Tuesday, October 23, 2018
MS Pacheco

After gaining my Masters Certificate in July 1962, I started to look for another job on General cargo ships, but definitely not anymore tankers. I wanted to have a better quality of life, ie a better social one, to hopefully meet the right lady etc.

The influence of my old friend from King Teddy days, Mike Theocolous, pointed me towards MacAndrew Line in Mincing Lane, and I applied for a 2nd mates job.

Fortunately for me, a job came up about a week later and I found myself joining the MS Pacheco in London Dock.

PACHECO: 1,242,GRT, about 1980 DWT cargo capacity. Built 1961 by Grangemouth Dockyard Co, Grangemouth Scotland, Speed 14 knots. Four hatches/holds, with steel wine tanks located in the holds and tween decks section of the Masthouse Midships for bulk table wines.

Trading route was; London-Bilbao, Santander or Gijon Northern Spain, Casablanca, Tangier or Ceuta, Barcelona, and several Spanish ports coastwise to load fruit, potatoes (new), bagged onions, and other general cargo according to the season with a possible final call at Algeceiras for cork cargo or Cadiz for sherry cargoes. Total round trip time 21-22 days, with four days in London to discharge and reload.

Bulk wine cargoes were always loaded at Tarragona; about 300 tons of dry and sweet white wines, followed by dry and sweet reds. It took a total of six hours to discharge using four mono pumps. That was the taste and colour spectrum procedure for the discharging order of the table wines into the PLA (Port of London Authority) wine vats in Shadwell Basin, near the famous “Prospect of Whitby” pub which overlooked the locks leading into London dock. London Dock, near Tower Bridge, was a “Bonded” dock, next door to St Katherines dock. The other berth, used by Mac’s ships, was Butlers Wharf, immediately opposite the entrance to St Katherines dock on the south bank of the River Thames.

Being a bonded dock, all the wines (dutiable) were discharged there. The wooden barrels, in particular, had leaks in them as they are stowed three high in the lower holds of the ship and on their sides, so that the heads of the barrels didn’t dry out (which would happen if stowed upright). All barrels that were noted to be leaking during loading in Cadiz were recorded on what we called “an Exceptions List”. This was the custom of the trade to avoid unnecessary claims from the receivers for losses on their wine shipments. Customs and Excise accepted this as well, so due diligence was necessary on the part of the ship’s officers during loading to pick out these particular barrel’s details.

Whilst loading in Cadiz and being discharged in London, the procedure was to use “can hooks” that were linked by a length of chain to two hooks. These hooks fitted over the lip of the barrel at each end. As the barrel was hoisted up by the Dock cranes, the sudden strain could cause them to leak. The solution to that was to have a barrel cooper with a mallet and plenty of tissue paper, tapping the barrel with his mallet after inserting strips of tissue paper into any small gaps. It worked! There was also a cooper in attendance during the loading of the barrels in Cadiz/ Puerto Santa Maria.

Another interesting fact was that on the voyage from Cadiz to London, there would be some leakage from the barrels which found its way into the bilges of the holds. Unfortunately, the liquid content of those bilges had to be pumped overboard from time to time into the sea. A trail of sherry following the ship to London... what a waste! The trade was interesting and busy. It was literally one port a day whilst on the southern Spanish coastline. Discharging and loading operations during the day then sail each evening to arrive at the next port for an 8am start the next day. Barcelona was the starting port for the coasting run.

The first couple of trips were different. After discharge at Casablanca, we were to load a deck cargo of horses (into horseboxes) on the tops of our hatches as well as on the deck. Why so many so horses? Well it was the horses used in the filming of the movie Lawrence of Arabia (starring Peter O’Toole as Lawrence) including the famous white horse, along with several extras and horse minders as passengers. We sailed to Cadiz where the horses and film extras, horse minders etc disembarked.

Apparently, the movie’s desert scenes were shot near Casablanca, and scenes of the British Army HQ in Cairo shot in Seville, that’s why they all disembarked Cadiz for further filming. The MacAndrew line ships were painted “all white” and for the fruit cargoes, they used to charge an extra sixpence per ton in the old days as shippers wanted to ship their goods in cool looking ships which also had good mechanical ventilation changes of the air in the holds. A very important selling point.

At Cadiz, we loaded a mixed cargo of cork in bales, barrels of sherry, cases of fruits, cases of sardines, bagged almonds and some general cargo and vehicles. Smallpox Scare
The 2nd trip was the traditional route, but including a call at Tarragona after Barcelona to load bulk table wines. It was quite an easy procedure, loading from road tankers and small hoses, with dust covers over the access hatches of the tanks. The tanks were all coated in epoxy resin paint, with minor maintenance between cargoes - touch up work on small pinholes of breakdown of the coating.

Fumigating of the tanks took place with sulphur buttons prior to loading. All the ships hoses in the masthouse pumproom were of plastic piping as visible sight pieces to connect to the four mono pumps. All couplings were coated with olive oil (an edible oil). After a couple of trips, Capt Mike Dunn took over as Master. He was a good Master and time and the ports passed quickly by.

Then one morning in Barcelona, tragedy struck. One of the AB’s (known only by his nickname as M) came to see me on deck. He said he had some unusual looking blisters on his neck and forearms. I examined him and noticed immediately a similarity to photographs of Smallpox pustules that were contained in the Ship Captain’s Medical Guide, which every British merchant ship had to carry in its medicine chest. I, for my sins, was the custodian of that chest etc. I took him up to see the Captain straight away, and to look at the book. Capt Dunn called the ships agent immediately to arrange hospitalization and to notify the port authority.

Within a very short time, two doctors and an ambulance were alongside the ship, with our agent. The ship’s gangway was pulled in, the cargo work stopped and all the stevedores told to remain on board whilst our crewman was examined and whisked away by ambulance. Everybody, putting it mildly, (crew and stevedores etc) were scared stiff as rumours circulated quickly. Everybody agreed that he must have picked it up in Casablanca or Tangier, etc. So did we for that matter. The book said the incubation period was about 10 days.

Within a very short time, the quayside was filled with anxious families of the stevedores wanting their relatives to come off the ship, but the police guards wouldn’t let anybody off. Later, the Port Health Authority visited the ship and all of us were examined and vaccinated, even the Spanish stevedores. They were not taking any chances, it was the sensible thing. His cabin mates were also closely examined and questioned.

After taking all the precautions, they let the stevedores off and we were all confined to ship. We were allowed to sail next morning to proceed to Valencia to load a full cargo of sweet oranges for London. Meanwhile, the ships holds were fumigated and sealed up. We arrived at Valencia later that day and anchored for a further inspection of everybody on board by the Port Heath Authority. No other persons were showing symptoms or fever etc, just lots of anxiety.

Next morning, we berthed early to start work at 0800 hours. The stevedores trooped on board and proudly showed us their vaccinations. They compared them with ours; a touch of light relief and shared humour. A fast loading was completed and we sailed direct for London. No mention of it was made in the press, it was kept very sensibly at lowkey. No further cases were noticed on board, no symptoms or fevers etc.

Arriving off London, we were ordered to go to the PLA (Port of London Authority) quarantine anchorage at Higham Bight just below Gravesend. Again, a squad of Port health officials and doctors came to examine us, take all our personal details and issued us with little yellow cards to present to our doctors at home if any symptoms were observed.

Upon berthing at London Dock, the cargo was discharged within two days and the whole ship was fumigated again (cargo holds and accommodation). It was just before Christmas, so although the oranges were sweet, our experience had been sour. I went on leave thinking that was the end of the matter and wondering what had happened to “M”?

After Christmas, I joined the Pozarica in London Dock. Capt John Rimmington was in command for the fabulous London-Lisbon-London Express service. It was very interesting and I enjoyed it. A few months had passed by and walking home on one sunny evening from London Dock to London Bridge Station I saw a familiar smiling face approaching me. It was “M” from the Pacheco. He looked well and told me he had been in hospital in Spain for several weeks, then returned to the UK. He was now back at sea again. The biggest surprise of all was that he had contracted the disease in London, not Casablanca or any other place. He had been infected by a girl from a pub in East London.

There was no doubt in his mind that the routine smallpox vaccination he had before he became infected had saved his life. I was very pleased he was okay and still alive. I recalled that the journey time to Barcelona from London was about 10 days and the penny dropped. Why didn’t we suspect, that day in Barcelona, that it might be London as the source?

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - April 2017 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Nexus

Most Popular

  • 1
  • 2

Top Ten Books and DVDs of 2018

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Bells Will Ring Out on 100th Anniversary of War's End +

    Lusitania This month, Remembrance Sunday is also the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War and various events Read More
  • Focus on Historic Photographs of Lifeboats +

    Beken Lifeboat Collection Photographs of lifeboats dating from the turn of the 20th Century are the centrepiece of a new RNLI exhibition that Read More
  • Vehicle Carrier Runs Aground +

    Makassar Highway The vehicle carrier Makassar Highway, 17,735gt, of the Japanese company K Line, ran aground off the Swedish coast on the Read More
  • Keeping Port's Waterways Safe for Ships +

    UKD Orca The trailing suction hopper dredger UKD Orca, 3,087gt, of UK Dredging, of Cardiff, arrived at Ipswich in August for its Read More
  • Spotlight on Future Port Technology +

    Port of Southampton The next generation of port technologies that will help to keep the British industry trading are being jointly developed by Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Forest of Giant Cranes and a New Wharf +

    Port of Houston The Port of Houston, in Texas, took delivery of three new neopanamax ship-to-shore cranes on Aug 6 and five rubber-tyred Read More
  • Garbage Patch Clean-up Set to Start +

    garb The first offshore cleaning system was to be installed last month in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located halfway between Read More
  • Line's Big Investment in Puerto Rico Service +

    El Coqui At the end of July, the new container/roll on-roll off cargo ship El Coqui, 36,796gt, of the Crowley Maritime Corp, Read More
  • Cleaning Up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch +

    Garbage System 001 This month, a new floating clean-up system to tackle what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was due Read More
  • Panama Canal Ban on LNG Ships to Go +

    Panama Canal On Oct 1, the Panama Canal Authority will lift its daylight and encounter bans on LNG vessels to offer more Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • China is World's Top Shipping Nation +

    China Containers China is the world’s leading international shipping nation, according to a new report presented at a Hamburg trade fair on Read More
  • Automatic Berthing Project Test +

    Shioji Maru The proposed joint demonstration project by four Japanese organisations relating to the safety of vessels’ auto berthing and un-berthing has Read More
  • Record Voyage for Northern Sea Route LNG Cargo +

    Christophe de Margerie A new record for crossing the Northern Sea Route was set up in July by the icebreaking LNG carrier Christophe Read More
  • Antarctic Ship is Re-Chartered +

    Aurora Australis The contract for the icebreaker and research ship Aurora Australis, 6,574gt, to resupply Australia’s Antarctic stations has been extended until Read More
  • Wreck of Cruiser From 1905 Battle is Located +

    Kea Trader The South Korean company Shinil Group said it has found the wreck of a Russian cruiser that was sunk 113 Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • HMS Albion Proves Big in Japan +

    HMS Albion British News The assault ship HMS Albion, at time of writing, had just completed a five day visit to Tokyo Read More
  • Royal Navy Commissions New Survey Ship +

    HMS Magpie British News The latest survey vessel to join the Royal Navy was commissioned into service at her homeport of Devonport Read More
  • F-35 Stealth Fighters Land in UK +

    F-35 British News The first four of Britain’s next generation F-35 Lightning supersonic fighter jets touched down in the United Kingdom Read More
  • Upgrade Planned for Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier +

    Admiral Kuznetsov Russian News Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, will be refitted to prolong the warship’s operational life. Read More
  • HMS “Astute” in Cat-And-Mouse Pursuit by Russian Ships +

    HMS Astute British News Ahead of the American led missile strikes against suspected chemical weapon manufacturing plants in Syria in early April, Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Tragedy in Tanzania +

    Nyerere A country well used to tragedy, saw another, on Lake Victoria in September. Read More
  • Trouble for "Loch Seaforth" +

    Loch Seaforth Ferry services between Ullapool and Stornoway were disrupted when Caledonian MacBrayne’s Loch Seaforth lost power just over an hour into Read More
  • Stena Adds Extra Freight Capacity to Liverpool Service +

    Stena Forerunner In response to growing market demand, Stena Line has upped freight capacity on the popular Belfast – Liverpool route. Read More
  • Honfleur Hull Sections Craned Into Place +

    Honfleur Brittany Ferries has celebrated the second milestone in the build of its next ship Honfleur with the keeling laying - the Read More
  • Trinidad and Tobago to Sell T&T Express +

    T&T Express Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley has announced that the Incat 91 wave piercing catamaran Incat 046, otherwise known Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • Sunderland to Esbjerg Race +

    Oosterschelde On the north east coast of England, it was Sunderland’s proud claim that more ships had been built here than Read More
  • Tall Ships at Liverpool +

    Belem At the end of May, a Tall Ships fleet met at Liverpool. Read More
  • New Bridge Challenges Melissa +

    Melissa The organisers of the charter barges working from Ipswich are worried by plans to build a road bridge across the Read More
  • German Schooners +

    Thor Heyerdahl Two German schooners based at Hamburg are regularly making voyages under sail with general cargoes across the Atlantic. Read More
  • RFA Pearleaf +

    RFA Pearleaf Thanks to Orkney Image Library for this view of the RFA Pearleaf. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • Less (K)Notts, More Speed! +

    Sir Keith Speed A recent addition to my book collection is Sea Change, a commentary on the battle for the Falkland Islands and Read More
  • UK P&I Club Launches Interactive Video Series +

    Lessons Learned Video I am always in favour of any steps taken to improve safety of life at sea and I feel that Read More
  • Seaking Electrical Delivers DFDS Upgrades +

    Dave Gillam I was interested to learn that Marine engineering specialist SeaKing has recently completed extensive upgrade work on three shortsea ferries Read More
  • Edinburgh Named Top Cruise Destination for 2018 +

    Balmoral In my ‘Message From the Bridge’ in August’s edition of Sea Breezes, I mentioned the burgeoning cruise market in the Read More
  • Naming Ceremony for Forth Tug and Pilot Boat +

    Forth Puma and Craigleith In my Message From The Bridge in the August edition of Sea Breezes I highlighted the Firth of Forth. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Back to Back Transatlantic on the Queen Mary 2 +

    Queen Mary 2 In the past I have been fortunate in that I have been on a cruise to a number of the Read More
  • Turnkey Explorer Yacht +

    Explorer 67 An exciting opportunity for an owner looking to build one of the finest explorer yacht projects available has presented itself. Read More
  • Great Perseverance +

    Meira Behind the construction of every great yacht there is a story and in the building of Meira, it is one Read More
  • Keel Laid for Hapag-Lloyd’s First Expedition Cruise Ship +

    Hanseatic Inspiration A keel-laying ceremony was held on June 20 2017 for Hanseatic Nature, the first of two expedition cruise ships being Read More
  • Superyacht Season - Cannes +

    Numarine 26 XP Loved and hated in equal measure by those who exhibit at the Cannes Yachting Festival, as it is correctly known, Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

Maltese Maritime Museum

A Visit to Ye Olde Naval Bakery

Malta’s “Maritime Museum” is housed in the former Naval Bakery on the quay of Valletta’s urban ward Birgu. Construction of Read More
Presidente Peron

"Eva Peron"

If someone in 1939 had decided to sit out the Second World War they might well have done so in Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

Islamount

The Last Voyage of the Islamount

Submitted by T. D. DAVIES, Caernarvonshire - Reprinted from Sea Breezes June, 1936. Thomas David Davies, author of the 1936 Sea Read More
John W Brown

A Cruise in a Liberty Ship

Any debate about the single most important military invention during World War Two would probably become heated and unlikely to Read More
  • 1
  • 2