If there's no menu on the left click on the dog to take you back to frames.
Jobs at Sea Index
Life as a ...
© Amberfluid Web Design
By David Dickinson
Cadet Purser on ss Otranto in January 1954, which in retrospect, was
just an office boy, running here and there at the whim of the other
purser staff. Using the Banda machine for printing, which used blue
sheets where the colour could run. This was a predecessor to the Roneo
machine. All the passenger and crew lists were done on these plus the
cargo manifests etc. Soon after the ship sailed we ran off the first
passenger list, which of course had to be updated after every port.
Copies had to be available for the agents and officials at each port of
As a comparison, below is a job ad for a Cadet Purser today;
Cadet Purser Assigned To Crew Office Duties
Reports directly to the Administrative Director, responsibilities include embarkation and disembarkation procedure of guests and crew members, preparation of final lists (passengers and crew manifests) and documents to be presented to the Authorities, passports and visas control, crew accounting management.
He/she co-ordinates with the Port Agent regarding embarkation and disembarkation activities ensuring compliance with local Authorities requirements.
He/she is also the point of contact between Head office and onboard personnel.
The position requires a high level of confidentiality, due to the nature of the information being processed.
Candidate must have:
High school Diploma. A University Degree is considered a plus.
Certified computer skills and fluent English (Spanish is a plus).
Organization abilities; personal attributes to include attention to details and Guest oriented problem solving.
Selection will favour candidates with administrative experience (preferably in Hotel).
Good knowledge of the English language is required.
David has added his views of the new job description;
I see they have to report to the Administrative Director whereas I think Purser was a better title. When
asked what I used to do I said I was a trainee Hotel Manager as I’m
sure the younger generation would have no idea what a Purser was!
The whole story of this first cruise can be seen here.
© Amberfluid Web Design
Junior Engineering Officer (5/Eng/O)
By Steve B
The working life of a Junior Engineer is spent entirely in the tropical conditions of an engine room. The non-working life of a 'fiver', in the 70's, was spent replenishing the vast quantities of fluid lost at work and hunting crumpet, both missions feverishly pursued and quite often accomplished at the same time.
One very important job of a Junior is to drive the ship. The controls either side of the gap are identical and each side operates a different engine which in turn drives a different propeller. The unusual thing is the control panel faces aft so the panel on the right is actually controlling the Port (left) propeller and the left side controlling the Starboard (right) side.
The terms Port and Starboard go back hundreds of years to the days of sail where the steering gear and rudder was actually on the right hand side of the vessel so you could only tie up to port on the left for fear of damaging the rudder so it became know as the 'Port' side. On the steering side, close to the helmsman, was a wooden board with a small hole in it and to navigate the helmsman would pick out a star through the hole and hold course by keeping that star in the hole at all times so this became known as the 'Star Board' side.
Sorry I digress! The big silver wheels opened and closed the steam to the engines. The inboard, as you can see in the picture, marked 'Ahead' made the ship go forward and the middle wheel was marked 'Astern' which made us go backwards. The round thing on the panel which is in the middle of the three at the bottom is the telegraph which copied the command from the Bridge and it would continue to ring until the lever was moved to match the setting the Bridge had requested, this is called 'answering the telegraph'. It was then the job of the Junior to open or close the valves to make the engine revs (revolutions per minute) suit the request i.e. slow ahead, half ahead or full astern (which really meant hit the fucking brakes, we're going to hit something). This activity mainly happened during 'standby' when coming in and out of port, but often a request would come down in the middle of the night to change the revs after the navigator had recalculated his course and position and needed a speed correction to make sure we arrived in port at the right time.
Courtesy of Steve B
Another very important task was to keep a constant eye on the boiler feedwater tanks and keep them full at all times. Without boiler feedwater the boilers ran dry and automatically shut down, hence no steam, and on a steam ship no steam meant no nothing, you lost everything. I know this quite well because while on watch on Nevasa I got so involved with trying to repair something I forgot to check the feedwater tanks and the next thing everything went black and the ship stopped moving in the middle of the Mediterranean, a powerless ship is suddenly at the mercy of the power of nature and King Neptune. In a way, in retrospect, I'm rather glad it happened as I witnessed an amazing scene. The engine room panic button had been pressed and every engineer turned to in varying states of dress or undress. The Chief Engineer, Willy Patterson, calmly took position on the plates and began issuing instructions to each and everyone to do a particular task and return ready for the next instruction and low and behold the ship slowly came back to life. He was like a surgeon during a heart transplant. My respect for senior ranks increased ten fold after that and I was truly humbled by their expertise, knowledge and above all their professionalism. It was an experience not to be missed and to be honest I don't remember even getting into trouble for it which really did amaze me as I expected to be put ashore at the next port.
In between all that fun and frivolity the Junior is responsible for looking after the flash evaporators which makes fresh water from seawater basically by boiling the seawater and condensing the vapour leaving the salt behind. The worst part of this was periodically the salt which became caked on the evaporator coils had to be blasted off with a 5000psi water blaster and being inside the evaporator and in such a confined space this was extremely bloody dangerous as John Speed will testify having blasted off his toe while we were berthed in Copenhagen one time.
The other taxing job of a Junior is the constant inspection of the bilges, more to the point the level of water in them. It was a real shock to me to find out that all ships leak and water is constantly pouring in flooding the engine room. That's the reason the bilges exist with a false floor above them called 'the plates'. It's the Junior's job to operate the bilge pumps which controls the level of water in the bilges. Also down there in the bilges are the Junior's best friend, the shit ejectors! Everybody on board takes a dump a couple of times a day, as long as they'd remembered to take their salt tablets regularly, and it all came down to small tanks in the bilges which were controlled by ball cocks monitoring when they were full and would then automatically open a steam valve that flushed the contents out to sea (nowadays I believe it has to be stored and only pumped out ashore). If the ball cock got stuck (jammed with shit) the steam valve didn't operate and the shit had to go somewhere so it just overflowed into the bilges. Usually the first you knew that a shit ejector has failed was during the bilge inspection (shining your trusty bent neck torch down there) you saw what we descriptively termed 'blind mullets' swimming about. This is when you wished you'd never joined up and you had to take the cover off the ejector, CLIMB IN and clean the shit off the ball cock. Fabulous job!
Courtesy of Steve B
Finally, the most important job of all was to make the tea for the 3rd Engineer who was in charge of the watch and who always had an insatiable thirst but as I said before, it was bloody hot down there.
© Amberfluid Web Design
Public Room Steward
By Bob Johnston
What I remember about the job on Oronsay, November 1974-August 1975.
Working in the bar was fun even if the ship was old. I had made many friends and now I was feeling fairly relaxed and knew what the job entailed. The bar staff were great. I had the art of carrying a tray off to a fine art and I was getting used to the bar list. We had to get used to the red monkey jackets, bow ties and black pants at night. During the day if you were on deck you had short-sleeved white shirts with epaulettes which was much more comfortable but depended on which bar you got sent to. On Oronsay there were 7 bars;
Edinburgh Room Veranda deck
Kilt and Thistle A deck aft
Pipe and Drums Veranda deck
Tam O’Shanter Bar Veranda deck Island aft
Celtic Room B deck aft
Fife Room c deck aft
Burns Room D deck aft
As we were based from Sydney, most of the passengers were Aussies and it took a little while after English cruising to get used to the accent, they spoke so quickly. I soon got used to the slang used to ask for a beer and fell in love with the country and the Pacific Islands we started to visit. My first job was to get used to the bar list as we left Sydney, the cocktail list was long and the most popular drinks included Harvey Wallbanger (vodka, Galliano and orange juice 0.85 cents (Aus). A standard whisky was around 0.35 cents (Aust). Beer was basically the drink and I served thousands over the period at a small price of 0.25 (Aus), KB was the Aussie beer at the time (a good drop). If you smoked a packet of 20 cigarettes, nothing fancy, 0.30 (Aus) cents a packet. Basically you could smoke and drink yourself to death at those prices; I wonder why everyone had a great time on board!
Some of my memories go back to bad weather and in the April of 1975 and
our trip between Sydney and New Zealand, I still remember the dates Sat
19th April to Tue 22 April 1975. We had a great send off as we usually
did from Sydney and the weather was good, sailed at approx 3.00pm in
the afternoon I was working in the Pipe and Drums bar. It was always
busy as sailing passengers were new and had done their first lifeboat
drill in the ballroom, we as crew also had to go to lifeboat stations
as well, (knew it well just hope I never have to use it!). Going up
Sydney Harbour was a great sight going under the bridge past the Opera
House. The only bad thing was the black smoke would bellow from her funnel and
if you were down wind it was an experience never to be forgotten.
Black smoke (the poor engines).
For the next two days the weather was bad and the waves broke across the bow and the ship rolled from one side to the other. It was too rough to go on deck because you would get washed overboard. The Captain announced to all passengers warning of the gale and letting them know outside decks were off limits. In rough weather the lifts got switched off, as it was too dangerous. I had a quiet couple of days, as most passengers got sick, except for the strong ones.
nautical mile is based on the circumference of the earth, and is equal
to one minute of latitude. It is slightly more than a statute (land
measured) mile (1.0 nautical mile = 1.1508 statute miles). Nautical
miles are used for charting and navigating.
lucky as we got time off in ports and we had a roster for going ashore so I
went ashore in Auckland, we were always there overnight, got in early morning
and left the next day at 5.00pm to catch the tide.
© Amberfluid Web Design