REMINISCENCES | Ship’s ropes adventures in New Zealand

Otago. Photo:

A response to Michael Grey’s recent Reminiscence, Rope’s end – Ship lines over time

Thanks for your very interesting article on ship’s ropes. A yarn I told a bit back to my friend Frank Pickering might be worth repeating and so here we go.

“Way back” in the early ninety-seventies I was employed as Mate (occasionally Master) of the steam tug Otago based at Dunedin. I remember the first generation container ship Columbus New Zealand and the night she sailed from Port Chalmers. We were the only tug at the port and were ordered to make fast forrard using two of  the ship’s polyprop ropes that would be passed to us, one from each bow.

It was a dirty old night and the ship’s mate passed the ropes in an uneven fashion so that when we came to take the weight an uneven strain was applied to them. On clearing her berth, the vessel had to be swung through practically a full circle so that she faced down channel. In so doing, one of the polyprop ropes carries away and due to the great strain  that was being applied, about fifty fathoms of it sprang aboard the tug’s after deck, some damage being caused.

Our main towing ropes back then were eight-inch circ. hard lay manilas and they were subjected to fairly frequent breakages. From our newly acquired polyprop rope four fathom stretchers were spliced up and attached to the working ends of the manila ropes. Thereafter we hardly ever broke one.

Your ship must have been a fairly flash one to carry a bosun’s mate!

Submissions wanted! Do you have an exciting, amusing or downright dangerous anecdote from your time in the maritime world? Each week, we will feature new personal experiences from across the globe. Submissions to: [email protected].