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October 09, 2008

Shoes and ships and sealing wax ....

Going through some old photos I found a whole lot of the tugs I grew up knowing in the small city of East London in South Africa. The harbour is the only "river" port in the country, the only one that managed to survive commercially that is, there are two others but the tides and the river currents, the sea and the weather made them non-viable. As this is an exposed coast, the harbour tugs were large and capable of ocean salvage as well as harbour duty. The last class of these monsters built were all coal fired and built in Scotland, then steamed out to South Africa. The first of this class was built in 1935 and the last in 1952. They had a displacement tonnage of 680 - 720 gross tons and carried 50 tons of coal in their bunkers, buring this a rate of roughly three tons an hour when under full power, all of it shovelled into the four Admiralty pattern boilers by a stoker gang of eight men. Those fed steam to a pair of huge triple expansion engines each developing 35,000 horsepower. There wasn't much they could handle on their own, including the two giant "Queens" on their occassional visits.

Schermbrucker 1.JPG
The F W Schermbrucker had a very interesting career which included being sunk rather spectacularly. Raised and repaired, she steamed on in service for another twenty years.

Sister ship of the Schermbrucker, the R B Waterson was one of the later batch, as evidenced by the 'squared' profile of her funnel.

Happy days and good memories, though, as a young dinghy sailor in these harbours you had to keep an eye open for one of these brutes as you rounded a quay of jetty, since, being steam, they didn't make a lot of noise under way - unless they wanted to get your attention. Their "Whoop, whooooop, whoooop, whoooooop, whooooooooop!" on the steam horn could be heard four miles away - and you couldn't miss it if he was coming at you from a couple of hundred feet away!

Posted by The Gray Monk at October 9, 2008 11:17 AM

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