BANK LINE – PLUS

A nostalgic look at the Maritime world.

Welcome to – Bankline- Plus. This is a site for mariners everywhere, old and new. Modern seafarers face the same perils but with vastly different resources and tools. It is full of photos, articles, accounts, and much more. It was started to celebrate the achievements of Andrew Weir, the Lord Inverforth, between 1885 and recent times, but now includes interesting posts from all around the marine world. Please explore the site and enjoy all of the material. Use the ‘Q’ symbol to search for a particular item or vessel. Grateful thanks go to all of the contributors.

A book detailing 1950’s life in the Bank Line. Available on AMAZON

AND/OR

“Voyaging with Icons” is the title of an inexpensive ebook available on AMAZON . It describes several long voyages back in the days without air conditioning or bars on board!

Or visit my bookstore where you can buy directly a range of titles. click on the link below

https://payhip.com/fairwinds

Places we visited..

Trinidad

Trinidad, Point Fortin, was a regular call for outbound Bank Line ships loading bitumen drums for Australa or NZ ports. It was the first foreign port for the author asa first trip apprentice on the FORTHBANK in 1951

Loading took place at anchor offshore, and trips ashore to the Shell club usually were enabled. First foreign port for a first tripper left everlasting memories. The Cicadas at night making their loud racket, and the calm of the morning at anchor without a sound and the sea like glass. It was magical.

More accounts of Bank Line voyages can be read in the book, ” Voyaging with Icons”

Palm Line

Many Bank Line folk will remember seeing the Palm Line vessels on the West African Coast with their distinctive funnel sporting a palm. Here is an article summarising the fleet, and kindly submitted by Captain Geoffrey Walker in Melbourne. He has a fascinating Maritime site at https://oceanjoss.com

To read the full article, please click on the download button above.

A book about the Bank Line experience is called, ” Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951-1955″. It is available in print or as an ebook via Amazon.

Fleetbank

A great view of the foredeck on the old timer – FLEETBANK. Not a container in sight! These decks, usually Oregon pine, were a sheathing over steel. When holystoned, and wet with spray, they glistened in the sun. In port they often took a beating – gouged and chewed up by beams being crashed down, and sometimes stained with cargoes like bitumen or oil, but somehow the appearance always recovered.

Photo kindly supplid by Peter Ferrer who was onboard the Fleetbank

King Line Ltd

(click on the link to download)

An article re the ‘King Line’, penned by the author Captain Geoffrey Walker . His website, https://oceanjoss.com has an interesting variety of Maritime postings.

Books on the Bank Line include:

” Voyaging with Icons”

” Any Budding Sailors”, and,

” Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951-1955″

Fleets we knew..

Stag Line

Stag Line was one of the many British shipping companies on the world maritime stage during the pre-container era.

The following article has been penned by the maritime author, Geoff Walker whose own website ( https://oceanjoss.com) is an interesting collection of all things maritime.

Click on the link to download and read

Some books with Bank Line content are called:

” Any Budding Sailors?”

” Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951-1955″

” Voyaging with Icons”

All available from Amazon online.

Places we visited..

Beira

The Inchanga (above) was in Beira , Mozambique, every few weeks on the India/Africa passenger service. Both loading and discharging was normal. In her day, it meant anchoring for longish periods in the river and suffering the heat and the Tstse flies while working as an apprentice. Today, a modern port offers berths alongside.,

A book titled, ” Voyaging with Icons” describes life on the Bank Line ships

Places we visited…

Hong Kong

Hong Kong harbour saw many Bank Line ships come and go, occasionally just for a crew change. The stunning location was hard to beat, and ashore in the early days everything that jack tar could ever need was available with many bars and haunts offering a variety of food and drink. A couple of pics below capture the 1950’s scene – star ferry terminal and a busy street.

The book, ” Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951 – 1955″ is about life circling the world in the 1950’s.

Places we visited.

Ports of New Guinea

Many Bank Line folk will have memories of the New Guinea ports, good or otherwise! The following comprehensive article was penned by the Maritime author, Captain Geoffrey Walker. Grateful thanks to him.

Press the Download button to read the article

Geoffrey’s book which is a memoir is called ” A Tramp for all the Oceans” See his site – https://oceanjoss.com to purchase

Places we visited..

Cotonou

Cotonou in Benin was a regular call for Bank Line ships discharging gunny bales from India. Back in the 1950/60’s dischaging was carried out to lighters out at anchor, but today there is a thriving port.

The Irisbank visited Cotonou several times

Cotonou  is the economic center of Benin. Its official population count was 761,137 inhabitants in 2006; however, some estimates indicate its population to be as high as 2.4 million.

In addition to being Benin’s largest city, it is the seat of government, although Porto-Novo is the official capital.

The urban area continues to expand, notably toward the west. The city lies in the southeast of the country.

See the book, ” Any Budding Sailors”, available on Amazon for accounts of life in the Bank Line.

Places we visited…

Shanghai

Shanghai was visited by Bank Line vessels both discharging and loading. Visits to this memorable city offered everything that could ever be needed plus a fascinating history and scenic views etc.

The old Lindenbank was bound for Shanghai with wheat when she stranded

More accounts of life in the Bank Line are in the book called, ” Any Budding Sailors?” available from Amazon.

Places we visited…

Liverpool

The port of Liverpool, Birkenhead ( Bromboro Dock) and the Mersey wll always be huge in any Bank Line old timers mind. It was often the place where the journey and adventure began and where it often ended years later. The author, for one, felt emotional , watching the Liver Birds line up when passing outward bound. Often, as mentioned, it was possible to see them line up again as the ship sailed back up the Mersey, as on the ‘old’ Ernebank in 1953, on a ‘short’ 8 month trip!

The Ernebank building in 1937.

Life in the iconic Bank Line can be read about in the book titled, ” Merchant Navy Apprentice, 1951-1955″

Places we visited….

Bunbury

Bunbury in Western Australia was a fairly regular host to Bank Line ships loading grain. As always, the local folk were extremely friendly and welcoming, making the visit a pleasure.

Welcome to the port of Bunbury | Southern Ports
  • The Port of Bunbury is located 175kms south of Perth , Western Australia and is home to over 70,000 inhabitants. The third largest city in the state, European settlement of Bunbury occurred in 1836 and the port was established shortly after, on the existing natural harbour.

The Comliebank in her early days

Accounts of life in the Bank Line in the 1950’s can be read in the book, ” Voyaging with Icons”, available on Amazon.

Places we visited…..

Vitoria

Occaisonally, Bank Line ships visited Vitoria in NE Brazil to load grain or iron ore. Today, like many of the old ports it has become a tourist destination.

Vitoria, Brazil

This lovely island city is the capital of Santo Espirito state and one of Brazil’s oldest cities, dating from 1551. Its original Indian inhabitants dubbed it the “Island of Honey” for its abundance of fish, forests and natural beauty. From the delightful beaches to the hilltop views, Vitória marvelously blends its colonial and contemporary aspects. Vitória’s beaches are magnets for the local people — young and old, day and night — especially Camburi beach, which is floodlit after dark. It is the center of the city’s nightlife. Everyone can enjoy a swim, a walk on the sand, impromptu conga lines, or dinner by the sea.

The Liberty ship, Maplebank loaded iron ore here.

See the book called, “Merchant Navy Apprentice, 1951 – 1955” for accounts of life in the Bank Line

Places we visited..

Beaumont

TEXAS

Beaumont in Texas was a regular call for Bank Line ships loading Sulphur, Oil, and generals around the U.S Gulf Coast. Pilotage was interesting, entering via the Sabine Pass, and passing the huge reserve fleet of ships from WW2. The whole area had a unique oil and chemical smell and a very distinctive and memorable atmosphere, hard to describe. Ashore were all the delights and goodies that made the start of a long voyage interesting.

See the book, ” Voyaging with Icons” for a description of Bank Line voyages

Places we visited….

Zanzibar

Zanzibar was a regular stop sailing southbound on the East African coast. It will always be associated with spices and the sight of Dhows. Cargo working at anchor was slow and leisurely and dominated by the aroma of spice sacks being stowed by hand.

Zanzibar’s main industries today are spicesraffia, and tourism. In particular, the islands produce clovesnutmegcinnamon, and black pepper. For this reason, the Zanzibar Archipelago, together with Tanzania’s Mafia Island, are sometimes referred to locally as the “Spice Islands”. Tourism in Zanzibar is a more recent activity, driven by government promotion that caused an increase from 19,000 tourists in 1985, to 376,000 in 2016.

The ‘ white ships’ of Andrew Weir were regular callers. Anchoring was a ‘must’ and they were in frequent use on this coast and in the islands and inlets.

The 1950’s

A tourist hotel today

A fuller account of life on this coast and in the Bank Line is in a book, ” Merchant Navy Apprentice, 1951-1955″ available in print or as an ebook on Amazon.

Places we visited..

Chittagong

Chittagong on the Karnafuli river was a very regular call for Bank Line ships loading Jute bales. The above picture is of the modern port, but in the 1950’s the berths were old and loading took place throughout the day and night from the quay, and from barges overside. The chanting of the gangs sweating bales up between the lower hold beams was a memorable event, usually watched by an apprentice to ensure that all the space was used.

The Irisbank was a regular visitor

Jute at market ready for baling

Approaching Chittagong in 1956, the Irisbank grounded on a shoal at full speed and bounced off! It transpired that the marker buoy had been displaced by a recent hurricane, and little damage was done. This huge Delta area contains the world’s greatest mangrove swamp and is swept by Monsoon winds each year

More accounts of Bank Line voyages can be found in the book titled, ” Voyaging with Icons” available from Amazon.

Places we visited…

Dunedin

Dunedin was a regular call for Bank Line ships discharging around the great N.Z. Ports, and for discharging the all important phosphate rock .

The approach led up via Port Chalmers, and the author remembers steering the Maplebank during her calls. Also, chipping overside in freezing conditions whilst alongside in Dunedin.

The Olivebank in Port Chalmers around 1900

Town Centre

Location

A book called, ” Any Budding Sailors” is a memoir, and it includes a section about life in the Bank Line – travelling the world. Available in print or as an ebook on AMAZON

Places we visited…..

Ocean Island

( Banaba today)

Better known as a former phosphate mining island until 1979, Banaba is Kiribati’s westernmost island with a total land area of 6.0 km2 and its highest point is also the highest point in Kiribati at 81 metres.

Ocean Island is etched in any long term Bank Line man’s heart! A regular call for the phosphate with the prospect of more than one trip up and down, discharging in Australian and New Zealand ports. It was common to do 3 or 4 trips on the trot.

A beach stroll – author with no shirt

On passage down to Australia – Tasman sea

Pinnacles of rock from the worked out mining

The Kelvinbank stranded at Ocean Island. ( See the story on this site)

See a book title below about life in the Bank Line – travelling the world.

“Merchant Navy Apprentice 1951-1955”

On Amazon Books

Places we visited….

Bluff

Bluff, at the southern end of South Island N.Z. was sometimes the last port of discharge for Bank Line ships arriving from the U.S. Gulf. Famous for Oysters, and with a rugged terrain, it was a welcoming port for mariners.

The 1930 built IRISBANK discharged in Bluff in 1956. Shortly afterwards a seaman was sadly lost overboard south of Stewart Island and in rough weather. He was a young man who was nudged by a sling of dunnage that was being dumped overside with the railings unshipped. ( as in those days). His body was recovered in very rough seas which smashed the boat on return.

See the book, ” Voyaging with Icons” about life in the Bank Line, travelling the world.

Places we visited….

Dakar

Dakar was often on the itinerary when discharging round the West African ports, and it was usually the last port of discharge before heading off on another adventure. The unlucky ones found themselves heading across the Atlantic to commence loading outward again. Dakar in Senegal was always a pleasant stop with the French atmosphere and orderly city with most of the expected delights.

More images of the city

Places we visited….

Vizagapatam

One of the least glamourous places visited by Bank Line ships was Vizagapatam in the Bay of Bengal – usually to discharge wheat. The author was there on 2 occasions, and has vivid memories of the 24 hour working alongside, while the stevedores bagged bulk grain throughout the night. The curly sandwiches left out on a tray and the hot and humid conditions etc! Many beggars, mostly children, shared the quay with swooping hawks.

Now a major tourist destination, it was a Royal Navy base overseas for many years.

The old Irisbank loaded grain for India

Places we visited…

Burnie

One of the more unusual voyages that Bank Line ships sometime made was from Par (Fowey) in Conwall to Burnie in Tasmania. Click on the link below to read a fascinating account of such a Bank Line voyage. With a full cargo of bulk China clay, the voyage half way around the world averaged around 45 days at sea. The cargo was destined for a paper and board mill which operated for around 70 years and employed a max of 4000 people at it’s peak.

Burnie – at the top centre

Click below

https://petercleife.org/around-the-world-in-five-and-a-half-months/

Places we visited…

Galle

Bank Line ships occaisonally visited the pretty little port of Galle in Shri Lanka. The Hazelbank visited to discharge a full cargo of flour from Australia, carried out by lighters at anchor.

The port entrance is dominated by the Fort which dates from the Portugese presence in the 1400’s.

The coal burning Hazelbank – ex Empire Franklin

Places we visited…

Lobito

Lobito was sometimes on the discharging itinerary of Bank Line vessels working around the African coast from India. This was usually linked to a call at Luanda, the bigger city up the coast. A run ashore was a pleasant experience with well laid out areas and all modern shops and bars of the time.

The south west West African coast

Places we visited…

Lourenco Marques

A regular call for Bank Line was the Mozambique port of Lourenco Marques ( now Moputo). The passenger service carried on by the Isipingo and Inchanga made stop there southbound, discharging gunnies and spices and loading produce and ingots.

The port today

A trip ashore here was always welcome – strong local and Portugese beer served with beans or snacks, well laid out streets, and an air of order and modern living. The Portugese stevedores worked alongside their local charges without distinction.

Places we visited…

ABIDJAN

Abidjan on the Ivory Coast was one of the more interesting ports visited by Bank Line ships when discharging on the West African coast. The very French atmosphere, nicely laid out boulevards etc gave it a continental feel – a total change from the cities up and down the coast. It was a hint of charm and sophistication that made shore trips there memorable.

The old ‘war horse’ IRISBANK visited twice in one 2 year voyage, both times to discharge gunnies from India for the produce exports.

More views of this beautiful city

ABIDJAN, on the Cote D’ivoire is centrally situated in the Gulf of Guinea.

Places we visited…

Coatzacoalcos

Mexico

In the 1950’s and 60’s Bank Line ships occasionally loaded sulphur at Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, in the Bay of Campeche. The 1958 CRESTBANK visited.

The subsidiary Cia. Exploradora del Istmo, S.A. Headquarters were established in Coatzacoalcos in 1950, and production from their Nopalapa plant commenced in 1957.

Places we visited..Moji

MOJI

The ERNEBANK of 1937 discharged bagged sugar from Cuba at Moji Port

A recent picture

Moji-ku is a Japanese ward of the city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture. It is the former city of Moji which was one of five merged to create Kitakyūshū in 1963. It faces the city of Shimonoseki across the Kanmon Straits between Honshū and Kyūshū. The ward’s area is 73.37 km². It had a population of 114,754 as of 2000.

Wallaroo

The 1924 built COMLIEBANK at Wallaroo Dec. 1924 on her maiden voyage. Note the sailing ships still loading grain.

Wallaroo in the Spencer Gulf, S Australia was one of a number of ports frequented by the Bank Line ships. Loading grain and sometimes discharging phosphate rock were the reasons to visit. Most would probably agree that these smallish ports were a treat, mainly due to the very friendly and welcoming folk .

Places we visited….

AUCKLAND

A call to the port city of Auckland in New Zealand was a regular feature of life in the Bank Line. Often the first port of call after the long Pacific crossing from Panama, and the start of a most welcome trawl around the N.Z. ports discharging general cargo and often sulphur loaded in the U.S Gulf Ports. In the days after WW2, when the Liberty ships were in the fleet, crewed by European seamen, it was often the beginning of a drunken revelry too hard to resist, and progress around the ports of North Island and South Island was dependent on having enough sober crew to proceed!

The last vessel ever built for the Bank Line – WILLOWBANK berthed in Auckland 1980’s

It is hard to do justice to the beauty, the surroundings, and the climate of this area with scenic beauty and the water vista out to the islands and seawards. A perfect location for water sports and the sailing enthusiast alike.

As it was – Queen St. Auckland 1950,s

Places we visited…

CALLAO

The port for Lima

The big port of Callao in Peru was a Bank Line call, usually to discharge gunnies from India, and it was one of many on the long run up the S American west coast ending often in Quito, Equador.

The LEVERNBANK that stranded at Matarani Peru, nearby. See the report on this site by searching, ‘ levernbank’

A card from 1910 – This was a busy sailing ship port

Places we visited….

SUVA

Suva in the Fiji islands was a regular call for Bank Line vessels that provided a steady stream of ships picking up Copra and sundries, like meal. The old Suva was a welcome call with all of the Pacific island charm, but today it is well and truly on the tourist trail, with all that that means. Staged shows, walks, performances, etc. A stream of huge liners call regularly and have transformed the wealth and economy,for the better or maybe the worst. A military junta runs Fiji but it is a popular destination. Back before the flood gates opened it was a different and slower paced world. Occasionally a Bank Line ship ran into trouble with the many reefs around the island, as evidenced by the Maple grounding. ( See below)

1950’s SUVA high street

Saigon

An interesting and original first hand description of Saigon in Vietnam in the years when it was a blend of oriental and French charm. Some lucky mariners made it there on Bank Line ships in the 1950’s and 60’s.

To read the whole article download by clicking on the red button above

Written by Geoff Walker who served his time in the Bank Line on the Levernbank and Weybank. His specialist maritime site is https://oceanjoss.com

Places we visited…..

Baton Rouge

Downtown Baton Rouge in recent times

Baton Rouge to load lub oil and derivatives was an occasional Bank Line routine. Usually there was little time for shore excursions, but the charm of this old world capitol made it memorable. First came the very long winding journey up the mighty Mississippi, 135 miles past New Orleans, a total of 231 miles from the entrance in the Guf of Mexico.

The SOUTHBANK made a memorable visit

The Delta (bird’s foot) entrance to the Mississippi – The SW pass bottom left.

River view

To move goods up and down the Mississippi, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a 9-foot shipping channel from Baton Rouge, LA to Minneapolis, MN. From Baton Rouge past New Orleans to Head of Passes, a 45 foot channel is maintained to allow ocean-going vessels access to ports between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

See the book, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the 1950’s Bank Line

Places we visited…

Dar Es Salaam

The entrance today

Another regular call for Bank Line vessels was Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. The ‘white’ ships like the ISIPINGO pictured, called each voyage south on her Calcutta to Durban schedule, usually after the Mombasa stop. In those days it was the anchorage but a run ashore was always enjoyable. The rich and pungent aroma given out by spice cargo is forever linked with this tropical stop off.

As it was

The East Coast of Africa

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited…

BASRA

A trip up the Shatt-El-Arab waterway sometimes occurred on Bank Line vessels. The author was there on the 1958 built CRESTBANK to discharge grain from Australia.

A view of Basra city centre years ago and before the wars.

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Placed we visited……

RANGOON

( NOW YANGON)

Rangoon ( now Yangon) river was a fairly regular call for the passenger ships and other Bank Line vessels – usually to load rice.

The author (left) and fellow apprentice visiting the Pagoda. Note the ‘fag’ in hand.

The port today. We lay mid river.

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited…..

BAHIA BLANCA

( Puerto Enginerio White)

The port in the distance

Another port frequented on some Bank Line voyages – usually to load grain, was Enginerio White, the quirky named port for the big city of Bahia Blanca, a short ride away. On a visit on the Eastbank, loading went on no more than 2 hours a day! (A few rail waggons would appear mid morning and tip in the grain, and that was it for the day). This gave us a month in port to exhaust our funds and enjoy the delights of the bars in the city.

The port with grain silo in the foreground

A tourist Hotel pool

A tourist hotel pool today

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited…..

YOKOHAMA

The fondest memories of life in the Bank Line ships often included a visit to Yokohama. This beautiful city, full of delights is situated in Tokyo Bay and has now been upgraded beyond all recognition. The 1950’s visitors usually spent time at an anchorage to discharge and an evening run ashore offered many pleasures…

Yokohama today
Location

There are accounts of a visits to Yokohama on this site. One such is in the article headed ” Around the world in Coronation year” which tells of a memorable stay in 1953 discharging sugar from Cuba .

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited…Monte

Monte Video

Lucky ‘Bank Liners’ occasionally got to Monte Video in Uruguay to discharge gunnies from India or maybe other cargo. It was a chance to savour the delights of this Uruguayan city with everything that a visitor would ever want, from art and architecture to the usual seaman’s delights.

A map of the River Plate, with Monte Video opposite Buenos Aires. The river is wide and brown coloured, despite the map above. It also holds the remains of the German cruiser “Graf Spee” after her scuttling in WW2.

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited…sing

SINGAPORE

The Eastern anchorage
MODERN SINGAPORE

Many Bank Line folk will have fond memories of calling at Singapore. Here is an interesting summary written by Captain Geoffrey Walker. See his site at https://oceanjoss.com ( Click on the download button to read)

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

Places we visited

TAURANGA

New Zealand

Many ex Bank Line folk will have very pleasant memories of visiting Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. Situated under Mount Manganui, the local people were always exceptionally friendly and welcoming. Bank Line ships discharged their cargo from the US Gulf and other cargoes here, leading to lasting memories of many leisurely days ashore.

Thanks to Google Earth

See the book called, ” Voyaging with Icons” for accounts of life in the Bank Line travelling the world.

LEVERNBANK in PERU

The loss of the Levernbank on the coast of Peru has been covered extensively on this site. Here is a summary, courtesy of the ‘wrecksite’ online, and a first hand account by one of the engineers. Grateful thanks to both.

M.V. Levernbank 
With regard to strandings and losses, I was 5/Eng on the Levernbank when she foundered off Matarani, Peru, back in 1972. I was on watch with the 3/Eng at the time the ship struck rocks during the early hours somewhere around 03.00 hrs. The propeller also hit rocks as the ship turned away which wrapped the blades round the rudder this took the main engine out and that was it. Within what seemed seconds the crew were into their paying off suits, jackets stuffed with cartons of fags, and ready for the off. The crew and those officers who wished to leave the ship were taken ashore by fishing boats. The ship had torn open from the stem back to No2 hold, 23 foot of water in these holds within minutes,these holdswere loaded with bales of paper pulp which started to expand with frequent loud bangs as the ships plates parted, and the tween decks buckled. The deck officers, myself, the second and third engineer stayed on board, keeping pumps and generators running, for the two days she lasted before the Peruvian Navy took her in tow.The Peruvians intended to tow the ship to a suitable place to beach her but the tow parted and she went back ashore close to where she originally grounded.  At the end when Captain Steers gave the oder to abandon ship, the forward deck was almost awash and sitting on the poop you could look over the top of the funnel, time to go, and we were taken off by local fishing boats. The ship had a good crowd onboard, Levernbank on that trip was probably best described as a happy ship with loads of laughs and good humour,as well as hard work, it was such a pity that the voyage ended in this way. As I remember it, Capt Lewis Steers, C/O Harry’Matt’ Dillon,C/Eng Stan Gough 2/Eng Alec Wood ( I don’t speak to junior Engs before 7 AM),3/E Geff Miller 4/E Fred Kennedy, 6/E Arnie Atkinson, 1 EL?. 2 EL Terry? (from cardiff) 
Last edited by jedward

The ship was loaded on the Bay of Bengal West coast S.A. service, we had done what I imagine was the normal run up the coast discharging at Punta Arenas, Valparaiso, Antofagasta and other ports I can’t remember now. 

We had radar problems which were supposed to have been sorted in Durban, but the only real outcome was that the Sparky had his camera pinched by the radar ‘engineer’, and the system went back on the blink as we crossed the bar out of port. 

As I recall, Matarani would’nt accept vessels at night, so the plan was to stop and drift until daylight, seems anchoring was not possible, not sure why but the Chief reckoned the sea was too deep – don’t know myself. Anyway as we tracked along up the coast there seems to have been an understimation of our actual distance from shore. The turn to seaward to drift was interrupted by a bump, which I took to be a collision with a fishing boat but which was in fact our first contact with the Peruvian mainland, the engine was still full ahead at this time, when we suddenly got standby followed immediately a double full astern ring followed, and then by a major bang and the engine stopped dead. I ran down the tunnel to see the tail shaft about three feet out of line with the last two bearing pedestals tipped over by about 30 degrees. I reported this to the second who condsidered the best thing to do was put the kettle on!

When dawn broke and all was revealed, the ship was inside a small cove and was a perfect fit, couldn’t have got it in there if you wanted to. The cove or inlet I suppose was enclosed by high cliffs upon which were stood several of the local population taking the michael. 

A tug was sent from the port to assist but went off in the wrong direction, a couple of distress rockets soon had it coming our way. The tug towed the ship out to deeper water where we attempted to asses damage and keep the ship afloat in the vain hope that assistance was a realistic prospect – it wasn’t. The ship was abandoned aboard local small anchovy fishing boats, and so onwards and upwards after an enforced stay in Peru whilst our illegal immigrant status was resolved ( all discharge books etc, including the overtime records were lost).

LINDENBANK LOSS

On August 17th, 1975, the British cargo Lindenbank was on a voyage from Kimbe to Europe with a cargo of 5.300 tons copra, 1.100 tons palm oil, 1.100 tons coconut oil, 500 tons expeller meat, when she ran aground, on a reef, off Fanning Island. She was abandoned as a total loss. Read more at wrecksite: https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?108261

There is an account of the efforts to free her and also the official report on the grounding (in which the Master and 3/0 were fined) – all on this site. Just search ‘ Lindenbank’

OLIVEBANK – her maiden voyage

In 1893 the spanking new 4 masted steel bark Olivebank

Olivebank under sail
Olivebank under full sail

sailed into Tacoma and tied up along the NP wheat warehouses below the city. These were the waning days of the age of sail as steamships and trans Pacific passenger liners were becoming the elite vessels in the great harbors around the world. But because hard wheat and cut lumber were important, durable bulk exports from Tacoma, that shipped well on long voyages in the enginless holds of the big windjammers, Commencement Bay remained a familiar port of call for true sailors well into the 20th Century. Tacoma was a sort of sanctuary for the last generations of mariners who depended on the wind-who navigated by cloud movement, barometers, sail charts and trusted currents.

Olivebank crew 1893.cropped

This striking portrait of the Captain and officers on the upper deck of the British registered ship Olivebank, is a study in purpose and pride. The image is a strongbox of  technical details, portraiture and narrative. These are young men steering a new born vessel, 325 feet long and just launched from the famous Glasgow shipyards on September 21, 1892. In their posture and gaze each of them, in their own way suggest a determined competence, particularly Captain Petrie in his embroidered cap, flower boutonniere and heavy gold watch chain.  The other’s wear the formal vested suits and silk ties of merchant seamen, literate adventurers who had brought their ship around the world to the booming country around the inland waters of Puget Sound.

downtown

Above them, Tacoma’s elegant new City Hall building was nearing completion across busy Pacific Avenue from the Northern Pacific Railroad Building. The towering Romanesque County Courthouse loomed in a fresh silhouette above the city.  There was a massive brick hotel building under construction to the north and busy sawmills and boatyards lining the waterfront. Downtown Tacoma was busy with fashionable new brick buildings, packed streetcars and the novelty of electric street lights and signs.

Tac Waterfront

The point-in-time captured in the portrait of these seafarers was soon to pass. A world wide economic depression was about to stall Tacoma’s growth and the great shipyards of maritime nations were about to slow the building of commercial sailing vessels. The discovery of gold in the Klondike in 1896 and the start of the Spanish American war in 1898 propelled Seattle ahead of Tacoma as a commercial and population center in the Pacific Northwest. As the operation of commercial sailing vessels faded Tacoma, like other seaports, began to reshape its wharfs and loading docks to accommodate steamships and commercial motor vessels. The big sailing ships became part of the background.

The Olivebank lasted longer than most of the great sailing vessels that visited Commencement Bay. It changed to Norwegian registry and was well maintained for long voyage coal shipping. In 1939, the deep hulled ship hit a wartime mine off Denmark. Only 7 of its 21 man crew were saved.

Olivebank.color.en
Olivebank.en.22

This photograph is from a wonderful album and collection of images from the Burroughs, Holt, Dickson families going back to the 1880’s. Watch for stories from the photos and research to follow. Thanks to Bruce Smith for the discovery.

Loading Copra – down memory Lane!

Bleeding bags into the hold. ( Note: With wooden hatchboards the bags were bled into gaps between the boards – more tricky with steel lids.)

Photo credit: Tad Kucharski

The FORRESBANK at Honiara

Photo credit: Charlie Stitt

Roy Weir ( Grandson of Andrew Weir) visiting the Pacific Islanders – on a recruitment drive, maybe!

BANK LINE VOYAGE CHARTER – an account of time on th M.V.CRESTBANK

6 August 1980 – 19 September 1980

Joined Birkenhead – Paid Off Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

Captain Young.

The privately owned Liverpool shipping company Thos & Jas Harrison, more commonly known as ‘Harrison Line’ regularly chartered vessels off the spot market to maintain their liner cargo schedules. Harrison Line personnel chosen for Supercargo duties were all ‘Pursers’ as we also did, in addition to our onboard administration function, a lot of cargo work on deck during the discharge phase of the voyage, producing cargo plans, making notes on damaged cargo, tally books for the discharge clerks in each port and of course ensuring the special cargo under lock and key went ashore to the right owner!

Obviously, there were those in Harrison Line who were regularly chosen to sail as ‘Supercargo’ in all sorts of varied general cargo ships, of all nationalities and standards and after 5 years of wondering why I wasn’t in the ‘Supercargo’ club I finally received the call. I was to join a ship in Birkenhead, the company didn’t know yet what nationality, just that the ship would be in the West Float at 0800 the following Monday. I conjured up all sorts of images, some badly maintained Greek or Monrovian tramp ships, could have been anything. I was secretly hoping for one of those immaculate white SKOU ships…

Imagine my delight and surprise when I was told it would a Bank Line ship called the CRESTBANK, and even better, it was just 2 years old. The ship itself was far better than any of the ships I’d sailed in with Harrisons’ and my cabin was to be the ‘Owner’s Suite’. Excellent.

I joined at the appointed time and made myself known to the Chief Officer – a great guy and I cannot for the life of me remember his name. He asked me if I fancied breakfast and off we went to the Duty Mess. In Harrisons our crews were mainly locals…Liverpudlians (scouse) or West Indian (Barbadian or Trinidadian) so it was a surprise to meet such a nice polite and gentle Goanese/Indian? (not sure) pantry steward. I’ll always remember, the Mate asked me what I wanted, and not to faff around looking at the menu too much, I just said the full English please. Imagine my surprise when he returned a few minutes later with a fried egg and a sausage. I looked at the mate to say ‘what’s this’ and he said…’oh yeah, Monday we have a sausage, Tuesday bacon etc…crikey I thought, Harrisons were great feeders after all. 

I do remember the curry breakfasts and every Thursday we had chips as a treat with breakfast. I liked these catering ideas so much I introduced them in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary years later where I served for over 30 years. I used to call them Bank Line Breakfasts – the older hands thoroughly enjoyed them, but the younger guys brought up on CocoPops couldn’t get their heads around having curry for breakfast! 

Another thing I noticed was crew members going ashore to buy ‘carpet runners’ for their cabins – to make them more homely and comfortable. I did find this very strange as Harrisons provided pretty much everything for the cabins.

At this time, revolution was happening in Poland, with Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement gaining traction, and I used to sit in the shack with the Radio Officer and listen to the World Service. It was quiet up on that deck, me, the RO and the Old Man. 

I do also remember that at this time, 1980, Bank Line had drastically reduced their trip lengths in order to retain personnel and to attract new blood. I think you had come down from 2 years to 6-9 months. These trip lengths were staggering, in Harrisons we were used to 6–9-week trips to the Cape or the Caribbean. Harrison bulk carriers, operating globally tramping, were 4-month max trips. The Mate was hugely disappointed with this decision by the company, after all, he said, you hardly know where anything is after 6-9 months!

Part of the cargo was a large consignment of brand new Mk1 2 door V8 Range Rovers for discharge in Mombasa. We had a great time with those, firing them up and manoeuvring from the ships side in the tween deck of hatches 3 and 4 to the loading point, then legging it down the gangway to drive them off at full speed down the jetty to the vehicle pound. It was great sport.

When we were halfway through the Dar Es Salaam discharge, word came through that the next port for the CRESTBANK would be Durban to load a bulk cargo of maize for the Far East. Obviously, there was no need now for any of that beautiful brand new used once dunnage we had used to stow the cargo! The Mate sidled up to me and asked what were the intentions of Harrison Line for the dunnage – I kind of knew that this was a loaded question and asked what were his suggestions for it? He suggested we sell it and go ashore for a slap up meal! Rude not to, so we did. 

I was sad to leave the ship, I’d made some new friends, experienced a new company with different operating methods and was very envious of their globetrotting mystery tour lifestyle – as opposed to operating a liner trade schedule. 

Those few weeks in the CRESTBANK remain with me to this day and I’m very proud to have been a tiny part albeit briefly of that legendary British shipping company.

Rupert Drew

Ocean Fleets 74-75

Harrison Line 75-86

Royal Fleet Auxiliary 86-16 

Many thanks to Rupert for this snapshot of life aboard