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The sea-going years

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I went to sea as a Cadet with the national carrrier Ceylon Shipping Corporation

No other company as CSC took more interest and made committments to training Cadets and making sure they ended up as Masters finally; paying all costs including our study leave, exam fees and subsistence right up to Masters. CSC perhaps made 90% of the Masters between 1974 to 1992 before they scaled down their fleet to the presently 2 'owned' vessels.

At the time in the '70s there was no pre-sea training - we went from Year 11 at school straight onto the training ship Lanka Kalyani

What was so unique about Lanka Kalyani was that it made it's own profit for CSC sailing the Far-East while the deck complement consisted only of Cadets, save for the Bosun & the Carpenter.

It was also an academy on board with the revered Staff Captain Cmdr. M G S Perera   (RCeyNR) conducting classes on all subjects required for our initial 2nd Mates' Certification.

The 1977 Kalyani batch of 10 was Priyantha Dias, Sanath Mahiepala, Nadaraja Ganesan (Royal); Mohan Thurairatnam (St. Thomas'); Ajantha Abeysinghe (Ananda); Hasitha Jayasuriya & Kapila Perera (Nalanda); Alric Pietersz (de Mazanod); Anura Herath (Science College) & Ranjith Weerasinghe (Mahinda).

We passed-out from the Kalyani in November 1978. I won the trophy for the 'Best All-round Cadet as well as the trophy for 'The Best in Seamanship' while Mahiepala won the trophy for 'Best in Navigation'. I also had an Extra First Class Certificate.

Being the 'Best Cadet' gave me the privilege of selecting my next ship. Instead of opting for the glamorous life on the Colombo-Europe ships, I selected the largest and the only tanker we owned at the time; the 33,000 tonne Tammanna

Ajantha joined me on the Tammanna as my fellow Cadet.

The Tammanna was the ship that converted me from an over-confident Cadet to an officer, mainly because we had an exceptionally experienced Indian Chief Officer, Mr. Dabeer.

Since we all lost touch with Mr. Dabeer after the Tammanna was sold I need to include this here:

I have never known another tanker mate who knew everything that was happening on deck, be it with the cargo, pumps, servicing & repairs, tank washing; but mainly he knew us and he knew what it was to be in love...

I could in the middle of a screw-up and consequent punishment ask him if I could go now as my girlfriend was waiting for me at a bus-stop.. he would first say no and then return a few minutes later and tell me 'Aray Dias, you go, I am here no...'

He was such a wonderful man; probably dead by the time I write this as he was in his 50s when he was my mate... God bless him...

Ajantha and I were both promoted to 4th officers soon after joining Tammanna. Ajja left for the Europe run and after some 13 months I too left to join the Lanka Ratna under the command of the mercurial Capt Nelson Nanayakkara.

Lanka Ratna  was one big party afloat! We had a party for anything and everything. There was no bar on a cargo ship to compete with the Ratna Bar; in terms of style and vareity on offer.

We sailed Europe, long stays in Hull, Liverpool, Rotterdam. Bremen, Hamburg, Rouen and back through Port said to Colombo; Partying all the way!

I was up for my 2nd mates by this time; so were the others in the batch. So we adjourned to Bombay to face the first critical examinations with the attendent aprrehension and elation and soon found ourselves enjoing the fruits of Bombay to the fullest...

The initial shock of Bombay was terrifying! I still remember the Royal Bakery on the Clare Road, Byculla, on top of which me, Hasitha and Anura baked for the first two weeks until we found a decent flat in the fashionable suburb of Bandra. The Royal Bakery is still there!

To complete this part it must be mentioned that the '77 batch of Kalyani was one of the most enterprising and loved batches of the CSC. We had all types of talent among us... musicians (me & Alric), Actors (Hasitha, Anura, Ranjith & Mahie), Dramatists (Ranjith & Thurai)... we even could forge the Master Key to all the Yale locks onboard!

After 2nd Mates...


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