I took this picture when I signed off outside Råå 2nd of October 1999
M/S Alstern was owned by Ahlmars but Ferm International Ship Management in Skärhamn had the management for the ship. While I was onboard Willhelmsen in Norway took over the management for Ahlmark's ships.
Saturday 24th of July 1999 and my friend picked me up outside Grethes Tourist Home in Göteborg in the morning. We took off to the domestic airport and my flight to Umeå.
A taxi from Umeå to Holmsund where M/S Alstern were loading paper and timber for Dublin, Ireland. Loading paper and timber isn't like loading oil. We use Stevedores and as it was weekend there was no loading operation. The Stevedores was home and they would start work Monday morning again.
As I had been up since early morning I was tired and I took the opportunity to have a power nap in the afternoon. When I woke up the BBQ party was in full swing and it didn't take long before we were drunk.
We had a good time drinking beer and eating BBQ. At this time of the year it is almost sunshine 24/7 in this part of Sweden and it was a beautiful evening.
We left Holmsund in the evening in a taxi bound for the night life in Umeå. And Umeå didn't had very much to offer us when it came to the night life.
Sunday 25th of July 1999 and I felt like I deserved to when I woke up in my cabin. I knew no one onboard when I joined the ship yesterday. But I learned to know the crew during the BBQ and the visit to Umeå yesterday. Well, today I knew no one and as I was afraid of having made a total tit out off myself yesterday I was in no hurry out of bed.
Believe me, Holmsund is a very depressing village so our visit to the Pizzeria in Holmsund during the afternoon didn't do much to alleviate my hangover. No people at all to see and it reminded me about a ghost town. In the evening we took a taxi to Umeå and we went to a Chinese restaurant. The only place that was open, but we really didn't expect very much from Umeå at a Sunday evening after the Saturday night experience. Well, I was not sad when we left Umeå behind.
Monday 26th of July 1999 and it was nice when we started to load. One weekend in Holmsund was enough to drive me up the walls so a little bit of arse kickin' would do us good.
We loaded paper rolls in our cargo holds. When we left Holmsund the holds were brimmed with paper rolls, except for the space required for 2 spreaders, 2 trucks we carried in the holds. We also had containers without the side walls. The placed the rolls in the containers and they were lowered down to the cargo hold where they were emptied by means of the trucks.
And when they were empty they were brought back ashore to be loaded again. We used our own ship cranes and spreaders to lift the containers.
Discharging was pretty much the same procedure, but then the Stevedores loaded the containers in the hold and they were lifted ashore where they were discharged in to sheds by means of shore trucks. The forward part of the forward cargo hold was used for timber.
While I was onboard M/S Alstern we spend the weekends in Dublin so we went ashore every time. Summer so it was quite OK. I don't know if we were just lucky this summer but we arrived to Dublin every time in the afternoon/ evening and that gave us time to spend the night (and all our money) in Dublin.
The Stevedores didn't start to work until the morning after. I was on the 12 - 4 watch so I could sleep until 12 o'clock, very good.
Then I brought Swedish chocolate on deck for the stevedores.
Dublin is a nice city and this was the first time for me in Dublin. It's always nice to see new places (if they are nice would say) "Tempel bar" is the area to be in when in Dublin if your looking for night life. We found a few good places, especially one place in a basement where they played Hip Hop to the wee hours.
It took us 1 day to discharge the paper. So during day time there was time to go to the city for some shopping and relaxing.
We had to walk for about 10 minutes to reach the gate. And if I remember it right the Seaman's Mission had a barrack or bus where they had news papers and books. We called a taxi from the gate and it took us 10 minutes to get in to the city centre.
I needed shoes and I went ashore with the Chief Engineer one afternoon.
We walked around the city center and I had a milk shake and we ended up on a pub before returning to the ship. I don't remember if I found any shoes. We left for Holmsund in the evening again.
Steaming North in the Irish Sea and then passing West of Scotland and we passing The Pentland Firth and from there across the North Sea towards Denmark.
Skagerack and Kattegat South through the Öresund and all the way up the Baltic Sea and half way up the Gulf of Bothnia. Back in Holmsund and
we were ready to load paper and timber again. About 2 days and one night in Holmsund, if it wasn't Saturday or Sunday and we were ready to leave for Dublin again.
The Pentland Firth
(Scottish Gaelic: An Caol Arcach, meaning the Orcadian Strait), which is actually more of a strait than a firth, separates the Orkney Islands from Caithness in the north of Scotland.
The Firth is well known for the strength of its tides, being among some of the fastest in the world, a speed of 16 knots (30 km/h) being reported close west of Pentland Skerries. The force of the tides gives rise to overfalls and tidal races which can occur at different stages of the tide.
As we did not have enough problem spending money in Dublin we dry docked in Gdansk. Plenty bars and disco to visit.
We cruised around Sopot like playboys and thus the stay at the ship yard became very expensive.
We did the following work docking and hull treatment, disassembly of the propeller and rudder, hydro blasting of coamings, seal renewal in the bow thruster. If I remember it right we spend 2 weeks in Gdansk. Most of the days we spend in dry dock and a few days alongside after the dry dock.
We also did service on our deck cranes. There was a specialist from Skåne onboard to do our deck cranes. But I don't know what he did, that's not my area of expertise. But it was a nice guy, of course, he was from Skåne.
There wasn't so very much for me to do so I spend the days painting our life boats. They were brought ashore so I spent most of the time away from the ship. Sanding and painting the boats while listening to Walkman.
They were busy in the engine room. There were plenty job to do so our Chief Engineer and 1st Engineer had no problem to find things to do.
Willhelmsen took over the management over Ahlmark Lines ships from Broström during the beginning of the 1999. Well, this is how I remember it. Well, anyway, there was an inspector from Willhelmsen during the stay at the ship yard. We also had a guy from Willhelmsen to check our ISM onboard. So we were busy implementing Willhelmsen's ISM code onboard.
We got a remark over the facts that we had no sign when the meals were served, impressing. Is this the kind of stuff they send people to do. Anyway, I refused to put up the times for our meals. I had other things to do. Amazing what people they are sending to the ships. We had a fire drill so Willhemsen's guy could see how it was working during emergencies.
I was in charge of the hospital and the oxyvac. Normal procedure is to bring the oxyvac to the injured person in need for oxygen. I told them to bring the injured person (Dummy) to our hospital. The Inspector told me to bring the oxyvac to the dummy at the winches on the poop deck.
- Should not use oxygen in the vicinity of oil and grease, I said
Yes, oxygen is very dangerous and there is a risk of spontaneous combustion with oil and grease. Of course, not dangerous with our winch grease and hydraulic oil, but there is a notice on the oxygen bottle.
- You have to think by yourself, the Inspector said.
- Yeah, what about the meal times outside the mess room? I asked.
Our Cook and Motorman signed off while in the dry dock. And they were at least to say drunk when they left the ship. And it didn't take long before our Agent called and told us that the off signers had not been allowed to board the airplane.
Well, our Chief Engineer and I took a taxi to the airport to investigate.
We discovered one guy sleeping on a bench and the other guy was sleeping on the floor outside SAS's office. As you understand the staff at SAS was not very happy.
- If they are not gone in 1 minute we're calling the Police!
We took the guys and we left for Gdansk to try to find them a hotel. These guys, well, for sure, giving the Swedish a good name. And they were not ashamed. They started to demand that our Agent should arrange for the hotel and new ticket. No, these guys were not to blame, it was the airline and Agent fault. I don't understand, if it would have happened to me I would just have disappeared to a hotel and I would have been very careful not to let anyone know. And if anyone would have asked me:
- Well, I decided to stay an extra night in Gdansk.
We dumped these 2 Swedish representatives at a hotel and our Chief Engineer and I returned to a ship yard. But it is strange, well, at least I can't understand. People like this are always coming back to the ship. Believe me, I have plenty experience from many ships. And it is always the same, they are coming back. And not only that, when they are coming back it is colourful hats, party blowers and cake.
And of course, the people complaining about these people turns out to be a pain in the behind. Or, God forbid, that you would say that having the meal times outside the mess room is a stupid idea.
- This guy shows lack of co-operation!
And the useless drunks think the meal times is the best thing ever.
- We are very lucky to have this guy around
When they finished with our propeller shaft and the bottom paint it was time to leave the dry dock. The sides of the hull and the completion of the cranes were done alongside a jetty.
Our Captain, I knew him from back from when I was on M/T United Polaris. He was a 2nd Officer onboard M/T United Polaris learning his way around a tanker ship. He had been a Captain in Johnson Line for many years before that, but when they get belly up he had to change to tankers.
Well, anyway, he was going to sign off when we're back in Sweden and this is his last trip. He was retiring and we needed to buy him a parting gift. And as I had been ashore buying plenty crystal and amber in the old city of Gdansk they asked if I wanted to go buy the gift for him.
- No problem!
I went down to the old city of Gdansk to look for the gift. I knew the city quite well after several evening walks during our stay at the ship yard.
And thanks to me changing from Ek-Star to Ek-River 11 years later I have a few pictures of the place to put on this page.
Yes, when I was back in Gdansk in the summer of 2010 the alley looked pretty much the same as back in 1999. I found a bottle with silver and amber. I bought crystal glasses and a crystal decanter. I had already bought two bottles with amber with matching glasses and ice bucket.
We had been ashore in Gdansk and Sopot and we have had a very good time. I remember one morning when one of the ABs woke me up. I was sleeping on the floor in the mess room, so I guess that someone had dropped a Mickey in my drink. I remember one night, we went ashore with the representative for Whillelmsen. We went for dinner and after the dinner we went to a disco.
It was nice to leave the shipyard for Umeå (Holmsund) and load for Dublin again. On the way to Dublin we stopped at Hudiksvall and loaded timber as deck cargo. I remember going ashore to buy a wrist watch in Hudiksvall.
And if I remember it right we got some service people onboard when we passed Helsingborg on our way to UK.
And as we had timber on deck for Hull we had to stop in Hull to discharge the timber before continuing to Dublin. Believe it or not but we had time to go ashore in Hull (we had an overnight stop) because they did not start the discharging until the day after. So we went ashore for a few beers but it was a boring place, at 10 or 11 o'clock everything was closed.
When I joined the ship we had a Polish riding squad onboard to repair the hydraulic pipes to the hatches on the cargo holds. And yes, there was a guy and he was so impressed by my whistle. He tried to do the whistle all the time.
When he was drunk we could hear him in his cabin trying to do my whistle. He woke up the whole ship, obviously failing to do the Aladdin's special whistle. He sounded more like a steam whistle.
We had an AB from Umeå and he was going to show us the town on my last visit. Yes, last loading for me, I will sign off when we're passing Helsingborg on our way to Dublin.
Well, we took a taxi to Umeå from Holmsund and this time around it was much better than when I joined the ship. Umeå is a city with plenty schools so it is quite empty during the summer holiday when the students are back home. But now the autumn semester was up and running and the city was full of students again.
I remember us being at a disco/ pub and I had two bottles of wine before returning to the ship in a taxi. Of course, I could feel that we have had a night on town when it was time to get out of bed. But back then I was very young so it was no problem.
Saturday 2nd of October 1999 and I signed off at Råå roads (Just South of Helsingborg). This was the last time for me in Ferm International Ship Management AB. They changed name to Broström Ship Management during the year of 2000 so no more United Tankers or Ferm.
Above Press release in PDF format here if you find the above too small to read!
I drove a rented car to Göteborg and I still remember this trip back home. I left Råå marina at 16:00 and I was at IKEA in Go:teborg 3 minutes past 5.
How do I remember this? IKEA closed at 5, DARN!
Well, I continued to Rosenhill and their apartment. I have rented their apartment for 2 days. I will take the train back to Helsingborg Sunday evening and my fire fighting course starts Monday morning. I left my bag in the apartment and I went to return the rented car. Our Chief Engineer had signed of before me so he was home. So I took a taxi to his place.
I don't remember, but I think his son had a house warming party so we went there and it was party all night long.
Monday 4th of October 1999 and I started the fire fighting course in Helsingborg. I had checked in at my hotel yesterday and I don't remember if it was a 3 or 5 days course. But when I was ready I left Sweden and I went back home to Bangkok.
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