Icelandic Memories

Information courtesy of Les Howard

Just a short yarn about a trip on Boston Typhoon in late January ’68, it was the same trip that Ross Cleveland went down. Having spent all my winters up around Iceland we were hit by the worst weather that I’ve seen. The Cleveland was in Isafjordhur, on Iceland’s north west coast when she went down. We were just on the outside dodging 30 to 40 foot waves and we couldn’t even get inside for the way the weather was running. I’ll tell you, it was bad. I was talking to Harry Pook and he said that if the wind had altered another degree there would have been more than the Cleveland lost during the 48 hours when the storm was at it worst. I sometimes think there’s been someone watching over me while I was at sea, with the close calls that I had aboard Winmarleigh, Ssafa and Boston Typhoon.

Well, on with the story. It’s about the cook, Taffy. Taffy was a hell of a good cook and I shared the after cabin with him. When I first saw him that trip, he looked like shit. He, himself, said as much when I first saw him. He had signed on against the doctor’s orders but, like the rest of us, he needed the money and didn’t have much choice. We were only on the grounds a couple of days. I was called out early morning for hauling time. I had a quick look at Taffy and thought, “He doesn’t look right.” I went to the bridge and had a word with the skipper and he sent the wireless operator down to the cabin. Sparks tried for breath using a mirror but poor old Taffy was dead.

So, it was in with gear and we ran in to get him ashore, radioing ahead for a doctor. While we were running in we tied Taffy up in a blanket with about four needles of doubles and left him there in his bunk. We got along side and these two big Icelandic guys came aboard with the doctor. They roughly humped old Taffy along the foredeck to the forward bollard and just sat him on it with his head down on his chest. I can still see him slumped there to this day.

One of the Icelanders climbed ashore, dragging poor old Taffy up onto the quay, where they just threw him in the back of a wagon and drove off. Old Taffy is buried out there, his wife didn’t want the body sending back. There used to be a plaque in the chapel next to mission. We all had a whip round for it from the lads of the Typhoon, but since they sold the mission it’s gone and I don’t know were its got to now.

So, we were short of a cook and, rather than go home, the skipper asked if anybody would volunteer to do the job. I went as cook and did about 8 trips until I went back on deck. Then we signed a galley boy on.
I don’t know about galley boy he was about fifty years of age and he was a farm worker from Over Wyre. He was a funny looking bloke who used to wear these baggy pants with the waist under his armpits, and a bloody great belt around his gut.
We had many a clash in that galley; every body took the piss out of him. Anyway, I was doing the tea and everything was in the oven and ready for dishing out. There were two mess rooms, one for the lads and one for the skipper and mate. The first serving was going to the skipper’s mess so I got the platter out of the oven, protecting my hands with a sweat rag.
The galley boy was behind me and I just turned round and passed it to him. All I heard from him was this bloody great scream as he got hold of the hot dish with his bare hand, and he was off running up the alleyway. He didn’t let go of it till he threw it on the mess room table. He daren’t let loose of it because it was for the skipper and would have got a rare old bollocking if he had dropped the “old man’s” food on the deck.

When he got back to the galley he was well pissed off, blaming me for it. His hand was an awful mess with blisters and he went for me in a rage. The result was that we ended up rolling round the galley, fighting like cat and dog, scattering pans and food all over the place. After that it was daggers drawn for the rest of the trip.