A LARGE "PIECE OF THE ROCK"
None of my
tales so far have involved experiences in Canada. Maybe I should tell one
which, I think, reflects the Quebecois sense of humour, yet respect for
authority--this, then is about Davie Shipbuilding.
Many many years ago when, in the summer, passenger ships sailed regularly for Europe from Montreal and Quebec, one of them ran aground due to a helmsman mix-up.
The ship changed course to go up the port side of the island "Isle de Orleans". As she made the wrong turn, the ship went solidly aground.
When Davie tugs etc. went out to help, they found that, not only was the ship aground, but she had a 20 ft diameter ovoid rock sticking 10 ft up into her hull!
Using the charts, the tide, and deep water channels we were able to get the ship afloat and clear--but the stone did not drop out! And it was more than 200 tons in weight!
We cleared all of the centre blocks out of the graying dock and installed new blocks 11 ft high (clear of the centre line) and docked the ship on the next high tide.
Weeks later; the repair completed, and the liner going about her business, the incident could have been over except for the fact that the vast, ugly stone which had been parbuckled up the dock side across the crane tracks, stood there, totally out of place--to me positively obscene and unwanted.
When I would visit the yard I would say, "When are you going to get rid of that eyesore?" And I would get obviously invented excuses. I knew that the owner of the ship had already been charged by Davie for getting rid of the stone--which had added to Davie's profit--and to Senior Staff bonuses.
I therefore, in desperation said, "If that d ....d rock is not out of here when
next I come, I will dock 20% from everybody's bonus."
When I again visited the yard some 3 weeks later, I saw that the eyesore was gone. I said, "Congratulations, where did you dump it?"
The reply, "They are just getting ready to tow it--and, sir, there is a long distance call for you."
Saying, "Tell them to call later." I hurried down to the wharf, where right enough there was a 300 ton floating crane and the "rock" on the deck of a large barge, ready to be towed out and dumped.
Ever curious, I boarded the barge and went round to the riverside, where to my horror, I saw--painted in 3'-0" high letters on the rock, "If found, please return to Davie Shipbuilding." (They were about to paint the same information in French on the other side).
I nearly had a fit--visualizing the multi-million dollar damage suits which could arise from a similar accident to that before--but this time with our own self-incriminating evidence all over the rock.
I ordered, "paint the entire rock if you have to, but make sure 'return to Davie' sign is out!"
I left for New York and was later assured that my instructions had been followed and that the rock had been dropped in a very deep hole in the St. Lawrence River. End of story?--Not quite!
Several weeks later, while down at the yard I visited the yard photographer to see the
previous month's promotional and progress photos.
The fourth picture I saw was the "rock" on the barge in the middle of the St. Lawrence.
In French on the side exposed it said, "If found, do not return toDavie Shipbuilding, we were stuck withit last time!"
I decided they could argue that they had obeyed me! and so I did not cut their bonuses.
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