Archive | May, 2016


Featuring the Buick Bug!
The following article is reproduced from an article written by Dave Norton from
the UK Chapter of the Buick Club of America 1988, found amongst some old
yellowed papers. What an era of racing it must have been with thundering cars
and smoke over some pretty rough tracks, and also the involvement of Bob
Burman and Louis Chevrolet driving Buicks to success.
“It has always been felt among motor manufacturers that a success in a race or
rally would almost certainly increase sales from the showrooms. Nearly every
company has attempted this, although if Mr Average Motorist really does
concern himself with this is a matter of conjecture. Obviously if a chap is
motoring minded and follows, as it were, the sport, then no doubt any decision
to buy a particular make could be encouraged by a big race success. It was
to this end that William Durant like many other early car builders, decided to
plunge his company into the fray.

The year was 1905, the event was held at Grosse Point, and the car …….. a
diminutive little Buick that was not even an official entry. As the field was
somewhat sparse, the Buick was allowed to compete. Its eventual first place
was in no small way attributed to its capable handler – Bob Burman.
Its strange to think that the name of Wild Bob Burman coupled with Buick was a
force to be reckoned with in the years around 1910, when a couple of years
earlier he had been a wheel painter in the old Durant-Dort Company. Durant,
although very busy producing motor cars for the clamouring public, was quick to
see the duo’s potential, and so Burman was entered for races at St Louis and
Grand Rapids with similar results. Walter Marr, Buick’s first Chief Engineer,
won the Eagle Rock Hill Climb in a 22 hp Model F, and the Mount Washington
event during 1907.


Go Back
By 1908, Durant was working on a full race team for the season and it was at
this juncture that the Chevrolet brothers, Arthur and Louis, were enlisted to join
Bob Burman and Lewis Strang. It was also in this year that Burman thundered
to victory in the Massachusetts Dead Horse Hill Climb, Giants Despair Mountain
Climb and the 100-mile Free for All at Empire City Track, New York.

One of the biggest events of the year was lost to Bruce Brown in a massive
Benz, this race being the Savannah Georgia Grand Prix, against formidable
opposition of Lancia, Fiat and Benz in the hands of professionals like Hemery,
Wagner and Nazarro. Burman in a modified Model 10 Buick suffered no less
than 15 tyre changes against Brown’s Benz needing only one. Burman
finished third having no doubt quite a heated exchange with the tyre men!
During 1909, one success followed another. C E Easter won the Light Car
Championship on the Vanderbilt Cup Course, while Louis Chevrolet averaged
69.9 mph to gain a new American road race record and World Stock Car record
in the Riverhead, Long Island road race. The 200-mile Coca Cola Stock Car
trophy at Atlanta was also won by Chevrolet at 72 mph.
An actual Bug at Flint in 2003


In fact, by 1911 Buick had collected over 500 trophies, having competed all over
America, and even at the Coupe de l’Auto in France, St Petersburg in Czarist
Russia, and at Brooklands in Surrey, England, where in fact, an all Buick benefit
race was run in 1912.
Unfortunately, due to a culmination of events, no participation took place in
racing after 1913, but a treatise of Buick’s early racing history would not be
complete without mention of the Buick Bug as a motor car rather than a
somewhat fanatical state of mind.
The Model Sixty Special, or “Bug” as it was christened was built in 1910 and
looked like no other Buick. The power supply came from a four cylinder engine
of approximately ten-litre capacity fitted with overhead valves and two plugs per
cylinder. Seemingly, she had rather a large appetite for oil, thus an oil injection
system was manually operated to replenish the ever decreasing six quarts in
the crankcase.
The Bug would tick over at 600 rpm and could be eased back to about 10 mph
in top gear, but could also be opened up to 55 mph in second. Of its top
speed, at the Indianapolis Raceway on July 1st, 1910, it was clocked at 105.87
mph on the straightway ….. yes, in 1910!
The Bug ran on 34 x 4 ½ tyres, and had foot brakes and transmission mounted
hand brake. The latter was the only means of stopping as the foot brake was
absolutely useless! It was said of the car that visibility was excellent in all
directions…….. except straight ahead! What a fantastic machine it must have
After the incredible success at Indy, Burman took the Bug to Pablo Beach
where he won a 20-mile free for all at an average speed of 91.06 mph.
Thankfully the Buick “Bug” is still with us. The car is on display in the Sloan
Panorama of Transportation in Flint, and the state of mind is in many.
L Haime (WA Buicks)


Return Back to the Full List of Posted Items. BOATTAIL IN THE KIMBERLEY
Monday 11 April 2005 and two Boattails headed north out of Perth. Unfortunately Tony
and Marny Howe could only escort us to Regan’s Ford where we would have lunch on
Day one of our trip through to Darwin. After a pleasant lunch on the riverbank, we
parted company and we headed north.
The first day was a short trip to Geraldton, only 400 or so kilometres to stay with in-laws.
Pulling into a garage in Geraldton to fill up, the young bloke at the pumps said
admiringly – “What a great car, what is it?” Alan replied, “It’s a Buick.” Young
bloke says, “Who makes them?” Alan replies, “Well……. Buick does.” Oh.
The opposite occurred the next day however, while the car and us were having a
breather at Billabong roadhouse, a very dusty bloke pulled in on a motorbike with
camping gear loaded on. He walked over and said “I never expected to see a 72
Riviera up here!” It seems he had come across the Tanami Track but had actually
ridden 32,000 km including around Tasmania.
The temperature was starting to climb rapidly during the day and we were glad to pull
into Carnarvon that night. Carnarvon is a very pretty town and after checking in at a
motel we drove alongside the lagoon area and found an incredible seafood restaurant
near the fishing boat harbour. What a great photo it would have made of the Buick
parked near a palm tree and a crescent moon overhead.
Morning tea under Ghost Gum at Minilya
Next morning we drove out through the banana plantations for Karratha to stay with
friends. Stopped at Nanutarra roadhouse for a pie. You had to be quick, the flies
were in droves so careful eating had to be achieved. Drove into Karratha and
received thumbs up from the local aborigines who appreciate a good car. They stand
on the side of the road and say “Aiiee!” It probably helped that the car is red too.
Word had gone out that the Buick was in town and blokes started to arrive to check it
out. Usual bonnet up and blokes standing around it. What I call the seagulls on a
chip look. The temperature was about 38 ° at 10 p.m. in the evening. We were
most happy to leave the BBQ area outside and head into an airconditioned bedroom.
It was decided to get going next morning before sunup to beat the heat. The air
conditioning on the car certainly made the temperature gauge swing up. It was
decided to only have it on if it wasn’t so hot! There is a logic here only known to men.
An early start means keeping your eyes peeled for roos and massive cows that loom up
at the edge of the road.

A quick stop midmorning at the Whim Creek Pub for a lemon squash was most
We checked out South Hedland, called at the local golden arches and then drove
across into Port Hedland to get fuel. Alan asked the bloke at the garage not to fill the
car beyond the click. OK replied the bloke and then filled it until fuel was pouring out.
Snarl from Alan. This entailed a drive around to use up some of this fuel with the
result that when we pulled into our motel to check in, the car had a surly boil in protest
of its treatment. The temperature at this time was 43 °. A cold shower, a snooze, a
few beers and room service smoothed out ruffled feathers.
A long haul the next day to Broome across Roebuck Plains which seem to go on
forever. One has to hand it to the early explorers and cattlemen in this area for their
tenacity and endurance. Broome was a very welcome site as were the faces of son
and daughter-in-law who had driven down from Derby.
A few days R and R at the Mangrove Resort. This is a very special spot and sitting out
on the deck over the mangroves and gazing at the amazing turquoise waters of
Roebuck Bay lined with the ochre red dirt surrounds was great. Broome has certainly
developed its own unique style now with many artists now living in Broome and creating
a particular style. Broome was gearing up for the usual influx of caravans from down
south (referred to as the SAADS – See Australia and Die brigade).
North again to Derby where son Martin is part of the thin blue line. Derby gets a bad
press in comparison to Broome but is actually a very pretty town with its boab trees,
frangipani and bougainvillea. Unfortunately its situation on the mud flats of King
Sound deprives it of beaches.
After a couple of days break, we were ready to leave for Darwin with son and daughterin-
law. We made the decision because of the heat to leave the old girl in Derby (not
me, the Buick) and travel in the nearly new Nissan Patrol with the kids.
What a great drive the north-west highway is. Not as scenic as the Gibb River Road
but still interesting. A spot on the Mary River called Mary’s Pool was the chosen
lunch spot. Pelicans and other wading birds were on the river, the bank lined with
magnificent river gums.
We stopped at the sign for Haime Hill. Alan’s earlier engineering days had involved
designing the Kimberley Microwave System. Many of the hills used for the
communication system had never been named, hence he took the opportunity to name
a hill with microwave tower after himself.
The Haimes at Haime Hill
That night we arrived at Kununurra and our unit faced the lagoon with the Sleeping
Buddha rock in silhouette. What a spot. Before daybreak we were on the road and
stopped at Timber Creek in the Northern Territory. Couldn’t get over the size of the
Victoria River, absolutely massive with water in it too! Something you don’t see in
most of our rivers at that time of the year.
Katherine was the next stop and was very lush and green. From there the trip to
Darwin was interesting, especially to read about the WWII activities in the area around
the Adelaide River.
Our accommodation was at a great place in the CBD area of Darwin which meant you
could walk to restaurants and shops. We made a point of getting up early and
attending the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the park overlooking the harbour. This was
attended by thousands of people and was very warm already at that early hour.
A visit to Darwin wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Museum and to learn in more
detail of the pasting Darwin took by Japanese bombers in WWII. Apparently the same
planes that had bombed Pearl Harbour had bombed Darwin, only more of them. In a
yearly period, Darwin and the Northern Territory was bombed 70 times. The Aircraft
Museum was especially interesting.
The rebuilding of Darwin has made it a very well laid out city. The lifestyle, climate and
attractions are well worth a visit. We were all most impressed and vowed to return at
a later time.
A few days later we headed south again and reached Katherine in time for lunch.
Choosing a picnic spot under a large shady tree, we proceeded to eat. Big mistake.
The tree was full of bats and they seemed to be annoyed at us being under the tree and
let fly with bat poo. A hasty retreat on our part.
Back to Derby again for a weeks rest before heading back to Perth. One of the best
kept secrets in the north must be the seafood cafe on the Derby Wharf. This looks so
nondescript to be almost invisible but has the best seafood. When we were in Derby
it was the time for the peak tides, which means a 10 metre tide. Nothing can beat
sitting on the Derby Wharf at sunset with a few drinks, in about 30 ° heat, watching the
tide come in and eating barramundi and chips (or seafood coconut curry).
Sunset and Low Tide at Derby Wharf
Unfortunately this idyll came to an end. The Buick was made ready for the trip south
and we headed off at 5.30 a.m. one morning.
Stopped at Sandfire Roadhouse for a break and were descended on by a bunch of
peacocks. They walked past us and headed straight for the Buick grille where they
proceeded to eat insects out of grille. Probably was a hot meal for them.
Peacocks cleaning-up the Buick
By the time we reached South Hedland we were picking up some rain and by the time
we had reached the Kumarina Roadhouse, there were floodwaters across the road.
The Buick drive quietly through flowing water, and we kept an anxious look out for any
huge mining trucks coming in the opposite direction.
At Meekatharra some locals gathered around the car again. Its incredible that some
people know exactly the make and model. Apparently a Ferrari had been through the
day before and we wondered how deep the water was he went through.
Down to the Queen of the Murchison, Cue, which according to the locals, is about to
experience a mining boom again. Nice to see the place come to life again.
An overnight at Mt Magnet in deluging rain. We had a superb meal at the pub which
would have done a city restaurant proud. This sort of food must be an eye opener for
tourists from overseas to get this sort of quality in the back of beyond.
The next day was dry and we headed for a much colder Perth, the Buick having
travelled 3,493 miles to Derby and back.
L Haime (WA Buicks)


Last year was the 150th anniversary of David Dunbar Buick’s birth in Arbroath
Scotland. Buick Owners Club of WA member, Ian Carrington-Jones passed
on a newspaper article, clipping and photos given to him by a friend who
attended the event when a plaque was installed commemorate his birthplace.
The plaque has been fixed to the wall of the only remaining building in Green
Street (apparently high up the wall out of vandals’ reach).
The following is an excerpt from the Arbroath Herald, dated 14 September
“Plaque unveiled at moving ceremony.
Many famous men have come from Arbroath — James Chalmers, inventor of
the adhesive postage stamp; and Patrick Bell, inventor of the reaping machine,
to name but two. Few people however, have ever associated the name of
Buick with the town. But David Dunbar Buick who was born in Green Street in
1854 has ensured that the name of Buick is one of the most famous names in
motoring history.
David Buick’s innovative skills were to earn him his place in the history of the
motor industry and that the man, who helped launch a giant industry, whose
name has appeared on more than 32 million automobiles over 90 years, was
honoured at a ceremony, in what is left of Green Street – Lodge St Vigean No
101, yesterday when a plaque marking his birthplace was unveiled by Buick
General Sales and Service Manager, Robert Coletta. A number of vintage
Buicks from the company’s 100-year old history were on display.
The plaque reads:
“David Dunbar Buick – September 17, 1854 – March 5, 1929. American
motoring pioneer and founder of the Buick Motor Company of America.
David Dunbar Buick was born at 26 Green Street, Arbroath which lay
approximately 90 metres north of this, the only remaining building to show
the line of the original street. Sponsored by the Buick Motor Division of the
General Motors Corporation of America”
Plans for the plaque and dedication were arranged by Buick Public Relations,
Angus District Council and Eric Buick, an Arbroath resident who became
interested in David Buick because of his name, but who claims no genealogical
link to the Buick firm’s founder. Buick executives in Europe on business also
participated in the dedication. Along with Mr Coleta, the party included Chris A
Wolf, assistant general sales manager for customer satisfaction, and Rick
Pellafone, director of customer assistance.
Mr Coleta said, “Buick has been one of the great names in American
automobiles through virtually all of the 20th century. It is certainly appropriate
for us to honour this man, not only because his name identifies our automobiles,
but because his genius and hard work formed the beginning of an unsurpassed
automotive success story which is still being written.”
On behalf of the Angus District Council, Provost Brian Milne said, “We are
honoured to have helped Eric Buick and Buick Motor Division in providing this
tribute to the life and achievements of David Dunbar Buick.”
“It is most fitting that the founder of perhaps the worlds most famour car
company was born in Arbroath, a town which has traditionally prided itself in its
engineering excellence.”
Mr Eric Buick, no relative of David, said he first contacted Buick Motors in 1991
with a view to writing an article for the “Arbroath Herald” annual. “I am
absolutely astounded that so many people have turned up to make this such a
special occasion. It has taken several years to come to fruition but it has
turned out very well. This plaque represents a man who was an engineering
genius and the true fighting spirit he showed throughout his life. I would like to
thank the Brethren of Lodge St Vigean No 101 for their help and for allowing us
to use their building: Angus District Council who organised the ceremony; and
Buick Motors”.
A letter of fraternal greetings and a Lippenon Angus plaque was presented to
Mr Coletta by Provost Milne on behalf of the people of Arbroath”.
Arbroath local dignitaries unveil the plaque. Eric Buick is second from right.
Ian also provided the following clipping covering the plaque unveiling event.
L Haime (WA Buicks)


The Annual Stella Awards were named after 79-year old Stella Leibeck who
spilt coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonalds for $3.85 million. That
case inspired the Stella awards for the most frivolous, ridiculous, successful
lawsuits in the US.
This years runaway winner was Mrs Merv Grabinski of Oklahoma City. She
bought herself a new 10m Winnebago motor home and on her first trip home,
set the cruise control at 110 kph on the freeway.
She then calmly left the driver’s seat to go back and make herself a sandwich.
Not surprisingly, the Winnebago left the freeway, crashed and overturned.
Mrs Grabinski sued Winnebago for not advising her in the owner’s manual that
she couldn’t do this.
The jury awarded her $2.3 million plus a new motor home. The company
actually changed its manuals on the basis of this suit.


From the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and return.
It was pitch dark and bitterly cold at 6 am when the burble of a boatie could be
heard approaching our driveway on 24 August 2008. Tony and Marny Howe
had driven from their place to join us for the long haul east for the Queensland
National Event.
With both boattails fuelled up and packed we headed due east. There is an air of
excitement when you’re starting out on a major journey and weeks of planning
have all come to fruition.
We stopped alongside the Avon River at Northam but this was colder than the hills
of Perth. Our coffee chilled quickly in our cups and we decided to press on. A
cold wind followed us to our lunch and fuel stop at Southern Cross. The cars
drew their usual crowd of interested parties and questions were fielded.
When we pulled in at Caiguna for lunch an old gentleman could be spotted
approaching the cars in some excitement clutching a half eaten sandwich in his
hand. He turned out to be an 81-year old American who had worked at Flint at
the Buick plant after the war and then became a project engineer at Detroit for
GM. He said he couldn’t believe his eyes when two Riviera Boattails had pulled
in. He himself was driving a T-model Ford with two others and a backup vehicle
across Australia. There was a lesson here that you and your car are never too
old to get out there.
Buicks at Caiguna
It never fails to amaze me the quality of meals and the decent bottle of wine which
can be had in restaurants in far flung motels. From Norseman and across the
Nullarbor we were well looked after. We even had a bottle of Goundrey Reserve
Shiraz at one place!
Our driving plan everyday was to get going about 6.30 am and put quite a few
kilometres on the clock (or miles in the Buick) before stopping about 5 pm in the
afternoon. When the road runs close to the cliffs there is spectacular scenery as
far as the eye can see and when you look at the Southern Ocean rolling in, the
next landfall in that direction must be Antarctica. The eagles are magnificent but
one has to slow down if they are eating roadkill on the road. The crows can get
going quickly as a car approaches but the eagles are much slower before they get
their revs up. One flew over the top of the Riv and you can appreciate the size of
their wings looking up at their underbelly.
The road up to Port Augusta goes through some spectacular desert type scenery
with bronze-red hills. Driving this road in the summer would be a challenge.
At Port Augusta Marny and I popped into the post office with the admonition “don’t
be too long”. When we returned to the cars, both bonnets were up and there
were a crowd of blokes looking at the engines. Apparently someone who knows
Buicks had seen the cars stop and immediately rang all his mates who have
Buicks to come and see the cars. At this point “don’t be too long” had gone out
the window. These blokes had left their workplaces and whatever they were doing
to come and inspect the cars. There is obviously a need for a Buick car club in
South Australia! Unfortunately we had to press on as we still had many miles to
Broken Hill was a great place to stay. They really seem to appreciate their
history and in one park was a memorial to the band which had played and gone
down on the “Titanic”. There was an air of Kalgoorlie about the place and the
surrounding country.
The roads deteriorated in northern New South Wales with lumpy surfaces and the
trucks seemed to be more numerous. Our empty road cruising was coming to
an end.
We entered Goondiwindi late afternoon and saw the statue of the Goondiwindi
grey “Gunsynd”. Casing the town out and admiring the lovely old Queenslanderstyle
houses, we had stopped to reconnoitre when a woman parked her car in
front of ours. She said her husband had a ’26 Buick he was restoring and
couldn’t wait to get home to tell him what she had seen! They knew that the
National Meet was on but unfortunately couldn’t make it.
The scenery changed again from there and we drove through lush farming country
to Ashmore. Great to pull into the Ashmore Palms and see and hear Buicks
(and their owners).
On Thursday 18 September, after a simply wonderful time in Queensland (which I
am sure has been fully written about by other members) we headed to Macca’s at
6.00 a.m. for breakfast. John and Kaye Cook who had purchased their ‘71
boattail in Queensland had decided to drive it back rather than truck it and decided
to accompany us which was great. Stuart Syme and John Bell were driving their
Buicks to Tenterfield to pick up John’s truck, load the Buicks and then head west.
At Tamworth we spotted Ian and Margaret Baxter’s ‘46 and pulled over to have
lunch with them. They were heading for the Bay to Birdwood run.
The Baxters, Cooks, Howes and Haimes at Tamworth
I drove in the afternoon and managed to cop roadworks, hilly rough surfaces and
huge trucks. Not ideal driving.
We reached Warren about 5.30 pm and pulled into what we consider about the
best motel on the run. It’s about 500 metres off the mainroad, very comfortable
and clean and virtually nobody staying there. We could walk to the United
Services Club a few blocks away and have a decent meal and a few drinks.
The weather was warming up a bit as we headed towards Cobar. The three
cars were driving alongside the railway line watching a big train tonk along. We
couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw a small four-wheel drive nip across in front
of the engine with about two seconds to spare from getting whacked by the train.
The woman pulled up and had her hands to her face, leaning on the steering
wheel. Obviously the enormity of her stupidity had struck home. The train also
slowed and stopped, no doubt the driver had a pounding heart.
We had estimated that Bev and Peter Nicholson (who had flown home after the
Nationals, trucked their Buick and picked up their Hupmobile for the Hupmobile
rally in Cessnock, New South Wales) would be roughly between Cobar and
Wilcannia when we would spot them on the return journey. Sure enough there
was the Nic’s four-wheel drive towing the Hup. The three boaties wheeled
around and pulled up behind the Hup. Great to catch up with people in the back
of beyond. Pete and Bev said they had spotted John Bell’s truck further along
ahead of us. I think these blokes roughed it a bit more than us.
Never know who you will bump into in the outback!
Broken Hill again and Tony’s birthday. The blokes fiddled and polished the cars,
laundry was done and then it was time to celebrate T’s birthday in the motel
Off early next morning, morning tea at Mannahill with a cold wind blowing. Just
the other side of Peterborough John Cook’s car developed a knock. An
inspection revealed that the universal joint had died. We drove back into
Peterborough to the local mechanic but the chances of getting parts weren’t
looking good. We decided to head for Port Pirie and hole up for the night.
Pitstop at Wilcannia
The drive was beautiful through lush paddocks and towns with lovely old stone
houses which South Australia is noted for. This was a bonus as none of us had
driven across on this road before.
We booked in at Port Pirie and discussed the various options about the car. John
was feeling a bit glum but this was just bad luck as it could have happened to any
of the cars. The three blokes crawled under the car to inspect the situation (see
photo). We womenfolk were initially horrified to see a pile of paving bricks
under the rear wheels of the car but fortunately there were no holes in the paved
courtyard as they had found residual bricks in the garden.
From a Buick 8?
It was decided to truck the car to Adelaide and John and Kaye would bus it to
Adelaide and then fly home to Perth. Regretfully we made our farewells and
turned north to Port Augusta.
That evening we pulled into Minnipa, a little town in the boonies with the usual
huge, white wheat silo dominating the town. The hotel/motel was shut but we
managed to ring the owner who turned up about 5 .30 pm and let us in. Nice
units out the back of the old pub.
At dinner time we headed into the dining room. Through most of the trip we
three had been trying to convince Tony not to have his steak well done, but to
have it medium-rare. Tony was eventually convinced of the error of his ways.
Anyway, Tony and I ordered steak for dinner, mine rare, Tony’s medium-rare.
Eventually the meals came out and the owner said carefully to me, “yours was the
rare one” and to Tony “yours was the medium-rare”. The reality was that they
were both cooked to shoe leather consistency (Ron Noonan would have loved the
steak). However one must realise that we were in a place where you couldn’t
drink the tapwater so you have to just get on with it sometimes.
The next morning we encountered rain all the way into Ceduna. Lunch at
Nullarbor was bitterly cold with a high wind. We all ate lunch back in the cars.
Further on down the road we saw a dingo sitting at the edge of the road surveying
the scene. They are a lovely looking dog (I don’t subscribe to the baby-taking
reputation they have).
The spectacular (and breezy) Nullarbor cliffs
Managed to get the last two rooms at Eucla, Norseman the next night and then
All in all for the trip both ways and the National runs we had travelled some 10,600
km and spent $2,850 on fuel. We all agreed that we wouldn’t have missed it for
L M Haime (WA Buicks)


I was re-reading Lois Haime’s fine article on her journey to Russia. Like all
travel stories, one starts to remember the personal journeys and the enormous
good luck that counters enormous stupidity. How must of us survive
excusrions to foreigh countries still mystifies me.
My travel story started in late 1972 when I had an urge to go back to the old
country. I had been actively urged to do so by many people since arriving in
Australia in 1966. I was never sure of their motives. This is the story of how I
got on the wrong ship going to the wrong country.
My first act of stupidity was to think that making my own way to Perth from
Sydney would save me money. After all, wasn’t Perth closer to London by
4,000 km? Five days of hitchhiking and a near death experience in a runaway
truck found me in Perth. I stayed with some old mates who had mastered
time travel, making Sunday sessions last for a fortnight. During this time travel
experience, I had managed to register my name at the Department of Shipping
and Transport as a workaway on a ship. This allowed practicing idiots like
myself to travel on a cargo ship being paid one shipping per week in exchange
for passage.
Within a few days, a bulk carrier at Fremantle needed me to replace men who
had jumped ship. This should have been my second wake up call but my mind
was still focused on a cheap trip to London. I signed the ”Articles” assuming it
was just a technical legality for this trip only. Mistake number three.
As the 60,000 ton bulk carrier thumped its way out of Fremantle into the night, I
asked Mick, the Irish steward, how long it would take us to get back to London.
He looked at me as if I had been on a fortnight of Sunday sessions and said
with a malicious smile – “We’re not going to the UK”. I suspected that Mick
had lied to me purely because he could but as we headed across the South
Atlantic for the eastern seaboard of the US, it became apparent that London
was getting further away by the day. The bright news was that I was being
paid a wage and not a shilling a week! In addition, I was even allowed to play
with the steering wheel for ten hours and get my steeing certificate. The crew
also treated me to hours of maritime horror stories eager to scare the village
idiot on his first voyage out. I hid in my cabin when we crossed the equator.
Our first cargo of mica sands was unloaded in Baltimore, Maryland and I
headed straight for a shore ‘phone to ring the British Consulate in Washington.
I explained that I was a workaway and if I wasn’t repatriated to the UK, then the
crew would go on strike because I wasn’t a union member. I indignantly
maintained that I was being detained against my will!
The consulate official was diplomatically patient with my description of my
personal shipping disaster and then explained the implications of the “Articles”
that I had signed. I had signed on for two years, had been paid full wages
been automically enrolled in the seamens’ union. That, to me, was the true
meaning of being sunk.
Nevertheless, by the time we had unloaded our last cargo in Mobile, Alabama,
our crew were informed of our impending rotation back to the UK.
Unfortunately we were also involved in the biggest British seamens’ strike in
recent history and the company had arranged a multi-airline exit designed to
deceive the union bosses in London. The union had dictated that any British
ship rotating crews during the worldwide strike would be blacklisted when
returning to home waters. I have never boarded so many different aircraft in
48 hours and I was petrified they would route us through a Botswana Airlines
DC3. We passed our incoming crew at O’Hare in Chicago and they looked
decidedly wild eyed. Eventually we arrived at Heathrow where a smiling West
Indian born immigration man surveyed my passport, questioned my entry and
asked me why I didn’t have a suntan. It seemed that everyone wanted to be a
This is a two-part story about my maritime career on another ship but it is even
more embarrassing than this one. Some people say that if you were never
young, you were never stupid. However, good luck still favours the stupid.
Keith Crane (WA Buicks)


In order to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl,
scientists at NASA built a gun specifically to test the strength of windscreens by
launching dead chickens at the cockpit glass of airliners, military jets and the
space shuttle at maximum velocity.
British engineers heard about the gun and were eager to test it on the
windscreens of their new high speed trains. Arrangements were made and a
gun was sent to the British engineers.
When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked as the chook hurtled out
of the barrel and crashed into the shatter-proof windshield, smashing it to
smithereens before blasting through the control console, snapping the
engineer’s backrest in two and embedding itself in the back wall of the cabin.
The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment along
with the designs of the windshield, and begged the US scientists for
The reply came back: “Thaw the chicken.”


I was reading a travel magazine the other day and the author mentioned that
you could fly between destinations in China quite easily. This brought to mind
the following excerpt from Paul Theroux’s book, “Riding the Iron Rooster.”
“Whatever objections I could devise against the trains, they were nothing
compared to the horrors of air travel in China. I had a small dose of it when I
left Urumchi for Lanzhou – there was no point in retracing my steps on the Iron
Rooster, I was told to be at the airport three hours early – i.e. 7.00 a.m. The
plane left five hours late, at 3.00 p.m. in the afternoon.
It was an old Russian jet, and its metal covering was wrinkled and cracked like
the tinfoil in a used cigarette pack. The seats were jammed so closely together
that my knees hurt and the circulation to my feet was cut off. Every seat was
taken, and every person was heavily laden with carry-on baggage – big skull
cracking bundles that fell out of the overhead rack. Even before the plane took
off, people were softly and soupily vomiting, with their heads down and their
hands folded, in the solemn and prayerful way that the Chinese habitually puke.
After two hours we were each given an envelope that contained three caramel
candies, some gum and three sticky boiled sweets; a piece of cellophane
almost concealed a black strand of dried beef that looked like oakum and tasted
like decayed rope; and (because Chinese can be optimistic) a toothpick.
Two hours later a girl wearing an old postman’s uniform went around with a
tray. Thinking it might be better food, I snatched one of the little parcels – it
was a key ring.
The plane was very hot, and then so cold I could see my breath. It creaked like
a schooner under sail.
Another two hours passed. I said: “I am out of my mind”. An announcement
was made, saying in a gargling way that we would shortly be landing. At this
point everyone except the pukers stood up and began yanking their bundles out
of the racks; and they remained standing, pushing, tottering and vaguely
complaining – deaf to the demands that they sit down and strap themselves in
– as the plane bounced, did wheelies on the runway and limped to Lanzhou
terminal. Never again!
My guide Mr Fang asked in a rare burst of English: “What you think of Chinese
“Lamentable” I replied.
“Thank you very much!” replied a beaming Mr Fang.
I’m sure with the olympic games approaching, all aircraft will be updated for
those planning on flying internally in China (hopefully).
L. Haime (WA Buicks)