty. I had to inform the Captain as for a week I watched him coming on duty with rubber knees and saying "I can't understand it, I'm not sobering up" and so he was told off by the Captain and he tried hard for several days until he got the top on. After that he was being so sick he came to me and we had a drug in the medical chest called Esucos that could take the edge off withdrawals and it worked wonders on the poor mans self-induced condition and eventually returned to normal.

In Gdansk I remember people were going out en masse to buy cheap vodka to sell in Finland. This was a pastime for every sailor visiting Scandinavia, you could buy in Central Europe or in the ex Soviet satellite states a liter of vodka for a few dollars and sell it for 20, the return was better than on the stock market.

It was many times a cat and dog game between the crew and the Customs to hide the undeclared stuff and they would come onboard trying to find it. Sometime in other ships crew would make an easy find and get the OS or Apprentice take the fine and the Customs gang would walk away happy thinking they'd nailed the vessel. Once out of sight the big stash was broken open and big bucks were made. I've read in newspapers some stories of how the whole ship crew was involved in big operations where also the shipchandler was in cahoots. The Custom Office was smart, they gathered evidence for a year and then gave the death knell and hit everyone with the book.

Eventually this small time smuggling was eradicated by changing the rules. If you got caught the fine did not come to you personally, it came to the Owner. One can only imagine if an Owner would like the crew use his ship for smuggling purposes, let alone pay the fines of his employees. Overnight memo's came onboard in all messrooms warning crew that whomever was caught would be sacked. Nobody wanted to loose his job so the smuggling stopped almost then and there. Also the European Union with prices coming down as per the directives it also was not anymore that profitable when you could get almost same priced booze at the bottle shop or just jump in a ferry on a virtually free ticket and buy your Euro ration that is so big that you need a truck to haul it.

I'm digressing, so the Repairman and Motorman had decided to get some stuff ashore and so they went and bought a icehockey gear bag full of booze. Little did they know that the port did not allow alcohol to be taken onboard ships so the guard at the gate stopped them and would not let them in. The guys thought that they'll hide the bag and come back after dark as the port area was poorly lit and had big holes in their fences. Around 11pm they came back from their trip swearing and cursing the gate guard, somebody had beat them to the goal and the bag had disappeared from it's hidey hole. It was a bitter evening for the engine crew. Other crew had for a small fee used the waterman's truck to take in their stuff so they made it through the gate and got their stash onboard....
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Thursday, 21 October 1993

Anne

17.09.1993 -22.10/1993
m/s Anne

Anne (courtesy from shipspotting.com)

As I was home on leave from m/s Atlanta Forest I could not sit on my laurels to wait 6 mths for the next contract to come so I went looking for some replacement jobs and when I told the employment center I was subsequently contacted by the Owner of Lotte Shipping that had one boat, m/s Anne.

He interviewed me in a local lunch bar and all seemed go fine although at the end he made some odd comments about the work I did understand but would come very clear to me later.

So, then I signed on Anne in Turku as Chief Officer, and departed for Hamina partially loaded with granite stone slabs to load more of the same stuff. As the ship was so small we did not need any pilot and we did our own piloting through the archipelago. Me and the Captain split the watches 6 by 6 hrs, in addition the crew consisted of a Chief Engineer, two AB's & a Cook.

M/s Anne was a German built general cargo coaster, 52m long, and could load around 1197 tons. She had one big hold and 2 hatches. This was my first job as Chief Officer and it was a new challenge as I was in charge of loading.

Eventually in Hamina I had to leave a few slabs ashore as we were fully loaded and the loadline was at water level. We would have had the space but rules are the rules. Once the hatches were closed and we were making ready for sea a port state inspector came by and inspected the landside loadline mark and asked if I could discharge some water to get the plimsoll out of the water (it was maybe 1-2cm under). I quickly pointed out that we had a slight list and if would have been even keel the mark would be out of the water. The inspector was satisfied and left.

Eventually we left for sea and headed for UK. The trip felt like an Ocean crossing as she made only 9-10kts. Once having discharged in UK we picked up a return cargo in Norway and came up to Raahe to discharge and load steel for Denmark and Norway. Here the Owner came onboard and signed on as Chief Engineer. We loaded on deck huge steel pipe segments about 10m in diameter, they almost covered the bridge windows and made us look like a gas carrier.

During this trip we had our payday and the Captain handed me the payslip. I was a bit confused as it was missing most of my overtime. When I asked the Captain about it he replied "talk to the Owner". Well, said and done I went and asked him what this was all about and he said that I had agreed to "overlook" some of my overtime, then he just waved his hand and said lets talk about it later. Now all his vague insinuations, in the lunch bar where he had interviewed me, came crystal clear to me. I got a lot of overtime doing 6/6 watches so it amounted to a fair bit of money.

I had never come across such incidents earlier so I called up the union rep and asked him what I should do. He told me to keep my cool and ask for what is mine. Some time later the Owner emerged on the bridge and wanted to negotiate about my hours and I told him straight out what was the case. He got angry but had no ground to put his arguments so he went away, at same time I think I've made himself my enemy for life.

Anyway, when we got back to Finland there was another Chief Officer waiting on the jetty to be suckered and so I signed off.

Some time later my best friend Jari was there working as an AB and the Captain had told him that it was the only time he had slept soundly while I was on duty. I think that is the best reference I have ever gotten...

Casandra (ex Anne) (courtesy from shipspotting.com)
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Monday, 2 August 1993

Atlanta Forest

08.01.1993 -02.08.1993 Atlanta Forest


I had signed off Bona Fe and was (in my opinion) in for a great adventure as a Seaman. I was signing on m/s Atlanta Forest in Birkenhead, UK as 1st Officer (Medical & Safety Officer) on a 6 mths contract. It is located opposite of Liverpool, on the other side of the river Mersey. As usual the port was ancient and behind a lock. We were discharging pulp from Canada and after that going to Ventspils to load lead ingots and aluminium slabs for the Canadian eastern seaboard. 


Here still under Finnlines as m/s Atlanta


Atlanta Forest was a Spanish built general cargo ship originally built for the once Finnish state run Shipping Company, Finnlines (now privatized), to freight forestry products. Now she was Owned by Navicon that was (maybe still is) an offshore Company owned by a wealthy family in Finland, the Ehrnrooth's, and she was managed by a Company called Crossline (now ceased operation) that was owned by a single chap in VĂ„lax, while the ship was chartered by a Canadian paper Company called Kent Line.

Here afterwards as m/s Kent Forest


She was built in 1978 and had 3 huge hatches and 4 hydraulic cranes able to lift 16t each. She was 150m long and could load 15.000 DWT. The ship had excellent crew quarters with 2 saunas and a swimming pool in between, a Carpentry shop, a Bosun's shop, Engine work shop, dayroom & messroom for Crew & Officers, gym & library. Cabins were plentiful as she was operating on a fraction of the crew she was planned for originally as the crew downsizing had taken place in late 80's. The crew was good, we all were happy and had great things going on ashore in ports when we had the opportunity.

Atlanta Forest in Kiel Canal

A trip over the pond took us abt 3 weeks and by the time we had discharged and loaded up in some other port we had spent some 5 weeks before we were on the way back. Interesting in this time was that we many times took aluminium alloy to UK and Holland while we loaded back aluminium slabs and steel back to Canada. In all those ports in Europe I could see them being virtually swamped with aluminium everywhere. Maybe it was a world wide hoarding going on by some big investors.

Once we took aluminium from Russia and the ship was stopped in Canada for 4-5 weeks at Charlottetown by protesters that did not want foreign metals imported. It was in the middle of winter -20˚C or more, everything was freezing over. The Captain Risto Laakso later told me that the crew had advanced salaries abt 50000 USD and next time we visited Charlottetown the local bar had renewed their furniture.


Once in St Petersburg, Russia, I was on duty and supervising loading when our Repairman arrived very upset. He told me he had gone ashore for some shopping and sightseeing and was robbed by the taxi driver. The driver had taken him to the port gates and pulled a pistol out of the glove compartment and told him to hand over his cash. Not much else to do when staring down a gun barrel.

In Ventspils, Latvia, the foreman of the port warned us of going out late at night as a few weeks before a Filipino sailor had been found naked and killed in a nearby forest. The town had no street lights in those days but out we went to the local Seamens Club. It was the best Club I ever been to in my life. I remember that night Brazil won football championships and there was one Brazilian ship in port and they bought champagne by the bottle for everybody.

We visited most of the ports at the Lawrence seaway (P.E.I, Pictou, Sept Isles, Charlottetown,  but most often we went to Saint John in New Brunswick. They have one of the world's highest tidal water range there with something around 12-15m. A local highlight is a place called reversing falls where due to the high tidal range the river actually changes direction. Another phenomenom I've experienced here is that the waters never freeze over due to the Gulf stream, we were once tying up in -10˚C with waters +4˚C or more. The seasmoke that came up froze immediately so railings and ropes looked like hedgehogs and one can imagine the moisture that came through any fabric and froze on the skin was so excruciatingly painful, maybe it can be compared to arthritis, but gosh it hurt. When the sun came up the seasmoke dissipated and we were back to normal.

Once we went up to the Great Lakes and visited Oswego on the US side. The transit was most interesting and the locks going up the lake were an experience. That is one requirement for ships that they hve no protrusions outside of the hull as they will be shaved off when going up and down the lock. You are also required to use steel mooring wires and the winch operator has to be on the ball all the time especially when the ship is going down as it is so going so fast and you dont pay attention they will snap off like that. Sparks were usually flying out of the fairleads when giving slack. 
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