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Article: Tale of the Seas (Continuation)

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    Tale of the Seas (Continuation)

    2 Comments by Doc Vernon Published on 7th January 2020 04:09 AM
    I visited New Orleans many times in 1977. Because of the Greek sailors visiting its large port at the time, there were many Greek shops there, even a bouzoukia night club.
    It is a beautiful area with a mild climate, a lot of greenery and many sights. Visitors fall in love with the town as soon as they set eyes on it and wish they could live there.
    New Orleans is built on the banks of the Mississippi, the largest river of the country. Its waters flow for many kilometres until reaching the sea, and the wild natural beauty with old trees, colourful birds, beavers and endless swamps constitute a huge wetland ecosystem with hundreds of living creatures, alligators, reptiles and other amphibians.
    Winter is mild and does not last long, while the summers are hot and rainy.
    It is inhabited by people of many races with most of the population being of African descent. It was established as a French colony during the sixteenth century and its name was linked to the slave trade, riverboats and Jazz. The city of New Orleans boasts the famous French Market, the museum with the famous wax sculptures of famous persons and the Tremé Quarter where Jazz was born and developed, as well as the famous French Quarter and Bourbon Street, the former overflowing with jazz music culture and the latter overrun by houses of ill repute and criminality everywhere, out in the streets and behind bright lights where suspicious night activities coexist with carnal lust and other pleasures.
    Bourbon Street, a name linked with prostitution and drugs. The street with countless establishments hosting hell and paradise, prostitution and exploitation, suspicious transactions between the lawless and big contraband behind closed doors. A busy street with vibrant and strong colours in the shop windows, yellows, greens and purples.
    The passersby were mostly of mixed race, walking to the rhythm of jazz. The women were big, juicy and jaunty, showing off their big breasts and provocative behinds. They were negro, mixed race and creole, all beautiful and desirable with a firm step that made their firm buttocks wobble. I thought that, maybe, Paradise was right here, on the famous and infamous Bourbon street.
    The shipowner Stavros Niarchos named the tanker that carried us to New Orleans “EUGENIE”, after his wife Eugenia. To reach our destination we sailed up the Mississippi, the largest river of North America, considered in the past as the boundary of the “Wild West” flowing down the country over a distance of six thousand kilometres and washing into the bay of Mexico, the largest ocean lagoon in the world. The call it the “great river” and is an essential transportation artery as it is navigable almost to its source. It is a wild river that man never managed to tame. When it floods, its waters cover vast territories. Various projects aiming to harness its great force always fail before its power.
    On the ship I worked as a junior engineer and carried out the duties of third engineer. These were duties assigned to me by the first engineer because the third engineer of the ship had no idea about engines. Because of this, I carried out my shifts with him, as his equal. I was a good mechanic and deserved my promotion. The third engineer was a man from the island of Chios and he was recruited without having a diploma or knowledge of engineering but simply because he was a relative of the chief engineer of the company fleet.
    He was from Chios and came along with his cousin, a stoker. They were inseparable, they stayed together in the same cabin, they ate together, they worked their shifts together exactly like the old story that says, 'peaple fron Chios always walk in twos', and all this, in breach of the regulations because on ships, there needs to be a separation between officers and lower-ranking crew. The third engineer was an officer while the stoker was just crew. In ships there are separate dining and recreation areas for lower-ranking crew and higher-ranking crew in order to keep the necessary distance which is conducive for discipline. In their case however, an exception was made, by orders that came from the higher echelons of the company.
    The Islanders of Chios were mainly fishermen, a low-income profession as it depended not only on hard and dangerous work but also on the weather which usually renders the sea rough and wild. Therefore, they considered seamen as rich and aristocratic because they received a steady salary, and all wished to become seamen. Those who could, were recruited on ships.
    One will therefore find many Chios islanders on ships in agreement with the well-known saying of “people from Chios always walk in twos”. The Chios people acquired this habit for mutual support, and even though it is misunderstood by many, it actually shows their intelligence. This support for each other became well known because, during the Ottoman occupation, a Turk in Chios had the right to ask a Greek on the street to lift him on his back and carry him. The Chios islanders could not accept this and, instead, loaded one of their own on their back to carry, so they would not be forced to carry a Turk.
    The two men from Chios were friendly and very likeable. Their extreme kindness was etched on their faces and no bad words ever came out of their lips. For days and nights, we carried out endless shifts together, and we really got on well. Many years passed since then and they are of the few that I can still remember their names. Mikes and Stamatis. Mikes was simple and thickset, just like the strong and thick trunk of an oak and his strong arms could bend steel. Stamatis was slight and pretended to be devious without being very clever in reality, but this bothered nobody, as they all saw his kind side. In any case, nobody would dare mess with him as his cousin was always next to him, standing like a brick wall.
    As our shifts coincided, so did our shore leaves. Before our first shore leave in New Orleans, we mainly talked about the sinful Bourbon street we were going to visit and how it was filled with shops stocking all types of pornographic material, sexual services for sale and all kinds of sex toys and accessories, enhancing substances and all sorts of secrets on straight or gay carnal pleasure. This is where all the clubs were located and where the famous naked go-go girls danced seductively and sensually, lifting the libido of the audience.
    In those days, it was fashionable to have go-go girls in bars. These were beautiful young girls who danced practically naked on poles and stages a little higher than the customers, for their enjoyment, but the customers were not allowed to touch them. They danced slow routines, alone and held the male population spellbound. They only wore a tiny string and that was the only place where customers were allowed to touch in order to hang dollars as payment for the wonderful shows they were staging. Any other contact was strictly prohibited and for this reason there was discreet surveillance of every customer’s movements by bouncers, for the prevention of any unauthorized contact. God help anyone who dared breach the bar code. Immediately, countless bodyguards would appear out of nowhere and savagely beat the culprit.
    We reached the infamous street and followed the call of one of the many touts outside the bars, into an empty bar. A very beautiful and petite dancer was gyrating on the stage and beckoned us to enter. As soon as her eyes fell on the stoker, she stood right above him, possibly considering that he was an easy target being so slight and kind-looking.
    Stamatis was wearing a brand-new suit that matched his tie. He was freshly shaven and bathed and was doused in fragrant cologne. He looked like a well-paid merchant marine officer and, in comparison, wearing our plain clothes, we looked like his subordinates.
    So, the little dancer zeroed on the well-paid, in her opinion, officer, considering him to be a good customer. She probably thought that she was going to get good tips from him.
    We sat near the stage and enjoyed the view she offered with her dancing, but she was gyrating over the stoker as if we did not exist, and she was not going to leave him.
    The minutes ticked away, but the stoker did not offer any tips. The girl, annoyed, was getting closer to him, thrusting her pelvis into his face and making him heave with desire. We thought, and, most probably, so did the stripper, that he was doing this to pretend that he is a tough little man but would pay eventually. He had placed his cigarettes and gold lighter on the stage and had devoted himself completely on watching the beautiful girl. By now, she was dancing angrily, indicating to him that he should hang money on the thin thread that held her flimsy underwear together. In the end, having received no response, she stopped dancing and vociferously demanded her payment. The damned stoker, however, proved to be stingy and refused so the young girl grabbed his gold lighter and moved away from us. He was about to go after her, but I realized that we were going to get into trouble and grabbed him by the arm to stop him. I explained to him that if we made a fuss in these places of ill repute abroad, we would disappear without a trace. The stoker was very upset because his lighter was gold and therefore expensive and he said that he was going to make a fuss to get it back, even if this meant he was going to get a beating.
    Seeing that we were not going to get out of this situation, I told him to wait and give me a chance to think. I came up with the idea of grabbing the lighter from her when she least expected us to do so, since she was alone in the little room, and immediately running away fast so that the bouncers of the club standing behind the screens could not catch us.
    It was a difficult moment, we had taken a big decision, but we were forced to do it because the stoker was going to make a fuss anyway. I knew that we were in a dangerous place, protected by tough and dangerous people of the criminal world who would surely rush out upon hearing the slightest noise.
    So, we put our plan to action, the stoker grabbed the lighter from the girl’s hands, and we ran. I still have flashbacks of their terrifying voices swearing while chasing us.
    I don’t know how many there were, nobody looked back, but we ran at great speed. I am sure that, had we run the 100 metre sprint that night, we would have come first.
    Our sprint led us to a narrow street, and we saw the boatswain of the ship standing in a lit doorway with some sailors. We stopped there feeling that in the company of our own people, we would not be in danger. And, indeed, we realised that we were no longer chased, and our hearts went back to their normal beat.
    The bright door was the entrance to a Greek night club. Above the door there was a sign that read “ATHENS, Greek Bouzoukia”. We went up the stairs and found all the crew that was not on shift sitting and having fun the Greek way, with the sound of bouzouki music playing Angelopoulos’s song “I am a refugee”.

    I served as a trainee mechanic and Junior Engineer on four tankers belonging to the Stavros Niarchos company. The “Southern Union”, the “Eugenie”, the “Eugenie S. Niarchos” and the “World Knowledge”.
    We usually took cargo on board from the Persian Gulf and mainly from Ras Tanura. During one of our voyages to this port, we remained anchored for two months. It was difficult times for tankers and, until the ship owning companies entered into the next charter, a lot of ships remained anchored and waiting outside ports. It was the first and only time we needed to wait for so long.
    After loading our cargo, we set sail for Cape Town, a voyage that was quite long and lasted one month because the ship was using economy speed. In Ras Tanura we usually loaded from platforms that were at a distance from the shore. That long voyage, together with remaining anchored and waiting, kept us at sea for three continuous months. In my nautical career, this was the longest period I stayed on a ship without setting foot on dry land.
    The long voyages, as well as the short time tankers were required to stay in port because discharging the cargo did not take too long, drove many seamen to choose cargo or passenger ships for work.
    Tankers are dangerous ships because they carry liquid cargoes that are unstable. They sink and break in two more easily. The seamen working on these ships are men with stamina who have courage and patience and who can withstand a life full of danger and seclusion. A voyage on a tanker is an unsurpassable magical experience because the seaman lives between the sky and the sea for a long period of time, alone, with only his solitude and lonely thoughts as company, surrounded by the elements of nature.
    During this voyage, we came across many storms, large and small. Others against us and others behind us, pushing us along and, depending on their force, we either sailed along or against them. One storm during that voyage really caused us trouble and frightened us more than any other. The waves were immense, they grabbed the large ship and lifted it onto their crest as if it was a walnut shell ready to break. As it rose, it creaked with a horrendous slow sound, like from another world. All of us on shifts in the engine room and the helm, but the others also, who were on standby and alert, counted the seconds it took the wave to lift us holding our breath. We breathed out only when we felt that we were descending the wave. We brought to the forefront of our thoughts what we should do in case the ship broke. Would we have time to get out onto the deck and lower the lifeboats? Would the pull of the ship drag us down or would we have time to distance ourselves?
    There were also lovely days, and nights with a full moon and calm seas. On those nights, when the sea is like a milk pond and the moon is full, we would get the chance while on deck to be carried away, reminisce and feel nostalgic.
    One night, I finished my shift in the engine room and came out of the hot steam onto the deck to breathe some fresh air. It was a night with no stars and no moon, the sky was dark and ink black, yet the sea glowed white and reflective, a vast expanse up to where the eye could see, a strange and inexplicable phenomenon, a beautiful and enigmatic spectacle that caused awe and admiration. Charmed and ecstatic, I stood and observed the limitless phosphorescent glow without being able to explain it. I was looking at it trying to understand it but had no answer.
    We had a sixty-year-old stoker on board, from the island of Chios. He had retired and went ashore to live out his remaining days but could not tolerate the tranquility of land life and went back on the ships without even thinking of his advanced age.
    Anyone talking with older people always learns new things. However, he didn’t have an explanation for the phosphorescent glow of the sea, all he knew was the story of the Fairy from an island, who surfaces from the bottom of the sea and walks on the waves to meet her beloved Captain Giorkis. This is when the phenomenon occurs, the sea goes white and the rest of creation falls into darkness….
    It is a story, an old myth, about a worker in the shipyard who didn’t like building caiques but instead loved sailing in them. He longed for adventures on the waves. He loved the sea, it was as if the sirens and sea fairies beckoned him. So, he sailed, the years passed and, as a Captain, he travelled distant and dangerous seas. The Fairy cove however, was his haven, his anchorage, his home. He travelled extensively, voyages were his whole life, but he always returned to his haven. There, he had his home and his wife who always waited for him scanning the horizon. She adored him greatly, he was her captain, and she was his beautiful wife. Everyone was envious of the Captain and his good luck…
    But, one damned and dark night, Giorkis’ caique disappeared during a storm. The villagers waited for days to hear news but there was only silence. Those who knew about travels and sailing could not offer any hope for survival. His wife did not want to believe it and mourned him for many days, until she could no longer withstand the loss and lost her mind. Nobody could find her at home, she was always at the seaside gazing and waiting, and crying unconsolably. Until one day she heard the Fairies of the sea calling her. With her hair loose and a smile on her face she walked into the waves and was lost in the depths of the sea in search of her beloved Captain. Since then, every time there is no moon or stars, the sky is dark and the sea is calm, a white majestic phosphorescent light emanates from the deep, and some people see the Fairy walking on the waves and disappearing beneath them.
    This is a story of local Greek folklore, a legend, maybe a true story, showing the pain of those left behind.
    During this voyage, I saw beautiful places, I saw the sea full of little boats with fishermen far from the shore, fishing in deep waters with no engines on their boats, with just a small sail on a small mast. I saw the sea brimming with fish, I saw her change colours, I saw her phosphorescent in the night and emerald in the morning, I saw her take the best of all the colours of the rainbow, an exquisite and beautiful vision, a balsam to our souls and our hearts.
    I saw many more things, but the stories of the old stoker filled my mind and took over my thoughts, casting a shadow over the beauty of the new seas as they caressed the feet of the tall ridges on the shores far away on the horizon.


    Life on a tanker proved to be very hard, more so than I had imagined. Despite this, I gritted my teeth and decided to persevere. I didn’t have that many options anyway.
    We arrived in Saudi Arabia and anchored waiting in queue for an order from the port authority allowing us to tie at the platform and load our cargo.
    The days were passing, and we received no message. Those were hard times because there was a financial crisis and therefore difficulties in closing deals for the transportation of petrol. So, out of necessity, we waited for almost a whole month.
    During this stressful wait and a few days before receiving a message from the company that it had secured a charter, I was standing with the handyman on the ship’s deck. It was a summer day, hazy due to the hot air coming off the sea mixing with the vapours created by the scorching sun evaporating the water, and we were looking at the yellow sand stretching beyond the shore at a distance of approximately half a kilometre from us. The endless sand covered the country of Saudi Arabia, creating a lifeless scenery with no vegetation.
    The desert of Arabia is a dry area but every now and then, and quite rarely, it is beaten by gale force winds and heavy rain. It is a vast uncultivated area with a lot of sunshine and permanently parched soil, inhabited by tanned, dark-skinned people.
    Despite all this, in its endless desolation, in certain locations there are small oases, that is to say, places with greenery, mainly palm trees, and water wells. In the old days, these were stations for the merchants’ caravans crossing the desert transporting wares from one city to the other and from one country to the other. They were places of rest, replenishment and shelter from monsoons and sandstorms. The winds blowing over the desert are quite strong and very often create whirlwinds that change the terrain of the desert forming wavy valleys and tall sand dunes, sometimes huge and artfully sculpted, like works of art.
    These were my thoughts as I stood under the shade of the stern gazing at the great expanse of the desert shore. We were about half a kilometre away and the hazy atmosphere created a shimmer that formed strange and savage shapes floating over the ground.
    My mind had recalled bad thoughts. As we know, when something sinister comes to our attention, our mind races to equally sinister thoughts. Subconsciously and for no reason, just by looking at the shimmering air creating all sorts of incorporeal shapes, my mind took me to evil yellow images of hell and apocalypse.
    Knowing that malevolent and strange monsters come from the sea and the sand, I suddenly saw, or thought I saw, the beast of the apocalypse taking shape in the scorching haze and leaping from the sand into the air, filling the sky with its huge body. And immediately I brought to mind the words of John the Evangelist “then I saw a beast with ten horns and seven heads rising out of the sand and sea…”. And, as I watched, the huge shadows of the sand transformed and changed shape, becoming a beast with horns and many heads.
    Suddenly, the beast turned its head towards us, and with a mighty whirl flipped its whole body, and attacked us.
    It was a whirlwind, a desert storm, and in fractions of a second, from one moment to the next, we were cloaked in yellow sand with shards of sand mercilessly beating us and scratching our faces before we even managed to seek refuge inside the ship.
    With our eyes bleary from the sand we entered the safety of the ship and stood at the port hole watching the rabid wind forcefully carrying the heavy sand that beat the bulkheads and whistled eerily, deafening and scaring us. It was a phenomenon I had never seen before but had read about it in books. I had never imagined what an uncontainable force and fury sand could be when swept by the wind. It savagely beat the thick panels of the ship making a terrible noise that pierced our ears and made our eardrums hurt, frightened our hearts and caused us to panic.
    With our senses numbed by the stress of watching the magnificent show, I watched this natural phenomenon in all its glory. Hoping that nature’s fury would quickly die down and the strong wind would abate so that the beast of the desert passes us by, I watched dumbfounded and without being sure within myself whether I had fear or admiration for the majestic phenomenon taking place before my eyes.
    And the beast left, just as it had appeared. Suddenly. It disappeared into the horizon, leaving behind a total silence, without the slightest of sounds. As if time had stopped and stalled life itself. The deck was covered in sand. Whole mounds had gathered in the ship’s remotest crevices. I noticed that the panels of the ship had changed colour. The force of the wind carrying the sand was such that it stripped the paint and revealed the thick undercoat in many parts of the ship. “The sailors will have a lot of work in the coming days”, I thought.
    At the bow I saw the metal door of the bridge open and the second officer climbing down the steps. I knew he was going to call the boatswain and order him to clean the sand and dust off the ship. At the same time, I saw the stern deck door opening and the boatswain coming out to meet the second officer, sure, as he knew his job well, that the latter would be looking for him.
    I also headed towards the engine room because I too knew my job well. I knew that any minute now the telephone in the engine room would ring and we would receive an order from the bridge to commence the sanitary, that being the pump that sent seawater to the deck where the sailors, using hoses, would wash the whole ship of the dust and sand.

    A little before the twentieth century, a group of Samurai warriors wiped out a whole family, butchering them with their famous swords. This was a crime that needed to be punished in order to restore justice. The administrative authorities however recognized that the Samourai were executing orders issued by their master so, instead of convicting them and bringing them shame, they allowed them to carry out hara-kiri and die honourably in accordance with their standards, as honourable warriors, since the laws of the Samurai dictated that they obey their masters blindly, without question nor resistance.
    This was an incident that shows the Japanese way of life before World War II when many things changed, and the Japanese started to lead a way of life closer to western standards.
    Nagasaki is a Japanese city known through history as the city of the Shogun and the Samurai.
    Shoguns were the senior military leaders and masters of the Samurai during the middle ages and the Samurai were armies of the great Feudal Lords with a mission to guard their property. Their culture was founded on the quintessence of a warrior of great ability and high level of training. Their main dogma was honour defiance of death, they fought bravely for their master and preferred an honourable death than the shame of being defeated. The tradition of hara-kiri, a ritualistic way of suicide as the only permitted way out in case of defeat or dishonour, emanated from this defiance of death.
    As a people, Japanese culture differed from that of the Europeans. Generally, their way of life and behaviour was very different. The noblemen belonging to a higher social class used the masses as tools to serve their needs.
    During the centuries, this way of life remained the same with the only changes being those in who possessed the power. The traditions and beliefs were not changed. Even the architectural building principles remained, to a great extent, unchanged, the main changes being just in decorative details, while during the passing of the various dynasties, they were subjected to just small influences from extrinsic factors. Their architecture basically adhered to its own elements and managed not to be influenced by European architecture.
    Nagasaki is built on a long and narrow cove that forming a natural harbour. We were relieved when we entered the harbour and prayed to thank St. Nicholas who helped us to safely navigate the wild Indian ocean. Voyages on this ocean were very difficult at times, due to the monsoons blowing in alternating directions and creating different surface currents and large waves.
    We had endured a long voyage that caused us hardship as the sea was rough and with winds high up on the beaufort scale making sailing difficult. The waves swept over the ship for the duration of the voyage and the sailors on the bridge as well as the engineers in the engine room put up a big battle. We were tossed about more than other times because the waves and currents were against us. We were forced to sail slightly parallel to the weather to reduce our risk, and that resulted in our voyage lasting longer.
    Following the long voyage, we returned to the Persian Gulf. After remaining anchored waiting for the company to secure a charter, we sailed for Japan.
    We loaded our cargo at Ras Tanura, one of the main energy sources of the modern world. They named petrol the “black gold” and they were right, as it’s uses are unlimited since ancient times, before it was even discovered.
    A long time ago, petrol leaked on the surface of the land, and in japan and elsewhere, it was used as naphtha and bitumen. When natural gas leaked, it was used by high priests and sorcerers as a force sent by the Gods.
    Nowadays, after the World War, access to petrol was easy as huge reserves were discovered mainly in the Middle East, and it was transported to various countries with tankers.
    Our cargo holds were loaded with tens of thousands of tons of mazut destined for the needs of the ancient city of Nagasaki, a modern city that during the last years, had developed into a large industrial centre.
    We entered the safe harbour and tied at the dock. The sailors of the ship and the port workers worked like bees and in just a short time, the engine room pumps were ready to begin pumping the valuable liquid cargo on shore. It was a little after noon. I had finished my shift and had eight hours to kill until the next one, and for sure, I was going to use these hours to tour the new country I was visiting, the land of the rising sun.
    Japan is an East Asian country. It is comprised of four large islands, Kyushu, where Nagasaki was built, Honshu, Shikoku and Hokkaido, as well as around seven thousand other islands sprinkled over the Japanese Archipelago. I was eager to experience the Japanese culture and the behaviour of the local population. At the time karate films starring Bruce Lee as well as adventures of the invincible Samurai battling with their swords against the rifles and machine guns of westerners were very much very much in vogue.
    I wanted to walk around the shops with the famous Seiko watches and the cheap, superior technology electronics. I wanted to taste sushi and get to know Geishas and their story. Sushi is a traditional food based on vinegary rice combined with seafood and sauces with exquisite flavours. Geishas were educated women with special training in the arts of dance, music, singing and poetry and used to serve in the large feudal courts of the middle ages.
    Nagasaki has a history starting thousands of years ago. During the middle ages the city had become a centre of European influence and became known as the second city after Hiroshima that was hit during World War II by an atomic bomb. It was totally annihilated as if hit by a gigantic meteorite. It was a total catastrophe caused by splitting the atom in an attempt by man to replicate the might of God. Everything turned into fire and people burned and melted like candles. Corpses were strewn everywhere and the dying, like mummies without eyes, staggered before succumbing to death. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in just seconds, ceased to exist and were reduced to dead, smoking, hollow cities. Shapeless piles of rubble were reduced to their molecular composition and covered the areas where once stood the buildings that formed the cities.
    ….And after this total destruction, people rebuilt their city. They gave it a new look, modern and European. High skyscrapers and sprawling building complexes were built from scratch and the fast development of high-end electronic industries made the city rich and prosperous. People worked at a fast pace, like ants in a state of complete discipline. Everything was orderly and programmed.
    I expected to come across different things, similar to the things I read in books when I was a boy. I expected to recognize the culture and ancient history of the powerful feudal lords and emperors protected by vast armies of Shoguns and Samurai. I expected to meet women in kimonos and men in modern clothes piled into buses going to work. But I met nothing remotely reminiscent of those things. Everything was in absolute order and wealth was evident everywhere. Shops with expensive jewelry and electronic goods that had not even been imported yet in other countries, well-dressed people in expensive suits walking without staring curiously at us because we were different, and streets full of only locally manufactured cars. It was a rich and developed city, more so than other cities of modern Europe.

    Even in winter, the sea is beautiful. When the gentle splash becomes a roar that frightens all your tranquil senses, even this fear has a beauty. When the sea gets rough and shows her anger, when the blue water turns white and murky, when ships and shores vanish under the sea’s currents and mighty drag, when waves rise into the air and dissipate moisture filling the atmosphere with salt one can taste and smell, one realises the grandeur held and hidden by the sea, how strong she really is.
    Many times, the issue is how one looks upon the sea. A wild sea in a cove, waves crashing angrily on the shore or savagely eating away at the coast, or, even from afar, looking at her from the top of a hill, enjoying the whole view in all its glory, without, however, having all one’s senses experience her true dimension since the sea’s roar cannot be heard nor can her great strength be felt when violently stirring the waters.
    I have felt and I have faced her might in the middle of the sea, in angry and rough waters, when travelling in seafaring ships across dangerous oceans from one country to the other, far away, at the ends of the Earth. We faced extreme cold, snow and ice that froze the drinking water in the ship’s tanks. We travelled in sub-zero temperatures that cooled the exterior sides of the boilers in the engine room which we touched with pleasure in order to warm ourselves. On long voyages we had never done before, in places where the sea froze over, and the waves remained suspended like solidified liquid sculptures.
    I remember it being Christmas on one of these long and endless voyages. The wind was icy and the fog covering the sea was lethal.
    On board, sailors and engineers were thinking of our loved ones at home and with frozen hands we would light a cigarette in the hope that the smoke would warm our innards and our cold hearts. We walked on the stairs and in the corridors in an attempt to get warm. The wind was so cold it burned like fire and the extreme cold penetrated the hermetically sealed metal doors and froze our bodies’ extremities, causing frostbite.
    I wondered; is there really a Hell, or did God create it upon this Earth? Is it possible that fiery Hell be worse than the merciless weather that burns us with such frost?
    I shook my head thinking this to myself while huddled next to the boiler to get warm. Next to me, the old stoker, Gasfikis, said that never in his long sailing career did he ever come across such freezing weather. He said that he never before celebrated Christmas in such unbearable cold.
    The sailors in the dining room were feeling even colder and ecstatically watched the portholes freezing over while, outside, the wind howled, appearing to have taken solid form as it froze the sea vapours in midair.
    Festivities, and particularly religious celebrations at sea and away from loved ones bring upon us a feeling of sadness. The loneliness and nostalgia of Christmas saddens sailors and their thoughts are with the people they love, and they are immersed in dark thoughts, reminiscing about wonderful festive family gatherings at home. It makes no difference how well they have come to terms with the loneliness of isolation, away from their people, especially at Christmas their thoughts are inundated by memories of adored voices from past Christmases and their nostalgia increases.
    And so, Christmas day passes, and so do all other festive days on seafaring ships travelling for days with just sea in the horizon, in every direction. Those who decide to follow this profession, know how lonely isolation can be.
    However, during this voyage, our sad thoughts of home were compounded by the cold weather that froze us to the bone and numbed our bodies, the large waves that shook the ship, and the freezing wind that frosted our breath and caused us pain from the intolerable cold.
    This was weather that neither I nor the other sailors on that ship had come across before on the seas we had travelled. It was freezing conditions before Christmas with a wind so cold it burned like fire, and the extreme frost went right through us causing us immense pain.


    The engine was groaning and struggling to propel the ship against the waves and currents. It needed a lot of horse power to move because it was a huge tanker of 89000 tons, but the engine was strong and modern and we continued to sail without concern and worry in our minds about the wild weather that raged outside, in an unprecedented expression of anger.
    The “World Knowledge”, the huge tanker which, in 1978, was the third largest in the world, could sail under the most adverse conditions. It was constructed to withstand the roughest seas without sinking. This is how it was designed in theory and on paper, and we hoped it was made the same way.
    What man-made thing however can withstand God’s fury? How could science surpass the Creator? The forces of nature are unsurpassable and only fools dare to stand against them.
    During this voyage through gale force weather and very rough seas, the waves became stronger and larger, reaching the dark sky and becoming one with the frightening angry weather. The sky was as black as bitumen, just like the fear that nestles in the hearts of seamen when witnessing the extreme deterioration of the weather and the viciousness of the waves as they become stronger and beat against anything they come across. Lightning brightened the darkness and the thunder covered the roar of the sea. The currents combined forces with the waves and the strong winds, in an unforeseen catastrophic force making our huge ship look like a nutshell swirling in a maelstrom of nature’s forces.
    Despite all of this, we felt reassured having in mind the good specifications of the ship and the only thing that worried us was the possibility that such a large ship could be broken in two when lifted onto its crest by a big wave.
    One of the biggest seaman’s fears during bad weather, are the squalls and storms that put the safety of the ship at risk.

    Many seamen who cross the oceans in tankers and cargo ships have stories to tell about unbelievable and surreal yet true occurrences and events they witnessed with their own eyes. Things and situations they experienced on board ships when nature violently unleashed her elements in a wild magnificence, dragging ships and drowning seamen in their wake.
    Seamen also say that, when the sea becomes so rough, nothing stays as it was before, neither the sea nor the shore, and that Noah’s deluge was nothing more than an outburst of the sea’s rage.

    Some sailors say that they encountered waves as high as 30 metres and that this is a secret of the sea kept for many centuries and that science is not aware of them since the highest waves ever recorded are up to 10 metres. Many, therefore, question seamen when they describe the existence of gigantic waves and doubt what they say. Despite this, some seamen insist that they really exist do and that they embrace ships they meet and lift them to extreme heights, then drop them into the chasms of the sea. Rarely has a ship survived an encounter with such wave and not often will one hear a seaman talk about them, since usually nobody survives to tell the tale.

    Such waves may appear suddenly from nowhere but may also be created by extremely bad weather and excessively rough seas. While there is a chance for a ship to withstand the former as they are high but roll smoothly creating even peaks, nobody survives the latter because they are ruthless and as they move, they form maelstroms and currents.

    During that long voyage, the sea and the sky created a surreal setting with the waves reaching the sky and the dull horizon reaching the ends of the Earth fiercely beautiful and terrifying, filling our hearts with fear and causing worrying thoughts. The salty water from the waves crashing on the ship was carried by the wind and hit the thick plates of the ship generating a screeching and hair-raising sound that pierced our ears while the spray created by the aftermath clouded the port holes as salty water left its mark on the glass.
    The view was frightening and nightmarish on the one hand but, on the other, our fear was somewhat set aside by the magnificence of the raging weather.
    An artist experiencing such vision would be greatly inspired. Arion would write dithyrombs and Euripides tragic and sad poetry.

    Many land dwellers would like to experience the sea at its angriest at some stage of their life, but they would like to do this from a position of safety, either through a film or the narration of a seaman, or by reading descriptions of storms and rough seas.
    There are also many who are afraid of her and do not even want to see her rough, influenced by many writers who have praised her beauty but also interpreted her fury in its correct dimensions, and who have described how easily she sank and swallowed ships and people.
    The sea is very charming for those who have lived and loved her, but she also inspires fear and true horror for most that have not had the chance to become acquainted with her. Many do not even dare to board a ship no matter how big and safe it is, and prefer never to travel and never feel the amazing feeling of a traveler, never get to know other amazing and beautiful places apart from their own country, maintaining at the same time the feeling that their own homeland is the whole world.

    The sea is strange, magical, beautiful. She is a seductress more so than a woman, and dangerous like fire. When she is calm, she is like a sleeping lover, not complaining, nor moaning, but when she is enraged, she raises waves and forms strong currents, both dangerous and deadly. In her depths she hides unnamed secrets and tragic stories of drowned men and ships that disappeared in the mist, lost forever. Kelp as big as trees and other flora grow in valleys and gorges that host beautiful fish but also fairytale dragons that cannot fit in the imagination of man. Unexplored mysteries human knowledge has never investigated and will never discover. She rages at a whim and raises huge waves that darken the sky.
    (To be Continued)
    The seas and the oceans are the children of Gaea and Uranus, the first Titan of the Earth that created all the bodies of water now existing on Earth.

    The blue sea, the grey sea, the murky sea, the sea of so many colours that change according to the wind that blows, the currents formed and the atmospheric pressure and gravity.

    The sea that is sprawled to all corners of the Earth and covers the largest part of Earth’s surface, that spreads over the horizon and blends with the sky, a union so perfect, two elements creating one majestic vision, an unfathomable and amazing picture.

    The sea is beautiful and magical, whether she is calm, rough, asleep or raging. She is mysterious, dangerous and frightening, but she is also well-loved. In her body she hides unknown, lost and sunken shipwrecks; she hides the entire history of the world that is around her, since the beginning of time and the creation of the Earth. Thousands of shipwrecks sit at the bottom of the sea and myriads of flora and fauna specimen live in the oceans.

    The large ship tore through the big waves with the propeller steadily spinning against the resistance of the currents. The high waves carried us to their crests exposing the bow and the stern, both hanging in the void. And we would hear the screeching sound of the plates balancing the weight of the ship without the support of the water and the metal hull crackling hollowly and hair-raisingly, and then we would hear the sound of the ship crashing back and sinking into the water.

    But the “World Knowledge” was an enormous tanker, the third biggest in the world and could sail through the worst weather conditions as it was built to withstand the biggest tempests without sinking. This was the design of the ship in theory and on paper, and this was how well it was made, to carry us safely. And, as seamen, so we hoped.
    Last edited by Doc Vernon; 7th January 2020 at 07:30 PM.
    Senior Member and Friend of this Website


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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Tale of the Seas (Continuation)

    In the section 'Wild Weather' : 'huge tanker of 350 tons' I assume you intend 350,000 tons.
    I enjoyed reading - particularly of the sand storm.
    Harry Nicholson

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    Blue Mountains NSW
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    Default Re: Tale of the Seas (Continuation)

    The Tanker was in fact just over 89,000 Ton.
    I have edited as such
    Thank You
    Senior Member and Friend of this Website


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