THE CHAIN LOCKER
Picture
BEAUJOLAIS, formerly NEW YORK GETTY at the scrapyard in Brownsville, TX 2006 - click photo for Shipspotting site
I've been missing for a while, visiting my old friend John, a marine Engineer, on the West coast. Since I live on the East coast, we're a long way apart and don't get to see each other often. But I've known John for 40 years, and he's my oldest and best friend. Time, distance and changing seagoing careers haven't dimmed our friendship!

John and I went down the Mississippi together (click "Fit 1" "Fit 2" & "Fit 3" in the Categories listing to the right of this page). And before that, way back when we were young seamen starting at the bottom, we sailed together on Getty's oil tankers, then homeported in Delaware City, Delaware. 

We both started in the galley, under a Filipino Chief Steward named Ebon. Back in those days, seagoing jobs weren't so easy to come by; and Ebon could remember when they were even harder to get. He worked us pretty hard (though he wasn't a bad guy) and if we complained, he'd remind us of his own early days, when crowds of hungry men were waiting on the dock ready to take any job in case a man was fired. Twenty men for each job, he'd exclaim! In those days, he told us, you shut up and did your job if you wanted to keep it - we young men didn't know how lucky we were. While neither John nor I, in our youthful cockiness, could quite get on board with this notion, we respected Ebon and got with his program. He had high standards and believed in doing a good job.

Not that he was without his quirks. My duties included carefully cleaning all the food storage areas every month - dry storage, chill box & freezer. As any sailor knows, these are large areas, the chill box and freezer each being sizable rooms, and dry storage occupying half the ship's beam. Cleaning them meant taking out or moving each item so the shelving could be soogied. The many wood gratings from the chill box and freezer were taken out on deck, scrubbed, and allowed to dry in the sun before being put back. It was a lot of work. 

When it was done Ebon would inspect, and he wasn't shy about pointing out shortcomings. I learned to do it right the first time. After Ebon was satisfied with the galley, the Captain would also have a look - he inspected the entire ship every month - and Ebon would accompany him around, visibly nervous that the Captain would find something to complain about.

One month Captain Brigham, with a somewhat misplaced sense of humor, decided to poke fun at Ebon. Near the end of his inspection, at the foot of the ladder leading out of dry storage, he suddenly looked down and started stamping his foot as if he'd seen a cockroach. Ebon jumped about a mile, looking around for the roach, which didn't exist. The Captain thought this was funny as Hell and had a good laugh. Then he went chuckling about his business.

Not so, Ebon. The phantom roach had upset him. So he had me do the entire job over again - chill box, freezer, gratings and all! The Captain got a good muttered cussing from me that day.

The photo above is of a ship called BEAUJOLAIS, formerly NEW YORK GETTY - a sister to the DELAWARE GETTY, on which John and I first served under Ebon. The ship is gone now, her life played out - but the friendship between John and me has endured, and is better than ever. It will never be scrapped! In a world full of shifting realities, an old and firm friendship is a precious thing, and I'm very grateful for it. 

Have you been blessed with such a friendship in your travels? Look around - maybe a lifelong friend is joking with you right now. Nationality, culture, even religion needn't be a barrier to deep understanding and lasting friendship. If you have such a friend, you're lucky!

Can you tell us about a friendship that has survived the swirling currents of our profession? Please respond in the Comments section!

Kevin LaMarre
10/26/2014 06:06:17 am

Hello!
By chance while Searching for info about the S.S. New York Getty I came upon your blog. When did you sail aboard the New York and Delaware? The New York was my first ship upon graduating from Maine Maritime Academy in 1978 and I sailed as A.B. and then Third Mate. I went back and forth from the New York and the Delaware until Getty sold off its fleet in 1982? and then I sailed wherever I could land a billet. Quit the sea in '88 to start a family, but I'll never forget my time with Getty Fleet. The best group I ever sailed with. Favorite ship was the Delaware, only because I became steady on her and got to know everybody well. Like a sea-going family of sorts. Sad day when Getty liquidated its fleet. Just lucky and glad I had the opportunity to work there.
Regards,
Kevin

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10/26/2014 12:27:00 pm

Kevin,

I'll bet we knew some of the same people! I spent my last several years with Getty on the little Providence Getty, running refined products Northeast and up the Hudson. We visited Portland, ME a lot in winter with fuel oil. The Providence had good runs, a good steady crew, lots of shore liberty, and I offered a chance to move up so I stuck around even though she paid a little less. Bob Gentert was Captain, and Skip Bracy was Mate / Relief Captain during the time I was on board. Another great bridge guy was Charlie Lord. The Providence was sold down to Chile in '79 or '80 - I think it was the spring of 1980. I was her last bos'n.

After that I made a hitch or two on the Lousiana, notably the completely atypical 6-month winter trip to the Med that ended up taking us through the Suez Canal to ports in Africa, India and Singapore, and back again to Portugal. Then I got laid off for good.

At that point - sitting ashore and finding it hard to find a job afloat - I finally got it together to sit for my license. I'd just been having too much fun before that!

I started on the Delaware, though, back in 1971. Did you ever sail with John Pinard? I think he got up to Second or First Assistant Engineer before Getty sold completely out, and then followed the ships as Chief to Coastal Tankers / El Paso for many years. John was my best friend, then and now as well. Bill Lally was pumpman on those ships for many years, a great guy and a real character. His son Billy worked on those ships, as well. I don't know whether you might have known those guys?

I'm drawing a blank on many other names but, as you noted, those were good crews and generally happy ships.

Sailing is a lot different today. What with more work, fewer crewmembers, restrictive security regulations and port stays as short as 12 hours, shore liberty has become extremely limited these days. You don't sail to see the world anymore, but mostly just to do your job. You and I were lucky to have had a chance to sail back when it was a lot of fun!

God bless you, Kevin - hope it brought back good memories!

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Kevin LaMarre
10/27/2014 12:39:35 am

Hi Reid:
Thanks so much for your kind reply! Wow! did you bring back some memories with those names! I did make a relief trip on the Providence Getty ( or "PG" as it was nicknamed) in the Summer of 1979 or 80. It was about a month. Bob Gentert was Captain, Skip Bracy was Chief Mate and an older fellow named Arnie was Second. I remember relieving Arnie on my first watch at night and found him staring into the radar using a flashlight! He didn't see all that well, which made me wonder, until I read on his liscence that he had pilotage for nearly the whole East Coast! Nice fellow I recall. I didn't get to know many on the PG due to my short time there. We went to Albany twice and NJ. It was a cute little ship, and had a regular crew due to its rather fixed route. Getty was pretty good about keeping people on the same ship if it all worked out. After Starting on the New York, I got 'bounced' over to the Delaware when the first female third Mate was hired. Much better to look at then me! The Delaware had a rather bad reputation and I was reticent to go on until I met the crew and found out most of it was all made up...! It was a rather odd but friendly fraternity that worked very well considering the eccentricities that the ship itself had. Paul Hunter was Captain at the time with Charlie Lord, George White, and a couple of others as Chief Mates. George Totolos was relief captain if I remember right. Capt. Hunter was one of those captains that if he liked you, you were in, if not...you never made another trip on the Delaware...that became my steady ship for the rest of my Getty career until I made my last trip on the Wilmington Getty in the Winter of '82? when we went to the Phillippines and Hawaii. Never made any trips on the Louisianna, but heard good things about that ship. We heard about the trip you made and we all wished for such an exotic run! Hunter was an old 'sea dog', and demanded that every mate show up with, and know how to use a sextant. I had honed my skills while on the New York, and that got me permanently assigned to the Delaware! On one trip, my relief showed up without a sextant, and Hunter threw him off, and so I had to fly back from Maine to L.A. until a relief could be located...three weeks later! O.K. no more sea-stories!

Here are some names that you may be familiar with that I got to know well during my time at Getty:

New York Getty: Capt. Jens Brixen, Capt, "Happy Harvey" Helgerson, Bosun: Fritz Caarlsen, Bosun; Joe Kelley, AB. Jimmy "The Greek" Totolos", Stan Klecz, A.B. Harold Ross, Oiler, Charlie Lindsey
Delaware Getty: Bosun: Bob Hicks, pumpmen: Billy Lally jr. and Mark Sperber, Second Mate: Jeff Monroe, AB Paul Pridgen.
Wilmington Getty: Capt. Morris Matuson, Mate Ron Lindsey
Others who came and went between the ships: Andy Gonzalez, Tony Gonzalez, Andrew Judge, "Red Dog", "Spanish Joe".
There are others, but I can't recall them now. I kept a daily journal on every trip, and one day hope to write a book on my time at Getty.
I think were were among the last of the "tramp tanker' companies around at the time; ( including Sabine and a couple others).
John Pinard's name rings a bell, but I can't remember sailing with him. It's great that you have been able to maintain a friendship with an old ship mate for so long. I've done the same thing with Jeff Monroe. He's now an Anglican priest and has a parish in N.H.
After Getty, I took whatever job I could get, sailing relief trips for Texaco, Marine Transport, Polling Bros. and finally Coastal Carriers. Dealing with union crews was difficult for me after working for Getty as we didn't have the B.S. or mind games there. I found that dealing with the crews harder than doing the job at hand, which hastened my departure from the sea. I never adapted to the electronic Nav stuff well either, and still toted my sextant on every trip. I was very blessed in 1988 when I landed a perminant job working for a small ferry service that operates in Sebago Lake, Maine. I stayed there for 20 years going from the boats to running the public works department of the island-town. I was able to be home every night, and kept my hand into messing with the boats whenever I wanted to. Somehow I morphed from a deck-ape to an engineer over a period of years! Didn't get any better than that!

Funny how I can remember all this stuff from so long ago, but I couldn't tell you how to drive to Portland if my life depended on it! Gettin' old, I guess.

Well, I'll sign off for now, Reid. So nice to connect with an former Getty-man, and one who was able to make a life from going to sea. No mean accomplishment in itself given the many changes in the industry and the world at large.

God has blessed us both in our own ways and journeys. Hard to see it sometimes, but it get's easier when we let Him do the driving!
Blessings to you, as well!

Kevin

Reply
Tom Fydenkevez
9/9/2015 11:56:57 am

Sailed as a MMA cadet onboard the New York, C/E Joe Campbell taught this cadet what being an engineer was all about. Still remember lessons learned on the NY that summer and the most important lesson was to follow Charlie around the engine room. Boy I was a lucky guy

Reply
9/9/2015 04:03:38 pm

Dear Tom,

Those were good days, and good ships - I thought it would go on like that forever, but time have changed a lot and so has sailing! What are you doing these days? I'm involuntarily retired, after spending the last 10 years of my career in the office. I'd go back to sea on any of the Getty ships in a heartbeat, though, if I could find a time warp! God bless you.

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