FITZGERALD Officer of the Deck Pleads Guilty At Court-Martial


#67

In one of the last big exercises before the Brits pulled out of Singapore in about 1964 we were sailing in formation fully darkened in the Indian Ocean. A merchant ship steamed into the formation of about 30 ships and in those days his radar was not operating due to the masters believing that it would get worn out.
A signal was sent out over UHF that on the order execute navigation lights were to be illuminated.
How I would have liked to be a fly on the wall on that bridge. It was about 02:00 in the morning. I reckon that after swallowing his cigarette and anointing himself with coffee he wasted no time in turning the radar on.


#68

And while the radar was warming up, throw his skivvies over the side to hide the evidence!!! LOL


#69

Especially the older generation of masters were afraid of getting the radar worn out but in their defense it must be said that the failure rate of the fully tuberized radars in those days was very high, very low MTBF. They needed an operational radar on certain occasions only like coast line detection, picking up a pilot, in shipping lanes with a lot of traffic like the British Channel, mainly at night and of course with fog.

I sailed with one captain who had put up a notice on the radar screen that said: “Before switching on the radar call/wake the captain”. Needless to say that the radar during night time was rarely switched on. On most ships the quickest way to get the captain to he bridge was by switching on the radar, he could hear the motor-generator starting up in his cabin. And then came the generation of young officers that kept the radar on all the time…

There is no kaopectate in sight of ships not respecting the Colregs and sailing with their navigation lights switched off. During crossings of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean the radars were only switched on for special circumstances.

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The scanners of the 60 kW 3 and 10 cm Ratheon radars on board the Shell tanker Ondina.

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Left the bridge navigation radar and right the plotting room radar with the interswitch box, visible also is the looking glass in the chart table of the holy time piece. Both 3 and 10 cm radars were fully interswitched meaning that they could be switched around while in operation. For instance both indicators on 3 cm or 10 cm, bridge on 3 and plotting room on 10 or v.v.


#70

A Nav warning was always issued for the area that we were exercising in which also mentioned firing exercises etc but these were often ignored.
I was with Texaco after leaving the Navy and we generally had much much better radars than everything except the big passenger liners. The first ARPA we had had to be programmed using punched paper tape.
I know of one company back then that thought radar unnecessary and they had sixty ships fitted with nothing else than a magnetic compass,DF and a echo sounder.
I joined one ship and it still had a sounding machine. For those that might not be familiar, this was a winch loaded with wire and a sinker. You loaded a glass vial into the sinker and let it rip. As soon as it touched the bottom you applied the brake and recovered it. The depth was read by placing the vial in a boxwood scale and observing where the chemical inside the vial had changed colour.
It was a bit untidy and the master told me to clean it up. The next master told me to get rid of it. The winch was all bronze and in Singapore it made a very tidy donation to My benevolent fund.


#71

Sounds like a happy ending. Could have been worse:

Convoy+No lights+Weather+radar+course plotting mistake.


#72

I had forgotten about this incident. I seem to recall studying the incident in my early training.
However hundreds of ships made their way across the Atlantic in convoy fully darkened during World War 2.
A glowing cigarette could be picked up by an alert lookout at up to 2 miles and U boats had very alert lookouts when running on the surface at night.
The exercise I refer to took place well away from normal shipping routes and the area was promulgated through Nav warnings.
Manoeuvring in formation without radar or lights is a perishable skill and I am unable to think how it could be simulated ashore in a simulator even though I have seen incredible advances in realistic displays.
If you are training to go in harms way some risk is inevitable.


#73

Sorry, makes sense to me since I’ve done it.
If your brain decides that big light is very close, it’s hard to overrule it.

Also had a similar event in a chsnnel approaching a bridge. As i peer under the bridge into rhe shadows, by brain told it it wss a wall.
I knew rust was impossible, it’s a well used channel, but the more I looked, the more convinced I became to a point of full reverse.