In the Summer of 1976 I was appointed Chief Engineer of the ‘City of Liverpool’, she was built circa 1970 at the Robb – Caledon yard at Dundee and was propelled by a Doxford 76J7 engine of 17500 bhp. Both the ‘Liverpool’ and her sister the ‘Hull’ had their faults, some major and some minor. Firstly the Bridge Control system on both vessels was totally unreliable and was never used during my tenure. I believe it was a GEC system but don’t quote me on that, after all it is some thirty six years since I last sailed on them and this is all from memory – the only thing I can verify are the dates from my ‘Discharge Book’ – oh they were the days lads !. The next item which caused a little frustration was the machinery monitoring system which was a Decca Isis, it just didn’t like the Persian Gulf in the Summer season, as soon as you stuck your nose through the straits of Hormuz spurious alarms would appear but fortunately it seemed to settle down when it became accustomed to the heat. From what I remember the fault lay in the transducer cabinets which were subjected to the heat of the engine room, they were fitted with small fans which just circulated hot air. However this wee story is about a very minor fault I came across on the ‘Liverpool’, which caused some annoyance and some laughter as it turned out.
We left the UK bound for the Persian Gulf and as we got into the warmer climate took advantage of the air conditioning – what a boon on that run. We also had the comfort of a well appointed Officers Lounge Bar, a very popular meeting place for pre dinner drinks as you can imagine. The lounge was also the starting point of my story as I soon found out, as it was very noticeable that the air flow from the AC vents was poor with a rise in temperature to match, which in turn led to mutterings of complaint. If it had been a normal pub I would have suspected the Publican of a ploy to increase beer sales but that was clearly not the case here. It was important to keep the lads happy, so I decided to investigate. The lounge was situated on the forward Starboard side of a cross alleyway and on the opposite after side of the alleyway were cabins occupied by the deck cadets. First we removed a deckhead panel in the alleyway to see the layout of the vent trunk and it was seen to lie thwartships for a few feet then turned aft into one of the cadet cabins. It also came to light that the occupant of that particular cabin had mentioned that it was always freezing in there when the AC was on and as hot as hell in the Winter when the heating was on – a major clue. Next we removed a panel from the deckhead within the cabin and it was noted that the trunk turned vertically down in the space between the steel bulkhead of the alleyway and the cabin bulkhead. It was at this point that arrangements were made for the cadet to move quarters for a while because the job was becoming a bit messy as well as exciting. The built in bunk bed was removed thence the bulkhead panel behind what was the bedhead and voila the fault was exposed. There was a section of the trunking of around eight inches long missing – that was the annoying bit and the laughter was due to the fact that someone had scrawled on the adjacent bulkhead ‘Oops I Boobed’. A swift repair was carried out with sheet metal, hose clips and sealant and everything made shipshape once more. The result was one happy cadet and a lot of happy shipmates in the bar and it was quite a talking point for a while deciding who to blame at Robb – Caledon of Dundee, was it the sheet metal worker or the joiner who must have seen the boob before fixing the bulkhead panel?. Whoever it was evidently had no pride or satisfaction in a job well done.
Finally, one thing that amazed me was the fact that nobody had bothered to sort it out on a ship that was then six years old!