Here you will find the stories from the men and women who sailed on the ships, what was it really like to be working on a ship in a raging sea and in the pitch dark of night, the real stories some funny some sad, some good and some bad.
The following story as told by Bob Jenkins,
This is one compressed air start that I am glad that I did not make
Navua engine damage
The worst possible outcome from an air start of a marine diesel engine came in the mid fifties when the little banana boat Navua was in the Fijian Islands. She was built in 1955 by Henry Robb, of about 2000 tons gross and was equipped with a 5 cylinder trunk piston Sulzer 1500 HP engine.
She was on one of her earliest voyages, circa 1956, on the Pacific Islands trade and arriving off Lautoka Fiji (from memory) after dark she anchored to await a daylight berthing. The second engineer asked either the third or the fourth to change a defective main engine fuel injector during the night and this was done but apparently the engineer failed to shut off the main oil circulating pump or isolate the cooling oil circulation to the injector jacket before removing the faulty unit. During the time taken to take the valve down to the workshop, select a spare and re-install it a considerable volume of oil flowed in to sit on top of the piston that was parked above the ports in the cylinder liner so we had a disaster waiting to happen.
The second engineer was on watch when the first movement was rung on the telegraph and as he started the engine it must have fired in such an order to allow the oil logged unit to travel down and then make a full stroke up to hit the solid mass of oil against the cylinder head. There was enough momentum to wreak the ultimate damage to the extent that the connecting rod was bent like a banana, the liner cracked and, worst of all, the crankcase entablature each side of the damaged unit was a mass of hairline cracks.
She was towed into a berth and there she sat for several months for repairs. The Union Co flew in a couple of experts from the Metalock Company and they worked night and day stitching the crank case cracks until the area looked like a spider's web. The end result was successful and she went back into service for some years before being sold off to another owner.
When I joined her in 1958 the metalocked areas on the crank case external walls had to be left unpainted so that any sign of movement of the repair could be detected and it was then mandatory to inspect the internal stitching at the end of each voyage. The second engineer who pulled the lever was back on the ship when I joined and his collection of photos covering the damage made the blood run cold and was a lesson indeed.
I have searched the net for any information regarding this incident but have not found any. Perhaps there are some old Union Co members that can confirm, correct or add to this story.
Dedicated to all the brave men and women who sailed the vessels from the Leith Shipyards.
Should you know of anyone who may have sailed on her, then please feel free to get in touch so that we can add the story here.