Istanbul or Constantinople?

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Once again my fellow cadets and I joined the excursion ashore to see this time the sites of Istanbul.

We visited St Sophia’s  (pictured above) – the first church on this site being built in 360 AD, the second church was built in 415 AD, the third church was opened in 537 AD and remained a church until 1453 when Constantinople (Istanbul) fell to the Ottomans, and St Sophia’s became a moscue.
In 1935, thanks to Kemul Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, the building became a museum.
St Sophia might be better remembered by many people, because it was used in the making of the James Bond movie ‘From Russia with Love’, you can watch the scene from the film.

We also visited the Blue Mosque, which is not blue on the outside,

Sultan_Ahmed_Mosque_Istanbul_Turkey_retouched

but due to over 20,000 blue tiles inside the mosque.apc9vvdlhlr11Beside the historic sites of old Istanbul, the one thing that does stick in my mind about my visit to Istanbul was that I nearly sold one of our passengers.

The coach party that I had joined was given free time to enjoy whatever we liked as along as we were back at the coach meeting place at a certain time. We were warned not to wander off on our own, but to stick together in little groups.
Angela, one of the girls on the coach had taken a shine to me (it must have been the uniform), and she had made sure that she was in my small group.
I asked what they wanted to do and Angela, who was I think eighteen, wanted to see the Grand Bazaar, but she was reluctant to go on her own. The coach party had already visited the bazaar, but my small group consisting of myself, another cadet, three girls, and a male student, wanted to return to purchase souvenirs.
The bazaar was crowded – as it nearly always is – so one had to be careful with our wallets and bags, and also of a number of strange characters.
DSC01610-Istanbul-Grand-Bazaar-crowds-HHolter-618                                    Found this on the internet, so it’s not from 1965.

The girls found the leather area, and started to try on various jackets and to chat to the stall holders.
While at one of the stalls, a middle aged man came up and started to squeeze Angela as if she was a piece of meat, using just two fingers. He squeezed her arms and around her waist.
I moved forward and told him to stop what he was doing, at which point he asked me in broken English, how much. It dawned on me that he wanted to buy her! I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t!
At this point I stated that he must be joking and called the stall holder to help translate. He spoke to the ‘buyer’ sharply in Turkish and pushed him away with much waving of arms.
Fortunately, Angela laughed off the whole episode as a joke, but I think she was glad that she was part of a group, and not on her own.

As foot note to the story – some weeks later, after Angela had flown home, we docked in Southampton, and in the mail waiting for me, I received an invitation from her to a birthday party at her father’s home. Her family lived on a converted MTB on the Avon River in Christchurch.

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There were a number of converted MTB boats (see picture above), all converted after WW2, perhaps the owners were history buffs. Both above and below pictures are from the internet.
The picture below illustrates the MTB being converted, but it was not the boat that I visited.

MTB

I arrived on board and was introduced by Angela to her father. As we shook hands he said to me – ‘I believe that you had the opportunity to sell my daughter in Istanbul?’

I tried to apologise and say how sorry I was to put Angela in to such a situation.

At the end of my babbling he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, with a ‘smile’ in his voice – ‘The next time you have the opportunity to sell my daughter, take her mother as well!’

I was lost for words as I tried to look shocked, at the same time I could not stop laughing.

We planned to sail from Istanbul in the early evening. Lines ashore were singled up, the pilot was aboard, and the order was given to raise the anchor. We had dropped it during the manoeuver of going along side. If the wind had strengthened it might have inhibited our efforts to leave the wharf, so by hauling on the anchor this would assist us to move clear of the wharf, regardless of the wind’s effort to keep us alongside.

The clank, clank, of the links being hauled through the hawse pipe could be heard on the bridge as I updated the log book.

Suddenly we heard shouts and two strikes on the forecastle bell indicating a light on the port side. The Captain moved quickly to the port wing of the bridge, followed by the officer of the watch and the pilot. I picked up my log book and stood just inside the door of the bridge, on the port wing. I could see a very large well-lit vessel getting closer and closer. One glance was enough, it was a floating restaurant, heading towards us, but the problem being that the restaurant didn’t have power.

What had happened was that our anchor had fouled the restaurant’s under water moorings, and we were dragging the restaurant towards us by raising our anchor. It took some time for us to leave the wharf and sail very slowly towards the restaurant paying out our cable to allow the restaurant to easy back to her normal mooring position. Once our anchor cable was vertical it was easier to slowly gently haul in our cable link by link. Fortunately, we were able to raise our anchor as well.

Farewell Istanbul, as we sailed for Piraeus, which is the port for Athens.

Floating school – HMTS Dunera

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M/S Dunera in Malta

After a four month voyage in MV Chilka to East Africa, I was allowed ten days leave before the telegram arrived that I as to join MS Dunera in Venice.

Alitalia

Three days later I flew with Alitalia from London to Venice, via Milan.

Fortunately, ALITALIA didn’t live up to her acronym Always Late In Transit and Late In Arriving – we arrived on time, and I was met by the Company’s agent and taken to Dunera – she was moored alongside St Mark’s Square.

Big-cruise-ships-no-longer-allowed-in-Venice

Large passenger vessels are no longer allowed to berth alongside St Mark’s Square.

The above shows MSC Fantasia, at 137,936 gt, with 3,300 passengers –
MS Dunera was 12,620 gt with 834 students, in dormitories, and 194 first class cabins.
Is it any wonder the authorities put a stop to large cruise ships berthing alongside St Mark’s Square.
I think that berthing at St Mark’s Square was stopped in 2014, when the new cruise terminal opened. Now they are talking of banning large vessels in the Venice lagoon altogether, because of the vessel’s wash, even when moving very slowly, is causing damage to the buildings.

MS Dunera was a troop ship for the British Government, having been launched in 1937. She trooped to the Middle East, South Africa, Singapore and Australia between 1939 and 1941. In 1942 she took part in the Madagascar landings during Operation Ironbark, which has a link to me. During this operation my father was involved in the landings as a sailor aboard another Company troop ship named Karanja. It was only many years later that I found out about this long link of six degrees of separation.
MS Dunera was also the headquarter vessel for the US 7th Army during the invasion of Southern France in April 1944.

Dunera_Troop

HMT Dunera, as a troop ship.

In 1961/2 the British Government decided to suspend all sea going trooping and only to use air, which left several troop ships unemployed.

B.I.S.N.C had experienced operating school ships in the 1930’s, so they thought that they would reintroduce the concept in the early 60’s, and convert their troop ships to becoming ‘school ships’ – ships that specialised in taking school children on educational cruises.
In its first year as a school ship, Dunera carried over 10,000 school children around Europe to famous historical sites.

Once I’d stowed my gear in a cabin that I shared with three other cadets, I spent some time familiarising myself with the ship.

We sailed the following evening with a full compliment of British school children who had been flown out by chartered aircraft from the UK.

Our first day at sea was instructing the students about lifeboat drill, and how to put on a life jacket, which were different, but similar to today’s jackets. The main purpose in the ’60’s was to force ones head above water,. The current jackets do the same thing, but in a more ‘friendly’ fashion.

Muster1

1965

MusterDrill2

2018

Just a  little bit of trivia – the first life jacket was created in 1854 by Captain Ward who was  a British Royal National Life Boat inspector. He created it so that his lifeboat crews would have a better chance of surviving, considering that most of the time they only put to sea in bad weather, to rescue crews of stranded vessels.

The next job for the cadets was not as pleasant as chatting to the passengers and showing  them how to wear a life jacket – it was to chlorinate the swimming pool, before it could be used.

Pool

Picture thanks to John Coulthard, who also sailed in MS Dunera as Staff Second Officer in 1965. He joined MS Dunera the day I left.
As you see the pool was nothing like the fancy pools on offer by today’s cruise ships. I never heard of any complaints though, particularly when it was hot.

Our first port of call was Corfu – the photograph below was taken in 1965.

Corfu

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MS Dunera anchored off Corfu, or Keykyra in Greek.

The island didn’t have the facilities even for such a small (in comparison to today), cruise ships, so we anchored off and the motorised lifeboats were lowered, and it was the cadets job of coxing a lifeboat each full of passengers, and take them ashore. There was a small pier that we used to discharge the passengers safely. The ferrying began at 9.30 am and it wasn’t long before all of the passengers were ashore.

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Once again I am indebted to John Coulthard for the above two photographs.

As you see the ‘tender’ boat, (lifeboat) taking passengers ashore was nothing like the tender boat (lifeboat) of today, see below during our cruise earlier this year.

tender

A Diamond Princess tender ferrying passengers ashore in Nha Trang,  Vietnam.

At each port that we visited coaches were waiting for the students, with an English speaking guide, and the students were shown around the main sites, and had talks on the history and culture of each place visited.
The students knew that they had to pay attention, because they had essays to write, either during ‘lesson’ time on-board, or when they returned to their schools.
The big plus for the cadets was that we could board one of the coaches and visit the location for free. I took advantage of this facility in each port, because I knew I wouldn’t pay to return.
I was wrong, because fifty years later in 2015, I did return to some of the places that I’d visited while in Dunera.

When ever we took advantage of the free tour we had to make sure we were back in time to man the lifeboats for the return trip to the ship. The return trips in Corfu began at 3.30 pm the last boat from the shore was 5.45 pm and we sailed at 6.00 pm, for Itea.

Itea

Itea and once again the passengers were ferried ashore.
Today they have a jetty that can take larger cruise ships.

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Both of the above were found on the internet – royalty free.

Cruise

Life on board to follow . . .

Road to Zanzibar

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It’s Always You
Bing Crosby sang it to Dorothy Lamour, in Zanzibar of course . . .

Christmas Day 1964 – we arrived off Mombasa and berthed alongside the Chakla, another Company ship. Also, in port was a BI passenger ship named ‘Karanja’ and this name had a family link for me. My father was on the first ‘Karanja’, when she was discharging troops in Operation Torch off North Africa during WW2.
She was bombed and sunk. Fortunately, Dad survived, but I wanted to see the replacement so as to tell Dad.

karanja_ss

Karanja that Dad sailed in during the war.
During peace time she operated on the India – East Africa Service.

hms-cropHMS Karanja in 1942 – after she’d been bombed, and is now on fire, and I can only assume that Dad was helping to fight the fires – she sank later.

Karanja

Karanja, that I saw in Mombasa.

The evenings over Christmas were spent along Kilindini Road, mainly at the Casablanca Bar and The Nelson Bar, very popular places that Christmas.

kilindini-tusksAt the top of Kilindini Road were the famous ‘tusks’.

During the Christmas period HMS Eagle and her support ships arrived in port. She was a Royal Navy aircraft carrier with a compliment of over 2500.

HMSEagledepartsSAx

                                The above shows HMS Eagle leaving Mombasa harbour.
Among the various Royal Navy crews were several bands, and these bands obtained permission to play in the nightclubs and bars of Mombasa.
To say that Mombasa, during the Christmas period of 1964, was a ‘jumping’ town is an understatement.

1965 – New Years Day and onward

I met a young lady who had a car – very unusual at that time, and she asked me to join her at a beach outside Mombasa called Nyali Beach, and she arranged to pick me up from the ship.

VW

Of course this sounded a great idea, so I agreed, and she did pick me up in a small VW car, known as a Beetle. It was battered and dented, but it moved. The picture is the closest I could find to illustrate the car (I think the young lady had a blue car).

Nyali-Beach

A girl , a car & a beach . . . what more could a twenty year old want?

Little did I know that it wasn’t for my charming self that I was invited, but my ability to pick the car up a little by rocking it or to push it – a lot! The car did not have a reverse (it was broken, and she couldn’t afford to have it fixed), so every time we had to reverse I had to get out and push it backwards. I have been very wary of invitations to go for a drive with a female ever since. The beach was nice, and the sun helped me recuperate after all the exercise of pushing a VW part of the way to Nyali beach.

Mombasa is an island, so we had to cross to the mainland to visit the beech. Fortunately the car didn’t breakdown on the bridge.

Nyali

We were in Mombasa for a fortnight during which time we change our Indian crew to a full African crew. We now had to learn Swahili instead of Hindi.
The Chilka was the first British ship to carry a full compliment of African crew. We managed to make the newspapers and the Mombasa Times ran a major story with photographs, unfortunately I can not find any pictures.

The one problem with the African crew was that most of them did not have any concept of a European winter. They had sailed ‘deep sea’ from Mombasa, but mainly to neighbouring countries or to India or the Persian Gulf. So, when we mentioned to some of them that they should consider something better than open toed sandals for a UK winter, they grinned with their large sparkling white teeth, as if they knew best.

Our new African steward was aware of the winter cold, and he had planned for such, but he told us that the deck crew would have to find out for themselves, because they will not listen to either him or us.

When they did arrive in London the deck crew had a grey pallor due to the cold, and they had so many layers of clothing on that they could hardly move. During their free time they spent most of it in the cinema, because it was cheap, and they could at least keep warm.

After leaving Mombasa our next stop was Dar es Salaam in Tanganyika, which had become independent in 1961. It was a very short trip, a matter of hours.

Tanganyika Territory or German East Africa before WW1, was transferred to Britain under a League of Nations mandate in 1922, later confirmed by the UN, which changed it to a Trust territory after WW2.
In 1961 the trust territory was transformed in to a sovereign state, and eventually became a republic within the Commonwealth.
In April 1964 Tanganyika joined with the Peoples Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba, to create the United Peoples Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which became the United Peoples Republic of Tanzania a few months later.

The city of Dar es Salaam still had that British feel, but I never felt as comfortable as I did in Mombasa.

Tanganyika might have changed its name to Tanzania, but at that time people still referred to it as Tanganyika. The economy of the place was not as strong as Kenya, and it showed.

Our time in Dar es Salaam was about three days. Not long enough to see much, because we had to work each day, but the town was a lot quieter than Mombasa.

1960tiesJos-Hansen-Tanzania

From Dar es Salaam we sailed for Tanga, which is a seaport on the northern tip of Tanzania, very close to the border with Kenya. Tanga, famous for its sisal, means ‘farm or cultivated land’ and gave its name to Tanganyika, which means ‘Sisal farm’.

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Sisal plant – the leaves are removed and dried to make the sisal that we know at home.

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Sisal leaves drying in the sun.

Tanga was the first German East African establishment, having been bought from the Sultan of Zanzibar in 1891.

Of course, we loaded sisal, after discharging, stone, heavy machinery and frozen food, including more ice cream. Two days was enough for Tanga, after which we sailed for Zanzibar, a favourite place for the slavers of old, and of course Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.

Zanzibar-waterfront-005

Picture from the internet – it was taken in 1964

The Anglican Christ Church cathedral in Stone Town, Zanzibar stands on the old slave-trading market site.
In 1822 the British signed a treaty with the Sultan of Zanzibar to end slavery, but it took until 1876 before this trade came to and end. Of course, the trade carried on to a lessor degree by kidnapping children and selling them to ‘customers’ in the Persian Gulf. Slaves escaped to freedom as late as 1931.

David Livingstone (pictured below) estimated in 1857, that 80,000 thousand slaves died on the way to the Zanzibar slave market, and of those that lived 50,000 were sold to Sheikhs and rich traders in the Persian Gulf.
This slave market had nothing to do with the West African slave trade to America, which was outlawed by the UK in 1807.

David_Livingstone_by_Frederick_Havill-222x300

David Livingston

The altar, in the cathedral is supposed to be at the exact spot of the whipping post.

We loaded bag of cloves from dhows and barges using our own gear and the local labour for stowing the bags.

dhow

Mtwara, in Tanzania was our next port of call. The town was a created town in the 1940’s for the export of groundnuts (peanuts), but the enterprise failed, and it was abandoned in 1951.
The town had been created to house 200,000 people, but when I visited Mtwara it had a feeling of being abandoned, with few people walking the dark sandy streets.

On leaving Mtwara it was back to Dar es Salaam, followed by Tanga, where I had an inoculation top up for cholera (another blunt needle). Not sure if it was the injection or the local beers, but I was not a happy chappy for a few days.

Our final East African visit was back to Mombasa where we anchored in the Mombasa Creek. The constant sound of insects and birds as we lay at anchored reminded me of the Edgar Wallace books and films that I’d seen and read.

Sanders

The Canoe song.
If you like Paul Robeson, click on the above link to hear him sing from the film.

 After a day and a half at anchor we moved alongside at the main port area, to load tea and coffee for the Sudan, and a present of flour from America for Aden.

Two days later our East African adventure was over, and we sailed for Europe via the Red Sea.

We arrived at Aden five days later around mid-night; anchored, and immediately gangs of labour came aboard to unload the Aden cargo. They worked through the night and we sailed at lunchtime.

It was two days to Port Sudan to discharge the Mombasa tea and coffee along with empty soft drink crates – no idea why they wanted empty crates. Strange how odd things like empty drink crates, stick in one’s mind from so long ago.

The export cargo from Sudan was Arabic gum (in bags, with plenty of tiny insects), ivory (it wasn’t illegal at that time), and groundnuts.

It was February, and as we got closer and closer to the Suez Canal the temperature became noticeably cooler. A very pleasant temperature for the Europeans, who were still in tropical whites, but for our African crew they began to complain of being cold. The Company had arranged for a supply of warm weather clothing for the crew and this was handed out.

The problem was that the clothing was of mixed sizes so some of the crew complained that they couldn’t move because their shirt was too tight, and others complained that their legs were cold because their trouser were too short. It became the cadets’ job to reclaim all the clothing and to make sure each crew member was kitted out with clothes that fitted, as best we could. This put a stop to a break out of fights over pieces of clothing.

Once in the Mediterranean all the crew appeared to put on weight – in fact they refused to take off any of their clothing because they were so cold, and they began to look like a gang of Michelin men.

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It took us a week from Port Sudan to Gibraltar, during which time the temperature had dropped from around 27 c (80F) to a cool 12 c (53F) and the crew were suffering.

Our next  port was Hull in the UK, and we had to transit the Bay of Biscay in winter – not a pleasant experience with heavy Atlantic swell causing us to pitch, roll and corkscrewing in a force eight.

The temperature kept dropping and by the time we reached the English Channel it was down to 6 c (42 F), the officers were now in ‘blues’ far too cold for shorts.

I paid off Chilka on a Sunday, while still at sea, with the grand sum of £20 in my pocket. I’d been away for about four months, so I didn’t expect a long leave. We docked in Hull on Monday morning, and by the afternoon I was back home in Birkenhead, which is across the river from Liverpool.

Yesterday and today –

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Chilka at 7,132 gt, a happy ship to see the world and experience different cultures.

Container_Ship

Credit for the photograph by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

A container ship alongside in Zanzibar in 2011, where is the ‘romance’ of going to sea if you are only in port for a few hours.

Ice Cold in Aden.

 

chilka2M/V Chilka

The Bay of Biscay and Gibraltar behind us and Chilka heads for Almeria on the southern coats of Spain.Almaria

From memory it was a small town with few attractions for the cadets, but we loaded over 2000 barrels of grapes in to our freezer chambers destined for Mombasa, in Kenya.
Chilka was not a freezer ship, but a dry cargo vessel, with some freezer / chiller cargo space.

At the same time, we were unloading bags of cement. Each day during the passage from London we tested the bilges for water, and at each test we found that we were dry, which was unusual, because we always had some water in the bilges. On arrival in Almeria we began to discharge the bags and found that the cement had been contaminated with water and had set hard. The noise of jackhammers was soon heard as we completed the discharge of cement.

devonia_mta

Our next port was Malta where we berthed near the BISNC company school ship Devonia. This vessel had been a troop ship and had been converted to carry school children around Europe on educational cruises.
The Devonia cadets where known to all of us cadets in the Chilka, so that evening it was an ‘educational’ down the Gut as it is locally known, or as its correct name Strait Street (Strada Stretta, in Maltese) – which was a famous bar area of Malta in the 1950’s & the early 60’s. We were only in Malta for the one night and sailed the next day for Port Said to join the southbound convoy through the canal.
The British had helped Malta to be free of the French in 1800, and Malta had asked to be a sovereign nation within the British Empire – this was granted at the end of the Napoleonic war in 1815.
Malta was given complete self rule after WW2, in 1947, and she was considering the idea of being part of the UK, or have dominion status in the same way as Australia, Canada & New Zealand, but later decided on becoming an independent country, which took place in September 1964, and at the same time she joined the Commonwealth.

the_gut__valletta__malta_by_triathlonjohn

Found this on the internet which gives a good idea as to how narrow Strait Street (the GUT) is . . . .GUT

It was a popular place with the Royal Navy, and as we were dressed in ‘civvies’ we stood out some what.

Two days after clearing Port Tewfik, which is at the southern end of the Suez Canal, we were off Port Sudan, and within a short time alongside the wharf.

Port Sudan was a dusty town to say the least, but they did have a picture house, which I visited on my first evening ashore, to see ‘The Great Escape’, because it was the only English-speaking film available.

Great_escape

I’d seen it in the UK, but viewing it in Sudan was a completely different. I had the choice of ‘Stalls’ or ‘Circle’, so for the price I chose the ‘Circle’, which was just as well. Between the Stalls and the Circle area there were rolls of barbed wire to keep ‘Stalls’ patrons from cheating the system and sitting in the Circle, and I thought the barbed wire was to enhance the realty of the film. . . I should get out more.

great escape

From the internet, he was not watching the film with me.

Next day I was invited by the second officer to try out his aqualung off the reef that shielded the port. We borrowed a small boat to get to the reef.
I didn’t have any idea as to how to use an aqualung underwater, so the whole exercise was quite exciting. He explained what I had to do, and how to breathe normally under water, and the experience, for me, was out of this world to be a part of the under-sea creature environment.

port-sudan

I’d been down about ten minutes when the sun over my right shoulder ‘went out’ as if a cloud had passed in front of the sun. The problem was that I’d not seen a cloud in the last two days, so looked up to check what had caused the ‘cloud’. It was a large shark. I didn’t have any idea what type of shark it was; all I knew was that I was in his area and he was bigger and stronger than me. Fortunately, I was able to swim ‘backwards’, while watching the shark, and as soon as I touched the coral reef I felt safer. I don’t know if it is true that a shark would not get too close to a reef in case it damaged itself on the reef, but at the time I trusted this thought, and eventually made my way in to the coral reef’s shallow area, where I was picked up in the borrowed boat. After this episode I only went snorkeling near a reef.

Aden, one of my least ‘favoured’ ports of call was our next stop. We worked cargo at night because of the heat and the nature of the cargo – ice cream and cheese. I’d never seen a cargo unloaded so fast as this cargo during the night. The labour must have been on contract that any loss of ice cream would have been a penalty or perhaps they had been promised an ice cream on completion.

emergency

At the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Aden became an important coaling station on the route to India and also as a base against pirates. It seems that not much has changed in the area with regard to pirates since 1869.

Abdel Nasser of Egypt, in late 1963 called for a Pan Arabist cause, which partly ignited the Aden Emergency with the throwing of a grenade in late 1963 at British officials at Aden airport. The grenade killed a woman and injured fifty others. An anti-British campaign had begun using mainly grenades. The two main anti- British groups were the NLF (National Liberation Front) and FLOSY (Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen).
The requirement to keep law and order brought in more and more troops, which is why we had so much ice cream to unload that night.

ICE CREAM - Lyons Ice Cream Poster

My British readers will remember this advert from the mid 60’s.

The British withdrew from Aden at the end on November 1967, the Suez Canal had been closed by Nasser on the eve of the Six Day War, (5th to 10th June 1967), and then it became the demarcation line between the Egyptians and the Israelis forces. This contributed to years of disruption to the Yemeni economy and Aden in particular.

It appears they are still fighting among themselves over fifty years later.

From Aden we set course for Mombasa, in Kenya. Unlike today we did not have to worry about pirates as we sailed down the Somalian coast.

For the movie buffs, I borrowed the title of a film for this blog, with a slight, alteration,

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A classic British film from 1958.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to sea

Chilka-07[1]
In mid November of 1964 I received a telegram that ‘my services were required’ in London, because I was to join the Chilka – she was launched 1950 so she wasn’t too old.
I enjoyed my time in Chilka, because she was a very happy ship, and when I joined she was loading cargo for the East African coast.

I signed on late in the afternoon, and after unpacking I visited the ship’s bar for pre-dinner drinks. In the bar I met friends from HMS Conway – one was the first tripper who was with me on my first ship, the tanker, and another who was also in my term during my time at Conway. We had a very pleasant evening of ‘remember when’?

During the next eleven days, the ship worked cargo and I was on general duties depending on what the First Mate required. It was mainly day work, so I had the evenings free, which gave me time to visit London, rather than just the dock area.
Being cadets we did managed to visit a couple of very famous London dockland pubs near where the Chilka was berthed at KGV (King George 5th docks).

These docks were opened in 1921 and reached their peak during the late 1950’s early 1960’s just as containerisation began to grow. The docks eventually became uneconomical and closed in 1981, after which the London City Airport was built. Part of the dock was filled in to create the runway and passenger terminal.

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King George V docks in the 1960’s, as you see, the dock was huge.

rdhist6Loading cargo in the 1960’s was very labour intensive, and the introduction of containerisation put a lot of stevedores out of work.

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The 1990’s

All our yesterdays, times change, and after the heartache at the time, I think the locals today are better off than their predecessors in the 1960’s.

We sailed on the last Friday in November, in a rain squall. It was a dirty afternoon that turned in to an early cold and wet night as we made our way down the River Thames, to the open sea and the English Channel.

My watch was the graveyard watch – midnight to four am. As I climbed the ladder to the bridge, for the start of my watch, I remembered a line of poetry from John Masefield’s poem ‘Cargoes’ – ‘Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,’ but for us it was November, but butting down the Channel was exactly what we were doing that dark and wet Friday night. It’s funny how the smallest things come back to you years later.
The last verse of Masefield’s poem.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

PunduastormcropI took this photograph when I was 3rd Mate on another BI ship a couple of years later, I’ve included it in this blog as an illustration of butting down the Channel.

 

In Praise of Something Smaller

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Maureen & I have completed ten cruises over the years, mainly with Princess Cruises, but the one that we use to judge all of the others is Azamara Cruises.
Azamara Quest 30,277 GT, the smallest ship in which we have sailed, launched in 2000, with a passenger capacity of 686 and a crew of 408.

 

Majestic Princess cruise ship

The largest vessel in which we have sailed was Majestic Princess at 144,000 GT, launched in 2017, and she has a passenger capacity of 3,560 and a crew of 1,346 and I must admit that we never felt crowded.

As a comparison Majestic Princess offers 1 crew member for 2.64 passengers and Azamara Quest offers 1 crew member for  1.68 passengers.

The larger vessels offer climbing castles, multiple swimming pools, some with wave makers, wind tunnels, promenades that hang over the water, whereas smaller vessels offer the opportunity of seeing smaller accessible ports that the large vessel can’t enter.

It all depends on what the customer wants, so I thought I’d post a few photographs of the Azamara Quest as a comparison.

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The buffet area where one can have any meal, but we used it mainly for breakfast & lunch.

DSC06105rThe passenger doesn’t help himself, all food is covered and a crew member serves you so there is tight control for health reasons, not portion control – you can have as much as you require.

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Waiter service at lunch time if you want a glass of wine or beer.

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I’ve never experienced the buffet to be rushed, or noisy, and we never had to wait for a table, obviously the sitting area is larger than the area shown in the photograph.

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Swimming or sunbathing on a sea day.

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For those who don’t swim, there is always some where to sit – and before you ask I don’t have any idea who the guy is behind Maureen. During our cruise we had a good choice of beers, which were complimentary, as were all the soft drinks.

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The pool is also used in the evening for ‘White Night’ – people dress in white (which is not compulsory) and there is a buffet of hot food, all cooked to order, of dishes from around the world, and of course various wines.

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Towards the end of the evening there is the ‘march of the flags’ representing the international mix of the crew. As you see the Isle of Man, or Manx flag, was also represented as part of the flag march, because I think the ship’s Master was a Manxman.

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A favourite of mine is always the library, which is in the Drawing Room.

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Quiet, with picture windows overlooking the sea, board games available for those who like chess, scrabble, cards etc, plus desk top computers if you wish to go on line.

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The Living Room.

A large room that overlooks the bow – with picture windows to watch the world pass you by, while you sit in hammock seats suspended from the deck-head, or just in comfortable armchairs – your choice.

The above was taken in the early morning, but around 4.30 pm it becomes popular because the piano player arrives or other musicians (music is never too loud), stewards serving pre-dinner drinks, and it is a place to meet fellow travelers, without being too shy or uncomfortable.

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The bar area in the living room.

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Port side of the Living Room for a quiet read.

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Come 5.00 pm and the hors d’oeuvres have arrived – complimentary of course – they never seem to run out.

 

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From the Living Room over looking the bow as we left Bombay.

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Sunsets over the Indian Ocean as we head for Muscat in Oman.

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Around 6 to 6.30 pm we made our way to the dinning room – choice of tables for small groups, or just for two, we were happy to sit with people we didn’t know, but on such a small ship it wasn’t long before your ‘knew’ everyone.
Each day the complimentary wine changed (one red, one white) from different parts of the world, this always made for a very happy friendly evening meal.1058-DiscoveriesRestaurant

I copied the above from the Azamara Pursuit site – all the other photographs are mine from our cruise in the Quest.

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Entertainment is not as extravagant or as spectacular as the shows on the larger vessels, but more like a night club where you are closer to the acts. The above was a local dance troop during our visit to Goa in India. They didn’t sail with us, but came on board just for the show .

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You still have the all dancing and all singing acts. . .

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The difference with the smaller ship shows, is that you get to talk to the entertainers because they are all involved with the daily running of the ship – they run the trivia quizzes,  teach ballroom dancing or just chat about their life at sea as an entertainer.

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This guy was ‘DIFFERENT’

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The balloon appeared to be a standard balloon when he began.

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You can see how close he is to his audience.
He was a ‘magic act and did more than climb in to a balloon, he was very funny.

A day ashore in Muscat,

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The local Souk or market – air conditioned . . . .of course.

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and on our return – the Quest had remembered Maureen’s birthday,
and her gluten free cake.

azamara-pursuitAzamara Pursuit
There are only three ships in the Azamara Group – Azamara Quest, Journey & now the Pursuit, they are all sister ships.
The Pursuit was launched in 2001,  30,211 GT and has just completed (August 2018) a substantial refit in Belfast, UK, to bring her up to the standard of her two sisters.

Maureen & I are booked to sail in her in 2019 – I do hope the experience will be as good as the Quest.

We may consider that sailing in a ship of ‘only’ 30,000 GT is small today, but having sailed in cargo ships, such as the British India ship Pundua, launched 1945, at 7,200 GT Azamara Quest, to some of us is quite large.

PunduaI was 3rd Mate in the Pundua in 1966.

 

 

 

 

 

Icons and colour

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Church on the Spilled Blood . . .

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Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881 by a bomb., which was thrown at his carriage. Since becoming the Tsar he’d been progressively changing Russia by freeing the serfs, who were virtual slaves of the land owners. He updated the military and the judiciary and made other reforms, but not everybody agreed with him.
There were various attempts on his life, which included an explosion in the Winter Palace and the derailment of a train. In the end it was a bomb thrown at his carriage that was successful.
In memory of the Tsar they built a church over the exact spot of his death. It is called The Church on the Spilled blood and inside the church there is a canopy that marks the place of his assassination.

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It seemed to me that every part of the church had some form of religious painting on the walls, pillars, ceiling and floors.

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Not being a great fan of elaborately painted churches, I never had a feeling of peace.
From what I’ve since read, it is only used as a church for commemorative services, but is mainly a museum, and a ‘must’ for the tourist trail, which I suppose, is the reason for my feeling of lack of peace.

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Part of the ceiling.

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The alter area? – I’m not sure.

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A model of the church.

The cost of construction was met mainly by the Royal Family, and was built between 1883 to 1907.

After the revolution of 1917 the church was looted, and badly damaged. It was closed in 1932, and during WW2, due to the 900 day siege, it was used as a morgue.
After the war, it was used as a vegetable warehouse, and became known locally as the  Saviour on Potatoes.

Some years later the authorities decided to restore the whole church, and it was covered in scaffolding. This went on for years, and people used to say that by the time the restoration is finished the Soviet Union would have collapsed. In 1991 the restoration was finished and the church reopened – on Christmas Day in 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed, and on the 26th December made way for the Russian Federation – coincidence?

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  Soviet flag

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Russian Federation flag

Our next church was St Isaac’s Cathedral, which is the fourth consecutive church to be built on the same spot.

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There were models showing the growth of the church from its early beginnings to today’s cathedral shown below

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Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, died 383 AD. He was the patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of St Isaac.

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The cathedral took forty years to build, from 1818 to 1858 under the direction of Frenchman Auguste de Montferrand.

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The dome rises 101.5 mtrs (333 ft) and is plated with gold, and is supported by twelve statues who are angels.

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I found the artwork more impressive here than in the previous church.

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Ceiling and side areas.

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In 1931 the cathedral became a museum of the History of Religion and Atheism.

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In the centre of the above picture you can just see a white bird, (representing the Holy Spirit), which is a dove. The dove was removed in 1931 and the first public demonstration of the Foucault pendulum took place to show the evidence of the Earth’s rotation.

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Garden of Eden around the wall.

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Originally the pictures were paintings hanging from the walls, until they realised that the weather was causing them to deteriorate,  Auguste de Montferrand ordered the painting to be copied as mosaics.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union the cathedral returned to being a place of worship and in January of 2017 it was transferred to the Russian Orthodox church.

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One of the side chapels, sorry about the slight tilt.

After our group of twelve had gathered outside, the guide said that we would visit another church . . . there was a low moan indicating that some had had their fill of churches. As we were in the new democratic Russia we took a vote, and nine voted to return to the ship and three for carrying on. We knew that we would not be back on board until just after 4.00 pm and we had experienced two very long days, and today had started at 7.00 am at passport control, and boarding the bus at 7.30 am.
The guide was quite surprised that most of us wanted to return to the ship, and forfeit visiting the next ‘iconic’ church.

We were back on board about 4.15 pm just in time for a shower before dinner and to focus on a spot of R & R.

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I’d been looking forward to renewing my friendship with Mr Smith for an an hour or so before dinner . . .

Goodbye St Petersburg, thanks for the experience and memories., which were very different to those of 1965.