Sweden's final tugboat
In the spring of 1928, the lighthouse engineer J.A. Hultman presented drawings for it, trough the Swedish government, the steam service vessel decided it for the Swedish Maritime Administration. The ship was built in 1929 at Helsingborgs Varfs AB.
The ship, which measures 32 x 6 meters, has seven cabins, two salons, three fairs, a galley, a shower room and a cargo hold, all in good condition. The ship was mechanically equipped with a coal-fired boiler and seven steam engines, all still in operation, besides the main machine, which is an compound, there are steam engines for operating the generator, pumps, anchor winches and more. The ship, classified as a steam rescue ship, is the oldest of its kind that remains today in Sweden.
Serious incident during the premiere tour
During the premiere trip in Öresund, on 11 October 1929, the ship's sea characteristics was to be tested. Among other things, an stability test. During the test, they turned maximal. Starboard, the ship laid on its side without the ability to rise again. The ship was unstable, with insufficient ballast and had to be towed back to the shipyard with a 45 degree slant range and was close to sinking.
There are parallels with the royal ship vasa but then it ended in disaster. During the premiere tour on April 10, 1628, the ship capsized and sank outside of Beckholmen after sailing 1,500 meters. Vasa was unstable due to an extra cannon deck and insufficient ballast.
Both at sea and lake
S/S Orion was stationed in the Eastern pilot district, which stretched from Karlskrona in the south to Trosa in the north and also included Lake Vättern. The ship was therefore built for traffic in the Göta Canal and measured 28 x 6 meters. She served here between 1929 and 1956. The steamer was used as an inspection and work vessel. Lighthouses and pilot sites were inspected, work was done on laying out and picking up buoys and dots in our waterways, gassing lighthouses and performing sea measurements. In addition, the ship assisted the general shipping with, for example, towing and icebreaking. The ship has extremely good properties in rough seas. The reason is the ship's long slender shape and the fact that the ship is pointed, ie pointed at both ends.
The shape of the ship was common in the late 1800s and the concept was used until the early 1930s but was then abandoned due to high construction costs.
A strict class society
The commander was a pilot director or pilot inspector. Furthermore, a helmsman, a machinist, a fireman, a cook and five men served on the deck.
The commander disposed of half the living space, including his own mess. The rest of the crew of nine men shared the other half located in the front of the ship. The spaces there were separated between officers and crew. There was a partition in the ladder (stairs) down to the cabin deck, so that officers and crew would not have to meet on the way to or from the cabins. In addition, they had separated mess-halls where they ate their meals. The hierarchy on board meant that the captain did not communicate directly with the crew, this was done by the officers. The commander was the unrestricted ruler on board.
In the swedish newspaper, called Svensk Sjöfartstidning from 1928, where the shipbuilding was presented for the first time, you can read about how the cabins were designed depending on the user's status on board. The captain's cabin was built in mahogany, the officer's cabin in polished oak while the crew had to make do with pine.
Near disaster during submarine training
At the end of World War II, the Swedish Navy practiced in Stockholm's southern archipelago with, among other things, submarines. For reasons unknown, S/S Orion happened to enter an restricted area and ended up in the middle of a torpedo exercise. According to information from a former commander in the navy, at the time a newly appointed commander of a submarine, a serious incident occurred.
A violent torpedo explosion caused S/S Orion to heel heavily and a disaster was imminent. However, the ship survived and was able to move on with its own engine. The crew was slightly injured and was shocked. A lot of work then followed in clearing up the devastation on board.
What caused the commander of S/S Orion not to be informed about the restriction is still shrouded in obscurity and the whole thing was silenced. The commander wishes to remain anonymous.
Improperly designed chain tube
A sailor was always placed in the chain box when the anchor chain was winched on board. The chain tube was incorrectly designed and the chain lay like a cone under the tube until it was blocked. A man therefore had to constantly help to push the chain to the side in the chain box. Sometimes it happened that he got the heavy chain over his chest and his voice could then echo in the chain tube: "Stop god damnit!" whereupon the winching was stopped.
Inspection of lightships and pilot sites
Sailor Lars Boman tells in memoirs from the late 1930s about how an inspection of a pilot site could go. The pilot director then gathered the crew standing on the hold hatch.
Orders had previously been issued that overalls and uniforms should be impeccable, ie freshly washed and freshly ironed. The inspection at the pilot site was this year's event. The pilot-in-command had in good time lined up his staff, who were newly combed and dressed in freshly pressed uniforms in honor of the day. The pilot director began his visit by solemnly greeting the staff.
Then installations, storage and cabins were checked. If shortcomings were found, the criticism was not gracious and in some cases could end with immediate dismissal.
So it was important to be prepared and to make sure that everything was in order and that everything was in accordance with the established inventory.
One of our visitors who researched the pilotage's history told about a pilot director who served as the master of the ship. He spent more time drinking coffee with the pilot wives than inspecting stores.
The chef's status on board
Keeping in good graces with the chef is a well-documented knowledge of the crews on ships. At S/S Orion, he was treated with status and respect and according to the staff was in rank after the captain. A good contact with him could mean extra meals in the form of a sandwich or coffee between the planned meals, which of course was very welcome.
One of the more legendary chefs, "Stor-Erik", who served on the ship in the late 40's was so fat that he was more or less stuck in the galley (kitchen). He therefore seldom or never left his post to the great delight of the rest of the crew.
He also tells of an incident when the chef was not so high on the agenda. Steamers use steam for cooking. A steam pipe is placed in a special steam vessel. Coffee is also boiled in this way. The steam was produced in the ship's boiler and filtered to remove any oil residues. Sometimes it was a bit so and so with the replacement of this filter. On this occasion, the crew discovered an oil film in the morning coffee. That day the chef was not very popular and close to the so-called plank…
Work with life at stake
The development of buoys and spotting made the old steamship more and more obsolete over time. Heavier buoys showed that the ship was too upright and the work sometimes became dangerous for the crew. The winch boom was designed to lift three tons with a single block.
To increase the winch's capacity in step with the heavier buoys, the boom was reinforced and the wire was exchanged with several blocks, thereby increasing the lifting force to five tonnes. However, this had consequences for the ship's stability. Olle Pettersson, former chief engineer on board, has said that they lifted until the ship tilted so that they had water up to deck. This meant an inclination of almost 45 degrees and a critical position for the ship.
The ship was stationed in Holmsund during the late fifties. A then summer-working sailor tells of an unforgettable summer. One would at one point put out a dot at a foundation. To find the place, they had no other tools than to solder. A weight of a string was thrown into the water and the depth could be read with the help of markings on a line. After soldering the whole morning, the place was decided and the bust and dot were put out on the ground, after which they returned to Holmsund for the night.
The next day, the site of the dot was to be inspected to see that everything was in order. As they approached the dot, a crash was heard and the whole ship shook.
The dot was misplaced and the Royal Pilotage Agency's steamship became the first ship to run aground due to incorrect doting. The ship got a proper impression on the starboard side but fortunately no leakage. After getting loose, the damage is repaired by pouring concrete into the area on the inside, after which the ship was had to visit the shipyard for repair.
The steam-powered winch on board became obsolete and literally toothless due to the heavier buoys. A serious incident occurred in the spring of 1955. They then worked with laying out buoys in St. Anna's archipelago. A buoy hanging in the winch boom suddenly began to slide down. A sailor discovered this and threw himself on the steam winch's belt brake to stop the fall. However, the brake did not have sufficient capacity for the heavy buoy and in a desperate attempt to stop the case, the winch latch was turned on, the one that normally can only be used to lock a stationary winch drum.
As a result, four cast iron teeth in the drum were planed off before it finally stopped. Again an example of the old steamer's ancient equipment that did not meet the demands of the new age.
Evil tongues claimed that the Royal Pilotage had two accounts. One account intended for renovation and maintenance, where there was as much money as possible, the other intended for new purchases and that account was completely empty of funds. They maintained an absurdity.
"The Swedish state's scandal ship"
Life on board was not only marked by a strict distinction between officers and crew. It was also a work and living environment that aroused strong criticism. People lived in cramped conditions and the sanitary facilities were of a very low standard. In the newspaper columns in the early fifties you could read about "The Swedish state's scandal ship". The writings were about the substandard standard of cabins and sanitary facilities on board the S/S Orion.
This all led in the end to the Minister of Communications raising the matter in the Riksdag in the spring of 1954. There, a decision was eventually made to replace the aged steamer S/S Orion with a more modern vessel, which took place in 1956.
In the archives of memories
Among visitors who made a great impression can be mentioned an old lady who visited the ship in the spring of 1995. Suddenly she was standing there, balancing on the gangway. The lady was helped with gentle hands on board. At first one might think that it was a generally confused lady who did not find her home, but the truth would soon be revealed. The almost 90-year-old lady said that she had sailed with S/S Orion on several occasions, then in her capacity as the pilot director's wife. She told with great reverence and enthusiasm about the experience of gliding forward in the Swedish archipelago with the steamboat's silent and vibration-free operation. She further told how she disliked the new ship that would later replace S/S Orion. A diesel-smelling and shaky experience that she eventually completely refrained from sailing with.
Another visitor who made a big impression is Sven-Bertil Taube who with stories from his own past as a sailor and with his great charisma enthused us all. Furthermore, the Superintendent at the Royal Palace Agneta Lundström can be mentioned who honored us with her visit.
His Majesty the King Carl XVI Gustaf with adjutant and court marshal made an official visit on board the steamer on April 12, 2003. The visit was planned for five minutes but His Majesty's interest in the project meant that he stayed for 15 minutes.
The governor of Stockholm County, Mats Hellström, visited us on April 17, 2004. He became so delighted that he chose to become a member of the association.
On 16 April 2005, we were able to look forward to another official visit when the first Speaker of the Riksdag, Björn von Sydow, visited the ship.
On 5 June 2007, the ship was visited by the Minister of Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, Ministerial Secretary Erik Wahlström and Business Director Christer Asplund. The Minister of Culture was very positive about the association's efforts to ensure the maritime cultural heritage and the commitment to young people.
In the spring of 2009, we were visited by the municipal management for the city of Stockholm. The entire presidium and city council in finance, environment and culture were shown. Furthermore, we could look forward to a visit by the opposition mayor Carin Jämtin.
The ghost ship
S/S Orion is haunted from time to time by a deceased captain who served on the ship in the late thirties. At night, his steps have been heard from the command bridge. Weak sounds from the machine telegraph have also been heard.
It is also rumored that one of the chefs who died on board under mysterious circumstances is haunting the ship. Slams from copper pots have been perceived at night and some have said that they smelled a faint food odor.
Orion according to Greek mythology
According to Greek mythology, Orion was a skilled hunter, the son of Poseidon, the sea god. When he died, he was lifted up by Zeus to the heaven and made into a constellation. The constellation Orion is characterized by Orion's belt, three stars that form the belt around the hunter's waist. In Sweden, Orion is visible during the winter.