Page 4 - "Cap" Cowley - A Salvage Tug Captain
ISSUE : Issue 54
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1990/6/1
call blast injection. And the beauty of these things--or reverse!--was, that when you were going ahead, and the captain wanted to go astern, first of all he had to ring, "Stop." And the engines would stop altogether. And then, "Come astern." And they had to re-start the engines again with a blast of compressed air. Very often it didn't work. So here's a ship going ahead, may be approaching a wharf or some? thing, and the poor old captain had her on "Full astern." Instead of that, she was still going ahead! We used to get into some awful predicaments. The old man used to turn gray. There were only three of those.... It ended up at any rate that after 2 1/2 years, after breaking down several times and having to be taken in tow across the Pacific, we took her up to Antwerp to be scrapped. And we were sent home passenger from Antwerp. (And was this going around the world, fol? lowing west?) No. No, not then. Wherever you could get cargoes--it didn't matter whether you were going east or west. It was just to find freight, to help pay for the ship. And freight was terrible to get, hard to get in those days. The Depression was setting over the whole world then. So, after 2 1/2 years I was entitled to come back and sit for my First Mate's ticket. And I went down to Cardiff, that Cardiff Technical College. I was very suc? cessful and passed the first time. Then I applied to this same company for a job. PEMBROKE CONSTRUCTION LIMITED GENERAL CONTRACTING Serving Cape Breton's Conuner'al & Industrial Needs For Over J[Q Years Re'stered Member of NEW HOME WARRANTYS • New Construction • Renovations • Additions • Roofing • Residential • Design & Build Commercially Free Estimates '' Do It Nomt! 849-5587 • 539-2530 And there was no chance of it at all--all their ships were getting laid up. I tried everjrwhere. Couldn't get a job. Couldn't get a ship. I got a bicycle and I rode around to all the different ports around England, looking to see if I would get a job. Nothing doing. Now, the Depression was so bad in England that there were thousands of ships tied up in the rivers, and it was actually impos? sible to get a job. Ships were sailing with every man before the mast had a Mas? ter's foreign-going ticket. It was desper? ate. So, I had saved up a little bit of money. And I thought, now, the best thing I can do is start some kind of a busi? ness.... But I didn't know anything about anything, except sea. So I got a penny and I flicked it up. I said, "Now, if it comes down heads, I'll start a fish-and-chips shop, and if it comes down tails, I'll start a cycle shop." It came down tails, and I started a cycle shop. Well, I really worked at that night and day. And did pretty good. I started out by renting a place, and I finally bought it. And then I opened another branch on the southern end of the city (Portsmouth). And I was doing pretty damn good. And then the war came along. They called for volunteers in early 1939, for the Merchant Service and the Navy and all that--people that had experience. So I volunteered. And then the war started a few months after that, in August. And the first thing I had was a letter to join a ship in Southampton. It was a large cargo ship. So, there was no way--I had too many people working for me. I had closed one place. And I still had 2 or 3 people working for me, and all this stock, and a business going, and accounts receivable, and all the rest of it. There was no way I could go, so I wrote and told them. And that ship sailed, and she got hit by a magnetic mine out in the English Channel. And she was lost with all hands, so I was very lucky. So anyway, I was doing my best now to try and close down the business. But, you know, it's a long procedure--you can't just shut up shop right away. So about two Year 'Round Christmas Shop Le ,Brignolet L ' FINE GIFTS A Maritime and Canadian Handcrafts and Souvenirs Folk Art and Country Gifts Quality Brass and Imported Gifts Kitchen and Bath Shop 15 PRINCE STREET SYDNEY BIP 5J4 539-7338
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