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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