Offshore nostalgia

A thread for anything and everything Offshore, weather about boats, barges, rigs whatever.

I’ll start it off and hope we can have lots of lighthearted stories from way back when, or the present. No controversy, insults, politics or religion please:

Back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I used to attend moves on rigs belonging to an American company called Keydril Co.(long gone, sold to Santa Fe 1985)
They were way ahead of their time when it came to many things, incl. cleanliness in the living quarters and outside. If any leak or spill occurred, cleaning had priority over all other work. (incl. fixing the leak it appeared)

The only allowed entrance to the quarters were through the Change Rooms, where you had to change to light green inside coveralls and tennis shoes that was issued on arrival on board, even to guests.

Their rigs were painted parrot green, which was thought to be calming and make people feel at home on the farm. (Even the leg rack grease was specially made to match)

Although Keydril was a subsidiary of Gulf Oil Co (also long gone) The big boss run it like his own fiefdom. He had some ideas that was not so good, like putting sound proofing covers over the generator engines, causing difficulties for maintenance crew.
He also did not like spending money on having lifeboats installed. (until forced to)

Two of the rigs working in West Africa had a novel design, which didn’t work out as planned:

They were designed to have very shallow draft (8’) to work in the “splash zone”, but the problem was that there were no towing or anchor handling boats that could operate in such shallow water. The two times I was involved with using them in shallow water we had to improvise. First time we set up on a standby location as close as we could and used an Otis Barge to run anchors in the shallow part, then warp the rig into location.
No supply boats could come alongside the rig,except for a short period on HW Spring We rigged up a barge with a mobile crane that was moored to a buoy in deeper water. That was used as platform to bring supplies from the supply boats to the rig, hauling it back and forward using anchor winches.

The second time a “basin” was dredged around the location, with a “canal” leading to it from deeper water. This allowed us to tow the rig into place with 3 OSVs, which could also be used to run supplies later.
Coming up the “canal” I was sitting on top of the dog house with a VHF the size of lunchbox.As we approached the “basin” I wanted to call the boats to slow down, only to find that the battery was flat. Attempting to contact the jacking control room was futile, since there were nobody on the drill floor I could get hold of to call on the phone.
With frantic waving of arms I eventually managed to get them to lower the legs as a brake, but not before one of the towing vessel had run aground.
From then on I always had somebody with a second VHF with me. (Later a spare battery in the pocket when the VHFs became smaller)

They were also intended to be able to drill the wells, set the jacket and deck and lay in-field pipelines:

They had a ringer crane to lift jackets and decks, or to lift off helidecks for access to the well heads below when doing work overs. (Actually used a few times)

They were also designed with a firing line along one side and a stinger at the stern to lay pipes, but only the Key Victoria ever had the equipment installed. It was used once, but before I got involved with those two. (Later removed)

PS> Those two rigs were popularly known as the “jolly green pancakes”.

One of his idea which I liked was to have an Owners Suite on each rig, just in case he should pay a visit. (Since he seldom did I occupied it when on board as Rig mover)


Back in the late 1970s in the North Sea it was common practice for ships tying up to oil rigs to head in bow forward with the Mate on the forecastle allowed the anchor chain to run out at a heart stopping rate, usually accompanied by sparks and flying rust. Then when the bow was almost touching the side of the rig it was hard astarboard with rudders and bowthrust, swinging the ship round so that the stern was presented to the crane, when the ropes would be lowered and the ship tied up. The anchor chain would then be tightened up, and hopefully everything would be secure. But I had noticed that no matter what, once the turn had been initiated the ship would drift away from the rig, and would then need to be driven astern to get back into position. I also felt that the technique had been developed back in the days before the bowthruster, and hence that an alternative technique might be possible. So I experimented with another approach which was to orient the stern towards the rig at the anchoring position, and to pay out the cable at a controlled rate, while going atern with both engines and steering using the bowthruster, and it worked.

So I was using this technique to tie up a Pentagone, which for those who don’t know was a design with five legs, one at the bow position, the “C Leg”, with a crane on either side between the “C Leg” and the “B Leg” and the “C Leg” and the “D Leg”. Steering with the bowthruster I was directing the starboard quarter towards the “D Leg”. The crane driver had the first rope hanging from the hook, and the guys on the deck were standing there waiting to receive it. So the next action in the process was to stop engines and then to blow two blasts on the whistle, which would tell the Mate to stop paying out the chain. We had by now done this many times. And if my judgement had been correct the movement astern would slow until the ship was a few feet from the leg, and the rope would be lowered and turned down on the bits, I would then cross the sticks and the stern would move in the direction of the other leg, and in a few minutes the ship would be tied up.

So on this occasion I pulled the controls back into the vertical which should have stopped the engines. But no, the ship was still churning astern, so I pulled the string to blow two blasts on the whistle, to stop the Mate paying out the anchor chain, but nothing. I put the engine controls to full ahead, still nothing, so I called the crane driver and told him not to put the rope down, and with that the ship cannoned into the rig and bounced off, leaving an indent in leg, the shape of the welds in the quarter. With that the engines started up and we drove off, and after some quite lengthy exchanges managed to tie up. I was called into the oil company boss’s office and he told me off, and that seemed to be that, but about ten years later the man who had been Second Engineer on the ship at the time, told me that in the engine room they had accidentally turned off the control air. No-one had had the courage to tell me, but they had felt bad when they saw me walking away down the quayside to get a bollocking.


I too served on Key Vic. (drilling for ZAGOC-Zaire Gulf Oil Co.) I was a former sandblaster/painter-turned-paint inspector who participated in a comprehensive refurbishment program for Keydril. Mr. Virgil Stone was very particular with the safety, functionality, and appearance of his drilling rigs. Mr. Stone, Mr. Ganglehoff and others implemented rigorous maintenance plans, including major corrosion prevention. (I later worked for International Paint, who furnished the protective coatings and the famous ‘parrot green’ topcoat.) I also worked on Key Largo (CABGOC-Cabinda Gulf Oil Co.) and Key Gibralter, stacked at Port Gentil. I am an old man now but I have great memories of the many characters I met on these rigs, especially the UK hands (Harry the welder, Barry the welder, AD Steve, Pumpman Scotty, Jock, who ran the hotel, Barge captains Phil and Tony, Chris from CoreLab. I have saved a variety of Keydril things as souvenirs (coveralls, gloves coffee mug etc.) with the logo. I would like to share stories or photos with any of the old Keydril hands. signed Corrosionman (nickname given to me by J. Kent, Keydril electrician from Hou.)

Then you probably have one of these mugs:

With the marking on the bottom blacked out, since they came from SA:

The method you described was used by us in the picture showing us discharging casing in the post “ pictures of ships etc.steaming into the rig we would let go the anchor on a radar range. Then turn and move stern first letting go chain as we came astern . When you judged the distance to be ok one short blast ( no walkie-talkies) . The two ABs then moved aft after securing forward so you had to be right.
If you had it correct with stretching the chain the stern ended up about 2 metres from the leg and the crane driver could lower the Samson rope on deck with plenty of slack so the two ABs could turn it up on the bitts. There were no capstans aft. The other line was secured the same way keeping weight on the cable. When the engines were stopped going astern she moved ahead until the weight came on the ropes.
Because the beach was 7 hours steaming from the field and we sailed at about 18:00 I as mate ended up doing the operation. We were 6 & 6 with 2 ABs, an AB cook and a AB wiper.

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