Saturday, October 22, 1960 - Montreal, Canada
It was dusk when I first saw the Swedish freighter Atlantic Friend. She was bunkering alongside at Section 103, the Shell Dock, in Montreal East. I nervously reported on board to Captain Sjoberg. He seemed pleasant enough as he checked my Seaman's Idenity Card, and Canadian Passport. I had to sign on the crew list as a deck hand, although at this point the Captain intended to charge me $2.00 per day for my passage. He got one of the Mates to get two crew members to help me bring my sea chest on board. I was given the pilot cabin just below the bridge deck, on the port side. There was lots of room and the head and shower was just across the passageway. The Mate told me to settle in and see the Chief Officer in the morning. I watched as we completed fueling, and the tugs pulled us clear of the dock. Soon after the ship was moving at about 15 knots down the St. Lawrence River. There I was; just turned 18 years of age, on a Swedish freighter, working my passage to Europe.
|I awoke early the next morning and stood out on deck watching the shore as we moved down river past Quebec City. I reported to the Chief Officer who told me to get my breakfast and then report to the Bosun. I found the mess and had breakfast. I then found the Bosun, who I found out was Finnish, and not very happy to see me. I don't know what his problem was but he told me to get a chipping hammer and a scraper and start chipping the paint on #1 hatch. One of the deck crew showed me where the Bosun's store was and told me which hatch was #1. I chipped away all day only taking breaks when one of the crew told me to knock off for lunch. By 5pm I was tired and dirty and all my clothes were full of paint chips. I went to the mess for supper, showered, and then turned in. This became my routine for the next few days. We passed many ships in the lower St. Lawrence including the Canada Steamships lines bulk carrierCarol Lake.|
Thursday, November 3rd., 1960 - Belfast, Northern Ireland.
It took us 11 days to reach Belfast in Northern Ireland. Slow passage due to the heavy weather conditions we encountered. Our cargo for off loading here consisted of wheat in bulk, and barley and soy beans in bags. You had to be very careful to keep the cargo dry so it didn't rot or swell. It rains in Belfast almost every day so we did not expect a quick turn around. However every evening we had a great time. I went ashore dressed in my best clothes and visited the pubs or the Engineers Club and then went on to the Mecca Dancing Hall. The place was huge and there were lots of Irish coleens for the chosing. Belfast was a sailor's dream as the average worker was poorly paid and had little money for entertaining the girls. Most of the people I met had quit school at 14 and really didn't know if Canada was a British Colony or part of the United States. My accent was taken for American most of the time, and the girls wanted to know if I had ever met Elvis.
| Not far from our berth in Pollock
Basin was the famous Harland and Wolf shipyard. At the time they were building
the 65,000 ton P and O luxury liner
At that time it was the biggest ship built since the liner
Just across the basin from our berth was the HMS Caroline , the second oldest commissioned warship in the Royal Navy, having seen action at Jutland in 1916. She has served alongside in Belfast since 1924 besides providing a home for local reservists, she served as a depot ship during the second world war.
I had a great time in Belfast and got to go ashore every evening. The
pubs closed at 10 pm. so I was normally back on board each night by midnight.
Saturday, November 12th., 1960 - 21:30 hours Bristol Channel
We are just picking up our pilot to take us into Avonmouth. The tide is high so we should be able to go right into our berth tonight. We won't be able to discharge cargo until Monday morning. The Chief Steward asked me earlier today if I wanted to make a few dollars helping him fix up his stores. We have a lot of stores coming aboard as they are provisioning for 4 months as the ship is going to the Mediterranean and then to South Africa. I wish I was going along. It would be nice to go south where it is warmer. We docked in Avonmouth at 1:30 am. on Sunday morning. Time to explore a bit as I am off until Monday morning. The port of Avonmouth is located not far from Bristol and seemed to be quite a small town. I took a double decker bus into Bristol on Sunday and went to the Seaman's Club. Nothing much going on. My daily work now consisted of cleaning up in the holds. The worst job was cleaning the deep tanks. You had to crawl in through a hatch and worm your way along. The place stank of 6 month old rotten grain and water and it was all you could do not to puke and add to the stench. We discovered we had a 6 inch crack in the hull so the ship will have to drydock for repairs in Bremerhaven or Hamburg. I received my first mail from home and sent off letters to Mom, Dad, and the kids.
Tuesday, November 15, 1960 - Departed Avonmouth for Bremerhaven, Germany
Back to my old task of chipping hatches. New twist added, I also have the task of painting them. The Bosun is finally off my case. I guess I can claim to really be accepted as part of the crew now. I have traded some of my clothes with one of my German buddies. Good deal as I traded some jeans and a suede work jacket for a suit. The suit is European style with no cuffs on the pants. It looks like it will wear well and fits me perfectly.
When I came out on deck this morning I could see Lands End, England off to port. A lot more ship traffic now as we head up the English Channel towards Dover. I spotted "the white cliffs of Dover" today. The weather has been nice and no fog around. I am really enjoying life as a seaman. I wish I was going on with the ship to Naples and then South Africa.
Weather a little rougher here in the North Sea but certainly nothing like the North Atlantic. Ship is making good time and we should arrive in Bremerhaven on schedule. I hope the old man sent me some money for my arrival in Germany. When I pay the Captain I think I will only have about $12.00 left. Not much of a stake to start my life in the "old world".
Saturday, November 19, 1960 - arrived Bremerhaven.
I received a message that someone from Atlas Werke would pick me up on Monday morning. I checked with the Captain to see if it would be OK to stay on board until then. No problem, and even better he said I was a hard worker and had earned my passage. No charge! What a relief, I actually have a few dollars.
Monday, November 21, 1960. - arrived Bremen.
Me in front of my new home in Bremen, Germany.
November 10, 2007, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
I never saw the Atlantic Friend again, but 47 years after the voyage I did hear from one of my ex crew mates. I received an email from Erik Orr, who lives in Sweden. Erik had signed on the ship as a motorman while we were in Belfast.
I became very familiar with the Canberra when I was working for Thomas Mercer Limited of Birmingham, England. The company supplied the marine clock system for the ship and I had the job of synchronizing 365 clocks, which were located throughout the vessel. The Carol Lake I met again in 1967 while bringing the family 52 foot motor Yacht Gabrielle from the Expo Marina in Montreal to the Royal St. lawrence Yacht Club in Dorval. I had a crew that day of my wife, Joanne, my cousin, Barbara Glover, and my 3 month old daughter, Wendy. As we approached the entrance to St. Lambert lock we ran out of fuel on one tank. While we were dead in the water and in the process of switching over tanks the Carol Lake came up astern of us and sounded her fog horn. We were able to get underway before we were in any hazard but it did give us a scare.
The suit I traded for served me well and I passed it on to my brother Ian. It did indeed wear like iron, and never wrinkled no matter what abuse you put it through. Funny the things you remember!