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Article: Nine weeks at sea.

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    Nine weeks at sea.

    17 Comments by Paul Johnson Published on 26th May 2020 04:11 PM
    Hi All,
    I have only been a member for five minutes, but I would like to tender this article for your perusal, I will not say entertainment.
    The subject matter, being at sea for nine weeks without landing was initiated by a post I read concerning the length of time between ports, as this was posted in 2010 I thought it inappropriate to comment upon, this brought to mind the experience I am about relate.

    I was galley boy on the Cadet ship MV. Otaio in 1967, as the largest vessel in the fleet with a galley boy, the Rangi boats having adult kitchen porters, I considered myself Commodore galley boy, this was met with mixed reviews and some derision.
    We left Kiwi homeward bound, via four or five Med ports on the way, at what point it was decided to go around Cape Horn as opposed to using the Panama Canal I am unsure. What I do know is that we sailed close to Easter Island, close enough to take photos of the statues; I really must get that roll of film developed ! We passed the islands on the starboard side heading south, therefore we must have been sailing for Panama initially as the direct line of sail from NZ to the Cape would have been a considerable distance south from Easter Island.
    One can only speculate why this decision was made, perhaps the Chief Fridge engineer had problems, it was suggested because sea temperature was important when carrying chilled and frozen produce we could avail ourselves of the chilled waters of the Humboldt Current. As I say one can only speculate, I was not part of the decision making process, it still rankles, after all I was the only Commodore on board !!

    Anyway, we were all happy to go around the Cape, no body on board had been around it, indeed our Captain initiated a tie to be produced with an embroidered iceberg and the ship's name, voyage number and date; my brother in Canada has mine. So there we were, sailing in fine sunny weather when an incident occurred that would add even longer to our journey, one of the cadets developed appendicitis. The Otaio of course carried a doctor rather than a surgeon, however it was decided that a appendectomy must be performed, I believe the doctor was assisted by an officers wife who was a nurse, as well as the Chief Officer. It was performed one evening, with all crew banished from using the decks adjoining that area, we were all rooting for the lad, the operation was a success, and we could now look forward to the Cape.

    However, a couple of days later problems arose, again I am unsure, but there was a possible infection and the wound was not healing as expected, the lad would have to go to hospital. The scuttlebutt at first promoted Port Stanley in the Falklands as the proposed destination, without in any way being unmindful of the medical emergency there were discussions of having a run ashore in Port Stanley, with important considerations; are there pubs or hotels selling beer, would they accept our Pounds etc.. We rounded the Cape on a chilly but sunny day, the sea like a millpond, if one held on to the railings and stood on one leg, with your left eye shut and squinting with your right, you could just make out an iceberg in the far distance.

    There was good and bad news; the bad news was that we were not going to Port Stanley, the good news was that we were going to the Caribbean to have the cadet checked over in hospital. Why we sailed up the entire east coast of South America, passing major cities on the way I do not know, again I was not part of the decision making process, I may have been doing my dhobying; I used to do the Chief Cook's (John Callum), and the Baker's (Campbell Stewart Reid ), charging them 3d. an item. Anyway, happy days, we were going to Trinidad and Tobago; once again although cognisant of the medical trials of the patient we were again looking forward to a run ashore; hoping they would accept our currency, and besides beer they had RUM !

    I am sure you all know what is coming next, on arrival we dropped anchor and a pilot boat hove into view and took off our cadet, we lifted our hook and sailed away, miffed is not the word. Oh well, as a reasonably optimistic crowd, who by this time had spent many weeks at sea, there was a light on the horizon, it was Las Palmas. In discussions our informed opinion (sic) was that with all this extra steaming our stay bunkering would be considerable, surely time enough for that run ashore, if I remember correctly Bacardi was very cheap there. The muppet who suggested we could be there for a couple of days was ridiculed, ' what do you think they are going use, Gerry cans ?'. On arriving at Las Palmas we just 'topped-up', arriving in the middle of the night, 01.00 I think, and left before breakfast, around 06.30, bugger !!

    Our next port of call was Famagusta, eight or nine days away, it must be remembered that at the time the Otaio did not have a crew bar, eighteen cans of beer a rating, twenty four for PO's, boys of course bugger all, we knew we would get a good run ashore though, we were due to be there a couple of days. After nearly nine weeks at sea , you can imagine dear reader we had a lovely time, drink was taken. For myself, I had far too much of the wobbly juice, on our way back to the ship we came across this massive pile of sand on the dock, I have no idea why it was there either ! I decided that it would be quicker to go OVER the 'mountain' rather than around it, wobbly juice does tend to make these razor sharp decisions intuitive, have you ever tried to climb a pile of soft sand ? For every two feet ascended you slide back a foot, eventually I scaled the summit, then I had to descend, slalom was not in it, I ended up face down at the bottom, all my my mates had buggered of back to the ship by this time. Staggering back to the ship I entered my cabin, took off my shoes and socks and divested myself of most of my clothes then collapsed into my pit. At turn-to later that morning my cabin mate Dave Clark (no he did not have his four mates with him, and he could not play the drums anyway ), was heard to exclaim ' what's all this f%$#&*$g sand doing all over the deck ? When I had ungummed my eyes to look there were little piles of sand everywhere, my bunk was like a sandpit; all my pockets were full of sand, my hair, normally jet black, had a gingerish tinge to it.

    I do hope some of you enjoy this little missal half as much as I have in writing it, it brought back such happy memories. Our next port of call was to be Piraeus, the only time I have sat outside a bar with an army tank on the street corner,(the Regime of the Colonels ). But that is a story for another time.
    Cheers, Paul.

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  3. #11
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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Hi Paul I would say keep the stories coming there may be a day when you can not remember all the detail , all the best Clive

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Hi Clive,
    I appreciate your comments, in the main that is why I write these articles, I am 70 next month, who is to say this time next year I may not even remember my name!
    I have three others that spring to mind; one set in Montreal, one in Las Palmas and one in Bluff NZ. I shall be offering these up in the not too distant future. Thanks again.
    Cheers, Paul.

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Hi Paul.
    I'd like to read your account of Bluff. I spent six months running down the East coast from Auckland, to Timaru and Omaru, Dunedin and Bluff on the Kaimai {USS CO} and used to get a sack of Bluff oysters for some unused paint!!! we had aboard, best oysters in the world.
    Short story. We used to pick up a hatch full of chocolate in Dunedin, there was a Cadbury's factory there,which we dropped at the various ports going back up to Auckland. This one time we were told by the wharfies supervisor not to nick any of the chocolate on this trip. As if we would, The wharfies he didn't tell, there was Sh^%$T every where, Cadbury's had put in a load of Doctored chocolate, to try and stop pilfering. Had to wait a whole trip to get the kids some milk bars Lol.
    Des
    Lest We Forget

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Hi Des,
    I shall do the Bluff story over the next couple of days; for those of you who have read 'Judging a Book by its Cover' may remember I alluded to having spent some time in hospital on my next trip on the 'Arawa', this story will relate to that incident.
    I am glad you mentioned Bluff oysters, when I was the Galley Boy on the 'Otaio' the Chief Cook, John Callum, 'supplied' a number of boxes of kippers and bloaters to friends ashore; we were rewarded with a great sack of oysters, absolutely wonderful.
    I would not totally disagree with you as to the veracity of your statement concerning Bluff oysters as being the best in the world; however, I lived in north Essex for forty years, and I must also champion the Colchester Native oyster, harvested around Mersea Island and the River Colne estuary; in my opinion a little sweeter. Just a thought mate.
    Cheers, Paul.

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    I spent 30 days in Bluff in January 1956 and my little oyster had ginger hair, but that's a story I'm not going to tell

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Hi Ivan,
    Oh, I think you must!
    I had a girl who travelled from North Island down to Bluff to visit me; as you know Bluff could often have horizontal rain battering it, waiting for the bus from Invercargill with her on board was no joke. However, after she arrived it was worth it.
    Cheers, Paul.

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Very interested to read all of your writings.

    Regards,

    Keith.
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Hi Keith,
    Thankyou for that friend, I have just spent three hours hours writing it up, just have to go over it with a red pen to make sure it is readable; a bit like doing an assignment for the OU.
    I shall post it sometime in the next 24 hours.
    Cheers, Paul.

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