21 Aug 2014

And Then–just One More….

Owing to another comment from Caratacus I was reminded of a further safety related item from a while ago and the further I travelled towards my memories event horizon the clearer it became until it was as clear as if it’d happened only fifty years ago.

I was a pup on mans boat at the time. A time when safety was up to you and only limited by your sense of adventure. However, if it was a particularly stupid act you were guaranteed a hefty whack round the head from the Chief Mate or the Bosun - and one of those, just one, was an unforgettable lesson.

The ship was alongside somewhere up the Great Lakes. As was the norm when alongside for more than a few hours, stages were rigged for painting over the side. These stages, as shocking as it may seem to todays pups, were just the equivalent of a scaffold board with horns, rigged on manila ropes. Then, with the cunning use of one hand to hold the two parts of rope tightly together and easing off the turns round the stage with the other hand, you could slowly lower yourself down the hull side.

       pg29             eyesplice

We didn’t use that cleaver lookin’ hook thingy – we used a length of manila rope with a whipped plain end and a thimble hand-spliced into the other, known as a lizard, as shown on the right. Yup, hand spliced. ‘But the splice could pull out!!’ I here you say, aghast. Well guess what? Not only did you rig your own staging - you spliced your own lizards. Trust me, they NEVER pulled out.

That’s the kit, here’s the scene.

Two seamen were  over the side painting replete with all the kit required for those days. Fall arrestors. Lifejackets. Watchman. Safety boat. Think plan. Permits. Completed hazard assessment…. Your kidding, right? They had scrapers, paint, paint rollers, smokes and a dozen beers hidden in a bucket of rags. Each.

They’d had a heavy run ashore the night before but all was going well. Then one of the two stage working guys coughed violently and fell off the stage into the water. We learned later that he coughed out his false teeth, scrambled about to catch them, failed so jumped in to try and save them….. No, really!

The other guy looked down and noticed his buddy wasn’t visible. He then bounced up to the surface and seemed to be in some distress so he slid down the trailing stage rope, burning his hands in the process, to lend some assistance.** {The ‘distress’, we learned later, was caused by an intake of water but mainly down to him not being able to locate his teeth thus facing the prospect of spending the remainder of a two year trip with no teeth.}

His buddy got him to the dock side where, with some Dockers assistance, he was dragged from the water and promptly passed out.

A Docker had witnessed this excitement from the quay and had called an ambulance into which, upon its arrival, our guy was loaded and, with the Third Mate riding along, off they went with the medics doing that chest pumping, arm lifting stuff.
”Looks like he took on a lot of water.” Observed the Third Mate as fluid poured from the guys mouth.
”We won’t know ‘till we get all the beer out of him.” Replied a somewhat puzzled medic.

About three hours later he was not only back on the ship but back on the staging. Sulking as he was, sadly, toothless. And his chest and arms hurt from the medics pummelling.

And that was that. No recriminations, no investigations, no meetings, no lessons learned. Life went on and the world continued its leisurely rotation.

Six years on mans boats and that was the one and only accident{?} I ever saw.

**Back in the day, very few folk wot went to sea, including me, could swim. Who wants to be alone and treading water in the middle of the Atlantic in winter? It’s summed up quite well in the second quote.

Quote;  Samuel Butler.

“The Ancient Mariner would not have taken so well if it had been called The Old Sailor.”

      James Clavell.

“If you're a sailor, best not know how to swim. Swimming only prolongs the inevitable — if the sea wants you and your time has come.”


The Filthy Engineer said...

Before the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster, health and safety was the onus of the individual. Everyone had to look out for themselves.

After the Herald disaster health and safety changed to a corporate affair. Consequently sailors were slowly but surely led to believe that they couldn't come to any harm.

Accidents multiplied due to no one looking out for themselves.

Caratacus said...

Did laugh at the beer line :-)

FE - my brother was working for a transport company at the time of the Zeebrugge trouble. He knew I was always on the lookout for SWB HGV units at the time and rang me up to say that he had a lorry he thought would be ideal for me. I had to keep it a bit quiet though because said vehicle had fallen of the back of a ferry ...

Mac said...

Sorry for the late response but I had a minor{?} plumbing problem.
Mr Filthy,
This is true and I believe kids today are firmly convinced that as long as the paperwork's all snuffed up they consider themselves bulletproof.

Mr Caratacus,
Nice one and, again, my memory is jogged. Way, way back in the day we were sitting in the galley when a guy, a great guy but, sadly, his train never quite got all the way out of the station, mentioned he was looking for a cheap video player. From along the table the rigs resident Dell Boy informed him he could get him a cheap one; but he should be aware that it had most likely fallen off the back of a lorry.
"No thanks." Came the reply to the offer. "I don't want anything that might be damaged by a fall."