Shipshape and Bristol fashion!


Photo copyright Victor Young, Marine Photographer, Seatoun,Wellington,NZ

Posted by Jim Pyle

Karu was my first ship in the union company. I had arrived in New Zealand from the UK on 1st.July 1963, spent a few days in Wellington at Barret’s Hotel while attending the company radio school. Sent on leave to Tauranga then two days later told to go to Auckland and catch the train to Wellington, then overnight on the Maori to Lyttelton and then by train to Invercargill  and Taxi to Bluff. Karu was so small and the tidal range so big we thought there was no ship there but in actual fact the ship was obscured below the wharf. Captain George Sherlock was the master and we sailed next day for Omaru, Timaru, Dunedin, Lyttelton, Napier, Gisborne  and Auckland. She was a very happy ship and in Omaru and Timaru there was a shortage of wharf labour so after our watch we could go and work as wharfies on other ships in the port for which we were paid casual rates of pay. Needless to say my being sent there as third mate on a normal two mate ship resulted in a loss of overtime for the second mate who took it all in good part.

M.V. Karu 1044 GRT was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons Ltd, Linthouse, Glasgow in 1935 as a replacement for Opihi in the N.Z. South Island – New Plymouth trade and was the company’s first coastal motor ship. Karu had a cruiser stern, a quarter deck aft and a full bridge. The body lines of the vessel above and below the water were designed for propulsion and fuel economy.

After 29 years service in the New Zealand coastal trade for the Union Steam Ship Company Karu was sold to Australia Pacific Shipping ( Hong Kong Ltd.) and was to be renamed Dorothie in 1964. On the delivery voyage as Karu  the ship was unfortunately wrecked on a reef in the Jomard Passage, S.E. of Papua on 11th July 1964 whilst on passage from Sydney to Guam. Reference: Ian Farguhar – Union Fleet.

The expression ‘Shipshape and Bristol fashion’ dates back to around 1840 and the word ‘Shipshape’ is probably 200 years older. The term is probably related to the port of Bristol in the U.K. which had a very high tidal range of 43 feet (13 meters). Ships moored in this area would be aground at low tide and because of their keel structure would fall over to one side. If everything was not stowed away properly or tied down the results could be most undesirable and cargo could shift and be damaged. Reference : Wiktionary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s