Referring to the article ‘More Manx Matters’ (Part 1) by John Rogers in the February 2019 edition of Sea Breezes.
My keen interest was aroused towards the end of the article when he mentions the building of a canal between Seville and the Atlantic circa 1965 named the Francisco Franco Canal to enable ships displacing more than 4,000 tons to sail up the Rio Guadalquivir.
In June 1953, I was serving as one of six apprentices on the MV Retainer (Ex Chungking II) of some 9,393 grt which had been bought by the Admiralty for conversion to, I think, an ammunition depot ship, but in the interim was chartered to Buries Markes under the auspices of the Montreal Shipping Company. I remember very clearly sailing up the Rio Guadalquivir from Sanlucar de Barrameda at the estuary all the way to Seville with a local pilot on board who insisted we steam at full speed, which was 14 knots, no doubt to the consternation of the ship’s Master!
Consequently, in the upper reaches of the river where it is much narrower, we were introduced to a good example of squat in that the water was sucked in from the banks on each side of the river by our speed causing an enormous tidal wave to follow us up river. At that time, the river ran mostly through countryside passing the occasional village and the said tidal wave caused cattle to be washed off their feet and drenching several farm workers who had been taking siesta. One larger village, which straddled each bank of the river, was almost overwhelmed and the many small boats moored on either side were mainly capsized and sunk. Of course, all this activity caused much wonder and great mirth for us 16 year olds, but, with hindsight, it was near carnage for the local populace and presumably compensation had to be levied at the end of the day.
Looking at a modern road atlas of that part of Spain today, we probably took one of the many tributaries to actually reach Seville, namely the Rio Guadaira, which terminated at the lock gates. To the left of these was a large muddy cut into which the bows of the ship were driven before a waiting tug was secured astern to facilitate the ship being turned around and then towed stern first into the dock which in those days was simply a river berth with acres of scrub land on the opposite bank. Scrutinising the atlas again, the only canal I can discern is the Canal del Bajo Guadalquivir so, presumably, if it is the same one named after Franco albeit posthumously, then it has subsequently been renamed at a later date.
In conclusion, I would say we were the largest vessel ever to navigate the river to Seville at that time and I’m sure that on departure, our passage down river back to sea was at a much more sedate speed!
CAPTAIN B A HALL