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 above photograph taken by Tony Featherston shows the main switchboard of the MV ZEALAND
LIFE ON THE MV ZEALAND
told by Tony Featherston Electrical Engineer.
The picture of the MV Zealand brings back memories from more than 50 years ago. I
sailed on her from 1958 to 1960, responsible for the functioning of everything
electrical with the exception of radio, which was handled by a Marconi man.
At that time she sailed from London docks to Lisbon carrying a mixed cargo and up
to 12 passengers. She was an easy ship to work and good people to work with.
Here are a few unconnected and light hearted memories of incidents during those
An engineer wanted to shut down one of the diesel generators (there were 3 of
them) for diesel maintenance, but forgot that a new one must be brought up to
balance and share load before shutting down the running one. On the main
switchboard he tripped the breaker and, except for some emergency power, shut
down the entire ship. I spent a happy hour getting everything running again. I
heard later that the Chief Engineer "spoke" to him.
She was a DC (direct current) ship and so there was some difficulty when the
stewardess (we only had one) asked me to help a passenger whose shaver would
not work. By the time I got to his cabin there was smoke in the air. I
suggested to the stewardess that she should get him a razor that had a blade.
That kind works on any ship.
We were inspected one day in port by a superintendent who wanted to see one of the
life boats in the water. The mechanical engineers were busy in the engine room
so the Chief Engineer persuaded me to go into a lowered life boat to help him.
Fine, we pushed off to do a circle round the dock, except that half way round
the engine stopped and would not restart. It was very embarrassing. It must
have been funny to watch, so perhaps we passed the inspection.
We sometimes carried buses to Portugal. They were deck cargo and not locked so we
were able to enter them. I think I am one of the few people who can claim to
have ridden on a bus on the Bay of Biscay.
The above photograph by Tony Featherston shows a view into the engine room of the MV ZEALAND
We also, on at least two occasions, carried dogs. The Third Mate and I took them
for walks round the decks for exercise. Even in fairly rough weather they
seemed quite happy and surefooted perhaps because they each had four sea
legs. Come to think of it, there cannot
be many people who have both taken a ride on a bus and walked a dog on the Bay
It was a dark and stormy night when the steering gear broke. In fact it was
daytime and calm, but let's be dramatic. I was involved because the problem
might have been electrical, but it turned out to be a broken coupling. The
steering gear could still be operated manually by ropes connected to winches on
the deck, so we were able to limp along until the problem was fixed. No doubt
other shipping was warned to keep out of our way.
The Zealand had a swimming pool. Well, OK! It was a canvas sheet attached to a
wooden frame. It could only be used in port and was only large enough to hold
five people so laps were about four strokes, but it was good on a hot day.
I well remember the day of the big flood. A pump for waste water I was working on
would run but would not pump water. The fourth engineer decided that a pipe
from the pump was clogged, so he disconnected it at a bend near its sea outlet
to clean it. Unfortunately we were rolling heavily at the time, which the
Zealand did at every opportunity, and the outlet went under water. As a result
we took on more water than we had previously been pumping. He and two other men
struggled each time the outlet came up to refit the pipe before the flood came
in again. They were totally soaked. I told him afterwards that at least it was
sea water and not waste water, but he did not seem to appreciate it.
It was not always rough and I remember
going on deck at night under moonlight and seeing us sailing across a sea that
looked like glass.
Strange how such memories come back when
presented with a picture. Hard to imagine that over fifty years have gone by
since I sailed on her.
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.