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When the press came out to visit they would often charter the local Felixstowe harbour tug “Ocean Cock”. She was a proud old ship and the engineer would take me down into the engine room where I would stand in awe watching the old engineer throw buckets of oil over the great wheezing and puffing pistons that pounded up and down powering the ancient ship through the water.
He explained to me that she was originally coal fired but had been converted to heavy oil to make life easier for the stoker. He showed me the thick black goo that fired the boilers.
I can understand why men and boys are fascinated by steam engines, they have such raw power. The skipper on the bridge would throw the brass telegraph lever with a jangling of bells and down in the bowels of the engine room the engineer would obey the command. These were backed up with whistle and voice commands shouted down the voice pipe from the open bridge.
The picture shows Princess Joan been lifted from the tugs deck onto Sealand in the stores crate. The hand winch was very slow, it often went wrong and was only held on by two rusty and loose bolts (because we didn’t have a drill to make more holes where it was bolted on to the frame of the 3.7″ Gun). On top of that, the person cranking it had to take shouted commands from someone peering over the side because he couldn’t see what was going on below. Not easy on a rough day when the hook got caught up in the ship rigging! Looking back it was bloody dangerous!