I was the chief engineer on the station ship Athena which was stationed in Copenhagen Denmark. I was approached by the then captain Stella King who wanted me to go on a mission to Copenhagen Organisation to take over the command while we sent 2 staff members to flag to be trained on the Flag Executive Briefing Course. After arriving on my new assignment I got 2 guys, Peter Jork and his fiancÚ and sent them off for training. This took about 3 months and when they returned I went back to my ship.
After returning to the ship I found the old captain was replaced by a new captain named Mitch Spence (now deceased) and there was also a new chief engineer. I was appointed as deputy captain. I was informed by the new captain that we would be setting sail for Germany the next morning. I got the ship ready for sailing and the next morning we set sail.
I had a lot of experience on the Athena and knew her quite well. The weather was not all that good that morning ranging at about a force 5 on the Beaufort scale however the Athena was built for that weather and there was nothing to worry about. After about an hour or so out in the Baltic Sea the weather started deteriorating and it was now a force 7 bordering on a force 8. I was still not concerned but I started hearing a knocking sound coming from the engine room. She was a steam ship with a triple expansion engine with 3 large fires which heated the boiler and produced steam which got pressurized to 220 pounds per square inch which in turn drove the 3 pistons to turn the propeller. The ship weighed 450 tons and she used bunker fuel to burn and boil the 20 tons of water in the boiler producing the pressure.
I went down to the engine room and located the knocking sound and found it was the fuel pump which pumped the fuel into the 3 fires to keep the boiler making steam which ran the engine under high pressure, it was behaving very erratically. I was not concerned as there was a 2nd backup pump so I changed over to that pump. But the 2nd pump also started playing up which really concerned me. By this time the weather was at a force 9 and virtually a storm and I became seriously concerned as if the pump backed up the ship and all its crew would be in grave danger.
I immediately informed the captain that we must change course and return to Copenhagen or risk sinking the ship in this vicious storm with all crew. The captain immediately changed course and we set sail for Copenhagen. I returned to the engine room and nursed the pumps oiling the shaft regularly but that pump eventually packed up so I changed back to the first pump and nursed it until we arrived back at port. After docking that pump also packed up. If I was not on board and had the experience I had that ship could have gotten into serious trouble and quite possibly have lost her and all the crew.