Here’s another instalment of the seamanship manual published around a century ago by James Tait, Extra Master and teacher of navigation. For earlier instalments, click here.
UK Home Built Boat Rally member John Lockwood has been in touch with a photo of the ship commanded by brave Captain David W Simpson MBE when he met his death.
‘I know you like following interesting threads. In connection with the memorial plaque included in yesterday’s post, I have attached a picture of the West Isleta, later the Empire Merlin, built in 1919 in Seattle, managed by Ropners Shipping, and torpedoed by U-boat U48 about 190 miles west of Cape Wrath.
‘The thought of a 70 year old captain working on that open bridge in the North Atlantic in winter makes me appreciate what a tough lot merchant navy sailors were in those days. Incidentally Captain Simpson was previously Master of the SS Wandy, which attacked and sank a German U-boat in WWI.
Click on the thumbnails for much larger images
Frank C Bowen’s 1920s book Ships we See includes this chapter on Thames barges. He makes a number of entertaining observations:
‘In the coasting business a barge captain reckons he is loaded when a robin can drink of his decks.’
‘In the old days on the Thames very few of the barges had the straight stem which is now general, but were fitted with a sloping flat bow like a lighter. Officially they were the swin-mouth type, but on the river they were more generally “shovel-nosed”.’
And he also has a good story about the relationship between captain and mate: ‘there is a traditional story of each filling in the log for his watch. The captain in a fit of righteous indignation, finished up his information with the item “Mate drunk.”‘
‘Immediately there was a storm of protest which the captain silenced by a straightforward question. Put that way, the mate assented somewhat ruefully that he was and the entry stood.
‘But the entry for his watch finished with the item “Captain sober.” And the skipper was righteously indignant at it.
‘”You were sober, werent you?”
‘”Of course I was.”
‘”Then the entry stands.” And stand it did.
‘All sorts of stories of this sort could be quoted about the barge hands, but taking them all in all they are a fine crowd who deserve far more respect than they get.’
For more posts relating to Thames barges, click here.