Murray Robinson’s well researched feature entitled ‘Mirabooka and the Wheat Ship Tragedy’ (referring to the mv Maranui), Sea Breezes December 2013 and January 2014 along with Roy Vaughan’s letter concerning the incident (February 2014) made for extremely interesting reading.
Whilst enumerating some of the causes of the Maranui’s loss, Roy cites “Poor ship design with a forward well-deck”. Being unaware of the rationale attaching to the inclusion of this design feature I neither agree nor disagree with this assertion. Having corresponded with John Milligan on this matter I was interested in his response, namely: that in specialized vessels, such as buoy-tenders, the reduced freeboard in-way of a well-deck may have been advantageous.
John, a former Marine Draughtsman, has written a well thought out letter that appears in the March 2014 issue of Sea Breezes. What, I wonder, were the perceived merits in building a small ship with a welldeck forward? I would venture a guess that over the years a great many coasters were constructed with this feature. One would have thought that in a small two hatch ship, it would have been a good thing to have both hatches located at the same deck level. Furthermore, would not construction costs have been significantly reduced if the welldeck had been omitted?
The smallest ship in which I have ever served was a former Baltic trader with a well-deck forward. During my year or so as her Master, she was employed in tramping between New Zealand and the islands of the Sou-West Pacific Ocean. She was an engine and accommodation aft, single hold, two hatch ship. Number one hatch being in the well-deck. Although her forward sections were well flared she was very wet when punching to windward in anything over a Force 4/5 breeze. These conditions always applied when steaming into the SE Trades between Samoa and the Cook Islands. This passage was a regular part of our itinerary. With so much spray flying about during head-sea conditions any maintenance work in the well deck was pretty nigh impossible.
In port, with hatch-boards having to be stacked in such a restricted area, again little or no maintenance was possible. It is a few years ago now but I clearly remember that damn well-deck as forever looking a real eye-sore. Apart from this, she was a fairly smart little ship. I would, therefore, like to hear from anyone who can tell me why so many owners of small ships favoured the well-deck-forward design, such as, for instance, in the island trader Timo (just referred to) and the ill fated New Zealand coaster Maranui.
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