Life at the end of the road

November 13, 2012

From Gibraltar to Scapa Flow :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings, food, New hybrid ferry, South Shields — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:38 pm

Just a few lines before I immerse myself in signalling flags and collision regulations for the rest of the evening Smile


I awoke rather later than usual to find another one of those boring ‘Village sunrises’ Smile





After which it was off for my morning shower and ablutions, then making of packed lunch and walk to college.

Today it was back up to the main college on the ‘Westoe Campus’ for a go on the ‘bridge simulators’ there

The new Main Bridge Simulator

and I must say, ‘I was severely impressed’.

South Tyneside College’s reputation as a world-leading marine training centre is set to be further enhanced after the completion of a major £1.5m upgrade to its state-of-the-art simulation facilities.

At its core is a full-mission bridge projection system which includes Kongsberg K-Line type consoles, complemented by new full-mission engine room consoles, which include touch screen control and Kongsberg Big-View software.

There is also a new 8-bridge Kongsberg desktop bridge simulation suite, integrated to VTS, and a digital CCTV recording and playback system operating throughout which will allow staff to monitor the non-technical skills of students.

The development has been welcomed by Gary Hindmarch, Deputy Principal – Maritime & Higher Education, who said: “Demand for marine simulation training has continued apace and it is vital our facilities are the best anywhere in the world, they are class-leading.

They have four of these and the ‘Raasay Motormen’ and ‘Tugboat Scousers’ were lucky enough to get the newest and most expensive one to play with. Smile

Not this one but,



this one and our first task was to negotiate the Straights of Gibraltar with traffic coming from all directions Sad smile

Steering into the Mediterranean, or was it the Atlantic Smile I really can’t remember I was so engrossed in ‘plotting targets’ took us up until break time. After that it was my turn to take a Northlink ferry


into Scapa Flow


File:Scapa Flow.svg

in the Orkney’s. Something that I was really looking forward to, because I spent a couple of summers there in 1980 and 81 diving the scuttled German fleet there and have not been back since. Hardly surprising really because the last time I was there the police  formed a road block to stop us getting on the ferry Sad smile I still have the pictures Smile Oh the stupidity of youth, fortunately we’d ‘had word’ that this may happen and had ‘donated’ all our ‘contraband’ to a local museum on South Ronaldsay Smile 

Used as a major fleet anchorage during both world wars and the site of the scuttling of the Kaiser’s ‘High Seas Fleet’ in 1919 the place is littered with wrecks from both world wars. Much of the pride of the German navy was salvaged in the interwar years, initially by Earnest Cox of Cox and Danks and latterly by Metal Industries. Ironically much of the high quality armour plate and steel salved went into the fabrication of Hitler’s navy Sad smile Few people realize that the steel that goes into making armour plate and gun barrels can take years to forge. A gun barrel from a 13” gun could take up to two years to forge and only had a life expectancy of less than 100 rounds. Each projectile fired through it would remove part of the lining and every round fired would require a different calculation due to the frictional losses reduced by the previous round.

After the war limited salvage took place on the remaining cruisers and battleships Dresden, Koln, Karlsruhe and Konig, Kronprinz Wilhelm and Markgraph. In the main this was to recover high quality steel from the armour plate that had not been contaminated with strontium 90 . Ever since the first atomic explosion on earth all steel made has been contaminated with it  due to the vast amounts of air used in its manufacture. Certain medical and military equipment require high grade steel without contamination and Scapa flow is just about the only place on earth where it is still available. Sure there are other wrecks on the seabed with high quality steel but they were all sunk with terrific loss of life and are now ‘war graves’. The ‘High Seas Fleet’ was scuttled without loss of life, well apart from the odd accidental shooting Sad smile 

Sorry, I got really boring and ‘anorak’ like there but once upon a time it was a subject that fascinated me. Anyway, my excitement upon revisiting Scapa was soon tempered by the force 8 westerly and snow storm that someone had programmed into the  simulator Sad smile That and when ‘the Scousers’ surreptitiously disconnected the steering and started moving the bow with the azimuth thrusters  Smile

Sadly, or perhaps fortunately lunchtime arrived before we entered Stromness Smile 

After lunch it was back to the river and the ‘Maritime Safety Training Centre’ for lectures on lifeboat work which we’re doing tomorrow,




though not before this monster went by. Jumbo Javelin seemed to be carrying some huge hoppers up the river. I’m only guessing but thought that they’re probably to discharge Polish or Chinese coal to Newcastle Sad smile The world has gone mad Smile






This will be what we are doing tomorrow Smile


And this will be what I had for dinner, smoked Scottish salmon, boiled spuds and a fine salad Smile

Farmed salmon gets much stick in the Tory press, usually from t***ts with an interest in the exclusive salmon fishing but I’m a great supporter of it. OK, it may take more industrially fished sprats, sand eels or anchovies to make a ton of salmon than it would to just eat the fish that made the feed. However this industry is of vital importance to the west coast of Scotland and the plonkers that moan about it are just as happy to eat Danish bacon and battery chicken. Me, I spent years working on and in salmon cages both above and below the surface, it’s not perfect but it does provide nutritious tasty and affordable food to many that would not otherwise be able to afford it.



And Just before I go, here is hybrid number two, yard number 726, well underway at the sister ship to our very own ‘MV Hallaig’ Smile


  1. Trust a Scouser to scapa your flow of Trainning .

    Comment by Polite Scouser — November 13, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

    • Walter, life just wouldn’t be the same without ‘Scousers’ 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 13, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

  2. And a refresher on signal flags too! Long time since I learned these. I did sea survival training at South Tyneside College many years ago, Ship Firefighting at Rosyth – happy days!!

    Comment by Irena Krasinska-Lobban — November 13, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

    • Hi Irena, it’s a long while since I learned them too, way too long in fact 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 14, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

  3. That smoked salmon looks pretty good, to me. The Bridge simulator looks good too. Having recently been on the bridge of DFDS Ro-Ro Sealandia Seaways, I just wonder where is the sofa and coffee machine. Aye, and the tiny joystick that can manually control the vessel!? It was a fascinating experience.

    Comment by Iain — November 13, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

    • Hi Iain, gosh you were lucky to get on the bridge, I could have played on that simulator all day, it was so realistic that someone felt seasick 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 14, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

  4. Just been to Orkney for a holiday and to visit folk there. This time we didn’t have a snowstorm though we did have a pretty gale on the way home. Did a little diving on one of the Scapa wrecks in abt 1972, think it might have been the Karlsruhe but can’t lay hands on diving log books so it could have been any! Not to be forgotten experience though. Have also just reread The Bull and the whatever, all about the wrecks and blockships so your information didn’t fall on deaf ears here! Enjoy tomorrow…

    Comment by may cruickshank — November 13, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

    • Glad you enjoyed it May, yes it was probably the Karlsruhe or Koln as the cruisers are actually better and easier dives than the battleships. The Konig and KPW are just so big it’s impossible to see them all in one dive, specially the Konig as it’s upside down 😦 First time I dived the KPW I landed on the side of it and thought I was on the sea bed, it took me half the dive to find the gunwhale 😦 That will be the ‘wall’ above deck level around the ship for non nautical types 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 14, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

  5. The chat about Scapa Flow is not boring at all, Paul. Fascinating. Keep it coming mate!

    Comment by Lloyd — November 14, 2012 @ 12:04 am

    • Aye Lloyd, brought back a few happy memories to me too, the simulator was so good you could see all the old gun emplacements, look outs and concrete structures on the shore.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 14, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

  6. More on Scapa would be most welcome Paul, absolutely fascinated in both world wars and have been for some time now. Possibly due to finding out my Grandmother’s both lost their husbands in WW1.
    First time I have seen the Signalling Flags in full so again something new, keep up the great work and the information, it is fascinating what you have taught me over the small period of time we have known each other.
    All the best

    Comment by Thomson Caravans — November 14, 2012 @ 10:05 am

    • Well I think it will be fog signals and ‘rules of the road’ tonight Graham 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 14, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

      • Well into the last days and as we can see from todays blog it sounds like the longest ones are getting to you. It has not been a neasy time for you and having the added worry of the Fil to deal with is certainly a challenge. I have heard of the Hospice and the sterling work they do and I know from what I have heard that he is in great hands.
        I had a bit of a rough few days, As a sufferer of depression I have these worse times in the winter months due to SAD, my spirits where raised over the weekend when my dad phoned. He had a dizzy turn a week or so ago and I was, as usual, fearing that he was on the verge of another spell of unusual Blood pressure and all that could be the cause of it, thankfully he had the test results on Friday and all is well. Knowing my dad as I do he was probably doing more than he should at the time of the incident.
        He was also asking me how the reels are going and I was pleased to inform him that i have 48cd’s completed with just two to go, the difficult ones that he has edited in the past and as usual left me a bigger job of deciphering the content, date, and names of items on them. Whilst technically I will hopefully have them all on CD by Friday, I cannot say they will be finished by the time you are sitting enjoyed some well deserved family time on Raasey, still got the catalogue, labels and appendix to finish off which will probably take me another week, barring family kidnapping me to do other things.
        Saturday is one day I will be doing other things as the kids have decided we are all off to get a portrait done for Christmas to send to the brothers and cousins etc so I will have to be showered, beard trimmed and dressed in posh gear! The things we do for family!
        all the best with the final exams and I will certainly be praying that you have a safe tow home.
        Keep your chin up and all the very best
        Graham 😉

        Comment by Thomson Caravans — November 20, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

  7. If you were getting heckled yesterday at the simulator, which of the Scousers will be steering the lifeboat today? And will you all be wearing LIverpudlian life vests? Dey do do dat dough don’t dey dough?

    Comment by drgeo — November 14, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

  8. Interesting and new (to me) information about the recycling of the Kaiser’s fleet into Hitler’s. We used the steel to make the support frames of several generations of Gamma Cameras (I worked in Edinburgh). The cameras are cased in lead, but the bits inside the camera heads must have minimal radioactive contamination. Keep up the good work, I never realised how extensive the training was for you guys.

    Comment by Jim Hewlett — November 15, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

    • Hi Jim,

      We used the steel to make the support frames of several generations of Gamma Cameras (I worked in Edinburgh). The cameras are cased in lead, but the bits inside the camera heads must have minimal radioactive contamination.

      Many thanks for that bit of info, it kind of makes me feel a little more ‘connected’ in a tenuous kind of way 🙂 It’s one of those things that I’ve read about but was never 100% certain that it was true. Aye, the steel that went into the armour and gun barrels of these ships was something else. The gun barrels were actually hundreds of miles of wire fused around a central core and the toughest armour plate was buried underground for months to cool slowly, the whole process taking up to two years.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 15, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

  9. Fascinating bits and pieces of QI info as usual Paul, glad to see the story about the early wreck steel being useful salvage. I wa sflying over Scrabster recently and managed to grab airviews of a Northlink ferry,have to drop a pic copy via your email account ,was rather pleased with the result. if you ever wanderthru facebook do have a look at my page for Scotavia Images,adding lots of airviews.

    Comment by Gary Brindle — November 16, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

    • Cheers for that picture Gary, not sure but that looks like the ferry I was ‘driving’ 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 18, 2012 @ 10:21 am

  10. Paul,

    Be thankful that you only have to learn ONE meaning of signal flags. Royal Navy communication ratings have to learn, and pass a test, on three different meanings:- Interco (International Code – which I would use on the happy occasion of passing ‘Loch Striven’), NATO code and Emergency Code which also include numeral flags and not just pennants as you do. One that has always concerned me is being told “Hoist Emergency Golf” – by the time I would have done that the missile would probably have taken my ship out!!!!

    Comment by Den — November 23, 2012 @ 12:46 am

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