In September of 1967 I was a twenty three year old Third Officer on a cargo ship. She was ordered by the Ministry of War Transport in 1945, but was delivered to the company, for which I worked, due to the war ending. When I sailed in her she was twenty two years old (one year younger than me) and showing her age. She was a happy ship for the officers and crew, but she was still old. I kept the midnight to four am watch, and the noon to four pm watch – generally known as the graveyard watch.
On leaving Hong Kong for Japan all seemed in order until we reached the area between China and Taiwan.
The weather ‘turned’ and I thought it was a ‘normal’ storm.
The weather kept deteriorating and I didn’t have enough light left to take anymore pictures. I took the above at the end of my afternoon watch.This was many years before digital cameras and all I had a a basic point & click.
I went to bed around 7.30 pm & slept through the storm as it grew in to Typhoon Nora. I woke about 11.40 pm, to get ready to take over the watch on the bridge.
My cabin was two decks above the main deck, and my bunk was under a window that over looked a passageway and the sea. I looked out of the window as the ship rolled due to the storm, only see blackness. The ship rolled upright before falling off the other way, and I was able to watch the water drain down the outside of my window. It was then that I noticed the bedclothes on the window side of my bunk were wet, because the window was not waterproof. I dressed in a pair of shorts, a light shirt and flop flops and made my way to the bridge.
The violent movement of the ship required me to hang on as I climbed the inside stairs.
As I entered the bridge water lapped all around (hence the flip flops) and only the ladder combing stopped it pouring in to the accommodation below. The chart area was ankle deep in water as the helmsman struggled to keep the vessel on course as the ship was battered by the waves and the very high winds (over 100 km / hour).
On the bridge I found the Captain and the Second Officer – the Captain had written out our SOS, with our estimated position, Sparks (Radio Officer) was on standby. I relieved the Second Officer after I’d been informed of our situation. The Captain had been on the bridge for hours and stayed with me until I left at the end of my watch at 4.00 am.
The storm went on for days and what should have been an easy four day voyage became a ten day battle. We eventually managed to get a very watery sun sight (satellite communications didn’t exist), the same way as Columbus did 475 years earlier, and we realised that we were many miles away from our estimated position. We had been battered and pushed by the wind and the waves and the sun sight allowed us to obtain at least our latitude. Thankfully we eventually managed to make Moji in southern Japan.
I had my ‘emergency’ pack ‘just in case’ we had to take to the boats – not that we would have lasted long, even if we could have lowered the boats. In my pack were my passport, discharge book, seaman’s card, 400 cigarettes and a bottle of whisky – I considered a bottle off rum, but didn’t have room for the coke, so I just took the necessities of life.