Jack Mainland: “What about leave? How long did you have to spend on a ship before you got leave?”
Bill Ballingall: “In these early days with BP Shipping, officers would join a ship during its annual drydocking in the UK, and sail with that ship until it returned to the UK for its next annual docking. If the ship returned to the UK earlier, leave would be given after 9 months on board, then subsequently reduced to 6 months, but it was not uncommon for an officer to be on a vessel for 12 months before getting leave. Pretty tough for the wee wifely at home with the kids. My longest time on a ship was 13,½ months.
I well remember when BP changed their leave policy and announced arrangements for personnel to be given leave after a period of 6 months, providing the ship was bound for the Persian Gulf after this time period. This involved flying out to the Gulf, to Dubai, and then a bus carrying us up to Ras-al-Khaimah. Then a fast launch out to the ship, which would be waiting for us, and carrying out a partial crew change at Ras-al-Khaimah, an Emirate at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. All very well, but in the summer it meant flying out to the Gulf in just few hours from the UK, hitting the heat, and immediately going on watch in a non-air-conditioned ship. Physically and mentally extremely stressful.
When I was first in Ras-al-Khaimah, there was barely even a town, just a hotel in the middle of nowhere, well, in the desert somewhere, and some mud huts. And a mud-brick round fort, built rather like a bee-hive with a flat roof, with the only entrance some 20 feet above ground level, accessed by climbing up a rope. Ras al Khaimah is now a significant 21st century city, in the Emirate of that name.
Nowadays, all ocean-going ships have air-conditioned accommodation, and air-conditioned control rooms in the engine room. Thank goodness…”