BIG MAC had the knack with his knife. He would sit and scrape a solid, hard block of Pussers Chocolate into very thin wisps that would dissolve in a whisper. Here was the master of the Kye boat – to think that these hands, now moving with the precision of a brain surgeon, will soon be used to spread boiled oil over the guard rails – or will be directing a wire brush in the constant fight with rust.
The time is 0130, the sea boat’s crew are sitting in the waist, each alert and diligent. Their alertness shows through the eye that is taking it’s turn to stay open.
The Petty Officer of the Watch has detailed hands to positions such as, Lookouts, Bridge Messenger, Wheelhouse, Lifebouy Sentry and Sea Boats Crew.
A spare member of the cast is given the task of making a hot drink, an ‘issue’ has been collected from the stores, in the shape of a Block of Hard Chocolate, Sugar and a Tin of Milk. The prepared chocolate is taken to the engine room in a metal bucket. Fresh water and the sugar are added, the water is quickly boiled by passing steam through it, add the milk and the result is KYE! The detailed rating now visits all sections of the watch issuing the KYE. Firstly it will be the Sea Boats Crew, who will have recognised the smell of the KYE and will have noticed the trip to the engine room and the return. They will stay awake long enough to have their fill.
Ever onward ‘The Kye Boat’ next makes it’s way to the Wheel House. A Leading Seaman keeping his eye on the helmsman, and to complete the quartet are two ratings who are the Telegraph Operators, the link between the ‘Bridge’ and the ‘Engine Room’. The wheelhouse is full of cigarette smoke, so thick that it is difficult to see anybody, it doesn’t help that the wheelhouse is always in dimmed lighting. The stillness is oft times broken with the Tick, Tick of the Gyro Repeater as the ships course varies from Port to Starboard. The course is 270 degrees.
Wheelhouse to Bridge, ” Able Seaman SMITH on the wheel Sir “……..course 270 degrees. Bridge reply;” Very Good ”
The helmsman meets any unacceptable run of the repeater as the ship pounds through the sea, by turning the wheel in the opposite direction. ( following the repeater will get you an invite to the bridge ) as you just keep going round in circles. I think to this day not many Newfoundlanders knew where the Wheelhouse was.
The wheelhouse crew all agree that the drink is just like Mother used to make. The fag ash that fell into it from the Sea Boats crew gives the now setting chocolate a kind of flavour of the month. ( those on the Bridge seem to like it as well !)
Once out of the shipping lanes there is nothing to see, nothing to report and nothing to look out for. The lookouts are relaxed and appreciate the ‘KYE’, which goes down very well with a sly burn on a duty free!
A cruise liner that is all lit up like a Christmas Tree has appeared out of the dark and is more than a blip on the radar screen. ” Lookouts, on your way down report to the Officer of the Watch ” they were due for a roasting. ( they say that the RPO smiles in his sleep, well we didn’t want to go ashore anyway)
Tukky, was the worst person to send round with the KYE as it was always thin and cold. He never took any to the Lifebouy Sentry, a position that Tukky always forgot!
The Lifebouy sentry had a phone that was direct to the Bridge. He could ask for room service. The Officer of the Watch, with one hand on the panic button would be more than worried if the Lifebouy sentry had enquired, ” Has the officer caught the boat “?
The dawn is breaking, the middle watch will be followed by the morning and the start of a new day on the Newfoundland. Ken Tukky never mastered making the KYE ” our cups were full and running over, when it was MACDONALD’S!!
Contributed by Bill GIRVAN…..Able Seaman ….1952 – 1955