Next morning and dad is due for lunch, with Leanora, his relatively long-term friend. She also drives, so he gets out.
I plan a walk for the morning. Find myself on Clough Road – landscape of factory outlets and industrial units. A footpath takes me to the River Hull and Croda. They must refine oils, because I recognise cracking towers and the smell of linseed oil, perhaps fish oils as well. On the way I pass a wind turbine, and a horse – one of several tethered to graze on the river bank. Croda has a quay, now blocked off from the plant by a high fence – everything arrives by lorry today. Makes me think of ‘Robinson in Space’, a great film by Patrick Keiller.
After lunch we went back to dad’s place and talked with a couple of beers and then some Highland Park to ease things along.
He told a story about his time as first officer on an Esso tanker in the Carribean. They’d load crude from Lake Marakibo in Venezuela and take it across the Atlantic, and a day’s sail up the Congo to a Belgian Esso refinery at Matadia. After discharging and cleaning the tanks the captain told dad to ‘sail close to that waterfall and take on 3000 tonnes of water, but make sure its from the foot of the waterfall’.
It was several months later that dad became captain of the same vessel and learnt the secret of the fresh water ballast. It wasn’t just ballast for the return journey, it was sold at Curacao (which had a permanent water shortage) for a dollar a tonne, and the captain and chief engineer split the cash. Needless to say he carried on the tradition when he took command. Back in the 1950s $3000 was, well, a useful extra.