Sea Changes Play

Sea Changes

https://vimeo.com/video/358931591 Produced by the Citadel Arts Club in the Leith Docker’s Club, the play was written by Jim Brown and directed by Mark Kidd. The cast are: Sean Docherty, Charlie West, Wullie Gardner, David Magowan, Tommy Keir, Charles Donnelly, Hamish Munro, Chris Alexander, Aaron Presley and Gregor Davidson.   Video by Calum Gundry  The play …

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Brass thingys

A wee quiz

A wee quiz with no prize and at the moment no answers. On the SS Explorer sometimes things turn up and sometimes they disappear. The brass devices pictured recently appeared. I don’t know where from and having been volunteering on the ship for ten years and been over every inch of her I should have …

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Tall Ships 1995

n July 1995, the picturesque port of Leith played host to a magnificent fleet of tall ships that brought a sense of wonder and admiration to all who witnessed their majestic presence. This gathering of graceful vessels from around the world created an atmosphere of excitement as sailors, tourists, and locals eagerly flocked to the waterfront to witness this extraordinary spectacle.

Decca Navigator Receiver locate on the bridge of HMY Britannia

The Decca Navigator

In the world of navigation technology, the system stands as a pioneering system that revolutionized air and marine navigation. Developed in the early 1940s, the it provided accurate positional information, enabling pilots and sailors to navigate with precision.

Leith Festival

Today on a sunny but sometimes chilly Leith Links we set out our stall at the Leith Festival stall extravaganza. Amongst other stalls were  Greenpeace who gave up rather early, extinction rebellion (believe it or not) and many local organisations and charities.  We had a reasonable footfall with a few people showing a healthy interest.  …

Leith Festival Read More »


I presume the people accessing the log in page of my website are hackers. No idea what they hope to gain but my password is not Password. Good luck with wasting your time and driving up my views. Thank you. I’m so proud. 

Myford Lathe

I recently came into possession of this Myford lathe. It is on loan to the SS Explorer.  It came with a DC motor which is unfortunate as we don’t want to be running the harbour generator to use it.  I have therefore invested in a VFD motor and controller which I fitted today and successfully …

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The Lathe

As well as volunteering on the SS Explorer, I also volunteer as an engineer on the Royal Yacht Britannia. As a result I have been gifted this lathe. It is a Myford ML7-R. The Royal Yacht  disposed of it because it was surplus to requirements as another better lathe is on board and also the …

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The Log

The ship’s log. What is it?  There are a few logs on a ship. A navigation log on the bridge would record the ship’s position, weather, sea temperature among other things.  In the engine room, temperatures, pressures and machinery status would be recorded.  A movement log would be kept on the bridge and in the …

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Derek Learmont

It is with a heavy heart that I have to pass on the following message from David Darling, Derek’s Stepson.  He has contacted me to say that Derek has passed away. “Can you please pass on to the members that Derek Learmont, passed away on 11th Feb due to cancer.There will be a service held …

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Seafarers have long been able to determine their latitude (that is the angle in degrees, minutes and seconds north or south of the equator. This is called declination) by measuring the angle between stars and the horizon. The easiest example of this is  the pole star, Polaris which is  located less than one degree from …

Longitude Read More »

Live front

The Main Switchboard

Continuing the blog on an electrical theme, ladies and gentlemen I give you the main switchboard.  It is a live front switchboard with live knife type breakers.  Dinnae touch them. Explorer is (was) powered by three diesel powered dynamos. Two 80kw units and one 24kw harbour dynamo. The centre circuit breaker is the harbour dynamo’s …

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The Megger

Continuing on the geekery of electrical test instruments, Pictured here is the Megger. So named because it measures megohms.  Ohms is the unit of electrical resistance. If one volt is applied to a one ohm resistor a current of one amp will flow and one watt of heat will be generated The Megger can measure …

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210 metres eh?

One of our members donated this device to Explorer. It consists of a frame attached to a Venturi containing an impeller connected to two worm drives.  The worm drive is attached what presumably was a recording device. A bourdon tube is attached for reasons yet to be gleaned.  It seems to have a depth limit …

210 metres eh? Read More »

The Avometer

Avometer The Explorer didn’t carry a dedicated electrician.  The ship’s engineers and radio officer would have been responsible for electrical maintenance and repairs. A multimeter is an essential tool for diagnosing electrical faults. Nowadays multimeters tend to be small digital devices. In Explorer’s service days, the rather bulky Avometer would have been used.   The …

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Crew mess room refresh

Over the past few weeks our volunteers have been freshening up this space which is the crew mess room.  The bulkheads and deckhead have been painted.  Various joinery repairs and maintenance carried out.  Wooden floor liner installed and new carpet tiles installed.  The volunteers can now enjoy smoko in the very lap of luxury.

Wear and tear

Around October 2018 a project was commenced to shelter the monkey island with a tent to allow for more permanent renovation of the corroded deck.  After two and a half years of service the fabric of the tent requires renovation itself.   Some sections of the plastic sheeting require replacement. The damage above occurred during …

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Culture and Heritage

Culture and heritage: Edinburgh economic recovery panel

Culture and Heritage discussion panel Culture and heritage was the focus of the economic recovery discussion panel last week hosted by the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce. With the panel representing a broad spectrum of the Sector including Colin Marr Director Edinburgh Playhouse, Julia Amour Director Edinburgh Festivals, Benny Higgins Chair National Galleries of Scotland and …

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Fire Warden Training

Today eight volunteers were given fire warden training by Alex McPheators of Fire Scotland.  This consisted of a couple of hours classroom (or officer’s saloon) training.  This was followed by a very wet and rainy discharge of fire extinguishers to put out gas simulated fires.

Website upgrade

I’ve had the website in the workshop for a few days up on ramps to try and squeeze some more speed out of it.  The graphic below shows the readings before tune up. Before So after stiffening up the suspension and shaving the cylinder heads to up the compression ratio, fitting low profile alloys and …

Website upgrade Read More »

Rookies error?

It would appear that Alexander Hall & Co. Ltd planned to install two lavatories on the starboard side of the ship next to the officer’s pantry. What they don’t appear to have taken account of is the rather relevant fact that the outlet from these shunkies is about three feet below the waterline.  A fact …

Rookies error? Read More »

day of the seafarer

Day of the seafarer, seafarers of the past support the seafarers of today.

Day of the seafarer 2020, the theme seafarers are key workers.  We would like to say a thank you to all seafarers today for everything they are doing to keep the global supply chain operating, delivering medical supplies, food, fuel PPE and more which we need on a daily basis. We understand that many seafarers …

Day of the seafarer, seafarers of the past support the seafarers of today. Read More »


First online Summer STEM Academy features a fasinating SS Explorer activity

The SS Explorer Preservation Society is taking part in the first online Summer STEM Academy, along with a number of other businesses and academic institutions. The Academy normally runs for a few days in Glasgow and Edinburgh each year and provides and opportunity for Students and Teachers to take part in activities designed to make …

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Back to Work

Following the loosening of CV restrictions, work continues of maintenance of the Explorer.  Today we finished the base framing of the monkey island deck.  We also loose laid one sheet of plywood mainly to develop a safe way of transporting the wood up to the top deck.

National Historic Ships UK

SS Explorer wins 1 of 4 National Historic Ships UK New Regional Virtual Flagship Awards.

The team on the SS Explorer are happy to announce that we have been named as the Regional Flag ship for Scotland East in this years National Historic Ships UK 2020 Flag ship Awards.  The awards usually reflects the cruising programme or visitor numbers of each craft. Instead, for the first time, applications were open …

SS Explorer wins 1 of 4 National Historic Ships UK New Regional Virtual Flagship Awards. Read More »

Trawl Winch


Today as part of museumfromhome and heritagefromhome the SS Explorer is virtually open to the public. Look through our website and find out more about this unique historic ship and piece of heritage engineering. Watch some of the ex crew members talk about their time onboard the ship, see her in action carrying out research …

#museumfromhome Read More »


The Marine Laboratory in Torry has gifted us some hat tallys from Explorer’s time in service. We will need to obtain a couple of sailor caps to fit them to. Hello Sailor!

The Talking Funnel

A lady who is publishing a bit about Explorer in a book (Secret Edinburgh. An Unusual Guide), asked for a photograph of what she rather charmingly called the “Talking Funnel”. So she got one. Here is the talking funnel!


Today’s geekery involves the Stream-line lubricating oil filter. It filtered the oil from the two main generators. Manufactured by Stream-line Filters LTD. Hele-Shaw Works Ingate Place, London, SW8

The Kent screen clears water by centrifugal force from spinning

Kent Screen

The Explorer has two Kent screens (or clear view screens) in the wheelhouse. The Kent screen is a device where the glass is rotated at high speed to force water of by centrifugal force. Other manufacturers are about but the Kent was much used in UK ships.


In February 2017 we installed zinc sacrificial anodes on steel wire to help protect the hull against corrosion. These work because oxidants, which corrode metals, will oxidize the zinc anode rather than the protected metal structure, thus preventing the structure from being corroded. Every now and again we have to land the anodes to remove …

Anodes Read More »

This is a Marconi Lodestar HF/DF (High Frequency/Direction Finder) system

The huffduff

Todays bit of of geekery is the High Frequency Direction Finder, abbreviated HFDF and often referred to as the hufffduff. It’s function was to determine the bearing of a radio transmitter on the high frequency band which is in the range of 3 to 30 megahertz. This is the range that ship’s medium and long …

The huffduff Read More »

The term "megger" is often used generically to refer to any insulation resistance testing instrument.

The Megger

Another bit of historical geekery, the Megger. In these days of practically anything and everything being “Mega”, the Megger was eponymously named as it’s purpose was to measure electrical resistance in the range of “megohms”, a megohm being one million ohms, which is a lot. It was often used as a practical joke device whereby …

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Avometer is a brand name associated with electrical multimeters, which are versatile testing and measuring tools used various electrical applications. The term "Avometer" is often used to describe analog multimeters, particularly those produced by the British company AVO (Ampere-Volt-Ohm) Ltd.

The Avometer

Today’s geekfest is the Avometer. Although this one was donated by our late friend Brian Murdoch, it is a racing certainty that a similar instrument would have been used by the engineers and radio officer on board the Explorer. The AVO in the name stands for Amps, Volts and Ohms which is precisely the electrical …

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An outbreak of……

…….. hard labour on the monkey island today saw the remnants of the wooden decking removed. The big top it turns out makes an excellent greenhouse and all the troops were sweating like a glassblowers bum. We are now ready for phase 3, when we have worked out what phase three is.

Then and now.

Today we were visited by Donald Ballance, a scientist on Explorer between 1966 and 1974. Here is a photo of him then and a photo of him now. His tour was more informative for the volunteer conducting it that for him.

A Dreich Day

After some appalling weather, both wind and rain, the big top seems to be doing its job. There is dampness due to blowing rain and slight leaks but nothing is penetrating to the interior. More progress made today and we now have around a third of the deck up. It’s a slog. And rain and …

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Diesel tank

Diesel Tanks

Port and Starboard Diesel Tanks Both these tanks were inspected visually through the manhole doors on 260119.  The starboard tank is in relatively good condition and the port tank has light surface corrosion.  The port tank is not currently considered suitable for fuel storage.

Big top

The Big Top

The big top pretty much complete except at the aft end. Will have to consider if we have enough Monarflex to do the remaining unshielded parts. Should keep most of the water off the deck and out of the accommodation. Turns out it consumed many more man hours than I had imagined. Hoping to start …

The Big Top Read More »


The Monkey Island (If anyone has expertise in aluminium corrosion control, can you get in touch please)

A bit of a windy one today and testing the mettle of the Big Top. It is standing up so far but requires tweaking and maintenance. Also we have still to shield the forward and after ends, but we are awaiting delivery of further anchors and clamps. When we had run out of tent tweaks, …

The Monkey Island (If anyone has expertise in aluminium corrosion control, can you get in touch please) Read More »

Monkey Island

The big top progress

One step forward…….. Started covering the tent poles today. Unfortunately due to a rookies error, the poles are too far apart. The blue reinforcing pads should be aligned with the poles. Doh! So we have lowered the main stay ready to saw some pipe on Tuesday. ?

Harbour Generator

Today, Andy carried out a long overdue oil change and filter clean on the harbour generator. Around 20 litres of oil and 2 litres of water sludge were drained and the sump cleaned with rags. Fresh oil added snd the save all cleaned.

Arctic Corsair

Continuing my adventures in the lookshoory superyacht Síbín, I find myself in Kingston upon Hull, or ‘ull as the locals say. ‘ull is home to the Arctic Corsair, a motor trawler built in 1960 in Beverley. She is now a visitor attraction on the River ‘ull, and she is about to receive a massive cash …

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Annual General Meeting

SS Explorer Preservation Society – Annual General Meeting Saturday 7 July 2018 at 12 midday for a start at 12.15 Leith Docker’s Club, 17 Academy Street, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 7EE Agenda 1. Welcome & Introductions 2. Apologies for absence 3. Minutes of previous AGM 4. Matters Arising 5. Chairman’s Report – Andy Marjoribanks 6. Treasurer’s …

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What connects the SS Explorer to the Rainbow Warrior?

When Explorer was under construction in Halls shipyard in 1955, another  vessel was under construction in Hall Russel at the same time.  This ship was to be the Sir William Hardy, a fishery research vessel commissioned by the the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.  Unlike Explorer, she was a diesel electric vessel and suffered …

What connects the SS Explorer to the Rainbow Warrior? Read More »

Thursday visitors

Today we hosted a couple of tours of the SS Explorer.  The larger group were procurement professionals from the Northern Irish, Welsh and Scottish governments.  And a net gain of three new members.   Tours are always available through info@ssexplorer.org        


Today the society set out its stall at the Ship Ahoy event on board the tall ship Glenlee in Glasgow. Various exhibitors partook including model makers, Skylark IX, Falls of Clyde, Caledonian MacBrayne to name a few. Jim Charlie and I fielded a lot of enquiries. Time will tell if we get any new members …

SHIP AHOY!!! Read More »

George Slesser

Today George Slesser took a trip down memory lane visiting the Explorer. George served on Explorer as a scientist and he is pictured here in the lab and in the cabin he occupied.

Sir Andrew Cubie

We are delighted and honoured to announce that Sir Andrew Cubie CBE has agreed to become a Patron of the SS Explorer Preservation Society. The list of Andrew’s past achievements and positions is too long to list here so I will ask the Scottish Cancer Foundation to help out. Sir Andrew Cubie CBE Welcome aboard …

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The Radar

The original radar equipment as fitted to the Explorer when new is long gone having been updated probably more than once during her long career. Phil Harley has done some research for us and he believes that the Marconi Mk IV equipment shown was the original fit.

The Fishroom.

In a trawler as opposed to a research vessel the fishroom would take up much of the fore part of the ship and would be filled with ice and hopefully with fish at the end of a voyage. Explorer has two fishrooms, the port one is accessible only from the deck and is equipped with …

The Fishroom. Read More »

Why Steam?

Why was the Explorer powered by a triple expansion steam engine when contemporary trawlers were being powered by diesel engines? This is a question which has vexed us here at the SSEPS for years. A couple of bits of information have revealed themselves over the past few days which give rise to a theory. First …

Why Steam? Read More »

SSEPS Invades Aberdeen

As told by Jim Duff. A bit out of date but interesting if you like ships. To see the blog properly, click the pop out icon at the top right. [gview file=”https://ssexplorer.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/SS-Explorer-Preservation-Society.docx”]

George Wood

Yesterday we welcomed George Wood who came all the way from Aberdeen by bus to visit the Explorer. His father was a Chief Engineer on-board. George tells us that when the ship was doing research on currents and tides the Explorer used to deploy buoys with tags on them. When they were subsequently gathered in …

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A Net Drag Formula for Pelagic Nets

I came across this document during a trawl (gerrit?) of the internet for FRV Explorer stories. It describes one aspect of Explorer’s (And FRVs Clupea and Mara) research and although it contains some hard sums, there are also some pretty drawings. Enjoy. A Net Drag Formula for Pelagic Nets

Explorer, The Spy Trawler!

It would seem that our venerable old lady was used to spy on the Russian navy in her day.   Commander John Ian Steven Obituary   We have it on good authority that signals intelligence was her primary role.   The 007 of the Northern Seas.


Jim and Maggie busy cleaning the labs today.  I laid a bit more anti slip netting before skiving off for a tour of the Apache II pipe-laying vessel, one of our neighbours.  I think Explorer could pretty much fit in Apache’s navigating bridge.     After that back to help Charlie fit a lamp in …

Skiving Read More »

Liberation of stores.

Liberated various items from the Vos Raasay and the Vos Islay which are being broken up in Leith Docks. Various light fittings, cleaning chemicals, lifebuoys and sundry other items. Thanks to Dale marine for allowing us to scrounge.

New link

A link has been added to the bottom of this page to give a flavour of life on a contemporaneous Granton trawler. Check it out and thank your god that you don’t have to live that life.

Corrody leak water.

After much searching we believe that water leakage into the mess room and engine room is largely originating from the corroded base of this ventilator. So in accordance with merchant navy tradition it will be repaired temporarily with a cement box. Photographed is Jim’s shutter joinery skills.


A modest turn out for the society’s Annual General Meeting. Attending were: front row left to right Charlie Blyth, Bob Harley, Andy Marjoribanks, Colin Williamson, Derek Learmont. Back row, Alan Hush, Jim Duff, Cron Mackay, Simon Sawers, Brian Murdoch, Alastair Goodman, Emma Fraser and Bill Fallon.

Bon Accord Steam Rally

Caravan all packed up for the trip to Castle Fraser tomorrow.  First thing in the morning I’ll be picking up the newly designed posters and fliers that have been designed by Deborah Mullen     DEBORAH-MULLEN.COM Meeting up with Brian on Saturday to man the Explorer stand  and hopefully attract some followers and sponsors. Weather’s …

Bon Accord Steam Rally Read More »

Water damage.

A quiet Saturday on the Explorer.  Mooring lines a bit slack so tensioned up.     Inspection of the ship after this revealed serious water ingress from the recent rain into the mate’s cabin through the decklight.  The decklight has been removed along with the rotten wood in it’s cofferdam.  Covered up but fairly urgent …

Water damage. Read More »

Niagra on board

All that rain on Tuesday (60mm+) revealed a few leaks in the superstructure – one behind the Ruston powered harbour generator sounded like Niagra – even above the noise of the generator.  Andy found a scuppers drain pipe that was blocked and another that seemed to have a completely burst pipe.  The first was cleared …

Niagra on board Read More »

A shorter gap

A bit of time has passed since the last blog but things are progressing. The AC generator has been problematic with AVR issues eventually solved and then a persistent over speeding issue which is hopefully now solved. A lot of internal cosmetic work has been carried out by various members, including repairing the mess room …

A shorter gap Read More »

A long blog gap

Most of the decklights have been refurbished and refitted making the ship a bit more weatherproof. AC generator has been behaving itself over the last four weeks so fingers crossed it is now reliable.  It was also recently serviced. Work is in progress to get the saloon up to standard with various bits of joinery …

A long blog gap Read More »


Our thanks to Technip and the crew of the MV Orelia. Orelia is currently de-equipping in Leith prior to her last voyage to be dismantled. The Company and the Chief Engineer have been kind enough to allow the SS Explorer to repurpose and recycle some of their stores. Among other things, our engine room will …

Orelia Read More »


Forepeak ventilated and inspected. Approx 100kg of debris (corrosion and cement) removed. Tank filled with fresh water. Work started on securing hatch dogs.

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