Ferry van Eeuwen
A rather old picture of the Sunetta, call sign PHUW and tonnage 12.248, sailing in the harbour of Sydney, Australia near the Sydney Harbour bridge. A position in which all Dutch ships who touched Sydney had been photographed. No radar mast to be seen yet. Later the ship had a British Thompson Houston (BTH) radar on board. The ship was built in 1935 as new build 186 by the
Sunetta Perexcavata Fulton,1915, 45 mm , W. Australia, Group of Venus clams, after which the ship in true Shell fashion was named. Use the shell's picture as a button and find more shells, including a number of Sunetta shells.
I received this picture of the radio station on board the Sunetta from Radio Officer Jaap Albers, who can be seen scribbling away. The equipment and the lay out is almost identical to that of the Ondina's radio station. Underneath the lamp is the reserve receiver HL7UC, a rather simple 'direct' receiver as it was called. To the right is the Marconi CR-300 main receiver. The SMZ-100 transmitter is to the right of Jaap, consisting out of a Medium Wave transmitter (410, 425, 454, 468, 480, 500 and 512 KHz) and the 100 Watt short wave transmitter. The call sign on the original photo can be read as: PHUW The position of the radio station on this ship was rather unusual, on the lower deck of the amidships, port side aft. The sleeping cabin was next to radio station. Radio stations usually were located as high as possible for safety reasons.
I sailed on this ship which was built before WW II from August 24, 1961 until April 26, 1962. This last date also was the end of the Sunetta's life at sea as it was sold for scrap. When I joined the ship, due to condition it was in, it had a certificate for coastal trade only. So we were ordered to shuttle back and forth between Shell's berths in Pernis near Rotterdam and Norway, Sweden and Finland, but mostly to Swedish ports all via the Kieler Canal. The canal is a shortcut route to the Baltic Sea, avoiding the longer trip around Denmark. I think we were in every Swedish port along the entire coast line, often just parcelling, meaning discharging a couple of hundred tons of kerosene at one port and then moving on to the next one. It was funny to note that we were quite often discharging at an Esso-plant. And we were thinking that it was the competition. But business is business I suppose. The Chinese crew were heavily involved in smuggling strong liquor, most whiskey to Sweden. They are naturals to that game, we never understood how and where they got the crates with whiskey on board. Later on it was found that the crates were lowered over the side at the harbour side of the ship into small rowing boats whose two men's crew understood the art of silent rowing very well. At the gangway on the shore side of the vessel there always was a custom officer paying close attention to any movement of material from and to the ship. The chief officer decided not to inform the captain and asked everybody to keep all eyes and mouths closed. Those poor bastards must be allowed a little extra money to help support the family back home was his philosophy. Beer, but especially hard liquor was extremely expensive in Sweden. Before going ashore it was customary for us to do some 'advance drinking' to reduce to costs ashore. I notice now that my son and his friends do the same thing now before going to the disco where prices for drinks are approaching Swedish levels. Sweden always was a rich and very nice country without having suffered the consequences of both World Wars as they managed to remain neutral, but it also was a very expensive country in every way. Especially beverages with an alcoholic content were so heavily taxed by the government that sales prices were rather extreme and therefore the smuggling of hard liquor such a whiskey was very profitable indeed. A funny thing was that if we ordered a beer in a bar ashore you had - by law - also to order something to eat with the beer. The cheapest thing was to order a sandwich, but as we usually already had eaten on board we left the sandwich on the counter. With a number of colleague's ordering a number of beers the bar was strewn pretty soon with uneaten sandwiches, but we were abiding the local law. Quite a sight all those sandwiches.
With my wife and friends visited as tourists Sweden two years ago. Still an expensive country and the spirits' situation had not changed much. The only changes were that they were driving on the right lanes of the road suddenly and that we could now order a beer without having to order a sandwich with it, so that's a very small step forward for the Swedes. Like in the old days wine and liquor are still sold exclusively in government shops. You have to identify yourself in the shop, so I suppose the government is also keeping tracks of everybody's drinking habits. Swedish people are fuming about this rather antique situation which they regard as kind of medieval Kindergarten mentality as they explained. But no changes in the present system are foreseen yet. Swedish and Norwegian people, when together, are always exchanging recipes how to produce the best - moon shine - liquor and I suppose that this is a natural development under the prevailing circumstances. But let's not wander off too far.
I must say that I and the other officers had a great time on board the ship. We had a fantastic lot of colleagues and the sailing back and forth was quite relaxing and all that between the turmoil of all the ports we were touching. But that became a kind of routine also. Playing word scrabble was the thing on board this ship then and playing for drinks of course. Normally on board other ships when entering the English Channel and thus nearing Rotterdam everybody grew restless. Some could not even sleep any more. We called it simply 'Channel Fever'. No Channel Fever on this ship as we were in Rotterdam almost every ten days. When leaving the Pernis berth and once on the Rotterdam New Waterway sailing towards the North Sea we immediately were in the scrabbling business again, where we had left off. During the winter in the end we could reach certain ports, one of which was Stockholm, because of the ice. The ships was not built for this climate, more for the tropics. It had a steam heating system but it was leaking in many places also in my sleeping cabin. It made everything quite damp and in the winter the water in the air immediately froze on the brass port hole just forty centimetres above my berth. When lying down and reaching out I could touch the big lump of ice on port hole. The Chinese servant removed it every now and then but it was growing hopelessly fast again. Due to the dampness all the nice copper handles of the drawers, the port hole etc. in the cabin became green in no time. Although the ship was expected to be taken out of service any moment the Chinese servants kept polishing all the brass as if there lives depended on it. Often a heating element's sealing broke and pure steam was leaking into the cabins. The ship's engineers were repairing the heating system all the time I remember. Steam pipes and contraptions attached to it such as heaters, always make unexpected explosive sounds. These sounds travel via the steam pipes all over the ship. Quite a concert. On tankers in general the anchor winches were steam powered. This was done for safety reasons, no heavy current electricity running over the entire length over the tanks. When nearing a port you could almost hear that as when the steam was fed to the winches a lot of such explosive sounds could be heard. It had to do with the sudden temperature changes in the steam pipe and inherent small but very powerful movement of steel against steel parts due to the expansion of steel. A steam pipe was never a straight pipe, at certain places along the pipe expansion curves were fitted to allow for the changes in the pipe's length, otherwise it would literally burst.
The captain on this ship was like the ship also unfit for full ocean duty since his had a heart operation just before. Therefore the Sunetta's trade suited him fine. Probably due to his conditions he was chewing raw garlic cloves all day as that seemed to be the healthy thing to do he had heard. No problem in itself but for the unbearable odour he used to spread around. It looked like he was oozing garlic from his whole body all the time. It was no picnic when the captain came on the bridge for his usual cup of coffee and some small talk. The chief officer, a shrewd character, sometimes made good use of this. For instance when a Swedish harbour or refinery official were behaving very 'officially' he used to invite them up to the captain's cabin to discuss the problem more in depth. The captains cabin was already deeply drenched in garlic vapours. The stuff seems to cling to all the furniture, drapes and even to the walls it seemed. When the relevant shore person had a high breaking point the chief asked the captain in Dutch to do some in- and exhaling exercises or just cough a lot which he did. And that ended the discussion pretty soon. So as can be seen from this all bad things have their good sides. On April 26, 1962 the fun was over. Instead of proceeding to our usual berth at Pernis we were ordered to moor on the buoys in the Vulkaan Harbour in Schiedam, the smaller city next to Rotterdam. Even during the mooring exercise the office boys came on board by means of a launch and immediately confiscated the ship's bell forward, the Sunetta shell in the nice little glass box in the mess room, paintings etc. And that was it. While I was still finishing my paper's in a hurry the radio station was demolished during that time. When I was done and looked into the radio room nothing was in it's place anymore. A very strange sight I must admit. On to the next ship which was the ms Bovenkerk as it turned out.
The ms Sunetta participated in search of disappearance of HMAS Sydney, torpedoed by a German raider with no survivors in WW-II. The ship sent an report about the incident dated 30 November 1941. For further particulars go to:
Another war episode in which the Sunetta participated is described in the address mentioned below. Just to wet your appetite a small text sample is offered here:
"The day following the sinking, the survivors were picked up by the Liberty ship Benjamin Boume and the Dutch tanker Sunetta. The survivors were interviewed for their official account of the sinking. During these interviews the crew claimed that the John Barry was carrying far more than just war supplies. There was an unmanifested cargo which even today remains a mystery. The purser, G.L. Richards from Missouri stated that the S.S. John Barry was carrying a special cargo of silver bullion with a 1944 value of $26,000,000, representing 1,200 tons of silver.
How exciting! For the entire story go to the following URL: http://www.bluewater.uk.com/folders/john_barry/