J. H. Shone # 1323 – 1943/44

Bari, in Southern Italy, was badly shelled and mined during the war, and the harbour remained a mass of half sunken, rusting metal for many years. Nevertheless by the early fifties it was possible with some slick handling to berth a 15,000 ton tanker stern on to the South Eastern breakwater, but to achieve this it was essential to get the tug fast aft in good time.

We approached the port during a SE’ly gale with a really awkward following sea and for some forgotten reason there was a degree of urgency to get moored before dark. The Pilot was boarded well off the port and then the tug approached with the Skipper on his port bridge wing. He came up on our starboard quarter and at precisely the exact optimum moment swung his stern under the fairlead, and then allowed his vessel to slide down the face of the wave with the eye of our towing hawser lying next to the hook, our crew paying out just fast enough to keep the bight out of the water, a superb feat of seamanship by any standard.

In fact so impressive was it that, in unison the tug’s crew, standing on the aft deck ready to hook on the eye, spontaneously turned to face the bridgewing and applauded “BRAVO, BRAVO, BRAVO CAPITANO”.

Unfortunately with all hands applauding there was no one to actually put the eye on the hook, and it was with unbelievable horror that we watched it slowly slide over the gunwale and into the drink.

Many, many, hours later ……………………………………….