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Sea Tales & Poems Index


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What is a Seaman?  

Sent in by Tony Minards


  • Between the innocence of infancy and the recklessness of adultery comes that unique specimen of humanity known as a Seaman.

  • They can be found in Bars, in Arguments, in Bed, in Debt, in Passenger Accommodation and Intoxication.

  • They are Tall, Short, Fat, Thin, Dark, Fair but never normal.

  • Girls love them, Towns tolerate them, Shipping Companies support them and Calabooses all over the world provide them with overnight shelter.

  • They dislike Ship's Food, Chief Engineers, Writing Letters, Sailing on Saturdays, the Old Man's Inspection, Work and Dry Ships.

  • They like Receiving Mail, Pay off Day, Nude Pin Ups, Sympathy, Complaining and Beer.

  • A Seaman's secret ambition is to change places with the Owner for just one trip, to own a Brewery and to be loved by everyone in the World.

  • His interests are Women, Girls, Females and the Opposite Sex.

  • A Seaman is Sir Galahad in a Japanese Brothel, a Psychoanalyst with Readers Digest on the table, Don Quixote with a Discharge Book, and the Saviour of Mankind with his back teeth awash, Valentino with a Fiver in his pocket and Democracy personified in a Red Chinese prison cell.

  • No one else can cram into his back pocket a Seaman's Book, a photo of his Wife or Girlfriend, 3 Unanswered Letters, a Comb, crushed packet of Fags, a Train Ticket, what is left of his Payoff and the odd Cruzeiro, Escudo, Peseta, Dollar and Franc.

  • A Seaman is a Provider in War and a Parasite in Peace. No one is subjected to so much Abuse, Wrongly Accused, so often Misunderstood by so many.

  • He has the Patience of Job, the Honesty of a Fool and the heaven sent ability to laugh at himself. He has the Energy of a Tortoise, Brains of an Idiot, Yarns of an Old Seadog and the Slyness of a Fox.

  • When he returns home from a long voyage, no one else but a Seaman can create such an atmosphere of suspense and longing as he walks through the door with those magic words on his lips: "Hello Love, I'm Home!"

Ian Settle recalls the next line to this prose that never failed to follow;

  • "Hello Darling ...... When are you going back?"

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Why we call a ship 'she'

A ship is called 'she' because there's always a great deal of bustle around her;

There's usually a gang of men about;

She has a waist and stays;

It takes a lot of paint to keep her looking good;

It's not the initial expense that breaks you, it's the upkeep;

She can be all decked out;

It takes an experienced man to handle her correctly;

And without a man at the helm, she's absolutely uncontrollable;

She shows her topside, hides her bottom and when coming into port always heads for the buoys. 


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A Tribute to Forgotten Men -

The Men who Drive the Ships


A marvellous creation, her builder's pride and joy

The hope of all her owners as she swings upon the buoy

Her siren shrieks it's farewell note, and proudly on her way

The brand new liner moves ahead in grandeur down the bay.


The passengers in festive mood, 'mid laughter, jest and quip

With every keen delight, enjoy thee great ship's maiden trip

She's sure to break the record, she'll do 30 knots or more

Is the hope of all aboard her, as she leaves her native shore.


Upon the bridge, her Captain proud, like every skipper bold

Is bedecked in gorgeous raiment of navy blue and gold

All eyes are fixed upon him - it's going to his head

He stops to drop the pilot, then rings down "Full Ahead".


And down below the battle starts, for the trophy of the seas

by engineers, not clad in gold, but greasy dungarees

On deck the scene is blithe and fair, with ladies, song and wine

But hell is popping down below, beneath the plimsoll line.


The Chief lays out his orders to his officers below

and they obey his mandates as about their tasks they go

Steam pressure must not fluctuate, the bearings must not run hot

The revolutions must not drop, to make 30 knots.


At dinner the first night out, the Captain proudly boasts

"We'll surely break the record", the gallant ship he toasts

The task of breaking records greyed no hairs upon his head

His contribution ended when he rang down "Full Ahead".


Thru weary days and sleepless nights to consummate the dream

The engineers slave ceaselessly, 'til Ambrose Lights abeam

The record's been broken, average, "thirty one point four!"

The Captain wears a broad gold stripe - he's now the Commodore!


And yes - he claims the credit for what other men have done

He boasts thru press and radio the victory he's won

Neglecting even to mention as he swings his ballyhoo

The men of brain and brawn who pushed the great ship thru.


The moral of this poem is, quite conclusively

That glory seldom comes to those who win the victory

So keep this simple thought in mind, admiring record trips

The men behind the throttle are the men who drive the ships.


Author: Unknown


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The Pleasures of Cruising

Written by Graham Stephens

Graham writes;

I worked at the Sydney Hilton for three years (Shift Engieer) and I wrote this for the house magazine as an "amusing" article.

click to enlarge

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The Stephens Scale

Written by Graham Stephens

Graham writes;

I wrote it way back for the Hilton Hotel magazine, at the time I thought it amusing. Might raise a few smiles.

click to enlarge

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The 23rd Psalm (The Mariner's Version)

The Lord is my pilot, I shall not drift,

He lighteth me across the dark waters,

He keepeth my log.

He guideth me by the star of holiness for His Name’s sake.

Yea, though I sail ‘mid the thunders and tempests of life,

I shall dread no danger, for Thou are near me.

Thy love and Thy care, they shelter me.

Thou preparest a harbour for me in the homeland of eternity.

Thou anointest the waves with oil; my ship rideth calmly.

Surely, sunlight and starlight shall favour me on the voyage I take,

and I will rest in the port of my God forever.


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We've Always Done It That Way!

First of all this has nothing to do with the sea but as an engineer it's a priceless piece of amazing fact.


Does the statement, 'We've always done it that way' ring any bells?

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?

Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.

Why did the English build them like that?

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did 'they' use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing 

Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads?

Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads?

Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.. 

The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you maybe exactly right, because the Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.

Now the twist to the story

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains.

The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.


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A Ship's Captain

This very funny tale has been sent in by my old mate Mike Jack. This report from a ship's master is reproduced by kind permission of the anonymous author who appears to be gifted with remarkable "sang-froid";


It is with regret and haste that I write this letter to you, regret that such a small misunderstanding could lead to the following circumstances, and haste in order that you will get this report before you form your own pre-conceived opinions from reports in the world Press, for I am sure that they will tend to over-dramatise the affair.


We had Just picked up the pilot, and the apprentice had returned from changing the "G" flag for the "H" and, it being his first trip, was having difficulty in rolling the "G" flag up. I therefore proceeded to show him how. Coming to the last part, I told 'him to "let go". The lad, although willing, if not too bright, necessitating my having to repeat the order in a sharper tone. At this moment the Chief Officer appeared from the chart room, having been plotting the ships progress and thinking that it was the anchors that were being referred to, repeated the "let go" order to the third officer on the forecastle. The port anchor having been cleared away but not walked out, was promptly "let go". The effect of letting the anchor drop from the "pipe" while the ship was proceeding at full harbour speed proved too much for the windlass brake, and the entire length of the port cable was pulled out by the roots. I fear that the damage to the chain locker may be extensive. The braking effect of the port anchor naturally caused the ship to shear in that direction, right toward the swing bridge that spans a tributary to the river up which we were travelling. The swing bridge operator showed great presence of mind by opening the bridge. Unfortunately, he did not think to stop the vehicular traffic, the result being that the bridge partly opened and deposited a Volkswagen, two cyclists, and a cattle truck on the foredeck.


My ship's company are at present rounding up the contents of the latter, which from the noise I would say were pigs. In his efforts to stop the progress of the vessel, the Third Officer dropped the starboard anchor, too late to be of practical use, for it fell on the swing bridge operator's control cabin, after the port anchor was "let go" and the ship started to sheer, I gave a double ring full astern on the engine room telegraph and personally rang the engine room to order maximum astern revolutions where I was informed that the sea temperature was 53 degrees and asked it there was a film tonight, my reply would not add constructively to this report.


Up to now I have confined my report to the activities at the forward end of the ship. Down aft they were having their own problems. At the moment the port anchor was "let go", the Second Officer was supervising the making fast of the after tug and was lowering the ship's towing spring down on to the tug. The sudden braking effect on the port anchor caused the tug to "run in under" the stern of my vessel, just at the moment when the propeller was answering my double ring full astern. The prompt action of the Second Officer in securing the inboard end of the towing spring delayed the sinking of the tug by some minutes, thereby allowing it to be safely abandoned, it is strange, but at the very same moment of "letting go" the port anchor there was a power cut ashore. The fact that we were passing over a "cable area" at that time might suggest that we may have touched something on the river bed. It is perhaps lucky that the high-tension cables brought down by the foremast were not live, possibly being replaced by the underwater cable, but owing to the shore blackout, it is impossible to say where the pylon fell.


It never fails to amaze me, the actions and behaviours of foreigners during moments of minor crisis. The Pilot, for instance, is at this moment huddled in the corner of my day cabin, alternately crooning to himself and crying after having consumed a bottle of gin in a record time that is worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records.


The tug Captain, on the other hand reacted violently and had to forcibly be restrained by the Steward, who has him handcuffed in the ship's hospital, where he is telling me to do impossible things with my ship and my crew.


I enclose the name and addresses of the drivers and insurance companies of the vehicles on my foredeck, which the Third Officer collected after his somewhat hurried evacuation of the forecastle. These particulars will enable you to claim for the damage that they did to the railings of the No.1 hold, I am closing this preliminary report, for I am finding it difficult to concentrate with the sound of police sirens and their flashing lights. It is sad to think that had the Apprentice realized that there is no need to fly pilot flags after dark, none of this would have happened.


For weekly accountability report I will assign the following casualty numbers T/750101 to T/750199 Inclusive.


Yours truly,



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Diesel Engineer

Ten Commandments for the Diesel Engineer


1) Thou shalt keep thine Engine clean and in adjustment, that thy life in its company shall be long and the owner shall increase thy pay.


2) Know thine engine and all its parts and functions, else thou shall be in some unholy spot.


3) Be not wise in thine own conceit. Remember the makers instructions and keep them holy. Lest repairs be thine undoing.


4) Be not loose in thine jaw hinges, for no man knoweth all about diesels. The truly wise absorbeth much knowledge and exicuteth little he who doeth so shall gain repute among his fellows and favours among his superiors.


5) For all things in this life that thou desireth thou shalt pay plenty, and for wisdom of experience no less. Advice from the multitude costeth nothing and is usually worth just that.


6) In the books thou mayest read what to do and when, but only the voice of experience may tell thee why and how, else thy reading of what and when shall plague thee with smoke.


7) God maketh the earth to rotate endlessly without bearings or oil, but not thy Diesel.


8) Curse not thine engine when it turneth not, curse rather thine own stupidity.


9) Steam engines and gas engines may long turnover, though sloppy, a Diesel not so. With gauges and mikes be thou ever busy.


10) The eternal eye watcheth universal operations, but thou shalt not rely upon it as to thine Diesel. Thine own vigilance is the price thou payeth for the job.


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Engineer's Credo


We Are The Willing 

Led By The Unknowing 

Doing The Impossible 

For The Ungrateful 

And We Have Been Doing 

So Much 

With So Little 

For So Long 

That We Are Now Qualified 

To Do Anything 

With Nothing

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Engineer's Lament

by Ray Clarke


What is it like, a life at sea?

Talk to a seaman and not to me.

A dial a gauge, and nothing more,

Except perhaps an engine’s roar,

No sunset turning the ocean red,

Just to bed, to watch and to bed,

No deep and rolling ocean swells,

Just dirty stinking fuel oil smells,

No watching the bow set ocean to boil,

Just temperatures, pressures, vacuums and oil,

No thought of how neat and trim your craft,

Just count the turns and check the shaft,

No salt air to spark the blood,

Just a cigarette and a cup of mud,

If you must go to sea then lend me an ear,

Don’t let them make you an Engineer.


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Lonely for the Sea

Here's a few suggestions on what to do when you get lonely for the sea. Sent in by Geoff Kimber.


1. Sleep on the shelf in your closet. Replace the closet door with a curtain. Six hours after you go to sleep, have your spouse whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes, and mumble "Sorry, wrong rack".


2. Renovate your bathroom. Build a wall across the middle of your bathtub and move the showerhead down to chest level. When you take showers, make sure you shut off the water while soaping up.


3. Every time there's a thunderstorm, go sit in a wobbly rocking chair and rock as hard as you can until you're nauseated.


4. Put lube oil in your humidifier instead of water and set it to "High".


5. Don't watch TV except movies in the middle of the night. Also, have your family vote on which movie to watch, then show a different one.


6. Leave the lawnmower running in your living room six hours a day for proper noise level.


7. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.


8. Once a week blow compressed air up through your chimney, making sure the wind carries the soot across and onto your neighbour's house. Laugh at him when he curses you.


9. Buy a trash compactor and only use it once a week. Store up garbage in the other side of your bathtub.


10. Wake up every night at midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on stale bread, if anything. (Optional: Canned ravioli or cold soup).


11. Make up your family menu a week ahead of time without looking in your food cabinets or refrigerator.


12. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during (he night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and get dressed as fast as you can, then run out into your yard and break out the garden hose.


13. Once a month take every major appliance completely apart and then put them back together.


14. Use 18 scoops of coffee per pot and allow it to sit for 5 or 6 hours before drinking.


15. Invite at least 85 people you don't really like to come and visit for a couple of months.


16. Have a fluorescent lamp installed on the bottom of your coffee table and lie under it to read books.


17. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills on your front and back doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit your head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.


18. Lockwire the Lugnuts on your car.


19. When making cakes, prop up one side of the pan while it is baking. Then spread icing really thick on one side to level off the top.


20. Every so often, throw your cat into the swimming pool, shout "Man overboard, ship recovery!", run into the kitchen and sweep all the pots/pans/dishes off of the counter onto the floor, then yell at your spouse for not having the place "stowed for sea".


21. Put on the headphones from your stereo (don't plug them in). Go and stand in front of your stove. Say (to nobody in particular) "Stove manned and ready". Stand there for 3 or 4 hours. Say (once again to nobody in particular) "Stove secured". Roll up the headphone cord and put them away.


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P&O Shipboard Terms

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Courtesy of Mick Lemm and Mark Sawyer


This priceless document needs no introduction and is simply brilliant.


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What is an Engineer

Greg Sinclair found this stuck on his wine cabinet when he first joined Oriana.


click on photo to enlarge


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