Mersea Island Museum - Blackwater Ships

Arrived:11 December 1969
Departed:18 February 1970
Career:John Cullen was on board the AUCKLAND STAR at anchor off West Mersea during October/November 1969. He was a Junior Engineer with Blue Star Line, and was awaiting his first deep sea trip since finishing his apprenticeship. There were very few on board - two deck officers, four engineers and a limited number of crewmen. He remembers having a few good nights ashore at a pub near the Hard, and having trouble getting back to the ship due to "fog" rolling in.
Fraser Darrah was also on board AUCKLAND STAR when she was in the Blackwater. She was in the river for boiler repairs. The company wanted them done by the manufacturers boilermakers but this could not be done in London because it would have to be the highly unionised local ship repair company.
Some other quotes from Fraser:
"I remember going ashore with the boatman, a real character with one arm, on one occasion. It was a dense pea-soup which didn't seem to flurry him in the least. With vision down to 10 yards he set off at a merry pace, with no radar or other navigational aid, arriving without running into any of the moored yachts at the quay. I presume he must have done it by smell!
"Another time the Second Mate decided we should go on a "Jolly" ashore in the ship's lifeboat. We ended up in I think must have been the Victory Hotel, which was directly on the waterfront. After several enjoyable hours sampling their beer, we thought we had better return to the ship. Unfortunately the Second Mate had forgotten about the minor details of tides. The heavy ship's lifeboat was now high and dry, yards from the sea. Fortunately the landlady took pity on what had been profitable customers and found cushions and blankets for us to sleep overnight in the pub, or at least till the next high tide. It was fortunate the Second Mate was "Officer in Command" as it was not deemed necessary to have a Captain or Chief Mate on board while laid up, Otherwise we would certainly had a rollicking.
"We lived in perennial fear of pumping bilges after being warned by the office in no uncertain manner as to the consequences, with regards to the oyster beds. The bilge seperators of the day were pretty useless...
For many anecdotes about life at sea with Blue Star Line, see Fraser's website on
AUCKLAND STAR was broken up Gadani Beach 9 Jun 1978.
Arrival/departure dates are from Voyage Record Cards.
Tonnage:11,799 gross
Type:Refrigerated ship
Owner:Blue Star Line
LR/IMO Number:5030361

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