An Engineer’s story continued – courtesy of Michael Smith – N.Z.

The TEAKBANK in later life as the NEWTON

The Teakbank was in the port of New York for around 2 days.   During those 2 days a huge amount of activity took place as the original crew departed and a ‘new’ crew arrived.  Badly needed stores like beer, and many other such nutritional products were winched on board.  The crew change included the engine room and deck crew who had been on the vessel for about 16 or so months.  Captain Wigham stayed on. 

The departing 4th engineer John, had bought a second hand accordion in Cape Town at some stage from a person at a Sunday Market, and it was indeed a second hand accordion! He informed me that I too, could be the proud owner of this musical instrument for the minor sum of $20.  I offered to give him by cheque for $20, but being a canny Scotsman, he told me he much preferred cash, he also claimed that he was more than happy to cart it all the way back to Scotland.   Some of the keys did not work, and holes in the ‘air pump’ had been covered and patched with duct tape.  And for some unknown reason ‘smelt’ of Drambuie!!  One could at a stretch, say that it was in ‘working condition’ as it did in fact ‘work’!   Ted the new 3rd engineer from Belfast turned out to be a dab hand at playing this lovely instrument, whilst no maestro, when it came to producing the required ‘noise’ when we all gathered in his cabin for a sing song when we were in port, he did rather well.  He could play 3 tunes really well, he even had the swaying body movements down pat, ‘I belong to Glasgow’, ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘If you ever go across the sea to Ireland’.  Many other songs were sung, but sadly, the music/tune did not quite match the lyrics! The ‘brave’ among us carried on regardless and the song was sung regardless of the tune, the disparity between music, timing and lyrics increasing as the night wore on.  There were times when it sounded as though 2 different songs were being sung at the same time.  Our ‘new’ 2nd Lecki being Welsh had a great singing voice, as they do, the only minor issue was that as the night of frivolity wore on, he swapped from singing in English to singing the words in Welsh.   This resulted in a situation where most of us had no idea as to which song was being sung, and what the words were.

 The ‘new’ Engineering Officers and Deck Officers to the best of my memory were as follows.  The Chief Engineer Prim Mangat hailed from Delhi.  The 2nd engineer was Clifford Sai who was from Hong Kong originally, but lived in Liverpool. The 3rd engineer was Ted Sawyers who hailed from Belfast and had been at sea for about 20+ years, and had sailed on ‘Bank Boats’ several times. The 4th was John Cree who came from Glasgow.  I was the 5th engineer, and the 6th engineer was a guy named Donald McClung who was from Dumbartonshire in Scotland.  The 2nd Lecki whose name escapes me, was from Wales.  He was on the ‘8 to 12’ watch with John the 4th engineer. 

I have very little recollection of who the Deck Officers were.  What I do remember, is that the ‘new’ R/O was Trevor.  I met Trevor briefly in Brisbane about 6 years later when I was living there, he had joined the RFA and had done several ‘stints’ on their vessels.  

[ If any of you good people out there reading this article recognise any of the names above, or know of their whereabouts please contact me. Thank you]

Leaving New York we sailed to Norfolk-Virginia where, for the first time in about 40 or so days, I was able to ‘go ashore’ and feel ‘solid ground’ under my feet!  The said ‘Roto Valve’, mentioned earlier that had been the source of much angst, had been pulled apart and reconditioned.  We never did have that problem again.  Leaving Norfolk where we had picked up a small amount of cargo, we traveled to many of ‘Gulf’ Ports loading ‘general’ cargo for Australia.  At New Orleans we berthed at what was called ‘The Bank Line Wharf’.  If my memory is correct, there would have been at least 20 to 30 names of Bank Line vessels painted just about everywhere along the wharf.  One that I remember distinctly, was the Dart Bank.  Someone had taken great pains to colourfully draw a dartboard, complete with numbers etc on a 8 foot square piece of timber.  A really well drawn ‘dart’ was drawn sticking into the ‘bullseye’.  I have never really forgotten that image representing the M.V. Dart Bank.  I wonder whether the Bank Line wharf is still being used?

We stayed in New Orleans for about 14 days.   Bourbon Street was almost like a magnet to most of us and a good time was had by all.  Leaving New Orleans, we headed for Panama to pass through the Canal and make our way across the Pacific Ocean to Australia.  Then a funny thing happened.

At around 10.00hrs I happened to be on the ‘boat deck’ a day out of New Orleans, when I felt the revs on the Doxford drop to around 25rpm (normal sea speed was 95rpm), many alarms were being sounded and the engine finally came to a stop.  I looked down through the ‘swing doors’ of the engine room vents I saw a large stream of water gushing vertically upwards almost touching the top of the engine room.   The top piston cooling water hose had decided to detach itself from the steel water inlet nozzle. 

Let me explain that a bit better!

The top pistons on an opposed piston Doxford diesel, are cooled with fresh water that is pumped through water channels within the piston. There are 2 hoses, one is the inlet hose the other the outlet. I cannot remember what the ‘exact’ pressure of the fresh water was.  I ‘think’ it was around 50 to 70lbs, perhaps one of our readers has a better idea??   In any event, the pressure of the fresh water is/was higher than the ‘salt water’.  This ensures that, if there is a leak in the ‘counterflow cooler’, the salt water would not ‘mix’ with the fresh water and contaminate the piston cooling fresh water tank.   If however, a leak did develop in the cooler, the fresh water would go overboard.

To get a better idea please visit this link: 

We replaced the faulty hose with a new one, and in about an hour and a half we were back up to ‘Full Away’ headed for the Panama Canal.  I remember making a mental note to have at least half dozen ‘already cut to length pieces of hose’ in the engine room store so that replacing them when and if they did come apart, would be a quicker fix.  The 12 hour (I think?) trip through the Canal was uneventful and we finally emerged into the largest ocean in the world, the Pacific Ocean.  It was daunting to realise that there was several miles of water between the ship’s hull and the ocean floor.

Seeing a pod of about 1000 Dolphins making their way in leaps and bounds towards the setting sun was a sight I shall never forget.  We also passed several Blue Whales diving and exposing their massive tails and ‘thumping’ their tails as they dived or moved on.

It would take 37 days for us to arrive in Brisbane. 

To be continued…

all comments welcome!

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