Saturday, 21 December 2013

Addendum to Chapter 24

Well done Harry Gibbon, who directed me to the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894. I have extracted the relevant bits from what is a huge tome....

Deductions for ascertaining tonnage.
In measuring or re-measuring a ship for the purpose of ascertaining her register tonnage, the following deductions shall be made from the space included in the measurement of the tonnage, namely:—
(i) any space used exclusively for the accommodation of the master; and any space occupied by seamen or apprentices and appropriated to their use, which is certified under the regulations scheduled to this Act with regard thereto.
(ii) any space used exclusively for the working of the helm, the capstan, and the anchor gear, or for keeping the chart, signals, and other instruments of navigation, and boatswains stores;

There must be permanently marked in or over every such space a notice stating the purpose to which it is to be applied, and that whilst so applied it is to be deducted from the tonnage of the ship:

The 66/60 therefore refers to the allowed deduction, not the actual.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


Now come on all you naval types, solve a couple of puzzles for this landlubber.
1.      We found in the Bosun’s Store (identified on the blueprints) the caption “Certified boatswains storeis 66/60 tons’.   Ignoring the odd ‘storeis’, which might be something else because that area is rather corroded, the ‘66/60 tons’ is puzzling. It cannot refer to weight surely? That is a lot of stores!  The maritime translation is, I gather, one ton equals 100 cu ft. But this would mean the Bosun had some 6,600 cu ft of space down there at the stern, which is half the total space!  From the blueprints the floor area is about 20 sq ft and the height is about 7.5 ft – some 150 cu ft. This is outlined in the photo. So, what is the answer?

2.      Printed on the floor/deck on the lower deck is the legend “BEAM END 11  (if I read it correctly). This is in the middle area of the ship, (Photo)  but I thought ‘beam end’ referred to the outside shell of the ship – hence the term ‘on your beam end’.  Any ideas?

And to end with good news, the second picture window in the new kitchen is now installed. (Photo)  It does need painting. This definitely improves the temperature in there. The plastering and finishing can soon commence – probably in the New Year – and those 250 tiles can go down.

Saturday, 14 December 2013


Hoping to save myself a December crossing to Belfast, I asked a friend over there if he would be prepared to do some preliminary research at the Public Records Office (Northern Ireland) – known for short as PRONI. Within a very few days he visited PRONI, but unfortunately chose the week they were in update mode and had only a skeleton staff working! However he did elicit some information about Lady Dixon and, following up these leads, I now know that PRONI does indeed have some Lady D records. The first group are the Master’s Log Books from 1943 to 1956. Each volume covers 3 or 4 years and contains 455 pages!  As an example:-
 Log Book of the Pilot Masters A. P. Kennedy and J. Owens, Deputy Pilot Master D. Hunt, on duty in the Lt. V. Lady Dixon, with folio entries under the headings of Date, Name of Pilots, Vessels Boarded, Tons, Time, Weather and Remarks and Watches (ie names of men on duty on each watch).

The second group are records of wireless traffic between the Harbour Office and Lady D from 1947 to 1957. There are 80 pages. This is titled as follows:-
Wireless Messages Sent and Received Between the Pilot Light Vessel Lady Dixon and the Harbour Office. Record of messages under headings of  Date, Time, No., From, To, Message and Charge. Messages usually queries as regards time of arrival, weather conditions, docking instructions.

Now I cannot see myself copying three log book volumes of 455 pages each, nor 80 pages of wireless traffic. However, I think a few pages of each, bound in a posh cover, would be nice to have. Simon has also suggested we (i.e. I) should go through the log books and make a list of every man who served aboard from 1943 to 1956. My friend in NI has offered to accommodate me if I want to do any research over there, but I don’t think he realises how long Simon’s idea would take!

Meanwhile, back to mundane matters. The whole deck is now sealed with a combination of bitumen and rust proofing. The small area of teak decking at the bow, which we hoped to preserve, was too far gone and had to be removed.

This of course exposed bolt holes etc and these needed filling before the primer went on.

The primer, applied with a dustpan and brush type of brush, needed a dry deck and some parts were obstinately damp. They had to be dried with a blow-torch (it is not the time of year to be waiting for a run of fine days!) and this took some time.   

The deck is now ready for the full process I described in Chapter 11 and meanwhile it is at least rain proof.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


Continuing my research into things historical, I have been looking at the rudder – or the remains thereof. Before I received the blueprints from the National Archives, I thought that the rudder may have been operated by a cranked lever which stayed outboard and followed the ship contours at the stern. That boat platform kicks that theory into touch I think. Although the elevation blueprint has no detail to offer, it does show a vertical beam, part of the rudder, which comes straight up through the deck. 

The plan blueprint just has a circle in the deck, but it is in just the right place, so I assume it is the same beam. 

Simon recalls that, when the stern was (re)plated, a large tube projected from below and had to be ‘flattened’.  He reports that, behind the large metal clad stern post on the lower deck, there is a large tube which corresponds to what was above. So I believe the arrangement was as in the diagram below.

The metal tube (in black) is now sealed at the bottom with a plug/plate (in yellow) and there is no trace of the rudder. I assume the plug is there because the tube leaked. Looking under the stern is not easy (must try out the dinghy) but I can see some sort of plate just where I would expect to find a hole for that beam.

Looking at the stern area on the lower deck, there is a very large beam and I assume this is the stern post. It looks noticeably wider than the post outside, but that may be due to a difference in perspective.  There is a large metal plate covering the beam, but I am not about to remove it to see what is behind – it might be the Medway!  This area on the blueprints is designated ‘Bosun’s Store’ and written on the stern post is the legend “Certified boatswains storeis 66/60 tons’. Not sure what ‘storeis’ is meant to mean!

Now going midships, I had thought that a rubberised ‘bucket’ on the roof of the cabin was just part of the ship’s equipment.
 However, a request to Simon to investigate resulted in a photograph of the entrance (exit?) hole for the missing main mast.

The bucket may well be there to compensate for some poor roof sealing, but I have not yet worked out what that little mushroom thing is/was for. As this is just above the kitchen and bathroom areas, it may be/might have been a vent for either.

Monday, 2 December 2013


Simon’s poor luck with his tradesmen continues. He thought he was having the odd bit of good fortune. Searching for some slate tiles for his new kitchen floor, he found 475 going for free in London. In addition, he was anxious to get rid of several large and very heavy sheets of rusty iron (old bulkheads?), which he could not manage on his own. A London scrap merchant agreed to come to Hoo and remove the sheets as a quid pro quo for collecting the tiles and bringing them to the ship. A good deal all round – but they didn’t turn up, so Simon had to go and get the tiles!  On the other hand, Simon needs only 250 of those tiles and has still got the scrap for sale, so may well end up in profit!

Continuing my examination of the blueprints, I was interested to see that on the plan view of the galley the cooker is labelled ‘Aga’, while on the elevation it is labelled ‘Agha’. 

Accepting the first as the correct one, I contacted Aga and sent them a photo of the cooker, in the faint hope that they may still have some record of their 1940s products. They were extremely helpful and identified the cooker, not as an Aga, but as a Rayburn – a No3 Rayburn in fact.  Not only that, they actually sent me a photocopy of a user’s handbook for that model and indicated that some parts may still be obtainable!

 Well with his new kitchen he does not need any more cooking appliances, but the words ‘all the hot water you need’ are very welcome. Besides the traditional background heat, this could supply a few radiators below deck. Mind you, moving 1.5cwt (75Kg) of fuel along that 400ft of causeway once a week ………

Although we accept that restoration as a lightship is out of the question, we are both determined to preserve anything that remains of the old Cormorant / Lady Dixon. So the Aga/Agha stays and I have been looking at the mizzen mast with its two booms. 

The anchor points of the two booms are still there, fore and aft of the mast, but there are also a number of other anchor/securing eyes close by, the purposes of which are not apparent. I have inserted a fake mizzen mast at the point it obviously emerged.

Note also the temporary (nick) name plate hung there by a not-to-be-identified family member!

Thursday, 28 November 2013


Pursuing the Diaphone research, I joined the Gamewell Diaphone Forum. They seem mainly interested in the more modern train/truck horns, but I did get a helpful response from Jim of California – “I would guess from the drawing of the turret that the ship probably had a Type F or F 2T Diaphone. The vertical horn whose picture you found would have been omni-directional, hence the rotating turret might have been redundant (or perhaps for the lights)”. 
He does own one of these monsters, but in all the years he has been an enthusiast, he has never seen one for sale. So I don’t think we are going to be able to reinstate the capability!

Having guessed that the hole in the main mast was where the shaft of the light adjusting mechanism went through, it did not take Hercule Poirot to work out that there should be a corresponding hole on the opposite side. Simon investigated and not only found the hole in the mast, but also the hole in the bulkhead next to it. 

That hole goes right through the bulkhead, but the blueprints are not clear enough to determine whether the pulley operating the wires/ropes up to the light was in between the mast and the bulkhead, or on the outside of the bulkhead.

Nor can I determine exactly what the wires/ropes do up there at the light.

One other mystery to be solved – directly above where the main mechanism would have been are two pulley wheels set into the roof (sorry, deck). In that position they surely must have had something to do with the light mechanism?

Meanwhile the damn,  sorry damp weather is holding up progress. The main deck needs to be sealed and insulated, but is too wet most of the time. This causes condensation and damp below, so the spray-on insulation down there cannot be applied. Realistically I think that is it for the next few months until the warm weather returns, but Simon can get on with finishing the new kitchen and installing some efficient heating upstairs at least.