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Shifting the cargo boats

On the cargo boats, at the week end, on completion of cargo work we used to swing from No 10 berth to the Boathouse berth, writes Capt Glynne Pritchard.

This necessitated pinning the stern on to a king pile whilst the ship was pulled around by a rope run across the dock. This pile suffered so much damage by heavy use, that the 'Bangor crowd' who maintained the piles named it the 'Golden Pile' for the amount of overtime it provided.

Often we had to shift to the other side of the Harbour, to No 3, 4 or 5 berths. 

On a quiet day we would perform the outlawed half swing, when the ship would be rotated through 180º and swung bow to seaward on the ropes.

It was important to ensure that the long 'box ropes' were used as check ropes. On occasion an ordinary mooring rope would be mistakenly used and the shifting crew  realising they were rapidly running out of rope would turn it up on the bits and the whole process would come to an undignified halt whilst the mooring boat was summoned to run another rope. Even more undignified was the rare occasion when the end of rope ran out before it was secured, which meant an anchor let go in a hurry!

Swinging the Cargo Ships at Dublin

At Dublin it was customary to swing off Alexander basin and back up to the berth on north wall. In a SE or East gale, the ship would not come round, so we used to proceed bow up and swing on the berth after breakfast. The mooring boat would be craned into the water and a wire run round to the bow moorings. On the Slieve Bawn, with her steam windlass, we would be half way round (usually in the driving rain) when we would reach 'stays position' and the ship would slowly and painfully pull round. I have known another ship to arrive in the Liffey at this point and we had to let the wind blow us back alongside again until she was clear.

The late Capt Len Evans related his experience of swinging in Dublin. "The cargo ships would do this at Dublin when strong Easterlies prevented us backing up the Liffey. When convenient we would then swing stern on the quay, and usually there was enough 'fresh' in the river to push her around, except for one occasion - at least in my experience.

"This was on 24 December 1962. Work was to stop at 1300, so everyone was looking forward to an early departure. Unfortunately it was a good Easterly Force 8, so the Slieve Bloom would not swing stern on the quay. I decided to proceed stern first down to Alexandra Basin, swing there and proceed out. It worked like a dream, much to the evident surprise and delight of all hands who were beginning to wonder if we'd be home for Christmas!"

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