"First trip to Sea"

June 1910 ~ July 1911

Arvonian. I left home and signed on the S.S. Arvonian (1783 tons nett.) Golden Cross Line, Cardiff, as Mess-room Steward and sailed on the 6th of June 1910 for Pernambuco (Brazil) with Patent Fuel, then in ballast to Baltimore (U.S.A.) to load wheat for Rochforte, France, but misfortune befell us, as we lost three blades off the propeller, possibly through striking some floating wreckage. Our position was roughly seven hundred miles from Barbados which we reached in seven days due to the help of the current and North East Trades. There being no dry-dock large enough to accommodate us at Bridgetown we were anchored close inshore, and after ballast tanks were pumped out. The fore hold was then flooded, until the stern tube came above water. The spare propeller was hoisted out of No 3 hold and lowered into a barge, which was then taken aft. The broken propeller was then taken off, and the spare one shipped in it’s place. We resumed our voyage after being 5 days in Barbados. When clear of the West Indian Islands we passed through the aftermath of a hurricane, which caused us to roll very heavily. An ash bucket came off its hook when being lowered down the ventilator shute, and it fell down into the stokehold, struck Griff Hughes, a fireman from Llangwnadl, on the head, he died of his injuries next day, and was buried at sea. This voyage ended at Cardiff on the 25th of October 1910.  

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"Ships Articles"

We sailed again on the 1st of November 1910 with a cargo of coal, for the Booth Line to Para, (River Amazon) and we had very rough weather for the first ten days. On the 11th of November, the mess-room being next door to the galley, I was talking to the old cook, one John Jones of Chwilog when I noticed that one of the No 3 hatch-boards had ben removed, and the Carpenter was just standing there looking down into the hold, when a terrific explosion occurred. The old cook and I were thrown into the Galley, the three tarpaulins had been blown away, and the hatch-boards were all over the deck. All the crew then gathered around and hoses were being got ready to fight the blaze, when someone said that Apprentice R.O. Griffith (Bob) of Glanrafon, Nanhoron, was down the hold. As one of the crew was making an attempt to find his way to the hold ladder, Bob made his way out of the hold, all his clothing had been blown off with the exception of a small part of his blue jersey and his boots, and he was in a most terrible condition. I have never seen anything like it since. Our Carpenter, from Pwllheli, having received orders from the Mate to get timber from the tween-deck to make coal shutes ready for discharging, and contrary to orders had taken Bob off his other work, and having given him a candle and matches sent him down the hold. As the ventilation had been closed due to rough weather, there had been no surface ventilation to this coal cargo for some days, with the result that gas had accumulated, and when Bob struck the match an explosion was inevitable. There was no fire apart from that in the initial blast, and the hose soon made the surface dust free of gas. Bob passed away 36 hours later and was buried at sea. Bob had been in the same form as myself at Botwnnog School for one year, when he went to sea, and had made a ten-month voyage when I joined. This accident taught me a lesson that I shall never forget.

We eventually arrived at Para, and discharged our cargo, then we proceeded to Port Arthur, Texas, and made a landfall at dawn, this was the lighthouse of Sabine Pass, the entrance to the canal leading to Port Arthur, but as often happened on this ship, the Master was not sure this was the correct one so turned Eastward steaming at full speed until noon, then turning back and arriving at dusk at the place we had already made in the morning. Years afterwards, I decided that the cause of these strange happenings must have been due to inadequate charts and sailing directions, as previous to 1914 it was the usual custom for the Master to supply his own chronometers and charts and in ships of this kind. Having arrived at Port Arthur we loaded a full cargo of case oil, fro Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco and Santos. The bulk was kerosene but in No 1 hold we had about 400 tons of gasoline (petrol) We called at St Thomas a Danish coaling port at that time, and bunkered. One day on the passage, the Carpenter who was also the Lamp-trimmer, called on the Mate at 3-45pm, to trim his room lamp, and remarked that he should have a good light that night, when the Mate asked him why? He replied “He had filled his empty paraffin tank in the lamp-room from the cases in No 1 hatch”. The old Mate came out of his bunk in double quick time, and soon found that every cabin lamp and every steaming lamp (Navigation Light) had indeed been filled with Petrol. This man was indeed a menace.

We discharged at Pernambuco and Bahia and on a Saturday morning at Rio, we completed discharging the gasoline into two barges, manned by a couple of Greeks. They were moored about half a mile away. On Sunday morning we noticed that these people had small fires lit on the stern of the barges, and very soon afterwards both barges blew up.

From Santos we went in ballast to Baltimore, and loaded a full cargo of Reapers and Binders for McCormick and discharged them at the Black Sea port of Novorosisk, where we loaded a grain cargo for Dunkirk and then on to Swansea, and paid off on July 18th 1911.  

My second trip

July 1911 ~ January 1913

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