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Article: Nine weeks at sea.

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    Nine weeks at sea.

    30 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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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Hello and welcome Paul.

    Enjoyable read.

    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.

    I just love these sort of stories its what makes this site keep them coming .

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Thanks Commodore Paul, great reminder of the past although a decade later on the lovely Otaio, I think we all had similar events!
    Regards
    & best wishes
    Rob

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Hi Robert,
    Thanks for your comments, do you remember the Cadet party you would have in NZ? All you cadets would go ashore and persuade girls to attend, this would be a 'formal' party, cadets all dressed to the nines, the galley supplying a full buffet and the baker a cake. I was the Baker on my last trip on her, the cake I made had a Ki-Ora iced on it, which I think is the Maori symbol for good luck, so I piped Ki-Ora above the symbol and good luck below, I often wondered if I got this correct. You cadets could not give a toss, you only had one thing on your collective minds and it was not the bloody buffet or cake, Ha Ha.
    Cheers, Paul.

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Hi Robert,
    My apologies, thinking about it , the symbol I portrayed in icing was of a Tiki, Ki-Ora being a phrase or saying, this was a representation of a God I think in Maori culture. Apologies again for any confusion, brain, time and memory do not always work together.
    Cheers, Paul.

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Kia ora is a Māori-language greeting which has entered New Zealand English. It translates literally as "have life" or "be healthy", and is used as an informal greeting equivalent to "hi" or "hello", or an expression of thanks.

    K.
    "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 Clive,
    Thanks for your comments, I do have a number of silly stories that reflect episodes of my time at sea, I am a tad reluctant to 'flood' the site with my reminiscences as I have been a member for such a short time, but these stories are as sharp and clear to me as they were at the time, and I have to admit I revel in the remembrances.
    Cheers, Paul.

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    For some reason what we did at sea stays with us no matter how long ago.
    Maybe it is because we were young then and there was plenty of room in the grey matter to store it.
    But ever time some one puts an article on there will be some who can recall that or similar.
    I find it very good for keeping the brain active.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Default Re: Nine weeks at sea.

    Very similar experience to this lockdown,days blend into weeks then months
    but we do have the papers and letters, mainly bills or shoe cataloges, never get
    the thrill of recieving a letter, or the dissapointment when there wasn't one. (stop the allotment)
    I hate to hear people saying I don't like Christmas when you are in the middle of
    nowhere for years on end Christmas away was an awful experience, and if you did manage
    one at home you were made up.

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