The Steel Artisan was the fifth ship my dad sailed on, and the first
Isthmian ship. He worked on this vessel for 110 days, but missed it's departure
from a port in Karachi after he and a fellow crewman went out to view the sights.
He linked back up with the Steel Artisan after a three day "workaway" on the
Steel Chemist. The entire trip on both vessels lasted from 7/7/49 to
10/24/49. Not much to recall about this particular trip, other than that he
contracted an intestinal parasite while on his train journey to catch the
Steel Chemist in Bombay India. Surely this misfortune could have been avoided
had he been more punctual in returning to the Steel Artisan, but I guess he
earned his lesson, as he never missed another departure!
After this voyage on the two Isthmian ships, he then signed on to the
'Dorothy', an A.H. Bull and Co. vessel. This is a funny little coincidence
as Dorothy is the name of my mother. Kind of puts the old saying about the
sea being a seafarer's mistress in a whole different perspective I guess!
He made several trips on this vessel over the years.
All in all, he sailed on four different Isthmian ships, basically short
trips - The Steel Artisan from 7/7/49 to 10/24/49 - minus the three days on
the Steel Chemist, The Steel Chemist from 9/16/49 to 9/18/49, the
Steel Recorder from 11/10/61 to 12/12/61, once again on the Steel Chemist
from 8/29/62 to 1/5/63, and the Steel Traveller from 2/19/70 to 3/23/70.
He says he remembers a lot of his buddies at the union hall in Philly frequently
passing on the oppurtunity to work on one of these vessels, as these ships were
known to entail alot of hard work, and were also known for their frequent trips
to the hot areas of the Persian Gulf, something some sea-men were averse to
before the proliferation of air conditioning on merchant ships.
His most interesting story, however, is from a trip he made on the
Thomas Jefferson (not an Isthmian ship) in 1975. This was right at the
end of the Vietnam War, as Saigon was being overrun by the communists.
The Thomas Jefferson was sent on a last minute job to pick up loads of crates
of classified military/CIA documents and files pertaining to the war. Some of
these crates were as big as the living room of my parents house. As the
Jefferson embarked up river, the Viet-Cong were opening fire on the few
remaining U.S. vessels in the area from san-pans and other small river boats.
They even boarded and took hostage the passengers of the SS Mayaguez,
and my mother remembers watching all of this with much consternation on the
evening news back in '75. Well, the Thomas Jefferson made it to it's destination,
picked up the crates of classified papers, and made it out of Vietnam unscathed.
They delivered this sensitive cargo to Japan, and I guess this is as close as my
father ever came to a combat situation at sea, as WW II was over before he
I am not sure how to send photos with this email, but will send a couple in
seperate emails. One is a photo of my dad on a ship (doesn't look like an Isthmian ship)
taken sometime in the 50's. The other two are paintings I did of him, as I am
something of an amateur artist. Feel free to use them on your site if you wish;
I would be immensely flattered.
Thanks. My name is Brian Smith. My mom and dad will get a kick out of this.