Sweden's last steam carrier
In the spring of 1928, the lighthouse engineer J.A. Hultman presented plans for the new steam service ship decided by the Riksdag to the Royal Swedish Pilot's Agency. The ship was built in 1929 at Helsingborgs Varfs AB.
The ship, measuring 32 x 6 meters, has seven cabins, two lounges, three messes, galleys, shower rooms and a hold, all in good condition. Mechanically, the ship was equipped with a coal-fired boiler and seven steam engines, all still in operation. In addition to compound main machine, there are steam engines for operating generators, pumps, anchors and more. The ship, classified as a steam carrier, is the oldest of its kind that remains in Sweden today.
Serious incident at premiere tour
On the first tour of öresund on 11 October 1929, the ship's sea characteristics were to be tested. This included a stability test. When the poem (maximum) starboard was turned during the test, the ship lay on its side without the ability to rise again. The ship was unstable, with insufficient ballast and had to be towed back to the yard with a 45 degree impact and was close to sinking.
Parallels exist with the regal ship Vasa, but then it ended in disaster. On the first tour on April 10, 1628, the ship capsized and sank off Beckholmen after sailing 1,500 meters. Vaasa was unstable due to an additional cannon tire and insufficient ballast.
Both on the sea and on the 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 covered Vättern. The ship was therefore built for traffic in the Göta Canal and received dimensions of 28 x 6 meters. She served here from 1929 to 1956. The steamer was used as an inspection and work vessel. They inspected lighthouse ships and pilot sites, worked on laying out and pick up buoys and dots in our fairways, gas lighthouses and perform sea measurement. In addition, the ship was a help to the general shipping industry with, for example, towing and ice breaking. The ship has extraordinarily good characteristics in rough seas. The reason is the long slender shape of the ship and the fact that the ship is pointed, that is, pointed at both ends.
The ship form was common at the end of the 19th century and the concept was used until the early 1930s but was abandoned due to high construction costs.
A strict class society
The commander was a pilot director or pilot inspector. A mate, a machinist, a fireman, a chef and five men also served on deck.
The master disposed of half the living space, including his own mess. The other crew of nine shared the second half located in the front of the ship. The spaces were there separated between officers and crews. There was a partition in the leidar (stairs) down to the cabin deck, so that officers and crew would not have to meet on their way to or from the cabins. In addition, they had separate chants where they took their meals. The hierarchy on board meant that the captain did not communicate directly with the crew, but this was done by the officers and the commander being unrestricted rulers on board.
In Svensk Sjötidning 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 officers' cabin in boned oak while the crew had to make use of pine.
Near disaster during submarine exercise
At the end of World War II, the Swedish Navy practiced in Stockholm's southern archipelago with submarines, among other things. For unknown reasons, S/S Orion accidentally entered the intercepted area and ended up in the middle of a torpedo exercise. According to reports from a former Navy commander at the time, the new commander of a submarine, a serious incident occurred.
A violent torpedo explosion caused the S/S Orion to wream sharply and a disaster was imminent. However, the ship survived and was able to move on for its own machine after all. The crew suffered minor injuries but were badly shocked. A lot of work then followed to clean up the devastation on board.
What caused the S/S Orion command not to be informed of the interception is still shrouded in mystery and the whole thing was silenced. The Captain wishes to remain anonymous.
Misconstrued chain pipe
A sailor was always placed in the chain box when the anchor chain was winched on board. The chain tube was misconstrued and the chain lay like an ostrich under the pipe until it was blocked. A man therefore had to constantly help push the chain aside 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 the fuck!" and the game was stopped.
Inspection of lighthouse ships and pilot sites
In memorabilia from the late 1930s, Lars Boman describes how an inspection of a pilot site could be carried out. The pilot's manager then gathered the crew standing on the hold hatch.
Orders had previously been issued that overalls and uniforms would be impeccable, i.e. freshly washed and freshly ironed. The inspection at the pilot site was this year's event. The pilot foreman had set up his staff in good time, who were freshly combed and dressed in freshly pressed uniforms on the day. The pilot's director began his visit by solemnly greeting the staff.
Then installations, storage rooms and dwelling houses were checked. If flaws were found, the criticism was not gracious and in some cases could end with immediate dismissal.
So it was a matter of being prepared and making sure that everything was in order and that everything was in line with the established inventory.
One of our visitors who has researched the history of the pilot's work told us about an overlot director who had served as master of the ship. He spent more time drinking coffee with the pilot's wives than inspecting the supplies.
Chef's status on board
Keeping well with the chef is a well-documented knowledge of the crew on ships. At S/S Orion he was treated with status and respect and, according to the staff, was ranked after the captain. A good contact with him could mean extra comfort in the form of a sandwich or coffee between the planned meals which was of course very welcome.
One of the more legendary chefs, "Stor-Erik", who served on the ship in the late 1940s, was so thick that he was more or less pinned to the galley (kitchen). He therefore rarely or never left his post to the great delight of the rest of the crew.
He also recounts an incident when the chef wasn't so high on course. Steam ships use steam when cooking. You put a steam pipe 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 little si and so with the replacement of this filter. On this occasion, the crew discovered an oil bucket in the morning coffee. On this day, the chef was not popular and close to the so-called plank...
Work with life as a stake
The development of buoys and dots made the old steamship increasingly outdated over time. Heavier buoys showed that the ship was too rank and the work at times became dangerous for the crew. The winch boom was designed to lift three tons with a single block.
In order to increase the winch's capacity in line with the increasingly heavier buoys, the boom was reinforced and the wire was replaced with several blocks and the lifting force was thereby increased to five tons. However, this had consequences for the stability of the ship. Olle Pettersson, a former chief engineer on board, has told me that the ship was lifted until the ship tilted so that it had water up to the deck. That meant almost a 45-degree impact and a critical situation for the ship.
The ship was stationed in Holmsund at the end of the 1950s. A then summer-working gast tells of an unforgettable summer. At one point, you would put a dot on a foundation. To find the location, there were no other aids than handloding. A weight on a string was thrown into the water and you could read the depth using markings on a line. After handloding all morning, the place was decided and the buoy and dot were put out on the foundation, after which they returned to Holmsund for the night.
The next day, the site of the dotting would be inspected to make sure everything was in order. As you approached the dot, there was a burst and the whole ship shook.
The dot was misplaced and the Royal Swedish Pilot's Steamship became the first ship to run aground due to incorrect dotting. The ship got a proper impression on the starboard side but fortunately no leakage. After getting off the foundation, the damage is repaired by the inside of the concrete area, after which the ship had to go to shipyards for repair.
The steam-powered winch on board became outdated and literally toothless due to the increasingly heavier buoys. A serious incident occurred in the spring of 1955. They then worked on the laying of light buoys in the St. Anna archipelago. A buoy hanging from the winch boom suddenly began to slide downwards. A sailor spotted this and threw himself on the steam winch's track 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 fall, the winch latch was turned on, the one normally only allowed to be used to block 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 ancient equipment of the old steamer that did not meet the demands of the new era.
Mean tongues claimed that the Royal Swedish Pilot's Office had two accounts. One account intended for renovation and maintenance, there was as much money as possible, the other intended for new purchases and that account was completely empty of funds. Absurdum was maintained.
"Swedish state scandal ship"
Life on board was not only marked by a strict difference between command and crew. It was also a working and living environment that attracted strong criticism. They lived in cramped conditions and the sanitary facilities were of very low standard. In the newspaper columns you could read about "The Swedish State's scandal ship" in the early fifties. The writings dealt with the substandard standard of cabins and sanitary devices on board the S/S Orion.
This eventually led to the Minister of Communications raising the matter in parliament in the spring of 1954. It eventually decided 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 have made a great impression is another woman 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 you'd think it was a generally confused lady who couldn't find her way home, but the truth would soon be revealed. The soon-to-be 90-year-old lady told me that she had sailed with S/S Orion on several occasions, then as the pilot's wife. She spoke with great reverence and enthusiasm about the experience of gliding through the Swedish archipelago with the silent and vibration-free passage of the steamer. She went on to say how bad she felt about the new ship that would later replace the S/S Orion. A diesel-smelling and shaky experience that she over time completely refrained from sailing with.
Another visitor who has made a great 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 who honoured us with her visit.
His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf and his aide and court marshal made an official visit aboard the steamer on April 12, 2003. The visit was scheduled for five minutes but The Majesty's interest in the project meant he stayed for 15 minutes.
The governor of Stockholm County, Mats Hellström, visited us on 17 April 2004. He was so delighted that he chose to become a member of the association.
On 16 April 2005, we were pleased with 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, Departament Secretary Erik Wahlström and Business Director Christer Asplund. The Minister for Culture was very positive about the association's efforts to ensure maritime cultural heritage and the commitment to young people.
In the spring of 2009, we received a visit from the municipal management of the City of Stockholm. The entire Bureau and the Mayor's Council in Finance, Environment and Culture were invited to a tour. Furthermore, we were pleased with a visit by the opposition Mayor Carin Jämtin.
The Ghost Ship
S/S Orion is haunted on and off by a deceased captain who served on the ship in the late thirties. At night, his steps have been perceived from the bridge. Faint noises from the machine telegraph have also been heard.
There are also rumours that one of the chefs who died on board in unclear circumstances is retiring. Slammers from copper rolls have been perceived at night and some have told us that they have felt a weak food smell.
Orion according to Greek mythology
According to Greek mythology, Orion was a skilled hunter, son of Poseidon, the sea god. When he died, Zeus lifted him up into the sky and turned into a constellation. The constellation Orion is characterized by orion's belt, three stars that make up the belt around the hunter's waist. In Sweden, Orion is visible during the winter months.