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.
Dedicated to all the brave men and women who sailed the vessels from the Leith Shipyards.
As told by Tony Skilton
The Dear old 'John",
One of the most comfortable cement ships on the coast - the others all had a great propensity to roll, even in the dry dock.
The John was transferred from Wilson's Cement (which was owned by Golden Bay anyway), to the Wellington-based Golden Bay operation in August 1974, at which time she had carried 2,725,051 tonnes of cement, had steamed 299,212 nautical miles, and the running hours on the three main engines were 26,744/28,508/and 28,598 respectively.
By July 1984, operating from Tarakohe to Dunedin (Clyde Dam), Picton, Wellington, Wanganui, New Plymouth and Raglan, she had carried an additional 993,120 tonnes, steamed another 189,819 miles, and racked up another 19,700 (average) hours on each main engine.
I joined it as 4th engineer in 1975, and left it as C/E in 1982, to go back to the GB on the Aussie run.
The ship was cut up at the Auckland viaduct in 1985, after Golden Bay had proved her new propeller was functioning OK. The scrapping of the 'John' didn't start until the GB's new propeller had proven itself as reliable.
Here is a photo of the John Wilson being broken up at the Viaduct in Auckland in 1985 and I have many more taken as she was being broken up - and caught fire when the coating inside the chain locker went up as well!
Somehow, I managed to live in 5 different cabins on this old girl. 4/E, 3/E 2/E cabin when it was down below in the port fwd corner of the Poop Deck, then 2/E cabin after it was shifted up top on the Boat Deck, port side, aft of the C/E's cabin, then finally, in 1982, I popped across from the Golden Bay and had a short stint as C/E.
The JOHN WILSON tow's the new GOLDEN BAY
In August 1984, on the way from Brisbane back to Nelson a blade snapped off Golden Bay's cp propeller when it was put Astern to test the gear. As a result, the 'John Wilson' was filled up with cement and fuel and became the 'company tug', doing an excellent job of towing us from Nelson to Wellington. Golden Bay assisted the John Wilson in getting the tow up to 6 knots using the Pleuger 'active rudder' propeller, then, slowly, the 'John' managed to find another 2 knots from somewhere inside those ancient, struggling Bellis & Morcom generators. The tow wire came from the Mt Robert skifield chair lift out of Nelson, and at the forward end was connected to a bridle that passed completely around the John Wilson's accommodation block, while the aft end was shackled to Golden Bay's anchor chain, which was then let out about half way.
Being at sea without the main engines running was a bit strange - you could hear every noise in the hull - noises you normally wouldn't hear because of the engine and propeller noise.
After arrival in Wellington the crews of both ships were paid a healthy bonus for successfully completing an 'evolution out of the ordinary'.
The GOLDEN BAY being towed by the JOHN WILSON
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.