28. My Merchant Mariner Travels Around The World. (Part 1)

At 25 years-of-age the whole spectacle of Nelson Mandela’s treason trial hit the airwaves and newspapers in South Africa from 1956 – 1960. However, my life was not a spectacle then but had become spectacular. I was the father of two children, and those different destinations around the world that I wanted to sail to on ocean-going ships when sighting them from the top of Table Mountain as a fantasy, became a reality. South African Marine Corporation ran a fleet of cargo-passengers ships out of Cape Town, and I was given the opportunity to be signed up on their flagship SS South African Merchant on its maiden voyage up the East African coast in 1958. Working with my father at Emdon’s Catering Services was what aided me with the chance meeting of an old acquaintance who was in the merchant navy. On informing me that there was a catering vacancy on a ship due into port, I saw an opportunity to try and apply for it, but further information that the qualifications required applied mostly to shipping of which I had none except for fishing trawlers, and that a reference was applicable, caused me to be a bit dubious. Knowing though what my father had taught me and his advice of stealing with the eyes when something unknown was observed made me determined to try, but because of not having a reference of any sort except my trade certificates, I forged one. Writing a glowing reference with the extra made up sea-going required qualifications was easy, but adding authenticity was a complete different matter because a business address stamp was required. To overcome that I bought a blank oval rubber stamp, rubber alphabet letters and rubber glue, and with a little bit of ingenuity and patience, I made up a business stamp that impressed an official looking imprint. Applying for the position was done direct at the docking berth on the quay, and although the chief steward, who was also the catering employment officer and purser, was surrounded by eager applicants waving paper work, I had no qualms about not being the one to be employed for that one vacancy, especially as having a backup by having gone to early morning mass to pray for assistance. I just knew then that as usual that whatever my mind told me to do and I followed it with a positive thought out input that I would succeed. It was just a matter of jumping and stretching my arm the highest to be noticed by the chief steward even though I was on the outer circle, my forged reference was taken over the heads of the others, read, and I got the position. See, the Lord does work in mysterious ways, and like I’ve always believed, ‘God only helps those who help themselves.’

Who was also a great help was the Saloon Steward who took the time to show me the ropes in the Pantry. The Pantry was situated beside the Main Saloon one flight down of stairs to the Galley (kitchen). My main duties there consisted of getting all of the meal requirements for breakfast, lunch and dinner direct from the Galley to the Pantry. There I would keep it warm enough in oven, bain marie and on stove hotplates, and all hot food plates to be used were also kept warm in ovens so that the food would stay at the same temperature when dished up by the Saloon Steward directly in the Main Saloon. After all meals, edible leftovers on platters and in dishes were returned to the Galley, of which which if it could be used, was recycled made up in salads by the Saloon Steward, and other titbits would be kept and set out for crewman that would be on night watch duty. Then I was shown how to dive, no not into the ocean but into double sinks to wash-up in and then into steam operated dish ovens for further hygienic cleansing and drying in. I didn’t also have to wonder why all the silver teapots, coffeepots and milk jugs, which dangled on hooks from the bulkhead (ceiling) above my head, and silver cutlery and all other saloon silver  paraphernalia were that sparkling clean and shiny because I was shown how. There was this rather large pot where when water and washing soda was simmering in it, a rolled up ball of silver foil was placed in it followed by the dipping in of any silver articles, and then rinsed in warm water and dried, voila! And I still use that nifty trick on our silver at home. The term ‘swabbing the decks’ when informed was also part of my duties wasn’t what I thought would only be mopping the pantry and keeping it in shipshape condition, it also consisted of scrubbing and mopping the alleyways (passages) that ran from the Pantry, past the Main Saloon and Passenger Lounge, and down the stairs. Those stairs for any Pantry-man could be at times the bane of his life. Picture this if ever been on a roller-coaster but standing up with platters of food in your hands as it goes up and down.  Now imagine the same thing but going from the Galley up stairs with platters or food dishes in your hands while the ship goes up on a giant wave and crashes down on the other side and then rolls from side to side just for the hell of it, it seems. Now any seaman worth his salt would be then have found his sea legs, except me even though having sailed on trawlers within and outside harbours. This though was my first experience of where the Cape Agulhas and Benguela currents meet off the Cape to cause turbulent seas of rock and roll. Now this is the procedure learned through trial and error and followed by all Pantry-man. After making it from the Galley by rolling with the ships movements to the bottom of the stairs, one waited for the movement of the ship to roll towards you, and then with great dexterity and going forward as the ship rolled the other way would find yourself going up the stairs safely and into the Pantry, and the reverse worked for going down too.

Now before narrating my seafaring adventures, explanations have to be forthcoming to how I’m able to accomplish writing my blogs after such a long period of time, as asked by so many. Well for one I’m fortunate to have a good memory and second I’m blessed too with a photographic one. When wanting to put pen to paper, I visualize my intention and scribble notes and drawings on a notepad right beside my computer that I then rewrite type via the computer. I also do the same for articles to magazines and newspapers and my poetry that I subscribe to. What a lifesaver and time-saver the computer is in my ‘older age’. So take this roller-coaster ride with me on my escapades that circumvented the world. In my capacity as a merchant seaman in the seven years that followed, saw me back to my adventures life of traveling. I was also reliving and seeing the changes that had occurred in the various provinces of South Africa in comparison to my former year’s excursions, wherever there was a seaport in those provinces. During those years my work entailed duties such as Pantry-man, Saloon Steward, Passenger Steward, Cook, Deck-hand, and best of all Captains’ Tiger. As a captain’s personal attendant it meant that one had to be on call twenty-four hours a day whether for his personal needs or for sustenance required by captain and ship’s pilot on sea, rivers or land locks. With the galley closed during after dinner right through to before breakfast the next morning, all meal requirements was prepared and cooked by me. A direct line that was connected from the bridge to my cabin was for those functional services. That would also eventuate with storms at sea, hurricanes, and a tornado that once occurred when the ship had to be moored and chained to a wharf until it blew itself out. I also had to be on standby in port to receive and attend to custom officers and company officials who came to confer with the captain or purser. The best part of the job was when the captain left the ship for the day or at times for days when we were laid up in port, for it gave me the extra time to explore and experience different life styles around the world. The other Petty Officers were the Bosun in charge of Able Seaman and deckhands, and the Donkey-man in charge of Engine-room hands. I sailed and served on six merchant ships that at different times took in the United States of America, South America, Mexico, Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom, Europe, the Caribbean, Cuba and Africa. A number of those ships had run aground, listed into port, and had engine failure on high seas, storms at sea, shifting cargo, collisions, attacked in the seaport of Dakar in Senegal because of South Africa’s apartheid policies and embargoed in Cuba for the same reason.

The Suez Canal during that time was closed to shipping because of the trouble in the Far East, and that made Cape Town Harbour a bustling ‘wait in line for a berth and get them out as quick as possible’ port. That never suited us Cape Town crewman because we spent weeks in other African ports, and at times we bypassed Cape Town on our way outward bound. The only compensation for that was the acquiring of ‘red poison’, which was the best marijuana found worldwide from African ports, which had a pocket money market overseas for some of the crew. In Durban where the most potent was grown amongst the sugar cane, which the locals freely smoked disguised as packet filtered cigarettes, induced euphoria and a sensation of weightlessness. All ships from South Africa on their first port of call anywhere in the world were meticulously searched first by custom officers who scoured from forward to aft of the ship with torch, angled mirrors and tapping devices, and then only the compulsory short arm inspection from ashore medical officers. We crewman were receiving minimum wages, and to supplement that for going ashore spending money, small quantities of dagga (marijuana) to sell became the answer. Hiding places were ingenious, who would think of looking in doctored hollowed out loaves of bread in the ships cold storage, the hollow bottoms of detachable coffee urns, toe end of work boots, resealed paint containers, any inconspicuous place, and not once did they find anything. When given the all clear by custom officers it was a simple matter of regaining your stash and going ashore at night to the dockyard bars where regular buyers who knew all South African shipping movements would be waiting. They never quibbled about price but always wanted more, we on the other hand never over did it because what they saw was what they got. The short arm inspection that was a precautionary measure given to all seamen was to see if they were infected with a venereal disease that wouldn’t be taken ashore to infect other women in that country. When an all clear was given after the penis was unsheathed and examined by the medical officers, a countries shore leave pass was issued as was also condoms to all seaman, just in case. We though would always jokingly make the comment that because they didn’t find any dagga on board the ship they thought they might find it hidden in the foreskin.

My first trip up the east coast of South Africa to Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Lourenco Marques, now Maputo, was a real eye opener of what to expect on further trips there. East London considered a sleepy hollow, woke up when our ship arrived in port, and there were women waiting on the quay when we docked. Thinking that they were the wives and girlfriends of the crew wasn’t, because the majority of them were there because of knowing that a good time could be had with the rest of the crew. Their homes were thrown open to cater for all the whims and pleasures of those horny sea dogs. Been encouraged by them to tag along as a first timer got me to know why they were welcomed with open arms and at times open something else. The seaman would supply all the food and booze for all night partying that saw us only going back to the ship at the crack of dawn. Port Elizabeth our next port of call, called p. e. by South Africans was named ‘Pussy Empire’ by those older salts, and the extensive groups of sexually frustrated females seemed too concurred with that. They used every seductive trick in the book as allurement and stuck like leeches to the seaman that succumbed to their wiliness. Some would even allow to be sneaked on board ship at night, and to stay for the duration of the ship’s stay in port and have sex with any crew-member who so desired. It seemed that the whole spectrum of that type of womanhood along the coast wanted a piece of the action.  Our next port of call was Durban, but before reaching there I made the acquaintance of two ship mates, Bill an able seaman and Martin a cook. We were cut from the same jib cloth, hit it off from the onset and became inseparable. Bill and Martin had shipped out together before, and on our first night there they invited me to a club they frequented while in port. It was where a group of young people gathered at weekends for social evenings in a large room they hired in a city building. Music, dancing, games and chatting whiled away a pleasant but sober evening in comparison the two last ports of call. Though of two minds to attend the following evening because of been asked by the older seaman to party with them, their persuasion of it going to be somebodies surprise birthday party there and a bit of booze up convinced me to go. We took our own booze to be on the safe side, which enhanced the party and participants entertainment, and there were nice sociable people that attended. Chubby Checker’s record ‘Let’s twist again’ had just hit the music market and they were unsuccessfully trying to do the twist with the music played. My shipmates on revealing that my dancing of the steps on board ship were identical to Chubby Checker, which the playing of musical instruments, singing and dancing we did for our own entertainment, got me pretty exhausted for having to demonstrate and dance with about every women. What also didn’t help was the subtropical climate, and even after removing my jacket the perspiration stilled poured off me. That’s when Ann came to my aid with serviettes, a cool drink and company. We had never met before, but her hand of friendship and consideration was enchanting and refreshing. The noisy exuberance of the party had quite down somewhat after all the twisting, and someone had put on a slow dance number called ‘You’re my everything’ to which she extended her hand to me for a dance. That begun a good friendly relationship that continued on other trips. She knew that I was married, and because we enjoyed each other’s company we attended functions together, even to the extent of having meals at her parent’s home.

By then I was thinking that sea life was a bit of all right where partying was concerned until sailing to our next port of call of Lourenco Marques (Now Maputo) in Mozambique. I had also made the acquaintance of another shipmate by then; Bazil (Junior) who was the ship’s chippy (ship’s carpenter), and he had invited me to go ashore with him and other crew to have a bit of fun as they called it. After making our way through jungle with haversacks of booze and foodstuff we arrived at huts in a clearing where those seafarers were welcomed with open arms. After the ‘natives’ traditional eating and the drinking of snake juice; a most potent burning down to the intestine feeling liquid that caused your rectum to tighten up, the native women and men oiled themselves and danced to their music within the firelight. Their musical instruments were self-made, with the drums made out of hollowed out tree trunks overstretched with animal skins, and wind instruments were made from animal horns. The men were then in hot pursuit as they tried hard to grasp the women’s slippery oily bodies. Those who succeeded, eventually, for they kept on oiling, carried them off into the huts amidst much squealing and laughter. What I found very interesting, particularly on the African coast, was that my ancestry countrymen the Portuguese had sailed to, explored, done battle and taken control of many east African countries in their voyages of discovery. That was also why Tsango and Portuguese were the main languages spoken in the south of Mozambique. On our way back out of the jungle and in passing the luxurious Polana Hotel, we afforded ourselves the luxury there by having a dip in its vast outdoor swimming pool in the dark before continuing our journey to the ship.

From there it was all the way down the coast to the same ports to load cargo for the Caribbean and the USA. The Caribbean where bum-boats did a roaring trade in those islands while ships in seaways waited for a berth, saw the islanders paddle out in their canoes, which was usually a canoe hollowed from a large tree trunk, and when coming alongside the ship they would trade rum, coconuts, bananas, cigars and women for cartons of cigarettes or any brass objects that wasn’t bolted down to the ship. The trading was done in baskets tied to rope ends thrown overboard; with the women it was a different matter though. The crew, aft of the ship and out of sight of the officers, would let down the Jacob’s ladder over the stern to get the women aboard. One woman lost her grip while climbing up the rope ladder, fell into the water, bobbed up, climbed drenched up the ladder again, came on deck, removed and wrung out her sarong, and then smilingly scampered naked below deck. Approaching the Caribbean was always a time of excitement for all on board even if having been there before, for not only of the known ever-present liveliness of the West Indians themselves but also when sighting on the horizon one of the islands coming into view. Even when readying the ship to lay at anchor or to come alongside, all eyes would still take in the splendor of the green mountains that towered above the ship and jungle slopped towards the waves that gently lapped the white shores with lines of waterfront homes set amongst the palm trees. When ashore there was always some sort of festival happening that without fail we would attend and participate in, and it didn’t matter if it poured down with a passing tropical shower and you got drenched, for the sun would dry you out just as quickly. What wouldn’t dry out quickly though if consuming to much of their national drink of rum was yourself, due to feeling quite parched the next day; nonetheless, it also gave you heaps of vigour as it did them when dancing. Most times that would occur when we would frequent the beach bars. When after a session of drinking we would pick up the many musical instruments scattered around and play our African music, and the locals when hearing our African beat would spontaneously party because that’s where their music derived from. We were able to make many friends that way in the Caribbean because of them joining in with their unusual drums made of half cut steel drums, and we were soon educated in the playing of them too.

Jamaica still in the Caribbean Sea had more of a leaning towards Africa than the other islands with their ganja (marijuana) like in South Africa, reggae with an African beat, and with theirs as rum ours was brandy. Our loading of bauxite, which was a long process, gave us time enough to explore, take in the sights and enjoy the Jamaican delights. Jamaicans met were part of that delight because of their happy-go-lucky, courteous and helpful attitude. With them we made friends easily, and it was partly due to our also lay-back happy disposition that saw us almost accepted as one of them when receiving a ‘Wa’up blood’ (What’s up blood) as a respectful greeting to indicated we were also from Africa, or ‘Respectas a farewell or greeting. What I found unusual was that the Rastafarian’s with their just starting natty (dreadlocks) of uncut uncombed hair grown into long sun bleached tangles, reminded me of African tribes who wore their hair in plastered ochre ringlets, and the memory of it and the relating the similarity to them caused an inundation of queries. What was weird too was that saw the smoking of ganja as a source of wisdom the same as the Cape Town skollies did their dagga too, but the difference was that they smoked it in the form of a zol (cigar size), whereas the Rasta’s burned (smoked) theirs the size of bazookas, and maybe that’s what gave them their blissful nirvana.

Kingston the capital of Jamaica was mind boggling due to the living conditions that had high-rises and hovels side by side, and those living in the tenements and ghettos dominated the nightlife. It did though make for a vibrant and more exciting relief from the other islands with its street vendors stalls, the blasting of reggae music from stores and the forever milling throngs that saturated the city. Those same populous ranks swelled at the carnival there when they took to the streets in droves as costumed revelers, which brought us right into our element when also participating. Reggae, calypso and soca was what set the atmosphere for outrageous dancing, but what really got me and my shipmates going was the dance style called dry shagging, and if I wasn’t dancing it myself, which made me as horny as hell, it would have seem that the agony (a having sex style of dancing) was as if the dancers were having work (sex) fully clothed. Their language too was as colourful as they were, and it wasn’t through only hearing it but actually being in their company when it was indicated verbalized for it to be understood. Their women’s erotic sensuous dancing made me think of my Langa African girlfriends, who would dance similarly, particularly at their beach parties as their perspiration glistening bodies writhed and gyrated in dance in the fire light to the music of Jamaican kettle drums. The intensity of the pulsating rhythm, the washing of the waves on the beach, the flickering fires illumination, the rum’s intoxication plus the dusky bare legs, midriff and shoulders as their suggestive bodies swayed was too much to bear, so we joined the dancing. We weren’t dancing in couples but went with the flow, and the girl dancing opposite me danced as if she was alone. With closed eyes and swaying body she slide her hands over her full firm breasts, down her taut stomach to her hips and thighs, rubbed her hands up and down them so that her short colourful skirt rose and fell to the steady rhythm. Calling on my dancing skills I shook my booty too that caught her attention, and mimicking my steps she danced closer. She improved on my dancing by bending her body backwards, gyrated her pelvis, lifted her skirt to flick it from side to side and moved her leg in between mine. Putting my hands on her waist and drawing her closer we wined (a sensuous groin-to-groin dance) in a controlled and steady rhythm to the rise and fall of the throb of the music until its acceleration caused ours to become frenzied too. Having abstained from sexual relations for wanting to be faithful was becoming difficult, but there were restraints there though. I didn’t know whose gyal (woman) she was, if she was a matey (girlfriend of several sexual partners) or a sketel (a beautiful promiscuous woman with many boyfriends), and there were large and fearsome looking Jamaican men watching, again something similar to what I had thought about the Langa African men when mucking around with my Langa girlfriend.

Our next port of call was Mobile in Alabama on the Mobile River that was in the Gulf of Mexico, but because of their racial problems and segregation laws it left a bad after taste. We had apartheid in South Africa, but I though had not experienced seeing blacks served last in stores although they were there ahead of whites, serving hatches at the back of food shops for blacks only, and they had to walk on the end of the kerb, street gutter or road side because the whites had priority of the street pavements. While in Alabama, Martin Luther King (African American) was arrested for loitering there by white police. We almost too got arrested for sitting in the back of a bus in Alabama just because of when taking it downtown the driver conductor insisted that we sit in front where it had a sign stating whites. We had politely told him to nick off and that’s exactly where he intended us to be because he stopped the bus at a police station. We had to produce our American shore leave passes and convincingly try to re-explain the reason why we hadn’t sat in the front of the bus when so requested. Our second tongue in cheek explanation was that we always sat at the back in buses and thought the white sign was for the locals because our first story didn’t go down well with the redneck cops. Our telling them at first that in South Africa white meant lily white and that our complexion was olive seemed to have irritated them, so we lied instead. So much for our protest, but it worked for white Americans and Australians though when they visited South Africa in the early stages of apartheid. European Only and Non-European Only signs were everywhere, with European meaning white and Non-European meaning any other colour. In silent and effective protest the overseas visitors made use of Non-European facilities in argument that they weren’t from Europe. That really gave the irrational South African National Party the shits, and the signs were soon changed to White Only and Non-White Only, and that kept many ignorant white South Africans out of the sun.

From there when sailing from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean via Florida, we experienced shades of the Bermuda Triangle. We were traveling at full speed following a set course when the ships steering for no apparent reason malfunctioned. We weren’t far offshore when the rudder swung starboard and veered the ship to port-side, shore side. Nothing could budge it, and even when the engine room was singled to stop, the propellers wouldn’t kick astern. The speed momentum carried the ship nearer towards the beach and we could see the bathers waving at us. The anchors when dropped seemed that it would never reach the bottom as the anchor chains just kept on clanking like forever, but it bit and held. What also held the whole ship’s attention when passing Miami in 1962 was observing the fiery Mercury capsule ‘Friendship’ lift off from Cape Canaveral, and on board it John Glenn who became the first astronaut to orbit the earth three times. When whatever repairs were eventually satisfactory completed we made for Charleston in South Carolina. When entering the harbour there were sea-islands that were navigated by the ships pilot that had narrow channels between sandbanks that had standards implanted on the sandbanks to carry electric wiring. Our steersman for a split second forgot his port-side from his starboard side and the ship’s bow not only clipped and pushed over some of the standards but also got stuck on the sandbank. After many attempts of kicking astern we continued our journey and the captain received a bill for replacement standards.  Our next stop over was Norfolk in Virginia with naval installations that would only be believed if seen. Rows upon rows of battle ships, destroyers, light and heavy cruisers, and light fleet and aircraft carriers all berthed like tightly packed sardines, and it made you wonder who America was prepared for war with.

Then New York City that I was dying to see for real after hearing so much about it. After sailing past Dirty Gerty, the name seaman called the Statue of Liberty because of its grimy appearance, we berthed at Pier 10 in New York City on the Hudson River in the State of New York that comprised of the five boroughs of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island, which I was able to visit and explore due to the many trips to that state. The Bronx where the home venue of the Yankees; the Yankee Stadium of baseball fame ruled supreme, and so did the vibrant ethnic community of a Little Italy with its home style southern Italian cooking. Brooklyn with its Brooklyn Bridge that spanned the East River between there and Manhattan was one of the most exhilarating experiences when strolling across it at sunset, and the other was the vast amusement park at Coney Island. Manhattan from Times Square spread out to take in the United Nations Building, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Centre, Carnegie Hall, Empire State Building, Union Square, Herald Square, Washington Square, Greenwich Village, China Town, Little Italy, World Trade Centre, Wall Street, Central Park and Harlem. Queens with its National Tennis Centre at Flushing Meadows and Staten Island that when taking the thirty minute ferry ride from Manhattan’s Battery Park to there, was both breathe taking in its excitement and atmosphere, especially when I took in both and viewed New York’s magnificent skyline when cruising past the Statue of Liberty, which was an experience in itself when gazing from the top out over the city and its surrounds on another trip. And then there was Broadway that in my wildest dreams I would have never thought that I would be seeing a live show there. Many movies viewed too was seen before distributed to the rest of the world, and when back in South Africa and it was shown there for the first time I was envied because of saying that I had seen it already in New York. Carnegie Hall was also a cheap way to absorb New York’s musical culture of opera and ballet productions because of the low prices charged, and concerts were usually frequent and free. Both day and night life were no different where bars were concerned because at both times there was a happening if I was either in a Harlem jazz club, at a live drag show, a smoky Brooklyn joint or at a Greenwich dive. When mentioning the Catskills, which was in New York State, where the famed Woodstock rock festival took place and people don’t relate to it, I know that they were not of my era of hippies, flower power, psychedelic drugs and free love, or that they had not been into it to have that experience. Another experience in that same state that was not only one of the seven wonders of the world but also awesome in its spectacular beauty of never ending cascading sparkling water and rainbow featured mist was Niagara Falls, which caused me to compare it with the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River in Africa. When berthed in Brooklyn I would either walk across the Brooklyn Bridge that spanned the East River to China Town in Lower Manhattan, and then make my way into the city, or take the subway from Flatbush to the city, which with that one subway token you could travel to all of the boroughs. And when berthed in Hoboken that was across the Hudson River in New Jersey, I would either travel through the Holland Tunnel that went under the Hudson River, which came out in Tribeca (triangle below Canal Street) and Soho in Lower Manhattan, or the Lincoln Tunnel that came out at Hell’s Kitchen and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which was one street away from Times Square and Broadway.

Spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square on that trip was the most awesome, emotional and exhilarating New Year I had ever experienced. We took a cab up Broadway to Times Square for the countdown, and other traffic and pedestrians came each way along 45th Street; Seventh Avenue and Broadway to converge at Times Square. With vehicle radios blaring, horns honking and beeping, motors revving and people cheering, the motorcade crawled towards Times Square and the New Year. At 11.30 all traffic stopped, and sheer luck or perfect timing brought us three minutes away from Times Square, and like everybody else we left the cab where it was. With our champagne, bourbon, noisemakers and streamers we surged towards Times Square. With glasses at the ready and champagne corks ready to pop, talking, laughter and shouting hushed as the countdown began. I knew there would be cheering, shouting and wishing, what I didn’t expect to hear was what sounded like London’s Big Ben striking the hour, which I had experienced New Year’s Eve in London on a trip there, the peal of church bells, the haunting fog horn sounds of ships in the surrounding harbours, toots and hoots from pleasure craft and boats on the river, car horn sounds mixed up with the noisemakers, whistles, bells and gongs. The popping of champagne corks, streamers, confetti, balloons, handshakes and kissing went on everywhere as fireworks filled the sky. People poured out of restaurants, hotels and theaters in finery and costume to mingle, wish and join arms to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ accompanied by a Scottish regimental band. That was followed by an impromptu rendering of ‘We’re here because we’re here’ by a lone saxophonist. Other street musicians and accompanists who had emerged from entertainment venues also joined in, and it became a combined orchestra for a throng of revelers. Group parties occurred started through different groups of musicians. Jamaicans with steel drums, Germans with accordions, Africans with drums, Mexicans with guitars and trumpets, South Americans with percussion instruments, and all of them in traditional costumes. All good things came to an end and it was effectively done by the use of police, ambulance and fire brigade vehicles with wailing sirens and flashing lights clearing the streets of people and traffic congestion. It was also in the ‘Big Apple’ as New Yorker’s called their city, on another trip there, that I saw Bill Haley and the Comets in concert doing ‘Rock around the clock’ and others, and Elvis Presley perform live on stage doing his numbers of ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Love me tender’ and also others numbers. Then it was back down the coast after loading cargo in New York and twelve passengers, and more cargo in the other ports before sailing back to Cape Town via the Virgin Islands for bunkers (fuel and water).

Joan and I during that trip had been corresponding like crazy to each other. The thing that I soon learned when sailing to any part of the world was to send her forwarding addresses to destinations that the ship would dock in and that had a Safmarine office there, and if the letter arrived after the ship had sailed, they would forward it on to the next port of call that had an office there. Pretty clever and efficient, hey! Then I too had a woman waiting on the key when the ship pulled alongside in Cape Town Docks. A smile, wave and blown kiss was all we could do because I had my ship duties to perform as promoted Saloon Steward and I had to feed the passengers as it was lunch time. When in one’s home port, shore leave was given until the morning of the ships sailing, which unfortunately that time was for only two days. Be that as it may, Joan and I not only made hay while the sun shone but also whoopee.


Pier 10, New York City, USA.


3 thoughts on “28. My Merchant Mariner Travels Around The World. (Part 1)

  1. Thanks for another great one, Harold!

  2. Liz Fairweather says:

    Great blog, really interested to read about the SA Merchant, sailed on her many times, my Dad was her last Chief Engineer.

    • hgwlorenzo says:

      Thanks for that. Just like you were interested in reading that, so too were those who had husbands or fathers on different ships sailed on that they had no idea what was involved as a Merchant Mariner. I enjoyed writing it as they enjoyed reading about it, however, after I googled your scififairy site and read what you are into, I was quite taken aback of the differences of our stories told. But seeing how they are both of adventures and that I made a fairy garden for my two granddaughters who have great adventures in it, we seem to be on the same track.

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