By Gordon W. Stead
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Additional info for A Leaf upon the Sea: A Small Ship in the Mediterranean, 1941-1943
The MLs that were to be the focus of our lives were trim craft, seaworthy in almost any weather but very lively in a heavy sea. They had the fine lines of destroyers although they were much smaller (112' over-all length, 18' beam, 4' draught) and were built in yacht yards and other plants all around the United Kingdom. Powered by twin petrol engines, they could do up to 21 knots, with a range at 12 knots of 1,500 miles on their 5,000 gallons of high octane fuel carried in five self-sealing tanks fitted athwartships abaft the engine room.
The wheelhouse above the main or upper deck housed the steering compass and wheel, engine room telegraphs, asdic recorder, chart table and a settee. Abaft the wheelhouse and three steps up was the open bridge, along its front a ledge on which were arrayed the conning compass and racks to hold signal lamps and binoculars, and a protected writing surface for message pads and manuals; along its sides the flag lockers, and, in the starboard forward corner, a snap-up seat for the officer of the watch.
We had no satellite or inertial navigation, no Omega or loran, no radar or echo sounder, and, in small craft, no gyro compass, but we got there just the same. I took sights with the sextant on stars at dawn and dusk and the sun at noon from my lively ML platform. In keeping with the practice of the Navy with ships in company on an ocean passage, the four destroyers and those MLs which chose to do so exchanged their estimates of our noon position by means of festive flag hoists. When at last we made the land, I was pleased to find that my reckoning was as close as any in that proper Navy company.
A Leaf upon the Sea: A Small Ship in the Mediterranean, 1941-1943 by Gordon W. Stead