Captain Ken #20 - Two very different surprises!

Captain Ken Owen had a long career at sea which included sailing as master with Overseas Containers Limited (OCL), P&O Containers and P&O Nedlloyd.   Ken is now retired and in 2020 he started writing a monthly article for publication using the pen name 'Captain Ken' in the Mellor Church Outlook magazine.

A number of articles that Ken has written are about his time at sea and he has very kindly agreed that we can share them here.  

In this, the 20th article in the series to be reproduced on the PONLHeritage site, Captain Owen tells us of an invitation to St James Palace and then running out of fresh water on a Blue Funnel ship in S. E.  Asia. 

This article was first published in the church magazine in January 2023.

My sea life has certainly been full of surprises, but I must say that last week was certainly one of the nicest.  My wife Allwyn and I, were invited by Princess Anne, to attend a Reception at St. James Palace.  The occasion was the seventy fifth birthday of the Royal Institute of Navigation, of which her father, Prince Philip, was a leading light: I am privileged to be a Fellow.

St.James’s Palace is a magnificent building and was, of course, the Sovereign’s residence until Buckingham Palace was built.  We were shown how a window was removed, to enable King Charles III to give his Proclamation following the Queen’s death.  The reception was held in the Queen Anne room, and was a most friendly and relaxed gathering, with the Princess Royal taking the trouble to personally greet virtually all the some 150 guests, individually.

I was reminded of a very different surprise, when I was 4th Officer on the Blue Funnel ship ‘Eurybates’ in 1956’.  We were bound from U.K. to Indonesia, and before we reached there, the combined forces of Britain, France and Israel had invaded Egypt, to control the Suez Canal.  Consequently, the various ports in Indonesia, had been instructed to harass British and French ships calling there.

Our first port of call was Balik Papan in Borneo.  We had run out of fresh water at the end of our passage and found to our surprise, when we anchored, that the port Authority

refused to supply us with any.   In those days, ships were unable to de-salinate sea water, and relied on supply by barge, from ashore.  We were fortunate to have extra life boats on ‘Eurybates’ as it was customary to carry pilgrims from Indonesia to Jeddah in the Hajji season.   But although it was inconvenient to drink the life boat fresh water, cook with sea water and wash using salt-water soap, what really worried us was that we needed the fresh water for the engine room boiler, without which the ship’s engine could not be used.

‘Eurybates’ had originally been built with a combined steam and diesel engine, but later converted to pure diesel, due to the double number of qualified engineers required, when both steam and motor.  Eventually, the harbour master took pity on us, and afraid we might die of thirst , supplied us with about fifty tonnes.  Our Chief Engineer, immediately put it all in the boiler, and we heaved up the anchor, started the engines and made off to friendly Singapore, where we could have as much water as we wanted. 

(This article was first published in the January 2023 edition of the Mellor Church Outlook Magazine).

For further articles in this series:

Captain Ken Owen has kindly provided us with a new series of articles which will be published on a regular basis here.  If you are interested in reading other articles that he has written which we haven't yet used then please feel free to go to