Monday 11 September 2017 marked the start of a new season of meetings for the Gloucester Branch of the World Ship Society in a brand new venue: Community Space, Tesco Store, St Oswald Road, Gloucester GL1 2SG. All meetings will start at 1930 and attendees are requested to sign in at the Customer Services Desk. Everyone is welcome and the meeting programme is as follows:
Monday 13 November 2017
Rail and Shipping Entwined
Monday 11 December 2017
Photographic Competition and Christmas Buffet
Monday 8 January 2018
Gloucester Docks on TV
Monday 12 February 2018
Monday 12 March 2018
The Severn Bore
Monday 9 April 2018
1960s Steam and Diesel
Monday 14 May 2018
AGM followed by Ken Guest’s Norwegian Odyssey
On Monday 11 September our 2017/ 2018 season began at the new venue of The Community Space, Tesco store, St Oswald’s Road, with a traditional WSS Powerpoint presentation of slides taken by Greenock born Captain Edwin Gregson (1929-1987), master of the MV Tropic, on a summer 1976 voyage from Falmouth to the American Gulf Ports of New Orleans, Port Arthur, Galveston and Houston and thence via a transit of the Panama Canal to Australia, New Zealand and back via the Caribbean.
The 6 660 GRT MV Tropic (pictured above) had been built at Burntisland, Scotland, in 1965 as the Nova Scotia for Liverpool based Furness Withy Ltd but was renamed at Falmouth – just before the voyage in the presentation. Retaining the IMO registration 6501305, MV Tropic stayed under charter to Shaw Savill and Albion until 1978 when she became the Booker Valiant. A move to Saudi ownership in 1980 saw the name change again to Arab Dabbor and then, from 1986 to scrapping in 1998, to Arab Hind.
Edwin Gregson had previously served on Furness Withy’s Vickers-Armstrong built refrigerator cargo ship Pacific Reliance and the liners Ocean Monarch and Queen of Bermuda. Ocean Monarch, like its chilled out fleetmate, was built on Tyneside in 1951 but sank after a fire thirty years later. Queen of Bermuda meanwhile was a Vickers-Armstrong product of 1933 and became one of the “Millionaires ships”, cruising to Bermuda from New York. However, her lavish wood panelled interior may have contributed – on safety grounds – to her retirement in 1966, by which time she had been reduced from three funnels to one.
The outward voyage of the MV Tropic, using long range radio navigation (LORAN), coincided with the opening of the Olympic Games in Toronto and landfall was first made in the grain exporting centre of New Orleans. Further stops were made at Port Arthur ( home of Janis Joplin) to load oil products and also at Houston, sailing past Galveston’s Point Bolivar lighthouse to Houston where the Port Authority celebrated the MV Tropic’s first visit with a commemorative plaque.
Meanwhile, between Sydney and Melbourne, the MV Tropic’s lifeboat helped in the search for the missing crew of the five metre yacht Tiger Shark III which had been reported capsized in the area trying to cross the Bass Straits to Tasmania. Sadly, two bodies were later washed ashore. Captain Gregson then set a course for Brisbane where he collected a cargo of combine harvesters and took them, via New Zealand and Jamaica, to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The voyage ended at Bridgetown Barbados where Captain Gregson relinquished command, flew home and later became the Chairman of the Mid Essex branch of the World Ship Society.
Our very welcome guest on Monday 9 October 2017 was Deryck Pritchard, operational crew member and fundraiser for the Severn Area Rescue Association whose PowerPoint presentation included still and moving images of the boats, vehicles and equipment used to assist those in trouble on Great Britain’s longest river.
Formed in 1973, SARA has stations at Beachley, Sharpness, Tewkesbury and Wyre Forest, near Kidderminster and its volunteers are funded entirely by donations. SARA sub stations are also located at Newport, Gwent, and Gloucester and the Beachley station also covers the River Wye. Beachley, the original SARA station, located on the former Aust Ferry slipway, includes volunteer staff with mountain rescue skills – useful in the steep Wye Valley.
All main SARA stations have staff trained in swift water wading rescue techniques and each crew member brings a new set of skills to the operation, including medicine, marine engine repair and navigation. Among the various items of equipment used by SARA are inflatable mud sleds and mud lances – used to foam air or water under casualties being sucked into the many mudflats of the lower River Severn.
Current SARA boats can be either launched by trailer or crane and, like all SARA equipment, need to be thoroughly cleaned of salt water and mud before re use. Due to these hostile conditions, equipment needs to be regularly replaced with the distinctive white helmets and red lifejackets of each crew member alone costing £150 and £450 respectively. Most SARA boats are rigid inflatables (RIB) with either glass reinforced plastic or welded aluminium hulls although SARA 18 is made of solid polythene with air pockets – making it more durable as a flood rescue boat when working among urban street furniture. Also in the fleet is an ex Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue hovercraft, capable of 30 mph but prone to pitching and rolling in choppy water.
Boats can be towed on trailers to optimum launch positions by winch and snorkel fitted Land Rover and Ford Ranger 4x4s which are permitted to travel on roads with blue flashing lights and two tone sirens. Once in position, front tow hitches are used to push the boat trailers into the water, allowing the driver a better view of the operations. SARA 2, which took part in the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant in 2012, is launched by a cradle trailer pushed by a New Holland tractor – galvanised against rust and snorkel fitted. The Delta 6.5X RIB DAVE MOORE has twin 90 bhp outboard motors with post immersion restart features and a self righting airbag. It also has towing bollards and a casualty stretcher. More information can be found at http://www.sara-rescue.org.uk/