All in all I think the best ships I sailed on were the coasters, small ships that sailed around Britain, Ireland and the neighbouring European coast. I joined my first coaster, the Christopher M, in 1975, a couple of weeks after receiving my second cooks ticket at Liverpool's Nautical Catering College.
On a ship with a crew of nine I was the entire catering staff, cook/steward dishwasher. Everything was so laid back. The galley was in a right mess though. The previous cook was not exactly the healthiest individual around. Tremendously overweight, he was wider than he was tall and had difficulty breathing and walking around. The poor fella could not get even into his bunk and slept on the daybed which was closer to the floor. He cooked everything while sat down and couldn't reach the back of the stove to clean off the grease. When I first saw the galley, which was dark and dismal and dirty beyond belief, I felt very depressed and spent the next few weeks making it as clean as I could.
The crew were very friendly and enjoyed my food, so things brightened up and soon I was enjoying the 'chatty but happy' nature of the ship and the fact that we were in a port every few days, tiny places that I would never have seen on a larger ship.
'Chatty but happy' a seaman's term for ships that were not in the best condition, but thanks to the crew and places visited often made them the best ships to sail on.
One of my most memorable times on the Christopher M came in Plymouth. The Captain liked to cook and he gave me the day off so I could go watch Plymouth Argyle football team play a league match. It was a second division match, the stadium was small and the crowd even smaller, but it was fun. Argyle won, but I can't remember who they beat.
These ships were like a floating home to the crew and girlfriends and family would be welcomed aboard, and, if the voyage was right you could even bring them along for the trip, an experience that was reserved only for the highest ranking officers of larger, deep sea ships, who could bring along their wives, which could lead to resentment from the rest of the crew, especially when they expected the type of treatment only reserved for royalty.
I stayed on the coasters for the next two years, working for Metcalf Molson and SW Coe the owners of the Christopher M who had a small fleet of ships that carried everything from coal, to soy beans, to Ford car parts from Cork in Ireland to Dagenham in the south of England. I loved them.
Photos: Christopher M from SHIPSNOSTALGIA https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/762801/title/christopher-m/cat/517
Nautical Catering College from Liverpool Picture Book https://www.liverpoolpicturebook.com/2014/01/liverpool-education-committee.html
Christopher M aft view from SHIPSNOSTALGIA https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/713698/title/christopher-m/cat/517
Ford Manufacturing Plant, Dagenham from Jon Cruddas MP https://www.joncruddas.org.uk/dagenham-ford-recruiting-250-workers-new-engine