You could have
been forgiven for wondering who or what the “Caister Nostra”
was, but everyone on board the ship was quite clear regarding
the current situation.
Mal was just
saying “ You go up Fullers hill and.......”, when the Chief ,
a Geordie, broke in. “ What do you mean hill!, hills in
Yarmouth?. It’s as flat as a pancake! I do wish you lot would
just shut the heck up about Yarmouth”!
Well there it
was. What else could you do but have a bit of a chat as the
ship hurtled up and down in the bad weather making it
impossible to do much else.
substantial proportion of this crew were indeed from Great
Yarmouth. The remaining few getting so fed up with the
constant references to the town, that they had dubbed them the
“ Caister Nostra”, so the name had stuck.
It was a
reference to that small but once famous seafaring village just
north of the town. “Caister men never turn back”, it’s said”.
On this trip,
way up north and a long way from home, there was little
prospect of that happening. In any event, all the crew knew
each other from way back. There were few secrets.
manager had just the previous couple of trips ago complained
about the time it had taken the ship to reach a platform well
north of “Sixty One”. The mate, looking long and hard, had
retorted that the wind had been blowing sixty knots all the
way, right on the bow. To which the Super, never having been
much at sea had said,” Oh come on that’s a full blown
hurricane, it couldn’t have been that bad!”
That was the way
The very next
trip “Cyanide Sid”, the cook, had been thrown across his
cabin, breaking his shoulder blade. This had been much to the
crews’ relief, for while it was possible to consider “Cyanide”
a member of the “Caister Nostra”, they had rejected him in
favour of “Two pan”, a cheery Scott who made the most
excellent breakfast. Everyone was pleased when the old cook
was taxied up to Casualty. The super of course had muttered
about the ship trying to go too fast!
That had been a
while back and winter still held its iron grip on the ship.
The idle talk
continued and the smoke room lived up to its name by slowly
losing much of its visibility to a dense haze of tobacco
Nobody had the
slightest intention of taking a peek outside and “Big Foot”
the second mate was only too welcome to his bridge watch.
Daylight would be gone soon enough and the lookouts would be
up there with the Mate with the thankless task of trying to
see anything in that blackest of things, a stormy winter’s
night in a high latitude.
turned away from Yarmouth and Bill said “ Do you remember
Hogmanay in Peterhead and the Cafe Rio ?” “Yer right”, Tom
retorted, “ You remember that crazy local bunch, dancing on
the table tops, I remember the wind coming around to the east
at two in the morning, having to let the ropes go and heading
up to Aberdour bay to drop anchor”.
unfolded this way onboard, an almost imperceptible wish to
avoid the current uncomfortable situation by not talking about
Anyone who knew
much about seafarers would understand that they were a homely
inward looking bunch. Not quite how the Mate described them,
but just as the Captain was, “The Old Man” so the Mate might,
by a brave man, be called” The Old Woman”. Such was his job
like a mother’s, always looking after the welfare of the ship
or its crew.
To an outsider
the whole shooting match would have seemed very bizarre!
Flying up and down as they were, like an express lift, while
acting as if they were just down at the local pub.
With the Caister
Nostra , that would have been the good old “Dolphin” . Either
that or the “Ferryboat Inn”
To the boys of
the northeast it might have been the “Jungle” (now pulled
down) or the “Steamboat”. The lads from the “Blue Toon” were
as like as not to be found in the “Palace”.
carried on. The old stories again being retold.
There had been
the business of how the Polar bear came to be in the little
museum above the Peterhead town library. Myth had it that
years ago “The Boys” had wanted to get one back alive so had
embarked from some distant lonely arctic spot on their
somewhat small fishing boat, having spent ages capturing the
elusive beast only to have the thing escape captivity just
short of Muckle Flugger! The skipper eventually managed (after
being chased around his own decks) to shoot it!
Then there had been the incredible story of the starling’s
wings. Seems like there had been, not too long ago, a trade in
Out on the Smiths Knoll lightship the Caister Nostra lads of
Trinity House had been able to pick up dead starlings that had
flown smack into the lightships dazzling glare. Their wings
were then collected and sold down to old Reg’s fishing tackle
emporium in Yarmouth. He sold them on to be used in the making
of fly fishing “flies”.
favourite had always been the Monkey story.
Not only was
there the world famous “Hartlepool Monkey” that got hung, now
it seems news had got through regarding a “Bodham Monkey”.
This despite the facts that these legends, which seemed
similar, went way back to the Napoleonic Wars!
Bodham of course
was up by the Blue Toon so I suppose the Scots needed
something to rival Hartlepool. Or maybe it was the other way
The ship roared
down yet another huge wave and again came to a shuddering
stop. Bill said “come on Big Foot” learn to drive! Followed
by a complaint that all his stuff had shot off his cabin desk
last night and now his radio was broken.
Brian who had
been sitting quietly at the mess room table said, in his soft
Suffolk lilt,” Funny that, nothing moved in my cabin “.
However his simple words were missed by Bill who carried on
about the absent second mate’s driving abilities as if there
was anything anyone could do about the sheer size of those
waves out there. He failed to realise that Brian was trying
to tell him something about the importance of lashing things
A ship is like
clockwork. Everything goes tick-tock ,so long as you remember
to wind it up. The next “tick” was teatime, which, depending
on your watch was from half past five to half past six.
present cook had already been busy. Tonight was pizza night,
one whacking great hand crafted job (very appropriate for the
likes of the Caister Nostra) enough for all and with a half an
hour to go he now had enough time to come through from the
galley and put in his penny’s worth towards the conversation.
Now John had no
nickname for very good reason. In his younger days he had
been a bit of a hard man and nobody was prepared to cross
him. So unlike most other seagoing cooks, John was just
John. Nowadays a quiet man with the likeable habit of talking
to himself whilst working in the galley. In a loud voice you
could hear him lambasting the Captain or the Chief, anyone on
board in fact. This would of course all related to current
events on board.
John was not
fussy and his words were always just loud enough for the
person concerned and everyone else to hear. Something, most
people would have kept to themselves. This, in the past, had
resulted in stifled laughter and embarrassed silences.
However nobody but nobody, including Captains had ever
challenged John as to his behaviour. He was after all the
finest cook in the company.
The Ship took
another enormous shuddering heave as yet another story got
The mate was
relating how back in L.O.F. deep-sea days he had been on an
old SD14 where the electrician and second officer had hatched
a plan for a “first tripper”, due to join at the next port.
An “electricity meter” had been installed under the daybed of
the cadet’s cabin, using an old control box and some electric
cables. Strict instructions had been given to the existing
senior cadet, who was in on the plan. He was not to mention
the meter directly, but was always to switch out the cabin
lights each time he left and occasionally “check” the meter
while the new lad was there. This duly happened and
eventually the boys’ curiosity got the better of him and he
asked what it was all about. It was then explained to him
that cadets got charged for their electricity and that he
could expect the bill at the end of the month. The following
couple of weeks saw the lowly paid cadet virtually living in
the dark and eventually the lad received the meter reading
from the radio operator who had also been drawn into the plan.
The amount used had cleverly been made up using company headed
paper and looked authentic. Of course the lad had asked who
worked out the bill and Sparks had quickly retorted that he
had to take it up to the Old Man to sort out,
In due course a
knock on the Captains door heralded the arrival of the cadet.
The Captain managed to hide his surprise being unaware of the
electrician’s scheme. He told the cadet to leave the account
for him to sort out. He would let him know in due course how
much he owed.
by this time had retired to the ships bar congratulating
themselves on the smooth running of the plan when first the
cadet came in, so the conversation had to change quickly. A
short time later the Captain came flying into the bar and
demanded angrily what the devil was going on, this bill
business was outrageous. He started ranting at the poor old
electrician, not letting him get a word in edgeways, he was
now regretting ever having thought up the idea. It was at
this point that the Captain finally announced to a shocked and
now silent group that the bill was indeed outrageous and that
he would be reducing it by half! The look of relief on the
cadet’s face changed to utter confusion as the whole bar went
from stunned silence to uproarious laughter. First at the
confused cadet, still not understanding there was no bill to
pay but also at a now very relieved and still shaky
electrician who realised far too late he had been well and
truly ”got” by the Captain.
The ship took
another enormous roll.
exclamation came from the galley, John had gone through to
check the huge pizza and now evidently something was very very
He burst back in
“All right you lot what’s happened to my pizza? Who’s got it?”
Mal looked at
Brian, Bill looked at Tom.
happened?” said the mate “what are you saying?”
checked the oven and there’s nothing there, absolutely
nothing” “You don’t believe me do you? Come on see for
yourself”. The mate strode through and John triumphantly
opened the oven door. “There you are, no pizza”
There was indeed
no pizza! The pizza had vanished!
The mate was
realising by this time he had a crisis on his hands. It was
also starting to dawn on him that everyone apart from the Old
Man, Big Foot and the Second, who were on watch, had just been
in the Smoke Room for the last hour, this accounted for the
So who was this
phantom pizza thief who operated on a winters eve in the
Northern North Sea?
jumped to their feet trying to placate the now very angry
cook. To get the wrong side of John was probably not such a
was starting to look a bit bleak when the cook who had gone
back into the galley came back half laughing, half sheepish.
“Come and have a look at this guys!” Everyone trooped through
and John proudly opened the oven door. The huge pizza was
back! Now suspended from the roof of the oven where it had
been hurled out of sight by the sheer force of the sea,
suspended by countless strands of melted cheese, it was very
slowly in the process, aided by gravity, of returning to it’s
baking tray and was once again visible.
lashed it down, “ said Brian quietly from the mess room table
but nobody was listening.
RETURN TO FEATURES INDEX CLICK HERE