Captain W D Jonker† 21 Years of Service :† By Desmond Jonker

First of all I am very glad that the S.T Alwyn Vintcent has been saved by Western Cape Vintage Tractor and Engine Club. I have followed the whole story.

As a youngster, during the 1960's and 70's I had the privilege, on many occasions of steering the Vintcent. Sometimes I spent hours on the boat. My Father was the Captain of the Vintcent for many years. As a youngster I watched my dad, towing the Lighters, with the Vintcent, to the mailboats for off-loading the cargo. He worked the Vintcent for 21 years.  Captain W.D Jonker,  he is now 81 years old and stays in Stilfontein... he is still very active and  still drives his own car to Cape Town to visit his children. He is visiting Cape Town in October this year.  My dad has 12 children, all are still alive with lots of memories of  the Vintcent, and those days in Mossel Bay  If you want to contact my dad.. Tel: 018-4842037. He can tell you thousands of stories about his experiences with the Vintcent. I remember, way back in the early 1970's when he worked 10 days non-stop with the Vintcent....A tanker collided near East London and it was towed to Mossel Bay out in the deep sea.

Above is a photo of my dad in uniform, about mid 1970's, you canít see his stripes clearly, he had 2 Broad stripes, with 1 large diamond, (Captain of Steam Tug, Single screw)

He mentioned to me that the Museum in Mossel Bay is in possession of  audio tape casettes....he was interviewed many years ago....on the casettes he tells about his experiences in the harbour, also about the days of the mailboats and the Vintcent.

Yes, I have read Captain Brophy's story on the website.

 During  Captain Brophy's  time in  Mossel Bay he was actually  mainly the Harbour Master (I'm not sure now, I must check with my dad, but I think those days the title was Harbour Captain (In Afrikaans we used to talk of Hawe Kaptein) later named Port Captain and he was also the Pilot (When a ship needed to be docked inside the harbour, the Pilot (Captain Brophy) would take command of the vessel and sail it safely into or out of  the harbour). The  Vintcent, which was captained by my dad (Captain W.D Jonker),  was responsible for maneuvering the ship away from the dock either  by pushing or pulling the vessel). My dad and the Pilot were in constant radio contact during the whole process. The Pilot  informed my dad if he needed to either push or pull or whatever to maneuver the ship into or out of the harbour. Once the Pilot had safely steered the ship away from the dock and harbour, towards open seas, the Vintcent  was also responsible for picking up the Pilot (The reason why the Vintcent was called a Pilot Tug).

 When Captain Brophy arrived in Mossel Bay, my dad actually coached him on how to operate and handle the Vintcent.

Those days in Mossel Bay the harbour crew was 24 hours, 7 days a week on stand by. My dad also took leave and sometimes went away on weekends, the only other person that was qualified to operate the Vintcent, in my dad's absence, was the Harbour Captain. That is why Captain Brophy could relate one of his experiences.  My dad was not only the captain of the Vintcent, but also assisted the Harbour Captain with many duties ... Surveying of ships (also small craft), fishing trawlers, working out of yearly harbour budgets, estimates, miscellaneous, etc.. He and his teams were also on stand by for emergencies, ships in distress, rescues and so on.

In the absence of the Harbour Captain, my dad had to stand in and in some cases had to make important decisions. He can still recall in the 1970's when the oil rig was in need of emergency repairs, because of cracks in its legs and he could not trace the Mossel Bay Harbour Captain or any authorities in Port Elizabeth (Mossel Bay Harbour reported to Harbour Authorities in Port Elizabeth) so my dad had to make the important decision to allow the rig in the bay area. 

The Harbour Captain at the time had the responsibility to make sure that everything ran safely and smoothly and sometimes he had to roll up his sleeves and become involved, hands on, to get the job done (at least those days) and that is why Captain Brophy also captained the Vintcent occasionally.

My dad arrived at Mossel Bay in 1961 and started  working as a mooring attendant, while also studying for his tug master ticket that he got in 1964. He then started as Captain of the Korhaan  (Also built in 1959... Last I heard, the Korhaan was working Durban Harbour, a small tug boat that assisted the Vintcent). From 1964 he also stood in for the tug master of the Vintcent, working the mail boats.  Then from about 1974 he started working the Vintcent as tug master until June 1981, when the Vincent was retired from duty and a twin screw diesel tug took over (if I remember correctly it was named Voortrekker).

In June 1981 my dad got a transfer to Saldanha Bay, where he was captain of the Pilot Boat, G.H Harding (same length as AV) With 2 x 16 cylinder GM engines, the fastest boat the SA Harbours had at that time. (It was a very busy Port at that time and ships, the length of up to 4 rugby fields docked. He earned three times the money that he earned on the Vintcent. The Chief Engineer of the Vintcent, Mike Murdock, also transferred to Saldanha Bay as engineer on the G.H Harding. You wont believe it, but a few years later Captain Woodend rocked up as Pilot on the G.H Harding 

 My dad has got a lot of memories of Mossel Bay Harbour, the Vintcent and the Mail Boat era etc.

About 1976/77 a famous movie was shot in Mossel Bay, The Golden Rendezvous. My dad can still recall how he had to use the Vintcent to rock the ship, that was actually docked in the harbour, to make it look as if the ship  was in stormy waters on open seas. 

The Vintcent was also used for  training tug masters. My dad can recall how he trained and coached van der Meer (surname) from Holland and Burchell (surname). One day he was training Burchell while Burchell was steering the Vintcent, my dad said to him that he wanted to take over again, but Burchell insisted that he was OK and in control. Not even 50 metres later he ran the Vintcent into a large size fishing boat and it sank.

 He also recalls...about 1978/9 when Bertie Reed rolled Voortrekker I near Plettenberg Bay and was towed (not by the Vintcent but another harbour craft, the Flamingo) to Mossel Bay Harbour. Everything inside the yacht was wet. The yacht belonged to the Navy and for some reason nothing about this incident was mentioned in the local newspapers. I doubt if there was anything mentioned in other newspapers. Voortrekker I was moored in Mossel Bay harbour for a couple of weeks before it was removed. It was during this time that my brother and I discovered that Voortrekker I was made out of cement.

 While docking ships with the Vintcent, radio contact between the ship and the Vintcent was sometimes a problem. Whistles were made use of by the Pilot and the Captain of the Vincent (My dad has still got the one he used.)  2 blows...push in (ahead).....1 blow...stop and 3 blows...lift off ( astern...reverse...backwards) 2 blows followed by another 2 blows ... Full ahead. 3 blows, followed by another 3 blows ...full astern. When the Vintcent blew off steam, my dad could not hear anything and then he had to use his own discretion on what to do. Sometimes the Pilot made use of the shipís speaker system to direct.

Before Captain Brophy, there was Captain "Cheeky" Chauky and before him was Captain "Red Beard" Steipels. Late 1970's Captain Woodend stood in as Harbour Captain and Pilot ( for a few months only)

My dad also, for many years, made hundreds of trips around Seal Island, with the Vintcent, during the holiday seasons.

Here is a photo of him, with his 4 sons, taken about 6 years ago, more or less how he still looks today. I am 2nd from right.

This is a photo taken  early 1970's of the harbour crew  (Everybody on this photo was in some way involved with the Vintcent. I still remember most of their names!) My dad is 2nd row from front, sitting on the left side. This Photo was taken during winter. How do I know? Because they are dressed in their winter uniform. Black = Winter and White = summer.

In the front row sit the stevedores, they were the ones that offloaded the cargo from the Mail Boats onto the Lighters and then again offloading at the dock.

2nd Row from front, 3rd from left Harbour Master and pilot, Captain Steipels, he was there before Captain Brophy. On Captain Steipelsí right side is chief engineer of (Vintcent) Mike Murdock. If you need more names and what their duties were, I can forward.

  You know what is sad? You can count on your one hand, how many of them are still alive. But at least the Vintcent will be "alive" for many generations to come.

A photo when my dad was the captain of the Korhaan. (He says he earned more, while he was working the Korhaan than on the Vintcent, because with the Korhaan, he worked a lot of overtime, when a tanker docked, those days it took up to 3 days to offload and during that whole time the Korhaan was on 24 hour stand by next to the tanker.)

Lighter on the dry dock (A lighter was used to offload cargo from the Mail Boats.)

 Once a year, my dad took the Vintcent to Port Elizabeth for its yearly repairs and maintenance. The Vintcent had to go on the dry dock, but before that could happen my dad first worked the Vintcent in P.E harbour dropping and picking up Pilots in order to get rid off all the coal and water, so that the Vintcent was empty and light to go on the dock.  So he left the Vintcent there for about a month and then returned to Mossel Bay with the sister of the Vintcent, the William Weller. So I dont know if there are any other Captains, that can claim that they were privileged to work 2 of the 5 sister tug's! 

I will check with my brothers and sisters, if they have any old photos of the Vintcent,while he was in Mossel Bay. Will forward them.

All success with the project!


Desmond Jonker



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