8. Tramp Steamer

Memory Dive: Cargo ship, Genoa, Italy, 1972.

I went to sea as a Deck Boy in the British Merchant Navy to see the world. When I took this photograph I was working on my very last ship, the M.V. Mabel Warwick. We were waiting for an Italian dock workers strike to end so that we could unload rolls of Ravenscraig steel. I recall stories told by a colorful Mabel Warwick shipmate. He transitioned from a London orphanage into the Merchant Navy during WWII when he was only 13. After the war, he spent years working on Tramp Steamers. He'd been to almost every port in the world and sailed up all the big rivers. He made clothes from canvas and knitted his own socks. On Robert Burns Night he visited my cabin and read Burns poems to me for a couple of hours. He was a kind man. When I imagine a Tramp Steamer, this photograph comes to mind.


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